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Steven Spielberg's American Trilogy Posted - Jun 12, 2021
Three Movies by Steven Spielberg That Define the American Ideal

AMISTAD (1997) – An Independent Judiciary

LINCOLN (2012) – Democracy

THE POST (2017) – A Free Press

Whether or not Steven Spielberg planned it this way, or that it was merely a happy coincidence, the above three movies, while about three very different stories in American history, illustrate three pillars that uphold our republic–and guarantee our freedom–an independent judiciary, democracy, and a free press.

AMISTAD (1997) – An Independent Judiciary

Set in 1839, the movie derives its title from Le Amistad, a French slave ship. As the movie begins, 39 African captives aboard Le Amistad, overcome their captors, take possession of the ship and, hoping to return to their home in Sierra Leone, end up being captured off the coast of Massachusetts.

To whom do they belong? Spain claims ownership, as do the American salvage hunters who ushered the ship into the port of Boston. To resolve the question, the issue is brought before a federal court. A Boston abolitionist's society, seeking to free the Africans, hires attorney Roger Baldwin to argue their case. The prosecution is represented by attorneys for President Martin van Buren. Based on a treaty with Spain, the president's attorneys argue that the Africans are slaves and "the property" of the Spanish government. The verdict hinges on a simple question: where were they born? If they were born in Cuba, as the prosecution claims, then they are slaves, and must be turned over to Spanish custody. If they were born in Africa, as the defense claims, then they were born free, and must be released.

After demonstrating to the court that the African captives understand not a word of Spanish, Baldwin argues that the Africans were not born in Cuba, as the prosecution claims, but in Africa. To further solidify his argument, Baldwin finds documents hidden aboard Le Amistad that proves the African were initially "cargo" belonging to a Portuguese slave ship, the Tecora. Therefore, the Africans were freeborn in Africa, and not as slaves. However, before the presiding judge can render a verdict, at the direction of the Van Buren Administration, he is replaced by Federal Judge Coglin, who is younger and impressionable, and believed to favor the wishes of President Van Buren.

Fearing the new judge may rule against them, Baldwin seeks advice from former president John Quincy Adams. Adams, a savvy attorney and life-long abolitionist, tells Baldwin to dig deeper into the African's story. Baldwin finds a former slave from Sierra Leone, named James Covey, who speaks both English and Mende, the African's native language.

At trial, speaking through James Covey, Cinqué (the African's charismatic leader) confirms that he and the others were captured in Sierra Leone, and sold to the slave ship Tecora, where they were beaten and held in the brig of the ship. Later, the ship docked in Havana, Cuba. Those captives not sold at auction, were then handed over to another slave ship, Le Amistad, bound for a slave market in the southern United States.

After a night's deliberation, Judge Coglin rules in favor of the defense–the prisoners were freeborn in Africa, and are therefore must be set free. Meanwhile, at a White House dinner, Van Buren is warned by Senator John Calhoun of South Caroline, that if the Amistad Africans are set free, Civil War will break out. As a consequence, Van Buren appeals Coglin's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Baldwin then asks John Quincy Adams to step in and argue the case. After meeting with Cinqué, Adams agrees.

Speaking before a Supreme Court comprised mostly of Southern slave owners, Adams makes his case on two points. One, is the importance of America's independent courts. Indeed, one of Queen Isabella's biggest complaints in her attempt to regain the African captives, is that U.S. courts are "incompetent". Says Adams: "What her majesty wants is a court that behaves just like her courts, (he chuckles) the courts of an eleven-year-old girl to play with in her magical kingdom called Spain. A court that does what it is told to do, (he chuckles again) a court that can be toyed with like a doll, a court, as it happens, of which our own President Van Buren would be most be proud. . . ."

The other issue is man's inalienable right to freedom, as stated in America's founding document, the Declaration of Independence. Reading from an article published by the Van Buren White House, Adams quotes Senator Calhoun as saying that slavery has always been a part of the natural state of man, dating back to Biblical times, and therefore, "is neither sinful nor immoral." Adams counters: "This may be controversial, but I believe the natural state of man is freedom . . . is freedom, and the proof is the length to which a man, woman or child will go to regain it. Once taken, he will break loose from his chains, decimate his enemies. He will try and try and try, against all odds, against all prejudices, to get home."

