Tag Archives: Leonardo da Vinci

Girl With the Pearl Earring

A really close look at ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring’ – really close

Girl With a Pearl Earring,” the 1665 painting by Johannes Vermeer, probably ranks as the second most recognizable painting in the world, behind the “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci.

People like the “Mona Lisa,” but people love “Girl With a Pearl Earring.”

Girl With the Pearl Earring

Girl With the Pearl Earring

What makes this painting so magnetic, so inviting, so alluring?

No single answer or set of answers to that question suffices. But we keep looking.

The folks at the  Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery, The Hague, Holland, where the painting resides are taking a really close look these days. They have called in experts from around the world and marshaled all of the technology and machinery they can muster to look as closely — non-invasively — at the painting as they can.

The efforts of these folks are described in a recent article in the New York Times: Uncovering the Secrets of the ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring’ – The New York Times.

They’re not likely to come up with an answer to what makes the painting so magical, but they are trying to discover what techniques Vermeer used to bring that painting to life. Vermeer’s approach has always been a mystery to art critics and historians.

Little was known about the painting — even its exact location — for the first two hundred years of its life. In 1881, it was listed at an auction and was purchased by Arnoldus Andries des Tombe, a Dutch army officer and art collector who knew of Vermeer’s works and wanted to prevent them from leaving Holland. The price was less than $50. Des Tombe donated it to the Mauritshuis in 1902.

The painting remained in obscurity for most of the 20th century.

In 1999 author Tracy Chevalier published a historical novel with the title of the painting and with a fictional story of how the painting came about. The novel inspired a feature film in 2003 and a stage play in 2008.

Beginning in 2012, the painting was part of a two-year worldwide tour that had the painting on display in Italy, Japan, and the United States. Its fame grew, and its charm was multi-cultural.

And yet, in essence, it is still a mystery.

***

If you want to know more about Vermeer and the painting, here are a couple of places to look:

The videos series Exhibition on Screen is a multi-part, multi-season series on artworks and artists. It is available on Amazon here; if you’re a prime member it’s free. The first season has a show on Vermeer; the second season has a show devoted mostly to the Girl With the Pearl Earring.

Take a look, too, at Laura Snyder‘s Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenhoer, and the Reinvention of Seeing.

Cades Cove Sunday morning - 1

Leonardo’s journals; eyewitness to the biggest event of the first century; football art and the First Amendment; newsletter Feb. 9, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,317) on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.

Hi, 

This has been The Week of Interesting Things for me. Most of my weeks could take that moniker, but this one seemed especially full. I try to put a lot of interesting things I find into the newsletter, but I just didn’t have time to get everything I wanted to this week. Still, there’s a lot of good stuff here this week.

And speaking of the newsletter, if you’re interested, this week I am opening the hood on it. I have written a blog post about what it is and why it exists. The beginning of that blog post is down below the signature, and there’s a link there to the rest of it on JPROF.com.

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

Leonardo’s journals – and inspiration versus execution

Leonardo da Vinci had one of the most agile, inquisitive, and incisive minds in all of history. We know this because he kept journals — thousands of page of journals in which he wrote what he thought and drew what he saw and imagined. His curiosity was boundless, and no question (“How does a bird swallow?”) too small to be delved into, analyzed, and answered. Every idea for invention or improvement needed to be recorded. Multiple scenes and people needed to be sketched..Leonardo journal page

In all, according to biographerWalter Isaacson, we have about 7,200 pages of Leonardo’s journals in various collections in museums and libraries around the globe. That’s probably about 25 percent of what he actually produced. Yet with all this energy and activity, Leonardo left this world with only about 20 completed paintings and dozens of unfinished works.

Leonardo was obviously more interested in satisfying his curiosity and capturing an inspiration than in completing his projects. I’ve written a short article on JPROF.com about Leonardo’s journals and have a couple of examples of his pages.

Football art and the First Amendment

Artist Daniel Moore, a friend for some years, has made a good living in the world of sports art. For the past 40 years, he has executed photo-realistic oil paintings of some of the iconic moments in the University of Alabama’s football history. Daniel just announced that he is working on a major painting that commemorates Alabama’s latest national championship victory. Daniel usually produces several types of prints from his paintings, and each a limited edition (that is, he will produce a certain number of prints and no more).

