Please stand by

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There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to — The Outer Limits.

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2017 saved the best for last

W.B. at the Movies/W.B.’s Book Report:

I’ve been tracking the books I’ve read since 1994, and no year in this recorded history have I read as many as the 66 books that I devoured in 2017.

Michael Connelly accounted for 21 of those books, and my re-immersion into audiobooks (with a new 45-mile commute starting in March) is responsible for 44 of them. I became addicted to Connelly after deciding to sample his work after falling in love with the Amazon TV show Bosch, based on Connelly’s detective hero Harry Bosch. The books are as binge-worthy as the show, and the latest, Two Kinds of Truth, may be the best yet.

I also discovered Craig Johnson’s series of mysteries about Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire, and for essentially the same reason: I thoroughly enjoyed the Longmire TV show on Netflix and wanted more. The best thing is that Johnson’s regular reader, actor George Guidall, embodies Walt Longmire even better than Robert Taylor does on screen, so the novels I’ve “read” (the first five of 13 so far) have been a delight.

Unbroken-coverThe last book I “read” in 2017 was Laura Hillenbrand’s page-turner biography, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption. I don’t read many biographies, but I was taken by Hillenbrand’s earlier book Seabiscuit and heard good things about this one.

Her story of Louis Zamperini – who carried the Olympic torch in 1990 through a town not far from the Japanese prisoner of war camp where he lived a hellacious existence for nearly two years – is as good as it gets.

Zamperini lived a remarkable 97-year life that saw him compete in the Olympics, survive 47 days in a liferaft on the Pacific Ocean after a bomber crash, struggle through the POW experience and post-war alcoholism, and emerge to find a way to forgive his tormentors. Hillenbrand’s prose more than does justice to an uncommon man.

Star-Wars-The-Last-Jedi-posterI don’t keep track of the movies or TV shows I’ve watched (there are too many), but I do know my favorite movie theater experience of 2017 was also the last one: Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi. This film starring Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker was the most fun I’ve had in that long-ago, far-away galaxy since 1980 and The Empire Strikes Back.

Writer-director Rian Johnson filled the story with surprises, some more breathtaking than others, and we had a ball. This is just me, but you should know that back in the 1970s and early ’80s I watched the first three Star Wars films six to eight times each on the big screen. I even watched the much-maligned prequels of 15-20 years ago multiple times in the theater.

The 2015 revival film, Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, was tremendous, yet I didn’t watch it a second time until a couple of weeks ago. It was great, but it didn’t draw my inner geek back for repeats. As this latest film reached its climax, however, I felt that old familiar tug of wanting to get back in line for another ride on the roller coaster.

I wholly recommend Unbroken to people who love a great book and Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi to people who love a great space opera. I know some people think Johnson took too many liberties with what they consider the Star Wars canon, but I don’t agree in the slightest. Last Jedi is a rousing flick that adds a small handful of exclamation points to the legend.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree

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So back when Quirinius was governor of Syria, this kid was born in Bethlehem who grew up to change the world.

God made us in His image, so that means in a little piece of us is the power to change the world. In a little piece of us is the creativity to build a world.

To harm or kill one of us is to destroy world-changing and world-building capability.

When you look at another person and realize that is the image of God, it adjusts your attitude.

Merry Christmas, one and all.

A kind of truth

Michael Connelly and his greatest hero, police detective Harry Bosch, have hit me in the heart again with a random note in the middle of a story. You may recall I recently wrote about Harry’s observations about the newspaper industry.

In Harry’s latest adventure, Two Kinds of Truth, Bosch is reflecting on his new role as a part-time detective with the much smaller San Fernando Police Department after an awkward parting of the ways with the Los Angeles P.D.

“Most of all, the offer came at a time when he felt unfinished. After all the years he had put in, he never expected to walk out the door one day at the LAPD and not be allowed back in. At a period in his life when most men took up golf or bought a boat, Bosch felt resolutely incomplete. He was a closer; he needed to work cases, and setting up shop as a private eye or defense investigator wasn’t going to suit him in the long run.”

As I drove down the highway “reading” the book with the help of Titus Welliver, who performs the audiobook, I realized how much I have in common with Bosch. The only difference is I kind of expected to walk out the door one day at the job I thought I was born to do and not be allowed back in.

But like Bosch, I didn’t feel like I was finished, and it didn’t make a lot of sense to pursue something dramatically different than what I’ve been doing for 42 years – community journalism.

I was the guest Tuesday of the Algoma Optimist Club, who asked me to talk about community journalism. I came across the Bosch quote as I was thinking what I could share about myself and the good work being done by community journalists in a lot of places.

More and more I realize the best journalism is local and independent, where the decisions are made by someone who lives in the community being covered. It’s that simple.

The purpose of a man

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“The purpose of a man is to love a woman,” the guru said. “And the purpose of a woman is to love a man. That it where it all begins; that is all you need to know.”

“What is the origin of this wisdom?” the novice asked.

“A song, once upon a time.”

“Whoever wrote such a song was very wise.”