Friday, December 4, 2009


Last night I saw a pre-release screening of "Brothers," a film directed by Jim Sheridan ("My Left Foot," "In America," "In the Name of the Father") and featuring Toby McGuire, Jake Gyllenhall, Natalie Portman, Sam Shepard, and others. It'll be widely released very soon. DO NOT MISS THIS FILM. It is the most powerful film about war, the military, and the people affected that I have ever seen. Fine films like "The Deer Hunter" and "Coming Home" pale in comparison, and it is vastly different from the usual action films like "Full Metal Jacket," Apocalypse Now," and those of the Rambo genre. "Brothers" is very tough to watch, and it never, ever lets up. Sheridan never goes Hollywood, so in the end, he does not take the cheap way out. Don't miss it, but be ready for a very rough ride. A truly remarkable film. kk

I'll definitely see it. Great review.

I've had a little of a hard time seeing the war movies. There's something about watching a war movie while the war is still going on that is almost sacriligious for lack of a better term. I personally think it has to do with the detachment of most of our society from the military. As a society we have bought into the concept of somebody else's children fighting our wars. I keep waiting for the voluntary army to fail--it has other than in numbers as it is a far cry from bring representative of who we are. However, kids keep joining and the powers that be keep proclaiming how successful we are.
I saw In the Valley of Elah which is the best I've seen. For years I could not watch war movies. I went with a friend to see Platoon and almost broke out in hives. To me, Hamburger Hill, is the most authenic Vietnam one to my experience. jda

You make an interesting point. A war film will affect us in the context in which the conflict it portrays rages, certainly when that conflict is being burned contemporaneously into our individual and common experiences. So, "Sands of Iwo Jima" (WWII) will necessarily affect us differently from "Hamburger Hill" (Viet Nam) which will affect us differently from "Brothers" (Afghanistan). But while comparisons may be awkward and difficult, even specious, if I use my emotional response as my guide, I found "Brothers" to be the most affecting for me. Ripped me apart. I'll be very interested to hear your comments after you've seen it. Don't go alone. KJH

Friday, November 27, 2009

Feedback on Brothers:

Michael ordered 5 books from Amazon as soon as he heard it was out. They delayed his delivery until 1st week in December.

I would love to see my Dad honored. He is very humble about things like that so we might have to talk him into it. I agree and think there is so much more to his war times. He has talked about it very little over the years. He is a little better about it now, but only talks about some of the better times if there were any.

I just want you to know that I think the book was awesome. As many stories we have heard over the years, there were plenty in this book that we had not heard. As our family is constantly discussing this book, we all agree that it gives us some great insite to our Dad's upbringing and his family.

I was crying as I read different parts of the book and within minutes laughing so hard I was crying.

I am letting one of my friends read it. I want to see if an outsider of the family will get the meaning as much as we did.

Donna, I doubt that most will get it in quite the same way as family but hope they do. I think the remarkable thing about your Dad and at least, Raz and Corb, somewhat Wallace but mainly your Aunt Margaret is being poor and not really knowing it. And, knowing how they were all surrounded by Uncles in particular who were huge bootleggers and drank and ran around and yet your Grandpa never got caught up in it. And, as you, better than most know, your grandma had a subtle strength about her that was often underestimated.

Thanks for the comments. We want to put together a book party for your Dad. He is a central part of the book and a pretty remarkable brother. In doing research, in what little we could find out, I think he was probably much more than we really know: I've always thought that maybe he was nominated for the Medal of Honor because it was incredibly rare for a lower ranking enlisted man to be given the Silver Star unless it was an interim award. And, of course, paper work is lost, disappears, etc. But, a book party would be a good way to honor him and your Mom too, of course.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Just read the book last night as a matter of fact and LOVED it. I don’t have the time to read like I did once (wonder why! Ha!) but I stayed up last night after Sanibel went to bed and read it….all of it.

