broodcell

The state of the bees: nearly eight weeks in the hive

My beekeeping partner John and I opened our four beehives on Sunday afternoon for the first time since the bees had been installed on April 2. Bloom-wise, it has so far been a good spring for the bees. First there was the crimson clover that was blooming in abundance when the bees first joined us. […]

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WilliamStyron

A novel writer’s obligation to the facts?

In March we shared a post about the writer William Styron and the controversy he stirred in the 1960s with his novel The Confessions of Nat Turner. The post referred to an article by Styron’s daughter Alexandra and discussed her father’s intentions in writing the book and the difficulties he had in defending himself against […]

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Attorney-author Michael Kahn argues for his favorite legal thrillers

Trial attorney and author Michael Kahn used to respond to his wife Margi the same way every time she asked about the book he was reading. I could write a better one, he would say. Finally, she had had enough. “Then write one,” she finally said, “or please shut up.” So he shut up-no easy task for […]

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StevieWonder 2

Stevie Wonder: the most talented Motowner of them all

Of all of the super-talented, hardworking musicians who walked through the doors of Motown’s headquarters in the 1960s, an argument could be made that the most talented — and the one who took his music far beyond most others — was Stevie Wonder. His real name is Stevland Hardaway Morris (né Judkins), and he was born in 1950 in […]

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MargueriteHiggins

Marguerite Higgins and “no place for a woman”

When Communist forces crossed the border into South Korea in 1950, Marguerite Higgins got on a plane in Tokyo, where she was head of the New York Herald Tribune bureau, along with three other reporters, all of them male. One of them told her not to go. At the last moment, G– tried to dissuade me from going along, […]

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HouseinBrooklyn

Marguerite Higgins finds a place for a woman in a combat zone, Stevie Wonder, and what Lincoln looked like: newsletter, May 22, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, May 22, 2020. This summer is likely to turn into my Wolf Hall summer. I have waited too long to dive into Hilary Mantel’s widely-acclaimed trilogy of historical fiction about the life of Thomas Cromwell. Mantel published the third volume of the trilogy (The […]

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Damon Runyon: from baseball to Broadway

The Guardian has an interesting series in which their writers fill in the blank to  “I wish more people would read . . . ” Sam Leith’s blank-filler is Damon Runyan, and he could not have made a better choice. Runyan was a New York City newspaperman in the first decades of the 20th century […]

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SmokeyRobinson

Smokey Robinson, Motown’s founding brother

Berry Gordy is undoubtedly Motown’s founding father, but Gordy would not have achieved his spectacular success without Motown’s founding brother, Smokey Robinson. To those of us who were fans of Motown, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles was simply part of the astonishing lineup of artists that Motown produced during the 1960s and 1970s. Behind the […]

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GeneralStore

Presidential candidates who stayed put and the one who didn’t, Smokey Robinson, and the no-tears absence of baseball: newsletter, May 15, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,579) on Friday, May 15, 2020.     One of the bright spots we had going for us this spring — among so many spots that were not quite so bright — is the garden, which with plenty of rain and somewhat cooler temperatures had […]

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WilliamJenningsBryan

A stay-at-home presidential campaign is nothing new to American politics

Joe Biden is stuck in his basement. Donald Trump is stuck in the White House or in Mar-A-Largo. Neither of the presidential nominees-to-be is out “on the hustings” or “pressing the flesh,” as would be happening in normal quadrennial years. No big rallies, no $1,000-a-plate fundraising dinners, not even conference rooms with staffers to plan […]

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ClareHollingsworth

Clare Hollingsworth: A newbie reporter gets the scoop of the century

During the last week in August 1939, Clare Hollingsworth had been a fulltime newspaper reporter for less than a week. She had been hired by the London Daily Telegraph to cover Poland, and she was based in the western Polish town of Katowice. She asked the British consul there if she could borrow his chauffeured […]

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TheTemptations

Temptations: soulful voices, close harmonies, and choreography that made you want to dance

No group that Motown produced exemplified the Motown sound better than the Temptations. Throughout the decade of the 1960s, the Temptations dominated the charts with their deep, soulful rhythms, the near-perfect blend of their harmonies, and most of all their mesmerizing choreography. Those guys could dance, and if you saw them either live or on television, […]

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TheTemptations

Clare Hollingsworth’s ‘scoop’ of the century, William Styron’s ‘mistakes,’ the Temptations, and reader reaction: newsletter, May 8, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, May 8, 2020.   {% endif %}One of the most enjoyable things about woodworking — besides completing a project itself — is something I had never really articulated before this week. I was watching one of Steve Ramsey‘s YouTube videos, and he managed […]

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MarthaandtheVandellas

Martha and the Vandellas: Heat Waves, Quicksand, and but always Dancing in the Street

At the very beginnings, there was no heat wave or dancing in the streets. There was no Martha, and they called themselves something other than the Vandellas. In 1957 Rosalind Ashford, Gloria Williams, and Annette Beard — plus a couple of others — were simply teenagers in Detroit, singing in different clubs in the area. They called […]

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MarthaandtheVandellas

Martha and the Vandellas go dancing in the streets, Wordsworth’s 250th, checking on your local bookstore, and time in the workshop: newsletter, May 1, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,587) on Friday, May 1, 2020.       Whatever your circumstances are during this pandemic and isolation period, chances are there are folks who are a lot worse off than you are. Finding ways to help those folks, rather than simply amusing ourselves, should […]

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BerryGordy

Berry Gordy began Motown with an $800 loan from his family

Not quite 30 years old in 1959, Berry Gordy needed money. Gordy was from a solid, hard-working African-American family in Detroit —  a family that emphasized discipline and education — but Berry, the seventh of eight children, had not accomplished much in his first three decades. He had been in the Army, which he didn’t […]

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BerryGordy

The queen of pandemic literature, Motown’s founding father, Shakespeare online, and reader reaction: newsletter, April 24, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,587) on Friday, April 24, 2020.     Before the pandemic hit, I had been planning a small display for our library on Motown in order to let patrons know about all of the Motown books that we have on the shelves. That idea, obviously, has been […]

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The Marvelettes

Please, Mr. Postman

The Marvels needed an original song. It was 1961, and the group of five girls — Georgia Dobbins, Gladys Horton, Georgeanna Tillman, Wyanetta (“Juanita”) Cowart, and Katherine Anderson – from Inkster High School near Detroit had gotten an audition with the fledgling Motown Records. Dobbins knew a blues songwriter named William Garrett who had a half-finished tune […]

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JSBach1

Johann Sebastian Bach: a spectacular failure and an ultimate success

It was the greatest letter of application for a job in the history of letters. It was also a spectacular failure. The applicant didn’t get the job. The year was 1721 and the 36-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach, whose wife had died the year before leaving him with small children to raise, was looking for a […]

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Merriam-Webster catches up with the virus

Words are added to the language every day. Sometimes they stick to the language. More often they don’t. That’s why dictionary makers are slow to add words to their corral. They like to make sure they’ve stuck and are in use. With the current pandemic, the folks at Merrian-Webster decided that they couldn’t play the […]

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