Thursday, June 13, 2019

Reminiscing Blues

Congratulations to the St. Louis Blues on winning the Stanley Cup!

I do not follow either the Blues or the Cardinals as I did in my younger years. That does not mean they are not my favorite teams or that I do not root for them. Marriage, family, and my salvation by Jesus Christ changed my life’s perspectives and replaced many of my earlier loves. Yet, when it comes to hockey, I always root for the Blues.

Having been disappointed by the team for many years, I did not watch many of their games (or an entire game) until they reached the third round of the playoffs. We’ve been close before and everything quickly evaporated. But, from that point on, I, like most of the city, have analyzed every shift of every game (“Shoot the puck, man!” “Clear the zone!”). While I suspect my excitement level would have been much, much higher many years ago, last night was exciting. What a wonderful sports story the Blues 2018-2019 season will make for future generations. I’m glad I saw them win it.

During the final five minutes of the game, I unexpectedly received a text message from a former high school classmate, Brian. The two of us were in the same grade in our small school system for all twelve years, I believe. We also attended Southern Illinois University and received our bachelor’s degrees there at the same time. We’ve only talked a few times since then. But, what truly united us was not our school experiences; it was the St. Louis Blues.

In his text, Brian admitted he had not watched much of the Blues since the mid-1970s but was on the edge of his seat during the seventh game. The third goal last night eased his anxiety a bit. He, like I, could not believe the Blues were about to accomplish what the two of us had dreamed DECADES ago.

Back in October of 1967, Brian invited me to go with his parents to see a hockey game. Why he invited me is a question I never asked. The Blues played their first game on October 11 and the game we were attending was their 5th game of their existence. I knew little of hockey apart from the mechanical hockey game my parents gave me a few years earlier. St. Louis had a minor hockey team, the Flyers, but I did not watch or follow them. I think Brian’s family did which was the reason behind their interest in the Blues. So, the Blues were brand new to St. Louis and Bruce was brand new to the NHL.

On October 21, 1967, I accompanied Brian and his parents to the old Arena on Oakland Avenue. I seem to recall our seats being up somewhat and near one end, but I am uncertain. There before me was a sheet of ice with two goals, one large red line, two blue lines, and smaller red lines crossing the goals. I was glad the scene in front of me replicated the layout of my mechanical hockey game. At least something was familiar.

There were probably some empty seats, I don’t know. My eyes were fixated on the speed of the skaters on the ice. I knew none of the players. So, and so was playing left wing. Wing? That play was offside. Offside? Icing was called. Icing?! When a penalty is called, the penalized team must play a man short?! Goal! Red light!

Brian’s family provided some education as the game progressed. I quickly understood the offside rule (which has changed considerably since then) and what a two-line pass meant. Icing was a bit more confusing, but, by the end of the game, I had that down as well. And I understood what a power play was and how exciting it could be (the Blues scored a power play goal that night as well as gave up a short-handed goal).

Over the years, I have researched that first game since, at the time, I had no clue who was who. The game ended in a 3-3 tie with Gerry Melnyk, Ron Stewart, and Larry Keenan scoring the Blues goals while Ted Irvine, Gord Labossiere, and Real Lemieux answered for the Kings. But, the position which truly caught my attention was goalie. The Kings goalie was Wayne Rutledge who stopped 33 of 36 shots. But, as Brian’s parents informed me, an NHL All-Star played goal for the Blues: “Mr. Goalie” Glenn Hall.

Neither goalie wore a mask. Few did then. Hall was amazing, also stopping 33 of 36 shots. He played his final four years with the Blues and won the Conn Smythe trophy in the 1969-1970 playoffs for his performance. In their second season, the Blues added veteran goaltender Jacques (“Jake the Snake”) Plante and the two of them won the Vezina trophy for the best goaltenders of the year. Plante was an originator of the goalie mask and convinced Hall to wear one in his final years.

