Monthly Archives: August 2014

Countdown City, Book II, The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters – Book


In Countdown City, Book II of The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters Henry Palace is no longer a police detective or even, in fact, a policeman at all. For a while the police who were not detectives kept order in Concord, New Hampshire. As it gets closer and closer to the date of the impact of Maia, the asteroid, 6.5 kilometers in diameter, with the earth the police disappear from the street corners and civilization moves down another notch towards anarchy.

People have already been informed that Maia will hit in Indonesia. Boatloads of people from the target area are arriving at American shores daily and, although there is no visible central government in America somehow the “refugees” fleeing the impact zone are being kept out of the American interior. There are stories of internment camps.

Henry meets his fellow detectives daily at the diner where Ruth Ann, their favorite waitress, takes their orders as usual, although pretty much all she can serve them is tea (sadly coffee is unavailable). Henry Palace may have been released by the Concord Police Department but he cannot stop being a policeman. He even has a new case much to the amusement of his fellow retired detectives.

It’s personal. Martha Milano has lost her husband. She is now Martha Cavatone and her husband, Brett, age 33, is missing. She wants him back. She was Henry’s babysitter for a time and he likes her. He promises to try to find her husband, even though almost all people in America are now missing persons, and he knows where to begin – at Rocky’s Rock ‘n’ Bowl where Martha’s dad still serves something that is as close to pizza as he can make it and offers up the old bowling allies for sharpshooter practice. Everyone in America has guns and plans to use them if necessary. When Henry asks what to do if Brett won’t come home Martha says “Tell him his salvation depends on it.”

Henry Palace has a sister. He and his sister lost their mother when they were young. She was in an accident. His dad, the professor, who left behind the blue books that Henry uses for notes in his investigations, died shortly after his wife so Henry and his younger sister were raised somewhat haphazardly by their grandfather. Nico, Henry’s sister never followed rules. In school she went her own way, whether she got in trouble or not. As an adult she still has that revolutionary spirit. She flits in and out of Henry’s life hinting at a mission that could save earth from that collision with Maia. Henry is feeling like he hasn’t seen his sister for a while and he needs to see her. To Henry she is another missing person.

As far as Henry is concerned the rule of law has broken down so far that even if Nico is not just a mad dreamer, even if she and her mysterious cohorts can actually move the asteroid with a near-asteroid explosion, law and order, civilization as we know it, cannot be put back together again.  Henry also realizes that if the asteroid does collide with earth we will lose more than law and order: he realizes that all living things will die. However he would still like to see his sister.

If you tag along with Henry and his little dog Houdini, the Bichon frizé he rescued from the drug dealer in Book I, you won’t be disappointed. You will be amazed at what Henry will do to get answers and how very dedicated he is to being a great policeman, even if he is the last. The second book is even better than the first and the ending has some surprises in store. I have already dived into Book III.

I recommend that you don’t start Book II until you know you have access to Book III or you will feel the way Henry feels when he can no longer get coffee. These books are not densely literary but they are very enjoyable and as we try to get through recent days when apocalypse does not seem impossible these books do make you speculate about what life would be like in America if we had to contend with anarchy.

By Nancy Brisson

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Phantom by Jo Nesbø – Book


Phantom by Jo Nesbø became one of my favorite books on the life and career of Harry Hole even as I was reading it and yet I almost missed it. I was certain I had read it but my bookseller kept insisting that I had not finished this one. After scanning a quick summary of the plot on Goodreads, I realized my bookseller was right.

One of the reasons that I found this to be one of my favorites is that in this novel Harry is clean and sober and has been for awhile. Harry is very effective at solving cases even when he is drinking but he has reached the stage, as an alcoholic, where his favorite beverage, Jim Beam, makes him ill almost as soon as he opens the bottle. A second reason this volume is a good one is that when Harry is sober he gets along better with others because his self-loathing takes a back seat to his pride that he has exercised self-control and that he has improved his fitness level with lots of physical exercise. Harry can be quite appealing when he is sober.

