We Like These Vulnerable Characters for NOT Being Like Trump

Thanks to a bunch of gutless Electoral College electors on Dec. 19, the U.S. will soon have a new President who seems totally sure of himself despite being a vile, incompetent, sad excuse for a human being. So it’s sort of comforting to think of characters in literature who are vulnerable and not so confident despite being nice, smart, and capable.

I’ll name some of those characters and discuss the possible reasons why they’re not Trump-like egomaniacs. Many of the reasons have to do with the knocks they’ve taken in life, not necessarily a genetic tendency toward humility.

As you’ll see, I won’t include many protagonists who are straight white males — a “group” with a seemingly disproportionate percentage of “members” possessing too much conceit and vanity. After all, to be female, a person of color, and/or gay in a sexist/racist/homophobic society can do a number on one’s self-worth.

I thought of this topic last week after finishing the first of Sue Grafton’s “alphabet series” — the absorbing A Is for Alibi. We’re introduced to private investigator Kinsey Millhone — a decent, intelligent woman with an appealing sense of humor. Yet she often beats herself up mentally, even as her “go-getter-ness” and competence rarely falter. Why the self-doubt? Well, her parents died when she was very young, she is twice divorced despite being only in her 30s, and she’s just getting by financially (being tight on money hardly boosts self-esteem in our material world). Also, she’s a not-always-respected woman in a mostly male field — especially so in 1982, when the novel was first published.

Contrast that with Philip Marlowe, a male private investigator of the 1930s who does NOT have confidence issues — as I found when just reading Raymond Chandler’s compelling “hard-boiled” novel The Big Sleep. But the skilled, cynical, slang-slinging Marlowe has much more integrity than The Big Bleep: Donald Trump.

(The many people who recommended I read Sue Grafton and Raymond Chandler are thanked in the comments section.)

Other admirable protagonists lacking Trump’s off-putting boastfulness include Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre — who is average-looking, unloved as a child, and spends years in the awful Lowood school where some of the shivering and underfed students become sick enough to die. The smart/resilient Jane’s confidence is almost never totally shaken, but there are certainly moments of despair before she reaches the dramatic ups and downs of her adulthood.

Adolescence can be tough for even the happiest of characters, but Irie Jones of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Molly Bolt of Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle face sexism and other serious stuff that partly undermines their sense of self-worth. The brainy, biracial Irie struggles with racism, her weight, and unpopularity at school, while the strong-willed Molly has a rocky relationship with her mother and is a discriminated-against lesbian during a more homophobic time (the novel was published in 1973).

A couple of white guys with confidence issues? One is Silas Marner, who is so buffeted by life (a “friend” frames him and takes his fiancee) that he becomes a recluse and a miser. Yet he has a good heart, which becomes especially obvious in the heartwarming second half of George Eliot’s novel. Another is Philip Carey, whose psyche is undermined by being an orphan, getting co-raised by an emotionally cold uncle, and having the disability of a club foot in W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage. So it’s not a total surprise when he becomes masochistically enamored with an unlikable woman who treats him badly. Yet, at the same time, the decent Philip works toward entering a helping profession (medicine) — which is certainly more than someone like Trump would ever do.

Your favorite characters who are nice, smart, and capable but vulnerable and not very confident?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else.)

I’ve finished writing a book called Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Writers, which will probably be published during the first quarter of 2017. But I’m still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as “Dear Abby” and Ann Landers, and other notables such as Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson. 

181 thoughts on “We Like These Vulnerable Characters for NOT Being Like Trump

  1. Dave, although 2016 isn’t quite over, I’d like to offer my thoughts about these and other pertinent comments (which is not to say I won’t have more to say tomorrow or Sunday, but I’ve got a basement that was completely fixed, repainted and furniture moved around after my latest flood, so that I’ve got to reorganize my many DVD, CD and books collection — and don’t even ask me about the toilet that still needs to be replaced and the ceramic tile redone): 🙂
    1) Thanks to Dave for introducing me to Renaissance, as I’m listening to “Carpet of the Sun” as I type this.
    2) I’d like to mention that no one mentioned to me that I mistakenly called Bowie’s last CD “Deathstar” and not “Blackstar.” I did this on Dec. 27, the day Carrie Fisher died and she (Princess Leia) who got the plans for the “Death Star,” so she and Bowie were mixed up in my head.
    3) Thanks to jhNY for making me look up the French/English translations of “perdu” and “j’ai oublié” and other things that are so many I can’t even mention.
    4) bebe, I think of you as my “sister-in-arms” when it comes to feminist and other political issues, but also when it comes to books, music and TV shows.
    5) To Susan, my e-mail buddy, hope to hear from you again soon!
    6) bobess, you’ve been a great commenter, and lately about Bowie in this column. Among other things, due to your comments, I’ve been forced to buy today a magnifying glass to read CD liner notes, though I can go to Wiki, but it’s much better to read the actual notes.
    7) Clairdelune, thanks for you comments as busy as you are, but always appreciated and hope the coming year is better for you with all you’ve been going through.
    8) To all those that I’ve even somehow forgotten or who are new to me, thanks for all I’ve learned from you about books or other artistic forms.
    9) Above all to Dave, without whom none of this would be possible — his incredible knowledge about books and other subjects, his responding to each and every comment, and the respect he accords us all, a huge THANK YOU!
    10) To all of us who, even those who are non-believers including me, as we enter the Trump era, God Help Us All!

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    • Loved, loved, loved your sum-up, Kat Lib, and thanks for the VERY kind words about me and various wonderful commenters! I am touched and grateful.

      I’ll return the praise and say (I’m sure everyone here would agree) that your comments are terrific, friendly, and show a vast knowledge of literature (Jane Austen, detective fiction, and much more); movie and TV spinoffs of literature; music (David Bowie, etc.); the joy of a pet; the trials, tribulations, and pleasures of home-owning; etc.! Good luck with your basement.

      And — ha! — even non-believers can indeed relate to your “God Help Us All” phrase as the Predator-in-Chief takes the “oaf” of office in just three weeks. 😦 😦 😦

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    • Thanks for the kind words, Katlib. I didn’t notice the ‘deathstar’/’blackstar’ error so I must have been thinking of death as well. Regarding liner notes, I think even those of us without failing eyesight have to use magnifying glasses on CD liner notes. That’s one thing I miss about the demise of vinyl records. We had some great cover art that we could actually see and admire and hang on walls like other visual art and we could read lyrics and liner notes on inside sleeves or sleeves that came out, sometimes including the lyrics on the inner record holder itself or on a loose pullout. Either way, all of that was part of our visual world in the pre-80’s. Hope you and everyone else in our Dave Club here have a great New Year or a survivable New Year if not a thriving New Year. As long as we have kindred spirits such as exist on blogs such as this one I think we have an advantage in retaining our sanity/inner peace.

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      • So true about CD liner notes, bobess48 and Kat Lib. Tiny as can be. LP liner notes were indeed much easier to read and, as you noted, there was more space for art — which often made for a better visual “experience.”

        Happy New Year to you, too! And, yes, having places like this blog can be comforting in these politically miserable times that are about to get worse.

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      • I’ve felt that music got smaller as the conveyances shrank. An LP cover often was a face larger than life– at the very least, a big picture, bigger than most you’d see– newspaper pix might be larger, but they were also less well-printed and folded. I’d argue that for many customers, the greatest personal experience of the power of graphics and design on paper derived from their mooning over the LP covers of their music idols.

        When I was toiling away at a record label in the 1990’s, I remember the day a few tech types visited the studio to demonstrate the DVD, then a format as yet to be introduced to the buying public. I was informed that one DVD could contain data equivalent to more than a dozen CD’s– yet it looked exactly the same. I knew that the price of music, were that format to become the conveyance of choice for the industry, would have to drop. No consumer would pay a dozen-plus times the cost of a CD for something that looked exactly the same, because psychology.

        Of course, this was but a few short years before the internets, when the consumer was soon able to consume without buying anything, and did so, thus making my prediction moot, sorta– I was right about the price drop, wrong about how it would be achieved.

        At any rate, I think now that music so often arrives as a line of agate type on a playlist– no pix, no nuttin– it’s never been smaller, and I’ve never been less interested.

        Perhaps that’s coincidence, not causation.

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        • Thanks, jhNY! Excellent sum-up of the state of music and musical formats. Yes, technology marches on — for better or for worse.

          Not sure the format of music these days directly affects the quality of music. There is good new stuff, good new singers, and good new bands amid the dross. One reason a lot of current music might not be to our liking is that people of a certain age often tend to focus on music they grew up with and spent their young adulthood with. There’s also the matter of rock music now being around for roughly 60 years, meaning it’s harder than it was decades ago not to be derivative. And the music biz and radio have become so corporate in many ways that really original and/or edgy bands often don’t get record contracts or radio airplay, thus either becoming discouraged or having to go the indie route.

