Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Book Review...Hillbilly Elegy

I'm on the prowl for opinions that validate my own. Hillbilly Elegy reinforces my suspicion. I loved reading this book because I think it was written as a stimulus for me to crash ahead with an attack on the root of poverty.

Hillbilly Elegy (J.D. Vance)...Book Review by Ed Slater

The Hillbilly Elegy author is a man with a graphic warning plus a tattoo'd blueprint showing the route to an emergency escape. J.D. Vance could just as well be described as the Indiana Jones of the Appalachian poverty syndrome. He found the way out.

J.D. Vance's observations about his “Middletucky” home:
  • We don't like people who are different from us.p3
  • We're pessimistic and we're socially isolated.p4
  • Our men suffer from a peculiar crisis of masculinity...it's difficult to adapt to a changing world.p4
  • Too many men are immune to hard work.p7
  • I was the grandson of the toughest woman anyone knew and the most skilled auto mechanic in town.p13
  • Uncle David loved everything but rules.p15
  • There was no disloyalty worse than class betrayal.p15
  • So many men had come and gone but the Blanton men were always there.p17
  • Lots of men had no job and they were proud of it.p19
  • People dealt with uncomfortable truths by avoiding them.p20
  • A man could find the time to make 8 children but not the time to support them.p21
J.D. Vance's life and conclusions:
  • The 3 years I spent with my grandma (Mamaw) uninterrupted and alone saved me. She demanded I get a job, and I did. My job was at a grocery store.p138
  • Find yourself a description of emotional poverty, because a lot of people are trapped by it.p143
  • I consumed books about social policy and the working poor.p144
  • Our elegy is a sociological one. Yes, but it is also psychology, community, culture, and faith.p145
  • We talk to our children about responsibility, but we never walk the talk.p147
  • Everyone needs a stable loving home.p149
The birth of personal responsibility:
  • J.D. Vance joined the Marines, graduated from boot camp, and was instantly treated like a man.p145
  • The Marine Corps changed my perspective.”p172
  • When I stood and surveyed the children of a war torn nation (Iraq) I began to appreciate how lucky I was.p173
  • The Marine Corps taught me how to live like an adult.p174
  • In the Marines, my boss didn't just make sure I did a good job...he took care of the whole me. The Corps changed my perspective about who cares.p174
  • The Marine Corps builds responsibility into a man.p182
  • Graduated from Ohio State Summa Cum Laude and then Yale Law School. Member of the Bar.p182
  • Learned the meaning and implications of ACEs (adverse childhood events).p226
Taking responsibility home:
  • Schools ranked near the bottom had little to do with staff, but more to do with the students and family culture.p244
  • It's what happens at home that counts.p244
  • It is culture, not politics that determines the success of a culture.p261 (Moynihan)
My takeaway:

  1. Attach yourself to a rock of stability and cling to him or her like your life depends on it. Pick Mamaw or Jesus Christ.
  2. Know the way to learn personal responsibility. Learn it and live it.
  3. When you're convinced you've got it, make sure others learn what you know.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Movie Review...Hunter Killer

The extra dimension brought to film making by the uncompromising sea and inlet at Polyarny does not make Hunter Killer unique among submarine movies. Hull cracks and ruptured hydraulic lines are not the unexpected surprises. Torpedo technology and evasive countermeasures...ho hum. The unexpected surprise is a first time Captain Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) whose commission came out of the blue the hard way, and whose tactical wisdom came from some unknowable source.

Of course, there are brave heroes. There are Defense Department specialists whose educated guesses succeed and top brass skeptics who safely predict failure, but who ride the wave to a final high five. There are Navy Seals who do real Seal things, improvising every aspect just right. Navy Medal of Honor right.

I hesitate to tell you the details of this story, but it's a moral story. I felt good feelings when courage and bravery stood up. I think I yelled when an old technology foiled the enemy's sure kill multi-missile strike against the USS Arkansas. If you have a Hunt for Red October DVD on your shelf, Hunter Killer should go right beside it.