Harry’s lady love, who he has to avoid because of his self-destructive habits and his dangerous lifestyle, needs him. He flies back to Oslo after several years in Hong Kong. Harry is no longer a policeman; he apparently collects debts owed to his new boss through intimidation and more if necessary. Rakel’s son, Oleg (18), who sees Harry as a father figure, has been jailed for murder in what appears to be a private war with his best friend and drug dealing partner, the too-handsome-for-his-own-good Gusto Hanssen (19). How could things have gone so wrong with Oleg?

Oslo has been flooded with drugs for a long time but lately things have started to change. There are still dealers but there are only two teams, the elusive Dubai, and the “Hells Angels wannabes” Los Lobos. Oslo’s Orgkrim (a department within the police force) seems to be getting a grip on the drug trade and the drug scene seems to benefit from being organized. The number of addicts is decreasing and Oslo is starting to improve its international reputation. Heroin, which has to be smuggled in from abroad, has almost disappeared from Oslo’s streets to be replaced by a lab-compounded form of heroin called Violin, which is made right in Oslo. Soon there is only one dealer in Oslo, the man they call Dubai and that is who Gusto and Oleg work for.

Dubai is the phantom of the title. He lives a hidden life protected by his honchos and the way he has arranged his life, both personally and professionally. But he is not the only phantom we meet in this novel. We also meet two new policemen of interest who will loom large in future installments and who live double lives, which gives them the occasional quality of phantoms.

We get as close to romance and a few lighter social moments than we ever get in a Harry Hole saga but this situation is just as dangerous and life-threatening and complex as any of the crimes Harry untangles. What he finds may end up being everything but the real murderer of Gusto (who tells his own story posthumously at the beginning of each chapter). Gusto represents another phantom in this very villainous tale spiced with a bit of flirtation. This time follow the rat.

Good stuff!

By Nancy Brisson

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Magic in the Moonlight by Woody Allen – Movie

Poster-art-for-Magic-in-the-Moonlight_event_mainLast night I got some Magic in the Moonlight. I know that Woody  Allen is a controversial  figure who has been accused of pedophilia and whose current significant other could be a possible victim of his sexual aberration.  Or it could be the unfounded accusations of a woman scorned. It doesn’t sit well with any of us. But artists are often “kinky” people and if we assume that there was no pedophilia,  and only that one glaring lapse of falling in love with a sort of “stepdaughter”, then we can justify continuing to enjoy the films Woody Allen creates. Is this complicated rationalization or absolution?  Probably neither, but just selfish indulgenice, like eating cookies even though we know they are bad for us.

Anyway I ate a Woody Allen cookie last night and it was delicious.  He doesn’t do “huddled masses yearning to be free” or peasants flooded with rich brown Rembrandt light. He writes what he knows and he knows the wealthy and the educated. He seems to be on a sort of extended nostalgia kick. In Midnight in Paris his doppelganger wanders into a midnight time warp which allows him to hobnob with Ernest Hemingway and his Paris pals. In Magic in the Moonlight we find Allen back in the late 1920’s, in the flapper days that followed WWI and preceded WWII, just prior to the Great Depression. We drop into a magic act performed by an Englishman a la Chinois. He is an arrogant, opinionated, mean-tempered, and confident man, made rich by his own efforts in a career where he is basically a con man. We are in a time when superstition was giving way to science and reason. We are plunked down in an age which disparages spirituality or anything unproven or unproveable as claptrap. You can see why a man who practices magic but has a cynical view of all things magical might find his own fans worthy of contempt. Until he meets Sophie Baker ( played by Emma Stone ) at the request of a friend he trusts who says she is a very talented psychic. Our guy, Stanley, played by Colin Firth, sets out to disprove her talents as hokum.

Does he succeed amidst the trappings of upper class life in the South of France, amidst the fine furnishings, the stylish dresses of lawn, handkerchief linen and creamy lace, the convertible roadsters and the flowers? I can’t tell you because you should go see the movie. If you want to cheat by looking up the summary online then at least it won’t be on me.

