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Watercolors as photography, the would-be Vermeer, Ridge Running, and Charles Darwin: newsletter, April 19, 2016

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,826) on Friday, April 19, 2019.   The scenes of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris this week shocked and appalled anyone with any sensitivity to art. To see such an architectural work of art consumed by flames provoked disbelief and despair. This great building had […]

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Watercolour World: watercolors as the pre-20th century photography

How can we know what something or some location looked like 200 or 300 years ago? If some master painter depicted someone or something and it hung in a museum, gallery, or collection, that would be one means. Usually, these works were done in oil and took much time and training to complete. Consequently, they […]

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Han van Meegeren: His Vermeers fooled everyone (part 1)

Han van Meegeren was a con artist who couldn’t complete his con — until his life depended on it. Van Meegeren (1889-1947) did not set out to be a con artist. He simply wanted to be an artist. Born in the provincial Dutch city of Deventer, he grew up with a love of art and an […]

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The would-be Vermeer, fountain pens, and the sad end of a great writer: newsletter, April 12, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,841) on Friday, April 12, 2019.   It continues to be April, and, among many other things, that means it continues to be National Poetry Month. I wrote a bit about that in last week’s newsletter, but I bring it up again because it struck a chord […]

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Andrew Carnegie, the man and his libraries

No name is more associated with public libraries than that of Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie has his name on a lot of things, to be sure — Carnegie Hall and Carnegie-Mellon University, to name a couple — but for most of the 20th century, America and a good part of the world paired the name Carnegie with […]

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Handel, National Poetry Month, Andrew Carnegie and all things library: newsletter, April 5, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,8xx) on Friday, April 5, 2019. Possibly the most fun part of a fun week was pouring the bees. Right. Pouring the bees.  Every spring, whether my beehives survive or not, I order “packages” of new bees. These packages are actually wooden boxes, about the size […]

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Michael Connelly, jury trials, NYC’s first female detective, and getting ready for National Poetry Month: newsletter, March 29, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,854) on Friday, March 29, 2019. Gardening has taken me from using a tiller attached to a tractor last week to this week using a smaller motorized tiller, a trencher, and finally a hoe. The result (so far): one row of onions is in the […]

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America’s first female police officer, Dan Jenkins, lots of emails, and a modest proposal: newsletter, March 22, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,866) on Friday, March 22, 2019.   The tractor came out of the barn and had a pretty good workout this week. We had a string of dry days that allowed me — finally! — to get into the garden with some much-needed sub-soiling and […]

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The college admissions scandal: a modest proposal

What has practically every story you’ve read or heard during the last couple of weeks about the college admissions scandal had in common? The journalists and commentators have consistently used the terms elite colleges or elite universities. They have done without any critical assessment of the terms themselves, and therein lies a problem — possibly The Problem. We […]

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Emma Lathen: a dual force in mystery literature

If you were an avid reader of mystery novels in the 1960s, you were probably aware of three female mystery writers more than any others: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Emma Lathen. Emma Lathen? While Christie and Sayers have achieved immortality in the realms of mystery fiction, Lathen has all but disappeared. Yet her […]

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Dick Francis, forensics, jury trials, and Ole Bert: newsletter, March 15, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,875) on Friday, March 15, 2019.     The news of this week of a major scandal in the collegiate admissions process has captured, and in some cases (mine) captivated, the attention of the nation, and rightly so. Having spent much of my adult life […]

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The Belfast Project’s secret tapes, Facebook’s (and our) profound mistake, and more on America’s first female detective: newsletter, March 8, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,884) on Friday, March 8, 2019.     March is not the most reliable of months weatherwise in East Tennessee — not like January or July. More often than not, the first week of March is balmy, giving us a little pre-spring, if you will. […]

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Kate Warne, the first female detective (part 2)

Kate Warne wanted to become an actress. A Canadian by birth, she found herself in the mid-1850s in Chicago and recently widowed. Then she saw an advertisement, and it changed her direction and an entire profession. The ad was from the Pinkerton Detective Agency and said agents were being hired. It said nothing about “male […]

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Kate Warne, the world’s first female detective (part 1)

If the name of Kate Warne is unknown to you, you’re not alone. Most of the world has never heard of her, that is too bad — particularly with those of us in the detective-fiction-to-true-crime crowd. Kate Warne, as far as we can tell, is the first woman ever hired as a fulltime, true-to-life detective. […]

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Who was Jack the Ripper? That’s not the important question

Who was Jack the Ripper — possibly the most famous murderer in history? Decades of evidence and speculation have surrounded that question and provided no definitive answer. But for Hallie Rubenhold, author of the recently-published The Five, that’s not the important question. The really important question is this: Who were his victims? We know their […]

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The Belfast Project tapes and the murder of Jean McConville

The Troubles is how everyone refers to it — the violence that wracked Northern Ireland for much of the latter half of the 20th century. It was a vicious and violent time that produced few heroes and no honor. All three sides in the confict — the Catholics, the Protestants, and the British Army — committed […]

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The latest plagiarism controversy: The Woman in the Window

You could argue that everything is plagiarized. Nothing is original. Mark Twain did, as Alison Flood points out that the beginning of her excellent article on plagiarism in the Guardian this week (Secondhand books: the murky world of literary plagiarism | Books | The Guardian): “As if there was much of anything in any human […]

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Lincoln’s first inaugural, the best-selling mystery writer you’ve never heard of, podcasts and more: newsletter, Feb. 22, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,914) on Friday, February 22, 2019.   Still painting, still writing, still editing, still reading — if I can do those things, then the massive amount of rain that East Tennessee has been getting fades is not as significance as it might be otherwise. It’s also […]

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Is American football dying? Not yet, but the longterm outlook is unclear

Football is still the most popular sport on American television, but the thrill of the game seems somehow diminished. Professional football has taken some serious hits during the past few years: divisive political controversies, misconduct of players, the continued and illogical denial by the NFL of links between on-field play and concussion effects, low ratings, […]

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Robert Galbraith and J.K. Rowling and the losing game of staying anonymous

When Robert Galbraith finished The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first of the C.B. Strike series, the book was sent to a publisher for consideration. It was rejected. That likely happened again — but we don’t know how many times. We do know that it was accepted by Sphere Books, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company, and […]

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