Tag Archives: nonfiction (reads)

Charlie Schroeder: Time Traveler

What We Can Learn From Historical Reenactments

Did you ever play ‘war’ as a child (maybe a few of you played ‘doctor’ but that’s a topic for a different post)? Have you ever played Call of Duty, Brothers in Arms,  or some other similar video game and wondered about its historical accuracy and what it would be like to participate in historical battles? My experience with historical military video games is limited, but I have engaged in a wide variety of war games ranging from cap guns as a child to paintball games in my twenties. I think those experiences combined with my interest in history has drawn me to visit several historical reenactments overs the years. This same interest is what drew me to Charlie Schroeder’s book Man of War My Adventures in the World of Historical Reenactments. If you want to learn about historical reenactments and the people who participate in them you will want to read Schroeder’s book.

Schroeder began thinking about history and reenacting after a visit to Old Fort MacArthur Days outside Los Angeles. He wondered, “What if I could reenact my way through history?” The answer to that question is an informative and entertaining memoir that spans over a half dozen time periods with reenactments ranging from the Roman Empire to the Vietnam War. Schroeder’s first hand experiences provide an informative look into the motivations of many historical reenactors while also entertaining the reader with Schroeder’s growing obsession with history. He states, “When I started my journey, I didn’t think I’d become so enamored with the past….” This growing obsession with the past leads Schroeder to one of the primary motivations for reenacting historical events, “Reenacting shrinks the broad subject of history to a personal scale, away from the dates and ideas to something we can all relate to, the human experience.”

Charlie Schroeder’s Man of War My Adventures in the World of Historical Reenactments is informative and enjoyable on a couple levels. It is an entertaining memoir of one man’s experiences in the world of historical reenactments. It also provides an informative insight into why men and women participate in historical reenactments, and how we as audience members can learn a little more about the human experience through their hard work at reenactments.

-K-

Man of War My Adventures in the World of Historical Reenactment (2012) by Charlie Schroeder

When Comic Books Offered X-Ray Vision

Advertising and Historical Perspective

Do you remember a time when there were advertisements for odd, wondrous, and absolutely need to have items in comic books? If you don’t remember that time you should know that X-Ray Spexs, Kryptonite Rocks, Switchblade Combs, and numerous other novelty items were sold through advertisements placed in comic books. If you are feeling a bit nostalgic for days past or are interested in comic book history then Mail-Order Mysteries Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads! by Kirk Demarais is worth a read.

Mail-Order Mysteries is a fascinating look into the world of novelty product advertising in comic books primarily from the late 1960s through the 1970s. Kirk Demarais reviews over 150 mail order items that promise all things from “Super Powers and Special Abilities” to “Better Living Through Mail Order.” Demarais breaks the reviews of the mail order items into sections that include: what the potential purchaser would imagine the item to be, what was actually sent to the purchaser, and an often humorous customer satisfaction review. Demarais also includes copies of the original print advertisements and photographs of the actual items for comparison.

There are many informative books about the history and importance of comic books (see my entry about Grant Morrison’s Supergods), but none that I’ve read address product advertising in comic books. Demarais’ book gives the reader some insight into who, according to advertisers, was reading comic books in the 60s and 70s. These readers were interested in “Super Powers and Special Abilities” such X-Ray Spex and Charles Atlas Fitness Programs to “Oddities” such as Sea-Monkeys and Venus Fly Traps. Mail-Order Mysteries provides a historical context of a time when print advertising was an essential component of comic books, and that advertising was a reflection of the demographic that read comic books.

Mail-Order Mysteries Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads! will provide a bit of nostalgia for some readers and an interesting historical perspective for any reader interested in comic book history. Demarais’ book is worth a read whether you are looking for relive days gone by or further your study of comic books.

-K-

Mail-Order Mysteries Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads! (2011) by Kirk Demarais

Reading Comics vs Being a Reader of Comic Books

or Why You Should Read Supergods

There is a difference between reading comics and being a reader of comic books. Reading comic books is a form of escapism (this argument can be made for most all fiction). There is nothing wrong with a bit of escapism now and again but it is passive form of entertainment at best. Critical readers of comic books (or any type of literature for that matter) are analytical in their process. To be a critical reader of comic books requires that one actively analyze the text, culture, ourselves, and how all three interact. Grant Morrison’s Supergods is required reading for anybody who wants to become a critical reader of comic books.

