Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Week That Was, End of May Edition

The Week That Was

End of May already! Time seems to just zip by these days.

I have now been blogging daily for eleven months, so at the end of June we should have some kind of celebration, right?

Anyway, let’s see what we covered this week…

  • Monday was Memorial Day, both the day we in the US honor those killed in war and the unofficial starting gun for summer. I talked about the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, which moved Memorial Day and sevral other holidays to the Monday closest to the original day, and how veterans’ groups were not happy that Memorial Day was moved to the last Monday of May from May 30. As I told Susan Gourley, who remarked that she was happy Veterans’ Day was returned to November 11, that national holidays were simply an excuse for white sales anymore. Sad, but true.
  • Tuesday‘s featured artist was drawn again from artists of the British Invasion, the lovely Lulu, whose first hit record, a cover of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” was released when she was a bonnie wee lassie of 15. Typing that sentence reminded me that I never mentioned that she was from Glasgow. Still performing, still a beautiful small woman with a huge voice. I chose not to include her biggest hit, “To Sir With Love,” in favor of another US hit of hers, “Oh Me Oh My.” Thanks for not leaving comments asking “Why didn’t you include ‘To Sir With Love’?” I did link to it, and I do love the song. Sometimes I think I should make it Three for Tuesday, or move it to Thursday and make it Three for Thursday. You may vote for your preference in the comments.
  • I took time on Wednesday to vent my spleen about the alleged search engine optimization “experts” who leave several poorly-written comments every week chiding me for my lack of attention to SEO and offering me an overpriced plugin (which I can’t install anyway, because WordPress.com doesn’t allow free bloggers to install plugins) that promises to solve all of my present and future problems. Kern Windwraith remarked that the business model must work for the spammers (which is what they are), or they’d have given up long ago. Lauralynn Elliot pointed out, rightly, that writing good content is the secret to good SEO.
  • Thursday was YouTube‘s tenth birthday, which gave me an excuse to choose my ten favorite channels of the 200 or so I’m subscribed to, a mere microcosm of the hundreds of thousands of channels out there. We owe a debt of gratitude to the people who have established channels and loaded videos to the service. You can quite literally learn thousands of subjects from the videos that experts have created and uploaded to it, and I wouldn’t have anything to write about without it. I, too, have a channel out there with two videos: a demo of how I simulcast this blog on both WordPress and Blogger, and a minute-long video showing the RCA Indian-head test card accompanied by a steady 400Hz tone. Yeah, I’m weird.
  • I did another of Mama Kat’s prompts on Friday, talking about the time I was summoned to the principal’s office and everyone in the school heard it because the principal didn’t know how to use the PA system. She merely summoned me to give me something to take home to my mother because she and Mom had been talking about it at a Glenola Club meeting. (That was the women’s club at the parish, which stood at the corner of Glenwood and Loyola Avenues, hence the name.)
  • The prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday was “almost,” and it immediately brought to mind Chuck Berry’s song “Almost Grown,” so I wrote about Chuck Berry, now almost 89 years old and, Damien Riley informs me, still performing. As I told Lori Carlson, Chuck, like BB King, is a national treasure. And he can still play the guitar like ringing a bell.

Coming up this week: a new Battle of the Bands tomorrow featuring a song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, another Two for Tuesday and Thursday Ten, Stream of Conscious Saturday, and other assorted craziness. Be sure and vote on my potential programming change as regards my Tuesday and Thursday features. Your choices are:

  1. Keep it Two for Tuesday, as it is today.
  2. Change it to Three for Tuesday.
  3. Swap Two for Tuesday and the Thursday Ten, expand it to three songs, and make the features The Tuesday Ten and Three for Thursday.
  4. Something completely different.

Thanks again for reading the blog, and I’ll see you around!




from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Saturday, May 30, 2015

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS SATURDAY: Almost…

First thing I thought of when I heard the prompt was “almost”…

Chuck Berry. Wow. Almost 89 years old, and still playing. At least I think he is. Born in St. Louis, came to Chicago in 1954 and played for the legendary Muddy Waters. Muddy helped him get signed with Chess Records, and he unleashed a string of hit records on the world.

Chuck used to say that where Elvis was a white man who sang like he was black, he was a black man who sang like he was white. Huge crossover there. Especially at a time when black artists weren’t played on white stations. That’s how Pat Boone got his start, doing songs by Fats Domino and Little Richard. You had to turn down the dial to the black stations to hear Fats and Richard doing their own songs.

Could have been worse: the Beatles couldn’t even get played on the BBC. The Northern Dance Orchestra would do their hits. A friend of mine grew up in England around that time, and he said they were awful. “She loves you, yes, yes, yes”… The Beatles said they would listen to Radio Luxembourg to hear Chuck Berry, and most of the rock artists for that matter, until the BBC relented.

