Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sherlock's competition

Sherlock Holmes was, in effect, a private eye. He worked with the police on many occasions, but he also was employed by private individuals. Had he been a real person, one wonders how the other investigators ever would have gotten any business - unless Sherlock was so expensive that few could afford him. It did seem that he only took cases that interested him, so he might have turned down a great many presented to him; but even at that, it would seem that he would have had a long line of potential clients asking for help.

Eight minutes of pure musical fun

The Sixth Symphony by Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich is not according to the norm, to say the least. In such compositions, the first and last movements are almost heroic, bombastic, soaring, or some such adjective. Lighter, faster movements, and especially the slow movements come in the middle. Shostakovich starts off his 6th Symphony with a slow movement, and it is too long for the rest of the work. Except to those who are studying it from a purely musical standpoint, it begins to drag. This, however, may be by design, because the 2nd and 3rd movements are both go-getters. The second movement, especially the first part, might be the background music to the motorcycle chase scene from the movie The Great Escape. And the final (3rd) movement sounds almost like it ought to be the wind-up of some slapstick comedy - about eight minutes of pure musical hilarity. Whatever the composer's intent, both are great to listen to - just pure-de-old musical enjoyment. (The tympanist has great fun down the stretch.)

Here is a LINK to the final movement.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Murderer always choose weapon he know best."

(from Charlie Chan in the Secret Service)


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Two of the saddest eyes in Hollywood history

Actress Gail Russell

Image result for gail russell
Image result for gail russell

Cold Shostakovich

Dmitri Shostakovich was one of the leading composers of the 20th century, and one of the great symphonists of all time. His music usually reminds me of pictures I see of the vast Russian countryside covered with snow. It evokes those endless, frozen steppes. It makes you want to go put on a sweater.

Our roles in the progressing stages of life

     Parents are the front line of society. They bear the heavy burden of the work, but they are young, and they can take it. Their role is DO.
     Grandparents are the back-ups of society. Their main function is to fill the gaps, to step in when emergencies occur. Their role is to HELP.
     Great-grandparents are the great symbols of society. Whatever children, parents and grandparents may do, their lives are yet to some extent potential. For the most part, great-grandparents' tasks have been accomplished, but their role is still extremely important, because they represent everything the others hope to be. Their role is to BE.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A creative threat

From a bad guy named Cupie Warren on the Mr. and Mrs. North radio show: "North, if you open you mouth, I'll push your face so far back through your head you'll have to turn around to blow your nose."

The most soothing sounds?

There are many, but I will vote for a gentle rain, or the wind blowing through pine trees.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sir C. Aubrey Smith's moustache

One of the most famous brushes in Hollywood history.



Friday, April 24, 2015

The best thing since sliced bread

How many times have you heard that expression, and wondered why it exists? Why is sliced bread such a big deal? Well, generations of school children and workers who had cornbread or biscuits in their lunch  buckets could tell you. The great thing about sliced (loaf) bread is that you could use it to make sandwiches and put a whole list of things between the slices. It made lunches much easier and more enjoyable.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

"Let me put my head on your shoulder."

"You mean it comes off?!"

(from Our Little Margie radio show)

Do you work long hours?

No, just 60 minutes each.

(from My Little Margie radio show)

Stay alert, stay back

If drivers would just obey those two simple rules, I am guessing accident totals (and insurance costs) would plummet immediately.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Little Margie radio show

This was a cute situation comedy that starred Gale Storm, with Charles Farrell as her father and Gil Stratton, Jr., as her boyfriend, Freddie. Nicely done and enjoyable. I recommend it. Like many radio shows of the period, there was a parallel series on early television, and reportedly in this case the TV program came first.



You know a man has been a success

when he has woven doing the right things the right way so firmly into his family's fabric that his children cannot imagine failing to teach them to their own offspring.

Free advertising

Many of the old radio shows had their advertising built right into the programs. Fibber McGee and Molly and Jack Benny are two notable examples. So, when we listen to those programs, we are hearing the advertising along with them. Some of the products involved are no longer on the market and so have only nostalgic value. However, some of them are still very much viable. So . . . those manufacturers are getting free advertising, albeit of an out-of-date sort. Further, where else can you go to day to hear cigarette commercials?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How good was General Lee's army?

This quote is taken from Lenoir Chambers' excellent two-volume biography of General Stonewall Jackson. It is from a Yankee officer who was a prisoner of the South during the winter of 1863, when the Army of Northern Virginia was at the peak of its accomplishments:

Their artillery horses are poor, starved frames of beasts, tied to their carriages and caissons with odds and ends of rope and strips of raw hide; their supply and ammunition trains look like a congregation of all the crippled California emigrant trains that ever escaped off the desert out of the clutches of the rampaging Comanche Indians. The men are ill-dressed, ill-equipped, and ill-provided - a set of ragamuffins that a man is ashamed to be seen among, even when he is a prisoner, and can't help it. And yet they have beaten us fairly, beaten us all to pieces, beaten us so easily that we are the objects of contempt even to their commonest private soldiers with no shirts to hang out the holes of their pantaloons, and cartridge-boxes tied around their waists with strands of rope.

As long as Generals Lee, Jackson, Longstreet and Stuart were alive and in command, the Army of Northern Virginia was one of the finest fighting units the world has ever seen.


Concerning laws

Some people believe the law to be a restriction. It is a restriction only against evil. Laws are made to free people, not to bind them - if they are the proper laws. They tell each of us what he may do without transgressing on the equal liberty of any other man.

(from Borden Chantry, by Louis Lamour)


The problem detectives face

"Motive, like end of string, tied in many knots: end may be in sight, but hard to unravel."

(from Charlie Chan in Shanghai)


Monday, April 20, 2015

"Where Is Everybody?"

The name of a novel written by a cannibal with amnesia.
(from the Fred Allen radio show)

"Do you know Lincoln's Gettysburg Address?"

"I didn't even know he had moved."

(an old, well-worn joke from radio days)

The DeMarco Sisters

Our generation still knows the Andrews Sisters pretty well, but there were other female sister singing groups in that era. One was The Demarco Sisters, who were regulars on the Fred Allen radio show. They had nice, tight harmony and sounded at least as good as the Andrews, in my opinion.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Quote from Victor Mature. I like it!

"Everyone told me I would go crazy or die if I quit working. Yeah? Well what a lovely way to die."

Victor McLaghlen fought Jack Johnson

Probably not known by many fans of old movies, actor Victor McLaghlen had been a prize fighter in his youth, and actually fought heavyweight champ Jack Johnson in an exhibition match (see photo below).

Johnson and McLaglen: The Boxer and the Actor

Making life meaningful

All men age, as all men die. The thing is not to die too soon, Senora, and to live wisely. To live a long time is nothing; to live a long time wisely is something.

(from The Californios, by Louis Lamour)


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Learning from trouble

     "There is always trouble. One learns to live with it. A man grows through enduring."
     "Is that why you go to sea?"
     He chuckled. "Of course not. I go to sea because it is a means to a living. Nobody in his right mind invites difficulties; you simply cope with those that do arise. But you don't try to avoid your duties. As far as the sea is concerned, you learn to live with the sea or you don't last. You simply try to conform."
     "What about people? Do you conform there, too?"
     "Whenever I can, of course. Why not? Most rules whether of law or good breeding are simply made to enable men to live together with less friction. If one lives with people he must always conform, to a degree. I see no harm in that, and lose nothing by it."

(from The Californios, by Louis Lamour)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Enunciation in old radio shows

A goodly percentage of the general population does not enunciate clearly while speaking. We are so accustomed to it that our brain translates the speech pattern and we get the general gist of the conversation despite that fact. However, on old radio shows, we did not have the advantage of reading lips, plus there was some loss of clarity due to transmission over the airwaves, all of which would have been AM in those days. So, the actors had to enunciate very clearly, even though the characters they were portraying might have been far from doing that in real life.

Poetic License - can you get one?

One of the funniest Lum and Abner episodes is the one linked below, in which Lum tries to get a Poetic License.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Jealous of coffee drinkers

Oh, I drink coffee in the morning, but I gulp it down as I hurry through a breakfast at about 5:30 a.m. Nothing leisurely about it. This morning on the drive to work, I saw a group of cars parked in front of an area café, where the occupants were visiting and enjoying a friendly cup as they caught up on the local gossip. Must be fun. I wonder if I will ever get to that point.

Tailgating is dangerous: we learned the lesson early

One of my pet peeves with drivers is following too closely. That is easy to remedy and would eliminate one of the most dangerous driving habits on the roads. When I was in school, several times the local officials would do a demonstration on a side street to show how long it took to stop a car. They would take three different students and tell them to floor the car, then slam on the brakes when a paint gun fired as the car reached a prescribed speed; then they would measure how long it took to stop. If I remember correctly, the speeds used were 25, 35 and 45 miles per hour. It was pretty impressive, because it took a lot longer than one might think. Plus, those students were entirely focused on stopping, so the real-life reaction times would be considerably longer. DON'T TAILGATE!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My position on "ain't"

It is a contraction of "am not" or "are not." Used as such, though not formal, it is at least proper. However, to say, "He ain't," etc., is just bad grammar.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fighting fire

It was desperate work. There is no work that will demand more of a man than fighting fire, for there is a desperation in it that is born of man's ancient fear and his present realization of the danger.

(from Brionne, by Louis Lamour)


Costello gave his girlfriend garlic lipstick

That way, when he wants to kiss her in the dark, he just inhales and comes in on the beam.

A frugal Scottish cowboy

Costello: Hey, Scottie, you forgot one of your spurs.

Scottie: No, I only bought one. If you spur one side of the horse, the other side has got to go along.

Stress is like a stretching rubber band

It hasn't broken (you) - yet - but you never know when it will. The human frame will only stand so much, both at the moment and cumulatively.

Monday, April 13, 2015

You always know where your baggage is

if you drive. Well, that is, unless you left it at home.

Why always "up"?

Sometimes we get hiccups. Always hiccups. Never hiccdowns. Have you ever wondered about that?

Our visit to the Metropolitan Opera

In February of 1985, I made my first trip to New York for Toy Fair, the annual big event in that industry. I had to stay ten days, but my boss had arranged for his wife and mine also to go, so they were able to go sight-seeing. She and I had planned to take one evening to go to the Metropolitan Opera, since that would be the only opportunity we would ever have. Our tickets were in the fourth balcony – so far away from the stage that we could not see the performer’s faces clearly – but the acoustics were perfect.

               The conductor for the performance was Placido Domingo, the famous tenor. He had been wanting to expand his career, and so was moving into conducting to some extent. I do not believe that was the first actual performance he had conducted, but it was the first production which he had conducted at the Met, so his initial performance would have been a few months earlier. LINK
It was a lot of fun. I would not want to do it very often, but once was entertaining.

Dan O'Herlihy - now there is a good Irish name

He did a lot of work in old radio shows.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Instability is dangerous

We see it in the weather this time of year. The threat of thunderstorms and tornadoes is constant. The damage resulting from them can be devastating. So it is with life in general. With unstable people you never know what will happen. They are like a spark in a powder room. "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel," the Bible says, and experience tells us it is very true.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The best sleep aids

Of all the "white noises" that help us sleep, I believe slow rain with distant thunder and attic fans are the best.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Puccini made conversation beautiful

One of the great things about the operas of Giacomo Puccini is that he managed to remove those "dead spots" known as recitativo that had previously been used for extended conversations. They were sections where the composers used what basically amounted to a musical "chant" in which they fast-forwarded to the next aria or other major number. Of course, much of the actual plot of the opera was in these sections, so you could not just do away with them, but what folks really wanted to hear was the arias, so you did not spend any more time on them than you had to.

Puccini managed to write his mature operas like he was writing a symphony, somehow maintaining the beauty and the tension even in the sections that formerly would have been recitatives. Thus you can listen to an entire Puccini opera without having to take periodic naps from sheer boredom during the dead sections.


Highest paid musician in the world

Years ago I read an article (I think in the Wall Street Journal, interestingly enough) about the cymbal player at the Metropolitan Opera. It said he was the highest paid musician - per note - in the world. Some operas being very lengthy, and the veteran orchestra musicians being quite familiar with the standard repertoire, the piece said that the cymbalist would occasionally slip out of the orchestra pit and go across the street to a bar and have a drink, and be able to get back for the next note he was to play.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Not likely to happen to me

"Bill was killed because he knew too much." That was a line from the Saber of London TV detective series. Not likely that I will ever be in danger for that reason.

Paladin would not have lived long

If Paladin (of Have Gun, Will Travel fame) had gone on jobs as dangerous as he did as often as the programs pictured (once a week), the odds would have been greatly against his living to be very old, even if he had been very good with a gun. If the gun did not get him, the travel would.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

A new face, a very interesting face

So Michael Lanyard, the Lone Wolf, observes about the newest beautiful girl in the series, and off he goes into trouble again. Always the case, isn't it? Find the woman, find the mayhem. In this case, the face happened to be that of actress Virginia Grey. Incidentally, Grey's father, Ray, was one of the Keystone Kops.

Charlie Chan on The Mind

"Mind, like parachute, only function when open."
(from Charlie Chan at the Circus)


Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Captain Stinson's accent

On the Tales of the Texas Rangers radio program, Jase Pearson's boss was a Captain Stinson. It is humorous to hear the actor trying to imitate what he must have thought was a Texas accent. He was not even close.


Stability or inertia

I am a great believer that stability is necessary for a healthy and useful life. Constant change and upheaval are not conducive to the most useful and enjoyable situations. However, it is possible to stray too far in that direction, especially for certain personality types. Stability can become downright inertia, and that is not good, either.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Everett Leverett

This unique name is that of one of the suspects in the Michael Shayne old radio detective program from October 1948. It turned out that he was not the crook, even though he was the most unlikeable of the suspects.


It is staggering how important correct priorities are in life. You might be amazingly good at something - indeed, the best in the world - but if the thing you are doing is not important, then all your efforts amount to nothing. How many people fritter away their lives chasing the rainbows of unimportant accomplishment?

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Ella Fitzgerald - the greatest

Of all the female singers of the Big Band era, I think Ella may have been the best. Her voice was not particularly outstanding, but it was smooth and pleasing, and her phrasing was outstanding. She gets my vote.


Friday, April 03, 2015

Those crickets that always chirp

I think they call it tinitis - that ringing in the ears that we get as we grow older and when our hearing has been abused. We cannot hear the crickets in the summertime because we always hear crickets.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Don Wilson got good grades in college

He graduated Magna Cum Larda.

Big business OWNS the Republican Party

When business coughs, the GOP quickly jumps. Disgusting!

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Skelton Knaggs - one of the creepiest faces

He was in one of the Sherlock Holmes films, Terror By Night. A face just made for crime.



He invented a new kind of shoe

They are made out of banana peels. He calls them "slippers."

More from Louis Lamour on gun control

     "Guns lead to trouble."
     "Well," Andress said dryly, "I can see where not havin' a gun led you to trouble." He paused a moment. "The thieves and the killers are goin' to have guns, so if the honest men don't have 'em they just make it easier for the vicious."
     "Understand one thing, Mr. Chantry. You can make laws against weapons but they will be observed only by those who don't intend to use them anyway. The lawless can always smuggle or steal, or even make a gun. By refusing to wear a gun you allow the criminal to operate with impunity."

(Both are from North To the Rails)