Friday, March 31, 2017

Review of "Silence Over Dunkerque," by John R. Tunis

Review of
Silence Over Dunkerque, by John R. Tunis 

Four out of five stars
 Tunis is often considered the inventor of the modern sports story, most of which are juvenile fiction. The subject matter of this book is quite different, it is a short novel about Sergeant George Williams of the British Expeditionary Force in World War II. Stationed in France when the massive German invasion takes place, Williams fires a few shots, killing two German staff officers and capturing detailed German battle plans.
 While that act may provide some assistance to the Allied Forces, the battle is of course a rout and the Allied forces rapidly retreat to the Atlantic coast, specifically the port of Dunkerque. Military discipline largely breaks down as the men are loaded on a massive flotilla of ships from Britain. Everything from yachts to fishing boats to ships of the Royal Navy crossed the channel and rescued over 300,000 men, leaving nearly all of their equipment behind.
Sergeant Williams and his buddy are on a British destroyer that is blown out of the water and they end up back in occupied France. The Germans have already established their policy of shooting any French citizens that harbor Allied military men, so it takes a brave person to hide and help them. Their benefactor is a French schoolgirl names Gisele, she hides them, feeds them, and arranges for their passage back to Britain where Sergeant Williams is reunited with his family and will soon be back in the war.
 This adventure is based on actual events, although not necessarily precisely. Many members of the Allied military were hidden and protected by the French and many French died when the Germans learned of their aid. It is a story that is well told in the distinctive Tunis style. The most interesting aspect of the story is that the hero is the French girl that stands up to her abusive mother, the two men are depicted as soldiers loyal to the British Empire but are not depicted as staunch heroes.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Review of "The Other Side Continent," by Michail Varvarousis

Review of
The Other Side Continent, by Michail Varvarousis ISBN 9781478772408

Four out of five stars
 Presented as new results based on research, this book does not provide anything new. It is an organized and more popular description of the historical evidence for contact between the people of the two hemispheres well before the time of Christopher Columbus and his famous voyages.
 In general, the history books date the interaction between the hemispheres as starting in 1492, which is largely incorrect. It has been documented that Norse explorers established colonies in Greenland, Canada and the New England area of the United States as far back as the 10th century CE and this knowledge would have filtered down to the rest of Europe. This is of course five hundred years before the voyages of Columbus. In fact it has been said that the Norse explorers called it Greenland in order to entice colonists to the new land. Furthermore, there is some historical evidence that Columbus used the stories of the Norse experiences to convince his royal backers to finance his expedition.
 The Vikings were great explorers and colonizers, their expeditions went as far south as North Africa, even extending as far east as Constantinople and the Middle East. Norse raiders carried out attacks in Spain and established major colonies along the Volga River. The Norse also had sustained diplomatic relations with the Islamic world. From this it is clear that the Norse knowledge of the existence of the continents of the western hemisphere would have been passed along to the people of southern Europe and Africa.
 The author mentions this as well as states some of the legends of a continent far to the west across the Atlantic Ocean. These legends go back to the time of the ancient Greeks and there is strong evidence that daring teams of ancient mariners crossed the Atlantic in boats made of papyrus. In 1970, Norwegian ethnologist Thor Heyerdahl and a team sailed a papyrus boat from Morocco to Barbados in only 57 days. When dealing with human actions, the maxim is that if it is possible to do it, humans will do it. Therefore, it seems reasonable to believe that the legends of the “lost continent” far to the west were based on facts.
 Read as a consolidation and a summary, this is a good book of popular history, putting forward the thesis that there was at least sporadic contact between the hemispheres prior to Columbus. However, it is nothing more than that, if the reader’s interest is aroused, there are many other, more scholarly works that can be read.

Review of "The Natural," starring Robert Redford, DVD

Review of
The Natural, starring Robert Redford, DVD version of the director’s cut

Five out of five stars
 Set in the late 1930’s, this movie is arguably the best sports movie of all time. The only detriment is the mysticism that occasionally arises as a fundamental part of the plot. Robert Redford stars as Roy Hobbes, an incredibly talented baseball player that is destined for stardom when he runs afoul of a crazed female fan.
 He disappears from the game for almost two decades to re-emerge as a major league rookie in his late thirties. Even with his relatively advanced age, his talents are so great that he is still an incredible hitter. However, there are undercurrents of a devious and crooked owner with a gambler determined to make a fortune off of the failure of Roy’s team.
 Much of the power of the movie is derived from the strength of the performances of the supporting cast. Robert Duvall as a somewhat crooked sportswriter, Wilford Brimley as the manager of the baseball team, Kim Basinger as a bad luck femme fatale and Glenn Close as Hobbes’ childhood sweetheart are all outstanding and serve to provide the backdrop for the Hobbes character to reach the appropriate stature.
 While I don’t consider this the best sports movie of all time due to the mystic aspects, it certainly is justifiable for some people to consider it as number one.