Friday, October 22, 2021

Feels Like a Van Gogh Friday


Avenue of Poplars at Sunset, 1884




Wheatfield with Crows, 1890



Two Cypresses, 1889



My eye is drawn to this style and therefore to Vincent Van Gogh (among others) for the extremely vivid contrast and texture that makes them leap out at you visually. 

Post-Impressionism, they call it. I just like it because I like it.


Chet Atkins and Don McLean, “Vincent”



The story behind the writing of “Vincent” ... 




Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Louis Jordan: Possibly the Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard Of


This band helped set the stage in the mid-1940s for rock ‘n roll ten years later but nobody knows them today and that’s a shame, because this is great stuff in its own right.

They called him “King of the Jukebox” for a reason. 

Rather than me spending time and a bunch of words trying to tell you why it’s great, you could listen to a few tunes and hear it for yourself. Let’s do that.

Listen to the way this tune swings ... Caldonia, 1945




Slowing it down a bit ... the classic Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby, 1944



A live version of the classic Let The Good Times Roll, sometime in the 40s




This tune is rollicking barrelhouse piano and funny too ... just a good time and you will want to hear it again ... Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens, Original 1947 



Same, 1956 rock ‘n roll version ... not necessarily better I would say, just different ...

 



Same, Live 1974 ... very hot



More from his Wikipedia entry

Jordan was a talented singer with great comedic flair, and he fronted his own band for more than twenty years. He duetted with some of the biggest solo singing stars of his time, including Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Jordan was also an actor and a film personality—he appeared in dozens of "soundies" (promotional film clips); the one for "Caldonia" is the most readily available for viewing on various websites. He also made numerous cameos in mainstream features and short films, and starred in two musical feature films made especially for him. He was an instrumentalist who played all forms of the saxophone but specialized in the alto. He also played the piano and clarinet.

Jordan began his career in big-band swing jazz in the 1930s, but he became known as one of the leading practitioners, innovators and popularizers of jump blues, a swinging, up-tempo, dance-oriented hybrid of jazz, blues and boogie-woogie. Typically performed by smaller bands consisting of five or six players, jump music featured shouted, highly syncopated vocals and earthy, comedic lyrics on contemporary urban themes. It strongly emphasized the rhythm section of piano, bass and drums; after the mid-1940s, this mix was often augmented by electric guitar. Jordan's band also pioneered the use of the electronic organ.

With his dynamic Tympany Five bands, Jordan mapped out the main parameters of the classic R&B, urban blues and early rock-and-roll genres with a series of highly influential 78-rpm discs released by Decca Records. These recordings presaged many of the styles of black popular music of the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and exerted a strong influence on many leading performers in these genres. Many of his records were produced by Milt Gabler, who went on to refine and develop the qualities of Jordan's recordings in his later production work with Bill Haley, including "Rock Around the Clock".


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Top 10 Bob Uecker Quotes


Bob Uecker was a major league baseball player — barely — back in the 1960s, who as we all discovered later was also one of the funniest people on the planet. A natural joke writer with great deadpan delivery, he appeared on Johnny Carson many times

He became an announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1971, shortly after his retirement — he says he knew it was over when his baseball card came out with no picture — and still does their games today at age 87. 

  1. I think my top salary was maybe in 1966. I made $17,000 and 11 of that came from selling other players' equipment.
  2. In 1962 I was named Minor League Player of the Year. It was my second season in the bigs.
  3. The biggest thrill a ballplayer can have is when your son takes after you. That happened when my Bobby was in his championship Little League game. He really showed me something. Struck out three times. Made an error that lost the game. Parents were throwing things at our car and swearing at us as we drove off. Gosh, I was proud.
  4. Between me and my roommate, we've hit 400 Major League home runs.
  5. I remember one time I'm batting against the Dodgers in Milwaukee. They lead, 2 - 1, it's the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two out and the pitcher has a full count on me. I look over to the Dodger dugout and they're all in street clothes.
  6. The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and then pick it up.
  7. I spent three of the best years of my life in 10th grade.
  8. I led the league in go get 'em next time.
  9. Sporting goods companies pay me not to endorse their products.
  10. The highlight of my baseball career came in Philadelphia's Connie Mack Stadium when I saw a fan fall out of the upper deck. When he got up and walked away, the crowd booed.

Another quote I like: "I hope the fans have enjoyed listening as much as I've enjoyed doing the games. I don't ever go to the park where I don't have a good day. I don't like losing. But I don't think I ever go to the park where I have a bad day. I don't think once."

Fans know and quote his lines from the movie "Major League" at every opportunity ... “juuuust a bit outside” ...



He’s a good broadcaster too ...



There’s a good Twitter account for baseball quotes at https://twitter.com/BaseballQuotes1

Quotes above pulled from azquotes.com

Monday, October 18, 2021

Fall is Here

A Chill is in the Air

And I like it. I like it a lot. 

I like the chill in the morning where I keep my coffee warm like this. 

Fall was always my favorite season ever since I was a kid ... not exactly sure why really. 

I like the chill in the air, wearing jackets and sweatshirts, and not feeling hot and sweaty everytime you go outside. I like the way morning frost puts a layer of white on top of the green grass. 

I like October and watching the World Series, a tradition I started in 1967 with the Cardinals and Red Sox.

But most of all I like the sounds and smells of fall. 

These are some of my strongest memories from my childhood ... falling leaves and the way they crunch when you walk on them, the way they smell when you burn them ... 

I can clearly recall in my mind being at my Grandma Jackson’s house with my mom when I was very young — probably 6-7 years old. 


