And Now For Something Completely Different

By Peter Galuszka

Dear Baconauts,

As you know, people like me have been described by a B.R.  commenter as those who submit “scorch and burn, mock and smear writings encased in scornful, supercilious, opinionated, and shallow rhetoric.”

I freely admit this and am damned proud of it.

But instead of dishing out the usual sarcastic bile, I have another idea today. I don’t know about you, but with me self-quaranting as much as possible, I am running out of things to read or watch. I still have for-pay work but who knows how much that might last? So, why don’t we exchange ideas of new stuff to occupy our minds with. Here’s a list of recommended movies, TV series and books:

  • On Netflix, I am a huge fan of the German TV series “Bablyon Berlin,” which imagines a very dark, brooding German capital after the Great War and before Hitler. The chief characters are Georeon Rath, a shattered war veteran and police detective who gets into the seamy side of life. His heart throb is Charlotte Ritter, an office worker and part-time prostitute. The series has everything, shady characters, mysterious train shipments from the Soviet Union, fascists, communists, early porn studios. The acting, story line and photography are excellent. It’s like a grown up version of “Cabaret.”

  • Another Netflix TV offering is also a German TV series. It’s “Charitie,” a hospital (again in Berlin) before and during World War II. Again, excellent acting, photography so on. Some of the doctors and nurses are Nazis. Some aren’t
  • Netflix and Amazon Prime offer a wide assortment of documentaries including the Ken Burns series on the Vietnam War.
  • One EBook from Barnes & Noble of interest (hard to get to public libraries) that I recommend is “Russians Among Us” by British correspondent Gordon Corera who has covered intelligence for two decades and was stationed in Moscow. Fascinating reading, it discloses how Russian spying has changed from KGB officers pretending to be diplomats and long-term sleeper agents to influence peddlers who operate in the open. One is Maria Butina who came to the U.S. as a graduate student, dated her way to influence and then was convicted of failing to register as a foreign agent. Besides people like her, there are the long-term sleepers who actually train and marry in Russia and then emigrate to the U.S. or Canada where they spend decades in the suburbs building cover stories. This is where they got the idea of the highly-acclaimed TV series, “The Americans.” This is especially relevant, given the Russian intelligence interference with this year’s elections.
  • “A Fiery Peace in the Cold War,” by Pentagon Papers journalist Neil Seehan. This biography traces the life of Bernard (Bennie) Schriever who emigrated to Texas from Germany as a boy and became an Air Force general who developed American ICBMs.
  • “A Well Ordered Thing,” by Michael D. Gordin. This is an updated version of a 2005 biography of Russian scientist Dmitrii Ivanovich Mendeleev who created the periodic table of the elements. If a bit dry, this is fascinating history. I was interested because I am a failed chemistry major.
  • “Killers of the Flower Moon,” by David Grann. This intriguing mystery book tells the story of how the Osage Native American tribe struck oil in Oklahoma years ago, became rich and then how tribe members were suddenly killed off one by one.
  • “Obama’s Deadliest Coverup,” by Donald L. Blankenship. If you want good laugh during these bleak pandemic times, try this apologia for formerly Richmond-based Massey Energy and its awful safety record by its former boss who spent a year in prison. Or try my book on same, “Thunder on the Mountain: Death at Massey and the Dirty Secrets Behind Big Coal.” I think the hardback is out of print, but paperbacks and EBooks should be available. Or watch the related documentary “Blood on the Mountain” available on Amazon for about $4. Yours truly is a consultant and talking head.

 Please let me know what you recommend in the comments section. Thanks, Peter

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19 responses to “And Now For Something Completely Different

  1. re: ” “scorch and burn, mock and smear writings encased in scornful, supercilious, opinionated, and shallow rhetoric.””

    Yep. My “recommendation” is that Jim ought to put that in the “rules” and make it part of that pyramid!


    I recommend walking. Yes. one hour a day, at whatever pace suits you. It’s good for you physically and mentally. I play with a handheld GPS, learning how to use it better. I meet others with cool dogs who are grinning ear to ear for their awesome luck of having a coronavirus get them more and longer walks!

    Got 6 yards of topsoil to spread. Anyone who knows what a cubic yard of topsoil is – knows that it takes a bit more than reading a book – which is FINE and GOOD but doing “stuff” is also good for you if your body is up to it.

    And finally, thinking longer term – about the future and how things might change or not and optimistic that we’ll get through this but we’re going to see really radical changes is how the economy “works”.

    but not optimistic about our politics, sadly.

  2. I too have discovered Babylon Berlin and am enjoying it, and I read the book about General Schriever and Systems Command with great interest years ago, because that was what my Dad did in the Air Force and he had met Schriever. Dad installed and then removed the Jupiters in Turkey, you know, the one’s Kennedy removed as part of the deal in the missile crisis.

