Saturday, January 28, 2017

Memories Fond and Otherwise

Feast Day

Statue by Ferdinand Stuflesser
Today is the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century Dominican friar who was one of the great theologians and philosophers in the history of the Church. Aquinas's influence as a philosopher in particular goes far beyond his theological works. His defense of reason, grounded in Aristotelean principles, is now a pillar of western philosophy. His writings on Just War theory have played
a central role in that ongoing ethical debate
for centuries.

Thomas was canonized by Pope John XXII in 1323, and in 1568 he was named Doctor of the Church by Pope St. Pius V.

Among his many patronages Thomas is the patron of Catholic schools, philosophers, and theologians.

Requiescat in Pace

Yesterday we lost a handful of actors who all figured prominently in my cultural life...

I first saw English actor John Hurt when he deftly played the grasping betrayer Richard Rich in 1966 in the Best Picture-winning period drama A Man For All Seasons. Hurt more than held his own in scenes with acting heavyweights Paul Scofield, Leo McKern, and Nigel Davenport.

He also appeared in two other favorite films of mine, the science fiction/horror thriller Alien in 1979 and the bleak, harrowing 1984 film adaptation of George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984.

Hurt received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor in 1978 for Midnight Express, and a nomination as Best Actor for The Elephant Man in 1980.
He died at his home in Norfolk at age 77.

Actress Barbara Hale won an Emmy Award
for her portrayal of legal secretary Della Street on the landmark TV drama Perry Mason, which was must-see TV in my house growing up until the series ended in 1966.

I had an enormous crush on her, naturally.

Hale died at her home in Sherman Oaks, California at age 94.

My parents were big fans of TV detective shows, and since there were only a handful of channels to choose from when I was growing up that meant I got to watch a lot of those shows too.

One of my parents' favorites was Mannix,
a private eye drama which ran for eight seasons beginning in 1967. The hard-boiled title character was played by Mike Connors, who won a Golden Globe Award for the role in 1969 along with four Emmy Award nominations. During most of its run Mannix was the highest- rated crime drama on TV.

Connors died at a hospital in Los Angeles at 91.

"Say, didn't Mannix drive a car you lusted after on that show?"

Why yes, yes he did...a 1968 Dodge Dart GTS...

Dark Day

At mid-morning on Tuesday January 28, 1986 I was with one
of my students in the lobby of the Gertrude Krampert Center at Casper College in Casper, Wyoming.

We were there for the county-wide American Legion Oratorical Contest when our school district's superintendent, who always attended that particular competition, arrived with an ashen look on his face. He told us that the Space Shuttle Challenger had been lost due to an explosion shortly after launch.

It took a moment for me to remember that this particular mission was the first of the Teacher in Space Project, which meant that classroom teacher Christa McAuliffe was among the casualties.

On the day of the tragedy, President Ronald Reagan had been scheduled to deliver the annual State of the Union address, but he postponed that speech and instead went on
live TV at 5:00 PM EST to give one of the most moving speeches in American history...

Me too, old friend...still gets me even after 31 years...

Yes, Yes, We Saw What You Did There

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...

One of the things I miss the most about classroom teaching is learning about interesting music, movies, and television programs from my kids. They were sort of a flesh-and- blood Wikipedia I could consult on a daily basis about such things.

An example of the sort of thing I miss involves a song that has been an earworm for me ever since I first heard a snippet of it during a Coca-Cola commercial that began playing last fall. For the longest time I just assumed it had been written specifically for the commercial, but yesterday I heard it again on an episode of the TV show Bones, which prompted me to look up that episode's page on IMDB. Back when I was teaching
I could have simply asked my classes "Who does that song in that 'Classic Love Story' Coca-Cola commercial?" Less work, more fun.

In any event, my research led me to the song, "Put It Together," written and performed by Langhorne Slim & The Law. Langhorne Slim is the stage name of Sean Scolnick, a singer-songwriter from Langhorne, Pennsylvania (about an hour's drive from where my best friend Skip lives).

The song is included on the band's 2015 album The Spirit Moves, their fifth studio recording.

It was that recording that got the group booked for an appearance on the talk show Conan, where they performed the album's song "Strangers" to glowing reviews.
The album as a whole has been favorably reviewed also, and now thanks to "Put It Together" the band can consider me a fan as well.

Today's send-off is the official music video for the song, from the band's YouTube channel. Enjoy...

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