Saturday, September 24, 2016

Added to my virtual bookshelf ... "Professor Challenger: New Worlds, Lost Places" compiled by J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec

In the course of a prolific career that traversed a wide variety of genre, British writer Arthur Conan Doyle created - for me, at least - three singular characters. Over time, those three have achieved varying degrees of popularity and shelf-presence.

I have read all of Doyle's stories of detective Sherlock Holmes, and almost all his stories of Brigadier Etienne Gerard. In contrast, I have read only one of his Professor George Edward Challenger stories ... but what a wonderful story it was! And I am not at all surprised that it provided much of the foundation for “Professor Challenger: New Worlds, Lost Places” a collection of short stories inspired by Doyle's brilliant, headstrong and physical academician.

The stories were compiled by J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec, and I strongly recommend reading their introductions before proceeding to the stories themselves. These intro’s provide a very good background from which many of you will learn something new and useful ... I know I did.

As for the stories themselves, it should be no surprise that some appealed to me more than others ... although the general level is good, and I recommend them all. It’s just that some were less successful for me than others. One of those was Guy Adams’ and James Goss’ “Professor Challenger & the Crimson Wonder,” which is related to us in the form of a series of communications between the story’s characters. It’s not a bad idea ... it worked very well for Lawrence Sanders’ “The Anderson Tapes” ... but here, not so well. Still, though, I was intrigued enough to want to finish the story and find out how it ends .. it was just a little harder getting to that end.

Some stories that appealed to me more were those that captured – even in brief snippets – some of Doyle’s original story, and the exchanges between its characters. There are several with brief exchanges between Challenger and Edward Malone that display thr professors disdain for the ‘dim-wittedness’ of people in general, and the journalist’s public education in particular. Another was Stephen Volk’s “Shug Monkey,” which closes with an exchange between Challenger, Malone and Lord John Roxton that very much captured the spirit of an exchange between those same three characters in “The Lost World” ... a spirit of work to be done and adventures to continue.

More than a century has passed between the publication of these stories and thr novel that inspired them. So it should be no surprise that the passage of time and concurrent development of science and technology is reflected in the vocabulary. I have no problem with that. I also have no problem – welcome it, actually - with the stories including female characters of strength, intelligence and initiative who are allowed to do more than just scold the professor, or wail when said scolding leaves them set atop a high dresser.

My thanks to Campbell and Prepolec for assembling these stories ... and inspiring me to seek out and read the rest of Doyle’s stories of Professor Challenger. I recommend the - both this collection of stories, and the stories that inspired them - to you all.

NOTE: I received a free e-copy of this work through LibraryThing in exchange for a review.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Love is in the air ...

Loading-up at H.E.B.
... well, green chile, actually ... same thing.

For me, September is one of those times where something touches and excites the senses, bringing fond memories to the surface, and setting me on the path to add yet another page to that particular 'fond memory' archive.

It's chile-roasting time in the southwest ... and love truly is in the air ... well, for me, at least!

The first page of this particular archive was entered more than forty years ago, when I made the move from northeast to southwest, bidding farewell to the Keystone State to pursue my education - and, eventually, my life - in the Land of Enchantment.

It was only a few weeks after my arrival, and the start of the fall semester, and I was on my way to class when I caught a whiff of something new, something wonderful in the air. It was still there after class, and I had some spare time, so I took Toucan Sam's advice ... "Follow your nose!"

That led me to a nearby K-Mart parking lot and my first view of a chile roaster, and my first taste of fresh-roasted green chile, harvested just the day before from the fields of Hatch, New Mexico (the Green Chile Capital of the Universe), and trucked overnight to Albukookoo.

Firing-up at Market Street
There was a hint of love in the aroma ... and the taste sealed it, beginning a passionate relationship that continues to this day, renewed each September when roasters set-up in parking lots of shopping centers around the southwest ... when I take a bag of freshly-roasted chile home to wash and package, some for now and some for later ... and when I think about the meals ahead - green chile stew/casserole/strata/enchiladas/quiche/cheeseburgers/chicken salad/pizza (especially with piƱon nuts)/omelettes/queso/cornbread - you name it!

Something that touches and excites the sense of smell, bringing fond memories to the surface. For some, it's the smell of freshly-laundered linens drying on the clothes line, while for others it's bread baking in the kitchen, or a pile of leaves burning in the backyard. For me, it's the smell of roasting chile ...

... oh, YES ... love IS in the air!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

My problem with Patriot Day

It's been just under fifteen years, now, that Joint Resolution 71 passed through the U.S. House of Representatives, then the U.S. Senate, then was signed into by law President George Bush, proclaiming September 11 as Patriot Day. This followed President Bush's proclamation of September 14, 2001 - just three days after the horrific terrorist attacks of '9/11' - as a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance. Personally, I think President Bush had the right idea in that proclamation, perhaps realizing that there was more to what we experienced that terrible day - and the days and years that followed - than just patriotism.

You see, I have a problem with labeling 9/11 as Patriot Day ... I believe there was so much more to those attacks, and to the response of people on-the-scene, across our nation and around the world, that was deeper than an emotional attachment to a nation.

I have no doubt that there were patriots among the firefighters who and police officers rushed into the Twin Towers that day. But they were also responding to a call of duty, fulfilling an oath they took upon graduation from the academy, with their hand upon a Bible, closing with 'so help me God.'

Was it strictly his patriotism that led Mychal Judge, O.F.M. - a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest who served as a chaplain to the New York City Fire Department - to enter the lobby of the World Trade Center North Tower, where he continued offering aid and prayers for the rescuers, the injured, and the dead until debris from the collapsing South Tower sliced through the lobby, killing him and many others?

On the far side of the world, I believe there was something more that patriotism at work when a Thai village delivered an illustrated letter of condolence to the U.S. Embassy in Bankgkok, for the people in America. and in the months following the attack, the Japanese government found a way to support America's war in Afghanistan with non-combat support troops, in spite of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution - drafted in the wake of World War II - that forbade use of Home Defense Forces abroad.

These are just a few examples ... I'm sure you can offer others ... and I welcome your contribution. You may also offer examples of how I'm wrong, that this 9/11 is aptly labeled Patriot Day ... I welcome those contributions, as well.

BUT ... whatever you call it, please find some means in your mind and in your soul, to mark this day.