The neighbors had all raked their leaves into piles in the street and one Saturday night everyone came out to the curb and burned them and roasted marshmallows and talked. 

I don’t remember much about it except watching the leaves burn and smelling that beautiful smell, and even today, that smell instantly brings this visual memory back with great clarity.

They say smells trigger our strongest memories because they have the strongest connection to emotions, and for me this is probably the strongest such connection:  the smell of burning leaves and that one night from many many years ago.

Another reason for the strength of this emotional connection for me, I’m sure, is that I always liked going to her house because my Uncle Bill lived there — he was was just a kid too, only a few years older than me, more like an older brother really — and we always had great fun together. 

Of course nobody born after 1970 or so has such memories since we legislated away childhood memories connecting anything pleasant with the smell of burning leaves. Smart move.



Friday, October 15, 2021

Rick Beato and I Revisit Classic Tunes from Chicago II


His latest “What Makes This Song Great” video is about the first single he ever bought, Make Me Smile.



He played it all the time, and so did I, on the album Chicago II that is full of great music, like 25 or 6 to 4 and Colour My World — both top 10 hits, along with Make Me Smile —- plus several other gems such as Wake Up Sunshine and Fancy Colours and Now More Than Ever.

In fact, both Make Me Smile and Colour My World were part of a 7 song suite written by trombone player James Pankow called “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon” about his trying to win back his former fiancee. Now More Than Ever is the finale of the suite, and quite a finale it is.

Rick calls particular attention to Terry Kath’s vocals and guitar — Kath was the power and “guts” of the sound of this band, with his powerful urgent vocals — and Danny Seraphine’s excellent drumming, and these are my two favorite musicians in a band of incredible original artistry and musicianship. 

But the best part of this great song is the instrumental break with the horns leading into the guitar solo ... “wow” is all I can say. Rick breaks it down in detail. 

Make Me Smile has always been one of my favorite songs, from when I was 10 years old, and it sounds better and better all the time even as I learn more about music. 

Now More Than Ever is a variation on Make Me Smile, where the band rocks out for 1:24 with more amazing vocals by Kath — this guy did not get nearly enough credit for his vocals, probably because his guitar playing was even better — and more incredible drumming by Seraphine. The whole band is unbelievably great here, and for my money this 1:24 chunk of music is definitely some of their best work in their entire history.



Wake Up Sunshine:



Fancy Colours (it starts quietly but do not fear, it gets plenty loud):



The classic and iconic Chicago II album cover art:



This was the first use of the group name Chicago, the first use of the iconic logo which was used on every subsequent album, and the true beginning of their run of incredible hits and overall great music in the 70s. 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

74 Years Ago Today: Chuck Yeager Breaks the Sound Barrier


It was October 14, 1947. 

Everyone who has ever flown in a plane owes Gen. Yeager, and all the other test pilots who risked death on a daily basis all those years ago, a debt of gratitude, but most people have no idea about him or his life or why any of this matters.

It was such a big deal at the time — a strategic military and national security advantage — that the U.S. did not even announce it until many months later, in June 1948.

Many experts believed it was impossible to break the sound barrier, and anyone who tried would die a violent death due to the aircraft shaking apart or exploding. The flight controls on the aircraft at the time would freeze up and incredible turbulence would make it shake uncontrollably. 

Of course, this required completely new designs for the test aircraft, but nobody really knew what would happen when exceeding Mach I. Someone had to just do it and hope for the best. 

From my earlier post on Gen. Yeager:

It was all experimentation all the time, and every test pilot that wedged themselves into any of these experimental aircraft to go faster and higher than anyone had every flown, into the upper reaches of our atmosphere, almost into space, was risking death at any moment.

The Bell X-1 had no ejection capability, and exiting through the side door was a sure decapitation via the wing. You were trapped in an experimental aircraft. Good luck!

They did this every day. That was the job. Some of their test pilot friends did not make it due to the daily risk of “augering in” or crashing into the desert.

A good thing to remember next time things aren’t going your way.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

New Artist Discovery: Tray Wellington


While visiting relatives I had access to Sirius/XM radio and took the opportunity to explore the Bluegrass channel. 

One artist I immediately liked was Tray Wellington, a banjo player. 

On Spotify and probably other streaming services, but here’s a few of the tunes from Youtube.


Nashville Skyline Rag




Half Past Four



Ornithology (a classic Charlie Parker tune)





Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Monday, October 11, 2021

Two Artworks

Vastly Different Styles


Pendergast, Docks, East Boston, 1904



Van Gogh, Two Cypresses, 1889




Friday, October 08, 2021

The Story Behind “Baby I Love Your Way”

Peter Frampton talks about it.



Artistry and ability aside — and maybe it’s just me — but it’s impossible not to like Peter Frampton as a human being. 

Friendly, engaging, self-deprecating, warm, funny, great listener and conversationalist ... just a solid guy who happens to be a great guitar player that recorded the biggest-selling live album in history, 40 million copies or some incredible number like that.

He wasn’t sure if “Baby I Love Your Way” was any good — !!! — until he got confirmation from friends and bandmates. 

He’s got a new biography out (“Do You Feel Like I Do”) and is very frank about all the low points in his life instead of pretending it was all sunshine and rainbows.


Thursday, October 07, 2021

13 Days on the Road, So ...

 ... Take Me Home, Country Roads



A perfect blend of performer and material ... “The Petersens”.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

MLB Playoffs 2021 Tracker

Begins Tuesday Oct 5

Complete playoff bracket

World Series is Houston vs. Atlanta

Updated playoff bracket from the mlb.com site:

 


I will track results on this page for the duration of the playoffs.