I just loved reading about your Dad. I feel like I know him now. Had to laugh over Aunt Gertie’s biscuits (we called them cat head biscuits, because of their size), because I, too, ate many many many of those. Did I ever tell you that Aunt Gertie made a SPECIAL Sunday dinner every Sunday just for me? I didn’t care for the fried chicken as much as I liked HER baked BBQ chicken and once she knew that she began making THAT for me. I loved those meals – good times. And, of course, I’ve told people over the years when they don’t know a thing about lard that I saw it in action. And, I can still to this day picture Granny making those biscuits. I was probably eagerly awaiting them to be baked and I would stand next to her in the kitchen and watch her hands form those biscuits and pop them onto the baking sheet. She would just fly through the process like she’d done it a million times and no doubt she HAD. Those were the tastiest biscuits.

It is what it is. I couldn’t believe it when I read that, because that’s a staple phrase at the bank. We all use it. Can’t change the situation and IT IS WHAT IT IS. Maybe Granddaddy coined it!

All of the stories were enjoyed immensely. I’ve already told 2 friends about it and they’ll be reading the book next. I cried over Margaret. (Feel like I know her now, too.) I cried over Rob. I didn’t know about Corbett’s love story – and how sad. (What happened to Bella? Does anyone know??) And, honestly, it made me cry over what I lost – the family I had, yet didn’t have. I’ve missed out and would have really loved being a full part of the Autry family.

White Line sounds like another sad place. I’d never heard of that. And, poor Betsy. What a life. Sounds like she overcame it. Zack must’ve been a character!!

I think I’ve heard Daddy talk about Royston and the food he’d eat. And, I got a big laugh over your Mom saving the “scraps”. LOVE THAT.

Thank you for writing this book. I’m so appreciative. It makes me want to hightail it out of FL and head ‘home’ to NC! I’ll be sending a note of thanks to Raz (R-A-I-S-E, ha ha), too! la

So happy that you read the book, identified with all these people in our family's lives. And, I must say, as I said in the front material, really the story is about four brothers and a sister. By the time I arrived, most were out of there to live their lives. And, so many of the things you've recounted are the things I also remember. I can still see that lard stand and Mom dipping into it. They were somewhat tired by the time I got up some size and so the hustle and bustle of life was not the same.

And, I must say, that I've enjoyed getting to know some of the details too. Over time you finish a book or at least I do, I always want to say, "the writing of the book is almost better than the book." For instance, I kept pretty good notes. Things that Corb., who was a great source and seemed to have a better memory than any of us--He told me things that way down the road, he doesn't remember telling me. Corb's life is the greatest mystery of all: he was so incredibly secretive and what we know now is that at one time, he was very wealthy, making so much money selling sugar to bootleggers that he literally did not know what to do with it all. The IRS moved in and instead of hiring a lawyer, etc., he just wrote a fat check and all this did was give them a license to come investigate. Eventually, they broke him down to nothing. Now, this is a story we didn't include. Well, we wouldn't have as the book was just growing up years.

The Memoir

i told her how much i was enjoying your book. i told her to tell you that in your next book you needed to include names with the pictures ! how about a picture book with all the autry siblings and their children and grands, and great-grands.......and pictures of your parents and siblings and cousins, etc.....!!!! your next project

Thanks for the suggestion but a youngster needs to tackle that project. Laura is a super writer, I nominate her.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Memoir

HOW HARD CAN THIS BE? This was the feeling of the authors when they first thought of doing a family memoir. Seven years down the road and finally, Brothers. So, what has been the difficulty? To the authors, coordinating the stories. Although they are involved with each other, almost daily through phone calls, emails, text messaging, you would think this should be a cinch. What they learned quickly was that often they had to deal with the same story but various interpretations. Talking about real places and events, yet under the best of intentions, sometimes they are not so sure they got it right. After struggling for awhile, they finally decided on the subtitle, "a somewhat true memoir." You only know what someone else told you or how they think it was. All the brothers thought this was pretty hit and miss. One said, we are describing a past event that we hope brings us to at least a semblance of the way it was.

When the brothers started out, by their own admission, they didn't have a clue what would evolve. One brother set about to state the facts. This is the way it was as he remembered it. And, it was impossible not to tag on some opinion. And, where was that in our story? Our idea was that we wanted this for our children and grandchildren. The reality is that we wanted it for ourselves. It would be fun remembering and what we knew is that we had lots of stories to tell.

