BOOK REVIEW: Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense

Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy
Dan Abrams and David Fisher
Hanover Square Press
Copyright 2019 by the authors

Even after his failed campaign to retake the White House, Theodore Roosevelt was not one to retire quietly like other former presidents. Even when age kept him from the “strenuous life” that he had long championed, he was still writing and speaking out against corruption in government.

In 1914, Roosevelt came out in support of Harvey D. Hinman, a progressive Republican, for the governorship of New York. Party boss William Barnes Jr. supported his opponent, Charles Seymour Whitman. In July, Roosevelt published a screed where he accused – in no uncertain terms – Barnes and Tammany Hall boss Charles Francis Murphy of corruption and conspiring to thwart the will of the people.

Murphy let the attack go – either he was used to such criticism, or perhaps he felt discretion was the better part of valor given his opponent. Barnes, however, took the attack seriously. He sued Roosevelt for libel.

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Iowa

So now that the dust has cleared and the smoke has settled (for the most part), what can we gather from the Iowa Caucuses?

Well, obviously, Iowa needs to work on its ballot counting system. A few kinks should always be expected, since no system is perfect – especially because no matter how foolproof you make it, some fool isn’t going to follow the perfectly clear instructions and screw things up. But when you’re making such a major change, you probably should do a dress rehearsal field test before the big event.

The news media ought to have a bit of patience, too. In situations like this, you don’t need to have the results yesterday, if not sooner. Wait a bit and give them the chance to get it right. You can spend more time speculating about the outcome, too!

The other major complaint I’ve been reading about is from political junkies buffs complaining about how the Iowa Caucuses are so “undemocratic”. Seems they don’t like this rural, low diversity, low population state acting as a sort of “kingmaker” in the nominating process.

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The Gallifrey Conundrum

Anyone who’s more than a passing fan of Doctor Who knows that The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. Over the decades, a substantial body of continuity has built up around them. When the new series was being launched, showrunner Russell T. Davies made it pretty clear that he wanted a completely fresh start, unburdened by all of that lore. He came up with the idea of a “Time War”, where the Time Lords and the Daleks, The Doctor’s greatest enemies, would have had a war so vast that they wound up destroying each other completely.

It didn’t work.

The Daleks quickly made an appearance, followed by Gallifrey. Things kept changing – Gallifrey was destroyed, then saved, then invaded and virtually destroyed, then saved again, then destroyed again. I’ve actually lost track…. And it’s not like we’re seeing the effects of the Time War as “reality” (as far as the series is concerned) changes around us.

It’s more like they cannot decide what to do with Gallifrey and the Time Lords.

Maybe if they stepped back a bit and first asked themselves “What do the Time Lords actually do, anyway?”

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Book Review: World War II (Series)

The World War II Series
Robert T. Elson, Roebrt Wernick, Leonard Mosley, et al.
Time-Life Books
1976-1983

Back in the late 50s, there were a couple of things every home just had to have to show off the status and erudition of the residents. A television set (presumably a nice 27″ console), a big hi-fi stereo, and a set of books.

Normally, the books would be a basic encyclopedia. In the days before the Internet, that’s where you went for quick information on any topic. Or you might have something like the Harvard Classics set of important works in the Western Canon (The Encyclopedia Britannica’s “Great Books” set if you wanted something more current), or even Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization. Not that anyone would actually read all of them all the way through; they just looked neat on your bookshelves and let your guests think you were smarter than you really were.

In 1959, Time Inc., who published both Time and Life magazines, decided they should get in on this. They had access to top writers and editors around the world, and a truly humongous photo library. Time Life Books was born.

They’d publish dozens of book series over the next two decades or so, covering topics from folklore and home repair to the Civil War and world history. Quality varied, as should be expected. One of the more highly regarded series covered World War II.

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My 2020 Hall of Fame Ballot

Not that I have one, of course, but as a baseball fan (you can tell from how many posts I have here on the sport), I’m not going to let the chance go by to pretend I had a say in the matter.

