Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Lost Week

Rough week coming to a close. On Tuesday evening I developed a cough and by 9 am Wednesday I had the entire package, fever, chills, and body aches. So I head over to Patient First and was given a wonder-drug...TAMIFLU. Stuff worked like a charm on all the flu symptoms, but ever since I took the first dose I have been in a slow-motion fog. It's like, I'm better but I'm not myself..AT ALL. I missed the rest of the week and now the week is over and tomorrow I'm back at it with a light schedule Monday and Tuesday.

I'm just not a very good sick person. By Thursday I was about ready to jump off a cliff from boredom so I decided that Molly needed a bath and I was just the right person to give it to her. Twenty minutes later I could hardly get out of the shower and back into bed. What a moron! Giving a 95 pound dog a bath isn't something anyone should attempt without total control of all of their faculties. Lesson learned.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Reviewer!!

I read a lot and I have strong opinions so I’ve often wondered how great it would be to be a book reviewer. Then it dawned on me that I have this Blog! So what’s to stop me from doing a mini book review post? Well…nothing actually so here goes a brief review of each book I have read in 2011.

1. The Art of War......... Sun Tzu

I had always wanted to read this book since it has had such an impact on so many military types through the years. Its really nothing more than a collection of warfare wisdom, sort of like a book of proverbs for soldiers. Some of the entries are especially profound though when viewed through the prism of history. Generals who have chosen to ignore the advice in this book have paid the price.

2. Lion of Liberty........... Harlow Unger

This is a biography of Patrick Henry and although I thought I knew the subject well,having graduated from a high school bearing his name, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a lot of new information. First of all..he fathered 17 children??!! Secondly, it turns out that Henry would have utterly detested both the modern day Democrat and Republican parties. Not only was Patrick Henry perhaps the “first” patriot but maybe the first Libertarian! Fun read. Light history here though, not terribly detailed.

3.American Colossus......... H.W. Brands

Now THIS is heavy history complete with nearly 75 pages of footnotes. Brands covers the period from the end of the civil war through 1900 subtitling his work “the triumph of capitalism”. This was the era of the robber barons and I read it because it’s the one part of American history where my knowledge is the weakest. The story of the titans of industry like Rockefeller,Vanderbilt and Carnegie did not disappoint but was balanced nicely with the downside to industrialization ie..labor unrest, working conditions,corruption etc. Enjoyable and informative.

4.The Reagan I Knew.......... W.F. Buckley

Couldn’t resist this one…two of my favorite people of the 20th century and especially since February was the 100th anniversary of Reagan’s birth. This was also the last book Buckley wrote before his death just last year. It was mostly a collection of their over 30 years worth of correspondence. Very entertaining stuff,especially the humor back and forth concerning their famous disagreement over the Panama canal.

5.In Cold Blood........... Truman Capote

Sometimes one must strive mightily to separate the artist from the art, as I have to whenever reading anything by Gore Vidal. I had never read this famous book largely because of what a loathsome and pathetic creature I consider its author to be. But he’s long since gone to his just reward and so I picked up a paperback edition and was spellbound from the very first paragraph! Capote was indeed a world class asshole but the man could write!! Gripping, beautiful work.

6. Where Men Win Glory........... Jon Krakauer

Read this wanting to learn more about the story of Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who gave up huge money to join the army rangers and fight for his country after 9/11. And learn I did…and none of it good. Turns out he was a profane ,confused and godless man and the knuckleheads who covered up the truth of his death were even worse. Krakauer had a huge axe to grind with Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld etc.. and it comes through loud and clear which made this book read more like a left-wing blog than an even-handed look at a complicated but inspiring story.

7.Confederates In The Attic........ Tony Horwitz

Hilarious and totally disturbing. Horwitz rides through the south trying to discover what the deal is with our obsession with all things civil war. He shines a much needed light on some of the insane darkness that surrounds much of it but he also betrays a fondness for our more charming side. Great book in that one minute you’re ashamed to be a southerner and the next minute you’re fighting back the tears at the grace and beauty that come with territory down here…good stuff.

8.Tough Without a Gun.......... Stefan Kanfer

A biography of Humphrey Bogart written by someone named “Stefan” has its own irony but this book was worth it. Like all heroes Bogart had plenty of warts. But I knew most of them coming in. What astonished me was the work ethic of the man, the sheer volume of his work. Bogart was one of a kind and we may never see anyone like him again. This book was a bit depressing for me though…again an essentially godless but talented man.

9. The Apostle............ Brad Thor

Brad Thor?? REALLY? Anyway..every once in awhile I pick up something by a Vince Flynn, Andrew Clavin, or Brad Thor just for an escapism fix. Since 24 went off the air occasionally I need to be reassured that there are indestructible types out there keeping us safe. This one wasn’t worth the time. Been there…done that

Monday, February 21, 2011

An Appropriate Level of Danger

If I could do anything I wanted right now it would be this...I would spend a week by myself in a secluded cabin somewhere in the mountains doing nothing but reading, writing, fishing, and thinking. There would be no TV, no cell phones and atleast once during the week I would intentionally put myself in harm's way just for the sake of doing something dangerous. Maybe I would hike somewhere at night and get lost and have to make it through the night without freezing to death. Or maybe I would attempt to climb some rocky cliff that I had no business climbing, something, anything to make me feel alive.

