America’s Finest Music


The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song honors living musical artists (composer and/or performer) whose lifetime contributions exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the work of George and Ira Gershwin (see above).

The Gershwin Brothers gave the world: Rhapsody in Blue, Porgy and Bess, An American in Paris, the music for the soundtrack for the film “Manhattan,” and many popular songs (eg, “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “Embraceable You,” Someone To Watch Over Me,” “They All Laughed,” etc.)

Once, Ira was challenged to write the lyrics for a love song –but without using the word “love.” What song did he write? (see below: ***)

George died at age 38 (a brain tumor) in 1937. (Ira died in 1983 at age 86.) On that date, July 11, 1937, a writer said: “George Gershwin died on July 11, 1937, but I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.”

I have no problem with the recipients of this award. But 9 of the 10 individuals are men. What woman would you want to receive it? For example, how about:


                                                                Joan Baez  



                                                         Joni Mitchell




                                                              Bonnie Raitt




*** = They All Laughed.

They all laughed at Christopher Columbus

When he said the world was round

They all laughed when Edison recorded sound

They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother

When they said that man could fly


They told Marconi

Wireless was a phony

It’s the same old cry

They laughed at me wanting you

Said I was reaching for the moon

But oh, you came through

Now they’ll have to change their tune


They all said we never could be happy

They laughed at us and how!

But ho, ho, ho!

Who’s got the last laugh now?




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Seriously Funny People


The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor is awarded annually by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It recognizes people who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th century novelist and essayist best known as Mark Twain. As a social commentator, satirist, and creator of memorable characters, Samuel Clemens was a fearless observer of society, who startled and outraged many while delighting and informing many more with his uncompromising perspective of social injustice and personal folly. He revealed the great truth of humor when he said “against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”

Recipients of the Mark Twain Prize have been:

1998 = Richard Pryor

1999 = Jonathan Winters

2000 = Carl Reiner

2001 = Whoopi Goldberg

2002 = Bob Newhart

2003 = Lily Tomlin

2004 = Lorne Michaels

2005 = Steve Martin

2006 = Neil Simon

2007 = Billy Crystal

2008 = George Carlin

2009 = Bill Cosby

2010 = Tina Fey

2011 = Will Ferrell

2012 = Ellen DeGeneres

2013 = Carol Burnett

2014 = Jay Leno

2015 = Eddie Murphy

2016 = Bill Murray

2017 = David Letterman


My 3 favorite funny people are:



Richard Pryor: “What I’m saying might be profane, but it’s also profound.” “Two things people throughout history have had in common are hatred and humor. I am proud that I have been able to use humor to lessen people’s hatred”



George Carlin: “People who see life as anything more than pure entertainment are missing the point.” “We’ve learned how to make a living but not a life. We’ve added years to life, not life to years.”



Robin Williams: “Spring is Nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s Party.’” “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.”

“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” –Mark Twain



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An Early Spring


Around Philadelphia, this has been an interesting Winter. There was a stretch of time (around three weeks) when the temperature stayed too low for comfort. The highs were in the 20s and the daily lows were single digits, occasionally dropping just below zero. Of course, there have been worse Winters, colder and with more snow than anyone wanted to shovel. And in those times, I needed An Early Spring.

In such situations, rather than wait for the official arrival of my favorite season, I picked an arbitrary date and announced to myself: Spring Will Arrive on that date. Usually, the date was March 15th. For me, Winter began December 15th and ended three months later. I celebrated with a Special Weekend. I chose the end of a cold grey Winter as well as the arrival of an early Spring.

I started with choosing a Friday to take off from work. Maybe it was a Personal Day, a Necessary Day, or a Mental Health day. Thus, I had a 3-day weekend to fill with activities I enjoyed. What did I do?

I could leave Philly and spend the time in NYC, or Boston, or Cape Cod. Each destination was filled with possible activities. But if I stayed where I was, I spent the 72 hours doing a variety of things I enjoyed.

Movies are always high on my list of “do’s.” For example, I would see (at a theater or on cable TV) The Surface of Water, Coco, Get Out, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. A Play in a local theater/in NYC were always a special treat. Yes, Hamilton would be high on my wish list and The Book of Mormon, too. Or I could visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art. A few years ago, they had an exhibit of Van Gogh paintings. It was wonderful.

Shopping and eating in restaurants need to be included. You might want to look for Antiques. How about a walk or bike ride in a park (or Central Park, in NYC, see above)? Concerts, no matter what as long as it catered to my musical taste. A friend made it a point to get tickets to any Boy Band that was touring in her area –as well as in her memory of an earlier time. How about attending Sports’ events. Baseball, my favorite sport, would only be in Florida and Arizona at this time of year. But Hockey and basketball (pro and college) are in season no matter what I call it. Sports participation by me was a possibility (eg, tennis, golf, bowling; remember when that was THE thing to do?).

