31 August 2007

What Reminds You Of Your Country

There is a video on You Tube that is getting a huge number of viewings. I've embedded it for you below, since he is asking a question. Those who would like to make a video response can, but I would love to hear from the people who visit here how they would answer the question. Here are some for me.

Thinking that anything 200 years old is really really old.

Being able to find every kind of climate possible all on the same day

Being able to find several kinds of ethnic food within a few blocks in almost every fairly large city.

Absolutely viscious criticism of the government without fearing any consequenses as long as you are just talking

A drive of 500 miles is a normal, comfortable trip in a day when on vacation.

Markets and stores with almost endless number of choices on virtually all products. There is rarely just one kind of anything.


History 101

If you have children or are in school yourself, here are some of the best sites on the internet for historical Research:

American Revolution The Complete History 1775-1783: The Complete History of The American Revolution

Eye Witness To History Your ringside seat to history - from the Ancient World to the present. History through the eyes of those who lived it, presented by Ibis Communications, Inc. a digital publisher of educational programming.

The U. S. Civil War. This has a fascinating history of the civil war in four minutes video. It also links to several sites with great detail on the aspects of this war.

Biography Channel This is the internet front for the Biography Channel. It changes daily for "This Day In History" events plus having a search function to look up people in history.

The History Channel's This Day in History This allows you enter dates to find events for specific dates such as your birthdate which can entertaining for younger children. I share a birthday with Dr. Seuss and have been pulling things out of my hat ever since.

Rootsweb. This is one of the best "starting places" for genealogical research. It is free. You will be enticed to get an Ancestry membership, but you can accomplish a great deal without spending money up front from the existing records and assistance from others researching the same surnames.

If there is a specific period or person in history that you would like assistance in finding, let me know.

30 August 2007

Let's Go Hunting Volume 2

This one is short because it's August, we are going to Point Defiance to visit the trees, and I can't think of a darn thing that interests me more than being outdoors.

If you really like prowling around the web of new and interesting things and have not yet discovered Stumble Upon, go for a stopover. You can try it out, download it, train it for your likes and dislikes, and set yourself up for hours of fun as you go rocketing around the blogosphere never knowing where the somersaulting will take you.

As you roam around, you can find many things that you would like to keep permanently in favorites or just enjoy a few minutes mindless enjoyment.

Now if you want to stay young, you can always go visit the places your grandchildren send you. Both Theresa and Brandy love imaginative artists, so they often recommend their favorite artists and send pictures in email. I'm sure your children and grandchildren have found some surprising things if you ask.

29 August 2007

Manic Monday Redux

As I made my rounds of the various postings on the subject of this week's theme of the word "faith", I noted particularly the number of people who had lost faith, who had trouble feeling faith, who had trouble believing in God without faith, who wished for the strength of faith in themselves even without faith in God, or who expressed a deep and abiding faith.

All of this followed the news that Mother Theresa regularly confessed to a lack of faith but acted as if she believed even when unable to feel anything. One of the repeated themes in literature is this "Dark Night of the Soul" sense of moving ahead without faith. Being a child of the 60s, I thought of a story song about moving ahead in faith: "The Reverend Mr. Black" with it's chorus of "You've got to walk that lonesome valley. You've got to walk it by yourself. Oh nobody else can walk it for you. You got to walk it by yourself."

In literature of course "The Valley of Despair" is a place in Pilgrim's Progress. In "Little Women" in the first chapter, the story speaks of Marmie's Christmas gifts to her daughters of the book by John Bunyan written while in jail for his religious beliefs. Marmie hopes that her daughters may learn to keep going even when confronted by temptation, terrified by evil, or abandoned in the Valley of Despair. Toward the end you have this quote when Beth is dying:

Beth could not reason upon or explain the faith that gave her courage and patience to give up life, and cheerfully wait for death. Like a confiding child, she asked no questions, but left everything to God and nature, Father and Mother of us all, feeling sure that they, and they only, could teach and strengthen heart and spirit for this life and the life to come.

Little Women, chapter 36
Whether you believe in God or not is not the same thing as faith. Faith is the act of moving forward even when you are frightened, miserable, lonely or just mystified as to what life is all about. It is only in looking back that you can see how just the act of moving ahead got you past the rough and often cruel parts of life and in that moving ahead you found the nature of faith.

Yes, Pilgrim's Progress was a protestant Christian allegory based in many ways on the old Catholic Mystery Plays, but the story written more than 400 years ago is about life and the difficulties that at one time or another we all face whatever our beliefs or lack of them. If you don't have a copy or can't find one at your library, you can download the book at The Guttenberg Project. So famous is the connection of John Bunyan with his character that someone viewing the figure with it's heavy burden on the tombstone knows where John Bunyan is buried.