He asks Cinqué to stand up. "This man is black. We can all see that. But can we also see as easily that which is equally true? That he is the only true hero in this room. Now, if he were white he wouldn't be standing before the court, fighting for his life. If he were white and his enslavers were British, he wouldn't be able to stand, so heavy the weight of the medals and honors we would bestow upon him. Songs would written about him. The great authors of our times would fill books about him. His story would be told and retold in our classrooms. Our children, because we would make sure of it, would know his name as well as they know Patrick Henry's. . . ."

In a near-unanimous decision (with one dissent), the Court rules in favor of the defense: the captives of Le Amistad, being freeborn in Africa, are to be set free.

LINCOLN (2012) – Democracy

The movie is about the final four months of Lincoln's presidency, when he ushered the 13th Amendment through Congress outlawing slavery, and ended the Civil War. Prior to Lees' surrender to Grant at Appomattox (that stopped the fighting), Lincoln meets with various "peace commissioners" from Richmond, to negotiate peace.

One of the commissioners is Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, who, while holding out for the South's right to retain slavery, balks at Lincoln's peace overture.

"How have you held your union together? Through democracy? How many hundreds of thousands have died during your administration? Your union is bonded in cannon fire and death."

"It may be you're right," Lincoln replies. "But, say all we done is show the world that democracy isn't chaos, that there is a great, invisible strength in a people's union; say we've shown that people can endure awful sacrifice and yet cohere. Mightn't that say at least that the idea of democracy is worth aspiring to, eventually to become worthy of? At all rates whatever may be proved by blood and sacrifice might have been proved by now. Shall we stop this bloodshed?"

THE POST (2017) – A Free Press

The Washington Post has obtained a copy of a classified government document–a study of the Vietnam War, known as "The Pentagon Papers". Commissioned by Secretary of War Robert McNamara, the study clearly shows that the United States government has consistently lied about its handling of the Vietnam War. The New York Times has received a copy too, and had been publishing their analysis of the Papers in installments, until issued an injunction to stop by a federal court, at the insistence of the Nixon White House.

If the Post publishes its analysis of the Papers, it risks being in contempt of court, and the Post's owner, and editor-in-chief, being indicted, and possibly sentenced to several years in federal prison.

After a long deliberation with the Post's attorneys, owner Katherine Graham, decides to publish their analysis of the Pentagon Papers. The morning their first installment appears on newsstands, they are issued an injunction to stop by a federal court. They appeal, and a week later their appeal (and that of the New York Times) is heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. As both newspapers see it, the First Amendment right of a Free Press is at stake.

In a six-to-three decision, the court agrees, and rules in favor of both newspapers' right to publish the Pentagon Papers. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who wrote the Court's majority opinion, said: "Any system of prior restraint of expression comes to this Court bearing a heavy presumption against its constitutional validity . . . The Government thus carries a heavy burden of showing justification for the imposition of such a restraint. . . . The District Court for the Southern District of New York in the New York Times case, and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the Washington Post case, held that the Government had not met that burden. We agree."

In a separate and concurring opinion, Justice Hugo Black wrote: "Paramount among the responsibilities of a free pass is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.

"In my view, far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times and the Washington Post and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw clearly. In revealing the workings of Government that led to the Vietnam War, the newspapers did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do."

Further on he wrote: "The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors."

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Book Review: The Bible Today–A Commentary, by C. H. Dodd
Posted - Jun 08, 2021
For such a short book (163 pages), this Bible commentary contains an amazing amount of information. The Bible was meant to be read by laymen, an idea that was at the heart of interpreting the Bible into English, beginning 600 years ago. These various translations (notably by Wycliffe and Tyndale) led to the Reformation. To obtain one’s own understanding of who actually wrote the various books of the Bible, why and when, and how it was compiled into its present form, it’s best to read a commentary free of religious doctrine; that is what this book portends to be. It’s a scholarly account, Liberal Protestant in outlook, based on years of research by a number of English Scholars, many of them connected with universities in England and in Scotland. The author, Dr. C.H. Dodd, a professor of divinity at the University of Cambridge, directed the group of scholars who produced the New English Bible. He knows his subject better than most. “The Bible To-Day,” is partly based on the notes taken by students of Dr. Dodd’s lectures at the University. The first edition appeared in 1946; the edition I read is from a 1968 reprint. While not difficult to read, a careful perusal is recommended.

