United Artists

By | Feb 5, 2016

Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith incorporated United Artists on February 5, 1919. Each of them own 20% of the corporation with the remaining 20% by lawyer William Gibbs McAdoo serving as general counsel for the founders.

The first agreement allowed the principles to release four pictures a year. A number that soon they found they could not reach. They did turn to others such as Buster Keaton, King Vidor and Samuel Goldwyn to fill the schedule.

One of the reasons it was formed, perhaps the single most important reason, was that these artists didn’t like the practice of ‘block booking’ that the movie studios of the era had developed. This practice required movie houses to take a block of motion pictures, whether they wanted all of them or not, just to get the ones they may want. United Artists would deal with the exhibitors with each single picture.

The first United Artist released movie was Douglas Fairbanks “His Majesty, the American” on September 1, 1919

By the late 1940s, United Artists existed mostly in name only. Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford was contacted by Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin, two lawyers, in 1951 asking if they could run United Artists. They agreed, even though Chaplin at first was against the idea changing his mind only after US government revoked his re-entry visa in 1952.

Krim and Benjamin’s management and then ownership changed the direction of the corporation. United Artists became one of biggest movie corporations of the 1950s into the 1960s. In 1967 they sold their interests to Transamerica Corporation.

Today it is part of MGM Holdings and movies are still being produced as United Artist films/

I Don’t Like Mondays

By | Jan 29, 2016

On Monday January 29, 1979 the day was starting as usual for Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, California. Then all of a sudden shots rang out. They were coming from the house across the street. During the 6 hour shooting spree and standoff Principal Burton Wragg and head custodian Mike Suchar were killed. Eight children and a police officer also sustained wounds.

When the shooter was arrested it was 16 year old Brenda Ann Spencer. The rifle she used during the shooting had been given to her as a Christmas gift from her father, only a few weeks before.

She pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and assault with a deadly weapon. Her sentence was 25 years to life in prison and is currently at The California Institution for Women in Chino, California. She is up for parole in 2009.

When asked why she did the shooting one of her responses was, “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.”

Bob Geldolf, who was the lead singer for the rock band Boomtown Rats, heard about the shooting and the statement of Spencer and wrote the song, ”
I Don’t Like Mondays.”

It was only a minor hit in the US but, it was a number 1 hit in the United Kingdom. Throughout the 1980s many album rock stations played the song as the anthem for Mondays. Since some stations only played the chorus many people had no idea the true subject of the song was a school shooting.

Bad Week for NASA

By | Jan 28, 2016

Yesterday I wrote about the fiery death of the first three NASA Astronauts to die in the United State’s quest for Space. I didn’t realize then how close together the three major Space Accidents actually occurred.

The first happened on January 27, 1967 when afire in the command module sitting atop a Saturn IB rocket, just weeks before the first manned Apollo mission was set to blast-off killed three astronauts. Command Pilot Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward Higgins White, II and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee.

Nineteen years later the Space Shuttle Challenger as being the first shuttle to be destroyed, when it exploded 1 minute 13 seconds into its flight on January 28, 1986. Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Commander, Michael J. Smith, pilot, mission specialist Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka and Ronald McNair, payload specialist Gregory B. Jarvis and teacher Sharon Christa McAuliffe, all of the members of its crew, lost their lives that day.

Then in 2003 on February 1st there was the last space shuttle accident. On re-entry Columbia broke apart in flames about 203,000 feet over Texas. This was 16 minutes before it was supposed to touch down in Florida. All seven aboard were killed: William McCool, Rick Husband, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon, who was Israel’s first astronaut.

Technically none of these died in space. They all died within the Earth’s atmosphere, either on the ground, during take-off or re-entry. The beginning of space is defined at 100km.

I hope that everyone will take a few moments between January 27th and February 1st, this year and every year, to think about those who gave their lives in Space Exploration.

A Fire in Space Exploration

By | Jan 27, 2016

President John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s was well on scheduled until January 27, 1967. On that day the project was put on hold. A fire in the command module sitting atop a Saturn IB rocket, just weeks before the first manned Apollo mission was set to blast-off killed three astronauts.

Command Pilot Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward Higgins White, II and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee.

Gus Grissom, born on April 3, 1926 in Mitchell, Indiana, was one of the first astronauts selected in 1959 for the Mercury Program. He was the second person to fly in space on Liberty Bell 7 launched on on July 21, 1961. He also flew in the Gemini program as the Command Pilot on Gemini 3 launched on March 23, 1965.

