19 January 2017

The vampire (left) and the Queerwolf (right) with skull in a hot tub.
Last night I watched a dismal film because I felt an obligation to: A Polish Vampire in Burbank (1983). Reputedly made for about $3,000 on Super 8mm film, it was as bad as one might expect, given that title. The only Burbankish location I could identify were some shots filmed at the Mucho Mas, a Mexican restaurant that is, in fact, just over the city boundary in North Hollywood. There was a lame backyard pool party scene that looked rather like the backyard of the Burbank home in which I grew up, but there was no indication that the location was in Burbank.

I will give it points for some comic originality, however: One of the characters was a "Queerwolf," a young man who turns gay when the moon is full. (When the moon is half full he becomes bisexual.) A "making of" documentary was included on the Netflix DVD that was more interesting than the movie!

Next up: Bloodsucking Babes from Burbank (2007). The plot: Passionate archaeology students unearth a cursed jewel box in the Burbank mountains that turns the females into blood-thirsty cannibals and the guys into "dinner." Whoo boy.

Yesterday I posted a bunch of City of Burbank calendar images to a Burbankia photo album. Some of these are quite nice and illustrate Burbank history, which makes them appropriate for the website. Back in 1975 one of the months illustrated Burbank's amazing high-tech plan to tap the power of the molten inner core of the earth by generating steam - Burbank enters the Geothermal Era! I remember coming home for a weekend from Camp Pendleton and seeing some sign somewhere indicating that this would happen. When I asked my pal Mike about it he replied, memorably, "Hey, man, the city of Burbank is going to dig for magma and light the lights with steam from the Middle of the Earth!" Hahahaha... Did it really happen? No. The whole thing was about as successful as California's bold "Green Energy" initiative 35 years later.

Last night I indulged my earworm and listened to the Berlin Philharmonic play Sibelius' Seventh Symphony, which I blogged about yesterday. I may repeat the experience tonight.

Hm. I just made myself a note to check the library's reference copy of The Guinness Book of World Records. My JonahWorld! site (about Civil War reenacting) has been continuously maintained by yours truly for almost 21 years. I wonder what the oldest continuously maintained website on the Internet is... it can't be much older than that, can it?

I get my hearing aids today - there's a life milestone if ever there was one. I think of it more as becoming bionic rather than growing old, because with these I can listen to mp3 music from my cell phone via Bluetooth or have telephone conversations piped to the devices. Perhaps future technology will include contact lens that also provide heat and x-ray vision.

My current book is Growing Up in the Piedmont Triad - Boomer Memories from Krispy Kreme to Coca-Cola Parties by Alice E. Sink. (The "Triad," by the way, is Winston-Salem, High Point and Greensboro, North Carolina.) It's a second sample book from my publisher that was suggested to me as a template for a second Burbank book. So far, this one is not impressive as it contains a lot of general text about old television shows, soap operas and movies, which are common to everyone. It's the kind of filler text I completely avoided in Lost Burbank. Everyone knows what Lucille Ball looks like - why include a photograph of her in a book about growing up in North Carolina?

Obama's last day... I thought it would never get here. The Worst President of my Lifetime says goodbye. I say good riddance. And no, I am not going to the Trump Inauguration in D.C. tomorrow. (I get the day off because these things thoroughly snarl traffic in D.C. and the surrounding area.) I haven't been to one of those yet as I tend to avoid crowds. And I'm guessing this one will feature left-wing kooks setting fire to themselves (that'll teach Trump a thing or two!) and other such circus performances. No thanks.

I'll be back Monday.

18 January 2017

I'm being haunted by Sibelius' 7th Symphony - the sound of it is in my head. This is odd because it's a symphony that is not exactly known for being tuneful. The way a symphony has worked since the days of Haydn is that, within a movement, the keys change in a sort of tonal narrative - a journey - and while the melodies are modulated, the tempo is held constant. In Beethoven's famous Fifth Symphony, for example, there are mighty musical struggles between C minor and C major, with the appearance of the major key signalling a triumphant victory at the end.

But Sibelius reversed all that in his one movement seventh symphony: the key is held constant - C major - but the tempi varies though the course of the symphony and that's what gives it its interest. That and the characteristic Sibelian orchestration. And while C major almost always sounds resolved and victorious, in this symphony it sounds, well, more like a scream (as Simon Rattle points out) - and the ending chords are abrupt. It really is an amazing work. Written in 1924, it's one of the composer's last pieces. It's not that Sibelius died shortly thereafter (he lived until 1957), it's that just after finishing it he became compositionally silent, the famous thirty year "Silence of Jarvenpaa," named for where he lived.

The Seventh isn't program music - that is, it doesn't mean anything or represent anything - despite the fact that a trombone melody is marked "Aino" on the score, the name of Sibelius' wife. When I listen to this work I tend to think of the flow of icy water as represented in rivulets, creeks, streams and rivers. I don't know why. It may simply be because Sibelius was Finnish and I'm letting my imagination flow from that. His music never seems to be far from cold lakes and dark impenetrable forests.

I really do need to visit rural Finland someday and see if I'm right. Will I think of Sibelius' music when viewing the landscapes?

We watched some more of Blandings last night, and are therefore finished with series 1. I plan to stop by the library to see if they have any series 2 DVDs.

Growing Up in San Francisco, the book I'm reading, gives me an idea. I think I am going to try using its structure as a template for a Growing Up in Burbank book proposal. I need to capture the chapter titles, rename them, with a brief account of what each chapter entails - and what it could entail in a work about Burbank. That might be the best way to start. Hm.

I donate blood again today.

17 January 2017

Timothy Spall and pig: Blandings
My Friday concert at the Kennedy Center was a lot of fun. (VIDEO.) Rimsky-Korsakov, Ravel and Stravinsky never sounded better. And I learned something: If the concert piece has a lot of brass parts in it, you want to be seated in the cheap seats in the orchestra (ground floor), not the upper tiers. While the view is more pleasant from the upper tier seats - I like being in high places - the brass sounds a lot more magnificent on the ground floor.

While strolling through the Kennedy Center gift shop I found this amazing book about classic music Lp covers. Just my thing. A big hardcover book, it was marked at only $15 and scanned at $12! And no high D.C. sales tax! (I guess the Kennedy Center gift shop has some sort of exemption.) It was a good read, too... the author identifies something called a "cover culture," in other words, people who collect vinyl records primarily because of the cover art. I guess I'm in that category. I was disappointed to see no mention of the distinctive collage art that Philip Featheringill did for Columbia Masterworks. Hmf. I think I'm the one man cheerleading section there. Still, the author did dedicate a page to covers for Rimsky-Korsakov's Le Coq d'Or, which has always been kind of my thing. (I have two albums of this framed in my house!) I have the two albums at the top, by the way.

On the subject of golden cockerels perched high atop a tower, check out this 422 year old one in Riga, Latvia! As old as it is, however, it isn't the oldest cockerel weathervane. It's not even close. That honor belongs to il Gallo di Ramperto, in Italy. It's a whopping 1,187 years old, manufactured c. 830 AD!