The game that night ended in a tie, a slight let-down since my favorite sport, baseball, never ended in a tie (ties do not occur these days in the NHL). But I will never forget the experience. I was hooked on hockey and a life-long Blues fan. The four of us went to a White Castle (also a first for me) and discussed hockey over burgers. What a terrific evening that was.

Brian and I attended Blues games as often as we could. In her junior year of high school, Debbie won two tickets to a Blues game and offered them to me while I was spending three weeks practice teaching at her school. I grabbed them and gave one to Brian leaving her in the lurch. My love for the Blues was a given. It would be another year before I would be in love with her!

Brian and I even attended Blues games while at Carbondale, one time driving after classes and arriving in the middle of the second period. Usually, I had standing room only tickets at the games since they were cheaper, and the place was sold out in the early days. I would take my old-style school bell and ring it as loudly as I could when the Blues scored. Why, we even met Glenn Hall walking into the arena before one game. I think it was Brian who asked him, “Glenn, Glenn, do you feel sick at your stomach?” Mr. Hall did not respond but the question was very timely. You see, Hall would be ill before any game he started. We just wanted to know if Hall was the starting goaltender that evening.

Our love of hockey never transferred to ice skating. I tried to ice skate once and realized it was not meant to be (I also cannot roller skate). I don’t know if Brian can ice skate or not. But the two of us started floor hockey in my dorm on my floor and had several of my dormmates join us. Using tables for goals, a plastic puck, and real sticks, we checked, shot, and scratched the floor many times during our college days.

Yes, lots of fond memories were resurrected while watching the Blues win their first ever Stanley Cup. I’m grateful I was able to witness the completion of a fifty-two-year dream last night.

Congratulations, Blues!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Pocahontas "Prez"

Native American was her claim,
An ancestry test brought her shame.
    Pocahontas laud; Pocahontas fraud.

Her greatest longing: gain all fame,
Being President was her aim.
    Pocahontas try; Pocahontas lie.

The goals she promised she thought tame,
But our great nation they would maim.
    Pocahontas wail; Pocahontas fail.

She hates the wealthy; just the same
Seeks their money to play this game.
    Pocahontas bash; Pocahontas cash.

The campaign she runs, I proclaim,
Will fail due to this prideful dame.
    Pocahontas boast; Pocahontas TOAST!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Candidate Joe

There once was a man named Joe.
The words of others he stole.
    Beg, borrow, and FEEL,
    He lost his appeal.
For President we vote no.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Ode to My Toe

I do not want to lose my toe
    My doctor says it just must go.
It’s been with me for many years
    And now departs amid some tears.

A funny thought that I must share
    I’ve reached the point I do not care.
For what takes place must be God’s will
    Without my toe I will walk still.

Christ gave his life, his all for me
    And won for me eternity.
And while my toe must soon depart
    My soul is safe within his heart.

Separate me from Christ? Oh, no!
    Not one thing can, even a toe.
So that is why I have no fear
    My Savior Christ is always near.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

MY Top Ten: Science Fiction Novels

Posting one’s top ten favorite this-or-that list has been a trend for years. Recently, I posted my top ten in books and in movies. Today, I’m returning to the written word but narrowing my scope to a single genre, science fiction.

I’ve always enjoyed science fiction works. My reading these days are usually focused in other genres, though. Nevertheless, I decided to take a moment and reflect on the various novels in this subject matter which I have read and attempt to select my favorites. As I expected, it was not an easy task. Yet, here they are as of this writing. They are subject to change.

Some criteria for my selections:

1. It must be a printed publication (I don't do e-books).
2. It must not be a novel written based on a television show or motion picture.
3. It must be a work I have read completely at least once!
4. Its position in the list is, for the most part, indicative of (a) how much I enjoyed it and (b) how often I have read it.

10. “Millennium” by John Varley. Travelers from the future snatch passengers prior to crashes, leaving prefabricated bodies in their place. The life of an air disaster investigator changes forever upon his examination of the event.

9. “After the Fact” by Fred Saberhagen. Financial Advisor Jerry Flint takes a position with the Pilgrim Foundation. His first assignment: travel to 1865 and save Abraham Lincoln from assassination.

