THE FAR ARENA – AVAILABLE ON KINDLE AND AUDIBLE.COM

The Far Arena by Richard Ben Sapir

A couple of years ago, I bought a used copy of this long out-of-print book. I had first read it when it was released in 1978. I was working at Doubleday and it fell to me to do the write-up for it in the monthly publication that was sent to book club members.

A large part of my job was reading books. Talk about great jobs, that was the best. I’m not sure I ever fully recovered from my Doubleday years. Not merely was I paid to read and write about books, but I received (as did all the editors and graphic artists in the department) new copies of every book we worked on. We all had huge personal libraries. We also had 2 hour lunches and wonderful co-workers. I looked forward to work the way most folks anticipate the weekend. It was that good. I realize this is a digression, but I wanted to put this in context. Maybe brag a little.

I wanted to let you know this great book is finally available on Kindle and as an Audiobook from Audible.com. It’s about time!

FarArena

The Far Arena is classified as science fiction. It is, but not in the traditional sense. It doesn’t fall into any genre except perhaps speculative fiction, a catch-all term for odd books. Time travel? Sort of. But without the machinery.

The story in brief: A Roman gladiator is flash frozen in the arctic ice. He is accidentally discovered by a team drilling for oil and subsequently defrosted and brought back to life. What follows is his story as a Roman married to a Hebrew slave, and his perceptions of the modern world from the point of view of a man whose world disappeared 1600 years ago. His observations on modern society are priceless.

For example, while in the hospital, he asks about the slaves who serve him. He is referring to the to nurses and other workers who attend to his needs. His new friends explain that they aren’t slaves, that they work for wages and are free to leave, or be dismissed by their employers. He thinks this is a fantastic idea.

“You mean they do everything you tell them to do, but when they get old and can no longer work, you don’t have to take care of them? What a great idea! Slaves without responsibility.”

“They aren’t slaves,” insist his modern friends.

“They are treated like slaves, they act like slaves. They are slaves,” he responds. Who would argue the point? Not me.

That is paraphrasing, of course, but it’s the spirit of the dialogue. I have never looked at the world quite the same way since I read this book. Modern workers have all the freedom of slaves, but no assurance that anyone will care for them when they are no longer able to work. That’s a pretty good deal from the owners’ … I mean employers’ … point-of-view.

This is a brilliant, unique book. It stands apart from most other books I’ve read. All other time travel stories are about modern people visiting the past. This is the only book I can think of where a man from the past offers a view of the past to the modern world. And it’s not pretty.

Richard Ben Sapir wrote other books that are unusual and worth reading. I especially liked The Body. But The Far Arena stands head and shoulders above the rest. He only wrote a few novels. His world was really comic books, or what are now called “graphic novels.” Finding copies of Ben Sapir’s books used to be challenging, but this one is now available both as Kindle and \from Audible.com — and you can both at a much reduced price if you buy them together from Amazon.

I’m delighted it is finally available and hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity to read or listen to this gem!

This story would make a wonderful movie. I can see it all in my mind’s eye. It’s exceptionally well written, highly literate and well-researched, Convincing. All those things and a great, gripping story too.

FROM TRIUMPH TO TRAGEDY: ONE HISTORIC WEEK IN APRIL 1865 – BY SEAN MUNGER

Posted on April 9, 2017 by Sean Munger in History

One hundred and fifty-two years ago today, on April 9, 1865, Confederate commanding General Robert E. Lee surrendered his forces to the Union commander General Ulysses Grant in a short ceremony. It happened at the house of Wilmer McLean, located in Appomattox Court House, Virginia. This was not the total end of fighting in the Civil War, but it was the end of organized and official resistance. It was a turning point in American history, and the McLean House is quite rightly recognized as one of the most historically important buildings in the United States.

The day on which the surrender occurred was a Sunday, and, as it is this year (2017), also Palm Sunday. It was the start of a triumphant but also tragic week in U.S. history. The major bloodletting of the Civil War was brought to an end on Sunday, but at the beginning of the next weekend, Friday, April 14, President Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. He died early Saturday morning, the 15th. I doubt there have been many single weeks in the history of the United States that have been more momentous–or that have ranged so far an emotional gamut from elation and triumph to the depths of national despair.

