Sep 21

What was your first concert?

It was a productive and quiet Thursday, which allowed me to catch up on things and prepare for tomorrow, which will be productive and hectic.

I had a great memory this morning.

This is Ray Charles’ birthday. He was born in Georgia. I saw him when I was a little boy at Opryland, in Tennessee. My mother and my grandmother were at the park. And, to be honest, it was probably just an excuse to get out of the sun and heat for an hour or so. But, as I recall, they opened the doors for general admission seating and I, being smaller than everyone waiting to get inside, weaved through the crowd and got us seats close to the stage and right in the center. Maybe six or eight rows back.

Pretty great first concert.

Charles came on from stage right, sat at his piano, and The Raelettes came in behind him. At some point my mother leaning over and saying “I remember, he was old when I was young!”

He would have been about 54 or 55 at the time, my mother was in her mid-20s. That sentence is now hilarious.

He played to the crowd for a nice long matinee set. He leaned way back on his stool. He sang all of the songs you’d expect. He wailed on Hit the Road Jack. I remember that clearly. This isn’t from that show, but a concert about two years before.

I’m sure my grandmother knew some of his songs. Probably some of the country catalog and the stuff that, by then, had become American standards. I wonder what she thought about the show.

Here’s the sports show from last night. It’s just a barrel full of IU sports. What transpired, and what’s coming up. It’s all on Hoosier Sports Nite.

And here is one of the planters out front of Franklin Hall. This area, in the Old Crescent, is one of the campus highlights, and it’s always photogenic. The landscape and facilities people are putting out their best fall colors. They always do terrific work on campus. Just imagine this sort of thing all over the heavily landscaped parts of a sprawling campus.

We’re waiting for them to return my call about whether they work on private residences. I’ll let you know.

Sep 21

No cohesion, but a lot of interesting Tuesday tidbits

Back to work again this morning. And most of the morning spent catching up from a day off and a long weekend out of town. But I only woke up twice this morning wondering where I was.

Stands to reason you could spend the rest of your Tuesday wondering where you are after a morning of that sort.

It’s never quite the same as when it happens in the early morning hours, though, is it? You open a blurry eye and wonder where you are based on whatever light is creeping in from whichever direction. By whatever level of chance is involved, my last two bedrooms have enjoyed the same layout. Even some of the same colors. Once in a great while I wake up truly confused, because the only real clue is in the ceiling, and I can’t focus on that with one blurry eye, it seems.

But this never happens in the rest of the day. You don’t turn from your typing, or move your eyes from that memo, or rouse yourself from a reverie and wonder where you are. It must have something to do with the eyes, or the fluorescent lights.

It’s amazing how many pieces like this are floating around out there. It almost seems odd that there could be a new experience at such a ubiquitous thing. But, it’s true.

Weird how those experiences get turned into published articles while trying to treat a quick steak and a yeasty roll as an ethnography.

I put our name in at the hostess stand and was told it would be about a 10-minute wait.

I didn’t mind the wait. I used the time to take in the ambiance, which was unlike that of any restaurant I’d been to before.

I appreciate the need to get to atmosphere in your photo essay, but you’re asking people to believe you’ve never been to a restaurant which has a theme of neon or kitsch or both.

The author found herself overwhelmed by the “massive” menu and the restaurant which felt “even bigger than it looks from the outside.” That’s called perspective, by the way. The author says she doesn’t like steak. She ordered the chicken.

All of which is to say she buried the actual important story here.

Same-store sales are up over 80% over 2020, which was of course low because of COVID-19, but they’re also up 21.3% over 2019 levels.

This despite reduced hours in many places, like the one she visited in Rochester. (There are two in that town.) The one nearest us, for what it’s worth, always seems busy these days.

I wonder how sales in other restaurants trading in “folksy charm” are faring.

I still can’t imagine eating in a restaurant at the moment. And one day, when that feels comfortable again, I’m sure the menus will overwhelm me.

Speaking of which, don’t forget, we’re flying a drone around on another planet.