For true believers, the Bible is often referred to as the Word of God, and rightly so. However, it contains a mass of disparate and contradictory information that can and has been misinterpreted, sometimes with catastrophic results—murderous religious wars, and the senseless torturing of unbelievers. How to find meaning, when, as Dodd puts it, “the humane mind is revolted by the accounts of atrocities recorded to have been committed by the Israelites during the conquest of Palestine. . . .” Indeed, how do we square the command, “Go and utterly destroy those sinners the Amalekites!” with the Gospel precept, “Love your enemies”? As Dodd has it, the Bible traces the history of an awakening of human thought to the true nature of God, not as an angry God of war and pestilence, but as a God of love and of peace. The Sermon on the Mount, found in the Book of Matthew, is a timeless lesson on how to find harmony while interacting with others.

The Bible is an account of true believers who turned to God in distress and were delivered. According to one Bible scholar, there are 209 accounts of deliverance, provision, and healing in the Old Testament, and 174 similar accounts in the New, by Christ Jesus and his disciples.

Scholarly scientific inquiry has greatly increased our understanding of how the Bible came to be. For example, there are two accounts of creation in Genesis, in the first and second chapter. These were written by two different groups of writers and for different reasons. The first account was written around 400 B.C., in which creation is spiritual, and man is created in God's image, and pronounced by God as good; the second account is material, written 600 years earlier, and describes man as not spiritual but as created from dust, and susceptible to evil suggestions. According to scholarship, the first Biblical stories, of Creation, the Fall of Man, the Deluge, and the Building of Babel, are symbolic myths. On the other hand, from Abraham to the end of the apostolic age, the story is historical, consisting of actual events, directly related to the general course of history in the world. The Last Judgement and the End of the World, if they are not in the strict sense myths, have a symbolic character. Dodd adds: “The symbolism in all these cases is drawn largely from myths current among the Hebrews and other ancient peoples; but the meaning attached to the symbols—and this is the important point—is derived from the prophetic and apostolic interpretation of history.”

There is much more to Dodd’s illuminating book which I have hardly touched upon. To give you some idea of what’s in store, and in conclusion, I will list Dodd's chapter titles: (1) The Bible: What It Is, (2) The Approach to the Bible, (3) The Old Testament, (4) The New Testament, (5) History as Revelation, (6) The Bible and the Historical Problem of our Time, and (7) History and the Individual.

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Can Prayer Change the World?
Posted - Jun 06, 2021
Book Review: Christian Science in East Germany: The Church that Came In from the Cold, by Gregory W. Sandford

Can prayer change the world? This book is about the power of persistent prayer, and how it paved the way for the practice of a prayer-driven religion–Christian Science–in Germany, to triumph over the objections of three separate, and mostly hostile, governments.

The story begins when an American, Frances Thurber Seal, visited Germany for the first time, in the late nineteenth century. Having recently been healed of a life-long ailment, she met with Laura Lathrop, a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science in New York City, to learn more about the religion that had healed her. After taking class, she was stunned when Mrs. Lathrop took her aside and suggested she return to Germany and take up the practice of Christian Science.

"I told her that I did not know how to give a treatment, but she said, 'Never mind, you have love, and the qualities of obedience and honesty, and they will carry you through; and God will show you how to do the work.'" "But I don't speak a word of German, and don't have any money," she protested.

However, soon thereafter, she was approached by a woman suffering from rheumatism, whom she healed. She also healed a woman dying of cancer. These two cases encouraged her to go into the full-time healing practice of Christian Science. That, coupled with a loan made by a member of a local Christian Science church, convinced her to book passage on a passenger ship and take up the practice of Christian Science in Germany.

En route, her ship was struck by a violent storm. However, through prayer, she found her peace, so much so that other fearful passengers took notice and turned to her for help. After a night of prayer, the storm subsided, and calm returned to the sea.

Once in Germany, it was her successful healing practice that encouraged a number of Germans to take up the study of Christian Science, and begin holding informal church services in their homes. In time, this led to the formation of a number of Christian Science churches being built, beginning in Dresden and later in Berlin.

