After 101 Articles, My Favorites are…

Almost 2 years ago, I began writing articles for this blog.  My goal was to write about something interesting or humorous.  I intended it to be positive, especially with so much negativity in the media.  I have posted 101 articles.  Looking back over my work, I found almost two dozen that I would say are my favorites.  Here are their names, dates of posting, and a brief comment about each article.  You can read them (again) if you like.  (PS = Here is a picture of everyone’s favorite: see below)

BACON

It’s still Rock and Roll to me4/29/18 … I describe the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and many of its inductees.

2018 Winter Olympics3/1/18 … I wrote about 14 events or individuals in summarizing the Olympics. Hopefully, you agreed with many of the things I mentioned.  And imagine the time you saved.

The Toy Hall of Fame… 2/22/18 … Yes, there is a Toy Hall of Fame. Remember the first 11 toys that were inducted (eg, Crayola Crayons, LEGOS, Monopoly).  Hopefully, some of your childhood memories will return when the toys are mentioned.

A Final Thank You … 1/1/18 and 12/23/17 … Here, as I did in AFTY, 12/10/1016 and 12/18/16, I mentioned some of the less famous, but still important, people who died in the preceding year.  They earned a final Thank You from everyone.  The idea for this annual article was Bob Fletcher, 101, whose contributions I described in the article on 12/10/16.  I am proudest of these 4 articles.  If you have not done so, I suggest you read about the people mentioned. You’ll be better for “knowing” them.

A Dog’s Life 11/24/17 … In 15 cartoons from the New Yorker, I give dog owners (and non-dog owners) a glance at life from their point of View.  Funny stuff.  And our dogs all agreed with my choices of toons.

Ken Burns Looks at America9/30/17… Burns’ 28 documentaries are mentioned, focusing on his “The Vietnam War” which was just shown on television.

Paris, 1946 9/9/17 … From December, 1944 until December, 1946, my Father fought in Europe. I describe some of what happened to him.

My History With Ice Cream 9/2/17 … It’s been a 70+ year journey.  I loved every spoonful.  And I’m not nearly finished.    

The Great British Baking Show …8/6/17… This was not the Foot Network.  I explain the differences in hosts, judges, and participants. Much more enjoyable. ,

Larry+

Baseball’s Past in the Present 7/24/17 … I describe a baseball website and 3 stories found there.  You will never forget “Larry.”  He poses with his teammates and best friend.  (see above)

From Zaharias to Ledecky 6/21/17 … I remember great women athletes from 1932 to the present day.  Remember “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias?  Opponents and cancer could not stop her.

Sgt. Pepper: Why So Popular? 6/11/17 … There was music before and after Sgt. Pepper.  It was the dividing  line.  The more you know about The Beatles and George Martin, the more impressed you will be.

Dog Stories: Angus, Jake, Luna 5/10 + 5/17 + 5/24/17 … True stories about our dogs.  We are better people because they were in our lives.  Supposedly, we will see all the dogs we’ve known in Heaven.  I look forward to the party.

CBerry

Thank You, Chuck Berry 3/26/17… In 16 sentences and 6 pictures, I try to  explain why Elvis may have been the King, but Chuck Berry was the creator of Rock and Roll.  (see above) Eg, On Voyager 1’s golden record, the song representing Rock and Roll was his song: Johnny B. Goode.

A Photographer’s Work2/26/17 … Name a famous photographer: Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Gordon Parks, etc.  How about a woman with their skill.  Anyone? Usually not.  I’ll tell you about someone: Dorothea Lange.  She did great work, including a photograph possibly more famous than any by the men just mentioned.

Glenn Miller to Lady Gaga 1/29/17 .… What music did I (or you?) listen to from the 1940s to now?   Glenn Miller all the way to Lady Gaga.  With many wonderful stops in between.  Remember? I’ll show you the stops I made.

Presidential Medal of Freedom 11/27/16 … Why does someone get this medal, who received in 2016, and who got it before then that may interest you?

The Blue Bell Book Review (BBBR) 10/10/16 … Ever read the New York Times book review? This is not it, but (imaginary) books are reviewed that could be real.

The Park8/30/16 … NYC’s Central Park is “The Park” I’m talking about.  Exactly why is it so fantastic it has 40 million visitors a year and is seen in 300+ films.

MDiRado

Maya DiRado, Olympian … 8/24/16 … For me, she was THE Olympian I will remember from the Summer games. (see above)  Why?  Read on.