There's something crushing about a normal life. It's as if after a while some sort of mold starts to form on the edges of the safety-net we work so hard to build under our lives. We live in safe houses and drive ever safer cars. We have back-up plans for everything..nothing catches us off guard. Every detail of our lives gets planned to death to the point where devine visitations have disappeared.

Sometimes when I have time to think I become fascinated with the idea that the reason Western Man is so neurotic is because he enjoys too much comfort, that Man is not meant for comfort, that facing and overcoming danger is the energy that powers the human spirit. Perhaps we feel so ordinary because modern life requires no heroics. Some would say, "Doug, you're crazy! Competing and winning in business today is VERY heroic. Look at have a nice home, a successful business, great car..all the comforts of life..and you started with nothing!" True. And yet none of the agonies and ecstasies of success in business can compare to the strangely magnificent mortal fear that gripped me as I was being prepped for open-heart surgery 8 years ago next month. Nothing before or since has made me feel as alive as the nearness and possibility of death.

I have a wonderful life with much to live I have no death wish. All thats missing is an appropriate level of danger..and maybe a week alone in the mountains with my thoughts.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Good Idea

Every once in awhile even a blind dog digs up the random bone. Such was the case this past weekend with my brilliant idea of taking Pam to the Martha Washington Hotel for Valentine's Day. Although the drive was long(a little over 4 hours)the hotel was beautiful and the town of Abingdon was enchanted. We took a long walk down Main street and saw scores of old homes and buildings built as far back as the late 1700's. After the walk we decided to go down to the salt water indoor pool and relax in the very warm water. Once there we noticed that there was a fabulous hot tub outside on the patio under two huge live oak trees. The 50 foot walk from the poolhouse across the cold tile patio in 25 mph winds on a cool February afternoon was half the fun and made the hot fresh water even more soothing.

Dinner was one of those 4 course affairs that usually drive me nuts because it takes forever to finish. But this one was incredible. The food was all delicious and served at a perfect pace. It was one of the best meals we've had in quite a while.

Then the best part of the night was ahead. The play at the Barter Theatre was worth the trip by itself. The actors were all multitalented singer/actors and the story that the play told was very moving. The theatre was very small so we were right on top of the stage and this particular play was perfect for such a small venue. Terrific acting, a fine story, and beautifully performed and arranged music. We couldn't have asked for much else.

Great 36 hour of my better ideas.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I have hit the winter wall. Its been cold and dark for too long now and I want it to end. Something tells me that we have atleast one more cold snap/snow storm left to endure. But today I insist on pretending that spring is right around the corner. To that end I will venture into my neglected yard and gather up all the sticks and dead leaves along with two months of dog poop( in various stages of decay ), place all the winter litter in huge garbage bags, and then get the rest of the leaves up with the lawn mower. Maybe when God looks down and sees me so engaged he will smile and relent. If not I will feel better about the situation having done some yard work.

This morning I take my daughter out for a Valentines Day brunch. Every V-Day since she was 3 the two of us have had breakfast together...even the four years when she was 8 hours away at school. Well now she's back home and dating a nice boy who has other plans. So do I actually. I'm taking my wife away for two days to a beautiful old Inn in Abingdon where we will be pampered in a 19th century sort of way with a fabulous dinner and a play called Civil War Voices. It promises to be great fun...but my streak of 21 V-Day breakfasts with my daughter will come to an end. Life is so full of odd sadness.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Follies

Today at my church there will be a speaker from something called the "Israel in Promise and Prophecy" conference which has been going on all weekend. The guy's name is Ed Hindson I think and he's from Liberty University. In fairness, I know virtually nothing about him other than he owns the world's worst toupee. I intend to keep an open mind throughout his talk this morning and may actually enjoy it. However, my guard is always up when it comes to "end time" prophecy. There's the whiff of the charlatan about these guys.

A few weeks ago we had a dispensationalist speaker in to extol the inexhaustible virtue of Israel and to warn us that we risk the wrath of God on our heads if we don't support her. So, it seems that my church has become all about the Jews in 2011.OK. Aside from the fact that he never made a distinction between the Jewish PEOPLE and the state of ISRAEL... he didn't address the difficulties that this undying support for Israel imposes on our missionary work abroad. When America and American missionaries are so closely associated with support of the Israeli state...well, lets just say that its not exactly a conversation starter down at the rug store in Cairo these days.

I have prepared a "disclaimer" lesson for my college class today just in case this Hindson guy gets too carried away, although it makes me very uncomfortable to officially disagree with the pulpit in my class. Thats why I seldom do and when I do disagree with something the Pastor says I usually keep my mouth shut. Its not my roll as a teacher to play point-counter-point with the preacher. but my patience with this Israel stuff is wearing thin.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Renaldos-Magnus..Ronald Wilson Reagan. I loved that man and still do. While he was President the left hated his guts and reviled him unmercilessly. Now even liberals are singing his praises. May he rest in peace.