The Christian Science Mother Church in Boston, took notice of her success, and in 1903 began publishing the German Herald, and making it available in Germany. In 1912, the Christian Science Publishing Society, introduced the first German-language edition of Science and Health With Key To The Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy.

In 1907, confident she had completed her mission, and having repaid the loan with interest, Ms Seal returned to the United States.

This book is about what became of Christian Science in Germany after she left, first under the Nazis, and then under the Communists.

From the start Christian Science met with resistance, from the German state, because the religion was new and not understood, and because it competed with state-sponsored Christian churches. This became more acute under the Nazis, who opposed the healing practice of Christian Science because they said it posed a danger to public health, and because of its association with the United States. They issued a number of restrictions, first by stopping Christian Science books and literature from being imported and distributed in Germany, and by restricting church services, and in some cases actually shutting down a number of churches, and seizing their assets.

Once the Nazis were defeated by the allies in World War Two, a period of normalcy followed, until the occupying Soviet communists took control, and spit the nation in two–into East and West Germany–and establishing the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in East Germany.

Over the following decades, despite persecution by the East German secret police ("Stasi"), small groups of Christian Scientists continued to meet secretly in private homes and apartments, and by way of a sort of cottage industry, importing, copying, and distributing the Christian Science Lesson Sermon, and Journal, among the faithful few still praying and practicing Christian Science.

All the while, the Christian Science Mother Church in Boston was at pains to be as supportive as it could, without urging its German followers to break the law. Early on, it established a metaphysical support committee to pray daily for Christian Scientists throughout Eastern Europe, and particularly in East Germany.

In time, the first generation of Christian Science converts began to be depleted, either by age and dying, or simply by moving out of the country. However, by 1960, a new young generation of Christian Scientist began to appear, one of whom was Inge Wöbke. Until 1961, Ms. Wöbke regularly attended Eleventh Church of Christ Scientist in West Berlin, and had been active in the Youth Forum. However, in August of 1961, when the Berlin Wall went up, everything changed. She was cut off from her friends in East Berlin (whom she missed greatly). Writes the author: "She continued to pray over her situation, and eventually her motive became less of a personal one and more of a determination to do something for Christian Science."

In 1969, Ms Wöbke was offered a job in East Berlin and the opportunity to resettle there, an opportunity that was normally closed to residents of West Berlin. The job was in a government ministry and entailed a strict ban on all Western contacts. Despite this, she began holding church services in her small East Berlin apartment among a small but dedicated group of Christian Science followers. As usual with illegal church meetings of this type, the informal readings and testimonies of healing were accompanied by coffee and cake, and guests were strictly admonished that if anyone asked, they had been to a birthday party.

Over time, the hostile GDR government began to relax its restrictions on Christian Science, especially when they realized Christian Scientists were not radicals, but honest, hardworking, and law-abiding citizens, who posed no threat to Communist rule. They also recognized that Christian Science healing was effective, and thereby saved the socialist state money that otherwise would be spent on citizens in need of doctors and hospital care. That, and an appreciation for the even-handed reporting in the Christian Science Monitor, began to have its effect on a number of Communist leaders in East Germany. Gradually, several shuttered churches were allowed to reopen, and the restrictions on the distribution of Christian Science books and literature were lifted.

In the early 1970s, Ms Wöbke was reunited with an old friend (Anni Ulich) from Sunday School and the Youth Forum. Relaxed travel restrictions had by now made it possible for Ms Ulich to visit regularly from West Berlin. In the autumn of 1976 she brought along a Christian Science lecturer from the United States, Charles Ferris. Years later, Ferris recalled fondly the "very small, timorous group" he had met at Wöbke's apartment.

The following year, Ulich brought with her Otto Bertschi, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher. At the time, he was a guest speaker in West Berlin for a "Healing Goals Meeting", a talk he delivered to Wöbke's group. After that, Ulich made it a regular practice of bringing lecturers to speak with Wöbke's group.

