Category Archives: music

Movie music QUESTION

It’s no secret that my favorite movie music is from West Side Story. I’m also quite fond of Fiddler on the Roof. But it occurred to me: these are Broadway musicals adapted for the screen. What do I like the best that’s MOVIE music?

Difficult question. But, excluding the Beatles – I’ve recently seen again A Hard Day’s Night and Help! – here are some examples:

This is the famous Germans bomb Pearl Harbor speech by John Belushi from Animal House. But try to listen to it without the dramatic music of Elmer Bernstein, and I think it falls flat. In fact, throughout the film, Bernstein, who’s probably best known for the score for The Magnificent Seven (a/k/a the Marlboro theme), has all sorts of flourishes in this movie, giving the dopiest action a counterpoint.

Quality of Mercy by Michelle Shocked from Dead Man Walking. I THINK this was written for the film (though this performance is not), as opposed to what the compilers of the music of, say, Easy Rider, called “found music”, existing songs put on a soundtrack.

Forrest Gump, BTW, is the worst example of that trend; it’s not that the songs are bad, only that they’re obvious. California Dreamin’ by the Mamas & the Papas, Mrs. Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel, For What It’s worth by Buffalo Springfield, and Get Together by the Youngbloods? I mean, I already own all of those songs; not everyone does, but some Time-Life collection might have been a better venue.

Ridin’ the Rails by k.d. lang and Take 6 from Dick Tracy, a movie I never saw. I’m a sucker for trains, and songs about trains.

The Funeral from Cry Freedom. This is a bit of a cheat. The bulk of the song is the anthem Nkosi Sikeleli Africa (God Bless Africa). But it is the most stirring version I know, taking place after South African activist Stephen Biko’s death. (It starts at 2:25 on the video.)

But the movie music I have the greatest, perhaps irrational attachment for, is from the film The Night They Raided Minsky’s, which I saw with my friend Carol and her friend Judy when I was 15 in 1968. I had a mad crush, unstated, for Judy. The film was rated M, a precursor for PG. Because I have the soundtrack, I can admit that though I haven’t seen the film in 40 years, I know this song, and others in the movie, by heart:
TAKE TEN TERRIFIC GIRLS (But Only Nine Costumes)
I have a secret recipe
Concocted with much skill
And once you’ve tried my special dish
You’ll never get your fill

Take ten terrific girls
But only nine costumes
And you’re cooking up something grand

Mix in some amber lights
And elegant scenery
Then stir in a fine jazz band

Then add some funny men
And pepper with laughter
It’s tart and tasty I know

Then serve it piping hot
And what have you got?
A burlesque show!
Music: Charles Strouse Lyrics: Lee Adams

What movie music moves YOU?

ROG

Theater Review: Spring Awakening

Lust. Domestic violence. Sex. Abortion. Questioning authority. Suicide. Rape. All of these are elements of the book Spring Awakening, written by German writer Frank Wedekind in the early ’90s. The 1890s. This may explain why the book was banned in Germany and in English-speaking countries for decades.

Most, though not all, of those same elements, plus a large dollop of indie-rock written by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, appear in the 2007 Tony winner for Best Musical, Spring Awakening, playing at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady February 16-21.

The wife’s Valentine’s Day present for us was a pair of tickets to the opening night this past Tuesday. Really, all we knew of the show was what we saw on the Tonys, and that was almost three years ago.

So we got a babysitter and hoofed it over a few blocks to Central Avenue in Albany to catch the bus to Schenectady. We had gotten 5.3″ of snow that day, the most the city had received in 2010. For the record, CDTA got us there (and back) quite adequately, thank you.

Before the show begins, I am awed by the set. There is no curtain so it’s just there. You can see snippets of it in the Tony performance, but it hardly does it justice. Bleachers are both stage left (two rows) and stage right (three rows) and people are already sitting out there when the principles come onto the stage to sit with them. So the excellent, eclectic band is likewise on the stage from the beginning, everything from keyboards and drums to a cello? But it works.

As for the technical aspects of the performance, I was also wowed by the choreography. Not just dance per se, but how the players moved about the stage, passing off or getting microphones. The lighting was also first rate.

The fist three songs advanced the story quite well, high energy and great entertainment value. Yet the core action at the end of the first act, which involved a couple of the aforementioned elements felt, for want of a better word, stagy.

