Given the extraordinary times we are all experiencing, it occurred to me that rather than wait for a mid-year or end of the year call for your favorite reads, we should do something a bit different. Let’s share with each other, on a monthly basis, books that are entertaining and meaningful to us since the first of the year.
Here’s my idea and request and how we can start:
From the last three months, Jan. 1-Mar. 31, pick one favorite read (and one favorite listen if you listen to books also) and send me the title, author, and whether the book is fiction (F) or nonfiction (NF). Please write Just three sentences about it so others may know more than just the title. Please follow these few instructions as it makes my job of compiling the list easier.
(Note 1: If you’re having trouble choosing just one title, save your other favorites for next month’s submission. See below).
To begin, send me your first favorite by April 7, and I will post the results on MillersTime by April 10th.
Then, at the end of the first week of May, the 7th, do it again, with the best single book you’ve read and the best one you’ve listened to in the month of April. I will post what you send by May 10th. (I, of course, will remind you to do this in one of my ‘gentle’ nudges.)
We’ll continue this sharing of a favorite read and/or a favorite audio book for the following few months too, if readers are enjoying it.
I hope you’ll contribute each month.
Get started now on sending me one favorite book and/or one favorite listen by April 7. I won’t bother to remind you or bother you this time.
PS – If you’re looking for ideas of something to read, here’s the link to Favorite Reads from 2019.
If you’re reading this post, then most of you are familiar with Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s Casey at the Bat, written in 1888 and first published in The San Fransco Examiner. If by some misfortune (bad parenting, for example) you don’t know it, or don’t remember it very well, you can read or reread it by clicking on the above link.
I’m not sure how many of you know that Grantland Rice about 20 year’s later wrote a follow up poem, Casey’s Revenge, published by The Speaker, 1907:
by Grantland Rice
There were saddened hearts in Mudville for a week or even more; There were muttered oaths and curses- every fan in town was sore. ‘Just think,’ said one, ‘how soft it looked with Casey at the bat, And then to think he’d go and spring a bush league trick like that!’
All his past fame was forgotten- he was now a hopeless ‘shine.’ They called him ‘Strike-Out Casey,’ from the mayor down the line; And as he came to bat each day his bosom heaved a sigh, While a look of hopeless fury shone in mighty Casey’s eye.
He pondered in the days gone by that he had been their king, That when he strolled up to the plate they made the welkin ring; But now his nerve had vanished, for when he heard them hoot He ‘fanned’ or ‘popped out’ daily, like some minor league recruit.
He soon began to sulk and loaf, his batting eye went lame; No home runs on the score card now were chalked against his name; The fans without exception gave the manager no peace, For one and all kept clamoring for Casey’s quick release.
The Mudville squad began to slump, the team was in the air; Their playing went from bad to worse – nobody seemed to care. ‘Back to the woods with Casey!’ was the cry from Rooters’ Row. ‘Get some one who can hit the ball, and let that big dub go!’
The lane is long, some one has said, that never turns again, And Fate, though fickle, often gives another chance to men; And Casey smiled; his rugged face no longer wore a frown- The pitcher who had started all the trouble came to town.
All Mudville had assembled – ten thousand fans had come To see the twirler who had put big Casey on the bum; And when he stepped into the box, the multitude went wild; He doffed his cap in proud disdain, but Casey only smiled.
‘Play ball!’ the umpire’s voice rang out, and then the game began. But in that throng of thousands there was not a single fan Who thought that Mudville had a chance, and with the setting sun Their hopes sank low- the rival team was leading ‘four to one.’
The last half of the ninth came round, with no change in the score; But when the first man up hit safe, the crowd began to roar; The din increased, the echo of ten thousand shouts was heard When the pitcher hit the second and gave ‘four balls’ to the third.
Three men on base – nobody out – three runs to tie the game! A triple meant the highest niche in Mudville’s hall of fame; But here the rally ended and the gloom was deep as night, When the fourth one ‘fouled to catcher’ and the fifth ‘flew out to right.’
A dismal groan in chorus came; a scowl was on each face When Casey walked up, bat in hand, and slowly took his place; His bloodshot eyes in fury gleamed, his teeth were clenched in hate; He gave his cap a vicious hook and pounded on the plate.
But fame is fleeting as the wind and glory fades away; There were no wild and woolly cheers, no glad acclaim this day; They hissed and groaned and hooted as they clamored: ‘Strike him out!’ But Casey gave no outward sign that he had heard this shout.
The pitcher smiled and cut one loose – across the plate it sped; Another hiss, another groan. ‘Strike one!’ the umpire said. Zip! Like a shot the second curve broke just below the knee. ‘Strike two!’ the umpire roared aloud; but Casey made no plea.
No roasting for the umpire now – his was an easy lot; But here the pitcher whirled again- was that a rifle shot? A whack, a crack, and out through the space the leather pellet flew, A blot against the distant sky, a speck against the blue.
Above the fence in center field in rapid whirling flight The sphere sailed on – the blot grew dim and then was lost to sight. Ten thousand hats were thrown in air, ten thousand threw a fit, But no one ever found the ball that mighty Casey hit.
O, somewhere in this favored land dark clouds may hide the sun, And somewhere bands no longer play and children have no fun! And somewhere over blighted lives there hangs a heavy pall, But Mudville hearts are happy now, for Casey hit the ball.
It seems a bit surreal in these times to continue to provide travel-oriented content — photos and tales from our recent trip to SE Asia for our readers. But while normal life has been upended, and may not ever be the same, we hope you will be interested in what we saw, how Ellen captured it, and what we learned. Think of this as a diversion, for you and for us.
