Thursday, July 31, 2014

Plaque buildup

Only one percent of the men who ever wound up playing major league baseball also wound up in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York,  a town which was not, as is commonly believed, named for author James Fenimore Cooper, but, rather, his father, Judge William Cooper, who founded the sleepy town in 1786.

Only one percent of the people who see recent inductee Greg Maddux's plaque at the HOF will object to the grammar violations contained thereupon, so that's how that goes.  People often tell me that grammar is an ever-evolving thing, fungible and protean.  Well, they don't put it that way, exactly.  What I hear is, "Everybody talks this way, so shove it!"

As fans of excellent woodwork enjoy seeing perfectly-dovetailed joints in a cabinet, as lovers of fine cooking oooh and aaah for the perfect soufflĂ©, as admirers of beauty relish the very sight of a sunrise over a field of lavender, so do I adulate a well-turned phrase, a perfectly-constructed paragraph, a book that I will re-read just for the experience of wading in the words the author chose.  I'm not saying this is for everyone.  If you're happy with John Grisham or James Redfield, fine!

But look at the Maddux plaque.  "Preparation, command and study of batters made him part-scientist, part-artist, winning..."  A part-scientist would be someone involved in the scientific study of parts! A part-artist would be someone making art of parts!   This overuse of hyphens is like the signs on certain auto shops lettered "ALL-TYPES-REPAIR'S   MECHANIC-ON-DUTY" or the one around the corner from us: "FIREWOOD-FOR SALE."  A dash is supposed to be used to set off parenthetical sentence elements, not as a spacer between words. 

And also, as Mr Olbermann said, the look on Mr Maddux's face on the plaque is like the look he'd have if someone walked up and said his car was on fire outside.  

The Hall of Fame will have to do better by the time Adam Jones is inducted!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A sweet little vignette from a summer afternoon...

There's a family up the street from us here on the court; we hardly know them at all.  It makes me sad to realize that's how things are in America 2014, because when I was a kid, everybody up and down the street knew everyone else down and up the street.  It was great then, but it's not that way anymore, and why even talk about it?  We're fortunate to have good neighbors on either side of us, and no one is throwing hams at our house like the people who live next to Oz E. Osbourne have to put up with.

One thing that hasn't changed, never has and never will...boys and girls, they will get together. This family has a daughter; I guess she is maybe 13 or 14. She walks past our house during the school year, going to or coming from school, and the poor thing carries so many books, and I guess a laptop, a printer and a French horn in her backpack that she resembles nothing quite as much as the cover to Led Zeppelin IV.  

She usually has the dour expression of someone sentenced to middle school, for which I really can't blame her, but I always try to say something encouraging or at least pleasant when I see her mosey by.  Talking to people who may or may not wish to talk back is an old family habit.

But the other day, it was all different.  I raised the garage door just as she walked by with a male kid about her age.  In the time-honored fashion of 7th graders, they were giggling and goofing.  I was headed for the Bag 'N' Save, and as I drove down the hill, I saw them turn to make sure they were out of eyeshot of curious eyes located inside her house, and they gave each other the most chaste little peck and hug around the neck you ever saw. It was just the cutest thing you ever saw.  Older kids, you see them saying goodbye to each other at mall dropoff points and high school detention halls, and it looks like a four-armed amoeba eddying around, osculating and schqueezing and so on. But not these youngsters, not at 13.

And even though Hamas and Israel are bombing the hell out of each other and big old jet airliners are being blown out of the sky and the Russians can't get along with themselves and 21,000 children die around the world every day and the ecology is all shot and the bee population is being wiped out, two kids are going to flirt and hold hands and exchange a sweet little kiss on the sidewalk in front of the house down the street.  

The good parts, somehow, survive.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

By Any Other Name

I think it all started with Bruce Boxleitner.

Boxleitner, the actor, came along in the 1980s and if he wasn't the first, he was among the first of the people from "fair and frantic Hollywood" who did not change their name to something, like "Brice Box."

Even before that, performers were breaking their necks to run to the courthouse to change their names, which is why you never heard anyone talk about Arnold George Dorsey, the noted singer. He only became "noted" after he changed his name to Engelbert Humperdinck, ripping off the name of the German composer who tossed "Hänsel und Gretel" into the musical oven.  Humperdinck the singer became popular in the 60s, the decade in which it became fashionable to stop naming movies "Dark Obsession" and start calling them "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad."

Listen, I lived through all that and I never did get the point. Anyhow, time was when a guy named Arthur Kelm showed up to try his hand at movie acting, and some guy behind a desk puffing on a Cheroot said, through a veil of smoke, "All right, see?  We'll call you 'Tab Hunter'!"
Bernard Schwartz

Thus did Roy Fitzgerald become Rock Hudson, Bernard Schwartz became Tony Curtis, and Aaron Chwatt became Red Buttons, although I think there would have been a certain great value in going around being named Aaron Chwatt, Man of A Thousand Gags.

Women?  Same deal. Tula Ellice Finklea = Cyd Charisse. Shirley Schrift = Shelley Winters, and Lucille Fay LeSueur = Joan Crawford.

I think there needs to be a Name Commission to decide these names, because I think that "P.J. Clapp" is a far better name for the man we know and love as Johnny Knoxville.  The Knoxville name should have been saved and given to someone who desperately needed a fake moniker.

So hold on, Benedict Cumberbatch!  We'll think of something!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Would You Believe..?

As if there wasn't enough else to worry about in the mid-to-late 1960s, people liked to sit around inventing crazy stories, one of which was that Paul McCartney had been slain in a bloody car crash.  That story amused swingin' London for a week or two in 1967, buttressed by shreds of facts (McCartney's car was in a wreck, but it was being driven by someone who worked for him, and he did wipe out on his moped, chipping a tooth and scarring his otherwise stiff upper lip.  He grew a mustache to hide the scar) and people's natural love of pure bullhockey.