Somehow, the second act redeemed it for us, with the best song in show, the tune that got the biggest audience reaction, and the one that my dear wife says we all feel now and then, Totally F***ed (I’m serious here: NSFW or for sensitive ears, big time.)

If you see it, and you should, then it will help to know that two people play all the adult roles; in the production we saw, both actors appeared in various episodes of the Law & Order franchise, which is no surprise. Spring Awakening is ultimately “a cross-generational phenomenon that continues to transcend age and cultural barriers,” as the promos suggest, and I am thinking that a greater knowledge of the plot will help the novice theater goer appreciate it more.

Something I didn’t know until recently: Lea Michele, who plays the annoying but talented Rachel on the TV show Glee, was the lead in the Broadway production of Spring Awakening.

And now the musical will become a movie. Not sure just how that’ll play. I can’t really imagine it, but then I couldn’t fathom M*A*S*H being a weekly television series, either.

A review of the Wednesday’s performance suggested a small-than-expected crowd. We felt the same way about Tuesday’s performance, but I had attributed the smallish crowd to the weather. I theorize that, despite its awards, it’s pretty much an unknown commodity, relatively speaking; I mean, it’s not South Pacific.

ROG

Smokey is 70!


If William “Smokey” Robinson was known just for the songs he performed, he would be a memorable artist. But the fact that he has written over 400 songs, according to ASCAP, and probably hundreds more and is a producer as well, then you have a musical force.

The first song released by his group the Miracles was Got A Job, a response song to Get a Job by by the Silhouettes, written by Smokey, Berry Gordy and Roquel Davis.

Here are just a other few songs written or co-written by Smokey. The group listed usually is NOT the only artist who’s performed the tune:

You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me- the Beatles; also performed by the Miracles
My Girl-the Temptations
My Guy -Mary Wells; anyone who could write My Girl AND My Guy is the consummate songwriter
No More Tearstained Makeup – Martha & the Vandellas; a relatively obscure song with one of my favorite lines: No sponge has the power To absorb the shower Of what pancake and powder couldn’t cover
Who’s Loving You – Jackson 5ive. From the 1st J5 album, a cover of the Miracles tune. Isn’t Michael preturnaturally experienced in love in this tune?
Ain’t That Peculiar – Marvin Gaye
Tears of a Clown -the (English) Beat. But it was from the Miracles’ version that I first heard of Pagliachi, which led me to find out that the reference was to a Leoncavallo opera.
Don’t Mess with Bill – Marvellettes
The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game-Grace Jones, covering the Marvelettes’ tune
Get Ready -Rare Earth, a song I first heard from the Temptations
No More Water In The Well – the Temptations, with a relatively rare Paul Williams lead vocal, from arguably my favorite Temps LP, With A Lot O’ Soul, 1967.
Still Water (Peace) – Four Tops
Floy Joy – the Supremes

I suppose I should do a couple more Smokey songs. I pick the oft-covered Tracks of My Tears and I Second That Emotion.

So, happy 70th birthday to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters’ Hall of Fame inductee, as well as 2006 Kennedy Center honoree, Smokey Robinson!

1993 photo of Smokey from LIFE magazine, for non-commercial use

ROG

Behind the Curve

Partially because I deigned to watch football the last three weekends and partially because I have the annoying habit of taking on more stuff than I’m comfortable with, I’m behind in watching stuff on TV, reading the paper, etc.

That two-hour Haiti special, the album for which is the first #1 album that exists without an actual physical product? Haven’t watched it.

The State of the Union – read the reviews, but not heard the actual address. The chat Obama had with Republicans that went so well for the President that FOX News stopped showing it 20 minutes in – plenty of places to read it or watch it, including here but hasn’t happened yet. Still, I think Evanier’s right when he notes: Once you tell your constituents that everything Obama does is evil, you can’t meet him halfway on anything without appearing to be compromising with evil. You can’t even support him when he does things you like. I think that’s a lot of our problem right there.

Of course, being behind has its benefits. After Martha Coakley lost to Scott Brown in the Massachusetts race for US Senate, there’s been this revisionist message that the Democrats only dumped on her because she lost. Watching the Sunday morning talk shows two and nine days before that election, it was clear that the Democrats, though muted in their criticism – she was still their candidate – suggested that she did not run the robust campaign she ought to have. Yes, in answer to her rhetorical question, you DO pass out fliers in front of Fenway Park.

