Archive for The Way We Were

There’s no exception to the rule

That bony guy in the dark robe comes calling for us all:

Cuba Gooding Sr. was found dead in his car in Los Angeles, according to ABC. He was 72.

The soul singer was reportedly found slumped over inside his car in Woodland Hills, Calif. at 12:58 p.m. on Thursday, but he could not be resuscitated by CPR. A spokesperson with the Los Angeles Fire Department would not confirm Gooding Sr’s identity, but confirmed to Variety that they responded to a call on Ventura Blvd. and determined the death of an adult male at that same time.

Gooding had four children, of whom the best known was Cuba Jr., who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Jerry Maguire (1996), playing a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. (“Show me the money!”) But you remember Cuba Sr. for this:

It jolts me a little, then a lot, to remember that “Everybody Plays the Fool” is forty-five years old.

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A tale from the Vinyl Jungle

Phase One:

“I’ll take Rock Bands for $800, Alex.”

The Cars; Eagles; Earth, Wind and Fire; Billy Joel; Little Feat; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers; Bob Seger; U2; Van Halen; and Yes.

“Who has opened for the J. Geils Band?”

Phase Two:

From Fark, four years ago:

J. Geils sues J. Geils for using the name J. Geils while J. Geils goes on tour despite not having J. Geils in the band. J. Geils unavailable for comment, but J. Geils was willing to discuss the lawsuit.

To explain:

The J. Geils Band embarked on a short U.S. tour in August/September 2012. However, they left for the tour without J. Geils. Geils filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against the other members of the group over use of the name for a tour without him. He named band members Richard Salwitz, Danny Klein, Peter Wolf and Seth Justman in the lawsuit filed in Boston Superior Court, claiming that they “planned and conspired” to continue touring without him, and were unlawfully using the group’s trademarked name. Geils, angry at his bandmates for what they did, permanently left the band.

Phase the Last:

And now “permanently” is, um, permanent:

John Warren Geils Jr., the artist known professionally as J. Geils and part of the rock group The J. Geils Band, was found dead in his Groton, Massachusetts home. He was 71.

My blood runs cold.

Nightmares … and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle, the sixth LP from Geils and then-friends, came out in 1974. And it’s a shame that whatever they once had, it must of got lost.

(List of opening acts from Dave Marsh’s The Book of Rock Lists, updated by me.)

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Meanwhile in 1964

First week of April 1964, this was the very top of the Billboard Hot 100:

Billboard Hot 100 4 April 1964

This moptop monopoly was made possible by the fact that three different record labels were involved. (Tollie was a subsidiary of Vee-Jay which released 48 singles over two years, eight of which charted, and four of which were by the Beatles.)

If this seems like a heck of a lot of Beatles, consider the next week, in which the Fab Four had a fab fourteen entries on the Hot 100, up from twelve. They’d vacated two spots in the Top 5, replaced by Terry Stafford’s “Suspicion” at #3 and Louis Armstrong’s “Hello, Dolly!” at #5, but they held down positions #7, #9, #14, #38, #48, #50, #52, #61, #74, #78 and #81. (Here’s the complete chart.)

And two more labels would eventually be involved, reissuing tracks from the 1961 Tony Sheridan sessions with “The Beat Brothers,” MGM with “My Bonnie” and “The Saints,” and Atco with “Ain’t She Sweet,” the only Sheridan track on which any Beatle sings lead. (Before you ask: it’s John.)

Still, I am heartened, five decades and change later, by the fact that there was still room in the Top Ten for the likes of Satchmo.

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Roasted hockey puck

Five million Internet trolls fancy themselves the True Successor to Don Rickles.

Not one of them comes close, or ever will.

One reason for that is that Mr. Warmth could take it as well as he could dish it out.

“You can’t study comedy; it’s within you.”

Already we miss you, Don, you knucklehead.

