Afternoon Music Selections

Ann and I were in the living room yesterday, and I called up YouTube on the TV. It’s one of the things you can do with a modern TV and wifi. She wasn’t really paying attention, since she had her smaller electronic gizmo handy, so I decided to play “Telstar.” The video shows mostly unrelated space images, but never mind. I thought it might get her attention.

I was right. “What is that?” she asked. Or maybe it was, “What is that?” But I don’t think she really wanted an answer.

After it was over, naturally I had to play the Tornados’ “Robot,” whose Scopitone doesn’t look very good on a bigger screen. But the YouTube poster’s (in 2006!) description is apt: “Tornados rock the twang in a back-woods sci-fi robotic dance party! And then kiss girls!”

She wasn’t impressed by that, either.

If it had occurred to me, I would have dialed up “Trans-Europe Express” (English or German). It’s been 40 years this month since the album of that name was released. Of course I didn’t hear about it at the time, but in the early ’80s, and even then I had no idea that it had been received so well by critics, for what that’s worth. All I know is I’ve always liked it.

When I looked it up recently, I was surprised to learn that the Trans-Europe Express, as in the train system TEE, doesn’t exist any more. Probably because I confused it with the TGV, which is very much still around.

Or maybe I could have played Kraftwerk’s “Tour de France,” another fun tune from some other zone, or “Beatbox” by Art of Noise. If your children don’t think you’re just a little strange, you aren’t trying very hard.

Peanut Butter, Honey & Banana

Around lunchtime today, I had a hankering for a peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich. It had been good while. All of the ingredients were on hand, so voila!

I don’t take nearly enough pictures of the food I’m about to eat, so here it is. (I don’t think it’ll end up on Facebook, though.)

peanut butter, honey and bananaTom’s Tabooley in Austin used to serve a dandy pdh&b sandwich for a very modest price, at least it did in the summer of 1981, when I would eat there occasionally. I checked today and discovered that Tom’s Tabooley has closed. That didn’t surprise me — that’s the way it is in the restaurant trade — but what did surprise me was that it closed in 2016.

As I enjoyed my homemade pbh&b creation, it occurred to me that Elvis was fond of them, too. Or at least I thought I’d read that some years ago in Amazing But True Elvis Facts by Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo (1995), which I picked up on a remainder table sometime in the late ’90s. I know that because the price tag on the back of the book says, “Originally $6.95 SALE PRICE $.97,” a bargain for sure.

So I checked. I wasn’t quite right. Memory is an unreliable narrator. P. 59: “At home, [Elvis] loved the munch a sandwich of peanut butter, sliced bananas, and crisp bacon.”

In the same book, p. 143, you can also discover that, “Elvis’s favorite film was Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. It featured one of the King’s favorite actors, Peter Sellers, in three different roles. Elvis watched the 1964 British-made film at least fifty times in his life.”

Remarkable, considering he only lived to be 41. Apocryphal or not, that “amazing true Elvis fact” makes me smile.

Thursday’s This & That & Maybe the Other

Last night was clear and below freezing. I was out at about 10 and noticed Orion out for his evening stroll, way off to the southwest. He’ll be gone for the warm months soon.
I suspect I might not ever see him standing on his head again. That was a marvel to those of us used to the northern array of stars.

Years ago, my friend Stephen Humble told me that Turkish, which he studied to entertain himself, had distinct words for “this” and “that” but also “the other.” I’ve never verified that. I don’t think I will. Absolute certainty about small things is overrated. I overrate it myself.

Here’s one way, among so very many, to realize how little you really know: watch a few episodes of Only Connect. Then again, some of the clues are like those given in crossword puzzles sometimes, so vague as to be worthless. At least that’s why I believe I’ve never had much use for crosswords.

For something completely different, listen to a few songs by the Chickasaw Mudd Puppies. I like that name. Apparently they had their moment in Athens, Ga., in the early ’90s. Their sound reminds me of some of the live music in Nashville in the mid-80s, which inspires a touch of nostalgia.

