Friday, December 31, 2021

Test Your Smarts as You Head into 2021


Smarter Every Day, Which Way Will the Water Go?



The video of the experiment itself is fun and entertaining and worth watching, but Destin notes at the end that Steve was actually saying the same thing he was — they were actually in agreement but stating things slightly differently. 

Therefore he needs to listen more completely and intentionally when he thinks he disagrees with someone because he might be stuck on hearing what he thinks they are saying, which he frames in opposition to his claim, making them “wrong” and him “right”. 

It’s polarization created by your mind, not necessarily by the words people use or the ideas they are stating.

A lot of people could stand to take that advice about a lot of things. If you cannot restate a summary, clearly and concisely, of the opposing viewpoint and its supporting theories and ideas, then you do not understand it well enough to continue discussing it, so you need to drill down further on understanding first. 


Thursday, December 30, 2021

Raise ‘Em Up on Country Sunshine and Blow Up Your TV

 

For some reason early this morning the song “Country Sunshine” popped into my head. 

I couldn’t even tell you who sang it, but the chorus lyric “I was raised on country sunshine” echoed through my head. 

Appealing idea, no? “Raised on country sunshine”

Seems to me that we as parents have failed our kids by outsmarting ourselves into believing kids belong anywhere but outside as much as possible. They do not really need constant shuttling from here to there in a motor vehicle, since they generally have two feet and can put one in front of the other. 

Yes, they might get kidnapped on the way to school, but only if you watch too many movies and read too many news stories that amp up your fears and pump up your “fight or flight” adrenaline response, inventing risk that is essentially zero in the real world. 

Be careful with undoing thousands of years of acquired evolutionary social knowledge; it’s fragile, and there might be unintended consequences from messing with it, is all I’m saying.

Turns out “Country Sunshine” is by Dottie West. Ah, yes, she’s a legend. 

Dottie West, “Country Sunshine”




Here’s a nice live version from a TV show.



Refreshing and very similar in outlook and attitude to John Prine’s “Spanish Pipedream” about living the simple life.



Blow up your TV
Throw away your papers
Go to the country
Build you a home
Plant a little garden
Eat a lot of peaches
Try to find Jesus
On your own

John Prine has a wonderful economy of words — very visual with a “you are there” feeling. That’s the definition of great songwriting.

Dottie West is of course a very well-known country star from “back in the day” but I had never really listened to her catalog before — I’ll be diving into that these next few days. Already started, in fact, and while some of it is pretty “commercial” as they say, I’m mostly okay with that, because 60s and 70s country is some of the best type of “commercial” pop up music ever made, with legendary singers and songwriters and production. There’s a place for that, sometimes.


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Back Story on a Story Song


Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” was a true story about his running into his high school girlfriend several years later at a convenience store while back home visiting his family at Christmas.



This style of song is not really my thing, but the back story is somewhat interesting. 

Back in the day I liked Fogelberg’s earlier songs like “Part of the Plan” … 



… plus a few others. Later when he became hugely popular his singing and the general pop style of his songs did nothing for me. 

But upon hearing “Hard To Say” a few years ago and turning it up loud in the car — maybe hearing it for the first time, or listening closely for the first time, I don’t really know — it instantly became my favorite tune of his. By far.



This is just a great piece of music, especially the production, arrangement and band. Fogelberg’s vocals are far more relaxed and in control, but the band and arrangement, especially the guitar fills, carry the song.

He grew up in Peoria and both his parents were musicians — his hit “Leader of the Band” was a tribute to his father who was band director and music teacher at Peoria Woodruff High School, Pekin High School, and Bradley University. 

He died way too young, of cancer at just 56 years of age, in 2007.



Tuesday, December 28, 2021

2021 in Review, Ozzy Man Edition


There’s not that many people I would trust to sum up 2021 — but Ozzy Man is definitey one of them.



 

Monday, December 27, 2021

75 Years Ago, the Flamingo Hotel Opens

New York mobster Benjamin“Bugsy” Siegel opens the Flamingo Hotel and Casino on December 26, 1946.

Things did not go well at first — he lost $300,000 in the first week of operations, and it closed one week later.

It re-opened March 1, 1947 — but within a few months Siegel was murdered, by persons unknown — cough the New York mob cough — for skimming profits. 

Allegedly. Wink, wink.

Thus dawned a 40 year run of mob control of the casinos and hotels there:

During the 1950s and 1960s, mobsters helped build the Sahara, the Sands, the New Frontier and the Riviera. Money from organized crime combined with funds from more respectable investors—Wall Street banks, union pension funds, the Mormon Church and the Princeton University endowment. Tourists flocked to the resorts—8 million a year by 1954—drawn by performers such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Elvis Presley, and by rows of slot machines and gaming tables.

The alleged mobsters who allegedly murdered Bugsy Siegel were most likely, allegedly, the Meyer Lansky faction of the alleged New York mob. Today there's a restaurant named Bugsy and Meyer's. So after running way from its "colorful" mob history for decades, Las Vegas flipped over to recognize it and — of course — commercialize it.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas from Me and My Family — and from Kacey Musgraves Too

 

She’s got a good Christmas album “A Very Kacey Christmas” — discovered via the SiriusXM Country station — and here’s three of my favorites.


“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

 


“Mele Kalikimaka”




“Present Without a Bow” — a new Christmas song (or at least I had never heard it) that I really like




The whole album is very good, with top notch production, great vocals by her, and she makes each song her own, whoever else recorded it in the past.


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms


This last week has been very trying for us, with health challenges for our family and adapting to new realities and finding the strength to do that.

So it seems like an especially good time to highlight this great Alan Jackson album “Precious Memories” which is filled with gospel hymns he grew up singing with his family in church.

Here’s just one example, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”



Awesome story behind the making of this album — he wanted to thank his mother for her guidance in his faith, and recorded this entire album without her knowledge and gave her the CD for Christmas. 

If you like this one, you’ll like the rest too.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Ryan Bingham “I Don’t Know”

 

As a big fan of “Yellowstone” I was first introduced to singer and musician Ryan Bingham as an actor, and he does a fine job with that too.

He contributed several songs to the “Crazy Heart” soundtrack (2009) and this is one I like a lot, “I Don’t Know”.


Thursday, December 16, 2021

Classic NFL Photos From Back in the Day


The legendary Lance Alworth making a leaping grab over (equally legendary) Chiefs DB Fred “The Hammer” Williamson.



From a great Twitter account by NFL historian Kevin Gallagher @KevG163 that publishes — every day — classic NFL and AFL photos mainly from the 50s, 60s, and 70s plus a few that are newer or older.

