Saturday, April 30, 2016

No, Really

A Really Rainy Morning

It has been cool and windy for a few days now, basically ever since I got back on Monday from my trip to Kansas City, but not much rain. That changed this morning...

The view from my building's porch, 8:00 AM CDT

Fortunately, Rose Red looks good even when it rains...

I had planned a trip over to Omaha today, but weather like this tends to discourage that sort of thing. We'll see if it clears up later in the morning. The forecast is not promising in this regard...

"Great. I hate soggy ants..."
Buck up, buttercup...

A Really Great Day

Washington Takes the Oath (1875), Currier & Ives
On April 30, 1789 at Federal Hall in New York City, George Washington took the oath to become the 1st President of the United States.

His famous inaugural address is as relevant today as it was then. If only modern politicians were half so well educated and eloquent...

A Really Good Buy

On April 30, 1803, fourteen years to day after Washington's inauguration, Robert Livingston (the man who administered the oath of office at that ceremony) signed the treaty that came to be known as the Louisiana Purchase (the treaty was also signed by James Monroe and Barbé Marbois).

I have spent my entire life living in states acquired through this treaty (Iowa, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Wyoming). I have also visited all of the other states whose territory was part of the deal. I'd say the U.S. made out like a bandit on this one...

"Fess up. You liked Missouri the best."

That is true, yes..."the best years of my life," etc., etc.

A Really Crazy Idea

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...

The spring of 1977 was a pivotal time in my life. I became a widower at age 24 a week after Memorial Day, I signed my first teaching contract the day of my late wife's funeral, and I would attend my first National Speech and Debate Tournament as a coach two weeks later in Seattle.

To a large extent, I was sleepwalking through my days, and friends and family were
of course quite concerned about me. One very good friend convinced me to go to a rock concert at Arrowhead Stadium on July 31. The bill included Peter Frampton, Styx,
Rick Derringer, and the Steve Miller Band. All of those acts other than Frampton were favorites of mine.

I had rekindled my early-70s fondness for the Steve Miller Band when Steve released  
Fly Like an Eagle in May 1976. In May of 1977 he followed up that album's success by releasing Book of Dreams, an album consisting in large part of material left over from the Fly Like an Eagle recording sessions.

On April 30, 1977 Miller's label Capitol Records released "Jet Airliner" as the first single from the new album. It went on to be the record's most successful single, peaking at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart.
It also helped the album reach No. 2 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, and it quickly became a staple of Miller's live shows and "classic rock" radio.

Most FM radio stations played the album version that included the instrumental intro "Threshold," co-written by Miller's keyboard player Byron Allred.

The concert at Arrowhead was very good, but it was Miller's performance that night that really amazed me. It is fair to say that my enjoying his music so much that night helped me take an important step in getting past my recent tragedy. I will always associate that music with my emotional recovery.

Today's send-off is the album version that includes that synthesizer intro, paired with photos of some classic jet airliners. It's a really good song. Enjoy...

Friday, April 29, 2016

End, Week!

Thank Tash It's Friday!

"Fire up that barbecue grill, if you know what's good for you!"

Death of the Party

"We don't need no steenkin' conservatives!"
As I have noted on many occasions, I am person of conservative political principles and views who tends to vote Republican because more often than not that party's candidates are more closely aligned with those principles than a typical Democrat.

That said, I am emphatically NOT
a Republican party member, and
I am not emotionally invested in the party's future.

To the extent that it commits ideological and electoral suicide by nominating asshat Donald Trump for president, I will shake my head at its foolhardiness, and explore other options for participating in our political system.

If you wonder what makes so many conservatives unhappy with the national Republican party these days, all you have to do is consider the intemperate display put on yesterday in a speech at Stanford by former House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.

Having resigned his leadership post in response to a conservative rebellion that eventually elevated Paul Ryan to the Speakership back in October of 2015, Boehner no longer has any reason to hide his utter contempt for conservatives and his complete lack of principle. He'd vote for Trump (a lifelong progressive Democrat) as his party's standard-bearer, but never for conservative Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Keep that sort of thing in mind when you hear Trump and his supporters claiming CRUZ is the "establishment" candidate. It doesn't get more "establishment" than Boehner, folks...

"Is he as big a douchebag as he looks?"

Bigger, as it turns out...

Happy Birthday, Danny Boy!

As "Hawkeye" in The Last of the Mohicans
On April 29, 1957 Daniel Day-Lewis was born in the Kensington district of London.
He would go on to become one of the most acclaimed actors of his generation.

Daniel is the only male actor to receive three Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscars. He has received numerous other accolades for his work, including a knighthood in 2014.

He also starred in Michael Mann's 1992 version of The Last of the Mohicans, which is near the top of the list of my all-time favorite films (and spent many years at the very top).

His performances are so consistently amazing that I am willing to overlook
the fact that he is a method actor.

"Wow! He must be really good for you to say that."

He is among the greatest ever, absolutely...

Feast Day

St. Catherine of Siena (1870), by Prosper Guéranger

April 29 is the feast day of
St. Catherine of Siena, a tertiary of the Dominican Order who was an influential writer and philosopher in the 14th century, a most unusual accomplishment for a woman.

Catherine's best-known work is  
The Dialogue of Divine Providence, in which a soul on the way to Heaven engages in a philosophical discourse with God Himself. It is a remarkable book, one which is still widely read today by the faithful.

In the fall of 1970, during my senior year of high school, Catherine was named Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. Not quite 30 years later she was named one of six patron saints of Europe by Pope John Paul II.

Catherine is also patron saint of those who are gravely ill.

Early 20s Revelations

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

Until Next Time...

On April 29, 1899 Edward Kennedy Ellington was born in Washington, D.C. A prolific composer and arranger as well as a gifted pianist, "Duke" Ellington and his orchestra were a fixture in American popular music for more than 50 years. In his career Ellington won 12 Grammy Awards, and is a member of the Grammy Hall of Fame.
He has been inducted into numerous other Halls of Fame also, including the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Downbeat Hall of Fame. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, and was featured on a postage stamp in 1986.

My dad really liked big band jazz, so my first exposure to Ellington came at a young age. I didn't really become a serious fan until I encountered his music in one of my favorite movies, though.
Original 1959 "one sheet" poster

In 1959 Ellington and his writing partner Billy Strayhorn provided the score for Otto Preminger's film Anatomy of a Murder,
one of those movies I won't ever get tired
of watching.

Among his other eccentricities, the lawyer portrayed in the film by James Stewart likes to play what his legal partner calls "rooty tooty" music, also known as jazz, on his upright piano. Ellington himself has a small role in the film

Ellington's playful and evocative score is considered a landmark in motion picture music, and produced three of his Grammy Awards.

Today's send-off is a suite of themes and motifs from his groundbreaking score. Enjoy...

Thursday, April 28, 2016


My Team!

This has been a particularly difficult presidential cycle for conservatives like myself who of necessity participate in Republican politics. Given the deepest, most talented field of candidates the party has ever fielded in a primary, a plurality of the voters so far (including many non-Republicans who are allowed to vote in open primaries) have opted for a lifelong progressive Democrat who couldn't be doing more to help elect black-eyed skank Hillary Clinton if he tried (and I'm still not convinced that isn't his real agenda anyway).

At this point, the best hope of getting a conservative candidate to represent the party is a contested convention, which would almost certainly see delegates abandon asshat Donald Trump in droves after the first ballot. If that should unfold, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has a strong chance of prevailing, and it is clear that he intends to fight hard in the days ahead.

Yesterday, Cruz made my day by selecting California business executive and former candidate Carly Fiorina to be his running mate should he win the nomination.

Carly and Ted at the announcement yesterday in Indianapolis

Since I have been a Fiorina fan from the outset (I contributed to her campaign multiple times, and caucused for her in February), I couldn't be more pleased. At the very least, I can wholeheartedly support this ticket without a hint of shame or embarrassment. That matters a lot to me...

"Plus, she wears red a lot..."

Yes, she does, but that's just a side benefit...


Today is National Superhero Day. When I was a kid I was really into that sort of thing, naturally. My parents encouraged my brothers and I to be avid readers, and of course that included comic books. Not all of the comics we liked were superhero comics, but many were. And we liked both Marvel and DC titles.

In the DC Comics pantheon, my personal favorite was Green Lantern...

...and, like many skinny, geeky kids
I was very fond of Marvel's superstar Spider-Man. 'Nuff said!

Of course, we should never forget who the real superheroes are in this world...

Marines landing at Inchon, Korea in 1950

Enough, Already

Simply the best
Like any other sentient mammal,
I much preferred the taste of Hydrox cookies to Oreos as a kid.
It was never a close call.

No one was happier than I was to see a revival of the Hydrox cookie, but now it appears that the owner
of the brand has decided to make a political statement with the iconic treat. Ridiculous.

Just let me eat my cookies in peace, asshole. The urge to make absolutely everything in this world political should be vigorously resisted.

"'Sentient,' really? Seems like a stretch..."

I have my moments...

Pass, Thanks

From the incisive pen of Michael Ramirez, whose editorial cartoons you should read often, as I do.

Until Next Time...

In the development of my personal musical preferences, not many years can top 1969 for releases that played a significant role. Spanning the second semester of my sophomore year of high school through the first semester of my junior year, that time period included Cream's final studio album Goodbye, Free's debut album Tons of Sobs, The Who's ground-breaking "rock opera" Tommy, Crosby, Stills, & Nash's eponymous debut, Jethro Tull's Stand Up, The Band's eponymous debut, The Beatles' legendary Abbey Road, Willy and the Poor Boys by Creedence Clearwater Revival, and The Rolling Stones' epic Let It Bleed.

And that's just scratching the surface, believe me. Songs from those albums still get regular play in my iTunes playlists, and to a great extent my fondness for blues and blues-rock in particular was born that year.

With so much happening musically, it would have been easy for me to overlook new artists who weren't getting a lot of radio airplay, but because my social life was basically non-existent at that time I invested a lot of energy in my music collection. That's how
I happened across a group I'd never heard of before, Chicago Transit Authority.

 On April 28, 1969 the band released its eponymous first album, Chicago Transit Authority, a double album. I bought it because it had a special introductory price, and seemed like a good value. I turned out to be absolutely right about that.

At first, the pop/rock audience wasn't sure what to make of this music. The band didn't sound like anyone else at the time, certainly not like any of the acts that were topping the charts that year. I was hooked immediately, but had a tough time convincing many of my friends to take them seriously.

The album had a rather unusual commercial history, remaining on the Billboard 200 Albums chart for more than three years after its release, yet never reaching the No. 1 spot on that chart (it peaked at No. 17). It also never produced any hit singles, although both "Beginnings" and "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" made the Top 10 eventually, in the wake of the band's wildly successful second album.

Today's send-off is the 2002 remastered version of "Beginnings." I still get goosebumps from Lee Loughnane's trumpet solo near the end. Enjoy...

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bring Your Jukebox Money

Ho Hum

It truly is amazing to me how the progressive mainstream media (but I repeat myself) can spin an entirely predictable (and predicted) political outcome as something newsworthy. The results of yesterday's so-called "Acela Primary" are blanketing the news cycle today, in what is basically a "dog bites man" story.

"It will be even worse than you can imagine. Much worse."
On the Democrat side, black-eyed skank Hillary Clinton won four of the five primaries, and has all but clinched the party's nomination despite her unpopularity with the party's rank and file.

In normal times, nominating someone held in such low esteem by the electorate would be seen as suicidal. Of course, the 2016 election cycle is most assuredly NOT "normal"...

"I can't believe you're falling for this crap! Suckers!"

That's because the Republican electorate (with the help of Democrats voting in the GOP's brilliant open primaries) hasn't coalesced around a single alternative to asshat Donald Trump, who still hasn't cracked 40 percent of the total vote in GOP primaries overall.

As expected, Trump swept the states voting last night, but is still close to 300 delegates away from the total he needs, and the remaining map doesn't look favorable for him.
A contested convention still seems to be the likeliest development. And THAT would be interesting, to say the least...

"Any idea of where we'll be moving to if he gets nominated?"

Still shopping...

The Babe

Ever since the New York Yankees honored Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium on April 27, 1947 this date has been considered Babe Ruth Day.

Completely aside from his Hall of Fame career as a baseball player, Ruth deserves to be honored for his role in pioneering the treatment of cancer.

Happy Birthday!

On April 27, 1822 Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio.

You might say he led a consequential life: Commander of the Union Army during the Civil War, 18th President of the United States, etc.