Listen to the way Chuck played, that “chunk ta-chunk ta-chunk ta-chunk.” That’s his blues background. You hear the same thing with Jimmy Reed. Or Muddy Waters… listen to this, “Walkin’ Through The Park,” you hear it there.

That guitar solo sounds like Chuck, but it isn’t. Not sure who it is, really. Could be Robert Jr. Lockwood, Pat Hare, Buddy Guy, any of the hundreds of guitar players that backed Muddy over the years. But you see where Chuck got his rock ‘n’ roll from. All blues-based. Mixed blues, country, rockabilly, and the sound came out that you can hear whenever you hear Chuck, or Elvis, or Carl Perkins, or any of the millions of guitar players that learned by listening to them.

Nearly every Chuck Berry solo is exactly the same, did you know that? He might throw some extra licks in or adapt it to the songs that aren’t blues-based, but it’s all the same. And he made it sound different each time. A genius, that’s what he is.

What made them sound different was the words he put to the music. He said that half his listeners had cars, so he wrote about cars; half were in school, so he wrote about school; and nearly all of them were in love at one time or another, so he wrote about love. He just set the words to the same tune over and over, and we couldn’t get enough.

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This is, of course, written for Linda Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Visit her blog for the rules (if you want to play along) and for the others who are participating (you’ll find them in the comments as pingbacks, for the most part), and see what they’re up to.




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Friday, May 29, 2015

Sent to the Principal’s Office

I suppose I was supposed to do this yesterday, at least according to Mama Kat’s directions. I’m a day late. Sue me.

Mama Kat comes up with prompts every week on Wednesday, and invites her readers (e.g. me) to choose a prompt, write about it, post it their blog, and add the link to her Linky. Anyway, this week she has six prompts, including this one…

Tell us about a time you were sent to the Principal’s office.

I was a good kid, and never got sent to the Principal’s office (believe it or not). Kept after school, yes. Grabbed by the cheek by the Principal and made to bleed because I was horsing around during Confirmation rehearsal, yes. But never actually sent to the Principal’s ofice.

Instead, I was summoned to the Principal’s office.

We were in class one afternoon, and the intercom switched on.

“Mother Juanita?” the Principal said.

“Yes, Reverend Mother?”

“Would you please send John Holton to the office, please?”

Immediately every eye in the third grade was on me. “Yes, Reverend Mother,” my teacher answered, caught my eye, and thumbed me toward the door. I sat in the back, so I had to pass every kid in the room on my way out.

Our school had two buildings, an older and a newer one. We were in the newer one, the office was in the older one. They were connected by a bridge, so I had a short hike to the office. There was a statue of Our Lady of Fatima standing in the middle of the bridge, and I stopped to say a prayer. The look on Mary’s face told me, oh, you poor bastard, you’re in for it now.

Anyway, I get to the office, and Reverend Mother was standing there. “Oh, there you are,” she said. She handed me an envelope. “This is for your mother.”

She had called me to the office to give me something to give Mom.

Understand, she could have bought the envelope herself; she toured the school twice a day, in the morning and the afternoon, she could have stopped by our classroom and given it to Mother Juanita to give to me. Or, for that matter, she and the other nuns went back to the convent for lunch, she could have given it to her then. Or she could have brought it the next day; it wasn’t as though it was anything critical, like a new heart or anything. Just something she thought Mom would like to read, as it turned out.

So, I go back to my classroom and tuck the envelope into my folder to bring home. Everyone is looking at me again, until Mother Juanita told everyone to face forward.

When I left school that day, everyone wanted to know why Reverend Mother called me to the office. And I mean everyone. Seems her request for my presence was broadcast to the entire school, as she was relatively new and didn’t know how to use the intercom to call to just one room. So everyone heard me being called to the office, and I had to tell everyone that it was just to get an envelope for my mother. Who, I prayed, would send me to Kilmer, the public school in the neighborhood, from then on…




from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Thursday, May 28, 2015

My Ten Favorite YouTube Channels

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If you go out to YouTube today, you’ll see that they’re celebrating their tenth birthday! They gave us this video to celebrate…

I shudder to think what this blog would be like without YouTube. Any blog, for that matter. Or Twitter, or Facebook. We all love it. Sometimes I just go out and watch videos. You’ve heard of going to your happy place? For me, that’s YouTube.

My tastes in videos run more to old TV shows, music, and weird stuff, a lot of which is related to the first two. Here are my ten favorite “go to” channels when I’m just looking to be entertained.