Many are absolute classics like this one. Lance Alworth was famous for his leaping catches — that’s why his nickname was “Bambi”.

As a fan of sports photography of any kind, but especially from that era, and even more especially football and baseball, one of favorite childhood possessions is a book of photos like these from the AFL called “The Other League”. I still have it, I think. I’ll look for that today.

Photo above from this tweet


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Abe Deserves Better and So Do We



We found some change in the car recently and some of the coins had weird buildup on them, so I did a little “money laundering” with a wire brush. 

This is the result. Pretty disgraceful. That’s Abe Lincoln’s face, dude, and it’s half gone.

Even the lowly penny used to have a little weight to it and engraving that looked good, befitting a unit of currency.

Pennies have always been at least 95% copper (excluding a short window from 1856-1864 when they were 88% copper) since 1793 when originally issued. 

Until 1982, when they were changed to 97.5% zinc with copper plating and reduced in overall weight from 3.11g to 2.5g.

Nothing like this would ever — could ever — happen to pennies when they were 95% copper. They might tarnish and get dirty over time, but a little copper cleaner would make them bright and shiny like new, most of the time.

Like this. Notice the difference with the engraving quality, in particular. Real money looks like this, not like that embarrassment above.


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

On This Day in 1900 Quantum Theory is Born


German physicist Max Planck creates an entirely new understanding of the behavior of sub-atomic particles, which classical physics had so far been unable to explain, by publishing his “blackbody radiation” paper:

Through physical experiments, Planck demonstrated that energy, in certain situations, can exhibit characteristics of physical matter. According to theories of classical physics, energy is solely a continuous wave-like phenomenon, independent of the characteristics of physical matter. Planck’s theory held that radiant energy is made up of particle-like components, known as “quanta.” The theory helped to resolve previously unexplained natural phenomena such as the behavior of heat in solids and the nature of light absorption on an atomic level. In 1918, Planck was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his work on blackbody radiation.

I’ve read a fair bit on quantum physics but it was a long time ago ... so going from memory here, don’t shoot me, I’m only the blogger ... 

Energy (light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation) was discovered to have mass like physical matter, meaning it could be affected by gravity, among other things. It sometimes acts like a particle, sometimes like a wave, depending on the experiment you perform — think about that for a second, you as an observer affect the results.

Picture two billiard balls on a pool table, a white cue ball and a black 8 ball. Picture yourself hitting the cue ball to then hit the 8 ball, and all the places each ball can end up and how quickly they get there.

Classical Newtonian physics says you can know exactly where each ball will end up and how fast each will get there, based on a bunch of variables like the mass and speed of the cue ball, friction, gravity, etc. Plug the right numbers in and your experiment should match exactly, if you do it right. It’s a system with predictable outputs.

Now picture subatomic particles, two electrons for example, doing the same type of collision. Quantum physics (quantum mechanics in this case) says instead that you cannot predict with absolute certainty any of those outcomes, you can only assign probabilities like “95% chance of ending up in this area but only 35% in that”, etc. 

Not only that, you cannot simultaneously measure both the speed and position of any subatomic particle in motion accurately, and the more accurately you measure one, the more inaccurate the other.

Suddenly, science had to grapple with uncertainty. Lots and lots of it. 

This was a seismic shift in not just the world of science, but in philosophy and especially our understanding of the limits of knowledge. 

We thought we knew everything about how the world worked until then, and people today are making the same mistake, and people tomorrow will make it too.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Max Verstappen Wins First Formula 1 Driver Championship


The drama here was incredible — the entire season came down to one lap at the end of the last race between two drivers who had the exact same number of points over the season. 

Lewis Hamilton had led the entire race and was clearly the fastest driver in the fastest car on that day at that track — but with just 4-5 laps remaining a crash caused a yellow caution flag, allowing the cars to bunch together again with Verstappen right behind Hamilton. The big question: would the race stewards let the race end that way, under a caution (ie “extremely boring”), or go green again and see what happens?

This situation created a problem for Hamilton and his Mercedes team — they had gambled early (lap 14 of 58) that with the faster car they could finish the race on the hard compound tires (avoiding the need to pit again) but that left them exposed for this situation:  Verstappen, with fresh soft compound tires compared to Hamilton’s older hard compound tires, and now right behind Hamilton instead of 10 seconds behind, was very well positioned to pass on any tight corner. 

Mercedes was stuck IF the caution was lifted.

This article explains what happened next:

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes dominated the event from the first lap until the penultimate one, but Max Verstappen’s Red Bull took the victory – and thereby the championship – on the last lap under circumstances Mercedes believed were invalid.

The controversy began on Lap 52, six from the end, when Nicholas Latifi – battling with Mick Schumacher’s Haas – crashed his Williams into the Turn 14 barriers. At this point Hamilton was leading Verstappen by 11s and was well on his way to an unprecedented eighth world championship.

Safety Car. With the field slowed to the Safety Car pace, it’s the perfect opportunity to get onto new tyres for the restart. Unless of course you are leading the race by less time than it would take to get into the pits, make your tyre change and accelerate back out again still leading. Eleven seconds wouldn’t have been enough to do that. In this situation, pitting Hamilton would always have triggered Red Bull into leaving Verstappen out there, in the lead with the race almost over.

Mercedes had to leave Hamilton out there – on hard compound tyres which had been on since Lap 14. Hamilton was potentially looking at a last-gasp restart for the race and the championship with his rival sitting right on his gearbox on a brand new set of softs. Of having his title taken from him by random fate.

But… it seemed like it might not come to that. As the car and the debris were removed, we were running out of laps. It seemed entirely possible that the race would end under the Safety Car. In the last couple of years there has been a general agreement with the teams that the Race Director should always endeavour to have the race ending under green flag conditions, even if only for a lap or two, as at Baku earlier this year.

The video above shows how it played out.

Congratulaions to Max Verstappen — one of my favorite drivers — on his first ever World Championship. 


Friday, December 10, 2021

Friday Music: Four Strong Winds, Neil Young, and Ian Tyson


My introduction to singer and guitar player Ian Tyson was via Neil Young’s cover of “Four Strong Winds” back in 1979 on his “Comes a Time” album.

This is Neil Young at his best, showing his roots growing up as a rural Canadian kid influenced by pure cowboy culture in the form of a simple but powerful and poignant song about wanting to try just one more time to rekindle a dying love, but resigning yourself to moving on, because you’ve been “over this a hundred times or more”.

Pay special attention to the chorus, which is wonderful.