27 August 2007

Faith on Four Paws

There are many stories about dogs and how faithful they are to their owners, but few are as famous as the little Skye Terrier whose statue is visited by thousands every year. John Gray came to Edinburgh in the early 1800's where he joined the police force. One of his conditions of service was that he have a watch dog, and he obtained a little pup he named Bobby. After a few years John Gray passed away in 1858. He was buried in an unmarked grave in old Greyfriars Kirkyard. His grave became scarcely noticed with little human interest, but the spot was not totally forgotten. The dead man's dog, Bobby, lay on the grave, only leaving for food, without once breaking faith with his master until his own death in 1872. The owners of the coffee house fed Bobby and John Traill the owner from 1862 on gave him a dish engraved "Bobby's Dinner Dish" that can be seen at the Museum of Edinburgh.

When a new regulation required that all dogs must be licensed or destroyed, Sir William Chambers, Director for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals paid for Bobby's licence and presented him with a collar with a brass inscription "Greyfriars Bobby from the Lord Provost 1867 licenced".

In 1870, Baroness Angelia Georgina Burdett-Coutts asked the City Council for permission to erect a granite fountain with a statue of Bobby placed on top near the Kirkyard as a lasting memory of the little Skye Terrier Bobby upon his death. William Brody sculptured the statue from life, and it was unveiled on November 1873. The original sculptured model and his collar are in the Museum of Edinburgh. After his death, Eleanor Atkinson wrote a somewhat embellished story that made Bobby world famous and at least two motion pictures have been based on his many fictional adventures around Edinburgh.

"The American Lovers of Bobby" erected a Red Granite stone to mark John Gray's grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard, the inscription reads "John Gray - died 1858 - Auld Jock - Master of Grayfriars Bobby - Even in his ashes most beloved". Bobby died in 1872 and could not be buried within the cemetery itself, since it was consecrated ground. Instead he remains faithful even in death where he was buried just inside the gate of Greyfriars Kirkyard, not far from John Gray's grave. His headstone was erected by The Dog Aid Society of Scotland. The inscription reads "Greyfriars Bobby - died 14th January 1872 - aged 16 years - Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all - Unveiled by His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester CCVO - on the 13th May 1881"

22 August 2007

In Good Company

In case you weren't alive in the 1980s or simply missed the show, check your library for the nine tapes that make up The Story of English or find a copy of the book that accompanied the series. There is a reason the whole world is trying to learn English as a universal language and that is the nimbleness with which you can express ideas. There is also a reason why almost no one can speak or write it well. You might as well give up completely on spelling. The English language is now approaching a million words and may have even reached it as new words keep getting added daily. To give you a comparison, French has about a 100,000 words codified and unchanging with a reviewing panel that rejects anything new that might be creeping into the purity. For a fun read on how to know the number of words, take a gander at The Language Monitor A well educated person can get by with less than 10,000 of the possible words in English while the Oxford English and Webster's just keep adding a new volume yearly.

English became the spectacular language it is courtesy of the Bard of Avon, the King James Bible and British colonialism. The Bard and the Bible built it and colonialism spread the already enormous language world wide while adopting any new words they ran into that sounded good or were simply untranslatable. Yesterday I mentioned that if it weren't for The Word Detective I would never have learned embiggens and cromulent. As it happens the writers over at The Simpsons have been even busier than suspected. They aren't quite into Shakespeare territory for inventing words and expressions, but they are giving the formation of language a good honest try.

So far the Simpsons have come up with:

Big wheel down at the cracker factory
Cheese-eating surrender monkey
Can't sleep, clown(s) will eat me
My eyes! The goggles do nothing!
Our new ... Overlords

Just to give you an idea of what they have to do to defeat the acknowledged undefeated champion, Shakespeare's contribution to the language either by invention of the word or by popularizing the use in his plays is shown below. So the guys over at Fox better get cracking if they even want to come close.


accused addiction alligator amazement anchovies assassination backing bandit bedroom bump buzzers courtship critic dauntless dawn design dickens discontent embrace employer engagements excitements exposure eyeball fixture futurity glow gust hint immediacy investments kickshaws leapfrog luggage manager mimic misgiving mountaineer ode outbreak pageantry pedant perusal questioning reinforcement retirement roadway rumination savagery scuffles shudders switch tardiness transcendence urging watchdog wormhole zany


besmirch bet blanket cake cater champion compromise cow denote deracinate dialogue dislocate divest drug dwindle elbow enmesh film forward gossip grovel hobnob humour hurry impedes jet jig label lapse lower misquote negotiate numb pander partner petition puke rant reword secure submerge swagger torture unclog


aerial auspicious baseless beached bloodstained blushing circumstantial consanguineous deafening disgraceful domineering enrapt epileptic equivocal eventful fashionable foregone frugal generous gloomy gnarled hush inaudible invulnerable jaded juiced lackluster laughable lonely lustrous madcap majestic marketable monumental nervy noiseless oscene olympian premeditated promethean quarrelsome radiance rancorous reclusive remorseless rival sacrificial sanctimonious softhearted splitting stealthy traditional tranquil unmitigated unreal varied vaulting viewless widowed worthless yelping


importantly instinctively obsequiously threateningly tightly trippingly unaware

Let's Go Hunting Volume I

Previously I've mentioned that I have this affliction of an absolutely insane curiosity about almost everything. If I were a cat, all nine lives would have been exhausted by the time I was 12. As it is this lust for the often esoteric and useless gave me a 40 year career and victory many times over at trivial pursuit.

