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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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Poetry Review — Selected Poems by Herman Gorter


Selected Poems by Herman Gorter (translated by Lloyd Haft) is a collection of poetry from The Netherlands greatest poet, and presented for the first time in English. Gorter was a Dutch poet and socialist. He was a leading member of the Tachtigers, a highly influential group of Dutch writers who worked together in Amsterdam in the 1880s, centered on De Nieuwe Gids. Haft is an American-born Dutch poet, translator, and sinologist. He has been living in the Netherlands since 1968. Haft was educated at Harvard College and Leiden University.

This is a bit like an archeologist discovering a new civilization or physicist discovering a new particle. Gorter has been mostly hid from the non- Dutch world until recently. The reason for his obscurity is because of the language he wrote. The Dutch language is filled with words that have multiple meanings (that can play on each other) and don’t readily translate into English. If that is not difficult enough Gorter also liked to distort his own language to make things fit. Haft explains this in great detail in the introduction to the poems. He also tries to capture the original intent of the poems at the price of rhythm schemes. Haft also gets creative with English words that actually expand their meaning.

This collection comes in three parts outside of the introduction. The first part is from Gorter’s Verses (1890). The second section is from his political work Pan. The final section in titled Lyrics. Verses provides a welcoming introduction to Gorter’s style of poetry. The words paint a complex picture of the poet’s experience. Here, the reader, will see the difficulty of the task that Haft faced in this undertaking. Like Gorter, Haft had to become creative with his language. The result amazing. Haft pulls out archaic words and when that fails, he makes a few of his own — clingleafed up and down, her golden eyes of daydawning, and the twigtrees draw back to their meager leaning. The newly coined words are poetic in themselves.

Gorter is also a man of themes. The word gold (as a metal or meaning precious) is used fifty-six times in the collection. Eyes are also used fifty-six times in the collection. The “all of All” appears twenty-five times in the collection, and has several forms but mostly it is light or the divine.

Someday you’ll be one
with the all of All,
your golden limbs extending through the knowledges of all the

This is a collection of poetry that the translator must be given a great deal of credit. It was said translating Gorter wasn’t difficult, it was impossible. Gorter’s words of nature and self are incredible and relayed to the reader in what must be a near perfect experience. When Gorter turns to Marxism the change is as sudden as a gunshot:

You died, And why? because you were murdered by capital
But by the workers
Who left you alone with your attackers.

Gorter also has a softer side for revolution. In a long four-part poem Rosa Luxembourg is Beatified in verse that rivals the Assumption of Mary. For poetry lovers looking to discover something new that rivals the greats of the past look to Gorter.

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Book Review: Science Goes Viral: Captivating Accounts of Science in Everyday Life

Science goes Viral by Dr. Joe Schwarcz is a pop science book for the masses. Schwarcz is Director of McGill University’s “Office for Science and Society” which has the mission of separating sense from nonsense. He is well known for his informative and entertaining public lectures on topics ranging from the chemistry of food to the connection between the body and the mind. Recently the Office has focused on trying to unravel the mysteries of COVID-19.

Schwarcz covers two areas in this book. The first section exhaustively covers COVID19 and examines the science and disinformation that has spread with the virus from vaccines to home remedies. Schwarcz uses the Spanish Flu for a comparison and shows similar reactions of the general public. His tone and demeaner are straight forward and in a way the successful popular pop science “stars.” There is a bit of Bill Nye, James Burke (Connections), and bit of “dad” in the form of his jokes ending each chapter.

The remainder of the book goes into modern science, disinformation, and old wives’ tales. The topics range from ginger ale, Plexiglas, selenium, Red Die #2, tobacco, and essential oils. All topics are easy to understand by the non-science reader. Some topics come from the recent news like the woman who mistook Gorilla Glue for hair spray to the more historical like Red Dye #2 which many my age will remember. There is even the unexpected story like how an American became a Hero of the Russian Republic and the Andromeda Strain.

Science goes Viral is easy to understand and listen to. The narrator, Raoul Bhaneja, does an excellent job at reading. He is confident and comfortable in his delivery, so much so, that I kept thinking the narrator’s voice was the author’s voice. A listener can tell when the narrator is unfamiliar in the subject he or she is reading. The author and narrator compliment each other well in Science Goes Viral. Well worth the read for those with an interest in science, but not necessarily the background.

