Showing posts with label 1940s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1940s. Show all posts

Thursday, April 02, 2020

The records that made me (some of 'em):
The contradiction of Mama and Daddy's 78s


The album-cover challenge continues, Part 4. The thing is, this ain't an album. It's a few 78s, ones that I've been playing since I was old enough to work a record player, which was age 4-ish.

First, behold this influential record of my youth -- Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up," on glorious shellac.

In many cases, high fidelity spun into 1950s homes, and into popular culture, at 78 rpm.

And so did the king of rock 'n' roll.

Now I have brought much of my analog musical formation into the digital present, I guess, preserved on not-so-glorious hard drives these days. (Don't worry; I still have the records.)

"All Shook Up." I couldn't tell you how many times I played this record -- this very 78 that's four years older than I am -- as a kid. The rough estimate: lots.

In 1957, "All Shook Up" was magic. As it still was when I first got a hold of it around 1964 or 1965. As it still is today.

Me (age not quite 3) and the Silvertone . . . and the records
THAT GOES as well for another of my little stash of Elvis on 78 . . . "Too Much." That's it sitting on a 1952 Webcor record changer here at Anachronism "R" Us.

And you know what? After half a century and more, the Elvis records still sound pretty much like new. Hell, I have many compact discs that sound a lot worse. I mean, some of these old 78s sound great.

RCA Victor's "'New Orthophonic' High Fidelity" was, indeed, all that. All that and a pair of blue suede shoes.

Now let's turn to a couple more 78s that more fully became touchstones when I hit my 50s -- Walter Brown's "Fine Brown Baby" / "My Baby's Boogie Woogie" and The Delmore Brothers' "Blues Stay Away From Me."

In 1946, when my parents were still newlyweds, they were buying "race" records and hillbilly blues records from their favorite Baton Rouge music emporiums.


LOW-DOWN BLUES. R&B. Along with pop, jump and country twangfests like the Delmore Brothers.

"She's got what it takes, make a preacher lay his Bible down," sangeth Mr. Brown. You should hear the flip side.

If you want to know the music of my soul, my folks' old 78s will get you close.

If you want to know what was it that made me the musical creature that I am -- if you want to hear the records I was playing when I was but a lad, just old enough to get into my folks records and operate a record changer -- here you go. This and Fats Domino . . . and Ivory Joe Hunter . . . and Fats Domino . . . and Hank Williams . . . and Louis Jordan.

This is about as personal as it gets.

This is who I am. The music of my parents' young adulthood (and my record-geek childhood) sounded like the world -- the Deep South -- I was born into damn near six decades ago.

It was eclectic, the Louisiana . . . the South of my youth. It was seemingly at odds with itself if you didn't look any further than the surface of things. It was also rich beyond measure.

Take Brown, the blues shouter who once sang with Jay McShann's orchestra. In the particular culture I entered into during the spring of 1961, black shouters like him could sit next to white twangers like Ernest Tubb in the record cabinet in the bottom of the old Silvertone console -- even if they couldn't sit next to each other at the Woolworth's lunch counter.

AND NO ONE thought twice about either peculiarity.

This explains my parents' music-buying habits of the 1940s and '50s, long before I came along and, a few years later, started raiding their music collection. It also explains the complex and contradictory inner lives of these people -- formed by the Southern society that brought us Williams, Louis Armstrong and Jim Crow -- who could in 1946 buy racy records by blues shouters, then in 1971 yell at me about my expletive-deleted "n***er music."

People who thought Dick Clark was a communist, probably because of the fatal combination of "beatnik music" and race mixing on "American Bandstand."

Those George Wallace and David Duke voters.

A couple more of the blackest white people on earth -- as Southern Caucasians surely are -- who may have found it just cause for homicide if you had told them that back in the day.

Go figure.

The South: It's a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, tucked away in an enigma and fueled by contradiction. These records give you a peek under its hood a little bit . . . its and mine.

You might not completely understand either of us, me and the South, but it will be a start.