The Museum of Classic Chicago Television (Fuzzy Memories): Have to start with this one, because it’s my favorite. The MCCTv now has their own website, but it started out as just Rick Klein, Mr. Fuzzy Memories himself, uploading videos that he had collected and that others had around the house of Chicago television. Not the actual shows, mind you, although parts of them are inevitably shown during the videos. We’re talking station ID’s, sign-ons and sign-offs, commercials, interstitials, Emergency Broadcast System tests, weather warnings, partial or full newscasts, and other goodies. One such goody is video of the night someone managed to hijack the signal of WTTW, the PBS station, and broadcast several minutes of himself in a Max Headroom mask being rude and obnoxious, and occasionally NSFW, during that night’s telecast of Doctor Who. This is the original upload; there’s a better copy on the Museum’s website.

Robatsea2009: Fuzzy’s channel is pretty much dedicated to Chicago television from the 1980’s and earlier. Rob’s channel doesn’t restrict itself like that: he has video from all over the country, maybe even Canada. Mostly commercials and promos, but he occasionally finds a real gem. This, for example. This is a Proof-of-Performance test done recently on all CBS stations. You probably didn’t see it, since it was aired overnight. If you woke up during the test, you probably thought you were dreaming.

RwDt09: This is a fantastic channel. RwDt09 assembles collections of introductions to TV shows. He has a series of videos called “Stay Tuned,” which choose a night and a TV season and shows introductions from all of the shows on that night. Others include intros from syndicated shows, new programs for a given year, obscure TV themes, etc. Here, for example, are shows from Tuesday night in fall of 1960.

NRRAarchives: There are four channels here. Most of the videos are from American Bandstand or The Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show. Here’s an example: a performance of “Rawhide” by Link Wray and the Wraymen.

The Oddity Archive: Ben, who runs the archive and the associated website, says this about the Archive: “The Oddity Archive is a web series that revolves around the “cultural dustbin”, especially as it pertains to media.” He produces longish videos on a wide variety of media-related topics on a more-or-less regular basis. Here is a shorter one on one of myfavorite subjects: test cards…

Simon’s Cat: A popular feature, especially among cat lovers, like me. We can relate to many of the misadventures, such as this one.

MuguMogu: This channel documents the life of Maru, a large and bushy cat who lives in Japan with his people and his feline friend Hana. Maru just turned 8; here is the video celebrating the event.

Johnnyboy792: From the looks of it, Johnnyboy just started, but his videos have been excellent. A lot of nostalgia, including his “Memories of” videos. Here’s his video on 1971.

Tommy Emmanuel: Tommy Emmanuel, CGP (the honor bestowed on him by the great Chet Atkins) is an incredible fingerstyle guitar player. There are a lot of Tommy Emmanuel videos on YouTube, but this is his official channel. This was his year-end message for 2013, including “Only Elliot,” a song that he hadn’t finished by that time, though it certainly sounds finished to me…

enra – motion graphics performing arts: I saw this group last year, and was suitably impressed. I think you will be, too. Their website explains that they’re “an entertainment unit which presents the ultimate fusion of images and live performance.” This is their “Metropolis.”

Congratulations to YouTube on making it for ten years, and may you have many more!




from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

SEO Spam

If you run a blog on WordPress, chances are you’ve gotten the spam comment that starts “Hello Web Admin, I noticed that your On-Page SEO is is missing a few factors” and goes on to tell you what, in this person’s humble opinion, you’re screwing up, following all of it with an offer to watch a video about what their amazing plugin will do to improve pages hits and blah blah blah. Save your time: I clicked the link, and it didn’t bring me to a page with anything whatsoever to do with improving search engine optimization. It took me to a page that was pushing one of those get-rich-quick schemes where you can’t leave the page unless you leave your name and email address, no doubt so they can send you hundreds of emails like normal spammers do.

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Uh, guys, word of advice: WordPress.com, which hosts this blog, doesn’t allow its users to install third-party plugins like the one you claim to talk about in a video somewhere. To the best of my knowledge, neither does Blogger, TypePad, or any of the other blog-hosting sites. You’re wasting your time. And, exactly how do you suppose that constantly dumping these spam comments on me gives me any confidence that your plugin will do anything close to what you’re promising and that it won’t unleash a virus that will eat my blog and infect every computer that visits?

Search engine optimization was a big thing a few years ago. The trick is to set up keywords both on your site and in your HTML that will result in your site showing up on the first page of a Google search. There are any number of ways to do this, among them looking at the most-frequently used keywords on sites like yours and using as many of them as you can to achieve the highest position possible. Kind of like I talked about during the A to Z Challenge, where companies would add strings of A’s in front of their names so they’d would be listed first in their category in the Yellow Pages (e.g. A AAA AAAAAA AAAAAAAAA Roy’s Termite Service).

