Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving leftovers

You remember last week we took a look at some Thanksgiving programming from the early and mid 60s. As an afterthought, I pulled out this issue of TV Guide from November 1971 - not one of my favorite eras from either television or TV Guide (the severly truncated style used in the programming section generates absolutely no interest), but even here there are bits and pieces that make your post-Thanksgiving snack more than palatable.  (As before, all photos are from the author's collection.)

You can see at right that the parades are still big - both networks have expanded their coverage to three hours - but without the pictures and the full-page close-up, it doesn't have quite as much charm.

What I remember most about Thanksgiving 1971 - what any sports fan would remember - is the epic "Game of the Century," the showdown between Nebraska and Oklahoma, the top two teams in the country.  As you can see from the listings, there was every reason to believe this was destined to be a big one - but for once, the game actually lived up to the hype.  Oklahoma, playing before a frenzied home crowd, with quarterback Jack Mildren playing the game of his life, rallied from an 11-point deficit to take a 31-28 lead  (on an audacious 4th down touchdown pass from Mildren to Harrison) more than halfway through the fourth quarter, only to have Nebraska counter with a late touchdown and win, 35-31.  Over 55 million people, at the time the largest television audience ever for a college football game, were left drained.  (Click on the image at left to enlarge.)

Notice that opposite the football, NBC is showing "Cricket on the Hearth," which shows that in the 70s there was still romm for holiday-themed programming in the afternoon (see the variety shows of the 60s, for example).  "Cricket" was followed by "The Mouse on the Mayflower"; unfortunately, neither of these cartoons seem to be part of the holiday canon anymore, at least on TV.  Cute ad, though.

Unbelievably, for a nation of football fans still exhausted from one of the greatest college football games of all time, there was still another game to follow - Georgia (9-1) vs. Georgia Tech (6-4). Less emotional, but no less competitive, as the Bulldogs win 28-24. I wonder how many were able to even stay awake for that, between the drama of the first game and the tryptophan of the turkey.

And - well, that's about it for Thanksgiving day.  There was no Arthur Godfrey special to wind down with, no Garry Moore for the family to sit around enjoying.  There was a regular compliment of series programming (all of it, interestingly, original - the idea of showing reruns on Thanksgiving hadn't yet become the norm) and a CBS documentary on the American Dream (wonder how many people watched that?), but the only signs of variety were regular episodes of Flip Wilson and Dean Martin.

On Friday there was a basketball game on ABC (generously advertised during the Turkey Day games), preceded by ABC's cartoon festival from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., when the Saturday cartoons made a rare Friday appearance.  (They did that for many years, before cartoons themselves became passé with kids. Thankfully, though, Thanksgiving itself hasn't - yet - become passé.

Giving Thanks, 5k record, and carolighting challenge

Thanksgiving Week Reflections:

There's no time for (much) turkey . . . I have to RUN! Thanksgiving Day started off with a blast . . . literally. I joined a pair of friends in Gran Amistad, Caroline Lewis-Jones (the dancer I mentioned in regards to injuries a while back), and Stephanie Nye (my partner from the 2008 Starpower Nationals-qualifying “Hand Jive”), along with Stephanie's boyfriend John, Mrs. Spurrier and daughter, and over 600 others started off Thanksgiving literally with a blast at the Boys and Girls Club of the Midlands Turkey Day Run VI at the Colonial Life Arena. This year's race was five thousand meters (unlike the 8,000 meters we ran the first five years; the other two cities didn't want police to work much on Thanksgiving, which is a shame because last year's 8k was capped at 500 on race morning; organisers extended registration to ensure this wouldn't happen this year, and 673 runners made the 5k run this year. But I did miss the three-city, two-bridge Thanksgiving 8k that made it unique. Now Ray Tanner's 12k was a three-city, two-bridge race but that's a longer distance.

By the time I challenged myself to racing my friends (they ran quickly that I was four and a half minutes behind by the time they crossed the line, I was about a half mile behind them), I knew something was going to happen, and the clock reported the truth. I had turned a time of 27:26 for the 5,000 metres, easily beating the 28:58 I had set on Memorial Day weekend in Jailbreak IV (a 5k organised by the Lexington County Sheriff's Department, start and finish in the county jail) for my fastest 5k ever. Ate little to celebrate, and worked out with Stephanie the next morning with 2 ½ hours of cardio (she did 2 ½ hours too that Friday). How did our friendship start with being paired for a Grease-inspired dance?