Today I read that there aren’t any Goodyear Blimps any more. Not really. Goodyear now markets itself with semirigid dirigibles, which will be called blimps anyway. I would ride in a semirigid dirigible, certainly, but that isn’t quite the same as a blimp, is it?

Thursday Flotsam

I think I was in the 8th grade when I learned the different between flotsam and jetsam. Mr. Allen’s English class. He was firm in his belief that you should learn things in school. I suppose most teachers feel that way, but he was particularly adamant. Once a wiseacre named Tim asked Mr. Allen why anyone had to learn what he was teaching. “Because if you don’t know it, you’ll be ignorant,” was his answer.

Saw La La Land recently. It was everything it needed to be. Namely, skillfully made and visually appealing light entertainment, with an especial fine use of the Griffith Observatory as a setting, and an ending a bit above the usual formula. A lot else has been written about it, of course. Endless commentary. As far as I’m concerned, that’s overthinking the matter.

My parents’ and grandparents’ generations weren’t right about everything, but I think they had a healthy take on song-and-dance movies. Mostly light entertainment, though there was the song that was just as powerful a weapon as any cannon or battleship in the First World War.

Speaking of war, after posting about the evacuation of Fort Moultrie on December 26, 1860, I found the digital version of The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies to see if Maj. Anderson’s telegram was indeed the first item in that sprawling compendium. It is.

I was amused by the second item, also a telegram, dated December 27.

Major Anderson, Fort Moultrie:
Intelligence has reached here this morning that you have abandoned Fort Moultrie, spiked your guns, burned the carriages, and gone to Fort Sumter. It is not believed, because there is no order for any such movement. Explain the meaning of this report.
— J.B. Floyd, Secretary of War

Or as Sec. Floyd might have said privately, “The deuced you say! He did what?” Three days later, Floyd resigned as Secretary of War, and is remembered — when he’s remembered at all — for suspicious behavior in that office, at least as far as the Union was concerned, and as an incompetent Confederate general.

General Floyd, the commanding officer, who was a man of talent enough for any civil position was no soldier, and possibly, did not possess the elements of one. He was further unfitted for command for the reason that his conscience must have troubled him and made him afraid. As Secretary of War, he had taken a solemn oath to maintain the Constitution of the United States and uphold the same against all enemies. He had betrayed that trust.
— Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

Recommended eatery in Charleston: Bluerose Cafe.

Bluerose Cafe

I started looking for dinner a bit late on a Friday night, and went to one place I’d found on Google maps. It was jammed, and more importantly, so was its parking lot. I went to my second choice. It too was full. Facing the possibility of fast food, which I didn’t really want, I headed back toward to hotel, when I noticed the Bluerose. Plenty of parking there.

The restaurant wasn’t packed either. In fact, at about a half hour before closing, only one table was occupied, with a fellow eating at a counter, and a hostess/waitress behind the counter. The place was simply decorated, but not drab, and the longer I looked around, the more I started noticing Irish touches, such as the sign that said, Céad Míle Fáilte (a hundred thousand welcomes).

I sat at the counter as well, and the man eating there said, “I’ll get you something as soon as I’m finished. I haven’t had a chance to eat all day.”

He had a distinct Irish brogue. Turned out he was Denis O’Doherty, the proprietor. I told him not to hurry. We talked a bit, and he told me that he’d come to the United States a good many years ago, living in Boston quite a while, but in Charleston for the last 13 years or so, running the Bluerose. People get around.

I ordered the pan fried flounder before too long, and Mr. O’Doherty went back to the kitchen, which is visible from the counter, to prepare it. While he was at work on that, a woman came in and ordered some food to go, and talked a while with Denis as she sat at the counter. A regular customer. I got the feeling that the place had a lot of regular customers.

He didn’t let the talk distract him too much, because when I got my fish, it was superb. Which was the exact word I used when he asked how the fish was. Sometimes, when it comes to finding good food on the road — even in the age of Yelp and Tripadvisor and all that ya-ya — you just have to get lucky.

