16 July 2013

Folk Song Cage Match: Which is the better FREEDOM song?

Peter, Paul, and Mary's "If I Had a Hammer"


Bobby Darin's "Simple Song of Freedom"

15 July 2013

I'm pretty much willing to bet the house that, 42 years ago today,

when President Nixon made this announcement, nobody would've thought that an OPERA would result from the trip!

"Any nation can be our friend without being any other nation's enemy." 

Now THAT, boys and girls, is foreign policy! 
(Well, when you're not carpet-bombing Cambodia.)

Andre Gide once said, "The problem with choice..."

"...is what you leave out."

The same can be said for the digitalization of old newspapers, apparently.

So, in my renewed interest in colonial American neo-Latin poetry this summer, I've come to realize just how much easier than it once was to get one's hands on scanned versions of the original texts, many of which were published in newspapers and other periodicals.  No dizzying microfilm or, even worse, microfiche.  No expensive travel.  Indeed, today, in about 5 minutes never leaving the desk in my office, I had in my hands a printed copy of Catholic frontier missionary Stephen Badin's elegy for Joseph Hamilton Daveiss, "In Gloriosam Mortem..." as published in the April 1812 issue of The Port-Folio Magazine

"Golly," I thought, "this is SWELL!"

And it is, although nothing's fool-proof, as I discovered when I went after James Ross's "In Memoriam Joannis Simonton" from the January 1815 issue of the same periodical. 

Sure enough, and just as quickly as the first time, I find the listing and click on it and see the first seven lines as found on page 89. 

"Wait.  Where's the rest?," I asked, because the poem (I know from other sources) is 77 lines long.  I searched, and even called up the entire issue, but pages 90-93 are nowhere to be found.   

Yes, Burritt library has a few issues of Port-Folio Magazine in its Rare Book Collection, but not the issue I need.

Now it's possible that those pages no longer exist, but, if that were the case, I'd assume that some notation would have been made in the digital file.

So, guess who contacted Interlibrary Loan?

06 July 2013

In either case, "don't do the crime if you can't do the time..."

So my younger daughter balked when I said that I wasn't a big fan of murder mysteries. 

"What?!," she said, "but you LOVE Law and Order."

And that's true, I do love the Law and Order (only, it should be known, the original series -- no matter the cast -- and not SUV, CI, LA or any other combination of acronymic subtitles).  But, as I told her, Law and Order is a cop and lawyer show combined not a murder-mystery, i.e., it's more about the official process of bringing a criminal to justice than it is about finding the murderer.  It's got public officials, not private and/or amateur sleuths, doing the investigating.

So then I got to thinking about popular television shows and how they fall within this spectrum:

Kojak     Cop Show

Adam 12     Cop Show

Dragnet     Cop Show

Cagney and Lacey     Cop Show

Police Woman     Cop Show

Hill Street Blues     Cop Show

Murder She Wrote     Murder Mystery

Matlock , Quincy, and Barnaby Jones are all Murder Mysteries because none of them, as lawyer, medical examiner, or RETIRED P.I., should ever have been in danger of getting offed by the bad guy.

McMillan and Wife     Murder Mystery because even though he was the Chief of Police, they were a mystery-solving duo not unlike the Harts of Hart to Hart.

McCloud     Murder Mystery because, even though he is a police detective (albeit on loan to NYC from Texas), he's unorthodox and is getting into as much trouble with the higher-ups as those hippy Italian-American detectives Barretta, Toma, and the short-lived television incarnation of Serpico did!  In short they're really no different than the private dicks, like...

Mannix     Who the hell cares if it's an m.m. or a cop show?  Joe Mannix was just so cool you wanted not just to watch Mannix, you wanted to BE Mannix!

Rockford Files     See Mannix.

Columbo is the truly odd duck in this discussion (as would be the far-less-effective Law and Order: Criminal Intent) since the show, which is about a police detective, is not really about the murder at all, since the good detective usually figures out the identity of the culprit early on in any episode (and we the viewers then know who too), it's then just a question of how he knows what he knows.

We won't comment on the current trend of "psychic" detectives (e.g. Mentalist, Medium, or the one with the redhead with the photographic memory) since that's just cheatin.'

And Randy Newman's Cop Rock, well, Cop Rock was just brilliant!

05 July 2013

MGM's "Show Boat" will just slay ya!


I just finished Ed Ifkovic's Make Believe, a murder mystery set in 1951 Hollywood and part of his Edna Ferber Mystery series.  The book was sent to me by another mystery writer, friend, and former colleague at CCSU, Carole Shmurak, because of my interest in two of the real-life characters in Make Believe, Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra.

And, let me say, Mr. Ifkovic's depictions of the two stars, both individually and as a problematic couple, work very well.  He captures the tabloid-hot-copy nature of their relationship on the verge of their marriage on 7 November 1951 but still manages to create well-rounded characters that the reader can care about.

The nature of a mystery novel makes writing a review difficult since the reviewer doesn't want to give anything away, so I won't say anything more than the plot nicely interweaves a murder or two; the impending release of MGM's Show Boat, the musical based upon the novel by Edna Ferber (the sleuth of Ifkovic's series) and starring Gardner, Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Joe E. Brown, and William Warfield; the Ava/Frank relationship; and the investigations of the House Un-American Activities Committee.  The various strands of the plot make for several viable suspects, of course, and offers a peak into the star-making machinery of Hollywood's heyday.

That said, the book starts off more slowly than is best, I think, although the last half really kicks into high gear as Ms. Ferber, away from her familiar NYC haunts, gains her balance amongst the West Coast backstabbers and makes it clear that this older woman, who's usually the smartest one in whatever room she walks, won't be taking any guff from anyone.  For Ferber offers Ifkovic a fine and credible crime-solver: successful enough in show business to give her access and talented enough in wordsmithing to be witty in both the moment and upon  reflection.

If you like the mystery genre, or old Hollywood, or Show Boat, or Frank and/or Ava, or Edna Ferber, you'll enjoy this book.  It may not change your opinions about any of these characters, but it'll certainly make you long for the days when the stars were big -- before "the pictures got small."