However, I will tell you that in this film we have Woody Allen’s homage to those great thinkers Nietzche and Freud.  I don’the know if it is magic, but it’s an entertaining bit of intellectual fluff and how often can you say that about a movie these days.

Love Peace: Prepare for War


No Time to Stand Down

I know that America must make it clear to the world that we can defend ourselves. We must make it clear that we are in a merely tactical withdrawal. Our military resources must not be allowed to get rusty or decline in numbers or readiness. We must stay battle ready. We should even continue with military innovation. The world is hardly at peace yet as we can see and we have enemies, mostly foreign, perhaps a few domestic, who would delight in catching us unprepared. Our allies must stay prepared to fight also. This is no time to stand down.

New Kind of War

However, this is the time to stand back when we can, to analyze, to accept that future wars in some ways may not look like the wars of the past, although many of the same sad truths will apply. It is time to regroup, to brainstorm, and find innovative ways to target each enemy with tailor-made plans in the same way we now target certain cancers with personalized drugs. We can’t afford to ignore our enemies; we don’t really want to be isolationists who wake up one day to find themselves deprived of this Democracy we treasure.

Can’t Waste Our Best Asset

Committing ourselves to send huge forces of our young men and women off to war as America’s soldiers is not a strategy that will work. We don’t have the human resources for this or the heart.  Our people are too precious to us and we don’t have an enormous population to waste. Our human resources are hardly endless. We have no “clone” army. We have no robot soldiers. How do we fight well without expending large numbers of our most valuable resource – our people? I think we fight exactly as we are learning to fight now. “Designer” wars targeted to a particular enemy are a good start, although our long distance tools are limited. We need to rewrite those classic books on military strategy, to 2K reboot them, so to speak.

What We Stand to Gain and Lose

We may not love drones but for a while they are the only nonhuman long distance resource we have outside of nukes which we absolutely can’t use and chemicals, which we also can’t use. Collateral damage is always a bad thing in a war. Wars are not supposed to kill civilians. They are about deciding how those civilians will live after the war. If no civilians survive, war is pointless, unless you are simply trying to depopulate the planet and fortunately we aren’t there yet. I’m a civilian. I don’t want to be killed by accident; therefore I don’t love drones that kill civilians anywhere. I don’t love war either for that matter. We must use the new tools we have to prevent our Democracy from being swallowed by a world of power-mad people who hate freedom. We must not allow ourselves to be easily crushed by those who would have us live according to religious beliefs and customs that are not our own and who would deprive us of important rights. Women would especially be deprived of freedoms that we hold very dear. Our brains would once again cry out to be used and we would end up using them in petty competitions and cruelties among ourselves.

Police, Use Military Gear to Defend Locals, Not Police Them

I do deplore the fact that our police departments own equipment that is military in nature, but I only deplore it if they use it on our own people to enforce laws that can be enforced (and have been enforced) without turning our hometown police, our neighbors, into hostile strangers hiding behind riot gear. We don’t want to escalate violence against each other. We want to be trained to recognize a true enemy if it presents itself and we want to be prepared to fight such an enemy anywhere in America. (I am trying to get used to calling America the homeland, but it doesn’t sound quite right to me yet.)

Flexible, Targeted, and Deadly

We need to have strategies that allow for flexibility, for travelling light but being a deadly force regardless of the size. We need ways to get into war zones, where the outcomes may affect us or our allies, quickly and to get out quickly. We don’t have many of these technologies in our arsenal. They may not even have been invented yet or we may not have decided yet whether they are technologies we want to use. However, if we can design things as toys for movies I am guessing we can eventually design real ones. Drones cannot be the only robot or long distance tool we have and drones need to continue to be refined until our enemies can be more exactly targeted.

The Paradox

I want peace. I have no faith that mankind has any gift for peace and I still want it. Until the whole world wants it too, is dedicated to it absolutely, I am a war monger who only wishes to make it clear that we can and will defend ourselves. We will try in every way not to defend ourselves with the frail flesh and blood of our fellow Americans. We have to try to invent the most effective techniques we can find for fighting wars from a distance. If our ways are effective enough maybe war will end; it will be too deadly to fight wars and we can have peace. If we can invent the internet we can do this. Meanwhile we must stay lean, mean and keep as much distance from our enemies as humanly possible. We can hate war, in fact it is better if we do, but we must know how and be prepared to fight. This is the paradox of the world as we know it, the paradox that I hope we can someday put behind us forever.

