Sunday, July 07, 2024

The Band with the Staples, “The Weight”


Nothing further need be said …

Enjoy every serendipitous moment of pure joy and beauty. It’s good for you.

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Today in 1977, “Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky)” Reaches #1


This song was everywhere that summer and as a song it’s nothing special, but after seeing the movie you subconsciously fix it permanently in your mind with this unforgettable and revolutionary scene.

The music builds to a crescendo while he sprints up the many flights of stairs, all the way to the top, and the camera spins around him to show the skyline as he suddenly raises his fists triumphantly … chills, every time. 

Scenes like this became common, but this was the first.

Stereogum has a good summary of how unique and revolutionary it was.

With Rocky, director John G. Avildsen more or less invented the training montage, a convention that would become a staple of American movies for about the next 20 years. (We still get training montages, but now they’ve become a self-conscious, parodic trope. Often, they still use the same music as the Rocky movies.) In Rocky, Rocky Balboa has randomly been booked in a fight with the champion of the world. He’s only in there because he has a good nickname, because he comes from the right city, because he’s white, and because he can’t possibly win. Rocky knows he can’t possibly win. But thanks to his hardbitten, motivational trainer, that starts to change. He starts to believe. And then the montage hits. ... As we watch Rocky, we can imagine “Gonna Fly Now” as the music in his head, as his own monosyllabic inner monologue. Rocky loses the big fight in the end, but he wins respect and becomes a contender. He achieves his destiny. A downbeat bummer of a story becomes a triumph for the ages, a harbinger of an era when movie ticket buyers demanded uplifting spectacle. “Gonna Fly Now” has everything to do with it.

Exactly right.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

And So We Enter the Post-Pat Sajak Era

TV shows come and go and therefore so too do the people in them come and go, into and out of our lives. Most shows only last two or three seasons— maybe six or eight if they are really popular. It’s a very transient world in that way.

It’s an extremely rare show that lasts a decade or longer. 

And then we have Wheel of Fortune and specifically Pat Sajak who hosted the show for 41 years until his retirement this year . His final show aired last Friday.

Pat Sajak became a legend because he is so likable and funny and unassuming and naturally at ease with random strangers that, over time, you as the viewer start to think of him as almost a friend. A guy you are happy to see on the screen. Every night. For over 40 years. 

Here is his farewell message. 

Classy, selfless, genuine.

I loved watching the show and so did my whole family. Time marches on I guess and there will be reruns and a new guy in the fall and I’m sure he’ll be fine.

One thing he won’t be is Pat Sajak.

Friday, June 07, 2024

Who Sings Lead, Well It’s Not Who You Think


Raise your hand if you too had no idea that the drummer sang lead vocals on the verses, not Frankie Valli…

That drummer is Gerry Polci and he is a fine singer. 

That’s not Valli on the falsetto, either — it’s bassist Don Ciccone. Wikipedia says that music executives came up with the idea to have Polci sing lead and bass player Don Ciccone to sing the falsetto with Valli handling the choruses.

Didn’t know that either!

Imagine a band with such strong singers — your drummer and bass player, no less — that you can make a hit song using legend Frankie Valli as the third featured singer, the equivalent of a hired background singer.

Just an amazing song and it always sounds fresh. Turn it up!

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Clint Eastwood 70s Classic


Two thumbs up on both the title tune and the movie, and this video gives you a good taste of how it all goes down.

He drives around rural California fighting various dumbasses and losers, along with chasing his girlfriend around. An orangutan named Clyde is his partner and gets some of the biggest laughs in the movie, along with Ruth Gordon who is always a little cranky and not taking any bullshit from anyone.

Highly original and memorable. It’s been literally decades since I’ve seen it, but I plan to watch soon. It’s funny and filled with great music and is just a good time.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Bob Fosse in his Prime


I know very little about dancing but there are certain dancers that I immediately and instinctively like. Fred Astaire for his smoothness and grace, Gene Kelly for his explosive athleticism, James Cagney for his compact power, these are the main three that come to mind.

I’ve seen Bob Fosse as subject of the movie “All That Jazz”, about a dance legend turned choreographer, but had never him do any actual dancing in his prime. 

Then I stumbled across this song and dance video from the 1953 movie “The Affairs of Dobie Gillis “ with Bob Fosse, Debbie Reynolds, Bobby Van, and Barbara Ruick. Keep your eye on Fosse, in the sweater with white socks.

The whole clip is just fun to watch but Fosse is on another level here, so explosive and athletic, similar in my mind to Gene Kelly but with a smaller frame and (to me it seems) more movement in his extremities. 

He just moves differently than everyone other dancer, ever. Truly one of a kind.

He moved pretty quickly after that into choreography on Broadway, and his list of awards is pretty extensive:

He transitioned into directing and choreographing musical works including the stage musicals winning Tony Awards for The Pajama Game (1954), Damn Yankees (1955), Redhead (1959), Little Me (1963), Sweet Charity (1966), Pippin (1972), Dancin' (1978), and Big Deal (1986). He also worked on Bells Are Ringing (1956), New Girl in Town (1958), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961), and Chicago (1975).

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Bridge Types Explained


Bridges have always fascinated me …

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Today in 1843: First Large Oregon Trail Migration


In 1841 the wagon train was around 70 people, and in 1842 around 100, but in 1843 as a result of “encouragement” (maybe propaganda is more accurate) by the government and other hucksters the wagon train was 1,000 strong plus 5,000 oxen and cattle.

The Oregon Territory was not even technically part of the U.S. yet — this did not happen until 1846 when Britain just handed it over for free, essentially — but over the preceeding 30 years fur trappers and traders, missionaries, and other pioneers had established a trail from Missouri.

The Oregon Trail was laid by fur traders and trappers from about 1811 to 1840 and was initially only passable on foot or horseback. By 1836, when the first migrant wagon train was organized in Independence, Missouri, a wagon trail had been cleared to Fort Hall, Idaho. Wagon trails were cleared increasingly farther west and eventually reached the Willamette Valley in Oregon, at which point what came to be called the Oregon Trail was complete, even as almost annual improvements were made in the form of bridges, cutoffs, ferries, and roads, which made the trip faster and safer. From various starting points in Iowa, Missouri, or Nebraska Territory, the routes converged along the lower Platte River Valley near Fort Kearny, Nebraska Territory. They led to fertile farmlands west of the Rocky Mountains. From the early to mid-1830s (and particularly through the years 1846–1869) the Oregon Trail and its many offshoots were used by about 400,000 settlers, farmers, miners, ranchers, and business owners and their families to get to the area known as Oregon and its surrounding counterparts. The eastern half of the trail was also used by travelers on the California Trail (from 1843), Mormon Trail (from 1847), and Bozeman Trail (from 1863) before turning off to their separate destinations. Use of the trail declined after the first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, making the trip west substantially faster, cheaper, and safer.

