Month: July 2024

Return to 1968

Assassination Attempt

My thoughts return to 1968 with the attempted assassination of former president and current candidate Donald Trump. I was quite young that year, a mere kindergartener. Yet I lived on a college campus where the political climate was heightened. So, my memories are memories and not just remembered stories.

1968-A Time of Conflict

For many readers, 1968 is so far in the past, knowledge comes from the history books. For those of us that lived through the year, the significance is key. Assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy during the spring set the tone.

Anti-Vietnam war sentiments stirred and would boil over in the years to follow. Protests began on campuses across the United States and many other countries as well. Living in married student housing with my parents, most of the unrest seemed distant as we played with the other kids in the apartment complex. But I do distinctly remember two key things. Chants of “Hell no, We won’t Go” and much more sobering, the weekly counts of Vietnam deaths recited on the news.

Inequality in 1968

Discrimination based on skin color led to a fear of race wars. My parents were very progressive. As a result, I was somewhat ignorant of these tensions. And as soon as bussing ended desegregation in my school district, I was invited to, and attended, birthday parties regardless of the skin color of the birthday celebrant.

At the time I was oblivious to economics and social inequalities. We lived in campus housing. The furniture had plastic cushions and I shared a small room (think old dorm size) with my younger sibling. One bathroom, an eat-in kitchen with a chipped Formica table and a small living area. My parents did have their own bedroom. The entire place was not much bigger than some of today’s hotel rooms. If I was considered poor, I didn’t realize it.

Social Differences in 2024

I am no longer unaware of the various economic strata found in each country…even those embracing communism. So, I am grateful I live in the United States where the economy is mixed. A mixed economy has tenets of various economic models. The part that is capitalist allows those individuals that create and work hard and yes have luck, to move “upward.” And there is also a downward flow. Many times, a third generation cannot build on what the previous two have built.

Furthermore, mixed economies provide protection for those that cannot work due to extenuating circumstances. We need to face the reality that not all children are born with the same opportunities. In particular, are the many that are born with physical, mental, and environmental challenges.

Uncertainties Then and Now

On the surface a comparison between 1968 and 2024 is easy. But an in-depth look shows stark differences. Key is the age of the candidates. In 1968, the oldest candidate was the Democratic nominee aged 57 with the Republican counterpart 55. The 2024 election, at this time, has a 78-year-old and an 81-year-old. Is it time for a constitutional amendment regulating a maximum age similar to the minimum age?

Another major contrast is the current military is voluntary. There is not an active draft. The final difference is the national debt.

In 1968, the debt was 368 Billion which was 39% of the GDP. Current debt is just under 35 Trillion. And the debt to GDP ratio is 135%. From an economic point, this is unsustainable. Click here for an indepth comparison of debt from 1929 to the present.

Election of 2024

The United States of America holds presidential elections in November every four years and this is one of those years. Just under four months remain until Election Day. Anyone who is not registered to vote, I encourage you to sign up. Our right to vote is a fundamental freedom not found everywhere. It is a valuable right. Furthermore, take your vote seriously. Study the issues and the candidates. Then vote as YOU see best. Try not to let commercials and talking heads make the decision for you. Our balloting system of private voting provides everyone the ability to vote independently. I wish every country could enjoy the same right.

Crow Talk Book Review

All in the Name

Crow Talk by Eileen Garvin is a library check-out published in 2024. To be honest, the author’s surname is the entire reason I picked it out. There are less than 20,000 people living in the United States with the same surname. And ancestors of my kids shared the name. (Our surname is shared by fewer than 2500 to give some perspective. And there are over 2,400,000 Smith’s in the country. But I digress.) Since the novel is outstanding, I am particularly grateful for the shared name.

This positive, uplifting story is built upon the subject of grief. Both heroine’s, Frankie O’Neill and Anne Ryan are dealing with the loss of a loved one. To compound things for Ryan, her son stopped speaking at the age of 3 ½ years. She blames herself for his problems since they manifested after the loss of her closest friend.