Results


World Series

HOU v ATL


Round 2

NLCS 

ATL over LAD 4-2

ALCS

HOU over BOS 4-2


Round 1

NLDS 

LAD over SFG 3-2

ATL over MIL 3-1

ALDS

HOU over CHW 3-1

BOS over TB 3-1


Wild Card Round

LAD over STL

BOS over NYY



Monday, October 04, 2021

More Gems from Nanci Griffith


Maybe Tomorrow



If Wishes Were Changes



You Made This Love a Teardrop 



Friday, October 01, 2021

A Few Minutes with “Peg”

Walter Becker and Donald Fagen



Professor of Rock



Solo by Jay Graden



Steely Dan, “Peg”




 


Thursday, September 30, 2021

Frank Schwindel Update

Status: Still Raking

“If you rake, you rake, right?” — David Ross, Cubs Manager

I first wrote about Schwindel a few weeks ago, and he’s still killing it with his 23rd multi-hit game (out of 51) Tuesday since he joined the team 2 months ago (a waiver pickup from Oakland). 

Small sample size, yes, and career minor-leaguer, (mostly) yes ... but as his manager Ross says above, hitting this good for this long is pretty hard to ignore, especially because he’s hitting for contact and spraying the ball all over the field, with power.

His slash line thru Tuesday’s game:  .355/.403/.640 (51 games) with:

  • 13 HR
  • 16 2B
  • 38 RBI
  • 69 hits
  • 15 walks with only 33 strikeouts

That’s really solid offensive production in 2 months. Power plus a 200+ hits-per-season pace (and for context you can do the math on the rest of those numbers projected over a full season, but they’re very good). 

Entering Tuesday’s games, of all major league players with 200+ plate appearances, he’s:

  • 3rd in slugging percentage 
  • 4th in lowest strikeout rate among those with a .550+ slugging percentage

A nice blend of contact and power, and while we cannot really call him a contact hitter, per se, he’s in the neighborhood.

Watch his swing on this homer to right.



Balanced, in control, hands back, doesn’t open hips too far or too early. Hits an outside pitch hard to the opposite field for a homer. 



I hope he continues it next year in a Cubs uniform. And I hope their scouting and development guys are paying attention.

UPDATE (10/5/21) :  Schwindel named NL Rookie of the month for September. Same as August. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Yellowstone: One of the Best Shows on TV

Streaming or Otherwise, Does Not Matter

Trailer for season one:



Videos at IMDB.


The scenery ... Holy Moses. Unbelievable. It’s like taking a trip out west, which of course has always been part of the appeal of any story set in the West. 

Costner is very good as the Old West patriarch of a powerful ranching family but so are all three (remaining) kids, with wildly different personalities and capabilities. Several ranch hands play big roles, especially Rip, also very good. 

Plenty of storylines involving tensions with local Indian leaders, land developers, politics, and of course land and livestock. This story could easily be from 1933 (mostly). Timeless, in other words.

Worth watching a few episodes to get the flavor and see if you want to continue or not. 


Monday, September 27, 2021

Road Trips and Unexpected Finds, Part 1


On recent car trips through country and bluegrass music territory I have found some great music by scanning up and down the dial. 

That Scan button can be your friend if you let it. Abandon your smartphone as your sole source of listening pleasure and roll like it’s the 1950s ... or even 2006 I guess. It’ll be okay, I promise. 

Traveling used to be an adventure to new places, new people, new food, and yes, new music too. Much of that has dissipated with the ability — and hence shortly after, the need — to always control what we listen to. 

Count me out.


Maggie Rose, “Change the Whole Thing”




Traveling McCourys “Lonesome, Ornery and Mean” (Waylon Jennings cover)




Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, “Vertigo” (with Sam Bush) 






Thursday, September 23, 2021

Podcast Listening Update: The Plot Thickens


As a followup to a recent Turner Classic Movies binge I searched for a relevant podcast and found “The Plot Thickens”, just started by TCM and host Ben Mankewicz last year.

For season one they chose as their first subject the career of director Peter Bogdanovich. It’s pretty interesting, and so is he. Highly recommended.

It includes not just his life story but also his interviews with legends Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and Jimmy Stewart from the 1970s. Pretty fascinating stuff.  

Bogdanovich was driven to document Hollywood history from a young age, and grew up in New York City where he saw something like 300 plays and countless movies before he was 18, and then proceeded to earn paying gigs to write movie reviews and articles and create museum exhibits as a teenager. 

His life’s work spans the entire era of Hollywood filmmaking, from his obsession with the history and famous directors from the 1930s - 60s and then his own directing career after that. 

Trailer on YouTube:



Podcast is available on all the usual outlets plus the TCM website and YouTube. 

Here is the Spotify link (I use Spotify for all my streaming of music and podcasts). 


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Re-listening 40+ Years Later: Countdown to Ecstasy


The replies to this recent @baddantakes tweet showed a lot of love for a Steely Dan album I had somehow never really taken to, “Countdown to Ecstasy”, so I decided I should re-listen to it on Spotify while out walking one day last week. 

Here’s the cover art. Somewhat unappealing visually, but let’s push past that. Contrast, guys, contrast!



Turns out, there are some killer tunes on it that I had dismissed back in 1978-9 when I bought it originally, on vinyl.

On my re-listen adventure the first song I chose — for what reason I do not know — was the last tune on the album, “King of the World”. It’s amazing, especially the guitar fills throughout and instrumental breaks at 2:00 and 3:45.



Just “wow”. That is some pretty sweet playing and arranging right there. 