Yesterday I visited the grandsons and played Duplos with them. (VIDEO.) I also took about a half hour to rock in a rocking chair while little Gunnar was snuggled on my chest asleep. It was the highlight of the day, actually.

Last night my wife and I watched three episodes of Blandings, a series of comedies based on material by P.G. Wodehouse about his usual target of ridicule, the British upper class. I was attracted to it because it stars Timothy Spall, a favorite British actor. I enjoy it more than Jeeves and Wooster.

Have you ever heard the John Barry-Leslie Bricusse song "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?" It was going to be the title song to the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball until John Barry came up with Tom Jones' even more bombastic title track. (The producers were bothered by the fact that the song title wouldn't also be the film title.) There are at least three versions:

Glenda Grainger's - This one, I think, is just awful. The single flopped.

Shirley Bassey's - Loud and in your face in the usual Bassey style. Not bad, but the best, I think, is...

Dionne Warwick's - Lots of cowbell. Because nothing says international super secret agent better than cowbell. Actually, I really like this arrangement. The strings and brass are wonderful. John Barry was so good at orchestration...

I am now reading Growing Up in San Francisco by Frank Dunnigan. When I proposed a Lost Burbank follow-on book to my publisher, they sent this to me as an example of what they were looking for and have printed in the past. I don't think that they see that it's basically my Avocado Memories. The first two chapters are in first person form, with a lot of use of "I"; I was told that they didn't want a personal narrative. Hm. I'll finish it and figure out if I can re-cast my AM website into a "Growing Up in Burbank" or "Burbankers Remember" project.

I have Friday off due to the government's shutting down for the inauguration. It'll be a short week but a burdensome one - lots of meetings.

13 January 2017

Decidedly NOT Birgit Nilsson
Whoooo... Friday the 13th! But today isn't unlucky for me: I'm seeing a concert at the Kennedy Center later today. Ravel, Stravinsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. Cool!

Last night, as I was listening to the car stereo, it occurred to me that there are some versions of songs where I like the cover versions better than the originals:

(1) Alison Krauss and Union Station: "Baby, Now That I've Found You" - The 1967 original, by the Foundations, was noisy, sloppily sung and just kind of raucous. It's in the Motown style, despite the fact that the band was British. I never cared for it. But then I heard Alison Krauss' far softer and gentler version with vocals that can only be described as angelic - her version completely sells the lyrics. It's a great song, but I never realized this until I heard her sing it!

(2) The Flamingos: "I Only Have Eyes for You" - The original is a major, over the top Busby Berkeley number sung by Dick Powell to Ruby Keeler from the 1934 musical Dames. It's done in the dance band style of the times. It's memorable, but... wet. In 1959 the guitarist of the Flamingos, Terry Johnson, had the happy idea of slowing it down, arranging it in a doo-wop format and giving it an incredibly dreamy production - it sounds like music from space. (That story is here.) Magnificent! And check out this 1959 photo of the Flamingos doing their thing on stage - look at the bass player, Zeke Carey, on the left. Is that a Hofner bass he's playing? Yes it is, four years before Paul McCartney, playing one, propelled it into the consciousness of Beatles fans worldwide.

(3) Amy Winehouse: "Our Day Will Come" - I have always loved the 1963 Ruby and the Romantics original, especially with its characteristic early Sixties Wurlitzer organ parts. It's forever seared into my head as a result of it being a major hit when my family took a disastrous vacation to Ensenada Mexico (they didn't heed the advice not to drink the water and got sick). I have to admit, however, that these days first place goes to Amy Winehouse, who gives the song honking saxes, a reggae beat and her very own Betty Boopish vocal tones. She updates it nicely.

(4) Banarama: "Venus" - Actually, I like both versions, Banarama's and Shocking Pink's, about equally. But the original started with strummed guitar chords that make me think the songwriter ripped off Pete Townshend's "Pinball Wizard." The song works better with that 1980's drum machine sound.

You know what's coming up this Sunday? The 70th anniversary of the Black Dahlia murder, when Los Angeles noir intersected with horror. It's still unsolved and is likely to remain that way. Back in the early Internet days a writer who was working on a treatment of the murder, I forget who, asked me to investigate the curious phrase "A promise is a promise to a person of the world." After some searching, I found it. It's from a 1944 telegram, sent to the Dahlia, Elizabeth Short. But what it has to do with the case I don't know. I've never forgotten the enigmatic phrase, however.

Have you ever seen Westminster Gold classical music album covers from the early 1970's? They were wildly creative, I suppose in an approach to get people who wouldn't normally listen to classical music to become intrigued by the covers and buy albums. It never worked with me - I thought they were crass. Still, even the respected labels, like London, succumbed to sensationalism to move product. Check this one out (warning: toplessness). While I admit the subject - Stravinsky's Le Sacre which depicts primitive rites in ancient Russia - is not totally inappropriate for this kind of thing, but still...

Hang on. It just occurred to me. The version of this piece that I got to know the work by - Leonard Bernstein's with the New York Philharmonic - also has some of the same sort of thing going on. Sort of.

A funny blog about Westminster Gold album cover art is here. Note about the image above I'm using: Once, decades ago, I was in charge of the church talent show and one of the members, a zaftig lady, wanted to go on stage and lip-sync to Die Walkure wearing a pair of Volkswagen hubcaps as armor. I gently talked her out of it.

Last night I upgraded my PC from Win 7 to Win 10 for free. It got rid of an annoying problem I was having. So far, so good - everything still seems to work and my desktop looks pretty much the same.

Three day weekend! Have a nice one.

12 January 2017

Pojken Med GuldByxorna dirska dirska dirska
Last night I wasted an hour and forty minutes watching a Swedish film from 2014 called Pojken Med GuldByxorna ("The Boy with the Golden Pants").

The plot: a kid who looks somewhat like the Huckleberry Finn of Sweden finds a pair of pants that, unaccountably, produce 100 and 500 kronor bills in the right pocket. Presumably nothing comes out of the left pocket, but this is never mentioned. As his reckless spending spree causes a mysterious consequent disappearance of bank money (apparently the bills in the pants come from banks somehow), the matter becomes one of national interest. A powerful evil corporate type wants the pants back, and foot and car chases and gunfire ensue. There is also a somewhat well-wrought father-son reconciliation plot in this, and a girl who wears too much eyeliner and has a really unfortunate blue hair/shaved head coiffure.

(So what do you call Euro-trash if they're Scandinavian? "Scando-trash?")

I suppose this production is aimed at teens - teen who drop f-bombs - but I can't imagine teens sitting through this. It's needlessly long. (Note to Hollywood and Stockholm: Less is More.) The most impressive recent Swedish film I have seen remains Let the Right One In (2008), a vampire film with a decidedly original take.

