Welcome to Fast Forward Friday, where we review resources to help you relax, refresh, and power up for next week. That includes recommendations for Listening, Reading, Viewing and Researching that will sometimes amuse, sometimes instruct, but always help you to recharge your batteries over the weekend!
Listening: If you like or love Jazz, you will love Duke Ellington Live at Newport in 1956, which is available on YouTube. This concert was noteworthy for several reasons: at a time when Ellington’s career was in eclipse (his band did not have a recording contract in place before this concert), the electrifying performance at Newport breathed new life into his career; the concert itself led to its own well-received record, and has gone down in history for the superlative 27-chorus solo performed by saxophonist Paul Gonsalves in the interlude between “Diminuendo in Blue” and “Crescendo in Blue.” This concert might have been the best Ellington’s band ever performed and showcases the wide variety of his compositions. There is something here for everyone to enjoy!
Reading: John le Carre wrote the best espionage novels of all time following service as a member of British intelligence, evoking the realities of the Cold War through a series of novels that focused on the struggles of individuals who operated in the shadows while leading double lives. Former KGB officer Vladimir Putin has brought the Cold War back into focus, and along with it, revived interest in novelists like Le Carre.
“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” is the best of Le Carre’s works and is based on the greatest catastrophe in Cold War espionage history, the network of Soviet spies who penetrated Great Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI 6) at the highest levels. Le Carre takes us on a journey through the fictional investigation of this spy ring as seen through the eyes of his most memorable character, the completely non-descript George Smiley, who is brought in somewhat secretly to stop the ring dead in its tracks without jeopardizing British intelligence assets all over the world. Le Carre’s characters are well drawn, the stakes are as high as we can imagine, and Smiley forges ahead despite every obstacle diabolically clever intelligence officers can throw at each other. If you like twists, turns, and suspense against a backdrop of people who are fighting against an enemy that they cannot see, this is a book that you will not put down until the final page.
Viewing: “Doc Martin” is winding down after 10 series and a nearly 20-year run. The series revolves around the irascible yet supremely competent Doctor Martin Ellingham, a former high-flying surgeon whose blood phobia lands him in a small fishing village he stayed at during summers when he was a youth. Doc Martin is only one of the many screwball characters who make this series as interesting as it is hilarious. The final series tracks the Doc’s difficulty adjusting to life without medicine, since he resigned his practice under fire at the end of Series 9. To say that the Doc lacks people skills is the understatement of the year, but his character is not that out of place in Portwen, where nearly everyone appears to have some quirk of nature.
“Doc Martin” is an enjoyable romp that is suitable for binge watching or savoring one episode at a time. It is available first-run now on Acorn.
Researching: In honor of a splendid book I am now reading and will review at a later date, “Voices of Protest,” the research word for this week is Demagogue. Taking a look at that word less than a month before elections on November 8 is also timely, since the silly season of TV and digital ads is upon us. Writers have complained about demagogues dating back to Aristotle more than 2000 years ago. Despite that fact, we keep on falling for their acts. After you have researched the word, hopefully you will know one when you see one and act accordingly!