Governor's Carolighting. An e-mail came from the choral director from college that he wanted to hastily organise a choir because the traditional Governor's Carolighting ceremony's fate was not decided until the late minute. With no choral gigs taking place this fall I decided to take a shot at this event.

We had to practice at 2 for 90 minutes before one final practice at 5:20 before we went on at 5:45. Talk about pressure with songs most of us didn't know! Enjoyed the experience, with Händel, Mendelssohn, Leontovich, Wilhousky, and even some “African carols”. However, I was not pleased with the Gospel Choir at a college for performing to karaoke when we had two accompanists ready for the Children's Choir and the Community Choir, respectively. Why does that college choir leader think their group is better with karaoke? And don't get me started on winter songs being used instead of Christmas songs as we saw with four selections on this night. I have a friend in Australia and it's summer and people spend Christmas on the beach, and it's warmer than 90 degrees.

I have plenty of people to thank here but especially Larry and Susan Wyatt, who directed the choirs, and Camille Jones and Nathan Doman, our accompanists. Cannot say enough how this challenge was tough to do on short notice, but Raycom's Dawndy Mercer Plank (Mistress of Ceremonies) could not even hear that we were just organised in hours.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Retro TV Friday: Thanksgiving Edition

Thanksgiving often seems like an underappreciated holiday, serving as little more than a warmup act for Christmas, and people seem eagar to get it out of the way so they can invade the stores in the dawn hours of Black Friday.  (Those stores that aren't actually open on Thanksgiving, that is.) . Back in the day, however, Turkey Day used to get a little more love.  And so this seemed to be a good reason (or at least a good excuse) to dip into the TV Guide archives for a look at Thanksgiving through the early 60s, as seen on TV.

This first picture below above is from Thanksgiving 1962.  Then, as now, the Thanksgiving Day Parade was a mainstay of both CBS and NBC.  As now, NBC was the network of the Macy's Parade, with longtime hosts Betty White and Lorne Greene.  CBS had the Macy's Parade too, but they also specialized in parades from around the country - the Gimbels' parade in Philadelphia (wonder why TVG gives this big press?  It's because their headquarters were in Pennsylvania) and the Hudson's parade in Detroit.  The department stores aren't around anymore, but both Philly and Detroit continue to celebrate the day with big parades. 

I always preferred the CBS coverage - Macy's was OK, but getting to see Detroit and Philadelphia (and later on Toronto's Santa Claus parade) made the day even bigger.  Back in the 60s Captain Kangaroo hosted the overall coverage from New York (William "Cannon" Conrad would perform the same function through much of the 70s), with CBS newsmen and celebrities alternating as hosts in the various cities.  Besides, seeing the Detroit parade would be an early tipoff to the weather for that morning's football game.

The next picture, also from 1962, is for the Pat Boone Thansgiving special.  Pretty good cast, although Peter, Paul & Mary seem a bit out of place.  Or perhaps Pat wasn't as much of a square as people thought. Notice the start time: 4:30 pm (Central time).  Doesn't seem likely any more that a network show would come on at that hour, not with the news saturation that local stations have today.

Here's another late afternoon special from 1961, with Al Hirt and a cast of thousands, or at least the popular singer Gordon MacRae, the opera star Patrice Munsel, and dancer Carol Haney.  "Home for the Holidays" - then, as now, Thanksgiving was the start of the Christmas season.  Notice that these ads prominently boast that the specials are "In Color!"

The holidays are always a time to bring back stars who haven't had regular series for several years.  Bonne was one, and the Old Redhead, Arthur Godfrey was another.  His 1963 Thanksgiving night special promises "a post-turkey pot of tea."  I imagine things were a bit muted that year, since JFK had been buried just three days previous.

Perry Como no longer had a weekly series in 1962, but his Kraft Music Hall appeared several times a year.  Since the show was always on Wednesday nights, his November special was always on Thanksgiving Eve.  (And that's exactly how it was described - putting Thanksgiving Eve on a par with Christmas Eve.)

Of course, you can't have Thanksgiving without football.  Look at how CBS advertises its game between the Colts and Lions in 1965:

I actually remember watching that game (I won't say how old I am now, but I was five back then).  The Colts and Lions battled to a 24-24 tie that pleased nobody.  Nowadays, I imagine the Lions would be pretty happy with that result.  And remember those Seagram's ads that used to appear with every major sporting event?  There were three games played that day; in addition to the Colts and Lions, the AFL game on NBC featured the Buffalo Bills and the San Diego Chargers, and ABC's college action was the traditional battle between Oklahoma and Nebraska.