A three mile high skyscraper? Yeah, build it. I like Penthouse Porn. (Important note: The phrase "Penthouse Porn" refers to photos of dream penthouses with floor to ceiling windows showing magnificent cityscapes.) I love looking at images like this and this and this. Like Lisa Douglas, I just adore a penthouse view.

Check out the London Shard's lightshow.

Annnnnddddddd... that's all I have for today.

11 January 2017

Meet the Goebbels
I bought a pair of hearing aids yesterday, after a second try-out in the Costco warehouse. I could hear pretty much everything my wife was saying, as well as hear a female friend whom we met in the noisy place. (I don't have problems hearing males, it's those with higher, softer voices that cause me problems.) I pick my devices up next week - they have to be ordered.

Whew - made it through the last installment of that grueling BBC Auschwitz series. They report that about 90% of the officials and guards at Auschwitz were never brought to trial for war crimes. Wow. Normally I try to make a habit of trying to understand history rather than judging it (there's too great a danger of inappropriately applying modern-day viewpoints and values), but this one throws me. Human history's most horribly effective killing place and 9 out of 10 of the people running it were let free?

As a sort of nightcap I started watching Untergang (2004 - "Downfall"), the excellent German film about Hitler's last days in the bunker. That scene where Magda Goebbels crushes the cyanide capsules in her children's mouths while they sleep is so... well... words fail me. It's one of the creepiest things I've ever seen in a film. How on earth did the director coach those child actors for that scene? Brrrrr.

(I awoke at 4 AM after troubled dreams. I really do need to modify my pre-bedtime movie viewing habits!)

Lego bricks have always been a favorite toy of mine. I was introduced to them via a blond, lederhosen-wearing German kid named Irwin, and my first set was received as a Christmas present in 1965. At the time they were (oddly) "by Samsonite," which I think means that Samsonite marketed them but did not manufacture the bricks. So, anyway, in 2014 I was up for watching the Lego Movie (2014), which my wife and I got tickets for in the local movie theater. We made it to about the ten minute mark when we left and got our money back - the movie was way too frenetic for us and we couldn't see sitting there for another 90 minutes to the end.

When we told them of this, our kids and other young people assured us that the film was excellent and that we left before it started to get good, and to give it another try. (In retrospect I should have been wary of the fact that this film's boosters all seem to be under 35.) So I put the DVD on my Netflix queue and we re-watched it last night. Nope. We still didn't like it. We both thought it was pointless, overlong and, frankly, boring. I fell asleep during one part. We also both thought that supposedly heart-warming trick ending was lame. It had its moments, but they were too few and far between.

I was up for the Lego Batman Movie (in theaters next month), but now I'm not so sure.

Warning, politics: The Worst President Ever gave his farewell speech last night. I have long since stopped listening to him, and wasn't up for another one of his self-promotional jeremiads. ("Worst President Ever?" you say, "surely not!" Yes, I think so, and here is where I offer my proof.) Just go.

And politically active actors and actresses on the lecture podium? Diamond and Silk nail it.

10 January 2017

I've been watching a gripping six part BBC series at night, Auschwitz: The Nazis and the "Final Solution" (2005). It is excellent, fascinating and actually difficult to watch. It's a comprehensive history of the place that could lay claim to being the most tragic spot on earth.

The production features live actors reenacting scenes as Nazi leaders, and interviews with Holocaust survivors - some of whom were sommercommandos (prisoners charged with helping to kill other prisoners and removing the bodies). A surprising sequence involves the British Police, on the Nazi-occupied Channel Islands, who were willing to send Jews to the east. Wow. The most chilling thing, however, are the interviews with former prison guards, who explain their role in the mass murders with sang-froid. Watching this series gives one a pessimistic view of humanity. I'm one episode left from the end; finishing this series will be a relief.

My wife wanted to know why I felt compelled to watch it. Because it's history and I would not be ignorant on the matter.

One prominent musical theme is interesting: it's from Handel's keyboard suite, Vol 2, No.4 in D Minor, referred to as the Saraband. It's also the memorable main theme from Barry Lyndon (1975) by Stanley Kubrick.

Last night I watched an excellent British flick - Blackout (2013) - about what happens if the lights go off for a week, nationwide, due to a cyberattack. (Namely, lines of traffic, riots, chaos in hospitals and civil unrest.) It was low budget and shot as a series of cellphone video segments, but was quite effective. Hm. Time to replenish our water bottle supply at Costco this afternoon when I go in to get fitted with hearing aids, I think.

I have seen nearly every Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn movie out there; it's kind of a genre commitment, like making it a point to see every horror anthology (which I think I have also seen). For me, the best Tom Sawyer adaptation remains the 1938 black and white one with Tommy Kelly, and the 1986 American Playhouse production of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is definitive. So it was with some invested but very hesitant interest I approached Band of Robbers, a 2015 production on Netflix streaming featuring a grown-up Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn set in the present day - with cars, swearing, modern colloquialisms and situations. It's a unique but not a promising approach.

I'd write that this film wasn't bad - but it was. The concept just really doesn't work. You can remove Tom and Huck from boyhood and the Mississippi River and insist that an emphasis on feckless adventure still makes them Tom and Huck, but, no, it doesn't. At least, not as depicted in this film, especially not casting Tom as a corrupt policeman. (Ouch, ouch, ouch, bad call.) There is some logic to having Huck cast as an ex-felon just released from prison, but, no... this movie fails - especially with Becky Thatcher cast as an eager rookie cop partnered with Tom. I'm glad I watched the movie for all of its multiple failings, however. I feel that now I've seen it all.

I am now reading (or, actually re-reading, since I did an initial proof-read) a murder mystery by a friend, Close-Hauled by Bob "Rob" Avery. When I'm done I'll write an amazon.com review to post and link to it here. You can buy a copy here! Or, better yet, here. This windjammer tale is a breezy read, like the dancing wind off the coast of some South Pacific island, redolent of promise, situation and adventure. It makes you want to lovingly regard the compass rose tattoo on your muscular forearm.

Speaking of books, hey, look at the amazon.com rankings on my own, Lost Burbank: #20 in Books > Arts & Photography > Photography & Video > History; #31 in Books > Arts & Photography > Photography & Video > Travel; #33 in Books > Travel > Pictorial. Is top fifty in these categories any good? I have no idea. And I still have no idea how many the publisher has sold. We don't get that data for another couple of months, I think. Over a thousand.

I bought a replacement stylus for my Shure V-15 Type III turntable cartridge. There is only one person in the United States who makes one; the only other source is a Japanese make. I purchased one from this fellow some years ago and found the sound to be quite good.

9 January 2017

Yeah, right.
Over the weekend I had to do some PC work, which means that my PC is temporarily down and I am composing this blog update on my wife's Apple laptop. It is an exercise in frustration.

I am a Windows PC person, not an Apple person, and this Apple laptop seems to sense that. Cut and paste doesn't work the way I'm used to. I can't seem to see the text on some e-mails. Browsers seem to refuse to open up new tabs or windows, etc. (I have to do some things in Google Chrome and others in Safari.) How do people get anything done on these?