On balance, I think Grant's admirers are more persuasive than his many detractors, but certainly Grant was complicated man, and his legacy is a mixed one.

Still, all in all, I am grateful for his service to his country, and happy to celebrate his birthday.

One of the places that has long been on my extensive "Want to Visit" list is the General Grant National Memorial (a.k.a. "Grant's Tomb") located in Riverside Park in New York City. It was dedicated on April 27, 1897, on what would have been Grant's 75th birthday (he died in 1885 at age 63).

I've gotten to an age where I'm going to have to start paring some places from that list. Traveling to the northeastern part of the country isn't something I'll likely ever get to do again, barring some unforeseen developments.

"Very impressive. Who's buried there?"

That line hasn't been funny for decades, old friend...

Two Peas in a Pod

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

Until Next Time...

On April 27, 1948 Catherine Elizabeth Pierson was born in Weehawken, New Jersey.
She went on to become one of my all-time favorite female vocalists.

Known as Kate Pierson professionally, she was part of the popular New Wave band
The B-52's, who had a number of songs I enjoyed, including "Rock Lobster," "Dance This Mess Around," and "Roam." I also had a huge crush on Kate herself.

It wasn't (and isn't) unusual for me to form crushes on singers, most especially redheads. And it helped that Kate had a rather unique and engaging singing style.

The whole band gave off sort of a weird, nerdy vibe that I very much enjoyed. They're not for every taste, but they're a part of the soundtrack of my late 20s / early 30s.

Today's send-off is the band's official video for "Love Shack," a 1989 hit that was their highest-charting single ever (peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100). Enjoy...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Kansas City Road Trip, Final Day

Getaway Day

All good things must come to an end, including visits from my best friend. After a nice breakfast, Skip and I spent Monday morning getting packed for our trips home (him flying, me driving).

Then it was time for lunch. We went to the awesome SmokeHouse BBQ at Zona Rosa and fortified ourselves for the day of travel with
a taste of Kansas City barbecue.

From there, it was off to Kansas City International Airport, to get Skip onto his flight to Philadelphia.

We whiled away the remaining time in Terminal C (the one on the far right in the photo).

Because his flight was direct, Skip was able to message me that he was on the ground
in Philadelphia just about the time I was pulling into my parking space back in Council Bluffs, at roughly 6:45 PM CDT.

Now it is my turn to visit him. We are tentatively planning a visit for sometime in the fall, after Skip and his wife get back from a European cruise.

"You getting on an airplane? When was the last time that happened?"

1977, actually...


One of the agenda items for the Kansas City trip was to check out possible replacements for my 2002 Chrysler 300M (a.k.a. "Rose Red," after the 2002 Stephen King miniseries).

I had purchased her in Kansas City in 2006, as a worthy successor to my Mazda 6 hatchback.

I had never owned a Chrysler vehicle before, even though my dad was a big Chrysler fan. It made me feel better when I learned of his passing that I had finally taken his advice on what make of car to buy.

Rose Red served me well and faithfully for a decade in that body, but the time had come to make a change. By a stroke of good fortune, I found a suitable successor on Saturday morning, at Overland Park Mazda on the Kansas side of the KC metro area.

Say "hello" to Rose Red in her new incarnation as a 2015 Mazda 6.

The transfer was quite emotional for me, since I tend to form strong attachments to my vehicles.

In this case, I made sure that Rose's spirit transferred to her new body with a ceremony the details of which I'll keep to myself...

"Because you don't want to sound like a sentimental idiot?"

Well, yeah...

Some Writer Guy

On April 26, 1564 William Shakespeare was baptized at Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. Because it was customary in those days to have a child baptized within a few days of its birth, some people like to call April 23 Shakespeare's "birthday," because it makes a neat symmetry (he died on April 23, 1616).

I prefer to celebrate his baptism instead, since there is actual documentation for that date.

As writers go, this guy was decent...

New Champion

2016 United States Champion
The 2016 United States Chess Championship concluded Monday at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. Grandmaster (GM) Fabiano Caruana, now the No. 2 ranked player in the world, took clear first ahead of defending champion GM Hikaru Nakamura (No. 5) and GM Wesley So (No. 10). It is quite exciting to see three of the world's ten best players playing for the U.S. title.