Ed Slater October,2018

Friday, October 12, 2018

Teaching Patience

Every infant has frequent needs for a caregiver to neutralize hunger, discomfort, & fear. The infant has only one mechanism (crying) to use as his/her signal mechanism.

Let's consider four infants (gender may be male or female)
  • Infant A gets fed, changed, and coddled so frequently he's never uncomfortable for more than a moment. He seldom has a reason to be impatient, and patience is hit or miss.
  • Infant B is neglected. Feeding is at random times, and there is no connection with his crying and his feeding. Infant B learns that he has no influence on getting what he needs. He develops a sense of hopelessness.
  • Infant C cries when hunger or discomfort strike. He is serviced in a reasonable time, but he comes to believe that it is his crying that causes the comforting response. As an adolescent, C believes he can cry to get what he wants at the dinner table, the supermarket, the toy store, etc.
  • Infant D is on a schedule. Feeding time is regular. When D gets hungry, he has learned that his feeding is not triggered by crying, but by the clock. Caring for this infant occurs on time every time. He learns that waiting is rewarded on a predictable schedule. For D, there's a reward for patience. His caretaker is rewarded with an adolescent who learns patience.
So what can a parent do? It seems that infant D has the best chance of developing patience, and when a parent establishes a disciplined approach to parenting “on a schedule”, the child gets to practice patience. As the infant becomes an adolescent, meal times, school schedules, and other regular predictable events cement the needs to “wait patiently” for rewards that are sure to come.

Teenagers encounter a wide array of circumstances that can trigger impatience. Here are some major categories of persons who interact with teenagers:
  • Parents
  • Teachers and Administrators
  • Police
  • Coaches, Band Directors, Club Sponsors
  • Doctors, Nurses, Healthcare Administrators
  • Other Teenagers and Other Parents
  • Business Owners
  • Drivers
  • Employers
  • Pastors, Rabbis
How can all these people help teenagers avoid impatience?
  • Operate your special service or trade according to a set of well known guidelines
  • Follow the rules
  • Maintain a regular predictable schedule
  • Keep your commitments
  • Set an example of excellence
  • Be a role model for patience and self control
One of the most likely impatience triggers for teenagers lies with their parents' struggle to balance freedom with safety. Most parents don't want to let go. Kids want to push boundaries, and they want to be treated like mature adults. Usually though, maturity doesn't develop on its own. There are stages in the growth of maturity that take time, and there are outside influences that have to be present. Few parents are able to devise a lesson plan (or a care plan) that can be effective for their specific teen. Lots of parents fly seat-of-the-pants because they just don't have the time or energy. Most parents DON'T KNOW how to navigate their child's maturity journey, and many are confused when they try to piece together recollections of their own development.

There's nothing better than a great role model. Don't think you can hand your teenager a “How to Find Maturity” handbook and achieve magic results. Don't be fooled into thinking public school educations are designed to teach maturity, because they're not. Don't assume your teenager will “pick up” the key points of maturity and the “pillars of adult behavior” at the football game or in the parking lot after band practice.

Who are the role models who will make a difference? You're the CEO of the enterprise to produce and deliver a complete, mature young adult, so your behavior matters the most. We found that the most influential people in our teenagers' lives were other teenagers (peers), and it was almost universally true that the other parents directly had an influence on both their own children and our kids, too. If his friend Johnny had a curfew, our son understood (and respected the idea of) curfews. If Sara's parents took her to every soccer practice and they never missed a game, our daughter understood the loving care and the sacrifice we made for her soccer career. We said “yes” to major questions, too. Our twelve year olds got a little taste of driving (a VW beetle) in a little protected patch of an abandoned parking lot. By the time they were ready for an official beginner's permit at 15 or 16, each kid had already put in hours of practice. Each of them matured fully as automobile operators as the time came for getting drivers' licenses.