And then came 1969, when a fool named Tim Harper (who had like totally, heard all about Paul being dead from a friend who knew a guy who knew the coroner...) wrote a "news story" which appeared in the Times-Delphic, the student newspaper of the Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Next thing you know, a DJ who should have known better, one Russ Gibb, on WKNR-FM, took a call from a listener who said that Paul was dead, and if Gibb would simply play "Revolution 9" backwards, everyone could hear the Beatles chant “turn me on, dead man.” And then, someone wrote an article in another college newspaper about this great plot to cover up the death of Paul McCartney, and Russ Gibb, seeking an easier way to turn a quick couple of dollars than doing one more teen dance, produced a radio documentary, laying out all the made-up facts.   For weeks, an anxious nation - yea, the world - awaited confirmation that the man who later wrote "Silly Love Songs" was alive to sing them.  Clues were discussed - he was the only one walking barefoot on the Abbey Road album! - the license tag was 28IF, meaning he would have been 28 IF he had lived! - Lennon mutters "I buried Paul" because who would mumble the words "Cranberry sauce" on a record?!

As was often the case, nothing was clear until LIFE magazine came out in November, with proof that Paul was alive and well and living among many sheep on a farm in Scotland.  In the magazine, McCartney told fans that “Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” paraphrasing Mark Twain. “However, if I was dead, I’m sure I’d be the last to know.”

You can add "the last to know" to the people in our town who choose to believe and spread ridiculous myths, the two most often-repeated of which are that a politician and newscaster got busy and had a baby, and that a ballplayer beat up an actor in a jealous rage.  You ask for evidence, and all you get is "I knew a guy who talked to a guy whose uncle was like totally there!" People who believe and retell these stories always quote a high-ranking police officer as the source of their veracity.

Sergeant Pepper.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Rerun...from January 2011...Peanut Butter and Traffic Jam

Wow, is all we could say.  On Wednesday, the Baltimore area had a once-in-a-lifetime weather and traffic mess, which will give us something to chatter about in malls, office lunchrooms, hair "saloons" and small claims courts for years to come.

The day dawned with a couple of inches of snow dappling our landscape, and if you haven't had your landscape dappled lately, let me tell you, you're missing out.  The weather people had been saying that it would start to rain overnight and rain like all get-out during the day, so it snowed instead and then the sky turned rather pouty and rainy.  Then the weather people said it would start to snow just about the time everyone left to go home from work, but we took a wait-and-see attitude  toward that.  I get off at 3:30, and when I headed home it was raining sort of hard.  I stopped for gas on the way, and the wind kept blowing my hood off my hooded chore jacket, and then by the time I got back to the Lazy 'C' Ranch here, it was sleeting.

Peggy and I enjoyed a nice dinner and, unable to take our usual 20-minute after dinner walk on the court we live on, we took walks around the house we live in.  I was going up and down stairs for exercise, walking through the house, and had the odd experience of running into Peggy as she left the dining room.  "Hi there, " I said, with an amiable nod.  No, we're not insane.  Really.

So, with nothing on TV, I was idly thumbing through Facebook and started seeing messages from people who were stuck in huge traffic jams on the beltway and other highways.  I mean, it was like 8 o'clock, 9 o'clock, quarter to ten, and they had left their work at 4, 4:30, 5!  Seven hours became the commute home for many people, and no, they were not cheered to think that on another night - most ANY other night - they could have shuffled off to Buffalo in that much time!

What happened was the perfect storm, the one with no Geo. Clooney.  The snow got fierce just as the traffic did, and how are you gonna get a snow plow through to plow the snow off streets already clogged with SUVs? Reports of people waiting two hours on a Beltway exit ramp surfaced.  Our favorite traffic reporter Candace Dold reported that it took her 7 1/2 hours to get to work - a normal 30-minute ride.  Highways were shut down, cars were abandoned, people slept in hotel lobbies.  And one person decided to go the wrong way on a major highway.

And then later, the streets were clear!  Zipadeedoodah!

This seems like a good time to remind one and all living in areas prone to snow of several things. First, sneak out of work early when a big snow is headed your way! (Not applicable to public safety personnel, news reporters, and grocery store cashiers!) Second, in the winter time, keep the car full of gas as much as you can - lots of people ran out of gas on the beltway. And it's a good idea to keep some granola bars, peanut butter doodads and bottles of water in the car just in case.

And also - an empty water bottle.  You'll see why!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, July 26, 2014

Here's an interesting picture from when Dick Cheney was much younger...we call it "Just Two Guys Who Went Hunting By Bicycle"
A lifetime of advice on one simple license tag.  You never know how far it is to the next WaWa.
So many people show those "Keep Calm and Carry On" signs from World War II as the English demonstrated how to keep a stiff upper lip.  But there is always a "but" to these things.  2.45 million copies of the signs - this one, "Keep Calm and Carry On" and "Freedom Is In Peril. Defend It With All Your Might" that England printed were never distributed!  After they were made, the British government decided that the mottoes were patronising and divisive, so they sat in storage until being pulped for other paper uses.  A few copies survived, someone posted one in an antique shop, and millions of copies were made, setting off the craze for memories of things as they never really were.
 I love the name of the "Drug City" drugstore in Dundalk, MD, but this one from Hollywood, CA, from 1965, shows a similar cool name.
A fellow named Bill Holsten took this shot of a Chestnut-mandibled Toucan and you have to say this bird looks happy in his domain!         (
Three cheers for the opera parking lot in Estonia, where they have a sense of humor about the gate blade.  But I also take cheer from knowing that Estonians can enjoy a double-meat footlong BMT before enjoying "The Barber of Seville."

Friday, July 25, 2014

They're not right about your rights

As football training camps open, we find that people who choose to discriminate and make ridiculous statements about others are already in mid-season form, forcing the rest of us to double up on our intake of slurs and innuendoes, just to stay up with the dumb utterances of people such as Lauren Cox and Tony Dungy, the latter of whom I used to respect a lot.

We start with Mrs Cox, the wife of a man with the greatest job in the world, save for Charlie Watts, the drummer for the Rolling Stones.  Morgan Cox is the Ravens' long snapper, which means that he gets a good sideline seat for all the games and only has to get off the bench when there's a kick coming - a field goal, extra point or punt.  When called upon, he uses his natural ability to hunch over and hike a football backwards from between his legs, to the holder or punter a few yards back. Then he blocks opponents as needed and goes back to the seat he only recently vacated and watches the rest of the game, or eats a hot dog, or whatever.

Cox is married to the former Lauren Bell, who writes a blog she calls "The Nomad Notepad."  You might expect that she would write about how great it is to have plenty of money, good health and all the advantages of living in prosperity, but nooooooooo! Last week, she chose to complain about the ESPY awards, and how Drake was making jokes about athletes fooling around with loose women. She was aghast that anyone would make a joke about such things!  Why, she has “shed tears with so many friends over the issue Drake mocked tonight”!

