Mar 17

I was not awake at 5 a.m.

A good singalong makes one happy:

Too-high, too-wide photo still to come.

I found this today:

Two young men hit by a train in 1917, both lived. And then I found this and this. One lived to 80 and had three kids. The other lived to 85 and had four children. And this quick look online tells me that a man who died at 85 in 1983, in my lifetime, knew his grandfather, who fought at Kennesaw and Nashville and against Hood in Georgia and Alabama. That man, in my lifetime, could probably recall his grandfather who fought in the Civil War on land I know fairly well.

So it is a small world, I guess. Though anything is possible if you start a story with “So this guy found himself crawling out from under an actual trainwreck.”

Today, Indiana fired their basketball coach. Just as the tournament begin, his tenure ended. He’d gone to the Sweet Sixteen last year, indeed, three of the last six years he’d been there, and he won the conference championship twice. But they decided to go a different way, so there was an announcement, and a press conference. And, despite this also being Spring Break, the student media was there:

Dedication, hustle and showing up will get you places in that business. So it is great to see students from both the television station and the newspaper reporting it at full speed. Good for them.

Feb 17

Dynamite with a laser beam

On Wednesday night we had a flat. And the spare was also flat. And the compressor was dead. (You don’t have a compressor? Every car should have a compressor. You never know when your spare is flat.) Anyway, a friend picked up The Yankee and she went to get my car and my compressor (every car should have a compressor) and I changed the flat, which had a nail, to the spare, which just needed air. And in the amount of time that took I could feel the symptoms — scratchy throat, glassy eyes — coming on.

So I’ve had sinuses or allergies or both since then. Lots of decongestants, very little breathing and all the weird medicine head and light fever sensations since then. And I really, really like to breathe.

Anyway, there’s not a lot here from the weekend because we had a casual weekend.

We did see this show, however, which was a lot of fun. Brody Dolyniuk covered Queen tunes with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. We had dinner Saturday night at an Irish pub and wondered what they would open with. I believe it was “I Want to Break Free.” And then what do you close with? “We Will Rock You,” of course, unfortunately. In between they did a wide range of the catalog including “Under Pressure,” which I don’t listen to much anymore. (I think it is better that way. Maybe it becomes something more special. Maybe I can always, then, keep track of where I heard it last. The last time I was at a Jason’s Deli, alone, eating one sad little dinner. It was right after David Bowie died.) They did a chill bump-causing cover of “Who Wants to Live Forever.” I mean just stirring. And, also, this, just before the end, which was of course a singalong:

There’s only one Freddie Mercury, science will tell you about that. But you can still catch a good show inspired by him.

Feb 17

Jo Stafford sings stuff for us

Sometime after I discovered big band music I really discovered Jo Stafford. She had the most divinely studio voice. A pure, opera-trained soprano and what they called a natural falsetto. Sultry and enchanting and she somehow always seemed to keep her distance from you, too. Even as you thought, if you squinted real hard and you imagined this was an old fuzzy AM radio and you weren’t always in such a climate-controlled environment that the “you” in her songs just might, in fact, be you.


Today I was looking for something else and I discovered that in 1961 Stafford and her husband were in London. They produced a nine-show series there. (There was a variety show in the U.S. in the 1950s) And I discovered that the great Ella Fitzgerald did a medley with Stafford.

Can you even?

Yes, you can:

Fitzgerald was the first black musician to win a Grammy. She’d win 12 more and sale more than 40 million records. Stafford had a Grammy. And midway through her career she was tapped as the best-selling female singer in the world.

Now, 1940s Jo Stafford is my favorite. By the time she was making the rounds on television she was in her mid-30s and on. Here she is with Bing Crosby in 1959 and it is incredible, but the whimsy of youth is replaced with the confidence that comes with well-earned wisdom. The one-liners come with their own answers and have a little skepticism and acid in them:

She’s able to not be overwhelmed by Bing, and he was kind enough to let her stay up there where she belonged.

This is 15 years previous, in a 1944 movie. She had six top 20 hits that year. She would have been 27 or 28 then, and The Pied Pipers had been working on these tight harmonies for about six years. She had no idea of the complete arc of her career then:

Because here’s Jo Stafford in the 1970s … she’d been doing a parody act for a long time with her husband. That was where her Grammy came from, a 1960s comedy record. She had what might have been one of the first alter-egos in pop music. “Darlene Edwards” was a hapless lounge act sort. And this was a 1979 hit:

Hard to reconcile that this is the same voice. This was her biggest hit:

Not hard to see why.

