Charlie Chaplin-Not So Silent!

I recently won an advanced copy of “Charlie Chaplin-A Brief Life” authored by Peter Ackroyd through a Giveaway on Goodreads. Of course the author was referring to the length of his biography rather than the years lived by Charles Chaplin, whom most of the world learned to call Charlie, as we are aware he lived into his eighties.

Knowing the name and having seen a few examples of his work, however, I was not prepared for the story of the impact his life actually had on not only the United States, but the entire world early in the 20th Century. And, apparently, his legacy has lived on and was instrumental in fanning the change in what was considered “acting”.

Charlie Chaplin I was grateful for the concise and interesting biography of the apparent genius in Charlie Chaplin as I know there are numerous biographies as well as his own autobiography which are extremely lengthy. Never really a fan of his, having now read this book want to find some of his earlier highly acclaimed silent films and see if I can glean the true meanings as Ackroyd has afforded them.

It’s well he introduces us to the child of the London slums to describe the volatile personality which emerges as a result of his earliest experiences. His older brother, Sydney, and he manage to survive without really knowing who their biological father is, born to an alcoholic mother who following a psychotic break spends the rest of her life essentially in and out of asylums as well as the boys lives. A natural mimic, he is perfect for the time and quickly gains attention both in his native London music halls and later in America where he pushed the image of the “Little Tramp” to new and popular heights in silent films.

Later as he takes over the direction of his own films, and reading the descriptions of his rages, periods of genius, and lack of social acumen, I often wondered if he was really an undiagnosed Aspergers person long before they were identified as such–he certainly exhibited many of the symptoms. What struck me, however, was the numerous ways in which he actually changed the focus of silent films and acting; the excessively unbelievable attention to detail, the strength he pulled from his actors. Not so commendable was his volatile private life–more ugly than inspired or romantic and Ackroyd includes all the warts; Chaplin the man as opposed to Chaplin the beloved actor. Not the first time the fans have not been privy to the real face behind the makeup. Chaplin descends into “murky scandals”, from which he eventually escaped into exile to Switzerland. He was obviously ahead of his time only to fall victim to the “talkies” as well as his own strong philosophical and political ideals that would spell the end of the movie world as he knew it. As we sometimes do with our former idols who have been banished in scandals, Chaplin was much later accorded an honorary Academy Award. Indeed, with all of it, there is no denying his cinematic contribution to America.

Are Amazon Reviews Bogus?

Interesting and lively discussion back on Goodreads.com regarding all those wonderful stars trailing the best-selling books.

Neil (of “Shut Up and Read”) started it all in December 2013 when he ranted, “Are all Amazon reviews bogus???…Some reviews are so obviously fake, shills, they must think the readers are stupid. …”

Having read the posts and feeling fairly strongly about it myself given the degree to which I’d worked to get any stars at all, noted that I spot read reviews; usually a couple rated 5, but also rely on the lesser rated for some good insight into the book. I felt that the book descriptions don’t always accurately describe the book and the title can be deceiving.

I appreciate honest and detailed reviews for the manuscripts I’ve published for my grandfather and likewise try to be very honest in my reviews of the books I’ve read–and I’ve read quite few; some good–some not so. In view of the time it takes to write a decent review on the books I thoroughly enjoy, I might rate but will not generally spend the time to review one I didn’t care for. I suspect many do the same, although in reading the reviews left by others, usually find a consensus of the same two or three stars I would give confirming my judgment of the book.

My problem here is that if I don’t leave a review for the book I didn’t care for (and that seems to be the norm), the author is deprived of the problems I perceived. The same applies to the books I’ve published. I didn’t understand the motives behind a two-star rating which left me wondering how to fix a problem I’m unaware exists. Of course it’s hard to actually print those harsh words for someone else knowing the blood, sweat, and tears that comprise a manuscript. As Ken from Goodreads wrote“I’ll read the bad reviews first and see if they have anything valid to say. You can usually tell if it’s real. Sometimes a bad review will complain about something that I consider an attribute and that’s makes me want to read the book. I don’t really trust 5-star reviews any more.” Continue reading “Are Amazon Reviews Bogus?”

