The Bow-Tied Blogger

The life and adventures of one soldier and his various journeys.

  Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Books read for February:

Second Contact (Colonization, Book 1)

Down to Earth (Colonization, Book 2)

Conversion to Judaism: A Guidebook (Paperback)

Your People, My People: Finding Acceptance and Fulfillment as a Jew by Choice

Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return To His Jewish Family

Books read in February: 5
Books read for 2007: 10

So, anyone detecting a theme? :)

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  Sunday, February 25, 2007

Book Review: Last book read in January.

Now for my final book review in January: The Bastard

Now, for those who don't know, I love history. I also love historical fiction and alternate history. The Bastard is historical fiction about Phillipe Charbonneau, the bastard son of the Duke of Kentland. The story starts in rural France with Phillipe living with his mother, a tutor, and a maid in an inn owned by his mother. In the beginning, Phillipe is 17 and meets the Marquis D'Lafayette and is seduced by the maid, much to his mother's dismay. She then explains his legacy and how she wants him to find the daughter of a British noble or a woman from a wealthy working family.

After his legacy is explained, Phillipe's mother Marie learns of the Duke's illness and takes her son to Kentland, where they are not well received by the Duke's wife and legitimate son, along with the son's fiance, Alicia. They are not welcomed and attempts are made to pay them off so the inheritance claims would be dropped. After being led to believe that the Duke is dead, the Charbonneau's have no more money, and after Phillipe damages his half-brother's hand and has an affair with his fiance, they flee to London being pursued by hired thugs sent by the Duke's heir.

In London, Phillipe and his mother look for places to stay but run afoul of some beggars and are taken in by the Sholto family, deeply religious publishers and whigs. Phillipe is apprenticed by the Sholto patriarch and learns a trade, until his half-brother hires a one eyed assassin to kill him. After this, Phillipe and his mother flee to Southampton and to Boston, much to his mother's objections.

When they arrive in Boston, the mother has died and Phillipe is left with no one. He wanders in Boston trying to look for work and lodging, until he runs afoul of two British officers, but is rescued by separatists who admire his spunk. one of the seperatists is an innkeeper who gievs him lodging and work, where he will eventually meet Samuel Adams and Samuel's cousin John. He also falls in love with Anne Ware the daughter of a separatist and a fiesty indepndent woman in her own right, especially for 1775.

During this time, Phillipe (now Philip Kent) rusn afoul of his half brother, who has purchased a Lieutenant Colonel's commission and is in Boston. Eventually they confornt each other again and Philip runs his sword through his brother, eventually killing him.

That is a brief summary and I may have spoiled too much of it. In a nutshell I like the story. The only issue I have is that Philip's life is too fanciful as he meets the Marquis D'Lafayette, Benjamin Franklin, John and Samuel Adams, and Paul Revere, plus he is the illegitamte son of a Duke. Perhaps that is overkill, but this is fiction, and I admit I enjoy the connectiosn, because they spark an interest in the historical characters. This book is also the first of seven books about a family heriatge in America and definitely worth looking at.

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  Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Death of a Cousin

Well, for a while I knew one of my cousins was dying of colon cancer, and I just learned that my second cousin, once removed, Frank Duncan Macpherson Strachan III died on Feburary 15.

I don't entirely know how I feel. Growing up, I met Duncna on occasion, but only got to know him and his family after I reconciled with my father in late 2000. Around that same time, Duncan's mother (and my surrogate grandmother), Rose Patricia Strachan nee Forsyth, died of cancer at age 85.

What is important is how I remember Duncan. He was funny and eccentric, as typical of many prominent uptown families. He had a huge WWII collection and in fact donated a tank to the D Day Museum in New Orleans. He also deeply loved New Orleans and worked heavily to restore it and to revive the middle class, while so many would want to make New Orleans a sanctuary for the welafare parasites.

I knew he was dying since Thanksgiving, so it is not too great a shock and to an extent I am fairly unphased by death. When my grandmother died, my cousin and I were making a death pool of the remaining family (I picked my grandfather, my Uncle Buck, my mother, and my Uncle Joe in that far my grandfather died, and Uncle Buck is in poor health, plus my mother is chain smoking again), and maybe that is my coping mechanism, along with a joke about how weddings and funerals are linked in my mother's family...I made a joke that when Karen dumped me, Uncle Buck will live soem more.

