Monthly Archives: January 2022

Book Review: German Aircraft of World War I

German Aircraft of World War I: 1914-1918 by Edward Ward is a detailed history of the aircraft used by the German military in the First World War. Ward is a writer and illustrator who has written on various aviation subjects for over ten years. He has produced many articles for aviation journals both in print and online and is a regular contributor to the Hush Kit aviation blog. Edward lives with his wife and daughter in Sydney, Australia.

World War I brought many changes to warfare. From the machine gun to the use of trains for rapid deployment, World War I was the first modern war. Perhaps the most significant change was combat in the air. What started as unarmed reconnaissance quickly became a new form of killing. Feeble biplanes at the beginning of the war evolved into well-armed metal monoplanes by the war’s end.

The reader will see the evolution of aircraft and aircraft series. Ward breaks the planes down into purposeful groupings: single-seat fighters, two-seat reconnaissance and general-purpose planes, ground attack and escort planes, and bombers. The fighter planes make up the first group covered. Ward includes aircraft specifications and details about its service. The reader will notice that camouflage was not a priority compared to modern warplanes: Red and white candy cane striped planes, lavender-colored bodies, and, of course, the red of Richthofen’s famous triplane.

Reconnaissance planes are the odd aircraft type. They were underpowered, slow to maneuver, and very much under-armed at the start of the war. Painted on the fuselage of one reconnaissance plane was “Good People Don’t Shoot.” The effectiveness of the statement left something to be desired. Planes like the Roland C 11a looked different than angular fighters with their rounded shape and forward and rear machine guns. The Taube looks artful with its split rudder and cable-supported empennage.

Ground attack aircraft make up the smallest section but one of the fastest evolving groups. Taking direct fire from the trenches would lead to armored planes. The Junkers CL1 was an all-metal monoplane with camouflage paint. Although this plane came out at the end of the war, it is an evolution of lessons learned in earlier planes: speed, maneuverability, early 20th-century stealth. Ground support aircraft would continue to evolve as Germany would later use the planes as part of its Blitzkreig in the next war.

The last section of the book covers seaplanes and bombers. Seaplanes look spindly, and engine development at the time would have made the extra drag of a water takeoff a struggle. Bombers, on the other hand, like the Gotha, demonstrated that long-distance bombing could be effective. Just thirteen years after the Wright Brother’s first flight, planes from continental Europe successfully targeted London.

The German Aircraft of World War I is illustrated with accurate color drawings and some original photographs. The illustrations add the realism that the original black and white pictures lack. Informative and easy read and enjoy.

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Poetry Review — Reading the Bible Backwards

Reading the Bible Backwards by Robert Priest and read by the author is a collection of poetry with a unique perspective on how we see things. Priest is a literary poet in the tradition of Neruda and Mayakovsky, a composer of lush love poems, a singer-songwriter, a widely quoted aphorist, a children’s poet, and novelist, Robert Priest is a mainstay of the literary/spoken word/music circuit both in Canada and abroad.

Brilliant, simply brilliant. Between Priest’s lyrical style and a voice that pulls every twist out of the words, there is a fantastic synergy that is far greater than the sum of the parts. The initial subject matter may turn some readers off. Writing the New Testament in reverse or the story of Lot in reverse may seem something more in line with Anton LaVey; Priest manages to use the material to teach or instruct or provide a moral. It is something to see Lot’s wife form from a pillar of salt and watch cities rise from destruction. On the other hand, he writes on the missing punctuation in the Bible, in particular, the question mark — Thou shall not kill? Thou shall not steal?

Priest likes to change the perceptions we have been led to believe by changing one word for a very similar word — sole for soul, angel and angle. In another poem, replacing the word children for bomb creates an entirely different response. In other poems, called meme splices, the reader will follow a familiar pattern of events until a twist is inserted. His control of language is stunning. The rhythm, rhymes, and alliteration are used sparingly but to great effect.

Having the poet read his own work offers the added advantage of the writer using his own voice inflections to highlight what he thought was most important or his meaning that is slightly hidden in words alone. One line that jumped out at me was:

Unleash the Dogs of Poetry
On the murderers of language.

“Bucket List”

It is an excellent set of lines, and even more so as the author’s voice seemed to emulate the late Jim Morrison.

This collection knocks at defiance’s door. Even the book cover that shows the vinyl album with the book’s title is reminiscent of the backward masking. If you play an album backward, you will hear a Satanic message; what happens when you play the Bible backward. Can anything good come from it? Also interesting is that part of the book was paid for by the Canadian equivalent of the National Endowment of the Arts. My thoughts were of the Maplethrope and the uproar over using tax dollars for “offensive art” or even a censorship test like Ginsberg and other authors. Those thoughts of this vanished when Priest turned to love poems and ended with the song “The Bomb in Reverse.” Priest is not trying to create controversy but instead deliver a message and encourage the reader to think. Reading the Bible Backwards has to be one of the most enjoyable poetry collections I have read in quite some time. There is just enough rebellion to keep it on edge and a writing style that captures the reader. Outstanding.