Less than a week after the surrender at Appomattox, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theater in Washington. Unknown to the public, however, he was dying of cancer at the time.

PLEASE SEE THE REST OF THE POST: From triumph to tragedy: one historic week in April 1865.

PORN POWER – TOM CURLEY

There was an interesting article in the news concerning a porn site called xhamster.com I don’t know why it’s called that and I really don’t want to know. They’re in the news because they closed off their website to anybody living in the state of North Carolina. Why? Because of the harsh, horrible anti-LGBT law they passed. If you log onto their website from anywhere in that state, you get a blank screen.

blank screen

Blank screen for you!

The tone of all the news reports and nightly talk shows was that this was a funny but useless protest. There are thousands of other porn sites where North Carolinians can … well you know. But, as usual, the main stream media and the nightly talk shows missed the real story. I am not offering an opinion on the virtues or evils of porn. However, there is a larger truth which is widely known but rarely talked about regarding the porn industry. Porn has been a major driver, financial backer, and early adopter of technological innovation since the beginning. Since forever.

When mankind started drawing on cave walls, I guarantee you some of the first things depicted were people getting some Neanderthal Nookie.

thestar.com.my

thestar.com.my

Porn was very popular in the Middle Ages. Moreover, it utilized some of the earliest encryption technologies. I saw an exhibit in a museum once that showcased one of them. The exhibit consisted of huge tapestries painted with very strange distorted images. You couldn’t tell what they were.

What were they? Porn. The artist would draw the original naughty painting on a regular canvas. He would then look at the painting’s reflection in a cylindrical mirror. The image in the mirror would be all distorted. He would then paint that distorted image onto the tapestry. If you looked at the tapestry the painting made no sense.

anamorphic art

arthit.ru

But. If you looked at the tapestry’s reflection in the same cylindrical  mirror the artist used, the image would be reconstructed back to its original form. (“Naughty Knights 5”)

When photography was first invented in the 1800’s one of the earliest subjects was, of course, naked women. Having sex. When the telegraph was invented, telegraph operators were known to spend their off hours “telegraph sexting”.

I didn’t believe it either.

blog.kaspersky.com

blog.kaspersky.com

OPERATOR ONE: Who you talking to?

OPERATOR TWO: I don’t know, but she sure can dit my dot!

The VCR became popular because porn producers started switching to videotape, abandoning film. Finally, you didn’t have to go to a movie theater for porn. You could “bring it home.” VHS beat out Betamax because the porn industry chose VHS. Really. No kidding. That’s the way it happened.

alf.image.com

alf.image.com

Porn money propelled other technologies, too. Online payments, DVDs, streaming video, and two-way internet chat rooms. Virtual Reality headsets have only been available for a few months and there’s already Virtual Reality Porn.

truvisionvr.com

truvisionvr.com

(I wouldn’t know this personally, but I read a lot).

So here’s the real story that everybody has missed.  One porn site blocked off an entire state. It has been viewed as a symbolic, but mostly useless protest.

What if they all did it?  What if all the porn sites got together and said to North Carolina: “NO PORN FOR YOU!”

no porn for you

I’ll bet you that anti-LGBT law would be overturned in about an hour and a half! Maybe less. Then, the porn industry would realize it’s true power! Imagine, Lysistrata on a national, even a global, scale!

dykiegirl.wordpress.com

dykiegirl.wordpress.com

“You won’t do what we want? NO PORN FOR YOU!” All the porn industry needs to do is come together. Organize.

Organize into a cartel.
A conglomerate
 A Ring.
lotr.wiki.com

lotr.wiki.com

“One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them.

One ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.”

Pray they use their power for good.

THE FUTURE CUSP – POLITICS AHOY

To say that we are on the cusp of “old” politics while beginning the “new,” is an understatement. Our world has changed. Fast and hard and it’s barreling down that mountain with every intent of flattening us.

There has been this “issue” in American politics for a long time … twenty, maybe 30 or more years. Maybe since we started being a country at all.