By Nancy Brisson

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Republicans: On My Last Nerve


I said that we could compare our nation to a well-aligned vehicle. If forced to drive the nation with no hands on the wheel (because Republicans) we have our laws and our Constitution to keep us chugging a middle line. We also know that a car cannot be driven any great distance with no hands on the wheel. The road has twists and turns. Our destination is not always straight ahead.

I believe we have reached a time when it will be hazardous to our nation if we plan to continue to just trust the good mechanics of our predecessors. There are issues that require attention, lots of issues requiring lots of skilled attention. If Republicans ruin America because of their refusal to abandon an agenda that is clearly unpopular, indefensible, self-serving, and counterproductive we will all pay for their boneheadedness.

In the midst of the current exposure of an American town that is terrorized by its police force because of entrenched racism and a brutal terror group beheading one of our journalists, announcing their intention to behead another journalist, and threatening to turn the entire world into a Muslim Caliphate, Mitch McConnell chooses to pick up the petty partisan war between Republicans and Democrats. Perhaps he is using the ISIS playbook because he seems to have mastered meanness. He says that if America doesn’t adopt the Republican agenda and stop looking for things like raising the minimum wage and ways to reverse income inequality (which has gotten out of hand), then Republicans will once again shut down the government. Everything Republicans do is about getting elected and yet all the things they do make them less and less electable.

McConnell – put your stupid antique butt in your Senate seat, roll up your shirt sleeves and stop acting like you are omniscient and omnipotent. Stop acting like we all have to do your bidding.  How exactly does that fit into a democracy? File your Republican agenda, which we have heard you folks repeat so often that we practically know it by heart, that agenda we find heartless and unacceptable, in the circular file and do your jobs. If you don’t I hope you never get elected again and the Republican Party becomes obsolete. This country cannot travel a path of greatness forever without drivers. Let Obama drive America. Allow laws to be brought up on the floors of the House and the Senate for an up or down vote. Restore regular order in Congress.

By Nancy Brisson

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Sonic Cannons Kill: Save the Oceans!

sonic cannon2

Our oceans are already in a fragile state. Oil spills happen much more often than we know. Tons of waste and garbage pour into our oceans almost constantly. Fertilizers, both organic and inorganic ones which are far more toxic, enter the oceans through run-off from farming. There is plastic in the ocean food chain world-wide. Think of all the debris from the tsunamis in Sri Lanka and Fukushima. Nuclear waste flooded into the sea from that tsunami in Fukushima also and who knows how much nuclear waste is given off by a nuclear sub. It is difficult to believe that there is zero waste from nuclear subs because we know the Law of Conservation of Matter and Energy very well. It’s from high school physics.

We hear horror stories about susceptible birds that rely on the ocean for sustenance and we hear more horror stories about the fish and the mammals and all the myriads of other species of plants and animals that live in the ocean. Do we even still have a living coral reef anywhere on earth? We should be working hard every minute to find ways to clean up the oceans. If our oceans sicken and die, we die.

So, although I am usually a fan of Obama I am not at all happy to hear that he has authorized scientists to look for oil reserves in the oceans off our east coast. I suppose this sounds rather benign and that proponents might tell us not to get “our knickers in a twist.” But the method used to find oil reserves in the ocean involves firing underwater sonic cannons.

