Friday, December 02, 2022

RIP Christine McVie


Fleetwood Mac, “Warm Ways”

Christine McVie wrote many fine songs and this is one of the best, although not as widely known. 

I could easily listen to this on repeat 10 times in a row. The melody, her voice, the playing, the arrangement, it’s all beautiful. 

Another favorite, from my favorite Fleetwood Mac album “Bare Trees”.

Fleetwood Mac, “Spare Me a Little of Your Love”

She passed away Wednesday at 79 years of age. 

Monday, November 28, 2022

“Oh Lonesome Me” … Always Go Back to the Original

My first hearing of “Oh Lonesome Me” was a slow, depressing version by Neil Young that I never really liked. Kind of a downer, really. 

Little did I know how very, very different it was from the Don Gibson original in 1956.

Many years later I finally discovered the original and hoo boy, this is a great song, lively and uptempo, which makes it far more interesting both musically and lyrically.

Don Gibson, “Oh Lonesome Me”

So for decades I fell victim to the weird situation where one artist re-interprets another artist’s song, changes it completely, and then because that’s the first version you hear (and hear a lot), your first impression of the song itself is just … wrong.

This can easily happen when you occupy a musical silo, unexposed to certain styles of music especially from a prior era. In this case, classic country music. You’ve probably fallen victim to this too.

Well, better late than never. Nothing against Neil Young here, he was an accomplished and original artist on his own, and he tried something new as creative folks do — but at least for me, it didn’t work. That’s okay. Artists should try to do their own versions of songs, that’s what creativity is all about.

And it’s on me (and you) as the listener to seek out original versions of songs if so motivated, to learn more about the original song and artist.

Speaking of artists re-interpreting the work of other artists, my favorite band for that is The Ventures, who are masters at doing their own versions of other artists’ work and staying mostly true to it but putting their own unique spin on it. That’s who they are and what they do. 

And this version is excellent, of course.

The Ventures, “Oh Lonesome Me”

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Why “Midnight Confessions” is Awesome


Midnight Confessions 

The drums, bass, horns and vocals, and the arrangement itself, are SO great that I frequently listen to it several times in a row just to re-listen to those specific parts. It’s almost intoxicating.

I recommend you do the same, right here. Stop reading and click play again, and then one more time.

Rob Grill on lead vocals — one of the better pop/rock singers of that era, I would say — with Warren Entner taking the chorus and Creed Bratton on backing vocals.

The drums and bass, well that’s Hal Blaine and Carol Kaye — the Wrecking Crew played all the instruments and (no doubt) did all the arranging, too.

Powerful and deft, those two plus the vocals and horns gives this song incredible energy, which is probably why it charted highest of all their hits at #5 in the U.S. 

Overall the production and arrangement on this song is really original for the time — I cannot think of another song quite like it from 1968-69. Chicago used a similar formula, with drums, vocals and horns driving the sound, but in 1968 they were just getting started, and nothing charted as high as #5 until “25 or 6 to 4” in 1970. Blood Sweat and Tears was more vocals and horns heavy with theatrical-style arrangements, more like a performance art project than a straight-ahead rock band.

It’s just a great tune, and it never gets old.

Monday, November 07, 2022

Memories of the Bears with my Dad


Watching the 1963 Chicago Bears Season Highlights video I discovered recently brought with it warm memories of watching Bears football with my dad on Sunday afternoons in our family room during the 1970s and early 80s. 

Watching the Bears together was our thing, a bonding activity we shared; in fact he’s the one who got me started on it in the first place. 

One Christmas back in ‘67 I think he gave me an autographed football from the 1966 Bears, with the signatures of Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus, and several other prominent players. The signatures are pretty faded now, as you can imagine, but still visible.

I still have it. There it is, on the right. It’s one of my few treasured possessions. 

We started watching every Bears game together when I was 11, in the 1970 season, and I have many fond memories of sitting in our family room on Sunday afternoons in that decade and into the early 80s —with the dark blue indoor-outdoor carpet and the green L-shaped couch — watching a mostly inferior team lose most of their games, but with some great individual players, especially Butkus and Payton. 

Fourteen Sundays per year … we suffered through a lot together. Ask any Bears fan from the late 60s through the early 80s. 

Just for some context, in 1969 they went 1-13, tied with the Steelers for worst record in the NFL, and so the NFL flipped a coin to determine who got the #1 draft pick. The Bears lost that too, and the Steelers picked future Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw, and by the mid-70s they were winning Super Bowls (four in six years) with him along with the many other great players they drafted after him. Bears fans noticed all of this, of course.

During the Walter Payton years starting in 1975 they gradually improved and made the playoffs in the ‘77 season with a 9-5 record — but in the first round they faced the eventual Super Bowl champions, the widely-hated Dallas Cowboys, and of course got destroyed 37-7. This is what it was like to be a Bears fan in that era — the occasional bright spot (making the playoffs after years of failure) followed immediately by crushing disappointment. Suckers!

Then in 1979 they made the playoffs again, at 10-6, but lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 27-17, due to turnovers mostly, but a horrible phantom illegal procedure call that took away an 85 yard run by Payton didn’t help. 

During those years our favorite player was, obviously, Walter Payton, but strong safety Doug Plank was not far behind because of hits like these.

Some Walter Payton highlights from probably his greatest individual season, 1977.

By the early- and mid-80s when they gradually became pretty good, it was finally more “the thrill of victory” than the “agony of defeat”, and they finally began to beat very good teams, the royalty of the league. 

One memorable game was November 4, 1984 when they played Oakland in one of the most famously brutal hard-hitting games in NFL history, and beat them 17-6. 

Then I remember well when we watched together as they won their first playoff game, beating the Redskins in those ‘84 playoffs, which was essentially their coming out party. 

Next up, the NFC Championship against San Francisco. They lost 23-0. It was an absolute thrashing. But they did win a playoff game, so … progress. Patience, grasshopper.

Little did we know how fricking great the following season would be, when the 1985 team ran roughshod through the league, going 15-1 and destroying first the Giants and then the Rams, shutting them both out.

Then in the ultimate celebration of the end of an era of futility, we watched Super Bowl XX together, when that ‘85 team destroyed the Patriots 46-10. 

That was SO much fun as a Bears fan, and it was a form of therapy for us to be together watching it. After years of frustration, including some really bad teams, then slowly getting better only to lose in the playoffs, I cannot even imagine a bigger turnaround, and a bigger display of total dominance to just put an exclamation mark on the whole post-1963 era, than that 1985 playoff run. 

Monday, October 31, 2022

1963 Bears Highlights

Watching this brought warm memories of my dad because watching the Bears together was our thing and he liked to talk about this team from time to time.