8. “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. The well-known story of the good doctor who develops a potion that releases his wicked, inner self.

7. “Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton. While the special effects in all the “JP” movies are outstanding, I found Crichton’s original story to be even better in print.

6. “The Lost World” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Yes, the creator of Sherlock Holmes also wrote science fiction! Journalist Edward Malone meets Professor George Challenger, a scientist who claims he has discovered a “lost world” inhabited by prehistoric animals. The expedition begins.

5. “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. Firemen in the future have a new assignment and it involves books. No, they aren’t reading them! Firefighter Guy Montag, however, falls in love with a book-hoarder and his life begins to change.

4. “The Invisible Man” by H. G. Wells. A scientist named Griffin creates a serum which makes him invisible. Of course, it also drives him to insanity!

3. “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne. Nineteenth century Professor Liedenbrock heads an expedition into an extinct volcano in Iceland on a journey to the Earth’s core. The geologist takes his nephew Axel and guide Hans into the subterranean world.

2. “The Time Machine” by H. G. Wells. The traveler has developed a machine which will carry him through time. Convinced the distant future will hold better days for society, he journeys to the year 802701 and finds something quite different.

1. “The War of the Worlds” by H. G. Wells. It’s the nineteenth century and strange cylinders are falling from space and landing in Britain. The Martians have arrived, and they are not our friends!

Sure, there are many others I could have put on this list. Here are a few also-rans.

·       “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne
·       “From the Earth to the Moon” by Jules Verne
·       “The Island of Dr. Moreau” by H. G. Wells
·       “The First Men in the Moon” by H. G. Wells
·       “Out of the Silent Planet”, “Perelandra”, “That Hideous Strength” by C. S. Lewis (his space triology)
·       “I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov
·       “Frankenstein” (or “The Modern Prometheus”) by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
·       “Gateway” by Frederik G. Pohl, Jr.

Obviously, my favorite science fiction authors are Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. To be frank, I could have made a top ten list easily from just these two men!

Well, that’s my present list. If you read science fiction, which ones do you enjoy?

Friday, May 25, 2018

Wyatt Earp Round 1: The Gunfight at the O. K. Corral

I have been a fan of Wyatt Earp since I was a youngster watching westerns on television. Marshal Earp even had his own program ("The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp") with Hugh O'Brian portraying the peace officer. Of course, these stories were not overly factual. Earp's history inspired me as a child when I began writing short stories. Some of the earliest ones I wrote were westerns having plots resembling the Earp adventures. It's too bad I didn't save those early pieces of "art"!

My interest in him revived with the arrival of two movies twenty-five years ago or so. "Wyatt Earp" starring Kevin Costner and "Tombstone" with Kurt Russell. While the former told the entire life story of the man (a very LONG movie), Tombstone focused on the events surrounding the famous gunfight. I found the former a bit more informative while the latter more interesting, especially with Val Kilmer's portrayal of Doc Holliday.

In our Tuesday evening class at church, our pastor, at one point, used Earp as an illustration of courage. This resulted in an impromptu discussion of "Tombstone" and the lawman. Renewing my interest in Earp, I've decided to post a couple of articles on significant events in his career based on my historical understanding of those events. This post is the first in that series.

The "Gunfight at the O. K. Corral" has risen to legendary status. Unfortunately, none of us were in Tombstone for those few seconds. Over the years, various books, articles, and movies have appeared providing differing views of this battle. But, what really happened? Well, I don't know. However, historical research of that moment in our history has been closely studied, especially over the past twenty years. The testimonies of Wyatt Earp and Ike Clanton are known as are several eyewitness statements. Also, the newspaper article written by a man at the scene is also available. Obviously, there are some contradictions (especially between Earp and Clanton). This is normal even for honest eyewitnesses. No one sees an incident quite the same way as another.

I've tried to read as much as I can on the gunfight, but I can't be certain my account is any more accurate than someone else's. Nevertheless, here is my take on what happened in 1881.

