THERE WAS A FIRE AT THE HEART AND IT WILL BURN FOREVER – Marilyn Armstrong

Sioux teepee

Sioux teepee

My teepee had a firepit. I lined it with fireplace tiles, then added a surround of old red brick. It was a big pit for a small teepee, but logs come in a lot of different shapes and it was easier to leave extra space to accommodate the bigger and odder-shaped pieces than try to figure out how to fit them into a smaller pit.

96-FirepitHeaderHP-012

It gets very cold in winter in New England. In the deepest part of the winter, with the temperature well below freezing and several feet of snow on the ground, I liked going out to my teepee to spend a few hours by a fire. It was the most peaceful, private place in the world, one of the few places I felt really relaxed and at peace.

96-FirepitHP-009

I learned to build a fire very fast. In fact, I got so I could get that fire going in less than a minute. Of course, that’s not counting however much time it took to bring in the logs and stack the fire properly so it would catch and burn properly.

96-FirepitHP-013

A teepee fire needs to be bright and hot so the smoke will go straight up the smoke hole. In essence, a teepee is a chimney with room for other stuff. If you build the pit and the fire correctly, there is very little smoke and a lot of heat.

96-FirepitHP-010

Once the fire was going, the teepee, which had a lining to help insulate it, got very warm. I often had to open the door and sit half in and half out because it was so warm inside. And no, despite crackling and sparks, the teepee doesn’t catch on fire. It looks like it will, but it doesn’t, though I wouldn’t leave a fire unattended. Then again, I won’t leave any fire unattended.

A fire in a teepee on a snowy night is magic and it keeps the fire burning.

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio
Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe
Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, “The King and I” and “The Catcher in the Rye”
Eisenhower, vaccine, England’s got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye
đź’˘
We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it 

đź’˘

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc
Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu falls, “Rock Around the Clock”
Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland
Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev
Princess Grace, “Peyton Place”, trouble in the Suez

đź’˘

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

đź’˘

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, “Bridge on the River Kwai”
Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide
Buddy Holly, “Ben Hur”, space monkey, Mafia
Hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go
U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, “Psycho,” Belgians in the Congo

đź’˘

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

đź’˘

Hemingway, Eichmann, “Stranger in a Strange Land”
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion
“Lawrence of Arabia”, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson
Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex
JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say 

đź’˘

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it 

đź’˘
Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline
Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan
“Wheel of Fortune”, Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law
Rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore 

đź’˘

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on 

đź’˘

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it
We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire 

đź’˘

No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it …

Songwriters: Billy Joel
We Didn’t Start the Fire lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

ON THE UPCOMING 50th ANNIVERSARY OF EARTH DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

Trump is an awful man. I can’t seem to find something positive to say about him and for me, that’s unusual. I can always empathize, even with very bad people (not including one ex-husband). But not Trump. For him, I can’t find a teardrop of compassion. He has no soul or conscience. He is a greedy, empty-headed abuser, liar, and racist.

Somehow, America made him president. At least a portion of voting Americans had a hand in his election as well as a lot of Russian bots. I would like to believe that not everyone knew what a complete disaster he’d be. We certainly didn’t expect the next plague, but others did. Our president fired the ones who tried to warn him this was coming and for all he knew, was already here. So here we are.

Plague spares no one. Wealth won’t protect you nor religion or politics. Prince Charles is ill but his 93-year-old mother is not. Boris Johnson was moved into the hospital today. My generation who have been dying for a while are now dying faster and more furiously. A lot of younger people are dying too. Plague is about as non-denominational as anything gets.

Many of us (sadly, including me) assumed that should Trump be elected (I had that awful feeling he would be elected), the weight of his office would force him to become a president. This didn’t happen, proving you get exactly what you vote for. It’s like marrying an abusive guy because you’re sure you are the one who will (finally) reform him.

Moral? If you elect a bad guy, making him president won’t improve him.

