Showing posts from 2018

Old Gamers Never Die: My Favorite Computer Games of All Time

Well, 2018 is almost over for those of us who live in the Americas, and I am glad! It's still morning in the subtropical state of Florida, and it looks like it's going to be one beautiful New Year's Eve day. It's mostly sunny as I write this, and the temperature outside is 71℉. If I don't get sucked into watching Star Wars; The Force Awakens,or try to get some writing done, I might grab one of my many books and go read on the front porch later.

Knowing myself well, though, it's quite likely that I'll probably end up taking a shower, change into comfortable but nice-looking clothes, then come back to my computer and play one of my favorite games for a couple of hours.

Since I got my first computer 31 years ago (it was a gift from my paternal Uncle Sixto), I've always divided my time at my desk between "productivity" and "entertainment." Starting from the time when I was in college, I've always "put work first," regardless …

Documentary Review: 'American Experience: Battle of the Bulge: The Deadliest Battle of World War II'

American Experience - "Battle of the Bulge: The Deadliest Battle of World War II"

Written by: Thomas Lennon and Mark Zwonitzer

Directed by: Thomas Lennon

Narrated by: David McCullough

Date of Original Release: November 9, 1994

On November 9, 1994, over 300 member stations of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) aired Battle of the Bulge: The Deadliest Battle of World War II, a 90-minute long episode of WGBH Boston's American Experience documentary series. Written by Thomas Lennon and Mark Zwonitzer and directed by Lennon, it is a briskly-paced overview of the Ardennes Counter-Offensive, the biggest land battle of the Western Front in World War II and, as Charles B. MacDonald has dubbed it, the greatest single engagement in the history of the U.S. Army.

Planned personally by Adolf Hitler in the late summer and early fall of 1944, the Ardennes Counter-Offensive - code-named by the Germans as Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein ("Operation Watch on the Rhine") - has often bee…

Book Review: 'Big Week: The Biggest Air Battle of World War II'

On November 6, 2018, the Atlantic Monthly Press, an imprint of Britain's Penguin publishing empire, released the U.S. edition of Big Week: The Biggest Air Battle of World War II.  Its British counterpart, Big Week: The Biggest Air Battle of World War Two, had been published almost three months earlier (on August 6) and was a best-seller in Great Britain. Written by historian and BBC TV presenter James Holland, the 400-page book tells the story of the Anglo-American air forces' struggle to achieve air supremacy over Western Europe as a necessary pre-requisite for Operation Overlord, the planned Allied cross-Channel invasion of German-occupied France, which was scheduled to take place in May of 1944.

As the book's title implies, Big Week focuses on Operation Argument, a series of air strikes by American and British bombers against Nazi Germany's aircraft manufacturing industry and other sensitive targets that Adolf Hitler's vaunted Luftwaffe had to defend. On the su…

From my Quora feed: 'Is Trump lying really okay because he isn’t under oath?'

Is Trump lying really okay because he isn’t under oath? I’m not sure if this question is on the level; it doesn’t look like it is, but I’ll try to control my skepticism and answer it anyway. Frankly, I do not think that is all right for President Donald J. Trump to lie as constantly as he does about everything even if he’s not, as you say, under oath. Seriously, dude. Think of the logical implications of your question. What kind of a society would we devolve into if the President of the United States - or anybody else, for that matter, is allowed to lie except in the rare occasion that he is under oath? How would you like it if your wife or girlfriend cheated on you, but was given a pass to lie about it unless someone in authority made her swear an oath to “tell the truth and nothing but the truth, so help you, God?” Trust is a very fragile commodity, and while we go through life with the knowledge that most public officials often prevaricate or make promises they can’t keep, we often…

From my Quora feed: 'Why won't the Democrats just give Trump his legacy of the wall like Republicans did so for Obamacare?'

Why won't the Democrats just give Trump his legacy of the wall like Republicans did so for Obamacare? Dear Anonymous, First, let’s be frank here. The fact that you submitted this question anonymously (and are not following it publicly) says a lot about you and your intention. You know that the historical record shows that Republicans did not “give’ President Obama anything when he proposed the Affordable Care Act. As a matter of historical fact, Republicans in Congress not only refused to vote for the ACA, but they also refused to cooperate with their Democratic colleagues to create it. There was no attempt on the GOP’s part to compromise on the ACA, none at all, even though it was based on a Republican-Democratic healthcare plan created at the state level in Massachusetts and signed into law by then-Governor Mitt Romney. Not only that, the ACA did not get one vote, not a single vote, from the Republicans in Congress. So, please, Mr. Anonymous, don’t come on to Quora and ask insin…

Book Review: 'Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan'

The diesel-electric powered submarine was one of the deadliest weapons used in naval warfare during the two World Wars. During both wars in the Atlantic, Germany's U-boats did extensive damage to Allied shipping and twice threatened to starve Britain. After December 7, 1941, during the campaigns in the Pacific, the Japanese submarine force, tied to a rigid doctrine of stalking enemy capital ships, scored a few outstanding kills of carriers and the USS Indianapolis but did little to harm Allied cargo ships.