It was 2,170 miles long. They rode on horseback or in covered wagons, and many died along the way from drownings during river crossings, disease, injuries, Indian attacks, and more.

A map:

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

“Louie Louie” and How the FBI Took Over a Year to Decide the Lyrics Were Indecipherable


In 1963 the Kingsmen released their version of Richard Berry’s “Louie Louie” — and hoo boy did people lose their mind over what they thought were dirty lyrics.

Letters were written, investigative task forces created, all because of this silly and indecipherable 2:48 of fun, recorded in a single take at a cost of $50.

Never once in my life have I understood any of it, but hey, it’s catchy and fun. 

Dirty? Well, some people thought so, and one guy wrote a letter to Attorney General Robert Kennedy about it. So of course the FBI spent 15 months digging into it:

Over the course of the next two years, the FBI gathered many versions of the putative lyrics to Louie Louie. They interviewed the man who wrote the song and officials of the record label that released the Kingsmen’s smash-hit single. They turned the record over to the audio experts in the FBI laboratory, who played and re-played “Louie Louie” at 78 rpm, 45 rpm, 33 1/3 rpm and even slower speeds in an effort to determine whether it was pornographic and, therefore, whether its sale was a violation of the federal Interstate Transportation of Obscene Material law.

Finally to everyone’s relief on May 17, 1965 they announced their dramatic conclusion: the lyrics were “unintelligible at any speed”.

Good to know.

The original by Richard Berry was recorded in 1957 in a totally different tempo and style with a Carribean, almost “ska” style:

I like his version a lot better.

The story behind his songwriter royalties is pretty incredible:

The song has been recorded over 1,000 times. However, Berry received little financial reward for its success for many years, having sold the copyright for $750 in 1959 to pay for his wedding. Berry said in 1993 "Everybody sold their songs in those days. I never was bitter with the record companies. They provided a vehicle for five young black dudes to make a record."

But then 30 years after he wrote it …

In the mid-1980s, Berry was living on welfare at his mother's house in South Central Los Angeles. Drinks company California Cooler wanted to use "Louie Louie" in a commercial, but discovered it needed Berry's signature to use the song. The company asked the Artists Rights Society to locate him, and a lawyer visited Berry. The lawyer mentioned the possibility of Berry's taking action to gain the rights to his song. The publishers settled out of court, making Berry a millionaire.

The Professor of Rock weighs in:

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

This Week in 330 AD: Constantinople Dedicated


May 11, 330 AD … nearly 1700 Years Ago

A “second Rome” essentially — a replacement for it, in reality. 

Keep this date in mind next time you call something “old”.

Constantinople is named after Constantine I who should be more widely recognized as the first Emperor to convert to Christianity and use his power to spread the relatively new religion throughout the Roman Empire

And hoo boy is that history complicated — feel free to read about it in detail above — but here is a summary from that page:

Constantine reigned during the 4th century CE and is known for attempting to Christianize the Roman Empire. He made the persecution of Christians illegal by signing the Edict of Milan in 313 and helped spread the religion by bankrolling church-building projects, commissioning new copies of the Bible, and summoning councils of theologians to hammer out the religion’s doctrinal kinks.

The Edict of Milan mandated religious tolerance via legal rights — seems that this too should be more well-known than it is:

... granted all persons freedom to worship whatever deity they pleased, assured Christians of legal rights (including the right to organize churches), and directed the prompt return to Christians of confiscated property.

“Granted all persons freedom to worship watever deity they pleased”. This is full-on frredom of religion, 1446 years prior to 1776, when it seemed like a revolutionary idea mainly because for several hundred years the entire world had been unable to avoid killing each other over religion, not because nobody ever thought of it before. 

It goes on to say this ponderous bit: “Previous edicts of toleration had been as short-lived as the regimes that sanctioned them, but this time the edict effectively established religious toleration.” 

“This time”? Why did it work better this time? We are left to surmise that it was because of Constantine’s own conversion and strong leadership, although he died in 337, just 7 years later. Of course the Roman Empire fell in 476, so all of this “freedom” silliness died off with it, ushering in the Dark Ages and Vikings and Crusades and nearly endless war and plunder for over a thousand years.

A good video about Constantine I:

Monday, May 13, 2024

Two Songs about Going Back Home


But With Polar Opposite Meanings

While listening to a Spotify 60s Country playlist last week — an undertaking that I can recommend without reservation — the theme of going back home surfaced in two different songs, with two completely different takes on that idea.

“Homecoming” by Tom T. Hall tells the tale of his own distant relationship with his widower father.

I’ve been gone so many years
I didn’t realize you had a phone

He pops in unannounced, has to explain what his musician life is like to a father who does not understand it at all, apologizes for missing his mother’s funeral, and then has to leave for a gig later that night. 

The whole experience is short, awkward, and unsatisfying. It’s clear that he cannnot wait to get out of there.

Contrast that with “Back Home Again” in which John Denver writes a more romanticized version of the ways one might enjoy coming back home.

There’s a fire softly burning
Supper’s on the stove
It’s the light in your eyes
that makes him warm.

Monday, May 06, 2024

Genius DIY


So simple — how did I never think of this?!

Friday, May 03, 2024

Final Goodbyes


Background here.

I’m not sure how the details matter a whole lot now, because he’s gone and what difference does any of it make? 

But just to note them for the future….

He’s been very ill for several weeks and we’ve been blessed and amazed that he hung on as long as he did.

He became reclusive — very odd for him, as a social and friendly cat — and completely stopped eating for two weeks or more. 

Then suddenly one Sunday he was revenous, and for a week or ten days continued to eat regularly, although not much. Mostly broth and gravy in the food, since he had difficulty and pain while chewing.

Then last Thursday he became very reclusive again and would not eat or drink. 

Then very early on Saturday morning he started bleeding out from his mouth, and this time it would not stop, and I knew this was going to be the end for him. I tried, we tried, to comfort him in his hour of need, just to be with him and allow him to pass peacefully as possible. It was not as peaceful as one would like.

He passed away at 6AM Saturday morning. We took his body outside on the deck while the birds were chirping. He always loved to watch the birds.

