Sunday, February 17, 2019

I like to be in America! O.K. by me in America! Everything free in America! For a small fee in America!

One habit Mrs. RWP and I have developed is stopping every Sunday morning on the way to church to have a sausage, egg, and cheese croissant with hash browns (potatoes) and coffee at our local Burger King. Usually there are old songs being piped throughout the establishment (to help us digest our food, I suppose, or to hurry us along to make room for other customers).

A couple of weeks ago I heard "That's The Way (Uh Huh, Uh Huh) I Like It (Uh Huh, Uh Huh)" and was sure it was being performed by either Creedence Clearwater Revival or Hall & Oates. When I looked it up on my widdle smartphone, however, I was completely wrong. It was by KC & The Sunshine Band. That particular stop for breakfast inspired my later post about Creedence Clearwater Revival and their song about them old cotton fields back home.

You take inspiration where you find it.

This week the song that lodged in my brain at Burger King was Paul Simon singing "Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard" from 1972.

You know I had to look it up. According to my source (don't look now but it starts with a W), the song is about two boys ("Me and Julio") who have broken a law, although the exact law that has been broken is not stated in the song. When "the mama pajama" finds out what they have done, she goes to the police station to report the crime. The individuals are later arrested, but released when a "radical priest" intervenes. The meaning and references in the song have long provoked debate. In a July 20, 1972 interview for Rolling Stone, Jon Landau asked Simon: "What is it that the mama saw? The whole world wants to know." Simon replied, "I have no idea what it is... Something sexual is what I imagine, but when I say 'something', I never bothered to figure out what it was. Didn't make any difference to me."

In all these years I have never imagined that the song was about "something sexual"; I always thought it was about a transaction involving the sale/purchase of illicit drugs.

Live and learn.

P.S. -- I grew up in the country. If Paul Simon had grown up in my part of the world and knew the kind of people I knew, his song would probably have been "Me and Julio Out In The Cornfield" or "Me and Julio Down By The Stock Tank" or "Me and Julio Up In The Hayloft"...I'm just sayin'.

P.P.S. -- Any thought you may have of me and Julio interacting in any way whatsoever is a complete figment of your overwrought imagination.

P.P.P.S. -- A considerate blogger would probably include here a youtube clip of the song in question, but in the interest of audience participation I am going to let you find it yourself.

P.P.P.P.S. -- In conclusion, I leave you with a completely unrelated trivia factoid of the day. When Dick Van Dyke left the Broadway cast of "Bye, Bye, Birdie" to start his television series, he was replaced by Gene Rayburn who is most remembered today as the host of several incarnations of Match Game on the telly. Mr. Rayburn's understudy in "Bye, Bye, Birdie" was Charles Nelson Reilly, who also spent many years on Match Game.

Friday, February 15, 2019

What a difference a hundred years can make!

Here are some of the songs people were singing in the year 1918:

Rock-A-Bye Your Baby (With A Dixie Melody)
I'm Always Chasing Rainbows
Oh! How I Hate To Get Up in the Morning
Smiles
Hello Central, Give Me No Man's Land
At The Darktown Strutter's Ball
Over There
Battle Hymn of the Republic
Hail! Hail! The Gang's All Here
Somewhere in France is the Lily
The Old Grey Mare
Liberty Loan March
If He Can Fight Like He Can Love (Good Night, Germany)
K-K-K-Katy (Stammering Song)
God Be With Our Boys Tonight

I know ten of these songs. I have never heard of five.

Here are The Top 50 Songs Of 2018 complete with extended descriptions and soundtracks.

I don't know any of them. I recognize the names of only a couple of the performers but could not tell you what they sound like.

All in all, I much prefer the 1918 songs.

Conclusion: I am an old geezer.

Monday, February 11, 2019

As Betelgeuse once said to Rigel, "You can't be Sirius!

When I was a young lad in Texas 70 years ago, my Dad introduced me to the glories of the night sky. He showed me The Big Dipper in the constellation Ursa Major (Big Bear) and how to draw a line through two of its stars to find Polaris, the North Star, which was at the end of the handle of The Little Dipper in the constellation Ursa Minor (Little Bear). He showed me how to look an equal distance beyond Polaris to find Cassiopeia, which according to Wikipedia "was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century Greek astronomer Ptolemy, and it remains one of the 88 modern constellations today. It is easily recognizable due to its distinctive 'W' shape, formed by five bright stars. It is opposite the Big Dipper."

It is not really "opposite" the Big Dipper, but I know what Wikipedia was trying to say. My Dad said it better.

