THE MARCH ACROSS: When Sousa Took The Band Overseas


By Ken Zurski

SousaIn the spring of 1900, America’s foremost composer and conductor John Philip Sousa brought his large band to Europe. Sousa always dreamed of playing his patriotic marches overseas, but until the turn of the century no good opportunity presented itself. When the lavish Paris Exposition opened in 1889, Sousa was asked to attend. The following year on April 22,  a farewell concert took place at the New York Metropolitan Opera House. The next day, Sousa and his band, all sixty-three strong, set sail for France.

Sousa was already a celebrity, not just for his music but for his direction as well.  Born in 1854 in Washington D.C., of modest means, Sousa was the third of what would be ten siblings in all, although several died in infancy. Sousa’s father was a military man who played trombone in various bands. “I really believe he was the worst musician…

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STRAW HAT TO FREEDOM: The Daring Escape of Robert Smalls and the Commandeering of the CSS Planter

My favorite parts of history are the deeds done by single men


By Ken Zurski

scThe guards on lookout at Fort Sumter had little to worry about on the morning of May 13, 1862. The sun was just coming up, and a ship moving through Charleston Harbor at that early hour, likely on orders, was not an unusual sight.  They knew the CSS Planter well. There was no alarm. But there was a protocol to follow. The soldiers waited. Then two loud steam blasts came from the ship’s whistle. A closer look at the pilothouse would confirm it.  The man at the wheel was a wearing a straw hat. The sentinel boys urged the steamer on by waving their hats in salute. “Blow them damn Yankees, to hell,” they shouted as the Planter continued out to sea.

Once safely out of view from the fort, the man in the straw hat ordered the crew to take the down the confederate flag.  In…

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Ruh Roh ! Here We Go Again

In 1962, JFK was President, I was 15, and a sophomore in high school. For 13 days, we came thisclose to a nuclear conflict.
On October 24, Chairman Khrushchev replies indignantly to President Kennedy’s October 23 letter stating in part:
“You, Mr. President, are not declaring a quarantine, but rather are setting forth an ultimatum and threatening that if we do not give in to your demands you will use force. Consider what you are saying! And you want to persuade me to agree to this! What would it mean to agree to these demands? It would mean guiding oneself in one’s relations with other countries not by reason, but by submitting to arbitrariness. You are no longer appealing to reason, but wish to intimidate us.”

On October 22 at 7:00 pm EDT, President Kennedy delivered a nationwide televised address on all of the major networks announcing the discovery of the missiles. I was listening, with my friends, to the speech on the radio, shaking in my boots.

Now we have Putin flexing his muscles, and Putin is no Khrushchev, and once more, I’m shaking in my boots

MOON OVER SOHO by Ben Aaronovitch

I’m loving this Aaronovitch guy.
My problem with book series is that it seems that by the third book it’s the same old, same old. The formula works, so we’ll just add a little something, and stir, they’ll never know it’s leftovers.
This series is different, a little different with each book. Something added, something takemn away, but it grabs your interest.

What Has Been Read Cannot Be Unread

moon over sohoI seem to be reading a lot of fantasy lately.  Luck of the draw, I guess. But when you can combine modern day wizarding with deft police work, some river gods, a few ghosts, a couple of river gods, a Master wizard who doesn’t really understand modern technology, well, by jingo, you have yourself a story worth reading.  Yessir.

In Moon Over Soho, our apprentice wizard Peter Grant,  whom we first met in Rivers of London, is back, now with a bit more wizardly skills at his command.  Good thing, too, because he is really going to need them.  He has some stable control over the werelight (that’s the globe of light he can conjure up in his hand), and the spell that can move things, and a couple of other spells, too.  He is working on throwing an explosion, but it often only has the force of…

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SEVENEVES by Neal Stephenson

I love Stephenson’s books, but think he is an acquired taste, like oysters or sushi. His books tend to be very long, and detailed, but he does his research, and he bases his speculative fiction on proven facts, the he just riffs on it.
I first encountered his work in “The Baroque Cycle”, which was really nine books, gathered into three exasperate volumes of over a thousand pages each. That addicted me to his writing.
The first part of this book, is almost a roman a clef,and if you read it it is quite obvious as to who the characters are that are depicted. (E. G. a certain popular black scientist who is on TV ?)

What Has Been Read Cannot Be Unread

sevenevesStephenson’s latest offering, a looooong speculative fiction, sci fi really, is really three books all strung together.

What happens is — the moon disappears.  Yeah, right in front of everybody’s eyes.  One second it is there, shining brightly, inspiring songs containing the words moon, spoon, June, and the next – <poof> gone. Hit by something, maybe some big asteroid, who knows, but the earth folks have taken to calling it The Agent.

It is quickly determined that the explosion, which has shattered Luna into a kabillion pieces of varying sizes,  will, in two years, start bombarding the earth with those pieces, and then will begin the period of the Hard Rain, (a rain of rocks) which will demolish all life on earth as it triggers volcano eruptions, earthquakes, and fires completely covering the planet. This will last about 4,000 years, give or take a millenium or two.   Well, that…

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In millennia past, when lightening hit a tree, Og the caveman said it was the doing of the gods. In more modern times, it must be aliens.
Sir Arthur C. Clarke once said that any sufficiently advanced science was indistinguishable from magic. Vallee hypothesizes that we have the magic in us it seems

What Has Been Read Cannot Be Unread

ufosJacques Vallee  is a venture capitalist, computer scientist, author, ufologist and former astronomer.
In mainstream science, Vallée is notable for co-developing the first computerized mapping of Mars for NASA and for his work at SRI International on the network information center for the ARPANET, a precursor to the modern Internet. Vallée is also an important figure in the study of unidentified flying objects (UFOs), first noted for a defense of the scientific legitimacy of the extraterrestrial hypothesis and later for promoting the interdimensional hypothesis. [Lifted without shame directly from Wiki.]

I got interested in the writings of Vallee when I was reading Daimonic Reality.  I think of UFOs, crop circles and the concept of consciousness as all varying aspects of the same conundrum.  What are they?  Where do they come from?  I don’t for a minute believe that UFOs are interplanetary space vehicles piloted by extraterrestrial creatures,  but I…

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