When asked what would be the advice to someone who wanted to write a memoir, the brothers feel that the best thing is to "just start." The story will take over says Raz, who is 13 years older than his youngest brother. Naturally our perspective may be somewhat different but our love of family and our surroundings growing up became very real as we wrote about it. As we wrote the book, manuscripts were flying back and forth between California and North Carolina.

The authors laugh that their childhood traumas were really few if any. Jerry says, "I can’t begin to tell you how often we wrestled with the idea that we can hardly believe our lives were so good growing up. The "proud poor" is a term we've coined and surely not original with us. Poor but not knowing it. In order to make the best story, we needed some trauma and dramatic events."

What is readily apparent listening to the authors is a feeling that this has been hard but good. A kind of tribute to their parents, their upbringing, and to their community. And, such a great love of country and recognizing that their service in the military forever changed them and in a sense made Brothers possible.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How about telling me, I’ll keep it confidential if you like, what you think should be done about providing health care in our nation. If you were King, what would you do? You have both hospital experience and family member input. One of my brother’s daughters is married to a physician. I have talked with him and he wants things left alone, to go on as we are. If I could decide, I don’t know what I would do. I want some kind of universal health care, but I can see no practical way to provide it. I am not resourceful enough in my brain to devise a workable solution. CN

Very hard to make comments about health care without sounding political. I am a Democrat and so support health care reform, mainly because to say that I am a Democrat is the easiest thing to do.

The arguments are all over the map. My real believe which nobody will deal with is the selfishness of who we are. To have real health care reform, those of us who are in good shape with good plans literally might have to give up something and we don't want to do that. And, for you and me, we have been in a super public option for a long time: the VA.

And, the cost of health care reform is a bogus issue I think, as the cost over time of most anything that involves us is enormous. I, at one time, thought health care was a shoo in but am beginning to be doubtful. The private interests and out and out spin looks like it has such a hold that I just don't know. For every argument I give, there are dozens of counter arguments; some truth and many half truths. For me personally, the status quo is simply no option.

The saddest spin to me has been about the "death panels" which is an out and out lie. Here's an example why we need some counseling at some level. I had a wedding over the weekend, my last one I'm ever going to do. I've said it before but in this case, true. This was a former parishioner who has breast cancer and needed to do this for insurance although they would have done it anyway. Wonderful couple, really stand up guy. Anyway, at the reception, even amidst my shingles (hope you have had the shot--you do not want shingles), talked to lots of my former church members. Many old, some very old and was amazed at how few have made end of life decisions. For instance, one 87 year old with an invalid wife who is maybe 85, when asked by me if he had any plans in case he were to go before her. He said, "I'm hoping I outlive her." I was kind and merely nodded but wanted to tell him that "hope" was not a strategy. jda

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


***Adam is an autistic adult, normally called, Asperger syndrome , who can't find a place in the world. Space and the stars seem to be his only escape from reality. He's lost his job at an engineering company and needs some way to pay the rent. When a girl moves into an apartment in his building, he opens up his alternate universe to her; but it turns out she has troubles of her own, and needs a man who can help her through this tough times in her life--a man who can take control and knows the right thing to do.

Adam is not this man. In fact, he is the one who needs help. Beth, Adam's new neighbor, helps Adam find a job and helps him get his life together, all the while wondering if this is what she wanted.

This movie made me laugh and cry all at the same time. It made me think what would I do if I fell in love with someone who wasn't right for me? Do you think it would be hurting yourself, always having to take care of someone else even when you're the one who needs caring for? Or, does it matter at all, as long as you know you will always be with them? This movie makes you think and it touches you whereas most movies fail to. This movie makes you think about possibilities and most of all what love means to you. Amazing only begins to describe this movie, seeing it will warm your heart and make you feel good.

***The above and the review below are written by guest reviewer, Lupe Jaccobson, age 13, and author of My Grandma Has A BlackBerry.