This was just their second album, from 1973.

There always were two songs I did like — a lot — on this album: “My Old School” ... 



... again, the instrumental breaks at 2:30 and 4:45 are killer, plus the hot horn arrangments throughout, and a singalong chorus ... 

... and my other favorite is “Pearl of the Quarter”, a shuffle with beautiful lap steel guitar throughout and a melancholy melody but a chorus that just sticks in your head with a wonderful jazz chord walkdown, and of course a sweet instrumental break at 2:45.



More on Steely Dan and this album later.



Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Benedict Arnold Commits Treason 241 Years Ago Today

Dies on Flag Day and U.S. Army Birthday 21 Years Later 

September 21, 1780:

During the war, Benedict Arnold proved himself a brave and skillful leader, helping Ethan Allen’s troops capture Fort Ticonderoga in 1775 and then participating in the unsuccessful attack on British Quebec later that year, which earned him a promotion to brigadier general. Arnold distinguished himself in campaigns at Lake Champlain, Ridgefield and Saratoga, and gained the support of George Washington. However, Arnold had enemies within the military and in 1777, five men of lesser rank were promoted over him. Over the course of the next few years, Arnold married for a second time and he and his new wife lived a lavish lifestyle in Philadelphia, accumulating substantial debt. The debt and the resentment Arnold felt over not being promoted faster were motivating factors in his choice to become a turncoat.

In 1780, Arnold was given command of West Point, an American fort on the Hudson River in New York (and future home of the U.S. military academy, established in 1802). Arnold contacted Sir Henry Clinton, head of the British forces, and proposed handing over West Point and his men. On September 21 of that year, Arnold met with Major John Andre and made his traitorous pact. However, the conspiracy was uncovered and Andre was captured and executed. Arnold, the former American patriot, fled to the enemy side and went on to lead British troops in Virginia and Connecticut. He later moved to England, though he never received all of what he’d been promised by the British. He died in London on June 14, 1801.

June 14, in an unlikely coincidence, was by 1801 already an anniversary of two important days in U.S. history:  the original U.S. flag was adopted in 1777 and the first Continental Army was formed in 1775.

The stars formed in a circle on the first U.S. flag are intended to represent a new constellation, as declared in the Flag Resolution (see link above).


The "Betsy Ross" flag


By DevinCook / Created by jacobolus using Adobe Illustrator, and released into the public domain. - I created this image using historical descriptions (commonly known). Inkscape was used to create the SVG., Public Domain, Link

Monday, September 20, 2021

Norm Macdonald: Both Funny and Fearless

35 Minutes of Why Norm Macdonald Got Fired from Weekend Update



Relentless and well-deserved mocking of O. J. Simpson who was a good friend of one of the bigwigs on the show. Despite repeated warnings to stop with the O.J. jokes, Norm kept drilling him, week after week.

His revenge 18 months later ... when they asked him to host the show!



He was always one of my favorite comedians and he will be greatly missed. 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Kiosk Voices from Hell


I don’t mind using those kiosks — where did that word come from?! — at grocery stores and pharmacies, especially when buying just a few things. 

It’s quick and easy: swipe, bag, swipe, bag, pay with credit card, out the door ... easy peezy.

But the voices on these things are the absolute worst.

“Welcome valued customer!” 

Who doesn’t love to hear that, especially from a robot voice? Nothing says “valued customer” like an impersonal interaction with a synthesized voice.

Too loud, too. Stop shouting at me, I’m right here. Did you think I was 20 feet away? How could I scan the merchandise from way over there? 

And the urgent lecturing tone:

“Please place scanned item in the bagging area!” ... 

“Scan your frequent buyer card or enter the number on the keypad!”

Is it Boot Camp? How did I end up at Boot Camp?

Let’s dial down the marching orders just a bit so I don’t feel like I’m at Boot Camp. Try something soothing and helpful. Since, you know, I’m a paying customer, and this is a robot we’re talking about. 

And why female voices, yelling and ordering us around? You know the geniuses behind these things did a bunch of research to determine the voice’s gender plus the right volume, bass vs. treble balance, and all manner of other attributes. 

My question: are female voices that issue orders in loud, urgent, lecturing tones preferred to male voices that issue orders in loud, urgent, lecturing tones? 

I’m thinking the loud, urgent, lecturing tone issue might be getting in the way, either way. 

How about using a voice modeled on, say, Marilyn Monroe? Breathless and a near whisper? 

Sexy as hell. Did anyone think of that? Sexy kiosk voices? 

Women would probably hate the Marilyn Monroe voice though, and prefer someone like Tom Selleck. I don’t know, figure it out, geniuses.

So allow it as a choice when you walk up to the thing. 

Replace the “Scan or swipe to begin” on-screen prompt with “Choose your sexy voice and let’s do this!”.

You’re welcome.


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Rick Beato with Brian May on “Bohemian Rhapsody”


I can still remember being awestruck upon hearing this remarkable song on the radio the very first time... 



It still sounds as fresh and perfect today, 46 years later.

Brian May is of course the genius guitarist, songwriter, and arranger for “Queen” — but he’s also an Astrophsyics PhD and built his first guitar at 16 with his electronics engineer father. One of the more interesting musicians in rock history — more on him later. 


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Killer Squirrel? You Never Know


Late one afternoon while out walking I noticed a squirrel run across the grass and start to climb up a tree — and then he just stopped, four feet off the ground, frozen. 

It seemed maybe he was eyeing me carefully as I walked by. A defensive posture, probably. 

But maybe not. Maybe he was mentally running through his list of attack options. 

