Monday, April 5, 2021

The new Ernest Hemingway documentary, by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

Tonight, PBS will present the first two hours of Hemingway, the new documentary from the superb filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

The program will be seen from 8 to 10 p.m. Eastern time (and in my area will be repeated from 10 p.m. to midnight); the second and third installments of the film will be broadcast Tuesday and Wednesday.  Broadcast schedules, however (including repeats), may vary, depending upon the city; please check your local station's listings. 

Here is the link for the program, on the PBS website:

In an April 1st New York Times interview with Ms. Novick and Mr. Burns, Ms. Novick said this, of Hemingway: 

"We’re aware of the fact that he’s a controversial figure. And that there are people who are so put off by his public persona that they haven’t read his work or don’t want to read his work. But we are living in times when we are re-evaluating all these icons from our past. And there’s no better way to do that than looking at Ernest Hemingway. Some of it is very ugly, and very difficult. And if you’re a woman or a person of color, or you’re Jewish, or you’re Native American, there are going to be things in Hemingway that are going to be really, really tough. But he is so important as a literary figure and in terms of his influence that to ignore him seems to just avoid the problem."

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I've posted the following on previous occasions, the last time being in 2015.  It is a brief excerpt of an audio recording (a recording I like a great deal) of a live performance on the television show Your Hit Parade, on NBC. It is from the March 15, 1952 telecast of the Hit Parade, two days before St. Patrick's Day.

The audio excerpt is of my mother, Sue Bennett, singing "Great Day for the Irish," accompanied by the program's choral group, the Hit Paraders.  The show's "Lucky Strike Orchestra" was led by Raymond Scott.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti died on February 22nd, in San Francisco.  He was 101.

In addition to his poetry (which includes the widely-known book A Coney Island of the Mind, published in 1958 by New Directions),  Mr. Ferlinghetti was the co-founder, in 1953, of San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore.  In 1955 he founded the publishing company City Lights Books, housed in the same building as the bookstore. 

In 1956, Mr. Ferlinghetti and City Lights made literary history by publishing the poem "Howl," by Allen Ginsberg (in Mr. Ginsberg's book, Howl and Other Poems).  Mr. Ferlinghetti was later arrested, on an obscenity charge, for publishing the poem.  He was acquitted at trial; the judge in the case ruled that the poem  had "redeeming social importance."  The manager of City Lights Bookstore, Shigeyoshi Murao, was also arrested--for selling the book, to an undercover police officer.  He too was acquitted.

In an obituary about Mr. Ferlinghetti in The Washington Post, there was a quote from him that I was struck by, about the publishing of poetry; the quote is eloquent, and, yes, poetic. 

The Post's Emma Brown wrote:

Mr. Ferlinghetti was clear-eyed about the fate of most avant-garde work. “Publishing a book of poetry is still like dropping it off a bridge somewhere and waiting for a splash,’’ he once said. “Usually you don’t hear anything.’’

Friday, February 26, 2021

Gerry Marsden, and Morgan White, Jr.

This weekend, on his Boston radio talk show (Saturday, 9 p.m. to midnight, WBZ-AM), my friend Morgan White, Jr. will be focusing on the 1960s British invasion.  His guest will be longtime Boston radio personality Stu Fink, who is currently co-host of a syndicated "country oldies" program; he has appeared many times as a guest of Morgan on WBZ. 

On Saturday, Morgan and Stu will discuss such groups as The Dave Clark Five, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and, of course, The Beatles.

The program can be heard at this link:

I've been meaning to write about Gerry Marsden, of Gerry and the Pacemakers, since his death, in January.  He was 78. 

Gerry and the Pacemakers' hits included "Ferry Cross the Mersey," "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying," and "How Do You Do It?" 

"Ferry Cross the Mersey"--written by Mr. Marsden--remains, I think, one of the most beautiful songs of the 1960s.  







I've been a fan, since childhood, of Mr. Marsden's singing style.  He had, too, a very likeable and friendly demeanor, as a performer--and I always liked the distinctive way he held his guitar: he held it up high--higher than was typical of other guitarists.

Here are a couple of videos of live performances by Gerry and the Pacemakers, from YouTube.   

