book reviews, healthcare, law, politicians, politics

Today, in the United States of Gilead…

Special thanks to my friend “Naphtalia” (not her real name) for today’s featured photo!

It’s another very warm morning in Germany. I kind of hate this time of year in Germany, because while it rarely gets as hot here as it does in my native Virginia or God forsaken Texas, air conditioning is a rarity. That makes for some uncomfortable days when it’s high summer, even with all the shades pulled down and a couple of portable air conditioners. I never run both ACs at the same time, either, because I don’t want to run up a big electric bill. They do electric bills differently here, though. Instead of charging different amounts based on monthly use, they do a yearly average and adjust at the end of the year. But still, I don’t want to be an energy hog, if I can help it.

Bill just bought oil for our house, to get us through the winter. This year, it cost about $1000 more than it did last year, thanks to Putin’s war against Ukraine. Fortunately, we’re able to afford it pretty easily. We stay in Germany largely because Bill makes really good money over here, but also because the lifestyle is much nicer, people are saner and less violent, and it’s cool to be able to drive to so many countries. That doesn’t mean I don’t think of home often, though. Missing my uncle’s funeral the other day was another reminder that I’ve been gone a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of beloved relatives for the last time. The United States is my home, but it doesn’t feel much like home anymore. People seem to be absolutely batshit nuts.

Still, I was delighted to read about Kansas yesterday, and voters’ decisions to vote for allowing abortion access. I think that was a rude wake up call for the more sensible Republicans out there. They overplayed their hand, and they will probably pay for it with some really tough elections. I have read about some scary elections results in Arizona, though, and apparently the Trump loyalists, drunk on the stolen election Kool-Aid rhetoric, are leading the way to Gilead inspired insanity. Not surprisingly, reasonable Republican, Rusty Bowers, who heroically testified in the January 6th sessions, was defeated by his Trump supporting opponent. I watched Bowers speak about January 6th again, the other day, and noticed that he was almost moved to tears. I was almost moved to tears listening to him, even though I don’t like his politics or religious beliefs. Bowers is a man of integrity, and those types are rapidly leaving the Republican Party.

I don’t think people realize that the power mad conservatives want to enslave them… keep them disenfranchised and begging for jobs that don’t pay enough. Keeping people pregnant, especially if they aren’t financially or health wise prepared for pregnancy, is certainly a big part of keeping them poor. The abortion bans are already proving dangerous for people who legitimately need to terminate pregnancies for health reasons, that they should be allowed to keep private. Personally, I am less concerned about no access to abortion than I am that politicians will soon push an agenda that makes healthcare privacy a thing of the past.

Health information is a very powerful asset, and getting people comfortable with the idea of giving up their confidentiality when it comes to health matters is a big step toward keeping them down. I don’t believe these folks will stop with denying abortion and contraception access. They would like to tear apart legal privacy protections for the citizenry, so they promote bullshit about the “sanctity of life” as a reason to deny abortions to people who want or need them, while idiots like Colorado legislator Lauren Boebert crow about their ridiculous gun control theories. Yesterday, I watched a video about how she claims people in Venezuela are eating dogs because they can’t have guns. Seriously!

Well worth watching, if only because the guy who made this video is awesome. Lauren’s personal assets don’t include having a functioning brain.

I read last night that extremely pro-life Indiana Representative Jackie Walorski, just two weeks shy of her 59th birthday, died in a car crash. Two of her staffers died with her. I didn’t know anything about Walorski until last night, when I saw the article from Reuters. I went to her Facebook page, where she had just recently posted about visiting a “crisis pregnancy center” in Indiana. Crisis pregnancy centers are places where a pro-life agenda is pushed. The goal is to get the person considering abortion to change their minds, sometimes by the unethical use of misinformation or religious dogma.

The comments were pretty bananas, as people squabbled over their respective political views. One guy was especially disgusting toward the pro-choice women who were commenting. Only a few realized, at that point, that Ms. Walorski is no longer among the living and won’t be pushing her pro-life agenda anymore. I only hope that whoever replaces her is more moderate in their views. Like a lot of people, I am tired of being held hostage by politicians who think their religious beliefs have any place in making laws that affect everyone. On the other hand, I see some really ugly comments about her sudden death, including the one below…

No matter what I might think about Jackie Walorski’s politics, I’m sure she had many loved ones. This is not any better than the awful things conservatives say to liberals.
Ouch.

