MaryBeard

Personality and intellect have vaulted Mary Beard to near cult status

When Mary Beard first went on television in Great Britain after her book on Pompeii was published, she did not look like a woman you might see narrating a documentary. She was more than 50 years old, the wrinkles in her face were not camouflaged by makeup, and her prominent front teeth were not straight. […]

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Every Latin word ever, defined (almost): Thesaurus Linguae Latinae

It’s a dictionary that has been 125 years in the making, and it still isn’t complete. The Thesaurus linguae Latinae began in 1894 as a joint effort to compile a definitive dictionary of Latin words. It covers every Latin text from the earliest times to 600 AD, and it seeks to record not just general […]

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Children’s book author and former mayor indicted on fraud charges 

At first glance, it’s hard to imagine getting into legal hot water for writing and publishing a children’s book promoting healthy habits for children. But that’s what happened to Catherine Pugh, who resigned as mayor of Baltimore in May. Pugh had written a series of Healthy Holly books and had sold them to the Baltimore […]

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America’s Fourth Man: the spies at Los Alamos

For many years, we have known that there were three spies at Los Alamos who passed atomic bomb secrets to the Soviets as the bomb was being developed during World War II. They were Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass (the brother of Ethel Rosenburg), and Theodore Hall. Now there is a fourth: Oscar Seborer. His identity […]

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Word of the Year 2019: for Merriam-Webster it’s ‘they’

The Oxford English Dictionary folks have had their say. Now, it’s the turn for the Merriam-Webster crew to weigh in. The Merriam-Webster Word of the Year for 2019 is they. It reflects a surprising fact: even a basic term—a personal pronoun—can rise to the top of our data. Although our lookups are often driven by […]

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Advice to Robert Caro: Turn every page

When Robert Caro began his reporting career for Newsday in New York, an editor gave him a key piece of advice. Caro was working on his first big investigative story and going through lots of files. The editor’s advice: “Turn every page.” Caro took that advice to heart, and now he is one of the […]

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BlueFlute

Advice to Robert Caro, America’s fourth man at Los Alamos, M-W’s word of the year, and more: newsletter, December 13, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,661) on Friday, December 13, 2019.   This newsletter, I say with some pride, is read by folks in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, and other places of which I may not be aware. As the year ends, I thank […]

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Parkour

Mary Beard, every Latin word, and the author accused of fraud: newsletter, December 6, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,661) on Friday, December 6, 2019. The week after Thanksgiving is a time filled with shopping both in stores and online. Many retail establishments depend on this time to make up for loses incurred by staying open during the rest of the year. In addition, […]

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Phifer2001-1

A look back at the year of book production and the decade of true-crime books, and the deaths of famous females: newsletter, Nov. 29, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,661) on Friday, November 29, 2019.     The gardens are, for the most part, sub-soiled and will be tilled in the next few days before the truly cold weather sets in. The bees are still alive in their three hives, although I do not […]

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EdmundMorris-caricature

Edmund Morris and a subject not worthy of the time and effort

A journalist or historian needs something to write about — a subject worthy of the time and effort it takes to gather the information and put it into a suitable form. Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Sometimes, of course, stories just don’t pan out. If you’re working in daily journalism, a story like that is […]

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Podcast: From the NYPD: Break in the Case 

If you are a fan of true-crime police procedurals and looking for a good podcast along those lines, there probably isn’t a better source than the New York Police Department. The NYPD has just begun a new podcast called “Break in the Case” that will follow some complex cases through multiple episodes to their conclusion. […]

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Lyndon Johnson

Gulf of Tonkin – the debate continues

My current involvement in our Vietnam Voices project (see last week’s newsletter) has provoked discussions among some of my good friends about the incident cited most often as the spark for the American escalation of forces in that country in 1964 and 1965 — the attack on U.S. naval vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin. […]

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Podcast: Countdown to Capture – Peter Chadwick: Murderer and Fugitive

Countdown to Capture – Peter Chadwick: Murderer and Fugitive is another of the police-produced podcasts (I recommended one, Break in the Case, from the New York Police Department last week) that examine and a crime and the subsequent investigation purely from the police point of view. But this one is different. It was produced by a […]

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Mathematician Hilda Gieringer’s remarkable journey

If you are not a mathematician, you are unlikely to know about plastic deformation, the Gieringer equations, or slip-line theory. And you have probably never heard of Hilda Gieringer. But if you have ever crossed a bridge, you owe Hilda Gieringer a word of thanks. . . . slip-line theory plays a central role in […]

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The necessary element for espionage thrillers

We all know what the essential element of a murder mystery is. It’s the murder. The essential element of an espionage thriller is more elusive, but I have a candidate in mind. It’s betrayal. And thereby lies the tale. What drives a person to betray friends, family, colleagues, and/or country? How deeply will the element […]

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Mr.Lindoln in sepia

The significance of Nov. 22, the politics of pronouns, and the impact of World War I: newsletter, Nov. 22, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,663) on Friday, November 22, 2019.   Thanksgiving is upon us, and it is, for many reasons, my favorite holiday. Good food and a bit of idleness, along with some crisp fall weather, are on my agenda. Whatever is on yours, I hope that it […]

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World War I and the great changes it wrought

I am a great advocate of the Great War, more often called World War I. It’s not that I think that it should have happened, of course, but I think the all-inclusiveness and horror of World War II often overshadow it, and its influence on our politics and our society is frequently forgotten. People who […]

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The politics of “thee” and “thou”

How can pronouns be controversial? They are, after all, just these little words that substitute for nouns. But in our creative age, we have made even the pronoun political so that today, which pronoun you use, under what circumstances, and to whom or what it refers gives us a clue about your place on somebody’s […]

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Pliny the Younger

Latin: Not dead, useless, or useful. It’s something else entirely.

Critics say Latin is a dead language. No one writes it. No one speaks it. To study it is useless. Its utility has long since passed. Nay, say the supporters of Latin. It does have utility. It sharpens the mind and the intellect. It tells us where we get many of our most important words […]

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Crime fiction podcast: Hunted from Dick Wolf

If you like your crime podcasts fictional rather than true, check out Hunted, starring Parker Posey and produced by Dick Wolf, creator of Law and Order and its progeny. Here’s the description. HUNTED From Legendary producer Dick Wolf comes a new fiction podcast starring Parker Posey about the U.S. Marshals dedicated to capturing the country’s […]

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