Tag Archives: Theodore Roosevelt

Beginning the modern idea of the American West, the real target of Prohibition, and forensic science reform: newsletter, January 18, 2019

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,927) on Friday, January 11, 2019.

 

 

You may have heard this story already. When the newspaper in Portland, Maine, announced it would no longer pay freelancers to book write reviews, the most famous author among their readership — Stephen King, no less — went onto Twitter complaining about the decision. The newspaper publisher promptly issued this challenge to King: come up with 100 new subscribers, and we’ll rescind the decision. King has a following in the hundreds of thousands, and when he urged people to subscribe, the newspaper picked up 200 subscribers. Happy ending all around. (You can read the New York Times article here.)

The real point here, however, is that you should be supporting the journalism — the news websites — that you read and use. Journalism is not free. It’s difficult, and it’s expensive, and you should be doing your part to support it. You won’t agree with everything your news organization produces. That’s not the point. The point is journalism, and it needs your help. When you read it regularly, you should be subscribing. It’s the honorable thing to do.

A couple of items of shameless self-promotion are repeated from last week’s newsletter and appear below the signature. They’re about Baseball Joe and Seeing Suffrage. Thanks for checking them out.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,941 subscribers and had a 30.9 percent open rate; 10 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.


Capt. Mayne Reid and the beginnings of the modern idea of the American West

“Go West!” has been the clarion call for Americans since the days of the early Republic.

West across the Alleghenies, west across the Mississippi River, west across Texas and the Great Plains — whatever is west of where we are has represented openness, wonder, opportunity, and adventure. In more modern times, writers like Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour took advantage of these ideas to build an image of the American West that was akin to life itself.

But before there was Louis L’Amour or Zane Grey, there was Thomas Mayne Reid — more popularly known as Capt. Reid.

Reid (1818-1883) was an Irish immigrant who first settled in Pittsburgh and later in Philadelphia, and graced the newspapers of both cities with his stories, reviews, essays, and poems. In Philadelphia, he was a drinking companion of Edgar Allan Poe. When the war with Mexico broke out in 1846, Reid joined a New York infantry unit and found himself at the battle of Chapultepec, where he fought courageously and was badly wounded. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. (There is no evidence he was ever a captain, the rank he adopted as the author of his later adventure books.)

In 1849, Reid sailed back to Europe intending the participate in the Bavarian revolution, but he changed his mind and instead returned to Ireland. Then he moved to London and in 1850 published his first novel, The Rifle Rangers, which was soon followed by another, The Scalp Hunters. In these novels and many that followed, he vividly described the landscape that he had viewed while traveling through Texas and Mexico and constructed exciting and adventuresome stories of the people there.

His books were highly popular with boys with the ear — one of whom was Theodore Roosevelt, a sickly, asthmatic child, who in his autobiography credits Reid with sparking his desire to be part of the adventures of the American West. Another of Reid’s young readers was Arthur Conan Doyle

Reid’s adventure novels were much in the genre of Robert Louis Stevenson. Indeed, Reid did not confine himself to the American West but also wrote books set in South Africa, Jamaica, and the Himalayas.

Reid’s works were popular into the 1860s, but that popularity faded. He returned to America in 1867 and tried to restart his career as a writer, but he could never capture the magic of his early work. He returned to England and lived the last decade of his life wracked with melancholia and poverty. He died in London in 1883.

CrimeReport: Forensic science reform at a ‘crossroads’ 

A forensic science expert testified that a bite mark on a victim matched the bite of the man accused of the crime. The accused was convicted and given a 60-year sentence.

That was 18 years ago. Now the expert has recanted his testimony, and the accused man has been released from prison.

That’s only one example of the failings of forensics in the last generation. Many legal experts are taking a hard look at forensic evidence — how it is acquired and how it is used.

In this article in CrimeReports, writer Megan Hadley cites the work of UCLA law professor Jennifer Mnookin in our changing view of forensic evidence:

Mnookin suggested the case (of the bite mark evidence) indicated a potential sea change for the use of bite mark evidence,  and noted there is a growing consensus among judges that the forensic science community should scale back exaggerated and overconfident assertions of knowledge and authority by forensic scientists.Source: Forensic Science Reform at ‘Crossroads’ | The Crime Report

We fell in love with forensics when the CSI craze became so popular on television nearly two decades ago. As depicted by the many televisions shows that followed, forensic science offered us objective certainty in determining the guilt or innocence of people accused of crimes.

It was good television. It wasn’t particularly good law.