Have you noticed how every rover we’ve put on Mars, or every probe we’re sending into space, seems to be outliving the design specs? No planned obsolescence there. Maybe these NASA and JPL people know what they’re doing.

Or maybe …

I never had the honor of meeting the late George Taliaferro. I wish that I did.

If you know the story, you know that he, and his wife who was a trailblazer herself, are larger-than-life personas around here.

While I did not get the opportunity to meet him, I have watched a lot of footage of Taliaferro speaking to classes and doing interviews. He was a passionate, fascinating, caring man. People talk about that first-to-be-drafted tidbit and in that clip above they mention his many skills on the football field. I’m here to tell you that football was the least of it. A former Media School student put together this little mini-doc that seems to capture Taliaferro very well.

He worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Baltimore, counseled prisoners returning to their regular lives and was a leader with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association. He taught at the University of Maryland, was dean of students at Morgan State and returned to Indiana to teach. His wife, Judge Viola Taliaferro, the first African American to serve as a magistrate and then judge in the Circuit Court of Monroe County, remains a powerful voice even today.

Finally, a nice little musical number …

Roy Orbison released that song in 1961 at the age of 25. I wonder what kind of star he’d be if he were 25 today.

Aug 21

Listen to some music, read some books

Just a week ago yesterday I mentioned Nanci Griffith here. She figured into one of my first blog posts. Back then I said “God Bless Nanci Griffith.” I’ve been listening to her for a long time, about a quarter of a century. This evening it was announced that she’d passed away.

God bless Nanci Griffith; he blessed us with her.

The Flyer, looking back, has a certain mid-century weariness that is overcome by the un-replaceable mid-century optimism she put into so much of her work. It was a wonderful entrance to her folkabilly style.

“These Days in an Open Book” sticks with you.

And there are parts of “Grafton Street” that can haunt you. Indeed, I can hear every important note perfectly well in my mind, even now.

She produced 19 records over the course of her career, which spanned most of my life until her health turned a few years ago. It’s an impressive body of work from a gifted storyteller. The nature of the entertainment industry, of course, is such that an artist’s work never leaves us, thankfully. What a gift it is to have all of this to return to.

I’m not ready to listen to them again just now — one day soon, I hope — but you should definitely try them out.

The planned event for the day was the return to the books section. We made it back there in just a shade under two years. That’s a perfectly average turnaround time, if you ask me. Perfectly average if you are Voyager 1 and you are in between Jupiter and Saturn.

This section of the site is a casual study of some of my grandfather’s books. I didn’t have the good fortune to meet him, but I know him from family stories and some of his things that I’ve inherited. Like a giant box of periodicals I rescued. So, today, we’re beginning a look at an issue of “Popular Science,” January 1954. Click the image to see the first five ads I’ve selected.

At this rate, it’ll take a while, and that’s the point. If Popular Science isn’t your speed, you can see the rest of the things I’ve digitized from my grandfather’s collection. There are textbooks, a school notebook and a few Reader’s Digests, so far. It’s a lot of fun.

And fun is what you’re supposed to have over a weekend. I hope that’s what you have in store for you. Come back and tell me about it on Monday, won’t you?

Aug 21

You’re going to want to listen to this

I’ve been reading The Good Years, by the great Walter Lord. It’s a 1960 casual overview, something longer than the a Reader’s Digest version of history, a chapter-by-chapter read on key moments of the first part of the 20th century. Last night, for example, I read the 24-page chapter on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the subsequent fire.

Go ahead and play this while you read on.

Prominently figuring into that chapter is Enrico Caruso, the tenor you are listening to right now. He was visiting California with New York’s Metropolitan Opera for a production of Carmen.

He stars in a great apocryphal story about the disaster — some version of it you’ve run across before, even if it wasn’t San Francisco and Caruso — which you can read here:

It was one of those great moments in history that never actually happened: According to one legend, Enrico Caruso was in San Francisco during the earthquake of 1906, staying at the Palace Hotel. As people panicked and chaos ensued in the aftermath, the great tenor appeared — some said on the balcony of his hotel room, which didn’t exist — and sang an aria to calm the masses.