The Background

Cattle rustling was occurring on our southern border, certainly in Cochise County in the far southern portion of the Arizona Territory. These "cowboys" would steal cattle from Mexico, bring them across the border, and resell them. The local word was that the McLaury and Clanton families were very much involved in this activity.

The county sheriff was John Behan, considered by many historians as being inept at best and corrupt at worse. He took few steps to reign in the rustlers. Virgil Earp was the United States Marshal as well as the Tombstone city marshal. Virgil focused his efforts on Tombstone and much of his federal responsibility was in the hands of his deputy and brother, Wyatt Earp. Wyatt had his eyes on Behan's job and intended to face him in the 1882 fall election.

In March of 1881, some of the cowboys held up a stagecoach in Arizona Territory. The driver and one passenger were killed. Wyatt, seeing the potential benefit to his political ambitions to capture the robbers, presented a deal to Ike Clanton and Frank McLaury, two of the cowboys who, at the time, were approachable. He asked them to use their "inside" knowledge to help him capture the three robbers.

But, before an agreement was reached, two of the robbers were killed in New Mexico by bartender brothers. The cowboys subsequently killed them. Also, in August of that year, Mexican officials killed five rustlers including the third robber and Newman Clanton, father of Ike and Billy Clanton.

These events left Ike Clanton in a tenuous situation. Wyatt knew that Ike had agreed to help him and, if word of this agreement reached the cowboys, he would likely be a target. Meanwhile, the Earps became the major law enforcement figures in the area and took a hard stand against criminal activity. Because of their firm position, the cowboys vowed to kill them.

Twenty-Four Hours Before

On October 25, 1881, Ike confronted Wyatt and accused him of having shared their secret agreement with Earp's friend, Doc Holliday. Wyatt denied the charge and sent for Holliday in Tucson. The latter, an often, drunk dentist with a strange sense of humor, road from Tucson to Tombstone. Holliday was incensed over the false accusation and, once reaching Tombstone, argued with Clanton. Clanton, who was unarmed at the time, was challenged by Doc to get his gun and fight. The Earp brothers (Virgil, Wyatt, and Morgan) intervened, attempting to cool things down.

While Holliday was in his hotel, Clanton got his gun. Then, he joined Virgil Earp, Tom McLaury, and John Behan in a poker game! This game ended around 7 a.m. on the morning of October 26. Ike, under the influence of whiskey, told Virgil to tell Holliday he had to fight. When Virgil refused to carry the message to the dentist, Ike threatened the Earps.

Throughout the day, Ike continued his drinking and, while doing so, threatened the Earps in whatever saloon he happened to be. Around noon, Virgil and Morgan saw Ike with a gun. Virgil cracked his head and hauled him before the local judge. Threats continued between Ike and the Earps. Clanton was fined for carrying a gun within city limits and released.

Outside these proceedings, Wyatt argued with Tom McLaury. Earp slapped the man and then hit him over the head with his gun. Billy Claiborne, another cowboy witnessing these events, found Frank McLaury and Billy Clinton, drinking in a saloon, and told them about the beatings. The cowboys decided to meet later at the O. K. Corral. Their threats against the Earps continued.

Image result for Map of OK Corral Gunfight

The Battle

Several witnesses overheard the threats of the cowboys against the Earps in the vacant lot on Fremont Street just behind the O. K. Corral. They reported these threats to Virgil Earp who request Sheriff Behan's help in disarming the men. Around 2 p.m., Behan said he would go down to the gang and convince them to surrender their guns. The Earps and Holliday waited over fifteen minutes when they received word from another witness that the gang was still armed in the vacant lot.

With that, Earp handed a short-barreled shotgun to Doc Holliday who hid it under his long coat. Virgil took Doc's walking stick and the four men began their trek down Fremont Street. Behan caught them in route and said, "For God's sake, don't go down there or you will get yourself murdered." Virgil indicated he intended to disarm the cowboys. Behan's response led the Earps to believe he had already disarmed them, so Wyatt holstered his gun into his coat pocket.