Another encouraging sign was the growing detent between the GDR and the West, and with that of the Mother Church in Boston, especially when Jill Gooding was elected to the Christian Science Board of Directors, in 1988. She undertook to pray for a specific area of the world–Eastern Europe. Writes the author: "She began praying daily for the situation there. When invited to speak at an armed services conference in West Germany in April of the following year, she decided to use the opportunity to visit her 'patient.'"

As more restrictions were lifted, more Christian Science literature was allowed into the country. Eventually, the GDR officially recognized Christian Science as a legitimate religion, and, for the first time in over thirty-five years, officially sanctioned gatherings of Christian Scientists in East Germany. An even bigger change occurred in August of 1989, when the Berlin Wall was taken down.

With the Wall dismantled and steps underway to reunite East and West Germany, in June 2003, the Mother Church held its Annual Meeting in what had been East Berlin. It was the first Annual Meeting ever held outside the United States. Speaking at the meeting, Virginia Harris, Chairman of the Board of Directors, asked rhetorically, "Why Berlin?" Her answer: "Berlin symbolizes walls coming down and the irrepressible power of unity."

By this time the former GDR had been incorporated into a unified German state, Germany was part of an increasingly integrated Europe, and Europe itself was struggling with the myriad challenges of globalization.

In an interview for this book, Gunther Behncke, a former GDR official, said, "As regard the recognition of Christian Science, it was my opinion a success in the final analysis of Christian Science itself."

Can prayer change the world? The author concludes with this answer: "Certainly there were powerful historical forces at work that were leading toward a revolution of some kind in the Soviet empire. That it turned out to be a 'gentle revolution' in East Germany, however, was due in no small measure to the powerful intentions and courtesy of the individuals involved, including many in the Christian Science churches."

I will give the final word to Inge Wöbke, who in 1992, wrote in the Christian Science Journal: "At a time when we are confronted daily with decisions by governments of different types around the world, and at a time when it appears that even well-intentioned government decisions can hurt the citizens, it is important to ask: Which laws are we subject to? Whose laws protect and take care of us? For many years I lived under a communist regime that did not allow freedom of worship or open dissent from official government policies. This, of course, was in conflict with my most conscientious thoughts about God."

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The Girl Who Loved Jazz
Posted - May 29, 2021
How can you not love a girl who adores the Beatles, gets Frank Sinatra, loves Jazz, and who enjoys sitting under the stars at the Hollywood Bowl, listening to the L.A Philharmonic performing Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"?

That's the girl who changed my life. She was one-part lady, and one part feisty competitor. The first time I took her out was to a seaside restaurant in Ventura, California, where we dined on a Sunday brunch of crab-meat omelettes, strawberries, and crisp sourdough toast, seated beside a window with a view of the blue-green Pacific. Later, we trekked out onto the wind-swept Ventura Pier and imagined what it would be like to continue driving on up the coast to Monterey, which is what we did three years later, on our honeymoon.

While I was working six days a week and she was in her final year of college, we spent many of our Sunday afternoons together playing tennis, which I taught her to play. Imagine my surprise when we played our first match and realized she was trying to beat me? It was my first introduction to her grit, and determination to succeed.

While I introduced her to sixties Rock-N-Roll and international motor racing, she took me to plays and museums, and introduced me to classical music. One of our early dates was to the Hollywood Bowl. She made sandwiches and hot cider for us to snack on. It was a magical, memorable evening, one that I wanted to experience often. Later, after we were married and began moving around the country, we attended outdoor concerts at Blossom (the summer home of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra), and at Ravinia (the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra). Besides classical music, we also attended jazz and pop nights at these venues.

On our second date we attended a play performed at nearby Cal-State Northridge. The play was the comedy, "Dear Liar", based on the letters between Irish playwright (and confirmed bachelor) George Bernard Shaw, and the decidedly independent (and acerbic) actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell. Cindy purchased the tickets after discovering that I was a big fan of Shaw's plays.

Around this time, we attended a play by William Shakespeare–a first for me–entitled, "The Winter's Tale". This started us down a path of seeing about 30 of the Bard's 36 plays, some more than once (I saw "The Winter's Tale" twice more, once in Chicago, and once in New Jersey).