Wednesday, July 04, 2018

It's the Big Sound

Believe it! Be there!
Your Big Show does sound better on a big console.
Me and Silvertone, Christmas 1963
AND YES, I may have a history with this particular 1948 Silvertone console radio / phonograph / wire recorder.
Back in the spring of 1948, this beauty could be had at your local Sears and Roebuck store for $495. That, friend, was an investment. In today's inflated dollars, that $495 in 1948 would be a cool $5,210.71.

I still have that console today, and the actual value of it is . . . priceless.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Kills all your bugs . . . and everything else, too

Morning Advocate, June 25, 1948

When I was a kid in Louisiana, you went for the Flit whenever bugs needed killin'.

And when I would ask my Yankee wife to fetch me some Flit, what I'd get instead was a look somewhere between quizzical and "Are you suffering aphasia because you're having a stroke?"


I'm lying. The look was more like "I married one of Those People why, exactly?"

Flit
Flit. FLIT, dammit! Don't you speak you some English, yeah? F-L-I-T. FLIT! To kill dem damn red wasps!

Now, by the time I got married to an uncomprehending Nebraskan, Flit-brand bug spray wasn't exactly a household name or found on store shelves when you were out makin' groceries. (Forget it, it's not important now.)


BUT WHAT'S important is that it's easier than saying "bug spray" or "insecticide." You save -- at a minimum -- four letters and any number of syllables. That saved time just might be the difference between life and welts when the red wasps done got all stirred up.

So, just now I asked Mrs. Long Suffering exactly what the hell they called Flit in Omaha.

"I don't know," she replied. "Bug spray? Raid?"

Well, that's fine if the kind of Flit you want is Raid. But what if you want Black Flag Flit?

It's like when you're thirsty. Sometimes, you want Co-Cola Coke, but other times, the kind of Coke you want is Seven-Up. Maybe Pepsi Coke.

And maybe the kind of damn Coke you want is Dr. Pepper. Usually around 10, 2 and 4 o'clock.


Also Flit

OR MAYBE you just need the damn Flit, because them flying, red sons of bitches are coming for you . . . and you don't care whether it's Raid, Black Flag or sarin gas.

But no. You needed the Flit, and all you got was an annoyed and confused look from your strangely uncultured spouse. And now it's too late.

All you need to get now is some ice out of the Frigidaire.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sept. 18, 1941: The divorce epidemic begins


"Spring a surprise on your hungry husband tonight. . . ."

And the formerly hungry husband will spring divorce papers on his shocked wife tomorrow.

I think the clueless soon-to-be-former missus watched the family "go for" something, just not the batter-fried weenies beneath a glop of Heinz ketchup. Yes, it's true that men "rave about this full-bodied condiment Heinz cooks from plump 'aristocrat' tomatoes, Heinz Vintage Vinegar and a deft dash of fragrant spices."

They also rant.

Especially when the Heinz is hiding half-assed corndogs disguised as dinner.

Today, we find the American family in deep crisis amid the epidemic of divorce and the general collapse of marriage. Sadly, it turns out that "happy housewives" of the early 1940s brought this ruin upon their own damn selves.


Lord, have mercy.

Monday, September 18, 2017

There are none so blind. . . .


"Uncle Pelz" deserved better than this. He deserved more dignity than what you'd afford a Pekingese in a write-up about someone's dead lapdog.

In death, as in life, he deserved to be just a man -- not a "negro" or a "darky." Especially at 87.

He deserved to be written about as a member of the human race, not as slightly greater than a thing. Or a dog.

Pleasant Quitte was a man. He had feelings. He was loved by God Almighty. He knew things. He saw things. He remembered things. He possessed the wisdom of his many years.

This obituary from the Sunday edition of the Morning Advocate in Baton Rouge, La., ran Nov. 2, 1941. In the Deep South of 1941, an 87-year-old African-American almost surely would have been born a slave.

Certainly, he also had an amazing story. Maybe he had children and grandchildren -- and great-grandchildren. They, if they existed -- and that, we do not know because it wasn't considered newsworthy --  did not know Mr. Quitte "familiarly" or otherwise as "Uncle Pelz." In the South of 1941, "uncle" was the patronizing moniker white people hung on black men of a certain age and fancied it respectful.

"UNCLE" was the language of those who found "the idea of a darky and a Pekinese" just ridiculously adorable enough that it might make a hell of a magazine cover. The Saturday Evening Post, perhaps.

Maybe Better Hoods and Crosses.

Mrs. J. Simon, Jr., of 617 North Boulevard -- and in Baton Rouge back then, if you had the money to live at 617 North Boulevard, you had the money to have both a Pekingese and an old black man to walk it -- presumably was who informed the newspaper about the passing of this downtown adornment with whom Baton Rougeans were "familiar" . . . but not too familiar. If you know what I mean.


Too familiar in the Baton Rouge of 1941, as well as the one of my birth two decades hence, would be acknowledging the humanity of an 87-year-old African-American. Too familiar would be acknowledging that "Uncle Pelz" had a story -- a life -- beyond walking Mrs. Simon's Pekingese and being a familiar downtown sight, like the Old State Capitol, Stroube's drug store, a palm tree or somebody's big crepe myrtle.

Too familiar would be saying hello to Mr. Pleasant Quitte, as opposed to that "darky and a Pekinese."

Would you like to know what's too familiar in my hometown in 2017? Pretty much everywhere in the United States in 2017?


How about those too delusional to think that kind of cultural memory -- that sort of cultural reflex -- just disappears without a trace in 50 years, or even in 76 years. Culture is in it for the long haul. It doesn't just disappear, or even change drastically, without concerted effort.



AS RODGERS and Hammerstein told us in South Pacific, "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught." Likewise, you have to be carefully untaught. Probably more carefully untaught.

The problem with white supremacy, however, is that it just might hurt its perpetrators more than it does its targets.

First, it dulls the conscience. Then it goes for one's human empathy. Finally, it attacks the bigot's intellect, curiosity and ability to fully perceive reality. It makes one prone to delusions, particularly delusions of superiority.

Maybe it even cripples the ability to be taught further . . . or, rather, to be untaught.

If the Morning Advocate obit demonstrates anything across the span of seven and a half decades, it's that callous, incurious and shallow is no way to go through life.

That's a lesson all too rarely taught -- or learned. Especially these days.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I'm your rumba man


This is a 1956 iPod playing a 1950s iTunes download -- Xavier Cugat's favorite rumbas, to be specific.

And I'm still doing the rumba, baby. I can't seem to quit. If Chris Brown catches us doing the rumba, Chris Brown would just pitch a fit. (With firearms.)

But I can't help myself; it's much bigger than me. If I were you, I'd hang onto a rumba man like me.

NOW, you might ask, what sort of geekery gets a rumba man like me excited? Old LP records, yes. But more than that . . . old LP records in great shape that have price tags on them from a St. Louis record store that went out of business about the time your rumba man was getting in business.

So to speak.

Don't get me started about how to figure out how old a pressing is, or where did the filler songs come from when a record company reissues a 1948 10-inch LP as a mid-'50s 12-inch LP and adds four songs to it . . . because more space.

Just don't. You ain't geek enough.


Well, that's about all for now. File this under Things That Probably Will End Up on This Week's Show.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas from your local radio geek


Welcome to FM radio as it looked in 1947.

This is a vintage Pilotuner FM tuner, made by the Pilot Radio Corp., of Long Island City, N.Y. Back in the day, you'd hook this up to the phono input of your existing "standard" radio or console to enjoy the exciting full-fidelity world of frequency modulation broadcasting.

As such this vintage Model T-601 might be called the granddaddy of hi-fi tuners for your sound system. And some 67 years on, it doesn't sound bad -- in glorious monophonic sound with none of the bells and whistles of modern FM gear, but not bad at all considering.
  