Understand, SEO is a legitimate concern, and if your business depends on being listed at or toward the top of a Google search, you need to pay attention to it. At the same time, Google is messing with their algorithm almost constantly, and what gave you a high position on Google pages once upon a time is not guaranteed to give you the same ranking in the future. Google will also look at the location the request is coming from and what you’ve looked for and linked to in the past (yeah, they keep statistics on that, too) before giving you results. If your primary concern is page ranking, you might be wasting your time. And the search engines are getting wise to spamdexing, and actually penalizing sites for doing it. The way you talk in your spam messages, I can tell your plugin relies heavily on spamdexing. Why would I give you money to be penalized by Google and the other engines?

So, guys? I’m not interested.

Now to take on the people on Twitter who are willing to sell me 5,000 followers for the low, low price of just $19.95…




from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

#TwoForTuesday: Lulu

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You probably remember her singing the title tune from the movie To Sir, With Love. Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie, better known as Lulu, has been around for over fifty years and still performs regularly in the UK. Her first hit record, the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” was recorded when she was just fifteen (it’s our first song today) and reached #7 on the British charts (#94 on the Billboard Hot 100) in 1964. Her biggest hit in the US was “To Sir, With Love”; it reached #1 in both the US and Canada in 1967. She had limited success in the US after that, although her 1969 hit, “Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You, Baby)” reached #22 on the Hot 100; it’s our second song today. She also provided the theme for the James Bond movie The Man With The Golden Gun in 1974, though it wasn’t released as a single.

Lulu took a hiatus from recording in the late 1970’s, but has been recording pretty regularly since then. Check her website, which tells us that her latest album, Making Life Rhyme, was released on April 13. There you can find links to her social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Spotify).

Lulu, your Two for Tuesday, May 26, 2015.




from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

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Here in the US, it’s Memorial Day. We honor those who died in war with parades and cookouts, baseball games, and going to the beach. Veterans Day, in November, commemorates every service member, living or dead; it’s the day we thank our veterans for their service to this nation. Someone was putting up a fuss about this on Facebook (where else?), saying it was inappropriate to thank veterans for their service on Memorial Day. I don’t think it’s ever the wrong day to thank a veteran, regardless of the “official” meaning of the day. So, veterans, thank you for your service.

When I was younger, Memorial Day was May 30th, regardless of where it fell. If it was a Wednesday, you’d work or go to school on Monday and Tuesday, take Wednesday off, then go back to work or school Thursday and Friday. When the Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into effect in June 1968, it, along with Washington’s Birthday (renamed Presidents Day), Columbus Day, and Veterans Day were moved to Mondays. I remember either the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars (or maybe both) wasn’t happy and demanded that Memorial and Veterans Days be returned to their traditional days. Eventually, they got Veterans Day returned to November 11 (in 1978), and they decided that was a good compromise.

Memorial Day weekend has become the unofficial start of summer, even though it’s about a month before astronomical summer begins, just as Labor Day has become the unofficial end of the season. Another holiday, Independence Day (July 4) serves as the midpoint. Back in the day, we didn’t get out of school until the first week of June (Mom, who taught in the Chicago Public Schools, didn’t get out until the actual start of summer, circa June 20, later when there was a teachers’ strike in the middle of the year) and went back the Wednesday after Labor Day. The kids here in Georgia (and in much of the rest of the country) got out last Friday, and go back the second week of August. They just can’t win: true, the schools are air conditioned, but it’s still the dog days of summer. Guess they need the extra time to get ready for their standardized tests…

I think Canada celebrates Memorial Day today as well. Well, whether you have the day off or not, have a good Memorial Day.




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Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Week That Was for May 24, 2015

The Week That Was

Everybody seems to like this feature, which started during the A to Z Challenge and kept going because I wasn’t participating in A Round of Words in 80 Days this time around. Whether or not I choose to participate in ROW80 next time around, I think I’ll keep this going on Sundays, making Wednesday my check-in day if I do.

We had another good week here last week.

