Newsman Bob Considine, the semicolon, the demise of Mad, and another Longfellow poem:newsletter, Aug. 9, 2019

August 12, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,707) on Friday, August 9, 2019.


Thanks much to those who signed up for a free subscription to American Watercolor magazine on my behalf. I reached the appropriate number and have been offered the possibility of an “ambassadorship,” which means my stuff will be considered for posting on their site. I have submitted some of my paintings and am waiting to hear. Will let you know.

A busy week, but a good one. New projects, old chores. This week I am thankful for tractors.

I hope you’ve had a good week and are looking forward to a great weekend.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,716 subscribers and had a 34.4 percent open rate; 6 people unsubscribed. 

Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement, and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.

On the line with Bob Considine

Bob Considine, who achieved international fame for his World War II reporting, was the consummate journalist: he loved traveling, he loved talking to people, he loved finding information, and — most of all — he loved writing.

In his late 60s, he was still working and still writing — mostly on a nationally syndicated column that was carried by more than 100 newspapers every week. In what was to be his last column, he wrote:

I’ll croak in the newspaper business. Is there any better way to go? In what other trade can a man hope to build a bridge between himself and others every day of every week and every year. On what other field of endeavor is a competitor called upon to come up each day with words and thoughts he did not use the day before. Every time a reporter picks a phone to call in a story, swings aboard a plane on an assignment, or spins a fresh sheet of copy paper into his typewriter, he shoots his roll—like a craps player going for broke.

That is as good a description of journalism as I have found in a quite a while.

Considine got into the business in the 1920s when he complained to one of his hometown newspapers, the Washington (D.C.) Herald, that the paper had misspelled his name in a story about a tennis tournament in which he played. He could do a better job of reporting, he told one of the editors.

The editor decided to hire him to do just that, and Considine delivered, soon expanding his portfolio from sports to drama and editorials. His writing impressed William Randolph Hearst, who in 1936 asked him to come to New York to work at the New York American.

Considine quickly became a star reporter, and the outbreak of World War II gave him a chance to travel widely. His stamina for reporting and writing was legendary, as this excerpt from his New York Times obituary relates:

Mr. Considine’s capacity for work was the envy and the wonder, as well as the despair, of his colleagues and competitors. He was often known to work on two typewriters at time, writing his column on one, and a news story or book on the other. Source: BOB CONSIDINE, 68, DIES AFTER STROKE – The New York Times

Considine is one of the reporters that I remember vividly from my days of growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. During that time, World War II was still a fresh and animating memory, and Considine’s voice on his weekly news and commentary program, “On the Line with Bob Considine,” was an easy link to that event. I also remember reading Thirty Seconds Over Toyko, a book that Considine co-authored with Captain Ted Lawson, one of the pilots in Jimmy Doolittle’s famous 1942 bombing of the Japanese capital city.

The book was a gripping description — especially for a 10-year-old boy like me — of the bombing raid that Americans mounted against Japan just five months after Pearl Harbor. While the bombing itself did relatively little damage to Tokyo, the effect that it had on American morale and the Japanese military was enormous. During that time, the Japanese had imagined themselves invulnerable to attack. The raid showed how mistaken they were. Rather than proceed into the Indian Ocean, the Japanese navy pulled back to protect the homeland, which changed the tenor of the war almost overnight.

Captain Lawson, like the other pilots on the mission, had flown toward China and had been badly injured with the plane crash-landed there. With the help of fellow servicemen and friendly Chinese, they evaded Japanese detection and eventually made it back to the United States. Lawson was recuperating from his injuries in Washington, D.C. in March 1943, when he started making notes about what had happened to him.

A friend who knew what he was doing introduced him to Considine, and they quickly became friends. Lawson had a story to tell, and Considine was the one who could help him tell it. In just a few days, they had a full manuscript, and Considine had arranged with the editors of Collier’s magazine to have it serialized. The first installment came out in May 1943, and later that year the book was published.

It was a best-seller immediately and continued to sell well for the rest of Considine’s life, making him a great deal of money. But money wasn’t the point. It was a great story, and Considine got to tell it.

Now; about the semicolon . . .

Kurt Vonnegut and Ernest Hemingway had, in effect, a three-word rule for the semicolon: avoid using it.

If we all followed that rule, however, we would not have Cecilia Watson‘s Short History of the Semicolon, published recently in Publisher’s Weekly, which tells us nine things we didn’t know about this piece of punctuation.

Here’s the list. There’s an explanation for each item, but I’m just including one here. Check out the full article with the link below.

1. It’s young.

2. It might be poisonous. A Dutch writer known as Maarten Maartens (the pen name of Jozua Marius Willem van der Poorten Schwartz), now not exactly a household name, was tremendously popular as an English-language writer during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of Maartens’s books, The Healers, features a scientist who develops an “especial variety of the Comma” called Semicolon Bacillus, with which he manages to kill several lab rabbits.

