The Crooner and Gaga

By | Oct 20, 2014

The unlikely team of Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga came together and release an album of ‘standards’ on September 19, 2014. The Album “Cheek to Cheek” debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard Album Charts. It was the 2nd Number 1 album for the 88 year old Bennett and the 3rd for Lady Gaga.

Bennett broke the record for the oldest person to have a Number 1 Album, breaking his own record that he set in 2011 with “Duets II”. That album also included a Duet with Lady Gaga.

When looking and the glam and glitter of Lady Gaga, along with her unique and to some outrageous shows, one would wonder how she would sound working with Tony Bennett on an album of “standard” all of which were written long before she was born. What I found was amazing.

Lady Gaga has an amazing voice and the songs on this album fits it wonderfully. In fact often I found myself enjoying her voice on the songs more than Bennett. Not saying he was not in good form. His voice still sounds wonderful.

I would love to see Lady Gaga to do her own album of ‘standards’. It’s not as if popular artists haven’t done it. Just look a Rod Stewart and his American Songbook series of albums. It would perhaps make her a bigger star than she already has become. At least it would bring a different audience to her. Then again this album will as well.

So in closing all I can say is if you enjoy old standards, this is an album for you. But regardless, take a listen to it. It’s good music and good music should be listened to and enjoyed.

Chex Mix for Breakfast

By | Oct 2, 2014

Here I am, a 56 year old guy, sitting with a cup of coffee and eating a breakfast of Chex Mix. Does that seem strange? Why not Chex Mix for breakfast?

Even though many would consider it a snack, most of the contents of the package could be considered a cereal. Cereal is a common breakfast item. And I’m sure it’s healthier than what I really want.

That would be a sandwich made of scrapple, egg and cheese on wheat toast. The only really healthy item there would be the wheat toast.

What’s Scrapple? The dictionary defines it as “cornmeal mush made with the meat and broth of pork, seasoned with onions, spices and herbs and shaped into loaves for slicing and frying.” It’s a rural American food of the Mid-Atlantic states (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia). It originated in the Eastern Pennsylvania farmland by the Pennsylvania Dutch, German immigrants of the area.

But let’s be serious. It’s made of what’s left over after the standard cuts of meat are butchered off of the pig. All of these items are cooked together then all but the broth and meat are discarded. This is mixed with cornmeal and formed as a loaf. A 1/4 inch slice off of the loaf is fried.

I imagine now that you’ve read about scrapple, you are thinking that Chex Mix does make for a nice breakfast. That is until you have tried a sandwich of Scrapple, Egg and Cheese on Wheat Toast.

40 Years of King

By | Sep 29, 2014

In a few weeks (November 11, 2014) Stephen King will release his latest novel Revival. Along with his recent release, Mr Mercedes, it will be 40 years since his first publish book was released. Carrie came out on April 5, 1974.

Nearly everyone has heard the story about how that novel was nearly not completed, since King had thrown away his original 16 pages or so and that it was retrieved by his wife who liked it suggested that he continue.

I have been a fan of Stephen King since the summer of 1976 when I picked up a copy of ‘salem’s Lot. I knew nothing of King, this was his third work and movie adaptation of Carrie was still in production. It was released in November of 1976. I wasn’t even much of a horror fan, but the cover intrigued me. It was plain black cover, embossed with a figure and one drop of red blood.

From there I read The Shinning and Carrie, in the reverse order that they were written. They were enjoyable. It was the collection of stories, many that were first published in ’70s Men’s Magazines, Night Shift that really hooked me. The Stand was the first of his works that I purchased in hard cover. Even with 40 years of writing, I still consider this to be my favorite Stephen King. I still pick up all of his works within the first few days of their release.

I’m not one to think that everything that he wrote was good. There were a few he wrote in the late ’80′s and ’90′s that I couldn’t finish. Maybe one day I’ll go back and try again. I am also not a fan of the Dark Tower series. I still haven’t read the final few chapters.

But sometimes I do go back to some of the older stuff. I just recently watched “Maximum Overdrive” a movie that he not only wrote based on the short story “Trucks” from Night Shift, but also directed. At the time I thought it to be a terrible movie. So did a lot of people, since it was a big bomb. But watching it last week, I found that it wasn’t really all that bad.

July 4, 1776

By | Jul 3, 2014

How much do you actually know about what happened on and around July 4, 1776? We all know that July 4th is the birthday of the United States, but is it really? Events that lead up to the birth of the United States started with a Resolution by Richard Henry Lee, a representative to the Second Colonial Congress from Virginia.

The Virginia House of Burgesses on May 15, 1776 resolved that “the delegates appointed to represent this colony in General Congress” be instructed to propose to that respectable body to declare the united Colonies free and independent states.”

Lee presented on June 6, 1776, a resolution to congress that read;

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.

That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.

Debate began on the resolution, but it was decided to wait for three weeks so that the delegates could send the resolution to their home colonies and receive direction on voting. It also appeared to those present that the resolution would pass and that there needed to be a suitable declaration for the resolution.