  • Monday’s entry was my entry into the “Blood, Boobs, and Carnage” Blogfest. I think I made a pretty good case for the TV show CSI: Miami as an example of all three. There were three CSI:‘s altogether (four, if you consider the latest entry, CSI: Cyber, starring Patricia Arquette, James Van Der Beek, and Peter MacNicol, which debuted at midseason), and everyone seems to have their favorite and their least favorite. All, save Cyber, have come to a close, with the original CSI: having its grand finale this September. It’ll be the end of an era.
    M. R. R. suggested that almost any 21st Century crime show would fit the theme. This reminded me of the recent Twitter meme, “If ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ were set in a trailer park, it’d be an episode of ‘Criminal Minds.'” Don’t ask why.
  • Tuesday’s featured artist was Cilla Black, considered one of the ladies of the British Invasion even though she didn’t get much airplay in this country. She and Dionne Warwick were great interpreters of the music of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, which gave me a great idea for the next Battle of the Bands. Tune in a week from tomorrow for that.
  • Wednesday, I noted the last show of David Letterman. I wasn’t particularly impressed with his show after it moved to CBS in 1993, and rarely watched it, typically only when I fell asleep during the news and woke up in the middle of it. My idea of late-night TV runs more to reruns of Perry Mason on MeTV.
  • Speaking of Perry Mason, Thursday was the 98th birthday of its star, Raymond Burr, who died in 1993 (the same year Letterman’s show started on CBS — we’re just full of coincidences here). While Mason was his most-famous role, he was also the star of Ironside, and was in a number of movies, including Love Happy with the Marx Brothers and, as Halfmoon Mollie pointed out, A Place In The Sun with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.
  • We announced the winner of my most recent Battle of the Bands on Friday, over who did the better version of Phoebe Snow’s “Poetry Man.” By a vote of 10-6, Canadian jazz singer Jaclyn Guillou won over Hawai’ian singer Kainani Kakaunaele. Both women did a fine job, though, and you’ll probably hear both of them on a future Two for Tuesday.
  • Saturday’s Stream of Consciousness entry was prompted by the syllable “ke.” Naturally, my entry was about Keoke coffee.

This week, of course, we’ll talk about Memorial Day, feature another British Invasion artist on Two for Tuesday, another Stream of Consciousness entry on Saturday, and a few surprises (meaning I haven’t figured out what I’m going to write about). See you then!




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Saturday, May 23, 2015

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS SATURDAY: Keoke Coffee!

I saw the prompt for today (ke at the beginning, middle, and/or end of a word), and somehow Keoke Coffee came to mind. It’s like Irish coffee, but instead of Irish whisky, you add Kahlua, creme de menthe and brandy. The recipe calls for 4 tablespoons each of the boozes, 3 cups of black coffee, and whipped cream.

I stopped drinking alcoholic beverages years ago when they told me I had enough blood pressure for two people. I was doing enough of it that it was probably a problem, and I was surprised how easy it was to give it up. When you consider that the prescriptions I take don’t mix well with alcohol, you can understand why. To replace the booze in my diet, I started drinking coffee, soda, and energy drinks, all of which conspired to give me a stroke.

Now, I drink decaffeinated coffee (at Starbucks, since they don’t make decaf after the morning rush for some bizarre reason, I drink decaffeinated Cafe Americano) and water. I used to drink diet soda, but the aspartame had a bad effect on my sleep patterns (i.e. I was going to the bathroom all night), and it probably wasn’t doing my kidneys any favors, either, so I gave it up. A very interesting thing happened when I stopped drinking soda: my blood pressure went down even further. I’m not sure if it was stopping soda or replacing it with water that did the trick, but I think it was both.

Occasionally (i.e. every occasion I can), I get a Birthday Cake shake from Zaxby’s, a Jamocha shake from Arby’s, or a Frappuccino from Starbucks (my current fave is the White Chocolate Mocha, no caffeine please). I usually get the latter when Starbucks awards me a freebie (we’ve been gold card members since 2004).

Do I miss the drinking? Not much. Sometimes I crave a Jack Daniel’s and water or a beer, but we don’t keep any of that in the house. Just as well. Just like sometimes I want a cigarette, even though I quit about 25 years ago. I dream sometimes of sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Paris, drinking espresso and smoking Gaulioses, or drinking absinthe and smoking at the Moulin Rouge, mostly because I’ve never been to Paris and never had absinthe. I have had Gaulioses, though: very, very strong and rough on the throat. At least they were in the 1970’s.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need more decaf…

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If you haven’t guessed by now, this is another Stream of Consciousness Saturday post. Linda Hill started this a while back, and she has all the rules and whatever.




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Friday, May 22, 2015

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Poetry Man” Results

BATTLE OF THE BANDS! (BOTB Top Photo)

I threw you a curve last week and chose two singers I had never heard of, Canadian Jaclyn Guillou and Hawai’ian Kainani Kahaunaele, as the competitors in a battle over who did a better job of Phoebe Snow’s “Poetry Man.” I enjoyed both performances myself, which is why I held this battle, and both women have good voices that I look forward to hearing much more of in the coming years.

The main critique of Ms. Guillou was that her jazz version of the song lost the melody, which I can see. It’s not unusual for a jazz combo to reharmonize a melody, and at times the melody can get buried under the arrangement. Ms. Kahaunaele, meanwhile, was both praised and critiqued for her performance; as hers featured just her voice and her guitar player in what almost seemed to be an informal jam on the tune, it put her voice up front, and some folks liked it and others didn’t. Again, I can see that. The voting went back and forth between them, and in the end, Ms. Guillou came out on top.