Maybe your friends need to choose better husbands, is all I'm saying.

She writes like a high school kid who just found out about Pearl Harbor ("Some may think that the families of these players just disappear from August to January while our men are hard at work providing your entertainment as we eat our Thanksgiving meals alone, but you are extremely mistaken.") Poor Lauren, pickin' at a wishbone while trying to scrape by on the $630,000 salary her husband makes.  

And speaking of Pearl Harbor, she makes an inapt comparison when she says that Michael Sam is like Hitler and the 9/11 terrorists, because Sam, who only wants to be an NFL player and an out gay man at the same time, believes he is doing what he has the right to do, and so did Hitler as he killed "hundreds of thousands of people" (only off by about 5.5 million there, Lauren) and so did the Twin Towers murderers.  Anyone who believes they are doing the right thing winds up in the same sin bin, to her.

You can read it for yourself if you wish, and even enjoy her unapologetic apology ("I apologize for those that I have have offended") if you want.  You'll think you're back in Creative Writing 11,   I tell you. 

And then Tony Dungy, the former coach and current TV analyst, winds up and opens up his thoughts about how he would not have chosen Michael Sam to play on his team.  "Not because I don't believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn't want to deal with all of it,” Dungy said.  “It’s not going to be totally smooth … things will happen.’’

So many groups, so many individuals, have been kept out of so many things for so many years because "things will happen."  And Dungy is the man appointed by the league to be Michael Vick's personal mentor when Vick got out of prison after serving a sentence for his unspeakable cruelty to animals, and the man who once said he embraced a constitutional amendment making same-sex marriage illegal. 

But in the world where Lauren B. Cox and Tony Dungy live, gay people, Hitler, the 9/11 hijackers and every other sinful thing are all mixed up in this big conspiracy to derail their happy little world where all couples have to be boy-girl and no one gets to live the way THEY want to without checking with the Dungy-Cox Committee On How You Have To Live.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Vested Interest

Mark Ramiro, 30, of Baltimore, will be a guest in the city's hoosegow until sometime in August, awaiting trial on first-degree murder, second degree murder and two gun charges.

Unlike most people charged with murder in The City That Reads, who tend to be murderers who kill rival drug dealers or people who have failed to show them sufficient respect in their day-to-day billingsgate, Ramiro finds himself cooling his heels because he and his late friend Darnell Mitchell came up with the idea, at four in the morning of July 16, to make a "Jackass"-style video.

"Jackass" movies and TV shows are fun to watch because they present talented, idiotically fearless stunt performers snorting wasabi, crawling nekkid through a room full of set mousetraps, and launching themselves skyward on giant human slingshots.  I watch them, I laugh like a ninny, and I have no more interest in recreating those scenes than I do invading France to re-do "The Longest Day."  Most people realize that there is a difference between the PERFORMERS in a show and the AUDIENCE of the show.

Messrs. Ramiro and Mitchell seem not to have understood. When they hauled out the old video camera to capture images of themselves licking a toilet, that was one thing.  But then Mitchell put on a bulletproof vest and announced that he was ready to be shot with a "deuce-deuce" (a .22 revolver, popular with gun lovers who enjoy shooting their friends.) According to city police, Ramiro pulled the trigger as the video rolled, and the bullet he fired missed the vest, but not his friend, whose life ended right there and then.

Apparently, none of the participants watched the warning at the beginning of the real Jackass movies. (left)
Ramiro's attorney, Christopher Flohr, said in court, as bail was denied Ramiro,  "It was a tragic, tragic accident between friends fueled by alcohol and drug abuse," Flohr said. "There's no way to explain people messed up on drugs and alcohol."

Well, there is always the explanation that people messed up on drugs and alcohol operate with impaired judgement...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Inseams to me, pants aren't all that important anyway

Every July, for three of the hottest days since they unhinged the doors to Hell, Baltimore hosts a large outdoor art shindig known as Artscape. There are usually cases of people passing out from the heat, there are free-bottled-water handouts set up 20 yards from the guy selling cold bottled water for a buck a pop, and there are misting stations where you can get even wetter than the sweat has already made you so you can return to looking at the attractions.

Well, this year, the entire mid-Atlantic region was bathed in cooler, drier weather for mid-July, which came in handy to give the local meteorologists something to burble about and something for the wry, seen-it-all news anchor to opine about ("I guess this portends a cool, dry winter, huh, Bob?") while trying to figure out how to pronounce Auchentoroly, as in Auchentoroly Terrace, a street down near the zoo. (It's AWKen-trolley, btw.)

Well, fearing that Baltimore's many art lovers would have nothing but art to discuss at Artscape, a band of people opposed to wearing pants managed to avoid having everything come apart at the seams. You can't hem them in, that's for sure. And as fast as they could, they dropped trou and paraded around in their undies. For a public exhibit which once featured as art a car completely covered in glued-on bottle caps, this was enough to generate some attention.

Justin Bieber?  Mindy Kaling?  You tell me!
The group calls themselves "No Pants No Problem" and you can see their Facebook page right here.  They put together a flash mob, no pun intended, and had a big time at Artscape.

If they were hoping for public acceptance, they got it.  Who really cares if someone is browsing through art while wearing a bikini bottom or a pair of plaid boxers or some tighty-whiteys?  Those who would say it's immoral or improper haven't been to a beach or a high school since The Partridge Family was on.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jump in, if you know the words

You never know from day to day what's going to happen to you, but you can minimize your chances of falling off a 33-story building by not getting on the roof of a 33-story building and fooling around by the edge.

It's really up to you.

Likewise, if you juggle sharp knives or whirring chainsaws, you stand a much better chance of needing many more Band-Aids than someone who is reading, and needs fear only the occasional paper cut.

Dr. Petty
It's your choice.  Which brings us to Dr John Petty, 63, formerly of Longview, TX.  An educated man, clearly, and a fan of scuba diving and underwater photography.  

I'll bet you a dollar there were lots of pictures of coral reefs and sunken ships and passing angelfish all over the waiting room of his chiropractic office back home in Longview.  Going underwater and taking pictures of what you see - that's a cool hobby.

Last Sunday, Dr Petty added "swimming with sharks" off the Bahamas to the hobby, and after a 64-hour search over 4600 miles, the Coast Guard suspended their search for his remains.  His diving vest and some other gear, shredded by you-know-what, were recovered.