          So interesting that “you were there” for a firsthand look at the dawn of the CD age.

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          • I wrote something about being old now that probably should have left in…. but I think the acid test remains a simple one: when’s the last time people got together for a ‘listening party’ to commune and moon over the latest release by anybody? Used to be a thing years back, and at the ones I attended, nobody talked except between tunes– the new music was big news! I’d guess video games may hold similar thrall today, but there, music is just something going on in the background while you shoot at stuff.

            I don’t think music today for most people occupies the central place in popular culture it once enjoyed, even among the young ones about whom I’m sure I know too little. And I think part of the reason is, admittedly small itself, perhaps, and certainly simple: the formats got smaller.

            And the music business, once a slick and shabby exception to business as usual, itself became corporate, and tamed, just another big business distorted by the process of financialization. Hard to keep that outsider status from inside the boardroom. Hard to be cutting edge from inside the belly of the beast, especially when it’s your belly too.

            As for the problem of rock music being cutting edge and 60+, I recognize. It’s a pratfall of modernism in general, at this point, a notion now older than a century. The limits of outrage get harder to find, along with the new.

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            • I agree, jhNY — music doesn’t seem as central today. And, yes, “hard to keep that outsider status from inside the boardroom.”

              All well said by you.

              Computers and smartphones give people access to so much information and entertainment (music included) that music has many other things competing with it for our attention.

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    • This is a lovely way to spend a bit of time, and a lovely place to spend it in, thanks most of all to Dave, but also to the folks who populate the comments below his essays. I am pleased to be among them, and pleased to have become acquainted. Thanks for the mention, Kat Lib!

      “as we enter the Trump era, God Help Us All!”
      Lord Elpus is likewise a noble figure of note, but it’s especially important to recognize in the larcenous age upon us, that nothing and no one among our social betters is more relevant than Count de Silva.

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  2. “So it’s sort of comforting to think of characters in literature who are vulnerable and not so confident despite being nice, smart, and capable.”
    Having read Ethan Frome recently, I suppose I could shoehorn the central character into such a characterization– Frome is capable in his way, though it’s a failing way mostly, and is nice, if untalkative, and smart as most of his neighbors. But he is also accommodating of monstrousness, though that monstrousness comes in compelling feminine form, or rather, two forms. Reminds me of a poem:

    Arides
    by Ezra Pound

    The bashful Arides
    Has married an ugly wife,
    He was bored with his manner of life,
    Indifferent and discouraged he thought he might as
    Well do this as anything else.

    Saying within his heart,’I am no use to myself,
    ‘Let her, if she wants me, take me.’
    He went to his doom.

    In Frome’s case, twice, though the second time, he was thrilled to participate, and thought she was lovely to look at– holding her, however briefly, was more problematic and injurious to both he and she. I still think the second stanza above applies.

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    • Great mention of Ethan Frome, jhNY, and a very relevant poem. The dour Ethan is indeed goodhearted and capable in his way, but demoralized by life (and his wife) even before becoming physically impaired after becoming attracted to someone who he was more compatible with but probably had no realistic chance of a future with. A VERY compelling Edith Wharton novella.

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      • Frome is prey to forces, largely female in origin. He hires Zeena to tend his invalid mother, (whose declining heath put an end to his hopes of study, and eventually freedom from bitter farm life) marries her more or less in the spirit of Arides, then gets swept up by desperation and love of Mattie to destroy them both, more or less. But the forces are those of incapacity and projection of guilt— negative power under which Frome struggles, crippled in every way.

        Was there ever any chance such a man could have become anything beyond a victim?

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        • That’s a really astute analysis, jhNY. Fate and self-defeating choices did indeed do Frome in. Of course, what makes it all even more poignant is that one mostly sympathizes with him, and with Mattie. Zeena, not so much. She’s almost thoroughly unlikable, though one understands there are reasons that at least partly explain her bitterness.

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          • I found there was a great and chilly distance between author and her subjects, despite instances of authorly empathy– the way a collector might lovingly study insects, and even have feelings of a kind for one writhing on the end of her pin. (I realize this image might tempt a comparison with Nabakov, but I don’t know how fertile a line of comparison between the two might prove– haven’t read enough of her, or even him, to date…)

            Still, I am happy to have read the book, and enjoy thinking about it.

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            • There was indeed an authorial distance and reserve in “Ethan Frome.” Also the case with Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence,” “The Custom of the Country,” and, to some extent, “The House of Mirth.” There have certainly been warmer great novelists. But Wharton’s writing is so good and her characters so vivid that the distance and reserve have not been a problem for me. Love her ghost stories, too.

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              • That’s next for me– her ghost stories. Bought a book full a while back, and I will soon get inside it. Somewhere around here I’ve also got a volume of her war writing, put together in the early 1920’s– ever read any?

                What’s your favorite Wharton novel?

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                • Her ghost stories are well worth reading — most excellent, a couple absolutely fantastic, and only one or two clunkers. Many sort of cerebral, and often set among the more moneyed classes.

                  I’ve never read Wharton’s war writing; I imagine it’s very good.

                  My favorite novel of hers is probably “The House of Mirth” — depressing but outstanding. Really gets into the dilemma of a woman 100-plus years ago who is unmarried and lives among the rich yet is not rich herself.

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                    • jhNY, I’ll second Dave’s pick of Wharton’s novels as the favorite being “The House of Mirth,” the only one I’ve read twice. The heroine Lily Barth is one of my favorites, especially having been forced to endure being a woman during a time when it was considered as being inconsequential just for being a woman, regardless of social standing.

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              • Actually, I think she has quite a bit of empathy, at least for Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska in ‘The Age of Innocence’ and Lily Bart in ‘The House of Mirth’. Otherwise I don’t think I would have ached along with those characters so much. Edith sees into their souls, of course, and can render their inner and outer struggles with crystal precision. They’re the only two novels I’ve read of hers although I also read ‘Ethan Frome’ which,while admirable, was quite a bit chillier (in many ways) than either of those two. ‘The Age of Innocence’ probably edges out slightly over ‘The House of Mirth’ for me because she so precisely rendered, despite herself being female, the point of view of a man who was more sensitive and perceptive than most of his surrounding males although, ultimately, he is not brave enough to step out of his social cage. My heart hurt with Lily as well and her situation is far more difficult than Newland’s because she is ALL ALONE. No one comes to her aid and yet she too is sensitive and perceptive but her lot in life as a woman is so much more precarious. I need to re-read both of them but it’s really a tossup, kind of like with Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘The Brothers Karamazov’.

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                • Absolutely, bobess48. Edith Wharton does have empathy for many of her characters — including Lily Bart and Newland Archer. But I think there’s a bit of a remove that one doesn’t see as much in authors such as, say, John Steinbeck, George Eliot, Dickens, and L.M. Montgomery. Reading what Lily Bart (whose integrity helps lead to her undoing) goes through is absolutely devastating. I didn’t feel as strongly about the sensitive but more conventional than he likes to think of himself Newland Archer, but, as you said, he’s not alone and he’s male — plus poverty is never a worry for him.

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          • It’s almost as if Wharton posits some malign force of the feminine in the form of first his mother, then Zeena then Maddie that sucks fertility and vitality out of the failing land itself, and draws all the meager resources of the farm toward itself, which can never be overfed.

            Wonder if that’s an effect the author intended…

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            • Despite obviously being a female author, Wharton could be tough on some of her female characters and not so tough on some of her male characters. Another example of that is her scathing portrayal of Undine Spragg in “The Custom of the Country” while being very sympathetic to Undine’s first husband.

              If I’m remembering correctly, Maddie was a low-key sort and Ethan Frome was equally to blame or more to blame for what happened between the two of them.

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              • Maddie was unable to earn a living on her own; that’s how she came to the Frome farm– and not quite capable of the farm work Zeena expected her to perform– Ethan, as he would, threw himself at her more burdensome tasks so that she might not get in trouble with Zeena. And once Zeena discharged her, both Ethan and Maddie held out no hope for her chances away from the farm, which only made the downhill sledding seem like a way out– a “suicide pact”, as wikipedia puts it, which Mattie proposes, and Ethan accepts.

                Even the more pleasing guise of Mattie pre-sled accident is still a kind of malignity, a weakness that takes masculine strength away from work and prosperity by assuming it to its own selfish dependent purposes, as otherwise, it cannot survive.