In reality, not on television, forensic evidence currently offers us little more than an educated guess, if that. It’s a good thing that we are finally recognizing that truth.

 


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


 

Nazis burned books, certainly, but they stole even more

The images are indelible: large bonfires fueled by books with Nazi soldiers and citizens tossing them into the flames.

Flames, of course, do not destroy information or ideas, and the Nazis understood this as well as anyone. That’s why the Nazis stole far more books than they burned.

Libraries of Jewish families who fell under the Nazi terror were major targets of this massive theft, but they were not the only ones. Nazis looted the libraries of dissenters and occupied countries. Many Nazis understood the value of books. Many, such as Heinrich Himmler, were book collectors.

Getting those books back to their rightful owners or to places that deserve them has been a multi-generational task that is continuing today. This recently published New York Times article by Milton Esterow outlines some of those efforts:

Given the scope of the looting, the task ahead remains mountainous. In Berlin, for example, at the Central and Regional Library, almost a third of the 3.5 million books are suspected to have been looted by the Nazis, according to Sebastian Finsterwalder, a provenance researcher there.

“Most major German libraries have books stolen by the Nazis,” he said. But researchers say there are signs they may be on the brink of making measurable progress in restitutions.

In the last 10 years, for example, libraries in Germany and Austria have returned about 30,000 books to 600 owners, heirs and institutions, according to researchers. In one instance in 2015, almost 700 books stolen from the library of Leopold Singer, an expert in the field of petroleum engineering, were returned to his heirs by the library of the Vienna University of Economics and Business. Source: The Hunt for the Nazi Loot Still Sitting on Library Shelves – The New York Times

Much has been made in recent years about the efforts to restore artwork stolen by the Nazis. More attention should be paid to the work in restoring stolen books to their rightful places. This article is a good start.

 

The real target of Prohibition: the brewers, not the drinkers

We’ve begun the 100th anniversary year of the beginning of the era of Prohibition in the United States — an era that gave rise, ironically, to an unprecedented rise in crime and in the consumption of alcohol. It’s an era that is almost universally characterized as a “mistake,” if not worse.

And who is to blame for the fiasco that was Prohibition?

According to political scientist Mark Lawrence Schad, writing in Politico Magazine, the blame is often laid at the feet of women — particularly those of the Carrie Nation ilk who were hellbent on curtailing liberties. (Thanks to newsletter reader and good friend John N. for pointing me to this article.)

Contrary to popular description, prohibitionists weren’t hellbent on taking away the individual’s “right to drink.” From its very inception, the temperance movement targeted not the drink, or the drinker, but the drink seller. Just as abolitionists objected to the slave trader who profited from subjugating others, prohibitionists aimed at a predatory liquor traffic of wealthy capitalists and saloonkeepers who—together with a state that, before the income tax, relied disproportionately on liquor revenues—got rich from the drunken misery of the poor. The 18th Amendment doesn’t even outlaw alcohol or drinking. It prohibits the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” This wasn’t some oversight; the target was the traffic, not the booze. Source: Why Do We Blame Women For Prohibition? – POLITICO Magazine

Professor Schad makes a good point. The prohibitionist movement reaches far back into American history — to the 1830s, in fact — and was begun by men, and men, rather than vote-less women, were its driving force.

But figures such as Carrie Nation and her ax-welding expeditions took over the public perception of the movement, and they have maintained a tight grip on our historical memories.

Schad’s article seeks to remedy that:

Ultimately, we need to stop vilifying prohibitionists as “antidemocratic” simply because our understanding of liberty has changed. In fact, prohibitionists championed the right of self-determination, and the right of the community to defend itself against extortionate businesses and government corruption. Prohibitionists encouraged grassroots power—especially for communities, counties and states to vote themselves dry at the ballot box. 

This is an excellent article that takes just a few minutes to read: Why Do We Blame Women For Prohibition? – POLITICO Magazine

Reactions

Dan C.: Since you have been doing some Writing Tips, I thought you might like this: https://www.writingclasses.com/toolbox/tips-masters/

Tod: With respect to your notes about Erwin Rommel, the movie “Five Graves to Cairo”  is a great 1943 film that has Erich von Stroheim playing Rommel.  Not exactly an award winner but definitely worth watching.  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Graves_to_Cairo

Jim D.: Love your blog, Jim. Every week it’s a desultory ramble, but any ramble that includes stops along the way with Thackeray, Rommel, and Vonnegut is just fine with me. Keep up the good work!