Unfortunately, I've now had to come to terms with the fact that there are simply too many books, too much music, and Hollywood keeps pumping out movies while Broadway keeps filling the stage. Then there is the problem of all the places waiting to be seen that I will never see even in travelogues. Long after I am gone, scientists will make discoveries, philosophers will view with alarm, politicians will point with pride, and Lord knows more and more bloggers will keep pontificating on more and more blogs. Already technology has almost passed me by since the whole concept of the necessity for an I-Phone is a complete mystery. Expansion in that direction for me stopped at cell phone (without texting) and the almost never used TiVo simply because all of the too many everythings have come crashing against too little time.

Once you become resigned to getting more and more ignorant by the minute, then you can relax and just chase down whatever bit of mystery you might find attractive. Should you need it, here are some of my favorite hunting grounds.

I rarely watch The Simpsons, but without The Word Detective "embiggens" and "cromulent" would still be a mystery. Your friends will insist on forwarding email to you with the latest dire warning, plea for assistance, or political excess. Please do not forward any of this deluge without checking first with Snopes to separate facts from urban legends.

The unfamiliar foreign phrase can usually be figured out at Babel Fish., and there are a whole slew of regularly useful sites of general information that most people already know but just in case: Area Codes, Zip Codes, Exchange Rates, Dictionary and Thesaurus, Time Zones for Major Cities of the World, and the easy starting place of research on line Wikipedia.

For the financially inclined there are the Dow Jones, Nikkei (Japan), FTSE (Great Britain), and the CAC (France) and if you like sports, just drop on by Baseball Scores and Baseball Standings. You wouldn't want to miss the Basketball Scores or the Football Scores

That will do for now. If you have a particular "Where Do I Find" question, let me know and I'll try to chase it down for you. Next time we will tackle history, genealogy, music, books, and politics.

21 August 2007

The Last Star

This is the anniversary of the day in 1959 when the territory of Hawaii was admitted to the union as a state. The whole story behind that admission is complicated and still open to controversy even after all these years. There are any number of books to read: fiction and non fiction, and almost everyone has read Michener's "Hawaii" and James Jones' "From Here To Eternity" both of which while excellent are a picture of the Hawaii of more than 50 years ago.

For me the day is also memories of a time more than 50 years ago. The Big band era might have been dying in the 1950s, but it was alive and well on TV with Harry Owens and his Royal Hawaiians featuring Hilo Hattie (Clara Haili).

The stereotypical seductive allure of South Sea Islands women has been part of the Polynesian mystique since the voyages of Captain Cook. But Clara Haili captured the hearts of millions portraying a very different type of island wahine -- everybody's kolohe, or rascal auntie, Hilo Hattie. She was hilarious and the combination of the romantic Owens music such as the Oscar winning, "Sweet Leilani", his signature song, written upon the birth of his first child and the comedy of Hattie doing "When Hilo Hattie Does the Hilo Hop" made for a great show so vibrant that the black and white image still made you see the colors of the islands.

Harry Owens came to the islands to lead the orchestra at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in 1934. He met several knowledgeable native Hawaiians and learned a great deal about their culture, embraced it as his own, and transcribed many ancient and 20th century Hawaiian songs which had never been written down before, much less orchestrated. He became a proponent of the Hapa Haole Song.

This early TV image was so strong that while my daughter's name was the made up compromise of Lanisa, we have always called her Lani and I always think of Sweet Lei Lani when I say it.

Bing Crosby Singing Sweet Lei Lani

And of course, I have never forgotten how to say:

For those who want just the facts

It consists mainly of the Hawaiian Islands, an archipelago near the geographic center of the North Pacific Ocean, and other islets unrelated geographically to the archipelago; in all, the state comprises 8 main islands and more than 120 islets, reefs, and shoals. The major islands in order of size are Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe.

Hawaii entered the Union on Aug. 21, 1959, as the 50th state. Hawaii's economy was long dominated by plantation agriculture and military spending. As agriculture has declined in importance, tourism has become the dominant economic sector. The name of the state is taken from the island of Hawaii and is a Polynesian word or name of unknown meaning. In the 19th century the name was extended to the entire archipelago.

Hawaii is called the Aloha State.


Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono (The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness)

Aloha State

“Hawaii Ponoi” (Hawaii's Own) (words by Kalakaua; music by Henri Berger)



Nene (Hawaiian goose)

20 August 2007

It's In The Cards

All families have different ways of bonding. Some are loud and boisterous rough housers. Some are all peace and quiet in understanding silence. There is unity in religion with familial heads bowed in prayer. Others are kissers and huggers as well as those who travel together or the ones where food flows from the kitchens of the cookers.

We are quiet folk possessed of a quirky, off the wall sense of humor and imagination. You can barely hear us over the music in the background. We don't usually realize how quiet until someone shows up with a voice of normal volume leaving us all with headaches after their departure. So how do you endear yourself into adoptive status: You play cards!

Canasta, Spades, Hearts, Whist, pinochle, bridge, and every kind of Poker thus far invented. In desperation for companionship we will sit quietly at the table playing side by side solitaire. If you must wander into a casino, forget the wheels, dice and one arm bandits ... look for the shuffler and the hands whipping cards left to right . We have even been known to tackle foreign languages with Mille Bourne, a great card game in French.

Oh sure we do other stuff. Nothing equals a triple triple in scrabble, or possessing that one little piece of esoteric information that will guarantee the last piece of pie in Trivial Pursuit, or finally nailing Miss Scarlet in the Kitchen with the Knife. No cheating or poor sportsmanship is allowed. If a two year old can't beat you at chess, well they will just have to lose gracefully and get older! Think of the thrill of victory when they finally holler CHECKMATE after years of dismal defeat.

UNO, Sorry, Checkers, Monopoly, the upper shelves of all the closets are stacked with possiblities, but the decks overflowing from drawers says no other form of bonding takes precedence over a friendly game of cards. So if you want to achieve adoptive status in our household, there is only one thing to do:


19 August 2007

A Touch of Genius

Groucho Marx (October 2, 1890 - August 19, 1977)

What He Did on Their Summer Vacation

These don't include the gold country visit, just parts of San Jose, Santa Cruz, and Monterey, but David still hasn't stopped talking. For those in the general area, the AMTRAK ride from Washington to California in a sleeper car beats the airplane madhouse, particularly for one very tired little boy once vacation was over.

17 August 2007

Sing Sing Sing

The problem with being in different generations is the music from one rarely passes completely to another, and the newer artists who come along aren't appreciated by those who didn't grow up with them. Someone truly wonderful is almost always lost along the way.

I've forced my children to listen to music from the '30s and '40s passed to me by my parents and my granddaughter has dragged me kicking and screaming to sometimes enjoying rap. There is no way they will appreciate all the artists I know simply because they have never heard of them outside of maybe one song on constant replay on some very oldies station such as KIXI. Nor will I ever like something containing previously forbidden four letter words no matter how socially relevant the other lyrics or the beat.

If you were born after 1980 when mentions by Harry Anderson on Night Court gave his career a new familiarity with youngsters born after the Beatles, let me introduce you to Mel Torme. He may have first gained fame as a WWII pretty boy singer mass produced to the world as the Velvet Fog. He became simply one of the best jazz singers ever, and to this day jazz afficianados adore him. Here is a small taste of a concert with George Shearing. Prowl around all the music on this You Tube link and your next stop may be everything available on Amazon.

Here is the wonderful Salon dot com obituary written for Mel Torme for later reading, but in the meantime, who do you really love that may end up forgotten unless you remind others they existed?

16 August 2007

Death Eating A Cracker

Linda over at Are We There Yet is holding a contest. The prize is a coffee cup with one of her daughter's unique designs from Artmunkey. All you have to do is bare your soul and let her know when you felt like "Death Eating A Cracker".

This one is easy and will appeal to the dispatcher in Linda. It was 1981, and I had just rented a house that had been previously owned by an elderly couple. The yard was incredibly overgrown and in an insane spurt of yard work I decided to take on a the overgrown limbs of a climbing rose bush ... bush my eye this thing was well on its way to giving the Amazon jungle a run for it's money.

Innocently raising the pruning shears above my head , the blades went click, my back went WHANG, my mouth opened with the dead silence of absolute agony, and the next thing I knew I was down on the ground with a paralyzed left leg. So I dragged myself into the house, dialed 911 and almost immediately got two of the most pleasant, handsome, and almost totally useless firemen at my door. They weren't in an ambulance. The rule said hey couldn't drive me to the hospital in a fire truck ... that will teach me to be more specific when whimpering. It would be a half hour and and a very expensive ambulance if I wanted one. What to do ... what to do?

Handsome, pleasant firemen, load incapacitated agonized lady into her car and follow her to the hospital in case she hits someone while driving and their services are required. Handsome, pleasant firemen assist incapacitated agonized lady into the emergency room. Handsome, pleasant firemen then raise holy hell until rude overworked nurse person takes blood pressure and confirms that admitting incapacitated agonized lady immediately would probably keep hospital from being sued. All too young fuzzy cheeked eventual doctor uses needle and handsome, pleasant firemen, rude nurse person, and all too young, fuzzy-cheeked eventual doctor fade into a blissful haze. Two hours later and off and on through traction, physical therapy and other rather unpleasant events over the next three weeks, I felt like "Death Eating a Cracker".