Previously, people (mostly) changed when they were elected to high office. Trump, on the other hand, is an ignoramus and proud of it, With an election getting close while all of us are locked down, my party — Democrats — haven’t completed their primaries or had a convention. There may not be a live convention. Exactly how we are going to choose a candidate is a bit whimsical.

A few folks wonder what there will be to govern if we won. This is one of the times when winning might not be in our best interests. We are going to be in a hot mess when the virus runs its course, which might take a lot longer than even our worst-case scenario suggests.

We can’t blame the plague entirely on Trump, but we can put a big luminescent sticker on his ghastly ass regarding the amount of damage it’s doing. His unwillingness to cope with the alarming predictions as well as his lack of concern what this outbreak would do to us — Americans — is not merely deplorable. It’s … well … breathtaking.

Pogo – Walt Kelly – 1971

It turns out leadership can only be as good as who we elect. Being a constitutional republic, we don’t have the option of voting out a bad prime minister and exchanging him or her for a nominally better one for any reason short of actual treason. We should have gone the Parliamentary route. If I go back in time, I think I’ll mention that to the “Founding Fathers.” I hate that phrase, by the way. Isn’t there something else we could call them? “Founding Fathers” is so … stiff.

Short of rewriting the constitution,  we are stuck. My understanding of history will change us. Change the world. I think in 20 years, we won’t have this same government. All things considered, that might not be such a bad thing.

I wish I could live long enough to see how it comes together. I don’t think either me or Garry has enough decades to see how it turns out. My boomer generation won’t experience a lot of change. We are no longer part of the job market, no longer fighting for our standing in the world. Not climbing the greed and success ladder. We are pretty much done with ambition and were looking forward to some ease and relaxation before moving on.

Anyone who is still in the job market will feel the weight of it assuming the planet lets us continue to live on it. This month’s “National Geographic” magazine marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. It lays out the optimistic and pessimistic views of the world to come. The pessimistic view is heartstopping. Makes the blood in your veins freeze. Even the optimistic look isn’t great. I got so demoralized, I couldn’t even look at the graphics.

This plague has blocked everything else. A new world awaits us and I hope it’s a better one. If better isn’t possible, functional might do the job.

Boomers didn’t ruin the world. We tried to improve it, but we didn’t get it done. The human race ganged up on the planet and we all ruined it together. We seem dead set to continue ruining it. Someone will need to fight to save it. Probably you guys, the ones who can’t resist a new iPhone at any price. You will have to give up a few things and do many other things differently.

Walt Kelley’s first Earth Day poster

It is hard but it’s your future. We old folks who you so eagerly blame for everything will be dead. We will return to the stars and the world will be yours. If you don’t fix it, you, your children, and grandchildren won’t have a livable world.

Activism isn’t easy, but maybe it’s time to detach from toys and discover the world. Earth used to be a nice place. It could be again. Good luck.

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio
Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe
Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, “The King and I” and “The Catcher in the Rye”
Eisenhower, Vaccine, England’s got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye
We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu falls, “Rock Around the Clock”
Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland
Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev
Princess Grace, “Peyton Place”, trouble in the Suez

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac

Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, “Bridge on the River Kwai”

Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide
Buddy Holly, “Ben Hur”, space monkey, Mafia
Hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go
U2, Syngman Rhee, payola, and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, “Psycho”, Belgians in the Congo

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Hemingway, Eichmann, “Stranger in a Strange Land”

Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion

“Lawrence of Arabia”, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson
Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex
JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline
Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

“Wheel of Fortune”, Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law
Rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on

We didn’t start the fire

It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

We didn’t start the fire

It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it …

Songwriters: Billy Joel
We Didn’t Start the Fire lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

OCKS AND CLOCKS – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s B & W Photo Challenge: Words that end in “ock”

I don’t have a lot of “ock” words in my house, but my son is very seriously into chiming clocks. He has at least 8 chiming clocks downstairs and we have 3 chiming clocks, one “world clock,” and then about four or five more regular clocks, a couple of which haven’t been updated for Daylight Savings Time and one mantel clock that needs repair and isn’t currently running. All the chiming clocks are in working order, however, and when it gets late in the day, the entire house sounds like a cathedral.