Dale T: Yes, I’m taking this out of context but the thought jumped at me when I read your comments. “Rommel’s image is no longer as heroic as it was in the first generation after the war, but it is still largely positive thanks not only to his achievements but also to the deliberate plans of those who want him as a hero.” This is why I think Trump has so many defenders: Your last line on motive and reality over Rommel. Trump’s defenders refuse to see him as a damaged human being because it ruins their perspective of him being a hero.I fear our country is about to find out how damaged he really is. And how damaged our country is by him and his defenders.

 

Finally . . .

This week’s pen and ink: Thomas Mayne Reid (caricature)

 

Best quote of the week:

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. Albert Schweitzer, philosopher, physician, musician, Nobel laureate (1875-1965) 

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 (UMCOR.org) 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


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: Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for writing, the Rommel myth, Becky Sharp and Baseball Joe: newsletter, January 11, 2019

 

 

New edition of the Baseball Joe series (repeated from last week)

The newsletter last week carried an item about the incomparable Edward Stratemeyer whose publishing syndicate produced for us young 20th-century readers series of books like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. One of those series was titled Baseball Joe, and Stratemeyer published 14 volumes between 1912 and 1928. The “author” of the series was Lester Chadwick, but they were actually written by Howard Garis and John Duffield.

I promised a big announcement about Baseball Joe last week, so here it is: First Inning Press is publishing new editions of some of the volumes of the Baseball Joe series. So far, we have four Kindle (ebook) editions out and about on Amazon:

Baseball Joe of the Silver Stars or The Rivals of Riverside

Baseball Joe on the School Nine or Pitching for the Blue Banner

Baseball Joe at Yale or Pitching for the College Championship

Baseball Joe in the World Series or Pitching for the Championship

The Baseball Joe series follows Joe Matson as he starts on the local sandlot and ascends to the top of the baseball world. These new editions contain more illustrations than were found in the originals. The new illustrations are by me.

The first of the volume listed above (Silver Stars) is currently $ .99 on Amazon. The others are $2.99. We will be bringing out paperback editions before long and will also be publishing other volumes in the series.

 

Seeing Suffrage (repeated from last week)

Several years ago I wrote a book about the 1913 Woman Suffrage Parade that was held on March 3, 1913, in Washington, D.C. It was the day before Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated. Not only did this event turn out to be a pivotal one in the history of the suffrage debate, but it also was one that was well-covered by the newspapers of the day — particularly photographers. In my research, I had discovered a trove of photographs in the Library of Congress and in the library of the Sewell-Belmont House, the historic headquarters of the National Woman’s Party. Many of these photographs had never been published before and were included in the book.

The book, Seeing Suffrage: The 1913 Washington Suffrage Parade, Its Pictures, and Its Effect on the American Political Landscape, was published by the University of Tennessee Press. The press published it only in a hardback edition, however, and has never brought it out as an ebook. Since I hold the copyright, I decided that it was time for that to change. That project was completed just two days before Christmas and is now available on Amazon (free if you are a Kindle Unlimited member). If you have a chance to look at it, I’d like to know what you think.

 

Capt. Mayne Reid and the beginnings of the modern idea of the American West

“Go West!” has been the clarion call for Americans since the days of the early Republic.

West across the Alleghenies, west across the Mississippi River, west across Texas and the Great Plains — whatever is west of where we are has represented openness, wonder, opportunity, and adventure. In more modern times, writers like Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour took advantage of these ideas to build an image of the American West that was akin to life itself.

But before there was Louis L’Amour or Zane Grey, there was Thomas Mayne Reid — more popularly known as Capt. Reid.

Reid (1818-1883) was an Irish immigrant who first settled in Pittsburgh and later in Philadelphia, and graced the newspapers of both cities with his stories, reviews, essays, and poems. In Philadelphia, he was a drinking companion of Edgar Allan Poe. When the war with Mexico broke out in 1846, Reid joined a New York infantry unit and found himself at the battle of Chapultepec, where he fought courageously and was badly wounded. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. (There is no evidence he was ever a captain, the rank he adopted as the author of his later adventure books.)

In 1849, Reid sailed back to Europe intending the participate in the Bavarian revolution, but he changed his mind and instead returned to Ireland. Then he moved to London and in 1850 published his first novel, The Rifle Rangers, which was soon followed by another, The Scalp Hunters. In these novels and many that followed, he vividly described the landscape that he had viewed while traveling through Texas and Mexico and constructed exciting and adventuresome stories of the people there.