It is no surprise that each editionDaniel Moore drawingof this latest painting has already sold out — even before the painting itself has been complete. (At right is a pencil drawing of a compositional sketch for the painting.)

Whether or not you are interested in football or sports art, all of us owe Daniel a debt of gratitude for using his personal resources to stand up for the First Amendment. Several years ago, the University of Alabama tried to force Daniel into paying a license fee for the work he was doing. Daniel resisted, and a years-long legal battle ensued. You can find out more about that in this article on JPROF (less than a five-minute read).

Pliny the Younger: Eyewitness to the First Century’s biggest event

We introduced Pliny the Younger, ancient Roman’s best journalist, to you last week with the fact that he was the author of the earliest non-Jewish account of Christianity that exists today. Pliny’s description of the Christian community in Turkey, where he was the Roman governor, is fascinating and enlightening. For that description alone, Pliny would have achieved immortality.Pliny the Younger

But dealing with the Christians at that time was a minor administrative matter, and if he had not done that, we still would remember him for what he saw when he was about 19 years old: the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Pliny was living with his uncle (and adoptive father) Pliny the Elder, who was a high-ranking Roman official in Misenum, a town north of Vesuvius on the west coast of Italy.

The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius was undoubtedly nature’s most spectacular event in the first century (it destroyed the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum), and Pliny describes what he saw in detail. But the eruption had a deeply personal outcome. Read more about this in this post on JPROF.

Giveaways and a chance to win an Amazon gift card

A kind reader has pointed out that our gift card raffle is not a giveaway but alottery. She is absolutely correct, and I will stop referring to it as a giveaway. Nevertheless, please consider entering. The information is below.

Be Our Valentine gift card giveaway.Once again, I have joined with a number of other independent authors to sponsor an Amazon gift card giveaway. We havetwo $85 gift cardsthat are the prizes for this month’s giveaway, so don’t miss out. Go to this link:https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ad6cea03… You will need to enter a valid email address, and that address will be shared with the authors who are participating. The giveaway lasts until Feb. 15, so head over there today and get your name on the list. If you go to this link and find that you cannot enter your email, it means that you are already signed in (probably through Facebook); all you have to do at that point is click on ENTER, and your email will become part of the list.

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery/

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway. This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

Crimes against English (partially and temporarily suspended)

For the most part, we’re going to take a short break from our sleuthing for crimes against English this week and enjoy this fun video on YouTube. It’s called 10 Letters We Dropped from the Alphabet, and it was put together by Austin McConnell.

English consists of 26 letters which we all know, more or less, in the right order.

At one time, however, there were as many as ten more. Find out about them, and what happened to them, here on YouTube:https://www.youtube.com/embed/zUrDUxh5xS0

Now, back to our sleuthing (somewhat): A Word A Day a couple of weeks ago featured tautologous, which is taken as a synonym for redundancy, which we have been discussing for a couple of weeks now. Here’s what some of the readers of AWAD wrote in that was include in its Sunday roundup:

“One that drives me nuts (and is very common in the UK) is “6 am in the morning”. I’ve even heard people talking about catching “a very early flight at 5 am in the morning”, which I suppose is a double tautology.”

“As one who plans ahead (in advance, that is), and has a personal opinion on the matter, I find a little tautologous redundancy is a free gift to the reader when the true facts are presented.

“Here in New Mexico we laugh at the tautologous “Rio Grande River”. But then, most American states are not, by law, bilingual.

OK, rest time is over. Get back to your sleuthing. What crime against English have you discovered?

 

A name for this newsletter?

Does this newsletter need a name? I think that maybe it does. I have been turning over a couple of possibilities — The Writing Wright and JPROF Journal. Do you have a suggestion?

Let me know what you think.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Cades Cove Sunday morning – 3

Cades Cove Sunday morning - 3

I did three versions of this painting to test out different sets of colors. This one used a set of Kuretake watercolors from Japan that my wife gave me for Christmas. These watercolors tend to be bright and intense and a little tricky to work with. You can see all three versions of the painting on my Facebook page.