Our citizens have a fundamental, irreversible belief that an “outsider” can fix whatever is wrong because “they aren’t part of the establishment.” If you think, for a moment, about how the United States became a government, it makes more sense. We weren’t “released” from our status as a colony to become part of England’s worldwide network. We fought them and threw them out. We won. They left. Even when they tried to come back (and damned near succeeded), even after we had to abandon Washington DC, we never returned to English over-lordship. We don’t have the Queen stamped on our money. We don’t bow — even reluctantly — to him or her Majesty in London.

We were free and not because they let us go. From that time since, we have viewed other nations as potential oppressors. When we decide we need to be “fixed,” we don’t look for someone who has spent a lifetime studying the system and making it work. Rather, we look for someone who comes from somewhere else. Who knows nothing. The less the better.

This policy doesn’t work. It never did. Let’s not even go back far in our short history. Look at James Earl “Jimmy” Carter Jr. (born October 1, 1924). He is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. He was and is an exceptionally intelligent, thoughtful man with a heart of gold. Who was practically run out of office. He didn’t fix the government. No one gave him half a chance. He was the governor of a southern state and he didn’t have the background to make it work. Not a single run as a senator or even congressman in DC. Since leaving office, he has worked ceaselessly on our behalf. He was — absolutely — a really good guy.

If you aren’t part of the establishment, you’ll won’t easily get legislation through congress. Maybe not at all. Many presidents who were governors before election have had trouble getting help from congress. They weren’t half as stupid and bizarre as Trump-O-Matic.

There is a way business gets done in every parliament and congress around the world. It’s the way it has always been done.

Like this.

You give me something, I give you something. We call in our own personal markers — on both sides of the aisle — and voilà, the business gets done. The give-and-take of congress is the essence of democracy — yours, ours, or theirs. The most effective presidents (like Lyndon Johnson) were those who had a lot of markers to call.

Markers are not money. In fact, markers are rarely money but more “I owe you for this one.” Next round? Your guy comes through. Usually. You can’t just strong-arm everyone to “do your will.” It isn’t like that. This process is not evil. It’s simply how its done. How it was done back in Rome and Egypt. There is nothing new under our sun.


The critical thing that made this work well — when it works — is because people running a government care about us. The people.

Greedy? Maybe, but they certainly aren’t in it for the money. They are in government to try to do something worthwhile. Many (probably most) were wealthy to begin with, so the money was neither here nor there.

Power hungry? Probably, though maybe for good reason. Who else would bother to run for president or prime minister? You have to have a powerful drive to get to the top and a potent belief that you can do something worthwhile once you get there. Few of us have the will to even start the process. I sure don’t, nor does anyone I know. There are plenty of other ways to get rich.

So it isn’t really so hard to figure out why people would elect someone like Trump-O-Matic.  What’s a lot harder to figure out is why anyone trusted this moron to have some good ideas and to care whether or not he helped anyone but himself and his rich pals.

Trump-O-Matic was never in it to help anyone. I’m not convinced he understands that we — all of us — are his people. He doesn’t know what the first amendment is supposed to do, what an intelligence briefing is about … and I doubt he can read more than a few sentences at a time. He is too stupid to understand basic stuff like the constitution and how it works and should never have been president of anything. He’s a bigot, a con man … and worst of all … he’s a fool.

Don’t forget — the only reason Trump-O-Matic isn’t doing even more harm is his party is in fragments. They don’t like him. They dislike him almost as much as I do, though I think my reasons are better. It’s the single thing in this long nightmare for which I am grateful.

LET’S ROUND UP AN ANGRY MOB! by GARRY ARMSTRONG

“Let’s round-up an angry mob and storm the place!”

That was our granddaughter, a few years ago. A precocious 7 or 8-year-old venting her anger over management shenanigans at a favorite local restaurant. We considered the issue and somehow placated our granddaughter. She clearly thought we should tackle the issue head on. She reminded me of all the high-profile, controversial stories I’d covered in my 40+ years as a TV news reporter. I never backed down!! I was relentless!!  I had to do something!!

Gradually, the hot button issue faded away. Gramps was now in retirement. I’d hung up my guns.

We’ve frequently laughed about the “angry mob issue” over the years. When something comes up that bothers us, someone yells, “Let’s round-up an angry mob!” Giggles all around.