1963 Chicago Bears Season and Championship Game Highlights, narrated by Jack Brickhouse 

So many big names from Bears history in the video — but instead of imagining what they looked like on the field making big plays, and trying to picture it in your head, you can watch them actually doing it.

Willie Galimore, Rick Casares, Billy Wade, Ronnie Bull, Mike Ditka, Johnny Morris, and Joe Marconi on offense, among others. Examining the 1963 NFL team stats shows that the offense was solidly middle of the pack in both rushing and passing and played a conservative ball control style with the fewest turnovers in the league, by a large margin (25, compared to 30 for the next best 49ers) with just 14 interceptions.

Wade, Marconi, and Ditka made the Pro Bowl that year, and after watching the video, you’ll know exactly why. Wade was athletic with quick feet and an accurate arm, and consistently among the league leaders in various passing numbers in that era, Marconi an absolute bruiser at fullback, and Ditka was Wade’s favorite target, dominant from his debut in 1961 when he was Rookie of the Year and then making All Pro from 1962-66.

And some of those blocks Ditka makes … whoa nellie! That guy was a football player.

On defense, Doug Atkins, Bill George, Joe Fortunato, Larry Morris, Richie Petitbon, Bennie McRae, Dave Whitsell, J. C. Caroline, Rosey Taylor, Ed O’Bradovich, among others.

The defense used pressure to shut down the opponent’s offense and force turnovers.

In 14 games the defense:

  • Allowed just 144 points, by far the fewest in the league, just over 10 per game 
  • Allowed 7 points or fewer 8 times and 20 or more just twice 
  • Forced 54 turnovers, an average of nearly 4 per game, with at least 5 turnovers 6 times
  • Led the league with 39 interceptions — and the 4 starters in the secondary had 29 by themselves
  • 36 sacks, 12 by Atkins
  • Put 4 guys on first team All Pro  — both starting safeties (Petitbon and Taylor) one DL (Atkins) and one LB (Fortunato)

Absolute dominance. 

29 is a lot of picks among just 4 players, and I have to wonder how many times in NFL history a group of any four starters have reached that number. 

Here’s the summary of their season with stats.

Some things I learned from looking at team and individual stats: Wade was an excellent quarterback who was consistently among the league leaders in various passing numbers in the early 60s, Ditka was an immediate factor, dominant from his debut in 1961 when he was Rookie of the Year and then making All Pro from 62-66 (this is every season with the team). George Halas was Coach of the Year, and George Allen was a defensive assistant and then defensive coordinator the next two years before moving on to the Rams and later the Redskins as head coach.

Links of season leaders for the 1961-65 era:

Monday, October 24, 2022

Jim Croce, Creative Genius and Master Storyteller


Jim Croce wrote and recorded a lot of great music in a very short time. One of those was “Operator”, a story song about a guy who misses his ex-girlfriend something terrible, even though he tells himself he doesn’t. Oh, and just to twist the knife a little bit more, she left him for his “best old ex-friend Ray”.

He tries to call her from a pay phone and has an unexpected emotional moment with the telephone operator, telling her the whole story. But then he suddenly changes his mind and says “forget about this call” and “you can keep the dime”, which sounds like he finally seems to accept that it’s over and he needs to move on. 

Recently I’ve watched two different videos featuring three different musicians detailing how great this song is, both from a creative viewpoint and from a fan’s.

First, Rick Beato and Mary Spender.

Next is Fil who also runs a great channel for analyzing popular songs.

All three of these professional musicians are just blown away by the storytelling and overall quality of this song, and by the sweet guitar playing of both Jim and his musical partner Maury Muehlheisen. 

Songwriters spend entire careers trying to write a story song this good, and guitar players dream of creating such beautiful, tuneful, memorable music. 

Jim and Maury created about 20 such songs with their two fingerstyle guitar technique, weaving in and around each other, playing a simple but beautiful melody, along with fills, rhythm and constant chord changes. 

Simple but not easy; if it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and these two guys wouldn’t have carved out a wonderful musical legacy in a few short years.

As with most of Jim’s songs he wrote it about a real life scene he witnessed while in the Army, lined up at the pay phone to call home, and hearing another guy have this experience right before his very eyes. 

Jim Croce, “Operator”

Both of these creative geniuses were killed in a tragic plane crash on September 20, 1973, when I was 14 years old. I was a huge fan, and was crushed by the news, and have missed both of them and their beautiful transcendent music ever since. 

And in an amazing coincidence, my first son was born on that same date 15 years later. His name is James. It’s just a coincidence, I think. 

Monday, October 17, 2022

Tangled Up in Bob


Not really a Bob Dylan fan but his 1975 album “Blood on the Tracks” is very very good, his best according to a lot of people, such as me for example.

And the best song on his best album is “Tangled Up in Blue”.

Tangled Up in Blue

The music, the band, the arrangement, etc. are all quite good and draw you in as a listener.

But the lyrics … the lyrics are at or near the pinnacle of the art form. 

You could use this song to teach a class on how to create imagery that sticks in our heads, how to evoke emotion and longing and regret for past loves and mistakes made, how to tell a story with a long arc including past, present, and future, how to put words together in very interesting ways (including references to Rimbaud and “Italian poets from the 15th century”) without becoming a tedious bore, and much more.

Truth be told, I’m not much of a “lyrics guy” and have long regretted his influence on artists who clearly tried to emulate him but did not have his talent for lyrics — a dangerous combo — mainly because it resulted in pretentious, precious, often unlistenable music, but that’s a topic for another day. 

So you can believe me when I tell you that this tune is the bee’s knees. At the top. 

Lyrically we can group it with many other classic songs from all musical genres, as the best of the best — it’s just not possible to write a better song. Many just as good, none better.

This breakdown video from the excellent “Polyphonic” channel explains it in more detail (and probably better than I ever could).

Tangled Up in Blue:  Deciphering a Bob Dylan Masterpiece  

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

530 Years Ago Today, in 1492


Columbus Discovers America

And it was just the first of four voyages he would take, discovering not just the Bahamas, Cuba, and Hispaniola (today’s Dominican Republic  and Haiti), but the Gulf of Mexico, and South and Central America too.

He was a busy guy, when he wasn’t subjugating entire races of people I guess.

On August 3, 1492, Columbus set sail from Palos, Spain, with three small ships, the Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Nina. On October 12, the expedition reached land, probably Watling Island in the Bahamas. Later that month, Columbus sighted Cuba, which he thought was mainland China, and in December the expedition landed on Hispaniola, which Columbus thought might be Japan. He established a small colony there with 39 of his men. The explorer returned to Spain with gold, spices, and “Indian” captives in March 1493 and was received with the highest honors by the Spanish court. He was the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings set up colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland in the 10th century.