Apples. They just work. Except when they don't.

For the past year the hard disk on my venerable and normally reliable 2009 vintage HP Windows workstation has been reporting an error, and threatening to crash. But it hasn't for more than a year. I moved all my most valuable data elsewhere and continue to use the machine, but over the weekend I decided to change out the hard disk so the errors go away. This has proven to be a bit more difficult than anticipated, and so I'm having a new hard disk rebuilt in a shop. I pick up the new, hopefully good disk with all my data transferred onto it in an hour or so. In the meantime I'm in Apple Hell.

I made some videos this past weekend. But can I paste the links here? No, I cannot. Why not? Because when I go to youtube on this thing I get an "Oops! Your web browser is no longer supported" notice. So you'll just have to wait until I get on a REAL computer. (My wife says, "I don't have any problems with the laptop." I bet she doesn't.)

Oh, wait, I just figured out a workaround:

Reopening of the Pohick Library - At last! It's been closed for over a year. I'm not sure I see seven million dollars of improvement in this place, but, whatever… I don't need to drive into downtown Springfield and cope with all the traffic anymore. (Old Keene Mill Road, which one uses to get there,  is the most heavily-used secondary road in this gridlocked county, I have read.)

Lunch at Cafe Rio - I get my food at the nearby Wendy's and bring it here to eat.

Shooting the Kids (with a nerd gun) - I like Ethan's background score.

My Burbank pal and Lost Burbank co-author Mike has just come back from a cruise to various Mexican ports. So, he's on the ship somewhere off the coast of Cabo San Lucas when a fellow passenger recognizes his daughter and hails her; turns out he's a customer from where she works in Burbank. When we assert that "Burbank is everywhere," this is the sort of thing we mean. (Mike also bumped into our former Burbank High School gym coach on the cruise!)

The funny part: The customer asks Mike, "Say, are you the Mike McDaniel who wrote Lost Burbank?" Hahahahaha!

Okay, that's it. I have more to write, but I can't stand composing on this laptop any longer.

6 January 2017

Featheringill's Faust in Hell
Last night I watched eight members of the Berlin Philharmonic perform orchestral pieces from William Walton’s Façade, called "a whimsical and poetic rarity." I didn't like it.

The conductor, Sir Simon Rattle, was gibbering away in nonsense talk and so was the featured soprano - it was often drowned out by the instruments. It left me cold. These pieces work better scored for an entire orchestra without the spoken parts, I think.

In fact, I was so bored with Façade that during the performance I was programming my Apple Watch to display images of my grandkids, the Columbia Walking Eye, the Blue Oyster Cult glyph, Paul Klee's Senecio and a golden cockerel (sort of my personal signature) on the dial. Each time you raise your arm it cycles through these images. Can't do that with a Breitling. But, as my wife points out, an Apple Watch may last about five years. You'll probably be able to rebuild a Breiting a hundred years from now. But - will Breiting ever make third party dials for Apple Watches? There are good reasons to do it and compelling reasons not to do it.

Hermes has done it. (In conjunction with a strap.)

The other day I obtained a CD of Bob Cobert's movie themes from House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows (1971) via inter-library loan. I think my needs for eerie, somber, and/or atmospheric music of severely restricted emotional mood is fulfilled for all time with this CD. I need look no further.

Once more, The Art of Philip Featheringill. As near as I can tell on the Internet, I am the artist's lone admirer.

Last night I watched part one of a six part BBC documentary series about Auschwitz. I'd call it "good," but that term can't really describe it. Horribly compelling is more like it. The more world history I read, and the more World War II history I am familiar with, the more I am convinced that the event was the single most disastrous thing to happen to humanity since Noah's Flood. But here's numerical proof of this assertion.

Call me easily excited, but I am really up for the re-opening of our local library tomorrow morning at 10:30. The Pohick Regional Library (I've been a patron since 1987) has been closed for over a year for renovations, seven million dollars worth. It's hard for me to see from the video where all that money went, but, hey, I'm just happy not to have to drive to the Richard Byrd library in downtown Springfield. I've never really warmed to that place.

Have a great weekend!

5 January 2017

Gibson and Hudson welcome new brother Gunnar - in a yule sleeper
UGH. I was lying awake for two hours last night. I feel wiped out.

The other day I mentioned that 2016 was an interesting year. It was interesting for a reason that I was not able to explain when I wrote the blog entry, but I can announce it now: Clark grandchild #6, Gunnar Quincy Clark, was born 6:30 AM on the last day of the year in Springfield, VA. He was 8 lbs., 13 ozs. and 21 inches long. Mother and child are doing well. There are other aspects to this story that are, well, beyond the scope of this blog.

So there's an heir, a spare - and Gunnar. And life in town gets even more interesting!

Did I mention that I got an Apple Watch for Christmas? No, I did not. It's much faster to learn than I thought it would be, and its advantages and shortcomings are quickly realized. I like it. It's nice to be able to quickly check on a text message with the flip of a wrist, or initiate a phone call without taking the iPhone out of my pocket - or even my hands from the steering wheel. And I like the fact that I can easily swap between different dials, with customized complications (stopwatch, weather temp and conditions, time, moon phase, etc.). My grandkids like the animated Mickey Mouse face with tapping toe and voice announcement of the time. I thought that I would prefer a dial with a conventional analog-looking circular watch face, but on this watch I seem to prefer the aesthetic of data presented as on a computer display. It makes sense. So most of the time I choose "modular."

An interesting face is the astronomical one: it shows where you are on the face of the earth with the sunlight shown moving across the planet. Or you can tap a spot on the screen and get a representation of the moon in its current phase, or, and here's the mind-blowing one, the planets in their orbits around the sun - an orrery. Spin the dial on the side and the planets move in their orbits in time. For instance, I can see that on the 4th of July in 2020 there will be a grand conjunction of most of the planets (Uranus and Neptune excluded). Van Cleef and Arpel have a mechanical watch/orrery, but it costs $245,000. It's much cheaper to do in software.

The voice recognition system seems to be quite good; it nearly always understands whatever I say after, "Hey, Siri..." even though sometimes it tells me that I need to look at the iPhone.

Last night I heard the Berlin Philharmonic play some clever and likable selections from William Walton's Facade; I shall have to see this whole work performed. I understand it has speakers who intone goofy, nonsense lyrics at times. I've known about it for decades but have never heard it.

Last night I also finished up the The Grand Tour two parter, wherein Clarkson, May and Hammond drive dune buggies across the Namibian desert. Those guys have the most fun job, ever.

I met with my church men's group assistants last night. We now have the home teaching routes established, people know their assignments, an instructor has been called and we know who is teaching what through the end of April. I think we can now meet in these planning sessions on a bi-weekly basis instead of weekly. That's the administering taken care of (for the most part). The ministering part - conversations, service, acts of kindness - is the hard part.  At least I find it so. For other people it's the reverse.