I don't mean to make light of the man's passing, but this was totally preventable.  Some of us seem to get an adrenalin rush from cheating the hangman, running with the bulls in Pamplona, jumping into the lion's den at the zoo, taunting the sharks where they live.

Dude.  It's their ocean.  Jump in, and they might feel threatened, and bite your head off.  It's the underwater version of Stand Your Ground, and that's the only place it makes much sense.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Same pew, different church

Born and bred Methodist, I recognized early that part of the Method was not to be too flamboyant about the practice of religion.  Through childhood into young manhood, I sat through hundreds - thousands - of sermons, ceremonies and Sunday School lessons and never heard a raised voice, never saw a raised hand or heard any instrument besides an organ or the occasional acoustic guitar or lute for "folk services."

And none of those services ran for more than three hours, or, frankly, left me wanting more of the soul-cleansing music and words like I heard at the Baptist homegoing of our dear Deanna the other day at the Mt Sinai Baptist Church in Lansdowne, PA.

At the service, there was music, with many, many voices accompanied by, yes, an organ, but also electric guitar and bass, and drums. And this was the loud, spirit-lifting, animated of the bases of what the kids call "rock and roll," ya know?

Take away the music, and you can say the same for the preaching. This was not the "Verily, I say unto you..." sort of preaching, no sir.  This was the impassioned importuning of men leading their flock to see that their beloved Deanna has served her mission on earth and was called home.  These were the words of men who reminded us that yes, this loss is tough and it will cause pain, but not to worship the pain, to keep an eye on those better tomorrows.  The sort of funeral (that word wasn't even used on Saturday, in favor of the far more appropriate "homegoing") I am used to was all about lugubrious tones of " from dust we come and to dust we go," which is fine for as far as it goes, but it fails to celebrate what we do between those dusty days.

No.  What we attended the other day was a celebration of the life of a woman who, in the words of Pastor Thomas, "didn't have time for bitterness."  In the year or so that we knew her, we never saw Deanna say a bad word for or about any one or any thing. 

She and her goodness are up above now, along with another friend of mine and my Mom.  This triumvirate of loss since April comes to an end now, and no service or private contemplation can change that.  I'm not a man given to grieving, believing that heaven is its own reward for believers, but the service Peggy and I attended on Saturday showed me a new way to regard death. Every church, every person, has their own way of saying farewell, but I have to say, I like this emphatic sort of service.  People were involved, singing along, calling out as they wished, getting on their feet and moving to the spirit.  

In the staid, sobersided services of my childhood, if anyone left their pew, it was assumed that they had fallen asleep and slid off. Again, not a criticism.  There are different ways of doing things. What we saw Saturday was soul-stirring.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Rerun: How's your Vade Mecum doing?

Not to get too personal, but you do have a vade mecum, and to some people it's vital to have it around.

I had never heard the term before seeing it the other morning in my daily Merriam-Webster Word of the Day feed.  Here's how they define "vade mecum:"

"Vade mecum" is Latin for "go with me" (it derives from the Latin verb "vadere," meaning "to go"). In English, "vade mecum" has been used (since at least 1629) of manuals or guidebooks sufficiently compact to be carried in a deep pocket. But from the beginning, it has also been used for such constant companions as gold, medications, and memorized gems of wisdom.
It's probable that not so many people carry around any sort of pocket manual any more.  Even doctors no longer tote their 85-lb volume of the Physician's Desk Reference, which lists vital information for physicians: medications, their recommended dosages and possible interactions, and tee times at leading golf clubs.  All this information is now an app; just buy it at the App Store and download it on your phone.  Very handy.  Same thing for other handbooks and manuals.  Even the Bible is available to download.

In its other meaning, we all have Vade Mecum in the sense of stuff we Don't Leave Home Without. Wallet, keys, pocket change, pocket knife, bandanna, cell phone: that's mine, everyone has their own, and here's a big shout out to the person who invented pockets! Because we don't have but two hands!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, July 19, 2014

 The ninja warriors here posed for this picture in 1860.  It was colorized all these years later.  In case you thought flip-flops were a modern day invention, check out what they are wearing on their feet.  Why the guy on the left was wearing what looks like half a cinder block, I can't tell you, but it was 1860, you understand.
 Taken with a cell phone, somewhere on vacation in this wild summer of crazy weather.
As the story goes, this fellow was fishing for carp at a large reservoir when he accidentally dropped his billfold into the water.  He saw one fish grab it in his mouth, and then the fish just swam near the shore, seemingly inviting the man to come out and get it.  As soon as the man got close, the fish spit out the billfold and sent it to another fish.  Again, the man went after it, and that fish spat it to a third fish, and so on until the man gave up, realizing that he was the first known victim of carp-to-carp walleting.

 When you see'll see how sometimes we get more out of a situation than we put into it.
It's all fun and games when people dress their cats up as people, sure.  But when they insist that Buttons play the part of a mushroom, you have to wonder how much fun the cat is having.
This is a picture of what they call the "Old Jail" in my hometown, Towson, MD.  Built in 1855, it's a two-story Italianate style stone building, 52 feet wide and 62 feet deep.  It was used as a jail until 2006. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 26, 2009.  Now, it's been turned into offices, which must be a good feeling for workers who feel they are being held against their will.  Back in the day, they would schedule the public hangings on a Saturday at noon, so that people could come and pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the festivities.  Well, I guess all but one guy there enjoyed them.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Daffy Moon

No decent blog, written by a person with any taste of sense of elegance, would devote a day to such an unsavory topic as mooning.
And so, I would like to turn to the topic of mooning.  Our friend April caught this great picture of the supermoon the other morning. As we all know from reading Wikipedia, "a supermoon is the coincidence of a full moon or a new moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, resulting in the largest apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth. The technical name is the perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system." 

 Daphne Moon of "Frasier"
Like we didn't all know that. Even as I write, I'm gettin' syzygy wit it, and I welcome you to join me.

Mooning is described as "the recreational act of baring one's ass in public with the intention of it being seen by people who don't want, or expect, to see it."  It was practiced by many young men of my generation, who would wait for the light to turn red at Dulaney Valley Rd & Pot Spring Rd and then stick their buttocular region out of the window of Bob P's English Ford, leaving people driving Buicks aghast, I tell you.

Angus does this at
every show
I can't mention any names; I wasn't there anyway.  I was home studying.