He had a bit of trouble getting the first voyage financed, rejected by King John II of Portugal and then King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain (twice) before they finally agreed after Spain defeated the Moors (or “Moops”) in January 1492 at Granada.

Just 14 years later in 1506 he passed away, and Spain — which had hoped to find a route to the “Far East” — instead discovered the New World and all the riches and peoples they could plunder.

Columbus died in Spain in 1506 without realizing the scope of what he did achieve: He had discovered for Europe the New World, whose riches over the next century would help make Spain the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth. He also unleashed centuries of brutal colonization, the transatlantic slave trade and the deaths of millions of Native Americans from murder and disease.

Well, let’s be honest here, it wasn’t really Columbus who “unleashed” all that, it was Spain, followed by the British, French, and Dutch. 

Colonization, slavery, murder and disease was just how the whole world worked. For thousands of years. This was nothing new.

Slavery and the slave trade was practiced by every nation with the power to do so, since the beginning of time. Until the British outlawed slavery in 1807 (and the slave trade in 1833) it was the worldwide historical norm. All of history has been thus, for everyone everywhere — except for the rich and powerful of course, and they got rich and powerful by subjugating and enslaving and murdering people, and taking land and property, and every other form of unpleasantness one can imagine. 

What exactly are we supposed to do about it? Impose modern expectations of civilization, of human rights that didn’t exist yet, upon it? It was what it was, and it’s best to view it by the norms of the time. Life for everyone everywhere was nasty, brutish, and short.

If it wasn’t Columbus who discovered America, somebody else would have, and that man would get blamed as Columbus is now, and either way the exact same colonization and enslavement and murder would have followed just as night follows day, for the reasons given above. 

The revisionist tries to willfully misrepresent history and demonize everyone who ever did great things for daring to live in their own times according to their own norms, instead of in today’s times according to today’s norms. It’s tiresome, ahistorical, and tremendously disrespectful towards leaders of the past, and makes us all dumber and myopic. 


Tuesday, October 04, 2022

The Great B. B. King


B. B. King

The blues legend wrote, recorded, and performed so many classic songs for so long that it’s difficult to choose just one or two (or four or five) for inclusion here …

But onward we must go.

“How Blue Can You Get” (live version, 1970)

He solos for a full two minutes and 45 seconds as the intro — and an incredible solo it is — before just ripping the vocals to shreds too. 

You’re evil when I’m with you baby
And you are jealous when we’re apart
I said you’re evil, you’re so evil when I’m with you baby
And you are jealous when we’re apart
How blue can you get baby
The answer’s right here in my heart

Both his guitar playing and his singing convey tremendous and unmistakable emotional power and range to the listener, which is one major reason why he is one of a kind. 

“You Upset Me Baby” (studio version, single originally from 1954)

A straight-ahead “uptown” blues number. 

Like listening to AM radio late at night in 1954 on some Southern station, since this was before Elvis (and others) popularized “race” music (yes that’s what it was called by Billboard and the radio industry). 

Later in the 1960s the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Animals, and countless other bands, plus individual guitarists like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, having immersed themselves in Blues and R&B during their youth, would go on to popularize it for a mass audience and pay homage to it by actually naming their influences and fully crediting the origin of their style of playing. 

B. B. King was very high on all their lists.

None of that happened with the Elvis wave. They just kinda pretended they invented it. Which is unfortunate.

The influence on guys like Clapton from this next tune are obvious.

“Please Love Me” (studio version, single from 1953)

This one is new to me, his version of Leon Russell’s classic “Hummingbird” live from Japan in 1971 — he makes the song his own and the guitar tone here is fabulous.

“Hummingbird” (live version, 1971)

I could go on and on and on — the man recorded an incredible amount of great music, toured year-round for decades, and lived long enough to record albums with accomplished guitarists who claimed him as their hero like Keith Richards and Eric Clapton and John Mayer. 

He was in a class by himself. 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Body Language is Often More Important Than the Words Coming Out of Our Mouths

And ladies and gentlemen, who better to illustrate it than one of the people I’ve learned to not trust at all, Bill Gates!

This “Charisma on Command” channel is pretty interesting and talks a lot about charisma, body language, persuasion, etc. 

In the video the host has to give a big disclaimer towards the end about how we shouldn’t “otherize” people who are socially awkward because it’s not fair to people are are just socially awkward and not evil sociopaths.

And that’s true. Tons of well-meaning, normal people can be socially awkward, especially when nervous like on TV or in other public settings they’re not used to. 

But evil sociopaths can be socially awkward too, and there’s something weird about both Gates and Zuckerberg that goes far beyond social awkwardness, based on their inventions and public statements. In fact a lot of Technology and Silicon Valley types are weird people. And they advocate for weird, anti-social, anti-family, anti-freedom ideas.

It’s more than okay to otherize them, because their inventions otherize and isolate us, and actively divide us, and monetize all of that, all day, every day.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

On This Day in 1941

Ted Williams finishes the season hitting .406 

Nobody else has done it since, so it has now been 81 years since anyone has accomplished the feat. That’s an average human lifespan, more or less. 

Pearl Harbor was still in the future, FDR was president, Benny Goodman and swing music in general ruled the hit record charts, and Joe Louis was heavyweight boxing champion.

In all of sports there are very, very few single season records that survive that long. It tells you a lot.

Only 3 hitters have approached the .400 mark since, most notably Tony Gwynn with .394 in 1994, George Brett with .390 in 1980, Rod Carew with .388 in 1977.

These days nobody is remotely a threat to hit .400 because launch angle and exit velocity have taken over the game and nearly ruined it.

Ted Williams somehow managed to hit for both power and average despite using a slight upper cut in his swing — not because it caused the ball to “launch” off the bat at some desired angle to maximize home runs (and strikeouts), but because that better matched the slightly downward path of the pitch, maximizing your chance of hitting the ball hard and on a line. He wrote a famous book about his philosophy of hitting, “The Science of Hitting”.

He was clearly one of the best hitters of all time — if not for serving in two major wars and missing 5 years of his baseball prime, he definitely would have threatened Babe Ruth’s all time HR record of 714.

So it’s been 81 years since Williams did it, and prior to that there were 5 players who hit .400 a total of 10 times from 1900-1925 — Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby both did it three times, George Sisler twice, and Napoleon Lajoie and Shoeless Joe Jackson once. Here’s the full list of all-time season batting average records.

The first in the modern era was Lajoie in 1901 and the last was Hornsby in 1925. In between, Cobb (1911, 1912, 1922), Shoeless Joe (1911), Sisler (1920, 1922), and Hornsby (1922, 1924). Two .400 hitters in 1911 and three in 1922! 