The vacant lot was roughly fifteen feet wide with Fremont Street on the north, a fence to the corral on the south, the Harwood House on the west and Fly's Lodgings on the east. At least four cowboys and a couple of horses were in the lot with their backs somewhat towards the west. From left to right: Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, Ike Clanton, and Billy Clanton. Some reports claim Billy Claibourne was there as well but fled when the Earps arrived.

The Earps stepped somewhat into the lot with their backs toward Fly's Lodgings. Opposite Tom McLaury was Doc Holliday, with Morgan to his left, Wyatt on his left, and Virgil on the far end. The men were extremely close to one another at this moment.

Virgil Earp shouted, "Throw up your hands, boys, I intend to disarm you." At this point, things became very confused. Within twenty-five seconds, thirty shots were fired. The McLaurys were dead as was Billy Clanton. Morgan, Virgil, and Doc were wounded. Ike Clanton had fled the scene and only Wyatt Earp was left untouched.

Of course, almost every account of the actual shooting differs. The account which I find most convincing goes something like this.

Frank McLaury made a motion for his gun. In response, Wyatt pulled his weapon from his coat pocket and wounded him. As he did, Billy Clanton fired at Wyatt and missed. Then, there was a brief pause. Doc Holliday blasted Tom with the shotgun, who crawled onto Fremont Street.

At some point during the chaos, Ike Clanton ran forward and grabbed Wyatt. He later claimed he was trying to protect him. Wyatt yelled at him, "The fight has commenced, get to fighting or get away." Ike fled across the street into a saloon and was later arrested.

Reports say Billy Clanton shot Morgan Earp in the shoulder and he collapsed to the ground. Billy also hit Virgil in the calf and he went down. Both Virgil and Morgan hit Clanton with multiple gunfire and Clanton would die in the vacant lot an hour later. 

Frank, though wounded, was crossing Fremont when he was shot by both Holliday and Morgan, the latter in a seated position on Fremont Street. McLaury, dying, still pulled his gun and pointed at Holliday saying, "I've got you now." Holliday replied, "Blaze away! You're a daisy if you have." Frank fired, the bullet pierced Holliday's gun holster and grazing his skin. Frank McLaury died in the street before Holliday could shoot him.

When the shooting ended, Ike Clanton was in a nearby saloon, Tom and Frank McLaury were both dead on Fremont Street, and Billy Clanton was dying, lying against the wall of the Harwood House in the vacant lot. Virgil Earp, also in the lot, was down and wounded in the calf. Morgan Earp was wounded in the shoulder and down on Fremont Street. Holliday was also wounded and standing in the street. Wyatt Earp had remained virtually in his same location where he was when the fight began.

The ramifications of this showdown would continue and even escalate over the coming months.

Some of the resources I have used in the formulation of my description of the shooting follow:

Glenn Boyer’s “I Married Wyatt Earp: The Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp”, a novelized account, not completely factual.

Stuart Lake’s “Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal”, the work which made Earp a legend.

Casey Tefertiller’s “Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend”, a more recent publication which I find to be the most compelling account. 

Frank Water’s “The Earp Brothers of Tombstone”, which has been found to have some credibility problems.

Various articles found in “Real West” and “Wild West” magazines online.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

MY Top Ten: Movies

So far this week I have posted my top 10 books (books) as well as my top 10 theological works (theology). Today, I decided to add my top 10 movies.  I realize the difficulties in making such choices but, at this stage, who cares. They're MY choices anyway!

My criteria for these selections are:

1. It must be a movie I have watched completely.
2. It may be of any genre.
3. It may be a silent or a "talkie".
4. It may be "black and white" or "color".
5. Its position in the list is, for the most part, indicative of (a) how much I enjoyed it and (b) how often I have seen it.

I'm certain my list today is different from one written a few years ago and, probably, different from one written a few years from now. But, as of today, here are my top 10 favorite movies.