Xmas Oddities

From the December 21, 1976 episode of Laverne & Shirley, “Christmas at the Booby Hatch” or “Oh Hear the Angels’ Voices.”

Featuring Michael McKean (Lenny) and David L. Lander (Squiggy). I don’t think I saw it 40 years ago — I only watched the show intermittently — but nothing every really goes away on the Internet.

Next, “Ríu Ríu Chíu,” as sung by the Monkees on their show on Christmas Day 1967.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t see that when originally shown either. But it was an inspired choice for the Prefab Four.

Finally, something not about Christmas: “Sailing to Philadelphia” (2000), sung by Mark Knopfler and James Taylor. It’s about Jeremiah Dixon and Charles Mason.

We are sailing to Philadelphia
A world away from the coaly Tyne
Sailing to Philadelphia
To draw the line
A Mason-Dixon Line

Just how many songs are there about the Mason-Dixon Line? One, anyway. I happened across it not long ago. A delightful discovery.

The B. Harley Bradley House

I wondered recently, when did I first hear about the small Illinois city — or maybe the large Illinois town — of Kankakee? (Pop. 27,000 or so.) Not a very urgent question, since there’s usually no reason to remember when you first heard of most places — and no way you can remember. With a few exceptions in my case, such as Stevens Point, Wis., which I never heard of till Mu Alpha Theta held its national meeting there in 1978, which I attended.

Even so, I’ll bet I heard of Kankakee because it was in the lyrics of “The City of New Orleans” in the early ’70s, so artfully written by Steve Goodman, so memorably sung by Arlo Guthrie. “Kankakee” makes a clever rhyme with “odyssey.”

All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
And rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passing trains that have no names
And freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobile.

A lot of people could probably say that’s where they heard about Kankakee. Even some Germans. Years ago, my friend Rich played a German-language version of the song for me. Apparently it too was popular. In our time, those lyrics are easy to look up.

Auf seiner Odyssee nach Süden passiert der Zug Kankakee,
rollt an Häusern, Farmen und Feldern vorbei,
passiert andere namenlosen Züge,
Abstellplätze voller alter farbiger Männer
und verrostete Autofriedhöfe.

More recently, the Bradley House in Kankakee came to our attention. In full, the B. Harley Bradley House, vintage 1900.
The B. Harley Bradley HouseIt doesn’t take too much looking to see that Frank Lloyd Wright did the house. One of the first ones — the docent claimed the first one, others claim differently — done in his distinctive Prairie School. I can’t comment authoritatively which was first, and I don’t really care, but even so the house was interesting enough for a day trip.
The B. Harley Bradley HouseThe house, and the one next to it — the Warren Hickox House (behind it in the pic above), another Wright design that’s still a private residence — are in the the western edge of the town’s Riverview Historic District. The neighborhood features large old houses in various states of repair, but no others like these two.

The Bradley House is also close to the Kankakee River.
Kankakee RiverDuring the tour, I asked the docent whether flooding had ever been an issue — as it has with the Farnsworth House — but apparently the Kankakee isn’t as testy as the Fox River, at least at that place.

The house has had a long string of owners over the last century-plus. Within living memory, for instance, it was a well-known local restaurant, The Yesteryear. For a considerable time in the early to mid-20th century, a wealthy man named Joseph H. Dodson owned the place. He was a bird lover and used the house’s stable, which is now the gift shop, as a bird house factory. It seems that Dodson bird houses were quite an item at one time.

Then there’s the sad story of Stephen B. Small. Another wealthy Kankakee resident, he acquired the property in the mid-80s and set about to restore it. That came to a halt in 1987 when he was kidnapped and buried in a box whose air tube wasn’t large enough to supply him enough air, and so he died (both kidnappers are still in the jug).

More recently, through various twists and turns, the house came to be owned by a nonprofit that’s aiming to pay down its mortgage. Our little part in that was paying for the tour, along with buying a postcard an a refrigerator magnet.