I point all this out to highlight the clumping of these data points — eleven times total, once in 1901, once in 1941, nine times in the years 1911-25. That’s the whole history of .400 hitting in a nutshell.

Of this group of .400 hitters, Hornsby, Cobb, and Williams all had, as one might expect, long runs of extreme dominance.

Hornsby’s run from 1920-1925 was one of the most amazing batting displays in history — he hit .400 three times and led the NL, all six years, in all of these categories: BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, plus five times in TB and four times in Hits, 2B, and RBI. His stat line over those years is incredible: BA .397 and 1.133 OPS with season averages of 118 Runs, 115 RBI, 216 Hits, and 363 TB. Over a twelve year run from 1920-1931 he averaged .378 with 185 hits and 105 RBI and led the NL in:

  • OPS ten times
  • OBP nine times
  • SLG eight times
  • BA seven times
  • TB six times
  • Runs five times
  • Hits, 2B and RBI four times
  • BB three times

Williams had a similar six-year run from 1941-1949 (excluding the war years 43-45) where he hit .359 with a .505 OBP and 1.161 OPS and averaged 35 HR, 130 RBI, 150 BB, and 339 TB, and led the AL, all six years, in all of these categories: BB, OBP,  SLG, OPS, plus four times in BA, HR, Runs and TB and three times in RBI. He is the all-time career leader in OBP at .482 — almost a .500 OBP for an entire career! Over a 13 year run 1939-1958 (excluding war years and injury-shortened years) he led the AL in: 

  • OBP twelve times
  • OPS ten times
  • SLG nine times
  • BB eight times
  • BA, Runs and TB six times

Cobb’s dominant run was thirteen years from 1907-1919 where he averaged .377 and 197 hits per season, and led the AL in : 

  • BA twelve times 
  • OPS nine times 
  • Hits and SLG eight times
  • OBP seven times 
  • SB and TB six times 

All three players were absolute machines on offense, obviously.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

On This Day . . .


In 1896 gold is discovered in the Yukon Territory by George Carmack at Bonanza Creek (renamed for obvious reasons from Rabbit Creek) south of Dawson City in the western part of the Yukon, leading to the last gold rush in the Old West:

Hoping to cash in on reported gold strikes in Alaska, [George] Carmack had traveled there from California in 1881. After running into a dead end, he headed north into the isolated Yukon Territory, just across the Canadian border. In 1896, another prospector, Robert Henderson, told Carmack of finding gold in a tributary of the Klondike River. Carmack headed to the region with two Native American companions, known as Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie. On August 16, while camping near Rabbit Creek, Carmack reportedly spotted a nugget of gold jutting out from the creek bank. His two companions later agreed that Skookum Jim–Carmack’s brother-in-law—actually made the discovery.

“Klondike Fever” reached its height in the United States in mid-July 1897 when two steamships arrived from the Yukon in San Francisco and Seattle, bringing a total of more than two tons of gold. Thousands of eager young men bought elaborate “Yukon outfits” (kits assembled by clever marketers containing food, clothing, tools and other necessary equipment) and set out on their way north. Few of these would find what they were looking for, as most of the land in the region had already been claimed. One of the unsuccessful gold-seekers was 21-year-old Jack London, whose short stories based on his Klondike experience became his first book, The Son of the Wolf (1900).

Two American icons passed away on this day . . . 

In 1948 Babe Ruth passes away just 53 years of age. Raised in an orphanage, he became the first “larger than life” sports hero and packed a lot of living into those 53 years. Even his name has a mystique attached to it, and he is known to millions as simply “The Babe”.

In a stunning coincidence this was also the day in 1977 that Elvis died. He was 42.

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Blackbeard’s Reign of Terror in 1717-1718

In November 1717 after several months of terror up and down the coast of the American colonies and in the Caribbean he captured a large French ship near St Vincent carrying 500 slaves bound for sugar plantations. 

After outfitting it with 40 guns, he renamed it Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Now with one of the most powerful warships in the world under his command plus 3 more ships in his fleet, and a total of 250 men, he set out again.

His naming the ship Queen Anne’s Revenge is explained by his service in Queen Anne’s War in the early 1700’s (the video refers to the war of Spanish Succession from 1701-1714 which was also known as Queen Anne’s War in the American theatre). 

This war — between three major European powers plus multiple Native American tribes lasting well over a decade — started over the question of who should succeed King Charles II of Spain in 1701.

Blackbeard — an Englishman, given name Edward Teach — died in November 1718 during a raid ordered by Virginia Lt Gov Alexander Spotswood into North Carolina where Blackbeard had lived in semi-protected status.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

On A Break


Finding the energy to post just twice this month and seven times last month means that I’m essentially taking the summer off, as it turns out. Wasn’t planned, it just happened.

When I return it will be in a somewhat different format and schedule (working through some ideas now).

See ya soon!

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Undiscovered Gems: Gordon Lightfoot


It took me a few decades to wake up to the genius of Gordon Lightfoot — don’t let that happen to you.

Over the last two years I have discovered several album cuts that are absolute gems and a much clearer view into who he is as an artist when compared to his U.S. hit singles like “Sundown” and “Carefree Highway” — which I liked but not enough to care about digging deeper into his albums.

The passage of time and the wisdom of life experience has revealed to me that his music was far more mature than I was capable of appreciating as a young adult.

The lyrics, the band, the subtlety and power of the music, the impeccable taste of the arrangements, it’s all in there — but you have to be ready as a listener to absorb it.

The Circle is Small

Hangdog Hotel Room

Race Among the Ruins

I especially like the chorus:

When you wake up to the promise
Of your dream world comin' true
With one less friend to call on
Was it someone that I knew
Away you will go sailin'
In a race among the ruins
If you plan to face tomorrow
Do it soon

High and Dry

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Best Exercises for Longevity


Confirming everything I have ever said about exercise: 

Direct quote from Dr. Peter Attia:

“Exercise is the single most important longevity drug we have, bar none.”

Ponder that and note the following which he emphasizes, and which I have been saying for a long time.

Cardio and strength (not muscle mass) are by far the two best predictors of longevity. It isn’t close.

Cardio is the biggest impact on longevity, with a 5x reduction in all-cause mortality — dying from any reason — but strength is important too, with a 3x reduction, so it’s best to do both with cardio as your base. The ideal is biking (stationary is okay) 4x per week for 45 minutes (which is exactly what my ideal goal has always been, coincidentally). He does not discuss walking but my own take is that walking is far better than doing nothing, but biking, swimming, or running are ideal.