On June 11, 1776 a committee, consisting of John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut, was formed. They were known as the Committee of Five.

The committee delegated that Jefferson would write the draft. Jefferson and the committee worked on it from June 12 until June 27. Franklin and Adams made several minor corrections and the entire committee made additional changes and additions, a total of forty-seven alterations including the insertion of three complete paragraphs from Jefferson’s original draft. Jefferson then produced another copy incorporating these changes and the committee presented this copy to the Continental Congress on Friday June 28, 1776.

On Monday July 1st, congress began debate on the Lee Resolution.

Delaware had three delegates representing the colony. Delaware had just recently declared their independence not only from England but also from Pennsylvania with whom they shared a Royal Governor. The three delegates were Thomas Mckean and Caesar Rodney who were for Independence and George Reed who was against. When debate began Rodney was in Dover Delaware who as a Militia General was seeing to the command of his troops. (Some stories are that Rodney was on his death bed. While it is true that he had a rare form of facial cancer that left him disfigured and in constant discomfort he was not at his home due to the disease. In fact Rodney lived for nearly 8 more years).

Thomas McKean, who was on the side of independence, sent a dispatch to Caesar Rodney who received it on July 1st, the day before the vote would be taken. He quickly mounted his horse and began the 80 miles trip to Philadelphia. He rode throughout the night. While he rode he encountered a severe thunderstorm. He continued to ride through the rain that turned the road to mud. He arrived shortly after the delegates returned to the Congress after their lunch break, just before the final vote was taken on Tuesday July 2nd. When Delaware was called he rose and voted in favor of Independence. George Read, the Delaware delegate who was against Independence, did sign the Declaration.

South Carolina still wasn’t in favor of independence, but Edward Rutledge, who opposed independence and had many motions to delay the vote, convinced the delegation that for the sake of unanimity, they should vote in favor. The New York delegation abstained, since they did not have instructions from their home government. The Vote for Independence had passed.

In a letter that John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail on July 3 he said;

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore.

That was just the first step. Now the Declaration of the Committee of Four was brought to the floor of Congress and debated. Finally at a little after 11 o’clock on Thursday morning July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved. This was after many hours of debate during the two days leading to the vote. There were thirty-nine revisions to the committee’s draft, including the deletion of language that denounced King George III for promoting the slave trade. John Hancock, as President of Congress, and Charles Thompson, Secretary of Congress signed the document. Again the New York delegation abstained from the vote, but did approve the Declaration five days later.

It wasn’t until July 19th that congress ordered that the Declaration to be officially inscribed and signed by its members. Congressional delegates began to sign the officially inscribed copy on August 2. It was even signed by some members who had not voted for its adoption and some who was not even present at Congress when the vote was cast.

An American Playwright – Eugene O’ Neill

By | Jun 23, 2014

I was talking with a old friend over the weekend. We had gone to college together in the late ’70s and had taken a number of Theater classes together. We were discussing historical people who we would like to possibly do for performance history. The subject came up because he was thinking of doing Abraham Lincoln. I mentioned that I had always thought about working on a play with the Playwright Eugene O’Neill narrating the story of his life.

In the ’70s many people knew of Eugene O’ Neill. He was an American Playwright, who many felt was the Shakespeare of the American Theater of the first part of the 20th Century. O’Neill was born into show business. His father James O’Neill was considered a matinee idol as a stage actor in the later half of the 19th Century, his most famous role was that of The Count of Monte Cristo. Eugene O’neill was born in a hotel room on October 16, 1888, the third of three children that James O’Neil had with his wife Mary Ellen Quinlan.

It wasn’t until after he spent much of 1912 and 1913 in sanatorium recovering from tuberculosis that he decided to write plays. Prior to this he had spent time at sea. Quite a few of his early plays cold be classified as Sea Plays.

His career as a playwright can be seen as divided in 2 parts. The first from 1914-1936. His plays were a standard on Broadway during this period winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1920, 1922, 1928,) and in 1936 the Nobel Prize for Literature, the second American to win. The second part begin in 1946 after a 10 year period where no new plays of his were produced. Then Ice Man Cometh an autobiographical play was produced. It was the first of a number of autobiographical plays he wrote during this second phase of his career. Long Day’s Journey into Night is thought by many to be his best.

He was married 3 times; Kathleen Jenkins (1909–12), Agnes Boulton (1918–29) and Carlotta Monterey (1929–53). He had three children, Eugene Jr with Jenkins and with Boulton Shane and Oona. Oona married Charlie Chaplain at the age of 18. Chaplain was 54. O’Neill disapproved of the wedding and he never saw her again.

After a long illness which for many years made it difficult to write O’Neill died in Room 401 of the Sheraton Hotel on Bay State Road in Boston, on November 27, 1953. It is said that while he was dying he whispered “I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room and died in a hotel room.”

Be An Expert

By | Apr 28, 2014

An expert is someone that is recognized as being a reliable source of knowledge.

Everyone is an expert on something. You are the expert at doing your job. If nothing else you are the expert on you.

The best way to become an expert is to have experience. Learn something everyday.

