Book review: Apollo 8

apollo 8 cover

Apollo 8: the thrilling story of the first mission to the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger, author with Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 @ 2017 Henry Holt & co.

This was a mission of firsts which by no means was a sure thing. It may not be exaggerating to say this was the mission that saved the Moon Landing, the hurried preparations notwithstanding. Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to leave the Earth’s gravity field and surrender to another’s; the first manned mission to orbit another world; the first burn during a communications blackout on its first pass around the dark side of the Moon, to establish lunar orbit. That orbit would be the first time the eyes of man viewed the dark side of the Moon from close proximity. Then there was the burn to escape lunar orbit and re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, all of which held the potential for disaster. Despite the fatigue that was inevitable on a six-day flight in a small, sometimes temperamental craft, with virtually the eyes of the world on these three men, the first trip to the Moon was an unqualified success.

apollo 8 crew

Though all three astronauts–Commander Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and rookie Bill Anders, along with their wives have their share, the focus is more on Borman, his service in the Air Force and his struggle to join the budding astronaut corps. For author Kluger it’s also a chance to revisit an old friend, Jim Lovell on his earlier career for his record-setting missions for Gemini. And for a last first, these gentlemen were the first to eyewitness the Earth rising over another world, and Bill Ander’s majestic photo has been immortalized ever since as ‘Earthrise’.

45th-Anniversary-of-Apollo-8-Earthrise

It is also a story of the tragedy of Apollo 1 and the disorderly craft that killed Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White on the ground. Apollo 8 was a bold, on-the-fly idea that ultimately saved the Moon landing, and I want to thank Kluger and all those brave men who helped bring back the wonder of the Moon shots, before cynicism and division became the norm and divided our country.

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

f & d cover

Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

Book update: thinking Spanish

The third book in the Butterfly & Serpent series has logged another chapter, so I am making progress. The challenge is getting into another culture, another mindset, which might be hampered a bit by an inability to travel. The problem is compounded by the fact that just in the first section of the new book, I’ve had to learn not one but two cultures, diametrically opposed. But I’m keeping at it.

My biggest regret in this regard is that I wasn’t ready until now. I would have loved to have asked my grandmother Elsy about Spain, she was very knowledgeable about all things Spanish. That’s my bad. I’ve finished Vicente Blasco Ibanez’s classic novel Blood and Sand. If nothing else I’ve come away sharing the author’s healthy disgust with the whole ‘sport’ of bullfighting. I feel more for the bulls than the matadors. I can’t even talk to my wife about what happens to the poor horses. The people who go to these things are animals.

cover blood and sand

That’s where I’m at. I’m moving on to the next chapter. Thanks for the support, everyone.

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

f & d cover

Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

review–Dispatches by Michael Herr

Required reading. Michael Herr takes you under fire with him and the Marines. You’ll find yourself under siege at Khe Sahn, breath their sweat, the marijuana, the fear. Despite it all, it’ll be one of those places you can’t leave behind. There are the improbable stories of daredevil war photographers such as Tim Page and of all people the son of actor Errol Flynn, Sean. Spot on-observations abound, such as, “The Green Berets doesn’t count. That wasn’t about Vietnam, it was about Santa Monica.”

One of the most apt summaries of the war, filed while it was still going on, appears on pg. 200: “Somewhere on the periphery of that total Vietnam issue…there was a story that was as simple as it had always been, men hunting men, a hideous war and all kinds of victims. But there was also a Command that didn’t feel this, that rode us into attrition traps on the back of fictional kill ratios, and an Administration that believed the Command, a cross-fertilization of ignorance, and a press whose tradition of objectivity and fairness (not to mention self-interest) saw that all of it got space.” This book was hard to get through, not hard to read per se but harsh in its details, and may be the most honest book about the Vietnam War.

Golden Messiah: Adam Warlock vs. the Star Thief

D-Warlock 14 cover

Warlock # 14, August 1976, art & story by Jim Starlin 

 

Funny the images that stick with you…

Warlock v1 - 14 - 15

I was a young lad of thirteen when I first saw this and now that I’ve re-read the series I’m finding it hard to get out of my mind. Clearly the science isn’t all up to snuff, but this is the kind of thing that just fires the imagination.