Because he holds dual Italian and U.S. citizenship, Fabiano had his choice of which FIDE chess federation to play for in international competitions. From 2005-2015 he played for the Italian federation, but he is now playing for the USCF.

In addition to being the new U.S. champion, Fabiano will now play for the U.S. in
Chess Olympiads as well, which will give the U.S. team a very strong chance for the gold medal.

What Could Be Simpler?

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

Until Next Time...

I appreciate and listen to a broad range of musical genres. Other than opera, I can enjoy just about anything. From time to time, I get in the mood to listen to what has come to be called "world music," a relatively elastic category.

This week's Music Recommendation falls into that genre. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma combined his talents with the musical collective Silk Road Ensemble to produce a truly eclectic collection of songs.

The theme of the album is "home," in all of its possible meanings and incarnations.

The album was intended to coincide with the upcoming film The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, which will have its theatrical release in June.

Today's send-off is their delightfully non-traditional rendition of the traditional American folk song "St. James Infirmary Blues" (they based their version on Louis Armstrong's 1928 hit). Enjoy...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Kansas City Road Trip, Day Three

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

One of the prime objectives of my weekend visit with my best friend Skip was taking him to a game at Kauffman Stadium. We accomplished that mission yesterday afternoon, enjoying the lovely weather and seeing my beloved Kansas City Royals win their weekend series with the Baltimore Orioles two games to one with a 6-1 victory that was closer and more tension-filled than the score might indicate..

Royals starter Yordano Ventura gave up a run on two hits in the 1st inning, but only allowed one other hit in his 7 complete innings.

Yordano improved to 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA on the season.

"How do you like me now?"
All-Star LF Alex Gordon hit a solo home run to the opposite field to tie the score in the 4th inning.

1B Eric Hosmer's solo home run in the 6th inning gave the Royals the lead, and they put on one of their patented "put the ball in play" rallies to score 4 runs in the 7th to salt the game away.

The team had to get on a plane and fly to the west coast right after the game, as they have a three-game series with the Angels in Anaheim starting tonight, followed by a three-game series in Seattle.


Zona Rosa location
As I have explained for the past couple of days, when Skip and I get to visit a big part of the fun is the meals. We both enjoy being just a little "naughty" when it comes to eating things that are not necessarily the healthiest options.

Yesterday was the highlight meal of the weekend, dinner at the famed Hereford House.

Skip had his favorite, a tender and flavorful Kansas City Strip steak...

...while I had my favorite, the prime rib, served medium rare.

"You guys enjoy bonding over dead cow, don't you?"

We do share a certain fondness for deceased bovine flesh, yes...

Sports Nostalgia

1964 Stanley Cup Championship celebration
When I was a young boy I got a tabletop hockey game for Christmas, which quickly became one of my all-time favorite gifts. Sadly, I got so good at the game it was tough to find anyone in the family willing to play me.

One of the features I most enjoyed about the game was the ability to swap out teams. The set included all of the Original Six National Hockey League teams, in both their home and road uniforms.

One of my favorite teams to play was the Toronto Maple Leafs. I just liked their uniform, and when I started paying attention to hockey in the early '60s Toronto was having a tremendous run of success.

On April 25, 1964 the Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-0 to capture their third straight Stanley Cup. Only two teams in NHL history have ever had longer streaks.


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

Until Next Time...

On April 25, 1923 Albert King Nelson was born in Indianola, Mississippi. Performing professionally under the name Albert King, he became one of the most influential and respected artists in American blues music. He is considered one of the "Three Kings" of the blues (along with B.B. King and Freddie King).

Albert's unique vocal style and powerful playing (mostly on "Lucy," his custom-built Flying V guitar) influenced scores of blues and blues-rock players, including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and my hero Joe Bonamassa. Albert was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

In 1967, Stax Records released a compilation album including several hit singles Albert had recorded for the label. Born Under a Bad Sign quickly became a must-have record for blues fans.

The album was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1985, and in 1999 it received recognition by the Grammy Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone magazine includes the album on its list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time."

Today's send-off is "Laundromat Blues," one of my favorite tracks on the album.
It showcases not only Albert's soulful singing and playing, but also the whimsical side
of blues lyrics. Enjoy...