I guess I am morbid and probably a touch disturbing in my approach to death. For now, requiest in pacem Duncan.

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  Monday, February 19, 2007

My Trip to Austin

Just in case any of my readers don't know, I have decided a few weeks ago to convert to Judaism, as can also be implied by many books I've been reading. I actually scheduled a meeting with a Rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim, a Conservative Synagogue in Northwest Austin.

The good news: I learned of two helpful books and it was a nice experience, plus Rabbi Liberman was very helpful.

The bad news: Conversion classes were closed. Also, the classes open in the autumn, when I'll be deploying. When my deployment ends, I'll be ready to get out and strike out on my next step in life.

Now, the other unfortunate factor for me is that the course is done like a traditional class and not online. This is a setback for me, but nothing too great. I fully understand her reasons, plus I know that she would want her students to also experience Jewish culture first hand and not just from books or online.

I do regard myself as a Jew in Training, though conversion plans will wait a while longer, but no great ordeal as I'll be heading to New York City after my Army tour ends, and there should be no shortage of synagogues in the Big Apple. In the meantime I will continue learning and seeking Jewish resources.

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New book review....

Well, I should be talking about my trip up to Austin, but more on that later. I have just finished another book, and I thought I should make another review. This one is on Mary Cheney, who could make for a good Congressional candidate in Wyoming.

Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life, by Mary Cheney.

This book was not the greatest book I ever read, but I didn't find it that bad either. Mary Cheney discusses her dad's House career made possible by the 1976 victory of History's Greatest Monster, and how it eventually led to him being Bush's second choice for Secretary of Defense. Personally, I am not in favor of a Secretary of Defense having no military experience, and I think the requirement that a Defense Secretary be out of the military for so many years asinine. I even favor active duty soldiers being elected to office (including President) as long as they keep their military salaries and forgo the elective one, but that is not what the book is about.

The book is primarily about Mary Cheney's role as her father's Campaign Manager in both elections, as well as her position on same-sex marriage. Now, I won't give her any flak for not being more criticial of the bush administration's policies at the time. Family comes first, and she looks to the future with hope, instead of acting like a militant, or some other alienating posture that will do no long-term good.

In fact, when the flushable johns (Kerry and Edwards) commented about Mary Cheney's sexual orientation, I was curious to know how Mary felt. John Edwards is a millionaire ambulance chaser who preaches populism, but lives in a mansion. Mary pegged him pretty accurately as a slimy demagogue, and I liked how she mentioned Gephardt as a better choice for VP, but went after Kerry for taking the easy choice.

The book is not objective and Mary has a very positive view of her father, and I frankly have no doubt Dick is a great father, regardless of how I feel about him as VP. I wasn't overjoyed at being reminded that James Baker was a friend of her family, but that is how politics goes. Aside from such awful friends, I'd like to see Mary look into politics herself in Wyoming. The West still has a rugged individualist streak that doesn't care about sexual orientation too much, but more about property rights, guns, and government intrusion. I don't know where she falls on all issues, but she could be very helpful to the Goldwater wing of the Republican party and to help combat the Evangelicals, but somehow I doubt she has any interests in office, herself.

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  Saturday, February 17, 2007

I know I should have posted yesterday, but Sarah, a blogger most of my reader's know, is going through a stressful time, as her mother awaits surgery, and I hope we can keep her and her mother in our hearts and prayers (for those of us who pray), and that the joyfulness of the month of Adar will extend to Sarah and her family.

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  Monday, February 12, 2007

Review Time

I was planning to make my reviews in sequence, but a certain post by our favorite gun-toting beauty has given me the decision to choose my next review:

When Bad Things Happen to Good People: Twentieth Anniversary Edition by Harold Kushner

Now, this book was written a while back and inspired by a senseless tragedy. Rabbi Kushner had a son afflicted with accelerated aging who would die in his teens. The book is not about why God does or allows such things to happen, but how to handle them when they do. Why does a child starve while Josef Stalin lived to an old age? Honestly I can't answer, and I'd probably be a little disturbed by the answer. The real question to answer is how do you help the mother who lost her child?