Visits to family and friends, especially those I haven’t seen in awhile, are a big plus. Maintaining friendships requires periodic contact, in person or by mail (snail or Email), or Skype. If I or my wife needed a special Gift, then would be a good time to “surprise” each other.

These and other activities you enjoy can easily (if not always inexpensively) add up to three days of enjoyable activities and a way to end one season and give another an early, unique start.

I want to stop this article with the image of a Vatican priest throwing a snowball (see below). Is he just enjoying a late Winter snow storm or is he, like me, saying: “Away with the snow”?



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2018 Winter Olympics


The Winter Olympics have come, astounded us with their athletic skill and beauty, and gone. But a new star was born. We must learn the name. Here are a baker’s dozen of possibilities that should remain in our minds.

Shaun White won Gold for the 3rd time in his third appearance.

Chloe Kim, at age 17, won Gold in the half pipe.

Red Gerard, at age 17, won Gold in the half pipe.

Mikaela Shiffrin, at 22, won more medals than Lindsey Vonn.

USA women defeated Canada in hockey in a long OT. Their goalie was 20.

Alina Zagitova, at 15, defeated Evgenia Medvedeva, at 18, in ice skating.  Youth is being served in many places at this Olympics.

Martin Fourcade won Gold 3 more times. He is the best his sport has seen.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir took Gold in Ice Dancing for the 3rd and 4th times.

Ester Ledecka won Gold in Skiing and Snowboarding. The first person to win Gold in 2 different sports in an Olympics.

Jessica Diggins and Kikkan Randall won the USA’s first Gold Medal EVER in cross-country skiing.

Mark McMorris of Canada won Bronze as a snowboarder 11 months after a crash that left him with 17 broken bones, a collapsed lung, a ruptured spleen, and being placed in an induced coma. He didn’t need Gold to be a winner.

Marit Bjoergen, 37, of Norway. She won Gold in 30km cross-country skiing, her 5th medal in this Olympics, her 8th Gold all-time, her 15th medal of all-time. All accomplishments are records. A BBC writer called her “The Greatest Winter Olympian of all time.”

Piat Taufatofua: the shirtless Tongan flag-bearer in Winter and Summer games.

And the name to remember = NORWAY (see flag below), with a record 39 medals in the Winter Olympics (the old record was USA with 37):14 Gold, 14 Silver, 11 Bronze. The winner is not always U-S-A, U-S-A.


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The Toy Hall of Fame



The National Toy Hall of Fame is in the city of Rochester, New York. Beginning in 1998, the Hall of Fame began accepting nominations from “anyone” for its HOF of toys. The Hall recognizes the contributions of toys and games that have sustained their popularity for many years.   If you go to the Hall’s Website   a nomination form is available, PLUS much information on the toys that are in the Hall.


To give you an idea of the type of toys that have been inducted from 1998 to 2017, here are the 11 initially inducted toys in 1998: Barbie, Crayola Crayons, Erector Set, Etch A Sketch, Frisbee, LEGO, Marbles, Monopoly, Play-Doh, Teddy bear, and Tinkertoys. (Whoa, my childhood just flashed before me!)


In the years from 1999 to 2017, the number of inductees varied. In 1999 and 2000, six and five more toys gained entrance to the hall. For example, Roller Skates and Radio Flyer Wagon were among the arrivals in 1999. Bicycle and Mr. Potato Head (and other toys) came in 2000. In the years of 2001 to 2017, two or three toys were admitted every year. Such childhood favorites included (check your pulse periodically as memories return): Tonka Trucks,   Raggedy Ann, Checkers, Scrabble, Rocking Horse (what color was yours?), Candy Land, Lionel Trains, Easy-Bake Oven, Atari 2600 Game System, Stick (the first toy?), Ball (the second or most numerous toy?), The Game of Life (the board game, not what begins the hour after your graduation), Dollhouse, Star Wars Action Figures, Rubber Duck, Rubik’s Cube, Puppet, and Swing.


Before I forget: at the website, you will find a list of every toy in the Hall of Fame, when they were chosen, and the history of each toy. Last year (2017), three more toys gained entrance: Clue, the Wiffle Ball, and Paper Airplanes. (Yes, you read that correctly.)


