Monday, August 29, 2011

Review of "Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey" by Nicholas Schaffner

Every Pink Floyd fan should own "Saucerful of Secrets". It a fascinating book about this very private, secretive group. The writing is skillfully done, and it's a quick read. I used this book as the basis for an entire class I taught about Pink Floyd.

The book carries us through the history of the band from their births to the book's publication date in 1991. The early lives of the band members are interesting, but once the band is formed, it becomes fabulous. The book goes into great detail about the deterioration of Syd Barrett's mental state and how it affected the other members of the band. That's my favorite part of the book because I didn't know a lot of that. I was born in 1968 and came to Pink Floyd later. I always knew there was a guy named Syd in the band, but I had no idea how influential he was on everything the band has done since. It's great.

We also get a good look at much of the band's later work and the inspirations for it. I enjoyed reading about how the band evolved from a fringe, underground club band into one of the first super-groups playing stadiums. The book follows all the way through the break-up of the '70s/early '80s incarnation and their solo work. It also discusses the conflicts and court cases the former friends had following the break-up.

All in all, this is a great book. I recommend it to any Pink Floyd fan. I guarantee you'll learn something you probably didn't know about them.
Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

GED graduation...

Most of you probably know that I teach in a federal prison. Once a year we have a graduation ceremony for the GED graduates and the inmates who finish other big programs like apprenticeships, also. The GED graduates wear a cap and gown, and they're the focus of the ceremony. It's one of the biggest deals we have all year. The warden and executive staff are always there, and the work supervisors of the inmates usually come, also. We also have guest speakers from the outside. The president of Drury University spoke this year. We've had representatives, senators, and even Waylon Jennings speak before! It's a pretty big deal event.
Until late last year, I was teaching in GED class. When our GED tester retired, I moved upstairs to become the tester. I couldn't teach GED and administer the test by the GED rules, so this was probably my last graduation with my inmates walking. Anyway, I had one come up to thank me after graduation. He's a 68 year old meth cooker. I doubt if he'll ever get out of prison. He spent a couple thousand hours in class before I got him and another couple thousand in mine before I got him through. He did his mandatory hours a long time ago and was only staying in class to say he finished. I talked him out of dropping several times. Well, when he walked up to me, he was nearly crying. His lip was quivering and he told me,"I never could've done this without you. I just wanted to say thank you."

It's not often people in my line of work (corrections) get sincerely thanked. We're usually getting cussed or having urine/blood/feces thrown on us. This guy actually thanked me and meant it. I'm not sure exactly what it means, but it has to mean something in the grand scheme of the universe to have an inmate nearly cry thanking me.

Graduation is my favorite day of work all year.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review of "The Road to Grafenwöhr" by Edward C. Patterson

This is the first novel I've read by Edward Patterson. I spent a couple years in Germany, and "The Road to Grafenwohr" captures that experience masterfully. A lot of the universal elements that make up the life of a soldier in Germany are described perfectly in this story. I love the way the German landscape is painted, and many, little bits of German culture are described precisely. The added specter of Vietnam during the era of this book gave it another layer. It is a very interesting story that I enjoyed immensely.

Edward Patterson is truly a master wordsmith. He weaves together a quite authentic, realistic plotline of a young soldier finding his way in Germany with elements of fantasy in such a way that the entire story is captivating. I couldn't wait to get to the next page. His characters are authentic and well developed. I truly cared about what was happening with each of them, and he has done a wonderful job of capturing the bond soldier's share. I really liked the way the characters matured with the plot. The ending is terrific. This is a very good book. I look forward to reading more of Mr. Patterson's work.
The Road to Grafenwohr

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Recall! Return of the IRR

Good news, everybody! I have a new book out!! It's available on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords right now with a print version coming soon. It's a bit of a sequel to my last book "SAT & BAF!" which relates my experiences as a recall from Individual Ready Reserves during Desert Storm. With the many controversial IRR recalls in the last ten years, I think this book might prove interesting to see how the current era of recalls started.

It's a bit more serious than my last book and has a lot more military stuff. It still includes my brand of irreverence, though. It's an entertaining book that I think turned out quite good. I hope you check it out. It's only $..99 on Kindle or Nook with a print version coming soon. I'm excited!
Recall! Return of the IRR

Here's the synopsis:
There hadn't been a full-scale recall of the Individual Ready Reserves since the Korean War in January of 1991. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, many people believed it would take World War III to trigger a recall of the IRR. Many people were wrong.

They came from cities and farms and towns in every corner of the country. With only a few days' notice, they quit their jobs, dropped out of college, kissed their girlfriends or wives, and got on planes to Atlanta, Georgia with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They had long hair, beards, and bad attitudes. They descended by the thousands on Fort Benning, Georgia, and they were not happy about it at all.

In this entertaining, true story, the author relates his own experiences as one of the twenty-thousand IRR recalls who were ordered back to active duty in support of Operation Desert Storm. In a story reminiscent of "The Dirty Dozen" times ten thousand, the author takes you through the entire experience from beginning to end. He carries you along for the ride and explains exactly what it was like to be a recall. With the many IRR recalls over the last ten years of warfare, this first hand account could shed some light on how the current era of recalls began. (29,000 words +/-)


On a sad note, I lost one of my favorite uncles to lung cancer the other day. He was a good guy. We made two four hour trips to St. Louis in the last couple weeks. One was to say hello to him. The other was to say goodbye. Tell your family you love them because they can be gone any time.

Everybody take care.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review of "No Justice (A Michael Sykora Novel)" by Darcia Helle

Wow! I just finished "No Justice", and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Darcia Helle is a fabulous writer. The pace of the book is quick. The scenes and characters are well developed. The dialogue is realistic. This is an excellent book.

I enjoyed the Michael Sykora character very much. He seems quite likeable for a hit man! I've always been a fan of vigilante type stories, so this one was right up my alley. Darcia has pulled off the difficult feat of getting the audience to root for a lead character who is a murderer. There is an undercurrent of romance throughout the book, and there are also some surprisingly funny comments and scenes. "No Justice" has many different threads that are weaved together quite nicely in this page-turner. I can't say enough good things about this book. I mainly read non-fiction, but I enjoyed this novel a lot. I look forward to reading more of Darcia's work. She's a very good writer. I was enjoying the book so much that I had to stop reading parts of it to my wife as I read it so I wouldn't spoil it for her! I wouldn't hesitate to buy this book again.