I don’t cheer for Jackie Walorski’s sudden death, but I really hope with all my heart that whomever takes her place will have more heart and sense for moderation. The country is being torn apart by extremism, and it will lead to even more very ugly things in the future, if something isn’t done soon.

Last night, I finished reading Black Beauty to Bill, and once again, I was shocked by how relevant that book is, even today. It was written in 1877, but it addresses animal rights, politics, and religion, and how politics and religion can turn people into insufferable assholes. Here are just a couple of quotes from the book, one of which I recently shared a few days ago.

“Your master never taught you a truer thing,” said John; “there is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast it is all a sham—all a sham, James, and it won’t stand when things come to be turned inside out.”

Sewell, Anna. Black Beauty (p. 46). True Sign Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

“Well, a man who gets rich by that trade may be all very well in some ways, but he is blind as to what workingmen want; I could not in my conscience send him up to make the laws. I dare say they’ll be angry, but every man must do what he thinks to be the best for his country.

Sewell, Anna. Black Beauty (p. 142). True Sign Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

“My boy, I hope you will always defend your sister, and give anybody who insults her a good thrashing—that is as it should be; but mind, I won’t have any election blackguarding on my premises. There are as many ‘blue’ blackguards as there are ‘orange’, and as many white as there are purple, or any other color, and I won’t have any of my family mixed up with it. Even women and children are ready to quarrel for the sake of a color, and not one in ten of them knows what it is about.

“Why, father, I thought blue was for Liberty.” “My boy, Liberty does not come from colors, they only show party, and all the liberty you can get out of them is, liberty to get drunk at other people’s expense, liberty to ride to the poll in a dirty old cab, liberty to abuse anyone that does not wear your color, and to shout yourself hoarse at what you only half-understand—that’s your liberty!”

“Oh, father, you are laughing.”

“No, Harry, I am serious, and I am ashamed to see how men go on who ought to know better. An election is a very serious thing; at least it ought to be, and every man ought to vote according to his conscience, and let his neighbor do the same.

Sewell, Anna. Black Beauty (p. 143). True Sign Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

I announced to some Facebook friends that I was reading Black Beauty to Bill, and one of them, a British lady who used to teach school in Britain, said it would have him in tears. Sure enough, it did. Black Beauty has a happy ending, but it really is a very good book that tugs at the heartstrings, and it’s surprisingly relevant today, on many levels. I’m glad I read it again as an adult (it was never meant to be children’s literature), and I’m so glad I shared it with Bill. He loved it, and never would have read it on his own. It’s a great book for animal lovers– especially horse lovers– but I think everyone should read it. Anna Sewell was very wise. Her book promotes common sense and compassion, not just toward animals, but also toward human beings. And it’s a reminder that things were bananas in the 19th century, too.

Anyway… it’s going to be another steamy day in Germany, and I’m in the middle of changing the sheets, and will soon be vacuuming, which is not my favorite thing to do. So I guess I’ll end this post and get on with it. Let’s hope for better news in the coming days.

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animals, book reviews, nostalgia, religion

Exposing Bill to Black Beauty…

No, I’m not referring to the black pills or capsules filled with amphetamines, although there are times when I think Bill might benefit from a little speed. Kidding, of course… He’s just chronically tired, because he doesn’t sleep soundly.

No, not THESE Black Beauties.

I’m actually referring to the book, Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell. It was one of my favorite books when I was a child. In those days, I was certifiably horse crazy. My sisters had passed down several copies of the 1877 novel, which was English author Anna Sewell’s only book. I read it countless times when I was growing up. Curiously, Bill was never exposed to this children’s literature staple. He says it’s because he was reading “adult” books when he was a child. I would say that although Black Beauty is a supposed children’s book, there is much value in it for adults, too. Not only is it a good reminder that animals are sentient beings with thoughts and feelings, but there’s also a lot of wisdom in it that is surprisingly timely today.

