Wednesday, April 09, 2014

This Is My Idea of Heaven!

The photo below shows a man browsing through the cavernous stacks at Cincinnati, Ohio’s “Old Main” Public Library. “Completed in 1874,” explains the historical site Ohio Memory, “and designed by architect J.W. McLaughlin, the building was considered ‘the most magnificent public library in the country.’ The heads of Shakespeare, Milton and Franklin stood guard over the Main Entrance.” Unfortunately, by the 1950s this structure at 629 Vine Street was terribly overcrowded and was finally torn down in favor of a far less beautiful replacement. You’ll find many more pictures of the library here and here.

READ MORE:Gallery: American Library” (The Morning News); “The Public Library: A Photographic Love Letter to Humanity’s Greatest Sanctuary of Knowledge, Freedom, and Democracy,” by Maria Popova (Brain Pickings).

Monday, April 07, 2014

Certainly Not the Best Advisors

Following reports that the would-be Republican’t candidates for president in 2016 have been looking to members of George W. Bush’s failed administration for advice on foreign policy, Steve Benen of The Maddow Blog had this to say:
House Republicans sought out Dick Cheney for guidance on foreign policy, as if he has some credibility on the issue. Condoleezza Rice is lecturing Americans on why she wants us to get over our war “weariness.” And 2016 candidates are making a concerted effort to “court” Donald Rumsfeld, as if associating with him will bolster their national aspirations.

Perhaps now would be a good time to point out some inconvenient details:
these folks were wrong about everything. Their decisions brought deadly, catastrophic consequences. To pretend that these people have something worthwhile to offer in the areas of foreign policy and/or global leadership is to pretend reality simply has no meaning.

Put it this way: in 1940, were Republican presidential hopefuls courting Hoover’s economic team? I rather doubt it. So why is Rumsfeld in demand now?
You can read all of Benen’s piece here.

It Sounds Like an Occasion for Cake

Rockford Files fan Jim Suva reminds me that today is actor James Garner’s birthday. The legendary star not only of The Rockford Files, but also of Maverick, Nichols, Support Your Local Gunfighter, and so many other TV shows and films turns 86 years old today. I was fortunate enough to interview Garner, via e-mail, in 2011, and I count that as one of my life’s high points. Happy birthday, Jim!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Separated at Birth?

Pope Francis certainly deserves respect for his antipathy toward rising income inequality and his support of the disadvantaged. But this side-by-side comparison is still funny!

Making a Federal Case of It

It doesn’t look as if Chris Christie will put Bridgegate behind him at anytime soon. This report comes from Talking Points Memo:
Federal prosecutors in New Jersey have convened a grand jury to investigate the George Washington Bridge lane closures, ABC News reported on Friday.

Twenty-three grand jurors on Friday heard testimony from Michael Drewniak, press secretary to Gov. Chris Christie (R). Drewniak’s attorney, Anthony Iacullo, told ABC News his client was not a target of the investigation.

“I’m not going to get into the specifics as to what would be discussed in the grand jury,” Iacullo said. “I would say though that Mike is a witness and we have been assured that he continues to be a witness throughout these proceedings and Mike has continued to cooperate as requested by the government into this inquiry."

In January, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey confirmed that it was looking into the lane closures, which caused a multi-day traffic jam in Fort Lee, N.J., in September. But as ABC News reports, the existence of the grand jury confirms that the matter has evolved into a criminal investigation. Last week, a legal team representing Christie’s office released a report claiming the governor had no role in the closures, and pinning blame for the plot on two former Christie allies: former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive David Wildstein and former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly.
The full TPM piece is here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Shame on Texas!

This comes from the MSNBC news site:
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that two provisions of a Texas abortion law are constitutional, including one that has closed a third of the state’s clinics. The unanimous panel, made up of three women appointed by Republicans, had already allowed the full brunt of the law--the same one now-gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis tried to block--to go into effect.

Women’s health advocates who sued on behalf of abortion providers to block the law condemned the decision. “This is a terrible court ruling that will severely limit a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion in Texas,” said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents several Texas clinics, said, “Right now, the state of Texas is gutting the constitutional protections afforded by
Roe v. Wade more than 40 years ago, leaving large swaths of Texas left without a provider.”
You can read the remainder of the article here.

(Hat tip to PoliticsUSA.)

READ MORE:The Coat Hanger Around My Neck Is a Symbol of History,” by Colleen Crinion (Talking Points Memo).