10. "Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back" - 1980 starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Billy Dee Williams (Empire)

No list of mine would be complete without a Star Wars film. These films radically changed special effects within science fiction flicks. Of the eight presently available (I do not consider "Rogue One" in this collection), #5 is the best of the bunch. The characters are cleverly developed, the special effects are outstanding, and the storyline progresses much better than it did in Episode IV. And, of course, it has John Williams' music.

.  "North by Northwest" - 1959 starring Cary Grant, James Mason, Eva Marie Saint, Leo G. Carroll, and Martin Landau (NNW)

I love Alfred Hitchcock movies and this one tops his list for me. It is a case of mistaken identity, resulting in a chase across the country. Grant is chasing those who have mistaken him while he is being chased by the authorities for the murder of a United Nations member. It is funny and exciting with great camera shots. Of course, you will also find the airplane-human corn field scene.

8.  "The Maltese Falcon" - 1941 starring Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor, and Elisha Cook, Jr. (Falcon)

Detective Sam Spade's partner has been killed and he has to find the killer. Suddenly, he is involved with three men and a woman in quest of a priceless statuette. Bogart is at his best as Spade and I believe this is one of Greenstreet's best film. 

7.  "Lawrence of Arabia" - 1962 starring Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, and Omar Sharif (Lawrence)

The story of T. E. Lawrence and his fight for Arabia. The film won 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. The shots of the desert are absolutely stunning. Having read some by Lawrence as well as about him, I thought the film did a good job at telling his story in an exciting manner.

6.  "The Bridge on the River Kwai" - 1957 starring Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins, and Sessue Hayakawa (Kwai)

Winner of the Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor Academy Awards, the movie tells the story of a captured World War II British force (led by Guinness) who build a bridge for the Japanese camp commander (Hayakawa) across the river Kwai. Stunning setting and an actual bridge explosion highlight this film of "madness".

5.  "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" - 1963 starring Spencer Tracy, Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman, Jonathan Winters, and more (World) 

"It's buried under a big W" and the show begins. It is a mad dash by a crowd of moronic individuals looking for buried treasure. Almost every comedian from the 1950s and early 60s has a role in this film. 

4.  "Arsenic and Old Lace" - 1944 starring Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, and Raymond Massey (Lace) 

Of all the comedies I have seen on film, I think this is the best one. It is not a long film but has one laugh after another. The Brewster sisters are up to no good and things get hectic when their nephews (Grant and Massey) arrive at their home.

3.  "Ben-Hur" - 1959 starring Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, and Stephen Boyd (Ben-Hur)

This film won 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor. The movie is based on the novel by Lew Wallace. It is a long movie but well worth the time. The story revolves around Judah Ben-Hur and his Roman friend Messala. Interwoven beautifully is the story of Jesus Christ leading to his death and resurrection. Of course, the film contains the famous chariot race.

2.  "Casablanca" - 1942 starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains (Casablanca)

Rick's is the place to be in North Africa during World War II. Well, that is until the Germans arrive followed by Rick's former girl friend, Ilsa. A classic movie with several well-known quotes. Also starring Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. 

1.  "Citizen Kane" - 1941 starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton (Kane)

The greatest movie ever made! Welles wrote it, directed it, and starred in it. His camera shots are legendary. The movie presents the life story of one Charles Foster Kane (loosely based on the life of William Randolph Hearst). Of course, the infamous "Rosebud" looms over the entire picture. No thrilling special effects necessary, thank you very much! 

So many movies left off. I could include all the Star Wars films, several of the Star Trek movies, the Indiana Jones films, more Hitchcock, and other films with Bogart. How about "The Ten Commandments" with Heston, "Fargo" and "No Country for Old Men" by the Coen brothers, and great westerns ("High Noon", "Tombstone", "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence")? My list also omits disaster movies such as "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Towering Inferno"). Other sci-fi films such as my favorite pre-"Star Wars" movie:  "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (the 1951 Michael Rennie version, not the recent remake!). Comedies would include the Hope and Crosby "Road" pictures or the "Abbott and Costello Meet" films.  Furthermore, I have no John Wayne movies on my list! 

