Buzzword Books - unusual, intriguing, intelligent, perceptive

Here, you'll find musings from our authors and staff. We don't promise daily updates. Just posts worth your time.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Glider pilot's soaring review

Colarado's Durago Herald has just published a very positive review by Leslie Doran on Jim Richards' memoir, The Road to Narromine - now listed on Buzzword Books. Here it is:


In a fascinating book, Durango resident Jim Richards has fashioned a narrative that is part memoir and part autobiography. Richards has been blessed with a life full of travel and adventure and along the way has had more than his share of excitement. The Road to Narromine is his story.

Richards opens the book in 1997 with a riveting, life-threatening account of an abrupt landing while soaring near Narromine, Australia. Richards captures readers’ interest with his near-death experience and then folds back and forth in time and place to share with readers his lifelong love of all things flight-related. He includes some fast land-related experiences, and about the only transportation method omitted is travel by water.

Richards’ passion for all aspects of soaring and flight leaps off the pages and is contagious. Readers will learn a lot about flying gliders, or sailplanes as they are known by professionals. In fact, Richards’ descriptions of all flying apparatus from his first sailplane flight to a ride in a T-38 jet are so detailed, especially about how each operates, that readers might feel they actually could fly each machine.

For instance, his FUST checklist that pilots run through before takeoff and landing includes flaps, undercarriage, speed and trim and explanations of each and their importance.

Richards was born in London just before the start of World War II, and some of his first memories are of the piercing sound of air-raid sirens that preceded the Nazi bombing runs on Britain.

When he was older, his father took him to a rural airfield to see the return of the “Dam Busters” who flew over Germany and blew up many dams, crippling the German war effort.

The huge planes flying overhead made another lasting impression. After the war, Richards and his parents emigrated to Canada, and at the tender age of 12, he got his first actual plane ride. The experience did nothing to excite his father, but Richards was hooked by the thrill.

Richards’ professional career started in radio as a teenager in Canada. To get to his first major job as an on-air talent, he flew again. This time, it was off to ZBM Radio in Bermuda. To feed his growing desire to fly, Richards pitched the idea of a documentary to his boss to do a series about the planes flying out of Kindley Air Force Base. He got the go-ahead from the military, and his fascination grew with each airborne experience.

Richards saw that a career in visual media was a better idea amid growing technology, and he started working as a cameraman and director of commercial advertising. This was a career choice that would take him to New York and ultimately Australia, where he finally would experience sailplanes and be hooked for life.

One of the most interesting and gripping portions of his professional experience was his use of a helicopter to get amazing shots for a commercial that took place near Ross River, Australia. The chapter “Dust II” details the origin and execution of an innovative and exciting commercial for Toyota. The unique rock formations at Ross River provided a spectacular backdrop for Richards’ vision.

At the time, technology had not developed far enough to help him get the camera shots he wanted, so Richards ended up splayed on a makeshift sling placed under the helicopter between its skids. This allowed Richards to get the smooth, close flying angles that practically put the viewer in the pilot’s seat. This was a highly dangerous and illegal action, but the resulting footage was priceless.

Richards’ book is well-written, with humor and exciting adventures played out across many continents and through a time when commercials had to be creative and painstakingly crafted without the benefit of computer modeling.

This is a great story, especially for readers interested in aircraft and flying or soaring. The mechanics Richards employed creating commercials for public consumption also is fascinating reading. The Road To Narromine is a perfect summertime read.

Leslie Doran is a Durango freelance reviewer.

Check out The Road to Narromine now. Just $3.99.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Militant Religion - Insight or Ego?

In the Esoteric section of the Buzzword site are several books dealing with, or based on, the teaching of G. I Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff pointed out that there is a tendency for everything to slowly become its own opposite. For instance the so-called religion of love of the Christians became warped and institutionalised into an Inquisition that burned innocents at the stake. The profoundly subtle teaching of the Buddha was eventually obscured by a towering edifice of arguments of increasingly ludicrous sophistry. You may draw your own conclusions about Hinduism and suttee, Islam and suicide bombers (suicide is, we believe, forbidden by the Prophet) and other aberrations caused by narrow, self-serving interpretations of the various traditional faiths. A great faith that has been distorted for gain, or to enslave followers, (consider the almost diabolical 'sin' emphasis of the Catholic Church) is troubling to ordinary people because it cloaks its deviation. To be specific, it justifies violence with morality. 

One of our readers and correspondents, Keith Petersen - a Gurdjieff student,  a former Major in the Engineering Corps and now a Corporate Lawyer sent us this letter recently. We thought it might interest you.

The genius of the Work, as brought to us by Mr Gurdjieff, is that one may be of any religion, or none. Excluding, of course, those purportedly religious paths, such as militant Islam, that are premised on exclusivity, intolerance, and violence toward non-believers. Such paths are, of course, not religion, but merely forms of organised crime, and to call them 'religious' is to do violence to the term itself.

At the same time, the Work requires that one should be respectful of genuine belief, and not to be a militant atheist. The latter because first, atheism, being unprovable, is a kind of superstition on a par with primitive forms of religious belief, secondly, because, with its alleged foundation as a response to 'the problem of evil' , atheism represents a form of childish petulance in the face of mechanical forces, and finally, because, to judge by the behaviour observed in its adherents, it effectively elevates ego to god-like status.

Ordinary people, and those who pass for 'thinkers' are only now coming to the conclusion, obvious to any person possessing 'being-Reason',  that the essential world-conflict is not between religions, but between those people and groups with a religious attitude, in the true sense, and those whose life and outlook is based on ego, which, at its extreme justifies any action, however criminal.

I say 'conflict', but it is not a conflict to be resolved by force, but rather by persuasion, chiefly persuasion by example. In that regard, the media loves to report terrorism and crime, but the media is not interested in the no less real number of ex-terrorists, ex-criminals, who have 'repented', and who now seek to atone, and to deter others from following their former path. Such people exist.

'Religion' is thus less a matter of cosmological belief than an attitude which is characterised by humility, openness, and an ability to put oneself in the shoes of another, and, as has been said so often, to treat another as one would wish to be treated, and not as one would not wish to be treated. Compared to that, as Rabbi Hillel said, regarding the Torah, 'The rest is commentary.' That is the 'religion' which is the foundation of the paths.

Whether from the aspect of behaviour or belief, it is important to remember Mr Gurdjieff's observation, quoted in Views, that:

'At a certain level, there are no religions, there is only religion.'


From the various paths to the summit, the views are different. From the summit itself, the view is everywhere the same.