                That’s what’s been intriguing to consider for me, in the aftermath of reading. Again, I wonder if that’s an effect the author intended…

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                • It’s an interesting way of looking at things, jhNY. I don’t know if that was Edith Wharton’s intent. Her work does seem to have some feminist leanings (particularly noticeable in “The House of Mirth”), so that might point to the “Ethan Frome” effect you describe not being deliberate on her part.

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  3. Hi Dave, have not had the time to even think about your interesting topic – this month had to deal with emergency surgery (not mine!), a marriage, my damaged knee following an embarrassing fall – inside a hospital, of all places – and company from a foreign country. Just trying to keep it together.
    😦
    Belated Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year, even though right now the outlook is gloomy given the results of the elections. For the sake of my grandchildren, I hope that our country can survive the next four years without too many scars, but if all the devious and unethical actions against democracy continue, the four years may well become eight, in which case the damage may be permanent or at least last for a generation. I wonder if we can ever find our way out of the cesspool of hatred that has been created and is fed daily.
    Hoping for better days!!

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    • What a challenging month you’re having, Clairdelune. Sorry about all the difficulties, and I hope your knee is getting better. I also hope the foreign company was enjoyable, at least, although hosting can be tiring even when guests are wonderful.

      Happy New Year and a belated Merry Christmas to you, too! Yes, as bad as 2016 was — especially the past seven weeks or so — 2017 could be even worse with the Predator-in-Chief in office. You eloquently summed all that up. As you alluded to, even if Trump does the expected rotten job, he could be reelected in 2020 with the help of Republican disinformation, voter suppression, etc., etc. Certainly, his ignoring of climate change could be an irreversible calamity. 😦

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    • “an embarrassing fall – inside a hospital, of all places – ”

      Don’t imagine for a moment you are alone in such experience. My mother fell on the sidewalk in front of the hospital as she hurried in to visit my hospitalized father. No one who treated her found much unusual in the incident, leading me to suspect several people suffer such accidents yearly in such places. I suspect also that the extra nervous tension that comes to most of us in circumstances involving the health of loved ones might make us literally stiffen up a bit and thus more vulnerable to be hurt in a fall.

      Hope you knit up fast, and better luck in the new year!

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  4. Hi again, Dave. I just had to let you know that I finally got the CDs I ordered from B&N with my xmas gift cards. I finished listening to the “Renaissance Live at Carnegie Hall” recording that you recommended to me, and it’s great — very good quality and the songs performed were wonderful! The endings to the two songs on Disc 2 (“Schcherazade” and “Ashes are Burning”) with the crystal clear voice of Annie Haslim holding that high note for so long (I don’t know what note it was but it gave me the shivers). The other standout musically was John Tout’s keyboards — he is an outstanding pianist. I’d like to get more of their CDs, but I no longer can afford buying so much from an individual artist like I did with Bowie. I also have the Patti Smith CD, which actually has 5 albums on it and am now listening to “Horses.” Good thing I’ve got such eclectic taste when it comes to just about everything, which I used to find as a failing of some sort but now think of as a positive. Thanks again for your recommendation and mentioning “Horses” to me. BTW, I hope you can tell I’m in a better place today than yesterday!

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    • That’s a relief that the CD has excellent sound quality, Kat Lib. And glad you liked it so much! I agree that Annie Haslam’s voice at the end of those two epic songs is absolutely stunning (and high). I’ve read that she had a five-octave range during that time. After recommending “Renaissance Live at Carnegie Hall” to you I’ve been listening to it myself every time I’m in the car (I have the original LP from 1976 and purchased the CD not that long ago this year).

      John Tout was indeed a magnificent keyboardist — classically trained, I heard. Unfortunately, he died last year.

      Wow — five Patti Smith albums on one CD! And it must indeed have been sort of mental whiplash to listen to both “Horses” and “Renaissance Live at Carnegie Hall” relatively close together. Such different music, but both great. Eclectic taste is good!

      I guess the punk era (which Smith helped start) was partly a reaction to the progressive rock/classical rock era that Renaissance excelled in. Shorter, harsher songs instead of long melodic extravaganzas. As you know, many prog-rock bands — Renaissance, Yes, Rush, etc. — tried to keep up with the new musical trend by doing shorter, “punchier” songs in the late 1970s and early ’80s. But I still think a number of progressive rock/classical rock albums with lengthy tracks were wonderful, and I like Renaissance’s music of that time (early to mid-’70s) most of all among various bands of that genre.

      Actually, some of Renaissance’s often shorter late-’70s music was also pretty darn good — the beautiful song “Forever Changing,” the more rock-oriented song “Jekyll and Hyde,” the pop-oriented “Northern Lights” (which you’ve heard), etc.

      And glad you’re feeling a bit better today. All those 2016 deaths combined with the new Trump era — demoralizing. 😦

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      • To follow-up on this comment, I’ve been listening to Patti Smith’s first five albums. I’d agree that Patti’s music is much harder-edged than much of what I normally listen to (though the same could be said of Bowie or Lou Reed), but it’s interesting to see the progression of her music through these five albums. My ranking so far is:
        (1) “Dream of Life (which includes “People Have the Power” and the lovely song “The Jackson Song” — much more melodic than earlier work
        (2) “Wave”
        (3) “Easter” (which includes “Because the Night”
        (4) “Radio Ethiopia”
        Not quite sure where to rank “Horses” yet, as I kept getting interrupted, so will have to give it a another listen.

        I know some of the work of the group Yes, but didn’t realize that Rick Wakeman was part of the group. Not sure why but I did, but I had the vinyl recording of “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” many years ago. Nor did I know (or forgot) that he played on Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” So much for my “Bowie expert” status! 🙂

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        • You have listened to much more Patti Smith than me, Kat Lib! 🙂 She was VERY productive musically during the last half of the 1970s before making only one album (“Dream of Life,” which you mentioned) between ’79 and ’96 while raising her two children.

          Yes did go through many lineup changes. Rick Wakeman was with the band during its early-to-mid-1970s peak, and perhaps here and there at other times, too?

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        • Actually, he did not play on ‘Space Oddity’ but played on ‘Hunky Dory’. All those nice piano embellishments on songs like “Life on Mars” and “Kooks” are Rick. David says on the notes on the cover that he (David) played some of the very simple piano parts, indicating that Rick played the more accomplished pieces. Rick joined Yes on ‘Fragile’, their fourth album and the one that opens with probably their most well-known song, “Roundabout”. He played on two more albums before leaving for a couple of years, then rejoining for two late 70’s albums, then performed intermittently with them over the years. Currently I think he’s playing with Jon Anderson (original Yes singer) and Bill Bruford (original Yes drummer).

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          • Thanks for that Yes info, bobess48! I still have several of their tremendous ’70s albums on vinyl — including “Tales From Topographic Oceans,” with its four 20-plus-minute songs. Definitely deserving of their recent, better-late-than-never election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Will be interesting to see which Yes people play at the induction ceremony. Wakeman, Anderson, and Bruford are a VERY nice combination. Wish that guitarist Steve Howe would join up, too. Too late for deceased bassist Chris Squire. 😦

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            • Yes, it is a sad fact that Chris Squire, who had been the one constant through all the personnel changes through the years, cannot be there for the belated acknowledgement of his band. While the Rock Hall is making gestures toward including progressive British bands such as Yes and Genesis, they continue to lose more of my respect each year they omit Jethro Tull and The Moody Blues.

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                • ELP — so decimated by death this year — is definitely Hall of Fame-deserving.

                  For a long time the Hall was reluctant to admit prog-rockers, but that seems to be changing somewhat with Rush, Yes, etc., getting in. Would also like to see Renaissance (the band Kat Lib and I have been discussing) inducted. And of course Jethro Tull (who you’ve mentioned), The Moody Blues, and a few others — whether prog-rock or not.

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              • bobess48, I just mentioned Jethro Tull and The Moody Blues in another comment before seeing yours!

                I agree — a real shame about Chris Squire not being around to enjoy the induction.

                I don’t have a huge amount of respect for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, either, but I guess getting in is still a relatively major honor — however flawed the selection process and the Hall’s musical biases might be.

                I had to crack up when watching the Hall acceptance speech of Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson in 2013. Perhaps disgusted with how long it took Rush to get in, his whole talk consisted of “blah, blahs” (with expressive body language).

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                • Also, to put the significance of the Hall of Fame in perspective, I recall what Tony Hicks and Allan Clarke of The Hollies said when they were finally inducted. They were surprised because they considered it primarily an American institution and didn’t think of their body of work as being particularly relevant. I guess they didn’t peruse the list of all the British artists that HAVE been: Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, a few others, which is good. They’ve just been intentionally ignoring an entire genre of rock’n’roll for far too long while bringing in artists of questionable merit.

