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 starting in 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 the 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 (and 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. 

She’s 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 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.