The Time Travelers Wife

This movie is many different genres packed together. Not only is it about time traveling but its also a love story, and somewhat of an action packed movie. The main character of this movie was a time traveler, he could narrowly escape death by traveling to a different time and place before even being touched. He could also go back in time and visit people.

Time traveling as we found out comes with many set backs, such as he can't control when he goes on thesCheck Spellinge trips, and he can't control where to. Though this movie is a creation from a book, (that I didn't read) I thought it was well done. The settings, and the scenery were fantastic. Although the movie didn't come out with a good ending, it was well thought out and produced, so I urge you to go see it. Not very realistic, but if you need a break from reality, or something to think about, The Time Travelers Wife is a movie you should definitely consider.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Personality Factor

Somebody sent me this and I don't know who to credit. Sorry. I will surely credit the author if I find out. This is just too good.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009


"You are just another unemployed war hero." This might have been a line out of a modern day movie but it wasn't: it came from the classic 1950s, The Best Years of Our Lives, when America, fresh from the "big war" was trying to figure it out. A really great movie with all the issues of what it means to start over.

The same issues that soldiers face today are the same ones they faced then--the struggles of Reentry, getting back the check book, and fitting in. And then there were the hastily conceived marriages born of desperation, soldiers going off to war and not knowing what tomorrow brings.

The story is built around three reentering servicemen who meet on their way home. Unlike present day soldiering, these men have not been gone for months, rather years

The three bond and although not as likely as the movie presents then, they still hang together in the context of the story. Dana Andrews as the bombardier with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) called "shell shocked" back then. A sailor, having lost both hands, is the second emotionally scarred serviceman with the third of the trilogy being a banker who was a top sergeant in the war but now confronts the cruel banking system where promises to vets is more likely scrapped than made. One issue then is tight credit for veterans. Sound familiar.

In the end, it all gets resolved. Dana Andrews calms down and finally gets the right girl. There's some questions, never answered on how he became an Air Force Captain. But, it's the movies. Our sailor finally accepts who he is and the people who love him. And, our banker, although maybe drinking too much, does the right thing.

A wonderful movie that is as relevant today as it was then. Let's hope that the modern American society has learned the lessons of living up to the promises made to vets but I doubt it.

Monday, March 16, 2009


The President and family would do well to spend one evening watching Annie. Here could be his theme song, The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar, there'll be sun tomorrow. Just thinking about tomorrow, so you have to hang on till tomorrow. Come what may. Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love you tomorrow, you are always a day away.

If I were him, I’d do the version of Daddy Warbucks with Albert Finney and Carol Burnett. It was precious with Daddy Warbucks as a Republican tycoon and FDR’s New Deal.

Annie the orphan believes immediately and Daddy Warbucks, the selfish business tycoon follows, won over by the naive and ultimately pure Annie. The scheming potential parents of Annie represent the Wall Street tycoons and selfish money grubbing bankers. It all ends well as our crisis will even though we are not the same as before but wiser and better.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Making good movies could be the best thing we have going for us. An example is surely, The Reader. One fine movie. I had planned to see it but went also on behest of my degenerate buddies who couldn’t stop talking about the Kate Winslet sex scenes and constant moaning about where was a woman like that when we were teenagers. Silly us, the movie was only slightly and I do mean slightly about the Kate Winslet’s involvement with a young boy of 15–the sex is almost beside the point. .

The Reader is really quite a story. The movie holds you. The boy does lots of reading to Hanna, Kate’s character. It really doesn’t become clear until later down the road what the “reading” is all about, hence the movie title.

The intimacy ends. The movie moves on. In a kind of happenstance, the adult character played by Ralph Fiennes, now in law school, witnesses Hanna’s trial as a Nazi war criminal. Obviously, as a young boy, he had no idea and now faced with facts known only to him, he has a choice to make regardlng her. Basically his ethics are overwhelmed with collective German guilt over the holocaust and the fundamental question that still haunts the Germans: how much did they know? He fails to do the “right” thing. Down the road, he attempts to make up for it by again becoming her “reader” and that is basically all I can tell without possibly giving away the movie. SEE THE MOVIE.