Ed White, born November 14, 1930 in San Antonio, Texas, was chosen as one of the second group of astronauts in 1962. He was the pilot of Gemini 4 launched on June 3, 1965 and during that mission 4 hours after lift-off he performed the first Spacewalk by an American. He was outside of the capsule for 15 minutes 40 seconds.

Roger Chaffee, born February 15, 1935 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, had been chosen as one of the third group of astronauts in 1963. This would have been his first mission into space.

Chaffee and Grissom are both buried in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery. White is buried at West Point Cemetery. These three fallen men were heroes in every sense of the word and even in death helped the United States become the only nation on earth to sent men to the moon.

750px-apollo1-crew_01 From left to right; Grissom, White and Chaffee

American Idol Money Makers

By | Jan 7, 2016

The last season of American Idol debuted last night. I didn’t watch it and I probably won’t until they get down to the actual competition rounds. I have found in the past that the Judges rounds are often funny, but also often don’t show much of the competition finalist.

This posting though is about former American Idol contestants and their 2015 Money making stats. According to Forbes in 2013 and 2014 Carrie Underwood held the top spot of former American Idol constants. This year she fell to second. But at 8 Million that’s nothing to be ashamed of and I’m sure it just adds to the her lifetime totals. As I’m sure she keeping to Simon’s prediction of being the American Idol constant to sell the most albums.

This year’s highest paid Idol Contestant didn’t even win in his season. Adam Lambert came in top with 10 Million. Touring with Queen was a great help for sure. But many felt he was cheated out of victory. I tend to agree.

Arguably one of the most successful contestants other than Underwood is Idol’s first winner Kelly Clarkson. She was tired for 5th this year with Scotty McCreery with 4 million.

3rd and 4th money 2015 Idol money makers are Chris Daughtry with $6 million and Phillip Phillips at $5 million.

So since there is a chance that one can make a very profitable career after American Idol, I wish each of those who tired out for the last season, Good Luck. And who knows someone from this season could become more successful than any other American Idol contestant.

Chicago is Finally In

By | Jan 4, 2016

Recently the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced their inductee for 2016. For the first time Chicago was nominated. They won the fan vote and will be inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2016.


I, like many others, have wondered why they aren’t already there. They released their first Album, Chicago Transit Authority, in 1969. This meant they were first eligible in 1994. Over 20 years ago.

Sure Chicago of the 1980s became a pop band. So did others. Heart is a prime example and they were inducted into the Hall a couple of years ago.

But look at their music of the 70s. Especially the first 9 albums (of original material) with Terry Kath as their guitarist.

In ways the heart of Chicago died with the death of Kath. Unfortunately he is not mention in the same breath as some of the great Rock guitarist, such as Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. But he was up there with the best. Hendrix, who Chicago opened for in the late 60’s, felt that Kath was one of the best.

They were one of the first to really put horns in as part of the Rock sound. Better than Blood Sweat and Tears and more Rock than some of the later Rhythm and Blues/Soul artist that came in the 1970s.

The make-up of Chicago has changed over the years. There are only 4 members of the Band that are still part of the act. Along with Kath death in 1977, Bassist Peter Cetera, left the group in 1985 to pursue a sol career. And in 1990 drummer Danny Seraphine left the group. Even long time replacement, Bill Champlin is no longer a member of the group.

Will Chicago perform at the Induction ceremony. I sure hope they do.

So what would I like to see for them on stage. The four existing original members, Keyboardist Robert Lamm and horn section, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, and Walter Parazaider – saxophones. Joining them would be other current members, Jason Scheff on bass guitar, Tris Imboden on drums, and
Keith Howland on guitar. All of these have been with the band for 20-30 years.

Joining this group would be Danny Seraphine and Peter Cetera.

They would open with the classic 25 or 6 to 4 with Cetera on vocals. During the guitar solo, which Terry Kath would excel at during their concerts, they would play a tape performance of one of his solos. I’m sure this would bring down the house.

Then the current line-up would follow into their 13 minute Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon.

Simply the best of Chicago.

The other 4 artist to be inducted in 2015 are:

Deep Purple – Another group that should have long been there. They are often credited as the first Heavy Metal Band.

Steve Miller – with his blues guitar.

Cheap Trick – A punk band, which in my opinion really was just average

N.W.A – You have to think that Straight outta Compton brought them to the attention of the Hall and helped get them in.

21st Century is Sweet 16

By | Jan 1, 2016

The 21st Century turns Sweet 16. And like a teenager wanting to break away from their parents, I’m sure the century wants to break away from being thought as ‘moving into the 21st Century’.

Where has the time gone?