For strength the biggest predictors of longevity are grip, dead arm hang, and quads strength (body squats with a basic test of how quickly you can get up from a chair five times in a row). His testing only splits people into “high” vs. “low” strength so that’s where the 3x reduction in mortality applies, no further breakdown is available. Still, what more do you need to know? Work on your grip, your dead arm hang, and body squats, first and foremost. These are lifestyle exercises, too. Everything becomes easier with strong hands, forearms, legs, and core.

And as he notes, and I have always said, by far the biggest “bang for your buck” is in the change from doing nothing to doing something, not in going from doing something to doing a lot. Avoid sloth — it’s a sin, and not good for your health either. Just aim for moderately active, consistently. If 4 x 45 minutes per week is too difficult at first, or due to age or infirmity, try for 3 x 30 minutes per week.

The first step is always the hardest. Make yourself do that, the rest will be easier.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Molly Tuttle and Tommy Emmanuel


There’s not much to say … turn it up!

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Steiner Destroys the Field

Abby Steiner in the NCAA Outdoor Championships 4x400 … watch from 1:45 to see her take the handoff for the 3rd leg at least 20-25m behind the leader — and then just destroy the field. 

It’s almost impossible to believe a runner could be so much faster then the entire field, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lap like this at any level. 


The U.S. Championships are this weekend, June 24-26. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Better Call Saul: A List of Reasons Why It’s Brilliant


This show for me is one of the best of all time, without question.

And it’s for many of the same reasons in the video below, that I noticed right away, on my own:  excellent visuals, dialogue, and characters, for starters. 

But I’ll let this video go into the details, he does a better job explaining than I would, and goes deeper too.

And he doesn’t even list “Bob Odenkirk” as one of the reasons.

Why ‘Better Call Saul’ is Brilliant

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Tricking Your Brain into Falling Asleep

Jim  Donovan explains

Rhythm as a way to calm yourself to sleep works — I discovered something similar many years ago.

He gives instruction on how he does it, and anyone who fights with sleep should try it.

But the key learning here is anything that helps you get out of your head and fall into any kind of peaceful, focused, rhytmic state will probably work.

That's what it's all about, turning off your brain and feeling the natural rhythm of your physical body and especially your breathing. 

I will explain my method in a future post.

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Just One Victory

Todd Rundgren and Utopia, “Just One Victory” (live)

Somehow, someday,
We need just one victory and we're on our way
Prayin' for it all day and fightin' for it all night
Give us just one victory, it will be all right

We may feel about to fall
But we go down fighting
You will hear the call
If you only listen
Underneath it all
We are here together
Shining still
To give us the will
Bright as the day
To show us the way

Slowly over the years this became one of my favorite Todd Rundgren songs, because it's got a great chorus and the lyrics are fun and inspiring and it makes me feel good inside.

“Just one victory” … just one victory … we can all relate to that feeling at various points in our lives, many times over.

The studio version, with lyrics.

They caught lightning in a bottle with the arrangement on this one. 

Monday, June 06, 2022

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

151 Years Ago Today, John Wesley Hardin Arrives in Abilene


John Wesley Hardin was one of the most violent Wild West outlaws in the violent and notorious 1870s and 1880s.

He claimed to have killed over 40 men by age 25, when he went to prison (in 1878) — that’s a lot of killin’ in just ten years, especially for the son of a preacher who was named after John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church  — but news accounts and law enforcement could only confirm about half of those.

Either way — a lot of killin’.

He arrived in Abilene on the first of June 1871 and somehow became friendly with lawman Wild Bill Hickock. One classic story from his short stay there:

During his stay in Abilene, Hardin rented a room at the American House Hotel. One night, a stranger in the next room began to snore loudly. Hardin became so annoyed that he began firing bullets through the wall to quiet him. The first bullet was high, and it merely woke the man. The second bullet silenced the unsuspecting stranger permanently.

Hardin realized that his friendship with Hickok would not save him. “I believed,” Hardin later said, “that if Wild Bill found me in a defenseless condition, he would take no explanation, but would kill me to add to his reputation.” Wearing only his undershirt, Hardin escaped through the hotel window and jumped down to the street. He spent the night hiding in a haystack, stole a horse at dawn, and returned to the cow camp. The next day he left for Texas, never to set foot in Abilene again.

About that he allegedly said this:

“They tell lots of lies about me,” he complained. “They say I killed six or seven men for snoring. Well, it ain’t true, I only killed one man for snoring.”

While serving a 25 year term in prison he studied law and wrote an autobiography. 

Monday, May 30, 2022

Taking Chance


Memorial Day reminds us of sacrifice and so today would be the perfect day to watch this  great movie, “Taking Chance”.

Here’s the trailer: Taking Chance trailer

A true story about a young man Chance Phelps who died much too young and the Marine who volunteers to escort the body back home to Wyoming for burial. 

It began as a wonderful and touching human interest story “Taking Chance Home” written by LtCol Michael Strobl USMC, posted at a military blog that I read regularly back in 2004 called

I saw “Taking Chance” upon its release in 2009 and then again on Saturday and it has lost none of its emotional power.

There were many movies made about our adventures and mis-adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan but most were manipulative and exploited death to hammer home political points. That’s gross.

But if you like raw and emotionally powerful stories told well, about honoring sacrifice, with characters you quickly grow to like and respect, you’ll not do better than this one.

A scene that did not make it into the movie but is excellent nonetheless.

PFC Chance Phelps was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and promoted to Lance Corporal.

Here’s the real Lt Col Strobl discussing the making of the movie.

Free on HBO Max and you can rent it on Amazon. 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Everything I Need, and Some Things I Don’t


Zac Brown Band, “Homegrown”

I’ve got everything I need
And nothing that I don’t

The song stands on its own but the best thing for me is that lyric which is actually great life advice, if you’re looking for it.

It took me about 5 decades to realize it — or maybe to turn into one — but I am a minimalist (or “minimalist-adjacent”) who likes less stuff around me for better mental and emotional health.

But the process of living your life, especially raising a family, brings a constant flow of stuff in the front door, and after a couple decades the “it might be useful someday, put it in the basement” system stops working and you suddenly realize that “something new comes in, something old goes out” is far superior.

The only thing I would care about saving in a house fire — after family and pets of course — is photos. Everything else can be replaced. 

But we have SO many photos … and most of them just sit in boxes in a dark closet 24x7x365. 

So I ask myself, what good are they, like that? Who does that help? What value are they adding to our lives? Almost zero.

Photos are only useful when you look at them. This is obvious but it raises an important point: the time that these photos spend sitting in boxes is a series of missed opportunities.

Each of us only has so much time here on this planet — opportunities missed are opportunities lost.