Some stories I missed altogether, such as the death of Pernell Roberts, the eldest son on Bonanza who later became, in some bizarro world spinoff, Trapper John in the CBS drama Trapper John, MD. It was not a great show, though it was the jumping off point for now-Broadway legend Brian Stokes Mitchell.

I plowed through a couple weeks of the Wall Street Journal and came across this story of Scarlett Johansson’s debut on Broadway as well as a very positive review of “Gregory Mosher’s revival of ‘A View From the Bridge, Arthur Miller’s
1955 play about love and death on the Brooklyn waterfront.” “Of course you’ll be wondering about Ms. Johansson, whose Broadway debut this is, and I can tell you all you need to know in a sentence: She is so completely submerged in her role that you could easily fail to spot her when she makes her first entrance. You’d never guess that she hasn’t acted on a stage since she was a little girl.”

Other stories I just didn’t know what to say. I noticed that Kate McGarrigle of the singing/songwriting McGarrigle Sisters, and also mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, died of cancer at the age of 62 back on January 18. The best I could come with is a link to an obituary for Kate written by her sister Anna. I was listening to Trio, an album by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris this week. There’s a Kate song called I’ve Had Enough, about lost love, but feels right here.

Love it’s not I who didn’t try
Hard enough, hard enough
And this is why I’m saying goodbye
I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough
Love you don’t see
The pain in me
That’s plain enough, plain enough
You’re never here to catch the tears
I cried for us, I cried for us

I’ll take my share but I’ll be fair
There’s not much stuff
Easy enough
And if you choose I’ll break the news
This part is tough, so very tough

I’ve tried and tried to put aside
The time to talk, but without luck
So I’ll just pin this note within your coat
And leave the garden gate unlocked

And this is why I’m saying goodbye
I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough

Her funeral is today in Montreal.

Little Boxes theme from Weeds by the McGarrigle Sisters.

ROG

The Award-Winning…

Jaquandor was kind enough to bestow upon me a “Kreative Blogger” award of some sort.

I feel a certain obligation to pass these kinds of things along, based on the theory that, back in the olden days when I started blogging, some 4.7 years ago, it made the blogisphere – dare I say it? – FUN. Blogging should be fun, even if one’s venting one’s spleen to do so.

You’re supposed to reveal seven things about yourself. Of course, the problem with that I’m almost out of stuff to “reveal” that 1) I didn’t reveal before, 2) require more than a line or two, or 3) I’m not planning to reveal at this point, or quite possibly, ever. No guarantees that the list below might not have bumped into the first category:

1. I receive an irrational amount of pleasure when I delete one piece of spam in Gmail and it says I’ll be deleting “the one conversation”, or “both conversations” when I delete two, as opposed to those programs that will delete “all 1 conversations”, or some such.

2. I once got a B in art in 7th grade. My parents were at a loss as to how I did so well. This explains almost everything you need to know about me and doing art.

3. I once almost flew with someone who was traveling on someone else’s ticket. He got detained by airport security and the police for about seven hours until he showed his security clearance. This, BTW, was before 9/11.

4. I have no tattoos. I’m not opposed at this point, but 1) it would keep me from donating blood for a while and 2) my wife would hate it. Then there’s the pain and permanence thing, but those are secondary.

5. At least twice, I took jobs because of affairs of the heart. Neither was worth it; the jobs weren’t, that is, but the affairs of the heart were.

6. I tape sporting events then watch them later, going through lots of machinations (no news watching/reading or e-mail/Facebook/Twitter). Sometimes it works (Jets/Bengals, Eagles/Cowboys Saturday games I watched on Sunday; Packers/Cardinals Sunday game I finished Tuesday morning); sometimes not (the Patriots loss on the front cover of Monday’s Wall Street Journal).

7. I’m allergic to penicillin and Naprocyn, have been for years, yet I’m too lazy to get one of those tags. But we have one for my daughter with her peanut allergy.

Then I’m supposed to pass the award along. That’s a bit tougher. I’d have considered Jaquandor’s Byzantium Shores. I’d also have picked SamuraiFrog’s Electronic Cerebrectomy, except he gave the award to Jaquandor and that’s a bit too circular for me. Then there are the bums gentlemen who stopped blogging in the last year, who I used to follow.