Full Timing

As I’ve alluded to previously on this blog, we had a Class C Winnebago Minnie Winnie with which we used to touch off a book tour of the Great Northwest in 2013. Unfortunately, the book tour ended all too quickly after a call from my sister that my mother (then 92 years of age) was in critical condition again and back in the hospital.

In the meantime, it taught me that the proper venue made a huge difference in the kind of reception my grandfather’s books regarding his sailing adventures back in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s were received and sold. I felt if I could have continued with the trip on down the Washington/Oregon/California coast, the trip would actually have been quite successful.

Having sold our home in 2013 and living in our recreational vehicle full time, we found ourselves in the Foothills of Yuma, Arizona where it was discovered there was a schedule of craft fairs at the RV parks for all the beloved “winter visitors”. The craft fairs were gleefully attended by appreciative crowds looking for unique crafts that couldn’t be found anywhere else and added a festive occasion to their winter stay. Quickly getting into the whole craft fair circuit, a happy new venue for book sales was found to be somewhat rewarding.

Fast forward to 2014 and once again hitting the road with a slightly larger RV, Class A, again loaded with books, we headed for the east coast of the United States…except that we were under the gun with our schedule to leave Yuma and return to California for my mother (and another health crisis), forcing an unwise buy decision on a Class A, Forest River Windsong. Thinking we had most of the major issues resolved prior to our exit from Yuma, we chugged along in the heat pulling our “toad”, an old Geo Tracker.Windsong Engine

Windsong Dash            It wasn’t long, however, before it was discovered most of the major issues were not resolved after all, the band-aid fixes lasting long enough to get us to California. By the time we made Twin Falls, we were baking inside that sardine can. Marooned in Twin for just over a week while the Windsong languished at Tony’s 2T, we finally gave up their ever getting the blower-a/c fixed when he pronounced we’d be spending another weekend while he waited for yet another part.

Worrying about the toad being set properly to tow without burning up the transmission, I asked another Class A owner towing the same vehicle how it was set. Following his advice, we set the Geo Tracker as instructed only to have it totally blow the motor within 2 miles. Blown Tracker Engine We limped into our son’s house in Indiana in an RV in excess of 90o, hot, tired, and disgusted. The RV lazed another week at Bill Gardiner RV in Lafayette, IN waiting on parts and getting them, failing to notify us. We’ve now been languishing in the summer heat, rain and humidity of Indiana for a month, no greater progress either with the Windsong or the Tracker. The Windsong has loose wires going everywhere and the Tracker now has a new rebuilt engine, working on the tranny and transfer case. The books are aging in the Windsong basement storage compartments and visions of selling down the east coast a distant memory.

We got lucky in that we could stay with our son while the Captain is wrenching both the RV and toad himself, but tools and parts have spent the gas money. We’re looking at September and this is Indiana. I’m getting nervous.

Shipwrecks, Pirates, Treasures in Maine

Shipwrecks, Pirates, Treasure in MaineAvast and Ahoy, Matey! The book written by Theodore Parker Burbank, “Shipwrecks, Pirates, Treasure in Maine” was an eye-opener. I can’t find the research to explain why it seems the propensity of schooners to sink is over-whelmingly more so than your average yawl, ketch or cutter, but reading his book would tend to scare me off even a multi-million dollar yacht. There were, no doubt, many more schooners plying the world’s oceans than barques or brigs.

Originally, schooners were gaff-rigged, and these were described often in my grandfather’s sailing adventures. Schooners would commonly have two masts, although there again, the schooners described by my grandfather usually noted three. Popular because of their windward ability and speed, they were used for everything from traditional fishing to slaving and privateering–(gulp!!)–also described more than once by the same Stanley McShane.