4 January 2017

After the miserable and dreary experience of extended time off being with my family, my heart leapt with joy when I crossed the threshold to my office at work this morning.

I lie. Retirement!

I'm still reading Founding Brothers - The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis. I'm halfway through it... it's taking me forever because I keep having to put it aside. But it's excellent! I'm in the chapter about George Washington's celebrated Farewell Address. People have focused on the part about avoiding encumbering alliances with foreign nations, but what's equally relevant is the matter at the beginning warning against the influence of political parties and the continued need for the emphasis on the Republic over sectionalism. I'm sure Washington would have strongly disapproved of what has come to be known as Identity Politics. Well... it didn't get Hillary Clinton into office, so perhaps it's on the way out.

If there is one thing my subscription to the Berlin Philharmonic has given me, it's an appreciation for Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony. I watched/listened to it again last night. I have grown fond of this work. The brutal scherzo represents Stalin, and the rest of the work is something of a puzzle. What does it all mean? I suppose the composer was asserting his personality and individual liberty in the face of totalitarian socialism, and there are passages with references regarding a woman he had fallen in love with, but it's still mysterious. It sounds mysterious.

Last night's activity: Teaching Gibson Crazy Eights. Perhaps I'm not clear in the video: that particular deck is not 50+ years old, but the circus designs are. I played with a deck just like that, in other words. I remember playing game after game with Janie Holland at her parents' house on Christmas 1964 (family friends); those silly designs are etched in my memory. Anyway, Gibson, at age four, is a little young to be learning the game... but why not teach him? He knows how to play the memory card game pretty well.

Today I'm wearing a sample of Kiehl's Original Musk. Now THIS is a good musk! I remember the musk-mania of the 1970's - a female friend of mine used to wear it heavily - and I always thought it smelled great. But for some reason I haven't smelled anything as good since until I smelled this stuff. It has good longevity and is only forty some odd bucks for a bottle. My wife, however, thinks it's soapy, like an ingredient in a detergent. (Manufacturers put musks in laundry detergents, probably to mask the cleaning agents.)

3 January 2017

I am at home with The Cold That Will Not Relent. I've been fighting it since November; I think this is version 3.0: sniffles, sore throat.

We did most of the big annual house cleanup yesterday: "deep vacuuming," the rug turnaround and Swiffer sweeping, paint touch ups on the walls, etc. We do a bit more today, then it's on to more advanced projects, like putting up those laundry room cabinets I've been storing for a couple of years. When I feel better.

In the course of all this cleaning I discovered that the stylus on my turntable apparently took a hit from some grandchild. The bad news is that a replacement stylus for a Shure V-15 Type III cartridge is $50 online. The good news is that I have a 1988 receipt indicating that I bought one for $52 from an audio supply place called "Needle in a Haystack" in the Springfield Mall, so the price actually went down over the past 29 years! (The stylus I have now I think I bought nearly ten years ago, so it's time for a new one.) That is, I think the problem is the stylus. I may want to investigate getting a whole new cartridge and stylus. The Shure V-15 Type III was a great cartridge, but it's 30+ years old. Maybe there are better ones out there. Hmmm. 

**** Google search for cartridges ****

Good heavens, this resurgent vinyl hobby has gotten expensive! Probably thanks to elitist hipsters. Nearly $12,000 for a Lyra Atlas? I don't think so! From what I read I need to keep the Shure. 

Due to holiday forgetfulness/preoccupation I see I didn't link to this on this blog: the 11/30/16 Burbankia slideshow presentation in Burbank. CA. It's just under an hour and professionally edited, this time! If some some strange reason you have a yen to hear me sing - with a cold - in front of about 120 people it's at the 21:00 point. 

2016 was an unusual year for me:

Lost Burbank published; I become an author
Visited Boise, Idaho for the first time
A grandchild born
I bought a new car
Filmed a segment of a television show (that I cannot name due to non-disclosure agreement - I'll mention it next month)
My church ward was reorganized and I was ordained a High Priest
Presidential election upset
I turned 60 and my dreamy gal pal Angela visited
I finally met British pen pal Anthony Farrow
Lost 20 pounds (but gained it all back over the holidays, I'm sure)
Completed a major project at work
All three kids - with their kids - visited for Christmas
Facebook paid me $3000 for 8mm home movie footage of my father!

Last Christmas, my sister-in-law, thinking that I needed to improve my vocabulary, gave me a desk calendar with a new word for each day. Out of 365 entries for 2016 I knew 215 of them, 59%. Hmf.

1 January 2017

Happy New Year!

I now begin my ninth year of blogger.com blog entries. This is entry #2,009 since October 20, 2008!

We had a party... here was how we saw 2016 go out and 2017 come in.

I got my daughter Julie and her family to the Baltimore airport at 6 AM (it's an hour drive) - whew. Tomorrow I get my other daughter and her family to the much closer Reagan National airport, and the Christmas visits are over.

The tree and all the Christmas decorations are all down, as is my habit. When 1 January, arrives, all that stuff goes back into boxes.

As today is a Sunday I went to church. I sit down in the last hour meeting and find a stranger sitting next to me. I inquire where he's from... Burbank, California! He has seen my Burbankia website and knew that I wrote a book about the place. What's more, when I asked what part of Burbank he's from, he replies, "The corner of Victory and Buena Vista," very near where I lived. Turns out he lives only a few blocks from where I grew up. Wow. Small world. There is no getting away from Burbank.

Tomorrow, the 2nd, is a holiday for me. I plan to spend the day putting the house back in order.  

29 December 2016

At 5 Guys for burgers
Lots of fun being had... Videos:

Me and Ruby

Aunt Julie and Ruby

Outdoors dining at Five Guys

The new MGM National Harbor resort in Maryland

That's all for now. Company coming for dinner...

26 December 2016

The after-church pose - a family tradition...
It was a lovely Christmas! The action thus far, via videos:

Christmas Pajamas! (Christmas Eve)

Jammie Insanity! (Christmas Eve)

Christmas Eve

Christmas Morning

Christmas Day

23 December 2016

Unfairly disparaged and unfashionable. 
This is it - the last day of work before the Christmas break. And it couldn't have come too soon, either. Work seems especially bothersome. I will be out starting tomorrow and returning back to work on the 3rd of January - maybe. (I take four days off to get ten days in a row with weekends and federal holidays. But perhaps I'll want eleven...) So I may blog or I may not. I might just spend all my time hanging out with kids and grand kids and ignore computers entirely.

(No, wait, that's not true. I know I'm getting an Apple Watch for Christmas, so I'll be very much dealing with computers. Perhaps because Apple is skilled with creating computing products it will be less burdensome or unpleasant.)

My drive into Shirlington this morning was an all-time speed record; nobody was on I-395. We're getting two hours early release.

Tonight I do my four hour parking lot detail at the temple. This morning I remembered that I own a new Land's End down jacket I got on sale... I forget when. I think I'll wear that tonight.