As I said in the first post of this travel series, our most recent trip was really four different trips rolled into one. Each of the four major parts was focused on a different type of experiences and took us to four very different places.
This post covers our travels in the northeastern end of the Indonesian Archipelago called Raja Ampat. (Indonesia is a country made up of approximately 15,000 islands, 6,000 of which are inhabited. This chain of islands stretches for 3,200 miles and lies between the Indian and the Pacific oceans.) We spent seven days and nights aboard a small and well-appointed ship called the Aqua Blu, with 16 other passengers from all around the world. (We have traveled previously with this company, Aqua Expeditions, on the Mekong in Vietnam and Cambodia, and on the Amazon in Peru.)
The accommodations were great, and the food was superb. The staff was knowledgeable and helpful, and rather good at getting us in and out of Zodiac like boats and canoes without getting hurt. Our days were spent chiefly on the water – options included diving or snorkeling (we chose the latter), kayaking, swimming with sharks (!) and manta rays, and late afternoon chilling at a local beach. There were other excursions too, including a visit to a cultured pearl farm, an afternoon at a small local village, and also a hike to see the famous Birds of Paradise (not seen) and a swim down The Blue River. The latter was a true jungle experience where we literally floated down to the mouth of a narrow river for 30 minutes. (Ellen wondered whether we had signed a waiver for this activity. I know I didn’t, or don’t remember so doing.)
But for us, as good as the cruise, the scenery, and most of the activities were, they weren’t what made this a special week.
Ellen had a relatively new, inexpensive camera for underwater photography, and she gave it a real workout. It was difficult: the water was often cloudy as was the weather, she herself was moving in the current, and the fish were moving too (and pretty fast when they saw her coming). So you won’t see any amazing pictures of exotic fish even though we did see some. What she was mostly able to capture were beautiful corals, some schools of tiny fish, some ‘friendly’ sharks (six who circled me for at least 10 minutes, though Ellen claims it was only for 15 seconds or so), and some photos of our fellow shipmates and of each other.
For me, the highlights were something altogether different and had to do with the other 16 passengers and the local staff on the ship. We were fortunate to have a truly wonderful group of well-traveled and adventuresome individuals and families from around the world: a Japanese couple, a family from Mexico with their adult daughter, a family from Singapore with their 29 year old daughter, another couple with their daughter whose father was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor and was likely near the end of his life. There was also a couple whose wife was from Indonesia and the husband from Boulder, Colorado, a couple from the UK, and a single man who lives part of the year in Bangkok and part time in NY.
Most nights for dinner Ellen and I would sit with one of the couples or families and talk well past the time most folks had finished the wonderful food and gone to bed. Those discussions continued throughout the day, at breakfast, at lunch, while on launches to other excursions, and in whatever free time we had on the ship. Generally, Ellen and I prefer not to travel with groups. What a stimulating and eye opening week of being with these truly adventurous and experienced travelers this was. I am still processing what I learned from them,
Below are the first dozen of Ellen’s photos from this second leg of the trip. (Check out Before They Pass Awayfor Ellen’s photos from the first week in Papua New Guinea if you have not seen that post.) After seeing the photos below, if you’re interested in viewing more from the Indonesian part, check out the link at the end of this post to see her slide show of 73 photos.
Even though Papua New Guinea (PNG) is an island, you wouldn’t go there for its beaches, leisurely drives through luscious jungles, or its native food. But you would, indeed must, go to meet the people to learn about their ancient cultures and practices, art, and how the people and the country come to terms with the modern world.
Ellen and I spent just a week in PNG, primarily in the countryside and highlands. We were so fortunate to have the visionary and extraordinary man, Alan Manning (South Sea Horizons), with us the entire time, a PNG native who is devoted to the future of the country and to its indigenous people. Alan cares deeply about their customs and preserving what is special about them as they face living in the 21st century. It was a privilege for us to have a glimpse into a world that we never knew nor would we have had access to without Alan at our side.
What you will see in Ellen’s photos below and in the accompanying slide show is not a travelogue nor an attempt to show what we learned in our very short time in PNG. Her photos focus on some of the practices and culture that the members of the six different tribes we visited are trying to preserve. (There are many hundreds of tribes and more than 850 known languages in PNG.)
Initially, we were in the Central Highlands near the town of Goroka. There we visited the Asaro People (where we learned about mud masks used to frighten invaders, death rites, and fertility rituals) and the Jonteve Tribe, Henganoffi District (where we experienced wedding ceremony traditions).
We were also in the Western Highlands near the town of Mt. Hagen (altitude 8,000 feet). We took a three hour hike with villagers to a burial cave of the Kemase Tribe of Lufa District and also visited the Kusom Tribe – Paiakona of the Tmabul Nebilyer District. We spent time with the Huliwigmen (learning about the rituals of wig making and face painting); the Melpa People in the Kogini Village (learning of traditions of burial and mourning activities); and in the PaitaKona Village with a Melpa Chief and his three wives, and finally at the Nam Cultural Village (learning about a courting ceremony).
If the first dozen photos below are of interest, you can see Ellen’s slide show of 43 photos by following the link below. Each slide has a detailed notation of the tribes or clans we met and the names of specific customs we experienced.
(**The title of this post, Before They Pass Away, is taken from the title of an extraordinary 300 page photo project and book by photographer and author Jimmy Nelson who has spent three decades traveling the world to capture the images and the majesty of “isolated and distant people” whose cultures should not be forgotten.)
See all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer if you have access to either). You may have to click on the two angled arrows facing each other on the very top right to get the full page. They are much sharper, and the larger format presents them more powerfully than what you see above.