Maybe he was sick and tired of all these annoying two-legged intruders on his territory and finally ready to actually do something about it, for once.

Maybe he had claws like eagle talons, and teeth like a bear, and jaws like a python that unhinge to swallow prey. Maybe I narrowly escaped with my life and body parts intact.

Who knows? Maybe killer squirrels are actually a thing but they hide it well and are very, very patient, waiting for the right moment to unleash the mass coordinated attack.

It’s also possible, I guess, that he froze like that because he was fearing for his life, seeing me as a predator looking for a tasty meal like him, frozen in hopes I wouldn’t see him. 

Or maybe he noticed a different predator nearby, not me, and froze to avoid detection. 

But he might have been a killer squirrel. 

We’ll never really know for sure, will we?

Image via publicdomainpictures.net


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Tuesday Photos

If You Never Look Up, How Will You Ever See the Sun and Sky?


 

Pretty Close, I Guess



My Granddaughter’s Superheroes and Stuffed Animals Classroom






Monday, September 13, 2021

Unexpected Delights, Merle Haggard Style

One of the best things about streaming services like Pandora are the unexpected delights that really “hit the spot” for your current mood.

Friday morning last week felt like a ‘Crystal Gayle, “I’ll Get Over You”’ kind of morning, and as luck would have it, I have a Pandora channel named exactly that, and so I started it up. 

I was quickly rewarded with Merle Haggard’s classic “Ramblin’ Fever”.

His vocals on this song ... a master at work. 



My hat don't hang on the same nail too long
My ears can't stand to hear the same old song
An' I don't leave the highway long enough to bog down in the mud
'Cos I've got ramblin' fever in my blood

I caught this ramblin' fever long ago
When I first heard a lonesome whistle blow
If someone said I ever gave a damn, they damn sure told you wrong
I've had ramblin' fever all along

Ramblin' fever
The kind that can't be measured by degrees
Ramblin' fever
There ain't no kind of cure for my disease

There's times I'd like to bed down on a sofa
And let some pretty lady rub my back
And spend the early morning drinking coffee
And talkin' about when I'll be coming back

'Cos I don't let no no woman tie me down
And I'll never get too old to get around
I want to die along the highway and rot away like some old high-line pole
Rest this ramblin' fever in my soul

Ramblin' fever
The kind that can't be measured by degrees
Ramblin' fever
There ain't no kind of cure for my disease, yeah

Lyrics via azlyrics.com


Friday, September 10, 2021

U.S. Open Finals This Weekend ... History Being Made

Women’s Final 

Saturday 3pm Central 


UPDATE: Raducanu wins ... first major champion in history to come through qualifying rounds


For the first time in ... forever? ... both finalists were just 18 years of age when the tournament started: Emma Raducanu (Great Britain) and Leylah Fernandez (Canada).

Raducanu had to win three qualifying rounds to even make it to the main draw, so she has now won 9 matches in a row — without losing a single set — and is the first Grand Slam finalist in the Open era (starting 1968). That’s 53 years.

Fernandez meanwhile has swept through as an unseeded player, defeating three top 5 players including defending champion Osaka, often wearing down opponents in three sets. 

The matchup should be entertaining and will definitely be historic, but whoever wins, this U.S. Open will be known as the one where the young ladies just mowed down the competition with wanton abandon. 

It has been quite compelling as a result and I’ve watched as much as I could.

Men’s Final

Sunday 3pm Central

Novak Djokovic vs. Danill Medvedev, the top two seeds ... what are the odds?

By far the biggest story with this match is that Djokovic is going for two amazing career accomplishments in one match: a Grand Slam (winning all 4 majors in the same year) and the all time record for victories in majors (21). The last Grand Slam was by Rod Laver in 1969, 52 years ago.

Djokovic defeated Alexander Zverev in an epic five set match Friday night featuring incredibly long rallies:

The decisive game of the third set was the match in microcosm. In one of the most intriguing non-deuce games you'll ever see, Djokovic broke for the set after rallies of 18, 32, 12, 21, 53 and 16 balls.

53 shots in one game.

UPDATE: Medvedev wins in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4... his Grand Slam dream for this year is done and he's still at 20 major titles

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

47 Years Ago Today

September 8, 1974 ... Ford Pardons Nixon ... 

At noon on August 9, Nixon officially ended his term, departing with his family in a helicopter from the White House lawn. Minutes later, Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States in the East Room of the White House. After taking the oath of office, President Ford spoke to the nation in a television address, declaring, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”

The long national nightmare wasn't really over, but it was still the right move. Enough is enough.

The media had feasted on this carcass for years already and Woodward and Bernstein made their national reputations by doing the political dirty work for poor slob Mark Felt, the “Deep Throat” anonymous source that supplied most of the dirt on the big players.

It was a ridiculous scandal from beginning to end and every adminstration before and since has done worse and totally gotten away with it, but we got to watch this unfold on a daily basis and tell ourselves we were witness to something really bad here.

George Friedman (from the link above) gets it exactly right:

The Washington Post created a morality play about an out-of-control government brought to heel by two young, enterprising journalists and a courageous newspaper. That simply wasn't what happened. Instead, it was about the FBI using The Washington Post to leak information to destroy the president, and The Washington Post willingly serving as the conduit for that information while withholding an essential dimension of the story by concealing Deep Throat's identity.

Yes, that is exactly what happened, regardless of our opinions on Nixon as president. 

If the anonymous leaker has an axe to grind, maybe they’re just a pissed-off ankle-biter instead of a brave truth-teller. Keep that in mind, because this issue has gotten worse, not better.

And now every DC scandal gets the “-gate” suffix because of it. Clever.