In Clay Blair, Jr.'s Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan, reissued by the U.S. Naval Institute (the same publishing company that gave readers Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October novel) after several decades of being out of print, is a fascinating and detailed look at the officers, sailors and submarines of the Silent Service and their nearly four-year-long campaign against Japan's Imperial Navy and her Merchant Fleet.

Blair, himself a former subma…

Book Review: 'Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway'

On November 1, 2005, Potomac Books published Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway. Co-written by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully, this was the first major book about the pivotal naval engagement that ended the Imperial Japanese Navy's offensive phase in the Pacific War since Gordon W. Prange's Miracle at Midway (1982). Based on extensive research of Japan's military and naval archives, as well as re-examining many American accounts of the battle, Shattered Sword not only tells the story of Midway from the perspective of the Japanese, but it also endeavors to bust myths about the 1942 battle that ended Japan's six-month-long string of victories over the Allies and began to see the balance of power shift to the U.S. Navy.

Even though 78 years have passed since the Battle of Midway (June 4-7, 1942), it is still considered one of history's most important naval battles. When Japan's fearsome Combined Fleet set out to sea in late May of 1942…

Book Review: 'The Battle of Midway'

On October 5, 2011, the Oxford University Press published Craig L. Symonds' The Battle of Midway as part of the publisher's Pivotal Moments in American History series.  Based on official American and Japanese historical records, interviews with survivors of the naval campaigns of early 1942, and publications of the period, Symonds' take on one of the most famous - and decisive - battles in the Pacific Theater of Operations explores territory that has been explored by countless writers (including Walter Lord and Gordon W. Prange) and at the same time explodes myths that have been accepted as fact for the past 60 years.

The naval Battle of Midway (June 4-6, 1942) has long been considered to be one of the most important naval battles of the Second World War. Almost six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, almost 200 Japanese ships, including four of the six carriers that had launched planes against Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, and the super-battleship Yamato, sortied…

Book Review: 'Crete 1941: The Battle and the Resistance'

The Battle of Crete - the first large-scale military engagement conceived and executed by airborne forces in history - has long been overshadowed by other World War II battles that took place in 1941. Planned by Luftwaffe General Kurt Student (the "Father of Germany's Airborne Force") and approved by a reluctant Adolf Hitler, Operation Mercury was a daring if rather risky endeavor: the capture of the Greek island of Crete by a large airborne force that was to be reinforced primarily via an "air bridge" from the mainland and only tangentially by a seaborne force embarked on a modest flotilla of caiques. Hitler greenlit Unternehmen Merkur almost at the last minute with one proviso: that the invasion of Crete be carried out with resources available in the Greek theater of operations and not much else lest it interfered with the Fuhrer's larger plan to invade the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

The staff officers who planned Unternehmen Merkur were sure that th…

Fan Commentary: The Worst 'Star Wars' Books I Ever Read? Easy...'The Jedi Prince' Series

If you have ever been a regular reader of non-canon fiction based on a motion picture or television franchise, you've probably noticed that the quality of the writing tends to be uneven. I ought to know; I've been reading novels and other literary works (short stories, comic books, and reference books) set in the Star Trek and Star Wars universes, and I've run across some stinkers in both.

Most of the Star Wars stinkers that I've read are aimed at the general reading audience - ages 12 and up; that is the demographic that most readers belong to, including me. They also were published as part of the old Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU), or what the Lucasfilm Story Group now calls Star Wars Legends, and include stories told in the following formats:

Novels (The New Rebellion, almost any book written by Kevin J. Anderson, The Crystal Star)Comics/Graphic Novels (Dark Empire trilogy)Young Adult books  For me, the very worst Star Wars fiction can be found in the Jedi Prince

Book Review: 'Day of Infamy'

On March 27, 1957, Holt Books published Walter Lord's Day of Infamy, a documentary-style nonfiction account of the Japanese attack on the American Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor and various other U.S. military installations on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, on Sunday, December 7, 1941.

Based on meticulous research and interviews with over 80 eyewitnesses and participants on both sides - American as well as Japanese - Day of Infamy is a detailed, hour-by-hour look at the chain of events that took place between the night of Saturday, December 6 and 12:30 P.M. on December 8. 1941 - ending the narrative with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous "Day of Infamy" speech from which Lord derives the book's title.

Unlike Gordon W. Prange's massive At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor, Lord's slimmer - and much reprinted - work is a "you are there" look at the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hickam and Wheeler Army Air Fields, an…

Book Review: 'Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary' (2018 Edition)

Since the late 1990s, Britain's Dorling Kindersley (DK)  Publishing has been releasing lavishly-illustrated reference books related to various aspects of George Lucas's Star Wars movie trilogies and, since 2015, the Sequel Trilogy and Anthology films produced Lucasfilm, the production company purchased by the Walt Disney Company after Lucas's retirement in the fall of 2012. These reference books run the gamut from Star Wars: Complete Vehicles and Star Wars: Incredible Cross-sections to Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide. 

In addition to these works, DK also publishes Visual Guides or Visual Dictionaries that tie in to specific films, starting with David West Reynolds' 1998 work Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary (which encompassed the Original Trilogy era) and continuing over the years with either Visual Dictionaries or Visual Guides for each of the new Star Wars films shortly after their theatrical release.

Heavy on pictures and light on writing, the individual Visua…