Jaclyn Guillou: 10
Kainani Kahaunaele: 6

Congratulations to Jaclyn Guillou, and kudos to Kainani Kahaunaele for a strong performance herself.

Be with us again on Monday, June 1, when we play this game again, in what looks like a Bacharach-David battle. See you then!




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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Happy Birthday, Raymond Burr

If I were to say “Perry Mason” to you, my guess is this is the face that would pop into your head.

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Raymond Burr (source: MeTV.com)

Raymond Burr would be 98 today (he died in 1993). As far as most people are concerned, he was the only man who could play Perry Mason. Back in 1973, Monte Markham starred in what was to have been a reboot of the series; it lasted a season and languished in the ratings. Everyone, it seems, was watching the reruns of the original series in syndication. My grandmother hated Markham as Mason; she said “No one can play Mason but Raymond Burr! Read the books, Burr is the Mason he’s talking about!” Funny thing was, that was what the producers of The New Perry Mason were saying about Markham.

It’s interesting to note that the original actor slated to play Perry was William Talman, and Burr was to have played Hamilton Burger. It was Erle Stanley Gardner, the author of the “Perry Mason” books, who suggested (no, insisted) that the two actors switch roles, and television history was made. Another actor that tested for the role was William Hopper, who got the role of Paul Drake. Here’s his screen test. Ray Collins plays Lt. Tragg, the part he played on the show.

But Burr played many more roles in the movies and on television. He played reporter Steve Martin in the US release of Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, and reprised the role in Godzilla 1985. He was in Love Happy, the last Marx Brothers movie. He played a number of roles on such shows as Family Theater, Chevron Theater, and The Ford Television Theater, when short dramatic plays provided much of the TV fare.

Maybe his biggest roles outside of Perry Mason were as Lars Thorwald in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Rear Window with James Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Wendell Corey, and as Robert Ironside, the wheelchair-bound former chief of detectives of the San Francisco Police Department, in the TV series Ironside.

He was a philanthropist and was particularly involved with the USO, having made a number of trips to Vietnam and Korea. He and his partner, Robert Benevides, cultivated orchids and wine grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Port). There were rumors that Burr was gay, but nothing was confirmed until after Burr’s death. Now, we think nothing of someone being gay, but it was scandalous when he started acting.

Mary and I watch Perry Mason almost nightly; it’s on twice a day on MeTV, at 10 AM and 11:30 PM Eastern time. We enjoy watching for actors who went on to fame and fortune later. This past week, a couple of episodes aired that featured Jesse White, who played the Maytag repairman for many years, and Richard Anderson, best known for his role of Oscar Goldman on The Six Million Dollar Man. One night, George Takei made an appearance; it took us a while to recognize him.

Happy birthday, Raymond Burr. You made the world a better place.




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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Letterman’s Retiring; Who Cares?


David Letterman (Source: Wikipedia/Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CC BY 2.0 license)

When Johnny Carson retired from “The Tonight Show” in 1992, it was a big deal. Carson was the King of Late-Night Television, and none of the other networks could compete with his show. They had tried, but people were still tuning into Johnny after the late news, and every show that tried to compete didn’t get very far. With Johnny gone, who was going to rule late night?

Fast forward to tonight, when David Letterman hosts his last “The Late Show.” You can watch that, “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” on NBC, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC, “The Graham Norton Show” on BBC America, or anything else on the tube. Or you can read a book, or go to bed. Tomorrow night, you can watch “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on CBS, or the other choices as before. Ho hum.

And that’s the difference between the two retirements. Where Carson’s retirement left a huge void that was soon filled with lots of alternatives for late-night viewing, Letterman’s retirement is really no big deal, regardless of what CBS would like you to believe. Many people think he should have retired long ago. Some believe he did retire long ago, but just kept showing up. On a few occasions, I’ve fallen asleep during the late news on WGCL and woken up in the middle of Letterman’s show, and it looked to me like he didn’t want to be there. Rumor has it he wanted to beat Jay Leno’s 20 years at NBC.

Well, congratulations, Dave, you did it. Enjoy your retirement. While you do your last show tonight, I’ll be watching a “Perry Mason” rerun from the 1960’s.

Do you think late-night TV has lost its relevance?




from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

#TwoForTuesday: Cilla Black

You’re my World

Alfie

Every time I read about the British Invasion, Cilla Black’s name comes up, even though she enjoyed limited popularity in the US. It might be because she knew The Beatles, having worked at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, where the Fab Four played a lot of their early shows and were discovered by Brian Epstein. John Lennon asked Brian to audition her, but the audition didn’t go well. However, subsequently he heard her at the Cavern and signed her to a contract.