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Poetry Review — Escaping the Body

Escaping the Body by Chloe N. Clark is the poet’s fifth published collection of poetry. Clark is a founding Co-EIC of the literary journal Cotton Xenomorph. She writes poetry and fiction, and some essays about food, mostly, but also does critical scholarship in the history of horror, gender and science fiction, monstrosity and othering, and inclusive practices in pedagogy.

Clark mentions in her introduction that Houdini is her favorite escape artist. His quotes along with those of other magicians including his namesake separate each section. The theme of escape and illusion flows through the poetry. “Missing Girl Found” consists of stanzas of various possible outcomes. First with the most feared result and then with other outcomes ranging from the missing girl is found wanting, or found beautiful, or found happy, or, or, or… Her treatment of the poems leaves a bit of mystery and fantasy with mentions of faeries and Melusine. The youthful willingness to see magic all around us is stifled by age and everyday routine. Clark uses magicians to create pathways for our escape. Those magicians come in many forms — the actual magician, a forest, monsters, and myths. Escaping the Body is much more a return to youthful acceptance of our surroundings rather than a New Age separation of body and spirit. She relates to simple things as important and deserving of attention. We all have our “Rosebud” somewhere in our past. “Flight” seemed to be the keystone poem for me tying together much of her work.

The theme of escaping the flesh runs through the collection. The reader will also get reasons why escape is wanted in “Error Coding” and “But Also This is Why the Robots Always Turn on Us.” There is a wide range to Clark’s writing while keeping in her theme. At the start, I wondered if this was poetry a middle-aged male would read, but quickly I fell into the groove and enjoyed the journeys. The writing is deep and intelligently thought through. We are led to escape our personal chains and traps in much the same way as Houdini escaped his chains and straitjackets. An excellent collection of contemporary poetry that will appeal to traditional poetry lovers.

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Book Review — Travels with Trilobites


Travels with Trilobites by Andy Secher is as in-depth look at the ancient world’s most well-known marine arthropod. Secher is a field associate in paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History and coeditor of the museum’s trilobite website. His private collection comprises more than 4,000 trilobite fossils. He was for many years the editor of the rock-and-roll magazine Hit Parader, a magazine geared for the heavy metal rock and roll audience and earned the ire of Guns N Roses in their song “In the Ring.”

I first met trilobites in college historical geology. They were interesting creatures that lived long ago and were represented very well in the fossil record. What I didn’t know could fill a book, and that’s exactly what Secher has done. Travels with Trilobites is a book that answers many questions as well as filled in many gaps in my knowledge of the species…. well not species but class of animals, trilobita. Ten orders of trilobites are recognized along with literally thousands of species. The trilobite is much more than one simple animal.

Trilobites survived and thrived for more than a half billion years and are extremely well represented in the fossil record because of their exoskeletons. Soft bodies animals are usually preserved as one-dimensional smudges rather than the three-dimensional forms as trilobite fossils. Secher takes the reader around the world to the best trilobite sites as trilobites spread across the world and the world’s various land configurations. Trilobites also managed to occupy several layers of the food chain, from predators, to scavengers, to food for others. They came out of nowhere, expanded, adapted, evolved, and quickly vanished in the Permian extinction.

Secher takes the reader tour, not only of geography, but also the evolution of a marine arthropod which was one of the most successful animals of early earth life. This is a very well written, illistrated, and researched book. It is easy enough for all to understand but also detailed enough for those who already have an interest in trilobites.

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Poetry Review — Distant Transit

is there a zone of darkness between all languages,
a black river that swallows words
and stories and transforms them?

— from “translation”

Distant Transit by Maja Haderlap (translated from German by Tess Lewis) is a collection of poems reflecting on memories of her homeland. Haderlap is bilingual Slovenian-German Austrian writer, best known for her multiple-award-winning novel, Angel of Oblivion, about the Slovene ethnic minority’s transgenerational trauma of being treated as ‘homeland traitors’ by the German-speaking Austrian neighbors, because they were the only ever-existing military resistance against National Socialism in Austria.

The first section of the book delivers poetry of memory and youth. Haderlap captures that idealized picture of youth and the surroundings. The region of her youth is a land of great natural beauty, but also a land of 20th Century violence and division. Her voice shifts. Her poetry demonstrates a loss of identity. In explaining borders, we learn that they mean little, just political lines, drawn through the countryside not reflective of the people. Cities and towns stand on their own without mention of nationality. Her language to communicate with the world has also been replaced. Haderlap embodies the desolation of her poetry in her words and in the lower case “i” when referring to herself.

Distraught bees buzz in the corridor
of my abandon language,
birds of passage purge themselves in
rooms assailed and reviled
as if they were finally home — that is, there where
they once were, language
kept in me thrall to the world but left me
unsatisfied were i to bite through it,
i would taste it desolation.

–From “house of old languages”

This collection, however, does not offer any insight to the poet. An introduction could have helped other readers connect with the poet and her writing. Her grandmother was sent to a concentration camp during the war and her father, as a boy, was tortured by the Nazis. These images still haunt Haderlap in her poetry. A fine collection that shows the loss of cultural identity and being left outside the new order.

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