And so on and so forth...  Perhaps, one day, I will divide my movie lists according to genre. That might provide a better representation of the films I enjoy.

For now, that's my list. How about you?


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

MY Top Ten: Books

Yesterday, I posted my top 10 theological works in another blog (here). I explained in that entry my dislike of such lists, yet, I am repeatedly asked about such things. So, in this blog entry, I am assembling my "Top 10" list of the books I have read. My criteria for these selections are as follows:
1. It must be a printed publication (I don't do e-books).
2. It must be a work I own.
3. It must be a work I have read completely at least once!
4. Its position in the list is, for the most part, indicative of (a) how much I enjoyed and/or learned from it and (b) how often I have read it.
5. The work may be from any genre.
6. The Scripture is intentionally omitted from the list.

Selecting ten favorites from the thousands I own and have read is almost impossible. I'm sure my list has changed from a few years ago and will likely change in the future. As of this writing, though, here are my top 10 favorite books.

10. "Lost Horizon" by John Hilton (NOT Milton!)

I found the story of Shangri-La a fascinating one yet, I must admit, my love of the book became greater after seeing the 1937 movie starring Ronald Colman.

9.  "Journey to the Center of the Earth" by Jules Verne

Verne has been one of my favorite authors since early childhood. In the realm of science fiction, I place him at #2.  I've read most, if not all, of his works but enjoy this tale of adventure to the inner parts of the earth. There's a lesson here on perseverance (or, perhaps, how to be foolhardy!).

8.  "Advise and Consent" by Allen Drury

This is Drury's Pulitzer Prize winner and the first of a series of political books involving the likes of Orrin Knox, Ted Jason, Robert A. Leffingwell, Senator Seab Cooley, Senator Bob Munson, and Vice-President Harley Hudson. Drury followed this hit with sequels employing the same cast of characters and I enjoyed each one. In this case, the 1962 movie was a "let-down" for me when compared to the novel.

7.  "The Time Machine" by H. G. Wells

Herbert George Wells is, in my humble opinion, the best science fiction author of all time. I own, have read, and enjoyed all of his sci-fi works. I could place any of them on this list but I limit myself to only two, the two I consider his best. My fascination with time also made this particular story more fascinating to me. Unfortunately, the movie versions of the book fail to capture the true story.

6.  "Here I Stand" by Roland H. Bainton

Without apology, Martin Luther is my Christian "idol", warts and all. Used by God at a critical time in the history of the world, he helped change the world, at least the western part of it. There are many biographies on his life but the older one by Bainton I find to be the best.

5.  "Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson

Another childhood love, I must have read this book twenty times before my teen years. The story of the young boy sailing with the likes of pirate Long John Silver was too exciting to ignore. The 1934 movie version starring Jackie Cooper as the young Jim Hawkins and Wallace Beery as the one-legged Silver is the best one I've seen.

4.  "A Study in Scarlet" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Well, here I have some difficulty. Doyle wrote sixty Holmes stories, four novels and fifty-six short stories. I do own the entire collection and have read each of them several times. Of the four Sherlock Holmes novels ("The Valley of Fear", "The Sign of Four", "The Hound of the Baskervilles", and "A Study in Scarlet"), I have enjoyed the first novel the most (though I do like "Hound"). The recent movies and TV series involving the character of Sherlock Holmes are, in my view, shameful. The best performance of Sherlock Holmes I have ever seen was by the late actor, Jeremy Brett, in the BBC Holmes series done in the late 80s and early 90s. That series tended to stick closely to the original works.

3.  "War of the Worlds" by H. G. Wells

This is my other selection for Wells, the best science fiction work every written in my eyes. The story of the Martian invaders is a repeated theme today but not when the story was written. Two major film versions have been done. The 1953 version with Gene Barry is entertaining while the Martians in the 2005 Tom Cruise version are more like those in the book. However, neither movie grabs me as did the book. I have read this story several times and absolutely love it.