Modern followers of hangin' a moon include Bart Simpson and AC/DC madcap Angus Young, who hedges his bet with self-promoting underwear.  As I mentioned to our April the other day, Peggy and I were married for a few years before she announced that she had never once mooned anyone and certainly had no intention of starting now.

I understand that the habit of pressing ham against a car window began when our parents, using the old-school definition of the term, told us, "You can't sit here mooning over that girl, you know" and so we went elsewhere to do our mooning.  I mean, they went elsewhere.  I stayed home studying my hypotenuse.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Things I don't understand, #13,294

You may recall the 2012 train accident in Ellicott City, MD that killed two young women.  Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr, both 19 and both just about to return to their respective colleges for the fall semester, were doing what countless other people have done in the little town for years...sitting on the CSX Railroad bridge that overlooks Main Street, passing the time, as people will do.  They were tweeting pictures of their view of the town.  "Drinking on top of the Ellicott City sign," read one tweet. "Looking down on old ec," read another.

And then the train came along at 25 miles per hour. It was was 3,000 feet long and weighed 9,000 tons. The train derailed and the load of coal it carried spilled over, asphyxiating the young women.

At first, the speculation ran towards the notion that the engineer saw Elizabeth and Rose, hit the brake, and tried to stop the train, causing the derailment, but that seems not to be the case.  We can't be sure what the train driver saw, but this week the National Transportation Safety Board released a long report about their investigation of the accident.  One item brought out is that a break in the rail, a break that was somehow missed when the track was inspected the day before the accident, likely was the cause.  This is a long and curvy track, and it's interesting to note that it is part of the very first commercial rail line in America, running from Baltimore to Ellicott City.

In spite of the fact that the two women were on railroad property at the time, "The families and our attorneys are determined to hold CSX fully accountable," said Eric Nass, father of Elizabeth. The Nass family is represented by by the law firm Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, which specializes in rail disaster litigation nationwide.

(Tell me, sir, was there a day while you sat in law school, and you decided on which type of suit to pursue as a living?  Did "I'll sue railroads!" just come to you out of the blue?)

According to the story in the Baltimore SUN, "Ronald Goldman, lead trial counsel at Baum Hedlund, said given all the problems noted with the local tracks, the families want a "public apology" from CSX for their daughters' deaths.

"CSX owes this family a public apology for what occurred, rather than hiding behind arcane trespass statutes," Goldman said.
He said the families also would seek a financial settlement.

Arcane means "understood by few; mysterious or secret."
Trespass means "the crime of going on someone's land without permission."

Crash aftermath
Sorry as I am that these two young ladies lost their lives, I don't see how the families have a claim against the railroad upon whose property they were sitting, without permission, at the time of the tragedy.  If someone were to walk into my house without my permission and cut his finger off with the Ginsu knife he was using without permission, I would not feel like it were my fault.

But just to be safe, I am checking with the legal team at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman.  Their website brags about recovering over 1.2 billion dollars through over 8,000 cases successfully handled since 1973.  They must be really good at this.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Moving along

The noted former basketball star, sports commentator and commercial pitchman Shaquille O'Neal recently took to Instagram to convey his thoughts on the LeBron James commotion.

For the benefit of our many reader in Latvia, Mr James is a professional basketball player from the state of Ohio who stepped right out of high school and went to work in his home state, playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers for a few years.  Then, sensing a chance to play with better players and make that big championship money, he left Ohio to move to Florida.  Capping off the media frenzy that had all of America agog, LeBron went on live TV and said "Um, in this fall -- man, this is very tough -- um, in this fall I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and, um, join the Miami Heat."  Spurned Ohioans revolted, burning his replica jerseys and posting "LeBum" signs all over town.  They seethed as he played in Miami and won several championships, yet they had no way to know that somehow, deep within, he yearned to return to Cleveland, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Drew Carey.

So this year, after the Heat lost in the championship series, LeBron's restless feet took him back to Cleveland, where he will once again resume playing for the Cavs this fall.  And now, people in Miami are all worked up about it, sort of like when the guy your girlfriend left you for hollers because she came back to you.

It's so confusing, but O'Neal puts in perspective with this fashion show of the many jerseys he wore during his storied career.  He's making a good point.  We love the American Way, where a person can develop a product and sell it for whatever the market will bring, right?  And we love the rags-to-riches story of Bill Gates, after being picked on by every other kid in his school, coming up with this computer thing so they can play World Of Warfare all day long while he warms up his quiche with lighted hundred-dollar bills.

If you work at a grocery store and another store offers you more money and better hours, you are free to turn in your apron and scoot on out, and the customers don't find you disloyal, but let an athlete change jobs, and the air turns blue with people screaming that he lacks devotion.

As long as they don't do it in the middle of a game, it's got to be OK.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Do you know who I am?" "No, who are you?"

The NFL season hasn't even started yet; the local eleven, the Baltimore Ravens, start their summer rehearsals in nine days are already leading the league.

In arrests, we're number one.  

This past Saturday, starting cornerback Jimmy Smith was arrested in The Greene Turtle in Towson.  This is one of those places that has a double life...Cobb salads and burgers for the courthouse lunch crowd weekday afternoons, and cocktails and beer for the people who should be home long before they close, but aren't.  According to county police, Smith was in the ladies room propping up a woman who was doing the technicolor yawn all over the place, and he refused to leave when EMS arrived to treat her properly.  He got all up in the officer's grille ("What the f*** are you gonna do?” F*** you, what the f*** are you gonna do?”) and what the officer did do was walk him past the grill and then past the grille of a Ford sedan before placing him a) under arrest and b) in the back seat of the Ford. 

I am not writing about the actions of Smith.  I have come to expect very little in the way of decent behavior from young men who, from childhood, have been told they can behave any way they please because they can catch a ball or tackle someone trying to do the same.  He'll be fined by the County and dealt with by the Ravens and the National Football League, whose attorneys are busier than that Dog The Bounty Hunter guy at a buffet. Smith will realize, many years from now, that as long as he was able to flatten ballcarriers on a football field and separate other men from a ball they are trying to catch, we will be paid well, and once he loses those abilities, he will be another palooka selling his memorabilia.

I'm thinking about the people who broke their necks to write on the news sites all weekend about how those dirty coppers had no right to stop Smith, when all he was doing was helping his friend. While HE was in the ladies room with said friend. Who was drunk. In public. And blowing groceries all over a restroom.  And who refused to follow the lawful orders of a police officer and cursed the police.  You have to believe that a large portion of his supporters are otherwise strong law-and-order supporters who would be outraged if the person cursing and challenging the cops was Jimmy Smith the guy who delivers the deodorant cakes to the urinals.  But no!  This guy is a RAVEN!  So look the other way!