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

May 1, 1926: Ford Institutes 5-Day 40-Hour Work Week


Henry Ford revolutionized the manufacturing process with assembly lines in large production plants using interchangeable parts,, and he also revolutionized the entire working world with a 100% increase in pay and the 5-day work week:

Henry Ford’s Detroit-based automobile company had broken ground in its labor policies before. In early 1914, against a backdrop of widespread unemployment and increasing labor unrest, Ford announced that it would pay its male factory workers a minimum wage of $5 per eight-hour day, upped from a previous rate of $2.34 for nine hours (the policy was adopted for female workers in 1916). The news shocked many in the industry—at the time, $5 per day was nearly double what the average auto worker made—but turned out to be a stroke of brilliance, immediately boosting productivity along the assembly line and building a sense of company loyalty and pride among Ford’s workers.

Henry Ford said of the decision: “It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either ‘lost time’ or a class privilege.” At Ford’s own admission, however, the five-day workweek was also instituted in order to increase productivity: Though workers’ time on the job had decreased, they were expected to expend more effort while they were there. Manufacturers all over the country, and the world, soon followed Ford’s lead, and the Monday-to-Friday workweek became standard practice.

Click photo for Wikipedia entry
So prior to 1914, the assembly line workers worked 9 hours a day, 6 days a week, a total of 54 hours, for $2.34 per day, or $14.04 per week. 

By mid-1926 this had changed to 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, a total of 40 hours, for $5 per day, or $25 per week.

The business saw increased productivity with the new 5-day 40-hour work week, yes — but a capitalist mutli-millionaire invented the entire concept of leisure time on weekends for working men.

This is a point not to be diminished.  

Later, after another ugly world war and as the concept of the 5-day work week took hold throughout the American economy and then the world, the consumer economy had a chance to take off in the 1950s, and so it did. 

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Orleans’ First Big Hit and How It’s Connected to “Dancing in the Moonlight”


The name “Orleans” might not sound familiar but their first big hit surely does.

From 1975, “Dance With Me” — again from the Midnight Special.

Orleans was formed in 1972 by John Hall, Larry Hoppen, and Wells Kelly in Woodstock, New York. Larry’s brother Lance joined a short time later.

The video above shows the three original members sharing vocals — Hall on guitar, Larry Hoppen on keys and lead vocal, Kelly on drums, and Lance Hoppen on bass.

Larry Hoppen and Wells Kelly, as it turns out, were members of King Harvest whose big hit “Dancing in the Moonlight” was written by Kelly’s brother Sherman (also a member of King Harvest for a short time).


Orleans used a lot of unusual instruments in their songs, and on this track, Larry Hoppen played a melodica in the break. Also called a "hooter," the instrument looks like a small keyboard with a mouthpiece attached. It is played by blowing through the reed and controlling the notes with the keyboard.

“Dance With Me” became a big hit which proved once again that record label suits are often clueless:

Orleans recorded this song for their second album, Orleans II, which was given limited international release in 1974 but withheld in the US by their label, ABC, which didn't hear a hit single on the album. The group left the label and joined Elektra-Asylum. Their first release on that label was Let There Be Music in 1975, which included a re-recorded "Dance With Me."

The ABC suits wouldn't even release the album in the U.S. because they didn’t hear a hit single on it! 

Friday, April 26, 2024

148 Years Ago This Week: The First National League Ballgame


April 22, 1876 … think about how long ago that was.

Well, 148 years ago, for starters. That’s about 6 generations of people. The American population at the time was about 39 million people, about 11% of today’s.

The telegraph was the only way to communicate quickly over a long distance. Yet to be invented: the electric lightbulb and telephone. Civil War Reconstruction, still ongoing. The Transcontinental Railroad had been completed just a few years before.

President Lincoln’s assassination was a recent memory. Henry Ford was 12 years old. Etc. It was a long, long time ago.

A man named William Hulbert, owner of the Chicago White Stockings (later the Cubs), is widely credited as the founder of the National League.


Another major force in forming the National League was Albert Spalding, who joined Hulbert and the White Stockings in 1876 as manager and main pitcher, winning 47 games that year. 

He is still the all-time leader in career winning percentage at .796. He was one of the first players to wear a baseball glove and others adopted it soon after. 

Spalding of course is even more well-known for founding the A.G. Spalding sporting goods company — also in 1876, he had a good year — which supplied the official National League baseball for nearly 100 years from 1880 until 1976, developed the baseball bat from a cricket bat, and much more across many sports. The history of the company itself is a good read.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Only One Hit But It’s a Timeless Classic


A rare live version of “Dancing in the Moonlight” via the indispensable Midnight Special channel… 

The tune was written several years earlier by a guy named Sherman Kelly — and the story behind it is more than a little bit strange:

On a trip to St. Croix in 1969, I was the first victim of a vicious St. Croix gang who eventually murdered 8 American tourists. At that time, I suffered multiple facial fractures and wounds and was left for dead. While I was recovering, I wrote "Dancin in the Moonlight" in which I envisioned an alternate reality, the dream of a peaceful and joyful celebration of life. The song became a huge hit and was recorded by many musicians worldwide. "Dancin In The Moonlight" continues to be popular to this day.

Well, now I’m going to have *that* picture in my head every time I hear it for the rest of my life.

It topped out at #13 in America during February-March of 1973, just before I turned 14.

As it turns out this big hit led indirectly to the formation of the band Orleans — more on that soon.

Monday, April 22, 2024

A Recipe for Improved Mental Health


Steven Kotler says that we are all capable of so much more than we know, by adopting simple habits that rewire our mindset and tame anxiety and depression by leveraging our natural ability to produce “feel good” chemicals like endorphins and serotonin.

Gratitude. Mindfulness. Walk, bike, or run, outside.

Between social media and “the news” we are bombarded every day with social anxiety and fear, which can be difficult to overcome and is bad for all of us. 

Of course you can reduce the role of those things in your life, which is always a good idea, but completely independent from that you have the ability to counteract those negatives by focusing on what you *can* control.

Gratitude. Mindfulness. Walk, bike, or run, outside.

Friday, April 19, 2024

In Memory of Dickey Betts


He passed away this week at 80 years old… he had a distinct and original sound, that’s for sure.

