Fine Arts Friday: Arg!

It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day, so I was going to post on pirates in art. Pro-tip, don’t google “pirate art.” It’s disheartening and a bit skeevy.

But! A few years back I made a Learnist board on pirates, so I’m just going to filch from there. (Check it out for more interesting stuff on pirates.)

Pirates in art! Romanticized is the term that comes to mind. This is an artists rendering of Captain Kidd in New York Harbor. The reality was more gibbety.


Captain Kidd in New York Harbor

Pirates in Literature.

Pirates in Film.

Your pirate name. My pirate name is Iron Anne Kidd, so don’t even think of messing with me!

Empty Shelf Challenge: To the Last Man

This post contains affiliated links.


The Memorial to the Lafayette Escadrille, a corp of American pilots who fought in WWI with the French before America joined the war. Photo: Wikimedia

Title: To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War

Author: Jeff Shaara

What it’s about: Don’t you just love self-explanatory titles? More specifically, it is a historical fiction novel that follows four men (more or less) from the middle to end of the Great War: General John Pershing, Private Roscoe Temple, Major Raoul Lufbery, and Baron Manfred von Richthofen (A.K.A. The Red Baron.) And although the novel mainly concerns itself with these men’s stories (and WWI is too unwieldy for any single story), Shaara gives a pretty good picture of American involvement in the War.

Why did I read it: Partly because it was on sale for Kindle for $1.99 or some ridiculous amount last month at the anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Partly because I’ve been reading and listening to a lot about World War I (because of said anniversary and our recent homeschool history studies.) I like to read non-fiction, but something about historical fiction–especially really well researched historical fiction–communicates the reality of history in a way that non-fiction doesn’t often achieve. I was very impressed with Shaara’s father’s book The Killer Angels, and had heard good things about the younger Shaara’s sequels to that novel. However, at the time, I was not inclined to keep reading about war. But when I saw this opportunity, I didn’t want to pass it up.

What I thought: Shaara is a wonderful story teller who accomplishes what many historical fiction authors can’t quite pull off: communicating the history accurately while telling a good story. Too often you either get the facts at the expense of a good story, or vice versa. He also does a good job balancing the action of battle with the political situation driving the war. A few years ago I read Falcons of France to the girls, where I first was introduced to Lafayette Escadrille. I enjoyed this closer look at the hero of that corps, Raoul Lufbery. And who hasn’t heard of the Red Baron? Although of all the characters we get to know, Private Temple is the one that I think will stay with me. The outcome of one of many of his engagements: “The battalion of the Fifth Marines that had been trapped in the “box” north of Blanc Mont Ridge had numbered a thousand men. By the end of the fighting, one hundred thirty-four marched out.”

Like I said, WWI is unwieldy. Currently, I’m listening to The Guns of August a nineteen hour audiobook about the start of the war. And by start I mean through August 2014. I’m also listening to the Hardcore History Podcast series of WWI. I think we’re 16 hours in (4 episodes) and have reached 1916. And even those massive works have had to leave out a great deal. It truly was a war great in size and destruction. Shaar write of the War’s legacy,

“The numbers tell the tale. In four years of the most brutal combat the world had ever seen, nearly ten million men die on the battlefield or in the hospitals nearby. The cost in human life can be translated to the loss of more than five thousand men every day the war was fought. Thus an entire generation of young men is erased from the future of humanity.

In all, fifty-seven countries participate on some level in the Great War. The war, and the subsequent treaties that follow, radically alter the map of Europe and the Middle East. Where once were kinds and empires, from Germany to Austria-Hungary, Turkey to Russia, new governments arise, new leaders place their names in the history books.

In the United States, the cost of the war is horrifying in its own way. Over fifty thousand men die, a number than pales in comparison to the losses of the other major participants. But the American deaths occur in the relatively brief period from May to November 1918. The number is eerily similar to the losses suffered in the Vietnam War, losses that occur over a period of fourteen years. Other numbers are appalling as well. In the fledgling American Air Service, one-third of all pilots who report for duty in Europe are killed.”

I know I studied World War I in school (I remember watching All’s Quiet on the Western Front), but honestly I don’t remember much about it from school. In popular culture, World War II has been the recipient of more attention. But this war, the sadly misnamed “War to End All Wars”, has had such far reaching effects, rearranged the map, ushered in the brave new modern world, and set up so many complex and dangerous situations that we are still dealing with today. And I mean that literally. Perhaps if we paid attention to our past, we’d learn something that could help us with those situations.

Where you can get it: Here!




I love Constitution Day,

it makes blogging so easy. (Kidding! Mostly!)

Oh who am I kidding, I’m not kidding! Sing with me!


And here it is in audiobook form.

I do love our Constitution. It’s an incredibly enduring law; our founders were wise men.

Terrible Tuesday: Punch drunk or perservering?

The difference depends entirely on your perspective.

Too many ps links!

135 self-education resources for life-long learners. Too many ls!

Jack the Ripper Revealed! Too many . . . aw, forget it.