Anna Sewell spent several years writing Black Beauty, as she was an invalid who was very ill during the last years of her life. Anna was not able to stand or walk for very long distances, owing to an accident she had when she was 14 that injured both of her ankles. She relied on horse drawn carriages to get around, which caused her to love and respect horses very much. Sadly, Anna died at age 57, only five months after her book was published. She did, however, live long enough to see its initial success. Black Beauty is now one of the most popular and best-selling books of all time. And yet, Bill hasn’t even seen any of the movies, or the 70s British television show. I used to love watching Black Beauty on Nickelodeon in the 80s, when I was a pre-teen.

The TV theme for the show based on the novel.

I don’t remember what prompted me to buy a Kindle version of Black Beauty last night and start reading it to Bill. I knew that more than once, I had told him he needed to read the book. He kept expressing interest whenever I mentioned it, but never got around to taking my suggestion. He was always too sleepy!

I finally took it upon myself to read it to him, so I knew he was exposed to the story. Sure enough, he was very quickly hooked. Black Beauty is a very engaging book, even for men in their late 50s. Bill loves animals, and this is a book that isn’t just about horses, but also other creatures. It’s a plea against cruelty, and a reminder that religion doesn’t necessarily determine someone’s value as a person. For instance, this morning, I read this in the final paragraph of Chapter 13:

“Your master never taught you a truer thing,” said John; “there is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast it is all a sham—all a sham, James, and it won’t stand when things come to be turned inside out.”

Sewell, Anna. Black Beauty (p. 46). True Sign Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

As I read that, all I could think was that it was such a timely quote, given how things are today, in 2022. Anna Sewell was definitely a wise and intelligent woman, ahead of her time. I think about all of the so-called religious people– especially certain “Christians”– who claim a moral high ground because of their religious beliefs. And yet some of those people are the biggest liars, social climbers, and hypocrites ever! Give me a kindhearted atheist, any day.

Anna Sewell hadn’t meant for her book to be for children. She had wanted to increase awareness of animal welfare and promote kindness and sympathy, particularly toward horses, but likely also toward everyone and everything that lives. She even expressed consideration for flies in her book, as she wrote a story about a mean spirited boy named Bill who was cruel to his pony, and was once caught pulling the wings off of flies in a window sill. God knows, I’ve killed some flies in my day, but I don’t torture them. Hell, the other day, a bee landed in my beer and I helped the poor drunken fellow out to recover. Of course, it’s illegal to kill bees in Germany, anyway.

We’re already up to chapter 14. I’m determined to introduce Bill to this story, once and for all. I don’t think he’ll be sorry. I feel lucky to have such a patient and kind husband, who doesn’t mind indulging my idiosyncrasies and letting me read to him. The chapters are pretty short, which is a nice thing. It makes it easier to stop. I have read this book so many times, yet it never gets old. It truly is a great story. In its day, it helped change people’s attitudes about animals and how they are treated. Sewell’s commentary about “bearing reins”, which were used to force horses to keep their heads high, even led to their use being banned in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Besides reading books from the 19th century, we might also venture out today, since I’m not contagious anymore. I do still have a slight cough, but cold weather will be upon us before we know it. What I’d really like to do is find a nice hike to a waterfall, like we did when we lived near Stuttgart. Unfortunately, I don’t think we have too many near us. On the other hand, we didn’t really have any near us down in BW, either. We were just more willing to go out, because there wasn’t a pandemic going on. Germany’s rules have loosened a lot, but we’ve kind of lost the desire to go out as much anymore. And now, I can’t see COVID as an abstract threat, because I just got over it myself.

I’m also still working on reading Revenge, but I expect to be done with that book very soon. I look forward to dishing. In the meantime, below is a link to the abridged Kindle version of Black Beauty I’m reading. It’s only 60 cents! If you purchase it through the below link, I will get a pittance in commissions from Amazon. 😉

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social media

“Shame, shame… everybody knows your name!” When people of today, shame others over events from the past…

Back in the 80s, I used to love watching sitcoms on television. One of my favorites from those days was Alice, which, over several years, starred Linda Lavin, Vic Tayback, Beth Howland, Polly Holliday, Diane Ladd, and Celia Weston. A few years ago, I downloaded the entire series and watched all of the episodes. As I was watching the show, I had forgotten that Alice, along with many other TV shows from that era, wasn’t always “politically correct” by today’s standards.