Or not.

I just learned that he died 100 years ago, to the day. Here’s the August 02, 1921 Evening Star from Washington D.C.

And I’ve reworked that long column to make this a bit more convenient for the web.

Coverage continues, on page 19:

The obit continues, “it seemed as if the very heavens today mourned the tenor’s loss, for scarcely had there appeared on the streets the first extras telling of his death than it became dark as night. Great clouds, heavy with rain, draped the skies.”

The piece details, at great length, that the famed tenor fell ill at Christmas, 1920. Caruso struggled with his health for eight months, including a trip back to his native Italy from the United States. He had several surgeries and struggled to recover — reports of his few public appearances varied, he looked in good spirits, but thin and unwell. Reports were that he’d never sing again.

He refuted that as long as possible.

And why not? The man, in all of his power, sounded like this.

A hundred years to the day … timing worthy of an opera star.

One of the first truly global superstars, he recorded 247 commercially released recordings from 1902 to 1920. This is thought to be his last one.

One production note … High fidelity wasn’t introduced until about 1925. All of the tenor’s recordings were made with an acoustic process — Caruso sang into a metal horn and the sound was transferred directly to a master disc via a stylus. He was one of the first artists to embrace the technology, others soon did when they saw his record sales. But the process shared only a part of his gift with his fans: the acoustic process captures only a limited range in the singing voice. Even still.

The kitties don’t seem to be fans of tenors. They’ve heard me sing enough that, I’m sure, no classically trained artist is going to turn them around.

But they are fan of attention! It was belly-rub-o’clock when I walked by Phoebe here:

And it was “Don’t stop petting me thirty” here:

Poseidon hanging out in his tunnel. He likes opera. He simply has the right attitude for it:

He also likes staring out of the windows:

I wonder what aria he’s thinking about as he studies the side yard. (‘O sole mio, definitely.)

Mar 21

We rode bikes today, it was great, but I repeat myself

We have television shows to show off. Here’s the news show. Headlines! Sports! Weather! A look abroad! Everything but traffic. (It’s a mess out there, anyway, may as well stay where you are and watch this. You’re already cozy anyhow. You don’t really need to go anywhere.)

And here’s the pop culture show. They had a band in to celebrate Women Are Awesome month. Women are awesome, and these two ladies are too. They’re studying various elements of the music industry and have plans for the future and rock ‘n; roll right now.

Musical performances in this studio never work quite the way they are intended. It’s just not a room designed for that kind of sound, and you have to try to work with a specific type of equipment which is, also, designed for a different kind of sound. The two-piece band was game to try, and that’s all anyone can ask of rock ‘n’ roll in the end.

Well, in the real end, I’m just pleased we can help create these experiences for students. I didn’t produce a lot of musical performances at 20-years-old, but this group of burgeoning young television pros are doing it. It’s nice to have nice things. And this is, if you don’t count a few things I’ve just happened to walk past outdoors last fall, the first live music I’ve heard in a year. We all deserve a little live music. You choose the genre. You deserve as much at this point.

Oh we had a lovely bike ride today. I messed up the route, as is my habit. But it all worked out perfectly, as is the nature of bike rides. We got in an easy 20 miles, and I think I could have gone a smidge harder if necessary. Most of it ranged over our familiar base route, but we did add in an extra few roads just for fun.

Because I knew that section would only have four cars (See? Total mess out there.) on it this evening, that’s where I took my pictures.

The Yankee liked this one, because my shadow made an appearance.

That wasn’t what I was really going for, but it took a while for me to understand the sun, I guess.

There are two big turns on that road, and the county has seen fit to put big signs on the road noting them. I knew they were up ahead, and knew that was the picture I wanted. I missed the first one. Nailed the second.

Next time we’re on that road, if she hasn’t dropped me by then, I’ll try to get a video in that same spot.

The next time we’re on that road she’ll be in peak form and will be well and truly dropping me. So I guess that means I’ll have to get stronger and faster, too, just so I can make personal memes. The lengths you go to …