Last week’s painting giveaway

Thanks to all for making last week’s painting giveaway a great success. All but one of the paintings were claimed within about three hours of when the newsletter first went out. The final painting was gone by Sunday. I am going to organize another giveaway, probably in March.

Best quote of the week:

Let America be America again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed –

Let it be that great strong land of love

Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme

That any man be crushed by one above.

Langston Hughes, poet and novelist (1902-1967)

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires — and now floods. 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.

Jim

Jim Stovall 
www.jprof.com

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


Jim’s newsletter: Under the hood

My newsletter is a set of thoughts, notions, links, tidbits, giveaways, quotations, and other items that give readers an idea of what I have been doing, reading, and thinking about in recent days. We talk about journalism, writers, writing, the English language, fiction, mysteries, and podcasts. Sometimes we stray off into other areas, such as watercolor or even sports (but if it ain’t baseball, it ain’t such a big deal). My interests and activities range into a number of areas, and my hope is that readers will follow along.

Readers respond regularly to what I have written, and unless there is reason to do otherwise, I include many of those responses in the next week’s newsletter.

My assumption about newsletter readers is that they are intelligent individuals, they are readers of good books, and they people who can handle the occasional challenge of learning something new. These are people who can think for themselves.

Most of all, my assumption about newsletter readers is that they are my friends, even though I have not met all of them personally.

My email newsletter — it doesn’t have a name yet (maybe I need one) — goes out to more than 4,000 subscribers (4,222 on February 9, 2018, to be exact) on Friday afternoons about 2:15 p.m. Eastern time. I send it out a second time to those who did not open it the first time; The second release is usually early on Sunday morning, about 2:15 a.m.

More on JPROF.com

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Leonardo's drawings of cats

Leonardo’s journals: A large window into the mind of a genius

The mind of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) still fascinates observers even after 500 years.

Leonardo's drawings of cats

Leonardo’s drawings of cats

He was interested in so many things, and he observed the world with the mind and attitude of a scientist, mechanic, inventor, naturalist, and philosopher. He was also a writer. And an artist, of course.

We know about Leonardo’s mind because he kept journals. He wrote down everything he observed; he drew — small drawings and large — to remind himself of what he had seen or to try to figure out what he was observing. He carried around a small sketchbook on his belt and drew and wrote in it constantly.

He drew out his ideas for inventions or improvements in the mechanical implements of 15th century life. He sketched preliminary drawings for paintings he was commissioned to execute. For a time, he was the “producer” for one of his employers; that is, he was in charge of costumes, parades, and theatrical productions — a very important part of court life during that time — and many of his drawings relate to ideas about how to stage those events.

He drew maps and military weapons. He drew babies in a mother’s womb. He drew cats, horses, and strange-looking people.

Nothing, it seems, escaped his notice.

Leonardo's designs for gun barrels and mortars

Leonardo’s designs for gun barrels and mortars

Biographer Walter Isaacson (author of the recently published Leonard da Vinci) writes that there are about 7,200 pages of Leonardo’s journals in existence in library and museum collections around the world. This is an astonishingly large collection. Yet these pages, Isaacson says, represent probably only about 25 percent of what he actually produced.

We wish we had more of them. But we are grateful for what we have.

When Leonardo died at the age of 67, he left only about 20 finished paintings; he left many paintings, projects, and ideas that were started but never completed. Leonardo knew the value of inspiration; he knew that knowledge, observation, and the spark of an idea could be fleeting. He wanted to capture as many of those as he could.

It was as if he received little satisfaction from completion — from having someone say, “That’s a job well done.”

See also on JPROF:

Leonardo and the ‘fleeting quality of imagination’

The private eye’s business is trouble; newsletter, Dec. 22, 2017

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,466) on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017.

 

 

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year. Tis the season to celebrate, and there are lots of good greetings out there. I wish you good fellowship, good friends and family, good food, good music, and lots of generally good times. This week’s newsletter completes an entry begun last week and follows up on a couple of others.

We begin and end, more or less, with the “private eye.”

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

Trouble is his business: the “private eye”

He’s “self-employed,” in modern language. He would laugh at the term, if he felt like laughing. But in his line of business — finding things out for money and dealing with dangerous characters — he’s rarely jolly, or even in a good mood. Trouble is his business.

He is, of course, the private detective, a.k.a., the “private eye.” His is one of 20th century fiction’s most enduring characters.

Just who is the private detective of this “hard-boiled” fiction genre?

— He’s male and middle-aged and has a history.

— He’s alone. Whatever wife or family he’s had are long gone, a distant memory, maybe part of the history.

— He drinks, but not to excess.

— He’s cynical, and one thing he’s good at is spotting people’s real motives. In his experience, people are rarely truthful about what they want or how they feel.

In honor of the “private eye” and his many iterations (including those that turn “him” into “her”), I am writing a series of blog posts on JPROF.com about who he is and who created him. You can find the first one here, More next week.

Best book of 2017?

I posted this last week and got no responses. I’ll give it one more shot.

Look back over the entire year and tell us what the best book you read this year was. Any subject, any genre will. A short description or review wouldn’t hurt, but it’s not necessary. And you don’t have to have finished it yet. If you reading something that’s the best right now, let us know. We’ll begin posting the list next week and will do so through the end of the year.

The book I’m reading now, Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo Da Vinci, is my favorite of 2017. I don’t expect to be finished with it any time soon, so it may be my favorite of 2018, too.


True crime podcasts (continued): Crimetown

Crimetown. This multi-episode podcast takes a close look at former mayor Buddy Cianci and organized crime in Providence, Rhode Island. Cianci began his political career as a reformer but found that even though he had been elected mayor, real power in Providence lay outside city hall. The podcasts are hosted by Marc Sterling and Zac Stuart-Pontier, and they use a wealth of audio interviews with city officials, lawyers, friends of Buddy, crime bosses, mistresses, showgirls, and wise guys to tell a mesmerizing story. And unlike many podcast episodes which last an hour or more, most of these are 30-45 minutes long.

See what else we’ve recommended below the signature of this newsletter.

 

Edgar Allan Poe and the development of the detective/mystery novel (continued)

Last week I posted part of an interesting response from Dan C., newsletter and novel reader and good friend, to a piece that I had written about Edgar Allan Poe. Dan is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and wrote that Poe had been a student there for a time. Dan also had some other things to say about people who attended West Point. Here’s the rest of his response:

Singer and songwriter Kris Kristofferson attended the academy. Although he had volunteered to go to Vietnam, The Army wanted him to teach English at West Point, so he departed the Army. At that point (pun intended) He was a top ROTC Cadet and went to England for his Rhodes Scholarship, then to Fort Rucker. Alabama for training as a helicopter pilot. He spent a large part of his commission in Germany. His Father was a Two-Star General in the Air Force, both his Grandfathers served in the US Military and his Great Grandfather was an officer in the Swedish Army. His mother, when he resigned his commission to go to Nashville, disowned him and for a long time they were estranged. Even though he had been an ROTC Distinguished Military Cadet, was a Rhodes Scholar, had an impressive career, his leaving the military to be a songwriter and singer, he became a disappointment to her. Around 2010 he started losing his cognitive function. The doctors did not know if it was Altzheimers or dementia. He had fallen fast and rarely knowing what he did earlier on the same day. It turns out that after the five to six years of treatment for dementia, with a lot of side effects that in early 2016, a doctor asked if he had been out in the woods before the onset of his mental problems. He had, up in Vermont. He was then tested for Lyme Disease, which he had. Three weeks of treatment and two years later he has improved, though he still has blank spots in his memory. A great article on KK at 80 from Rolling Stone Mag a couple years ago. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/kris-kristofferson-an-outlaw-at-80-20160606

One last thing, when I was commissioned, my Mom was pinning my Bars on one side while former LA Rams Defensive lineman, NFL Hall of Famer, and actor (Father Murphy and Little House on the Prarie) Merlin Olsen was on the other. He had been the college roommate of our Professor of Military Science and was our commissioning speaker. Merlin Olsen had actually also been one of the top 5 Cadets in the country. He was the ROTC Battalion Commander. He actually wanted to forego the NFL Draft and become a Lieutenant. The military at the time did not accept him since there was a regulation that did not apply when he joined the ROTC, that he was too big to be in the Army. He had grown and filled out as a college defensive lineman and would not fit in a regulation size uniform (Now you can be super tall or wide, as long as you are under the body mass index (BMI) and meet the height weight guidelines.

Giveaways

Thanks to all who participated in our Christmas Spree Giveaway. This month’s giveaway was Bernie Berber. We’ll do another one in January

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery/

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway.This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

Crimes against English (continued)

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you to let me know your pet peeve about misuse of English. This came in from Eugene in Rhinebeck, N.Y., this week:

One of my pet peeves about words being misused: the misuse of the contraction “it’s” as the 3d person, singular possessive pronoun “its.” Example: The cat licked it’s fur…WRONG! The cat licked its fur…CORRECT!
Hint: substitute “it is” for “it’s” to see if the sentence makes sense. “The cat licked it is fur”…WRONG!..

If you have a pet peeve about English usage (I know that you do), let me know what it is.

Sandi Scott: Murder on the Movie Set: A Pet Portraits Cozy Mystery (Book 3)

Last week, I told you about Sandi Scott, an independent author with whom I am working. She and I have agreed to introduce our newsletter readers to each other’s books. Sandi writes “cozy mysteries,” and I’m sure that some of you out there are into those. Even if you’re not, here’s a free one if you have Kindle Unlimited and $2.99 if you’re not: Murder on the Movie Set.

Here is Sandi’s Amazon author page.

 

More from The Devil’s Dictionary

More entries from The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, these from the letter H:

HABEAS CORPUS. A writ by which a man may be taken out of jail when confined for the wrong crime.

HABIT, n. A shackle for the free.

HATRED, n. A sentiment appropriate to the occasion of another’s superiority.

HONORABLE, adj. Afflicted with an impediment in one’s reach. In legislative bodies it is customary to mention all members as honorable; as, “the honorable gentleman is a scurvy cur.”

HOPE, n. Desire and expectation rolled into one.

Delicious Hope! when naught to man is left—

Of fortune destitute, of friends bereft;

When even his dog deserts him, and his goat

With tranquil disaffection chews his coat

While yet it hangs upon his back; then thou,

The star far-flaming on thine angel brow,

Descendest, radiant, from the skies to hint

The promise of a clerkship in the Mint.

Fogarty Weffing

You can get a free copy of The Devil’s Dictionary in a variety of formats through Project Gutenberg.

 

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: The private eye

I have been practicing portraits during the last few weeks of watercoloring.

Best quote of the week:

It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers. James Thurber, cartoonist and writer (1894-1961) 

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires. 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.

Jim

Jim Stovall 
www.jprof.com

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

 


True crime podcasts recommendations so far:

S-town. The makers of This American Life and Serial have done it again. They have created a podcast series that begins in one direction and zigs and zags through a variety of fascinating scenes, situations and characters. You think it’s about murder or small-town corruption, but by episode 3, it’s headed off somewhere else. The story comes from Woodstock, Alabama — just up the road from Tuscaloosa where I used to live — and begins with John B., an unhappy resident there, calling reporter Brian Reed and asking him to investigate the cover-up of a murder that has occurred in Woodstock. Once you have listened to episode 1, you’ll be on the roller coaster and won’t be able to get off.

Casefile, a well written and well delivered podcast from Australia, deals with stories of real crime under the moniker: “Fact is scarier than fiction.” Casefile is this week’s true crime podcast recommendation. Casefile deals with crimes from all over the world, not just Australia, but their native cases are often the most interesting and intriguing. The narration is delivered by Anonymous Host, an unnamed voice whose Australian accent is positively charming. The podcasts are well-researched and tightly written and are a pleasure to listen to. Casefile has a large following around the world and has gathered a number of prestigous awards. After listening to a few episodes, it’s easy to see why. Start with Episode 66: The Black Widow and get hooked.

True Crime All the Time , hosted by Mike Ferguson and Mike Gibson, or “Gibby,” presents some fascinating cases, and the hosts 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. 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.)

Real Crime Profile, with three excellent hosts, have discussions of criminal cases that 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?

 

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Jean Ritchie and the dulcimer revival — and much more; your pet peeves about English

This newsletter was sent to those on Jim’s email list (4,189) on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.

Hi,

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! 

Thanks, Robin.

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

If you have ever played, heard, or seen a dulcimer, you have Jean Ritchie to thank.

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?

Giveaways

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.

Jim

Jim Stovall 
www.jprof.com

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

 

Reviews:

5-star review: I this book in exchange for an unbiased review. I loved this book! Its plot and characters are quite realistic. Having been a high school teacher I felt the voices of the teens were correctly written. It is a great read!

Kill the Quarterback

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

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, 
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea, 
The plowman homeward plods his weary way, 
And leaves the world to darkness and to me. 
 
Now fades the glimm’ring landscape on the sight, 
And all the air a solemn stillness holds, 
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight, 
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds; 
 
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow’r 
The moping owl does to the moon complain 
Of such, as wand’ring near her secret bow’r, 
Molest her ancient solitary reign. 
 
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade, 
Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring heap, 
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid, 
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. 
 
The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn, 
The swallow twitt’ring from the straw-built shed, 
The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn, 
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed. 
 
For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn, 
Or busy housewife ply her evening care: 
No children run to lisp their sire’s return, 
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share. 
 
Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield, 
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke; 
How jocund did they drive their team afield! 
How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke! 
 
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil, 
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure; 
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile 
The short and simple annals of the poor. 
 
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r, 
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave, 
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour. 
The paths of glory lead but to the grave. 
 
Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault, 
If Mem’ry o’er their tomb no trophies raise, 
Where thro’ the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault 
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise. 
 
Can storied urn or animated bust 
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath? 
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust, 
Or Flatt’ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death? 
 
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid 
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire; 
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d, 
Or wak’d to ecstasy the living lyre. 
 
But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page 
Rich with the spoils of time did ne’er unroll; 
Chill Penury repress’d their noble rage, 
And froze the genial current of the soul. 
 
Full many a gem of purest ray serene, 
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear: 
Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen, 
And waste its sweetness on the desert air. 
 
Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast 
The little tyrant of his fields withstood; 
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest, 
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood. 
 
Th’ applause of list’ning senates to command, 
The threats of pain and ruin to despise, 
To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land, 
And read their hist’ry in a nation’s eyes, 
 
Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib’d alone 
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin’d; 
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne, 
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind, 
 
The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide, 
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame, 
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride 
With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame. 
 
Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife, 
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray; 
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life 
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way. 
 
Yet ev’n these bones from insult to protect, 
Some frail memorial still erected nigh, 
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d, 
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh. 
 
Their name, their years, spelt by th’ unletter’d muse, 
The place of fame and elegy supply: 
And many a holy text around she strews, 
That teach the rustic moralist to die. 
 
For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey, 
This pleasing anxious being e’er resign’d, 
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day, 
Nor cast one longing, ling’ring look behind? 
 
On some fond breast the parting soul relies, 
Some pious drops the closing eye requires; 
Ev’n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries, 
Ev’n in our ashes live their wonted fires. 
 
For thee, who mindful of th’ unhonour’d Dead 
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate; 
If chance, by lonely contemplation led, 
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate, 
 
Haply some hoary-headed swain may say, 
“Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn 
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away 
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn. 
 
“There at the foot of yonder nodding beech 
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high, 
His listless length at noontide would he stretch, 
And pore upon the brook that babbles by. 
 
“Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn, 
Mutt’ring his wayward fancies he would rove, 
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn, 
Or craz’d with care, or cross’d in hopeless love. 
 
“One morn I miss’d him on the custom’d hill, 
Along the heath and near his fav’rite tree; 
Another came; nor yet beside the rill, 
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he; 
 
“The next with dirges due in sad array 
Slow thro’ the church-way path we saw him borne. 
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay, 
Grav’d on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.” 
 
THE EPITAPH 
Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth 
A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown. 
Fair Science frown’d not on his humble birth, 
And Melancholy mark’d him for her own. 
 
Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere, 
Heav’n did a recompense as largely send: 
He gave to Mis’ry all he had, a tear, 
He gain’d from Heav’n (’twas all he wish’d) a friend. 
 
No farther seek his merits to disclose, 
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode, 
(There they alike in trembling hope repose) 
The bosom of his Father and his God. 
 

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