My favorite part, from the police report: 

 While at Towson Precinct, Defendant Smith informed Ofc. Slenker “The only reason you arrested me is so you could get on the news.”  Ofc. Slenker informed the defendant that he did not know who he was and it would not have made a difference in the outcome of the incident.

The defendant then stated “You will see this tomorrow on ESPN.” 

Of course, this brings to mind the classic story of the man arrested and hauled into court, saying "Do you know who I am?" and the judge holding him for mental evaluation since he apparently had amnesia or something. 

In happier days.
John Harbaugh, coach of this motley crew, will sputter and stammer all over the place and vow to get them to behave. They are young men with tons of money and not enough to do until it's time to play ball.  Good luck with that. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

That Rendezvous

Alan Seeger, Harvard-educated, was killed in war.  He wrote the masterful poem "I Have a Rendezvous with Death" before joining the French Foreign Legion to fight in World War I.  I don't often share poetry here, but I would like you to read this one.

"I Have a Rendezvous with Death"

I have a rendezvous with Death  
At some disputed barricade,  
When Spring comes back with rustling shade  
And apple-blossoms fill the air—  
I have a rendezvous with Death       
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.  
It may be he shall take my hand  
And lead me into his dark land  
And close my eyes and quench my breath—  
It may be I shall pass him still.   
I have a rendezvous with Death  
On some scarred slope of battered hill,  
When Spring comes round again this year  
And the first meadow-flowers appear.  
God knows 'twere better to be deep   
Pillowed in silk and scented down,  
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,  
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,  
Where hushed awakenings are dear...  
But I've a rendezvous with Death   
At midnight in some flaming town,  
When Spring trips north again this year,  
And I to my pledged word am true,  
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

Seeger mentions pretty Spring days with apple-blossoms, little signs of new life returning in the flush sunny afternoons of April and May, and he mentions midnight in some flaming town.  We don't get to choose between the two.

My mother's recent death came between the deaths of two other people, two friends who left entirely too early...In April, a friend was taken in a house fire, and just the other day, a young woman very dear to us succumbed to meningitis.  As opposed to Mom's passing, which came after years of battling several debilitating conditions and four-score plus years of a sweet and happy life, both of the others were taken by foes that came out of nowhere, like thieves in the night, carrying away lives, loves and futures.

We don't get to choose.  It just doesn't seem to matter how many times we get a reminder that when we bid a friend or loved one goodbye, it might be the very last chance we ever get to do so. We'll still fret about stuff that won't mean doodly in two weeks or two minutes, or get steamed because someone butted up in line at the carwash, or envy the neighbor's new vacation getaway in the Gilligan Islands.  A precious child is killed in a freakish wind-and-rain storm,  while at the same time, people are spending time arguing about some stupid political matter.

We don't get to choose. We'd all like to go in our sleep, or just after a great round of golf (Bing Crosby) or just dashing through a field of a field of forget-me-nots on a spring day "when the first meadow-flowers appear."

We don't get to choose. We have no options as to the time of year or the time of your life, so you might as well go have the time of your life right today. That's the message I keep getting from beyond.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Rerun: Book review corner: "The Entertainer"

When people talk about Lyle Talbot these days...well, they really don't talk about Lyle Talbot all that often.

You remember him if a) you've been around a while and b) you like B-movies and 50's sitcoms such as "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," in which Lyle played that annoying neighbor who always borrows your hedge clippers.

His career ended in many years ago; his life ended in 1996.

And yet, there is renewed interest in ol' Lyle these days because he and his fifth wife Paula gave the world four outstanding children.  Steven Talbot played Beaver's troublemaking buddy Gilbert on "Leave It To Beaver," and is today a well-known director of documentary films.  David, his other son, is an author and the founder of the great website  There were two daughters: Cindy, who is a family physician and medical school professor, and Margaret, who is a writer for the greatest magazine of all time, The New Yorker.

Margaret has written a book, just out, about her father - and as she weaves his tale, she also does a simply splendid job interweaving the history of American entertainment in the 20th Century. Lyle was born Lisle Hollywood Henderson (not to be confused with Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson of the Dallas Cowboys) in 1902.  His middle name came from his grandmother's maiden name, and the Henderson was lost when his mother died shortly after he was born.  His grandmother took the infant in and gave him her married surname, Talbot.

From an early age, young Lisle (he changed that later too!) was involved with magic shows and traveling tent shows that played the midwestern circuit around his native Nebraska, finally hooking on with a theater troupe as a teenager.  From there, it was a few magic steps to winding up in Hollywood at the beginning of the talking pictures era, being a founder of the Screen Actors Guild and settling down after four failed marriages and a significant alcohol habit.

His Wikipedia page will give you the details about the hundreds of shows - movies, TV, Broadway theater - in which Lyle Talbot was involved.  The book is fascinating, as it carries his story through the development of the movie, TV and theater industry.  Lyle was there for everything, and while he never became a big star, and is certainly not all that well-known as compared to guys like Bogart and Gable and Cagney, his story is every bit as interesting.

The title of the book, "The Entertainer," says a lot about the man.  Toward the end of his life, long after he retired, he went with his son to a revival showing of one of his 30's pictures, and as the lights came up at the end, the audience recognized him and the old showman in him enjoyed every second of the adulation.  How gratifying that must have been!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, July 12, 2014