The world is a harsh and often brutal place. Of course, if the world were perfect and had no hardships, life would have no purpose, too. In the book, Rabbi Kushner uses the Book of Job and discusses how a good and righteous man suffered on account of a bet, and he talks about the reactions given. Some would say that the misfortune was brought about by past wickedness or that being more righteous would end it. Both answers are offensive and insulting. In some cases, the problesm are self-inflicted, like my father's larnyx cancer. He chose to smoke heavily and he develops a cancer. That does not mean he is wicked, just that he made bad choices. Most cases of cancer are not as easily linked, but just happen, and it is a horrible thing, and takes so many lives. There is no reason why that happens. To Rabbi Kushner the correct question to ask God isn't "Why are You doing this", but, "Please help me deal with this."

I guess my life has been pretty easy as the hardest death to hit me was the loss of a cat. When my grandprents died, they were older and in pain, so in some ways I considered death a liberator. Other areound me have died, but I wasn't too close to them. I am also very thanksful no one I am close to has died in Iraq, though that may happen. I don't know entirely how I'll react. I also have a somewhat chilled relationship with my immediate family, so their deaths will affect me, but not immensely, perhaps because I expect it to eventually happen.

I have a cousin who is dying of colon cnacer. He is an amusing character, but I do not feel great sadness for myself. The only thing that saddens me is thinking about hsi wife and children, and how his death will affect them. To ask God to expand his life is arrogant and fruitless; I'd rather ask that my cousins's family be better able to cope with his loss.

While loss of life is not as big a tragedy for me as it is for others, I have faced other tragedies in life. I spend too much tiem thinking about how to avoid them or make things different, and I only detest myself more. Instead, I should think of what I do next. Do I get busy living or get busy dying?

Granted this book does not follow my cold nature, but it offers wisdom and how to help people who suffer from tragedy. I definitely recommend this book, especially if you have suffered loss recently or if those you know and love have, or if you are upset by the loss of a stranger.

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  Sunday, February 11, 2007

Credit where credit is due!!!

Now, I imagine you've seen the changes to my blog, and hopefully all of you like it. I must admit I would not have been able to do such great things myself. I owe it all to Bagel Blogger, who is a great bloke, has lots of humor, and like me is converting to Judaism. I definitely encourage you to view his blog and laugh at his humor :)


Time for another review.

I should post more often, but work is draining all my energy and spirits, and then our leadership has been giving constant barracks inspections the last week.

Now for my next review:

Becoming a Jew, by Maurice Lamm.

This is the ultimate book for anyone interested in Judaism (including born Jews) and especially for someone curious about conversion. The first part of the book gives details about people who have converted and their stories. Some people convert out of marriage, while others convert because they have found a spiritual home in Judaism (like myself).

The conversion stories are interesting to read about, and I took an additional interest in conversion stories from former Catholics, especially reading about one who was a Dominican priest. In addition, there are explanations given about the reluctance of some Jews to welcome the idea of converts and in fact one Sephardic sect will not acknowledge any convert. The reasons date back to Rome as well as the Middle East and Medieval and even early modern Europe, where the entire Jewish community in a village could face heavy persecution if a Muslim or Christian converted.

The second part of the book talks about the process of conversion including circumcision and the symbolic circumcision for civilized men who were circumcised at birth, along with the mikveh, and the Beit Din. Additionally, there are two chapters devoted to the Jewish holidays, and explanations about some of the mitzvot, especially the more visible ones like the mezzuzah, tallit, tzitzit, and kippah.

For a potential convert this is excellent reading. Also, it is a good book for many Jews who are not as knowledgeable about their faith as they'd like, or if they are curious about why someone would convert, they'd enjoy the stories.

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  Sunday, February 04, 2007

Book review time!!

I should have done this a while back, but the most lovely and talented Irina had the great idea first, and so I will do my first review of my January books.

Today's review is for 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is #37).

Now, the first thing is to consider Bernard Goldberg's point of view. He is not a conservative, but a disaffected old-school liberal. He is not a fan of going back to the fifties or some similar time of phony ideals, but he would like to reign in excesses. By and large his cirtiques are towards the left, but more than a few right-wing icons get theirs, like David Duke, Jimmy Swaggart, and Roy Moore.

