Friday, July 28, 2017

June Foray, the voice...

...of Rocky the flying squirrel and others, died at age 99.

From her obit in the Times (my emphasis):

Ms. Foray began her remarkable 85-year career playing an elderly woman in a radio drama in 1929 at age 12. She portrayed scores of radio characters in the 1930s and ’40s. Over the next 60 years, she provided voices for animated shorts, feature films and television shows, as well as record albums, video games, even talking toys. Her last performance was as Rocky in a 2014 Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon produced by DreamWorks Animation.

At 94, she became the oldest person to win an Emmy, cited for her Mrs. Cauldron on “The Garfield Show,” and in 2013 she received an Emmy Governors Award.

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Chapman Rackaway, a professor at the University of West Georgia.

(That's actually a picture of English actor Ian Carmichael.)

This is what Dr. Rackaway really looks like. But you were fooled for a second there, weren't you?

As I mentioned yesterday, I...

...just finished Season Three of Mad Men and they played a song at the end of Episode 13 by Roy Orbison, "Shahdaroba," which I had never heard before. (Shame on me?)

But I have seen the video above, and if you haven't, for the love of all that's holy, drop everything you're doing right now and watch it!

Recorded in 1987, the Big O is backed by Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne and some others whom I don't recognize. (Shame on me, again?)

Just enjoy it; the news is too depressing and I can't dance very well.

P. S. I posted this yesterday before last night's historic vote. Know hope!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Once again, the news...

...is just too depressing to comment on, but, despite what Skeeter Davis sings in the video above, it's not the end of the world.

The Republicans' "skinny bill," which may very well pass in the Senate, would be such a lame "replacement" of the Affordable Care Act as to be almost laughable if it weren't for the estimated 16 million people who would lose their insurance. After seven years -- seven years! -- the best the Republicans could do to "repeal and replace" the ACA would be to end the individual and employer mandates and the medical device tax? Seriously? (If I were a Republican I'd be pretty disappointed. That's it? That's the f***ing plan you've been working on all this time?)

It really comes back to something I and many others have been saying for the past seven years: if you don't have a better plan (and the Republicans clearly don't), why not just repeal Obamacare and then pass it again under a white guy's different name, say, Trumpcare? You know, "repeal and rename"?

Whatever. In the meantime, I just finished Season Three of Mad Men, and before I get to the last episode, here's a little Skeeter Davis from the end of episode 12 to cheer you up. Remember, if you can't dance, you can at least listen to music.

"The End of the World," which I think Ms. Davis is actually singing in that video, was released in December 1962 and peaked in March 1963 at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 2 on the Billboard country singles, No. 1 on Billboard's easy listening, and No. 4 on Billboard's rhythm and blues. It is the first, and, to date, only time that a song cracked the Top 10 on all four Billboard charts. Billboard ranked the record as the No. 3 song of 1963.

Here's another one from Ms. Davis, a little more upbeat, that I also like. As they used to say in the '60s, Keep the faith, baby.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Most Frequently Misspelled...

...Name of the Day has to belong to Steven McCormack, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Oops, I misspelled it; it's actually Steven McCornack.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Other Name of the Day...

...belongs to Ralph Regula, who served 18 terms in Congress and died last Wednesday at age 92.

How many times do you suppose someone spelled his last name as "Regular," with an extra "R" at the end?

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Ty Cobb, the newest member of the Trump administration legal team. (In case you don't follow the news closely.)

And, yes, that's his real name.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I'll bet you didn't notice...

...Misirlou playing in the background of Mad Men, Season 2: episode 11. (No, not the Dick Dale version, but one by some guy named Martin Denny.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

While the latest news...

...on health care "repeal and replace" is indeed encouraging, the Oaf is still in office.

So let's dance, or at least listen to "Telstar" from the ending of Mad Men, Season 2: Episode 10.*

Named after the Telstar communications satellite, the 1962 instrumental was written and produced by Joe Meek for the English band the Tornados. The track reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in December of that year.

"One of the first sci-fi-influenced pop songs," the record featured either a clavioline or the similar Jennings Clavioline, both keyboard instruments with distinctive electronic sounds. It was recorded in Meek's studio in a small flat above a shop in Holloway Road, North London.  

* Incidentally, if you're interested I've been following along by reading Alan Sepinwall's excellent commentaries on the series. Hat tip: Joe T.

I don't speak a word...

...of Japanese even though I spent ten years working for a Japanese Bank. (Okay, "hai" means "yes.")

But I still think "Ue o Muite ArukĊ" ("I Look Up As I Walk") or, inexplicably, "Sukiyaki," is a truly beautiful song. (It's featured in Mad Men Season 2, Episode 2.)

Ironically (or is it coincidentally?), Kyu Sakamoto, who recorded this hit in 1961, died in a plane crash in 1985 just like Pete Campbell's father in that same Mad Men episode.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Martin Landau died...

...on Saturday at age 89. Better known for his roles in Mission: Impossible and Ed Wood, I'll always remember him from Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, in which he "played a successful, upstanding ophthalmologist and family man who gets away with the arranged murder of his mistress."

