Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Year In Review

Everyone else seems to be sharing their year in review from WordPress.com, so I guess I should, eh what?

Annual Report for The Sound of One Hand Typing

I want to thank all of you who came to visit this past year, particularly the members of my family, who didn’t even know I was doing this until I started publicizing on Facebook. I’m not sure why I didn’t start that before. I mean, the blog’s been around since early 2012 (even earlier, but only as a private blog), but it’s only in the past year that I’ve gotten this much traffic. I started simulcasting the blog on Blogger, and I have a few faithful readers there, and I’ve continued with the A to Z Challenge, Stream of Consciousness Saturday, and the Battle of the Bands (I think I picked a good one for tomorrow, so be here for that), and started doing One-Liner Wednesday and Monday’s Music Moves Me, all of which have given me something to write every day. Thanks to the people who make those things so much fun to be part of and who have encouraged me to join in: Arlee Bird and the other sponsors of the A to Z Challenge, Stephen T. McCarthy and everyone who joins in the Battles of the Bands, X-Mas Dolly who invited me to Monday’s Music Moves Me, and Linda Hill, who created SoCS, One-Liner Wednesday, and next month’s Just Jot It January (JusJoJan).

Be careful if you’re going out tonight; someone on Twitter called it “Amateur Night” because of all the people who are going to be out drinking and driving. Mary and I stay home on New Year’s Eve. We’ve already had our dinner of pizza rolls (I don’t know how that got started, but we have pizza rolls for dinner every New Year’s Eve) and will probably be watching Perry Mason and drifting off to sleep when midnight comes. Be safe, Happy New Year, and the fun starts again tomorrow!




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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wednesdays for Mary: Grandma Holton

Mary asked me to tell one story about my grandmother, Kathryn Holton, Kate to most, Grandma to us. So you’re going to get three. (I wish I had a picture of her; I’m sure there’s one in the house, but for the life of me I couldn’t say where it is.)

For as long as I knew her, Grandma couldn’t hear very well, although from the way she was able to carry on a conversation, you’d never know it. Either she had developed an excellent ability to read lips, or she could hear some voices but not others. All I know is, I never had any problems talking to her, and as far as I could tell no one in the family did, either.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t a few instances when she wasn’t quite sure what she heard. The summer after Dad died, my Uncle Tom (Grandma’s son and Mom’s brother-in-law) invited us to visit his farm in Ohio. Mom had just learned to drive the car Dad had bought a few months before he died, and this was to be her first major road trip. She and Grandma sat in the front seat, with the three of us in the back, trying not to get in trouble.

Mom felt pretty comfortable about halfway across Indiana on the toll road, and decided to chat with Grandma. “Abby [a woman she worked with] is going to Spain.”

Grandma gasped. “My God, how terrible, Bunny! Were there any indications?”

This confused Mom. “Of what, Kate?”

“That she was going insane!”

Mom loved that story.

Grandma lived with her sister Florence most of the time I knew them. Florence could hear better than Grandma could, but she couldn’t see very well, so Grandma was the eyes and Florence was the ears. Any time I called Grandma, this is how it usually started. And, unless I’m mistaken, this is the way it went with just about everyone else.

After about ten rings, Florence would answer the phone. It would take her a minute to wrestle the receiver into position (the cord was always twisted tightly, even when you tried untwisting it), and occasionally she would drop it; meanwhile, you could hear the television BLASTING in the background. Eventually, she’d manage to get the phone to her ear. She spoke in a feeble voice. “H-hello?”

“Hi Florence, it’s John! How are you?”

“O-oh, hello, John! I’m fine, how are you?” We’d chat for several minutes, then she’d say, “We-Well, I’ll get your grandmother. I’m sure you’d like to talk to her.” She’d then wrestle the receiver down onto the table to tell Grandma I was on the phone.

Florence was a heavy woman who had broken her leg years before (while coming to watch us one day when Dad was in the hospital, she slipped on the ice and fell, something my mother never let us forget), and wore, for lack of a better term, “old lady” shoes, heavy tie shoes with a short heel. They had no carpeting in the hall where the phone was, so when she went to the dining room where the TV was, you could hear her walking.

CLUMP!

CLUMP!

CLUMP!

“Kathryn?”

CLUMP!

“Kathryn? Kathryn?”

“Huh?”

“John’s on the phone.”

“Who?”

“John!”

Who?

John!

Oh!” Grandma was pretty spry for her age, and I’d soon hear her in the hall. Clump clump clump clump…

By far, this is my favorite Grandma story. I’m certain I don’t have all the details right, but this is the way Mom remembered it.

For the tenth anniversary of Dad’s death, Grandma had a Mass said for him. (We’re Catholics, that’s what we do.) Mom called me at the dorm at Loyola, and made it clear that attendance was not optional. It was at 6 PM at St. Ignatius, our old parish, which was just a couple of blocks from the campus, so it wasn’t a big deal, and I wanted to be there for Grandma, anyway (not to mention avoid the wrath of my mother; we’re Irish, that’s what we do).

I got to church at quarter to six, and Mom, Tex, and Jim and Kip were there waiting. (Pat was one and a half, so I don’t think he was there.) Mass was in the chapel, which had a tile floor and possibly the best acoustics on the North Side of Chicago (this will be important later). We all got seated and waited for Grandma and Florence to arrive.