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Four channels and nothing on

An artifact from the early days of cable:

What I wanted to know is this: what four channels? Sault Ste. Marie had no TV stations of its own in 1969; WWUP-TV (UP, get it?), channel 10, rebroadcast WWTV, the CBS station in Cadillac, Michigan; WPBN-TV (then owned by the Paul Bunyan Network), channel 7, brought in NBC from Traverse City. There was no ABC affiliate back then, so those two split whatever ABC programs they thought might be worth carrying. (In 1971, WGTU, channel 29, would sign on from Traverse City as a full-time ABC affiliate; five years later they added a satellite on channel 8 in Sault Ste. Marie proper.) Educational TV? Maybe, if you could pick up WCMU-TV from Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant — and if you were on the cable, you probably could, even though WCMU was way out on channel 14.

Still, we’ve accounted for only three channels. For the fourth, we must venture northward. In 1955, CJIC-TV signed on from the Ontario side of the river on channel 2; it became a CBC affiliate, closing down in 2002. (It’s now rebroadcasting CBC Toronto.)

As for prices, well, $3.99 a month (we’re extrapolating from “13 cents a day”) for four channels works out to about a buck a channel. Last time I rescanned the TV I was getting 106 channels for $86, 81 cents a channel. If there were economies of scale in the cable industry, they’ve long since faded away.

(I should point out here that I’ve spent maybe half a week of my life in Michigan, and none in the Upper Peninsula; I do have a lot of reference materials, and occasionally, I have time on my hands.)

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It’s just like heaven

Rosie Hamlin wrote “Angel Baby” when she was fourteen. The record by Rosie and the Originals came out in 1960. It was their only big hit, but it was enough to sustain a career:

From a 2002 PBS special. She was fifty-seven.

And now, at 71, she dwells with the angels for all time.

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The motor cooled down

Some thoughts on the life and times of Charles Edward Anderson Berry (1926-2017), the man who caught Maybellene at the top of the hill, and much, much more.

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It should have been

We should have spent the weekend celebrating Christina Grimmie’s 23rd birthday. One of a very few YouTubers who made the jump to the Big Time, she appeared in season four of The Voice and finished third; Usher, one of the many who were impressed, dubbed her a “baby Céline Dion.” She wound up with a recording contract and a devoted fan base.

Christine Grimmie stretches out a bit

Christine Grimmie stands up for herself

Christine Grimmie takes notes

Then came that horrible night in June 2016 in Orlando:

Florida authorities answered one of the major questions in the shooting death of Christina Grimmie, the 22-year-old singer who made her name on NBC’s “The Voice.”

The man who killed her was Kevin James Loibl, 27, of St. Petersburg, Florida, according to Orlando police. But they didn’t give any background on Loibl or offer a possible motive.

Loibl, tackled by Christine’s brother Marcus, turned the gun on himself. It was subsequently concluded that Loibl was obsessed with her and at one time had hoped to win her affections, although one has to wonder how he was going to do that with a Glock 9mm.

And two nights later, another madman opened fire on The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing forty-nine.

This was Christine’s very first YouTube video, a cover of “Don’t Wanna Be Torn” by Hannah Montana:

There will be one last release, an EP titled Side B (there already has been a Side A), due later this month. This is the first single:

Happy birthday, Christina, wherever you may be.

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The standard Fate

They buried John Schroeder last week, which struck me as slightly odd, since he died back on the 31st of January following a long battle with cancer.

Schroeder’s musical career was long and varied; where it intersected with my life was right in the middle of the British Invasion, when he teamed up with pianist Johnny Pearson at Britain’s Pye Records to provide, for lack of a better term, easy-listening sounds that could compete for radio airplay, and maybe even sales, with the beat groups.

At the end of 1964, using the name Sounds Orchestral, they cut this version of a Vince Guaraldi standard:

Pye had no formal US distribution in those days. Cameo-Parkway eventually acquired the US rights, and issued the 45 on Parkway 942 this week in 1965; it climbed to #10 in Billboard, and the subsequent LP made it to #11. Said LP contains two “Scarlatti Potions,” Number 5 and Number 9.

Schroeder and Pearson and various players kept up the Sounds Orchestral name through sixteen albums, the last of which came out in 1977. I saw only the first two of them here in the States until the CD-reissue era.

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Infinite headroom

For some reason, these didn’t catch on:

Dodge Dakota Convertible

This is what you’re looking at:

In a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too moment, Dodge decided the public wanted a convertible pickup truck for the 1989 model year. Based on the Dakota Sport, the convertible was modified by ASC in California with a manual folding roof. You could buy two- or four-wheel-drive variants, both powered initially by the 3.9-liter V6 and hooked to an automatic transmission. They were optioned up with air conditioning, velour seats and full gauge packages. In 1990, Dodge offered a lower spec SE model with the 2.5 hooked to a five-speed manual.