It wasn't just television shows that advertised for Thansgiving - take a look at this ad for General Electric. I wonder how many families took advantage of the free heat 'n' serve baby dish for every baby born on November 28, 1963.  (Just think - that baby would be almost 50 today.)

Thanksgiving wasn't only a day, though - traditionally, it was one of the biggest television weeks of the season.  Check out the sidebar on the 1965 cover - from football to the Hallmark Hall of Fame, tributes to recently deceased Stan Laurel and Cole Porter, specials starring Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., a White House tour with Mrs. LBJ, and a James Bond documentary.  And this was before VCRs.
And this is just scratching the surface - for example, in 1962 the Bell Telephone Hour had special guest Carl Sandburg, the American poet and Lincoln biographer.  It seems to me that there truly was a sense that Thanksgiving was a time for the family to get together, and with a little of something for everyone there was no better way for quality family time than to sit in front of the television.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Opera Wednesday

On this Thanksgiving eve, what better to be thankful for than the magnificent career of the great Leontyne Price? From her farewell operatic performance, here is the ovation for "O patria mia", her final aria in the signature role of Aida. This is from the live Met Opera broadcast of January 3, 1985; the conductor is James Levine.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wish I'd Written That

Maybe it crept up on me but Christmas stuff is everywhere can't we at least wait until Thanksgiving is over"

- Kevin "Happy" Harvick.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Retro TV Friday

Well, just because we're in Chicago doesn't mean we can't celebrate Retro TV Friday, right?

This week, if you're looking for gritty cop drama - the opening and closing credits to the 1961 series 87th Precinct, starring Robert Lansing, are for you. Don't know if the series itself was any good, but that music (written by Morton Stevens) means business, doesn't it?

The description from TV.com:

Police drama based on a series of detective novels by Ed McBain that featured Detective Steve Carella (played by Robert Lansing) who worked at the 87th Precinct in the fictional city of Isola, along with a line-up of typical police detectives, such as the rookie and the seasoned old-timer. His… More deaf-mute wife Teddy (played by Gena Rowlands) added a personal side to the stories. Ron Harper, Gregory Walcott, and future Three's Company star Norman Fell played other detectives who worked out of the 87th.

That it's based on McBain's 87th Precinct series is a good sign.  That it stars Lansing is another one.  Unfortunately, this series isn't available on commercial DVD - the only way you can get it is through an "unauthorized" (read: bootleg) distributor.  Now, I would never encourage anyone to buy a product in this manner, even if we're talking about something that isn't available commercially and thus wouldn't be infringing on royalties in the same way that one would if one were purchasing something that was, in fact, available commercially (albeit for a higher price). 
Nonetheless, YouTube is a wonderful thing, full of clips (and the occasional full episode) of old TV shows that otherwise wouldn't see the light of day.  It's a wonderful way to spend an hour or three or seven.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Opera, opera everywhere!

Opera Weekend seemingly is on the blog this week, and I'm also attending an opera. I'll be in Greenville this weekend for another opera card, the Greenville Light Opera Works' adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury, which they claim to update in a Palmetto State courtroom (my dance partners I've had in dance classes are attorneys!). There is a conflict of interest for me, as an alto in the operetta is in my inner circle (Brittnee was part of the 2007 Messiah singalong that I enjoyed. I'll be armed with my notepad and be prepared too for this fun operetta. The Upstate company's Der Schauspieldirektor was set in 2010 Wien (I attended a performance, and the Mississippi Squirrel was there). This time, it's The Brittnee who is in the event. The Interstate Batteries / Mobil 1 truck is ready, the Bosch spark plugs are firing on all cylinders, and the Goodyear tyres are in shape. (And yes, the next performance of GLOW will feature the Squirrel again! Look what she did to a 26-year old and the result!)

The performance of Trial by Jury, they noted, will feature an ensemble of Gilbert and Sullivan songs. With the intentional Dick Wolf look of the programme cover, I wonder how it's set.