That afternoon, Mom had asked Grandma if she wanted them to pick her and Florence up, but Grandma said they would be out for the afternoon and would meet us at the church. At about ten to six, Mom started worrying, because they hadn’t arrived. The longer we waited, the more worried Mom became. Finally, when my mother was ready to have a nervous breakdown, in walked Grandma and Florence, bundled up in fur coats and hats against the January cold. Kisses and “hello”s were exchanged. Understand, what Grandma considered a whisper was more a stage whisper, and the acoustics, as I mentioned, were excellent. The other people there (who were just there for the Mass) gave her dirty looks and a few shushed her, but she just ignored them (or, more likely, couldn’t hear them) and she and Florence climbed into the pew next to us, with Grandma sitting beside Mom.

The celebrant of the Mass came out to make last-minute preparations (light the candles, bring out the wine and water cruets, etc.). Grandma waited until he left the altar area and whispered (again, acoustics), “Oh, not this guy! He’s crazy!” Then, she turned to her sister, who was getting in a little nap before Mass. “Florence! Florence!”

“Wh-what?”

“Have you got your keys?””

“W-wait, I’ll check.” Florence opened her purse, which was empty save for her wallet and keys. She pulled out her keychain. “Right here, Kathryn!” She shakes them.

“Good. Keep them in your hand.”

The celebrant came out and started Mass. He was a little more quiet and paused more frequently than most other priests would (especially with dinner on the table in the rectory), but said a very nice Mass. After Communion, he cleaned his chalice and the other vessels he had used, then walked over to the presider’s chair, sat down with his palms upraised, closed his eyes, and meditated on the Sacred Mysteries that had just taken place.

For a couple of minutes, no one made a sound. Then Grandma turned to Mom and (stage) whispered “See, Bunny, I told you he was nuts.” (Remember the acoustics.)

Surprisingly, the celebrant didn’t hear it, or at least acted like he didn’t. A couple of years later, Mom said she couldn’t say enough nice things about him. Evidently, he visited them often when Florence was sick and they couldn’t make it to church.

But, that was Grandma. She loved everyone, even if she thought you were nuts. Unless you were a politician. But that’s a story for another day.




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#1LinerWeds from Douglas Adams

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I can attest to the veracity of this quote from Douglas Adams, author of the famous trilogy The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (which ran to five books), the Dirk Gently mysteries, and several episodes of Doctor Who. I used to say the person who should do your software testing is the person who, when you’ve written the most foolproof code you can, will find a way to break it and possibly bring down the network and every computer on it. If they can’t break it, you’ve done a good job.


One-Liner Wednesday is hosted by Linda Hill, who has probably not had a chance to post her entry for today.




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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

#TwoForTuesday: Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman

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This will be the last songwriting team I’ll feature for this series on Two for Tuesday. There are lots more, I know, and at some point I might revisit the topic, but this is a good stopping point.

Doc Pomus was a performer who began songwriting for Ray Charles, Lavern Baker, Big Joe Turner, and other blues and R&B artists in the early 1950’s to earn extra money to support his family. He wrote the song “Young Blood” and gave it to Lieber and Stoller, who changed it drastically but gave a songwriting credit to him. When he received his first royalty check for $1500, he decided songwriting was the way to go. Between 1957 and 1964 he collaborated with pianist Mort Shulman and wrote songs for Elvis Presley, The Drifters, Ben E. King, Bobby Vinton, Andy Williams, and The Flamingoes, among others. Separately, Pomus worked with Lieber and Stoller, Dr. John, and Alan Jeffreys, while Shulman worked with Clive Westlake, Kenny Lynch, Jerry Ragavoy, and others. Both men are in the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame; Pomus is also in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame.

One of their most successful songs was “Save The Last Dance For Me,” recorded by The Drifters in 1960, when it reached #1 on the US Pop and R&B charts and #2 on the UK singles chart. It’s been recorded by The DeFranco Family, Dolly Parton, Ben E. King, and others, most recently by Michael Bublé in 2006. Here is the original.

They wrote the song “Suspicion” for Elvis Presley, who recorded it in 1961. It failed to chart for him, but Terry Stafford recorded it in 1964 and took it to #3 on the US Pop chart and #31 on the UK Singles chart. Here’s his version.

Doc Pomus and Mort Shulman, your Two for Tuesday, December 29, 2015. See you next year!




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Monday, December 28, 2015

Monday’s Music Moves Me: Happy New Year!

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The theme this month is Christmas songs, but Christmas is over, and in a couple of days 2015 will be over as well. Mary and I love this week for that very reason. After a month of Christmas hoopla, the stores have stopped playing Christmas music, Starbucks has stopped using the red cups that had a few fundamentalists all up-in-arms, and we don’t have to hear about the “war on Christmas” for at least another ten months. We can focus on running out the clock on this year and getting a running start into the new year a week from today. (Friday is a holiday and then there’s the weekend. So the work year starts January 4.)

Anyway, I’ve assembled a playlist of six New Year’s songs. It had been five, but I found another. There are all kinds of kids’ songs about New Year’s, but I figured one was more than enough. (Have you ever noticed how melancholy New Year’s songs are? Or maybe it’s New Year’s Eve that’s the bummer. Whatever. We can talk about all that depressing stuff later this week, and we probably will.) Anyway, here’s the playlist. Enjoy!