About two years after we were married, I was offered a promotion, which meant moving to my company's corporate headquarters, in Akron, Ohio. The day we arrived in Akron was the start of the Christmas season. Cindy got busy and purchased tickets for a performance that night, of Handel's "Messiah". I was stunned by the grandeur of the words and music, and began purchasing classical music, beginning with Beethoven's Nine Symphonies.

Our next concert was at Blossom, watching Irish pianist Barry Douglas with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, performing Tchaikovsky's majestic Piano Concerto No 1. This was a big deal, as earlier that summer, Douglas had won the Gold Medal at the 1986 Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow, the first non-Russian to do so since the great Van Cliburn won first prize, in 1958. We had amazing seats, so close to the stage we actually could see the perspiration on Mr. Douglas' face, as he attacked the climatic Allegro Con Fuoco.

North of Akron, the city of Cleveland was a revelation. Running through it was the Cuyahoga River, which in the 1970s, was so polluted that it actually caught on fire. At the same time the waters of Lake Erie were so toxic that it was pronounced "dead" by conservationists, who grimly predicted that once the polluting stopped, it would take one-hundred years for the lake to cleanse itself.

Wouldn't you know it? When we arrived in the mid-1980s, the lake had fully recovered, and wildlife had returned to the now-pure waters of the Cuyahoga River. To complete the miracle turnaround, down in the flats, where the river flowed through downtown Cleveland, boutiques, nightclubs, and restaurants had taken over the defunct factories.

What was great about living in Northeast Ohio, was the inexpensive housing–we lived in a four-bedroom colonial on "Cinnamon Lane"; a similar residence in L.A. would have sold for much more than we paid in Akron. Also, we could easily obtain good seats at concerts and plays, that in L.A. would be impossible to get.

Besides music, Cindy found historic Ohio pioneer settlements and farms for us to explore on weekends, including a day trip to the Ohio River, where we stayed at an old riverfront hotel, where George Washington's friend, General Marquis Lafayette of France, had once docked his boat and spent the night. That evening, we walked over a nearby bridge, that links Ohio with Kentucky, and watched a number of barges bearing coal pass beneath us, on their way to St. Louis, or some such destination far downstream.

While not exactly a day trip, we also traveled to the Washington D.C. area, walked the Washington Mall (at two miles, it's longer than it looks), visited the Smithsonian Museum, and drove down to Mount Vernon, George Washington's home.


As much as we enjoyed living in Northeast Ohio, it didn't last long. After two years, the CEO of my company–who had been commuting on weekends between his home in Chicago and Akron–decided to move our corporate offices to Chicago, a decision that affected about a hundred employees, including us. We found a home we liked in Chicago's South Suburbs, where our two sons were born.

Once she learned she was pregnant, Cindy did as she always does–investigate the options. To deliver our baby, she chose a pediatrician who specialized in natural childbirth. I would have a part, too, holding Cindy's hand and encouraging her to breathe deeply, while pushing the baby out.

When our first son was born, to my surprise, the newly-born infant did not cry, but rather took his first breath and looked at us. In two days, we had the distinct joy of bringing young Scott home to begin his life with us.


While Cindy was carrying Scott, I used my time on the commuter train to write the first draft of what would become "The Ragged Edge". While a work of fiction, the story was based on the career of hard-luck California racer Dan Gurney, who, despite tremendous ability, had never fulfilled his dream of winning the drivers' world championship. I had been following Grand Prix motor racing since high school, and felt I had the knowledge to write a racing novel that portrayed the sport accurately. While writing the story proved more difficult than I imagined, selling it to traditional publisher proved impossible (later, I interviewed a number of published writers who had written very good motor racing novels, that failed in the market place. It turned out, motor racing fiction–and sports fiction in general–is a genre that just doesn't sell. However, I discovered an electronic publisher in southern Indiana with access to a printing house, that agreed to publish my book, and make it available on And while "The Ragged Edge" received encouraging reviews in car and motor racing journals, as well an award from the International Automotive Media Association, it never sold quite as well as I'd hoped.

Bill's birth was decidedly different. Again, Cindy chose the natural birth method, only this time our baby was born not in a hospital room, but in our house. At 1 a.m., Cindy felt her first labor pangs. We called the nurse, who arrived 30 minutes later, and confirmed the baby, indeed, was on his way. She notified the doctor who arrived just in time to watch the nurse deliver our second son. Again, there were no drugs and no tears, only a very hungry baby boy who was ready to nurse.