At its birth I was sitting in a 911 dispatch center. Waiting for the world to end. Well if you believed the nonsense of Y2K that is.

Some may say that the 21st century began not on New Year’s Day 2000, but 2001. We celebrate our first birthday after we have lived a year. Why can’t the century?

And now it’s 16 years later, although it doesn’t seem that way.

But looking back on it, it seems like a long time. Those born in this century have no real concept on how it felt on September 11th when the towers fell. They don’t know what it really feels like to be broken down miles away from home without a cellphone in hand. They don’t know how easy it is to find information with the push of a return key, or a simple question asked to Siri.

Life in the 21st Century is much different that it was just those 16 years ago when the 20th end. Cell Phones were only used to call someone. Now using it as a phone is one of its minor functions.

Are we better off. I suppose it depends. Did our parents feel better off in 1999 than they did when they were in their youth. I’m sure that even those they had fond memories of those days, they would think that they are.

I have fond memories of the 20th Century and many of my favorite movies and much of my favorite music was made before December 31, 1999. But that doesn’t mean I want to go back. Do you?

So as the 21st Century turns Sweet 16, I want to wish all a Happy New Year.

Monroe Doctrine – Europeans Stay Away

By | Dec 2, 2015

During President James Monroe seventh and final address to the joint congress on December 2, 1823 he said;

… that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers….

His statement was to the European powers that they were to no longer to colonize or interfere with the affairs of the newly independent states of the Americas.

This would stand as international policy for the United States well into the 20th century. Even though the doctrine was largely disregarded by the European countries, they did not try to colonize American soil and allowed the United States to expand westward to the Pacific Ocean.

The Doctrine has been used throughout the history of the United States by future Presidents such as James Polk when their was a dispute regarding the northern border of the Oregon Territory.

During the term of Theodore Roosevelt, he added what is called the Roosevelt Corollary. This states that European intervention in the Americas might sometimes be justified, it could not be permitted under the Monroe Doctrine; instead, the United States itself would take action in the country involved.

The City of Fruitland, Maryland

By | Dec 1, 2015

When traveling Business Route 13 through Salisbury, Maryland, you may not even realize that you left Salisbury, shortly after passing Salisbury University, and entered the City of Fruitland. That is unless you noticed that sign welcoming you to Fruitland.

With a population of over 4,000 it is one of the larger of the incorporated areas on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Even though it wasn’t incorporated until 1947 the city has a long history. The first house was built in 1772 and the village that formed there was known as Disharoon’s Crossroads. It was a crossroads town on the border between Somerset and Worcester County. Wicomico County, the county in which it now is a part of, was formed from parts of those two counties in 1867.

By the 1820’s there was a fork of two roads that met in the area and used by stage coaches between Virginia and Pennsylvania. Development was established at the fork and in the 1820’s it was called Forktown.

In 1873 the town’s name was changed to Fruitland. After the Civil War and with the arrival of the railroad, it became a railroad town. Around the area there were a large number of fruits harvested and exported through the rail station.

From the 1890’s until December 1968, Fruitland held an annual holly auction. Holly trees are native to the woods of Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset Counties. Holly and mistletoe was shipped by the basket fulls to markets in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington DC as well as other markets.

The Missing Spirit

By | Oct 31, 2015

The magician Harry Houdini became interested in the ‘spirit world’ after the death of his mother in 1913. He became involved in making contact with those who had died. He became more skeptical as he uncovered hoaxs and frauds by proclaimed mediums.

During the early 1920’s he spend time debunking these hoaxs and frauds. He was a member of a Scientific American committee, which offered a cash prize to any medium who could successfully demonstrate supernatural abilities. The prize was never collected mainly due to the skepticism of Houdini and his ability to recognize frauds, even those who had successfully fooled many scientists.

Houdini died on October 31, 1926, Halloween in Detroit. The official cause of death was peritonitis, internal poisoning resulting from a ruptured appendix, although there has been rumors that he died by poison.

For years after his death, his wife Bess conducted an séance on October 31. Before his death he had told her if it was possible to send a message in a secret code that they developed.

It appeared that in 1929 Houdini did come back and delivered the code. This was in a séance preformed by Rev. Arthur Ford. A few months later he was able to get a signed statement from Bess saying that the code had been delivered. Later she found out that the code had been released earlier and found or guessed by Ford. She disavowed the Ford message many times before her death in 1943.

Although countless mediums and physics have tried to call the spirit of Harry Houdini none have ever been able to prove without a doubt that he was able to return. With that you can call Harry Houdini the Missing Spirit.

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