Video: amazon.com shipment.

Last night before I went to bed I was involved in Facebook exchanges with some young people about the continued validity and need for the Electoral College. They haven't done their homework. Suggested reading: Flexner's George Washington - the Indispensable Man, Bowen's Miracle in Philadelphia, Langguth's Patriots or Ellis' Founding Brothers. If you want to argue for a popular vote only, fine, but you need to understand the federal system of states and a central government and why we have the Electoral College. In other words, don't propose to take down a wall until you understand why somebody put it up in the first place! (I seem to be reminding people of this - to no avail - a lot in my work life.)

One young person suggested that Washington, Jefferson, Madison, et. al. were ignorant because they did not provide for slave emancipation when they created the Constitution. If you feel the need to be politically correct and slightingly call the founding fathers "old white men," "slave owners" or, say, "Euro-centric aristocrats" go right ahead. But the one thing you cannot call them is ignorant! Generations of historians have realized that the revolutionary generation contained some of the most politically intelligent and skilled men who ever lived. They created the structure for the world's greatest and longest-lived republic.

Consider what normally happens after a revolution: the new government becomes more tyrannical than the government that it replaced. (France, Russia, Iran, China and Cuba come to mind.) Or, as Robespierre observed on the way to his execution, "Revolutions eat their own children." This didn't happen in the United States. Why? Because of the brilliant political insight of those disparaged old white men.

As far as slavery is concerned, it was very much a case of having to kick that can down the road for a future generation to address or have no federal government at all. The slave states - mainly Georgia and South Carolina - would simply not allow the creation of a new government that would emancipate the slaves. As badly as Thomas Jefferson wanted the promise of his lofty words in the Declaration of Independence to apply to all, it could not. Not then. That would have to wait for the events of 1861-1865.

My last argument: the political system the founding fathers established, Electoral College and all, led to the creation and maintenance of the world's first super-power, a political entity that has created more individual liberty, freedom and prosperity for more individuals than any other political system in world history, bar none. You can dispute this with me but I will simply tell you to go back and do your homework to verify that I am correct. So... what has your common democracy done, eh?

(I am willing to cut you some slack if you bring up classical Athenian democracy.)

Other people argue about sports teams. I get into discussions like this. I am a very ponderous old bag of wind.

Well. Merry Christmas from my home to yours, Gentle Reader, whomever you are. While it is true that I would write these blog updates were I to have 500, 100, 75, 20 or no readers because it fulfills a creative need, the fact is that I appreciate your following along.

See you next year!

22 December 2016

Pardon, monsieur, je ne sais quoi avec le baguette.
Check out Oley's hot dog stand in (old) Burbank. It's now long gone... I don't think it was there in 1965 when we moved into town. Every now and then I find myself posting an old photo of a place in Burbank and thinking, "I'd like to go there!" "Thick malts!" I'm in!

Also, General Patton speaks at (the old) Burbank City Hall, 1945. Did he swear? I have been unable to find out what he said, but it probably wasn't much because the stop was one of many on a whirlwind 4 1/2 hour long tour of Los Angeles County mentioned by the Los Angeles Times.

Last night my daughter and I started watching Varekai, a Cirque du Soleil show. It's... okay. Actually, I found myself zoning out. It has all the usual Cirque du Soleil tropes: weird costumes, singing in some unrecognizable language, heavily made-up acrobatic performers making characteristically provocative expressions at the audience, etc. It's all a bit puzzling, like modern dance performances seemed in high school, except French. You know what I mean? I suppose I'd be more entertained by it were it not for the fact that I couldn't seem to stay awake yesterday! I got a good night's sleep, but I kept dozing off at various parts of the day. (I took three naps.) Geez.

Also last night my son-in-law arrived in at Reagan National, so we picked him up. The house is filling...

Ruby's first chocolate!

Here are twelve images from the 1970 Sears Christmas Wish BookI was fourteen in 1970 and so I remember all this kind of thing, but it’s funny, but I don’t recall Sears goods looking as cheap, kitschy and middle class as they appear to me now. Which changed: me or American retail? As I recall, things started improving across the board in the Eighties. Wages went up, restaurant food got better, television shows became better produced and retail stores became more numerous and varied and started getting better goods. We were certainly better led (Ronald Wilson Reagan). 

Christmas letters! It's a fad that seems to be trending out - we haven't gotten as many as in past years - but as a tradition I still need to post my all-time favorite, received by my wife's former co-worker c. 2004: page one, page two. My favorite phrase: "...just had to bring his fag boyfriend." Seasons greetings!

Oh, and here's my JonahWorld! Christmas page, pretty much unchanged since 1999. "Santa's living the dream" is a card I got back in the 1980's. I still think it's funny. 

I finished season one of the 1960's French spy spoof Au Service du France on Netflix. French humor is very dry... I like it. I want season two, Netflix! 

So now that all the dust has settled from the Electoral College's vote earlier this week, which candidates did the seven "faithless" electors support? "Among the 538 electors chosen to represent their states in the Electoral College, five were faithless to the Democratic nominee and two to the Republican. [Hahahahaha! - Wes] Prior to this year, there hasn’t been more than one faithless elector in any presidential election since 1948." Perhaps it's a trend.

A friend and I have been having a Facebook argument about faithless electors. His claim is that nothing in the U.S. Constitution bars an elector from voting according to his or her beliefs. And this is true. However, my thinking is that these people are pledged to vote according to the will of We, the People in their various states. Can you imagine the electoral chaos if these folks, deluded with self-importance, decided to become little wanna-be tyrants and voted however they pleased? For that reason I support state laws replacing faithless electors. And should the day come that faithless electors decide to thwart the national will as expressed in a legal national election, I say line 'em up and shoot 'em all.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

21 December 2016

Union Station, D.C.: Cari looks at earrings and Ruby looks at me.
Today is the Winter Solstice, aka the first day of Winter, which means that today is the shortest day of the year. (Exactly nine hours, 15 minutes and 6 seconds of daylight.) In other words, things start getting better in terms of daylight accumulation from this point on. Hooray!

Last night we took Baby Ruby to Union Station in D.C. while Mom worked. Cari and I ate at a sandwich shop for dinner; I bought her a dangly set of earrings. Then we all visited the D.C. Temple to hear Trifecta and look at the pretty lights. VIDEO. All in all Ruby was very well behaved, but towards the end she had just had it with sitting in that car seat. I don't blame her.

It occurred to me last night as we were looking at the manger at the Temple that I have VHS camcorder video from 1986 - 30 years ago! - of our standing in the exact same place looking at the same thing with Ethan as a three year old. Yikes! The lights in the trees now, however, are far more spectacular than they were then. The LED colors are far more intense.

