Friday, July 31, 2015

Some people never change

When I was a baby, I used to entertain myself by putting my itty-bitty foot into my mouth - and I've never stopped.

(from The Adventures of Maisie radio show)

Seventeen Republican presidential candidates

Seventeen! Seventeen! Don't those guys have anything better to do? Maybe not. Maybe that is why they are running.

Skeat's Dictionary

If you love the English language and learning more about words, you would enjoy Walter William Skeat's Etymological English Dictionary. It is as handy as sliced bread if you want to get an understanding of the full breadth behind words in English. It traces words back into their derivatives from other, older languages. Interesting and handy.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Oogie Pringle - glamor man?

Well, not exactly. Just the opposite normally. He was the wishful suitor on the radio show, A Date With Judy. On one episode, however, he did manage to get a date with Dorothy Lamour, which caused Judy to second-guess having just ditched him.

"Would you stop being so fearless with my life?!"

A retort by Archie Goodwin to his boss, Nero Wolfe, when he was scolded for not pursuing a criminal under dangerous circumstances.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Decimating a generation

This from the website

Approximately 13 million Germans served in the military during the Great War; 2 million were killed, that is, roughly 15 percent. As Keegan notes, this percentage is equally shocking when the numbers of war dead are calculated as a percentage of the relevant male cohort; that is, men born between 1880 and 1899 (prime candidates for service in the war). Of German men from these year groups, approximately 13 percent were killed between 1914 and 1918. Among young French men, the percentage was even higher – 17 percent.

With only 21 years separating the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II, one wonders how the European nations were able to re-stock their military-age population in time to bear the even greater losses of World War II.

Larry Dobkin - sometimes the ONLY voice

As you listen to old radio shows, you realize that there were some roles for which Larry Dobkin's voice was the only voice that would have worked.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015


I understand that old age involves weariness of body. But I am finding out, as I progress (or regress?) that it also involves a weariness of soul. I just get tired of this life of constant sin and toil and sorrow.

Monday, July 27, 2015

How government works - or does not

"He had premonitions of endless delays while provincial authorities wondered, doubted, criticized, procrastinated, investigated, reported - and repeated."

(from Alias the Lone Wolf, by Louis Joseph Vance)

Thursday October Christian

This was the name of one of the sons of Fletcher Christian, the most famous of the mutineers from the ship Bounty, immortalized in the movie. Descendants of Christian are living today, with their genealogy documented. If you are interested, below is a link with some interesting reading.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Be careful when you repent

"He was to learn there is nothing more unpalatable than the repentance of the headstrong." (from Alias the Lone Wolf, by Louis Joseph Vance)

We have the old saying, "Marry in haste; repent at leisure." The line above would be more on the opposite side of the equation: "Repent in haste; repent of repentance at leisure."

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Beverage of the hour

It is interesting how certain drinks have become associated with certain times of the day. Coffee in the morning. Tea in the afternoon, at least in England. Cocktails at whatever time of day people drink cocktails. You might be able to enlarge that list.

Friday, July 24, 2015

John Calvert as the Falcon

The third of the actors to play the smooth private detective, John Calvert was not as effective as his two predecessors, but the movies are enjoyable nonetheless. Incidentally, like Chester Morris as Boston Blackie, the sleight-of-hand tricks Calvert performs in these movies are the real deal.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Oscar Levant insults the Mad Russian

Russian, if we had another idiot here today, the two of you could sing a solo.

(from the Eddie Cantor radio show)

There are times to leave well enough alone

"Only foolish dog pursue flying bird."

(from Charlie Chan in Shanghai)


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

There are monsters in the pasture!

Osgood the Dog has reached a crisis in his young, sheltered, house-dog life. Now when he goes outside to answer nature's call and roam around a little, he frequently encounters large, four-legged beasts in the pasture who look at him out of large, sad eyes and go, "Mooooo." Quite disturbing to his emotional equilibrium.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Excellent quote from Mrs. Strom Thurmond

 "You have to give kids the time -- the most precious thing you can give to your children is time,m not money, not material possessions. To give them the moral upbringing and to guide them in developing character, you have to be around -- you can't do it in absentia."