Let's face it, having children amounts to a reset of your marriage, which isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's to view the world in a fresh new way. Places you wouldn't think of going–playgrounds, children's museums and child playhouses (such as Chucky Cheese)–become your new destination. Chicago had a whole host of interesting places to take children, from children's museums, to day walks along the bucolic I & M Canal.

Particular destinations included the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, the Adler Planetarium, and family bike rides on the Old Plank Trail (a retired railroad bed stripped of tracks and cross-ties, and repaved with wood planks). When Scot was older, he particularly enjoyed attending the Music Box Theater, north of downtown (originally opened in 1929) that specialized in classic films, including some Charlie Chaplin and other silent movies, such as "Modern Times", "City Lights", and "Safety Last." A yearly event we all enjoyed was our annual trek to the Bengston Pumpkin Festival. A Pizza dinner followed by a walk through the haunted house was something we always looked forward to.

As a family, most years we vacationed in Williamsburg, Virginia staying with Cindy's parents (in a roomy house that we referred to as the "Blount Bed and Breakfast"). While staying there, we of course visited Historic Williamsburg, and also made day trips to many of the grand plantation houses on the languid James River, and to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's hilltop home, in Bedford County. We also enjoyed a day at Bush Gardens, rated as the most beautiful theme park in the nation.

When Scott was eight, he began taking piano lessons, and soon thereafter developed a knack for composing his own instrumental pieces. At the same age, Bill began taking piano lessons and later added the guitar.


I had by this time taken early retirement, while Cindy was offered a very good position with Computershare Investor Services, which led to us moving once more, this time to the New York metropolitan area.

We chose to live in Westfield, New Jersey, where Cindy's father had been raised. After moving into our new house, Bill attended summer classes at the local grammar school, where he learned to play chess, and the guitar. He proved to be a quick study on guitar. Soon thereafter Scott (on piano) and Bill (on guitar) began practicing together.

Friday night at the high school Scott attended, was band night, where Scott began performing, first as a solo performer on piano, and eventually with Bill accompanying him on guitar. What they needed was a drummer to make them a band. The first night Jack sat in on drums was the making of "Boulevard", as they named themselves.

They continued to perform on Friday nights at high school, while playing many Saturday afternoons at Rockin' Joe, a local coffee house. With Bill writing tunes of his own, they soon had enough songs to fill an album on CD.

However, after recording their first album, Jack departed. Scott and Bill continued making music, with an ever-changing cast of drummers, and recorded two more albums: "Musical Graffiti" and "Roof Hopping." After Scott graduated from high school, and began attending Rutgers University, Scott and Bill chose to make music separately, resulting in numerous solo albums, including Scott's "Brick City Skies", and Bill's "Water Echos Movement."

At some point, we flew out to central California for a vacation, with the goal of showing the boys some of our favorites places, such as San Francisco, and a stop at Ferlinghetti's famed City Lights Bookstore, and to Carmel, where we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast with a view of the Monterey Bay, and down along the coast to Big Sur, where we spent the better part of an afternoon hiking among the coastal redwoods.

And the girl who loved Jazz? Last summer, she took Bill and me to hear Romero Lubambo, a Brazilian jazz guitarist, perform with Trio da Paz, at Dizzy's Club in New York City.

- END -
Work of My Sons

Morning Softly - Water Echoes Movement
-Released in 2014. Bill made guitar riffs and synth tracks at home, got Lya Finston to write some lyrics and sing, and got Scott to provide some bass.

Morning Softly - Early Eerie Feeling
-Recorded in 2014. Songs written by Bill, at home. Synthesizers were added later. Some drumming done by Brendan Lenihan.

Scott Nisley - Brick City Skies
-Released in 2014. With his piano melodies and vocals, Scott entrusted the production of his album to several studio musicians.

The 45's - Roof-Hopping
-Recorded in 2010. A collaborative effort between Scott and Bill Nisley, Adam Sherman, and Zach Belka.

Oh, Yeah...

Richard Nisley's Brothers in Cars
Thanksgiving Day, 1967. From L to R: my brothers David, Charles, and Rob. Photo by John Nisley.
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