The anonymously written but always interesting blog Mysterious Matters recently offered a list of the “Seven Deadly Sins of Books.” All of them resonate with me, but particularly this knock on poorly edited works:
7. UNEDITED. This is another publishing-industry Deadly Sin that we should be ashamed of. I just finished a book published by a much-heralded new imprint of Penguin. The thing was full of typos and grammatical errors--I found at least 25 of these. For shame. Listen, nobody’s perfect, and I think readers can forgive a typo every now and again. Even the best editors and proofreaders are going to miss something. But this level of unprofessional editing and publishing? I’m sorry--this is a Deadly Sin I cannot forgive.
I come across typos and other mistakes all the time in books these days. Publishers would do better to cut the salaries of their chief executives and put more money into hiring copy editors and proofreaders. No matter what those execs might think, readers are not too stupid to notice when corners like this are being cut.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A “Rockford” Anniversary

Fan and blogger Jim Suva reminds us that today marks 40 years since the debut, on March 27, 1974, of the pilot film that launched The Rockford Files. Also known by the title “Backlash of the Hunter,” that 90-minute NBC teleflick found perennially broke ex-con private eye Jim Rockford (James Garner) being approached by a young bikini-shop proprietor (played so delightfully by Lindsey Wagner), who is convinced her wino father was murdered, rather than having committed suicide. She wants Rockford to prove that she’s right.

The Rockford pilot ranks as one of my all-time favorites of the breed, and it spawned what I believe is the best gumshoe series ever broadcast on the American small screen. If you haven’t seen the film before, or would enjoy watching it again, you’ll find it here.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How’s This for Forgotten TV?

I never thought I’d see this happen: RLJ Entertainment is planning to release a DVD set of Barbary Coast, the long-unavailable 1975-1976 ABC-TV series starring William Shatner as a disguise-obsessed government agent working to fight crime in 19th-century San Francisco. The series also starred Doug McClure as his reluctant, saloon-owning partner. TV Shows on DVD says this four-disc set will go on sale June 3, priced at $59.99, and offers this prĂ©cis of the show:
Golden Globe winner William Shatner (Star Trek, Boston Legal) is Jeff Cable, an undercover agent patrolling the wild streets of 1880s San Francisco. Filled with casinos and saloons, this bustling slice of post-Gold Rush California runs on corruption, greed, and violence. And it’s Agent Cable’s job to crack down on the numerous criminals who have made a home there. Even top public officials can’t be trusted, so Cable weaves elaborate ruses to uncover the Barbary Coast’s many plots.

He also relies on the slick but beleaguered Cash Conover (Doug McClure,
The Virginian), proprietor of the Golden Gate Casino. Conover reluctantly puts his business and well-being on the line for Cable time and again. The charismatic pair often find the cards stacked against them, but that doesnt stop them from having a rollicking good time as they police a town mired in vigilante justice. Also starring Richard Kiel (The Spy Who Loved Me), this Emmy-nominated series is a playful take on traditional Westerns with a terrific cast.
TV Shows on DVD doesn’t specifically address the matter, but this forthcoming set may well contain the 1975 Barbary Coast pilot film, which was written by Douglas Heyes and starred Dennis Cole as a more laconic Cash. How else would this be a 14-episode offering? There were only 13 hour-long episodes shot, following the success of that pilot.

Meanwhile, Warner Archive has just released a DVD of the 1972 pilot for The Delphi Bureau, starring Laurence Luckinbill as Glenn Garth Gregory, a government agent possessed of a handy photographic memory. In the pilot, explains IMDb, Gregory “is assigned to solve the disappearance of an entire fleet of old Air Force planes.” Only eight episodes of the subsequent ABC series were produced, all shown as part of a Thursday night “wheel series” titled The Men. (The other two “spokes” of that wheel were Robert Conrad’s Assignment: Vienna and James Wainwright’s Jigsaw.)

A few years back, Mystery*File’s Michael Shonk reviewed the Delphi Bureau pilot, which was subtitled “The Merchant of Death Assignment” (even though almost all of the series’ later episodes ended in “Project,” not “Assignment”); you can read his remarks here. The new DVD is priced at $18.95 and can be purchased here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Just My Type

In case you didn’t know (and I’m confident you are surprised, as I was), February is International Typewriter Appreciation Month. There are still occasions when I miss the clack-clack and vigorously tossed-back carriages of typewriters. But then I remember how much paper I used to go through, trying to create clean copies of my articles, and I am glad to be working before the glow of a computer screen.

Journalist-blogger Bob Sassone has put together a list of “great typewriter-related sites you should check out” this month.

READ MORE:A Brief History of the Typewriter,” by Bryan Dugan (Mental Floss).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Those Malingering Republicans

This is a shocking headline from Salon: “GOP Leaders Hope to Maintain Party Unity by Doing Nothing for the Rest of the Year.” This means no help on job creation or assistance for Americans out of work, and no possibility of passing sensible immigration reform. Why should we bother to give congressional Republicans our tax dollars if they intend to sit on their asses? Right-wingers are always harping on about wasteful government spending. This is waste on steroids!

READ MORE:Lacking the Will, Not the Votes,” by Steve Benen
(The Maddow Blog).

Monday, February 17, 2014

Writing Wrongs

It’s a shame that newspapers and other publications these days have decided to cut costs by reducing the size of their proofreading staffs or do away with them altogether. That’s the reason you now see so many typographical errors plaguing the print media. I am pleased to see this woman stepping up to fix the problem, at least for Florida’s St. Augustine Record, but it’s damn shame she has to do it on a volunteer basis. Why must intelligent readers accept poorly copy-edited and proofread material, so corporate owners can pocket bigger profits?