Feb 17

Ancient wisdom: Indoors shoulders gather no snow

To break up my 11-hour day I went for a run. And just after we started jogging, The Yankee and I, we went by a window and saw snow flakes. And so being indoors was a good idea. Because I could look like this:

But we ran in this gym instead:

That’s Wildermuth, an intramural facility, where I ran eight miles tonight. From 1928 until 1960 it was the home of the basketball team. And, on this day in 1946, it looked like this:

I’m glad I never had to stand in line to register for a college class. I think my freshman year my alma mater was on their second year of phone registration. At an orientation session they plopped in a VHS tape and made us watch a corny — even by the standards of the day — video about how to sign up for classes. But that system only lasted a few more years. Before I graduated they were doing it all online.

Not in line, online. And that probably changed things, too.

Anyway, a few more views on my snowy walk back from Wildermuth to Franklin Hall, where a sports show was recorded tonight:

You reach a certain point with these sort of pictures where you think “Hey, more snow. Yeah, yeah.” And that is almost always just behind “I can’t feel my hands.”

And as an aside about nothing, we had gumbo for dinner tonight. So I washed the dishes while listening

A Louisiana boy singing Delta and soul blues while snow was on the ground outside.

It makes perfect sense while you’re standing at the kitchen sink.

Feb 17

Medieval Latin or 19th century America? Why not both?

After I parked this morning I walked by this tree on the way into the office this morning:

At lunch time, I saw this tree:

Different trees, of course. Different species, even. But they’re just a block away. That was pretty much the day, outside.

The sun was shining, probably for about 15 minutes altogether, this morning on my way into the office. At least I had those bright, pretty skies for the brief time I could spend outside this morning. It was gray later. I didn’t look for other tree fruits on my way out. We’d progressed to a full on misting event as day turned into evening. It rained tonight, so we ran the gamut.

Gamut is an old English word, stemming from medieval Latin. It originally had to do with a musical note, but turned into an expression that discusses the entire musical scale.

On my way to the car I was also thinking about this song:

That’s a cover on an album of covers that won a grammy for folk album of the year in the early 1990s. The song was written by Janis Ian. Janis Ian is still playing, some 50 years into her career. And she seems like a pretty hilarious grandmother on Twitter, too. She had 34 dates in 2015 and has four booked for this summer, according to her website. And, look, here they are, Ian and Griffith together, in 1993:

Janis Ian & Nanci Griffith – This Old Town… by Superpatri

Anyway, that song, for 20-some years, has seemed to me like every flatland piece of America in the 20th century.

Here’s something from the 19th century, December 11, 1889 in The New York Times:

That was the “then,” portion of the story. Which brings us to the turn of the century, William McKinley’s America:

“Thus a heterogeneous mass of people poured into this part of the Northwest Territory, good and bad being pretty evenly mixed. The Southerners were sound material, yet the bad among them were very bad indeed.”

Let’s discuss them!

“Today their descendants — many of them, at least — are the typical Hoosiers that one hears of in the newspapers. They carefully elude the refining touch of education and even as far as possible the census taker.”

If they’d just talk to the poor downtrodden census taker, we mean, he’s just some geek we found in Ohio, then everything else would be better off for those people in Indiana. Poor buggers.

“Down in some of the State’s southern counties they are at their worst.”

Ain’t that always the way, dear reader?

“In Brown County, an almost impenetrable section of hills, they are in their glory.”

Less than one percent of the state lives there today. But the county only reports a poverty rate of 11.4 percent, with 22 percent having at least one college degree. The arts and being outdoors getaway destination are the chief industries there these days.

“They would be as much at home in the mountains of Tennessee and Alabama as in the Hoosier hill ranges.”

Come again?

“They are indifferent farmers, and have no interest in the world beyond the hog quotations in the St. Louis or Cincinnati market.”

I could go plow that field, but whatever. ‘Didja you hear ’bout what Mertle’s sow said in Missourah ‘other day?

“But, as if to mark the difference, the adjoining county of Bartholomew contains a different people.”

Now, Bartholomew is about the same size, and a full 28 percent of them have college degrees and there’s an 11.9 percent poverty rate. Cummins Diesel is based there. Chuck Taylor, the sneaker guy, was from there, just like Vice President Mike Pence and NASCAR champ Tony Stewart. A popular cartoonist, a software CEO and the former president of thee National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues all call Bartholomew County home. In the 1900 census, taken in the months just after this article, Bartholomew was the mean population center of the U.S. Except that was probably incorrect because of those lyin’, census avoidin’ Hoosiers.

“They, too, are among the Southerners who came to Indiana, but they have kept pace with time’s advance, and are thrifty farmers or active tradespeople.”

Not at all like their slovenly cousins in Brown County.

“Similar contrasts might be pointed out in other sections.”

You go elsewhere the differences are the same. We suppose. We can’t be sure, so we’re speaking in generalities. Not like we have the Internet, yet.

“Even in going south from Indianapolis for a ride of an hour on the railroad one encounters the original Hoosier in his worst aspect.”

You get out of the city, God be with you. We’ve seen it. Have you ever been to Pennsylvania?

Hard to imagine exactly who The Times liked back then. Odd that so many people still think they have such a narrow view of things.