His books were highly popular with boys with the ear — one of whom was Theodore Roosevelt, a sickly, asthmatic child, who in his autobiography credits Reid with sparking his desire to be part of the adventures of the American West. Another of Reid’s young readers was Arthur Conan Doyle

Reid’s adventure novels were much in the genre of Robert Louis Stevenson. Indeed, Reid did not confine himself to the American West but also wrote books set in South Africa, Jamaica, and the Himalayas.

Reid’s works were popular into the 1860s, but that popularity faded. He returned to America in 1867 and tried to restart his career as a writer, but he could never capture the magic of his early work. He returned to England and lived the last decade of his life wracked with melancholia and poverty. He died in London in 1883.

A new source for Shakespeare; etymology for everyone; nutritious foods; more crimes against English

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,270) on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018.

Hi, 

Life is not all sitting around reading and writing blog posts and painting watercolors. Sometimes there is real, hard physical labor involved. That’s what it has taken over the past few weeks to clean out our 50+-year-old barn and re-floor it so that I can put some of my woodworking equipment there. I’m also contacting All Service Plumbing so they can take care of the plumbing. I’m happy to report I have finished re-flooring much of the center of the barn, which gives me an extra 500 square feet of working space. I have begun to move some equipment (table saw, drill press, belt sander, etc.) in there and am now considering what my first projects will be. I’ll keep you posted.

Last week’s newsletter included some inside info about this newsletter. There’s some more this week below the signature.

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

Shakespeare’s source: peering into the mind of a genius

Last week we talked a little about the thousands of pages of journals that Leonardo da Vinci kept and how much they tell us about how his mind worked. William Shakespeare, who lived a century after Leonardo and whose business was writing, left us no such record of his life. Much of what we know about The Bard is what scholars and literary detectives have gleaned through implication and circumstantial evidence. That’s too bad because Shakespeare was a great writer who appeared just when we needed him the most — the time when English was developing as the beautiful language we have today.

Where did Shakespeare get his ideas? How did he formulate the depths of the poetry of his plays? Who and what influenced his thinking and writing?

We have so few answers to these questions that when clue about them appears, we get pretty excited. That’s what happened last week when a new book (Rebellion and Rebels) appeared. The authors indicated that an obscure contemporary of Shakespeare was probably a source for few of his more famous soliloquies. Using computer software designed to detect plagiarism, a computer nerd and a Shakespearean scholar have tracked the ideas and some of the words found in one of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches — the opening lines of Richard III (Now is the winter of our discontent . . .) — to a fellow named George North.

Read a bit more about this and why it’s important in this short article on JPROF.com.

Etymology just for the fun of it

Friend and fellow newsletter reader Brett M. sent me a couple of books this week, and they could not have pleased me more. They are Mark Forsyth’s The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase and The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language.

Forsyth writes with an energy and wit that speeds the reader through the maze of his brain and his knowledge as he makes connections with words and phrases that are surprising, extraordinary, and often laugh-out-loud funny. Forsyth’s blog is InkyFool.com. That’s a good place to start. He has just published a book titled A Short History of Drunkenness, which he describes thusly:

A Short History of Drunkenness traces humankind’s love affair with booze from our primate ancestors through to Prohibition, answering every possible question along the way: What did people drink? How much? Who did the drinking? Of the many possible reasons, why? On the way, learn about the Neolithic Shamans, who drank to communicate with the spirit world (no pun intended), marvel at how Greeks got giddy and Sumerians got sauced, and find out how bars in the Wild West were never quite like in the movies.

This is a history of the world at its inebriated best.

The purpose of great literature

On the not-so-funny side of the language this week is the news that the school system in Duluth, Minnesota, has dropped The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird from its ninth-grade required reading list. School officials did this because some of the words used in these books — actually, one word in particular — might make the students “uncomfortable.”

There you have it, friends: The purpose of great literature: to make people comfortable.

It’s hard not be sarcastic in the face of such thinking, and I have tried to keep the sarcasm to a minimum in a short post about this that I have written for JPROF.com.

The most nutritious foods

I don’t usually venture into the realms of food and its preparation (above my pay grade, I am told), but I thought this was interesting. On the British Broadcasting Corporation site a couple of weeks ago was a listing of the 100 most nutritious foods based on research done by scientists and compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The listing begins with Number 100 and goes down to Number 1. I didn’t have the patience to go through the entire list to begin with so I scrolled down to find out the top 10 or so. (SEMI-SPOILER ALERT) Here the top dozen, but they are listed in alphabetical order, so if you want to know the winner, you’ll have to go to the site: almonds, beet greens, celery flakes, cherimoya, chia seeds, dried parsley, flatfish, ocean perch, pork fat, pumpkin seeds, snapper, Swiss chard.