In addition to being a singer, Cilla has worked in television, beginning with her own variety show in the 1960’s, arranged by Epstein prior to his death. She’s been in a few sitcoms, including Surprise! Surprise!, and hosted a couple of game shows, including Blind Date, a show based on The Dating Game.

The two songs I selected are ones also associated with Dionne Warwick; the two worked extensively with Burt Bacharach and Hal David and recorded many of the same songs. The first is “You’re My World,” from 1964. It rose to #26 on the Hot 100 while going to #1 in the UK. The second is her interpretation of the theme from the movie “Alfie,” from 1965. Her recording only made it to #95 in the US, but reached #9 in the UK. There’s a lively debate on YouTube about whether Cilla’s or Dionne’s is the better version, meaning you could see it as a future Battle of the Bands.

Much more information about Cilla is available on her website, and by all means check out her other songs on YouTube.

Cilla Black, your Two for Tuesday, May 19, 2015.




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Monday, May 18, 2015

CSI: Miami – Blood, Boobs, and Carnage

Blood Boobs Carnage Blogfest

Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather Gardner are running the “Blood, Boobs, and Carnage” Blogfest today. Here are the instructions:

Today, post about a movie, television show, book, or all three that falls into the category of Blood, Boobs, and Carnage. (Or just Blood and Carnage or other mixture.) It can be any genre that fits the bill – fantasy, science fiction, action, adventure, western, thriller, etc. Post the badge and visit other participants.

I wouldn’t normally participate in such a blogfest (I can hear you all now: “yeah, right, Holton”) but the minute I heard the name, the possibilities presented themselves. And, when I gave it more thought at lunch today, an especially good example of the theme worked its way to the front of my mind.

csi-miami-logo

When CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (also known as CSI: Las Vegas) turned out to be such a hit when it debuted at the start of the new millennium, its producers said, “Hey! Let’s do a whole lot of them! Same thing, just in different cities!” Or perhaps it was the suits at CBS who said it. Anyway, no doubt they got together and decided that the second show should be set somewhere with a lot of violent crime and a lot of good-looking people (primarily women) running around scantily clad. So, they chose Miami, associated (rightly or wrongly) with illegal trade in both drugs and firearms and with lots of good-looking people running around in swimwear. As an added bonus, Miami is a city with a large Caribbean population, thus bringing that demographic into play.

The result was a show that played heavily on stereotypes and featured much more blood and carnage than its predecessor. Unlike its predecessor, which relied heavily on quirky crimes and equally quirky CSI’s solving them, CSI: Miami relied primarily on stories of gang wars waged by opposing drug kingpins who spent most of their time lounging by their swimming pools, surrounded by pneumatically-gifted and surgically-enhanced women in swimwear, while their footsoldiers went out and wreaked havoc on each other, and often innocent bystanders. Okay, that’s a bit of an oversimplification (I’m trying to keep this short), but the longer the show was on the air, the more one-dimensional it became.

The Miami-Dade CSI’s were led by Lt. Horatio Caine, played by NYPD Blue alum David Caruso. David obviously prepared for the part by watching all of the “Dirty Harry” movies and episodes of (the original) Hawai’i Five-O, because the character of Caine came off as a cross between Clint Eastwood and Jack Lord. Assisting him was Calleigh Duquesne, a petite, blonde, blue-eyed, and stunningly beautiful young woman played by the equally petite, blonde, blue-eyed, and stunningly beautiful Emily Procter. Calleigh was originally from New Orleans (although she sounded like she was from North Carolina, as is Ms. Procter) and joined the Miami CSI’s as a ballistics expert. The appeal was obvious: a beautiful blonde Southern girl who liked guns. Halfway through the series, a second female CSI, Natalia Boa Vista (played by the quite lovely Eva LaRue), was added to the cast to run around with Calleigh to crime scenes dressed as though they were going to a nightclub, in revealing tops, white pants, and high heels. Natalia was likely added because Calleigh was falling in and out of love with various members of the MDPD, especially her colleague Eric Delko, played by the hunky Adam Rodriguez. By the end of the series Calleigh and Eric had something serious going.

For all of its faults (and I’ve barely scratched the surface here), CSI: Miami was fairly well-received, doing fairly well in the ratings and earning its share of awards, and it continues to be popular in syndication. The stories were generally well thought-out, although the execution was at times heavy-handed. But, it had plenty of blood, boobs, and carnage, and that’s what this blogfest is all about.




from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Week That Was, May 17, 2015

Another good week here at The Sound of One Hand Typing!