Everything about this makes me happy: Owner of Wedding Photo Discovered at Ground Zero Found.

rhyme dance

Okay, isn’t “awkward yeti” redundant? I mean, have you ever met a confident, sophisticated yeti? Maybe it’s just me.

Perdue reduces (some) antibiotic use in its chickens. A step in the right direction. I’m pretty sure our overuse and abuse of antibiotics is going to be our doom. DOOM!

All the comments on every recipe blog. I wrote about this once.

Removing the superfluous buns. This is inspiring in so many ways. You go future Mrs. McCully!

Off to better regulate my alphabet.

Tapping the breaks

We’re calling this week a do-over, a grace week, a “did anyone get the plates on that truck that just hit us” week. After a bit of a rough start, I had to go out of town last week to attend a funeral. While my husband performed admirably as my homeschool sub, my absence did set us back a bit and uncovered some cracks that I hadn’t previously noticed. Like when the girls don’t understand something, they should actually tell me instead of soldiering on. (Or throwing a fit, reactions may vary.) Because it’s all about the actual learning, not about checking assignments off the blasted list.

Calming breaths.

Years ago, I read about a company that sent trappers into the heart of North America back when that meant you were gone for months or even years. The explorers would first travel only a few miles from their companies base, set up camp, and make sure everything was actually squared away–from supplies to companions–before heading out beyond all hope of assistance. I feel a little like that’s what’s happening here.  Technically the assignments are all on the books for the week, but in reality we’re going be stopping and doing some repacking. We’re making sure everyone is truly on the same page, understands where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. It’s also critical that everyone understands proper procedure in case of emergency. (It’s “Give mama more coffee,” if you were wondering.) So if we only get to half of our scheduled work for the week–or none of it–but can reload and head in the same direction with the same purpose, then I call it a win.

Have you ever felt the need to stop a journey at the beginning to re-evaluate? Have you ever felt you should have stopped?

Our resilient anthem

Written 200 years ago today.

Until I get my act together

No, until I find my act and then get it together, this will have to suffice for my daily blogging. A little political/literary entertainment.


More here and here.


On the limits of my knowledge

A quote that has been rattling around in my brain from the Empty Shelf Challenge book I just reviewed.

“We will just have to realize that ignorance will always be our lot and then get on with the task–often a joyful one–of learning what we can with the time and abilities we have. After all, God may be less frustrated by our ignorance than we are. Still, he has given us minds to know and we are responsible for how we use them. There is, indeed, much that we can accomplish.”

from How to Read Slowly by James Sire

I find it encouraging on those days when my ignorance is very evident, or as I like to call them, “days.”

Empty Shelf Challenge: A how-to with heart

how to read slowly

Oddly, the number of books on my shelf is shrinking. I don’t know what to say about that.


Title: How to Read Slowly: Reading for Comprehension

Author: James W. Sire

What’s It About: On its face, it simply a how-to book laying out the mechanics of reading a variety of literature—poetry, essays, novels, etc.— for comprehension. Sire walks the reader through various genres, giving tools necessary to read “well.” But it’s more than just a book on how to read to understand the content of a book. It’s a book about how to read with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul. Sire writes from a distinctively Christian viewpoint and shares how to fully engage with literature to gain both understanding and meaning.

Why I Read It: While there are numerous excellent worldview curricula available, I’ve decided to forgo the formal class-like program. Instead, I want to continue having the discussions with my kids about the big questions we’ve been having since they kids could talk, albeit in a more deliberate way. To that end, I’m spending time everyday with the girls (who are 14 and 12) reading through a variety of books and talking about them. How to Read Slowly is one of the books on my list to preview for that project. (Yes, it made the cut. In fact, it’s been an inspiration.) I have a post in the works on why I decided to do worldview this way, and I may even complete it before the last kid graduates!

What I Thought: Sire is like a master chef teaching a novice cook how to make a melt-in-your-mouth crème brûlée His directions are clear and understandable, but he also doesn’t hesitate to share his passion and to explain the why behind not only the method but also the purpose of reading slowly. He makes the reader’s mouth water with anticipation of the delights ahead of her. His love of literature and reading is infectious. I have read Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book, the classic volume on the mechanics of reading well, and one every serious reader “ought” to read. And its dull as tombs. It’s full of tons of good information and absolutely no inspiration. Sire’s book, on the other hand, is a delight. I came away inspired to be a better reader and better equipped to reach that goal. As Sire writes, “[G]reat books teem with peoples and lands, with ideas and attitudes, with exuberance and life. Let us take our fill, doing it slowly, thoughtfully, imaginatively, all to the glory of God.”

Where You Can Get It: Here!

Channelling Keaggy

My crazy old cat is getting crazier in his old age.  His latest thing is to stand inside his cat box and pee outside the box. And then run away like he’s being chased.

This is only the latest in this weird behavior, which has nothing to do with his age or illness, and everything to do with his cattiness. If Keaggy could talk, he’d say something like this. (One bad word and a couple of tacky words.)


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