No two clocks chime in exactly the same way — they may not even have the same chiming format (there are three and some of the clocks you can choose which type of chime you want) — and they never all start at exactly the same time. Nor do they end at the same time. So around 10 at night, the chiming goes on for quite a while. Oh, and some clocks chime very slowly while others are fast.

We have a big grandfather’s clock in the dining room and a chiming wall clock. We have another wall chiming clock in the living room. The kitchen has a “world clock” and you can see what time it is almost anywhere on the globe. You can also see where it is dark and where it is light. That is the only clock that is electric. All the others are windup or based on weights. The mantel clock doesn’t chime, or at least I don’t think it does. It currently isn’t working, so it’s just pretty.

The difference, in case you had no idea, between a “grandfather” clock and a “grandmother” clock is its height. If it stands seven feet tall or more, it’s a grandfather clock. Between five and seven feet, they are grandmother clocks. There are ones that are even smaller and I’m sure they have a name, but those small standing clocks are not very common and I think I’ve only seen them in museums.

When I was a kid, I had a copy of this song on a small 33 RPM vinyl recording. There were other songs on the album, but I listened to this one all the time. I still know all the words.

My son managed to find a 78 RPM copy of the song, but the one I had has vanished and as far as I can tell, no one has a copy of it. Anywhere. If one of you just happens to have a copy — it would be around 60 to 70 years old by now, so I’m not counting on it — but I would love a copy of it.

Meanwhile, thank you YouTube!

Cee's Black-White

GOOGLY EYES – Marilyn Armstrong

I know I’ve posted this before, but I really like it so I’m doing it again! It makes me laugh every time I read it.

I woke up this morning with an earworm. Not your normal earworm. Mine was a 1920s earworm. It was a song my mother sang often and for once, she actually got the words right. Ask any member of my family and they will assure you: my mother never ever remembered the words to any song — except this one. She would sing words from other songs to whatever melody was bouncing around in her head. But she knew all the words to this one. It’s SUCH an earworm, once you listen to it, it just sort of sits in your head and goes around and around and around.

So I get up this morning and this is what I’m hearing, but without the scratches:

And by golly, the words I had in my head were dead on. Next, the obvious question arises:

How did Google get its name? – Mobilis In Mobile

The mysterious mysteries of the Internet

How did Google get its name?You may have read this kind of “official answer”: Google derived its name from the word “googol”, a term coined by then nine-year-old Milton Sirotta, nephew of the American mathematician Edward Kasner. The story goes, Kasner would have asked his nephew to invent a name for a very large number – ten to the power of one hundred, and Milton called it a googol. Blah-blah-blah!

Whatever say GSpecialists, Wikipedia or Google corporate itself, last Friday I discovered the secret when I was twittering with Orli. Google was named after Barney Google.*

Just listen to Barney Google’s song. No more to say!

One of you might write an essay on how, when and why granny Brin and/or Page was singing this song.


You may have read this kind of “official” answer: “Google derived its name from the word “googol”, a term coined by then nine-year-old Milton Sirotta, nephew of the American mathematician Edward Kasner but I’d bet money (and I never bet money!) that Google was named after Barney Google.” The most popular comic strip in the U.S. for dozens of years … and still around even today.

Barney Google – The History

Now you know the truth about Google and somehow, it makes a lot more sense than
any other explanation I’ve heard!

LOOK FOR THE GOO GOO GOOGLY EYES – Marilyn Armstrong

I woke up this morning with an earworm. Not your normal earworm. Mine was a 1920s earworm. It was a song my mother sang often and for once, she actually got the words right. Ask any member of my family and they will assure you: my mother never ever remembered the words to any song — except this one. She would sing words from other songs to whatever melody was bouncing around in her head. But she knew all the words to this one. It’s SUCH an earworm, once you listen to it, it just sort of sits in your head and goes around and around and around.

