Rare/Alternative Christmas music 2018: Macy Gray’s call for social justice

December 19, 2018

Some encores from last year. Here’s one in a spasmodic series of posts on Christmas songs you probably haven’t heard a thousand times already, and may actually enjoy hearing. Got a song you’d like to suggest? Suggest it in comments.
Cover sleeve for Macy Gray's

Cover sleeve for Macy Gray’s “All I Want for Christmas.” Amazon image

This one speaks for itself, I think. From experience, I can tell you that playing this song can weed out the Trump supporters in your party attendance rather quickly.

Oddly, I think, it also brings out the dangerous elements of American society to complain about it, judging by comments at the site (go see; there are a lot more):

Grotesque comments at YouTube on Macy Gray's Christmas wishes.

Grotesque comments at YouTube on Macy Gray’s Christmas wishes.

Those thought zombies walk among us. Our cross to bear.

Gray didn’t include it on any album I’ve found.

More:

 

Advertisements

Damon Runyon, the Wright brothers, Eddie Rickenbacker, illegal flying, and “Silver bells”

December 18, 2018

[This is mostly an encore post, written two years ago, marking an anniversary for December 18]

Spent a day with my aging father-in-law last week. Conversation is difficult, but memories always flow. We watched the movie version of “Guys and Dolls,” with Sinatra and Brando, and Stubby Kaye’s get-up-and-sing version of “Sit Down! You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”

He was happy to see the thing again, though in the first few minutes he said he didn’t think he’d ever seen the film. My fondness for the piece, and for Damon Runyon’s stories, goes back (too many) decades to a production of the play by the Utah Valley Opera Society. They hired our high school drama director, David Larson, to direct. On a lark I auditioned, telling them I couldn’t really sing or dance, and ended up with a lot of lines in a couple of supporting roles, and singing and dancing both in the chorus.

When my father-in-law joined in the movie chorus of “Fugue for Tinhorns,” I knew we had a good couple of hours. We laughed, watched, reminisced, and sang along.

Damon Runyon could tell stories, true stories about real people. Sometimes the names were changed to protect the innocent, or the guilty; sometimes the real names were more entertaining than the fictional names Runyon invented.

Some time ago I stumbled across the story of Runyon’s son, Damon Runyon, Jr., using an early airplane to spread the playwright’s ashes. It’s a story Runyon would have appreciated. It’s appropriate for the day after the anniversary of the Wrights’ first flight; December 18 is the anniversary of the event.

On December 17, Orville and Wilbur Wright got their heavier-than-air flying contraption to actually fly with motor driving it along.

First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 1...

First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 17, 1903, Orville piloting, Wilbur running at wingtip. Photo from Wikipedia

On December 18, Damon Runyon, Jr., got Eddie Rickenbacker to fly over Broadway to scatter the ashes of his father, Damon Runyon.

First Lieutenant E. V. [Eddie] Rickenbacker, 9...

First Lieutenant E. V. [Eddie] Rickenbacker, 94th Aero Squadron, American ace, standing up in his Spad plane. Near Rembercourt, France. Photo from Wikipedia. This photo dates near World War I; Rickenbacker remained a hero for a couple of decades. In 1946, he flew a DC-3 over New York City, and illegally scattered the ashes of raconteur Damon Runyon over his beloved Broadwary.

Not exactly the next day. 43 years and one day apart.  The Wrights first flew in 1903; Runyon died in 1946.

Today in Literature, for December 18:

On this day in 1946 Damon Runyon’s ashes were scattered over Broadway by his son, in a plane flown by Eddie Rickenbacker. Runyon was born in Manhattan, Kansas; he arrived at the bigger apple at the age of thirty, to be a sportswriter and to try out at Mindy’s and the Stork Club and any betting window available his crap-shoot worldview: “All of life is six to five against.” Broadway became his special beat, and in story collections like Guys and Dolls he developed the colorful characters — Harry the Horse, the Lemon Drop Kid, Last Card Louie — and the gangster patois that would swept America throughout the thirties and forties.

A lot of history packed in there.  Runyon’s early reportorial career included a lot of that history — he wrote the lead story for United Press on the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt, for one example.  Runyon found a uniquely American vein of literary ore on Broadway in New York City, and in the ne’er-do-wells, swells, tarts and reformers who flocked to the City that Never Sleeps to seek fame, or fortune, or swindle that fortune from someone else.

As a reporter and essayist, he smoked a lot.  Throat cancer robbed him, first of his voice, then his life at 56.

Runyon’s ashes were spread illegally over Broadway, from a DC-3 piloted by Rickenbacker. Runyon would have liked that.