15 August 2007

Enjoying Going Crazy

He died 30 years ago today. There are people who are still in mourning and the tourist buses are lining up outside of Graceland. My memories of Elvis are much less intense, but very affectionate.

My very first boyfriend introduced me to the first Elvis album and started an addiction that I finally outgrew eight years later when I finally dumped my Elvis scrapbook even though I continued to love the music.

A friend of my mother who stocked juke boxes gave me a 78 of "Heartbreak Hotel". I try not to think how much this would be worth now if I hadn't sat on it 50 years ago.

My girlfriend across the street had a sister who was a hairdresser in Westchester. Whenever Elvis and entourage would stop for a meal, she would call and we would dash to the diner to gaze in rapt attention. This was made complete the day he bought our hamburgers. Being still semi-sane we actually finished the meal.

I was ironing and begging my mother to take me to the midnight premier to see Elvis in "Loving You". She was the only person I ever actually heard say, "What's an Elvis?". I opened the movie mag, and her response was, "Well, you have good taste!".

She gave in and took me. Fearing the worst, police were stationed at the exits. The theater was almost empty since other Fresno parents seem to have been less lenient than mine. Early in the movie, the story high head turned sharply, the intense blue eyes flashed during "Got A Lot of Living To Do". I started to leap up with a hormonal scream almost uttered when the hand came down on my wrist, "They like it if you resist at least a little." I plopped down and started giggling at what was probably the best advice ever received about men that has kept me laughing ever since.

When dating the fiance, the movies were G. I. Blues and Blue Hawaii. Inside my wedding ring a song title: MTTYLTTT - More Today Than Yesterday, Less Today Than Tomorrow. The marriage was a nine year fiction as well.

By this time I was hooked on the Beatles but loved the '68 special and thrilled to see the Elvis I remembered from my early teens.

Thirty years ago: The news - By this time, I had fully outgrown Elvis other than the music. It was still a shock and sorrow.

Today fifty years removed from that first album, I still love the voice. Elvis was a unique period in the Boomer experience and totally different from the Bobby Soxers who went wacko over Sinatra to get them through a world war.

So for the man: Rest In Peace
For the Performer: Sing Forever

This is the song I always think of when remembering Elvis. I was 12, he was 21 and it was a one sided, love affair, but one I've enjoyed now for half century, and the song I love from the '68 Comeback special before the drugs and downfall.

Burnham Wood to Dunsinane

I will not be afraid of death and bane,
Till Birnam forest come to Dunsinane.

Macbeth, Act 5

I've sort of wandered away from Scotland for awhile now, and today's bit of history gives me a darn good reason to wander back. First off it has been 950 years since Macbeth bit the dust at the hands of Malcolm Canmore. Both men had claims to the crown of Scotland and Shakespeare made Macbeth and his lady a little more villanous than history depicts, but it is worth it for one of the bard's female roles and the prediction of the three witches that Macbeth was safe until "Birnam Wood shall come to Dunsinane". As is the case with most curses, this one had a bit of a twist to it since Malcolm had been baptized under branches from the Wood, and had his soldiers disguise themselves as bushes to sneak up on the castle. All of which led to one of the better puns in Shakespeare only to be topped by another centuries later by humor writer Max Shulman.

----------------------- History Part

1057 : At the Battle of Lumphanan, King Macbeth of Scotland is slain by Malcolm Canmore, whose father, King Duncan I, was murdered by Macbeth 17 years earlier. Under King Duncan, Macbeth was governor of the Scottish province of Moray and a trusted military commander. However, he opposed Duncan's ties to the Saxons in the South, and he rose in rebellion. On August 14, 1040, Macbeth killed Duncan in a battle near Elgin, and he was crowned king of Scotland in his place.

In 1054, after 14 years of rule, King Macbeth suffered a major military defeat at the Battle of Dunsinane against Siward who was acting on behalf of Malcolm Canmore, Duncan's son. Malcolm then gained control of the southern part of Scotland and spent the next three years pursuing Macbeth, who fled to the north. On August 15, 1057, Macbeth was defeated and killed by Malcolm at the Battle of Lumphanan with the assistance of the English. Malcolm Canmore was crowned Malcolm III in 1058.

----------- Pun Part

All of which brings us to one of the world's greatest puns ruined by a detailed explanation courtesy of one of my favorite places on the web:

The Word Detective

Drop the Velveeta, Lefty

Dear Word Detective: I grew up in the 1930s, and we were all pretty well behaved kids. Our lawlessness amounted to some Halloween pranks, and the occasional breaking of a street light with a sling shot. When a police car came into the neighborhood, however, we acted as if they were after us for some terrible crime, and the cry went out "Cheese it, the cops !" What is the origin of that phrase "Cheese it"? Did it come from gangster movies, or is it some old thieves' cant? My favorite author, Max Shulman, used the term to paraphrase Shakespeare's "Burnham Wood Approaches" by saying, "Cheese it, the copse.".

Excellent. A "copse" is, of course, a small forest, and, for the benefit of those who have never read it, in Shakespeare's play "Macbeth," the murderous usurper Macbeth is haunted by a prophecy that he will have nothing to fear until "Burnham Wood comes to Dunsinane." Forests being not notably mobile, Macbeth is somewhat reassured, but still nervous. He's nervous with good cause, as it happens, because when justice finally comes, it's in the form of an army camouflaged with branches gathered from Burnham Wood marching towards Dunsinane, and the murderer Macbeth's goose is cooked. Unfortunately, I fear that I have just murdered Mr. Shulman's fine joke.

13 August 2007

Trouble Every Day

With everything else that has been happening I almost let this anniversary go by without comment. It is an event whose repercussions are still felt. At the time, since I was familiar with both the neighborhood and the conditions, I turned to a friend and said, "I'm surprised it didn't happened sooner." Here is a contemporary newspaper report of the events New York Times, and for some perspective the Wikipedia entry


The song below written by Frank Zappa as well as the history for the area tells of some of the conditions that existed in Watts as well as the frustrations that finally drove young people over the edge and led to the loss of life and destruction of property in an area that could least weather either. Do not confuse the riots in this time period with anything that might happen today. This was before the massive influx of gangs and drugs. It was a time when there was almost no way out of the segregation, and the police in LA at the time had a reputation that would make Mark Fuhrmann sound like a saint.

Civil rights were just beginning to be a national issue, block busting was going on at the same time real estate covenants still read no Negroes, Mexicans, Asians or Jews. It took very little to light the flames that became the Watts Riots 42 years ago. Combine this with a police force that treated the inhabitants with little respect or consideration.

History of Black population in Los Angeles

Despite the fact that Los Angeles is the country's only major city founded by settlers who were predominantly of African descent, it had only 2,100 African-Americans in the 1900 census; by 1920, there were approximately 15,000. In 1910, the city had the highest percentage of black home ownership in the nation, with over 36% of the city's African-American residents owning their own homes. W.E.B. Dubois wrote in 1913, "Nowhere in the United States is the Negro so well and beautifully housed."

That changed in the 1920s, when racial restrictions in housing, originally aimed at Asians, Mexicans and Jews, were applied to blacks. Blacks were confined to Watts and other communities in South Los Angeles, which received far fewer services than other areas of the city. These policies led to housing problems in the 1940s as growth in the defense industry brought increasing numbers of African-Americans to the city. Efforts to provided integrated housing were turned back under a barrage of red-baiting directed at the public housing authorities in the 1950s courtesy of J. Edgar Hoover who believed all movement towards Civil Rights was a Communist plot.

While the City and County did take some steps to deal with the lack of social services for the black community after the Watts riots - most visibly by building a County hospital to serve the community - in most ways things only got worse over the twenty-five years after the riots. Closure of the automobile and tire factories and the only steel plants and shipbuilding sites in the area stripped Los Angeles of the high-paying industrial jobs that had opened up for African-American and Latino workers. At the same time, the drug trade and gang warfare reached crisis levels. The LAPD, from the time of Chief Parker's regime in the 1950s, had become even more alienated from, and hated by, minority communities it was supposed to protect and serve.

In the late 1950s and early 60s, I could visit people, go dancing in the clubs in the area, attend a virtually all black school on the fringes of Watts, and never feel in the least afraid or intimidated by the residents. Since that time, the areas educated and talented black people have been able to live anywhere they want by virtue of their achievements, leaving behind a hard core of poverty, drugs, alcoholism, poor education and hopelessness. Until that cradle of hopelessness is changed, crime and riots are the natural outcome.

Trouble Every Day (Frank Zappa)

Well I'm about to get sick
From watchin' my TV
Been checkin' out the news
Until my eyeballs fail to see
I mean to say that every day
Is just another rotten mess
And when it's gonna change, my friend
Is anybody's guess

So I'm watchin' and I'm waitin'
Hopin' for the best
Even think I'll go to prayin'
Every time I hear 'em sayin'
That there's no way to delay
That trouble comin' every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin' every day

Wednesday I watched the riot . . .
Seen the cops out on the street
Watched 'em throwin' rocks and stuff
And chokin' in the heat
Listened to reports
About the whisky passin' 'round
Seen the smoke and fire
And the market burnin' down
Watched while everybody
On his street would take a turn
To stomp and smash and bash and crash
And slash and bust and burn

And I'm watchin' and I'm waitin'
Hopin' for the best
Even think I'll go to prayin'
Every time I hear 'em sayin'
That there's no way to delay
That trouble comin' every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin' every day

Well, you can cool it,
You can heat it . . .
'Cause, baby, I don't need it . . .
Take your TV tube and eat it
'N all that phony stuff on sports
'N all the unconfirmed reports
You know I watched that rotten box
Until my head begin to hurt
From checkin' out the way
The newsman say they get the dirt
Before the guys on channel so-and-so

And further they assert
That any show they'll interrupt
To bring you news if it comes up
They say that if the place blows up
They will be the first to tell,
Because the boys they got downtown
Are workin' hard and doin' swell,
And if anybody gets the news
Before it hits the street,
They say that no one blabs it faster
Their coverage can't be beat

And if another woman driver
Gets machine-gunned from her seat
They'll send some joker with a brownie
And you'll see it all complete

So I'm watchin' and I'm waitin'
Hopin' for the best
Even think I'll go to prayin'
Every time I hear 'em sayin'
That there's no way to delay
That trouble comin' every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin' every day

Hey, you know something people?
I'm not black
But there's a whole lots a times
I wish I could say I'm not white

Well, I seen the fires burnin'
And the local people turnin'
On the merchants and the shops
Who used to sell their brooms and mops
And every other household item
Watched the mob just turn and bite 'em
And they say it served 'em right
Because a few of them are white,
And it's the same across the nation
Black and white discrimination
Yellin' "You can't understand me!"
'N all that other jazz they hand me
In the papers and TV and
All that mass stupidity
That seems to grow more every day
Each time you hear some nitwit say
He wants to go and do you in
Because the color of your skin
Just don't appeal to him
(No matter if it's black or white)
Because he's out for blood tonight

You know we got to sit around at home
And watch this thing begin
But I bet there won't be many live
To see it really end
'Cause the fire in the street
Ain't like the fire in the heart
And in the eyes of all these people
Don't you know that this could start
On any street in any town
In any state if any clown
Decides that now's the time to fight
For some ideal he thinks is right
And if a million more agree
There ain't no Great Society
As it applies to you and me
Our country isn't free
And the law refuses to see
If all that you can ever be
Is just a lousy janitor
Unless your uncle owns a store
You know that five in every four
Just won't amount to nothin' more
Gonna watch the rats go across the floor
And make up songs about being poor

Blow your harmonica, son!

Drop On Bye Bye

The Last Drop
74-78 Grassmarket
Edinburgh EH1 2JR
Telephone:0131 225 4851

Reputed to be haunted, The Last Drop is a traditional pub, which stands in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, an area notorious for public hangings until the 18th Century. The precise point on which the gallows stood, just opposite The Last Drop, is now marked by a St. Andrew’s Cross in rose coloured cobblestones bearing the inscription: "For the Protestant faith, on this spot many martyrs and covenanters died".

The Last Drop commemorates the last public hanging in the Grassmarket and also refers to the drop through the trapdoor on the gallows, through which the condemned prisoner fell. It is said that the executioner took the condemned man to this pub for a drink just before hanging him, and there is a drink in here called the 'Executioner cocktail' which is a potent mix of strong cider and strong ale.

The structure of the Last Drop was rebuilt in 1929-1930. Originally two tenements stood here, but these were knocked down and rebuilt using the original stone, which dates back to the 17th Century. The doorpiece is dated ‘1634’, so although the present day building is 20th Century, the stone used in construction comes from a much older site which perhaps could explain the resident ghost! The spectre is unlikely to be that of a condemned criminal as it is a small girl dressed in medieval clothing. She is often seen in the cellar and also in the bar area. She seems harmless and playful and often plays pranks on the staff! Many hear their name repeatedly being called by an unseen person when they are alone on the premises.

Inside there is lots of olde-worlde paraphanalia and decor with lots of rope to be found. A traditional pub with a rather sinister theme that attracts a fair share of tourists. Friendly bar staff and great haggis, neeps and tatties and quite a good pint of Guiness too.

As a form of execution in England, hanging dates from the Saxon period, approximately around 400 AD. Records of the names of British hangmen begin with Thomas de Warblynton in the 1360s; complete records extend from the 1500s to the last hangmen, Robert Leslie Stewart and Harry Allen, who conducted the last British executions in 1964.

The first permanent gallows was believed to be set up in Tyburn England in 1571, where it was common for 10,000 people to come and witness hangings, and 50,000 or more when there was a lot of publicity. The last woman to be hanged was Ruth Ellis on July 13, 1955 by Albert Pierrepoint who was a prominent hangman in 20th century in England.

The last hanging in Great Britain happened in 1964, when Peter Anthony Allen, at Walton Prison in Liverpool, and Gwynne Owen Evans, at Strangeways Prison in Manchester were executed for the murder of John Alan West.

All of which is just a good reason to sing along to "Long Black Veil

10 August 2007

Sleep Study

Off for an adventure tonight. The doctor has ordered a "Sleep Study" to try to figure out why I only get about five hours sleep a night if I'm lucky. In case your doctor ever suggests such a thing, here is a pretty good description: Sleep Study PSA

As you can see, I will be more happy than usual that there won't be a mirror.


All is well. Taking the weekend off for pure fun. Back on Monday

09 August 2007

August 6 - 9, 1945

We have finally reached the stage where virtually all of the politicians are younger than I am. For those tempted to either seriously or in jest mention they would use nuclear weapons for any reason on an "enemy" while totally forgetting that said "enemy" is in the same neighborhood as children and other living things, just a little reminder about why this is probably not a wonderful idea: Anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

08 August 2007

Monks and Mysteries

I must confess that there was a time when I was totally addicted to Brother Cadfael, first the books and then the PBS series with the wonderful Derek Jacobi in the title role. The Brother Cadfael series came to an end with the death of Ellis Peters. It has been years since there was anything new in the rather specialized niche of mystery combined with British historical fiction.

The lovable Monk gave us Medieval England, a familiarity with herbs, a gentle philosophy, and enough blood, gore and evil acts to keep the most ardent mystery afficianado content. Now C. J. Sansom brings us Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer in the time of Henry VIII.

If you like your history dripping red and drenched in suspicious circumstances. head for the book store or library for a really good read.

07 August 2007

Wild Child

"I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both."

Theodore Roosevelt

In this political season, we will be innundated with information about the candidates' families. Our modern media disects every action of the potential "first children" even while their parents plead for privacy for at least the younger members of the family and try to diminish the importance of bad acts by the older ones. Every remark, bit of gossip, and scandal will be disected as a reflection on the potential Presidential parent.

There is nothing new about this interest, but the ones who captured the public imagination during their White House years seldom maintained their share of the limelight long after their departure. That kind of fame belongs to only one White House child who managed to be a star from her childhood to her death: Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

She was the oldest child of Theodore Roosevelt, and the half sister to five younger siblings, but Alice was the one who enjoyed shocking people, a characteristic which remained over her long life. The media loved this presidential wild child. They dubbed her Princess Alice, and the attractive young woman was the source of songs, poems, even a color (Alice Blue). When her father banned her from smoking in the White House, she went to the roof to puff away. She bragged about setting speed records in her friend's roadster, as they drove around the Northeast unchaperoned. While representing her father on an official government junket to the Far East, she literally made a splash by jumping into the ship's pool fully dressed. Hardly scandalous these days, but her antics were quite newsworthy at the turn of the century.

She was a lifelong Republican who flirted with Democrats at her salons and even helped her cousin Franklin by referring to his opponent Dewey as, "That little man on the wedding cake". She became noted for her acidic remarks and quips to the extent that many were attributed to her that she claimed never to have said, though her most famous was embroidered on a pillow in her home: "If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit by me."

Through her marriage and widowhood she remained in Washington where she became known as "The Other Washington Monument". Her last public appearance was in 1976 for the bicentenniel. Alice died in 1980, at the age of 96. About her own lifelong notariety she said, "I've always believed in the adage that the secret of eternal youth is arrested development."

So when you hear what any of the potential White House children might be up to now or once taking up residence, be aware that they have some tiny shoes to fill if they ever hope to top Alice. Even Ruth Cleveland only got a candy bar.

Alice Blue

A new manner of fashion I'd found,
And the world seemed to smile all around.
'Til it wilted, I wore it,
I'll always adore it,
My sweet little Alice blue gown!

06 August 2007

Manic Monday - Lie

Manic Monday this week is "Lie". I kept trying to find something humorous or light to do, but this word just wouldn't let me. You are on your own with this one folks. Below is one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems. It expresses everything I see in the news these days of the people who lie and the dead who lie down, but you will have to come to your own interpretation since The Belle of Amhearst writes to every individual heart.


It was not death, for I stood up,
And all the dead lie down;
It was not night, for all the bells
Put out their tongues, for noon.

It was not frost, for on my flesh
I felt siroccos crawl, -
Nor fire, for just my marble feet
Could keep a chancel cool.

And yet it tasted like them all;
The figures I have seen
Set orderly, for burial,
Reminded me of mine,

As if my life were shaven
And fitted to a frame,
And could not breathe without a key;
And 'twas like midnight, some,

When everything that ticked has stopped,
And space stares, all around,
Or grisly frosts, first autumn morns
Repeal the beating ground.

But most like chaos - stopless, cool, -
Without a chance or spar,
Or even a report of land
To justify despair.

GREEN FIELDS OF FRANCE (This is one of the most powerful anti-war songs ever written, because it honors the soldier while damning the war. Do not play until you are ready to cry.) Just so you understand it, "Last Post" and "Flowers of the Forest" are played for British service members.

Green Fields of France