“Blue Sky”


“Little Martha”


Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Seurat, Van Gogh, Pointillism and Neo-Impressionism


Georges Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte

This famous painting from 1886 uses “pointillism” which started the Neo-Impressionism movement, known for revolutionary expressions of color and light to create greater apparent luminosity:

Seurat and his followers tried to give their painting a scientific basis, by painting tiny dabs of primary colors close to each other to intensify the viewer's perception of colors by a process of optical mixing. This created greater apparent luminosity because the optical mixing of colors tends towards white, unlike mixing of paints on the palette which tends towards black and reduces intensity. Neo-impressionists also used more precise and geometric shapes to simplify and reveal the relationships between forms.

Diving deeper into Pointillism:

The practice of Pointillism is in sharp contrast to the traditional methods of blending pigments on a palette. Pointillism is analogous to the four-color CMYK printing process used by some color printers and large presses that place dots of cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). Televisions and computer monitors use a similar technique to represent image colors using Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) colors.

If red, blue, and green light (the additive primaries) are mixed, the result is something close to white light. Painting is inherently subtractive, but Pointillist colors often seem brighter than typical mixed subtractive colors. This may be partly because subtractive mixing of the pigments is avoided, and because some of the white canvas may be showing between the applied dots.

Another example of both, the famous self-portrait by Van Gogh, my favorite painter.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Amazing Rhythm Aces


Just about everyone has heard “Third Rate Romance” which was a solid Top 40 hit in 1975, but I like this one even better.

The End is Not in Sight (The Cowboy Tune) — Live

The studio version

The lead singer is Russell Smith who went on to become a successful songwriter for Randy Travis and others. He passed away at age 70 in 2019.

Here’s Third Rate Romance, an instant and timeless classic.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

History of Major Trade Routes


A useful addition to my recent Silk Road post… 

History of major trade routes, mapped out

Seeing all this on a giant map, and learning the scale of trade between far-away peoples, and how early it all started, was a real learning experience for me.

Friday, April 12, 2024

The !!!! Beat

In 1966 an amazing TV show called “The !!!! Beat” debuted featuring a wide array of live R&B music by black artists like Freddie King, Lou Rawls, Esther Phillips, Etta James, Otis Redding and so many more.

Hosted by legendary Nashville DJ “Hoss” Allen, who was immersed in black culture and music as a kid and played blues, R&B and gospel on his WLAC Nashville radio show in the 50s, “The !!!! Beat” featured an amazing list of guests:

Guests included: Otis Redding, who hosted the final episode, Little Milton, Esther Phillips, Joe Tex, Etta James, Lattimore Brown, Roscoe Shelton, Carla Thomas, Freddie King, Barbara Lynn, Johnny Taylor, The Radiants, Louis Jordan, The Mighty Hannibal, Clarence 'Frogman' Henry, Robert Parker, Joe Simon, Mitty Collier, Jamo Thomas, Z. Z. Hill, Lou Rawls, Bobby Hebb, Willie Mitchell, Don Bryant, The Ovations, The Bar-Kays, Percy Sledge, Garnet Mimms, and Sam & Dave all appeared.

That is quite the list. This is just one season of the show!

Sadly it lasted just that one season, which is unsurprising considering the race climate at the time — but due to the magic of Youtube, DVDs, and devoted fans, nearly all the episodes are available to watch today. For now.

Recently I featured a Freddie King video from the show — here’s one more.

“I'm Torn Down”

Esther Phillips, “I Could Have Told You”

There’s so much more, and I encourage all to investigate this YouTube channel.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Watching DJs Spinning World Music


Really like this just-discovered channel My Analog Journal which features various DJs spinning a wide variety of music from around the world, one theme per video, which are about an hour or so.

Fantastic variety, from salsa to relaxing jazz to reggae to Japanese R&B from the 70s and 80s, and all kinds of other varieties, like this one, “Hawaiian Grooves”.

One of the most popular videos features a Brazilian Samba theme.

I’ve listened to parts of about 7-8 of these videos — the music is all new to me, but very high quality and I like it.

And while I actually like watching DJs doing their thing, these videos are ideally suited for background music while working, at a party, doing chores, relaxing with coffee in the morning, or whenever you want to hear good, fun, “new to you” music. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Britain Hands Over Oregon for Free, In Essence


The early and mid-1800s were such a wild time in North America… 

Sunday, April 07, 2024

No Man’s Land in Louisiana


This territory in today’s Louisiana was part of border disputes between France and Spain during the 1700s, and later informally recognized as a lawless “no man’s land” from 1806 until Louisiana became a state in 1821. 

It was the Wild West before the Wild West became a thing, basically.

Obviously, the people who lived there had to be extrememly tough and fiercely independent, providing all of their own food and security against pirates, outlaws, predators, and the like. 

Louisiana has a very interesting cultural history and this is easy to understand when you consider that the major influences were a “gumbo” of Spanish, French, and Native American going back hundreds of years. 

Here’s a good short primer on the area and its history.

Apparently “Natchitoches” is pronounced NACK-i-tesh. The more you know… 

A longer but still very interesting PBS video.

Friday, April 05, 2024

Today in 1614, Pocahontas Marries Brit

When she was 11 in 1607 she is said to have saved the life of Jamestown settler John Smith:

He traded for corn (maize) with the local Indians and began a series of river voyages that later enabled him to draw a remarkably accurate map of Virginia. While exploring the Chickahominy River in December 1607, he and his party were ambushed by members of the Powhatan empire, which dominated the region. He was ultimately taken to their emperor, Chief Powhatan, also known as Wahunsenacah. According to Smith’s account, he was about to be put to death when he was saved by the chief’s young daughter of age 10 or 11, Pocahontas, who placed herself between him and his executioners.

A painting of said event.

For larger image, click here.

A few years later she learned English and converted to Christianity — while held in “friendly” captivity by the British — and took the name Rebecca. 

John Rolfe, a prominent tobacco farmer in the Jamestown area, asked for and received permission to marry her from both her father Chief Powhatan and the Virginia governor. 

This was a pretty radical move in 1614, a white Brit marrying an Indian princess — but it bought a few years of peace in the region, which is probably one of the primary reasons everyone was good with it.

She bore him a son the following year and in 1616 they traveled back to his home in England. Things went well until they didn’t:

In the spring of 1616 Pocahontas, her husband, their one-year-old son, Thomas, and a group of other Native Americans, men and women, sailed with Governor Dale to England. There she was entertained at royal festivities. The Virginia Company apparently saw her visit as a device to publicize the colony and to win support from King James I and investors. While preparing to return to America, Pocahontas fell ill, probably with an upper respiratory ailment (though some historians believe that she may have contracted smallpox or dysentery). Her illness took a turn for the worse and interrupted her return voyage before her ship left the River Thames. She died in the town of Gravesend at about age 21 and was buried there on March 21, 1617. Afterward her husband immediately returned to Virginia; her son remained in England until 1635, when he went to Virginia and became a successful tobacco planter.