Is it the best movie of the year? I don’t know but for me, it cements again one thing for sure that Americans are good at: making movies. A very complicated and unweildly story and yet these movie makers succeeded in tying together a very cohesive, pensive, and timely story. I would like to have seen a couple of things more fleshed out, i. e., did his emotional involvement with Hanna affect him in his relationships down the road. The implication is yes but not sure. A good movie.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Editorial Comments

Recently, I communicated with a free lance editor with these comments. My guidance is be an editor or what I would think one would be. Don't worry about money, rewrite where you think it should be (I can accept or not), do the grammar, spelling, whatever. The front material is not numbered. And, the beginning is really a teaser story to paint the picture of what readers can expect: a family where nobody is ever a stranger. Also, look for consistency and repetition.

Sue Knopf, who always puts Airborne Press stuff together, does some editing but as I've said often, most writers who may be the only ones who think they're writers, have a style and so to maintain that is also important. Most anybody can put words on paper but to communicate is another thing. I still get feedback on GTC, a memoir, Gun Totin Chaplain). And, that which is meaningful is when someone says, "Reading the book was like sitting down and talking with you. "

As we know, the book business is so convoluted that no wonder it is always under attack from non readers, meaning that reading may be a dying sport for the majority of Americans. The other day I met a book packager. He told me that he has about three contracts to write books which are assured of selling well because Barnes and Nobel has their own publishing arm and they will simply make the book do well: all their stores, prominently displayed, all the stuff they have to do. I actually have one of his books, a picture book, well done and sold according to him. 200,000 copies. It sold as he said, because of his pipeline. This is not sour grapes, merely what is. Without justifying, as an ADD type, I am very clear on what I'm doing and what I want, at least in this area. Thus ends the commentary.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Gran Torino is terrific and different than what we would think. Eastwood is somewhat Eastwood but is an old codger, cranky and grumpy to the max--so thankful that I am not that way and please Lord, help me not to get that way. The basic story is that the Hmong mainly take over Eastwood's old neighborhood. The Hmong are not a country but a people, much like the Montagnards, both were terrific allies in Vietnam. The sad thing as the movie points out: so many of the Hmong (and other immigrant groups) have been affected by good old American culture, meaning you can do what you want; in this case, most of the young men chose gangs. The girls go to college and the boys to jail (this was actually said in the movie).

Clint's wife is dead and he has next to no relationship with his two sons. A young priest is constantly hounding him as per the instructions of his dead wife. Eastwood's language, especially the non PC stuff is hilarious. And, the neighbors, a Hmong family, take to him and inadvertently he helps them and is then subject to their customs. Reluctantly, he comes to grips with what it means to live next to a culturally different group of people. He bonds with the young girl and her brother and begins a kind of journey to keep the gentle young Hmong boy out of gangs.

The title, Gran Torino, was very symbolic and represented the fact that Eastwood was an auto worker for all his adult life, minus his military stint.

Although I really enjoyed the movie as a different take, what often happens to me is that I wish they had explored other areas, i. e., why was he such a bad father. And, as was slightly referenced, as a combat vet of Korea, suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) even if he didn't name it; still, true and how much did that effect his crouchedy nature.

This movie evoked in me what I always feel when I read or see anything that relates to our sorry involvement in Vietnam. What if we had never interfered in that country? How would it have been. This is not to disparage any of us who served there. We were soldiers and did what we were told. But, think about it. These kids in this movie had to deal with their fellow countrymen who have become gang members. An American phenomena, there's an entire culture wrapped around the gang life. If these youngsters had stayed in Vietnam, not subject to American culture, would they be better off? In the movie's case, the gang members were going to end up in jail after they had wrecked havoc upon their own people.

Because I have a friend who has been very involved with the Hmong in LaCross Wisconsin, I decided to indulge my own curiosity and wrote her this email: I told her about the movie and then said, The Hmong are such an interesting people and I immediately got out the book you did for The Pump House, this non profit in LaCrosse Wisconsin. It is such a good book, Hmong Lives, From Laos To La Crosse, a wonderful history and tenacity of a people transplanted to our Shores.

