Monday, April 17, 2017

Inside the world's first all female special forces unit

ELVERUM, Norway — An explosion just a few feet away rocks the unmarked station wagon as it travels along a dirt road in the Norwegian woodland. 
Immediately, two soldiers jump from their front seats and run for cover behind the carcass of an old, rusty tank. Firing their weapons at targets along the snow-covered hillside, they call for support from the rest of their unit. 
This firefight is just a drill, but the soldiers taking part are battling to break down one of the final barriers to women serving in the armed forces. They are training to become part of Norway's Jegertroppen or "Hunter Troops" — the world's first all-female military special forces unit.

Read the full article here:

Saturday, February 4, 2017

John Smolens Author Interview

John Smolens

Enjoy these answers to questions given to fiction writer, John Smolens  (longtime friend of the legendary Jim Harrison), composed by U.P. Poet Laureate, Russ Thorburn, and myself. And do not forget to order his latest historical fiction novel, Wolf's Mouth:

You were a good friend of Harrison's. From his many books of prose, poetry and essays, what would you consider your favorite book? 

I’ve read just about all of his books, I believe.  I think some of his best fiction is found in his collections of novellas, which is a very difficult form.  But the books that I return to often are his poems:  After Ikkyu; The Shape of the Journey; and Braided Creek, which he wrote with Ted Kooser.  I reread essays from The Raw and the Cooked because they’re a stitch.  Nobody moves from a consideration of tomatoes to philosophy to to wine to birds to chicken thighs…with such alacrity.  It’s a little known fact that Jim Harrison invented the alternative fact.

What can you tell us about the author himself?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

REVIEW: Scottsboro: An American Tragedy

Scottsboro: An American Tragedy, is a 2000 PBS historical documentary that is still sadly relevant today. I appeal to the contemporary reader to review the facts of this tragic miscarriage of justice perhaps now more than ever in light of the recently aggravated racial tensions in America. Nine black teenagers were falsely accused of rape by two opportunistic white prostitutes and their lives were ruined forever. However, the case went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court and set the stage for the civil rights movement in the sixties.

Growing up in Detroit Proper, I went to high school with a large minority of black students who lived, literally, "on the other side of the tracks" from me. Herman Gardens was a low cost housing project that had a reputation. None of us white kids dared to visit it--at anytime of the day. However, we had no choice but to share the public school system with the black students resulting in annual spring time race riots in the hallways. The ugly experiences of racism, violence and fear will live forever in my memories. Scottsboro serves as a reminder, along with recent events, that we have not come all that far from Civil War attitudes and that there still is very much to be done as explained by Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, in today's Time magazine post entitled: Barack Obama Should Now Focus on Black Lives.

But let's rewind for a moment.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

MOVIE REVIEW: First Contact-Lost Tribe of the Amazon (2016)

The image of the young man that you see here is that of the Chief of the Txapanawa, a tribe previously isolated on the extremely remote bank of the Envira River in the village of Simpatia in Brazil. The dramatic first contact of his people with civilization is recorded live and expounded upon within context in the documentary First Contact: Lost Tribe of the Amazon, featuring anthropologist  José Carlos Merielles.

Merielles is a Brazilian sertanista, an explorer backwoodsman who works for FUNAI, a governmental body that establishes and carries out policies related to indigenous people, much like our own Bureau of Indian Affairs. It is a dangerous job and Merielles has the scars to prove it. He was shot in the face with an arrow in 2004 and that may explain why he puffs heavily on an unfiltered cigarette when first encountering the Txapanawa in a home video.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Dr. Ian Miller and 'Bot War

It's aways my pleasure to discover that former guests to Writers Alive are still productive and doing well. Dr. Ian Miller, from New Zealand, has been a correspondent for several years and I've talked to him in podcast form here and here with my former cohost, Marta Merjaver, from Argentina who accurately described him as a "Renaissance Man". What amazing technological times that we live in when we can share stories and experiences real time via the Internet. Please check out my review of Dr. Miller's latest science fiction book here at Amazon and enjoy his answers to these questions posted below.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  If 
you write more than one, how do you balance them?