The chorus:

Four strong winds that blow lonely
Seven seas that run high
All those things that don't change
Come what may
If the good times are all gone
Then I'm bound for movin' on
I'll look for you if I'm ever back this way

Neil’s version is a keeper, but make no mistake, this is an Ian Tyson song. He performed together as a duo with his then-wife Sylvia for quite a few years in the 60s, and this was a hit for them in 1963, but that version is very “folky” and not really my style; I like his solo work much better. He has released many many albums as a solo artist, and is quite good on his own.

This version of “Four Strong Winds” (of several) seems best to me.



As I learned from listening to Ian’s catalog on Spotify, cowboy music is a whole vibe: simple, tuneful, funny story songs, with no pretense at all. 

I love everything about all of that.

Here’s a funny and sweet story song that is great fun and will stick in your head for hours after, “Navajo Rug”.


His catalog is full of gems like this:  “The Coyote and The Cowboy”, “Eighteen Inches of Rain”, “Magpie”, “Jaquima to Freno”, and many more. If you like any of his music you will like nearly all of it. 


The Coyote and The Cowboy




Eighteen Inches of Rain



Here’s Ian with his ex-partner Sylvia in a reunion for Canadian TV from 1986 doing “Four Strong Winds”.




Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Stories We Need to Tell: Pearl Harbor

Yesterday was December 7th, the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Today is December 8th, the 41st anniversary of the murder of John Lennon by a deranged fan.

One of the best measures of a culture is how well it passes stories from generation to generation that revere those who came before, especially those who died heroically doing something bigger than themselves. 

Do parents and teachers instruct every schoolchild on these events and the heroes that died doing something bigger than themselves? 

Do those kids grow up holding these stories close to their hearts, knowing that it’s their job to pass them on to their own kids? 

Does the wider culture reinforce these stories with poems, books, essays, music, movies, etc.?

I don’t see much of any of that happening.

As a culture we seem more focused on the murder of a former Beatle than on one of the worst military disasters in our history. Yes, Pearl Harbor was 80 years ago, but that’s irrelevant, because cultural stories become more important over the years, not less. 

This is part of the problem:  we are far too focused on the recent past at the expense of the distant past. That’s a good way to lose track of who we are as a people. We must keep close to our hearts those things that really matter to our survival as a people and as a culture.

Culture must be viewed as a living, breathing thing that needs care and attention or it will die. If few people know who and what came before them, they have no culture or history to speak of, and will commence to dishonor all of it. It’s happening right now, in fact.

The grim details of the attack:

The base was attacked by 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft (including fighters, level and dive bombers, and torpedo bombers) in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. Of the eight U.S. Navy battleships present, all were damaged, with four sunk. All but USS Arizona were later raised, and six were returned to service and went on to fight in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. A total of 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded.

On the same day the Japanese launched coordinated attacks on “... the U.S.-held Philippines, Guam, and Wake Island and on the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong.”

Seven separate naval operations on the same day, all successful. This was all part of a grand plan to establish an empire of their own in the Pacific by taking as much strategic territory as possible in surprise attacks right away and then force the Allies to take them back, one by one, at tremendous cost. 

The fact that these stories make people uncomfortable is really the whole point. John Lennon was a hero to many, but not everything worth passing down to future generations can be sung and played on guitar. 

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Rick Beato Interviews Tommy Emmanuel


One of my favorite musicians interviewing another of my favorite musicians.



I love interviews with musicians but this one is especially good and it’s for these two reasons:

  • His playing, which is exquisitely beautiful as always
  • His personality, which is so positive and encouraging and completely free of ego or conceit, and one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet


Monday, December 06, 2021

“How Many Divisions Has the Pope?”

He Had a Lot, Back in the Day, As It Turns Out

Via Twitter I learned that Giovanni Battista Bugatti was the “official executioner for the Papal States” for almost 70 years and executed over 500 people.

Wait a minute ... the Papal States? Who and what is that?

Turns out that until 1870 there used to be a set of city-states called the Papal States — modern-day central Italy, mostly — under direct sovereign rule of the Pope for over 1100 years, from 754 AD until 1870. 

To give you an idea of how chaotic and messy the local politics of the time were, a Kingdom of Italy had been formed in 1861 (part of Italian Unification) from several independent city-states, but the new parliament could not seat itself in what should have been the capitol city because that city — Rome — was controlled by the French military in support of the Pope and his Papal States, until 1870 and the Capture of Rome

The details behind this will make your head spin.

In July 1870, the Franco-Prussian War began, and by early August, Napoleon III recalled his garrison from Rome. The French not only needed the troops to defend their homeland, but were concerned that Italy might use the French presence in Rome as a pretext to join the war against France. In the earlier Austro-Prussian War, Italy had allied with Prussia, and Italian public opinion favored the Prussian side at the start of the Franco-Prussian War. The removal of the French garrison allowed France to remain neutral and eased tensions between France and Italy.

With the French no longer manning the Pope's walls, widespread public demonstrations demanded that the Italian government take Rome. But the city remained formally under French protection, and an attack would still have been regarded as an act of war against the French Empire. Furthermore, Prussia had gone to war in an uneasy alliance with the Catholic South German states that it had fought against (alongside Italy) just four years earlier. Although Prussian prime minister Otto von Bismarck was no friend of the papacy, he knew any war that put Prussia and the Holy See in opposing alliances would upset the delicate pan-German coalition needed for German unification. For both Prussia and Italy, any misstep that broke the pan-German coalition risked Austro-Hungarian intervention in a wider European conflict.

Above all else, Bismarck made every diplomatic effort to keep Prussia's conflicts of the 1860s and 1870s localized and prevent them from spiraling out of control into a general European war. Therefore, not only was Prussia unable to offer any sort of alliance with Italy against France, but actually pressured Italy to remain neutral and keep the peace on the Italian peninsula, at least until Prussia's conflict with France had passed. Moreover, the French Army was still regarded as the strongest in Europe – and until events elsewhere took their course, the Italians were unwilling to provoke Napoleon.

It was only after the surrender of Napoleon and his army at the Battle of Sedan that the situation changed radically. The French Emperor was deposed and forced into exile. The best French units had been captured by the Germans, who quickly followed up their success at Sedan by marching on Paris. Faced with a pressing need to defend its capital with its remaining forces, the French provisional government was clearly not in a military position to retaliate against Italy. In any case, the new French Republic was far less sympathetic to the Holy See than the Empire and did not possess the political will to protect the Pope's position.

The Capture of Rome on September 20, 1870 marked the end of an era:  the poor Pope had no territory left to rule over but the actual church property — St Peter’s Basilica, the papal residence, and the Vatican itself — until 1929 when Mussolini created and handed over Vatican City. Because, really, how can you have a leader of a large religion who is not also leader of a sovereign nation too? 