Thursday, May 26, 2022


Little did I know as a kid listening to Elton John in the early and mid-70s that I was getting a master class in melody writing, arrangement and piano. 

One great example is “Tiny Dancer” which grew an entirely new audience in the 2000s because it was used in a key scene in “Almost Famous”:  the band is near a breakup and in constant conflict and might not even finish the current tour, for the usual reasons: personality conflicts, power struggles, strains of life on the road, etc. Then this happens …

That’s very powerful storytelling, combining music with visuals to show everyone on the bus growing closer in the span of 3 minutes just from singing together … it makes me both smile and tear up every time I watch it.

Rick Beato gives a music expert’s opinion on What Makes This Song Great.

It was never a hit single because it was over 6 minutes long, and makes us wait two and a half minutes for the chorus — but there were lots of great songs that were too long for Top 40 radio. 

Official video from the Elton John channel:

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Paying Tribute

The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a solemn and important ritual and one of the few “must see” events in my life, and that’s been true for over 50 years since I saw it for the very first time as a kid age 10-11.

One of my favorite podcasts, The American Story, explains why it matters in this week’s excellent episode Known But to God

My advice: take 6 minutes out of your life to nourish your soul. You’ll be glad you did.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Amazing Ancient Civilzation of Petra, Jordan


Discovered via Archaeology & Art — Twitter is actually good for something if you use it right — with this amazing photo.

They carved it out of a mountain. 

2100 years ago — at least — by hand. 

The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who not only carved amazing buildings and art from solid rock, but created a luscious green oasis in a desert by mastering rainwater retention.

They specifically chose this location because it was a natural fortress with only small openings through the mountainous desert terrain, and because it was on an incense trade route. 

And so it became a prosperous city, carved out of the mountains.

They carved this out of a mountain too.


Friday, May 20, 2022

This Week in 1873, Patent for Blue Jeans Issued


149 years ago today a U. S. patent is granted to Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis for “Improvement in Fastening Pocket Openings”, i.e. for the use of rivets to strengthen the weak spots around the pockets.

Details from — and if you end up confused about who actually invented blue jeans, you’re not alone, the underlined could have been worded more clearly:

In 1872, he wrote a letter to Strauss about his method of making work pants with metal rivets on the stress points—at the corners of the pockets and the base of the button fly—to make them stronger. As Davis didn’t have the money for the necessary paperwork, he suggested that Strauss provide the funds and that the two men get the patent together. Strauss agreed enthusiastically, and the patent for “Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings”–the innovation that would produce blue jeans as we know them–was granted to both men on May 20, 1873.
It was Davis, not Strauss, who invented jeans with rivets. 

Two main factors drove their popularity — miners and railroad workers — and the amount of ancillary economic activity those two fields generated in the mid- to late-1800s is nearly impossible to imagine today. 

Is there another name — other than Jesus himself, and ignoring world leaders— that became as famous worldwide as Levi Strauss? Michael Jordan maybe? Muhammad Ali? It’s a pretty short list.

Wikipedia tells the story with much greater detail:

In his tailor shop, Davis made functional items such as tents, horse blankets and wagon covers for the railway workers on the Central Pacific Railroad. The fabric Davis worked with was heavy-duty cotton duck cloth and cotton denim which he bought from Levi Strauss & Co., a dry goods company in San Francisco. To strengthen the stress points of the sewn items he was making, Davis used copper rivets to reinforce the stitching.

In December 1870, Davis was asked by a customer to make a pair of strong working pants for her husband who was a woodcutter. To create suitably robust pants for working, he used duck cloth and reinforced the weak points in the seams and pockets with the copper rivets. Such was the success of these pants that word spread throughout the labourers along the railroad. Davis was making these working pants in duck cotton and, as early as 1871, in denim cotton. Before long, he found he could not keep up with demand.

Davis had previously applied for patents for other inventions. Realising the potential value in his reinforced jeans concept, in 1872, he approached Levi Strauss, who was still his supplier of fabric, and asked for his financial backing in the filing of a patent application. Strauss agreed, and on May 20, 1873, US Patent No. 139,121 for "Improvements in fastening pocket openings" was issued in the name of Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss and Company. That same year, Davis started sewing a double orange threaded stitched design onto the back pocket of the jeans to distinguish them from those made by his competitors. This trademark feature became Registered U.S. Trade Mark No. 1,139,254.

Apparently the only reason that Levi Strauss instead of Jacob Davis became a household name was that Strauss funded the patent application process, even though the invention itself, the rivets to strengthen the pants, was Davis’.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Aquifers, Wells, Spillways and Dams, How Do They Work

How Wells and Aquifers Actually Work 

Near failure of Oroville Dam in 2017 — I remember hearing about it and watching video of the spillway falling apart. 

Quoted: Thomas Sowell

The most basic question is not what is best
but who shall decide what is best.

Thomas Sowell 

This should be obvious — especially to an American — but as a people we continue to not get it. 

This was the whole point of starting a new nation with power vested in the people to control their government rather than the other way round. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

This Week in 1954: Supreme Court Overturns Its Own Disastrous Decision

May 17, 1954 was the day that Brown vs. Board of Education ended “federal tolerance of racial segregation".

Ironically, it was issued one day shy of the anniversary of the historically awful “Plessy vs. Ferguson” 1896 decision that it overturned..

All during the post-Civil War era there was exactly one institution with both the power and the duty to force change on Southern states: the federal government. 

All three branches had both the power and the duty: to pass laws, to enforce them, and to uphold them. 

But empirical evidence shows us that the federal government was either a) okay with entrenched Southern institutional racism, or b) too powerless and afraid to do anything about it.

Blame Southerners and their culture, of course. It was their system, they built it, and they own it. 

But the federal government was empowered to fix it, as a basic question of Constitutionally-guaranteed human rights, and for whatever reason did not, and must not escape accountability.

Don’t Ignore Potassium


The amount and balance of minerals in your body is very important for your health in many ways —and part of hydration too.

Potassium a Critical Mineral (aka “Electrolyte”)

Monday, May 16, 2022

This Week in History: Seven Years War Begins in 1756


Well, 1754 actually — but everything else about this war is confusing too.

We call it the French and Indian War here in the U.S. — but that name vastly under-represents the global nature of it, involving all European powers including Russia, fought on 4 continents, and ending with 1.3 million dead, mostly civilians.

This was actually the first World War, as this video makes very clear.

Seven Years War Summarized on a Map

Confusing and chaotic, as with everything else about European history, where endless entanglements, alliances, and power struggles between kingdoms produced the conditions for war. But that was just the way it was, across the entire world, since forever — until 1776 when a bunch of upstart punks decided there had to be a better way. 