The first is "How Do You Do It?," the group's first hit, from 1963. (It has a nice backbeat, by the way, from drummer Freddie Marsden, Gerry Marsden's older brother.)

Here, too, is a performance of "Ferry Cross the Mersey," which was a hit in the United States in 1965.  Note that one of the young dancers, in the audience, bumps into Mr. Marsden's microphone, not long after the start of the song.

Gerry Marsden was from Liverpool, and his group was part of what was known as the Merseybeat sound. The group's manager was Brian Epstein, who also managed The Beatles--and the above-noted hits by the Pacemakers were produced by Beatles producer George Martin.  I was not aware, until reading about Mr. Marsden, after his death, that "How Do You Do It?" reached the top of the charts, in the United Kingdom, a few weeks before The Beatles had their first number one U.K. hit, "From Me to You."

Mr. Marsden died in Merseyside, England, an area which includes Liverpool.

(Photo from video, above:  Gerry Marsden, with the Pacemakers, performing "Ferry Cross the Mersey")

Monday, February 22, 2021


Today, the U.S. passed the extraordinary milestone of one-half million deaths, due to the coronavirus.  

On January 19th, the day before the inauguration--only thirty-four days ago--we had reached 400,000 deaths.

This evening, President Biden spoke to the nation from the White House, to honor the half-million people who have died, to offer comfort to those who have experienced such terrible loss during the past year--and to offer solace to the country at large.

His remarks were moving. It is clear--as was evident before he became President--that one of Mr. Biden's most significant attributes is that, unlike his predecessor, he feels and understands--deeply--that which has taken place since early 2020.  He grasps, deeply, the realms of tragedy, calamity, loss, grief--and understands, profoundly, not unlike a pastor, the significance of consolation, and remembrance.  

Mr. Biden said, in part:

"While we've been fighting this pandemic for so long, we have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow. We have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or a blur or ‘on the news.’ And we must do so to honor the dead, but equally important, care for the living, those left behind."

He said: “For those who have lost loved ones, this is what I know: They’re never truly gone. They’ll always be part of your heart."  

He said that for him, "the way through sorrow and grief is to find purpose. I don’t know how many of you have lost someone a while ago and are wondering, ‘Is he or she proud of me now? Is this what they want me to do?’ I know that’s how I feel. And we can find purpose – purpose worthy of the lives they lived and worthy of the country we love.

"So today, I ask all Americans to remember: Remember those we lost and those who are left behind."

After he spoke, the President, along with Jill Biden, and Vice President Harris and Douglas Emhoff, observed a moment of silence outside of the White House, at the front of the South Lawn.  Memorial candles were situated on the ground near them--in front of, and then covering, each of the two stairways leading up to the White House balcony. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The virus

As of today, there have been been more than 450,000 deaths in the U.S., due to Covid-19.  

50,000 deaths have occurred in the past fifteen days; the country reached 400,000 deaths on January 19th.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Walter Cronkite, and the death of Lyndon Johnson

The following video is from a telecast of the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.  It took place on January 22, 1973, 48 years and one week ago.  

I will note that I was watching the newscast that evening, in our family kitchen in suburban Boston. What took place, in the 1973 broadcast, was, I remember, startling and dramatic to see (it remains so, at least for me, when viewed today).  It was dramatic not solely because of what was learned--that former President Lyndon Johnson had died in Texas, at age 64--but because of how the news was transmitted.

As the video, below, begins--in mid-newscast--Mr. Cronkite is seen at his desk in the CBS studio.  I read some time ago--I do not remember this, from watching the telecast in 1973--that a filmed report had been airing, yet the report was interrupted. When Mr. Cronkite appears on the screen, however, he initially does not speak--and for a moment, indeed, is not looking in the direction of the camera.  Instead, he is on the telephone.  He then looks at the camera, and holds up a finger, as if to say, to his viewers:  hold on, I'll be with you shortly.

It was gripping--this unexpected silence, and this odd (and for a moment, mysterious) interruption. One would learn, seconds later, about Johnson's death, and that Cronkite was speaking with one of the former president's aides--whose voice, one notes, was not heard during the phone call.  