She was just 21 when she died — but in all honesty, that sounds like one adventure-filled life.

By 1622 nearly everyone at Jamestown was dead, murdered in a surprise raid by the Powhatan tribe — her father had passed in 1618, this was not on him — in what came to be known as the Jamestown Massacre

Hmm, I wonder if they showed that in the Disney movie… 

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Ella Fitzgerald, “Misty”, Plus the Original by Erroll Garner


One of the most beautiful songs ever recorded

My own preference by a very slight margin is the Sarah Vaughn version, but both are unbelievably great.

Written by pianist Erroll Garner in the early 50s, and originally recorded by him without vocals. Here he is on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1961. 

Pure beauty. 

Imagine, if you can, being so good at singing, and voice control, that you can sing that melody.


Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Porsche Air-Cooled Engine: How it Works


The basics of how air-cooled engines work as oppposed to water-cooled are pretty simple: air-cooled must keep cool air flowing over the motor to keep it at normal operating temperature, since it has no radiator or coolant as water-cooled motors do.

But how, exactly, do they do that? And where does heat for the passenger compartment come from?

Here’s how.

Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Slavery Refresher, Barbary Pirates Edition

We’ve all heard about Barbary Pirates, but other than the U.S. Marines defeating them in the early 1800s, what do we really know about that era?

Well, it lasted over 300 years, from 1500-1815 more or less, and during that time the Barbary Pirates captured lots of loot but also lots of people and either enslaved them or sold them into slavery.

One historian estimates that 1.5 million Europeans were enslaved in this way. The slave trade was a thriving business.

Did you know that Barbary Pirates raided towns as far away as Ireland to capture slaves? Neither did I.

And if you’ve ever heard the term “galley slave” but were unsure exactly what that means, well … you won’t be unsure any more. Think about living that life next time you’re having a bad day. The phrase “hell on earth” seems pretty close.

Slavery was not just common throughout the world for thousands of years, it was a major source of revenue for many of the richest people.

It was not invented in America in 1619.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Caro Emerald, Recent Discovery


A week ago Saturday while driving and listening to my excellent local jazz station KCCK 88.3 the jock played this great Latin Jazz tune, “A Night Like This” … 

Caroline Esmerelda van der Leeuw is from the Netherlands and sings Latin Jazz with a touch of R&B as part of Caro Emerald. 

Their debut album Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor, featuring this as one of the singles, went to #1 for 30 consecutive weeks on the Dutch charts in 2010, the longest run ever.

Here’s a full performance by them from 2010 at the North Sea Jazz Festival.

They released another album or two but sadly are no more.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Freddie King, “Hideaway”

This one song from 1960 launched him to legendary status over the next several years among white blues players like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Johnny Winter, and countless others.

I nearly always prefer these gritty, raw performances by the original artists, especially with this style of blues made famous by Freddie plus several others like Magic Sam (one of my favorites) and B.B. King.

They invented and perfected a variation on 1940s and 50s R&B dubbed West Side Blues, or Uptown Blues, with an uptempo, energetic, danceable groove, often featuring horns — and they are the best at it.

More about him, and the TV show he appeared on here, coming up over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Say Hi to Simba


He’s friendly and chill. He likes people and will let anyone pet him. Like a dog, in many ways.

Of course he likes sitting in boxes, and bags. Every cat seems to like this, and for us it’s endlessly entertaining. Put a box on the floor, wait a couple minutes, and he’s sitting in it. Just looking at you like “ha, look what I did!”

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

William Zinsser on Writing


Anyone who has ever had to write anything for anyone can gain something from these videos and the books they are drawn from.

Personally I have been through both of these journeys — to write well, and writing to learn — separately from these books.

Writing to learn, I discovered quite by accident, is the best reason to write, at least for me. Now I write to amuse and inform myself, I write to learn by researching and tying threads together, and I write to organize thoughts and test my own assumptions about a topic. It’s quite energizing and I feel like I understand a little bit more around the world around me every day.

You have to understand a topic to write clearly about it. If you find you have trouble writing about it, you probably don’t understand it well enough quite yet. That means go back and learn more, and then come back to the writing.

Of course a secondary goal is to entertain readers enough that they want to come back next time. But I find that, for me, if I flip the goals around and make that the primary goal, the magic goes out of it.

Writing to Learn

Top notch advice, all of that.

Then there’s the one thing every single human wishes they could do better: write well.

Believe it or not, everyone can become a much better writer by following some rules and being disciplined about cutting out unnecessary words. Use active voice and present tense. Eliminate long words when short ones will do. Etc.

Clarity is king.

It’s more of a craft than an art, and that means everyone can learn enough to be better.

Only prodigies can sit down and just write once and be done with it. Jack Kerouac famously did that with “On the Road”, writing the whole thing on a single sheet of rolled up paper. Put that out of your mind; it does not work like that.

Here’s how it does work. On Writing Well.

I have not read either of these books, but know the concepts within them very well. 

Monday, March 25, 2024

Elton John Turns 77 Today


Born on this day, March 25, in 1947

It’s easy to take an amazing artist like Elton John for granted, but he’s been a legend for 50+ years now and his music was a big part of my musical education as a teenager.

To pick just one year from his peak in the 1970s, these three songs are all from 1973, when he released two albums, “Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. Both reached #1 in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. Three singles reached either #1 or #2 in the US, and a fourth reached #12. 

It was a pretty solid year for him.

Always one of my favorite Elton John songs, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, live at Dodger Stadium, 1975.

Just Elton and piano, bringing the beauty of the melody of “Daniel” to the forefront.

I love the way he says “sure” without hesitation and just sits down to play this masterpiece that means so much to the guy in the audience as a tribute to his long gone dear friend.

For me the real difference maker was the quality of the album cuts, like “Blues for Baby and Me”. All of his albums in the early- and mid-70s had several such quality songs.

I could go on and on and on — we’ve only covered songs from 1973 here! 

A description of Elton John’s musical legacy from Wikipedia.