I heard the familiar refrain again, today, in the middle of grocery shopping. I started to laugh and stopped quickly. Two very angry people confronted me. I just stared, trying to make sure they were talking to me. They were shouting!

“We need to round-up an angry mob. That’ll get their attention!”  I continued to stare as my brain shifted into second gear. They — the angry duo —  clearly wanted to do something about the state of our nation. I almost squashed the tomato I was holding.

“I’m retired,” I tried to reason, but they wouldn’t have it. It was just the beginning for me. I was still picking tomatoes a few minutes later when I heard it again.

“This is crap!! We need to do SOMETHING! I’ve had it with this guy!”.  It was a store employee I’ve known for several years. We’ve discussed politics, the economy and local environmental issues between my getting tips on what’s good in the supermarket on a particular day. No such tips today. He was angry — and it had nothing to do with the price of tomatoes.

“Nobody wants to get involved! We need to do something, Garry. This country is in big trouble”. I bit my lower lip and nodded in agreement, hoping to appease what I saw coming.

“Garry, you could do a special report. You know people. You have clout. People respect you!!”.

“I’m retired,” I said it slowly, dolefully. He shook his head as if he didn’t hear me … or it didn’t matter.

“We need to get people involved. We need people to make things right. We’re running out of time, Garry!!”  I bit my lower lip. More people had gathered around. I realized we had a small audience. People were nodding, red-faced, shaking their fists.

I surveyed the crowd. Shook my head solemnly and said it louder. “I’m retired!”.

They shook their heads in disbelief. I could hear mumbles of anger and confusion. I should have anticipated what would come next.

“We grew up watching you on TV. You always told us what was happening. We’ve told our kids about you..”.

The guilt card, face up!

“I’m retired,” I repeated again. They couldn’t accept it. They moved in closer, fingers poking in the air as if I didn’t understand. Of course, I understood. I understand.  It’s hard making sense out of what’s going on with the current administration. Real news is called fake. Fake news is being analyzed as if it’s real. There’s no precedent for this in my lifetime. I have no war stories to share about dealing with the type of people who are now in charge. I covered Presidents from JFK to Bush Number 1. There was lots of crazy stuff over the years but nothing, nada like what is happening today.

I dodged several more small crowds and made it to the checkout counter. I was feeling pretty good because I had found some fresh fruit Marilyn wanted. Head down, I spread my groceries on the counter, glancing at the young woman bagging the stuff. I thought I was free as soon as everything was tallied and bagged.

Free at last?

No! I felt a hand on my shoulder. An elderly man, maybe 80 or so grinned at me. But it wasn’t a happy grin, but a grin of anger. I’d seen this many times before. I braced myself.

“Garry, why the hell aren’t you out there, telling the public about this guy? Everyone’s angry!! You done it before! You done it with them other bums. We could always trust you!”

“I’m retired.”  I said it slowly. Very sadly.

I politely extracted myself from the elderly gent’s strong grip and wheeled the groceries outside. As I loaded everything into the car, I saw a couple of people approaching me. I double-timed the rest, got in the car, put pedal to the metal and beat it out of the parking lot.

In my head, I could hear my granddaughter.

“Gramps, let’s round-up an angry mob and storm the place”.

LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON – VIETNAM 1967, by GARRY ARMSTRONG

WHEN OUR PRESIDENT WAS A HERO


Location: A campfire in Vietnam near Saigon.

Year: 1967.

1967 and 1968 were very intense years for me. I had jumped directly from college and small time commercial radio, to ABC Network News. The time was right and the opportunity was there, but I was a kid thrust suddenly into the big leagues. My journalistic baptism started with the 6-day war in the Middle East which began on my first day at ABC. My professional life continued with the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, the volatile 1968 Presidential campaigns and a long visit to Vietnam, the first of several.

At headquarters in New York, my assignment was to receive reports from ABC’s field correspondents. I’d speak with them over static-riddled phone lines. Difficult to hear for anyone, harder for me. The daily MACV — or war front reports — were often significantly different from what the Pentagon reported. It was disturbing, worrying. Then, they sent me to Vietnam.

The sights, sounds and smells of Vietnam are still with me, 50 years later.

