Wednesday, January 29, 2014

To My Old Brown Earth

Paul Winter is offering a free download of "To My Old Brown Earth," the last song on Pete Seeger's 1996 album, Pete. Seeger wrote the song for, and performed it at, the funeral of his friend, John McManus, co-editor of the radical newsweekly, The Guardian. The album, produced by Living Music, netted Seeger his first Grammy.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for January 24, 2014 (on a Saturday)

old skool cassette by ~EDIllo

Time for another flashback of a Flashback. I'm reaching into my archives and re-posting the Flashback from a year ago. I find it interesting that I was late posting that week just as I am today. 

[Atypical Qualities] -- I apologize for being late with this week's Flashback. Some things came up at work, so instead of wrapping up the post on Thursday evening, I found myself reviewing a slide deck in preparation for a Friday morning presentation. Believe me, I would have much preferred working on the Flashback.


This week's flashback started with a song by Robert Hazard. I cannot remember what made me think of it, but it stayed in my head. I figured that was a good indicator that the song had to be featured on the blog. I initially had some trouble building a theme around Hazard's song, but I finally settled on songs making something of an atypical description -- like "Chariots of Fire," but not that song (at least not this week). What songs did make it this week? Read and hear more after the break.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Forté Dramatic Productions Presents a Sondheim Review!

Some friends of mine are starting a theater company (Forté Dramatic Productions). Their first production is a night of Sondheim music! Details about Art Isn't Easy: A Sondheim Revue can be found at

[Cross-posted at]

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for January 17, 2014

Image from Tano Design's MLK Tribute Poster

[MLK] -- Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) would have been 85 this week had he not been assassinated. Monday, January 20, is a day set aside to honor his legacy and his vision for America. The legislation for MLK Day was signed in 1983 and the federal holiday was first observed in 1986. Dr. King's life was one of service. Therefore, his birthday has since become the MLK Day of Service (set by the King Holiday and Service Act in 1994). Dr. King's messages of unity and peaceful resistance are as relevant today in our course, loud, and overly violent culture. You can read and hear more after the break, where we'll look back 30 or so years to find some songs that resonant with, or at least extol, Dr. King's life and work.

Image from

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for January 10, 2014

[Happy 30th Birthday, "1984"] -- Can you believe it? 30 years ago this week -- on January 9, 1984, to be exact -- Van Halen released their sixth studio album, 1984. This is a seminal album for several reasons. For one, it was the first VH record that really pushed the use of synthesizers/keyboards. The band had been using synths since Women and Children First (1980). However, on those previous albums, the synths had been simply layered into the sound, adding texture. On 1984, the synths were pushed front and center, particularly on the first single. Second, this album generated the band's first and only #1 Billboard hit and it definitely fueled their crossover into pop (their next four albums all debuted at #1). And, third, this record marked the end of Van Halen's original lineup. Due to internal tensions -- particularly between guitarist/keyboardist Eddie Van Halen and vocalist David Lee Roth, and other issues depending on whom was asked -- Diamond Dave would split from the band after the tour and releasing his own solo album. Roth has rejoined Van Halen on three occasions, the most recent being in 2011 for A Different Kind of Truth (albeit with Eddie's son on bass rather than original bassist Michael Anthony).

This week, we'll revisit a few songs from 1984. If you are curious about a track-by-track review, check out Gary Graff's piece on Billboard. If you want to see what three tracks I picked, you can read and hear more after the break.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Final Leader Board for 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia

After carefully calculating and recalculating, going through each submitted answer more than once, I have the final results and can present the leader board -- and the winners -- for my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia (2013).

The top three scorers are:
  1. Colin G. / Stephen B. 
  2. Purehero 
  3. HeidiGolightly
I really had not anticipated a tie, at any level, so I will have to figure out how to work out the prizes. I'll be in touch with folks shortly.

Thanks to everyone for playing and therefore brightening my holidays (while also slightly lightening my wallet)! For your own reference, you can see the official trivia answers here and here.

Winter Holiday Trivia: Answers Part 2

Soon I'll be posting the final tabulations (and the winners!) of my 2013 trivia event: 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia. As promised, here are the answers for Days 17 through 25 (and the answers for Days 1 through 16)!

Day 17

Q: What is the European, pre-Christian symbolism associated with the use of candles at this time of year?

A: They represent the Sun, specifically the return of the Sun and light (and heat).

Day 18

Q: What is the name of the Roman solstice festival that began this week (circa 12/18/13), runs three to seven days in length, and is observed with many of the traditions now associated with Christmas (gifts, feasting, etc.)?

A: Before Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, etc., there was the Roman solstice holiday of Saturnalia, which began December 17. It honors Saturnus, who introduced agriculture and the arts of civilized life. It was the season when agricultural work was completed; a sort of joyous Thanksgiving-type holiday of relaxation and merriment. During Saturnalia, businesses, courts and schools were closed.

Bonus Question: What are the colors of this holiday? (A: The colors of the holiday are blue and gold.)

Day 19

Q: What is the esoteric meaning of these 12 ornaments used to decorate a Christmas tree?

A: In Revelations Chapter 22, the Tree of Life bore 12 Different Fruits and its leaves were for the healing of the nations.

Day 20

Q: What is one similarity between Santa and the night visitors of our older traditions?

A: Any of the following (and more besides) -- Night riding (flying), animal "familiars," expecting food offerings, arriving at midnight, living in the darkness of the far north, and special helpers.

Bonus Question: What was Nicholas' position in the church? (A: Bishop of Myra)

Day 21

Q: What is the name of the pioneer of electricity and magnetism who delivered multiple Christmas Lectures, including one on why a candle burns?

A: Michael Faraday

Day 22

Q: What is Norwegian scientist Odd Halvorsen's biological, and somewhat squirm-inducing, explanation for Rudolph's red nose?

A: Parasitic infection of his respiratory system. (The Physics of Christmas)

Bonus question: What is the problem with most representations of reindeer on Christmas cards? (A: Male reindeer would not have their antlers at this time of year).

Day 23

Q: What is the name of the Roman god whose birth from the Mother Rock was observed by nearby shepherds?

A: Mithra

Bonus Question: Who were the primary followers of this deity's mystery religion?  (A: Roman military)

Day 24

Q: Who invented the Christmas card?

A: The very first Christmas card was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley. If you gave either name, you got credit!

Bonus question: In what year did he publish the first Christmas card?  (A: 1843)

Day 25

Q: What is the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas?

A: Sinterklass.

Bonus Question: For one extra point,  what three things did Scott Calvin (played by Tim Allen) do that forced him to become Santa (in the movie, "The Santa Clause")?  

A: Calvin read the card, put on Santa's suit (starting with the hat), and entered the sleigh and delivered gifts, thus fulfilling the "Santa Clause" (see also 3rd paragraph under Plot in the Disney Wiki entry).