You need to hydrate all year long, and it's never more important than it is in summertime.  Peggy was out front watering the hydrangea one time and the newspaper delivery guy asked if he could have a turn at the hose.  She turned it over to him and he guzzled like Ahab's camel Clyde.  Hose water is not the gourmet choice, but it's still wet and it gets cool enough if you let it run awhile. This person is very kind to share their water this way.
This is the final stage of a mural that someone painted on their child's bedroom wall.  They projected the original Calvin and Hobbes artwork onto the wall to make a pencil outline, and then filled in the colors with watered-down acrylic paints.  I just hope they never move, or they will want to remove the entire bedroom wall.
I have a friend from work who once donated a couple of feet of her stunning red hair to Locks Of Love, the outfit that makes wigs of donated human hair for cancer victims who have lost their own. My friend got the loveliest note from a young lady who was then able to walk around without being stared at, and she was kindly appreciative.  The woman pictured here gave up 17" of beautiful blondeness, and says she is getting criticized for her new hairdid.  I think it looks fine either way and I have to shake my head if her friends know why she got it cut and still run her down.
 You remember "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen, right?  Well, say hi to the surfin' llama, and please call him a "yama" instead of a "lama" unless you also agree to say "torTILLa" instead of "torTEEya."  "LL" is a letter all to itself in Spanish.
 How about this rusty old '61 Chevy in an auto waste yard?  Some sort of Buick - maybe an old Special - is in the left foreground and that looks like a Pontiac Bonneville from about 1966 or so. What makes this different is, this is a RUSSIAN auto wasteland!
I saw this tip someplace and pass it along out of my love for reusing things and for preventing thefts.  Take your old bottle of sunblock, wash it out thoroughly and use it as a beach safe, putting keys, money, cell etc in it while you frolic in the waves.  I also saw someone recommend hiding your essentials in a diaper and sealing it in a beach bag, on the grounds that only a maniac would open up what appears to be a used diaper.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A hero forever

The fire scene
Several weeks ago, there was a house fire in Baltimore City.  A little fellow named Decerio Coley died in the fire.  He could have escaped, but he stayed in the blazing house on Bruce Street to find his little sister Wynter and drop her safely into the arms of someone on the sidewalk.

He could have escaped then, too, but he knew his brother Sean was still in the house, so he went back in to save him. Neither boy was to emerge.

I've dealt with emergencies and fires since I was a teenager, and this story bears out one thing I've seen a thousand times:  it doesn't even matter how old one is.  If it's in you to respond correctly in a jam, you will do so.  Even at 8 years of age, Decerio knew.

“We mourn his passing, but we need to celebrate the actions of this little 8-year-old boy in his life,” said Councilman William “Pete” Welch. “We very seldom see adults do what he did. And, in a very short period of time, to develop that type of character and love is enormous,” he added.

To honor his commitment to family, the city named the young man's block Decerio Coley Way as a way of reminding all "what it means to be loving and brave," said community members at the recent street-naming dedication ceremony.

Right after an emergency or tough situation, you will often find people strutting around, talking about how much they did to help, what they would have done had they been in charge, or how everyone else did everything wrong.  It's a good idea to avoid these people.  It's July, after all, and if you need hot air, you can just step outside and get all you want.

The next time you see an emergency unfold, watch for the person who is not running around hollering, but quietly doing what needs to be done.  Their instincts to do the right thing kick in, and they get the job done.  Young Decerio had those instincts.  I doubt that he had studied what to do to rescue his baby sister.  He saw something that needed to be done, something that required the biggest sacrifice of all, and he did it.

If you would like to help the McCullough family, M&T Bank is administering a fund. Contact them at any branch, in honor of a little guy who did more than a lot of big guys ever would.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Them Modern Gimcracks

The most cursed-at object in our home, beside the autographed picture of Shirley Phelps, is the combination printer/scanner/copier/deep fryer/carpet steamer with the personal computer.  It suffers paper jams, it gets balky, it makes 0 copies when I want 10 of something and 10 when I want 1 of something.  Sometimes I even hear it laughing at me as I press its power button again and again and again.

And yet, when it works...what a miracle!  When Peggy brings me a legal document or a bill of which she needs a copy, it's a lot faster to use the old HP Deskjet F4440 than it is to run to the grocery store with a few quarters in my pockets.   If they even still HAVE those Xerox-Ur-Self machines at the Try 'N' Save.  Where would be without our pcs and printers?

And remember heating up leftovers in the oven, or waiting 45 minutes for a TV dinner to cook in the Norge oven?  Half the time, I gave up, put a stick in it, and made a beef dinner popsicle of it.  But microwaves came along and where would be without them?

We'd be in the dark, often, without flashlights, and now that they have the LED variety instead of the old 1/2-watt bulb, we can actually see stuff in the dark!

The Keurig machine, which took away the need to make enough coffee for a beatnik convention!  The cordless house phone, so we can sit on the porch and use our Electric Bug Zapper while enjoying a nice summer evening swelter!  Pre-Wash fabric sprays to take away the shame of a coffee stain from your new white polo shirt!

And Google maps, with the talking geo-person in your cell phone to figure out how to get from point A to point B. Quite literally, where would we be without GPS?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What they don't know

Except for suits and other bespoke apparel, I get all of my clothing from the good people over at Eddie Bauer (shirts) or LL Bean (jeans and pants), so I don't know from American Apparel. I certainly don't believe they'd have the sort of retired-guy-casual clothing that I favored long before becoming an actual retired guy, and it would be like repeating my Zumiez experience if I were to ankle into one of their stores.  I needed to purchase a gift card for a young friend of ours once, and entered a Zumiez store, only to be regarded like a cheeseburger in a punchbowl at a high-class party.  The kids working there, in speaking to me, managed to lower one eyebrow while raising the other, no mean feat.

But this weekend, AmAp made a BooBoo that you need to be aware of in case you need an excuse for not knowin' stuff. To salute the Fourth of July, they ran a picture on Tumblr of the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion, with a red sky as background, and hashtags “#smoke” and “#clouds.”

Of course, as anyone with 1/2 an education knows, this is the picture that shows the Challenger being blown to bits, taking seven brave souls with it.  It was in all the papers and everything, but this person with a position of importance in this company did not know that.  The company hastened to blame it all on his/her youth:

So, while we take a moment to shake our heads at just what these smarty-pants kids DON'T know and don't seem to care about not knowing, it now looks like you can be blissfully unaware of the following events, if they took place before you assumed your place among the quick:
The Magna Carta, Marco Polo's travels, the Renaissance, the bubonic plague, the Canterbury Tales, the Gutenberg Bible, Columbus's voyage to the New World, Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel, the Gregorian Calendar, the construction of the Taj Mahal, the Industrial Revolution, Mozart, Beethoven, the US Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, the Revolutionary War, Darwin's "On the Origin of Species," the telephone, the electric light, the airplane, the theory of relativity, World War I, the birth control movement, the Bolshevik Revolution, the “Spanish flu” epidemic, television, the U.S. stock market crash, World War II, Atomic bombs, the electronic computer, the discovery of DNA's structure, and Brown Vs. Board of Education. 