Of course, many were used to carry cargo, as varied as spices to lumber and were also comfortable on the high seas as well as coastal runs and large inland bodies of water.

Ted  BurbankTed Burbank takes us back to the beginning, describing the ships of the “Golden Age of Piracy” and debunks some pirate myths. Interesting chapters on pirates, including the famous Captain Kidd, who it turns out never really was a pirate!

Burbank then takes us through the shipwrecks from the South Coast and Mid-Coast to Penobscot Bay (New Ireland).

While the focus of Burbank’s book is of pirates, I loved the chapters on treasure in and off shore of Maine and the many neat pictures. It’s obvious he spent a lot of time in research and pulled it all together in a fascinating study of pirates and their ships off the Maine coast. Enjoy watching those waves hit the beach? Love watching those ships? Can you smell that sea air? This book will benefit by the help of a good proofreader, but it’s a fun read and sure gives you the taste for lobster! Elginshire

Revisit Cocos Island

It is said that Jacque Cousteau called Cocos Island the most beautiful island in the world, and the island is also on the short list to become one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World”[1]. The island has long been declared to be hiding more than just natural beauty within its rugged landscape:

William Thompson loaded jewels, gold, silver, heavily adorned candlesticks, and two life sized gold statues of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus aboard the Mary Dear and left the harbor as expected. Thompson was overcome with temptation, however, and he and his crew killed the Spanish guards and changed their original course from Spain to Cocos Island[2], (Isla del Coco) located 340 miles off the pacific coast of Costa Rica where they buried the treasure said to be worth well over $160,000,000 (now known as “The Loot of Lima”. Whether buried above ground in the sand of one of two bays (Chatham Bay or Wafer Bay) or below the water, no one has yet recovered any riches.

But Thompson wasn’t alone in thinking Cocos Island represented a quick and safe haven for secreting away pirated treasures from the hapless ships sailing on the main shipping channels toward destinations many never completed successfully!

My grandfather, Patrick John Rose (pen name Stanley McShane who wrote “Cocos Island Treasure“), separately ventured to the island in the early 1900’s about the same time as John Keating spent nearly 12 years (from 1897 to 1908) searching for the treasures that so many pirates reportedly buried on Isla del Coco (Cocos Island). In total, it was reported that Keating eventually found 6 gold coins. (No information documented on the location of the find.)

But it was the buccaneer Edward Davis that was the subject of my grandfather’s book and goal of his trip to Cocos Island. Edward Davis was one of the earliest (1680) recorded (by writer William Dampier) buccaneers to have buried treasure on Cocos Island. According to Wikipedia[3], Davis with his flagship, the Bachelor’s Delight anchored in “Chatham Bay and supposedly left behind several chests containing ingots, pieces-of-eight and £300,000 in silver bar and plate taken from settlements in Peru and Chile.” They also go on to say that he may have been the same privateer to accompany Captain William Kidd to America after a meeting at St. Mary’s Island in 1697.

The jungle infested island described in the book by my grandfather also alludes to the waterfalls from almost perpendicular rocks and feral pigs deposited on the island by the many treasure laden visitors over the years. The shear cliffs testify to the uninhabilitability of the island though the island purportedly boasts fresh water, as well as the namesake, coconuts, lending a siren call to either bay whether for depositing ill-gotten gains or to find a safe haven from the frequent tropical storms that assail the area. The tropical trees and plants, choking vines and creepers apparently hide quagmires or deep crevices, which, following a misstep, can swallow a human whole. Millions of insects inhabit vapor laden air while the raucous cries of birds careen overhead. Patrick describes a stream west of the bay shore of Chatham Bay that they followed by laboriously hacking bushes and vines as they went. The party ascended up and over immense boulders where they eventually discovered a pool created from waters from above. It was within the pool that water also disappears into a hidden, underwater cave.