  • Monday I posed the question, “why don’t superheroes’ companions recognize their alter egos?” For example, why hasn’t Lois Lane figured out that Clark Kent is Superman, or Steve Trevor figured out that Diana Prince is Wonder Woman? Arlee thinks it’s because TV makes us stupid, which I guess is why most of us don’t ask such hard-hitting questions. Shawn agrees with Arlee, and says when he sits down in front of the TV he’s sucked in by what’s going on. I agreed with both of them, saying that there are shows where I can feel my IQ drop as I watch them, but also posited that there are people who use the TV for background noise. (I prefer actual noise for background noise, as I discussed during the 2014 A to Z Challenge.)
    Sandi addressed another issue along the same lines, seeing that the crew and passengers on the S. S. Minnow (the ship from Gilligan’s Island) seemed to have an awful lot of luggage for a three-hour tour. Come to think of it, I’m not sure all that stuff would have fit in the cargo hold of the ship. Maybe they got out to sea and the craft submerged. By the way, I read somewhere (maybe IMDb) that naming the ship the Minnow was a slap at Newton Minow, former chairman of the FCC, who used the term “vast wasteland” to refer to TV in his speech, “Television and the Public Interest,” which he delivered to the National Association of Broadcasters on May 9, 1961.
    Sealofgoodpractice
    The NAB’s “Seal of Good Practice”
  • We featured music three times on the blog this week. Four, really. The featured artist on Two for Tuesday was Petula Clark, the First Lady of the British Invasion; Friday was the Battle of the Bands, the song being Phoebe Snow’s “Poetry Man” (voting is open until Thursday at midnight Eastern Time); and Saturday’s Stream of Consciousness was based on the word “stick,” which suggested drummers, such as Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. On Friday, we lost blues guitar legend BB King, so I reminisced about seeing him in concert almost 40 years ago.
  • Wednesday’s and Thursday’s entries were a result of a prompt I saw on Mama Kat’s blog, about having to revisit my career. Wednesday I shared a quote that I had copied from someone’s LiveJournal about the choices we make and the consequences thereof, and on Thursday I replied to the prompt, saying I’d like to go back and refocus my life on playing the guitar and being a musician.

This week, I participate in the “Blood, Boobs, and Carnage” blogfest, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather Gardner, we’ll have another artist (to be determined) from the British Invasion, another Stream of Consciousness entry on Saturday, and much, much more! See you soon!

Blood Boobs Carnage Blogfest



from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Saturday, May 16, 2015

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS SATURDAY: “stick”

The first thing that comes to mind when I see the word stick? Drumsticks.

Remember Buddy Rich? He was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson a lot in the 1970’s. He always struck me as sarcastic and even a little mean, but what a drummer he was.

That was him in 1978. He did all that while wearing a three-piece suit.

Buddy was influenced a lot by Gene Krupa, a pretty wild drummer himself. Remember him in “Ball of Fire,” which starred a few of my favorite actors, including Gary Cooper, the lovely Miss Barbara Stanwyck, and S. Z. Sakall?

Gene also played with the Benny Goodman Quartet, along with Goodman on clarinet, Teddy Wilson on piano, and Lionel Hampton on vibraphone. Here they are, playing Eddie Cantor’s “Avalon.” Introducing them is Doc Severinsen, for many years the Tonight Show‘s conductor and trumpet player extraordinaire.

Benny Goodman, by the way, was from Chicago…

socs-badge

I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that this was another Stream of Consciousness Saturday post. SoCS is hostedd by Linda Hill; her blog has all the details on how to join in the fun, so give the link a click!




from The Sound of One Hand Typing

Friday, May 15, 2015

RIP BB King

On Valentine’s Day 1976, BB King did a concert at Northwestern University. I had bought tickets for it, then broke up with the girl I had planned on taking. I called a friend, who bought the other ticket, and we went to the concert.

When the concert started, Lucille, BB’s legendary Gibson ES-355, stood on a stand in the middle of the stage. His band played a couple of tunes, then BB took the stage, picked up Lucille, and jammed with the band for a few minutes. At one point, he hit a note, scrunched his face up into that half-grimace, half-smile of his, and held the note for 24 bars. My friend and I, who both played guitar, went slack-jawed: How the hell did he do that? The place went up for grabs. As I told another friend of mine this morning, that might have been the greatest guitar solo I ever heard.

BB King was not the most skillful guitar player of all time. But I can promise you, the most skillful players all listened to him, learned every note he put on a record, and absorbed what he could say with one note into their playing. He was more than a guitar player; he was an artist, a musician, a bluesman.

We had heard in the last week or so that BB had gone into hospice care, and knew he wasn’t long for the world. He died in his sleep this morning at the age of 89.

This is a performance of his most famous song, “The Thrill Is Gone,” at the 1993 Montreaux Jazz Festival. By this time, he was playing sitting down most of the time, but in the last minute of the song, he pulls himself to his feet and plays the last chorus or two standing up, like we always remember him. Seeing that never fails to get to me.

So long, BB.




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