Armed with the above instructions, can you figure out how your quest to enable the development of your child's maturity is related to your ability to teach him/her patience? Have you scheduled enough time in your own life to devote sufficient role model time to your child's development?


Then think about this: Figure out when you yourself should be patient. Are there times when you should be impatient? Think about when you want your child to be patient and when his/her impatience is warranted.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Movie Review...The Post

I always wondered why my dad ate toast with warm milk on top. He ate it with a fork or a spoon for breakfast...or lunch sometimes. Once in a while he ate bread and milk with a little sugar for dinner. I had some, too. There was a reason for eating toast or bread with milk and sometimes with sugar...no money for food.

The Post reminded me of the tasteless concoction we used to eat when there was nothing else. This film is a very vanilla story skimmed off the top of a dish where the bread is stale and the milk is sour. There's no sugar. This film is a very little soap opra-ish story, but the soap has no phosphate, no detergent, and no cleansing power. It’s the old Pentagon Papers account, weakly offered. It's an attempt to poke out the other eye of Richard Nixon, a failed (and dead) president who was already blind to the place where ethical principles were kept.

Thank goodness for Streep, Hanks, and Odenkirk, whose performance statures rose above the light soap scum. So, if you like good movies, you'll declare this one to be a dud with no dynamite and no fuse. This Spielberg "gotcha" blows itself up with little more than a "pfft."

Movie Review...Den of Thieves

Gerard Butler. LA’s number one major crime lawman. Roughshod. You’d like Gerard’s crew to succeed in their enforcement duties, but your hopes would be...well…. Just see the film and decide for yourself. Den of Thieves leaves lots of emotions hanging up there on the big screen. Bullet sales flourish, but bank robbery takes an unanticipated turn for both the good guys and the bad guys. You’ll see.

I had the feeling the heroes lived lives fraught with personal distress. The thieves lived lives on banana peels, packing weapons of paranoia and always looking over their shoulders. I asked myself how smart were the factions? How sure was I when the end flashed?

Den of Thieves is an action movie that does not have everything, but it has enough. It was enough for me to say I was thrilled, but not enough to offer lots of compassion for the losers. The film is easily the best “thinker” to come along lately.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Movie Review...The Commuter


I didn't fully appreciate this film until a week after I watched it with Doc. My first impression was that the director stopped each scene short of fulfillment. Scenes were set up without much preliminary explanation and they ended with an “almost” moment. Now, I think the whole idea was to make me hungry to know the secret at the finale. Now, I see.
There are characters who did their jobs very well. The story line seems pretty unbelievable until the 60 minute mark, when clarity starts to creep in. Actually, the story has probably worn itself out in dozens of previous extortion/bad guy/good guy tales, and The Commuter is another episode that earned a “plus” on the Reel Jockey's yardstick.
Here's what I liked: Liam Neeson. Steady and believable. An ending you'll love. Action packing that went to the limit. Here's what fell short: Graphic train crash. Unbelievable.

If you've been impressed with characters Liam Neeson has offered up in films, you'll appreciate this one, too.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

and The Ninth Commandment

Letter from a person who does not need a good reputation in order to be happy or successful:

Although I'd like to be remembered as a boy scout, a faithful husband, and a man of honesty, I realize that my certification as having a sterling reputation is not necessary for me to be happy with myself. It'd be nice, but not a key to my happiness. Being happy with myself is a matter strictly between me and the absolute authority in this universe.

Dear Heavenly Father, architect of the universe, creator of all life, I humbly come here today to praise You. I praise Your complete and unconditional support for me. You are the Rock that anchors my confidence. Everything I do is to honor you. Amen


I am a proud product of the Boy Scouts of America process, I am an ambassador for faithfulness, loyalty, friendship, and honesty. I know these things about myself. So, if you drip lies into the public arena that are designed to taint my reputation, the lies will not shake me...no matter what the lie, no matter how widespread its repetition, nor how famous the person who spreads it. It doesn't matter that people I respect believe the lies (most won't). It doesn't matter what fake evidence you distribute, it won't have a drastic effect, because I know who I am.