It is definitely the stories handed down from generation to generation and writers such as Dampier and my grandfather that lend themselves to the folklore of the romantized pirate legends. That and the occasional find of a golden doubloon!

Cocos Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.new7wonders.com/ You can view the “new” 7 wonders as listed. There are continuous feeds on Twitter, Google, and You Tube.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocos_Island

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Davis_(bucccaneer)

 

Calvin Many Wolves Potter

Calvin Many Wolves Potter

goodreads_icon_32x32-032d59134a33b2b7a83151dec051b8f3Twelve year old Calvin Potter had had enough of his abusive Pennsylvania father; he couldn’t stand it any longer. Stealing quietly out of the door early one morning with little more than the clothes on his back, Calvin begins a journey into another life punctuated by the walk of his life, incredible endurance, and unbelievable pain. Calvin awakened to the care of the gentle Falling Star and attentive Spirit Wind and began the change from white to the Dakota of Minnesota. Running Fox quickly becomes a boyhood friend and mentor and the young boys of the tribe enfold and foster a bond of friendship and respect. Calvin is adopted into the family of Strong Eagle and White Cloud and their daughter, Red Leaf, and slowly and carefully learns the language, the ways, and the respect of the rest of the tribe as he is indoctrinated into the tribe and leaves Calvin behind to become Many Wolves. Many Wolves participates in tribal activities as seasons and years evolve until it is apparent the very way of life of “the people” is threatened by the encroaching white man and the severe negative impact their civilization has on the native peoples. Strong Eagle has wisely forced Many Wolves back into the white population to help salvage the situation between the peoples, to get Many Wolves out of harms way, and to bring about his assimilation into the growing white population. Failure to follow through with agreements to alleviate hardships and misunderstandings produce hard feelings on both sides, until the situation becomes so dire that flash point occurs. The native peoples are starving and have few options open to them as their centuries old way of life begins to unravel. The situation deteriorates into forced massive movement and exodus of large populations of all tribes of the Dakota Nation while 38 of their young men are brought up on charges in acts of retaliation and face an incredibly sad ending to a remarkable life. Many Wolves as Calvin has been unable to salvage the situation to his overwhelming sorrow and finds himself neither red nor white. Lost between worlds, Calvin begins a journey back to his “borning” family to try and discover where he belongs. But after so many years, a journey of boy to man to another world, can he ever go back?

What Makes a Survivor?

Free My Heart of Grief to Love

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I had a chance to interview Sandra Moore Bernsen in Quartzsite, Arizona, where she was hosting an author signing event at Readers Oasis Books. Sandra wrote Free My Heart of Grief to Love-A Journey from Loss to Joy, a memoir of devastating loss and recovery.

Born in Minnesota, the financially stressed family moved to Montana where she later found the “bad boy” to whom she gave her heart. The antithesis of Sandra, she and Rich married and eventually moved to Idaho where they established a life of their own after welcoming their two sons. Ray was their first born son. Patrick followed, but at 8 days old went from being a happy, healthy boy to one of multiple and massive health issues–forcing the family for an extended period of time to concentrate on acquiring his care where they could and eventually losing him to the devastating illness that ravaged his little body.

Ray had his own issues, but borne of the eventual loss of his younger brother and that of his beloved German Shepherds, Sam and Alf, he turned inward for solace and took it upon himself to garner the protection he felt he needed. The protection accidentally turned deadly one evening in the kitchen as he fixed himself a late-night snack. Roused by the sharp report in the kitchen, both mother and father discovered their son had suffered a fatal head wound. Within 10 short weeks of the loss of Ray, Sandra’s mother succumbed to her own health issues.

Devastated, both parents grieved in their own way until Rich was discovered to have contracted acute leukemia–one so rare his doctors were at a loss to create an appropriate treatment regime. Sandra took her husband home and once again faced the emotional turmoil of laying to rest another loved one. Continue reading “What Makes a Survivor?”