This newsletter was sent to those on Jim’s email list (4,189) on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.
Last week’s entry about America’s first published poet, Anne Bradstreet, brought this from one of our newsletter readers, Robin K., who has done a good bit of genealogical research on her family:
I thought that name looked familiar – I’m into genealogy. Anne Bradstreet was my 10th great-grandmother on my mother’s side. And technically, there WERE no “Americans” before 1776 – at least that’s what the others I know who also work on genalogy say. Just my small “claim” to fame!
OK, folks. Are the genealogists right? Were there no Americans before 1776?
Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.
Jean Ritchie, First Lady of American folk music
But the revival and expansion of knowledge about the dulcimer is only the beginning of the contributions this remarkable women made to American music and culture. For more than 60 years, Ritchie gave us her knowledge, understanding, and research of the music that came from Appalachia where she was born. Her beautiful singing voice and pitch-perfect demeanor on and off stage inspired thousands to fall in love with folk music and follow it back to its Scottish and Irish roots.
Ritchie left Kentucky in 1946 to work in a Lower East Side settlement house in New York City. She took along her dulcimer, a musical instrument that most people there had never seen, and a vast quantity of music that she had learned during her childhood. The instrument and the music struck a chord, literally and figuratively, with her New York audiences, and the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960 began in earnest.
Ritchie died in 2015 at the age of 92. Next Friday (Dec. 8) would have been her 95th birthday.
Read more about this extraordinary woman — and listen to some of her music — here on JPROF.com.
True crime podcasts (continued): True Crime All the Time
True Crime All the Time is a podcast hosted by Mike Ferguson and Mike Gibson, or “Gibby.” Mostly, it’s these two guys talking, but they present some fascinating cases, and they are well informed (though not experts of any sort). Both have engaging personalities, and a big part of the fun is just hearing them play off of each other. This podcast has a large and loyal following. Try episode 45, the case of Adolpho Constanzo and Sara Aldrete. It’s typical of Mike and Gibby’s approach. (Be careful; some of this episode is graphic and hard to take.)
Here’s what else we’ve recommended so far:
Real Crime Profile was last week’s true crime podcast recommendation. The three hosts and heir discussions of criminal cases are riveting and insightful. The link provided above is to a list of some of the recent podcasts. Start anywhere. You will be fascinated. (Real Crime Profile on Facebook.)
Dirty John: Christopher Goffard, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, has written and narrates a series called Dirty John. It’s the story of Debra Newell and John Meehan and is a true crime podcast of the highest order. It will take you a while to get through it, but once you start, you’ll likely be hooked. The reporting is thorough, the interviews are fascinating, and the story is full of twists, turns, and surprises. The ending is well worth the journey. Here’s a link to part 1, “The Real Thing.”
Sword and Scale. This website and podcast, according to its own description, is about “the dark underworld of crime and the criminal justice system’s response to it.” The folks associated with Sword and Scale have spent a lot of time producing interesting and informative podcasts about serious crimes. One episode I listened to was episode 90. It was an hour well spent.
Do you have any true crime podcast recommendations to share with fellow readers
Misspelling can be expensive (continued); or Other Crimes Against English
Reader Robin K. (see above) writes:
I wanted to comment about from this week’s epistle – spelling. People rely completely in the automated spell check and don’t proofread. A word could be spelled correctly, but it’s the WRONG word – there, they’re and their for example. That’s one of my pet peeves.
What’s your pet peeve about English, its use or misuse?
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery/
More from The Devil’s Dictionary
More entries from The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, these from the letter E:
EDUCATION, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
EGOTIST, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.
ELEGY, n. A composition in verse, in which, without employing any of the methods of humor, the writer aims to produce in the reader’s mind the dampest kind of dejection. The most famous English example begins somewhat like this:
The cur foretells the knell of parting day;
The loafing herd winds slowly o’re the lea;
The wise man homeward plods; I only stay
To fiddle-faddle in a minor key.
(Note: This is, of course, a take-off on Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. The real poem is included here below the signature of this email. Thanks to the Poetry Foundation, poetry.org.)
EVANGELIST, n. A bearer of good tidings, particularly (in a religious sense) such as assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of our neighbors.
You can get a free copy of The Devil’s Dictionary in a variety of formats through Project Gutenberg.
Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
My copy of the biography of Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson arrived this week. (I purchased it from Amazon. The hardback book was less expensive than the Kindle version. Go figure.) I am going to give this well-reviewed book a very slow read, so it will probably carry me through the New Year. Just a few pages into the book, Isaacson makes a major point about Leonardo’s personality: He was insatiably curious. He wanted to know everything about everything.
I’ll keep you posted.
Finally . . .
This week’s watercolor: Jean Ritchie
Ritchie’s contributions to American music were enormous. This watercolor is part of my tribute to her. Read more about her on JPROF.com.
Best quote of the week:
Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except the best. -Henry van Dyke, poet (10 Nov 1852-1933)
Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.Keep reading and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
5-star review: I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this book. Wow. This is the first book I’ve read by this author. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it but I thought I would read a few pages and then bam! I was hooked! Excellent writing. Excellent story. I could not figure out whodunit and that’s the best kind of mystery. I can’t wait until the next book comes out!
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
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Tags: Ambrose Bierce, Anne Bradstreet, crimes against English, Dirty John, dulcimer, Elegy Written in a County Churchyard, folk music, folk songs, genealogy, Henry Van Dyke, Jean Ritchie, Kill the Quarterbak, Leonardo da Vinci, Mike Ferguson, Mike Gibson, misspelling, podcast, Point Spread, real crime podcasts, Real Crime Profile, Sword and Scale, The Devil's Dictionary, The Prolific Reader, Thomas Gray, True Crime All the Time, Walter Isaacson, watercolor