Crimes and Misdemeanors, released in 1989, may have been the last of Mr. Allen's great movies from what I would consider his best "period," beginning with Annie Hall in 1977. I'd also include Interiors (1978), Manhattan (1979), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Radio Days (1987) and Another Woman (1988) in that list. Okay, I'll throw in Match Point (2005), although it doesn't fit neatly into my narrative.

What preceded Annie Hall and followed Crimes and Misdemeanors is mostly forgettable, but for that brief twelve-year period, Woody Allen made some of the best movies ever.

P. S. For those Woody Allen fans who are positively indignant at the brevity of my list, just remember, nine great works of art (and even Radio Days may be a stretch) are about eight more than most geniuses are allowed. Think about it: aren't most artists essentially one-hit wonders?

Ray Phiri, a South African...

...who played guitar on "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" and other songs with Paul Simon, died at age 70.

(By the way, you'd be forgiven if you were wondering what's happened to this blog. What started out as a vehicle to relay information about high school football to my out-of-town brothers -- with a healthy sprinkling of my opinions on other subjects, such as politics -- seems to have morphed into a music blog. Well, football is still about a month away, and as for politics, what can you say about a president who's a pathological liar, in way over his head and yet profiting financially from the office? It's a disgrace.

Like many of you, I'm sure, I'm trying to make sense of this current depressing time in American history. I'm beginning to think its closest analogue is the McCarthy era. I hope to elaborate on that soon.

Until then, keep dancing. Or listening to music.)

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to author/columnist Pagan Kennedy.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

As great as Bob Dylan...

...was (still is, I guess) I have to admit I like some covers of his songs even better than the originals. Sue me. (The Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man" and the Turtles' "It Ain't Me Babe" come immediately to mind.)* So when I heard "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" at the end of Mad Men Season 1, Episode 13, I was reminded of this rendition by Peter, Paul and Mary.** Is it better than the original? Probably not, but I like it anyway.

Remember, during these challenging times we have to dance. Or, in my case, listen to music.

* Oh, and speaking of covers, the Vogues did a pretty good one of "My Special Angel" in 1968.

** Even this version with Andy Williams (who drifted way, way to the right in his later years) isn't too shabby.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

In the middle of this song...

...John Mellencamp tells the audience:

Every time something goes wrong in my life I always just dance. Something goes bad, I dance. I get in an argument, I dance. I see the government doing something I don't want them to do, I dance. You'd be surprised at how dancing can just dance your problems away . . . See, you don't have to be very good, you just gotta be able to do it . . . Let's all dance and let the problems of the world just kind of slip away for about five seconds if we can.

Boy, if it were only that easy.

First of all, I can't dance very well. (Think Elaine from Seinfeld.) It's not my fault, though. Not only am I white, but Irish too. Double whammy.

So, as I alluded in my last post, when the news is this depressing, I'll just listen to music instead. (What could I possibly write about Trump that hasn't already been said?)

P. S. I especially like the violin in that video; it really makes the song for me. The woman's name, I think, is Miriam Sturm.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Who is your favorite...

...singer-with-an-eyepatch?

P. S. I'm finally getting around to watching Mad Men; the news is just too depressing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Samantha Dravis, the chairwoman of the deregulation team at the E.P.A.

You don't suppose she's ever gotten any mail addressed to "Samantha Davis," do you?

Wouldn't you expect...

...a guy named George Rockwell to have a plaque memorializing him in a rock?

What, did you think he would have a statue or his picture on a wall someplace?

Hat tip: Kevin G.

What if Putin...

...decided to back Donald Trump, the least qualified candidate for president in 2016, and then spend his entire first term trying to weaken him? Wouldn't that achieve his goal of destabilizing America?

And then what if Putin decided to back the Democrats in the 2018 midterms? Wouldn't having Trump in the White House and a Democratic Congress weaken the U.S. further? Wouldn't that leave us mired in impeachment talk until 2020? (And wouldn't that lead to a bit of a rebellion on the right?)

Or what if Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence were behind all these White House leaks in an effort to bring down Trump and install Pence? And what if they made it look like they were supportive of the president all along and it was the Democrats' and the mainstream media's fault?

Too House of Cards-ish for you? Seriously, would anything surprise you at this point?

Monday, July 3, 2017

My son and I finished...

...our "Western Avenue Project" yesterday by catching the inbound Rock Island train from the Blue Island-Vermont station.

The odyssey -- in four parts -- began in late February (can you believe it?) and took us until July to complete. (Click here to read Parts One, Two and Three.)

John and I left our new place at noon and walked west on 18th Street to Western Avenue where we caught the No. 49 bus to the 79th & Western Terminal, just a block or so beyond where we left off at St. Rita High School in April.

Does that mean we cheated by not walking the entire length of Western Avenue? (That'll keep me up at night.) And why does the Western bus stop at 79th? Why doesn't it go all the way to the city's southern boundary at 119th? I don't know.