European history is filled with nastiness like this, where constant war and conflict from constantly changing alliances between competing kingdoms and church bodies (especially the Pope) blurred the lines —because there apparently weren’t any — between religious and state power and control. 

It was a long, bloody, chaotic, miserable struggle and looking back now it’s very easy to see two things:

  • how the momentum for the idea of separation of church and state could organically arise from this messy stew
  • where European collective guilt for centuries of war comes from — they’ve known a constant state of war for thousands of years, due at least in part to the toxic brew of autocratic rule (by men instead of by law) inextricably mixed with religion 


Friday, December 03, 2021

Friday Art


Edouard Cortes, “Triumphal Arch View”



Camille Pissarro, “Le Valhermeil, near Pontoise, 1880”


 

Kind of a chaotic week around here so I missed Tuesday and Thursday daily posts — but going forward I’ll have both more time and less chaos, so that’s a good thing.

Who has two thumbs and is semi-retired now?



Thursday, December 02, 2021

Twenty Years Ago Today: Enron Declares Bankruptcy


Enron Declares Bankruptcy Dec 2, 2001


A subsequent SEC and DOJ investigation determined that Enron “inflated its earnings by hiding debts and losses in subsidiary partnerships”.

The Enron bankruptcy and investigation also took down Arthur Andersen (the CPA firm that Enron used) convicted of shredding documents related to the SEC investigation. 

However Andersen appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, where the justices voted unanimously that the jury had been given incorrect instructions which lowered the bar for conviction so far that the government apparently destroyed a major business for ... following its own document retention policy. 

From Wikipedia:

Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote the opinion for the court, and was joined by all associate justices. In the court's view, the instructions allowed the jury to convict Andersen without proving that the firm knew it had broken the law or that there had been a link to any official proceeding that prohibited the destruction of documents. The instructions were so vague that they "simply failed to convey the requisite consciousness of wrongdoing", Rehnquist wrote. "Indeed, it is striking how little culpability the instructions required." Rehnquist's opinion also expressed grave skepticism at the government's definition of "corrupt persuasion"—persuasion with an improper purpose even without knowing an act is unlawful. "Only persons conscious of wrongdoing can be said to 'knowingly corruptly persuade,' " he wrote.

But the decision to overturn the conviction was far too late to fix anything, because the conviction meant they were required to surrender their CPA license in 2002 and the Supreme Court decision to reverse it didn’t happen until 2005.

Let’s keep in mind that it’s entirely possible that both of the following are true: a) the verdict was wrongly decided and b) Andersen was still guilty as hell on all kinds of other things. 

For example, uncovering the fraud that Enron was perpetrating for years and years. Isn’t detecting fraud the whole point of Certified Public Accounting? It’s essentially a fraud prevention service to protect investors and stockholders. 

Something was broken here, at the very least, and there is also the conflict of interest created when companies offer both consulting services and auditing services and might sweep some things under the rug to avoid disrupting the far greater cash flow from the consulting gig.

But ultimately Enron investors and stockholders got smoked, audit or not. The stock fell to under $1 in November 2001 after reaching a high of $90 in mid-2000. Many employees lost their entire retirement savings, thanks to putting all of it into company stock which is of course very unwise — but still not as unwise as running a corrupt business that defrauds stockholders.

But it goes even deeper than that: Merrill Lynch, J P Morgan Chase, and Citicorp all paid huge fines — $335M total — to allegedly help perpetrate the fraud — “without admitting guilt”, of course. No, we’ll just pay these giant fines instead of paying dividends to shareholders, but we are definitely NOT admitting guilt. Why do you ask? Who would ever connect those dots?

So there’s a lot of blame to go around here. 


Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Van Morrison “Bright Side of the Road”

 



Simple but spiritually meaningful lyrics in a high energy tune, and you can even dance to it, as my wife just did.

From the dark end of the street
To the bright side of the road
We'll be lovers once again on the
Bright side of the road

Little darlin', come with me
Won't you help me share my load
From the dark end of the street
To the bright side of the road

Into this life we're born
Baby sometimes we don't know why
And time seems to go by so fast
In the twinkling of an eye

Let's enjoy it while we can
Won't you help me sing my song
From the dark end of the street
To the bright side of the road

From the dark end of the street
To the bright side of the road
We'll be lovers once again
On the bright side of the road
We'll be lovers once again on the bright side of the road


Monday, November 29, 2021

Twenty Years Ago Today: George Harrison Passes Away


Just 58 years old ... I had forgotten how young he was. 

He was my favorite Beatle — along with Paul of course, and everyone loved Ringo — mainly because of “Here Comes the Sun”.

Excellent songwriters go an entire career without producing one song as great as that one. He wrote it sitting in Eric Clapton’s garden. Like so many other classic timeless songs, he wrote most of it in about 10 minutes.



 

And then of course there’s “All Things Must Pass”, his epic solo project featuring many other great musicians and even more top-notch material, most of it remaining a well-kept secret unless you bought the album yourself.

Just one example is “Behind That Locked Door” .. like several other songs on that album it quickly felt like an old friend of mine. Volume up, please.



Lyrics:
Why are you still crying?
Your pain is now through
Please forget those teardrops
Let me take them from you

The love you are blessed with
This world's waiting for
So let out your heart, please, please
From behind that locked door

It's time we start smiling
What else should we do?
With only this short time
I'm gonna be here with you

And the tales you have taught me
From the things that you saw
Makes me want out your heart, please, please
From behind that locked door

And if ever my love goes
If I'm rich or I'm poor
Please let out my heart, please, please
From behind that locked door

From behind that locked door


Thanks to Classic Rock in Pics 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Getting Older and Looking Back


A few days ago Gerard van der Leun at American Digest wrote about getting older and rather than quote a chunk of it, I suggest you go read it yourself. 

But here’s a quote I liked for the imagery:

... looking back, all the important events in my life seemed to just happen, seemed as if I was walking backward in a dark tunnel that every so often had an opening that looked out on the world.

Life is like that. As Forrest Gump famously said, “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”. I can vouch for that. We make plans and God laughs, which to me is another way of saying, work on your adaptability and resilience skills, because you will need them. 

He’s also linked two music videos, “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Once in a Lifetime” which he ties together in the meat of the post. 

Its pensive without being maudlin, and entertaining and thought provoking. So much of his content is like that, a calming influence in my life and the lives of so many of his readers, like a port in a storm. I strive to be half as good and usually fall short. 

Imagine that, an internet stop that actually lowers your blood pressure.