2.  "The Bondage of the Will" by Martin Luther

Luther's book is the one work (apart from the Bible) on any theological subject which has impacted my life the most. I still recall the first time I read it and was blown away by Luther's thought and use of the Scripture to support what he was teaching. Yes, the good doctor can be "raw" at times. Yet I find Luther's argument (this was a response to Erasmus) completely convincing from the Scriptures. Given the fact the work is almost five-hundred years old, it can be a challenging read. Nevertheless, your effort will be well spent.

1.  "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan

Having read Bunyan's work multiple times, "Pilgrim's Progress" remains refreshing with each pass. I seem to learn or understand something new each time. I would guess I average reading the book about once a year and still enjoy it after several reads. It is challenging English and a more modern English version might help.  However, such a version is NOT Bunyan! The story is, of course, an allegory, an illustration of the Christian life. Bunyan has several references to the Word to demonstrate where  his allegorical message has been taken. 

That's my present list. How about yours?


Friday, April 6, 2018

St. Louis Blues

Yes, I have been a fan of the Blues since their first day in the NHL. The team's first three seasons were magical: 3 Stanley Cup finals! Even though they lost to Montreal 4 games to 0 twice and to Boston 4 games to 0, they were, at least, in the finals.

But, since those first 3 seasons, 47+ years have passed and no Stanley Cup final games have been played involving the Blues. Each season, "they bleed blue" according to their commercials. The season starts and they play great. Then, usually in December or January, the downhill slide begins. Oh, there have been exceptions, but, generally speaking, this seems to be the trend.

2017-2018 is no exception. Even in early November, the Blues had the best record in the NHL. Now, they have two games remaining in the regular season and may very well miss the playoffs. As of this writing, they are 1 point behind Colorado for the final playoff place. They play the Hawks tonight in Chicago and then in Colorado for the final game. Even if the win tonight, they will need at least a tie against the Avalanche. This is a big hill to climb. The team almost appears cursed!

I have never played or coached ice hockey, so I realize I do not make the best analyst. But, I do watch some games involving not only the Blues but also other NHL teams (good ones!). I've made some observations (good and bad) from these games and thought I would share some suggestions when it comes to how the Blues play.

1. SHOOT THE PUCK! Good grief, they pass and pass and pass and ... lose the puck. Shoot the thing, men! Get a guy or two in front of the net and let it rip. You will not score without shooting. More shots, please!

2. "SO-AND-SO SHOT WIDE". How many times in one game can Jon Kelly repeat himself? When they do shoot, they shoot high, they shoot wide, they "miss the net". Come on, men, the net is 6 feet wide 4 feet tall. Perhaps you need to spend more time in practice shooting at the net. Time and time again, I have watched a Blues player with the puck six feet from the net and they shoot wide. Enough, already.

3. DUMP AND CHASE. Dump the puck into your offensive end and then chase it down. Not a bad philosophy IF (1) you have the speed to chase it down, (2) someone actually chases it down! Too often, a Blues player dumps the puck in and the defense immediately brings it back out. What's the point (unless you are in a line change)?

4. SHOOTER!  I have seen certain individuals in pick-up basketball games never really play defense. They will hover around the center line on the court, wait for someone on their team to get the ball, and then head for the offensive end for a pass and shot. They are shooters because that's all they care about. Watching the Blues, I see some similar behavior. Certain players hover between their blue line and center ice, waiting on one of their team members to get the puck and hit them with a long pass ("stretch pass"). Instead, they should be in the defensive zone, working on getting the puck. I truly believe the Blues would play a better game IF THEY ASSUMED the old 2-line pass rule was in place and the puck had to be carried from one zone to another. Perhaps, then, some of the "shooters" would play more defense.

That's enough from me. Take it for what it's worth.

While I hope the Blues make the playoffs and, then, find some magic to hang around all the way to the finals, I don't really believe it's going to happen this year. Not unless something radically changes starting tonight.