So I get up this morning and this is what I’m hearing, but without the scratches:

And by golly, the words I had in my head were dead on.

How did Google get its name? – Mobilis In Mobile

The mysterious mysteries of the Internet

How did Google get its name?You may have read this kind of “official answer”: Google derived its name from the word “googol”, a term coined by then nine-year-old Milton Sirotta, nephew of the American mathematician Edward Kasner. The story goes, Kasner would have asked his nephew to invent a name for a very large number – ten to the power of one hundred, and Milton called it a googol. Blah-blah-blah!

Whatever say GSpecialists, Wikipedia or Google corporate itself, last Friday I discovered the secret when I was twittering with Orli. Google was named after Barney Google.*

Just listen to Barney Google’s song. No more to say!


You may have read the “official” answer that “Google derived its name from the word “googol,” a term coined by then nine-year-old Milton Sirotta, nephew of the American mathematician Edward Kasner. But I’d bet money (and I never bet money!) that Google was named after Barney Google.” It was the most popular comic strip in the U.S. for dozens of years … and is still around today.

Barney Google – The History

Now you know the truth about Google and somehow, it makes a lot more sense than
any other explanation I’ve heard!

THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT GOOGLE! – Marilyn Armstrong

I woke up this morning with an earworm. Not your normal earworm. Mine was a 1920s earworm. It was a song my mother sang often and for once, she actually got the words right. Ask any member of my family and they will assure you: my mother never ever remembered the words to any song — except this one. She would sing words from other songs to whatever melody was bouncing around in her head. But she knew all the words to this one. It’s SUCH an earworm, once you listen to it, it just sort of sits in your head and goes around and around and around.

So I get up this morning and this is what I’m hearing, but without the scratches:

And by golly, the words I had in my head were dead on. Next, the obvious question arises:

How did Google get its name? – Mobilis In Mobile

The mysterious mysteries of the Internet

How did Google get its name?You may have read this kind of “official answer”: Google derived its name from the word “googol”, a term coined by then nine-year-old Milton Sirotta, nephew of the American mathematician Edward Kasner. The story goes, Kasner would have asked his nephew to invent a name for a very large number – ten to the power of one hundred, and Milton called it a googol. Blah-blah-blah!

Whatever say GSpecialists, Wikipedia or Google corporate itself, last Friday I discovered the secret when I was twittering with Orli. Google was named after Barney Google.*

Just listen to Barney Google’s song. No more to say!

One of you might write an essay on how, when and why granny Brin and/or Page was singing this song.


You may have read this kind of “official” answer: “Google derived its name from the word “googol”, a term coined by then nine-year-old Milton Sirotta, nephew of the American mathematician Edward Kasner but I’d bet money (and I never bet money!) that Google was named after Barney Google.” The most popular comic strip in the U.S. for dozens of years … and still around even today.

Barney Google – The History

Now you know the truth about Google and somehow, it makes a lot more sense than
any other explanation I’ve heard!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! – Rich Paschall

The Rest of Your Life

Windmill of your mind

The new year is about to begin and it is time to ask the important question:

What are you doing the rest of your life
North and South and 
East and West of your life
I have only one request of your life

All the seasons and the times of your days
Are the nickels and the dimes of your days
Let the reasons and the rhymes of your days

Through all of my life
Summer, winter, spring and fall of my life
All I ever will recall of my life
Is all my life with you

The song was nominated for an Academy Award for the 1969 film The Happy Ending.  Michael Dees sang the song and it is featured above.  It lost out to Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.

The lyrics were by the prolific team of Marilyn and Alan Bergman.  Music was by Michel Legrand.  In 1973 Legrand won a Grammy for the Musical Arrangement of the song for the vocal by Sarah Vaughan, second above.

Remember Playboy After Dark?  Legrand performed his composition with Hugh Hefner and other stars looking on.  Of the three above, who performed it best?