You know what I like? I like those guy-gal challenge songs country artists do. The classic is Johnny Cash with his wife June Carter in "Jackson." In this Jackson becomes a metaphor for martial disharmony ("All them women gonna make me teach 'em what they don't know how") - and June has a thing or two to say about it. While the song was written in 1963 by Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber, actress Gaby Rodgers is cited as co-author because Leiber used his then-wife's name as a pseudonym in writing the song with Wheeler. Fun fact: I once interviewed Gaby Rogers. When the subject of the song came up she got cagey for reasons unknown to me. Copyrights are like that.

Here's another good one, by Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton: "Run That By Me One More Time." Both are accomplished songwriters, but this song happens to be Dolly's. The video is notable for a few things: (1) BIG BLONDE HAIR. I love Wagoner's bleached bouffant. (2) Check out Hillary's deplorables in the audience! (3) The easy, jokey familiarity the two stars have with one another. Great video!

Last but absolutely not least is Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn asking the not-so-rhetorical question "Who's Gonna Take Your Garbage Out?" (It starts at the 3:20 point.) According to Loretta, having Ernest Tubb as a husband is just like calling a wildcat a pet. But, no, I cannot picture Loretta taking any garbage out. I'm sure there were countless Southern Lochinvars eager to do that for her.

I am at the Aaron Burr-Alexander Hamilton duel part in that Founding Brothers book I'm reading. I was amused to read that both implacable enemies were seated together at a July 4th (1804) dinner held by the Society of the Cincinnati. According to artist John Trumbull, Hamilton used the occasion to sing an old military song, "General Wolfe's Song" (aka "Why, Soldiers, Why?"). The author erroneously states that it was supposedly written by General Wolfe on the eve of his glorious death on the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec in 1759 - it wasn't. It's older than that.

"How Stands the Glass Around?" - a favorite of mine - is the only song I know all the lyrics to by heart, and can sing rather well, I think. It has an archaic melody I love. Here, listen. I suspect the tune is older than the 18th century, but I have no proof of this.

Uh-oh. Queen's not going to Sandringham; she has apparently fallen ill. I hope she still does her Christmas broadcast... in recent years I have taken to watching it. Were I a British subject I'd be the most Tory of Tories.

20 December 2016

20 December 1980, Studio City, California
Her: "Someday we'll have grandchildren!"
Me: (Silence)
My wife and I were married 36 years ago today! Best decision I ever made. 36 years ago, though - whew! Time passes quickly, no doubt about that. It's not like that it was just yesterday, but it doesn't seem like the lifetime ago that it was. And my own parents were married only 28 years before Dad died.

Why did I wear a white tux on our wedding? Yikes! That's one thing we'd change were we to do it all again.

And, yes, we would do it all again.

Well... I would!

So what are our plans for tonight? Since my daughter has to work in D.C. - and we therefore get to watch Baby Ruby - we're thinking of schlepping her up to the LDS Temple to see the pretty lights, trees and creches and hear Trifecta tonight.

(Note: Trifecta is a assembled-each-year jazz combo that does Christmas music. The bassist is in our ward. He plays for the U.S. Army. He is the very best bassist I know. Video from last year. I didn't know an acoustic bass was capable of such high, expressive and totally musical notes until I heard him play.)

Baby Ruby video from last night: Musical Ruby!

I am now reading an excellent book, if the first chapter is any indication: Founding Brothers - The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis. A good quote: "Though it seems somewhat extreme to declare, as one contemporary political philosopher has phrased it, the "end of history" is now at hand, it is true that all alternative forms of political organization appear to be fighting a futile rearguard action against the liberal institutions and ideas first established in the United States in the late eighteenth century. At least it seems safe to say that some form of representative government based on the principle of popular sovereignty and some form of market economy fueled by the energies of individual citizens have become the commonly accepted ingredients for national success throughout the world. These legacies are so familiar to us, we are so accustomed to taking their success for granted, that the era in which they were born cannot help but be remembered as a land of foregone conclusions."

Got that, ISIS "caliphate?" You are doomed and you will fail. There is nothing so strong as an idea whose time has come, and freedom will triumph.

I watched a weird and unsettling film last night, They Came Back (2004), aka Les Revenants. A French work, this is not at all your usual brain-eating zombie film, but creates a simple situation: What if the recently dead returned, expecting to regain their former status among families, etc? In this film the dead are not at all decayed or frightening, but are somewhat mentally listless, have body temperatures about five degrees cooler than normal humans, have enormous energy and appear to want to walk a lot. At night they gather and meet... to what end?

The pros: This film has an eerie, unsettling feel to it. The con: It has no real payoff and, as one often wonders when "Fin" appears at the end of a French film, one thinks, "What? It ends here?" (It was once famously pointed out that French films do not end. They stop.) But I enjoyed it. It and the British Colin (2008), a zombie film told from the point of view of the zombie, are the only two zombie films I care for. It's not a favorite film genre, let's leave it at that.

I must deal with some disagreeable - but funny - political material: In recent weeks there has been much anguish and tumult regarding the Electoral College's vote which occurred yesterday. The so-called "Hamilton Electors" movement (Alexander Hamilton is kewl because of the Broadway musical) was created as a resurrection of the failed #NeverTrump movement, and one Harvard prof, wishfully thinking, suggested that as many as twenty of Trump's electors would bolt and vote for somebody else. It didn't happen. Two Texans (Hmf - Texans) voted for somebody else, but it didn't matter - Trump got his 270 electoral votes and is the President of the United States, and will be so certified by Congress next month.

What was funny is that some of Hillary Clinton's faithless electors opted to vote for somebody else: "Calls for Trump to be voted down by members of the Electoral College were roundly ignored on Monday – with only two 'faithless' Republican electors rejecting the president-elect and four deserting Democrat Hillary Clinton." Three Democratic electors opted for Colin Powell and one for somebody named Faith Spotted Eagle! So not only did Hillary Clinton not obtain enough electoral votes to win, she didn't even get the electoral votes she thought she had! Hahahahaha! This election is the gift that keeps on giving.

I hope I feel like that four years from now.

19 December 2016

We want better yard sales, Santa!
We had an ice storm in Virginia Friday night. We were supposed to have a church Christmas party at 9 AM on Saturday morning, but the parking lot was a sheet of ice. So we moved it to Noon when things thawed out a bit. Santa arrived. That's me and my yard sale pal Jane on his lap. We asked for better yard sales in 2017.

I'm telecommuting, but it's hard to get anything done today; Baby Ruby is in the house! She is a major distraction...

I am almost finished with that French 1960's spy series I'm watching, Au Service du France. Somebody was telling me about a French film from 2004 I ought to watch, They Came Back. The plot: "The lives of the residents of a small French town are changed when thousands of the recently dead inexplicably come back to life and try to integrate themselves into society that has changed for them." Sounds intriguing. I don't normally care for zombie films but I'll watch a French zombie film...

The Trader Joe's in Springfield

Me and Ruby (aka Go away world I'm playing with my grand daughter)

Jumpin' Ruby!

Ruby plays peek a boo.

I started an animated movie Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 (2012) but gave it up halfway through. It was boring me.

Okay, that's all. You get a minimum effort blog update today!