John has more than fifty top-40 hits on the UK Singles Chart and US Billboard Hot 100, including nine number ones in both countries, as well as seven consecutive number-one albums in the US. He has sold over 300 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He is the most successful solo artist in the history of the US Billboard charts. His tribute single to Princess Diana, "Candle in the Wind 1997", a rewritten version of his 1974 single, sold over 33 million copies worldwide and is the best-selling chart single of all time. In 2021, he became the first solo artist with UK Top 10 singles across six decades. Among John's numerous awards, he is one of 19 entertainers to win the EGOT, which includes an Emmy Award, five Grammy Awards, two Academy Awards, and a Tony Award. He also won two Golden Globes, a Laurence Olivier Award, and the Kennedy Center Honor. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, and is a fellow of The Ivors Academy. He was knighted by Elizabeth II for services to music and charity in 1998 and was appointed a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in 2020, being invested at Windsor Castle in 2021 by the Prince of Wales.

Seven consecutive number one albums.

His YouTube channel is chock full of great videos, and well worth digging into.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

The Silk Road

In 130 BC the Han Dynasty opened trade with the West, so this is considered the start date for the Silk Road and for truly global trade, but it had ancient origins even before that.

The Silk Road (a.k.a  “Silk Routes” because it was actually many trails, not just one road) was a major trade route for over 1500 years until it was blocked by the Ottoman Empire in 1453 due to a blockade against China.

When I was in school they talked about Marco Polo and the Silk Road together, quickly and superficially, but the Silk Road was open for 1400 years before Marco Polo, a mercantilist from Venice, explored the entire Asian world visiting many countries as the foreign emissary of Kublai Khan for over 20 years, from 1269-1291, and wrote a book about it, “The Travels of Marco Polo”. 

That book opened European eyes and culture to China and the “Far East”. 

During that same time frame, the 13th Century, the Mongol Empire expanded dramatically, extending from the Sea of Japan to the Mediterranean Sea, the largest contiguous land empire in history. The Silk Road, therefore, was completely controlled by one empire during the travels of Marco Polo.

The key driver of this explansion was Genghis Khan, grandfather of Kublai Khan.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Quotes by and about Willie Mays

Lots of good quotes by Willie, but I want to highlight this one:

I always enjoyed playing ball, and it didn't matter to me whether I played with white kids or black. I never understood why an issue was made of who I played with, and I never felt comfortable, when I grew up, telling other people how to act. Over the years, a lot of organizations have asked me to be their spokesman, or have wanted me to make speeches about my experiences as a black athlete, or to talk to Congressmen about racial issues in sports. But see, I never recall trouble. I believe I had a happy childhood. Besides playing school sports, we'd play football against the white kids. And we thought nothing of it, neither the blacks nor the whites. It was the grownups who got upset ... I never got into a fight that was caused by racism." In Say Hey : The Autobiography of Willie Mays (1988)

Exactly right. 

I am not a fan of “activists” and other troublemakers demanding that athletes and others in the public eye enlist their pet social causes. That’s using people, and it’s presumptuous and rude and arrogant as hell. 

More from the Say Hey Kid:

  • Baseball is a game, yes. It is also a business. But what it most truly is, is disguised combat. For all its gentility, its almost leisurely pace, baseball is violence under wraps.
  • I didn't think like that, about best seasons. What if you thought '97 was your best year — what would you do now? I never looked back. I couldn't dwell on last year's season. I always looked forward. I never worried about what other people were doing — except the guy I was playing against.
  • I can't tell you about moments because I wasn't into that. I just played every day and enjoyed what I was doing. When I made a great catch it was just routine. I didn't worry about it. Winning was important. Winning.

These quotes show that he was 100% dialed in. 

He had conquered the mental part of sports, which is always the hardest part to conquer. That’s a big part of being able to play for a long, long time, as he did.

Gil Hodges:

I can't very well tell my batters don't hit it to him. Wherever they hit it, he's there anyway.

And finally, Leo Durocher:

I never saw a f*cking ball get out of a f*cking ball park so f*cking fast in my f*cking life

LOL, well, it does get the point across!

Baseball Almanac has many, many baseball quotes here

I’ve written about Willie before, just use the search box at the right side of this page.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Today in 1871: The Search for Dr. David Livingstone Begins


Livingstone was a Scottish doctor, missionary, and explorer with extensive travels in Africa starting in 1840 who left the U.K. in 1865 to discover the source of the Nile. He was quite the leader and a true hero of the Victorian Age:

Livingstone was married to Mary Moffat Livingstone, from the prominent 18th-century Moffatt missionary family. Livingstone came to have a mythic status that operated on a number of interconnected levels: Protestant missionary martyr, working-class "rags-to-riches" inspirational story, scientific investigator and explorer, imperial reformer, anti-slavery crusader, and advocate of British commercial and colonial expansion. As a result, Livingstone became one of the most popular British heroes of the late 19th-century Victorian era.

Why was he so focused on finding the source of the Nile? He wanted to gain enough power to combat the evils of slavery, specifically the Arab slave trade: 

"The Nile sources", he told a friend, "are valuable only as a means of opening my mouth with power among men. It is this power [with] which I hope to remedy an immense evil."

More details on the Arab slave trade. Like most people, I was unaware until reading about this today that Livingstone’s primary motivation was ending slavery as part of his Christian missionary goals and lifestyle.

By 1871 he’d been gone 6 years with no word, and people were curious. So the publisher of the New York Herald sent a journalist named Henry Stanley to find him. 

Stanley himself had led an interesting life too:

At age 28, Stanley had his own fascinating past. As a young orphan in Wales, he crossed the Atlantic on the crew of a merchant ship. He jumped ship in New Orleans and later served in the Civil War as both a Confederate and a Union soldier before beginning a career in journalism. […] After setting out from Zanzibar in March 1871, Stanley led his caravan of nearly 2,000 men into the interior of Africa. Nearly eight months passed—during which Stanley contracted dysentery, cerebral malaria and smallpox—before the expedition approached the village of Ujiji, on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. Sick and poverty-stricken, Livingstone had come to Ujiji that July after living for some time at the mercy of Arab slave traders. When Stanley’s caravan entered the village on October 27, flying the American flag, villagers crowded toward the new arrivals. Spotting a white man with a gray beard in the crowd, Stanley stepped toward him and stretched out his hand: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

Livingstone led an amazing and adventurous life, and was one of the main early explorers of the entire African continent. He is buried at Westminster Abbey.

From Wikipedia, his travels from 1851 until his death in 1873, part of the Scramble for Africa.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

99 Years Ago and Still the Deadliest Tornado in U.S. History


March 18, 1925:  The Tri-State Tornado killed nearly 700 people

Estimated later to be an EF5 with winds topping 300MPH at times, it ripped through southeastern Missouri, southern Illinois, and southwestern Indiana following this track.