Building New Friendships

O’Neill is a loner and estranged from her surviving parent. She has also run afoul of the individual overseeing the completion of her master’s degree. The work revolves around the spotted owl. First, the young boy Aiden is attracted to the gangly outdoorswoman. Then his mother, homesick for Ireland with a marriage teetering on a precipice forges a friendship with O’Neill as well.

A beautiful area in a remote lakeside enclave is the setting. And by remote, the only access is via boat. Nature plays an important role in the bonding of the three characters. At the forefront is the plethora of birds with an injured young crow at the center. But bears and weather and other challenges of the wilderness are brought to life by the wonderful writing.

Crow Talk

Each chapter or section begins with information on birds. Many facts are focused on the crow, including their language-crow talk. O’Neill begins to pull herself together by chronicling the recovery of the injured crow. She is able to finish her paper on the owls only to fail once again. However, the research on the crow takes flight and she progresses on multiple fronts.

Crossroads

Meanwhile, Ryan is also at a crossroads. As her marriage deteriorates over the stress of a special needs child her new friendship provides the support needed to make the decision on what is best for Aiden. Her in-laws want him institutionalized. Both she and her husband Tim face many decisions.

Recommendation for Crow Talk

Eileen Garvin’s Crow Talk is the best book I have read this year. Even though the genres are totally different, this novel and the writer evoke the same feeling of awe that I encountered with Where the Crawdads Sing. The writing is compelling and brings the characters to life. Perhaps Crow Talk will also make it to the movie theatres. The novel certainly deserves many honors. I highly recommend the reading of this book. I plan to give copies as gifts.

Vortex Book Review

FBI Favorites: Sherlock and Savich

My immediate thought after finishing Vortex by Catherine Coulter was power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. (My apologies to the descendants of Lord Acton for an inexact quote.) Following that, I began analyzing the writing itself, perhaps due to time spent editing my own writing earlier in the day. My conclusion was surprising.

Coulter is a master writer and Vortex is well written with no editorial problems. The plot is believable and the story flows. Yet, my sense of satisfaction upon completion is missing. And I am not sure why. Perhaps a lack of romance often found in her FBI thrillers. More likely, a feeling of forced involvement of series regulars.

Main Plot

The unsettling topic, a missing woman, is one with closure without hope. The protagonist, Mia Briscoe, is a journalist newly focused on the plight of a close friend, Serena Winters. Pictures discovered by yet another friend yield a clue to the men last seen near Serena before her disappearance.

Not surprisingly, her mission to discover what happened to Serena dovetails with her assignment of interviewing a young charismatic and powerful candidate for the position of New York City mayor. I was ok with this tie-in. But the additional backstory of FBI agent Tommy Maitland as the boyfriend of the missing girl and the subsequent interaction between long-time series heroine Agent Sherlock and Mia felt strained.

Vortex Subplots

Sherlock just happens to be in New York City to lend a hand in a case of a Black Widow and jilted lover-a psychopath murderess. So, she can easily switch her efforts to the main story line as a favor to Maitland. This is a refreshing change from all the subplots tying together.

Furthermore, the unique subplots continue with the storyline created for Sherlock’s husband Dillon Savich. A missing CIA agent and flash drive keep him busy. He aids and protects a co-team member, CIA agent Olivia Hildebrandt. The storylines do not merge even though the series characters bounce back and forth.

Forced Threads in Vortex

In addition to the involvement of Sherlock in multiple storylines, the forced relationships of the main characters troubled me. Does Mia’s boyfriend even need a place in the story? The relationship feels inconsequential as compared to the one between Olivia and the missing Mike.

Recommendation

I enjoyed Vortex and yet I am glad it was a library check-out. While the unique storylines did not bother me, they also did not do much for the overall book. One could even imagine two separate books. Furthermore, Savich and Sherlock working together always works better than when they go their separate ways. Longtime readers will enjoy but newcomers need to start with another book in the series.