Still, there’s:

1. Arthur @AmeriNZ – your usual, everyday blog of a gay man from Illinois who moved to New Zealand for love. OK, there’s a LOT more to it: talk about politics, comparative US/NZ culture and whatever enters his fertile mind. He also has a couple podcasts, one on politics, the other, more general.

2. Coverville – the blog is primarily a support mechanism for Brian Ibbott’s great podcast “featuring unusual covers of pop, rock and country songs by new and established performers.” But in the last year or so, he’s added a song rating system to the site. Also, he and his listeners have found some nifty videos of covers that he’s posted.

3. Progressive Ruin: Unfortunately, I gotta give props to Mike Sterling, even though he’s a cheater pants, not just for his persistence – I think he posted 364 days last year – but for some of his regular features, such as his deconstruction of the absurd items Diamond comics catalog, and especially Sluggo Saturdays. Still his obsession with the comic creature Swamp Thing is…disturbing.

4. And speaking of Swamp Thing, its best renderer, IMHO, my buddy Steve Bissette posts his Myrant, a mix of digital comics, comics & film history, political tirades and more.

5. Scott’s Scooter Chronicles is about music, books, beer, and hockey. Truth is that I’m not a big fan of the latter two, but he even makes those interesting. It’s also about his two young sons and being unemployed in America. SOMEONE GIVE THIS MAN A JOB!

6. Anthony Velez’s The Dark Glass is a series of theological musings. Sometimes I don’t understand, but he always explains it, or tries to.

7. Gordon at Blog This, Pal! is mostly a pop culture (comics/TV/movies) blog. He knows more about Doctor Who and Kids in the Hall than anyone has a right to. I happen to particularly enjoy those too-rare glimpses of his personal side (his mom, St. Louis vs. Chicago). He also has a podcast that he’s rethinking. He knows I’d always vote for keeping the music, but really, he should do what brings him joy.

ROG

Reeling in the Years

I know historians banter about the most significant years in a given period, as do others. I’d have to pick 1917 (Russian revolution), 1945 (end of WW II), 1968 (unrest in US, Mexico, Czechoslovakia), 1989 (fall of Berlin Wall), among others, for the 20th Century.

But did you ever rank the years in your life? 1977, when I lived in three cities in two states, was pretty awful, but 1978, when, not coincidentally, I moved to Schenectady, NY, was pretty good. I was up in the attic this week, sorting stuff, and I came across a 1998 calendar, 100 Years of American Comics from the International Cartoon Art.

My, that was a good year.

I went to the movies. A lot.
Jan 16-Jackie Brown
Jan 19-Good Will Hunting
Jan 25-Titanic
Jan 31-Fast, Cheap and Out of Control
Feb 1-Amistad
Feb 10-The Tango Lesson
Feb 14-Mrs Brown; L.A. Confidential
Feb 15-Afterglow; Ma vie en Rose
Feb 16-The Apostle
And that was just the first two months.

I took JEOPARDY! test #1 on April 29.

I went on a two-week vacation in May. I don’t know that I’ve been on a two-week vacation since. I went to the Motown museum and a Tigers game in Detroit; and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on one train trip. I visited the Capitol and other landmarks and took JEOPARDY! test #2 in Washington, DC on a second train trip. I love the train.

Saw LOTS of music in the summer. Many are local band (Burners UK, Hair of the Dog), but I also saw Maddy Prior, Cyril Neville, the Glenn Miller group, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Rickie Lee Jones. Then on August 9, I went to SPAC for the Newport Folk Festival, featuring Lyle Lovett, Joan Baez, Nanci Griffith, Bela Fleck, Bruce Cockburn, Alison Krauss, Marc Cohn, Lucinda Williams, and others; a great day.

I had two conferences in September. At the ASBDC conference in Savannah, GA, my father drove down from Charlotte, NC and hung out with me and a couple of my friends the first two days. THE best time I ever had with my father. Then the SBDC conference was in Niagara Falls; I love the falls. And I walked to NF, Ontario.

The JEOPARDY! broadcast party was November 9. Later that month, my attempts to re-woo Carol, which began in earnest in August, proved successful, and we got married the following May.