My question to my friend, how are the Hmong doing in LaCrosse? Here is her answer. My impressions is that the Hmong people in La Crosse are doing pretty well. I see a lot of kids on the "high school student of the week" page in the paper, and the Hmong Community recently redid a large building (formerly a big supper club) as sort of a community center and also a place to hold gatherings like funerals and have classes. They have huge, long funerals--several days long with people coming from far away. Some of the children of the people who originally came here are grown up and starting their own families, typically much smaller than the families they were raised in. A couple of years ago, when the Thai refugee camps closed, another wave of new Hmong people came to La Crosse, but this time I think many were sponsored by relatives who already lived here--when the first group came, people from local churches sponsored them and helped them get places to live. I see Hmong names among Realtors, pastors, teachers.
Sue Knopf, book designer, Graffolio, LaCrosse, WI.

Sue's response makes me feel better and I guess that the question I always asked is simply unanswerable. See this movie.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Recently, I received a promotion from a writer. I always want to encourage but could only think, "talk about someone in for a few disappointments." But, he is an example of how us lessor lights who love to write and want to make some impact have to do: self promote, self promote, self promote. I admire persons like this in a sense, as they are willing to do it. I don't have it in me so to satisfy my need to write, I stick to blogs, etc.

I do get lots of emails from wonderful folks, especially my age (retired from a real job) or close, who love to write, who, email the Airbornepress website wanting to see if we will publish their writings. They have wonderful stories and want to be an author. My suggestion is that they have to do it for themselves; but, if they expect to get a reading from some big publisher, it is going to be lots of rejection. It is simply the nature of the beast. But, if writing is just a hobby as it is for me, maybe they might be better off getting some mechanics tools. I am always kind.

With this writer, even though naive, I don't think he needs much encouragement and has a "pair" of them. AMEN!!!!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I write to process my thoughts, to make sense out of my “conflicted” world. I do not think I have the stamina nor the gifting to write anything new. I am a high “iNtuitive” on the Myers-Briggs scale :-o (Oh no, Mr. Bill!).

I appreciated Paul Tournier’s approach on “thinking and hearing.” He said he always had a paper and pen to process his thoughts, even in his times of silence, “… through the words in my mind or through my inborn unconscious faculties, the recipient of thoughts that come from God.” (A Listening Ear).

Like I quote to my students, “I have never said anything original or profound in all my life.” (author unknown).

Everything is borrowed, only restated db

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Slumdog Millionaires is a riveting movie. But, it ain't as my buddy says, "a feel good" movie. The only "feel good" aspect is what movies can do, if they desire, "they can make anything happen they want to happen." In this case, it was "feel good" at the end where the Slumdog wins the prize. I know, I know, I have given away part of the movie. Not really as one thing is evident: the risk of the Slumdog (great acting by the way) is a philosophical thing: if he lost, he really was only where he began anyway. Meaning of course, that if we have no "real" risk, it's easier to risk.

The movie was good on many levels. The techniques of the film in flashbacks was especially effective, I thought. The flashbacks peeled away the mystery of how a kid from the slums could know answers to trivial questions. The knowledge went way beyond the scope, even of those with advantages much less a Slumdog.

I always liked the American version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire even if the stakes were considerable higher in these; the contestants (or anyone for that matter) could be tortured. The term, slumdog, is pretty telling and thought provoking in itself. The sad fact kept running through my head as I watched--there are really kids who live the life of slumdogs in horrible and squalid conditions.

My daughter asked me whether it would be OK to take her teenager to Slumdog Millionaires. Absolutely. A great teaching opportunity. This is life for kids in many countries and the "teaching" lesson is how lucky to be an American--a fate of birth. Our absolute worst is far better better than the "slumdogs" of the world. We should be so thankful.

Just as an added benefit, the movie maker slipped in a couple of digs at Americans: overweight and thinking that throwing money at a problem will solve it.

See this movie. The Little Miss Sunshine of this movie season but more sober. Three parachutes.