Not many bought into the idea in either configuration, and Dodge barely managed to fulfill its contract with ASC to produce them. In total, just shy of 4,000 were sold over the three model years they were available.

That 3.9, if I remember correctly, was a cut-down version of the trusty 318 (5.2-liter) V8.

The one and only person I know who owned any sort of Dakota Sport would probably have laughed at the very idea of this.

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The saints search for sinners

According to the Z Man, income inequality is a secondary consideration at best:

Unlike Europe, the American Left has never been about economic equality. It was always about spiritual equality. The radicals on the Continent were always obsessed with busting up the class structure. The radicals in American have always been focused on saving the immortal soul of the nation. Economic equality was never anything more than a a political tool for the reformers to use as a way to get control of the culture in order to impose their moral vision on the nation.

This is consistent with Z’s view that Northern descendents of Puritans have been dominating the culture since, oh, the day after Appomattox.

In order for this to work, the Left has always needed victims and oppressors, saints and sinners. In the 20th century, they could champion black civil rights and women’s issues. Then it was onto gays and now foreigners. The trouble is, they are running out of victims to champion. Black guys getting pushed around by rednecks at the polling booth make for sympathetic victims. Mentally unstable men in sundresses wanting access to the girl’s toilet are not good victims. They are ridiculous and championing them makes the champions look ridiculous.

I suggest that “mentally unstable” is far more of a disqualifier than “sundress.” The tallest trans woman I know of is a sturdy six foot five, but nothing in her background makes me think she’s out there gunning for anyone’s daughter. (Rule of thumb here: you’re going to look suspicious, regardless of your claimed identification, if you look like you’d fit right into a page full of People of Walmart.)

There’s also a noticeable lack of villains. Donald Trump is supposed to be the 12th invisible Hitler, returning to impose a dictatorship on America. The trouble is, Trump sounds like a Jewish guy from Queens and his kids converted to Judaism when they got married. So far, his most enthusiastic supporter among world leaders is the Prime Minister of Israel. They ain’t making Hitlers like they used to.

This reflects a generally ahistorical attitude: if the most villainous person you can come up with is Hitler, I’d argue that you’re not thinking hard enough.

If you ask me — and I’m sure you didn’t — this is the proper approach to der Führer:

Missiles at Mock One, no?

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He was the bravest of them all

The Z Man titled a post “We Need a Tom Doniphon,” and I knew at once what he meant. Just to make sure we’re paying attention, though, Z plugged in this last paragraph:

America is headed for a bad end unless things change quickly and radically. The suicide cult that has control of our society is not going to stop until we’re all dead. At some point, you have to use every means necessary to prevent a catastrophe. If that means Lindsay Graham winds up in a pit covered in lime, so be it. If Bill Kristol has to write his tantrums from exile in Israel, I can live with that. In order to have a world run by Senator Ranse Stoddard, you first need a Tom Doniphon to do the dirty work of clearing out Liberty Valance.

Burt Bacharach and Hal David put together a wonderful song called “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” after John Ford’s film; however, the song does not appear in the film. (Ask Eddy Grant what that’s like.) Some latter-day genius came up with the idea of creating a video for the song, based on the original trailer plus a couple of pertinent scenes. (Jimmy Stewart was Ranse Stoddard, and John Wayne was Tom Doniphon.)

Gene Pitney was never better, and today, 55 years after the film, Liberty Valance is as relevant as ever.

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A wider perspective

Take it away, Cole Porter:

“Today to get the public to attend the picture show
It’s not enough to advertise a famous star they know
If you wanna get the crowds to come around
You gotta have glorious Technicolor
Breathtaking CinemaScope and stereophonic sound.”

I’m not aware of any way stereophonic sound will improve the looks of your legs, but CinemaScope is happy to step up:

1954 advertisement for Glen Raven hosiery

Of course, they have to work in a reference to the film they’re pushing:

“New, slim-whip seams and fashion-trim heels spell total glamour in “true-life” colors … that show him it’s a woman’s world.”