Cat in the Box




If you have a cat you know how much they love boxes and bags. 

Leave any random box or bag lying around and they will be in that thing in seconds flat. 

This is Simba, our male orange tabby that we got about 18 months ago. He loves his box. 

Eventually we will throw that box in the trash and replace it with a new box, and he will love that box too. 

He loves all the boxes. 

And bags. Any paper or plastic bag that he can fit into becomes his new preferred hideout so he can keep a close watch on all of us.

Of course sometimes a cat can get himself into trouble trying to get into tight spaces.




 


Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Don’t Look Now But the Cubs Have Won 8 of 9


They unloaded nearly all their “best” players in late July — all were facing free agency at end of year anyway, and this is how it works when you lost 11 in a row with those players in June and early July — and since then have been playing lots of minor-leaguers.

Who knows what they really have here, I am sure not betting on anything one way or the other, but some of these guys have been playing really well. 

The Cubs have now won 7 in a row for the first time in over 2 years. 

First baseman Frank Schwindel has been especially clutch, a true hitting machine. 



From the game story link above:

This was the fourth game in a row, and the fifth out of six, in which Schwindel delivered the game’s decisive hit and RBI. [...] Entering Monday’s action, Schwindel was tied for third in the Majors with 44 hits since Aug. 1. In that span, he was one of only 14 players with at least 10 homers. He was tied for fourth with 29 RBIs. Only Bryce Harper (1.9), José Ramírez (1.8) and Aaron Judge (1.7) had more WAR (via FanGraphs) than Schwindel’s mark of 1.6 (tied with three other players). ... After his two-hit showing on Monday, Schwindel upped his slash line with the Cubs to .374/.421/.699. The first baseman had a 194 wRC+ since coming to Chicago, indicating that he has performed 94 percent above the Major League average offensively. It’s no wonder he took home the National League’s Rookie of the Month Award for August.

The dude is on fire. Time will tell, as always, but as fill-in manager Andy Green notes in the post-game press conference (while Ross recuperates), the way Schwindel manages to get the barrel of the bat on a pitch wherever it’s thrown, and stays balanced and keeps his hands back, has been impressive. 

Let me take this opportunity to note that this is exactly what I’ve been complaining about with this team — guys like Javy Baez, and others — for years now. So, YAY. 

Lineups need guys 1-8, whether power hitters or not, who can hit to all fields especially with two strikes, because the reality is that skill is the difference between contending for World Series and watching other teams contend for World Series on TV. 

Several other players who were denied playing time by the presence of the star players have shown they can hit like this too — Rafael Ortega, for one, and others have shown flashes here and there. 

Again, I’m not calling for scheduling any 2024 World Series parades at this point. It’s far too early to predict anything with this team, and I’ve seen this movie before. 

Baseball history is littered with guys who were great for a month, or a season. It’s not that meaningful, the vast majority of the time. 

But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it while it’s here.


Monday, September 06, 2021

Your Youngest Son Only Turns 20 Once

Twenty years ago today our youngest son was born and right now I’m drinking coffee out of this mug he made for me in 2nd grade. 

Happy Birthday son! And you even got a national holiday! 

One of my favorite mugs for several reasons but the main one of course is that he made it for me. I am not big on physical possessions but I love using things every day that mean something to me.  

Twenty is the first milestone age that sounds “adult” after some lesser milestones at sixteen and eighteen that are purely legal in nature (driving, voting) but otherwise not that notable.

I very much remember when I turned 20 and how different it felt when that first digit on your age is a “2” now. 

Neil Young wrote a song about turning 20 called “Sugar Mountain” with a chorus that goes:

Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons,
You can't be twenty on Sugar Mountain
Though you're thinking that
You're leaving there too soon,
You're leaving there too soon.

A live version:





Friday, September 03, 2021

James Cagney — A True Force of Nature

This incredible scene is at the end of “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, the biography of George M. Cohan.



The great ones make it look easy . . . imagine trying to dance on stairs . . . and look smooth and in control as if this is how you’ve always gone down the stairs. Easy peezy!

I had the opportunity to binge on James Cagney movies this week (on TCM) and instantly became a big fan. Let’s be honest, if you can find the time to binge some mediocre true crime series on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or whatever, you can find the time to binge 2 or 3 legendary James Cagney movies.

Start with “Yankee Doodle Dandy” to learn about the life of George M. Cohan who at the age of 26 in 1904 wrote, directed, starred in, and probably choreographed and sold tickets for his first musical “Little Johnny Jones” featuring both of these iconic songs ”Give My Regards to Broadway” and “Yankee Doodle Boy”, seen here.





Just for fun here’s Cagney with Bob Hope from 1955 doing a dance competition on a long table — did you know Hope could dance like that?!




More later . . . 



Thursday, September 02, 2021

Favorite Songs About Road Trips

My all-time favorite is of course “Take Me Home, Country Roads” — here’s a version I’ll bet you’ve never heard before, by Toots and the Maytalls, my favorite reggae band.



But I also love the John Denver version which is obviously done in more of a mainstream pop style. 



It’s all good. The song itself is great. That’s the beauty and strength of great songwriting — good lyrics, good melody, you are 90% of the way there. 

For me, this is one of those songs that sounds like it always existed and just popped up fully formed through the creativity of the songwriter.

Next on my list is “East Bound and Down” the classic theme song from “Smokey and the Bandit”, by Jerry Reed.



A genius on stringed instruments of all kinds, one of the best of all time. Here’s a live version.



Here’s a country truck driving classic by Dave Dudley, “Six Days on the Road”



I’m sure I’ll think of more right after I post this . . . 