I did not, however, want to pay $5 to take interior pictures, which wouldn’t have turned out all that well anyway. The interior restoration, completed only in 2010, restored the place to its 1901 appearance. A nice bit of work: long halls, spacious rooms (except for the servants’ quarters), wooden floors, art glass in the windows, and the kind of alcoves and recesses and the like you associate with Wright, though few low ceilings. Guess this was before, as The Genius, he could insist on ceilings fit only for short people.

Thursday Natterings, But Not From Nabobs of Negativism

I woke the heater up yesterday from its summertime hibernation, mainly to see whether it would wake up and blow hot air, which is all I ask of it. Fortunately, the machine snapped to its single job without any complaint, such as some weird noise I don’t want to hear. The previous night had been quite cool, as they are starting to be, lowering the house temp to 69 F. My test took it up to 70 F. Normally I keep the house at 68 F. when it’s cold outside.

I saw the first Halloween decorations in the neighborhood the other day when walking the dog. It was a small faux cemetery in a front yard, featuring hand-painted sturdy cardboard (or cheap wood) tombstones. I don’t remember what any of them said.

Probably not Here Lies Les Moore. No Les, No Moore. I think I saw that in a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not collection years ago. That one I believe. Sounds like frontier humor to me.

Another remarkable collection of recent space photos from the Atlantic. As the intro notes, “We [as in, mankind] currently have spacecraft in orbit around the Sun, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, a comet, Jupiter, and Saturn; two operational rovers on Mars; and a recent close flyby of Pluto.”

Closer to home, here are two signs I saw recently in Chicago.

That’s a little alarming. I can think of a lot better places to pass the future. The only future I want from McDougall’s are occasional breakfast sandwiches.

Dirt cheap, eh? And what do your beneficiaries get? Enough to pay for the dirt that covers you, maybe.

The last Weaver is gone. Fred Hellerman died recently, I just learned. Time then to listen to the re-union Weavers sing “Get Up and Go.”

One more thing: I don’t think I’ve ever seen olives packed this way before. A Trader Jose offering, as the package tells us.

olives

I opened them today at lunchtime. Not bad at all.

Pappy Lee O’Daniel

The day after I visited LBJ’s boyhood home, I discovered this tucked away at my mother’s house.

Pappy Lee O'DanielIt’s a campaign card for W. Lee O’Daniel. It’s clear that it dates from his first run for governor of Texas, which was in 1938. Why my mother kept this, I couldn’t say. I don’t remember her ever saying anything about “Pappy” Lee O’Daniel, and in any case she herself never voted for him, since she wasn’t old enough.

On the back are the lyrics to three stanzas of “Beautiful Texas,” a song pretty much lost to time, but written by W. Lee O’Daniel, the singing, flour-making governor of Texas from 1938 (he won the election and re-election two years later) to 1941, when he became a U.S. Senator by being the only person to best LBJ in an election (not counting 1960 primaries). All in all, one of Texas’ more interesting governors.

Beautiful Texas by Pappy Lee O'DanielIf he sounds familiar, it’s because the Coen brothers borrowed the name, an association with flour, and hillbilly music for the governor of Mississippi character played memorably by Charles Durning in O Brother Where Art Thou?

Why? Because they’re the Coen brothers. Presumably they were amused by the idea of a flour-merchant governor with hillbilly music on his side. For a couple of gentlemen from Minnesota, that shows a remarkably granular interest in Texas history, even if they put the fictional Pappy in an alt-universe, Coen brothers-flavored Mississippi.

“Moral fiber? I invented moral fiber! Pappy O’Daniel was displaying rectitude and high-mindedness when that egghead you work for was still messing his drawers!” — the fictional Pappy O’Daniel.

Another Round of Thursday Bagatelle

I saw Travels With My Aunt (1972) not long ago. Like a fair number of movies, I’d have to say that the book is better, though the movie wasn’t bad. Then again, I’ve forgotten most of the book, since I read it at least 25 years ago.