Do you have a pilot light?

That's an old flame that stayed lit.
(from the Abbott and Costello radio show)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Shakespeare said the same thing, just with a lot more class.

"When it rains, it pours." That is what we say.

Shakespeare said, "When sorrows come, they come not single spies
But in battalions."

Ermintrude the cow

This was a remarkable bovine who took a liking to Higgins the butler on the It's Higgins, Sir radio show. He mistakenly fed her some high-powered pickles instead of cud-balm, and she seemed to like it after she got over the initial shock.

Logical deduction regarding pelts

Mr. Roberts: Those Indians have never harmed a fly, Higgins.

Higgins: Naturally not, sir. Those flies have very small scalps.

(from It's Higgins, Sir radio show)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fairbanks really was a swashbuckler

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the exploits of actor Sir Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., during World War II:

Having witnessed (and participated in) British training and cross-Channel harassment operations emphasizing the military art of deception, Fairbanks attained a depth of understanding and appreciation of military deception then unheard of in the United States Navy. Lieutenant Fairbanks was subsequently transferred to Virginia Beach where he came under the command of Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, who was preparing U.S. naval forces for the invasion of North Africa.
Fairbanks convinced Hewitt of the advantages of a military deception unit, then repeated the proposal at Hewett's behest to Admiral Ernest KingChief of Naval Operations. King thereupon issued a secret letter on March 5, 1943 charging the Vice Chief of Naval Operations with the recruitment of 180 officers and 300 enlisted men for the Beach Jumper program.
United States Navy Beach Jumpers saw their initial action in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. Throughout the remainder of the war, the Beach Jumpers conducted their hazardous, shallow-water operations throughout the Mediterranean.
For his planning the diversion-deception operations and his part in the amphibious assault on Southern France, Lieutenant Commander Fairbanks was awarded the United States Navy's Legion of Merit with bronze V (for valor), the Italian War Cross for Military Valor, the French Légion d'honneur and the Croix de guerre with Palm, and the BritishDistinguished Service Cross. Fairbanks was also awarded the Silver Star for valor displayed while serving on PT boats and the National Order of the Southern Cross, conferred by the Brazilian government. Among his other exploits was the sinking of the corvette UJ-6083 (formerly the Regia Marina Gabbiano-class Capriolo) while in command of a mixed division of American PT Boats and British Insect-class gunboats plus assorted other small craft. Fairbanks commanded from HMS Aphis.[3]
Fairbanks stayed in the US Naval Reserve after the war and ultimately retired as a Captain in 1954.

Edward G. Robinson made an interesting good guy

We have grown so used to thinking of him as a gangster or tough or other sort of bad guy, and he played those parts so well, that it is hard for our minds to accept him in any other role. Sort of like John Wayne being a society sort.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Explaining cousins

Cousins have common grandparents. Second cousins have common great-grandparents. Third cousins have common great-great-grandparents, and so on.

Now, if cousins have common ancestors, but those ancestors do not sustain the same relationship to both cousins, then the "removed" label comes in. If you and I are cousins, but our common ancestors are my grandparents and your great-grandparents, then we are one generation removed from being first cousins. We cannot be second cousins because our ancestors are not my great-grandparents, and we cannot be first cousins because our ancestors are not your grandparents. So, we use the lowest-common denominator (in this case first cousins once removed). If we share only one common ancestor (we have common grandfathers, but not common grandmothers, for instance), then we are half-first cousins.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Dangerous Assignment - A predictable plot

I listened to an episode of Dangerous Assignment on the way to work this morning. Steve Mitchell is sent to Sweden. They have been notified by a U. S. contact over there that secrets are being smuggled out of an office, and their contact has a pretty good idea who is it. Immediately - at this point we KNOW that the first thing that will happen when Mitchell gets to Sweden is that this contact will be killed? Are we right? Well, natch!


