PaulRevere

Road warrior Paul Revere, the concept of zero, and the odd beginning of the book of world records: newsletter, August 17, 2018

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,166) on August 3, 2018 Still thinking about the American Road this week, I took a deep dive into history and found a perfect and obvious connection: Paul Revere. Of course. See below. People of a certain age will have memorized all or most of […]

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European game birds, settling arguments, and the world’s best-selling copyrighted book

Well, what do you think? Does a grouse fly faster than a golden plover? They’re both game birds, popular with hunters in Europe, and in 1950 they were the subject of this debate — or rather, argument — that Sir Hugh Beaver was having with his hunting buddies. Beaver was the managing director of Guinness Brewery. How do […]

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PaulRevere

Paul Revere, road warrior and speed king

File this under The American Road, History Division. Paul Revere, we all know, is famous for riding through the night of April 18-19, 1775, spreading the alarm “to every Middlesex village and farm,” letting everyone know that the British Army, too, was hitting the road, and things were about to turn nasty. (More on that […]

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JohnPendletonKennedy

The timely deaths of Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot; Sargent, the combat artist; a forgotten American we should remember: newsletter, Aug. 10, 2018

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,200) on August 3, 2018 A wide variety of responses to items in last week’s newsletter poured over the email transit this past week, and they have kept me busy with information, ideas, and points of view. I’ve included many in this week’s newsletter, and […]

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Zero and concept of nothingness: a gift from India

Non-mathematicians, such as myself (and maybe you), may have thought that zero was a logical extension of any numerical system, but that isn’t so. Mathematics is an all-too-human construct. And the concept of zero — that is, nothing — had to be constructed. It turns out that this construction comes from India, according to Mariellen […]

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EdgarAPoe

John Pendleton Kennedy: Edgar Allan Poe’s literary guardian angel

John Pendleton Kennedy is a man who lived in the 1830s in Baltimore, and chances are, you have never heard of him. That’s okay, but without Kennedy, who acted as a lifeline — a literary guardian angel, if you will — you might never have heard of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe lived a scant 40 […]

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1

John Singer Sargent: combat artist in World War I

In 1918, John Singer Sargent, 62, was a world-renowned artist, a man famous for his vision, technique, and talent. He could easily have turned down the request from the British government that he go to France and to produce a piece of artwork that would commemorate the alliance between Britain and America that would eventually […]

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Five Books: The best books on everything

Here’s a website for us bibliophiles who also love lists (and who doesn’t?): Five Books. Here’s what it’s about in their own words: We ask experts to recommend the five best books in their subject and explain their selection in an interview. This site has an archive of more than one thousand interviews, or five […]

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AgathaChristie

The deaths of Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple, foretold

When Agatha Christie was living in London during World War II, she wasn’t sure she was going to survive. The Blitz by the German air force had inflicted heavy damage on London’s capital city, and thousands of people had died. Christie believed she might eventually be among them. She was famous, and so were her […]

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BootsCourtMotel

The classic locked-door mystery in real life; more on Route 66; English as bully: newsletter, August 3, 2018

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,224) on August 3, 2018 The name William Tecumseh Sherman still evokes strong emotions for many Americans more than 150 years after he was instrumental in ending the Civil War and saving the Union and nearly 130 years after his death in 1891. I found […]

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WilkieCollins

The Guardian’s August reading group: ‘the very finest detective story ever written’ 

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins — tagged by no less than Dorothy L. Sayers as the “very finest detective story ever written” — is the August selection for The Guardian’s reading group. The Moonstone is the first of the great English detective novels. The Guardian’s Sam Jordison, moderator of the reading group, says: It’s 150 years […]

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TRoosevelt

The world’s biggest bully: the English language

Everybody speaks English. Or they should. That’s the attitude that many English speakers have, and sometimes they’re not shy about expressing that attitude (in English, of course). Jacob Mikanowski writes about this attitude in a long and interesting essay this week in The Guardian. He says: No language in history has been used by so many […]

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WilliamJuliaWallace

Who killed Julia Wallace? The classic locked-door mystery

When Wiliam Herbert Wallace returned to his Liverpool home from work one January night in 1931, he found his wife Julia dead on the floor of the parlor, her head caved in by a heavy object and her blood spread across the room. Deanna Cioppa, a writer and editor and fan of true-crime stories, has all […]

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BootsCourtMotel

The American Road: The Boots Motel: a Route 66 restoration

If you were a traveler along the famous Route 66 in the late 1940s and you wanted a first-class place to stay the night, you couldn’t do better than the Boots Court Motel in Carthage, Missouri. Not only would you have a room with the most modern conveniences — a “radio in every room,” they […]

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Amazon a substitute for public libraries? Not on your life

Perhaps you saw this article (which has been taken down): An economics professor wrote on Forbes this past weekend that public libraries should be replaced by Amazon. The sheer idiocy of the idea is obvious, but it gave Amanda Oliver, a librarian, an opportunity to outline succinctly some of the services that Amazon never could, or […]

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highhand

Jury trials: a thing of the past?

You’re accused of a crime. You didn’t do it. The prosecutor is aggressive; she says there’s ample evidence to convict you. You and your attorney go over the evidence. He says there are procedural errors in the way the evidence has been acquired, and all in all, he doesn’t believe the case is all that […]

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VinceVawter-1

Route 66, Buried Truths, Copyboy; the saga of two failures continues, newsletter, July 27, 2018

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,251) on July 27, 2018   The summer is fully upon us here in East Tennessee — heat, humidity, and tomatoes. We always plant far more tomato plants than we need, and we are always surprised, with a bit of mock-horror thrown in, at how […]

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Copyboy, Vince Vawter’s new novel, set to launch August 1

My good friend Vince Vawter is about to launch a new novel, Copyboy. Launch date is August 1, 2018. Vince is the author of the much-acclaimed Paperboy, a 2014 Newberry Honor winner. Paperboy is about a kid, Victor, growing up in Memphis in the 1950s. Victor must deal with a disability and confront the world […]

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2018-07-04 16.12.04_preview

Route 66: the road and the television show

Our recent trek to the West took us along the old Route 66, nicknamed the Mother Road for its role in getting people to a new life during the Depression and giving people the pleasure of a road trip in the two decades after that. All along Interstate 40 — some of which was built […]

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Buried Truths podcast: a very American story, unfortunately

If you were an African-American in the 1940s and you wanted to participate in state and local politics, rural Georgia was not a kind or forgiving place. In fact, it could be very dangerous. That’s the story told by Hank Klibanoff, a journalist and now faculty member at Emory University in Atlanta, in the Buried […]

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