I have always been interested in science, which is just as well since I am a scientist, and one of the important aspects of science is that it is based on logic. My feeling is that society these days is approaching some really difficult problems, and clear thinking by as many people as possible is desirable. What I try to do in my stories is show that the winners win by thinking out their problems, and not by sheer luck. In my dreams, I like to think I might influence some people in that way.
Regarding balancing genres, I have entered SF, thrillers, and in two books, historical fiction. The important point for me is that even if the book is hard to categorize, I try to make sure the whole book is unified. By that, I mean everything at the end follows naturally from what was introduced in the beginning. You can have different books with all sorts of differences, but I think it is important that any given book has a unity of purpose.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: A True Feminist? Gladys Aylward-The Little Woman

A common misconception amongst nonbelievers is that Christianity and (what the world calls) feminism are mutually exclusive social forces. This official autobiography of an early 20th century British woman's solo journey to China as a missionary during the Sino-Japanese war proves the opposite. 

There's nothing clever or gender specific about courage. It's attractiveness lies in the sheer force of its will to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Aylward simply believed that God would guide her across Europe and Russia via rail alone, and without having practically any formal training and hardly any church support, she left London one day with her Bible, passport, some pocket change and a few traveling items to follow her heart's call to be a missionary in China.

If you're looking for smart poetic writing in a story, Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman is not for you. But, if you want true grit, honest adventure and historic drama verified, than read this British woman's inspiring journey and how she spent a lifetime preaching and teaching the gospel and taking care of thousands of orphans during one of the most brutal eras in recent history.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Movie Review: Do Not Resist (2016)

Filmmaker and fellow Wayne State University alumnus, Craig Atkinson, has forged together a  documentary about the militarization of police forces across the United States in his visually compelling (but sometimes too liberal, bleeding heart) documentary, Do Not Resist.
 His online biography says that he's from Metro Detroit, which means that he's not from Detroit Proper like yours truly. Therefore, like another Michigan movie maker who skillfully shouts out against The Establishment, Michael Moore, but who prefers the safety and comfort of suburban living, Atkinson's take on America's shift right should be viewed in perspective. Allow me to elaborate.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Review: The Prophetic Imagination that Trumps Business-as-usual

The Prophetic Imagination, by Dr. Walter Brueggeman, has sold over one million copies in its second printing and deservedly so. Now, more than ever, we need to closely examine the biblically historical power of language to counter culture a status quo, populist mindset that abnegates an alternative reality which offers the Creator's freedom through anguish and energizing, unlimited force.

Students (and admirers) of language need not be theologically inclined in order to appreciate the Chomsky-like tone regarding the hegemony of cautionary and hopeful prophecy as outlined in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible as pointed out by Brueggemann. It's still the articulate, anguished scream of the little man against the powers that be which foresee destruction yet offer visionary change in the face of, what the author labels, 'royal consciousness', as personified in the struggle between the Moses of Exodus and the Pharaoh of an oppressive Egypt against the Hebrews in the ancient Middle East and, to a final extant, Jesus Christ against the Jews and their failure to perceive the spirit behind the Law, the spirit of agape love, as given to Moses and the Israelites. In effect, it's a bold step out of the the Hegelian Dialectic, which modern philosophers such as Marx refer to, and a grand entrance into another dimensional geopolitical world tension that resolves itself solely through the Creator's will and purpose--a firmament long ago established outside of time and space before the foundations of kingdoms and governments where laid.

Some things will never change like absolute governmental power that inevitably trends toward blind and merciless oppression of society's marginalized. But Brueggeman, like Chomsky, examines the tour de force manifested by powerful (and prophetic) forces of imagination that wield language as a new construct versus reality in the everyday life of an established regime that necessarily must be deaf to the pleas of poverty and helplessness, because if rulers acknowledge the chinks in their armor of authority, they will be forced to admit that imperfection inevitably can and must lead to change and, quite often, revolution.