Saturday, December 3, 2016

Endings and Beginnings

Climactic Weekend

It has certainly been an entertaining season for college football fans, but for my rooting interests things are drawing to a close.

Iowa State and Notre Dame finished their seasons last weekend, and can only look forward to 2017. Boston College and Air Force also don't play this weekend, as they wait to see which bowl games will select them.

Army, which also has bowl aspirations, is off this weekend and will conclude its regular season next Saturday with the traditional Army-Navy Game.

As for No. 19 Navy, the Midshipmen play at home today in the championship game of the American Athletic Conference against Temple.

My best friend Skip's beloved No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions face No. 6 Wisconsin in
the Big Ten Championship game. Even if they win, it is unlikely that they'll get picked for the NCAA playoff, but I think Skip would be more than happy if they get a trip to
the Rose Bowl as a consolation prize.

The announcement of which teams will make the playoff, as well as other bowl game announcements, will be made on Sunday. There are some who say that a Navy win today would throw a monkey wrench into the non-playoff bowl picture, but I doubt the suits will let such a thing come to pass.

"So you don't think they'll wait to see how the Army-Navy game comes out?"

No, I don't...principles are principles, money is money...they'll hose the Midshipmen in a heartbeat to get the rest of their ducks in a row by Sunday afternoon...

Feast Day

St. Francis Xavier, by Marcantonio Franceschini
Today is the feast day of St. Francis Xavier, a 16th century missionary who died on December 3, 1552.

Francis was one of the six young followers of St. Ignatius Loyola who joined him in founding the Society of Jesus, which was formally approved by Pope Paul III in 1540.

Because of his devotion to missionary work, St. Francis Xavier is a popular namesake for schools and churches in the United States, and he is considered a patron saint of church missionaries.

Francis was beatified in 1619 by
Pope Paul V, and in 1622 he was canonized by Pope Gregory XV.

My family attended St. Francis Xavier Church when I was growing up in Council Bluffs. I also began my schooling at St. Joseph's, across the street, though by the time I began attending the school had become coed. Both the church and school were closed in the early 1970s.

Last Run

EMD E7 No. 4007 leads the way through Chicago's Englewood Union Station

On December 3, 1967 the New York Central Railroad's celebrated 20th Century Limited passenger train made
its final New York to Chicago run.

Along with the equally famous Broadway Limited operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad from 1912 to 1967 (and subsequently by first Penn Central and then Amtrak until 1995), the 20th Century is the passenger train railfans in the east rhapsodize about most frequently.

Being a lifelong midwesterner, I feel equally nostalgic about Sante Fe's iconic Super Chief, Rock Island's Golden State Limited, and Union Pacific's City of Los Angeles.

Happy Birthday!

Original 1947 playbill
On December 3, 1947 the groundbreaking stage play A Streetcar Named Desire opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in the heart of New York City's Theatre District (aka
"The Great White Way").

Arguably the best play of Tennessee Williams's career, this original Broadway production starred Jessica Tandy, Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, and Kim Hunter. It was directed by the legendary Elia Kazan, and made major stars of Tandy (who won a Tony Award for her performance) and Brando (who got his first Academy Award nomination for the movie version of the play). Malden and Hunter received Oscars for reprising their stage performances in the film.

The play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama
in 1948, and has been a staple of professional and amateur theatre for nearly 70 years.

Mugged Again

This morning I enjoyed my white chocolate raspberry double latte (made on my favorite kitchen appliance) in a new mug, having finally chosen something from the Starbucks 2016 Holiday Collection.

The new mug is a nice match with my other Siren Collection mermaid from 2014...

"You get excited over the dumbest stuff..."

I'm not "excited"...I just enjoy collecting interesting coffee mugs...

Reality TV for Parents

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

Until Next Time...

One of the things I look forward to the most during Christmas season is revisiting favorite albums I only listen to this time of year. That is especially true of music
I most likely would never have heard had it not been for my students.

When Christmas season rolled around in 1996, my students at Bishop LeBlond were sharing their seasonal music enthusiasms with me on a daily basis, and one of the groups they couldn't stop talking about was the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, a side project of the American heavy metal band Savatage. The kids were excited by the group's guitar-heavy takes on traditional Christmas songs. I was skeptical at first, as most rock and roll Christmas music doesn't do much for me.

I was never happier to be proven wrong, as this band's debut album immediately became one of my seasonal favorites.

Released in mid-October in 1996, Christmas Eve and Other Stories quickly became a bestseller, and currently ranks 9th on the list of top-selling Christmas albums in America over the past 25 years.
It has received three platinum certifications from RIAA.

The radio hit from the album was "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24,"
an instrumental which exemplified the band's progressive rock approach to traditional Christmas music. I found it captivating, and promptly bought the album, which gets regular listens this time of year.

Today's send-off is the official video of the song, from the group's YouTube channel. Enjoy...

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