I remember one episode featured cast members from The Dukes of Hazzard, which was a huge hit in the early 80s. I was still a child in the 80s, and I grew up in southern Virginia, where people proudly displayed Confederate battle flags. Consequently, when Alice originally aired in the 80s, I wasn’t shocked when an episode featured Boss Hogg and Enos, of The Dukes of Hazzard. Mel Sharples (Tayback), crotchety owner of Mel’s Diner, welcomed them by putting little Confederate battle flags on all the tables. In those days, seeing that flag was pretty common and even considered “normal”, especially in the South. I was about ten years old, anyway, and at that time, didn’t know anything about racism, or any of the issues surrounding that topic.

Yes, Enos and Boss Hogg visited Mel’s Diner.

I would later learn much more about racism, and why the Confederate flag is so offensive to many people, but I’m probably still pretty ignorant about the subject. What I know is mostly based on book learning and conversations I’ve had with people of color. I did happen to live in South Carolina when the Confederate flag was finally taken down from the top of the Statehouse dome. Because I was living on the campus at the University of South Carolina, I could actually see the flag come down from my apartment, as it was also being televised on CNN. The flag was moved to the Statehouse grounds, where it was guarded by a state trooper for some time. I believe the powers that be in South Carolina eventually removed the battle flag from the Statehouse grounds altogether, although I can’t swear to it, since I haven’t been in Columbia in years.

This certainly wouldn’t fly today… but it was considered perfectly fine in the 80s. We can’t change that by shaming people.

One thing I remember from Alice was that the character of Vera, played by Beth Howland, was famously ditzy, “dinghy”, and batty. One of Vera’s best remembered taglines was “shame, shame… everybody knows your name!” She would always say it with the appropriate level of disgust and disdain, which usually got a laugh from the studio audience. That old line is in my head this morning, as I reflect upon a shaming comment I received this morning from a complete stranger. It’s actually one of a few unpleasant interactions I’ve had with complete strangers on Facebook over the past 24 hours.

I’m in a Facebook group called “Exploring Virginia”. It’s mainly a “feel good” group in which people share beautiful photos and memories of Virginia. I spent most of my childhood and a good portion of my young adult life in Virginia. It’s my home. I was born there, and both sides of my family of origin have been there for generations. I spent my childhood riding horses, and since my discipline was “hunt seat”, that means I went on the occasional fox hunt. Virginia, being one of the original British colonies, does have a lot of traditions that are British. Some people are continuing those old traditions, even if they seem wrong now.

Yesterday, someone shared a photo from a fox hunt in Middleburg, Virginia. Middleburg is horse country. I never lived in Middleburg, but I do know that’s where a lot of really stellar hunter jumpers are born and bred. So, it stands to reason that there would be fox hunts in Middleburg. I thought it was nice that someone shared a photo from a hunt, and posted:

“I used to go on fox hunts in my youth… Was a lot of fun!”

I haven’t been fox hunting since, oh, around 1986 or so… at that time, fox hunts weren’t necessarily considered politically incorrect. They were even still legal in the United Kingdom, which banned them in 2004, because they are considered “cruel” . Fox hunting is still permitted in Northern Ireland. I believe they are still popular in Ireland, too, based on the YouTube videos I’ve seen. Anyway, it’s been many years since I last partook of that sport. In fact, I haven’t even been riding since the mid 90s, and riding used to be a huge part of my life. Seeing that fox hunting photo brought back good memories of when I spent most of my free time with my horse.

Most follow up comments to mine were friendly. Several other people also wrote that they used to enjoy fox hunting. Others just expressed appreciation for the photo, which again, wasn’t my photo. But then, this morning, I got a comment from someone who felt the need to single me out, and shame me, for fondly remembering my fox hunting days. She wrote, in direct response to my comment that hunting was fun, “not for the fox.”