Ain't it fun, not knowin' nuttin'?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"...Shock DJs...whose cruelty and profanity amuse us all!" - Bart Simpson

It was a random comment someone made on Facebook the other day, in reference to this Anthony Cumia person, of "Opie and Anthony," a pair of shock jocks on the satellite radio that people on long car rides listen to out of sheer boredom.

Last week, late one night, Cumia went to Times Square in New York City and pulled out his camera to start taking pictures of people.

Who does that, outside of a Walmart?

Anyway, a woman did not like him taking pictures of her, although the law does tend to favor his side of it.  They got into a tussle, a melee, a fracas, you might say.  He took her picture, she didn't like it, words were exchanged.  That used to be where it ended.

But this is 2014, so Cumia had to go on Twitter to tell his story and say some really nasty things about the woman, and because his rants were so hate-filled, he was fired by the satellite radio network that people listen to on long car rides.

And then it was really on!  Fans of his radio show piled on, erroneously claiming that his First Amendment rights were being infringed upon.  The Constitution does not forbid your employer from firing you for making insane statement, however.

Cumia's posh Long Island home
And then the other side weighed in, saying that Cumia should have just stayed in his posh Long Island home and not bothered people by waving his camera at them.

And then came the comment I saw:

"When did being obnoxious become acceptable?"

They pay him millions
and he still can't be nice
A good question.  It seems to me that we - and by 'we' I mean most every person in the world except for a few cloistered religious who only speak to call the others in for vespers and meals, and lighthouse keepers on the rocky coast of Maine - all have a tendency to say things we shouldn't.  I'm certainly well ahead of the pack on that one, and I do try to stop picking on fools as often as I do.  But to call other people vicious hurtful names because they don't like posing for your late-night pictures in public places?  To wish that politicians would die in fiery infernos?  To post pictures of others photoshopped to look like they were doing something awful? To leave your shopping cart rolling around in the parking lot so it hits another car? To use vulgar language in public for the shock value of it?  To humiliate a service worker whose first language is not English?

We can do better than that.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Sock Connection

Not to get all theological with you, but it's my belief that our friends and kinfolk up in Heaven can look down here and see what's going on, and check in on us.  

For all I know, that's true.  One thing that is certain about heaven is that no one on earth knows what it's like up there, though.

But I go with my theory because many times here on this mortal coil, I have been helped by angels unseen.  "Don't connect that red wire with the green one!" they importune.  "Don't try to pass that truck on the right during a heavy thunderstorm in the dark!" they entreat.  "That's enough garlic!" they plead.  

Mr Keillor
My father has been a resident of Heaven since 1997 and he just recently had my mom move up there with him.  He's been busy these 17 years, advising me on many topics.  And every Saturday night, we commune for two hours with the radio show "A Prairie Home Companion," whose host is Garrison Keillor.  Keillor is a fascinating polymath, a man who knows a lot about most every important thing and can do most every worthwhile task, e.g. writing prose and poetry, radio and commercial announcing (listen here as he makes seven words for Honda sound like a book's worth), singing, and acting.  I don't know if he can dance...

Dad liked him from the start, which was 40 years ago this past weekend.  "APHC" began on the Fourth of July, 1974, at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, before an audience that numbered in the dozen (after a few walkouts.)  The show is based on Mr Keillor's devotion to another Saturday night radio staple, the Grand Ole Opry out of Nashville, which also presents country singers, comedians and live commercials for Martha White Biscuits and Goo-Goo Clusters.  In the case of the Opry, the commercials are for real products; Mr Keillor's "sponsors" are made up entities such as Powdermilk Biscuits and Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery.

You can get to know him a little better by watching this recent interview/book plugging appearance with Craig Ferguson, and also catch this edition of his weekly "News From Lake Wobegon" on the radio show. 

My left foot
Notice that at all times, Mr Keillor is wearing red socks.  (As did Studs Terkel, as does former British Ambassador to the US Sir Christopher Meyer, as did Truman Capote. Yes, as do 25 ballplayers in Boston, but I pretend they don't matter.) And that's why I like to wear red socks, so that Dad and I can keep making that connection.   I figure he looks down and sees things are still all right.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday Rerun: "All my work has been from God, for God, and for my people." - Thomas Dorsey

I find it interesting when a person learns to do one thing well, and fascinating when someone can do two things well.  For someone who can do three things well - for example, writing, singing, and performing monologues - we have the example of Garrison Keillor.  There aren't many others like Mr Keillor, the host of "A Prairie Home Companion" on the radio.  

I will bet you a nickel that Mr Keillor has sung the songs of Thomas A. Dorsey on his show.  His later songs, that is.  Thomas A. Dorsey was an interesting man.  

Thomas A. Dorsey
For one thing, he is not to be confused with the big band leader Tommy Dorsey, who gave Sinatra his big break a hundred and ten years ago.  This Thomas A. Dorsey (1899 - 1993) is today known as the father of black gospel music, which would seem to come naturally to someone whose father was a preacher and his mother, a piano teacher.  Starting in the Roaring Twenties, he was part of such bands as the "Wild Cats Jazz Band," and he performed under names such as Barrelhouse Tom and Texas Tommy or Georgia Tom, under which sobriquet he partnered with a fellow named Tampa Red to compose the pretty love ballad "Tight Like That."  He wrote hundreds of such songs.  Local residents who used to listen to The Greaseman on the radio will remember how Grease would use Dorsey's jazzy "Somebody's Been Usin' That Thing" for comedic effect.  

However, Mr Dorsey was also dabbling in gospel music at the same time, performing at the 1930 National Baptist Convention and working as musical director in several churches.  Music, and his religious upbringing, brought the gospel out in him.

And then, in 1932, his wife Nettie died in childbirth.  Compounding the tragedy, the child she bore died two days later.  Out of the anguish of the man who only years before had written ribald barrelhouse blues came the gospel classic "Take My Hand, Precious Lord."  This song was most famous in its version by Mahalia Jackson, and it was the song played at the rally led by Dr Martin Luther King the night before he was assassinated, and the favorite song of President Lyndon Johnson, who requested that it be played at his funeral.

Mr Dorsey also wrote "Peace In the Valley" and many many other songs performed in churches of all faiths the world over.  Rock 'n' roll music has as one of its foundations the gospel music tradition, and in Thomas A. Dorsey we saw the faithful world meeting the secular long before Elvis and Little Richard joined the two.

I keep waiting to hear Paul Harvey tell us that this was the rest of the story, but oh well...