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Factoids of history:

  • Twenty movies got crafted from Runyon stories, including “The Lemon Drop Kid” — in two versions, 1934 and 1951. Appropriate to the Christmas season, the 1951 version introduced the song, “Silver Bells” composed by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. (Great explanation of the movie, and song, here.)
  • Runyon got fame first as a sports writer.  He was inducted into the writer’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967.
  • According to Wikipedia, Jerry Lewis and others owe a great debt to Damon Runyon:  “The first ever telethon was hosted by Milton Berle in 1949 to raise funds for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.”
  • One might salivate over the varied fare offered in the theaters of Broadway in 1946, Runyon’s final year, “Annie, Get Your Gun” through Shakespeare, and everything in between and on either side
  • Runyon and H. L. Mencken both covered the trial of Bruno Hauptmann, the accused (then convicted) kidnapper of Charles Lindbergh’s baby son
  • Yes, of course, “Guys and Dolls.” Frank Loesser created it, but not of whole cloth, but from the stories of Damon Runyon; it is a masterpiece, perhaps in several realms.  In homage to Runyon, Adam Gopnik wrote:

    Just as Chandler fans must be grateful for Bogart, Runyon fans have to be perpetually happy that the pure idea of Runyon, almost independent of his actual writings, produced the best of all New York musicals: Frank Loesser’s “Guys and Dolls,” which made its début in 1950 and is just now reopening on Broadway in a lavish and energetic new production. But then “Guys and Dolls” is so good that it can triumph over amateur players and high-school longueurs and could probably be a hit put on by a company of trained dolphins in checked suits with a chorus of girl penguins.

    Your author here, Dear Reader, was once one of those trained dolphins. It was magnificent.

“Silver Bells,” from “The Lemon Drop Kid,” with William Frawley, Virginia Maxwell and Bob Hope (1951 version):

More:

A view of New York City in 1946:

Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975)

Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975) “The Artist’s Show, Washington Square,” painted in 1946

Times Square, showing part of Broadway, in November 1946, from the magnificent archives of Life Magazine:

Brownout Time Square.November 1946.© Time Inc.Herbert Gehr - See more at: http://kcmeesha.com/2011/11/29/old-photos-times-square-through-the-years/#sthash.ru9W0F9h.dpuf

Brownout Time Square.November 1946.© Time Inc.Herbert Gehr – See more at: http://kcmeesha.com/2011/11/29/old-photos-times-square-through-the-years/#sthash.ru9W0F9h.dpuf

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

Save

Save


New Jersey flies flags for statehood, December 18, 2018

December 18, 2018

New Jersey's Capitol in Trenton, by Vagabond Voyage. Many complain it's difficult to get a good, nice looking photo of this building due to development around it. This photo is alleged to be one of the better photos possible.

New Jersey’s Capitol in Trenton, by Vagabond Voyage. Many complain it’s difficult to get a good, nice looking photo of this building due to development around it. This photo is alleged to be one of the better photos possible.

December 18 is New Jersey Statehood Day. 131 years ago, New Jersey became the third colony to ratify the Constitution, in 1787.

U.S. Flag Code encourages residents of each state to fly the U.S. flag on their state’s anniversary of statehood. New Jersey won consideration as the Third State, on December 18, 1787, by being the third colony to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Technically the U.S. did not come into existence until six more states ratified, but among the first 13 states, statehood dates are calculated traditionally as the day the colony ratified.

Does anyone in New Jersey celebrate it?

New Jersey's state flag. Just try to find photos of the U.S. flag and New Jersey flag flying together.

New Jersey’s state flag. Just try to find photos of the U.S. flag and New Jersey flag flying together.

New Jersey's Capitol Building and surroundings in Trenton, from across the Delaware River. U.S. flag can be seen flying at the Capitol. Wikipedia image.

New Jersey’s Capitol Building and surroundings in Trenton, from across the Delaware River. U.S. flag can be seen flying at the Capitol. Wikipedia image.

More:

  • Next Fly Your Flag dates: December 28 in Iowa, for Iowa statehood; December 29 in Texas, for Texas statehood.
  • Flags still fly half staff in memory of President George H. W. Bush; tradition and regulations say flags fly half-staff for 30 days after the death of a president, which puts flags at half staff until at least January 2, 2019

 

Save


115 years ago today, Wright Brothers slipped the surly bonds of Earth

December 17, 2018

Kill Devil Hills monument to theWright Brothers
Wikipedia description: Standing sixty feet (18.3 meters) tall and perched atop a ninety foot (27.4 meters) stabilized sand dune known as Kill Devil Hill, this monument towers over Wright Brothers National Memorial Park in Kill Devil Hills, NC. The park commemorates and preserves the site where the Wright brothers launched the world’s first successful sustained, powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine. The inscription that wraps around the base of the monument states “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. Conceived by genius, achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.” Photo by Ken Thomas, taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 in Dare County, NC, USA.

At this site, on December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright first achieved flight in a heavier-than-air machine.

“Surly bonds of Earth” refers to that poem written by the Canadian pilot, popular with the Air Force and almost every pilot I’ve ever known, “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

I am unaware of any proclamation for flag flying today, but you could have, had you wanted to and had you known.