I’ve been reading his site daily for nearly its entire lifespan which is approaching 20 years. 

His post got me thinking about my own experiences with getting older — so I left this comment on his post.

I too have found that getting older sharpens my appreciation for being alive and fully present in the moment, for the random events that shape us and present opportunities for growth, and delineating between what is time well spent and what is not. All to the good. 

Time just “feels different” at 62 or 75 than at 45 or 52 — more urgency and also more relaxed at the same time, somehow. Trying to explain this to younger (but not “young”) people works as well as you would expect it to.

Happy Thanksgiving to him, and to you. 

This mornings sunrise from my front door letting the dog out at 6:30:




Tuesday, November 23, 2021

B. B. King “How Blue Can You Get” Live


Live at Cook County Jail, Thanksgiving 1970 ... How Blue Can You Get



Simply amazing singing and playing. Truly one of a kind.


Monday, November 22, 2021

“Southern Nights” Backstory with Allen Toussaint and Glen Campbell

 

You may be surprised like I was to learn that “Southern Nights” — a #1 hit for Glen Campbell in 1977 — was actually written by (and first recorded by) Allen Toussaint, the legendary New Orleans musician, producer, creative genius, and one-man hit factory since the late 1950s.

Toussaint explains how the song was a last minute addition to the album he was working on:

While I was finishing the album Van Dyke Parks visited me in the studio. He was a wonderful guy, a genius of a guy. He said, "Well, consider that you were going to die in two weeks. If you knew that, what would you think you would like to have done?" And after he said that, I wrote "Southern Nights" as soon as he left. I stood right there and wrote it. It all came at once, because I lived that story. It was one of those things that writers would like to happen all the time. We would like to write from total sheer spiritual inspiration, but many times we just write from our tools and our bible. That song was a total inspiration. It felt like a soft clear white flower settled above my head and caressed me. I really felt highly, highly inspired and very spiritual doing that song. It's the only one I felt that much about. Some others have been inspired highly, but not as high as that one.

It probably took about two hours to write. Then I went down and recorded it in the studio with just a Fender Rhodes and another guy beating on an ashtray, that little tinkling sound. It was just me on the instrument and singing, and Tony Owens playing on an ashtray. No one remarked on it, because it didn't sound much like a commercial song, and it wasn't. I didn't write it to be a song like all the others on there. I just wanted to share that story with this album. It wasn't supposed to be a commercial song, and I didn't think it would sound like one to anyone else. But I did feel quite complete after I wrote "Southern Nights." I felt totally finished with the album. But that didn't mean I was ready to die!

Here’s the original Toussaint version from his very good 1975 album of the same name.




Here’s a live in studio version — note his beautiful piano.



Campbell’s version is very different — uptempo with full four-piece band instrumentation — but Toussaint loved it and was pleased that anyone liked the song enough to record it at all.

When Campbell recorded the song, Allen was surprised that somebody heard hit potential in the song. He told us: "I love Glen's version. I had never thought of it as an uptempo and mainstream song before. I first heard it on the radio and I was delighted. It was so good to hear it like that, because I just hadn't imagined that someone would listen closely enough to it to want to cover such a thing.

 Campbell first heard Toussaint’s version at his songwriting friend Jimmy Webb’s house.

"Glen was very, very good at arranging things for Top 40 radio. He came over to my house one time and spent some time there, and I remember I was playing an Allen Toussaint record. I liked this record, it had a real lowdown kind of delta feeling, great piano, syncopated piano chops and interesting songs on it. I was playing along, and he said, 'What was that song?' I said, 'Southern Nights.' And he said, 'Is that your record?' And I said, 'Yes.' And he said, 'Well, can I have it?' And I said, 'You mean you want my record?' (laughing) And he said, 'Yeah.' So I said, Yeah, you could have it. And he was gone, man. He had my record and it was like one of those animated cartoons, the roadrunner - *pooow* He was gone. And he worked out that (singing) 'do do do.' That record, I mean, within four weeks that record was on the air. He worked at a frightening pace once he got going." Webb adds that Campbell never did return the record, but he doesn't mind.

Here’s Campbell’s hit version.



Glen Campbell and Jerry Reed with another version — I like this one even better.



Toussaint created an amazing body of work and is one of the most unknown musical creative forces in popular music history. 

He talks about Professor Longhair’s influence on his music.



Friday, November 19, 2021

Friday Art: Two from Edouard Cortes


Edouard Cortes 1882 - 1969 


Place Vendome Soir Paris



St. Denis



Post-Impressionist, and known for these cityscapes in this style. 

From the Wikiart link above:

Edouard Léon Cortès (1882–1969) was a French post-impressionist artist of French and Spanish ancestry. He is known as "Le Poete Parisien de la Peinture" or "the Parisian Poet of Painting" because of his diverse Paris cityscapes in a variety of weather and night settings


Thursday, November 18, 2021

An Excellent Music Documentary about Terry Kath of Chicago

 

Made by his daughter Michelle who was just two years old when he died. 

She interviews all surviving bandmembers who all clearly miss him to this day — it actually goes far deeper than that but you’ll have to watch to the end to see just how much he meant to all of them — plus Joe Walsh (who toured with them with his band The James Gang), longtime producer James William Guercio (also producer for The Buckhinghams among others before that) plus several others. 


Chicago: The Terry Kath Experience



He was a regular guy into cars, guns, and guitars but he was also the frontman and clearly the leader of this great band. He couldn’t read music but he could create it — James Pankow tells an amazing story about transcribing the music for “Introduction” their first song on the first side of their first album, and quite an introduction it was.




He composed all that in his head somehow, without the ability to write it down. I don’t even know how you would do that . . . 

Terry Kath would get my vote for Most Severely Underappreciated Musician (and singer) of the rock era. If it’s not him, he’s in the top 10. 

Michelle is also on a quest to find his famous Fender Telecaster covered with stickers including a Chicago Blackhawks logo ... let’s just say it ends well.


Watched it yesterday. Highly recommended. An hour and 20 minutes out of your life that you will not regret.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

On This Day 463 Years Ago


The Elizabethan Age begins (1558)

... the start of the last 45 years of the House of Tudor rule from 1485 - 1603 (Henry VII and VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth II). 

I am certainly no expert on the history of Britain or Kings and Queens or any of that, but reading about it sure does inspire various type of thoughts, including:

  • can you believe this shit?!
  • why so much incest and deal-making and arranged marriages in European royal families?
  • these people are absolute barbarians
  • I cannot believe how entwined the Pope was with local Kings and Queens
  • so that’s why the Pilgrims came to America in 1620
  • plus many more

Start with the Tudor period and go from there ... that’s what I did, and hoo boy ... 