    As a challenge to all of you who think renewable energy is the savior of the world, I suggest this from (believe it or not) Michael Moore. My GOP friends see that name and balk, but I’ve seen it once and will see it again. Some of your heads will explode.

  3. Steve H. That’s a really interesting coincidence.

  4. For me, it’s the Bible… lookin’ for loopholes.

  5. Peter, thanks for this post. It is a good idea.

    I am spending more time than usual blogging on BR. For other activities, I had resolved to read something by Dickens, primarily because it has been a long time since I read David Copperfield in school and I felt my overall education was lacking. I found an old paperback copy of Great Expectations on one of my shelves (probably bought it at a used book sale sometime in the dim past). It is fun following the adventures of Pip.

    I “discovered” Downton Abbey on the Masterpiece Theater streaming platform. I did not watch it when it first aired and am thoroughly enjoying it now.

    Now that the weather is getting better, I will be working in my yard more. I have become a native plants enthusiast and am working to turn the yard into native plants as much as possible. Lots of English ivy and periwinkle to get rid of. (The tomato plants I put out yesterday are an exception to the rule.)

    I have been looking for new series on Netflix and will check out the ones you recommend.

  6. Another good thing to consider is to get a GOOD bird book and a GOOD plant book and do a little wandering… take some binoculars and there are some really good bird and plant/tree apps for smartphones also.

    and today? – today we walk in the rain… try it!

  7. I’ve been enjoying several Netflix series. I like “Ozark,” about a money laundering family in the Ozarks threading their way through drug lords and local corrupt politicians.

    Also fantastic is a Spanish series, “Money Heist.” This series has everything you want out of a heist movie but takes the time to develop really strong characters.

    I like “Un Village Francais” found on Amazon Prime, set in a French town during the German occupation. The series explores the moral trade-offs the French made in just trying to survive and resist.

    I’m also reading Blankenship’s self-published book. Great reading for coal geeks. Blankenship could have used a good editor — I’d say 25% of the book is repetitive. He makes the same points over and over. It’s also unnecessarily hyperbolic. That said, the former Massey Energy CEO has conducted an enormous amount of research into the causes and aftermath of the Upper Big Branch disaster and makes a compelling argument that the Mine Safety and Health Administration was ultimately responsible for the blast by forcing UBB to alter its ventilation plan, thus allowing gas to build up to explosive levels, and, after the explosion, in covering up its own culpability. Sadly, there are too many journalists with too much of their reputations invested in the Blankenship-as-dark-lord-of-the-coalfields narrative to take his arguments seriously. I predict that this book will generate minimal attention.

  8. Well, gee, Jim, why weren’t YOU his editor?

  9. Four major probes concluded that faulty coal dust prevention was the ultimate cause of the huge explosion. The natural gas thing is what people associated with Massey have been putting out for years.

  10. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    I watched a Six Million Dollar Man episode last night. Good one. Steve Austin versus Big Foot.

  11. My wife highly recommends the Netflix saga:
    Up Schitt’s Creek.

    I meanwhile am doing an original Tidewater design-build Stonehenge, comprised of ancient sea water-worn plinths floated ashore on high-tides over decades here at Pine Lodge.

    Thus, removed from navigable waters, clearing those watery passages for eternity, a Pro-Bono public service, these seawater drift plinths will find new life and utility, inspiring the view out my library window where I am working though last remaining details of the unresolved proofs and theorems to Steven Hawking’s Black Hole Challenge.

    Spirits are high here at Pine lodge. Armed with the ancient standing sea plinths in full view, my work finishing Hawking’s last challenge surely now will be complete long before Ralph Blackface reopens the Old Dominion.

    See for example commentary to:

  12. Beautiful swimmers: Watermen, crabs and the Chesapeake Bay. William W Warner

    Nightfall and Other Stories. Isaac Asimov

    The Virginia Way: Democracy and Power after 2016. Jeff Thomas.

    1984 (Re-read). George Orwell.

    The Quiet Game, Turning Angel, The Devil’s Punchbowl, Natchez Burning, The Bone Tree, Mississippi Blood. Greg Iles

    Every episode of The Blacklist, Billions and Designated Survivor

    Atomic Blonde

  13. Peter mentioned Ken Burns, but if you haven’t seen it, plan to spend several very pleasant hours watching the eight episodes of “Country Music.” I am not a country music addict but always enjoyed its Appalachian folk roots; this series starts there and follows the criss-crossing of influences among the Carters and their companions, bluegrass, Hank Williams, California beach, Everly, Cash, Joplin and Taylor and rock ballads and so much more; plus a very enjoyable sampling of all that music along the way. Absolutely fascinating background on the people and institutions and music industry folks that built what we so often lump together dismissively as the Grand Ole Oprey sound. FYI: all Ken Burns, Masterpiece Theater, Victoria, Downton and so forth streams free on demand from PBS if you are a “passport level” donor (a $60+ annual donation to WETA gets you this).

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