I decided to reply to her, which I think I managed to do in a somewhat measured tone. I wrote:

“In all of the years that I hunted, I never saw any killing. We mostly chased deer, who also weren’t killed. Think trail ride while wearing fancy riding clothes. I think I saw one fox in all the times we hunted. We all said “tallyho”, and that was it.”

I understand that fox hunting is no longer considered “politically correct”, because many people consider it to be cruel. However, when I went fox hunting, I was a child growing up in rural Gloucester, Virginia, where my classmates would routinely bring rifles on school grounds so they could go hunting after school. That’s how things were in the 80s, and it was normal for me, and my classmates. Maybe fox hunting wouldn’t be considered “right” by some people today, but when I was a young horsewoman, it was perfectly fine, and part of taking riding lessons. I also competed in horse shows and went on competitive trail rides. Doing all of that helped keep me physically fit, taught me responsibility, and sportsmanship. It also kept me occupied and out of trouble. Moreover, hunting– of all kinds– was part of the culture in Gloucester.

In fact, when I was in middle school, I remember having to take a hunter safety course as part of our health and P.E. curriculum. Teachers actually taught us about how to safely handle firearms, even though I have never actually owned a weapon. Enough people in my community had guns, that the school board felt it was a good idea to teach school kids about gun safety. In light of all the gun violence in schools today, maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. Should I be ashamed that I took a hunter safety course, too? I don’t remember having a choice in the matter.

Anyway, the actual kind of fox hunting we did was more of a ceremonial thing. It genuinely was fun, on the mornings when it wasn’t absolutely frigid outside. It basically boiled down to people putting on breeches, long johns, black boots, turtlenecks, and coats, and riding through the woods on fall mornings. After a few spirited canters through the woods, and a few jumps over ditches, fallen tree trunks, and fences that were put up by the hunt club, the adults would pass around a flask of Jack Daniels. It seemed to be more about camaraderie than a bloody sport involving wild animals being torn apart by dogs. I never once saw that happen, but even if I did, it’s not as if people weren’t also using their guns to kill wild animals in those days, and now.

While I probably wouldn’t choose to go fox hunting now, I don’t feel offended when I see a picture of a man in hunting attire on horseback with his dogs. Hunting serves a practical purpose. Some people get their meat that way, and actually hunt because that’s partly how they feed their families. Many people are going to choose to eat meat, no matter what animal rights activists say about it.

I don’t think I should be shamed because I once enjoyed fox hunting, especially since I was a kid at the time, and nothing was ever actually killed. What’s the point of shaming someone for something like that, other than trying to make them feel like shit? I can’t change the fact that I used to fox hunt and mostly enjoyed it. It was part of growing up in rural Virginia around horses. Given that Exploring Virginia is supposed to be a “feel good” group, I think that lady’s comment was out of place. As I was writing this, some other lady gave me a “sad” reaction. Seriously? I decided to just delete my comment, because I don’t want to spend my Friday being annoyed by shamers. I’m sure that reaction was not what the group creators had in mind when they started their group.

For more reading about fox hunting in Virginia, here’s an excellent blog post by someone who describes exactly what I remember from my “hunting days”.

Cue the judgmental responses from the vegan crowd…

I’m not the only one who’s gotten shamed, though. Singer-songwriter Janis Ian shared the featured photo yesterday. Janis Ian regularly posts things that get people riled up and snarky. I like her music, and often agree with her views. She can be funny, too. But I rarely comment on her posts, mainly because I’ve noticed that she can get quite testy in responses to people and, at times, she’s a bit hypocritical. On the other hand, some of her fans are pretty obnoxious. One person commented,

“Yes! I didn’t realise that you are a vegan!”

To which Janis posted, “I’m not.”

The post then became inundated with comments from a preachy vegan who shamed those who enjoy eating meat. There were also a couple of comments about people who feed their cats a vegan diet, which I think is a cruel practice. Cats are true carnivores, and they shouldn’t be forced to be vegans because some humans think hunting is cruel. Even the ASPCA agrees. Cats hunt. It’s in their nature. No matter how many human beings think killing and eating animals is cruel, there will always be creatures who kill their food. It’s part of life.

That being said, I totally agree that factory farming is horrible, and too many of us eat way too much meat. But a holier than thou exchange on Facebook with a complete stranger about veganism isn’t going to make me change my diet, nor do I think the complete stranger really cares. I think it’s more about them feeling superior and more “evolved” than other people.

Personally, I truly admire vegans, but I don’t think I could be a vegan. I might be able to be a vegetarian, if I really desired to make that change. But I will tell you one thing… being preachy and judgmental is not going to make me want to join the vegan cause.

When it comes to animal rights, there are varying degrees on what some people think should be reality. Some animal rights activists, for instance, don’t think humans should even have pets. I’d love to know what they think we should do with all of the dogs and cats and horses who depend on their relationships with humans for their survival. You can’t tell me that my dogs don’t love Bill and me, either. I refuse to feel guilty and ashamed for loving my pets, who also eat meat.

I guess what it comes down to is that everybody has an opinion. In a just world, people would respect other people’s rights to express their opinions without resorting to shaming or climbing up on a moral high horse.

And finally…

Yesterday, I got shamed for “not being fertile”. Some guy in a discussion about abortion commented that he thinks that since half of a developing fetus’s DNA belongs to the father, the father should be allowed to force the mother to gestate. It’s as if this guy thinks of the fetus as his property, even though it’s not developing in his body.

I wrote that it’s too bad that MALES aren’t the ones whose health and life are on the line. And the guy responded by saying “most men prefer women who are fertile.” That struck me as a totally stupid comment. I actually laughed out loud. I considered offering a snarky rebuttal, but then decided that the guy’s comment was so incredibly dumb that it was better to block him. I don’t want to have anything to do with an asshole like that. 😉

But seriously… on so many levels, that comment was very offensive. First off, how does he know about my fertility, or lack thereof? I don’t look old in my photo. Secondly, why is he speaking for all men? And thirdly, it’s those kinds of misogynistic comments that make a lot of women not want to have anything to do with men. I can totally understand why my cousin decided to conceive using donor sperm, rather than being involved with a man. For one thing, she’s a lesbian. For another, so many men are just assholes. I truly hope that no fertile woman lets that dude get within fifty yards of her vagina.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I need to get off of Facebook.

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book reviews, celebrities

Repost: A review of Bruce Springsteen’s life story, Born to Run…

I posted this book review on my original OH blog January 4, 2017. It appears here as/is.

In the mid 1980s, I was an adolescent and Bruce Springsteen was at the top of his fame with the release of his album, Born In The USA.  I’m not sure why, but in 1986, I asked my dad to buy me Springsteen’s Live 1975-85 box set on cassette.  My dad obliged, and I used to listen to those tapes over and over again as I rode my bike to and from the barn where I boarded my horse, Rusty.  It got to the point at which I had all of the songs memorized, along with the stories Springsteen would sometimes tell before launching into a number.

As the years passed, I stopped listening to Springsteen as much.  I still admired his voice, though… not so much his singing voice, but the messages he conveyed through his music.  He always seemed like a very down to Earth kind of guy.  It also helped that I had a teacher in high school who knew Springsteen when he was just like everybody else, growing up in Freehold, New Jersey.  They had attended the same school and back then, he was just a greasy guy who played in local bands.  No one knew that one day, he’d be a superstar.

I suppose it was those memories that got me to read Springsteen’s recently released life story, Born to Run.  I have spent a couple of weeks reading about Springsteen’s Catholic upbringing in New Jersey and his colorful Irish and Italian family, as well as the origin of his famous last name (it’s Dutch).  I read about how, as a young guy, he hustled in New Jersey and, curiously enough, Richmond, Virginia, earning gigs and making a name for himself with his music.  He wrote of being really poor and doing all he could to survive and I can tell that he’s never forgotten those days.

Born to Run is a very personal book, with many insights into Springsteen’s life so far.  The writing is very strong.  There were times when I had to stop for a moment because Springsteen used an interesting word that threw me for a loop.  Although he comes across as this working class guy who grew up with very hardcore American ideals, he’s also fabulously deep and intelligent.  If he hadn’t been a musician and songwriter, Springsteen definitely could have had a successful career authoring books.  He’s very generous with his thoughts and expresses them beautifully.