A small tornado that touched down near Ellington, Missouri gained momentum over the course of the afternoon. In the three-and-a-half hours that followed, it ballooned to record widths and speed. At one point, observers calculated that it was a full mile wide, and it maintained an average speed of 62 miles per hour and a top speed of 73 miles per hour.

The devastation in Illinois in particular is on a scale that is difficult to comprehend. 

  • Murphysboro:  243 dead, 623 injured (total of 866) and much of the town destroyed 
  • 541 dead and 1423 seriously injured in one 40 minute stretch in Murphysboro, De Soto, Hurst-Bush, and West Frankfort 
  • Multiple communities wiped completely off the map 

695 total dead, still the deadliest tornado, with the longest track (over 200 miles on the ground), 99 years later.

A collection of sobering photographs can be found at the NWS site for the 1925 Tri-State Tornado, like these:

Monday, March 18, 2024

Chris Rea, Still Making Good Music 46 Years Later


Chris Rea popped up out of nowhere it seemed with “Fool (If You Think It’s Over)” in 1978.

He wrote it for his little sister, who had just suffered her first heartbreak. 

Produced by Gus Dudgeon — Elton John’s legendary producer — it was “slicked up” and that helped it hit #1 for 3 straight weeks on the Adult Contemporary chart in America, but it was not really his style:

I've still got a piece of paper and on the original lyrics it says: ''Fool (If You Think It's Over).' Song for Al Green. 96 beats per minute. Al Jackson, drums.' And that's what 'Fool' was always meant to be. So, I don't know where that rhythm box came from. But we survived that."

Al Green!? I would love to hear what that could have turned into!

But he is a slide guitar player at heart, and that is the only song he’s ever recorded that he didn’t play guitar on. It got airplay on lots of different formats, but did squat in the UK, his home turf.

He fought against this dichotomy for several years, drifting a bit musically and getting away from the bluesy, soulful, guitar-based sound he was more comfortable with. This interesting interview explains that and more.

Chris eventually rediscovered his roots with songs like this from 1986.

He says the song is about where he and his (future) wife consummated. Good to know!

“The Road to Hell” has 33M views on Youtube right now, his most popular video.

“Chisel Hill” is one of his favorites, from the 1985 “Shamrock Diaries”, his comeback album, of sorts.

So the bottom line is, his only big American hit is really not who he is, even though it's a pretty good song, and if you like him at all, his other output is worth checking out on YouTube or a streaming service.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Why So Many Conifers Up North?


I’ve always wondered about this… obviously the short answer is “because they adapt to the northern habitat better than deciduous trees”, but why is that, exactly?

A good short intro on the differences between the two types.

More nerdy details in this one.

Conifers are cone-bearing seed plants …

The great majority are trees, though a few are shrubs. Examples include cedars, Douglas-firs, cypresses, firs, junipers, kauri, larches, pines, hemlocks, redwoods, spruces, and yews. [...]

Although the total number of species is relatively small, conifers are ecologically important. They are the dominant plants over large areas of land, most notably the taiga of the Northern Hemisphere, but also in similar cool climates in mountains further south. Boreal conifers have many wintertime adaptations. The narrow conical shape of northern conifers, and their downward-drooping limbs, help them shed snow. Many of them seasonally alter their biochemistry to make them more resistant to freezing. While tropical rainforests have more biodiversity and turnover, the immense conifer forests of the world represent the largest terrestrial carbon sink. Conifers are of great economic value for softwood lumber and paper production.

Deciduous meanwhile

In the fields of horticulture and botany, the term deciduous means "falling off at maturity"and "tending to fall off", in reference to trees and shrubs that seasonally shed leaves, usually in the autumn; to the shedding of petals, after flowering; and to the shedding of ripe fruit. The antonym of deciduous in the botanical sense is evergreen.

Generally, the term "deciduous" means "the dropping of a part that is no longer needed or useful" and the "falling away after its purpose is finished". In plants, it is the result of natural processes. "Deciduous" has a similar meaning when referring to animal parts, such as deciduous antlers in deer, deciduous teeth (baby teeth) in some mammals (including humans); or decidua, the uterine lining that sheds off after birth.

Friday, March 15, 2024

18th Century Wooden Warships and How Were They Built


Always been fascinated by sailing ships in general and especially warships… 

Meanwhile if you ever use expressions like “carried away”, “mainstay”, or “bitter end”, you’re using old sailing expressions without realizing it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard


God Save Us From Regulators

I’ve always questioned the overall wisdom of adding ethanol to fuel, for several reasons, but Engineering Explained really dives into numbers and studies and other details. It’s not a pretty picture.

“Regulators” promised it would cut CO2 emissions, but it’s not at all clear that is the case, and use of ethanol might even generate more CO2.

He takes the idea of regulators seriously in order to dissect the particulars of how it’s working out, and I’m glad he does, because those questions definitely need answers. Somebody needs to nail their foot to the floor on these prognostications and prescriptions. God knows nobody else will do it.

But I often like to back up even further and wonder about the very idea of “regulators”, because over many decades we have been conditioned to bestow unearned respect on regulators, the same respect we give Science. 

You know, serious, smart, sober guys with white lab coats who are only interested in uncovering Truth. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Peru’s Geography is Amazing


Deserts, Rainforest, Mountains, Volcanos … The List Goes On and On

Ancient Incan cities too. And terraces for farming on mountainsides. Nazca lines in the desert.

Something for everyone!

Monday, March 11, 2024

The Three Degrees


Seems Hotter Than That

Most everyone knows their biggest hit “When Will I See You Again” from 1974.

It hit the Top 10 in the U.S. and #1 for two consecutive weeks in the U.K., making them the first female group to do that since The Supremes ten years earlier in 1964.

From the same album, “Year of Decision”.

Here’s one from the following year, “Take Good Care of Yourself” from 1975. How this song was not a hit in the U.S., I do not understand. It was a Top 10 hit in the U.K. however.

This song is instantly recognizable to anyone who was alive in 1973, TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) by MFSB — legendary house band for Philadelphia International Records — and featuring The Three Degrees on vocals. 

They did another version that became the theme song for Soul Train, also called TSOP. I love this song. 

Sunday, March 10, 2024

107 Years Ago, Czarist Russia Era Ended by Revolution


Things Did Not Go Well After That for the Romanovs

Czar Nicholas II had a tumultuous reign from his coronation in 1896.

