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Happy As An Angel Full of Pie!

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That’s how happy I’ll be when I taste Patty’s apple pie later tonight. Of course, I’m no angel, but who is?

I’d be happy to give you the recipe but Patty got it on the Net and didn’t divulge it to me; I saw her iPad propped on the toaster when she was chopping the apples. The apples were Maryland honeycrisps, if that helps. Patty thinks they’re probably too sweet for a pie, but I bet I’ll like ’em.

I had never heard of a honeycrisp apple, but a website tells me that they were developed in the 1960s by the University of Minnesota and went on the market in the 1990s. They wanted to develop an apple that could withstand harsh winters.

Developing new varieties of apples is a pretty interesting subject but I’ll restrict my research to tasting them in pies. I know I can do that well!

Now, get busy on the Net, find yourself a great pie recipe and then YOU can be as happy as an angel full of pie!!!

The Beatles Flunk An Audition

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At the end of the last Beatles public performance, held on the roof of their Apple Corps building on January 30, 1969, John Lennon remarked, “I’d like to thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we passed the audition . . .”

Seven years earlier, they didn’t. On January 1, 1962, The Beatles, consisting at that time of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best, auditioned for the Decca Record label in London; the Decca producer was Tony Meehan.

Decca Records rejected The Beatles, saying that “guitar groups are on the way out” and “the Beatles have no future in show business.” Of course, this verdict, delivered by an expert in a suit (no one at Decca Records would ever admit who it was) is the single most egregious mistake in the history of show business.

In the last few days, news outlets have been breathlessly reporting that the original Decca audition tape has been found after 50 years and will soon be sold at auction. What the articles usually fail to say is that Beatles manager Brian Epstein had several copies of that original tape made and that the audition has been available to Beatles fans for many years in very good-quality audio bootlegs.

Here’s CNN’s report:

http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/23/showbiz/england-beatles-audition-tape/index.html

And here’s TIME Magazine’s:

http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/11/23/rejected-beatles-audition-tape-to-be-auctioned-in-london/

One factor that might have lead to their rejection was the selection of songs that Epstein insisted they play at the audition. Epstein’s thinking was to show the range of material that The Fabs could handle, and he wanted to move them away from the rough-edged, leather-clad image they had developed on their own.

He put them in nice suits and chose their songs for them on this important day.  There were a few original Beatles songs mixed in with Broadway show tunes, a Buddy Holly cover, a couple of Coasters covers and some romantic ballads. There were no rough edges.

The order of the songs at the session was:

Like Dreamers Do (Lennon–McCartney)

Money (That’s What I Want) (Gordy/Bradford)

Till There Was You (Meredith Wilson)

The Sheik of Araby (Smith/Wheeler/Snyder)

To Know Her Is to Love Her (Phil Spector)

Take Good Care of My Baby (King/Goffin)

Memphis, Tennessee (Chuck Berry)

Sure to Fall (In Love with You) (Cantrell/Claunch/Perkins)

Hello Little Girl (Lennon–McCartney)

Three Cool Cats (Leiber/Stoller)

Crying, Waiting, Hoping (Buddy Holly)

Love of the Loved (Lennon–McCartney)

September in the Rain (Warren/Dubin)

Bésame Mucho (Consuelo Velázquez)

Searchin’ (Leiber/Stoller)

Here are some of the tracks from that session:

01 Like Dreamers Do

07 Memphis

09 Hello Little Girl

14 Besame Mucho

Epstein continued shopping this audition tape around and on June 4, 1962, The Beatles were signed by EMI-Parlophone comedy-record producer, George Martin, who could see the group’s potential. Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey) replaced Pete Best on drums in August of ’62.

Decca Records, stung by the ridicule they received after The Beatles became the most successful music group in world history, signed The Rolling Stones on the advice of George Harrison. And John Lennon told Brian Epstein to keep away from the musical side of The Beatles.

These Hits Missed!

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Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, kids were suddenly the buyers of popular music. AM radio (which at that time was really the only kind on the airwaves) was playing lots of music aimed at kids and young adults and wherever there’s a buck to be made, some sharp promoter will come up with a way to exploit the situation. Nothing illegal, but these experiences were how kids learned to read the small print and be less trusting of grownups.

In the third grade, my allowance was 25¢ a week, and I did my best to get the most value for my two dimes and a nickel. Once, on a grocery trip with my mom, I saw a standalone cardboard bin that sold hit records at a great price: 39¢!!! What a deal!!! At that time, a legitimate 45rpm single by Elvis or Chuck Berry might cost 79¢ or more.

So I saved my pennies and I saved my dimes and the next time I went to the store with mom, I bought the record.

Yeesh. I hadn’t counted on the hit song being performed by a studio band that wasn’t even close to what I was used to hearing:
Wake Up, Little Susie/Silhouettes by two unknown Tops Records bands, 1958:

That first track didn’t sound quite like The Everly Brothers and as for the second, it wasn’t even close to the version by The Rays or The Diamonds. What a burner for me, huh?

Nowadays, though, it’s kind of fun to search out some of these tacky cover versions. They range from lackluster to lame to absolutely rank. But the purpose was to get the pennies out of a kid’s pocket and into the cash register and I suppose that was one way to make a living playing music. The musicians and vocalists seldom got credit on the records, but they probably preferred it that way!

Here a Jailhouse Rock cover by Jimmy Helms from 1957 from one of those cheapo records; he doesn’t manage to get his phrasing of the lyrics in alignment with Elvis’, so he just drops lyrics here and there:

When The Beatles came out, there were a slough of fake Beatle records out there. Woe to the kid who, like me, lived in a small town and asked his mom to pick up a Beatles record when she was going to the big city for the day. That unfortunate kid might be surprised by something like this:

I Want To Hold Your Hand by The Doodles, 1964:

Or even this:


I Want to Hold your Hand, by The Buggs, 1964:

It happened to me more than once, and I learned not to ask my mom to purchase records for me anymore.

Gutenberg Cranked It Out!

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Here’s an interesting video on the press and printing process likely used by Johannes Gutenberg back in 1450 or so. His bringing together all the technology of his day to create a process for printing changed the world.

Prior to Gutenberg, a book had to be written by hand; a Bible would take a couple of years to create in that fashion. Obviously, such a book was pricey. After Gutenberg, books created by printing became more and more common and the prices went down accordingly. Even then, a Gutenberg Bible would cost about two years of salary for a clerk of that day; not cheap!!!

There were about 185 Bibles printed over a two-year period by Gutenberg and his staff; less than 50 exist today. Most were printed on handmade cotton paper, but a few were printed on sheepskin vellum.

Here’s the New York Public Library’s Gutenberg Bible, known as the Lenox Bible. It’s printed on paper and I saw it many years ago. Note that some portions of the Bible are hand colored or illuminated; this wasn’t done by Gutenberg’s shop; they designed their printed pages so that room was left for the customer to have their Bible enhanced to whatever level they could afford:

The Library of Congress has a Gutenberg Bible on display in their original building in Washington, DC, and it’s worth a visit. Their copy is printed on vellum, and the pages of it I saw were as clean and fresh as if they were printed just a few years ago:

That Library of Congress building, by the way, is a treat for the eye; it has some of the loveliest stained glass I’ve ever seen.

Go take a look!!!

The Monkees Were Cool Then and Still Are Today!

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Many folks in the late 1960s slammed the Monkees because the band was formed for a TV show, obviously patterned after the Hard Day’s Night-era Beatles. They were snidely called The Pre-Fab Four and worse. Be that as it may, I loved the songs they did, even though studio musicians played the instruments on their first couple of albums.

Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith

I can remember on my 15th birthday, Saturday, January 14, 1967, getting my dad to accompany me as I drove, on my learner’s permit, to a music store in Marathon, Florida, where we then lived.

I spent my hard-earned $12 on the first two Monkees singles (Last Train to Clarksville/Take a Giant Step and I’m a Believer/(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone and albums (The Monkees and More of the Monkees). I even had enough left over to buy my first guitar capo; one of those stretchy elastic ones.

I was so excited that I accidentally locked the keys in the car and my dad had to break one of the the little side-vent windows that cars had back in those days to get us back in.

Of course, I spent the next few weeks sitting on the side of my bed trying to learn to play the songs on my Silvertone guitar and never getting close.

It wasn’t long before the Monkees (Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork) asserted themselves and began writing and playing the music on their TV show and records. When they toured in 1967, they got Jimi Hendrix to be their opening act, at least for a couple of weeks before he bailed, and when they made a movie, called Head, they had Frank Zappa and Jack Nicholson assist. So these young men weren’t as uncool as some insisted. They were fun, and they didn’t take themselves too seriously.

One major thing they had going for them on their show was a great-looking car, based on a ’66 Pontiac GTO, called the Monkeemobile:

After the show ended in 1968, the group fractured as far as playing live was concerned. Mike Nesmith’s mom, Bette Nesmith Graham, had made a fortune after inventing the typewriter-correction fluid Liquid Paper or White Out, and he had no financial incentive to join Dolenz, Jones and Turk (real name Peter Thorkelson) on tours. Last February, at age 66, Davy Jones died of a heart attack.

Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz

Strangely enough, after getting together at a tribute show to honor Jones, the three remaining Monkees decided to do a full-blown tour, and they’ve done it in style. Rather than try to sing the hit song most associated with Davy Jones (Daydream Believer), they’ve chosen to ask an audience member to come on stage and sing the lead vocal. There are several videos on YouTube of the various folks doing this; here are a couple:

From a concert in Cupertino, California; these two young ladies do what I consider a great job:

Here’s a rehearsal concert in Escondido, California, with audience member Mike Ackerman filling in for Davy; he does fine:

It’s a nice, fitting and fun idea and even though some of the audience members sing wildly off-key, one has to respect their courage to get up on stage in front of thousands and have a go.

So The Monkees are still making music and having fun, and that’s pretty cool, isn’t it?

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

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Been busy and haven’t posted in a couple of weeks, but I wanted to wish you all a safe and joyous Thanksgiving holiday!

–Jim

Dora Rocks!

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As a grand-dad, I have had a chance to watch children’s television programming and I have to say it’s impressive. No, I’m not in my second childhood; I never left my first childhood, thank you very much. It’s just that the programming I’ve seen is gently instructive as well as fun and musical, and that’s a good thing.

No one in the world struggled with learning Spanish as much as I have. My parents even hired a private tutor for me for a year or so, and for whatever reason, learning a different language was just was beyond my abilities. I have always been awed by those who could master other languages; my daughter, Colleen, showed a real knack for that early on and I was so proud of her.

My grand-daughter Maddie absolutely loves Dora the Explorer, and has learned a lot of Spanish from watching the show. There are other shows that involve math and other things that kids benefit from knowing, and the animation styles are often impressive.

When I was Maddie’s age, weekend broadcast television didn’t even start till about 11am, and the shows were almost all adventure series. Captain Kangaroo, shown during the week, was somewhat educational, and I loved him, but the shows I liked the best were Sky King and The Lone Ranger.

From those, I learned that folks with black cowboy hats were usually villains, and if they wore a thin mustache they were guaranteed to be bad guys. The Lone Ranger tipped me to always wear two six-guns on my belt and if I was chasing bank robbers to always be ready for an ambush when I rode past a certain gigantic rock formation.

But learning new languages, math and other skills are probably more useful. When Maddie uses Spanish or talks about geometry, I am so proud!!!

Robots I Have Known

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My grand-daughter, Maddie, is fascinated by robots. Considering that she’s just over three years old, that’s a good indication, to me at least, of the prevalence of robots in our culture.

The word “robot” was created by a Czech painter in 1920 for his brother to use in a play to describe the machines who did drudge work. It’s a spinoff of the Slovak word for “serf.” Here’s a photo of three robots from that play, Karel Capek’s R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which debuted in 1920:

So from the beginning, robots had to have some resemblance to humans and be capable of movement. There are many robotic machines in use today but few are what we think of as robots. They’re just machines designed for repetitive tasks.

This cute stamped-metal toy from the 1950s is what a robot looked like to kids of my generation, though not all of them carried little red lanterns:

In the movies, one of the most iconic robots was Robby in The Forbidden Planet from 1956:

Robby was created by the prop makers at MGM and appeared in later TV shows and movies under other names. His best feature was the gears moving inside the transparent dome on his head.

The most famous film robot was probably R2D2 from Star Wars:

His buddy, C-3PO, was more of an android, I guess, but here he is:

Television had had many great robots. The Simpsons creator, Matt Groening, had a robot named Bender on a show called Futurama:

Here’s the 1948 comic book cover that Bender was based upon:

My favorite television robots were the wisecracking Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater 3000; here they are with their creator, Joel:

In comic books, unrestrained by having to be a physical object, robots were everywhere and of all shapes and sizes. A 1941 Action Comic shows Superman smashing a couple of crude robots:

On the early ’50s television show, The Adventures of Superman, there were a couple of robots. You can see they, too, were crude, reflecting the cheap budget of that truly wonderful show. Superman, as portrayed by George Reeves, was much kinder to this robot than his comic-book counterpart had been a few years earlier:

Side comment: In my opinion, George Reeves’ portrayal of Superman was flat-out the most successful by any actor. We now return to the robots.

In the later 1950s, DC editor Mort Weisinger created a Superman ethos that included a ton of great robots. Superman made an entire platoon of robots to cover for him in emergencies, and, as this Action Comics cover from 1961 shows, he had a few Clark Kent robots, too:

I love the expression on the face of that Clark Kent robot! He is really confounded by his predicament. And how do you like that expository dialog? Weisinger was famous for that and I find it one of the coolest things about the comics he edited; it was so over-the-top. One of his assistants once argued with Weisinger over the editor’s insistence on having a sign over a crook’s secret hideout that said, “Secret Hideout!”

These later Superman comic-book robots looked so much like humans that even close friends of the original subject couldn’t tell they were artificial. These high-end robots often had emotions, and, to my way of thinking, started crossing into what are more properly called androids. An android is a synthetic human being, and folks are busily creating them nowadays!

Here’s one called DER 01, made by the Intelligent Robotics Lab in Japan:

Spooky, huh?!?!?

How many robots and androids do you know?

I Can’t Wait!!!

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Christmas isn’t that far away, my friends, and this cover from a December, 1937 issue of The Modern Boy promises us great things are coming our way!

The Modern Boy was a weekly magazine that had exciting stories and pictures aimed at ten-year-olds in England. This cover showed a Dad and his son deciding on which toy they preferred.

All joking aside, this is a fairly accurate forecasting of us ordering stuff via the internet. The microphone sticking out of the set is a trifle alarming but remember that when this cover illustration was created, television in the home was at least ten or twelve years away. The artist based his TV set of the future on the large radios of the day and scored pretty near the mark. I like what appears to be a rotary telephone dial on the set; I guess that’s how you connect with the toy store.

Of course, two-way television communication was further off but it’s still a cool guess by folks 75 years ago at what our world would be like today.

Here’s another cover from an old publication; this one’s a dust-jacket cover from the 1912 book, Tom Swift and his Photo Telephone. Tom clearly anticipates iChat.

The form factor isn’t as accurate on this vision of the future, but it must have been a mind-blower to kids 100 years ago. Here’s some dialog where Tom and his dad discuss Tom’s amazing idea:

All right, Dad. Go ahead, laugh.'”

“‘Well, Tom, I’m not exactly laughing at you … it’s more at the idea than anything else. The idea of talking over a wire and, at the same time, having light waves, as well as electrical waves passing over the same conductors!'”

“‘All right, Dad. Go ahead and laugh. I don’t mind,’ said Tom, good-naturedly. “‘Folks laughed at Bell, when he said he could send a human voice over a copper string …”

One senses Tom’s frustration at his dad’s attitude, but we all know who came out looking foolish at the end of the book, don’t we?

There was another series of Tom Swift books when I was a kid; these were the adventures of Tom Swift, Jr, and he also had nifty ideas like space stations and solar batteries and a host of different metal alloys which were considered far-out at the time.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

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Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.”

Copyright © 1963, 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992 by Special Rider Music

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