  1. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve – Ella Fitzgerald: Let’s start with one by the great jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald. You might notice one of the images in the video is of Ella and Marilyn Monroe. They were great friends, and Marilyn, a pretty good singer herself, helped Ella get jobs in nightclubs closed to Black performers, much the same as Frank Sinatra helping Sammy Davis Jr. get work in Las Vegas.
  2. It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve – Barry Manilow: It’s hard not to like Barry Manilow. He got his start as Bette Midler’s musical director after working with her in the gay bath-houses. He had tons of hits in the 1970’s, and got a lot of airplay on the “lite rock” stations. Okay, his songs are schmaltzy and at times maudlin, but he loves his fans and they love him back, and he’s a real trouper.
  3. New Year’s Day – Pentatonix: I have Helen Espinosa to thank for featuring this on her blog yesterday. She loves Pentatonix, five talented young people who sing tremendous harmony. The song’s lyrics are in the video, but Helen, who used a different video, linked to the lyrics on AZ Lyrics, if you’re interested.
  4. Happy New Year – ABBA: The New Year’s Eve party’s over in this song, but there’s some beautiful sentiments here, particularly in the chorus, “May we all have a vision now and then / Of a world where every neighbor is a friend.” Again, the lyrics are in the video, but you might like to read them here.
  5. Happy New Year Song (Na, Na, Na, Na, Na) – Joyce Paultre: I found this video on the page with the song above, and after giving it a listen decided I had to include it, after all the downers in this list. Joyce said in the comments that you can download the song from the Songs for Teaching website.
  6. Auld Lang Syne – Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians: The classic New Year’s song. You’re bound to hear Guy’s version while you’re flipping around at midnight. Lyrics, of course, are by the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns. If you’ve a mind to, sing the original version; people will look at you funny…

Well, that’s it for this edition of Monday’s Music Moves Me. See you again on the first work day of the new year.

Monday’s Music Moves Me is sponsored by X-Mas Dolly and Naila Moon (at least through December), so be sure and visit them, where you can also find the Linky for the other participants.




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Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Last The Week That Was of 2015

This edition of The Week That Was is sponsored by André Champagne and Cold Duck, for the holidays and all year ’round.

My family always got André Champagne for the holidays, because it was usually on sale at Dominick’s (a now-departed grocery store chain in the Chicago area) this time of year. We were hardly connoisseurs, so what did we know?

The Week That Was

The Christmas extravaganza for Monday’s Music Moves Me continued, and I posted six songs, including an a capella version of the Spanish villancico “Ríu Rí Chíu” sung beautifully by The Monkees, Leon Redbone and Dr. John singing “Frosty The Snowman,” Judy Garland with the movie version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (a bit more melancholy than the one popularized by Frank Sinatra a few years later), a couple of Christmas classics by Burl Ives, and a song by a Filipino rondalla group that a couple we’ve known since my days with Music Ministry are members of. Elen liked the video of Leon Redbone and Dr. John. As I told her, Leon Redbone by himself is great, Leon and Dr. John reach new levels of greatness.

Two for Tuesday featured the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Boudleau and Felice Bryant, best known by those of us not as familiar with country music as the writers of many of the hits by The Everly Brothers. My dear blogging friend Louise is a country music fan, and she says they were legendary. I looked it up: They’re members of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Rockabilly Hall of fame, and earned 59 BMI country, pop, and R&B music awards. I also didn’t realize they wrote “Rocky Top,” used by the University of Tennessee as their fight song. I thought it was an old folk song or something. The things you learn in this job. Another thing I learned was that Nazareth’s song “Love Hurts” had been written by the Bryants, and the Everlys did it originally, something that also surprised Lauralynn.

On Wednesday For My Wife, Mary asked for the story of putting up the first Christmas tree in our new home in the suburbs of Chicago. Brother Kip corrected my memory, saying that Tex had, in fact, tied the tree up, but in a manner that nevertheless allowed it to fall. Brother Pat on Facebook corrected me on the height of the living room ceiling (eight feet, not nine). Both remembered him as a wonderful man (and he was) but no engineer (and he wasn’t). He wasn’t much of an electrician, either; he once installed an outlet in the kitchen so that, when you pushed down the lever on the toaster, the lights went on. Shanjeniah said their cat knocked the tree over one year, after which they’d string theirs up with picture wire. People ask why we don’t decorate for Christmas. That’s why. Michele commented that every family needs a story like that one. As you’ll see over the next year, we’ve got a million of ’em.

One-Liner Wednesday featured a line from a Facebook post by our pastor, Father Fernando. He was offering his thoughts on what appears to be an apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe that appeared in one of the windows of the parish center on December 12. My post for the day has links to it as well as to a news story done by the local CBS affiliate about it. Father Fernando was very diplomatic about it; I understand the pastor emeritus, who said one of the Masses Christmas Eve, was a little more blunt. He said in his homily that, if people needed an apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to repent, pray, and be charitable, there was something wrong with them. (Monsignor is a wonderful man and well-loved by the members of the parish, but doesn’t mince words. That’s why he’s well-loved.) Madilyn said she was certain there was a non-supernatural explanation for it, but if it inspires people to do good, it doesn’t matter. I feel the same way.

For Writer’s Workshop, I listed seven of my favorite nostalgia channels on YouTube. Some were music-oriented, some TV-oriented, and several had videos that provide a unique view of the world as it was. Check them out, I think you’d like them.

Friday was Christmas Day, and I gave The Friday Five a rest. I did share my favorite scene from my favorite Christmas movie, The Bishop’s Wife, starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, and Monty Woolley. Robert Nathan, the author of the original novel, and Robert E. Sherwood and Leonardo Bercovici, who wrote the screenplay, deserved an Oscar. The movie was nominated for Best Picture in 1948, along with Miracle on 34th Street, Great Expectations, Crossfire, and the eventual winner, Gentleman’s Agreement.

