The Gods of Heavenly Punishment
by Jennifer Cody Epstein
This is a story about how war destroys people’s lives. But it is also about how people can survive war and rebuild their lives. The author, Jennifer Cody Epstein, builds her story around the lives of several people, some from Japan and some from the US. We meet them before the war starts, then again during the war, and later when the war has ended. We only get glimpses of their lives through each of these periods but somehow it is enough. We meet a young man and the girl of his dreams on a ferris wheel in NY. Later we find him on the Doolittle raid. We meet other characters, some from Japan and others from the US, at a garden party in pre-war Tokyo. Later we encounter them again, leading up to the Tokyo firebombing and then again 20 years after the war is over. It is this mix of time, people, and places that makes this story so interesting. The book opens in 1935. Then 7 years suddenly pass and it is 1942. 3 more years pass and Tokyo is being firebombed and the war is over. 17 more years pass and we are in Los Angeles.
The book does start slowly as Epstein introduces her characters. For awhile I wasn’t sure whether I was going to enjoy the book. But once the story began to concentrate on the main character and the Tokyo firebombing I found it difficult to put down. Small pieces introduced earlier are seen later as larger parts of the puzzle. And the story is like a puzzle in a way. We see a character after 10 years and we wonder why are they so different? What happened in their life? As Epstein fills in the pieces it makes the story more interesting and made me want to keep reading to find what happened and what will happen. The ending of the story was predictable but that didn’t detract from the story at all.
by Sarah Vowell
Let me start by saying I am a big fan of Ms. Vowell. I thoroughly enjoyed her other books especially “Assassination Vacation.” But this book did nothing for me.
The book starts off interesting as Ms. Vowell points out that virtually everything you run into in Hawaii came from somewhere else. She tells us about Captain Cook finding the islands and why the missionaries from New England traveled all the way to Hawaii to convert the natives to Christianity and how besides bring Christianity they also brought disease. There is a lot of interesting history of Hawaii somewhere in this book but it is mangled and confused so much that the book just drags along. I found myself skimming through parts because they were just dull. After awhile, I started getting the feeling that Ms. Vowell wrote the book so she could write-off her vacation in Hawaii.
Anyway, I can’t recommend this book even if you are a fan of Ms. Vowell but if you are a fan and you are really interested in reading about Hawaii then go ahead and give it a try. Otherwise, don’t bother.
by Marty Appel
A book about the Yankees should be exciting, full of stories about the players and the team. It should be a personal look more than just a review of stats and win/loss percentages. At least I think so but the author of this book disagrees with me. This book reads as if it was written by a sports columnist and not an historian. It felt like this to me: Here we go to the next season, here are some players, this one was important just look at his stats, here we are in the World Series, now off to the next season.
But a team like this has to have stories. Players have to have more than just stats. Who are they? Where did they come from? How did they end up on the Yankees? Where did they go? Who knows, certainly not me after reading this book. Other than a few big name players there is really nothing about any players other than their stats. Whole seasons can be summed up in a few paragraphs. I just didn’t find it that interesting but maybe I went into it looking for something that it isn’t.
Can I recommend it? If you are looking for a 600 page impersonal look at the team then yes I can recommend it. If you are looking for a story of the team and the players then I think you will be as disappointed as I was.
175 years ago today, Elijah Parish Lovejoy was murdered in Alton, Illinois. He was a Presbyterian minister and staunch abolitionist, fighting to end slavery. Besides giving speeches against slavery he published the Alton Observer, an abolitionist newspaper. Alton was a center for southerners who caught and returned escaped slaves. On the night of November 7th, they attacked his warehouse with the intent of destroying his printing press. When Lovejoy came out to try to prevent them from putting a ladder up against his warehouse he was gunned down. He was 35 years old. No one was ever prosecuted for his murder.
Lovejoy has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame on Delmar Boulevard. If you are in the neighborhood, leave a flower in his memory.
Lovejoy at Alton Riot
Daniel Borowy, a high school student with Down syndrome was shot in the back by a fellow student when the new school year started. The Baltimore Orioles invited him and the school counselor who tackled the gunman to throw out the first pitch in tonight’s game. Very cool!
Empire of Liberty
by Gordon S. Wood
A lot of us think we know about our founding fathers and what they planned for America. But did you know that a lot of our founding fathers intended for the US to be a monarchy? That the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans despised each other so much that it makes the political parties of today look like a love-fest? That the Washington administration built a very strong federal government that taxed and spent their way to a prosperous nation? That our founding fathers had very little interest in religion and one of the most popular books written during this period was an anti-religious tome? No? Then this book will truly shock you.