A few days after his coronation in 1896, nearly 1,400 of his subjects died during a huge stampede. They had gathered on a large field in Moscow to receive coronation gifts and souvenirs, but the day ended in tragedy. It was a disturbing beginning to Nicholas’ reign, and his bungled response earned him the nickname “Nicholas the Bloody.” 

The devastation from The Great War is hard to wrap one’s brain around.

Then, in 1914, Russia was drawn into World War I but was unprepared for the scale and magnitude of the fighting. Nicholas’ subjects were horrified by the number of casualties the country sustained. Russia had the largest number of deaths in the war—over 1.8 million military deaths, and about 1.5 million civilian deaths.

The war eroded whatever semblance of control Nicholas still had over the country. Without men at home to farm, the food system collapsed, the transportation system fell apart, and the people began to riot.

3,300,000 casualties … the highest number ever suffered by any nation in any war in human history at the time. Russia surpassed it’s own record in WWII with over 20,000,000 casualties. These numbers seem largely incomprehensible today.

The revolution began on March 8, 1917 with rioting and demonstrations escalating into violent armed conflict and within days the government collapsed.

The imperial government was forced to resign, and the Duma formed a provisional government that peacefully vied with the Petrograd Soviet for control of the revolution. On March 14, the Petrograd Soviet issued “Order No. 1,” which instructed Russian soldiers and sailors to obey only those orders that did not conflict with the directives of the Soviet. The next day, March 15, Czar Nicholas II abdicated the throne in favor of his brother Michael, whose refusal of the crown brought an end to the czarist autocracy.

The new provincial government, tolerated by the Petrograd Soviet, hoped to salvage the Russian war effort while ending the food shortage and many other domestic crises. It would prove a daunting task. Meanwhile, Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik revolutionary party, left his exile in Switzerland and crossed German enemy lines to return home and take control of the Russian Revolution.

Lenin takes control, and the Romanovs are murdered a few months later.

Finally, late at night on July 17, 1918, the Romanov family was awoken and told to get ready for another move. Still hoping to escape, the women packed up their things and put on clothing into which they had sewn precious jewelry, religious icons and a large amount of money. Then, unexpectedly, their captors turned on them, attacking them first with bullets, then with the butts of guns, bayonets and even their own heels and fists. All seven of the Romanovs—and the last gasp of the Russian monarchy—were dead.

What may have looked like an impromptu murder was in fact a carefully planned act of violence. For days, the Romanovs’ Bolshevik captors had been preparing the house for the murder, including stocking up on benzene with which to burn the corpses and sulfuric acid with which to maim them beyond recognition.

More on the executions. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Break-Up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 1800s


Chaotic European History

How chaotic? This chaotic.

It’s important to understand that much of the instability in the modern world is due to the mess that Europe was, and created around the world over centuries, and owns still to this day.  

Tuesday, March 05, 2024

LOL with Ozzy Man


This guy always makes me laugh

Monday, March 04, 2024

Supertramp’s First Breakout Album


Crime of the Century from 1974

Most bands, even top bands with excellent musicians, only have one or two really, really good albums in them — and for Supertramp, formed in 1970, this is definitely one of them.

The singles “Dreamer” and “Bloody Well Right” had some success but several other songs either received airplay on AOR stations or should have, such as “School” and my favorite, “Hide in Your Shell”. 

The album itself sold very well in Canada, the UK, Australia, and Germany, and hit #38 in the US.

“Hide in Your Shell”

The band had struggled to hit their stride in years prior, due to shifting lineups and trying to create a defining sound, both of which changed dramatically in 1973 when they found the lineup that worked and when one of the co-leaders and main songwriters Roger Hodgson started using electric piano to fuel his creativity. This album is the result.

Seemed to work pretty well.

Hide in Your Shell, School, and Dreamer were all written by Roger Hodgson. Turns out he had written a lot of great material a few years earlier, when he was 19, including Dreamer and two of the best-known songs that the band would not record until several years later for Breakfast in America (the title track and “The Logical Song”). 

This interview with him is well worth reading. It shows that he already had formed a lot of pretty mature views for a 19 year old. 

His lyrics work especially well for teens and young adults who are starting to question their place in the world. That’s exactly where I was when this band was popular in the late 70s, and this album in particular bings to mind a very specific time and place in my life, and pleasant memories with one particular friend, who loved this band and this album in particular.


Sunday, March 03, 2024

This Week in 1872: Yellowstone Named First National Park


March 1, 1872

First explored by John Colter starting in 1807, on his return trip from the Lewis and Clark Expedition. 

He is considered the first “mountain man” and so by definition he led quite the adventurous life, establishing trade with several Indian tribes and escaping an attack by the Blackfeet tribe by running naked and bloodied through the wilderness until his lone pursuer nearly caught him, only to be killed by Colter (later known as “Colter’s Run” in a retelling by Washington Irving and others).

When he finally returned to St. Louis in 1810 he told tales of steam rising from the Earth — describing geysers — which many people of course did not believe, coining the derisive term “Colter’s Hell” to describe it.

The area would remain largely untouched and un-explored until 1871:

The key to Yellowstone’s future as a national park, though, was the 1871 exploration under the direction of the government geologist Ferdinand Hayden. Hayden brought along William Jackson, a pioneering photographer, and Thomas Moran, a brilliant landscape artist, to make a visual record of the expedition. Their images provided the first visual proof of Yellowstone’s wonders and caught the attention of the U.S. Congress.

Within months it was declared the first national park.

A 45 minute National Geographic video:

Friday, March 01, 2024

New Music Friday: Mild Orange

Mild Orange, “Freak in Me”

I love the groove in this tune, and the way it slowly adds layer upon layer of guitars. Just a cool sound, that is relaxing yet energetic at the same time. That’s kind of their thing, apparently.

Mild Orange is four guys from New Zealand who met in college and formed the band in 2016. From Wikipedia

Mild Orange originates from Dunedin, New Zealand. The band was originally formed by early childhood friends Josh Mehrtens and Josh Reid who met in kindergarten and by chance met again in university, and later joined by Tom Kelk and Jack Ferguson. All four members hold degrees from the University of Otago. [...] According to the band, the name Mild Orange was chosen because 'The colour orange can cause one to experience a heightened sense of optimism, a boost in aspiration, and a stimulation of warmth and happiness

Here they are live and acoustic. I like how they let the music “breathe” by leaving a little space between the notes.

Found via YouTube which can be a great way to discover quality bands and musicians that are worth hearing. Here is the Mild Orange channel.