I was startled to see Cindy Williams as the young American on the Orient Express. She was merely a young actress at the time, but even so I kept expecting to see Penny Marshall show up. Such is the conditioning effect, even after 40 years, of mediocre sitcoms; you just can’t get rid of them. Yet even that show had a few charms, which are best watched in the form of a YouTube video collections of Lenny & Squiggy entrances. Or if you like, the setups and then their entrances. The two were the butt of essentially the same joke for years.

Apparently Teen Spirit deodorant is a real thing. I saw some at a dollar store a while ago. I had no idea is was an actual product. Entertainment lore has it that the product inspired the song name, not the other way around. On its label it promised a “girly” smell.

Naturally the Greek exhibit at the Field Museum ended with a gift shop. We poked around and I found a small owl statue for Yuriko, who’s fond of owls, but I didn’t find any postcards. I asked the clerk about it, and she posited that note cards, which the shop carried, would sell better. Nuts to that.

Someone will be the new President of the United States a year from now, so I took a look at the oddsmakers at Paddypower. That outfit calls itself “Ireland’s biggest, most successful, security conscious and innovative bookmaker.”

Hillary Clinton remains the favorite, according to Irish bookies: 5/6. Much more astonishingly, at least in historical terms, Donald Trump is next at 7/2. Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders are at 6/1. Ted Cruz, 11/1. Jeb Bush’s many donors must be steamed that he’s 22/1. Chris Christie, 33/1. Somehow Mitt Romney is 100/1, same as Paul Ryan. Guess the scenario there is a brokered convention with either of those jamokes selected. In the can’t-get-anyone-to-notice them category are John Kasich, 125/1, and Martin O’Malley, 150/1.

I won’t bother with the others, except Rocky De La Fuente, at 300/1. Most Americans don’t know him, but I do, though I hadn’t realized he was in the race. He’s a real estate developer from San Diego, so I suppose that makes him the lesser-known real estate mogul running for president (the anti-Trump, and as a Democrat, in point of fact). I don’t know anything about his politics, but I will say he’s got a fun presidential name.

Hall of State, Fair Park

At one end of the Fair Park Esplanade is the Hall of State, a stately hall indeed. “The Hall of State, a museum, archive, and reference library, was erected in 1936 at a cost of about $1.2 million by the state of Texas at Fair Park in Dallas to house the exhibits of the Texas Centennial Exposition and the Greater Texas and Pan-American Exposition of 1937,” explains the Texas State Historical Association.
Hall of State, Fair Park“The structure, designed by eleven Texas architects, is characterized as Art Deco… The front is 360 feet long, and the rear wing extends back 180 feet… The walls are surfaced with Texas limestone. A carved frieze memorializing names of historical importance encircles the building. Carvings on the frieze display Texas flora.”

I went inside for a look, and soon was face-to-face — or maybe face-to-plinth — with six statues of early Texas luminaries: Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, Mirabeau B. Lamar, James Fannin, Thomas J. Rusk, and William B. Travis. Here’s Lamar (1798-1859), second president of the Republic of Texas, among other things.
MB LamarPompeo Coppini did the sculptures. I’d run across his work before at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. If it’s a monumental sculpture in Texas done in the early to mid-20th century, odds are he did it.

Then I entered Great Hall.
Hall of State, Great HallThe TSHA again: “The Great Hall, or the Hall of the Six Flags, in the central wing, has a forty-six-foot-high ceiling. Murals on the north and south walls depict the history of the state and its industrial, cultural, and agricultural progress. These were painted by Eugene Savage of New York.” I’d run across him before as well.

Great Hall, Hall of StateDuring my visit, the Great Hall happened to be sporting an exhibit about Texas musicians, and I will say that I learned that Meat Loaf was from Dallas, something I didn’t know. Actually I didn’t know much about many of the Texas musicians mentioned in the exhibit, such as various bluesmen and Western swing players and Tejano bands.

On the back wall of the Great Hall is a gold-leafed medallion with the Lone Star emblem of Texas surrounded by representations of the six nations whose flags have flown over the state.
Gold leaf!The United States and the Republic of Texas are at the top; the Confederacy and Mexico in the middle; and France and Spain on the bottom. The six together are a persistent theme in symbolic representations of modern Texas.