Wow. They don’t make them like that anymore, do they?

Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday was “socks.” I used the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite topics, the Chicago White Sox. Bee Halton said that, as a German living in the UK, she had no idea what I was talking about, which I fully understand; I’m just as befuddled by football, be it American, Rugby, Australian Rules, or soccer. And cricket? No clue. An Australian friend of mine said that cricket was what you watched on Sunday afternoon when you were lying on the couch…

So, that’s it for this week. Join me this week for some aprés Christmas music, another songwriting team, another one-liner, and other assorted madness. See you soon!




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Saturday, December 26, 2015

What would you expect me to write about? #socs

This week’s prompt word for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “socks.” I’m going to take some liberties and spell it Sox. As in Chicago White Sox…

I’ve told the odyssey many times, of being born on the North Side of Chicago, normally Cubs fan territory, but because my mother and her family were all South Siders, I grew up a White Sox fan. Sure, I went to Cubs games: I was at Wrigley Field the day before Ernie Banks hit his 500th home run (doesn’t matter what part of town you were from or what your favorite team was, everyone was an Ernie Banks fan), and sat in the bleachers with the bums on more than one occasion. But my happiest baseball memories all center around 324 W. 35th Street, the place where Charles Comiskey’s baseball palace stood.

It’s been torn down now, of course; when Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn bought the Sox back in the 1980’s, they made it clear they were going to move to either Addison, Illinois, or possibly Tampa Bay, Florida, unless the state financed a new baseball stadium for them. The Illinois Legislature hemmed and hawed, taking up the matter of a bond issue to build the new stadium close to the end of the session. House Speaker Mike Madigan, a Chicago Democrat like his mentor, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley (one of the biggest White Sox fans of all time), kept the clock running past the hour that the session was supposed to end to be sure the financing was there.

They built the new park, now called US Cellular Field, across 35th Street from the old one. It’s nice, but it’s not the old one. There was history there. It’s said that Babe Ruth would leave the park between innings and run across 35th street for a beer at McCuddy’s Tavern (one of the businesses demolished when the new stadium went up). I can see it happening: the road clubhouse was on the first base side, which ran along 35th Street, so it wouldn’t be hard. Plenty of Hall of Famers played at Comiskey, even a few who played for the Sox: Ed Walsh (who won 40 games one season), Red Faber, Luke Appling, Luis Aparicio, Ted Lyons, Nellie Fox, and, most recently, Frank Thomas, to name just a few.

Of course, Sox might also refer to the Boston Red Sox. Not much of a fan of theirs, although I have been to Fenway Park and squeezed my ample behind into one of the seats there. I saw Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 200th career home run that night. I bring up the Red Sox because the White Sox and Red Sox were two of the original teams in the American League. They took on the discarded names of the National League teams already there, the Chicago White Stockings and Boston Red Stockings. The White Stockings of old are now the Cubs, and the Red Stockings are now the Braves, as in the Atlanta Braves.

The Braves are my local favorite. When I got to Atlanta, they were terrible, losing 97 games (out of 162) in 1988 and 1990 and 106 games in 1989. Then they went on a tear, winning fourteen division titles in fifteen years (the odd year being 1994, when the players went on strike and were locked out by the owners, cancelling the postseason), and going to the World Series five times, winning it once. The manager of those teams, Bobby Cox, is now in the Hall of Fame, as are the three pitching stars of those teams, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux. The year Cox, Glavine, and Maddux were inducted, three others were inducted: Joe Torre, who played for the Braves from 1960 to 1968 and managed them from 1982 to 1984; Tony LaRussa, who played 9 games for the Braves in 1971 and managed the White Sox from 1979 to 1986; and the aforementioned Frank Thomas, who played most of his career with the White Sox and was one of the last players to play at the old Comiskey Park. I was a happy boy that year.

The Braves are in the midst of a rebuild, ten years overdue (in my never-humble opinion). Many fans of the team are furious John Hart (president of baseball operations) and John Coppolella (the general manager) traded their favorite players (no doubt having invested in replica jerseys with those player names on them), but I understand what they’re doing, and I’m willing to be patient. I’ve been through it several times with the White Sox, who spent most of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s doing it. I’m used to it.


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This longish entry was prompted by Linda Hill, who runs Stream of Consciousness Saturday from the comfort of her blog, which you can find here. Follow the link and you’ll find the rules (which I ignored big time today) and pingbacks from others participating today.




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Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

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Why we don’t have a Christmas tree. Source: Ranker

Just a brief note to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, or whatever you might be celebrating today.

Here’s my favorite scene from my favorite Christmas movie, The Bishop’s Wife, starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, and Monty Woolley (who X-Mas Dolly claims I look like). It’s short, but powerful.




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Seven Great YouTube Channels For Nostalgia (Writer’s Workshop)

Jeffrey Scott, one of my blogging friends (as are most of you), mentioned in a comment that he enjoys the retro commercials I post on Sundays with The Week That Was, and said sometimes he goes out to YouTube and watches retro for a while. I think a lot of us do that, and everyone has their favorite places they like to go. Mama Kat had a prompt today, “List the top 7 things that bring you joy.” One of those things is nostalgia, and the best place on the Internet for it (in my opinion, simply because it’s been around the longest and has the largest collection of videos anywhere) is YouTube. Here are my favorite YouTube accounts for nostalgia. Yours might be different; if so, tell me about it in the comments.