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            • bobess, I can say without any question that Wakeman did play on “Space Oddity,” both from his own Wiki page and Bowie’s says “The album version of “Space Oddity” was recorded at Trident Studios on 20 June 1969 (with overdubs a few days later) and used the in-house session player Rick Wakeman (Mellotron), who was later to achieve fame with the progressive rock band Yes…”) He’s recorded a new piano version of classics, to be released in January that include both “Space Oddity” and “Life on Mars?” one of my favorite songs. Turns out we’re both right!

              Dave, sorry to say that Wakeman said the other day he’s not going to be attending the HOF, but who knows if he’ll change his mind before the ceremony.

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              • Kat Lib, sorry to hear Rick Wakeman doesn’t plan to attend the HOF ceremony. Who knows what ill interpersonal feelings occur/occurred in various long-running bands? I assume Wakeman is not pulling a Dylan-avoids-the-Nobel-ceremony type of thing… 🙂

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              • Well, whadayaknow! I stand (actually sit) corrected. In 1969 Rick was still quite young (around 19 or 20). I don’t think he played on the next album, ‘The Man Who Sold the World’, did he? I also recall that in the notes for ‘Fragile’, his debut with Yes, he had a long list of people to thank, including David Bowie.

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                • No, the personnel credits for “The Man Who Sold the Word” include Ralph Mace on Moog modular synthesizer. Tony Visconti does have piano contributions, and Bowie plays some organ; both with other contributions as well. I’ve a fondness for the entire album, especially the title track, even though it’s hard rock and such a departure from his first two more folk-based albums. BTW, I learned a new few words today, especially “Mellotron,” “MMS,” and “Stylophone,” The last one Bowie is credited with playing on “Space Oddity,” and used on “Man Who.” As much as I love music, I’m sadly ignorant of many musical terms and instruments!

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                  • In one of my many obscure and forgotten bands, I had a guy with a mellotron, as well as a more obscure item, an orchestron. The mellotron works simply– depress a key and it releases a spring–loaded length of tape on which a sound–any sound you like– has been recorded, which in turn passes over a playback head (just like on a tape recorder), is amplified, then the signal passes through a speaker and we hear what’s being played back.

                    You could load the mellotron with tape sets– one for strings, for example, one for horns, etc. The strings were famous in their day– they were purposely sharp at the upper range, in a bit of industrial espionage performed by the British musicians who saw the end of their recording dates should the mellotron really catch on. (Their fears were never quite realized). As a member of Beatlemania, the guy on my band had bought his mellotron to play things like Strawberry Fields, which featured the mellotron’s flute sounds, themselves residing on the demonstration reel that came with the mellotron.. The Kinks actually just copped a phrase pre-recorded with those same flutes for Phenomenal Cat.

                    A drawback: can’t hold a note for longer than the length of the spring-loaded tape. A plus: since you could load up any pre-recorded sound, some mellotroners got very creative: I knew a guy who knew a guy who recorded snow tires going over a bridge at various speeds which he in turn loaded into his mellotron– in tune. Same guy had supposedly done something similar with buzzing bees.

                    The orchestron was an advancement in that it read samples of instruments via an optical scanner, a primitive one by today’s standards, but you could hold notes as long as you depressed a key.

                    What a stylophone or MMS might be, I do0n’t know.

                    Here’s a challenge, fellow music obscurantists: What’s a “Nitzsche-phone”, who played it and on whose records did it appear?

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                    • I know the answer but admit to cheating. I’ll see if anyone knows without doing so. Thanks for all the info about the Mellotron. The Stylophone “is a miniature analog stylus-operated keyboard. Invented in 1967 by Brian Jarvis.” Production was halted in 1975, but was redesigned and relaunched in 2007. Others who used it were Tony Visconti, Kraftwork, and They Might Be Giants.

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                    • The first time I recall seeing the word ‘mellotron’ was in the album credits for the first album I heard of the Moody Blues–‘On the Threshold of a Dream’. Of course, I had actually heard it more than I realized as I found out retrospectively that the flute-like intro to “Strawberry Fields Forever’, played by Paul McCartney, had been one of the first times I really heard it without realizing it. I began to hear the other sounds–strings, flutes, brass–that Mike Pinder of the Moodies could get out of it and found out later that he actually worked on them and sold them. He says in the ‘Classic Artists’ documentary of the Moody Blues that he is the reason the Beatles had one in the first place. The Beatles and early Moodies had been on tour in the British Invasion years and Mike was paying them a visit and demonstrated the mellotron. He said that they told him, “We’ll take two of them”. As I’ve found out in subsequent years, almost every other British band of the late 60’s used one at one point or another–in addition to the Beatles and Moodies, Kinks, Rolling Stones, Traffic, Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, ELP, King Crimson, Jethro Tull and probably several others.

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                    • Yes, Mike Pinder was a master at that instrument. A shame he hasn’t been with The Moody Blues since the 1970s. A very interesting songwriter, too.

                      Didn’t know about that Moody Blues-Beatles Mellotron connection — though of course early MB member Denny Laine was eventually in Paul McCartney’s band Wings.

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                    • Yes, they were tour-mates at one point. Mike later played tambourine on John Lennon’s song “I Don’t Want to be a Soldier Mama” on his ‘Imagine’ album. He said he wanted so much to play with John but someone else was already playing keyboards so he got permission to pick up the tambourine. Here’s a pic of the two groups together:

                      https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjZz6Wglp3RAhXM6yYKHV90A9cQjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Ftsutpen.blogspot.com%2F2014_05_01_archive.html&psig=AFQjCNHH0LECynhV87q0qCIr2W-AzTO8qQ&ust=1483230450422230

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                    • Justin and John joined in 1966 after Denny Laine and whichever bass player they had left. John Lodge had played in a pre-Moodies band with Ray Thomas but Justin Hayward was the response to an ad they’d put in Melody Maker, which was the greatest turn of events for that band as Justin quickly became their best and most prolific songwriter (in my opinion) as well as an excellent singer/guitarist. The core from the original lineup (Mike Pinder, Grame Edge, Ray Thomas) stayed on of course through their big run til 1972, then they went their separate ways until ’78 and did one more with Mike. He backed out of the band just before they were going on tour and they obviously had to keep on going so they got Patrick Moraz, who had played keyboards on Yes’ album ‘Relayer’ after Rick Wakeman left that band.

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                    • I agree — getting Justin Hayward turned out to be an amazing addition. The Moody Blues’ best and most prolific songwriter by far, as you noted, and he helped turn the band from kind of a blues group into a much more melodic ensemble. Yes, a good guitarist, too, and a beautiful voice.

                      I have six of the seven albums (in vinyl) released during their prime years of 1967-1972, and saw them in concert with Patrick Moraz — in 1978, I think. I also like their current incarnation of Hayward, Lodge, Edge, and four others — including the excellent flutist Norda Mullen who replaced Ray Thomas.

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                    • Norda Mullen is outstanding and a much better flautist than Ray ever was. However, with the departure of Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas, they also lost their songs and each of them wrote some excellent ones on those late 60’s albums. If Justin weren’t in the band I wouldn’t consider them the Moodies any more. John Lodge wrote some very good songs in the late 60’s but quickly became the weak songwriting link in my opinion. I saw them in 2003 with Norda and another woman on keyboards. In the harmonies, the sound is distinctly different because there is now (or was then at least) some estrogen in the vocal mix.

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                    • Norda Mullen IS great — classically trained, I think. Plus she plays acoustic guitar on some songs and, as you noted, does some nice backup vocals with the female keyboardist. (As you know, the band now has two keyboardists and two drummers.)

                      Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas definitely wrote some distinctive, memorable songs that diversified the band’s sound back in the day. I agree that while John Lodge penned a few good tunes (“Ride My See-Saw,” “Candle of Life,” “I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band,” etc.), he is not an exceptional composer overall.

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  5. Dave, I’ve calmed down somewhat from my earlier rants and deep feelings over the deaths this year from David Bowie, my favorite singer/songwriter, to Carrie Fisher, my favorite Sci-Fi heroine. Carrie strikes me as someone very vulnerable in her own life, dealing with mental illness (bi-polar disease) and addictions and alcoholism. I love her “Postcards from the Edge,” and the name of the book/play she wrote, called, “Wishful Drinking.” So honest to her readers and her fans about the things she’s dealt with, even as the daughter of Hollywood royalty as they call it, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. I’m sure I’ve messed up this quote, but she said at one time something to the effect that, “my mother was always the girl next- door, but I was the one that lived down at the end of the street.”

    I can’t help but think about her beloved service dog, Gary, who helped her deal with her manic-depression, and was at her side when she was stricken on the airplane, as well as being by her side at the hospital.