THE SONG IS YOU – Garry Armstrong

One of the great pleasures in my life these days is our car radio. Marilyn, in one of the most thoughtful of her gifts in this past year of discontent, signed us – me really – for Sirius Satellite radio, highlighted by the signature “Siriusly Sinatra” station.  It’s all Sinatra, 24-7.

Not just Sinatra. It’s all of the songs and artists from Tin Pan Alley’s swing halcyon days. Sinatra,  Dino, Sammy, Crosby, Ella, Nat Cole, Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, The Dorsey Brothers, Glenn Miller, Irving Berlin, Jimmy Van Heusen, Sammy Kahn, Cole Porter, Rosie Clooney and other legendary musicians who performed under the umbrella of “Standards.” It’s not just cob-webby LP music. The station also features contemporary artists covering the classics that span more than a century. You’ll marvel at the likes of Springsteen, Dylan, Lady Gaga and Pink riffing Mel Torme, Sassy Sarah Vaughn, Peggy Lee, Etta James, Doris Day, Ol’ Blue Eyes and other voices. Tunesmiths from our youth.

This leads me into the theme of singing in the throne room as I assume most of us do — far from the madding crowd of critics. I don’t possess the same musical talent as my two younger brothers. Hell, it’s a miracle if I carry a tune. Lately, I’ve been serenading myself as I shave (very steady hand!).

Usually, it’s older standard music on the Sinatra station. Or maybe something Marilyn remembers her Mom singing from her childhood.  Marilyn says her Mom usually only remembered one stanza from a tune and would repeat it over and over again. I chuckle along with Marilyn because I do the same thing. Maybe two or three lines repeated myriad times until I forget those lyrics or  I’m done shaving. Then, I move into the shower. The water covering more old songs with misremembered lyrics.

It’s all good for me. Surely, I am the winner of The Lipton Tea Talent Scouts Show with Arthur Godfrey smiling and congratulating me. I’m gonna be the next Nat “King” Cole.  As sure as the turning of the earth!  I just need to pick the right song to cover.

A song that’s me!

Decades ago (The early 70’s), I used to walk around singing the very somber love ballad, “All For The Love Of A Girl.” It was the flip side of Johnny Horton’s “The Ballad of New Orleans.”  I sang “All For the Love …” with deep, sorrowful emotion. On or off the melody? I don’t remember. A lady friend asked, “Garry, why do you always sing such sad songs”?

I replied, “Because I’m sentimental.”

My friend shot back quickly, “No, You’re NOT!” And, you’re also not romantic.”   I suppressed anger and the blemish to my sensitivity.

Years later, the same performance, different song and a similar conversation with Marilyn who echoed the “No, you’re not sentimental. You may like sentimental songs and movies. But it doesn’t make you sentimental or a romantic.” This would lead down a conversational road I didn’t like. The difference between musical tastes and my own personality and behavior,  especially with people who cared about me.  The singer, not the song. But, as usual, I digress.

I chose our Wedding Song.  It was Nat Cole’s “For Sentimental Reasons.”  Marilyn and I slow danced, as bride and groom, to the dreamy ballad. It was supposed to be the standard for my behavior as Marilyn’s husband and dependable mate through good times and bad. The song proved steadier than the groom in the ensuing years.

It’s difficult living up to the romantic lyrics of a popular song when you’re dealing with bread and butter issues like bills, home repairs, and health care and working in the news business which is about as unromantic as work can be. The song isn’t always you. A very hard pill to swallow when you carry yourself off as a romantic or sentimental fella. Recognizing the difference is part of the long road to maturity, awkward when your 78th birthday is just a few, short months away.

Maybe this is part of what Frank Sinatra was trying to explain when we met half a century ago — another story in a different post. I never asked, but Sinatra told me he often felt at odds with some of his sad songs, the love affairs which supposedly went sour in smoky three o’clock in the morning gin joints.  I was the twenty-something filled with the angst of old movies and songs about love found and lost.  I still didn’t have a clue about being a three-dimensional guy ready to take on responsibility with the sensitivity essential to any meaningful relationship.