How could I forget “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” by Kathy Mattea?




This one sticks in my brain every time I hear it — “Girl on the Billboard” by Del Reeves.





 

Monday, August 30, 2021

Eliane Elias, Jazz Singer and Piano Player


Eliane Elias is a beautiful and talented Brazilian jazz singer and pianist who transcribed jazz solos at age 12 and taught piano at age 15, attended Juilliard and started playing professionally soon after, first with Steps Ahead and then solo.

I could write a bunch of words here, but why? You should just listen to the music for yourself. 

You can thank me later.

 

 “They Can’t Take That Away From Me (Live)”



“Call Me”




Friday, August 27, 2021

Friday Music with Three Dog Night

“One” is the title, appropriately enough, for the first song on the first side of the first album by Three Dog Night. 




Here’s the story on creating the song featuring two of the three lead singers, Chuck Negron and Danny Hutton.



It was a Top 5 hit in the U.S. and Canada, an outcome that songwriter Harry Nilsson surely appreciated.

According to Wikipedia, Nilsson wrote the song after calling someone and getting a busy signal, and then stayed on the line listening to the “beep, beep, beep” of the busy signal while writing the lyrics including the classic opener “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do ...”.

It’s a great story, and it might even be true.

Many years later after nearly two dozen Top 40 hits and becoming one of the biggest bands in the world — turns out “Jeremiah was a bullfrog”, did you know that? — their last Top 20 hit in 1974 “Sure As I’m Sitting Here”.



Written by John Hiatt, who would go on to have a long career as both songwriter and performer.

These two songs bookend their hit-making career and both show their good taste in choosing high quality material from excellent songwriters. 


Thursday, August 26, 2021

Target Heart Rate

It’s Just a Number, After All 

For decades the accepted wisdom for maximizing cardiovascular fittness levels has been the “target heart rate” defined very simply and roughly as 80% of your age subtracted from 220. 

In a formula, ( 220 - age ) * 0.8. 

For example: 

  • For a 20 year old ... 200 * 0.8 or 160 
  • For a 50 year old ... 170 * 0.8 or 136 
  • For an 80 year old ... 140 * 0.8 or 112 

You can see that for every 10 years of increase in age, target heart rate drops by 8. 

This target heart rate is an ideal to maximize the beneficial cardiovascular effects, it’s not the minimum before any beneficial effects occur. 

This point is the single most important thing to understand about cardiovascular exercise:  any kind of movement is a good start and will be better for you than sitting on your butt. Going beyond that is fine tuning for personal goals, whatever those might be. 

Benefits occur within a range. You will definitely still realize some benefit from hitting 70%, or 60% — probably even 50% — as long as you do it long enough, compared to a baseline of sitting and doing nothing.

This debate often shows up in opinions on whether or not walking “counts” as cardiovascular exercise. Just asking the question is evidence of a classifcation error for people under the spell of counting and measuring, and “data”, and studies, and every damn thing under the Sun except for the only thing that matters: trying it and evaluating what it does for you.

Active is active and your body doesn’t much care what you are doing, as long as you are somehow moving your legs, which are by far the biggest muscles in your body and kick the entire cardiovascular machinery into gear. Leg exercise also engages your core — glutes, abdominals, lower back, hip flexors, pelvic floor, etc.

Leg exercise of any kind *is* cardiovascular exercise, as long as you do it long enough. 

I fell victim to the “what good could walking possibly do, it’s too easy” fallacy myself, until I actually ... you know ... tried it. In the winter of 2010 or 2011, after years of knowing I missed outdoor exercise during the winter (I like biking in warmer weather), I decided to try walking 30 minutes or more several times per week, in the middle of the day during the best daylight hours, as part of a lunch break, and see what happens.

I was impressed and amazed at the energy and focus I gained afterward, the mood improvement, and then — a most welcome surprise — the improvement in sleep quality. It was quite the discovery and really opened my eyes to the benefits of moving your legs, for long stretches of time, even at lower intensity levels — much lower than we’ve been taught are required.

Sleep quality! It was life-changing. Just from walking 30 minutes at 2pm. Who knew? 

Key point: I only discovered this by doing it myself and learning how it helped me. 

I didn’t pay any attention to target heart rate, either. I just treated it like an activity break, as much for mental and emotional recharging as anything else. And yet, the other benefits were obvious and pronounced. I became a big fan, and have been walking ever since, along with biking and other activities. And I do not stress about counting steps, or target heart rate, at all.

Target heart rate is of course a fine concept and we need it to have something to aim towards, especially for cardiac patients and the ultra-competitive among us. But at the end of the day, it’s a very simplistic, rough guideline based on the idea that, well, people need a number to aim for, so let’s give them one. It’s not magic and it’s not a mimimum, and it obscures the more important divide, the only divide that really matters: sedentary vs. active. All else is details.

I’ve learned a lot over the years about exercise, and I can say with confidence that there’s just something magic about moving your legs at a steady pace, outside, for at least 25 minutes, that produces real results for your entire cardiovascular sytem plus better sleep quality, mood, energy, focus, and more. 

You may find these same results, or they may be different, but either way, you really should try it for yourself and stop listening to people’s opinions about what “counts” as cardiovascular exercise. It’s your heart, you own the condition it’s in, and you want to keep it healthy as long as you can.

Dr James Meschino does a great job of explaining this.


Here’s the Cleveland Clinic on the benefits of aerobic exercise and how to realize them — they say as little as 30 minutes a week will at least help a little bit, and I have no reason to doubt it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

“Light My Fire” Back Story

Written by 20-year-old guitarist Robbie Krieger ... his first ever attempt at writing a song ... 