Here are 2 more toys and some of the information about each. Remember Stick? The Hall of Fame had these comments about the toy. “The stick may be the world’s oldest toy. Animals and children play with sticks. Sticks can turn into swords and magic wands. Sticks are not only possibly the oldest toys, they’re possibly the best!” People are serious about these toys.


And I must mention MY favorite toy: Ball, inducted 2009. “Rolling, throwing, kicking, catching, bouncing, and batting. The Ball is nearly as old as civilization itself. Ancient Greek legends referred to ball play in Odysseus. Like few other playthings, the Ball facilitates and promotes free play among people of all ages.”


As of this moment, there are 66 toys in the Hall of Fame (if you count Raggedy Ann and Andy as two. They were inducted separately in 2002 and 2007). Will I live to see some of my favorites gain entrance (eg, Nerf Ball, Pick-Up-Sticks, Tiddledy Winks, Jack-in-the-Box, Sock Monkey, Clown Bop Bag)?


What other toys from YOUR childhood would you hope to see gain entrance to their Hall of Fame?



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Oscars For Dogs

The Oscars will be announced on March 4th. To get myself ready for the occasion, I have decided to choose my own Oscars for Dogs in film. Over the years, there have been many films (hundreds?) where dogs played a key role in their success. The nominees for awards here (as well as the winners) are chosen by me and may (or may not) be the same as your choices. But don’t worry, my opinions are completely subjective.

Nominees: Best Live Action Films About Dogs…

As Good As It Gets

Best in Show

Eight Below

The Artist

White Fang


Nominees: Best Animated Films About Dogs…


Lady and The Tramp

The Secret Life of Pets


101 Dalmations



And my Oscar Goes To: Best Live Action Film: Best In Show. (see above) This was a surprise choice. It is a fine, humorous film but many complaints were heard. The most frequent was: “Too much of the story was about humans.”



And my Oscar goes to: Best Animated Film: Up. (see above) A fine cast brought this humorous, and at times poignant, film alive. Special mention must be given to “Dug, the dog” in a supporting role.



An Oscar also goes to: Best Actor in Live Action film: Maya, from Eight Below. (see above, 4th from left) She was the Alpha dog in the film. As the pack’s leader, she led them on their adventure when the dogs were left behind by the team of humans.



An Oscar also goes to: Best Actor in an Animated Film: Sparky, from Frankenweenie. (see above) He showed great range as the hero of this story. We saw 2 versions of him: BD (before death) and AD (after death). His performance was extraordinary in both conditions.



A Special Oscar also goes to: Rowlf. Although not in a film recently, his numerous previous efforts (eg, as part of The Muppets on television and in films) deserve this recognition. His next adventure is eagerly awaited. Most critics leave each of his performances with their mouth open –just as Rowlf does. There can be no finer compliment.

What winners would you choose in these categories?




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Sports’ Halls of Fame


Recently, baseball announced its 2018 Hall of Fame inductees: Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman, Jim Thome, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell. However, the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum –while perhaps the most famous Hall of Fame—is not the only sports Hall of Fame within the United States. Perhaps your second favorite sport also has a Hall of its own. Here is a partial list of other such Halls.

America’s Cup Hall of Fame

American Indian Athletic HOF

Auto Racing HOF

Archery HOF


Badminton HOF

(U. S.) Ballooning HOF

Bay Area Sports HOF

(Pro) Basketball HOF

Billiard Congress of America HOF

Boxing HOF

Bull Riding HOF


California Sports HOF (and many other states, too)

College Football HOF

Cricket HOF

Cycling HOF


Fictitious Athlete HOF

Figure Skating HOF


Golf HOF


Ice Hockey HOF

International Bowling HOF

International Frisbee HOF

International Gymnastics HOF

International Scuba Diving HOF

International Swimming HOF

International Tennis HOF

International Volleyball HOF


Mascot HOF


Naismith Memorial (College) Basketball HOF


National Cowgirl HOF

National Distance Running HOF

National Fresh Water Fishing HOF

National Lacrosse HOF

National Midget Auto Racing HOF

National Soccer HOF

National Sprint HOF

National Track and Field HOF

National Wrestling HOF


(Museum of) Polo and HOF

Pro Football HOF


Roller Derby HOF

Rowing HOF


(National) Sailing HOF

Skiing HOF

Skateboarding HOF

Softball HOF


Tennis HOF

Texas Rodeo Cowboy HOF

Thoroughbred Racing HOF


United States Soccer HOF

United States Show Jumping HOF


USA Field Hockey HOF

USA Water Polo HOF


Valley Preferred Cycling Center


Women’s Basketball HOF

World Kite HOF



Did I miss one of your favorite sports HOF? (Sorry.) Let me know which one.







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