    To move onto a book I’m reading now, “The Little Paris Bookshop,” by Nina George, although I’ve not gotten far into the book as yet. The idea behind the novel is so appealing, as M. Perdu has a bookshop on a floating barge on the Seine and has the ability to find books for his customers that will help them in their own lives. Of course, M. Perdu has his own problem to deal with (the loss of his former lover), that we’re just starting to learn about and makes him quite vulnerable. I’ll let you know if the rest of the book is as promising as the first chapters do.

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    • Carrie Fisher’s vulnerability and difficulties in life are definitely part of her appeal — along with her acting talent, writing talent, wit, etc. She seemed more genuine than most celebrities, despite being descended from Hollywood royalty (her mother Debbie Reynolds, who you mentioned). Of course, it’s hard to know what celebrities are REALLY like.

      Yes, very sad to think about what her dog must be feeling.

      “The Little Paris Bookshop” does sound very intriguing and appealing — I hope it continues that way. Another example of the vulnerability theme we’ve all been discussing.

      After a run of reading three consecutive detective novels (the Sue Grafton and Raymond Chandler books I mentioned in my column and Walter Mosley’s “A Red Death”), I’m returning to literary fiction with Donna Tartt’s “The Little Friend.” Just started, but spectacularly written so far — with some VERY vulnerable family members haunted by the presumable murder of a boy in that family.

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    • I think I’m going to freak out again over the news that Debbie Reynolds died today one day after her daughter. There are still 3 days left in this awful year, and I hope that there won’t be any more losses of people I’ve so admired through the years!

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    • Perhaps this pertains:

      per•du or per•due (pərˈdu, -ˈdyu, pɛr-)

      adj., n., pl. -dus or -dues. adj.
      1. hidden; concealed; obscured.
      n.
      2. Obs. a soldier assigned to a very dangerous mission or position.
      [1585–95; < French: lost, past participle of perdre < Latin perdere to lose; see perdition]

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      • Oui, jhNY, I believe you’re right about the symbolism inherent in the Perdu’s name. It hadn’t occurred to me; j’ai oublié (if that’s the correct usage) most of my four years of high school French. Not only is he somewhat lost, he always keeps the past hidden and concealed from everyone he comes in contact with. Thanks for that insight!

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  6. Dave, I’m going to re-post the comment that has been sitting in moderation for over 15 minutes, so maybe it will go through if I delete the link. Sorry for all the comments about this, but it’s frustrating, and I feel I’m about to the breaking point when it comes to patience. Thanks!

    OK, Dave, I’m officially over with 2016. I just flopped over to HP and the main headline is that Carrie Fisher is dead. I guess I’m not surprised, because what I was hearing about her emergency on the plane wasn’t at all good. I was over on HP to find a thing some Twitter user put together of all the folks who died this year, set to the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I hoped against hope that she’d get through this and wouldn’t be added to this picture.

    I’m not sure if this link will work, but it’s still on HP. I’ll post more when I’m not so emotional.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kat Lib! As you can see below, the comment and image did go through as soon as I approved it. (I hadn’t immediately seen the notification in my email.) I totally understand how devastating yet another death — and 2016 in general — have been. 😦

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  7. OK, Dave, I’m officially over with 2016. I just flopped over to HP and the main headline is that Carrie Fisher is dead. I guess I’m not surprised, because what I was hearing about her emergency on the plane wasn’t at all good. I was over on HP to find a thing some Twitter user put together of all the folks who died this year, set to the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I hoped against hope that she’d get through this and wouldn’t be added to this picture.

    I’m not sure if this link will work, but it’s still on HP. I’ll post more when I’m not so emotional.

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        • Thanks, Dave, you can delete all my other comment if you like. With what little humor I have at this moment, I wondered it if was the image of Bowie from his early years!

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              • I know what you’re saying, Anonymous, but it’s the blood-looking makeup on David Bowie’s face that makes it sobering for me. He definitely lived a VERY successful, partly happy life — and gave pleasure to millions of people who loved his music.

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                • That’s his makeup from ‘Aladdin Sane’. He had pale skin anyway and throughout much of the 70’s he whitened it up even more with his various incarnations. The ones I could not find are Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson from Jefferson Airplane. I can understand possibly omitting Signe since she was only on the first album but left to take care of her baby full time to be replaced by Grace Slick. However, Paul was the one constant from Jefferson Airplane all the way to Jefferson Starship until he got fed up, left and it became ‘Starship’. Coincidentally, they both died on the same day unaware of the other’s death.

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                  • Thanks, bobess48! I’m certainly no David Bowie expert, though I’m familiar with about a dozen of his songs.

                    If Paul Kantner isn’t there, that’s definitely a significant omission.

                    With four days left in 2016, I hope no other celebrity — musical or otherwise — gets Grim Reaper-ed. Blue Oyster Cult’s advice doesn’t seem to apply this year…

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                    • For your Lady Gaga reply to Kat Lib Dave, her on screen antics were off putting but in modern times she is one of the most gifted soloist. Highly trained in classical music , and unlike some musician her voice does not need to be instrumentally tuned.

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                    • Thanks, bebe! Excellent points. Lady Gaga DOES have an impressive voice. And, as you say, it doesn’t need “augmentation.” I guess I’m just not a big fan of the songs themselves, and of some of her antics.

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                  • bobess, When I was reading comments back to the guy who put this together, he admitted that there were those he missed, such as Paul Kantner. By coincidence I was listening to “Surrealistic Pillow” just the other day, and my very favorite Jefferson Airplane song is “Today” from that album, co-written by Marty Balin and Kantner, but I think is was Balin who provided the main vocal of this very haunting and beautiful song.

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                    • Yes, “Today” was mostly Marty’s song. It’s the most beautiful ballad he ever wrote as being one of the most beautiful I’ve heard from anyone. His cohort Paul Kantner was an unrepentant hippy dippy San Francisco flower child of the 60’s who continued to have interesting perspectives in the few interviews I read with him in the subsequent years over later eras. I can easily guess what he would have said about the impending Reign of the Trump.

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                    • Also, I think that the makeup that Bowie wore for “Aladdin Sane” was copied by Lady Gaga when she did her tribute to him, at this past year’s Grammy Awards. I’ll consider myself as the resident Bowie expert on this site until someone challenges me. 🙂

                      I’ve got almost every CD he has recorded over the last 50 or so years (including many of his early works like “The Laughing Gnome” that is extremely funny, plus many compilations, such as “Sound and Vision.” I have many of his concert videos, including “Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars,” “Serious Moonlight” (that I’ve probably watched 42 times), his “Reality” tour, and seen in person the “Glass Spider” tour (twice), and his “Sound and Vision” tour. I’ve got several of his movies on DVD, such as “Labyrinth” and “Absolute Beginners,” as well as seen other movies, such as “The Hunger,” “The Man Who fell to Earth,” and “The Last Temptation of Christ.”

                      I also have a collection on DVD of most of his music videos. He also did music tracks for films such as “The Falcon and the Snowman” and “The Buddha of Suburbia.” He produced albums for Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and Mott the Hoople. So many more great things I’ve yet to mention, and I must admit I haven’t bought his last released CD “Deathstar,” though I’ve seen the video “Lazarus” — it’s just still too painful.

                      Sorry to blather on so long, but it’s been somewhat therapeutic for me to do so, with so many other emotions running through me tonight.

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                    • Hey KatLib, you certainly are the most comprehensive expert on all things Bowie that I’ve encountered so far. I loved the second phase of his career i.e. ‘Space Oddity’ through ‘Diamond Dogs’ and selected songs from the subsequent decades. Actually, ‘Blackstar’ is one that I do own now as a friend gave it to me as a birthday gift earlier in the year. It is suitably strange and also suffused with the awareness of its creator that it was recorded with the intention of being a conscious final artistic statement. That perception leaps out of every song on the album. I wouldn’t say that I enjoy the album that much (certainly not as much as those early 70’s albums) but I will say that it is uniquely Bowie. Only he could have created the music on this album. It’s completely unlike anything anyone else has done. In that sense, it is a very successful valedictory statement.

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                    • bobess48, from the relatively little I know about Bowie, he could really change his musical persona from album to album, or every few years. Sounds like he did that again with his final, mortality-staring-him-in-the-face album that you discussed so well. Around the time Bowie died, I listened to/viewed a couple of songs from that album on YouTube. Spooky, almost unbearably intense stuff.

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                    • Just listened to “Today” for the first time in many years. Definitely a beautiful song. Reminds me a bit of Marty Balin’s later “Miracles” for Jefferson Starship.

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                    • Kat Lib, you have an absolutely amazing Bowie collection! Wow!

                      As for Lady Gaga, she has certainly copied (or paid tribute to) a number of performers. I’ve listened to perhaps a dozen of her songs over the years, and I’m not among her many fans. When it comes to contemporary female mega-star singers, I much prefer Adele and Taylor Swift over LG.

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    • I agree, Kat Lib — the rotten, miserable, insufferable 2016 needs to be over. (Not that 2017 will be much better with Trump in office.) Such sad news about Carrie Fisher.

      A VERY striking (albeit depressing) image. Thanks for posting it.

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    • Kat Lib this picture makes me sad…yes they have one more to add to it Princess Lea. I hope this stops there.
      I watch a TV show NBC” This is Us”, I highly recommend. Last night was a rerun of the first episode, and Alan Thicke was in a cameo role. Looked so healthy and now gone.
      The conversation below has become so narrow I decided to write here. Just like yourself I am not over Hillary`s loss, how could we have DT it does not seem to be real. I was depressed and being sick never helped. Still am…now it is a torture watching DT day in and out being a destructive force is hard.

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    • Thank you, homedreamer07! I haven’t read “Nicholas Nickleby” in a LONG time, so I can’t say anything more about its title character than what you said. But the great Dickens definitely created a number of honest, goodhearted characters who go through tough times and/or have some confidence issues.

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      • Though it’s been more than a few years, this remains one of my greatest finds off the streets of New York! (meaning a man was selling books on a blanket on a sidewalk)

        Spent $35, but I own a first edition of Nicholas Nickleby– yep, with all the peculiarities of production checked rechecked and confirmed– and one fine day I just might read it!

        (Although I might add that the most original state of this work of fiction is softbound in several sheafs, as it was first released in periodical form, while mine is bound.)

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        • What a wonderful thing to have, jhNY! And for only $35!

          “Nicholas Nickleby” is actually an excellent novel, like almost everything else Dickens wrote. (As I think I’ve mentioned before, I read many of his novels — including “NN” — in a college course devoted only to Charles D.’s work. And somehow didn’t go blind getting through all those tomes in three months. 🙂 )

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          • I’ve read, or had read to me, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Hard Times and A Tale of Two Cities. Think that’s the lot, though I dimly recall tears re the death of Little Nell, possibly my own.

            I do intend to read more Dickens, and Nick Nick would be atop the pile, in that I’ve already got it on hand. Bu what a daunting pile the TBR pile would actually be, were it actual, and not but a towering tottering thing in my mind’s eye. And that’s the TBR pile sans more Dickens!

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            • Five Dickens books — not bad! And, yes, an intimidating feeling to want to read long novels by that author along with everything else on one’s reading list.

              “Nick Nick” — I like that nickname (Nick name?).

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    • Nooo! I read it, rather picked it to do a book report about it in High School, I remember it was about a 1000 pages long—hey in HS that’s an eternity 🙂 great book, later I found out it was on PBS, not that I would cheat or anything 😉

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  8. Good guys? I guess Alec D’Urberville will have to wait for a villain post. I’ll say Louis de Pointe du Lac in both forms; human and preternatural. Despite being a VAMP “Louie” displays sensibility that is lacking in someone like DT. Of course Louis grows more confident in later books but hey he had centuries to do so, DT will forever be a man-child.

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    • Thank you, Jack!

      I did a post about literature’s villains back in the days of HP (Hardly Progressive). That was at least two or three years ago, so maybe I should consider writing another…

      The only Anne Rice novel I’ve read is “The Witching Hour,” which was quite impressive. One of these days I have to try her vampire work. Louis de Pointe du Lac sounds like a fascinating character.

      Great last line of your comment!

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        • It’s a fine one! One day I just might have goose for Christmas, without the sparkling prize inside. I’ve just never been able to convince myself that goose could be so delicious as made out to be by such as Dickens, or, that the goose available now is as good as the geese of yore…

          I assume you are as fond of the Jeremy Brett Holmes series as I am, or more so– superb. I enjoy somewhat the doings of Cumberbatch and Miller when I happen on them (and detest with every fiber the Downey film[s]).

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          • jhNY, I’ll second yours and bebe’s comments about Jeremy Brett as Sherlock. I’m not sure I could ever accept anyone else In the role, even though I’ve heard great things about Cumberbatch. Back in the days when I’d pull out DVDs to watch at Christmas, my favorites were first, “The Blue Carbuncle” and then a feature length “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas,” and a Poirot series episode called “The Theft of the Royal Ruby,” or originally published as “The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding.” I must admit to having the entire DVD collections of both series, as well as that of Miss Marple and other British mysteries/series. What can I say except that my hobbies through many years included collecting CDs (after getting rid of all my vinyl collection), DVDs (after getting rid of my VHS collections), and, of course mostly books. I refuse to succumb to Blu-rays, iTunes, streaming movies from any source, and gave in to a Nook, only because there are times you can get really get something cheap or need to read from a source that you can read even in dim lighting. Having gone through so many different technologies, it seems rather silly at this point to once again get rid of those that I already own and replace — as I mentioned to Dave in another comment — due to limited funds now that I’m retired and own a home and a dog.

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            • Kat Lib just try it coming Sunday , Cumberbatch is great as Sherlock also his own parents previously were also acted as Sherlock`s parents.
              Plus had this chiseled look which Brett also had.
              This will take your mind away from Trump….eek…..

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              • bebe, you, jhNY, and Jack have piqued my interest in watching the Cumberbatch version. But is it important to watch the series in chronological order? I just checked on B&N.com and see that they’re now in season 5. My dilemma is that if I really liked it, I might feel compelled to buy the first 4 seasons, and I’m trying very hard not to start any new collections. However, if it would take my mind off Trump, then…. Eek is right!

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                • Not at all, each series is a different series , watch them first the later you could borrow for the rest. For myself I don`t buy any videos because Public Library is there . All I have is TKAM, and P&P movie version. I know you have a library collection of books.

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          • Well, if you ever had Peking Duck or roast Duck, I assume it tastes similar—I never had goose so it’s a guess. Jeremy Brett is the quintessential SH as far as I’m concerned. I do enjoy Cumberbatch’s SHERLOCK I think the series does a better Job than the Downey version in bringing the character to new generations of fans…Let us know if you ever make that goose 🙂

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            • OK, I got distracted by the plumber requiring my signature on his hefty repair bill… so something weird happened to the first part of my comment :-[
              What I originally wrote:
              “Never had goose, but I do not like duck so I doubt that I would find goose any more palatable.”

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              • Sorry about that plumbing bill, Clairdelune. 😦 I’ve yet to find an affordable plumber, despite trying different ones for years. Most recent experience: more than $400 to unclog the bathroom-sink drain. Took the guy about 15 minutes of work…

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                • Ouch!!! That was definitely highway robbery. Maybe it would be cheaper to buy a good drain-cleaning “snake”?? I used to have one.
                  This time I paid $90.00 to install a new shower head that required no tools… used to do it myself, but these days a bum knee and poor balance keep me from doing my own “handyman” work as I did for years.

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                  • Ninety dollars IS a lot to install a shower head, but I totally understand needing someone to do things like that. Risking one’s health can be much more expensive.

                    Plumbing prices in New Jersey are just crazy. Then, when I switch plumbers to avoid sticker shock again and to not reward the previous gouging, the prices aren’t much different. While I don’t own a snake, I do douse stopped drains with plenty of unclogging liquid before calling a gouger…um…plumber. Sometimes, the do-it-yourself approach works. I do a lot of my own minor-repair work, but plumbing is out of my league. 🙂

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                  • I know what you mean, jhNY! While I had to pay for that sink unclogging myself since moving to an apartment two years ago, and still do a little handyperson work here and there, the managers of the complex handle most things. So nice after 21 years of home-owning!

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          • Never had goose, but I do not like duck so I doubt that I would find goose an, there’s a hypnotic quality to him. more palatable. On the other hand, given the scarcity of good food on the table of some of Dickens’ characters, goose was probably a luxury item!
            Yes, Jeremy Brett is the quintessential Sherlock Holmes just as David Suchet is the quintessential Hercule Poirot. That said, Benedict Cumberbach is a worthy successor to Brett – different vibes, but excellent in his own way. So far, Cumberbach has impressed me in every role he’s played. There is a hypnotic quality to his acting.

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  9. Hi Dave, the first character that came to mind was the hapless heroine of Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey.” Ms. Austen sets up the character from the first passages, about how she is singularly plain and ordinary and most unlikely to be a heroine of any sort, such as those of her beloved Gothic novels. And yet, I find her as very sympathetic as she tries to do the right thing by everyone, including her brother, his horrible bestfriend, and the deplorable Isabelle Thorpe; until she finally realizes that her instincts about Henry Tilney and his sister Eleanor, were correct, and not her feelings about the odious General Tilney, who casts her out from any protection whatsoever because she’s not the heiress he thought she was.

    I love the female characters that Sue Grafton and many other detective writers created over the last 30 or so years, whether it be Kinsey Milhone, or Linda Barnes’ Carlotta Carlyle, or Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone, or Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski, or others too many to mention here. They all faced discrimination of some sort because they were women, but in the end, they kicked “ass” if I can mention that on this site, because they were smart and didn’t care what others, especially men, thought about them.

    To veer off onto another feminine subject, sort of, I’d like to mention how distraught I am about the medical emergency Carrie Fisher has experienced in the last few days. Whatever happens, she will always be our “Princess” and that character has always been one we can be proud of, as well as her as a person, with her books and screenplays about her experiences with addiction and mental illness.

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      • Fixed!

        Catherine Morland is an excellent example of a protagonist fitting the theme of this post, Kat Lib. Well described! To an extent, another Austen heroine — Fanny Price of “Mansfield Park” — could fit the bill as well.

        It’s so great that there have been many female detective characters in recent decades to join earlier sleuths such as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Dorothy L. Sayers’ Harriet Vane (the latter more of a mystery writer, but she did do some sleuthing in “Gaudy Night” and perhaps other Sayers novels I haven’t read). Loved your paragraph on the subject!

        Yes, sad news about the multi-talented Carrie Fisher’s medical crisis. Earlier-in-life addiction can really take a belated toll on people’s health when they reach their 50s, 60s, and 70s. (I believe Fisher is 60.) Certainly one reason why so many famous musicians died during this mostly miserable year of 2016.

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        • Dave, one of the reasons I loved Sayers’ Harriet Vane so much was that she was just as intelligent as Lord Peter, though not having the resources he did. The book following “Strong Poison” was “Have His Carcase,” which featured Harriet finding a body while on a walking tour in England. Of course, that caught the attention of newspapers and Lord Peter shows up — not to exactly “save the day” but to work together as a team to solve the mystery. A mystery, by the way, that today would be solved immediately on CSI (whatever) or one of those similar shows. I must say as interesting as some of those can be, I still enjoy books that are more puzzles to be solved, due to intelligent thought, manual code-breaking and general knowledge, without the aid of DNA and computers that do most of the work.

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          • From the two Sayers novels I’ve read, Harriet Vane was indeed a strong, independent character every bit Lord Peter Wimsey’s equal (except for the amount of $$ in the bank, as you noted).

            And great observation, Kat Lib, about how crime-solving is so different today because of modern technology and scientific advances.

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  10. I think I’ll start with a character relevant to Christmas and one who we put up on pedestals of all kinds of worship and idealism–Jesus of Nazareth in Nikos Kazantazakis’ ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’. This ‘ideal’ man is full of doubts, thoughts of lust, self-loathing, guilt, you name it, he’s been through it at some point. Having difficulties reconciling himself to his destiny and realizing the rocky road ahead, he has a bit of a rough time of it, even after confering with a group of Essene monks and gathering some relatively good-hearted but dense fishermen (Most of the Crete-born Kazantzakis’ Jews seem very Greek to me, like some of the transplanted fishermen from ‘Zorba the Greek’). Anyway, this ultimately heroic figure does triumph all of his temptations and eventually embrace his destiny. More people have seen the Martin Scorsese film adaptation than have read the novel (which got Kazantzakis excommunicated from the Greek Orthodox Church) but it is an intensely compelling novel that I read years before I ever heard of Martin Scorsese. Kazantzakis also possesses some intensity that makes him a spiritual brother to Dostoevsky as well. His Jesus is tormented by just as many nightmares as Raskolnikov. Definitely a powerful novel, regardless of one’s personal spiritual convictions.

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    • Well, there is no character more relevant to Christmas than Jesus Christ, and he indeed appears in some novels — including not only “The Last Temptation of Christ” that you mentioned but also Anthony Burgess’ “The Kingdom of the Wicked,” among other books. And, as you eloquently stated, Jesus Christ is a good person (many Christians would call that a major understatement on my part 🙂 ) with plenty of self-doubt.

      Any author who can be compared even somewhat with the amazing Dostoyevsky is worth a read!

      Thank you, bobess48! Great comment.

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      • I think Kazantzakis felt, and I agree with him, that for Jesus to be relatable to humans he had to be as human as the rest of us, to understand all the travails that we go to. He did it for himself initially as he felt the perfect man, without any flaws or foibles put on our pedestal of worship was one that was remote from human concerns. Makes sense to me at least.

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          • RE: Anthony Burgess and Jesus–Burgess wrote the screenplay for the TV mini-series ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ in 1977 directed by Franco Zefferelli with a big cast. Despite the big names, the production had a more realistic tone to it than previous Jesus films. British actor Robert Powell played Jesus. Robert has very big blue eyes. I can imagine that if I saw that man staring at me I would be pretty transfixed. Anyway, it was one of the better of the Jesus films. Burgess also wrote a novel called ‘Man of Nazareth’ which was not necessarily a novelization of the film. I didn’t read it but my brother did and he said there were distinct differences from the film. It’s unsurprisingly that Jesus would appear in another Burgess novel.

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            • Thanks, Brian, for that info! Interesting how interested Burgess was in Jesus Christ.

              Also noteworthy is who ends up playing Jesus on film. In real life, Jesus was undoubtedly Mideastern-looking, yet actors picked to play him are usually white. And, in the case you mentioned, blue-eyed. Oh well…

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              • Yes, there was that drawback. Robert Powell, like almost all of the actors who have played Jesus, is Caucasian. In fact, he was a living personification of many of those Renaissance paintings in which Jesus and those surrounding him are European looking, just like the artists who painted the paintings, the wealthy patrons who funded the painting and the viewers of the paintings. So much for the two thousand years of the Europeanization of a Middle Eastern Jew.

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                • “Europeanization” — that’s exactly the right word!

                  And of course another variation on the morphing of Jesus Christ into something he wasn’t is the way his progressive and humanitarian beliefs have been basically ignored by much of the Christian right.

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                  • It all happened once the rich guys figured out all they had to do was create bigger needles, thus bigger eyes. After that, it was a simple walk-through atop proverbial camels!

                    Tangentially, I read a Japanese novella (title and author escaping me now) re similar cribs on Buddhism in Old Japan. Since it was against the religion to kill, poor ostracized men were tasked with the job; after which, the animal in question being dead anyway, it was thought not to be a sin for the rich to eat it. The Zen Palate restaurant chain here in NYC, more recently, had menus filled with entrees of faux meat dishes.

                    Then, sorta similar, there is the loobster featured on Cheers. Which somehow reminds me of the Church of Christ back home, where grape juice and crackers were meant to stand in place of wine and bread. I look forward to a remake of The Front Page, featuring candy cigarettes.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Ah, yes, convenient revisionism and end-arounds by “the powers that be.”

                      “I look forward to a remake of The Front Page, featuring candy cigarettes” — that’s hilarious, jhNY! I’m old enough to remember smoke-filled newsrooms during my reporting days. Yech!

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    • This was indeed a great novel. Gripping. My mother almost had the vapors when she saw me reading it. She would’ve grappled me to the floor to wrest it from my hands, but I had youth on my side. Never saw the movie. Now I want to read the book again. Thank you, Bobess48.

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    • Have yet to read ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’, though one day I might work up to it. Have had a most curious reaction to Kazantzakis in both of my previous exposures to his work.

      Can’t say I remember appreciating his translated prose very much, but I was overwhelmed nonetheless by Zorba the Greek when I read it in college. That book, a lot of Chuck Berry and my druthers inspired me to drop out of college and follow my heedless young dream– after which, I returned to college, perhaps wiser.

      In my late twenties, I read his novel of the life of St. Francis, and came as close as I have ever gotten to an understanding of Christianity, not as organized religion, but as a vital, compelling fire inside, intimate and always there to be drawn on and into, would a person but surrender all to God. Easy to write, hard to do– yet always available, within reach. No other book touching on or wholly concerned with religious matters has had such a grip on my conception of the subject.

      So in my experience, Kazantzakis must be taken up with caution, or with expectation of being changed. Somehow, he has been– twice– a powerful force in my biography– though I confess, I am no believer, and certainly no kind of Zorba.

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  11. Dave excellent topic, I am still puzzled how Trump happened now it is less than a month DT takes the oath and no A list performers wants to,perform in his inaugural. Next four years will be rough.
    Tonight 60 minutes was basically on Hamilton with multiracial ensemble as this country is all about.

    I also finished Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley the well known black author , the theme was from late 60s, the detective was Easy Rawlings. Hope Trump will go away in less than 4 years but Mr. Mosley will continue to write. It is a well written book very different style of writing with names only Mosley can come up with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, bebe!

      Yes, it’s still hard to believe that Trump won (or “won”). So glad that no A-list entertainers will perform at his inauguration. And the Trump worldview is definitely the total opposite of the wonderful multiracial worldview seen in “Hamilton.”

      Four years of misery are indeed approaching… 😦

      Great that you finished that Mosley novel! Coincidentally, I’m now reading his second Easy Rawlins mystery — “A Red Death,” set in 1953. Excellent, and I agree that the character names are nicely quirky.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dave this untimely passing of George Michael , another talented musician gone and hate survives, I was thinking about trump`s chump sending hateful posts. How do they live ?

        Liked by 1 person

        • What an awful year 2016 was for musician deaths, bebe. 😦

          I didn’t follow George Michael’s career that much, but, after reading the article you linked to, I was impressed with his social consciousness and with the way he tried to get out of the pop-superstar straitjacket.

          Could you tell me more about the hateful posts you mentioned? Did some Trump people/supporters say negative things about Michael? (Not surprising, of course.) It IS unfair that Trump and his ilk are riding high these days while bad things happen to good people.

          Liked by 1 person

                  • Just to add my two cents on your and bebe’s comments, I too still feel so enraged over the election results that it’s difficult to cope. I feel on edge most of the time and get annoyed or weepy over just about anything, but mostly of the news today. I keep in touch with my girlhood friends, some by phone but mostly via group e-mails. One of them sent out an e-mail yesterday about the upcoming Women’s March scheduled for January 21; she lives near DC, and mentioned that two others of the group were going to go to it. I replied that I couldn’t think of a way to make that happen due to my physical limitations, especially with my responsibilities to my pets and other things. But I said I’d certainly be with them in spirit!

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • I hear you, Kat Lib. It’s impossible to avoid feeling rage and despair every day over Trump’s election, the rigging that helped him win, his far-right/ultra-rich cabinet picks, and Trump acting his disgusting self ever single day. I’ve criticized him in this blog, and in my weekly newspaper column, but a lot of that is just ineffectual venting. Millions of people (and I’ll try to do what I can) will protest Trump’s actions from now until he’s out of office, and hopefully most national Democratic leaders will grow a spine and obstruct Trump just as much as the GOP obstructed Obama. I realize the Democrats don’t have a majority in either house of Congress, but there’s a lot they can do if they try.

                      That Jan. 21 march should be a great event. I can’t attend myself because of my parenting responsibilities, but I know many people who are going and the turnout should be huge.

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                    • Dave, I’m glad to hear that you know folks who are heading to DC for the March. I’ve read today several stories on Daily Kos from last year: one by a man from back in June who refuted the main criticisms of Hillary quite persuasively, especially if seen through the lens of sexism; another was an open letter to Hillary written by a male Pastor in North Carolina who was extremely sorry that she didn’t prevail in the election; and a very angry statement from a feminist that I couldn’t help but agree with, as I’m filled with anger myself. On Salon, I also saw the Top Ten of SNL’s election skits, some of which I’d seen before, but some I hadn’t, especially Larry David as Bernie. I was laughing the whole time, but I started crying during the last one, Kate McKinnon as Hillary after the election, singing “Hallelujah” while accompanying herself on piano. The ending, where Kate (as Hillary) turns to the audience and says “I’m not giving up, and neither should you.” I think I read somewhere that Kate McKinnon was being named “Entertainer of the Year” by some publication — quite warranted, as she’s so brilliant and accomplished in many areas. Sorry, but I’ll stop with the politics and continue reading a charming book, “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Thanks for the follow-up comment, Kat Lib!

                      As flawed as Hillary Clinton was in certain ways, she was definitely robbed of the presidency — the sexism, the GOP’s voter suppression, the media focus on her emails when Trump’s corruption was so much worse, FBI director James Comey’s interference, Russia’s interference, the archaic/unprogressive Electoral College, etc.

                      Kate McKinnon has been hilariously amazing as Hillary, and has also done a darn good job post-election impersonating loathsome Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway.

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    • “It is a well written book very different style of writing with names only Mosley can come up with.” I like Mr. Mosley’s Rawlings books, and have Devil With the Blue Dress near the top of my detective book pile, having read two others in this series. i have also read one of his Leonid Magill detective books. But I think his capacity to invent names such as Charcoal Joe is very much in keeping with street tradition. Blues performers have given themselves such names from the 1920’s on– Sweet Papa Stovepipe, Blues Birdhead, Funny Papa Smith, Black Ace, for example. And today rappers carry on similarly, as did Mafiosi in the bad old days– Greasy Thumb, Joey Two Times, etc.

      I have no doubt you are familiar with Cab Calloway, but if not, there are few selections and a bio you might like to look over below.

      BUT I send you this in hopes you will enjoy the music and bio of Joseph Bologne, son of a Haitian plantation owner and a slave, who became one of the most celebrated fencing masters of mid-18th century France, as well as a composer and violinist of renown. A man I was but dimly aware of before I read this article from the Daily Kos on Christmas.

      http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/12/25/1612942/-Born-on-Christmas-Day-The-Chevalier-and-Cab-Calloway#read-more

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks, jhNY, for the interesting thoughts, interesting information, and the link! Will try to sample some of that music when I get a chance. I had never heard of Joseph Bologne until seeing your comment (thanks, American history books 😦 ); what an amazing life.

        And, yes, names in African-American culture — whether coined by authors for fictional characters, performers for themselves, or parents for their children — can be extremely creative, quirky, etc.

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      • Thank you for this lovely post I will read it today.
        Last night I wrote a lengthy post to you and then ” Post” from my ipad…it failed to do so, inopportune time to reboot my computer and so the post disappeared.

        I am glad you read ” Charcoal Joe”, yes the names Mr. Mosley could come up with. Whisper. Charcoal. Cully Grindman and Fearless Jones was my favorite then many other names.
        The book was about 1960`s and AIDS was not in the picture. Easy Rawlings sexual encounter was written is such a way was almost poetic but graphic and yet not a big deal , because he loved only one who was not to be had. Some were even part time prostitutes but still never a big deal.
        Now I have Rose Gold but there are few others sitting on my table.

        As I wrote to Kat Lib Trump winning the election was not easy to take, I was depressed and still am and how this could ever happen ? Still it will be hard to do away with electorates.

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        • Re your last paragraph– I have been in despair over the death of our democracy since the coup of 2000. From time to time I’ve been tempted to believe we might right what has gone so wrong– but mostly I think we’ve already lost something most of us don’t even recognize we’re missing. And we won’t get it back any time soon, or as anything but a shadow of its former self.

          First the Republicans lost faith in government; then they lost faith in democracy, so they won’t pay for what they don’t like and they actively suppress voting wherever the outcomes, sans suppression, might prove disagreeable to themselves and their aims.

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          • Excellent point, jhNY. The 2000 election was indeed basically a coup by the Republican Party with an assist from a complicit right-wing Supreme Court majority. Somehow this year’s Trump/GOP stuff seems even worse, but 2000 was pretty bad. And I worry that what the Republicans are doing in North Carolina will be replicated on a national scale. Not that the national situation isn’t already atrocious, but the gerrymandering, the stripping of the newly elected Democratic governor’s powers, etc., in North Carolina is coup-like on steroids.

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            • The Romans never officially declared their republic dead– the senators met and deliberated as it had always done, but nothing decided mattered much, unless it mattered also to the emperor.

              The most important thing about the last election: fewer voters participated than in the 2012 contest, despite the existential and imperative claims on participation by pols of both parties.

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              • Yes, as your first paragraph alludes to, America’s elite play-acts like the U.S. is a democracy but the U.S. is not a true democracy. And enough people sense that charade to keep voting participation down (along with GOP voter suppression keeping voting participation down).

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          • John Kerry a War veteran was swift boated by Bush cronies and now look at John Kerry appearing so Regal with an excellent speech just today and where is Bush bow painting ?
            Next was Gore who Won but Supreme course made the decision to make W the President.
            But worse of all is Donald Trump , Hillary Clinton with almost 3 million more popular votes.
            You are so right end of democracy started in 2000.

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            • You’re absolutely right, bebe — Kerry’s exemplary military service was maligned in 2004 by the nasty, lying Republican Party. Might have cost him the election, along with some rumored GOP voting shenanigans in Ohio. And I agree with you about Kerry’s speech — Israel deserves to be condemned for its aggressive settlement policy that’s reducing the chances of peace and of a Palestinian state.

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