Archive for The Way We Were

The old man

He would have been 90 this month, which seems incredible to me. Then again, I never imagined being as old as I am now. And I suspect sometimes that maybe his job isn’t finished so long as I’m still around.

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You have the right to remain

In memory of the late Adam West, the only goddamn Batman that matters:

How I missed this in 1966, I’ll never know.

And apparently the wild, wild West lived in wild, wild Ketchum, Idaho:

Wow.

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Gimme a Vee

Roger Green (remember him? I do) dropped a Bobby Vee reference into a recent post, including three of Bobby’s biggest hits.

Speaking of which, the late Tony Peluso, who played that amazing guitar solo on the Carpenters’ “Goodbye to Love,” also played narrator on “Yesterday Once More,” and suddenly I hear his perfect Top 40 voice over the last notes of “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes”: “One of Bobby Vee’s biggest hits!” True; Vee had one Number One, one Number Two and two Number Threes, and “Eyes” was a Number Three.

The other Number Three was “Come Back When You Grow Up,” listed as by “Bobby Vee and the Strangers.” “Come Back” was written by Nashville songwriter (and later label executive) Martha Sharp, who had written Sandy Posey’s first two charters, “Born a Woman” and “Single Girl.” (For a while, rumors persisted that Sharp really was Sandy Posey. She wasn’t.) “Come Back” was first recorded earlier a few months earlier by Shadden and the King Lears, and, yes, “Shadden” was Shadden’s real first name.

Over the years, Vee proved to be an astute selector of material, whether or not it would be a big hit for him. “Yesterday and You” made it to #55 in late 1963; the song, he got from labelmate Ross Bagdasarian, who had recorded it in his pre-David Seville days. (Yes, that David Seville.) As “Armen’s Theme” — Armen was Mrs Bagdasarian — Seville’s instrumental made #42 in 1956.

In the summer of 1966, Vee and the Strangers covered an indie-label song by Texas band The Playboys of Edinburg. “Look at Me Girl” wasn’t a big hit for Vee or for the Playboys, who immediately got picked up by a major label — Columbia, arguably the major-est — but the Strangers rather easily picked up on the Playboys’ modified norteño beat.

One more? In 1961, Vee put out a semi-successful cover of the Crickets’ “More Than I Can Say”:

It would have charted higher than #61, I think, had it not been relegated to a B-side. Nearly two decades later, British producer Alan Tarney remembered it, and suggested it to client Leo Sayer, who took it to #2 in both the UK and the States:

I think Tarney’s instructions included “Sound as much as you can like Bobby Vee.”

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Of remembrance and forgetting

It gets a little harder each year.

I am the son of a sailor and a sailor who had been a soldier. I had a brother who was a sailor, and a sister who was a soldier’s wife. By the mercy of God or an accident of timing — we’ll never, of course, know for sure — none of them were taken as a direct result of enemy action. But they were taken just the same, as all of us some day must be.

Memorial Day, it occurs to me, is the most solemn holiday of the American civic religion, unconnected to any organized denomination, with its own rituals and myths:

What we have, then, from the earliest years of the republic is a collection of beliefs, symbols, and rituals with respect to sacred things and institutionalized in a collectivity. This religion — there seems no other word for it — while not antithetical to and indeed sharing much in common with Christianity, was neither sectarian nor in any specific sense Christian. At a time when the society was overwhelmingly Christian, it seems unlikely that this lack of Christian reference was meant to spare the feelings of the tiny non-Christian minority. Rather, the civil religion expressed what those who set the precedents felt was appropriate under the circumstances. It reflected their private as well as public views. Nor was the civil religion simply “religion in general.” While generality was undoubtedly seen as a virtue by some … the civil religion was specific enough when it came to the topic of America. Precisely because of this specificity, the civil religion was saved from empty formalism and served as a genuine vehicle of national religious self-understanding.

Which is not to say that everyone embraces it; there are those who are content with empty formalism, and those who might dismiss even that as a “fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” And for some, Memorial Day is simply the beginning of summer, nothing more.

Perhaps this is one of those times when, as the phrase goes, you had to be there, and human nature being what it is, a lot of us eventually will be. Much as I would like to endorse the idea that man can be educated out of his warlike tendencies, evidence to support such a notion is conspicuous by its absence; a perfunctory glance at the news is enough to show how easily we fall back into tribalism and other traits we fancy ourselves to have outgrown.

This old soldier will fade away in time, remembered by a few, forgotten by others, never known at all by most. So far as I can tell, this puts me more or less even with most of the human race. I can live with that.

(Reprinted from 2011.)

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Now get typing

The moment you go past half an hour, it’s going to cost you more:

This is actually a late-Twenties Remington Standard, refitted with a coin mechanism by a San Francisco company. One such machine was located in the basement of Powell Library at UCLA; Ray Bradbury typed the novella The Fireman (1951) on it, and two years later expanded the story into the novel Fahrenheit 451.

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One way out

The legend has already begun: Twitter was overrun with the idea that the last song Gregg Allman played on stage was, yes, “One Way Out,” a couple of years back. He’d had to pull back from touring after he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation; he’d sworn off meats and gluten. He’d had hepatitis C; he’d had a liver transplant. Had I had to deal with all these things, I’d never make it to 69, as Gregg did.

Still, his place in the Pantheon is assured; there essentially is no Southern Rock without the Allman Brothers Band, and while there are stacks of Allman vinyl everywhere down south, there are plenty of them up around the Canadian border as well. The band, for their part, didn’t much like the strictures suggested by the “Southern” tag, pointing to some of the cultural baggage thereof, but there’s little question that they did as much as anyone, and more than most, to create the genre. And like the best Southern rock, the Allmans’ music was firmly rooted in the blues.

This is the 1995 version of the band; Butch Trucks, Jaimoe Johanson and Dickey Betts were still around to make the trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The song, by then, was more than thirty years old, and had originated with Elmore James circa 1961. The message, however, remains the same: whatever predicament you may have gotten yourself into — the specific narrative involves a bit of upstairs cheating while the actual husband has just arrived downstairs — ultimately you don’t have a Plan B to fall back on.

The band dissolved after their last show in 2014. (The last song they played was Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More,” which makes perfect sense.) The legacy they leave behind is deep and wide. And Gregg, though he never considered himself the frontman — brother Duane, later Dickey Betts, were the nominal leaders of the band — was there for all of it. I hope he’s ready to jam among the clouds.

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Ancient memory

A look at personal computing online in the UK, a mere third of a century ago:

You can learn a bit more about this from a history of Prestel.

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We got The Beat

In their native England, they were simply The Beat; in America, they were The English Beat, and in Australia, they were The British Beat.

And come to think of it, they weren’t entirely English:

Note the old man with the enormous saxophone. This was Saxa, born Lionel Augustus Martin in Jamaica. At the time of this episode of Top of the Pops, he was forty-nine years old. He retired as the century wore down, and he died last week at 87.

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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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