Which would seem to contradict the actual film poster:

Poster for Woman's World, 1954 film

“It’s a great big wonderful Woman’s World — because men are in it!”

Doesn’t sound like he was exactly shown, if you know what I mean.

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Street where she lived

Start here:

Secretary, twenty-seven, quiet, fast as hell on her feet, had been places. Worked in a carnival or side show, knows all the lines, hard-boiled exterior, quietly efficient, puzzled over the lawyer, chestnut hair, trim figure, some lines on her face, a hint of weariness at the corners of her eyes.

This was Erle Stanley Gardner’s description of one Della Street, a character in his then-unpublished novel Reasonable Doubt. An editor at William Morrow liked the character but wasn’t prepared to accept the novel; Gardner rewrote the story, retitled it The Case of the Velvet Claws, and gave Della Street a new day job: secretary to criminal-defense lawyer Perry Mason.

That was 1933. Barbara Hale was eleven years old and had no idea that she’d become Della Street in 1957 for what would be 271 episodes of the Perry Mason TV series plus dozens of TV-movies thereafter. When she arrived in Hollywood, she got mostly uncredited bit parts along the lines of “stocking salesgirl” (from Gildersleeve on Broadway, 1943); it took her a few years to become a household word, and a little bit longer to realize that Della Street would take over her life.

Barbara Hale in black and white

Barbara Hale with summer grooming tips

Barbara Hale looking pretty

Portrait of Barbara Hale, in landscape

Okay, maybe not her entire life:

I had a Radarange. (It said “Amana,” it did. And it probably said “hernia” to the burglar who stole it.)

Barbara Hale died yesterday at her home in Sherman Oaks, California, of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She was ninety-four years old.

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The Petries of New Rochelle

Perhaps the cutest couple on Bonnie Meadow Road.

Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke

And hey, they dance and sing!

Rest in peace, Mary. (And thank you, Dick, for the video.)

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One last laurel

Twenty-four times a year, The Oklahoma Observer would blast into one’s mailbox, with laurels when the situation permitted and darts when someone messed up. This was the way of Forrest J. “Frosty” Troy, who edited the Observer for decades — his wife Helen, whom he considered the brains of the operation, was the publisher — and who finally retired in 2006, once he found a kindred spirit (Arnold Hamilton) to take it over.

Reliably liberal in the last-century sense, Frosty was occasionally predictable, but every now and then he’d throw the readers (typically about 7,000 circulation) a curve, and it would almost always turn out that he was way ahead of that curve.

The one person I had hoped would have something to say on Frosty’s death at 83 was one-time Oklahoman editorial writer and current City Sentinel wheel Patrick McGuigan, and Pat did not let me down:

After he stopped coming to the Capitol, members of the House and Senate staff would stop by the press room to ask if I knew how he was doing. I told them what I knew through friends. Frosty moved into a home for those afflicted with memory loss. For awhile, he and the legendary Paul English — each of them scourges of politicians in both parties — were roommates. That seemed appropriate, somehow.

Like my parents of blessed memory, Frosty made the prayer list in the weekly bulletin at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. He was still on the list distributed last Sunday.

Some people hated Frosty. Once upon a time, I guess I did.

But I came to love him. Those are the right words. The guy who had denounced many of my writings and policy preferences — and the reporter who gave you-know-what to every governor in my lifetime — emerged, in the actual knowing, as a man much like myself.

He was in love with Oklahoma and in love with words. He possessed a healthy combination of optimism and pessimism.

Which latter, I think, comes from living here long enough. And just for the record, when I put together a brief sendoff for Midwest City founder and Oklahoma Journal publisher W. P. Bill Atkinson, it was Frosty Troy who helped me with the details, some of which I’m reasonably certain no one else would know, or would admit to.

(Paul English, long-time Capitol reporter for the Oklahoman, died last spring.)

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Versus the Institution

Life on the funny farm, except that (1) it wasn’t actually a farm and (2) it wasn’t all that damn funny, really. An actual slice of my actual life.

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At exactly the right time

She was in the right place, not once, but several times:

Clare Hollingworth, the veteran British war correspondent who broke the news of the Nazi invasion of Poland, has died in Hong Kong at the age of 105.

Hollingworth, who was born in Leicester in 1911, was the first to report on the invasion that triggered the outbreak of World War Two. She went on to report from Vietnam, Algeria and the Middle East.

A pretty full life for a newsperson.

Hollingworth was a rookie reporter for the Daily Telegraph when she fell upon “the scoop of the century”.

It was she who spotted German forces amassed on the Polish border while travelling from Poland to Germany in 1939.

The Daily Telegraph headline read: “1,000 tanks massed on Polish border. Ten divisions reported ready for swift strike” — but it did not carry her byline, a common practice for newspapers at the time.

She scored another scoop when the Nazis launched their invasion three days later.

A later exclusive, about the British spy Kim Philby, was spiked by The Guardian in 1963.

That figures. How did that happen, exactly?

In 1963 Hollingworth was working for the Guardian in Beirut when Kim Philby, a correspondent for the Observer, disappeared.

She was convinced that he was the fabled “third man” in a British spy ring that already included Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean.

After some detective work, she discovered that Philby had left on a Soviet ship bound for Odessa and filed copy to that effect with the Guardian.

But this second huge scoop was spiked by the paper’s editor, Alastair Hetherington, who feared a libel suit.

Three months later, the Guardian ran the story, tucked away on an inside page. The following day the Daily Express splashed it on the front page, prompting the government to admit that Philby had, indeed, defected to the Soviet Union.

Philby died in 1988 and was buried with honors in Moscow; nothing was said about Stalin’s suspicions that Philby was actually a triple agent, spying for MI6 while spying for the Soviets while working for MI6.

Hollingworth retired to Hong Kong at seventy, and was a regular at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

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The year that ran on too long

Well, yeah, there was that 366th day. And that extra second. But even without either of these factors, we were sick of 2016 long before now:

When I say 2016 was a terrible year, I mean personally, but I mean otherwise as well. The figure of Death loomed over us constantly, casting a shadow on everything we did. I felt my mortality; I’m 54 years old and that shadow gets darker and more menacing the older you are. When the heroes of your childhood and youth start dropping dead, you take it to heart. When it feels like there’s a new death announced every week or so, it does something to your soul. I looked at each passing as another omen, a foreshadowing: if it can come for these people — people who seemed untouchable at once — it can come for you, too.

I’m a bit surprised it didn’t come for me. But it will. That’s about the only thing in life that’s guaranteed.

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Christmas when it’s supposed to be

According to Taylor Marshall, it’s the 25th of December, and there’s Scriptural authority for it, based on the age of John the Baptist:

The second-century Protoevangelium of James also confirms a late September conception of the Baptist since the work depicts Saint Zacharias as High Priest and as entering the Holy of Holies — not merely the holy place with the altar of incense. This is a factual mistake because Zecharias was not the high priest, but one of the chief priests. Still, the Protoevangelium regards Zecharias as a high priest and this associates him with the Day of Atonement, which lands on the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tishri (roughly the end of our September). Immediately after this entry into the temple and message of the angel Gabriel, Zacharias and Elizabeth conceive John the Baptist. Allowing for forty weeks of gestation, this places the birth of John the Baptist at the end of June — once again corresponding to the Catholic date for the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on June 24.

The rest of the dating is rather simple. We read that just after the Immaculate Virgin Mary conceived Christ, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was six months pregnant with John the Baptist. This means that John the Baptist was six months older that our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 1:24-27, 36). Add six months to June 24 and it reveals December 24-25 as the birthday of Christ. Subtract nine months from December 25 and it reveals that the annunciation was March 25. All the dates match up perfectly.

So then, if John the Baptist was conceived shortly after the Jewish Day of the Atonement, then the traditional Catholic dates are essentially correct. The birth of Christ would be about or on December 25.

Of course, I am of the school of thought that believes Christmas should be moved to July, when the stores aren’t so crowded.

That said, I am suitably impressed. Now: December 25 of what year? Herod, a major player in Matthew’s gospel (chapter 2), died, so far as we know, in 4 BC.

(Via John Salmon.)

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Express yourself

Well, actually, you can’t send yourself Express, but there was a time when you could send the little ones in the mail:

When Parcel Post Service first launched in America on January 1, 1913, there were few guidelines on what could be mailed. As a result, a handful of parents, spotting a bargain, began mailing their children. The first known case of this was the child of Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Beauge of Ohio only a few weeks after the launch of Parcel Post. They sent their son to his grandmother’s house for a fee of just 15 cents (about $3.72 today). On January 27, 1913, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Savis of Pennsylvania mailed their daughter to relatives for a fee of 45 cents. More famously, 5 year old May Pierstorff of Idaho was mailed on February 19, 1914 73 miles to her grandmother’s house at a cost of just 53 cents (about $13.13 today). This was significantly cheaper than sending her on a passenger train, with the train ticket in question costing $1.55 according to the book, Mailing May. May’s case helped push forward an inquiry on the matter of mailing children and ultimately led to Postmaster General Albert Burleson declaring that, from that point forward, it was against the rules to mail human beings. Despite this, the practice continued for about two more years, finally stopping after an investigation into why three-year-old Maud Smith of Missouri was allowed to be mailed to her grandparents’ house in Kentucky.

Unlike today, there was no specification for packaging material:

While you might have visions of children being put in boxes with holes in the side for air, this was not how the children were mailed. The appropriate number of stamps were simply affixed to their clothing along with the address they were to be sent. From there, they accompanied postal workers on the trains along with normal packages and then were escorted to their destinations.

Those were the days.

(Via American Digest.)

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Lake of the ages

Greg Lake might have been my favorite of all the progressive-rock vocalists; he was always clear and forceful, no matter what instrumental backing you threw behind him.

Roger turned this up. It’s Lake’s vocal track from “Epitaph,” from the middle of King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King, a justly famed landmark in prog-rock. (The band had only eight tracks to work with, so instrumental bits and pieces sneak in from time to time.)

And from later days, “From the Beginning,” a song Lake wrote during his Emerson, Lake and Palmer days, here performed live by Lake, probably from his 2012 “Songs of a Lifetime” tour.

Lake died Wednesday of cancer; he was 69. Carl Palmer is still alive; Keith Emerson killed himself earlier this year. And God (or Robert Fripp) only knows how many members of King Crimson survive.

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Still living in infamy

Bill Quick on the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor:

This was the second worst sneak attack on the American homeland in our history. We still remember it. Well, those of us who haven’t had their brains washed clean of that history by a malign progressive indoctrination system masquerading as education.

The worst attack was, of course, carried out by savage, barbaric Muslim Saudis on September 11, 2001. We’re supposed to forget that one, too, I believe.

In time, it is all forgotten.

But this isn’t the time.

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The one-time Minister of Munitions

The Friar, to commemorate the 142nd anniversary of the birth of Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (1874-1965), brings back one of Sir Winston’s most famous quotes:

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

Quips the Friar: “I mean, it’s no ‘Build a wall and make Mexico pay for it,’ but it did well enough for its time, right?”

Incidentally, Churchill did actually serve as Minister of Munitions — during what would be called the Great War, under Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

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The happier diet plan

Yeah, that Adderall is great for one’s waistline:

Vintage amphetamine advertising

“Magic powder,” indeed.

Harry “The Hipster” Gibson was available for comment, sort of.

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After a hot morning mess

Nineteen seventy-three. I’m wearing khakis because while I thought I looked better in fatigues, which isn’t saying much, the crusty warrant officer (then again, aren’t all warrant officers crusty?) who ran our shop insisted, and I wasn’t one to bend rules — at least, not his rules. Our little subcommand had lots of duty stations worldwide, some of them desirable, some of them less so. There was one post, though, that nobody ever seemed to want, and given the fact that transfer orders for enlisted personnel had to get past my desk, rather a lot of individuals who outranked me — I was a lowly Specialist Four at the time — seemed willing to do me favors to get them out of that assignment if at all possible. I never promised anything, and I never tried to collect on any of those markers, but sure enough, disposition forms materialized, signed by the correct officers, changing their destinations to some preferred location.

This could not possibly last forever, and of course it didn’t. Eventually they decided to fill one particular billet with me. It was a short tour — 12 months — and it came with a stripe. I shrugged. “I’m twenty years old,” I said, “and I’ve never been east of Boston or west of Amarillo. Maybe I should quit bitching.”