There are 3 kinds of experts. Book Learning expert, a Practical Experience expert or one that has both.

The more that you learn about a subject more you become an expert on that subject. It doesn’t matter how you learn the information, just as long as the information is true and accurate.

When talking about a subject that you know a great deal about, be yourself and don’t be an know-it-all.

Mount Rushmore of Game Show Hosts

By | Feb 27, 2014

With the passing of Jim Lange (August 15, 1932 – February 25, 2014) best known as the host of “The Dating Game” in the late 60′s and early 70′s, it made me start to think who are some of the greatest game show hosts of the past 60 years. Some one on the radio this morning asked their partner for the Mount Rushmore of hosts, so I decided to come up with my own. These top 4 are listed in no particular order.

Bill Cullen:
Bill Cullen may be best remembered as the guy with the thick glasses, but he had a great comical wit that people love to see, even on bad shows.

Bob Baker:
“The Price is Right” need I say more.

Dennis James:
One of the first to host a game show in the 50s. He was even considered to be the host of “The Price is Right” that was given to Bob Barker and did host a night time version of it.

Dick Clark:
A producer and host.

Those left off, but are part of the top 10 would include Monty Hall, Jim Lange, Alex Trebek, Allen Ludden, Bob Eubanks, and Garry Moore.

One State Remains in Favor of a Constitutional Amendment to Not Allow Abolishment of Slavery

By | Jan 31, 2014

In the waning days of the 36th Congress and just before the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln in 1861, congress passed a proposed Constitution Amendment, which would have prevented the United States from abolishing slavery.

“No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.”

The southern States were too busy in seceding from the union to pass the amendment. Once they seceded they technically were no longer part of the Union and their approval wouldn’t have counted anyway.

Two states, Maryland and Ohio, who didn’t secede did pass the amendment.

Ohio rescinded their approval in 1864, but on the books Maryland is still registered to have approved it. This even with Maryland abolishing slavery in their 1864 Constitution.

Now 150 years later, Maryland, also known as the “Free State”, has a proposal going through their legislature to formerly have their approval rescinded.

A Day for Adolf

By | Jan 30, 2014

It’s not unusual for a day of the year to become a focal point in one’s life. For some it’s their birthday or another day the person decides is their Lucky Day. Others it’s a date where something always seems to happen. For Adolf Hitler that day could have been January 30th.

It was on January 30, 1933 that Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany taking the reigns of the 14 year old Germanic democratic republic. Hitler had spent his entire political career denouncing the republic and now he was the German leader. Within weeks Hitler would be the absolute dictator of Germany.

During his fourth anniversary speech on January 30, 1937 he delivered 8 points on ways to bring pacification of Europe. Among those points were for “individual countries should possess stable political and economic conditions”, “The vital interests of the different nations must be frankly recognized.” and “The German Reich will watch over its security and honor with its strong Army.”

Two years later in his 1939 speech detailed that Europe had a “Jewish Problem” and that Germany was going to solve that problem with “… the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!”.

And it was on this day in 1945 that Hitler gave his final speech on the 12th anniversary of him coming to power. It was broadcast like many of his speeches to the general public on radio.

When you think back on your life, has one day of the year become a focal point in your life such as January 30th became one for Hitler. Not everyone has an anniversary such as his, but most of us do have an anniversary that means something to us.

Didn’t Know … Wrote That

By | Dec 30, 2013

Over the years there have been many popular songs. Ones that once you hear who wrote them it comes as quite a surprise. In 1971 James Taylor had his only Billboard Number one with “You’ve Got a Friend”. Being that Taylor wrote many songs, some think that it is one of his compositions. That’s not the case. It was written by his good friend Carole King. She wrote both the words and the music, one of her first with her having sole songwriting credit.

Carole King along with a number of different lyricist, many with her first husband Gerry Goffin wrote quite a few popular hits of the 1960s including, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” recorded by The Shirelles, “Go Away Little Girl” by Steve Lawrence and Donny Osmond, and “(You Make Me feel (Like a Natural Woman)” by Aretha Frankin. But did you know that they also wrote The Monkees song “Pleasant Valley Sunday”.

The Monkees weren’t know as song writers, but they did write a few of their songs. MiKe Neismith wrote a few. But one of his most popular songs was recorded by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Ponies, “Different Drum”.

Shel Silverstein may be best know for the cartoons he drew for Playboy Magazine in the 1960′s and 70s or maybe even for his children’s books, but he also wrote a number of popular songs. The most famous is probably Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” as well as two of Dr Hook’s songs “Cover of the Rolling Stone” and “Sylvia’s Mother”.

Since the music credit for the Bangles’ song “Manic Monday” list Christopher as the writer, not many people are aware that it was actually written by Prince.

JP Richardson, also known as the Big Bopper, was killed along with Buddy Holly and Richie Valens on February 3, 1959. A few weeks after his death, his friend George Jones recorded a song written by him. It was George Jones first county Number 1 song, one of his most popular, as well as one of the great County songs. JP Richardson, the Big Bopper, wrote “White Lightning”.

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