I think my favorite part of Springsteen’s story was when he wrote about learning to ride horses.  He grew up poor and eventually got his thrills riding motorcycles.  Many years later, his daughter Jessica would get her first pony and eventually go on to become a world class equestrienne.  Bruce’s wife, Patti Scialfa, loved horses.  They bought a farm in New Jersey and bought a couple of steeds.  Suddenly, Springsteen was learning how to ride!  And his stories about learning how to ride are pretty funny, especially if you’ve spent any time around horses.  I grew up riding horses and Springsteen’s music was a theme for me during those years, so it was pretty cool to read about how he eventually came to love riding.

Another aspect of Born to Run that struck me was how much Springsteen respects his wife, Patti Scialfa.  She joined the E Street Band in 1984, just days before the Born In The USA tour began.  Scialfa had fiery red hair and a voice for torch songs that clearly touched Springsteen deeply.  He refers to hearing her sing “Tell Him” by The Exciters and how her voice grabbed him.  Many years later, after they had been married for awhile, Springsteen watched his wife informally entertain Frank Sinatra at a party.  They all sat around the piano while Scialfa sang and I could almost witness the admiration Springsteen has for Scialfa as she delivered music to ‘ol blue eyes himself.  Springsteen writes that Frank Sinatra had some very interesting friends, most of whom were not in the business of rock and roll.  Sinatra had befriended Springsteen, not as a musician or a star, but as a fellow New Jersey boy.  When I think of Springsteen’s humble origins and where life has taken him, it gives me some hope and wonder for my own future.

All in all, I found Born to Run a very enjoyable read.  As much as I liked Springsteen before I read his story, reading his book made me appreciate him all the more.  He comes across as a very normal, decent, passionate guy who happened to make it very big in a business where staying power is not always the norm and narcissism is the order of the day.  I appreciate how generous he is with his story… you get over 500 pages of Springsteen tales and they’re all written beautifully.  If I were rating Born to Run on Epinions, I would for sure give it five stars.

Highly recommended!

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission for sales made through my site.

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book reviews, nostalgia

Happy Christmas Eve, 2021! A look at the magical world of Stephen Cosgrove…

After a couple of really frigid days in Germany, it suddenly warmed up today. I didn’t have to break the ice in Noyzi’s water bowl, as I have for most of this week. Our back yard is a mud pit, thanks to weeks of rain. Curiously, the rose bush in the backyard still has two blooms on it. It’s kind of poignant to look at it… those resilient crimson blooms are hanging on for dear life, even as New Year’s approaches. Maybe it’s a sign of hope.

It kind of reminds me of a book I loved when I was a horse crazy girl in Virginia. It’s probably no surprise that I loved reading, so the school book fairs were a big hit, as far as I was concerned. Sometime in fourth grade, I got hooked on children’s author, Stephen Cosgrove’s, books. I especially loved the ones he wrote about horses, and there were a lot of them. He also wrote books with other animals as the protagonists. I didn’t read as many of those books, because when I was a child, horses were my passion. I would probably love his other books.

I would definitely choose Stephen Cosgrove over Dr. Seuss. I guess that’s another way Ex and I are very different.

Cosgrove would marry animal characters with beautiful illustrations by his colleague, Robin James. The stories always had a winning combination of magic, royalty, fantasy, and morals. Since, as far as I was concerned, horses were the most beautiful animals, I was especially enchanted by his books about them in any incarnation.

One of my favorite stories by Stephen Cosgrove was his book, Shimmeree, which was about a majestic winged mare– a lightosaur– who lived in a crystal water droplet. The only colors in Shimmeree’s crystalized world were blue, gold, and silver. One day, Shimmeree discovered a speck of dust lands in a crack the droplet. Shimmeree and her friends had never seen dust before, and it scared them. They shied away from the dust, thinking it was dangerous, because it was a color they had never seen before– grayish-brown.

Some time passes, and Shimmeree and her friends continue to be worried about the dust and the strange pearl shaped seed within it. What was it? Was it dangerous? The leader of the lightosaurs wanted to destroy the seed before it harmed them.

Shimmeree stood up for the seed. She pleaded with her friends not to destroy the seed, just because it was different. Shimmeree offered to watch the seed, promising that if it turned out to be dangerous, they could destroy it.