Opera Thursday

We'll be in Chicago this weekend to cover the Lyric Opera's productions of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera. The reviews should be up after Thanksgiving, but in the meantime here's a preview of the great countertenor David Daniels in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Just Because We Can

From Cat Head Theatre, here's what Hamlet looks like when performed by cats:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Weekend Digest

Here are some of the news highlights of the past weekend, starting with the Etihad Airways Grand Prix. What craziness there!

James Allen: Sebastian Vettel is World Champion after dominant win in Abu Dhabi.

And: How did Ferrari make that strategy mistake with Alonso?

BBC: Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel kept Formula One Title Belief.

On the News Front:

Carl Horowitz: American Aborigine Farmers Shake the Public Money Tree.

Wesley Pruden: Obama's grim pursuit of Muslim Romance..

Michelle Malkin: Carol Browner Must Resign.

Harriet Baber: Crystal Cathedral had its day: When religion is reduced to a collection of gimmicks, there is little to stop it falling victim to changing fashions (on Life Enhancement Centres):.
Ann Coulter: Repeal the 26th Amendment (Adults based on ObamaCare laws?):
Laura Ingraham: "Good Neighbour" China? Not so, says China's neighbours.

(And don't forget that Ford is letting Chinese automaker Geely develop their cars, and Obama cronies stole GM and gave a chunk of it to Shanghai Automotive as part of his "Blue Oval Kickback"; four Ford models in 2011 are built around one Geely sedan, while four others are built around two Mazda sedans, and Ford has just one in-house coupe and in-house truck.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Henryk Górecki, R.I.P.

I did not know of Henryk Górecki's work until I read Charles Colson and Nancy Pearsey's How Now Shall We Live? (Remember, this was the pre-Hill era in music for me.) In memory of the Polish composer, I found the original BreakPoint radio commentary by Mr. Colson on Mr. Górecki's Symphony No. 3. It made an appreciation of classical works even more appreciative considering the Iron Curtain did not like his association with another famous Pole, Karol Wojytla, of whom commissioned works that Mr. Górecki composed, and the Polish government stripped him of his positions in art because of his ties with the religious leader in an atheistic Comunist nation.

Here is an Appreciation from "The Bleep." 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Opera Wednesday

This shouldn't be in the Opera category at first, but when you learn it is the Opera Company of Philadelphia involved, you'll see why it goes there.

Earlier in the year, my voice teacher referenced opera singers as shopkeepers singing from Verdi's Il Travatore.

Now this story has a sequel. There's a wonderful sacred masterpiece I've sung in singalongs, at and in a pair of guest choral gigs. Sometimes I wish there were more that would sing this instead of the dippy junk that is being sold by the major secular publishers. But last month, in the City of Brotherly Love, in a Macy's, 650 choirsters and the Opera Company of Philadelphia sang a masterpiece as part of the opera company's "Random Act of Culture" in a Macy's. Now this is music designed for Easter, but still #44 from HWV 56 is that what deservedly so. Let's enjoy the Opera Company of Philadelphia's big special production at the Macy's. As much fun as Verdi in the farmer's market.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The new Governess of South Carolina

I went to school with our new Governess during a time from 1987-89, when she was a junior and I was a seventh grader. It was the time the family thought I needed to leave a parochial school where I was consistently hitting top grades and had an established rivalry on the spelling bee, math drill, and reading drills each day it seemed with two girls. It was becoming the Bobby vs Stephanie vs Amy show. Someone was going to battle for the win. One of the three would win each drill. That rivalry died with the family decided to transfer me out.

Somehow the family thought there would be better waters, and I was an unhappy kid. The results were true to what I had feared. The worldview taught in that school's classes were different (environmentalism in our math and science books – activism that shouldn't be there, and praising the Left in every civics class, teaching the virtues of government). On the social side, some kids decided to exploit me, punching, pushing, shoving me every time they could, throwing my glasses into urine, defacing books, attacking me at every bend, even fondling breasts and racial chants at every attack (which I couldn't strike back under fear of suspension; I promptly labeled the worst offender the “Ayatollah Khomeini”; the teacher, whose son later played in MLB, knew the name but the kids didn't even know who the real Ruhollah Khomeini, at the time a public enemy on the levels where Usama bin Laden is today). I feared for my life (there were kids who drew me being attacked by them and dying in their assaults) and couldn't study with that attitude the kids had since if I made on move I would face being pushed to the wall, breasts fondled, punched, or any form of attack. Grades dropped as I could not study under threat of their arrogance. Eventually the last straw was a bleach attack aimed at me.

