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Watching Shirley Temple’s Breakthrough Film and Finding a Fallen Star

She totally disarms you — she lifts you off your feet. —H.G. Wells, circa. 1934 Wells’s choice of words is curious, since Shirley Temple was usually the one being lifted…

On Lincoln’s Birthday — What a Play Shakespeare Might Have Written

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) knew Shakespeare by heart. It wasn’t just that he could recite long passages from Hamlet and Macbeth and Richard III, or that he felt compelled to regale…

The Day the Beatles Landed at Kennedy: A Tale of Two Fridays in America

There was a turning point in their career, a specific date on which the breadth and scope of their future was to be altered and it was the day their…

Driving Through the Snow With Kate Bush and Paul McCartney

Like so many music-related happenings in Princeton, this one began at the Record Exchange. With snow on the ground and more coming, it was time to do what I should…

Sir Francis Bacon’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: With a Little Help from Byron and Strindberg

Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song, and I’ll try not to sing out of key. —Lennon and McCartney There is no excellent beauty that hath not…

Looking for Amiri Baraka and LeRoi Jones on Martin Luther King’s Birthday

“Amiri Baraka, The Last Poet Laureate of New Jersey.” This is how Baraka, who died at 79 on January 9, signed the introduction to his 2007 short story collection, Tales…

The Year of Reading Shakespeare Begins in the Skies Over London

I kept thinking of Shakespeare as I watched the eleven-minute BBC video of London’s spectacular New Year’s fireworks display. All that celestial excitement exploding above his river, his city, his…

Take a Cup of Kindness for Auld Lang Syne, Peter O’Toole, and the Librarian on the Bench

“In My Life” started out as a bus journey from my house to town … and it wasn’t working at all …. But then I laid back and these lyrics…

’Tis the Season for Film Noir: Winged Words on a Homeland Holiday

“The bad girls were so much fun to play …. Critics always said I acted best with a gun in my hand.” —Audrey Totter (1917-2013) When actress Audrey Totter died…

Over the Bridge to the Other Side — A Matter of Life and Death

Here we go again, life or death on the dreaded Williamsburg Bridge. I know to stay in the far right lane but as I come to the Brooklyn moment of…