Gordon Wood has done a great job with this book. It is very well written and keeps moving but you will want to put it down to think about what you have read. It does a fantastic job of covering each of the administrations of our first few presidents especially that Washington and Adams administrations. Wood does an excellent job of showing how the Federalist party collapsed under the disagreements of Adams and Alexander Hamilton leading to the Democratic-Republicans becoming the leading party at the beginning of the 19th century. These administrations are dealt with a little too easily. Jefferson despised the concept of a strong federal government and his policies hurt the developing nation but the author tends to overlook these issues. Especially on the issue of slavery the author could have done a better job.
Wood is both a wonderful writer and a superb scholar. Overall this is an excellent book and you will learn a huge amount about our founding fathers that will surprise you. Unlike so may other historical books, this one flows very well and Wood writes like a writer not a history professor trying to impress his dean. I highly recommend this book for anyone with interest in the first 25 years of the United States.
This picture is from Christmas three years ago. I love Mikey’s smile in the picture and his eyes just glow. He is such a handsome and happy little guy.
This picture was taken last year when Mikey had nice long hair.
Michel went up to Mikey’s school for a couple of days, first to fight a speeding ticket (she won and the ticket was dismissed) and second to meet with Mikey’s teachers, therapists, and nurse. One of the problems with Mikey is that he is a very poor eater. There are very few foods that he will eat. And since Mikey was diagnosed with Celiac we have to work hard to find gluten free foods that he likes. A few years ago he would eat nothing except yogurt and baby food but we have improved. He likes eggs and macaroni and cheese and some other pasta dishes. Still, we need to work to do better and everyone at Mikey’s school is interested in working with Mikey to increase his repertoire of foods. And that is another thing that excites us about his school. They are very interested in making life better for our little man.
Another thing that Michel will be doing is looking into a hippotherapy program. There is one near the school and the school is excited about getting Mikey involved. Mikey was in a program when he was younger but he was also in a music therapy program and it just became too much work running around to do both so we chose the music therapy program. We think it would be great for him to start working with horses again.
Michel will be back home tomorrow but then it is back up on Wednesday to bring Mikey home for some dental work. I can’t wait to see my little guy and I will definitely be taking lots of pictures.
Mikey is a great kid and we love him like crazy so sending him to a residential school was a very difficult decision. The decision came about because Mikey was having so much difficulty in school. The problem was finding a school that understood Mikey and was willing to work with his strengths and weaknesses.
Mikey was never right for being mainstreamed so we had tried schools that specialize in children with autism. Although they had been good in some areas we thought Mikey wasn’t getting sufficient help in academic areas such as reading and writing. Part of the problem is that Mikey has trouble with transitions. This led us to thinking about trying a residential school. The result has been that Mikey is getting a much better education. Transitions are handled much better as the teachers at this school really do understand how to work with kids like Mikey. Living at the school helps him too. Here his teachers, therapists, nurse, doctor, and aides are all working together observing Mikey and seeing what works and what doesn’t work with him. The school makes sure that Mikey always has plenty of activities on the weekends such as playing basketball, going to the mall, going swimming, and playing video games. He has full days every day. When Mikey is home he is much more in control of himself. We don’t see any more of the tantrums that we used to see.
And how is Mikey feeling about the school? He loves it! After a few days at home Mikey is asking to go back. When we drop him off, he kisses us, says goodbye, and runs off with his friends. When we first started back in January our thought was that we could try it out and see how it works for everyone. If it didn’t work we could bring him home and try something else. But it has been a huge success so far even though we do miss him like crazy. I can’t wait until his next time home with us.
This is a picture of Mikey from last January so he is 14 years old. Mikey is an amazingly happy little boy. He is happy but the affects of his autism sometimes frustrate him. The Down syndrome is the easy part, the autism is the harder part. Autism is a spectrum condition so Mikey sometimes acts in a way that we think of as typical autism but he also acts in ways that are typical of a youngster.
Mikey is very affectionate. He loves to sit on my lap and wrap his arms around me. He loves to lie on the couch while I rub his back. He can’t communicate by speaking but he signs and is learning how to use communication software on his iPod. He is mischievous and he makes us laugh. He loves to hang out with kids his age and play ball, especially basketball and soccer.
Sometimes the autism makes Mikey difficult. But that is not the reason that Mikey goes away to school. In tomorrow’s post I will discuss why Mikey is in a residential school and how it is working out for him.