While we were standing at the bus stop an older man (even older than me!) walked up and waited with us. He was on the phone with someone and although I was pretty sure he was speaking English it was with such a peculiar accent that it made me wonder. (John said he reminded him of Elmer Fudd.) He turned to talk to us after a couple of minutes and I really wish I had taken his picture. I don't normally take photos of people but I should have made an exception in his case. It would have been a good one for posterity.

After getting off the bus at 79th Street in the Community Area of Ashburn on the Far Southwest Side, we resumed our journey down Western Avenue, through the Dan Ryan Woods and into Beverly after crossing 87th Street.

In case you were wondering, yes, Ashburn got its name from the city's ashes, which were dumped here for many years. In fact, as recently as 1959 ash "heaps" were still visible in the area north of 79th Street. Ashburn was also the home of the E. M. Laird Airplane Company and the city's first airfield, which operated from 1916 until 1939.

Just across 91st Street is the Beverly Bike & Ski, which has this excellent sign outside. And, speaking of signs, Western Avenue is a veritable treasure trove of vintage signs:

Janson's Drive-In, at 99th;

Fox's Restaurant and Pub, at 100th Street;

Mr. Swifty Cleaners, at 110th; and

Beverly Woods Restaurant at 115th.

And even on into the suburb of Blue Island:



But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

Just beyond the Bike Shop is the Bridgeport Coffeehouse -- Bridgeport? -- which is housed in this excellent example of Mid-century modernism. The north wall has something for everyone:

Light blue glazed brick;


As well as these colored glass blocks.

As long as I'm not going in strict chronological order, here's some more light blue glazed brick, in this case on a beige brick background, a little farther down Western.

We were getting hungry by this point, but we resisted the siren call of the Original Rainbow Cone, at 92nd Street. I don't like to have my dessert before the main course, so we dashed across the street (to the suburbs!) to Firehouse Subs in the Evergreen Marketplace. In hindsight it was a mistake -- we should have waited until at least Janson's a few blocks later -- but we were positively starving by this time. (And we were going to need our strength; the mercury topped 90 degrees yesterday!)

After lunch we continued on Western, into the heart of the Beverly community area, which extends down to 107th Street. Sparsely settled until the completion in 1889 of the suburban line of the Rock Island Railroad, Beverly came to be considered one of the more prestigious neighborhoods in the city.

Although it now has the highest percentage of black residents of any white-majority neighborhood, Beverly still has the feel of an Irish Catholic enclave. Along with Morgan Park to the south, it's the home of the South Side Irish Parade, which is held every year on the Sunday prior to St. Patrick's Day. Winding down Western Avenue, past such Irish pubs as the Cork & Kerry, above, the parade is reputed to be quite the spectacle. I threaten to go every year, but one of these days I promise I'm actually going to make it.

Across 107th is Morgan Park, named after Thomas Morgan, the area's largest landholder in the nineteenth century. It extends, of course, to 119th Street, where the city ends and Blue Island begins.

While John and I had originally intended to catch the Rock Island train at 119th, we had some time to kill until the next one arrived so we pressed on into Blue Island. My friend Kevin had told me it had a charming downtown so we decided to walk the extra two miles or so to the station at Vermont Street.

Blue Island dates back to the 1830s and its downtown looks as if it hasn't changed much since then. Really, if you wanted to shoot a movie that took place at almost any time in the past, Western Avenue in Blue Island would be perfect.

But what I really wanted to know was, how in the heck did they come up with the name "Blue Island"? There was no water in sight, and, believe me, I was thirsty! According to Wikipedia, the Chicago Democrat described the area in February, 1834:

Nearly south of this town and twelve miles distant is Blue Island. This name is particularly appropriate. It is a table of land about six miles long and an average of two miles wide, of an oval form and rising some forty feet out of an immense plain which surrounds it on every side. . . The ridge, when viewed from a distance, appears standing in an azure mist of vapor, hence the appellation "Blue Island."

Cool.

We hopped on the train at a little before six and high-fived each other for slaying the Western Avenue "dragon." This weekend I hope to see the young man who first inspired us to undertake this task, the guy who hiked the entire street in one day. Can't wait to compare notes!

To sum it all up, John and I walked about 25 miles over four Sundays. We hiked through 15 of Chicago's 77 recognized community areas -- Rogers Park, West Ridge, Lincoln Square, North Center, Avondale/Logan Square, West Town, Near West Side, Lower West Side, McKinley Park, Brighton Park, Gage Park, Chicago Lawn, Ashburn, Beverly and Morgan Park -- from the Far North Side all the way down to the Far Southwest Side. Not sure I'd recommend it (some of the stretches are "sketchy"), but I'm glad we did it.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Wouldn't you expect...

...someone with a name like Hauseman to work with houses for a living?

Hat tip: Kevin G.

Gary DeCarlo, who...

...sang "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye," died at age 75. Released by Fontana Records under the band name Steam, the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969.

Oh, and Stephen Furst, who played Flounder in Animal House, died last month at age 63. (Still getting caught up.)

The Name of the Day...

...is a tie, between Monkey Chan, a Hong Kong nursing student (above), and author Jon Ronson (below).

The first one requires no explanation, I assume, and, as for the second, well, you don't suppose anyone ever mistakes it for Ron Johnson, do you?