HighwayGas

The 19th amendment, James Lee Burke, John Quincy Adams, and NYT’s typos: newsletter, August 21, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, August 21, 2020.   Through muted celebrations, we noted the centennial of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution this week. This amendment guaranteed the right of women to vote, and it represented the largest and most significant change […]

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Should ex-presidents continue in public service?

Should a person who has been president of the United States continue in government service after leaving the White House? Throughout American history, the answer has been “No.” An ex-president has no place in any branch of government. Outside public service? Maybe, just as what Jimmy Carter has been doing in the 40 years since […]

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Being tall at Guadalcanal, a notorious pirate, rural noir, and the serial killer: newsletter, August 14, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, August 14, 2020.   One of the things on my mind this week is the concept of respect. The thinking on that was kicked off by an NYT column by Bret Stephens on the 18th-century politician and philosopher Edmund Burke (Why Edmund Burke […]

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Girl on a park bench

The movie and book that define noir, online teaching and learning, the hard-boiled detective, and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, August 7, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, August 7, 2020.   Churches can’t meet, businesses can’t operate properly, schools and libraries can’t open — none of this can happen without major concerns about the safety of the people involved. This is a deeply frustrating time for all of us. […]

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The Guitar Player

The practicality of the first Black bookstore owner, the role of ex-presidents, and more about libraries and erasing history: newsletter, July 31, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,550) on Friday, July 31, 2020.   As with much of the rest of the world, Americans continue to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. Should we send children to school? Can professional sports maintain a schedule? Is it safe to go to a restaurant or […]

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Georges Simenon

Baseball finally, the massive output of Georges Simenon, and the need for some creative thinking: newsletter, July 24, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, July 24, 2020.   A memory rattled through my brain this week of a newspaper column I read many years ago. It was in the 1960s, and the column was by Russell Baker in the New York Times (I’m pretty sure), and […]

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Arc de Tromple

Changing American attitudes toward slavery, police reporting reconsidered, and reader reactions: newsletter, July 17, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, July 17, 2020.   The world gets crazier and the pandemic, in America, gets worse. My heart is with those who have to make difficult decisions, from sending their kids to school to ordering businesses to shut down. I pray for their […]

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Calton Hill, Edinburgh

The real Mary Westmacott, capitalizing Black when referring to race, Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable meeting: newsletter, July 10, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,557) on Friday, July 10, 2020. “The Best Year Ever” is probably not a description that you are willing to apply to 2020 just yet, but that thought occurred to me this week as I was gathering in the bounty from our garden. We are […]

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Hugh Walpole, reactions to masks and COVID-19, First Amendment violations, and an international watercolor conspiracy: newsletter, July 3, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, July 3, 2020.   An international cabal of industrialists and watercolorists has met in secret (not sure when, probably at night; not sure where, probably Switzerland) and decided that July will be International Watercolor Month. I will continue my investigations and report my […]

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Boyd's barbershop

An admiral floats while multiple writers write the same story, the scientific method, and more reasons to stay home and read a good book: newsletter, June 26, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,573) on Friday, June 26, 2020.   A few weeks ago in the newsletter, I mentioned blackberry winter. Well, it is now officially blackberry summer here in East Tennessee. I have declared it so this week. The wild blackberries are  bright red, and a few are […]

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A few of Motown’s one-hit wonders

When I asked for suggestions about where (if anywhere) to take the Motown series, my friend Steve W. had a good suggestion: what about the one-hit wonders — the songs that were hits but we never heard from the artist again. Grab your favorite search engine and ask for Motown’s one-hit wonders, and you will […]

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Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable – an introduction

We have recently expanded the Blount County Public Library’s Vietnam Voices project by creating the Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable, a monthly online conference for those interested in learning more about America’s involvement in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. We had our first meeting on Monday, June 8, and the featured speaker was Billy Minser, […]

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AnOldFriend

Cornelius Ryan and the origins of the New Journalism, a new branch of Vietnam Voices, and some of Motown’s one-hit wonders: newsletter, June 19, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, June 19, 2020. We started something a couple of weeks ago called the Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable. It’s explained more fully below. I wanted to take this space this week to urge you to join the roundtable. You don’t have to be from Tennessee, and […]

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Capturingaswarm

Capturing a swarm of bees: follow-up

Last week after writing a bit about capturing a swarm of bees, my old friend Hal M. wrote: Jim, very interesting, but how do you “put” them in a box. And don’t say “very carefully.” So, I decided I should say a bit more about swarms. Actually, “very carefully” would not be a good answer in any […]

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Olof Palme’s murder put to rest, maybe

It wasn’t the crime of the century — that was the Kennedy assassination — but the 1986 murder of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme ranks as one of the great unsolved murders of the 1900s. Now it has been officially put to rest, at least for the time being. Palme was shot on a cold evening in […]

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WilliamMcIlvanney

The name we should know besides Stradivarius, the fascination of the garden, “tartan noir,” and more: newsletter, June 12, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,569) on Friday, June 12, 2020.   We are well into the garden season, and tomatoes are appearing on the vines and blooms on the bean plants. Potatoes, sometimes, produce a single, beautiful blossom late in the life of the plant. I say “sometimes” because […]

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The coming crisis for libraries

What will libraries be when we are rebuilding our society and social structures after the pandemic? “Essential” is one of the words that Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, uses. Marx, in a recent New York Times article, writes: . . . it clear to us that libraries must invest — or […]

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FourTops

The Four Tops: polished performances and fierce loyalty

After years of pursuing them, Berry Gordy in 1965 had finally signed the Four Tops. The Detroit group had been together for a decade, had recorded singles and albums, and had developed a stage presence that was slick, professional, and appealing. But Gordy knew that they could be much better — and more lucrative — […]

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DanielDafoe

Daniel Defoe tells us about an earlier pandemic

Since the pandemic happened upon us in March, many references have been made to Daniel Defoe’s “non-fiction novel,” A Journal of the Plague Year. Rightly so. The book was published in 1722 and concerns the plague that hit London in 1665, when Defoe himself was only about six years old. The book does not recount […]

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Defoe’s chronicle of an earlier plague, the Four Tops, and the coming crisis for libraries: newsletter, June 5, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, June 5, 2020.   One of the great thrills for a beekeeper is to capture a swarm. A swarm occurs when a hive develops a new queen, and the old queen leaves and takes part of the hive (maybe 25 to 50 […]

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