London Mail 8/18/16 … A few weeks before this date, London found some undelivered mail from January 8, 57 AD.  That’s not a misprint.  Who was it sent to? What did it say?  I’ll tell you.

Roscoe Was Always Quiet 8/15/16 … I remember my Father for 3 reasons.  I’ll explain.  He was a man of few or no words.  I’ll explain that, too.

  

 

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Influential People

Time magazine, April 30 – May 7, 2018 (a double issue) has a cover story entitled: The 100 Most Influential People.  Influential is defined as “individuals whose time is now.  It is not necessarily a measure of power or milestones accumulated.” The magazine adds that “a common theme is how much we can learn from them.”

In the section entitled, Pioneers(22 people), I learned about Peggy Whitson, NASA astronaut and the first female chief of the NASA astronaut office.  She grew up on an Iowa farm and progressed to spending a record 665 cumulative days in space conducting hundreds of experiments.  When she spoke, “the looks on little girls’ faces” was memorable.

Parkland

I was most impressed by the students from Parkland, Florida (see above) who witnessed 17 of their classmates killed.  The students pictured in the article were: Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, and Alex Wind.  In Time’s issue, Barack Obama introduced them to readers saying:  “They have the power so often inherent in youth: to see the world anew; to reject the old constraints, outdated conventions and cowardice too often dressed up as wisdom.  Progress will be slow ad frustrating.  But by bearing witness to carnage, by asking tough questions and demanding real answers, the Parkland students are shaking us out of our complacency.”

In the section entitled, Leaders(28 people), I learned about NFL and Houston defensive lineman J. J. Watt’s response to Hurricane Harvey.  “He raised more than $37 million for hurricane recovery and delivered water, food and supplies to storm victims.  In the process, he lifted the spirits of all Houston residents.”

 

PHarry

Receiving most of my attention was Prince Harry (see above).  He has “grown to inherit his mother’s warmth, sense of humor and courage to stand up and champion the causes he truly believes in.”  Among the causes he chooses are the global AIDS epidemic, the stigma that can surrounding mental health issues, and  the Invictus Games (his creation) to help injured armed forces personnel and veterans.

Artists(18 people) was the section that readers might identify with most easily.  I saw Gal  Gadotportraying Wonder Woman.  As the article about her says, she was a “uniquely strong, smart, and charming superhero.”  Audiences agreed.

 

NKidman

Nicole Kidman (see above)was described by her friend, Naomi Watts.  Kidman has been a talented actress for 3 decades and her talent has shown in everything she has done.  The “intelligence, compassion, kindness, and humor that make her a great woman make her a fine friend, as well.”

 

Federer

Titans  (14 people)mentions and praises Oprah Winfrey. Nothing  new there.  But I was glad to see Roger Federer (see above) mentioned as well.  Watching his continued success on the tennis court was complimented by his contributions to a foundation which works to improve lives of poor children. Talent and compassion: fine talents both.

JLopez

Icons (18 people)is the last category Time examines.  Jennifer Lopez (see above)   fits the bill.  I saw her play opposite George Clooney early in her film career, and she ignited the screen.  She was “the first Latina to make $1 million for a film; ditto for the first to have a Number 1 album and movie in the same week.”  As a “beauty icon and entrepreneur,” her talent seems endless. Maybe it is.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

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D’oh! Homer Simpson Breaks 2 Records

SimpsonsFam

In this television season, Homer Simpson, aided by his “loving” family, has set 2 television records. To truly understand the magnitude of this achievement, you need some background information.

America’s true “wild west” history lasted from approximately 1865 to 1895.  From that history of tall tales and true came many, many stories about cowboys –most of them made into movies starring John Wayne.  (My personal favorite was his last film: “The Shootist.” In it, he was aided by the sexiest woman in Hollywood history (Lauren Bacall) (see below) and a “kid” almost old enough to Direct a film (Ron Howard)).  In spite of millions of movies made about adventures in that period of time (OK, thousands of movies), some of them even being true, there were still more thousands of ideas that were made into TV shows.  The record for most cowboy-based TV shows in one TV season was 26 in 1959. Remember: at  that time, there were only 3 broadcasting networks, each with only 3 or 4 hours of programing available in prime time per day.  From that mass of cowboy-based shows came one that stood above all others: Gunsmoke.