More:

Banksy’s modern Nativity, revisited in 2018: Trump’s wall, and Jesus

December 16, 2018

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
==> Georges Santayana,
The Life of Reason, vol. 1: Reason in Common Sense)

Those who don’t pay attention to history are condemned to repeat it? Then, gods forbid we should have leaders among the condemned, and heaven keep us from joining their folly.

Hey, I’ve been putting this post up for most of a decade. It’s time for everyone to join Mr. Gorbachev, and tear down that wall. Which wall? That one. THAT one. Robert Frost noted, “Something there is that does not like a wall.” That something is God. Humanity. You. Your children. Act now.

Has there ever been a good wall that actually worked to keep trouble away? Do we need to rebuild the Berlin Wall in the Americas?

Thomas Nast helped bring down the crooks at Tammany Hall with cartoons. Boss Tweed, the chief antagonist of Nast, crook and leader of the Tammany Gang, understood that Nast’s drawings could do him in better than just hard hitting reporting — the pictures were clear to people who couldn’t read.

But a cartoon has to get to an audience to have an effect.

Here’s a cartoon below, a comment on the security wall being built in Israel, that got very little circulation in the west at Christmas time. Can you imagine the impact had this drawing run in newspapers in Europe, the U.S., and Canada?

It’s a mashup of a famous oil painting* related to the Christian Nativity, from a London-based artist who goes by the name Banksy. (Warning: Banksy pulls no punches; views shown are quite strong, often very funny, always provocative, generally safe for work unless you work for an authoritarian like Dick Cheney who wants no counter opinions.)

[That paragraph is a decade old; is there anyone who doesn’t know who Banksy is, today? Anyone besides me who didn’t see the movie?]

banksy-israels-wall-77721975_fda236f91a.jpg

Banksy’s modern nativity — does he ever bother to copyright his stuff, or would he rather you broadcast it?

*  At least I thought so in 2008.  I can’t find the painting now.  Anybody recognize a work underneath Banksy’s re-imagining?  Let us know in comments, eh?  Perhaps this one, by David Roberts?  Perhaps this engraving after Joseph M. W. TurnerTurner’s original? Plus, in 2008, most people said “Banksy who?”

Tip of the old scrub brush to Peoples Geography.

More, in 2011: 

More in 2012:

More in 2018:

 

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.


December 14, Alabama flies the flag for 199 years of statehood

December 14, 2018

U.S. and Alabama flags fly with the Moon and a rocket, at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Photo by Jerry Slaughter, via Pinterest

U.S. and Alabama flags fly with the Moon and a rocket, at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Photo by Jerry Slaughter, via Pinterest

Alabama joined the union on December 14, 1819, the 22nd state.

Under provisions of the U.S. Flag Code, residents of a state are encouraged to fly the U.S. flag on their respective statehood day.

Does Alabama commemorate its own statehood? Perhaps there are big celebrations planned for statehood day in 2019, the 200th anniversary of statehood.

More: 

Caption from LInn's Stamp News:

The stamp planned for Alabama’s Bicenntennial in 2019. Caption from LInn’s Stamp News: “Alabama Statehood. The 22nd state, Alabama, was admitted into the union on Dec. 14, 1819. The new stamp commemorating this bicentennial shows a photograph by Alabama photographer Joe Miller of sunset in Cheaha State Park, including a view of Talladega National Forest, which surrounds the park.”

 

Save

Save


Flags fly December 12 for Pennsylvania statehood

December 12, 2018

U.S. flag flies from the front portico of the Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The elaborate building was completed in 1906, and dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt, who called it one of the

U.S. flag flies from the front portico of the Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The elaborate building was completed in 1906, and dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt, who called it one of the “handsomest buildings I ever saw.” UncoveringPA.com

As the U.S. flag code suggests, flags fly in Pennsylvania today honoring Pennsylvania Statehood.

Pennsylvania’s convention ratified the U.S. Constitution on December 12, 1787, just days after Delaware. Pennsylvania’s ratification was the second of nine states’ required to put the Constitution into effect.

If there is any ceremony or formal celebration planned, I haven’t found it yet. Any Pennsylvanians know?

The capitol building recently underwent an extensive renovation worthy of a more-than-century-old building. Pennlive.com features drone footage of the building now.

Drone operator Matthew Dressler took to the skies recently for PennLive to capture a spectacular, birds-eye view of the Pennsylvania Capitol dome and complex. The Capitol, dedicated in 1906, was built and furnished for a cost of $13 million dollars and features paintings, stained glass and furnishings by some of the best artisans of the day. The exterior is faced with Vermont granite and the roof is made up of green glazed terra cotta tile. The 272-foot, 52 million-pound dome was inspired by Michelangelo’s design for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Capitol was the tallest building between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for 80 years.

Newly-renovated Pennsylvania Capitol dome and the U.S. flag. Image from Wohlsen Construction, who performed the renovations.

Newly-renovated Pennsylvania Capitol dome and the U.S. flag. Image from Wohlsen Construction, who performed the renovations.

More:


%d bloggers like this: