Thursday, March 31, 2016



I occasionally have difficulty explaining to people the reasons for my virulent opposition to asshat Donald Trump and his quest to become the Republican nominee for President of the United States. This state of affairs baffles me. All one has to do to know he is unfit for that office is listen to the man talk.

Trump's train wreck of an answer to a question about abortion yesterday will do untold damage to the pro-life movement for years to come, even if he isn't the GOP nominee.

That alone is reason enough for conservatives to pronounce anathema on him.

Not convinced? Well, how about the fact that Trump is the darling of the National Policy Institute, a "think-tank" devoted to promulgating white supremacy? That these "white nationalists" loathe the Constitution and revere Trump doesn't give you pause? Did I mention that he welcomes their support?

Or how about the fact that Trump has said he wouldn't rule out using nuclear weapons to retaliate for terror attacks? (This from the guy who famously doesn't know what the "nuclear triad" even is.)

"You need to change the subject before you have a conniption."

You may have a point...

Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'!

Original 1943 lobby poster
On March 31, 1943 the musical Oklahoma! opened at the St. James Theatre in Manhattan's Theater District. For lovers of theatre, it was a watershed event.

The first collaboration of the composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II marked the beginning of a creative partnership widely regarded as the greatest in the history of Broadway musicals.

The show itself was also groundbreaking, and became the model for subsequent "book" musicals. It's influence on musical theatre continues to this day.

The show remains a staple of high school and community theatre. When I was a sophomore in high school our school's production of Oklahoma! was the first live musical I had ever seen.

In a More Perfect World

From the indispensable comic strip Non Sequitur, by Wiley Miller, which you should read every day, as I do (even though Wiley is a squishy liberal).

Until Next Time...

This section of the blog is where I explain how various pieces of music and the artists who created them have figured prominently in my life to this point. More often than not, the material in this section also ties in to each particular day's date. Today I get to commemorate not one but two significant events in my musical life in this way.

On March 31, 1949 RCA introduced the vinyl 7-inch 45 rpm single format, which was designed to be a higher-fidelity replacement for 10-inch 78 rpm shellac discs. It quickly became the standard format for music singles, and remained so for more than 30 years. For a brief time, RCA even issued 45s that were color-coded based on the type of music they contained.

During the formative years of my music-listening life, the 45 rpm single was the only way I could go beyond my parents' collection of LP records and begin collecting and listening to my own preferred artists. Even after I got to a point where I could afford
to purchase full-length albums, 45 rpm singles remained an important part of my record collection. Sometimes you only wanted a particular song, you know?

Original 1958 45 rpm single

On March 31, 1958 (nine years later, to the day) Chess Records released Chuck Berry's single "Johnny B. Goode." It became Berry's fifth Billboard Hot 100 Singles Top 10 hit (peaking at No. 8), and his fourth No. 1 hit on the Hot R&B chart. It's importance far exceeded its chart performance, however.

It is one of most iconic songs in
rock and roll history, and has been covered by dozens of artists.

"Johnny B. Goode" was selected for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's collection 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. It was also selected for the Grammy Hall of Fame
in 1999.

Berry's signature hit was included on the Voyager Golden Record in 1977, meaning that when the Voyager 1 space probe reached the termination shock in December of 2004, "Johnny B. Goode" became the first rock and roll music to leave our solar system.

Today's send-off is the original 1958 monaural version of the song George Thorogood has called "The Rock and Roll National Anthem." Enjoy...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


The Real Problem

"Yeah, I'm destroying your political party. What's your point?"
I often struggle to find words to adequately express how dispiriting this political season continues to be.

Completely aside from the train wreck that is the Democratic side of the presidential campaign, there isn't
a day that goes by without some new reason to despair for the future of conservative ideas in our politics.

When the history of this particular political moment is written, I think much attention will be paid to what conservative author Kevin D. Williamson calls "The Stupid Psychopath Problem." I have long since given up on trying to explain support for asshat Donald Trump as being grounded in anything other than sheer stupidity. That criticism of his supporters' intellects often comes from the political Left does not make it any less true.

If you support this man, you're an idiot, politically speaking. And I'm done trying to reason with you...

Mind your own business, please...

Spring Training Angst

One of the toughest things about baseball spring training is trying to maintain one's perspective, regardless of the results.

Yesterday, for instance, RHP Yordano Ventura, last season's Opening Day starter, pitched four innings in a 16-10 win over the San Francisco Giants. Ventura surrendered 10 runs on 11 hits, and his ERA in spring training ballooned to 9.69. With the regular season starting this Sunday against the Mets, it is NOT encouraging to see a key member of our pitching staff getting knocked around like this...

"I'm sure it doesn't help that you're a pessimist by nature, either."

No, no it doesn't...

Warning Signs

From the delightfully off-kilter webcomic xkcd, by Randall Munroe, which you should read every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, as I do.

Until Next Time...

On March 30, 1945 Eric Patrick Clapton was born in Ripley, Surrey, England. To say that he went on to become a significant figure in popular music would be a preposterous understatement. He has sold tens of millions of records, received 18 Grammy Awards, and was given the CBE by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace in 2004.

Clapton is the only artist to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times. He was inducted as a member of The Yardbirds, as a member of the supergroup Cream, and as a solo artist. He is consistently at or near the top of every list of great rock guitarists.

For my own part, Eric's playing made me want to play guitar myself, but also discouraged me from pursuing that interest too ardently. Clapton was one of those guitarists whose playing was so masterful you simply couldn't imagine yourself ever getting even close to that skill level.

Cream released Wheels of Fire in August 1968, just as my sophomore year in high school was getting under way. Double albums were somewhat unusual in those days, but that didn't prevent this one from reaching No. 1 almost immediately on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. It also became the first double album to be certified platinum by RIAA.

For kids like me who were just getting into British bands, and especially blues and blues-rock groups, Wheels of Fire was a watershed album.

The album's first disc was studio recordings, including some songs which cemented the band's reputation in blues-rock circles ("White Room," "Politician," "Born Under a Bad Sign," etc.).

The second disc contained live recordings made at San Francisco's famous Winterland Ballroom on March 7-10, 1968. One of these was the band's cover of the famous Robert Johnson song "Crossroads." Clapton's guitar work on the song was awe-inspiring. Even now, nearly 50 years after it was recorded, it remains one of my all-time favorites,
a song I dream of myself playing note-for-note.

Today's first send-off is that legendary Winterland live track, paired with images of
the group. (The fan who made the slideshow was quite a fan of the band's bass player,
Jack Bruce, and it shows.) Enjoy...

Clapton's career had its ups and downs, in no small part due to his struggles with substance abuse. He was never able to find complete artistic satisfaction within the structure of a band, either, and he never stayed in one for very long.

By the late 1970s Clapton was pursuing a career as a solo artist. In December of 1979,
he appeared at the legendary Budokan Theatre in Tokyo in support of his most recent solo album. His set list at Budokan was mostly covers of blues staples like "Worried Life Blues" and "Further On Up the Road." (Eric played the latter song with my hero Joe Bonamassa at Joe's famous 2009 concert at the Royal Albert Hall, a moment Joe called "the coolest thing I've ever done!")

Highlights from the concert were released in early April of 1980 as a double album with the title Just One Night. My own life was undergoing a bit of turmoil at the time, and so I immersed myself in the recording as a combination of wallowing and therapy.

Unusually for a live album, Just One Night reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, and tracks from the album are still featured in several of my iTunes playlist.

By far my personal favorite of these is "Blues Power," a song Clapton co-wrote with Leon Russell. The song originally appeared on Clapton's first solo album back in 1970, but this version knocks that one out.

And, as usual with Clapton, his playing makes me want to pick up a guitar and want to give up playing one altogether.

Today's second send-off is the Just One Night version, in all its glory. Enjoy...

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

News of the Day


Character means doing the right thing. Thank you, governor.
The next significant primary in the race for the Republican party's presidential nomination takes place in Wisconsin on April 5.

Earlier today, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who was himself a candidate for the nomination last fall, announced his endorsement of Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

If Senator Cruz is going to successfully blunt asshat Donald Trump's drive to be the party's nominee, the Wisconsin contest will be critical. Walker's popularity with Wisconsin Republicans remains quite high, so this endorsement should give Cruz a significant boost. It was a welcome bit of news.

Speaking of asshat Trump, this morning his campaign manager was charged with committing battery on a female reporter in Florida...

"So, your day is off to a good start, then?"

Not too bad, no...of course, all the news wasn't good...

Requiescat in Pace

On The Patty Duke Show in 1963
This morning also brought the news of the death of actress Anna Marie "Patty" Duke.
She was 69.

Duke burst into stardom at just age 16 when she became the youngest person ever to win an Academy Award for her unforgettable Best Supporting Actress performance in  
The Miracle Worker in 1962. (She had created the role in the original Broadway stage production of William Gibson's play.)

I had an enormous crush on her because of her successful sitcom The Patty Duke Show.

Spring Training Winds Down

One of the toughest parts of the spring training season is the release of players whom fans had hoped might make the team.

Yesterday the Royals released LHP Brian Duensing, whom they had signed from the Twins over the winter to compete for a bullpen spot. With the loss of LHP Tim Collins to a second Tommy John procedure, it was thought that Duensing (who had a fine spring) had a good shot.

There are more cuts yet to be made before the Royals open the defense of their World Championship on April 3 at Kauffman Stadium against the New York Mets in a rematch from the 2015 World Series.

Another Sure Sign of Spring

From the droll comic strip Zits, by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, which you should read every day, as I do.

Until Next Time...

On March 29, 1943 Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou was born in Agria, Greece. Performing professionally under the name Vangelis, he enjoyed some success in the '70s working with bands and recording solo works, including soundtracks. He was a pioneer of synthesizer-heavy electronic music.

His music burst into the mainstream in 1981, with the release of his Academy Award-winning score for the film Chariots of Fire, which had also won the Best Picture Oscar that year.

The selection of Vangelis to provide the film's music was quite unusual, since the film is a period piece depicting events leading up to the 1924 Olympics in Paris.

"Titles," the theme that opens and closes the film, is often mistakenly referred to as "Chariots of Fire." Under that name it reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart on May 8, 1982, an unusual achievement for an instrumental. It is also the only Billboard No. 1 hit by a Greek artist.

Driven by the success of "Titles," the soundtrack album from the film also reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart on April 17, 1982. It held the top spot for four consecutive weeks.

Vangelis went on to score other films, most notably the Ridley Scott science fiction classic Blade Runner, but it is safe to say that Chariots of Fire will be the work for which he is best remembered.

Today's send-off is the complete "Chariots of Fire" composition, which took up the entirety of Side Two back in the days of vinyl records. Enjoy...

Monday, March 28, 2016


The Way of the World

Easter Sunday marks the beginning of Eastertide, a period lasting 50 days and culminating in Pentecost (which occurs this year on May 15).

During the Easter celebrations, we are reminded many times of Jesus's statement that His kingdom is "not of this world" (John 18:36). It is a comforting thought, given the screwed-up state of the world in which we presently live...

For instance, asshat Donald Trump is threatening a lawsuit over the process by which the Louisiana GOP awards its delegates to the Republican National Convention, black-eyed skank Hillary Clinton is about to be questioned by Federal prosecutors over her illegal email shenanigans, a suicide bombing in Pakistan targeted Christians celebrating Easter, and (in a development that surprised maybe five or six people), Fidel Castro repaid President Obama's historic (and entirely too friendly) visit to Cuba by publishing a harsh criticism of Obama's speech. And that's just this morning's headlines.

Fortunately for me, I can still cheer myself up with some Easter candy for awhile yet...

"There isn't enough chocolate in the world to disguise how messed up you bipeds are."

No, there really isn't...

More Madness

I didn't write much about it because I was so focused on the Easter Triduum, but of course the NCAA Tournament's Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games were played beginning last Thursday night and finishing up yesterday evening.

It wasn't a terrible weekend for the Catholic institutions that were still playing in the tournament. Gonzaga lost a close one to Syracuse in the Sweet 16, but since Syracuse made it to the Final Four there is no shame in that.

Notre Dame reached the Elite Eight, and gave No. 1 seed North Carolina a decent game, but eventually their lack of size did them in.

The best result, for me, was the Elite Eight game between Villanova and Kansas. The Wildcats prevailed 64-59, and the only thing sweeter than seeing a Catholic institution in the Final Four was watching them get there by beating No. 1 overall seed Kansas, the team I love to hate.

I made my coffee on Easter Sunday morning from Jayhawk tears, and it tasted great!

On the secular side, Iowa State lost their Sweet Sixteen game to Virginia, but they had a fine season and played to their seed, going 2-1 in the tournament. Great job, Cyclones!

"Why haven't you said anything about..."

I told you, I am not writing about your team again until their season concludes, which
it hasn't the meantime...

When Motivational Clichés Collide

From the droll comic strip Dilbert, by Scott Adams (currently on vacation), which you should read every day, as I do.

Until Next Time...

This week's Music Recommendation is the new album from my hero Joe Bonamassa.
It is his first album of new material since 2014's Different Shades of Blue, so fans like me have been eagerly awaiting its release.

As he did with that previous album, Joe went to Nashville and worked with songwriters there to come up with the new material. The album was recorded last summer during a break in Joe's hectic tour schedule.

The sound is what Joe himself describes as a "power quartet": guitar, bass, and two drummers. Quite a change of pace from his previous recordings, and one which lends the music a lot of punch.

I'm enjoying all of the new stuff, of course, but at the moment it looks like "No Good Place for the Lonely" is going to be my favorite track.

In a little over a month I'll have the opportunity to hear some of the new material live, as Joe will be appearing at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha on May 4. Really looking forward to that, as it has been a couple of years since Joe visited my neck of the woods...

Today's send-off is the official video for "Drive," the first single release from the album (which is available as a free download here). Enjoy...

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday 2016

He is Risen!


My day began with the celebration of Easter Sunday Mass at St. Peter's. It was chilly this morning, but the church was full nonetheless.

The choir performed at 8:00 Mass today, which is always a special treat.

On the way home from Mass, I stopped at Hy-Vee and purchased a lily plant, which I placed near the door to my apartment.

And, of course, Easter Sunday brings back fond memories of childhood, of baskets full of treats.

It isn't quite the same as the ones my mom used to prepare for me, but all things considered I think I did okay...

"You're going to be in a chocolate coma by nightfall, you know."

You underestimate my sweet tooth...

Easter Tradition

For most of my life, an Easter tradition at my house has been watching William Wyler's 1959 masterpiece Ben-Hur. It wasn't until I was in college that I began to learn about some of the more remarkable aspects of the film.

Original 1880 1st Edition

The Lew Wallace novel upon which the film was based was the best-selling novel in 19th-century America, and continued to be the best-selling book in this country (other than the Bible itself) until 1936, when Gone With the Wind finally displaced it.

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ was even blessed by Pope Leo XIII, the only work of fiction ever to receive a Papal blessing.

Quite an accomplishment for a retired Union general who was never a member of any organized church.

Original 1959 "one sheet" poster

The book was adapted many times both in film and for the stage.

By far the most popular and successful adaptation was Wyler's version, which won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Charlton Heston), and Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith).

Ben-Hur held the record for the most Oscars won until it was tied by Titanic in 1997 and again by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003. Of course, there are more award categories now than there were in 1959, and neither of the latter two films won any acting awards.

In a film with as many memorable scenes as this one it is difficult to pick a favorite, but even after all these years I find this scene to be especially powerful...

Among the most remarkable aspects of the film is Miklós Rózsa's Oscar-winning score. When I was young I had no appreciation for how ground-breaking his work was, especially in terms of the storytelling. One of the pleasures of watching the film these days is being able to appreciate Rózsa's artistry.

Here is the film's Prelude (Main Title)...

The Advance of Technology

From the witty pen of Henry Payne, whose editorial cartoons you should read often,
as I do.

Until Next Time...

One of the most familiar and beloved hymns, especially at Easter, is "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today." It is frequently used as a processional during Mass on Easter Sunday,
as it was today at St. Peter's.

Musical setting by Charles Villiers Stanford

As is often the case with "traditional" hymns, no authorship for this song is known. It began as a 14th century Latin hymn telling the story of the Resurrection.

Over the centuries it has been worked on by many hands, including the translation into English in the 18th century, and the application of musical settings to match the lyrics.

Today's send-off is a live performance of the hymn by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge. It was recorded under the direction of Stephen Cleobury at their chapel
at the college in 2011. Enjoy...

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Holy Saturday 2016



By tradition, the faithful spend the day after Good Friday "silently" awaiting the Resurrection. We remember the time Jesus spent in His tomb, and we acknowledge the Harrowing of Hell.

Mass is not celebrated on Holy Saturday, and the sacraments may only be administered to the dying.

At sundown (approximately), Holy Saturday ends and the Easter Vigil begins. It is at this service that a parish's catechumens are baptized into the faith, and the congregation renews its baptismal vows after being sprinkled with holy water by their priest using an aspergillum. This practice dates back to the 9th century.

The Easter Vigil marks the conclusion of Holy Week, and the beginning of Eastertide.

"Does this mean there's a chocolate binge coming soon?"

It is possible that it does, yes....

The Latest Islamist Outrage

From the pen of Chip Bok, whose editorial cartoons you should read often, as I do.

[It is well for Christians to remember that the sort of barbarity practiced by the Romans in Jesus's time no longer belongs exclusively to antiquity.]

Until Next Time...

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was one of the foremost composers of sacred music during the Italian Renaissance. He spent virtually his entire career in Rome, thanks largely to the patronage of Pope Julius III. After his death in 1594 he was buried beneath the floor of the basilica at St. Peter's, in recognition of the hundreds of compositions he contributed to the liturgical repertoire.

Like most liturgical composers of his time, Palestrina composed a musical setting for  
The Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet, which have traditionally been a part of 
Holy Week services since the 9th century.

The Tallis Scholars is a British vocal ensemble dedicated to preserving, recording, and performing historically significant a cappella sacred music.

The group's particular specialty is the sort of Renaissance polyphony of which Palestrina's music is considered to be the pinnacle.
The group has produced several recordings of Palestrina's work,
and has contributed significantly to its renewed popularity in liturgical settings as well as in concert.

Today's send-off is the group's stirring 1998 recording of Palestrina's "Lamentations for Holy Saturday, Lesson 3." Enjoy...

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday 2016


The Crucifixion, by Peter Paul Rubens


The Easter Triduum continues today with the observance of Good Friday.

Catholics do not celebrate Mass between the Supper of Our Lord on Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil on Saturday.

The Celebration of the Lord's Passion is generally held in the early evening on Good Friday, for the convenience of those for whom it is not a day off from work. This will include readings from Scripture (including the account of Christ's Passion from the Gospel of John), the Adoration of the Cross, and finally Holy Communion.

"This is the service for which you wear all black, isn't it?"

Yes, it is...


This classic B.C. comic strip by the late Johnny Hart first appeared on April 9, 2004, which was Good Friday that year.

Until Next Time...

One of the most beloved traditional Latin hymns associated with Good Friday is
"Pange Lingua Gloriosi Proelium Certaminis," composed by St. Venantius Fortunatus
in the latter part of the 6th century. Although portions of the hymn are used in a variety of services, the entire work is typically chanted during the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday.

Nova Schola Gregoriana is an award-winning group devoted to the study and performance of traditional Gregorian chants.

In 1994, under the direction of Alberto Turco, a leading expert on Gregorian chants, the group recorded an album of chants specifically associated with Good Friday observances.

Today's send-off is the group's recording of the "Crux Fidelis" section of St. Venantius's hymn. Enjoy...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maundy Thursday 2016

Terrorism Tango


As if it weren't bad enough that President Obama watched a baseball game just hours after the horrific terror attack in Brussels, last night he and First Lady Michelle were photographed dancing the tango at a state dinner in Buenos Aires.

According to him, doing such things is how you defeat terrorism: “We defeat them in part by saying ‘You are not strong, you are weak.’”

Some of us, of course, are not convinced that eating hot dogs with the likes of Raúl Castro and auditioning for an eventual gig on Dancing With the Stars will do anything to demoralize the sort of people who are carrying out such attacks.

The president's fans in the progressive mainstream media (but I repeat myself) are tying themselves in knots trying to make the argument that Obama's approach is "working," and that we simply need to give it time. But he's running out the clock on this issue, and that is becoming clearer by the day. He's not going to let Islamic terrorists disrupt his victory lap...

"It's almost like he doesn't care what people think of him anymore..."

He actually says so out loud these days...

Three Days

The Easter Triduum begins with The Mass 
of the Lord's Supper this evening.

Every Catholic Mass includes a commemoration of the Last Supper, of course, but this Mass does so more fully. The ritual washing of feet is typically part of the Mass (and is where the name "Maundy Thursday" comes from), for instance.

Although it unfolds over a three-day period the Easter Triduum is, liturgically speaking, a single day in which the faithful celebrate the Paschal Mystery.

Requiescat in Pace

After enjoying a brief respite from such sad news recently, yesterday brought word of the passing of two public figures who played meaningful roles in my life...

As Ken Reeves on The White Shadow

Actor Ken Howard passed away in Los Angeles at age 71. He enjoyed
a long and successful career both in front of the camera and as a political figure. At the time of his death he was serving as president of SAG-AFTRA. He was first elected as a union president in 2009.

In the fall of 1980 I played in a charity basketball game at the high school where I was teaching in Topeka, Kansas. Howard's CBS series The White Shadow was at its peak at the time, and my students (who knew I liked the show) began referring to me as "the Red Shadow" after my marginally-impressive performance in that game.

From that point on I followed Howard's career with special interest, and whenever I'd see him it would bring back fond memories of my brief time in Topeka.

Catcher with the St. Louis Cardinals

By the time I started paying serious attention to baseball, Joe Garagiola's career as a player had long since come to an end. The St. Louis native spent five and a half seasons as a bench player for the hometown Cardinals, then bounced around with the Pirates, Cubs, and New York Giants. He was a career .257 hitter who had some defensive value. In 1951 he led the National League in passed balls, and the following season he lead the league in most times caught stealing (35).

Of course, I remember him as a regular announcer on NBC's Game of the Week broadcasts, and as a raconteur who frequently appeared on The Today Show, The Tonight Show, and other talk shows.

He was one of the best ambassadors the game ever had, and he received numerous honors for those contributions in his lifetime.

Joe died yesterday at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 90.


From the pen of Chip Bok, whose editorial cartoons you should read often, as I do.

Until Next Time...

Although we are unsure about precisely when J.S. Bach composed his famous Brandenburg Concertos, we do know that he presented the handwritten compositions to Christian Ludwig, a local nobleman, on March 24, 1721. It is believed that Bach was hopeful of gaining employment from Ludwig as a result of his gift, but if so the gesture was a failure.

That aside, these works are among the most beloved and most-performed in the entire Baroque repertoire.

Each concerto in the set has its own unique charms, and I never tire of hearing them. I take no position on the relative merits of period versus modern instruments, and I'm not qualified to comment on the ongoing battles over tempo (though I do prefer slightly slower renderings). I enjoy it all.

One of my favorite aspects of Concerto No. 6 in B flat major is the unusual instrumentation, which includes no violin parts. It was written to be played by four violas (two each of two different types), a cello, a violone, and a harpsichord. 

No. 6 is also a splendid example of Bach's complete mastery of polyphony.

Today's send-off is a superb performance of the No. 6 in B flat major in its entirety
by Freiburger Barockorchester (Freiburg Baroque Orchestra). It was recorded live on March 24, 2000 at Köthen Castle, where it is believed the Brandenburg Concertos made their public debut in 1850. Enjoy...