We may wonder how scientists can be sure that firing high decibels of sound pulses under water will not cause earthquakes or tsunamis. But apparently the biggest worry is that these “nerve-wracking” sounds kill the denizens of the ocean. Many, many sea mammals, fish, and other sea critters die from the firing of these cannons (there are some links at the end of this post which give actual numbers.) Animals that navigate by sound may be unable to find their way or may lose their hearing altogether. Every single thing we do has repercussions that ripple outward touching on spheres we never anticipated would be affected.

sonic cannon

Perhaps we got Europe to agree to help us sanction Russia by promising to find ways to make up the oil and natural gas they would lose. Whatever the reasons, we should not be doing this kind of exploration in any of earth’s oceans (which are all connected to each other). We really need to be very cautious and take a long, long view before we plunder our planet in any way, new or old. We have about reached our plunder limit. Any additional plundering is a big mistake – big! Please put away those sonic cannons and don’t drill for oil or gas off the America’s east coast or any other coast.

Here are some links to published articles on this topic:

Here is a site with a petition you can sign:

By Nancy Brisson

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The Last Policeman, Book I by Ben H. Winters – Book

The Last Policeman


“Perfect.” That’s the word I heard in my brain when I first saw that Ben H. Winters’ new novel, the last one in a trilogy, called The Last Policeman had been published. I made a decision to begin with Book One because I love science-fiction and I love detective stories and, of course, it is necessary to begin at the beginning. This series of books sounded right up my alley. And, so far, it is.

It’s fairly bare bones writing but it gets the job done, in fact the author’s style suits the plot. Winters is writing about an American society that is disintegrating because, this time, the asteroid headed our way will actually hit earth. People even know the date the planet and asteroid will collide, but not the location on earth where it will make contact. It’s a big asteroid. Probably not big enough to obliterate earth, but perhaps big enough to obliterate man.

What would you do if you knew you had an appointment with a cosmic accident that would change everything, but this appointment was several months in the future? Would you change your life, give up you day job; or would you just keep working? Many people would probably have to keep their jobs. These people live paycheck to paycheck already. So people like this would live in fear of the asteroid, but also in fear that their employer will close the doors of the business where they work and where will they be then? However, lots of employers have enough money to make an end-of-life plan, to change things up, and sometimes, because the world is changing so fast, many businesses no longer have customers so businesses are closing.

Henry Palace is a policeman, has always wanted to be a policeman and he just made detective not long ago. The police force is basically a mess, with policemen having all the life crises that other people are facing all over the globe. But Henry is steadfast. He is a policeman. He is not suicidal. He is doing exactly what he loves to do and he sees no reason to change, although everyone around him finds him sort of ridiculous.

For some reason when Henry finds alleged hanger (someone who commits suicide by hanging) Peter Zell in a McDonald’s bathroom, hanging from an upscale leather belt, against all logic (according to everyone else) Henry decides that Peter Zell is a victim of a murder.

With the asteroid looming larger and larger in people’s psyches (if not yet within their view) Henry Palace sets his tall lanky self off on an investigation which receives more pushback than anyone would encounter in more normal circumstances. Henry takes a lot of punishment as he researches this incident which only he (and perhaps one other person) believes is a murder.

The Last Policeman was a great combo for me – sci-fi and murder mystery – and I accept Henry Palace as a detective and as a well-drawn character. This works and I can’t wait to see if it continues to work in the next two books.

By Nancy Brisson

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Caveat Emptor


Buying anything in America is made more difficult by the devotion American businesses seem to have to the use of advertising tricks. Even the Romans, 3000 years ago said “buyer beware” or caveat emptor. While this is not an exact translation from the Latin, the two phrases are accepted as being equivalent these days. However it seems that the buyer can hardly beware when trickery is as rampant as it is right now. Whatever consumer protection we have seems relatively passive or altogether missing and consumers must initiate any request for their own financial protection. Even if you address concerns to the attorney general in your state you may not find her/him to be very sympathetic.

I was tricked twice this month by unsolicited advertising that arrived in my home from businesses and once by a possible misunderstanding, or a deliberate attempt to mislead with an internet service provider.

 I received this ad in the coupon section of my newspaper from Empire Visionworks which offered two pairs of eyeglasses for the price of one. I did not see a lot of disclaimers at the bottom of this ad.


So I went to the location of Empire Visionworks where I had my eye exam and I picked out one pair of reading glasses and one pair of sunglasses which I also wanted to use as reading glasses.

After the ordering and the measuring I followed the salesperson to the cash register. She said the glasses would cost $539. I decided that I did not want to spend this much and I asked what it would cost just to buy the reading glasses and not the sunglasses. I expected to hear that it would still cost $539 but this time the salesperson said $333. I’m sure you know what I said next. How is the BOGO (buy one, get one)? No answer was given. There was a noticeable silence. I did order polycarbonate lenses but the ad does not include a disclaimer about this. I gave up being an indignant customer and bought the single pair of reading glasses (ouch). It is, however, obvious that BOGO only applies for the cheapest of glasses and this company is guilty of false advertising.


Example 2. Verizon FIOS sent me one of those new soft cardstock flyers they like to send these days offering Quantum high speed internet, and HBO for $10/ month. I assumed it was $10 for both, which is what the card seemed to say. However Verizon made a video for me explaining my newest bill. I guess they knew I might have some objections. I am still unclear about what Verizon told me, but I could see that Verizon is charging me $20/ month for these additions. They did say something about this payment covering one partial month and, because we pay before getting service, one month in advance. We shall eventually see if their ad was telling the truth, but it will be two months before we find out. Ridiculous!


My last episode of being jerked around by a “service provider” has to do with Netflix. I was anxious to catch up on some programming that I missed on TV and to stream movies not offered by On Demand. Netflix offered one month free and then offered a subscription rate of 7.99 per month. At the end of that first “free” month I found a charge to my bank account of 17.99. In what way does this represent that one free month offer? I barely get angry anymore. Sadly, I expect this type of slippery, slimy behavior.


We are all just rubes to be bilked. Businesses see each of us as one of that sucker who is born every minute and the use of obfuscation in advertising is far more common these days than the honest, straightforward deal.

By Nancy Brisson

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The Hate/Fear Loop…and Guns


I am feeling nervous as I set about to write of the events in Ferguson, Missouri because I am white and I don’t feel like have the right. Perhaps my whiteness means that once I put my thoughts on paper they will be judged as inaccurate, insensitive, an outsider’s view, or even racist. But this whole situation is so fraught and it presents us with a microcosm of the whole complex ganglion of feelings, both benign and malignant, around race in America and policing in America. So I will try to think this through on paper, in my normal klutzy manner, and I will add my voice to the voices of other Americans, both black and white, as we try to sort through and help each other repair these matters.

The Hate/Fear Loop

Black fear and rage coalesced, for some, in gangs. Hip-Hop and Rap music played a role. The image of the thug emerged out of that fear and rage to help infuse black communities with an image of opportunity, strength and power.

The white community reacted with fear and hate.

Then our government waged a war on drugs. Police targeted minority communities 1) because of the gangster lifestyle 2) because minority Americans tend to live in densely populated areas where they have remained segregated by inequality of opportunity and that hate/fear loop.

White people fear that black people hate them. Black people fear that white people hate them. White people also fear that all black people are criminals with poor morals. White people strand minorities in dead end neighborhoods through bad schools and exclusionary real estate practices.

When minorities move into a more upscale neighborhood, as someone in Ferguson said, white people leave. So there is no integration, schooling doesn’t get better and isolation maintains that old hate/fear loop.

Because minority folks are in crowded and segregated neighborhoods it is easier for police in these areas to apprehend offenders. White drug use may be as high as minority drug use but users are in houses that look prosperous and there is more distance between properties. Residential properties are separate from commercial properties. It is not as easy to catch offenders; it is more time-consuming and painstaking investigation must precede arrest. Criminal activities are conducted in different ways in suburban and rural neighborhoods, ways that are not as face-to-face. There is also racial profiling which is so obvious when we see the lopsided result of stop and frisk programs.


We have watched death stalk the men in our minority neighborhoods as they play out that very gangster-thug thing that also empowers them. They end up stalking each other and this has been going on for decades. Even before the recent right wing movement to “beef up” the 2nd Amendment, the gangster culture and thug images combined with the lack of realistic career paths in minority neighborhoods (where students often do not perceive of education as a way out of poverty) and guns brought fear and grief to minority neighborhoods. Young black and other minority people saw rap or hip-hop music as remunerative career options that also provide the “star” with fame and respect. They have seen sports as a path to success. None of the young people in my at-risk classes of 7th, 8th, and 9th graders wanted to be lawyers, doctors, or even teachers.

Knowing that young men were shooting each other in our cities started us again on that loop of fear and hate – our sense of survival tells us to avoid places where people shoot guns. Thus once again isolated, these minorities, who had their own feelings of hate and fear of white folks, found the idea that white folks were afraid and that they would stay away satisfying.

Pressure has been placed on police departments, often with a majority of white officers, to tame the very neighborhoods which the rest of white people avoid, so it has sort of left the cops out there, exposed in their whiteness, and their insistence on “law and order”, (even minority policemen are perceived as acting white). The police often seem to behave like the very thugs they attempt to apprehend in a community that has been given few, if any, reasons to value lawfulness.

The police are human (we assume) and are caught in their own hate/fear loops. Which came first the hate or the fear (on both sides)? This is like asking which came first, the chicken, or the egg? But guns have escalated the whole dynamic, we do know that.

Into an already fraught environment government injected two priorities which they called “wars” 1) The War on Drugs and 2) The War on Terrorism. We are learning that labeling operations as wars may make them take on a much more serious and “weaponized” tenor; may take that very loop of extreme hate and fear that has been percolating under the fault lines in America all along and ratchet it up a few levels.

Next we get to “guns everywhere” and mass shootings, not at all a black/white thing, but another layer of paranoia on top of all the rest.

It is not hard to see why our police are paranoid. I have not been making an actual count, but I have seen an increase in disrespect for the police and attacks on the police resulting in dead or wounded officers.

The militarization of police departments is obviously sanctioned by our government who passed a law making it legal for the police to buy surplus military equipment (and this law was passed before 9/11) and, in fact, provided grant money for buying this paraphernalia. What we are lacking is guidelines for how such equipment can and should be used. Policemen (and women), already on edge due to the rise in violence against the police and the proliferation of citizens with guns, gladly don body armor and other accoutrements of war. No one examines what this does to that old hate/fear loop. I doubt that this equipment was intended for use in minority neighborhoods (although one wonders what the government was thinking this stuff would be used for prior to our being attacked by terrorists).

There is also that aspect that says that if you give “boys” fancy toys of war they will be inspired to “play” with these toys (to our sorrow), especially given that the National Guard troops were unavailable at home when they were called away to war.

We seem to have strayed a long way from the racial divide in America now, but not really, as this past weekend in Ferguson, Missouri attests. We don’t want children or young people, black or white killed in America. Even if (and we are told the officer who shot him knew nothing about this possibility) Michael Brown committed a petty theft, he did not deserve to die. By the time most of us raise a child to be 18 we almost feel that we can breathe a sigh of relief that our child has made it and will become someone who gets to live the life of the adult they would like to be. Lives lost at that moment between childhood and adult life seem especially poignant somehow.

It seems clear that this situation was handled badly all the way around by the Ferguson police, but when authorities withheld information that should have been public it seemed wrong to all of us and anyone who lost a child in this manner and then was treated to this cover-up would have felt the same anger that the people of Ferguson feel.

It looks like we might have reached a tipping point on race in America, a point when minority Americans suggest that they might want to end the fear/hate loop, get that age-old cycle busted apart. They want to look for a new way to de-racial-ize America. We are all people; we have the same DNA. And yet we have that long sad history with each other, a lot of pain and degradation, mostly of black folks at the hands of white folks, but more recently we have that 2-way hate/fear loop. We need to talk. We need to figure this out, otherwise we may end up being two nations (or even more) under God and things could get really unstable and scary. We don’t want to have police who act like an invading army and we have to figure out what to do about that also.