3. It has a long history as a courtroom trouble-maker.

4. In spirt of its fraught history, legal scholars still succumb to its charms.

5. It hasn’t always been bound by rules.

6. In the 19th century, the semicolon was all the rage.

7. You could bet on a semicolon.

8. It’s a . . . woman? Or at least, not a heterosexual man?

9. It’s probably not going to go extinct.

Read this. It’s a lot of fun: 9 Things You Didn’t Know About the Semicolon

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”

50 States of True Crime  by the New York Times

If you have one or two (or maybe more) favorite states, you might want to check out the New York Times article on a major true crime for each state. It’s here: 50 States of True Crime – The New York Times

The ones listed may surprise you. I was surprised by the one listed for Tennessee, where I live, in that I had never heard of the crime and that it happened on the other side of the state from me. Each of these crimes has been the subject of a book, to which there are links.

You might be surprised, too.

The demise of ‘Mad’ magazine – and the nation that it satirized

Many laments were sounded out earlier this summer with DCComics’ announcement that it would no longer be producing Mad magazine with any original content.

Typical of those is Jeet Heer‘s article in The Nation magazine:

Mad was often rude, tasteless, and childish—which made it all the more potent as a tributary of youth culture. The kids who read Mad learned from it to distrust authority, whether in the form of politicians, advertisers or media figures. That was a lesson that successive generations took to heart. Without Mad, it’s impossible to imagine underground comics, National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, The Daily Show, or Stephen Colbert. In the historical sweep of American culture, Mad is the crucial link between the anarchic humor of the Marx Brothers and the counterculture that emerged in the 1960s. Source: ‘Mad’ Magazine Told the Truth About War, Advertising, and the Media

Mad’s chief target in the years of its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s was the lies of public officials. And there were plenty of those.

Besides, to those of us who were pre-teens and teens of the era, Mad was just hilariously funny. Its caricatures were on target, and the situations it created were suitably absurd. And its ever-present mascot, Alfred E. Newman, gave us the perfect bromide for any of life’s uncertainties: “What? Me Worry?”

Mad’s demise has been a sad one, not so much for the magazine itself, but for the nation, which is much stronger when there is a voice saying that our leaders have no clothes.

Verse and Vision: The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This week’s Verse and Vision poem-and-painting features our old friend Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his famous and popular poem, The Village Blacksmith. The poem was first published in 1840 and is an ode to the single, hard-working American craftsman. The man is a widower with children whom he cares for tenderly, taking them to church on Sunday and listening to the voice of his daughter who sings in the choir.

The poem was based on a Cambridge, Massachusetts, man, whom Longfellow knew. In the years that followed the poem’s publication — particularly after Longfellow died — several men came forward claiming to be the “village blacksmith” of the poem. In 1922, Longfellow’s son, Ernest, annoyed at the many false claims, affirmed that his father based the poem on the Cambridge man.

Hear the poem and watch the painting unfold at


Mike C.: I enjoyed your weekly article as always, and was quite taken with the part on walking. I started walking a number of years ago and do honestly believe it has been a real blessing in my life. I used to jog but blew out my knee and had to give that up. Then I developed Plantar Fasciitis and had to stop playing tennis. So I took up “boring” walking – something I thought was only for the old. I used to walk 6 days a week and average about 7 miles, but the Plantar Fasciitis has come back, and so now I only average about 3 miles 6 days a week. I hope to be back up to my norm of 5-7 miles 6 days a week soon. I do believe God made man to be upright and in motion. And I also think walking truly does improve one’s attitude and outlook. So glad you included this in your weekly article.

Dan C.: My favorite Mark Twain quotation is “Never trust everything you read on the Internet.”

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: The Village Blacksmith

You can watch a video of the creation of this painting while and hear me “The Village Blacksmith” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at

Best quote of the week:

Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you. Wendell Berry, farmer and author (b. 1934) 

Helping those in need

Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.

It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).

When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: Walking, Arthur Ashe, and a new video: newsletter, Aug. 2, 2018



Verse and Vision

I am always open to suggestions about poets, poems or topics for videos. I’ve received several and would love to have more.

Meanwhile, here’s the complete list of videos I have made since the beginning of April:

The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at

Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson here:

1492 and The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace:

The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The House of Rest by Julia Ward Howe

Lochinvar by Sir Walter Scott

Ole Bert: In His Own Words by Bert Garner:

In the Highlands and Consolation by Robert Louis Stevenson:

To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell

Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer:

The Old Clock on the Stairs by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Evening Star and Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray

My Heart and I by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

And more are on the way.




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