It would take a long, long time and still hasn’t been fully achieved. I always label myself – “a work in progress.”  The old love songs don’t always cover that ‘sharing and caring’ stuff.  Play “Misty” for me!

Another time travel stop for me and music. Autumn of 1959. I was brash, newly minted enlistee at Parris Island, the legendary basic training camp for young gyrenes. I was one of a very few “boots” of color and a damn Yankee in the deep south where Jim Crow still prevailed. Most of the other clean-shaven Marine wannabees were from below the Mason-Dixon line, deep in the heart of Dixie. Their music was Rebel Rock ‘n Roll, tempered with obscenities and insensitivity to anyone who was not a card-carrying beer and grits lover.

The southern music dominated our downtime. I was off in my own private world, serenading myself with the likes of “Mona Lisa”, “Stardust”, “Too Young” and “When I Fall In Love.”  My musical choices bought me a lot of grief with the good old boys. A lot of reprimands from the drill Instructors who already didn’t care for my “attitude” and added my music to their list of things for verbal reprimand.  I just laughed at them when they screamed at me. No hits of the week for me.

I got lost in a time warp when hard rock, heavy metal, rap, and hip-hop took over popular music. I guess I began to sound like my parents and grandparents wondering what happened to the good music of my early years. What happened to lyrics and melodies you could understand?

My fallback in music is the same as it is in movies. My one and only public karaoke performance was our local Tex-Mex restaurant maybe fifteen years ago. It was not my best performance, even by local standards. The restaurant closed a few years ago but I am sure some people still remember the magical night when I got up on stage, decked in western garb, reaching for the stars as I grabbed the mic and the music began. My heartfelt rendition of “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” fulfilled a lifelong dream.  I sang for applause, free drinks, and some scattered “More, more, more.”

A musical homage to all my movie cowboy heroes.

That song is me, Pilgrim.

MUSIC AND LANGUAGE, PROVOCATIVE QUESTION #53 – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #53


I need to begin this by saying that I don’t think music IS a language. I agree that it is universal. It crosses over national and cultural borders.

But it’s music, not a language. There are some songs that are language, but it’s the words that makes them a language, not the music.

I love music. I was a musical child, spent 18 years studying piano and was a music major in college. Music can be transcendental. It can make you happy when you are sad. In its own way, it speaks to your heart and emotions

Nonetheless, it isn’t a language, not in the sense that we have typically used the word language. Specific information is not part of music nor should it be. Sure there are songs that were meant to be more about the words than the music. That’s a different story.

A lot of folk music was written to support a specific political movement is more about words than music, but it doesn’t turn music into a language. Words imposed over the music isn’t a language. It’s a song. Maybe a great song, but still — a song.

Music is beautiful. I love every kind of music, minus rap and I’m not wild about hip-hop. That’s age-related. I get that. Music to me is designed to be enjoyed, felt, loved, remembered. Let’s not turn it into something else.

Let’s enjoy music for what it is.

ELDERLY INSPIRATION – Marilyn Armstrong

We are them. We are full of inspiration. We want to fix the world, end the Trump reign. Force congressional representatives and senators to do their jobs. No, really, that’s what we want.

The problem is the “elder” part of the title. We did this already. I did in personally with letters and protests and all that collegiate and post-college stuff. Garry did it on the air, with cameras, and the world watching.

Since retiring, we’ve been doing it online. Writing and urging people to vote. Warning people how dangerous not voting will be. Discussing issues. Making fun of The Bad Guys in DC. Personally, in conversation. Rationally, in words.

And maybe, after all this … just maybe we’ve gotten a few people here and there to take the issue seriously. Unfortunately, quite a few of them are not American and while they wholehearted agree, they can’t vote here. Oh well.

I’ve had old friends — from the south and that’s not a small thing — tell me that all reporters lie.

When I pointed out my husband was a reporter and trust me, he never got up in the morning and went to work for the purpose of deluding the public, they went silent, finally responding with “Does it really matter?”