Music, movies, travel, love. Even a modicum of fame. That was a great year.

May your 2010, and mine, be as fruitful.

ROG

The Lydster, Part 69: LS's Oth Christmas


Three months before Lydia was born, I made a mixed CD for the child. We didn’t know whether we were having a boy or girl, so she was called Little Soul. Or more accurately, my wife’s friend Alison, who was in our wedding, dubbed her as such.

Anyway, the playlist is this, and for most of them I was able to find something on YouTube:

1. Mr. Sandman – the Chorettes. A song from the 1950s I always liked that I have on some compilation.
2. Lullabye (Good Night, My Angel) – Billy Joel. From his last proper pop album, River of Dreams. One of my favorite songs, even though, or maybe because, it has a certain melancholy.
3. Dreamland – Mary Chapin Carpenter, from her greatest hits album, Party Doll.
4. Good Night – the Beatles. From the white album, a Lennon tune sung by Ringo. I often sing it to Lydia before she goes to bed.
5. Lullaby for Sophia – the Beverwyck String Band. A lovely tune by our friend, violinist/vocalist Britney and a couple of her friends.
6. Alright for Now – Tom Petty. From my favorite Petty album, Full Moon Fever.
7. Sweet and Low – Bette Midler.(Starting at at 2:03)
8. All Through the Night – Shawn Colvin. The last two songs from some benefit album for the rain forest called Carnival, which also features Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals.
9. Common Threads – Bobby McFerrin. A song without words, a transition to the instrumental portion of the album.

Songs above are by the artist on the recording; below are not.

10. Brandenburg Concerto #5 Affectuoso – Bach.
11. Pachebel Canon. The last two by Neville Chamberlain & the English Chamber Music Orchestra.
12. Four Seasons: Autumn, adagio – Vivaldi.
13. Four Seasons: Winter, largo – Vivaldi.
14. Moonlight Sonata – Beethoven. Dubourg.
15. Fur Elise -Beethoven.

Now that she has her own boom box to go to sleep to, it’s in her pile of music to play. Not that she plays it as often as I had hoped, but I’m glad that she doesn’t seem to hate it.

ROG

Kennedy Center Honors

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I am a sucker for the Kennedy Center Honors. This is the 32nd year, and I’ve been following them since practically the beginning. The difference is that in the early days, the performers were sometimes names I knew, though often not, and even the people I recognized, I had not really sampled their works.

This year, as last four out of the five awardees are rather familiar to me.

Writer, composer, actor, director, and producer Mel Brooks

I have always HEARD of Mel Brooks, from the early days of television, from Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, which started before I was born, to creating the series Get Smart in the mid-1960s and the Robin Hood spoof When Things Were Rotten in the mid-1970s.

But it is his writing/producing/directing movies for which I know him.
The Producers (1968) -long before the musical, or the movie of the musical, there was the movie about making money by seemingly losing money. One of the funniest things I ever saw is when the audience is slackjawed after hearing “Springtime for Hitler”, which Brooks not only wrote but sang. There was a 2001 interview on 60 Minutes, which I saw at the time, where he describes his feelings about Hitler:
Hitler was part of this incredible idea that you could put Jews in concentration camps and kill them. And how do you get even? How do you get even with the man? How do you get even with him? There’s only one way to get even. You have to bring him down with ridicule. Because if you stand on a soapbox and you match him with rhetoric, you’re just as bad as he is. But if you can make people laugh at him, then you’re one up on him. And it’s been one of my lifelong jobs has been to make the
world laugh at Adolf Hitler.

That he succeeded is a great understatement.
Blazing Saddles (1974): it’s pretty funny, though it has no suitable ending.
Young Frankenstein (1974): one of the funniest films ever made. I literally fell out of my seat when I saw this in the movie theater; good thing I had an aisle seat.
Silent Movie (1976); High Anxiety (1977) – both funnier in concept than in execution
History of the World: Part I (1981) – few movies I’ve enjoyed less than this. The chief redeeming quality, and it comes near the end: Hitler on ice skates.
Other items of his I saw: My Favorite Year (1982), which he executive produced, and the TV show Mad About You in the late 1990s, where he played Uncle Phil.
Sommeday, I’ll see The Producers on stage.

Pianist and composer Dave Brubeck.

The only CD I own is Time Out (1960), but I have some Brubeck on vinyl. I know I have Time Further Out (1961), which has music in just about every time signature imaginable. I have My Favorite Things (1966). I’ve given out his greatest hits album to people who don’t know him, saying, “You need to know this guy.”
He turned 89 this month and is STILL playing on tour. I was playing Time Out earlier this month and someone visiting my house said, “What’s the name of that song?” It was Take Five. Coincidentally, my buddy Steve Bissette linked to it this month.

Opera singer Grace Bumbry

OK, here’s the hole in my wisdom. I’d heard the name, but I just don’t know opera.

Actor, director, and producer Robert De Niro

I need to go back and see some of his performances from the 1970s; actually a whole bunch of his films, now that I look at the list. But these I definitely did see:
Raging Bull (1980)
The King of Comedy (1982)
Goodfellas (1990)
Stanley & Iris (1990)
Awakenings (1990)
Cape Fear (1991)
Wag the Dog (1997)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Analyze This (1999)
Meet the Parents (2000)
But it’s his work with the Tribeca Film Festival which may be his lasting legacy.
The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff in a response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the consequent loss of vitality in the TriBeCa neighborhood in Manhattan.

The mission of the film festival is “to enable the international film community and the general public to experience the power of film by redefining the film festival experience.” The Tribeca Film Festival was founded to celebrate New York City as a major filmmaking center and to contribute to the long-term recovery of lower Manhattan.

Singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen.

I had this office mate around whom one was not allowed to play Bruce Springsteen music; apparently, it had to do with a broken relationship. Conversely, I had an old girlfriend who was pretty much obsessed with “the Boss.” Which reminds me of that joke on Saturday Night Live a couple weeks ago, about Obama being the President, but
Springsteen being the Boss; so Springsteen ordered all the troops home from Afghanistan.

I noted here my Springsteen discography. Add the 2009 Working On A Dream CD to that and the er, unauthorized record
ings someone sent me
.

Plus he shows up as songwriter/producer for many other artists’ music I own such as Gary “U.S.” Bonds and Southside Johnny & the Asbury Dukes, not to mention his rendition of Merry Christmas Baby on the very first A Very Special Christmas.

Oh, and I got to see him this year, for the very first time.

The Kennedy Center Honors medallions [were] presented on Saturday, December 5, the night before the gala, at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton…The Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on the CBS Network for the 32nd consecutive year as a two-hour primetime special on Tuesday, December 29 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT).

ROG

The Shape of Things To Come

Happened to be a shop while, by chance, Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech was on the radio. Understandably criticized, it was generally compared to George Orwell’s 1984. It made me think about a song that borrows from Orwell, Tracy Chapman’s Why?, which you can (I hope) hear here.
Love is hate
War is peace
No is yes
And we’re all free

But somebody’s gonna have to answer
The time is coming soon
When the blind remove their blinders
And the speechless speak the truth

***
So what should upon my wandering eyes should appear but ABC-TV’s schedule for Tuesday night, Dec 15: A Charlie Brown Christmas. From 8 to 9 pm – 1 hour. When they last broadcast it, LAST Tuesday, as noted here, squeezed into a half hour slot:

Gone was Sally’s materialistic letter to Santa, which finally sends Charlie screaming from the room when she says she will settle for 10s and 20s.

Gone was Schroeder’s miraculous multiple renditions of “Jingle Bells” from a toy piano, including the one that sounds distinctly like a church organ.

Gone was Linus using his blanket as an improvised slingshot to knock a can off the fence no one else can hit, complete with ricochet sound effect.

Gone were the kids catching snowflakes on their tongues and commenting on their flavor.

Gone even was poor Shermy’s only line. He thought he had it bad because he was always tasked to play a shepherd. He had no idea.

And why were all these classic scenes cut? To plug more ads into the show, of course. To sell burgers and greeting cards — and to relentlessly plug the insipid-looking new Disney “soon to be a classic” show immediately following.

So did ABC relent to some sort of pressure? Inquiring minds want to know. But THIS seems to be the viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas to watch – or record, even if it’s filled with even MORE ads. And – it is hoped – an apology.
***
Still catching up, after two sick days this week. One of the truths I’ve long known is that when you’re sick or injured, but don’t act particularly sick or injured, people forget. I experienced that Wednesday, and I admit it: it made me rather cranky.
My wife and daughter both had a snow day, but they seemed to think it was MY snow day too; no, I’m home because …ever look at a computer screen and see it as doubled, only slightly out of sync? That’s what was happening to me. Yet the daughter wanted to play a game while the wife took a nap – a nap; *I* needed a nap. And when the wife announced that since we had this found opportunity, we could (oh, boy!) work on the household budget. No, no, no, it’s YOUR found time; it’s my SICK time. I almost escaped to the local library except I didn’t want to infect strangers.

It’s odd, but I hate taking off sick time. And I have LOTS of it. At the beginning of December, I had 145 days. If I use three in December, I still get 1.5, so I’ll still have 143.5 days left. And it’s not as though I get paid it out when I retire, or can apply the time to my health benefits; when I leave, I lose them. The only way I’ll use them is if I have a catastrophic illness or injury. But it takes so little to fall behind at work – 180 e-mails and 14 phone messages to look at on Thursday.
***
Two children’s birthday parties this weekend – goody.
***
I was looking at my face in the mirror recently and noticed that my cheeks are slightly darker than the rest of my face, as though the pigmentation after its loss in the vitiligo had returned. More recently, a small circle near my left temple and a larger circle around my right has also gotten darker. I find it odd that I really don’t know what I look like from month to month of late.
***
When I was growing up, there were two songs, with similar titles, which appealed to me. One was The Yardbirds’ Shapes of Things, which got up to #11 in the US pop charts in the spring of 1966. The other is Shape of Things to Come by Max Frost & The Troopers, which reached #22 in the fall of 1968. Seems to be my message du jour.


ROG

Lennon


Sometimes I think about acknowledging the day John Lennon died, but something always draws me in.

This year, it’s the fact that he is on the top 10 list of dead celebrities. According to Forbes:

No. 7: John Lennon
$15 million

Musician
Died: Dec. 8, 1980
Age: 40
Cause: Murder

It was a big year for the Beatles, especially for the songwriter behind many of the band’s most famous songs. In September, Electronic Arts and MTV Games released The Beatles: Rock Band, allowing fans to jam along with a virtual version of the band and download additional albums for $17. As well, the Fab Four’s music was repackaged and remastered in a 16-disc box set that went on sale in September. LOVE, the Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil show featuring the group’s music, still reels fans into The Mirage

Add to that John’s widow Yoko Ono licensing his song “Real Love” to be used by JC Penney in television ads, and her giving Ben & Jerry’s ice cream permission to release a Lennon-inspired flavor called “Imagine Whirled Peace.”

Oh, since I know you need to know, the top-earning dead celebrity is French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, who “earned $350 million in the past year. Much of his estate was auctioned off at Christie’s in February. Laurent died of brain cancer in June 2008.” So his #1 status probably won’t be maintained.

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein rank second with combined earnings of $235 million. Why are they considered as one unit, I don’t know. Both of them composed with others. Anyway, I imagine the revival of South Pacific did not hurt.

Michael Jackson is third with $90 million; I have to assume it’s a reflection of moneys in, since, before his death in June, there were numerous reports about his mounting debt.

Elvis Presley, the perennial leader in this category, is fourth with $55 million, though he made more than in previous years. He’s followed by J.R.R. Tolkien ($50 million), Charles Schulz ($35 million), John Lennon ($15 million), Theodor Geisel -Dr. Seuss ($15 million), Albert Einstein ($10 million) and Michael Crichton ($9 million).

The interesting thing about the Beatles 09/09/09 revival is that it has gotten me newly interested in the Beatles, again. Not that they ever fell very far from my heart. But watching all the specials reinvigorated my ears. Seeing the Paul McCartney ABC special on that aired Thanksgiving night reminded me of Lennon playing the organ with his elbow on I’m Down at Shea Stadium in 1965.

I haven’t actually GOTTEN any new music – the Beatles in Mono box set is on the Christmas list – but just reading about the differences in the recordings, especially the white album has gotten me excited.

Did I ever mention that, years ago, I received a picture of the Imagine square at Strawberry Fields in NYC? It sits over the entryway from the living room to the hallway.

Ah, the picture above is from LIFE again. It’s from 1980, but I didn’t need the caption to know that.

ROG