Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Gospel Songbook Evokes Memories

Recently I came home from work and found on the floor in the hall a thin red hardback book that had fallen from a pile of books. I picked it up and saw that it was a religious songbook called Gospel Pearls (1921). Browsing through it, I came across several songs I remember hearing my late mother sing around the house when I was young. As a young girl she, like my grandmother, sang in church. At one time she aspired to be a gospel singer. As I read the lyrics of various songs, I could hear her voice in my head singing The Royal Telephone, Eyes on the Sparrow, God Be With You, and Leave It There. These songs brought back pleasant memories.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

When Jury Duty Calls

This week I postponed jury duty for the fourth (and final, I hope) time. I go back in a couple of months. I decided that I will make the experience more tolerable by killing two birds with one stone: take notes about my observations during jury duty and read and review for this blog Jury Duty, a 1996 courtroom thriller by Laura Van Wormer (Crown Publishers) and make contrasts and comparisons.

I began reading Jury Duty when I got it in 1996 but I never got past page 122. My failure to complete the book had nothing to do with it not being interesting. Unfortunately, other things intruded. Now I have an incentive to finish it.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Richard Durham, Black Radio Dramatist In The 1940s

One writer I would like to know more about is Richard Durham (1917-1984), a Chicago-based black radio dramatist (probably the only one in the 1940s) who wrote all the episodes for three series: Destination Freedom, Democracy U.S.A. , and a black soap opera, Here Comes Tomorrow.

During Black History Month this year, Max Schmid, the host of The Golden Age of Radio on New York's Pacifica station WBAI played the episode of Destination Freedom that dramatized Harriet Tubman's role in helping slaves escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad.

If there isn't a biography of Richard Durham, there should be. His work was an important contribution to old-time radio and to people's awareness of and appreciation for the achievements of  people of African descent.

Durham deserves to be as well-known as historians Carter G. Woodson (the father of what was then known as Black History Week) and J. A. Rogers.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

How I Discovered Wiktionary

Browsing through the Village Voice (March 4-10, 2015 issue), I came upon an article about music journalist Robert Christgau and his memoir Going Into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man (Dey Street Books). I remember proofreading his copy in the early 1980s when he was the music critic at the Village Voice.  (I think it was his sister, Georgia Christgau, who hired me.)

 Not seeing Christgau's age mentioned in the piece, I immediately went to Wikipedia to look up his birth date (It's April 18, 1942) and stumbled upon a link to the word "memoir." That led me to the Wiktionary page, which for me, a language buff, was a fascinating discovery. I learned that Wiktionary, the free dictionary, was "a multilingual, web-based project to create a free-content dictionary of all words in all languages."

 The project is currently available in 158 languages and is, like Wikipedia, its companion site, "written collaboratively by volunteers" called "wiktionarians." The English-language section, at the time that I checked the site, contained 3, 971,737 entries (and counting).

Although I had trouble using the site on my cell phone, I did click on the highlighted word "free" in the phrase "free dictionary." What popped up on the screen was a language lover's delight: there were
word origin and pronunciation guides, a list of synonyms and antonyms, definitions with literary examples, et cetera. For example, here are two definitions of "free" that appeared in a long list of definitions:

"without; not containing (what is specified);exempt;clean, liberated" as in "We had a wholesome, filling meal, free of meat" and "not currently in use; not taken; unoccupied" as in  "You can sit on that chair, it's free."

Once I figure out how to use Wiktionary, it will become a very useful reference tool and I will be consulting it often.

Go to

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Radio Talker Who Reads Five Books A Week

One talk show I regularly listen to is The John Batchelor Show, heard nightly on WABC-AM 770 here in New York. Although Batchelor is a conservative commentator and I am a liberal, I like his show and find it very compelling because of the range of topics and guests (which includes liberals like Katrina Vanden Heuvel, the editor of the Nation magazine.)

In a 2006 New York Times article titled "He Takes the Shout Out of Talk Radio" that is linked to his Wikipedia page, it was pointed out by the author, Anahad O'Connor, that Batchelor "reads up to five books a week." I would love to learn his secret to reading that many books in such a short time while maintaining a busy schedule. I'm reading several books at once but it takes me forever to complete them. Maybe he's taken a special speed reading program that has helped him read twenty books a month. If he has, I'd like to know what it is and subscribe to it.