  • The Museum of Classic Chicago Television (FuzzyMemories.TV): Any time I do one of these lists, this is where I start. Rick Klein, the curator of the MCCTv, does yeoman service to take old video tapes that people have made and strip out the actual program being taped, leaving just the commercials, interstitials, station ID’s, Emergency Broadcast System tests, signoffs and signons, technical difficulties moments, and anything else that he finds on the tape. Most of the videos are from the 1980’s, but he gets a lot of older tapes, some as early as the 1950’s. The Museum started on YouTube originally, but he had troubles with the clips being removed, so he created his own website, and about a year ago he started updating his YouTube channel again. If you love old TV, grew up in Chicago, and/or just like the stuff on TV besides the actual programs, this is a great channel to follow.
  • The Best Film Archives: I just started following this channel, and already it’s one of my favorites. The proprietor of the channel has this to say about the channel: “My channel is a collection of Historical documentary films on various topics, Rare WW2 footage and battle scenes, Cold War era educational films, Biographies, etc.” These are films you wouldn’t geneally get a chance to see, and are a real eye-opener. I watched a film here concerning interrogation techniques used by the US armed forces with captured enemy soldiers. It was fascinating.
  • David Von Pein’s JFK Channel: I was seven years old when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I was too young to fully appreciate what he had meant to the nation or of the tumultuous times in which he guided this country. David Von Pein has curated a fantastic collection of media related to the Camelot years, including footage from CBS, NBC, and ABC as well as local stations in Dallas from November 22, 1963. Included are video of Lee Harvey Oswald’s murder at the hands of Jack Ruby a couple of days later, and video from his funeral and from some of the significant moments of his presidency. If you weren’t around when JFK was President, it’s a good opportunity to see not only why his time as President was like, but also the primitive (compared to today) methods of field reporting, when all communicating was done via land-line telephones and reporters standing at pay phones. If you were around but, like me, forget what those days were like, it’s an excellent way to relive that time in history.
  • Classic Airliners and Vintage Pop Culture: Christian, the curator of this channel, identifies himself as “an ‘Airline Brat,’ the son of an airline pilot and former stewardess,” and tells us he loves all kinds of aircraft and has a sincere fondness for airliners from the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s. He has film literally from all over the world, of military and civilian aircraft, including film of jetliners and propliners, from home footage and travelogues to promotional films, and even a few commercials and “Atom Age” films, mostly Civil Defense footage on how to survive nuclear attacks. An interesting look into the early days of air travel.
  • Ella’s Archives: A great collection of “publicity films, newsreel & documentaries with a focus on transport and technology.” My favorites are the train and railroad movies. Travel by rail was the way most people made long-distance trips into the 1960’s, until air travel became common; the videos here capture the elegance of rail travel in those days. When you visit, be sure you have nothing planned for a few hours.
  • NRRA Archives (2, 3, 4): Channels dedicated to the Dick Clark Productions on ABC TV. Such a large collection, he’s split it up into four separate channels. The first channel is dedicated mostly to footage from the Dick Clark Beech-Nut Show, vintage performances of popular music acts from the 1950’s and 1960’s. The other channels feature much the same material, with the 4th channel dedicated primarily to Where The Action Is!, an afternoon show hosted by Paul Revere and the Raiders from the mid- to late-1960’s. If you love music the way I do (and you know how much I love music), these are channels you want to monitor.
  • Tomorrow Always Comes: A relatively new channel to me, the description from the About page says simply “old films.” There are plenty of films about transportation and technology, but also a collection of educational films offering advice on career planning, dating, and other topics kids of the mid-Twentieth Century needed to know.

And this is but a soupçon of what’s available out there. I found most of these channels by choosing a video, seeing what else YouTube suggests while the video is playing, and just “wandering around.” Try it for yourself and see what you come up with!




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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

#1LinerWeds: A Christmas Miracle?

The true gift to us will be in how we are inspired to be MORE: more forgiving, more accepting, more loving to those with whom we share our lives.

– Rev. Fernando Molina-Restrepo, pastor, Transfiguration Parish

We’ve had a little excitement at our parish church the last few days. On the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe a week ago Saturday, some people were seeing an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in one of the windows of the parish center. Since then, people have been coming to the church to see the apparition.

The video that accompanies the story from WGCL-TV (CBS 46) shows the window as well as the image which appears in it. It looks like it could be the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There are a number of other non-supernatural explanations for why this is appearing in the window, too: damage to the tint, streaks from the last time it was washed, the sun reflecting off something in the parking lot, etc. Father Fernando, our pastor, took to Facebook to give his thoughts about it. I thought what he said was beautiful, especially the line above from the note.


One-Liner Wednesday is brought to you by Linda Hill, who just got a new puppy. Pingbacks from the other participants can be seen at her blog.




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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas…

Mary wants me to tell the story of my family’s first Christmas in our new home in Northfield, Illinois, 44 years ago. Specifically, putting up the Christmas tree.

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I mentioned Father Christian in one of my stories last week. He was the pastor of St. Ignatius Parish and a good friend of my mother’s, a friendship that started around the time Dad was in the hospital. He used to help with all the jobs Dad was no longer around to do and we were too young to be any more than a help. One of those jobs was setting up the Christmas tree.

When we lived in Chicago, we had an apartment with a fifteen-foot ceiling, and Mom would always insist on a tree that touched it. This meant using fishing line to hold it in place so it didn’t take a tumble after we had gotten it in place and fully decorated. When we moved to Northfield, the ceilings were much lower, so obviously we had to have a much shorter tree, around nine feet. Still touching the ceiling, just not as tall. Mom was disappointed she wouldn’t be able to put all the ornaments and strings of lights on the tree, but that was life in the suburbs.