Henry VIII
The decades after Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in 1519 were extremely tumultuous and that combined with the whimsical cult-of-personality authoritarian government in England (and throughout Europe) led to a battle over the doctrine of the new Church of England — created at the whim of Henry VIII over an annulment he wanted but could not have — that see-sawed back and forth from one King or Queen to the next, Catholic doctrine under this one, Protestant under that one. 

Worship the wrong doctrine? Punishable by death. 

It’s impossible to overstate how chaotic, violent, and out of control it was for the next nearly 200 years. Wikipedia says this about that period known as the English Reformation.

The Reformation transformed English religion during the Tudor period. The five sovereigns, Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I had entirely different approaches, with Henry VIII replacing the pope as the head of the Church of England but maintaining Catholic doctrines, Edward imposing a very strict Protestantism, Mary attempting to reinstate Catholicism, and Elizabeth arriving at a compromise position that defined the not-quite-Protestant Church of England. It began with the insistent demands of Henry VIII for an annulment of his marriage that Pope Clement VII refused to grant.

About that annulment for Henry VIII, we should note two things: (1) as King, he was obsessed with producing an heir to the throne, and (2) his marriage to Catherine — his brother Arthur’s widow — in 1509 lasted nearly 24 years in total and resulted in four stillborn children, one son Henry who died aged just 7 weeks, and a daughter Mary (who later became Queen in 1553).

The Pope refused, of course, and the pursuit of this annulment dragged on for a few years until 1532, by which time Henry had kicked Catherine to the curb and installed Anne Boleyne (an assistant to Catherine, and whose sister Mary he had been having an affair with). Anne bore him a daughter Elizabeth in 1533 (the Queen Elizabeth noted above) but no sons and so of course was beheaded in 1536 for incest and treason. So he married Jane Seymour, who had been a lady-in-waiting for Queen Anne, in 1837. She did bear the son he had been waiting for, Edward, who became King at age 9 upon his father’s death and only lived until age 15. 

In essence he decided to uproot the entire English religious structure and induce violence and chaos for the next 200 years by breaking completely away from the Pope and starting a new Church of England, with doctrine (and laws) that switched with the whims of whoever happened to be sovereign leader at the time... all because Henry and Catherine never produced a male heir to the throne. When Henry’s third bride finally did produce a male heir, Edward, he only lived until age 15. 

You can easily see why the Pilgrims were motivated to get the hell out of there.

Henry VIII basically charted a new course for England from a Catholic country under the Vatican’s thumb to a Protestant and independent one with more power and revenue (plus an extremely powerful Royal Navy, also his idea). As it says in this longer article all about the English Reformation:

The break with Rome gave Henry VIII power to administer the English Church, tax it, appoint its officials, and control its laws.

This is exactly what eventually drove the movement that became the American Revolution.

The Tudor period is noteworthy for many other well-known figures and events from history, including William Shakespeare and the rise of the Royal Navy (under Henry VIII) which led to the British Empire stretching across the planet over the next 400 years. 


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Fleetwood Mac Live on The Midnight Special 1976

 



Tracks: 

  1. Over My Head
  2. Rhiannon
  3. Why
  4. World Turning

Those are definitely live performances, no lip syncing here. 

This was many years (almost a decade) into the history of the band itself and several iterations into their various lineups ... but still pretty early in the Buckingham-Nicks phase which was the only one that sold millions and millions of records because it had more of a radio-friendly pop/rock sound rather than their very early blues band sound or middle period AOR sound.

Their earlier work was quite good even though not many people have heard it ... more to follow on that ... 

Friday, November 12, 2021

Friday Art


In recent months I have discovered a few painters I really like from what is called the “Post Impressionism” era, and one of them is Camille Pissarro.

Paintings like this one, Chaponval Landscape, 1902



He was also well-known for his Impressionism-era paintings, like this one, Stagecoach to Louveciennes, 1870.



Although I am not a big fan of Impressionism as a style — not enough bold colors or contrast — I do like the textured look in this one. Note the difference in color saturation and contrast in these two paintings.

I discovered these new artists, believe it or not, on Twitter. Famous artists from the past have Twitter accounts! Who knew?! 

The wikiart.org site linked above is also very useful for such a quest. 

Click the “Artworks” tag for more examples of Pissarro plus other (mostly Post-Impressionism) painters. 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

It’s a Rainy November Day


And what a coincidence

... because twice in the last two days I’ve heard one of my all time favorite Gordon Lightfoot songs on two different radio stations ... “Rainy Day People”.



That steel guitar ... so sweet.

Current situation outisde our front window:



Two weeks ago:



Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Today in 1965: Willie Mays Wins MVP

 He led the entire major leagues in all of these stats:

  • 52 HR
  • .398 OBP
  • .645 SLG
  • 1.043 OPS
  • 185 OPS+
  • 360 TB

He also hit .317 with 112 RBI and 118 Runs scored.

That’s a LOT of offensive production, right there. 

Plus, only 71 strikeouts in 638 PA, a strikeout rate of 11.1%, which is almost inconceivable for a guy who led the majors in homers, slugging and total bases. 

He also won NL MVP in 1954, with similar stats. 1954 was 11 years earlier, so ... he won MVP awards eleven years apart. Has that ever happened before? Seems extremely unlikely, and is amazing either way.

Willie Mays’ career stats at baseball-reference.com

via the excellent Baseball by BSmile Twitter


Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Getting Ready to Cut the Cord

Our Comcast Xfinity bill recently jumped to $180+ (bundled with internet service) after 2 years of $140-ish and we’ve been planning to “cut the cord” soon after our two year agreement ran out, so there’s no time like now.

Both YouTubeTV and Hulu plus Live TV seem like good alternatives and both offer a free 7 day trial so we will start that up shortly and see what we think about it all.

As part of that effort we need a Roku device loaded with streaming apps for TV and music since two of our TVs are “dumb” (as in “not smart”). It arrived today. 

This switcheroo also means we have to call Xfinity and negotiate an Internet-only deal, or switch to some other internet service provider. That should be fun. Who doesn’t love talking to those people, with their relentless routing you into their deals that are allegedly good for you but definitely good for them?

Our needs are pretty basic, I think: local and national sports, a little network TV, some Netflix and one or two other apps, a little Spotify and Pandora for music. 

I’ll provide an update in a couple of weeks.

And away we go! 

Monday, November 08, 2021

Daylight Savings Time Pros and Cons, plus An Idea


The data is a real mixed bag with traffic accidents, depression and illness, artifical light vs. natural light, safety concerns, etc. With each passing year there’s more and more talk about getting rid of it.