This war also set the stage for the American Revolution by leading Britain into tremendous debt which caused them to tax the colonies (Sugar Act of 1764, Stamp Act of 1765, etc), leading directly to the “taxation without representation” battle cry. 

Another move by the British that upset the colonists was the Proclamation of 1763, prohibiting settlement of territory west of the Appalachians by anyone but the British government, supposedly in response to Native American raids on British forces by Chief Pontiac — although I’m not sure I see how putting the  colonists in a box does anything to stop war against Native Americans. Here’s what the above link says about it:

Acknowledging that “great frauds and abuses have been committed,” the proclamation furthermore prohibited settlers from buying tribal territory. Instead, only the crown could now make such purchases. “We shall avoid many future quarrels with the savages by this salutary measure,” said General Thomas Gage, who commanded all British forces in North America.

Stand back and admire the pure diplomacy just oozing from that quote.

In this list of 10 things about the Seven Years War you probably don’t know, we learn that the French Acadians migrated to Louisiana from Canada because the British forced them out during the Seven Years War, and that’s how Louisiana ended up as Cajun Country.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Comparing Two Fuel Additives on a Lawnmower


If you have ever spent any time in an auto parts store you have seen the bewildering array of additives, cleaners, and other potions for fuel, oil, transmission, power steering, coolant, hydraulic brakes, etc.

Maybe some of them even work — who knows? I sure don’t, and generally steer clear of magic solutions of every kind … it’s in my DNA, I can’t help it.

But for some reason one day last year I spent like 20 minutes looking at these products, figured “why not?”, and bought some Marvel Mystery Oil and added it to my fuel for a few weeks (on my 2007 Honda Accord V6). 

It’s supposed to clean your fuel system, heads, valves, etc, along with increasing MPG. It seemed to help with mileage, but I didn’t check it that carefully, so I could very easily be mistaken on that.

This guy tries it on his lawnmower, along with a well-known competing product, Seafoam. He even hooks up a compression tester — but this is a little over my head since I don’t know how to interpret the results. Too little is bad, but so is too much, I think.

Seafoam vs Marvel Mystery Oil

Compression testing a lawnmower with some interpretation of the results — the numbers are specific to the motor, which makes sense. These numbers are published by the manufacturer.

An overview of compression testing and what it diagnoses — but for a car, not a lawnmower.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Honoring My Mom


We had a beautiful service for my mom on Monday at Georgia National Cemetery. 

For now, these two musical tributes …

“I’ll Fly Away” from Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch

“Amazing Grace” from B. J. Thomas

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Tunnel Under the River? Sure, Why Not?


The early leaders of Chicago took on their Civil Engineering challenges with gusto, raising the city 6-10’ to alllow installation of a sewer system in the 1860-70s and digging a vast network of tunnels under downtown streets to move goods between buildings and businesses more efficiently by avoiding gridlocked city traffic.

But wait, there’s more.

They also drilled tunnels under the Chicago River to relieve traffic issues when the drawbridges were up, which was often.

The tunnels proved ineffective and were eventually closed due to how steep and dark they were, but the fact that they tried it at all tells us a lot. 

Related posts:

Saturday, May 07, 2022

This Week in 1966: Willie Mays Breaks NL HR record


Willie Mays breaks the National League Home Run record with number 512 breaking Mel Ott’s record of 511 — also with the Giants.

Which is of course over 200 fewer than Babe Ruth’s total of 714. 

Hank Aaron had 406 at the time and would go on to lead the league with 44 that year, and pass Mays in 1972 and ultimately break the most cherished and sought after record in professional sports — the Babe’s — on April 8, 1974.

Mays finished with 660 after retiring at the completion of the 1973 season (with the Mets).

But ultimately every career home run total discussion gets around to Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, the only two guys to hit 700+ HR in the pre-steroid era.

When Babe Ruth retired at the end of the 1935 season, with 714, the guy in 2nd, Lou Gehrig, was 336 behind (from what I can tell by piecing it together at the wonderful site).

The list at that time:

714   Babe Ruth 

378   Lou Gehrig (still active - career total 493, retired during 1939 season)

302   Jimmy Foxx (still active - career total 536, retired 1947)

242   Mel Ott (still active - career total 511, retired 1947)

And Ruth is still the all-time leader in Slugging Pct and OPS, after 86 years, despite Bonds, Griffey Jr, ARod, and all those kinds of guys we hear about all the time for the last 20 years. 

In fact the top 3 in Slugging Pct have remained unchanged for 60 years: Ruth, Williams, Gehrig. 

Top 3 in OPS? Ruth, Williams, Gehrig.You could make a solid argument those are still the three greatest hitters of all time. 

Of course in 1935 many other great hitters — who would later end up very high on the all time HR list at retirement in the 50s, 60s, and 70s — had yet to play a single inning, like Mays, Mantle, Williams, Musial, Killebrew, F. Robinson, Matthews, and Banks.

Hank Aaron, by the way, is still the career RBI leader with 2297, with 301 more than Barry Bonds in the same number of seasons. He retired nearly 50 years ago. 

But the most impressive career RBI total based on per-season productivity has to be Lou Gehrig with 1995 in only 17 seasons — 16 is closer to reality since he only played 8 games in ‘39 with just 1 RBI — compared to Aaron’s 23, and with over 4000 fewer plate appearances (9,965 vs 13,941). 

That’s 124 RBI per year, every year, for 16 years in a row.

Harmony by the Fire


Last night it was a beautiful Spring evening so we used our fire table at our new digs for the first time. 

For our listening pleasure and for reasons unknown I called up “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” on Spotify. As albums go, this is one of my oldest “friends”.

I got this when it came out in 1973, and played it all the time for a couple of years. Classic album, classic cover.

Obvious hits all over it, but there are several unknown gems, like “Harmony”.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Music Memories from My Childhood Home


My mom loved music and dancing and so my young childhood years are filled with many warm memories of fun songs and happy music filling our space and time.

One of my favorite memories, in fact, now that I think back on it.

She’s gone now, two weeks today in fact, and I find that revisiting some of this music makes me both happy and sad at the same time, if that is possible to imagine. That’s just how that works, I guess. 

Trini Lopez Live at PJs from 1963 — “America”

Same album, “Bye Bye Blackbird”

Her initials were “PJ” so “Live at PJs” held special meaning. 

The whole album is full of fun, upbeat, danceable, singalongs like these, plus his relentless driving rhythm guitar and charisma and energy — it can be streamed here on YouTube.

Al Hirt, “Java”

Al Hirt, “Tansy”

I just listened to the whole thing front to back for the first time in at least 50 years. Still great. The whole album can be streamed here on YouTube.