Morrison’s Supergods is a well balanced mix of comic book history, critical analysis of comic book heroes, and personal memoir. All three elements can help develop the skills necessary to critically analyze comic books. Morrison provides a history of comics starting with the Golden Age and wraps up around about 2010. This history of comic books is a helpful resource for anybody who wants to know how comic books fit into our culture and what roles they have played in society for the past eighty-odd years. Morrison also provides the reader with some interesting analyses of comic book characters (heroes and villains alike). These analyses show the reader how comic book characters are often representations of society and/or ourselves. This is evident where Morrison states, “We can analyze them out of existence, kill them, ban them, mock them, and still they return, patiently reminding us of who we are and what we wish we could be.” Finally, Supergods is part memoir. Morrison shares with the reader his personal history with comic books and the impact they’ve had on his life as both reader and creator. This memoir gives the reader insight into the writers and artists who breathe life into the comic books and how their lives influence their work.

Reading a comic book is a great way to spend some time, but it is short sighted to think that comic books are nothing more than passive escapism. Comic books, like any other type of literature, can offer insights about society and ourselves. In order to recognize these insights it is important to become a critical reader, and Supergods is a great resource for such an endeavor.

-K-

Supergods (2011) by Grant Morrison

Valor, Sacrifice, and the American Soldier

Clinton Romesha and the Battle of Command Outpost Keating

We can easily follow, friend, and like somebody we don’t even know these days with a swipe of a finger, yet many of us don’t know much about the individuals serving our country overseas.  Regardless of politics and personal beliefs about the government it is vital to take a moment now and again to think about these men and women who serve, and to try and understand what they experience.  Clinton Romesha’s Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor is a remarkable book that provides a harrowing account of the courage and sacrifice of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor recounts the events of the fourteen hour battle between U.S. forces and Taliban insurgents at Command Outpost Keating in Afghanistan on October 3, 2009. Romesha was vital in the defense of Keating and would lead a counter attack to push back the Taliban.  Many books, essays, documentaries, and such usually approach combat with a reporter’s sense of detachment.  In a few unfortunate instances the topic is approached with sensationalistic melodrama.  Neither is the case with Romesha’s book.  The reader gets to know the soldiers of Red Platoon.  Romesha makes certain that we know these are men with families, friends, and plans for the future.  Knowing these men makes it, at times, difficult to turn the page because we are uncertain about the fates of these soldiers.  The reality of life and death in a combat zone is succinctly expressed by Romesha.  This is a difficult book to put down.  I felt compelled to read on and at times I was afraid to turn the page knowing that some of these brave men did not survive the battle of Keating.

It is important to try to develop an understanding of the experiences that the men and women of our armed forces must deal with.  Clinton Romesha’s Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor provides us with an insight into some of the experiences and a better understanding of the valor and sacrifice of our American soldiers.

-K-

Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor (2016) by Clinton Romesha

Lonely or Alone? Loneliness or Loner?

There is a difference between being lonely and being alone. This is one of those topics that frequently pop up in an introduction to psychology class. The discussion tends to focus on the potential dangers concerning feelings of loneliness and depression, but I don’t remember any discussion about being alone and/or being a loner. Some questions were left unanswered concerning what it meant to be a loner and if it is acceptable to desire to be alone. These questions, and many more, are addressed in Party of One The Loners’ Manifesto by Anneli Rufus. I’ve focused on “Lonely Places” this month, but Rufus’ book shows us that being lonely is not synonymous with being alone.

Rufus’ book, as the title suggests, sets out to provide insight and assistance in living life as a loner. The book addresses several aspects of life from childhood and community to friendship and religion and how each aspect relates to the life of a loner. Rufus also discusses how popular culture such as film, literature, and even clothes play a role in how the world views loners and how loners view themselves. These topics, along with several others, are well researched (the book is over fifteen years old so some data may be dated) and is presented in any easy to understand manifesto.

I read Rufus’ book around the first half of 2005 and it has remained on my shelf ever since. It has margin notes from at least four different pens so I have revisited the text  a few times since that first reading. Before I read Rufus’ book I didn’t have a solid understanding of what it meant to be a loner let alone how a loner could get by in a world that imposes social interaction and forced community. Although I don’t agree with all of Rufus’ assertions I’ve found it informative and helpful over the years.

If you, like me, felt those lonely vs. alone conversations in introduction to psychology were a bit lacking then I suggest Party of One A Loners’ Manifesto. Rufus’ book is essential reading for anybody who is a  loner. This month focuses on “Lonely Places” but it is important to realize that loners don’t always feel lonely.

-K-

Party of One The Loners’ Manifesto (2003) by Anneli Rufus