On the way up and back I listened to an audiobook. Wanted something with plenty of plot, so I chose a Harlan Coban book, Caught. I had seen one TV show based on his stuff, and I think I might have read one of the books. He’s known for dense plotting, right? Twists and turns? They have that. Indeed they do.

Okay, the book’s coming to an end, I think it has to be - oh, there are 23 more chapters? Guess not.

OKAY this is it, the final twist . . . oh, there’s a vast cabal and conspiracy whose shadowy presence has just been hinted at? No, 13 more chapters to go . . . except the murder has been solved, right? Or not; every 3 chapters it's like a truck carrying red herrings overturns on the highway.

It’s beach lit, I get it, and it roars along. BUT OH GOD the cliches. There’s a grizzly Vietnam Vet biker who’s earthy and has a white mustache and a jean jacket and loves his beer and cigarette! A smart sexy TV news reporter who just can’t let the story go! A weary detective who failed one big case and is hoping for redemption on the last one he’ll do! A slow-talkin’ fat Southern guy who’s much sharper than people realize, to their detriment!

And then there’s Judge Judy.

Early in the book there’s an evidentiary hearing which has a fuh-lam-BOY-antly gay defense attorney camping it up in a parody of parodic campy gays, right down to fists-on-hips-and-pouting, but don’t you know he’s the best there is, so I guess it’s okay. I wonder if it’s supposed to be a particular attorney, because when Judge Judy shows up I thought well obviously he’s not shy about importing real people into the book. The JJ character is an incredibly clever lawyer who can stun mere police and civil lawyers to red-faced silence with her withering, off-the-cuff defenses, and make such devastating arguments that the police have no choice but to . . . what? Audience? Right. CUT THEM LOOSE. We thought we had that guy, but then his lawyer shows up and makes these, like, ninja arguments! We had no choice!

We know she’s Judge Judy because she has a popular syndicated reality show courtroom program. As well as a thriving criminal defense practice, I guess.

The reader is expected to know exactly who this character is, and that’s the height of laziness. The plotting never stops, which keeps you going - or listening - and I suppose that's what matters. It's certainly generous. Perhaps that's what matters, and not the characters that seem like someone's basing their characters on 80s / 90s TV show cliches.

The author may laugh: and next trip, will you listen to another?

Me: of course, but could you maybe compress it and cut down the preposterous number of indistinguishable characters who are simply identified by a tic or word?

Author: (laughs)









Perhaps you’ve read that Kate Smith has been cancelled, because she sang a song called “That’s Why the Darkies Were Born” in the 1930s. If you read the lyrics, you see it’s not what the professionally aggrieved think it is.

But assume it is. Story:

The New York Daily News reported Thursday there are conflicting claims about Smith's 1939 song "That's Why Darkies Were Born." The song originated in the 1931 Broadway revue "George White's Scandals" and was considered satire, but it includes racist language. It was recorded by Smith and also by Paul Robeson, who was black.

The Flyers released the following statement on Sunday:

"The Flyers have enjoyed a long and popular relationship with 'God Bless America,' as performed by the late Kate Smith, a woman who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor for her patriotic contributions to our nation.

"But in recent days, we learned that several of the songs Kate Smith performed in the 1930s include lyrics and sentiments that are incompatible with the values of our organization, and evoke painful and unacceptable themes."

The statue was removed; the TV station had a video of the concrete base being destroyed, in case anyone succeeded in rehabilitating Kate Smith. But that's not going to happen. No, her works

It is possible that I should be cancelled, because of my relationship with Kate Smith's TV show. I have performed and promoted the works of Peg Lynch, who appeared on her show many times.

It is also necessary to ban the song “White Christmas” as performed by Bing Crosby. In 1928 he sang a song called “Mississippi Mud.” Google will give you these lyrics:

When the sun goes down, the tide goes out,
The people gather 'round and they all begin to shout,
"Hey! Hey! Uncle Dud,
It's a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi Mud.
It's a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi Mud".
What a dance do they do!
Lordy, how I'm tellin' you
They don't need no band
They keep time by clappin' their hand.
Just as happy as a cow chewin' on a cud.
When the people beat their feet on the Mississippi Mud.

Oh, but it wasn’t “people” in the original.



Here's the opening segment.


The online sites have altered the lyrics. Wikipedia notes “The lyrics were revised because of the derogatory racial term "darkies" in the original. The original lyrics featured a line in the refrain: "When the 'darkies' beat their feet on the Mississippi Mud". This has since been changed to: "When the 'people' beat their feet on the Mississippi Mud.”

Yes, but when a site is referring to the Bing version, it’s changing what hadn’t been changed yet.

You can make the point that “Mississippi Mud” is racist where "That's Why Darkies Were Born,” isn’t, since it’s sung in minstrel voices and considers its subjects shoeless celebrants wallowing around like savages. Happy as a cow chewin' on a cud.

Does the Smith anullment matter? As people are keen to note, you can continue to listen to Kate Smith if you want, and her dethronement was the act of private companies. True. But if you were in any public-facing business, and you were presented now with the chance to use a Kate Smith song or something from the same period by someone else, which would you choose? Would you think - eh, it's not worth it. Why ask for bother?

As I said before, somewhat joshingly - 1984 is coming to pass not because it's imposed, but because everyone is volunteering to do their part.





The Front Page. It’s 1915.


Ads were a mainstay on front pages for decades, but by the 20s they'd be out. Let's see what's going on in Corsicana.

  The war is going very badly for the Federation.

It says something about the state of the nation's crime that a New York slaying would make the Texas paper.

I will never not lament the passing of the word "Yegg."


Oh, sure, of course: that's how the world was. Nobody thought anything about that subhead.

They'd be confused why you pointed it out.

A promotional competition: Best Looking Newspaper Carrier.


What happened to these kids? Let's see if anything shows up.


  Jamie: Looks like he was 13 at the time this was taken; he died in 1979.
  Edgar Tackett never showed up in the local paper again.

Alvin McCleary worked at the State National Bank, was a youth leader at the YMCA, and got married eventually; joined the marines at the start of the war. If it’s the same guy. Seems like it; how many with that name lived in Corsicana? Mentioned as a victim in a 1963 newspaper crime report - someone hit his car and drove away.

Deceased at the age of 86. Died where he was born.


He won the contest.




  After that, he has one appearance in the paper:


The first kid we saw, Charlton Gunter?

  He went on to be a reporter for the very newspaper he delivered. His father? A printer at the paper. Gunter died in 1970 after a short bad patch.


The premise of this strip is rather obvious, and I suppose useful in keeping with today's inadvertant theme of casual racism of the first half of the 20th century:

That's Milt Gross,

"an American cartoonist and animator. His work is noted for its exaggerated cartoon style and Yiddish-inflected English dialogue. He originated the non-sequitur "Banana Oil!" as a phrase deflating pomposity and posing. His character Count Screwloose's admonition, "Iggy, keep an eye on me!", became a national catchphrase. The National Cartoonists Society fund to aid indigent cartoonists and their families for many years was known as the Milt Gross Fund."

The entry does not mention Mr. Dreemzit.

You can get a suit cheaper today. Adjusting for inflation, $35 was over eight hundred bucks.

But that's not quite how it works, i know.


That'll do; enjoy the update, and I'll see you around. --



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