Tex (what we called Father Christian so the neighbors wouldn’t know he was a priest, I guess) reasoned that, as the tree wasn’t anywhere near as tall as the ones we had in Chicago, he might not need to tie the tree up with fishing line anymore. He and Mom discussed this at some length, until finally he had talked her into doing without the fishing line, or at least trying it. If the tree looked like it would fall, he would tie it up, but he didn’t think it would.

So we bring the tree into the living room, set it in its base, and stand it up. “It looks a little crooked, Jack,” Mom said.

“Bunny, it’s fine.” (NOTE: Mom was named Genevieve, after her mother, but since she was born on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter, she had always been called Bunny, even after the nuns at St. Ignatius School had insisted she learn how to spell and use her given name.)

“I don’t know, it looks like it’s leaning…”

“Bunny, it’s fine.”

“Are you sure? It looks…”

“It’s fine!” By now, Tex was being more emphatic, and the subject was dropped.

A couple of hours later, the tree was fully decorated, complete with lights, ornaments, and tinsel. We had dispersed around the house: Jim, Kip, and Tex watching football in the family room, Mom making dinner, Mom’s aunt Cash (a frequent visitor as well) enjoying the tree and slowly falling asleep in the semi-dark living room, me playing the guitar in my room. It wasn’t long before I heard it….

WHOOMP!

I didn’t have to ask anyone. I put down my guitar, and walked out of my room just as the front door slammed. Sure enough, the tree was on its side in the living room. I noticed that Tex was nowhere to be found: Mom explained that he had put on his coat, declared “I’m going for a walk!” and was now walking around the neighborhood in an attempt to cool down. He was gone a good half hour, as I remember.

So Jim and Kip managed to get the tree vertical again, and I was given the task of vacuuming up the broken ornaments, tinsel, and pine needles. As I pushed the ancient Hoover around, Mom came up. “I don’t know when he’ll be coming back, Johnny, so hurry up and finish getting this all cleaned up.” I started to laugh at the absurdity of the situation. “What’s so funny?” she demanded.

I started to sing, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” pushing the vacuum back and forth in rhythm.

At that point, everyone started to laugh. We were all a little punchy, so I guess it broke the tension. We were still laughing when Tex came back. Mom caught him before he walked out again and told him the story, and he laughed, then went out and got the fishing line. It was probably a good thing we had all the extra ornaments.

A postscript: I was at work the day they put the tree up the next year. I understand, as Tex, Jim, and Kip wrestled the tree into place, “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” came on the stereo. Tex said, “All right everyone: stop, listen, and laugh!”




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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

#TwoForTuesday: Boudleau and Felice Bryant

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Boudleau and Felice Bryant were a husband-and-wife songwriting duo who wrote many of the hits for the Everly Brothers, but also for Little Jimmy Dickens, Buddy Holly, The Osborne Brothers, and others. Their songs have been covered many times in a number of genres, and they’ve had hits on the Hot 100, rock, country and R&B charts. Boudleau is from Shellman, Georgia and trained as a classical violinist, playing with the Atlanta Symphony during the 1937-38 season. His true love, however, was country fiddling, and he joinedHank Penny and his Radio Cowboys, a band based in Atlanta. He met Felice (born Matilda Scaduto) in 1945; she was the elevator operator at the Sherwood Hotel in Milwaukee. Boudleau was the third most-successful songwriter in the UK during the 1950’s, while Felice was 21st.

One of their hits for the Everly Brothers was “All I Have To Do Is Dream.” It was released in April 1958 and ended that yar at #2 on the Hot 100, after reaching #1 on the Top 100 and on the “Songs Most Played by Disk Jockeys” chart. It spent six weeks at #1 in the UK and 21 weeks in the top 100. Chet Atkins is one of the sidemen on this release.

“Love Hurts” was a later hit for the Everlys, and has been covered by numerous acts, including the Scottish band Nazareth, who charted with it in 1975. It reached #8 in the US and #1 in Canada that year.

Boudleau and Felice Bryant, your Two for Tuesday, December 22, 2015.




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Monday, December 21, 2015

Monday’s Music Moves Me: Christmas Music, Part 3

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For Part 3 of this Christmas odyssey of music, I wanted to include a couple of songs that I hadn’t found a place for yet. There are only six, but they’re six good ones.