16 December 2016

In 2006 I hadn't yet tired of the Comic Sans Serif font. 
A milestone slipped by without my recalling it: I played my last rugby match ten years ago! It was a match with the Quantico Marines on 10/21/06, my 83rd.

Highlights from my notes: "For the third time I played another match without benefit of practice... I didn't play badly - just indifferently... a large Marine (about my size) somehow wound up with his head between my knees as we fell to ground, and was clutching his head. To add insult to injury, at that point one of his teammates lashed out with a kick that met his head (or appeared to). The big fellow was all right after a brief spell and continued to play... No try, but then I wasn't really expecting one... I made a point of staying near Elvis when I could, as we approached the Marines' tryline, but no opportunity presented itself. So I enjoyed myself and was once again glad I played... we won, 23-22. It's always satisfying somehow when one beats one's alma mater... upper arms are still sore, but not as sore as in previous weeks. I'm gulping ibuprofen like candy."

Ha! That upper arm injury I cite was really a damaged shoulder tendon I would eventually need surgery to repair. I couldn't lift my hand above my head without pain.

I miss rugby, but, no, I'm never playing it again. And I was right: I knew at age 42 when I first got interested that if I didn't take the game up and give it a try I would be disappointed later in life. So there are no disappointments on that account.

Have I ever posted this intriguing genealogical chart before? I don't think so. What's wrong with the math at the end of the chart? It doesn't take into account commonality of ancestors. We are all pretty much related somehow.

Last night's Apple Store workshop on iMovie was fun. Malik, the young fellow giving it, observed, "You catch on fast." Yes... I have always been a quick study - except with math, which is usually taught poorly. The class was helpful in that it taught me that I wasn't shooting 4K video with my new iPhone 7 as I thought I was - I had to set it to do that. As I only have 32 GB on my phone, Malik cautioned me about using up my memory with big movie files. But that's okay... I'm good at removing movie files and storing them away. I rarely run into memory issues on my iPhones.

By the way, I replaced my cheap workplace USB-to-Lightning cable with an Apple one. It cost me $20, but if there is one universal truth I have learned (and keep learning) it's "You get what you pay for." No more crappy cheap cables!

My first 4K video: Fornasetti candles at Bloomingdale's. Another 4K video: Gibson and Hudson look at our German Christmas Pyramid. If these don't appear exceptionally clean, adjust the YouTube gear at bottom left for 4K resolution. More to come!

And look at my granddaughter Baby Ruby standing up! She and her mother are flying out today; I pick them up at Reagan National at 4 PM. COOL! (Dad follows some days later.)

I've been watching Be Bop Deluxe videos as of late. Do you remember this band? They flourished in the Seventies. I saw them open for the Blue Oyster Cult at the Long Beach Arena in 1977 or so, and I was blown away by guitarist Bill Nelson's musicianship and songwriting ability. Some examples: Forbidden Lovers/Down on Terminal Street, Ships in the Night/Fair Exchange, New Precision. "Down on Terminal Street" has always been a favorite of mine; the lyrics have a film noirish grandeur that approach poetry:

I took a walk down Terminal Street last night,
To see the ancient faces living there,
I saw the sunken eyes of agony,
And saw the desperate stations of despair,
The madman waiting for the spirit girls to come,
In a song well written but unsung,
I saw the smiling wardens cracking down the noose,
In which my drowning head was hung.

Oh, down on Terminal Street
Oh, down on Terminal Street

The street cafe was closed to all but ghosts,
Who glide the alleys searching for their lair,
I heard a voice like winter call my name,
Said very soon that I would join them there,
And all the creatures born of ink and rage and lies,
Crawled off my pen and ran across the page to die,
Fascination was the germ of their disease,
Degradation is the term of their release.

Oh, down on Terminal Street
Oh, down on Terminal Street
Oh yes, I'm down on Terminal Street tonight
Oh no, not down on Terminal Street tonight...

The weekend! We have a church brunch tomorrow, which also happens to be my son's 33rd birthday. What's more, "Cupcake" (his third son and my sixth grandchild) is due tomorrow. But with agreement of my daughter-in-law, there shall be no social media announcement of the birth until she has had a chance to tell her family first. Sensible.

Have a great weekend!

15 December 2016

I finished the Spirit book yesterday. Here is more evidence of how 1940 was very different than today: spanking, discussion of a corpse all cut up, a racial stereotype and a bloody knife. Remember, these ran in the Sunday funny papers intended for children! Wow. Now I'm thinking I probably need to watch that film adaptation of the Spirit made some years ago, despite the fact that it got terrible reviews.

(Well - maybe not. Even the trailer is awful. That doesn't happen very often.)

I took my sad Christmas light string down from the front of the house yesterday and, instead, strung it around the inside perimeter of my deck. It looks much better.

Last night my bride and I went to the draperyrodsdirect.com Christmas dinner at the Carlyle Grand Cafe in Shirlington (Arlington), VA. I had one of their wonderful, melt-in-your-mouth filet mignons. Mmmmmmm. One of my wife's co-workers told me about what is supposed to be a fabulous doughnut store, the Sugar Shack, in Arlington. Hmmmmm. We shall have to investigate. Perhaps during the Christmas-to-New Year's break.

Cool! I just learned that I'll have January 20th, Inaugural Day, off. (All the security and street closings turn the greater D.C. area into a complete traffic mess.)

I've been listening to Sirius XM's Christmas music channel as of late, which is often Jewish Entertainment Celebrities Sing Songs about Christmas. A notable entry I heard this morning on the drive in to work was Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme's "That Holiday Feeling," wherein Eydie sings about roasting chestnuts and Steve sings about having sex with Eydie. I can't help it... whenever I hear Steve and Eydie I think of Catherine O'Hara and Dave Thomas' hilarious early 1980's send up of them singing "I Married You." Sadly, it is not on YouTube (copyright, I suppose) but here's an enterprising couple's lip-sync to it. "Your B.O.'s bad, and your breath is quite offensive/Soap and water's not expensive/Hey, don't you be so defensive..." Hahahaha!

Anyway, Cari got to see Steve and Eydie at Wolf Trap years ago... she reported that she was by far the youngest person in the audience. There were a lot of wife jokes going on; that was their shtick.  It was kind of like an occidental-oriental couple who used to be on the Carson show a lot back in the Sixties. (Somebody and Mako?) He was American and she was Japanese, and their routine was basically him making fun of her and her dialect. Weird.

---- Google Search ensues ----

Ah, the act I recall was "Jack and Reiko Douglas." She died in 2013.

---- We return ----

Sirius also played one of my favorite Christmas novelty tunes: Pearl Bailey's "Five Pound Box of Money." Pearly Mae was great! Try me! Try me! Try me on that money!

I noticed a definite downtick in the number of Christmas letters we've gotten this year. I suspect that trend has become passé.

This afternoon I attend an Apple Workshop on the iMovie app at the Apple Store. I want to make better yard sale and grand child videos!

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