Government school was called in, but it never helped either. To this day I wished I had finished in the same parochial school where academics were rigorous, and fundamentals were taught, not the fringe leftist feelings. But in schools that use government school curriculum (some college prep “private” schools do so too), they never teach that because of the self-esteem ideals of the Far Left. An ego-driven narcissm was taught and few understood it.

I just cannot believe how I was treated in school when the future Governess of South Carolina was in school with me. Sad, sad state of affairs. Now it's worse in our schools. We have liberal activists who are newly empowered laws they passed in the Pelosi-Reid-Obama era to punish anyone not in their clique. But that's for a later discussion. (Photograph of the Governess of South Carolina courtesy the victory party, is from my personal collection.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wish I'd Written That

We welcome her decision to run for House Minority Leader based on her proven ability to create jobs for Republican lawmakers.”

Spokesman Ken Spain of the National Republican Congressional Committee, on Nancy Pelosi's announcement that she'll seek to continue as House Democratic Leader.
(H/T Ramesh at NRO)

Retro TV Friday

This is kind of cool - it's from back in the day when the Hallmark Hall of Fame actually showed something other than weepy chick-flicks. It's the complete telecast of Henrik Ibsen's disturbing 1879 play A Doll's House. This broadcast, from November 15, 1959, stars Christopher Plummer and Julie Harris.  It's a good example of televison of the late 50s - not great, perhaps, but a very good quality drama, and certainly indicative of the quality production that used to be, well, the hallmark of Hallmark.

The broadcast was 90 minutes, including commercials; this collection of 12 videos, sans ads, runs about 75 minutes.  Check it out when you've got a chance - it's likely far more worthwhile than the dreck on TV tonight.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

30 Years Ago

In this special Thursday edition of Retro TV Friday, we look at 30 years ago today, when Ronald Reagan was first elected president. This was a pretty controversial call by NBC at the time - not because they were calling it for Reagan, who would after all win by a landslide, but because they called it so early - 7:15 Central Time, 45 minutes before the polls would close in Minnesota (which went for Carter, natch), and nearly two hours before they would close on the West Coast. That, and Carter's concession not long after, were for many years a source of great annoyance to Democrats who claimed (probably with some justification) that the early call discouraged some Democrats from voting in local elections, costing them victory in close races. Well, tough nuggets, I say.

Note also that NBC, the first network to use the giant election map, is using blue for Republicans, red for Democrats. (Which, when you think about it, makes a lot more sense. Red always was for leftists, after all.)

John Chancellor does seem to have a hard time believing all this is happening, doesn't he?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Opinion Digest

An election day look at the headlines:

Thomas Sowell: The multicultural dogma that we must accept every culture is inane.

Sowell again: How the cult of multiculturalism has failed miserably.
Dennis Prager: Why voting for the individual, not the party, is an idealistic daydream.

By the way, if you look at the Nixon commericial I excerpted on Friday, you'll notice one of the more memorable taglines (if somewhat grammatically incorrect) of recent political commercials.

It was, of course, an allusion to Nixon's 1960 loss to John Kennedy (this time, don't vote for the handsome face, the glib words, etc.), but it also emphasized the sense that the stakes were high - very high - in this election.

One could say the same thing this year.  There are those, and I have been one of them in the past, who would say that there is little difference between the parties: that they're flip sides of the same coin, that they'll stab you in the back once they get into office, that nothing really changes.  There's a lot of truth to that, which is why it's so important to be part of the process - to hold their feet to the fire, so to speak, to make sure that our leaders do what they say they'll do or we'll throw the bums out.

But the stakes are indeed very high this year.  It's one of the biggest off-year elections I can remember, certainly the biggest one in many years.  I think by the end of the evening the Democrats will find out that they badly misread the public mind from two years ago.  That election was not about giving the liberals a mandate; rather, it was about a charming snake-oil salesman who was able to fool most of the people for a little bit of time.  But that time is up, or at least halfway up, and tomorrow morning the battle for 2012 will begin in earnest.  It will now be up to the Republicans to make sure they do not commit the same mistakes as the Democrats.  Remember, this election is not about you, it's about a public fed up with the big government leftism of the other side.  If you don't deliver on your promises, the same fate awaits you.

But the best way to enjoy the fun tonight is to have a rooting interest in the outcome.  So get out there today and vote as if (grammatically correct) your whole world depended on it.
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