To me it seems mostly like we have DST because we’ve had it for years — not as long as you might think though, see below — and because of the human tendency to justify a decision by cherry-picking data that supports our case, or “confirmation bias” as it’s known in Psychology. 

Just to be clear on definitions, Daylight Savings Time (“DST”) is the practice of adding daylight to the end of the day during the Summer months, and stealing it from the start of the day. Then during the coldest, shortest, most depression-inducing days of the year — Winter — and purely as a result of switching back, we steal daylight from the end of the day and add it back to the start of the day.

First started in Thunder Bay, Ontario in 1908, it was widely popularized in Germany and several other European nations during WWI to save fuel for the war effort. Then they all dropped it again until WWII. Seeing a pattern yet? 

But my biggest issue with the time of sunrises and sunsets where I live is not about DST but about my timezone:  here in the Chicago area we sit on the extreme eastern edge of the Central Time Zone that causes our sunrises and sunsets to be far earlier than than they really should be all year long. 

Case in point: during the longest days of the year here, in June, the Sun rises around 5 AM — and that’s one hour later due to DST! 

It would rise at 4am on Standard Time. FOUR fricking AM in the morning. Rise and shine, pilgrims! 

And on Standard Time it would then set by 8 PM too. Why?! In the Summer we are blessed with 16 hours of daylight — wasting 2 or 3 of them at ungodly hours when nobody cares about daylight is not a good trade.

And it’s caused by one thing: the eastern edge of the Central Time Zone is way too far East. It should probably be at the Mississippi River.

Why does ths matter? Because there’s more and more talk every year about getting rid of DST. 

This would put us on Standard Time all year long, uncovering the problem I’m talking about above:  Chicago is in the wrong time zone. There’s no reason at all that we ever need the Sun in our faces at 4AM — or even at 5AM — or for it to disappear over the horizon at 8PM during the longest days of the year. And in December, when we only get around 8 hours of daylight, it would be awfully nice if it wasn’t dark already at 4:45 PM. I’m not kidding. 

Across Lake Michigan in the western part of the state of Michigan, they’re on Eastern Time. Nearly the same sunrise and sunset in a geographic sense since they’re just a little ways east of here, but a full hour later on the clock.

In the Summer there it’s light until 10pm with sunrise at 6am. That’s perfect, is it not? Time zones are arbitrary man-made creations, and can be changed. 


Friday, November 05, 2021

99 Years Ago This Week: Entrance to King Tut’s Tomb Discovered




The Mask of Tutankhamen


From Entrance to King Tut's Tomb Discovered at history.com:

British archaeologist Howard Carter and his workmen discover a step leading to the tomb of King Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt on November 4, 1922.

When Carter first arrived in Egypt in 1891, most of the ancient Egyptian tombs had been discovered, though the little-known King Tutankhamen, who had died when he was 18, was still unaccounted for.

After World War I, Carter began an intensive search for “King Tut’s Tomb,” finally finding steps to the burial room hidden in the debris near the entrance of the nearby tomb of King Ramses VI in the Valley of the Kings. On November 26, 1922, Carter and fellow archaeologist Lord Carnarvon entered the interior chambers of the tomb, finding them miraculously intact.

Thus began a monumental excavation process in which Carter carefully explored the four-room tomb over several years, uncovering an incredible collection of several thousand objects. The most splendid architectural find was a stone sarcophagus containing three coffins nested within each other. Inside the final coffin, which was made out of solid gold, was the mummy of the boy-king Tutankhamen, preserved for more than 3,000 years.

Picture an entire coffin made of solid gold. This is apparently the coffin, but either way, it gives us an idea what it might have looked like.



Just one of 63 tombs in the Valley of the Kings near the Nile River.

More at Tutankhamen at wikipedia.com.



Thursday, November 04, 2021

When Comedians Push Back


When I see leadership like this against the authoritarian idiocy that is cancel culture, part of me truly wishes comedians had an official role in government — with the force of law — as Speech Police. 

Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Burr, John Cleese and more on Cancel Culture:



There should be no need for such a thing, of course — but since we already have an unelected de facto Speech Police in the form of the many people dividing words and thoughts into categories they helpfully designate as Approved and Unapproved, serving as judge, jury, and executioner — the only people I trust to lead us right now are comedians.

And no, I’m not kidding. What other group of people insists on the freedom to criticize everyone? Whose livelihood depends on it? Whose values are consistent with the intent of our Bill of Rights, and understand that the only way to counter speech you don’t like is more speech?

Comedians, that’s who. Are there others? I literally cannot think of anyone else.

John Cleese says in this video that “all comedy is critical” and he’s exactly right. It’s part of the deal and assumes the audience is tough enough to laugh at themselves. Societies that adopt “that’s not funny” as their official motto are on the road to authoritarianism. 

Comedians are the canary in the coal mine for freedom of expression, and today that trend is not up. 

Americans are far too casual with their hard-won freedoms — they don’t appreciate them enough or understand what life would be like without them. The best time to recognize and respond to threats is yesterday, and the next best time is right now. 

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Atlanta Braves Win World Series


Annihilate Astros last night 7-0

Jorge Soler wins MVP which he pretty much sealed up in the third inning with this epic 3-run homer. (Click link for video)



Max Fried dominated with 6 shutout innings for the win, 6 K, no walks, 4 hits, and all of that after letting the first two hitters of the game on base and getting his ankle stepped on at full speed trying to cover first (ouch).

I’m especially happy for Soler, who also won a ring with the Cubs in 2016, Freddie Freeman because he’s not just a great player, he’s very likable as a human being, and Joc Pederson because he won me over in 1/2 season on the Cubs this year.

Congrats to the Braves and their long-suffering — to them at least — fan base. 

Jeff Passan provides a very good and well-written summary of their season — it’s a great story, featuring several crucial elements including coach Ron Washington and trade deadline acquisitions Pederson, Rosario, Duvall, and Soler who helped remake the clubhouse attitude and instill much-needed confidence and swagger. 


Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Wrigley Field, 1932 World Series

 

Note how completely different the entire outfield looks, a square with outfield walls at right angles to the foul lines, the bleachers right at field level, and how far the furthest corner in straightaway centerfield is, right at the scoreboard ... 440’ according to the History of Wrigley Field article at Wikipedia (substantially further, at least 40 feet further, than today’s wall).

This extremely deep centerfield wall was very common for older ballparks, with outfield walls that all tended to be somewhat square in shape, resulting in an extremely deep centerfield. Forbes Field in Pittsburgh was 460’ and the Polo Grounds was 483’ — and 450’ to the power alleys! Lots of triples and inside-the-park home runs back in the day. 