  1. Frosty the Snowman – Leon Redbone and Dr. John: The first time I heard this, I was in Knoxville, Tennessee on business. I was in the car driving back from dinner when it came on the radio. I thought it was cool enough that Leon Redbone was singing “Frosty the Snowman,” but when Dr. John joined him, the cool factor went up about a thousand times. I hope you like it as much as I do.
  2. Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives: I love the song, because I can mess with the lyrics (“ho, ho, the mistletoe, hung where you can see, somebody waits for you, KICK her once for me”… as I tell people, I’m nine years old with over fifty years’ experience), but mostly because it’s Burl Ives singing it. We’ll hear more from Burl later.
  3. Ríu Ríu Chíu – The Monkees: Wikipedia tells us this song is a Spanish villancico, and that it is the story of the Immaculate Conception and the Birth of Christ. It’s a beautiful song, and The Monkees, normally not thought of as serious musicians, do a beautiful job with it.
  4. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland: From the 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis, these are the original words to the song, at least the ones that made it to the movie. The original lyrics to the song, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas / It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past / Have yourself a merry little Christmas / Pop that champagne cork / Next year we may all be living in New York,” were deemed too depressing by Judy Garland and Vicente Minnelli, the director, who asked lyricist Hugh Martin to change them and make them a little more upbeat. And they are, a little. Frank Sinatra’s version, with further modification to the lyrics, is the one most familiar. The Music Ministry at our parish plays this song at the Sign of Peace at Masses during the Christmas season, and I nearly lose it every time they do.
  5. Silver and Gold – Burl Ives: One of the songs from the 1964 Rankin/Bass TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, later a single for Burl Ives. Mary claims I look like Bumble, the Abominable Snowman from the show, since I grew the beard.
  6. Happy Birthday Jesus – Kayumanggi Rondalla: I wanted to include this because two of our friends, Gene and Angie, who I met during my Music Ministry days and are two of the best musicians I know, are members of the group. (Gene is partially obscured by the music stands, but you can see his head and also the small guitar-like instrument he’s playing about the third person from the right; Angie, unfortunately, is obscured by the director.) Kayumanggi Rondalla is a Philippine folk string ensemble which uses traditional Philippine instruments, such as the octavina (the instrument Gene is playing), the laúd, and the bandurria. The woman who posted this video clip posted several others of the group to her YouTube account, in case you want to check out some of the other clips of them.

So, that’s the third installment of Christmas music from me. If I don’t see you before then, have a Merry Christmas this Friday!

Monday’s Music Moves Me is sponsored by X-Mas Dolly and Naila Moon (at least through December), so be sure and visit them, where you can also find the Linky for the other participants.




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Sunday, December 20, 2015

‘Twas The Week That Was Before Christmas…

This edition of The Week That Was is sponsored by 7-Up. 7-Up: The Feeling of Christmas.

Maybe I’m just watching the wrong channels, but I don’t see 7-Up commercials any time but Christmas. More New Year’s, in fact. My mother always had me drink 7-Up because she believed it would keep me from breaking out. I had very good luck complexion-wise, but whether that has anything to do with 7-Up, I can’t say.

The Week That Was

Let’s start with the results of my last Battle of the Bands, which as you recall was Los Straitjackets vs. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass in Battle “Jingle Bell Rock.”

BATTLE OF THE BANDS! (BOTB Top Photo)

This was a squeaker:

Herb Alpert and the TJB: 9
Los Straitjackets: 7

We had one absention, who said neither version did anything for her. I liked both of these; if I gave myself a vote, though, I’d have voted for Los Straitjackets, because, you know, guitar and surf. But a great battle, congratulations to Herb and the boys, and kudos to Los Straitjackets on a job well done.

Monday’s Music Moves Me was the second installment of Christmas music. Halfmoon Mollie said her mom was a big Eartha Kitt fan, so she knew Ms. Kitt’s version of “Santa Baby” long before Jessica What’s-Her-Name Simpson’s version. Lauralynn agreed, saying that Madonna’s version was just silly. I said I thought there were any number of women who could do the song well, but that Jessica Simpson isn’t one of them, and frankly, neither is Madonna. We welcome replies to our editorials.

Two for Tuesday featured the music of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, who wrote some of the biggest hits during the R&B/Soul explosion of the 1960’s and 1970’s, and performed a few of them as well. Lauralynn said she was a big fan of most R&B from that period, and really, who wasn’t? That was the heyday of the genre, and the peak of popularity for many of the acts of the time.

For Wednesdays for my Wife, Mary wanted me to repeat the story from the A to Z Challenge 2014 about shopping for her. Everyone seemed to like it, because everyone has had a moment or two (or more) like that, either not knowing what something is called or whether or not you have a utensil (e.g. a potato peeler) that you don’t use that often. That was never a problem when I was growing up; we had mashed potatoes at least once a week and carrots almost as often, all of which had to be peeled, usually by me. I don’t care much for mashed potatoes, as you can probably guess.

One-Liner Wednesday‘s quote was supplied by P. J. O’Rourke, current occupant of the H. L. Mencken Chair at the Cato Institute and someone Halfmoon Mollie would like to slap on occasion. As I told her, I think that’s the reaction he’s going for. P. J. is one of my favorite authors, especially in election years, of which 2016 is one of. (The older I get, the more I believe that anyone who wants elective office that badly shouldn’t be allowed to have it.) Evidently P. J. is also a favorite of Stephen T. McCarthy, a/k/a D-FensDogG, who thinks Don’t Vote, It Just Encourges The Bastards has all the makings of another classic.

On Thursday, for Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop, I told the story of how my mother’s future husband surprised me for Christmas 1970 by giving us tickets to see the Chicago Black Hawks (now the Chicago Blackhawks) play the Montreal Canadiens, an how it might be my favorite present ever. Kip reminded me that he and Jim received life jackets that Christmas for when they’d go out fishing, not one of my hobbies. Arlee, another radio enthusiast, mentioned he got an RCA StratoWorld radio for Christmas the year before I got my Zenith 790 Super Navigator. The difference was he had asked for his radio, while mine was a total surprise.

The Friday Five featured five Christmas novelty songs, including “The Chipmunk Song” by Ross Bagdasarian, a/k/a David Seville and the Chipmunks, a song I now cannot get out of my head.