Politics is contained in the commentary, but only as a coincidence since he is more concerned about social commentary and the effect on America's attitude. Whether you like or dislike Bush, the average Joe will not give him much mind, and only because he is President, so a good target for credit or blame. However, the President as well as certain political leaders will not impact our attitude, except indirectly. Dennis Hastert, Nancy Pelosi, Tom Dacshle, Bill Frist, and Harry Reid aren't worthy of mention, because no one cares too much about what they do, except when they want to blame a politician.

On the other hand, celebrities matter, because people look up to them for whatever reason. I find it silly, as celebrities are merely a bunch of roles and are there to entertain. But like the athlete who makes an ass of himself, people pay attention and emulate them. For instance I find Eminem to be a common thug and his rap abilities mean little, as there have been countless poets who were wastrels and rogues not worthy of any emulation. I also fully agree that Courtney Love is a ho, but I wish he had an explanation as his cheap shot only hurt him.

Now, the politicians and ideologues who get hit are more on the left, but Goldberg feels they have done more damage, and I'd agree as they have more impact, and are fawned at by clueless students and celebrities. Robert C Byrd is a former Klan Recruiter and a pork barrel legislator, and just as much a poster boy for term limits as Strom Thurmond, Ted Stevens, and Ted Kennedy. Now, I might see Ted Stevens as deserving of a place for his pork legislation, but he is ridiculed for his foolish comments and a blip to most people.

I also agree about Jimmy Carter, History's Greatest Monster. I don't fault as much for when he was President, but afterwards he is a self-righteous anti-Semitic jackass who hides his sins in a series of humanitarian events, and I would encourage Americans to keep their flags at full mast when he dies as he is only a friend to leftist third world dictators and anyone who hates Israel. I will not contribute to Habitat for Humanity as steals air, and I hope the Carter Center closes for lack of funds.

I think the Franken scene was pure parody or I hope it was. I don't know if I'd include him, except he combines comedy with preachiness and I believe you should be one or the other. Otherwise you are a hypocrite who speaks out of both sides of your mouth. I wish he'd stick with comedy and only do occasional political potshots like Robin Williams.

His top choice is Fat Bastard himself, Michael Moore. Would I make him number one? Yes, because he is not a pedantic Ivory Tower cult leader like Noam Chomsky, but someone who can appeal to the masses, and can be far more damaging as people get sucked into his fictitious world.

Now, who would I include? I'd add Ann Coulter because she damages conservatism by her facade of viciousness and contributes very little to conservatism, nor can she be taken seriously. I actually liked her in the 90s, but she has gone for fringe appeal. Another one I'd include is Cundy Sheehan, but it is personal as my mother and my step-mother are anti-war and if I thought they would use my dead body to launch their support of anti-semitism or Marxism, I'd make letters condemning them posthumously and denouncing their actions as betraying my beliefs. Regardless of Bush or the war, I do loathe much of the anti-war movement as well as scum like Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. Cindy Sheehan is a sympathy whore who has betrayed her son and used him to advance third worldism. Once she dies, I will personally dance on her grave.

I'd also add Least Reverend Thomas Gumbleton, a thankfully retired Bishop who attempted to pressure all Catholic soldiers to not serve in Iraq. I think learning about his plan and that he wasn't automatically defrocked or turned over to the military for a treason tribunal helped me start questioning an re-examining my beliefs, so I should thank him, but he's a threat to security for his stunt. Cardinal Law also deserves much condemnation as an archetype of so many inept leaders who cover up pedophilia and bring down huge long-term consequences. I am no longer Catholic, but if not for people like Cardinal Law, the poor would have benefited from all the funds that instead went to the families of abused altar boys and the greedy lawyers who represented them. Both Gumbleton and Law had a hand in ending my faith, and would both be added to my list.

Overall it was a good read, but nothing of great literary merit, otherwise it would have no impact on the masses, as the average joe reads on a third grade reading level, but that made the book an even easier read for me, so no issue there :)

I recommend you read it and form your own conclusions. 9 out of ten, because he should offer a better answer for Corutney Love, but yes she is a ho.

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Copyright 2007 Thomas forsyth. I welcome comments