One day, the seed broke open, and Shimmeree saw the color green for the first time. She went to tell the others, and they all rushed back to the seed. The green color casted by the light on the others, and they became truly frightened. They were going to destroy the plant, but Shimmeree talked them out of it. Then, while everyone slept, she moved the plant to another place.

When the creatures came back to destroy the plant, they realized it was gone. The group was thrilled that it was gone, but just then, it bloomed and cast the most beautiful shade of red, which was reflected on everyone. The group went to where Shimmeree had moved the plant, which had bloomed into a beautiful rose.

So pretty!

And Shimmeree and her friends learned that they had nothing to fear but fear itself… Below is a video reading of this story.

I loved this book when I was a kid!

I did love Shimmeree, but I don’t think it was my favorite Stephen Cosgrove book. I was just reminded of that story because of the tenacious roses in our yard. Usually, by this time of year, the roses are long gone. Given how challenging the COVID times have been, I think it’s kind of cool that the roses are still hanging on… or, it could just be another sign of global warming and climate change. This cynical side I have is one reason why I don’t think I would make a very good children’s author, as much as I loved to read children’s books.

I think my favorite book by Stephen Cosgrove might be Morgan & Me. I identified with the protagonist, although I don’t tend to “live in the land of Later”… I’m just not so good about cleaning up my room. I don’t procrastinate, though. I think I was just taken by the little princess and her trip through the enchanting forest, where she met Morgan, a unicorn whose horn was stuck in branches.

I miss some things about being a child.
Blessed are children’s authors who can come up with magical stories…

True to her nature, the princess promised to help the unicorn named Morgan. But just a little later…

She finally helped Morgan when she became bored. Once she freed Morgan, he followed her, until she fell into a lily pond. She asked Morgan for help, and he promised he would… but just a little later. The princess begged for help, since she knew she’d catch cold sitting on a lily pad. Then she realized why Morgan was doing what he was doing and apologized for making him wait. He lowered his horn and rescued the princess. She learned a lesson, and they became the best of friends!

Stephen Cosgrove wrote so many other awesome books for children that were easy to read, beautifully illustrated, and enchanting. I probably should order some of them to read on the days when I’m feeling especially cranky. Based on the YouTube videos people have made, reading Stephen Cosgrove’s books, he was very popular among people my age… especially the girls. I think a lot of my friends liked his book, Flutterby Fly. As you can see, Cosgrove would probably be inspired by Germany… many times, I have seen forests and meadows like the ones illustrated in his books.

I suddenly have an image of Vanessa Redgrave reading this… wouldn’t that be interesting?

Or Nitter Pitter, a story about a narcissistic stallion… I used to have a beagle like Nitter Pitter. He was gorgeous, and definitely knew it!

I loved this book, probably because it was about a regular horse…
And maybe because of this illustration, which inspired a lot of horsey dreams.

I often think about how much I would love to have horses in my life again, even though they are very expensive and require a lot of work. Some of my best friends in life were four legged… and the one who got me through high school was a very special Appaloosa named Rusty. He was my dearest confidant, and we made a great team. But real life was calling, so I left that world behind… Maybe someday, I can revisit it, although without as much intensity as I once had.

Last night, Noyzi the Kosovar street dog came into our bedroom and watched fox hunting videos with us. A year ago, he was terrified by the TV, especially when men were on the screen. But now he is fascinated by television, especially when there are dogs baying, as they do in fox hunts. I got a kick out of watching Noyzi react to the horses and dogs of Ireland. I used to fox hunt myself, back in the day, but fox hunting in Virginia isn’t quite as intense as it is in Ireland. Noyzi was very impressed by the show and even joined in with the barking. I always knew he was a hound at heart, even if he’s really a shepherd of some sort. I got three videos of Noyzi last night… below is the last one I took. Arran also got into it.

Anyway… I guess it’s time I got on with the day. I hope, if you’re celebrating, you have an excellent holiday– Christmas or whatever– and there’s no drama or strife. And if there is, I recommend watching a few videos of people reading Stephen Cosgrove books. They’ll take you away from the ugliness of this world for a few moments.

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