But, there's a consequence. Every lie has an aftereffect. If you're the false witness (liar), you should have a real fear...an expectation of shame whittling away at your own self esteem and the specter of retribution in the form of a shot fired at your own reputation from the unfortunate situation you created. If you're an innocent victim, a person who received the false message, and worried how to factor this information into your friendships or daily activities, I understand your unsureness. It's because reputations have a value in society. Knowing who you are is a stronger pill, though, and when you have God's promise of support backing you up, you can stand strong. God provides the cure, and He never fails.


In the face of an attack on your reputation, be confident of who your really are. Don't waver. Never give up.  

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Book Review...The Alice Network

Author Kate Quinn reveals a picture of German domination in France during WW1 from the standpoint of certain French women who could have been named “audacious” and “courageous.” Traders in death. Unconditionally loyal in their niche way to try to defeat the Kaiser.

On a dramatic scale, “The Alice Network” is the wartime account of three female volunteers spying on German officers deployed in a medium sized French town and networking numerous other embedded spies into a coordinated force against Germany. It's a seesaw balancing the collection of strategic secret information with the potential to save lives with the other alternative: getting caught and shot by a firing squad.

A key plot plays the middle between a greedy French businessman and his German officer customers. It's about putting aside personal safety and Victorian morals for the sake of duty, fighting fire with every gun and wile in the arsenal.

A nicely done secondary plot explores a 1947 American character who inserts herself in a tangential story about personalities who spanned both WW1 and WW2 who worked toward the same end in both wars to defeat Germany.

How did “The Alice Network” make me feel? I felt a comradeship with common ordinary people who were sacrificing to save the lives of their French, British, and Belgian countrymen. I felt sympathy for the female main characters who gave up years of their health, their esteem, and their lives to join the cause, and I felt theirs was a mission of hope for all the women whose lives were diverted by both wars.

There's a lesson in this novel, and I think it has an enormous value to the world: When you and your loved ones bump up against the specter of eradication and sure death, your world depends on every ounce of you to engage. Your participation might save you, but inaction will probably leave you to die on a faded page with your footnotes all blown away. There is a circumstance where survival is everything only if you're capable of survival. You must go with Alice.

Fiction built on a pedestal of history. My kind of novel.


Ed Slater  

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Movie Review...Darkest Hour



If you have not paid $2 at Red Box to rent Darkest Hour, go do it now. Here's why: Miss Layton (Prime Minister Churchill's typist) creates a 10,000 volt electrified emotion you need to experience in this story, a documentary revelation tangential to World War 2; an inner feeling you've encountered genuine compassion. It's about guessing and knowing.

There are no battlefield scenes, there are no tank assaults, no artillery bombardments. There is only one war strategy, and Winston Churchill pondered, developed, and delivered his strategy for victory by meditating, listening, and injecting his own historical recollections of war's reality. Churchill proved something to his wife, George VI, Parliament, FDR, Miss Layton, and the little girl on underground subway train. It was about giving up. It was about what happens when you give up to a murderer who has no conception of the most powerful, ultimate force in the universe, but he's sure it's him.

Darkest Hour enumerates uncountable examples of Churchill's brilliance, rhetoric and commandments that all seemed to come into his mind inexplicably. Even Winston himself didn't know their origin. That's your challenge...where did his inner inspirations come from? I'm sure those inspirations came from a source too complex for humans to conceive. Yet, the screenwriter told the secret of saving Western civilization from the Huns without disclosing the corner stone of Churchill's monument to victory.

I'm going with Miss Layton and the little girl on the underground subway, whose hands God held gently and firmly.