Wayne+Bacall

You might expect television to choose Mr. Wayne to star in the show.  It was not to be.  However, THE cowboy movie star did introduce the viewing audience to the new TV show. It got the show off on the right foot. Gunsmoke was on television for 20 years (1955 to 1975): a record length of primetime for any show.  It also set the record for number of episodes: 635. Each ran for one hour.

In 1989, Homer and family, unwittingly, took on this giant of television history.  The Simpsons’ creator, Matt Groening, has said: “We certainly didn’t expect to last this long.  When we started, we didn’t even know if the Fox network was going to last, much less our own show.  Fox was an experiment, and they allowed us to do pretty much whatever we wanted.  When we first started, we were part of the downfall of civilization.  Bart said he was ‘an underachiever and proud of it, man.’  Simpsons T-shirts were banned in grade schools.  I knew it would blow over.  At the heart of our show is a churchgoing family who eats dinner together every night and is very traditional.  They drive each other crazy but they do love each other.” (see below)

HomerPie

What was the outcome of Gunsmoke vs. The Simpsons?  The record 20 year lifetime of Gunsmoke was eclipsed by Homer’s family “drama” which is in its 29thseason (1989 – 2018).  Gunsmoke’s record 635 episodes has been exceeded by The Simpsons’ 639 episode this year –and is still going.

Everyone knows Homer’s reaction to these achievements will be: “Records are made to be broken …by me.” And Mr. Groening’s outlook?   “I don’t see any end in sight.  It’s always possible.  But I live in denial of death, much less the cancellation of The Simpsons.” And what could be Bart’s reaction? (see below)

Bart's Shorts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

1CBerry

Yes, I took the title of this article from Billy Joel’s song of the same name.  He will be mentioned later because this article is about… The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. It is located in Cleveland, Ohio. Why there?  Usually, the reason given   is: a Cleveland disc jockey named Alan Freed first used that term to describe the music he favored in the early 1950s.

2TTurner

The Hall was established in 1983 and its home was chosen in 1986.  It documents the history of rock and roll and has inducted its finest artists into the Hall every year from 1986 to 2018.  Don’t worry, I won’t list everyone so honored.  But, for those interested, Google does so under “List of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees.”  It is a wonderful walk down memory lane.

3SWonder

Here are some Rock and Roll questions whose answers you may already know.  The first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction class (1986) contained 10 people.  How many can you name?  Take a guess before reading further.  If you are my age, you may surprise yourself with how many names you know. If you are younger than me, I’m appropriately envious –and I think you will still get some answers correct.

4LRonstadt

Answers = Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino (his song, Blueberry Hill, was the first 45 record I bought), The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Elvis Presley.  Here is a wonderful footnote: Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” represented Rock and Roll music on the gold disc sent aboard Voyager 1 which is still traveling at 38,000 mph.

Who was the first woman inducted into the Hall?  In 1987, she was Aretha Franklin.

What 2 groups have the most songs in the Hall’s  list referred to as “The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll?”  The Beatles and The Rolling Stones with 8 songs each.

5RCharles

Among the inductees that made me smile as I read their names have been:  1987  (Bill Haley and Marvin Gaye); 1988(The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Drifters –I’m revealing my age, Bob Dylan, and The Supremes);  1989  (Dion, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, The Temptations, and Stevie Wonder);  1990 (The Platters, Simon and Garfunkel,);  1991 (Ike and Tina Turner –remember Thunderdome);  1992  (Johnny Cash);  1993 (Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers);  1994 (The Band, Duane Eddy, Elton John, John Lennon);  1995 (Janis Joplin, Neil Young); 1996 (David Bowie);  1997 (Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Joni Mitchell);  1998 (Eagles, Santana);  1999 (Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, The Staple Singers);  2000 (Eric Clapton,  Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor);  2001 (Michael Jackson, Queen, Paul Simon);  2002 (Brenda Lee);  2004 (George Harrison, Bob Seger); 2008 (Leonard Cohen);  2011 (Neil Diamond, Dr. John);  2012 (The Comets, The Crickets); 2013 (Randy Newman);  2014 ( Linda Ronstadt, Cat Stevens);  2017 (Joan Baez);  2018 (Dire Straits, The Moody Blues, Nina Simone).

Make your own list of favorites.  You’ll enjoy the experience and the memories.

6LesPaul

 

There were other individuals who were inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Some were considered Early Influences.  Among them are: Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, Les Paul, Louis Armstrong, Pete Seeger, Bill Monroe, and Nat King Cole.