You mean … DOES TRUTH MATTER?

When the truth stops mattering, nothing else matters.

So we are inspired and I’m pretty sure we are going to remain inspired, but unfortunately, we aren’t getting any younger. I’m very glad to see so many fresh, new political faces. We desperately need them because the battle that is building is going to need a force behind it that isn’t old and tired.

Younger people must stand up, be counted, and become involved in the NOW. The world is forever changing, rarely for the better. We — my generation of boomers and pre-boomers — didn’t start this fire. Nor did our parents or grandparents.

Time for an anthem:

WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE


Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, “The King and I” and “The Catcher in the Rye”

Eisenhower, Vaccine, England’s got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu falls, “Rock Around the Clock”

Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev
Princess Grace, “Peyton Place”, trouble in the Suez

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, “Bridge on the River Kwai”

Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide

Buddy Holly, “Ben Hur”, space monkey, Mafia
Hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go

U2, Syngman Rhee, payola, and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, “Psycho”, Belgians in the Congo

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Hemingway, Eichmann, “Stranger in a Strange Land”
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion

“Lawrence of Arabia”, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex
JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline
Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

“Wheel of Fortune”, Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law
Rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it.

Songwriter: Billy Joel
We Didn’t Start the Fire lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

No one living today — or even during the past couple of hundred years — started the fire. Regardless, each person of every generation shares an obligation to stop looking for someone to blame and try to make this world better. Not only for yourselves but for every child who will come.

Do it for every child, all races, any religion or none.
Do the best you can for the humans of planet Earth.
Before the big giant head sends us all home.

If you don’t, there will come a time and I think sooner rather than later when there’s nothing remaining to be done. No number of inspired elders or youngers will matter by then. Do what you can while you have a world that can be repaired. It’s not going to wait much longer … if it is waiting. I certainly hope it’s still on hold!

SERENADE OF A SMALL BROWN BIRD — Marilyn Armstrong


A strange day, windy and warm

Trees bending and swaying

Our doors slamming up and down the stairs.

No storm. Just a wind, wailing until

A bird came and sat on the deck railing

He sang a song so loud and clear

We thought it was a computer, maybe a phone

Too loud to be real.

But it didn’t stop.

Irregular the song and ever louder he called until

I rose and went to see where the music began.

There he was. A tiny wren on the railing.

From his open throat, a song trilled pure and clear


He such a tiny thing. Feathers, beak and a big voice

Yet so loud the wind could not match him.

That was my day. Today.

Come back tomorrow songbird.

Come back to sing again.

AN AWFUL LOT OF POSTS BUT WHO REMEMBERS THEM? — Marilyn Armstrong

9,947 published posts. I know that’s not quite 10,000 but it’s close.

Now, the minuses:

Tom: 400
Ellin: 525
Rich: 1,000
Garry: 1.000

So of the 10,000 posts, about 3.000 were written by other authors and probably another few hundred were re-blogs, so call it 4,000 written by other authors or re-blogs. I’ve probably written about 6,000 posts of my own. That includes most memories of childhood that were not published in my book … or are parts of the book or rewrites of chapters of the book.

Today’s statistics

About half of my posts were photographs, though even there, I tend to include writing even when the majority of the post is made up of photographs. But not always. It depends on how tired I am when I put the post together. And how many pictures I have.

So let’s say between 4,000 and 5,000 posts were exclusively mine. Still a lot of writing. Strangely, I wrote a lot more than that during my professional writing life. News writing, advertising, and documentation included thousands of pages and a mountain of research. I don’t remember how many books I wrote or how many kinds of software I wrote about. Or for that matter, what subject matter was involved.

I do not know if this is related, but for the last few months, I’ve been terribly tired. Aches and pains in many or most of my joints. Even my fingers, arms, shoulders, and occasionally my neck. If I don’t take pain drugs, I can’t stand up. Actually, it’s my inability to stand that’s my clue that I haven’t taken my medicine. I try to stand up and I fall back down.