We know how tough it gets to talk about all of this. I have no idea if I have done any justice to this situation – so much has been left out. I would like to see us find ways to use education as a way to heal all of this. We will have to spend some serious money on this. It will take money to make school programs enticing and we should offer free higher education to any of our minority children who we have been failing with our incomplete and often ill-advised programs. Take these young children who grow up with love but perhaps also a bit too much fear and hate, and excite them about solving the problems our world faces, teach them the techniques that will be used to find those solutions, and turn these young folks into resources who will participate in the force of Americans that will go forth into the world to live fulfilling adult lives while also perhaps finding ways to help make our whole wide world a better place.


See my post from July 16, 2013 called The Paradox of our Second Amendment Rights.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

By Nancy Brisson

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August, 2014 – Book List


If you follow me and my book lists then you know that I want to read each and every one of these books. Like anyone else, however, I also have a life and cannot read to the exclusion of all other activities. In fact, we are told that sitting is not good for us, which makes long leisurely reading marathons self-indulgent and unhealthy along with every other thing that has been a comfort to us since childhood. So our dilemma is how to read a lot and still not sit a lot. Good luck; I am working on this one. Walking and reading can also be hazardous to your health, although walking on a treadmill while reading works fairly well. Kindles and Nooks and other e-readers make it easier to move and read at the same time. Standing at the kitchen counter is a possibility but the temptation to snack is great.

I don’t know if you remember those boards that they used to have on movie sets which allowed actors who were all made up and costumed to lounge in an upright position without disarranging anything. Having one of those might be useful, but how would it fit into the décor? Talking books, books read aloud, are an excellent solution to reading and moving at the same time, unless, like me, you hate earphones. OK, perhaps I am just throwing up unnecessary obstacles. I may have to start ordering my books in an audible format. (I placed stars in front of my priorities on this list but that doesn’t mean I won’t try to enjoy more of these titles. Haruki Murakami takes time, however, as does David Mitchell.)


In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides

Lucky Us: A Novel by Amy Bloom

We Are Not Ourselves: A Novel by Matthew Thomas

The Magician’s Land: A Novel by Lev Grossman

Blue-Eyed Boy: A Memoir by Robert Timberg (severely burned Vietnam vet reclaims his life)

Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks

*Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Fortune Hunter: A Novel by Daisy Goodwin

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Friendswood: A Novel by Rene Steinke

F: A Novel by Daniel Kehlman and Carol Janeway

Biography and Memoir

Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War by Helen Thorpe

Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered by Dianne Hales

Independent Booksellers

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

California by Edan Lepucki

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (debut novel of magic, adventure, mystery, and romance say the indie booksellers)

The Lost Island by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

My Struggle, Book One by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

*Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst

Tom Clancy: Support and Defend by Mark Greaney

The Lost Island by Douglas Preston

The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer

The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons

Painted Horses by Malcom Brooks

Tigerman by Nick Harkaway

Severed Souls by Terry Goodkind

Euphoria by Lily King

The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurty

Cut and Thrust by Stuart Woods

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand

Top Secret by WEB Griffin

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers

One More Thing by BJ Novak

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances by Ellen Cooney

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

The One and Only by Emily Giffin

Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

Shots Fired by CJ Box

Publisher’s Weekly

Panic in a Suitcase: A Novel by Yelena Akhtkiorskaya

Lucky Us: A Novel by Amy Bloom

The Fortune Hunter: A Novel by Daisy Goodwin

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Ghost Month by Ed Lin (Jing-nan, a Taiwanese man solves a case)

This is the Water by Yannick Murphy (inverted murder mystery)

Most Anticipated Fall Books according to PW

Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

*The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (called “a thing of beauty” by PW)

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

Lila by Marilynn Robinson (Trilogy consists of Gilead, Home, and Lila in the fictional plains town of Gilead, Iowa – PW says “a masterpiece of prose”)

The Dog (a novel) by Joseph O’Neill

The Forgers by Bradford Morrow (murder mystery set in Montauk)

The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison (Soho Crime)


Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (sequel to Ancillary Justice)


Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Three Bargains by Tania Malik (India)

Your Face in Mine by Jess Row

Non Fiction

My Body is a Book of Rules by Elissa Washuta (chronicle of bipolar disorder)

Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston (“a medical tour de force”)

Compiled by Nancy Brisson