Non-Performers, including songwriters, producers, disc jockeys, etc. who
had a major influence on rock and roll” are in the Hall.  For example = Alan Freed Berry Gordie, Jr., Phil Spector, Bill Graham, Dick Clark, Carole King, George Martin, and Quincy Jones.

7TPlatters

 

The Hall of Fame staff, plus “rock critics” and “music experts” created a list of 500 “Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.”  Later, 100+ more songs were added to the list.  The groups or individuals most represented on the list are = with 8 songs: The Beatles and the Rolling Stones; with 7 songs: Elvis Presley;  with 5 songs: The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Wonder.

 

How many people pictured in this article can you name?  How about: Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Linda Ronstadt, Les Paul, Stevie Wonder, The Platters?  Each meant something special to me.  Whose pictures would you include in an article if you chose the visuals?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Birthday Gift, 2

MyDesk

 

I was part of a generation who, to outsiders, seemed to protest everything.  The Vietnam War, students’ rights, college curriculums, the Women’s movement, the first Earth Day, and probably some causes I’ve forgotten. Of course, we were always on the right side of history –if I remember correctly.  (And if  I’m wrong, don’t remind me.  I’m getting too old to remember specifics. Besides, if it’s anything illegal, I was probably in Detroit at the time.)

We came up with the phrase: “never trust anyone over 30.”  Imagine how I felt when my 40thbirthday approached.  What a PITA (ie, Pain in the A**).  Could I still trust myself?  How about my wife?  And what would I want for a birthday gift?  Luckily, my wife remembered something I mentioned as we shopped for furniture for our first home.  I still can’t remember what it cost.  But, at first sight, I must have  mumbled: “Yea, but it costs too much.”

As birthdays seem to do annually, the occasion arrived quicker than I expected –but not quicker than my wife’s memory.  Thank goodness.  She gave me a desk.  (see above)  Not a plastic toy one either.  Hunt Country Furniture made it.  It was solid wood, measuring 30” x 60” x 22”. Very  impressive.  Plus, the top and sides of the desk, unlike many doors in our present home, are not hollow. It now has it’s share of scars, scrapes, and wear marks.  Like me, it has aged and shows it.  But it still stands and functions as well as the day I received it.

It provides the surface on which I write.  My computer stands on it.  It’s drawers are packed: pens and pencils, note pads, articles: read and unread, magazines and a few books, plus a three shelf plastic container full and sitting on top.  It does everything but write my articles by itself.  I’m still required to come up with ideas, words, and opinions.  The desk can’t do everything.

t reminds me of other desks which were of greater historical significance.  For example, the desk where Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey signed a contract and integrated baseball.  (see below)  The agreement was made sixty-some years after professional baseball was established.  Not everyone was ready for the agreement, but Mr. Robinson was.  We are better as a sport and a society because of his optimism, courage, and talent.

RobinsoRickey

 

The photo of a desk that always brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes was taken in The White House’s Oval Office.  John Kennedy sat behind it and his son, John John, played underneath it and could be seen through a small doorway cut into the desk’s front.  (see below)  The picture was taken before November 22, 1963.

JFK+Son

 

To end on a much lighter note: I remember a picture of Stephen King working at his desk with a dog under foot,  (see below)  perhaps dictating to him.  Or was that a picture of me and Luna?  Eh, No.   It was King and his best friend.  Luna does not give or take dictate.

SKing+dog

 

Do you have a desk?  I highly recommend one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Birthday Gift

All-StarBaseball

When I was a kid, I was usually sick (eg, asthma, eczema, allergies).  When I had a good day, stickball occupied my –and my friends’ –time. But when it rained, we were forced inside our homes.  There were board (not “bored”) games to play (eg, Monopoly).  But in the 1950s, I got a new game for my birthday.  It was “Ethan Allen’s All-Star Baseball Game”, made by Cadeco.  (see above picture)  It quickly became our favorite indoor activity.

Ethan Allen was a baseball player for 13 years (1926 – 38).  A toy company gave him a job helping design a baseball game “for boys.”  That’s what it said –not me.  In time, it was replaced in popularity by an even more realistic game: Strat-o-Matic Baseball.  But in the 1950s, it was as close to real baseball that was available to us. Unlike previous baseball games which used only dice or a deck of playing cards to simulate a baseball game’s outcome, our game brought a bit of reality to a board game.