SO . . . if this awakens your inner audio geek, here's a video of my mono hi-fi setup -- an 1957-vintage Realistic FM tuner and amplifier pair, along with a Zenith stereo record changer (outfitted with a modern magnetic cartridge) which has seen better days and likely will be replaced soon . . . and the vintage 1947 Pilotuner I just found via eBay. The Pilotuner is what's playing here, with only a length of wire for an antenna.

The speaker , which you've seen (and heard) before here on the blog is a newly built Gough speaker enclosure from the original 1960 plans and outfitted with a 1962-ish Electro-Voice "Wolverine" 8-inch triaxial driver.

Eventually, the Pilotuner will live in our bedroom, paired with a 1951 (or thereabouts) Bell amp and a 12-inch Electro-Voice Wolverine speaker kludged into a vintage Wharfedale speaker cabinet.

No, my geekery knows no bounds. I have a loving and tolerant wife, thanks be to God.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dial 'N' for 'Now You Can Dial'


Before bored teenagers were calling 867-5309 in the 1980s, no doubt they were asking Sarah to connect them to Pennsylvania 6-5000 back in 1940.

In Tommy Tutone's day, it was no big deal to randomly dial up folks unfortunate enough to share Jenny's phone number and annoy the crap out of them with your crank calls. But in the heyday of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, you likely would need the assistance of your local telephone operator to prank New York's Hotel Pennsylvania.

Seventy-something years in the past, direct-dialing your desired number largely still belonged to the future. 

Confused by a telephone with this round dial thingy? What would you make of a telephone with nothing but a handset and a switchhook atop a blank, black box?

Switchhook! Switchhook! It's a thing that. . . .


Aw, forget it.


THE PATH from "Operator, can you connect me to UNion 7-5309" to teenagers self-dialing annoyance upon a small, unsuspecting subset of phone customers started for most sometime in the 1950s as Ma Bell -- Remember Ma Bell?" -- converted one manual telephone exchange after another to automatic. And "automatic" equaled "direct-dial."

And as crazy as that sounds today, the phone company -- Yes, THE phone company -- had to teach folks how to do that, how to dial up a phone number. Judging by the lengths to which Now You Can Dial went to make sure the worst imbecile could work a rotary phone, it seems the world of 1954 must have had no shortage of dopes.

How damned complicated could it be to dial Pennsylvania six five oh oh oh?



HOW damned complicated could it be to send a text message on your new smartphone?

Good point, well taken.

And that said, I'm guessing you'll know exactly what to get the kids for Christmas. An old rotary-dial phone -- without spokesmodel assistance by Susann Shaw.

I wonder whether you can still get a party line with that. Maybe I could ask Sarah.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

This was an entertainment center


Did you know there were wireless remote controls in 1940?

There were -- for your top-of-the-line Philco radio-phonographs.

Did you know there were phonographs that worked kind of like modern CD players?



IN 1940, there were -- on your deluxe Philco radio-phonographs. The electronics giant's Beam of Light record players were as easy on your 78s as they were hard on your bank account at the end of the Great Depression.

When you dialed up the phonograph on your radio-frequency remote, the tone arm would come down on the record, a lightweight sapphire stylus with an attached mirror would lower onto the record and reflect a light beam off of the moving mirror to a photovoltaic cell, which would modulate electric current into electrical impulses that would be amplified and . . . voila!

Music.

If you love old electronics like I love old electronics, it doesn't get much cooler than this. The miracle of modern technology -- 70-something years ago!

And the glowing tone-arm head just looks cooler than hell. The whole thing is just cooler than hell.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

3 Chords & the Truth: Thinking of radio






We're chilling out again on the Big Show.

We're getting mellow. We're doing music best listened to in the still of the night.

Think of an old radio, vacuum tubes glowing in the dark. Think of a lone DJ in a studio across town . . . or halfway across the continent.

Think of a couple of turntables, a classic microphone and timeless music, carefully selected by the lone disc jockey.

Think of yourself in a darkened room, with the radio, the announcer and the records keeping you company through the long night.

Just think.

YOU THINKING about that? Well, then you're thinking about this episode of 3 Chords & the Truth.

And I'm thinking you're going to love it.

I'm also thinking it'll be good for your nerves and good for your soul.

I'm thinking this is how radio used to be -- when radio was still radio and people still cared about radio.

Some things ought not be forgotten or abandoned. This goes for radio, which is not lost but merely relocated. To the Internet.

ENJOY the Big Show. Enjoy radio once more -- radio done with a little class and a lot of love. That's what we do here in Omaha, by God, Nebraska.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why I'm not the next Jack Germond


The great political reporter -- he hated being called "journalist" -- and columnist Jack Germond has died at 85.

He'd been covering politicians and the messes they made from the 1950s until he retired in 2001, first with Gannett and then the Washington Star and later The Baltimore Sun. He was a fixture on The McLaughlin Group on public TV, got parodied on Saturday Night Live and wrote a bunch of books.

Not bad for a member of the Baton Rouge High Class of 1945.

I'm a member of the Baton Rouge High Class of 1979, but I am not now nor ever will be as accomplished as the late Mr. Germond. I do like martinis as much as he did, though.

THE REASON why I'll never be as accomplished at, well, anything as Jack Germond was at committing journalism . . . er, reporting is that I was committing smart-assed crap like the drawing above when I ought to have been studying or paying more attention in class. I found this, as I found all kinds of other stuff that has been or soon will be featured in this cyberspace, when cleaning out the home of my misspent youth in Baton Rouge.

The above drawing, however, may have been a little clue to my later avocation. In other words . . . get the net!

I suspect my mom never threw it out because she wanted evidence to back up "I told you so!"

Rest in peace, Jack. Your stellar legacy will face no competition from this fellow Bulldog alum.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Everything I need to know, I learned in 1948

Click on photos for larger, readable versions

This isn't just an old issue of the Capitol News -- the way rad tout mag from the hot-wax peddlers in Tinseltown.

This isn't just another "primary source document" for students of the cultural history of the United States.

And this isn't just another fascinating estate-sale find in Omaha, Neb.

No, Poindexter, this is a guide to good living, good music, good writing and good times. Everything you need to know, pally, you'll learn in 1948. Because, as the continued existence and occasional unearthing of this cultural touchstone proves, it's always Postwar America somewhere . .  and there you, too, can be a hep cat, baby!

So, what did I learn from the preserved wisdom of '48? A few things.

FOR EXAMPLE, from the cover of the December 1948 edition of the platter-patter rag, I learned that if you're one to watch the record go 'round and 'round when you're grooving on your stacks of wax, don't be surprised if your eyeballs turn into spinning 78s.


I ALSO learned that the wise owl better give a hoot what Dave Dexter says -- he's gonna sign Sinatra to Capitol someday, you wait and see. I don't think he'll "get" the British invasion and the lads from Liverpool, though, Daddy-O!


AND WHILE I was doing a double take on that news blast about how Columbia's movie mavens are remaking Latin music maker Desi Arnaz into La-La Land's new cha-cha heartthrob, I found myself wondering what hilarious hijinks Lucy and Ethel will inflict upon the Left Coast.


LIKEWISE, didja ever wonder what the Pied Pipers would sing if they were pie-eyed? And do you suddenly want a piece of pie now?

I do.

I wonder why.


AND WE SEE that Nat  King Cole had himself a hit with "The Christmas Song" some 12 years before he had himself a hit with "The Christmas Song."



ONE VERY IMPORTANT thing to learn is that you got to be hep to the lingo, Clyde.

If you're not hep to the lingo, you might have ignorantly turned the headline Blues Bawlers / Sign New Cap / Waxing Pacts into something like Blue Ballers / Sign New Cap / Waxing Pacts. There's a difference, you know.



FINALLY, Capitol Records not only provides "Christmas cheer throughout the year," it also provides a pretty decent workout from lugging those albums full of 78s all over creation.

So drop the needle in a groove, dude, and we'll chatter about the platters long into the new-old year.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

1948: Dewey doesn't defeat Truman


Ladies and gentlemen, you are watching here via the facilities of NBC television and Life magazine, coverage of the 1948 national elections, live and direct across the network.

This is looking more and more like a stunning reversal in fortunes for the Republican ticket headed by Gov. Thomas Dewey, a ticket that had seemed to be destined to coast to victory against a riven Democratic Party and a president whose popularity has steadily faded since he assumed the high office upon the death of FDR. And it is our privilege -- Life and the NBC network -- to bring this live coverage to you, the television viewer, thanks to this electronic miracle of our modern times.


IF YOU will indulge us ladies and gentlemen, as Ben Grauer fires up yet another Camel and we peer into the iconoscope through a smoky haze . . . just a moment, ladies and gentlemen, we are getting word that we have results in from Ohio . . . yes, the results are in ladies and gentlemen of the television audience across the East Coast from Schenectady to Philadelphia to here in New York City and down to our nation's capital, and President Truman has taken Ohio. We repeat, President Truman has won Ohio and thus has claimed the necessary electoral votes for re-election as president of the United States . . . this is extraordinary, a stunning reversal of fortune, television friends.

Now we understand the president may have a statement for the assembled press and supporters at his Kansas City hotel, and you will hear that right here on the NBC hookup, but you won't see it, because we can't do that yet because we don't have the coaxial cable running that far yet. But you will hear it over our NBC microphones, viewing friends as the camera pans wildly to and fro.


Now if you will bear with us as you squint at your 12-inch screen, we have a little confusion here, as it's just 1948 and no one has ever done this sort of thing before -- and frankly, kinescope compadres, we just have no idea what the H-E-double hockey sticks we're doing.

At all.


BUT at least we're not the Chicago Daily Tribune.

Friday, February 17, 2012

DeLorean and a Mr. Fusion II


From Broadcasting - Telecasting, Oct. 17, 1949.

The never-ending ideological and cultural warfare of today makes me crave yesterday. And radio stations like the long-gone KOWH. I wonder why.

Pass the redux capacitor, please.

Friday, December 09, 2011

3 Chords & the Truth: Shellac touchstones


You know what kind of music my parents were buying in 1947? Walter Brown -- "My Baby's Boogie Woogie."


Low-down blues. "Race" music. Along with pop, jump and country twangfests like the Delmore Brothers (above).

"She's got what it takes, make a preacher lay his Bible down," sangeth Mr. Brown. You should hear the flip side -- and you will . . . on this week's edition of 3 Chords & the Truth.

This is a special one, this episode of the Big Show. If you want to know the music of my soul, this will get you pretty close.

If you want to know what was it that made your Mighty Favog the musical creature that he is -- if you want to hear the records I was playing when I was but a lad, just old enough to get into my folks records and operate a record player -- this is it.

This is personal.


THIS WEEK'S 3 Chords & the Truth is who I am. This week's program sounds like the world -- the Deep South -- I was born into a half century ago. It's a sequel to this episode of the Big Show, only I go "there" a lot more this time around.

It was eclectic, the Louisiana . . . the South of my youth. It was seemingly at odds with itself if you didn't look any further than the surface of things. It was also rich beyond measure. So is the show today.

Take Walter Brown, the blues shouter who once sang with Jay McShann's orchestra. In the particular culture I entered into during the spring of 1961, black shouters like him could sit next to white twangers like Ernest Tubb in the record cabinet in the bottom of the old Silvertone . . . even if they couldn't share a seat on a city bus.

And no one thought twice about either peculiarity.

This explains my parents' music-buying habits of 1947, 14 years before I came along and about 18 years before I started raiding their music collection. It also explains the complex and contradictory inner lives of these people -- formed by the Southern society that brought us Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams and Jim Crow -- who could in 1947 buy racy records by blues shouters, then in 1971 yell at me about my expletive-deleted "n***er music."

People who thought Dick Clark was a communist.

Those Wallace and Duke voters.

A couple more of the blackest white people on earth -- as Southern Caucasians surely are -- who may have found it just cause for homicide if you had told them that back in the day.

THE SOUTH: It's a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, tucked away in an enigma and fueled by contradiction. This week, you can look under its hood a little bit
-- its and mine. You won't totally understand either of us at the end of this particular installment of the Big Show . . . but it will be a start.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Zuzu explains it all


Sometimes, it's not such a wonderful life.


Sometimes, when you hit December, this time of good cheer and good will toward men, you're running low on both. You are tired. You have been beaten down by a world of bad will and bad tidings, and if success ever came calling on you, there'd probably be no room at the inn.

For trouble, there's plenty of room. Because that's how the world rolls.

You feel alone in the world, and if your mother told you she loved you, you'd feel compelled to confirm it with at least two independent sources. Preferably, there would be something on paper somewhere -- not that you would be able to find it.

Meantime, being that the world has you convinced you're a great big failure, you seek inspiration among folks our world holds up as successful. You take a hard look at who they are and how they got where you'd like to be . . . and you conclude that if these societal role models were in Texas, somebody surely would say they "just need killin'." (See "Investment bankers, Wall Street.")

Then you conclude that's just false hope talking.


SO THERE you are. Feeling alone. Stressed out. A giant, screaming failure -- one way or another. You don't love you, and you're fairly certain God is ambivalent on the subject.

Merry expletive-deleted Christmas. The only reason you didn't get pepper sprayed at Wal-Mart on Black Friday was because the last shred of dignity you have left hinges on not being the sort of person who puts himself in a position to get pepper sprayed at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. So you have that going for you, at least.

Zuzu feels your pain.

Well, at least Karolyn Grimes -- she who was so sure about what happened to angels whenever a bell rang in
It's a Wonderful Life -- feels your pain. Being a movie icon offers little protection when the world decides to crash down upon you.

But sometimes, underneath the rubble and amid the ruin, there is a wisdom that surpasses what we understood to be true. We live, we suffer and -- as "Zuzu" tells
The Washington Post from the perspective of now being 71 and having suffered . . . a lot -- the truth is where it is.

And God is where He is. Which isn't necessarily where we presume Him to be.
“My life has never been wonderful,” she offered quietly. “Maybe when I was a child, but not after age 15.”

“And maybe that’s what makes the film so important for me and a lot of other people,” she continued. “The Jimmy Stewart George is suffering terribly in the movie — you can just see it. He’s in Martini’s café and saying to himself, ‘God, I’m not a praying man, but please show me the way.’ ”

“Gosh, it makes me cry,” she said.

“It’s not a Christmas movie, not a movie about Jesus or Bethlehem or anything religious like that,” she insisted. “It’s about how we have to face life with a lot of uncertainty, and even though nobody hears it, most of us ask God to show us the way when things get really hard.

“That was part of Capra’s genius,” she said. “Everybody has some sorrow, worry, and everybody asks God for help. One way or the other, we all do, and it can be in Martini’s, not a church on Christmas.”

Francis Caraccilo, a preservationist in Seneca Falls and an organizer of the annual “It’s a Wonderful Life” celebration, believes Capra’s film addresses other important issues. “For a lot of historians and people who just watch the film closely, the movie’s relevance includes the fact that it addresses anti-immigrant sentiments and religious bigotry,” pointing to the scene where the evil banker Potter complains that George Bailey is helping “garlic eaters” buy homes.

“Italian Americans appear throughout the film,” said Caraccilo, himself an Italian American. “When Capra came through this town, it was clear that anti-immigrant and not-too-subtle hostility toward Catholics was part of the American social landscape in 1946.”

“There’s a generous heart in this movie,” he said. “Think about that for a moment in 2011.”
THINK ABOUT THAT for several moments.

Maybe life is wonderful, after all. Maybe what's not so wonderful is how much room we allow Henry F. Potter in our hearts and in our culture . . . and how little is left for George Bailey. We say we long for Bedford Falls, yet we double down on
the Pottersville that we've been sold.

You could pray about this at your church of the almighty annual appeal and happy-clappy, dinner-theater hymns to the triumphant self. On the other hand, you could get serious, pop into Martini's, order a double bourbon and go for broke.
"Dear Father in heaven, I'm not a praying man, but if you're up there and can hear me, show me the way. I'm at the end of my rope. Show me the way, God."

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Geeks 'R' Us


I was going to do something about the South Carolina newspaper that, gratuitously, dropped the F-bomb slap dab into the middle of a story about Saturday's LSU-Georgia football game (Geaux Tigers!).

And I was going to have a nifty segue in there about how whichever copy editor at the Gannett "regional editing hub" in Louisville, Ky., was responsible might be able to find work at Sir Richard's condoms (Richard . . . get it?), which is run by a guy whose last job was as a contributing editor for Editor & Publisher.
Then I was going to make fun of Sir Richard's being a socially conscious condom company, which has student "envoys" handing out free rubbers at the hometown University of Colorado.

I ALSO was going to really snark on one member of the Sir Richard's dormitory penis patrol who actually gave Westword this quote:
"We're encouraging freshmen to use a condom each and every time they have sex. Some people might consider a condom to be a barrier, but it's really a way of bringing couples together through enhanced trust. If you know your partner cares about protecting you, an increased level of trust comes along with it."
FUNNY, it used to be we thought that whole "enhanced trust" thing was what marriage was all about. Condoms? Not so much. Condoms are more like NATO taking Iran's word for it about not wanting nuclear weapons, then building a European anti-ballistic-missile system.

But that kind of s*** just bums me out. So I'm not blogging about it.

Instead, I thought I would show you what a complete geek I am. C'mon . . . whom else do you know with a 1947 television test pattern for his computer wallpaper? No one, that's who.

Whom else do you know with a crapload of 78 rpm records? No one, that's who.

Whom else do you know who so treasures little things like an original shellac 78 copy of Fats Domino's "Valley of Tears"
? Or "Blueberry Hill"?

No one, that's whom . . . er, who.

Because I'm a geek. Besides, I'd sooner die than pass out rubbers to perfect strangers in the name of "enhanced trust."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Philco, my Philco


Seven decades ago this summer, Philco rolled out the new radios for the 1942 model year.

This was one of them.

Oh, the things it's heard -- Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt, D-Day, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, peace, war again, the space race and everything from swing to rock.

And 70 years later, it still has its antenna perked . . . listening for the next big thing. For it endures.

Let's see how your iPod's faring in 2081.

Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.



UPDATE: OK, here's a fancy, studio-ish photo of the old girl, taken just a while ago for your further edification.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vacuum tubes and lost worlds

I am leaving Mississippi in the evening rain
These Delta towns wear satin gowns
in a high beamed frame
Loretta Lynn guides my hands through the radio
Where would I be in times like these
without the songs Loretta wrote?

When you can't find a friend, you've still got the radio
When you can't find a friend, you've still got the radio
Radio . . . listen to the radio
Radio . . . listen to the radio
-- Nanci Griffith

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Eine kleine Nachtmusik


Frankie Carle entertains at the piano, through the decades and on vintage vinyl, late on a summer's night.

You want to know why I love estate sales? Because I can pick up original, first-generation LPs -- this one is from 1948 -- for about a buck a piece.

And why a 63-year-old sweet-jazz album for my listening pleasure on a Wednesday evening?

Because it's not Lil' Wayne. Or Lady Gaga. Or Ke$ha. Or Kenny G. We at 3 Chords & the Truth have a reputation to uphold.

Next question?