Speaking of my Dad, he also showed me Orion the Hunter, easily identified by the three stars in his belt; and Sirius, the Dog Star; and Leo the Lion; and red Antares in Scorpius (which really does look like a scorpion if your imagination is good enough).

He showed me Venus and Jupiter and Mars. He showed me the Milky Way. Anybody who does that can’t be all bad.

The Milky Way was easily visible in those days and stunning on the dark, flat plains of Texas. Today it cannot be seen from our urban and suburban areas because of all the man-made light near the ground.

Later I learned that Orion's right shoulder was the star Betelgeuse and his left knee was the star Rigel. I say "left" and "right" assuming Orion is facing toward us. If he is facing away from us, Betelgeuse is his left shoulder and Rigel is his right knee. I’m just saying.

(Image from stars.astro.illinois.edu/sow/oricma-p.html)

This week I had a huge shock. I took my dog out for her last nightly walk before bedtime, looked up into the sky and saw bright Sirius, and glanced to the right to see my old friend Orion. There was Betelgeuse on his shoulder. There was Rigel on his knee.

I couldn't see his belt.

The macular degeneration in my eyes has reached the point that the only way I can see dimmer stars like the ones in Orion's belt any more is to look slightly to the right of them and pick them up in my peripheral vision, which isn't nearly as satisfying.

It's just more evidence that I am slowly going the way of all flesh.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Earworms R Us, or Take two Creedence Clearwater Revivals and call me in the morning

When I was a little bitty baby
My mama would rock me in the cradle
In them old cotton fields back home

It was down in Louisiana
Just about a mile from Texarkana
In them old cotton fields back home

Oh, when them cotton bolls get rotten
You can't pick very much cotton
In them old cotton fields back home

It was down in Louisiana
Just about a mile from Texarkana
In them old cotton fields back home

When I was a little bitty baby
My mama would rock me in the cradle
In them old cotton fields back home

It was down in Louisiana
Just about a mile from Texarkana
In them old cotton fields back home

When I was a little bitty baby
My mama would rock me in the cradle
In them old cotton fields back home

Oh, when them cotton bolls get rotten
You can't pick very much cotton
In them old cotton fields back home

It was down in Louisiana
Just about a mile from Texarkana
In them old cotton fields back home

When I was a little bitty baby
My mama would rock me in the cradle
In them old cotton fields back home

Oh, when them cotton bolls get rotten
You can't pick very much cotton
In them old cotton fields back home

It was down in Louisiana
Just about a mile from Texarkana
In them old cotton fields back home

(Photo by Calsidy Rose, 2007, used in accordance with the terms of CC BY SA 2.0)

First of all, by way of full disclosure, my mama never rocked me in no dadblamed cradle in no cotton fields back home, to use the vernacular. Mama was a city girl from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was in Texas only under protest. Mama rocked me in a cradle in a third-floor walk-up apartment in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Second of all, that photo was taken south of Lubbock, Texas, in 2007 and my home was several hundred miles to the east where the land is black, not brownish-red.

Third of all, Louisiana is not just about a mile from Texarkana. Texarkana is a city that straddles the Texas-Arkansas border 35 miles north of Ida, the first community you reach in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, when driving on Interstate Highway I-45.

Fourth of all and finally, in spite of what anyone else may tell you, the above deathless lyrics, sung over and over ad infinitum, are permanently imprinted in the hippocampus of many an American of a certain age. The song was recorded by several artists over several decades, including Leadbelly, Johnny Cash, the Beach Boys, Phil Harris (I think, at least I distinctly remember hearing him sing it on the radio, probably live on either Jack Benny's or Bing Crosby's program), and -- probably most famously -- by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Public domain photograph of Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968). L-R: Tom Fogerty, Doug Clifford, Stu Cook, and John Fogerty

According to our old friend Wikipedia, "Creedence Clearwater Revival...was an American rock band active in the late 1960s and early 1970s which consisted of lead vocalist, lead guitarist, and primary songwriter John Fogerty; his brother rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty; bassist Stu Cook; and drummer Doug Clifford. These members had played together since 1959, first as The Blue Velvets, and later as The Golliwogs. Their musical style encompassed roots rock, swamp rock, and blues rock. They played in a Southern rock style, despite their San Francisco Bay Area origin, with lyrics about bayous, catfish, the Mississippi River, and other popular elements of Southern United States iconography, as well as political and socially conscious lyrics about topics including the Vietnam War. The band performed at the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Upstate New York.

"The group disbanded acrimoniously in late 1972 after four years of chart-topping success. Tom Fogerty had officially left the previous year, and John was at odds with the remaining members over matters of business and artistic control, all of which resulted in subsequent lawsuits among the former bandmates. Fogerty's ongoing disagreements with Fantasy Records owner Saul Zaentz created further protracted court battles, and John Fogerty refused to perform with the two other surviving members at CCR's 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"Creedence Clearwater Revival's music is still a staple of US radio airplay; the band has sold 28 million records in the United States alone. Rolling Stone ranked them 82nd on its Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list."

I would guess that Jessye Norman is much farther down on anyone’s list, somewhere between Leontyne Price and Robert Goulet.

For those who care to have their hippocampuses stroked and other parts of their brain scrambled beyond recognition (I'm joking), here is Creedence Clearwater Revival singing "Cotton Fields" (2:58).

Enjoy.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Alphabet soup

Before he spoke at the UN, LBJ put on new BVDs PDQ.

Say what?

We live in an acronym-loving world that is getting worse all the time. Everybody (well, maybe not everybody) recognizes SONAR and RADAR and LASER and GPS and FDR and JFK and UNICEF and BBC and GE and GM and IBM and ATT and hundreds of other shortcut ways of communicating via speech and writing. We recognize them instantly. In this age of Donald Trump we have come to know FBI and CIA and MI5 and even MI6, fun concepts all. An especially fun one is DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average). A not-so-fun category includes SJW (social justice warriors) and STD (sexually-transmitted disease).

Here are a few medical acronyms that I have heard (and heard and heard) on television lately:

PE
DVT
TBI
MBC

Three of these are in commercials from pharmaceutical companies and one is from the Dr. Phil show.

Give up?

They mean pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, traumatic brain injury, and metastatic breast cancer (note use of the Oxford comma).

And don't forget the ever-popular ED (erectile dysfunction).

I think there is more going on here than just a clever way to speed up communication. I think we human beings want to avoid unpleasant topics, want to pretend they don't exist, can't bring ourselves to say the actual words out loud because they scare us more than we like to admit.

Changing subjects, sort of, what is it with the pharmaceutical giants marketing directly to us yokels out here in television land? Why do they tell us to ask our doctor about their products? Why don't they go directly to the medical community themselves? Since when do the patients tell the physicians what medicines they need to prescribe?

Is a puzzlement.


If you ask me, this post is rather Andy Rooney-esque.

I miss him.

Before signing off, I would like to send birthday greetings to my good friend Mr. Rinaldo R. “Len” Gallucci of Bainbridge, Georgia, who will be 96 tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Happy birthday, Aunt Marion!

I wish I had a good picture of my Aunt Marion to show you, but apparently the ones I remember have all gone with the wind. Marion Silberman, my mother's eldest sibling, was born on this day in 1899. She was vain about her age and began fibbing and telling people she was born in 1900 so that she wouldn't be associated in any way with the nineteenth century. She continued to lie about her age, and as the years went by, my mother, who was 11 years younger than her sister, actually passed her somewhere along the way. My aunt kept getting younger and younger. This is not to criticize her, I just find it interesting and vaguely amusing. One reason she fibbed about her true age was that as a divorced woman raising a young son in the 1940s she needed to stay in the work force as long as possible. She worked as a legal secretary in suburban Philadelphia.

Marion was born and raised in Jenkintown where her grandfather Max Silberman had opened a dry goods store in the 1870s. Max's parents and his wife Sarah Nusbaum's parents had both come to America from Germany when Max and Sarah were youngsters, and both families had settled in the Philadelphia area. After Max and Sarah married, they attended the same synagogue as Solomon and Rachael (nee DeWolf) Aarons. In the 1890s Max's and Sarah's son Nathan, an only child, married Rosetta Aarons, one of Solomon's and Rachael's daughters. Thus it was that my Aunt Marion was born in 1899, my Uncle Sol in 1903, my Uncle Jack in 1907, and my mother, Ruth, in 1910. All four of the children graduated from Jenkintown High School and eventually three of Nathan's and Rosetta's five grandchilren graduated from Jenkintown High School as well. The Silberman family lived in Jenkintown for more than a hundred years, but today none are left.

Marion, the oldest, moved to New York City to make her fortune (translation: find a job) and eventually married a Spaniard, Fernando Caracena (kara-thayna) who claimed to be descended from Ponce de Leon. Although they produced a son, my cousin Philip, it was a rocky marriage and eventually Uncle Ferdy and Aunt Marion were divorced in 1946, at which time she and Philip returned to Jenkintown. Philip went to Lafayette College in Easton and then to Michigan State for his masters and doctoral degrees. He met his wife, Virginia Burquest, while at Michigan State. She was from Sarasota, Florida. For a while Philip taught at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, then opened a practice in Hammond, Indiana, then in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, then in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and finally in Edmond, Oklahoma, where he died in 2016 at the age of 81. Philip and Virginia had three children, Christopher (who lives in Atlanta), Kurt (who lives in Colorado Springs), and Elise (who lives in Tampa). They all have college-aged children of their own now who are my first cousins, twice removed.

I apologize for the disjointed way in which I am describing my family. It's sort of a "stream of consciousness" style today. I'm writing as things occur to me. I may go back and try to straighten out what may be confusing, but then again I may not.

Genealogy is often a hit-and-miss endeavor, and sometimes Google simply cannot be trusted. One thing that muddies the waters where my Uncle Ferdy and Aunt Marion are concerned is that after they divorced he married another woman named Marian (with an a, not an o). She was Anna Marian Hesson but online searches being what they are, she is sometimes called Anna Marion Hesson (with an o, not an a). I assure you that Marion and Marian were two different people. Marion was Philip's mother. Marian was not.

I was able to look back into my post archives and find two old photographs.

Here, from left to right, are Ruth, Rosetta, and Marion (that is, my mother, my grandmother, and my aunt) around 1930: :


Here is my mother with her sister, probably in New York, before 1940:


Aunt Marion gave me my first camera (a Brownie Hawkeye) and my first portable record player (in a burgundy faux alligator case) when she and Philip visited us in Texas in 1948 and again in 1950, when I was 7 and 9, respectively. Every year on New Year's Eve at 11 pm Texas time, Aunt Marion would call from Pennsylvania to wish us a happy new year. My mother and I visited her family in Pennsylvania in 1954, and on that trip I met my grandfather and my two uncles. My aunt was able to come to Texas for a week in September 1957 and spend time with my mother at the hospital. My mother died on October 4th, a week after her sister had returned home. I visited Pennsylvania again in 1958 just after graduating from high school. On that trip I met Philip's fiancee, Virginia, a couple of months before their marriage. In 1984 while on a business trip to King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, I took my Aunt Marion out to dinner one evening. She passed away in November 1987 at the age of 88 in Abington Hospital, Abington, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, less than five miles from her birthplace.

Those few occasions were the only times I ever saw my aunt or my cousin, but they occupy places of honor in my memory banks still.

Happy birthday, Aunt Marion!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Don't look now but you just might be somebody's kulak

In a stunningly clear article in this week's National Review, conservative columnist Kevin D Williamson shows how revolution begets revolution which begets even more revolution, and what it all leads to, and it isn't pretty.

I recommend the article, "The Kulaks Must Be Liquidated as a Class", for your reading pleasure and edification. Do not make the mistake of thinking that I necessarily share all of Mr. Williamson's views, but anyone whose credentials include the Mumbai-based Indian Express Group and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (that's in Texas, folks) can't be all bad.

According to our old friend Wikipedia, "In 2018, Williamson briefly joined The Atlantic; his employment was terminated following public criticism focused particularly on a 2014 Twitter discussion in which he suggested hanging as a criminal punishment for abortion and his reiteration of this suggestion on his National Review podcast in 2014. Williamson later wrote that his comments had been intended to "mak[e] a point about the sloppy rhetoric of the abortion debate" rather than promote capital punishment, noting that he had previously expressed strong reservations about capital punishment in general."

Wikipedia went on to tell us that Williamson is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism (2011, Regnery), The End Is Near and It's Going to Be Awesome (2013, HarperCollins/Broadside Books), The Dependency Agenda (2013, Encounter Books), and The Case against Trump (2015, Encounter Books), and has contributed chapters to The New Leviathan: The State Vs. the Individual in the 21st Century (2013, Encounter Books) and Future Tense: The Lessons of Culture in an Age of Upheaval (2013, Encounter Books).

Whew! That's an impressive amount of output in a fairly short amount of time. Whatever you may think of his writing, Mr.Williamson has clearly demonstrated that he is at least one thing: a writer.

That was my goal at one time too, and all I have to show for it are a couple of blogs.

In other news, tomorrow would have been my Aunt Marion's birthday, her 120th had she lived. Unfortunately, she died in 1987.