Back to the Wrigley Field photo ... also note the temporary wooden bleachers, which the team also put up during the 1929 and 1935 World Series. And streetcars on Clark Street (the diagonal street at bottom right). 


 

The scoreboard, bleachers, and outfield walls were completely rebuilt in 1937 to their rather unique dimensions, with the shortest power alleys but longest distance down the foul lines in the entire major leagues, as far as I know. 

That same year the iconic ivy was planted by Bill Veeck, an executive of the team (his father William Veeck Sr, a former sportswriter, was president of the team starting in 1919 until his death in 1933). 

Bill Veeck of course would go on to become a revolutionary owner of the Indians, Browns, and White Sox (twice). More on him later.

For those interested in old ballparks and their history, the above history of Wrigley article is worth reading.

Via Old Time Baseball Photos @OTBaseballPhoto on Twitter.

Monday, November 01, 2021

“Hey Jeff, What Podcasts Do You Like?”


Glad You Asked

Each week I normally listen to a few different podcasts while outside walking, biking, or doing stairs — for some reason I need to be moving while listening to speaking rather than music.

Recently I was “busy with life” for a few weeks and have not listened to many podcasts as a side effect of not getting exercise on a daily basis. A problem on multiple fronts, obviously, that I addressed starting about 10 days ago.

Here are my Top 5 podcasts I listen to the most and what I like about them.

  • The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe - consistently interesting because he’s a great writer and storyteller, and has led a far more interesting life than you can conceive of, produced by his lifelong friend Chuck (I’ve written about this podcast before)
  • City Journal’s 10 Blocks - policy discussions hosted by Brian Anderson of the Manhattan Institute, 20 minutes of smart people talking about important stuff, just intellectual enough to be interesting without pushing me away with esoteric b.s.
  • F1: Beyond the Grid - host Tom Clarkson interviews Formula 1 drivers, team principals, and other important names from today and from the past, he’s a very good interviewer and the guests and stories they tell are 
  • American History Tellers - storytelling about American history, with dramatizations, hosted by Lyndsay A Graham from Wondery, consistently interesting and educational
  • Business Movers - storytelling about business from the past, also hosted by Graham, also consistently interesting and educational 


I will post a list of the next 5 podcasts in a week or so.

Available on multiple platforms — I always use Spotify because I use it for music streaming too. 

Friday, October 29, 2021

Into the Mystic x 3


The Original and Always the Best, Van Morrison, from the Classic Album “Moondance” (1970)



My absolute favorite part of this great song starts at 2:18 ...

When that foghorn blows 
You know I will be coming home 
Yeah when that foghorn whistle blows
I got to hear it, I don’t have to fear it
And I want to rock your gypsy soul ...

Those vocals ... chills, every time. 


Zac Brown Band, “Free/Into the Mystic” (Live from Southern Ground HQ, year unknown)



The Allman Brothers (Live, 2011)




Thursday, October 28, 2021

This Week in History: Shootout at the O.K. Corral


Oct 26, 1881: Shootout at the O.K. Corral

On October 26, 1881, the Earp brothers face off against the Clanton-McLaury gang in a legendary shootout at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. After silver was discovered nearby in 1877, Tombstone quickly grew into one of the richest mining towns in the Southwest. Wyatt Earp, a former Kansas police officer working as a bank security guard, and his brothers, Morgan and Virgil, the town marshal, represented “law and order” in Tombstone, though they also had reputations as being power-hungry and ruthless. The Clantons and McLaurys were cowboys who lived on a ranch outside of town and sidelined as cattle rustlers, thieves and murderers. In October 1881, the struggle between these two groups for control of Tombstone and Cochise County ended in a blaze of gunfire at the OK Corral.

LOL “sidelined as cattle rustlers, thieves, and murderers ... that’s more of a lifestyle than a sideline gig, I would say.



Tombstone, near the Mexican border, was quite the growing boomtown in 1881:

At its founding, it had a population of just 100, and only two years later, in late 1881, the population was more than 7,000 (excluding Chinese, Mexicans, women, and children), making it the largest boomtown in the American Southwest. Silver mining and its attendant wealth attracted many professionals and merchants, who brought their wives and families. With them came churches and ministers. By 1881 the town boasted fancy restaurants, a bowling alley, four churches, an ice house, a school, an opera house, two banks, three newspapers, and an ice cream parlor, along with 110 saloons, 14 gambling halls, and numerous brothels, all situated among a number of dirty, hardscrabble mines.

One hundred ten saloons and fourteen gambling halls and many brothels ... in a town of 7000! 

While all that debauchery was going on with the newfound silver wealth, the law enforcement situation was more than a little hazy (from above link):

Horse rustlers and bandits from the countryside often came to town, and shootings were frequent. In the 1880s, illegal smuggling and theft of cattle, alcohol, and tobacco smuggling across the Mexico–United States border, about 30 miles (50 km) from Tombstone, were common. The Mexican government assessed heavy export taxes on these items, and smugglers earned a handsome profit by stealing them in Mexico and selling them across the border.
James, Virgil, and Wyatt Earp arrived in Tombstone on December 1, 1879, when the small town was mostly composed of tents as living quarters, a few saloons and other buildings, and the mines. Virgil had been hired as Deputy U.S. Marshal for eastern Pima County, with his offices in Tombstone, only days before his arrival. In June 1881 he was also appointed as Tombstone's town marshal (or police chief).
Though not universally liked by the townspeople, the Earps tended to protect the interests of the town's business owners and residents; even so, Wyatt helped protect Cowboy "Curly Bill" Brocius from being lynched after he accidentally killed Tombstone town marshal Fred White. In contrast, Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan was generally sympathetic to the interests of the rural ranchers and members of the loosely organized outlaw group called the Cochise County Cowboys, or simply the Cowboys. (In that time and region, the term cowboy generally meant an outlaw; legitimate cowmen were instead referred to as cattle herders or ranchers.)

There’s so much more to this story ... read more at the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral Wikipedia entry.

Learning about just this one story serves as a good introduction to the Wild West and what made it distinctive in American history: boomtowns with their huge and immediate wealth and the hedonistic lifestyle that comes with it, conflicts between ranchers and townfolk, a law-and-order situation that was fluid to say the least complete with gun battles in public, and more.

Were I to design an American History curriculum, this story would be in it:  it’s a real event with real people and it illustrates so much about life during that time.

Several movies were made about this historic Wild West shootout, most famously My Darling Clementine and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.