Ray Manzarek explains how he used John Coltrane’s wonderful “My Favorite Things” to inspire the solo, and added the epic Bach-inspired keyboard intro and from his background musical knowledge.




That’s a pretty valuable guy to have in your band, right there.



Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Top 10 Satchel Paige Quotes

One of the greatest pitchers of all time was also one of the greatest Original Quote Machines of all time. 

My favorites:

  1. "Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it don't matter.”
  2. "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?"
  3. "I ain't ever had a job, I just always played baseball."
  4. "I don't generally like running. I believe in training by rising gently up and down from the bench."
  5. "I use my single windup, my double windup, my triple windup, my hesitation windup, my no windup. I also use my step-n-pitch-it, my submariner, my sidearmer, and my bat dodger. Man's got to do what he's got to do."
  6. "Just take the ball and throw it where you want to. Throw strikes. Home plate don't move."
  7. "My pitching philosophy is simple - keep the ball way from the bat."
  8. "One time he (Cool Papa Bell) hit a line drive right past my ear. I turned around and saw the ball hit his ass sliding into second."
  9. "There never was a man on Earth who pitched as much as me, but the more I pitched, the stronger my arm would get."
  10. "When a batter swings and I see his knees move, I can tell just what his weaknesses are then I just put the ball where I know he can't hit it."

"Just take the ball and throw it where you want to. Throw strikes. Home plate don't move." 

Sounds easy when you say it like that! 

Number 10 sounds like great advice for any pitcher at any age.

More at Baseball Almanac

Satchel Paige on Wikipedia and at Baseball Hall of Fame.

Here he is on “What’s My Line” in the mid-60s.




Monday, August 23, 2021

Look Up At the Sky Once In A While

You May Be Surprised 


Walking out of the grocery store Saturday afternoon around 5pm, I looked up at the sky and saw this, stopped walking, took out my phone and took two photos, in the parking lot, with other people pushing carts and walking to and from their cars.

30 minutes later it rained very hard, for the second time in two hours. But for at least these few moments, this was your reward if you looked up and stopped thinking and just observed with your senses. 

Did you ever notice how many people spend their whole lives only looking ahead, never up, or back, or to the side? Literally and figuratively. 

Seems to me that’s too much living inside your head, focusing on what’s next, checking items off of lists, missing out on beauty happening around you. 

I’m not sure how that is much different from being a mouse on a treadmill. To each their own, I guess. 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Friday Music

Gliding into the weekend with . . . 


An excellent version of the Allman Brothers classic “Jessica” by Six String Soliders . . .



. . . and John Prine and Iris Dement with his instant classic “In Spite of Ourselves” . . . 



Enjoy your weekends everyone, and go listen to some great music. 



Thursday, August 19, 2021

Walking and Taking Photos and Wondering Why People Do Stuff

Out on a walk and I noticed this extremely odd situation ... a cellular tower or something like it rising up in someone’s backyard ... what exactly is going on here??



A closer look ...



Trying to imagine the scenarios here ... you either bought the property with that cancer-factory monstrosity in the yard, or you as property owner allowed someone to install it, with some form of monetary compensation I would hope ... but still.

Yuck. Electromagnetic radiation, it’s a thing. Good luck with your health, and as a seller of that cursed property someday.

On the same walk I saw one of these annoying things:



I get why they use them — too many drivers speeding on a stretch of road, ostensibly causing dangerous conditions for bikes and pedestrians and little kids. This is on an arterial road with side streets crossing it, so it is exactly the kind of place we are used to seeing them. Yay for public safety, and all that. I’m on board.

However. They set these things to rudely flash your speed at you if you go even 1 MPH over the limit. ONE MILE PER HOUR. 

Let’s review. My car does not suddenly become a dangerous missile on the transition from 30 MPH to 31 MPH. The very idea is idiotic. 

We all know the actual problem is drivers who go 40+ in a 30 MPH. Even law enforcement admits that. But by setting it to flash my speed at me when it’s just 1 MPH over, you’re putting me in the same bucket as those that go 45+, the actual dangerous drivers. This is not just insane on a practical level, it’s annoying as hell.

On another street not far away, they cut the speed limit to 25 MPH for the same reason. And cops started camping out in strategic spots to pull people over and give them at least a warning for going — I kid you not — 26+ MPH. 

Guys. Don’t do this. You’re criminalizing normal and safe driving to reduce the amount of 40+ MPH drivers. 

Here’s what you should be doing: ignore the 26-35 MPH drivers, because I’ll bet you $100 right now you cannot quote me honest traffic studies that show attentive, suburban, responsible drivers — mostly moms in vans, let’s be honest here — are dangerous at any of those speeds. But target *all* of your efforts in this area to nail the 40+ MPH drivers, since that is where the danger arises. 

Those are two very distinct groups, and we all know it, because we all see it with our own eyes every day. It’s not a big mystery how this works.

By doing it this way, you’re training people like me to laugh at and ignore this idiocy. I am not your problem. Don’t treat me like one. 

For me this is just another reminder of the way policy makers and law enforcement ignore the incentives they create in everyone who is not the target of their genius plans. 

There’s a downside to that: building distrust one small thing at a time, a “death by a thousand cuts” kind of thing. Law enforcement is facing quite a headwind with certain segments of the public these days; this obviously is a very small piece of the puzzle, but rebuilding law enforcement’s public image starts with small adjustments to actual enforcement practices. 

A journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step.

All photos in this post owned by me, copyright applies, etc.