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Book Review — A Coin for the Ferryman

I am just getting back into the swing of reviewing again and was looking for something fairly light and interesting after reviewing two poetry collections. I majored in history as an undergraduate and enjoy science fiction, so this seemed like a good pick. The premise of the story sounded solid so I gave it a chance. My willing suspension of disbelief is rather well developed. I know the transporter in Star Trek is beyond any scientific plausibility, but it does speed the story along. I know wizards and dragons don’t exist, but they do make an interesting fantasy story. The same goes for time travel. Other than looking at the night sky and seeing a star as it was millions of years ago, you aren’t going to jump in a machine and travel into the past…but it does make a good story. H.G. Wells and others have used a time machine in their stories quite successfully.

That being said, for the amount of detail given to the characters, more could have been done explaining the science (fiction). Caesar didn’t seem too fazed to be ripped out of his time and pulled into the tail end of the twentieth century. Seeing cars as horseless chariots without giving them another thought was a bit bothering. Also driving in Las Vegas didn’t cause a mild panic attack on a person who never even experienced a light bulb. If the characters had a desire to know more about Caesar, why not go themselves into the past and document it?

The story was read by Mark Ashby who is known for his documentary style reading. Ashby does have a good voice for documentaries. He sounds like a national news reader from the 1970s (level with minimal emotion) but with a slight Jimmy Stewart twang. His style however does not mesh well this type of story. At first, his voice seemed to work, reporting the background, but reading characters voices in that same manner just didn’t seem to work.

A Coin for the Ferryman has the potential to be an interesting read, however, it needs more work and help in keeping the story line on track.

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Book Review — A Sibil Society

A Sibil Society by Katherine Factor is the poets first published collection of poetry. Factor is an editor and educator that has read poems at the Nevada Test Site. She earned her MFA in Poetry from the University of Iowa and has held writer-in-residence positions at Idyllwild Arts Academy and Interlochen Arts Academy.

First off this is not an easy collection of poetry. It is not “Instagram poetry.” That being said, the reader should also know that is not this is not traditional lyrical poetry either, although it does contain some lyrical aspects in places. The alliteration is amazing. It connects words and ideas, that many times would not seem to mesh, seamlessly. I also enjoyed the touch with classical Greek mythology intermixed in with modern texting shorthand: something very traditional with something very new — Delphi Selfie.

The writing style brought to mind some of the AI generated text to image pictures that I have seen. At first glance, everything seems normal and expected, but on closer examination nothing is as it seems or even describable. The poetry has the same effect at times. As in the poem “Pleasure Centaur,” the reader is forced to pay attention to the smallest details or miss the bigger meaning.

Factor is also not afraid to use words that, I expect, many others do not know. I found myself reading the dictionary almost as much as I read the poems. Factor also likes to use words that almost mimic what we expect to see. Even the title works this pattern. One would expect “Civil Society” rather than “Sybil Society.” We expect to see “we travel the countryside,” not the author’s “we travail the countryside.” Other times phrases take on deeper meanings. “Lady with the Lamp” uses fire throughout, but one line caught my attention — “Fire of the destroyer, welding this war.” Fire is destroying but it holds together war by joining the opposing sides in conflict.

While much of the poetry would be considered experimental, it is approachable for those with patience to get lost inside the lines. It is not literal poetry but poetry that encourages thinking and embracing the abstract. A well done and complex first work from the author.

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Book Review — Outrage: Level 10

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Outrage: Level 10 by Lucy Leitner is a novel of a possible future. Leitner is a journalist and advertising writer from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. She holds a master’s degree in journalism but has turned her interest to writing. Leitner has written several books, including Working Stiffs, and also had her shorter works published in anthologies and at

In Leitner’s future a revolution changed America. Like so many revolutions, it was based on ideals, fairness, equality, and the good of the people. What happens after the revolution, like so many other revolutions, is vastly different from the original goals. The goals are still there but corrupted. It happened throughout history in the French and Russian revolutions, for example. What started as healthcare for all, an end to violence, and offensive behavior ends in mob rule egged on by key figures.

Several modern themes are carried to their limits: the role of the police, sensitivity/offensive names and behaviors, ending violence, our attachment to social media, and what Rousseau would call the general will. An interesting theme that is lightly played throughout the novel, and perhaps explains how society evolved into chaos, is the people’s lack of understanding of history. The people know the Holocaust and Tuskegee but don’t grasp the details or make the details fit their thinking.

At first, I thought this novel may have been a little simplistic on details, but I quickly came to realize that it was part of the satire of the new society. Leitner combines a unique type of humor in a dystopian society that seems to lift the reader above the harshness of the society. The characters are well developed and believable as well as the general plot. Leitner takes the seeds of today and lets them thrive in an uncontrolled environment of tomorrow. Thomas Jefferson said, “The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate.” Leitner shows us a democracy that rests on the foundation of an emotional electorate. Well Done.

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