ABC needed a grunt to help the news team covering President Johnson’s visit to Vietnam. I was it. My job required I not allow myself to be distracted from the work at hand. I was a young reporter still learning the ropes. I had to stay focused on the story and exclude the other harrowing images around me.

LBJ vietnam 1967It was a typical evening, the never-ending noise of artillery in the background. It was what was called “down time.” Dinner around a campfire. GI’s, South Vietnamese soldiers, politicians and news media, all hunkered down for chow. Everything was off the record. Chow was beans and some unknown local meat. Most of us ate the beans. Skipped the meat.

President Johnson or LJ as he told us to call him, squatted at the point of the campfire and told some colorful tales about dealing with his pals in the Senate and Congress. The stories were punctuated with smiles and profanities. LJ was drinking from a bottle which he passed around. Good stuff.

Halfway through dinner, the beans began to resonate. The smell was pungent! I must’ve had a funny look on my face because LJ gave me a withering stare and asked if I had a problem. I remember sounding like a squeaky 16-year-old as I responded “No sir.” LJ guffawed and passed the bottle back to me.

Before completing his trip, President Johnson confided to some of us that seeing Vietnam up close confirmed his worst fears. He broadly hinted he was unlikely to seek re-election, given the backlash of Vietnam back home in the States. I thought he sounded like one of my cowboy heroes putting duty above personal gain.

But it wasn’t a movie. It was the real thing. History in the making.

The following day was my final encounter with Lyndon Baines Johnson. There were handshakes, a smile about our campfire evening and LJ was again President Lyndon Johnson, one of the truly great American presidents.


Lyndon Baines Johnson was the 36th President of the United States, from 1963 to 1969. As President, he designed “Great Society” legislation, including civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, aid to education and the arts, urban and rural development, and a “War on Poverty”.

Johnson’s civil rights bills banned racial discrimination in public facilities, interstate commerce, the workplace, and housing. It included a voting rights act that guaranteed the right to vote for all U.S. citizens, of all races. Passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 reformed the country’s immigration system, eliminating national origins quotas.

Johnson was renowned for his domineering personality and his readiness to do whatever it took to advance his legislative goals.


Today, we have a president — if you care to call him that — who believes all of the good things LBJ did is garbage.

I’ve been around long enough to understand how many bad things can be fixed, eventually. Maybe not completely, but at least in part. What if we destroy the world? When the beauty of our world has gone and what’s left are expensive condos? When the trees have disappeared? When the sky is dull green, gray, and full of filth? What then? How do we come back from that?

When the poor are lost, and there’s nothing remaining but ugliness? What then, indeed.

WHY STUDY HISTORY? REFLECTING ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PAST

Posted on January 29, 2017 by Sean Munger in Authors, Books, History /

Al Mackey, the Civil War historian who runs the excellent Student of the American Civil War blog, has today put up a very thoughtful and incisive piece on a book written by another one of our blogging colleagues, Dr. John Fea. Dr. Fea’s book Why Study History? is a clarion call for our times, when understanding of the past–or even appreciation of why understanding the past is even useful–is under serious attack. The themes Dr. Fea talks about in his book, and which Mr. Mackey echoes, are similar to those I recently dealt with in my own article about the dangers of “Fake History.” Please read the whole article at Al’s blog, or, better yet, buy Dr. Fea’s book!

This is an excellent book by John Fea, Associate Professor of American History and Chair of the History Department at Messiah College. Professor Fea is also a blogging colleague, blogging at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, which is also the title of an earlier book of his, subtitled, Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America. There he posts the normal history blog posts as well as personal reflections on current events, religion, politics, and the academic life, as well as videos. He also hosts a podcast that has already been featured on this blog.

In my opinion, everyone who would like to be a serious student of history needs to read this book. Professor Fea gives us an accessible primer on how to do history, from the obligatory “What Do Historians Do?” to “What Can You Do With a History Degree?”

So what is a historian? ” ‘In my opinion,’ writes Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon Wood, ‘not everyone who writes about the past is a historian. Sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and economists frequently work in the past without thinking historically.’ ” [pp. 1-2]

Is history simply the past, or is there a difference?… [CONT’D]

Read the entire original article here: Why Study History? Reflecting on the Importance of the Past.