And the others on the list? Relax, you’re probably already eating some of them.

Here is the link to the scientific article on which the story is based. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.137…

Giveaways and Amazon gift card winner

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

Jean T.: Tautology – near us is a river called the Ravensbourne River. Legend says it was so named because Julius Caesar saw ravens at its source (there’s no evidence that he made it as far as south London). However, Raven is derived from an old word for river, bourne is an old word for river as well so it is actually the river, river river. Redundancy or what?

Well, readers, what do you think?

Tod: In southern California there is an archeological site called La Brea, where thick oil (tar) has bubbled to the surface. Even the locals call it The La Brea Tar Pits, which, when translated into English, reads The The Tar Tar Pits (la brea = the tar).

What crime against English have you discovered?

 

A name for this newsletter?

Last week I asked: Does this newsletter need a name?

I got a couple of responses and would like to have more.

I think that maybe it does. I have been turning over a couple of possibilities — The Writing Wright and JPROF Journal. One reader suggested Jim’s Jottings. Do you have a suggestion?

Let me know what you think.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Eleanor Roosevelt (caricature)

Best quote of the week:

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself. — Eleanor Roosevelt

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 (part 2)

Number of subscribers and open rates

Here’s where we get a bit technical.

There are currently more than 4,000 names on my subscriber list, but that number doesn’t mean much. What really means something is something called the “open rate.” That is, how many of those subscribers actually open the email and engage with it.

You can open an email but still not engage with it. To engage, you must display the images (that’s why I have the note at the top of the email asking you to click on “display the images”) or click on one of the links contained in the newsletter.

I am told that with a newsletter such as many (one by an independent author, that is), an open rate of 25 percent is considered to be good. If you are getting more than that, you are doing very well.

My open rate, I am happy to report, is between 30 and 40 percent and occasionally goes to 42 or 44 percent. I am modestly proud (oxymoron ALERT!) of that. It means that at present each week, I am engaging with 1,400 to 1,800 friends.

As Teddy Roosevelt would say, “I am DEE-lighted!”

More on JPROF.com

Unsubscribe | 2126 Middlesettlements Road, Maryville, Tennessee 37801 

Bat Masterson, gunslinger first but then first-class sports writer

The world today knows him as one of the Old West’s most famous gunslingers, fearless associate of the famous lawman Wyatt Earp.

Bat Masterson

But in 1921, the world knew Bat Masterson as a world-class sports writer for the New York Morning Telegraph and one of the foremost experts on the second most popular sport of the day, boxing. (Baseball was the most popular sport, and professional football was hardly thought about.)

Bat Masterson was indeed a gunfighter in Dodge City and elsewhere in the west during his younger days. He was also a buffalo hunter, Indian fighter, and scout for the U.S. Army. But that phase of his life was finished by the mid-1880s when he was in his thirties. Moving to Denver, he became a “sporting man” and gambler and developed himself as a leading authority on prizefighting, which was growing in popularity with the public and with newspaper sports writers.

Masterson was a personal friend of people such as Gentleman Jim Corbett, Jack Johnson, John L. Sullivan, and Jack Dempsey, all legends of the boxing ring. He attended just about every major fight of that era, and his expertise on the sport was unsurpassed.

In 1902 he moved to New York to become a sports reporter and columnist for the Morning Telegraph and did that until his death in 1921. On the way, he became a personal friend of President Theodore Roosevelt and accepted a federal appointment as a U.S. marshal from him. He died as his sports writing desk of a massive heart attack on Oct. 25, 1921. In the late 1950s, a television series loosely based on his life and starring Gene Barry was broadcast for several seasons.

He was writing a column when he died as his desk, and his final written words were 

“There are many in this old world of ours who hold that things break about even for all of us. I have observed, for example, that we get about the same amount of ice. The rich get it in the summer – and the poor get it in the winter.”  New-York Historical Society http://sports.nyhistory.org/bat-masterson/

Masterson’s friend Damon Runyan named his lead character in Guys and Dolls Sky Masterson after the old gunfighter.

See also:

DeArment, Robert K. Gunfighter in Gotham: Bat Masterson’s New York City Years. Norman: University of Oklahoma, 2013.