Finally, the prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday was “store.” I talked about how much easier it is now to order things over the Internet and have them delivered to the door as opposed to the old days, when you had to run all over hell’s half-acre to do your shopping. Uncle Jack, who is a big fan of Amazon Prime, said he also misses the old days, but not the old way of shopping. Stevebethere said he orders everything that isn’t within a five-minute walk of the house over the Internet, and that he starts to panic whenever it goes down. I think we all do nowadays. I did see an interesting article about how Millennials are more attached to the Internet than people in older generations (e.g. mine), who are more concerned they’re going to miss NCIS. While I agree that I don’t like missing my dose of Mark Harmon, David McCallum, and especially Pauley Perrette each week, Mary and I are still pretty attached to it.

Before I get finished here, I want to mention that signups for the A to Z Challenge 2016 start in just over a month (January 25), so be thinking about joining us and choosing a theme for this coming April. I also want to mention that I’ve built quite a backlog of comments to reply to and blogs to visit. I promise I’ll get to everyone eventually, hopefully by the end of the week.

If I don’t get a chance, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas or whatever it is you celebrate at the end of the year. Things will continue apace at this end, though as I mentioned The Friday Five will be taking a week off for the holiday. Hope to see you soon!




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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Shopping yesterday and today #socs

Of course, earlier this week I published a story about going to the grocery store for Mary, so why wouldn’t store be the prompt for today?

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But seriously…

The world is a much different place than it was before the Internet. In those days, if you wanted something, whether it was clothes, appliances, musical instruments, furniture, or just about anything else, you had two choices: order it, either by mail or phone, from one of the big catalog houses (Sears, Montgomery Ward’s, J. C. Penney, Spiegel, or later Service Merchandise and McDade’s) or you got in the car or on the bus, and rode to the store to shop in person, usually at a big department store. If you lived in Chicago, that typically meant Marshall Field & Company or Carson Pirie Scott & Company, but there were other places to shop as well: Wieboldt’s, Lytton’s, Best and Company, Bonwit Teller, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Goldblatt’s, and a host of other small department stores that had sprung up in the neighborhood, such as Winsberg’s in my old neighborhood. And there were the specialty stores, places where they stocked just one type of goods, such as shoes, and maybe even just women’s shoes or kids’ shoes, or clothing, especially kids’ clothing. Nothing like today. I mean, now you have the big box stores like the hated Walmart and Target, the shopping clubs like Sam’s Club and Costco, office supply stores like Staples and Office Depot Max (which came about when Office Depot and Office Max merged), and of course electronic stores like Best Buy. You can get just about anything you want or need in one place. Convenient? You bet. Would I trade the convenience of Walmart or Target, which sell practically everything you need, for the days of having to go to one store for dress clothes, another for casual clothes, and a third for shoes? Most definitely not.

Around this time of the year, you hear impassioned pleas for people to “buy locally,” and no doubt there are people who are willing to run from store to store and buy a little here and a little there. For the most part, though, people would rather shop where they think they’ll be able to get everything they want all in one trip. Can you blame them?

I’m handicapped, so an online store like Amazon.com is a Godsend. Now that Mary does the shopping, whatever we can do to make things easier for her is much appreciated. We can get cat food from Amazon, and it gets delivered right to the door. Rather than having to wheel the cases around the grocery store, load them into the van, unload them from the van, and lug them up to the house, we get the big box from Amazon, slide it into the house, and just take the food out as we need it. Likewise, rather than have to go to Omar the Tentmaker and go through the rigamarole of trying on clothes where I’ll have trouble undressing and dressing, I order the clothes online, they come to the house, and ninety-nine times out of a hundred they fit. If they don’t, it’s easy enough to send the stuff back for an exchange or refund. We get all our clothes online. It just makes more sense. We save the fuel we’d need to drive around for the items we buy all the time, we save wear and tear on the van and ourselves, we don’t have to fight the crowds, and Mary doesn’t have to worry about me falling flat on my face and ending up in the hospital.

Do I miss the old days and the old way of doing things? Yes. Would I want to return to them? No.


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Another weekly entry for Linda Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Want to play around or to find out what other people are doing? Go here.




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Friday, December 18, 2015

Five Christmas Novelty Songs

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It’s the Friday before Christmas! Next Friday is, of course, Christmas, and I was wracking (I think that’s how you spell it) my brain for what kind of Friday Five I could do. So I went back to this post from last year, where I chose ten Christmas novelty songs (or, in the holiday spirit, Noëlty songs) and chose five of them. I had already used a couple, and a couple aren’t actually songs, so that left six, of which I chose all the ones that weren’t “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” Enjoy!

  1. Christmas At Ground Zero – Weird Al Yankovic: Christmas meets the Cold War in this classic.
  2. The Chipmunk Song – Alvin and the Chipmunks with David Seville: Another classic by Ross Bagdasarian, also known as David Seville. He had hits before this (e.g. “Witch Doctor“), but this was the first song by Alvin and the Chipmunks (all of whom he voiced), released during the Christmas season of 1958.
  3. All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth – Spike Jones and his City Slickers: From The Spike Jones Christmas Album, the classic story of a little boy knocking his teeth out, as little boys are often wont to do.
  4. A Christmas Carol – Tom Lehrer: As is usually case with Professor Lehrer, this contains a healthy dose of social commentary.
  5. Jingle Bells – The Singing Dogs: The “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” of its day. It’s just not Christmas for me until I hear this one.

A couple of programming notes:

  • Exactly one year ago today, I announced that was post #600. This is post #1037. Just thought you’d like to know.
  • The Friday Five is taking a week off next Friday (Christmas Day). There will be a post, just not a Friday Five. SO… this is the last Friday Five of 2015. It will return on New Year’s Day. You have been warned…



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