Gary Oldman's acting ability is of the highest caliber. Anthony McCarten (writer) gets the gold scepter of the storyteller's art. This is a great film production.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Please Love me Anyway

Someday, these thoughts will dominate my fragile mind as I sit and stare at the wall. I'm getting to be way too old. My leaping tall buildings barely gets me off the mark and my landings are mini disasters. My twelve minute mile is just an entry in an old log book.
There's the imaginary race I signed up for this morning. It seemed I got a bad start. I'd like to explain that I may not have heard the starter's pistol, but I probably was letting something else distract me. I'm sure I didn't know which way to run. I'm certain I didn't know how far I'd have to go, and I was completely unaware of how big a load I'd have to carry with me.
I'm suspicious that the molassas I'm in came from natural causes. At least that's what I'd like to say. There was a time when I could high jump my own height (pretty good) and pole vault twice my height (not saying too much). Now, I'd fall flat and break something I probably wouldn't need anyway.
Memories like that light up my mornings and evenings when boredom and dullness try to dim things. I have an album that pulls incredible memories back to where I can see them again, and I tell visitors my album is the first thing I'd grab if the fire alarm sounds.
I get help every day. Actually, I've always had help, and there have been some times when I failed to say thank you. I regret those times, and I'm not sure I could ever make up for my slight. It's unlikely that I'll always be able to remember a good way to express my gratitude, so I've thought of a little gift of appreciation I'll try to remember to send...It's time. I'll tell a story or make a picture that will give a moment of hope. I'll describe some little thing you did that made me smile, and maybe it will give your memory a tingle. Knowing that I had a moment of joy could give you one, too. That's what I'll hope for.
On those times when I was grouchy, there was probably some trigger that's unimportant now. If I could have thought more about how my insensitivity would leave its toll, I wish I had thought it through before it happened. There were lots of times when I let circumstances sneak in and fool me, but now I realize it's because I wasn't prepared. If I could have thought through how to trust and rely on the Boy Scout motto, I'd have been better prepared. The same salve applied to those times when I was unkind, impatient, or insensitive would have been theraputic, too, and I wish I'd used some of it right away. It was right there in my kit with courteous, kind, and obedient.
If you try me with the memory test, I'll probably do pretty good. If the test is fifteen instructions, three only maybe with ifs and thens, six for a future consideration, two or three based on assumptions that may or not be right, and one with a high priority but at an unknown location, I'll fail. I'll remember fourteen, but that one that escapes me will be the one that's vital. Thank goodness I'm not in the bomb disposal business.
When I try to figure out who's to blame, I try to be objective about it...no guessing and no crazy assumptions. Then, I remember that blame is just a game unless there's a lesson that will make tomorrow better. Excuse me for judging. If you're to blame for something it would be better if you'd just be up front about it. Everybody will think more of you. You won't suddenly become blameless, but that dose of humility will trigger something like the relief you get when you step out of a confessional.
I've been guilty and I've been innocent. The smoke that wisps up from my ears comes from those times when I really was innocent, but someone accused me, convicted me, and nailed me to the tree up there. It's hard on your mind when you realize you're defenseless in the process. There's actually a relief when you put your guilt to bed, but there's an everlasting snag in your psyche when you're nailed for being innocent.

So there's the debilitation of my body and mind that could tempt you to want less of me. It wouldn't be unexpected for you to do fewer visits, shorter talks, or a complete walk-away. But, please love me anyway. When we're together, please be kind and patient. Please accept me with my three year old behaviors, because they're all I've got right now. Humor my self-centeredness and my forgetfulness. I'll probably remember things that happened sixty years ago and go blank on your last sentence. You won't send me to get two things at the supermarket, because I'll probably fail. Don't let me wander through the neighborhood without a tracker or an ID badge on a lanyard. Please just accept me just the way I am. Please. Someday, you'll need to ask for the same things, and let's pray a someone who loves you unconditionally is there with you.