The Four Freshmen's unique sound

You can always tell the Four Freshmen right off the bat. Of course, they had that (very) close harmony, but others had that. I have not been able to put my finger on it, but I think one of the quartet always sang just a fraction of a tone out of key, and that gave a recognizable timbre to their productions. Anyway, they were a household name for a while.


Thursday, July 16, 2015


It is a very powerful word. Dis-couragement. That which saps our courage and will to carry on. It can render us basically non-functional.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Josefina "Joey" Guerrero

One of the most touching stories in the Reader's Digest book, Secrets and Spies, is that of Joey Guerrero, a brave Philippino woman who had leprosy, but who, though separated from her husband and child because of the disease, acted as a spy and courier for the underground forces. A true hero.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Rita Corday - but her real name was a lot tougher

Corday was another in a long list of actors and actresses whose real names were unwieldy. She was born in Tahiti as Jeanne Paule Teipotemarga.


Photography in The Sands of Iwo Jima

I watched this again tonight and enjoyed it tremendously. Particularly did I appreciate the artful way the director wove together live WWII footage and that which their own cameramen shot.


"I Love America" - what does that mean

I trust that I do love my country and that I would be willing to defend it, but what does that mean? What is it specifically that I love, and that I would be willing to defend? Food for thought.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Maisie takes things in stride

"I only have one pair of shoes, but so what? I only have one pair of feet."
(from Adventures of Maisie radio show)

Charlie valued quiet sleight

"Only a very sly man can shoot off a cannon quietly."
(from Charlie Chan Carries On)


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Check out The Falcon series of movies

There was a series of 16 movie made from 1941 to 1949 that featured variations of the character originally created by Michael Arlen in a short story. He was portrayed by George Sanders, Tom Conway, and John Calvert. The Falcon was a suave ladies' man who always seemed to skirt the edges of the law, but always worked on the side of the good guys. They were all lightweight fare, but thoroughly enjoyable. My wife and I are great fans of that genre of old movies that were detective mysteries with a touch of comedy, and that was exactly what The Falcon movies were. Great fun!


It always takes me several day to get at all acclimated to the first really hot (or cold) spell. The human system is very adaptable, but there are limits to that, and as we grow older those limits are stricter.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Stan Getz and Woody Herman: "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?"

This is a great performance of one of the great standards. The Woody Herman Band with the inimitable Stan Getz as soloist. Getz had an amazing ability to phrase a solo just precisely to fit situation, and usually just a touch understated, with the right amount of style and class.


Friday, July 10, 2015

The great themes of Lalo Schifrin

Among the great television theme music were those composed by Lalo Schifrin. See the links below to two of his best: Mannix, and Mission Impossible. (Ah, the good ol' days.)

Link to Mannix
Link to Mission Impossible

French teeth during World War II

According to the book Secrets and Spies, the teeth of Frenchmen during the Second World War were very bad, largely due to malnutrition. At times the Germans, to determine if a person had recently come into the country, would pry open a person's mouth to look at his teeth.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

HMS Valliant - disabled by human torpedoes

In 1941, the Valliant was put out of action by an explosion from devices attached to the bottom of the ship by two-man "human torpedoes." (Read the story in the book Secrets and Spies.)

HMS Valiant between 1930 and 1937

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Could Rochester sing?!

Why, around Central Avenue he was known as "that sentimental fellow with the mellow bellow."


Lighted or lit?

Both old radio shows and Louis Lamour seem to use "lighted" pretty strictly as the past tense for the verb light. "He lighted a candle." However, if we use the reference below from the website Grammarist as a rule, that is only a matter of preference.

Lighted and lit each work as the past tense and past participle of the verb light. Both have long histories in English and are used throughout the English-speaking world, so you are generally safe using the one that sounds best to you. Keep in mind, though, that lit is generally favored for both uses outside the U.S. (though lighted, again, appears some of the time). Lighted, where it does appear, is usually an adjective (e.g., a lighted grill), while lit is more often a verb (e.g., she lit the grill).
Neither form is inherently more American or more British. Both forms are hundreds of years old, and each has had periods of prevalence throughout its history. It just happens that at this stage in history lighted is more common in American English than elsewhere.

Drama or music?

Highbrow musical sorts have sometimes debated whether opera is primarily dramatic music or musical drama. In other words, is it mainly drama or music. Where is the emphasis. To me that is easy to answer. If opera is drama, then it is terrible drama. It takes far too long for the plot to evolve, since it has to wait for the music. Also, who can understand what the singers are saying half the time? And who communicates by singing, anyway? If opera is not good music, then it is nothing. Sadly, in an effort to make it drama, many composers neglected the music and ended up with nothing worth having.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Heavy treasure

Early in World War II, when Britain moved her gold to Canada and the U.S., angle irons beneath the cruiser HMS Emerald's magazine floors were bent, so heavy was the load.

Olive Major - even better than Durbin?

A regular for a while on the Eddie Cantor radio program was Olive Major. She had a very pleasant, clear voice with a mature sound far beyond her years. Was she on a par with Deanna Durbin? Well, you would have to listen and judge for yourself, but she was in the same class, at least. She is pictured below with Cantor and Dinah Shore.

From Charlie Chan the family man

"Once you have large family, all other troubles mean nothing." (from The Chinese Cat)

Monday, July 06, 2015

Hi, ho, Silver!

Giacomo Rossini probably knew that he has written a very good piece of music when he finished the Overture to William Tell, but he could have had no sense of the broad usage it has been given today - from TV programs to basketball games.

Hypochondria carriers

Typhoid Mary was perhaps the most famous carrier of a disease. However, I do know people who might be called hypochondria carriers. They can make you feel ill just by talking to you. You might feel all right when the conversation begins, but by the time it ends they will have you convinced that you are at death's door.


Sunday, July 05, 2015

The police cars from the golden age of detective movies



Virtue is its own reward

It is an old saying, but no less true today than any day. It is rewarding to do that which is right, regardless of the consequences.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Limits of the human body

It is amazing how much adequate rest and some respite from stress play in keeping us healthy. The human organism thrives on some stress, but there is a point at which it becomes our most dangerous enemy.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Watching "Give Out, Sisters" with Nora

My four-year-old granddaughter and I were watching the old movie, "Give Out, Sisters." I leaned over and asked her, "Isn't this fun - watching an old Andrews Sisters movie?" She thought a moment and answered, "It would be more fun if we had popcorn and sno-cones."


Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Blindfolded Wildcat

After Mousey Grey (alias The Masked Muskrat), took on Cedric Wehunt as his assistant. Cedric chose The Blindfolded Wildcat as his professional name. (From the Lum and Abner radio show)

Puny man

Floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, drought. They all serve to remind us just how weak man is. All our vaunted technology and scholarship cannot stand before them. But they obey the voice of the Creator.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Live accompaniment

One of the things that I like least about modern-day talent competitions is the canned accompaniment. Back in the good old days, it was all live. And that made it that much harder. Today's singers do not have to worry about coordinating with the accompanist, and the accompaniment is exactly the same every time. A whole lost easier than how it used to be.

Excess acidity

One sponsor of Fred Allen's Town Hall Tonight was Sal Hepatica, which was supposed to combat "excess acidity." Not the easiest phrase to spit out, on the air, under the gun. But the announcer managed to do it consistently. (Say it ten times quickly to understand.)

"Secrets and Spies" - Reader's Digest

If you have any interest in World War II history, or in the history of espionage, I highly recommend the book Secrets and Spies. This is a condensed compilation published Reader's Digest. It is excellent, and would be an especially good WWII primer for junior high and high school students. Most of it is fascinating reading. Included in it, by the way, is the real story behind the movie The Great Escape. I got my copy decades ago, and have enjoyed reading in it ever since.