READ MORE: Copy Editors’ Association Advises Vice to Hire a Copy Editor,” by Andrew Beaujon (Poynter).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Front and Center

With a record 1,039 votes registered, The Rap Sheet’s Best Crime Fiction Covers of 2013 contest closed at the end of last week. But only today were the results announced. Click here to see the winners.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Designs on Detective Fiction

Today marks 75 years since the release of Raymond Chandler’s first Philip Marlowe novel, The Big Sleep. To celebrate, I’ve collected decades worth of jacket art from various editions of that book and installed them in my Killer Covers blog.

(The Big Sleep cover above was designed by David Doran in conjunction with a contest hosted by publisher Penguin Books.)

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Baby, It’s Cold Out There

As the American Northeast suffers through yet another dumping of snow today, The Bowery Boys, a Gotham history blog, has posted what it describes as “the first-ever film of a New York City blizzard.”

That black-and-white footage shows people in Madison Square Park coping with a “horrific blizzard” on February 17, 1902. It’s hard to know whether they’re any more content with their lot than modern Manhattanites might be under similar conditions. They may be much less so, for in 1900, Manhattan’s population stood at 1,850,093, while in 2012, it was estimated at just 1, 619,090. And at the turn of the last century, there were not the same artificial heating resources, underground transportation facilities, and emergency services available to residents today.

So take heart, all my friends in New York. Things could be worse.

READ MORE:The Origin of Snow Removal for All New Yorkers, Rich and Poor,” by Greg Young (The Bowery Boys).

Friday, January 31, 2014

Suddenly, Things Get Worse for Christie

Uh-oh, the Chris Christie scandal may get worse very quickly. This comes from Kevin Drum’s column on the Mother Jones Web site:
David Wildstein, the executive who was was said to be Chris Christie’s “eyes and ears” at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is deeply implicated in last year’s scheme to close the Fort Lee lanes of the George Washington Bridge in order to conduct a “traffic study.” He has since resigned, and the Port Authority is refusing to pay his legal bills. Apparently this has pissed him off. Today he sent a letter asking them to change their mind, which included this lovely little nugget:

The New York Times, in which that damning nugget originally appeared, observed that “The letter marked the first signal that Mr. Christie may have been aware of the closings, something he repeatedly denied during [his two-hour news conference earlier this month.”

To which Steve Benen of The Maddow Blog adds:
We do not yet know what kind of evidence Wildstein has, but it obviously has the potential to be very damaging to the governor.

For context, note that in his press conference three weeks ago, Christie left himself no discernible wiggle-room--the governor emphatically insisted he had no idea what his top aides were up to when they conspired to punish Fort Lee. Re-reading the transcript of his remarks, I found multiple examples in which Christie spoke without ambiguity:

* “[J]ust so we’re really clear: I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or it execution, and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here.”

* “I knew nothing about this.”

* “I’m telling you, at 8:50 yesterday morning--I got done with my workout at 8:45. My trainer left. I’m getting ready to get in the shower and at 8:50 Maria Comella called me and told me about the breaking Bergen Record story, and that was the first I knew of any of the emails or the information that was contained in that story.”

To date, there is nothing definitive that has called these claims into question. But again, according to Wildstein’s lawyer, “evidence exists” that Christie knew about the Fort Lee scheme “during the period when the lanes were closed.” What’s more, Wildstein’s lawyer says he can prove it.
Has it come time yet to wonder whether the arrogant Mr. Christie’s hold on the New Jersey governor’s office might not last much longer? And what impact could his scandalous downfall have on his already unpopular fellow Republicans across the nation?

READ MORE:Christie’s Scapegoat Strikes Back: David Wildstein Wants to Talk,” by Joan Walsh (Salon); “New Jersey Gov. Christie Knew of Bridge Lane Closures, Attorney Says,” by Heather Haddon, Ted Mann and Patrick O’Connor (The Wall Street Journal); “Top Christie Aide Says Governor Was Aware of Bridge Lane Closures,” by Igor Volsky (Think Progress); “Chris Christie Knew All About the Bridge Lane Closings, Claims Ex-Friend Who Closed the Lanes,” by Joe Coscarelli (New York); “Bridge-gate: Key Figure Says Chris Christie Knew About Lane Closures,” by Harry Bruinius (The Christian Science Monitor); “The Official Who Oversaw the Lane Closures Has Turned On Christie. Here’s Why It Matters,” by Alec MacGillis (The New Republic); “Christie’s Office: Letter ‘Confirms What the Governor Has Said All Along,’” by Eric Lach (Talking Points Memo); “Christie Asks for Public’s Patience While He Comes Up with New Story,” by Andy Borowitz (The New Yorker).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger, 1919-2014


At age 90, American folk singer and activist Pete Seeger joined musician Bruce Springsteen at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., to perform one of Woody Guthrie’s signature songs, “This Land Is Your Land.” It was part of a huge concert on January 19, 2009, to celebrate the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Seeger died in his sleep last night at age 94.