And so I was packed off to the Middle East, which was quieter than it is today and much quieter than some Southeast Asian locations at the time. It was, first and foremost, a duty station, so duty came first; but I did manage to spend some free time wandering about this crazed place without working up too much of a sweat. (Really. Typical middle-of-summer high temperature: 80° F. What was I worried about?) Of course, things can and do happen without notice, and as the phrase goes, everyone’s secondary MOS is Eleven Bravo.

That post has long since been closed, its need for it having largely evaporated and its host country having grown restive, even surly, over the years. Still, a lot of us passed through its gates over the years, and some of us are still around, even though we’re no longer wearing fatigues. Or khakis.

(Reposted from 2014.)

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My grandfather’s Oldsmobile

The manual transmission, in this part of the world anyway, is almost dead. Perhaps it’s instructive to remember that the automatic wasn’t always the default:

And in those days, GM would happily build slushboxes for everyone; smaller automakers (Hudson, Nash, Kaiser-Frazer) without the resources to develop their own transmissions came calling on the General. Even Ford bought Hydra-Matic and installed it in Lincolns; the lesser Ford-O-Matic was a licensed Borg-Warner design.

(Via Dusty Old Thing.)

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License to gawk

All I know about this is that it came out in the middle Sixties, a period when, if I had a dollar to spare, I bought a phonograph record:

Leg Watchers' League application

Then again, at that tender age I had yet to see even one issue of Tip Top magazine, a periodical that apparently did not concern itself with matters above the waist. (Their slogan: “Fron the tip of the toes to the top of the hose.”) Their editors would likely despair at our present-day barelegged era. And the mag itself has long since gone away: the address is currently occupied by B A Marble and Granite.

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Retropucking

There was literally nothing in minor-league hockey anything like the old Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League:

The last incarnation of the Blazers came into being in 1992 with the revival of the CHL. They were one of the most successful minor league hockey franchises of all time, averaging 9,128 fans a game over 17 seasons. The franchise led the CHL in attendance in each of its 17 seasons in the league; and all of North American minor pro hockey on five occasions. On ice, the Blazers excelled as well, winning an unprecedented nine regular season division championships (including seven straight, 1996–2003), five regular-season points titles and CHL championships in 1996 and 2001. The franchise’s two great stars, Joe Burton and Hardy Sauter, are the CHL’s first and third all-time career leading scorers, and Burton is the fourth leading goal scorer in minor league hockey history.

The CHL folded in 2014; the Blazers had departed five years earlier, on the pretext of not being able to negotiate a lease with the city. As it turned out, the ownership had bigger fish to fry: in 2010, a dormant American Hockey League franchise was awakened from the dead and moved out of deepest Canuckistan into Bricktown, and given the name “Oklahoma City Barons.” Lead-pipe cinch, right? Wrong: while the Barons played well most of the time, winning 202 of 384 games, their attendance was among the worst in the AHL, and in 2015 the team relocated to, um, Bakersfield, California, where they didn’t play as well but drew substantially (about 30 percent) more spectators.

And that would seem to be that, except that a local sports guy (NBC station) came up with this last night:

What do we want? “The Blazers!” When do we want them? “Next season!”

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But still dismal

The Z Man has his doubts about economics:

Economics, as I’m fond of saying, is the modern equivalent of astrology. Before a battle, Cyrus II of Persia would bring in his astrologers to advice him on the time and place to attack his enemy. The astrologers would figure out what he wanted to hear, consult their maps and then tell him what he wanted to hear. Cyrus was a badass dude who was rarely wrong, so it was a wise course by the astrologers to tell the boss what he already knew. When he won, they got some credit and they avoided contradicting the boss.

This old story about the eminent astrologer economist Joseph Stiglitz praising the economic polices of Venezuela ten years ago is a good example. Stiglitz was telling his hosts what they wanted to hear because they were paying him to endorse their brand of lunacy. Of course, Venezuela is now headed to total collapse because their economy has ground to a halt. In an age when Mexico’s poor people are obese, Venezuela has managed to have a food shortage. Maybe the rulers should not have listened to Joseph Stiglitz.

Rulers will listen to anyone who will say the things they want to hear. God knows our political class, if possible even worse than Venezuela’s, is desperate to dissemble, and as a result all manner of soothsayers are kept on retainer.

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