This Week in 1469: Machiavelli Born


Niccolo Machiavelli became widely known for publishing “The Prince” in 1513 as a pamphlet — the book was not published until 1532, posthumously, 5 years after his death in 1527.

The Prince is about ruthless amoral power politics, using war, violence, and religion as tactics, and so his name became synonymous with such nastiness — but ironically it was not autobiographical, it was about a Papal States prince (and Cardinal in the Catholic Church) named Cesare Borgia. 

Niccolo Machiavelli himself was far less calculating, and was even marginalized and shunned by his connected political “in group” from 1512 until his death in 1527 … too ethical I suppose?

So who is Cesare Borgia, the guy so ruthless and amoral that he inspired a book that defines it?

Well, he was just one of several illegitimate children of a Catholic Church Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia — who was elected Pope Alexander VI in 1492

Takeaway #1 — Cardinals decided that a guy with not just one but several illegitimate children would make a fine Pope. 

Good ol’ Rodrigo had clout as a member of the prominent House of Borgia (in modern day Spain) and became a Cardinal shortly after his uncle was elected Pope Callixtus III in 1455.

And since nepotism runs in families, naturally when Rodrigo was elected Pope, he installed his 17 year old son Cesare as Cardinal. 

Takeaway #2 — The same guy who inspired “The Prince” was an entitled, power-hungry, rich beneficiary of nepotism and a Cardinal in the Catholic Church at age 17.

You can see where this is going. I’ll stop here. Read on if you like using links above, there’s plenty more of this kind of unpleasantness. 

Takeaway #3 — Funny how the entire backstory to “The Prince” is Catholic Church corruption, nepotism, illegitimate children among leadership, etc — but this is not more widely known and flies completely under the radar when people invoke Machiavelli to talk about amoral leadership. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Remembering Rush Album “Moving Pictures”


Since Rush released “Moving Pictures” in 1981 it has sold 7 million copies worldwide and 5 million in the US alone.

Several songs from it got major airplay, such as “Tom Sawyer”, “Limelight”, and “Vital Signs”, plus an amazing instrumental “YYZ” — the Toronto airport code — which uses a time signature (5/4) that matches those same letters in Morse code.

Here’s “YYZ”.

Pretty cool song, with definite jazz-rock influences — sounds a lot like major jazz fusion bands of the 70s, such as Jean-Luc Ponty or Return to Forever. Apparently Al DiMeola was a major influence on guitarist Alex Lifeson, and you can hear that.

The album grew out of song ideas they created during sound checks while on tour for their previous album “Permanent Wave”. After that tour ended in 1980 they developed these ideas into actual songs at Ronnie Hawkins’ farm in Stony Lake, Ontario and went back into the studio to record it later that year.

As musicians they are all amazing and pretty much set the bar for the power trio rock band. I especially liked their string of albums from 1980-82, “Permanent Wave”, “Moving Pictures”, and “Signals”. 

Here are three of my favorite Rush tunes, first “Subdivisions” 

“Spirit of Radio” live at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2013)

“Closer to the Heart” notable mainly as a showcase for the musical chops of Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart.

Even though I was never a big fan — the vocals push me away, sorry Geddy Lee — this was a mega-talented band with a distinctive sound and something to say, and they left a major legacy.

In 2021 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Moving Pictures” they reissued it as a special boxed set.

Monday, May 02, 2022

Amazing 19th Century Engineering


Chicago was home to an incredible number of amazing engineering feats in the mid- to late-1800s.

The city was settled on low-lying flat ground at the shores of Lake Michigan — a swamp, essentially — so as a result muddy streets and unsanitary conditions quickly became a huge problem, and a cholera outbreak in 1845 killed 6% of the population. 

Clearly the city could not grow further without major improvements. 

They needed a sewer system to handle draining away both sewage and surface water — but in a swamp, gravity is your enemy, not your friend. 

The sewer system had to be above the current streets. So they raised the streets, the buildings, all of it. Over about 20 years, starting in 1858.

They raised an entire downtown city block, several feet, all at once, in four days, while people were conducting business inside the buildings. In the 1860s.

Earlier post about the large underground tunnel network, largely forgotten until 1992 when the river above started draining into it and flooded many downtown buildings.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

RIP Naomi Judd


A “victim of mental illness” as stated in the official statement from her daughters Wynona and Ashley. 

We can only guess what that means — but in any case, she’s gone now.

She was 76.

The Judds were scheduled to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame yesterday.

Songs like these are the reason why.

Mama He’s Crazy

Why Not Me

Give a Little Love

Friday, April 29, 2022

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines


It’s Spring and that means time to fire up the lawnmower. Unless you’re like me and sold it as part of a moving sale … 

In any case knowledge of all things mechanical is always interesting and potentially useful, and this video includes tips on the proper way to tip over your lawnmower. If you’ve ever tipped it over to the spark plug side — to drain fuel for winter storage, sharpen the blade, clean the bottom, etc — you quickly learn that was the wrong side to tip it over to when oil fouls the plug.

How to Tip Over Your Lawnmower

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Re-watching “Mad Men”


Ever since I watched “Mad Men” during its original run I have wanted to watch it again, from the beginning, to fill in more of the details I had missed due to starting in season 2, or 3 (or maybe it was late in season 1).

But it wasn’t important enough to pay for the privilege. Then recently I discovered a way to watch it for free (see end of post for details). 

This show is so unique and I like almost everything about it:  the early 60s vibe and visual details, the straight ahead no-nonsense dialogue, the classic men’s look of suits and ties and white starched shirts, the focus on adults doing adult things in an adult world, the peek into the old school Madison Avenue advertising world, the period piece feel with glimpses of New York City and therefore America at its cultural peak during the transition from the Eisenhower 50s to the JFK early 60s, before the decline that started with the JFK assassination in 1963 and continued with Vietnam, social unrest, riots, more assassinations, Watergate, impeachment/resignation, rampant inflation, etc.

I suppose whether that was a cultural peak or not is up for debate. Feels that way to me.

One of the many solid actors on the show is Robert Morse, who played Bert Cooper, one of the owners of the advertising firm, and who passed away on April 21 at age 90.

He was a bit of a character, an oddball really, especially for a managing partner. But this served as a useful counterweight to the relentless intensity of the Don Draper character. 

Morse originally made his name by starring in the 1961 Broadway hit play How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (and winning a Tony Award for it), and in 1967 played the same role in the film version.

This Mad Men scene is hardly typical of the show, or Bert’s character, or Don’s. But it’s memorable and remarkable because it is so different. 

To watch it for free, create an account with IMDBtv and watch on the IMDBtv app or via Amazon Prime Video (which includes IMDBtv).