Derek Jeter is obvious. Even if you believe he is overrated, you cannot deny that he belongs in the Hall. The only question here is if he’ll be a unanimous selection. He probably will be, but if a voter or three has someone else on the ballot that they’d prefer to give a vote to, that’s fine. Nowhere in the Hall (the gallery with the plaques) does it actually mention how the voting went for the honorees. It. Doesn’t. Matter. Jeter gets a vote from me.

This year is Larry Walker’s last time on the regular ballot. I do not believe that any supposed advantage he may have gotten from playing his home games in Denver should affect how we treat him. Before we even knew how to quantify “park effects”, did we penalize players for playing in quirky stadiums? No, of course not. So Walker gets a vote from me.

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Movie Review: Kitten With a Whip (1964)

Film critic Nathan Rabin came up with the idea of the “manic pixie dream girl” as a character type after seeing Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown (2005). He called the type “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” A less-overblown description would be a generally young, usually cute, female “free spirit” who enters the life of a dull, boring, generally older male and gets him to loosen up and enjoy life.

The MPDG has been identified in movies going all the way back to 1936, when Katherine Hepburn turned Cary Grant’s world upside down in Bringing Up Baby. The term has also taken flack from critics who object to the sexism of the idea, which has been used to define actresses in real life, and not just characters.

The character type has become one of those things where once you know to look for it, you can’t stop seeing it – or at least hints of it. Since it’s become a defined trope, one might expect to start seeing variations – a Manic Pixie Dream Boy, perhaps.

Kitten With a Whip was made well before the MPDG became common, so it clearly cannot be a response to the trope. But it does pose the question – What if the MPDG was a sociopath?

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2019 in Review

Another year of blogging under the belt. That makes six. I honestly had no idea I’d be able to keep it going this long, I figured I’d get bored with it sometime in Year 4…..

Anyway, I managed 58 posts – down two from 2018. Still more than one a week (vacations help!). There were 2,729 visitors and 3,859 page views (both of which are HUGE increases over 2018). Over two-thirds of those views came from the US. The United Kingdom, Canada, and France were next. People from a total of 69 countries (as defined by WordPress) stopped by (Hello Kazakhstan!). There were 136 “likes” – also a huge increase over 2018. Well, there are a lot more posts overall – their number isn’t going down. “Indiana Jones and the Top Men” is still my most popular post by a long shot – and I haven’t even been promoting it. It must show up on a lot of search engines.

Instead of the “most viewed” posts for 2019, I thought I’d plug the ones I personally liked the most (well, at least at this time of writing).

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Christmas at WFMU

If you’re like me (and I know I am), you get tired of the same old holiday songs being played on the radio by the second week of December – if not sooner. Fortunately, there is a radio station that doesn’t play by the rules. WFMU (91.1 FM) broadcasts from northern New Jersey, and is what is known as a “freeform” station. The DJs play whatever they want, subject only to FCC regulations. All but the tiniest fraction of their income is from listener donations, so they are beholden to no one. Think of it as a college radio station – but without the basketball games.

Around ten years ago, they started archiving their shows on their website – so you can listen in regardless of the constraints of time or space.

Most of their DJs have holiday specials of some sort – tune in over the next week to hear what they’ve come up with. Here are last year’s (mostly) holiday shows from my favorite programs for your “streaming” pleasure. You are definitely going to hear things you’ve never heard before. The descriptions are the DJ’s own….

Enjoy! And don’t say you weren’t warned…..

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Random Thoughts on Impeachment

I’ve been following the proceedings so far, watching the hearings and reading the press reports and occasionally the comments.

And I’ve got a few thoughts.

I feel safe referring to “Republicans” and “Democrats” as the two sides, since it really is split along party lines. No Republicans have even hinted that they would consider the possibility of voting to impeach, and no Democrats have suggested with any seriousness that El Presidente just might be innocent.

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A Christmas Mix For You – VI

Let me be honest. I’m getting tired of digging through and dredging up all the Christmas music out there. I’ve already shared the holiday tunes I thought were worthwhile, and had to dig around near the bottom of the proverbial barrel to fill up the last holiday mix (or two).

So the heck with it. This year, I’m just going to go through my collection, and without curating or even ordering the choices, just toss out every single version of “Jingle Bells” I have.

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