The video becomes, in essence, a brief portrait of a journalist at work.  Mr. Cronkite describes that which he has learned, during the telephone call.  He asks follow-up questions, on the phone, and there is then further silence--silence which feels markedly unusual, in the context of a news broadcast--as he takes in additional details about Mr. Johnson's passing.

Here is the CBS News video of Mr. Cronkite, from 1973:

Let me also note the following:  while most people, I suspect, will not recall the specific date of Lyndon Johnson's death, I am sure there are many, today, who remember January 22, 1973 for a far different reason. Another event--quite dramatic--occurred earlier in the day, and reporting about it took place at the beginning of Mr. Cronkite's newscast that evening, before he learned of Mr. Johnson's death. That same day, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark 7-2 decision, in the case of Roe versus Wade.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A Commemoration

Early this evening--the day prior to the inauguration--President-elect Joe Biden, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (accompanied by Dr. Jill Biden, and Douglas Emhoff, Ms. Harris's husband) visited the Lincoln Memorial.  

They were there to pay tribute to those who have died from Covid-19 during the past year.  Earlier in the day, the number of Covid-related deaths in the U.S. passed 400,000.  By late evening, more than 401,500 deaths would be recorded.

The commemoration--which took place in front of the Lincoln Memorial's Reflecting Pool--was brief, and very moving.  

Before Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris spoke, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Wilton Gregory, delivered an invocation. 

President-elect Biden said, "To heal, we must remember.  It's hard sometimes to remember, but that's how we heal. It's important to do that as a nation. That's why we're here today."

In addition to the remarks by Mr. Biden, Ms. Harris, and Archbishop Gregory, Lori Marie Kay, a nurse from Michigan, sang "Amazing Grace."  The gospel singer Yolanda Adams sang Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

As Mr. Biden finished speaking, four hundred lights, behind him--at the lengthwise sides of the Reflecting Pool (each light representing one thousand of those who have died during the pandemic)--were illuminated. The sight--of the lights, of the reflections of the lights on the water, and the Washington Monument in the distance--was striking, and beautiful. 

I don't think there could have been a more meaningful preface to the beginning of the new administration. 

(Photograph by Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney: "I will vote to impeach the President"

From the statement, today, by Rep. Liz Cheney, the 3rd-highest ranking Republican in Congress:    

"Much more will become clear in coming days and weeks, but what we know now is enough. The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution
"I will vote to impeach the President."

"Six hours of paralysis: Inside Trump’s failure to act after a mob stormed the Capitol"

The story, below, is by Washington Post reporters Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, and Philip Rucker.  It appeared on the newspaper's website Monday night. 

The report includes this:  

(A)s senators and House members trapped inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday begged for immediate help during the siege, they struggled to get through to the president, who — safely ensconced in the West Wing — was too busy watching fiery TV images of the crisis unfolding around them to act or even bother to hear their pleas.

Also from the story:

“It took him awhile to appreciate the gravity of the situation,” [Senator Lindsey] Graham said in an interview. “The president saw these people as allies in his journey and sympathetic to the idea that the election was stolen.”

The reporters write:

The man who vowed to be a president of law and order failed to enforce the law or restore order. The man who has always seen himself as the protector of uniformed police sat idly by as Capitol Police officers were outnumbered, outmaneuvered, trampled on — and in one case, killed. And the man who had long craved the power of the presidency abdicated many of the responsibilities of the commander in chief, even having to be prodded into belatedly calling up reinforcements from the National Guard.

One of the writers of the story, Mr. Rucker, along with Post reporter Carol Leonnig, wrote the excellent book A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America (Penguin Press, January, 2020).

Friday, January 8, 2021

From columnist George Will

The essay by Mr. Will--titled "Trump, Hawley and Cruz will each wear the scarlet ‘S’ of a seditionist"--is from The Washington Post.  It appeared on the Post's website Wednesday evening.


President Trump is a deeply disturbed and uniquely dangerous man.

Conservatives, moderates, and liberals alike have called for him to resign, following the assault on the Capitol.  Those suggesting resignation include the editorial board of the conservative Wall Street Journal.  President Trump should take this advice.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Alex Trebek

The final five episodes of Jeopardy! that Alex Trebek hosted are airing this week.  

Mr. Trebek's last program was taped on October 29th.  He died ten days later, on November 8th.