The stars have been vanishing not just from the evening sky but throughout the universe. The culprit, Adam Warlock discovers, is Barry Bauman, a bedridden man with infinite cosmic abilities. This man, rightly named the Star Thief, is deaf dumb blind comatose and under the constant care of a male nurse hired by his wealthy father. All these years and I never realized before–Star Thief is Tommy!

the who tommy

[If anyone doesn’t know the rock opera by The Who, you must look it up. Play the CD once, you’ll get it.]

war14_6

Photo 29 May 2013 11_20

Our golden-skinned hero is forced to undergo a series of trials testing his assertion that he is in fact a true Warlock. These take the form of beasts in the form of the classical elements–earth, air, water and fire. Although he was clearly a transitional villain, the filler between main events, I quite liked Star Thief, not only because he was supremely powerful but, he was also a royal smartass:

“The third threat will be aquatic. It’s a fearsome creature quite popular in the imaginations of our fellow Earthmen and…it’s sneaking up behind you.”

“WHAT?”

Warlock 14 shark CO072

Barry’s goal is to plunge the Earth into panic and chaos before he extinguishes our Sun as well. Problem one for Warlock is that he’s light years away from our solar system. In another of the many psychedelic twists artist-writer Jim Starlin prides himself on, to accomplish his mission our hero is forced to risk a trek through a black hole. [OK, I should mention that the science is often psychedelic BS but it is applicable to the plot.]

Warlock 14 into black hole

Once he makes the transit however, Adam Warlock faces a bigger problem. Seriously, which leads to one of the most intriguing applications of the Expanding Universe Theory in comic book history. Warlock has reached Earth but he cannot touch his enemy without destroying every other person on the planet.

Warlock 14 expandiing u v O042

In the end he serves as enough of a distraction for Barry Bauman’s nurse to shake off his mental control and murder him. And Warlock’s colossal size, while intriguing, is not to last long. In fact by the time he meets up with Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up # 55 (March 1977) a few months later, by some cosmic reverse trick [or writer’s lapse], he is back to normal size, just in time for the last round-up. As it turns out, for the second time around…

Marvel Team-Up 55

Interview Extract

Jamai Independent Woman Metoo GIF-downsized_large

BLOG–You’ve consistently refused being termed a ‘mutant’, ‘psychic’, ‘medium’ et al. May I ask why?

JAMAI–Because they’re just labels. They’re another way of saying ‘you’re a freak, you don’t belong.’

B–I take it you’re not fond of labels.

J–I despise them. It’s just another way of dividing people, of keeping them down. Listen, my husband’s uncle once told me that words have a profound effect on our social relations. When I was young I was stupid enough to let myself be blinkered by these insults.

B–I’d never call you stupid.

J–Appreciated. I’ll give you an example of what I mean from your own day and age. The great Miles Davis was invited to participate in a charity record–“Sun City”, and the umbrella title for the group was Artists United Against Apartheid. The project was spearheaded by Steven Van Zandt. Miles’ part was to be edited into a jazz track, but at some point in his performance, Miles started muttering, “you can’t go in there, you’re the wrong color.”

B–“The Struggle Continues,” that was the track.

J–Good. There’s hope for you yet. Well, Miles’ rap was entirely spontaneous, but so truthful, that they built that whole track around it.

B–I guess what you’re saying is today, right now, you’re comfortable with who you are?

J–Why shouldn’t I be? I tried to fit in, to be like ‘everybody else’. But the truth is, people or bosses or your leaders will never be satisfied no matter how much you try to fit in. Why should I change to satisfy them? Why make myself uncomfortable with myself? I’m a person and I’m different. So what? I don’t have to prove anything to anyone but myself. And neither do you. If who you are isn’t good enough form “them”, whoever “they” are, they can get stuffed!

(shared laughter)

FATHERS & DAUGHTERS, the second book in the BUTTERFLY & SERPENT book series, is now out on http://www.amazon.com as a paperback & Kindle.

B & S new cover      f & d cover

Marecage out

http://revuelagon.com/marecage-jan/

The newest collection by Lagon Revue is now in print. This is their fifth outing. According to their website, Lagon is a prospective comic book magazine exploring new forms of graphic narration. It takes on a new name with each issue. Last year I was very pleasantly surprised to receive an invitation to submit one of my art sets to the latest issue, Marecage.

Marecage is bilingual, in French & English. The editorial team is Alexis Beauclair, Bettina Henni, Severine Bascouert, Sammy Stein & Jean-Phillipe Bretin.

http://revuelagon.com/about/

I wanted my father to see this. We talked about it and he thought it was a good opportunity. He passed away in November. I would have liked to have seen his face when he saw what I was contributing.  Miss you, Dad.

Lancement-Marécage