The game centered around 40 circular discs which represented 40 major league ballplayers’ batting performances.  Each player’s name was on a disc and around the outside of each disc were the numbers 1 – 14.  Each number stood for the outcome that a batter could have in a real at bat: home run, triple, double, single, walk, strike out, fly out, ground out.  How much space a number occupied on a disc depended upon how likely a specific player was to produce that result in a typical at bat. Instructions for the game explained that if a player  came to the plate often enough, his hitting outcomes would be the same as a specific player would in real life.  Although playing enough games to achieve that degree of accuracy was unlikely (ourtime was limited by school, chores, and stickball), we were hooked.

A game was played by 2 people (one player for each of two hand-picked teams from the 40 player discs in the game) –although one person could play both sides of a contest, especially if  that person was sick.  This game was a godsend for the athletic and mental health of young boys.  (No mention was made of girls’ participation. Remember: it was the 1950s.  Betty Friedan had not yet arrived on society’s radar.)  Each player-disc was placed upon the game board’s spinner, which was spun by a youngster’s finger and determined the outcome of a single at bat.   The 2 players took turns choosing their players/discs and setting up their All-Stars’ batting order.

ClementeMaysAaron

The game was extremely popular when the 1950s saw baseball’s Negro Leagues decline due to the influx of exceptional Black and Latin players in Major League baseball.  The game’s discs which could have Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio, and Yogi Berra available for play found new names from which to choose their team (eg, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente).  (see above picture)

 We had to admit the game did have its shortcomings.  A player’s batting performance could be accurate, but pitching and defensive outcomes were not available.  You soon realized that Sandy Koufax struck out in half of his at bats.  (Ouch.)  And most pitchers did little better.  But, on the other hand, for someone who was frequently sick and had more time to research which pitchers hit better than others, well, such a person had an advantage in choosing players.  ***  And if such a person existed, he (or, nowadays, she) could learn how to create a disc for anyplayer.  Any player they wanted.  Even Roy Hobbs. (see picture below)  But who would do that?

RoyHobbs

 

The end result?  We had our stickball games, weather permitting, plus our indoor games all-year round!!

PLAY  BALL !!!!

 

 *** Sandy Koufax had a lifetime batting average of .097 with 2 home runs.  But Bob Gibson had a lifetime batting average of .206 with 24 home runs.  Not everyone would know that.

 

 

 

 

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George Carlin: Baseball and Football

CarlinAtBeginning

Baseball has returned. It’s a good time to remember George Carlin’s Baseball and  Football monolog.  Here it is.

 

Baseball is different from any other sport, very different.  For instance, in most sports you score points or goals; in baseball you score runs.  In most sports the ball, or object, is put in play, and only the defense is allowed to touch the ball.  In fact, in baseball if an offensive player touches the ball intentionally, he’s out; sometimes unintentionally, he’s out.

Also: in football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, and all sports played with a ball, you score with the ball and in baseball the ball prevents you from scoring.

In most sports the team is run by a coach; in baseball the team is run by a manager.  And only in baseball does the manager or coach wear the same clothing the players do.  If you’d ever seen John Madden in his Oakland Raiders uniform, you’d know the reason for this custom.

Now, I’ve mentioned football.  Baseball and football are the two most popular spectator sports in this country. And as such, it seems they ought to be able to tell us something about ourselves and our values.

I enjoy comparing baseball and football:

Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.  Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.

Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park.  The baseball park!  Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field of War Memorial Stadium.

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.  Football begins in the fall, when everything’s dying.

In football you wear a helmet.  In baseball you wear a cap.

Football is concerned with downs –what down is it?  Baseball is concerned with ups –who’s up?

In football you receive a penalty.  In baseball you make an error.

In football the specialist comes in to kick.  In baseball the specialist comes in to relieve somebody.

Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting and unnecessary roughness.  Baseball has the sacrifice.

Football is played in any kind of weather: rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog.  In baseball, if it rains, we don’t go out to play.

Baseball has the seventh inning stretch.  Football has the two minute warning.

Baseball has no time limit: we don’t know when it’s gonna end –might have extra innings.  Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we’ve got to go to sudden death.

In baseball, during the game, in the stands, there’s kind of a picnic feeling; emotions may run high or low, but there’s not too much unpleasantness.  In football, during the game in the stands, you can be sure that at least twenty-seven times you’re capable of taking the life of a fellow human being.

And finally, the objectives of the two games are completely different:

In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun.  With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home!  And to be safe –I hope I’ll be safe at home.!

 

CarlinAtEnd

 

 

 

 

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