“Oh, right,” I think. “I guess it’s medication time.”

I recently had a major three-day checkup on my heart. All things considered, my heart is doing very well, especially in view of all the surgery it has undergone. The implanted valves are working. The ventricles are pumping enough to keep the correct number of red blood cells flowing through veins and arteries. Whatever is wrong, it’s not my heart. So, whatever is going on is probably not lethal … at least not yet.

The neurology department did a major checkup on my brain (such as it is) and proved that (1) I have a brain so it’s not just a rumor, and (2) it’s more or less normal, at least neurologically. I’m not demented. I don’t have Alzheimer’s, or any sign of a brain tumor.

In fact, having changed medication for my spine, my headaches have almost entirely gone away. Proving my point that they should stop looking at each little thing and start looking at my entire self. I’m pretty sure they might find more connections.

To quote a song, “Dem Bones“:

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,
Now shake dem skeleton bones!

The toe bone’s connected to the foot bone,
The foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone,
The ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone,
Now shake dem skeleton bones!

The leg bone’s connected to the knee bone,
The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone,
The thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone,
Now shake dem skeleton bones!

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,
Now shake dem skeleton bones!

The hip bone’s connected to the backbone
The back bone’s connected to the neck bone,
The neck bone’s connected to the head bone,
Now shake dem skeleton bones!

The finger bone’s connected to the hand bone,
The hand bone’s connected to the arm bone,
The arm bone’s connected to the shoulder bone,
Now shake dem skeleton bones!

Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around
Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk around
Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk around
Now shake dem skeleton bones!

This is especially relevant to me because my spine seems to be the source of most my problems, not counting my heart, my missing stomach, and ye olde cancer.  So my good doctor sent me directly to the lab. I went to the one at Dana-Farber because they are much faster than the hospital and there’s a guy there who can ALWAYS find a vein. In ONE shot.

Meanwhile, I should be figuring out what I’m going to write for tomorrow, but surprisingly, that was not what I was thinking about. I was wondering what, if anything, the test would find. If they found something, what might it be? If they don’t find something, there’s simply got to be a reason why I feel this way. I never want to do anything or go anywhere. I’m too achy and tired. I don’t even want to talk on the phone.  I felt less tired after major surgery than I do these days, so something has to be going on. I would hope this isn’t a preview of the rest of my life!

So I didn’t get new pictures of my newly opened Christmas Cactus flowers because by the time we got home from the doctor, laboratory, and grocery store, it was dark. I’ll take pictures tomorrow.

Note that there are any number of versions of the words to “Dem Bones.” In case you find another version and the words are not quite the same.

THE GREATEST BROADWAY MUSICAL — Marilyn Armstrong

Back in my bright college days, I was a music major. I hung out on the quad with other wannabe musicians on warm sunny days where we planned projects which would make us famous. Symphonies. Great achievements as conductors and composers though my class never produced anyone huge. Medium is as good as we got.

The Concept

My great project was going to be a full-length musical comedy based on the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan.

In the Grecian version, Zeus, having taken the form of a great white swan, rapes — Leda. I vote for seduction since I have a lot of trouble visualizing being rape by a swan. I mean — swans don’t have hands. But of course, he was (is?) a god, so who knows?


Zeus or not, swans are slow and clumsy on land, unlikely to successfully attack anyone or anything. Being heavy-bodied, they have trouble getting airborne and watching one try to cross a road from side of the pond to the other, I can personally say they are not in any way agile. All their grace is on water.

Without hands or arms, rape seems unmanageable but I never encountered a non-human creature in my wild youth. As far as I know, my lovers were supposedly human. It could be difficult to be sure at times.

Leda becomes pregnant and it’s no ordinary pregnancy. How could it be?

She bears Helen (of Troy, the great beauty) and Polydeuces. These are the children of Zeus. Simultaneously (and I’d like to know how she managed this), she gives birth to Castor and Clytemnestra — the offspring of her human husband Tyndareus, King of Sparta.

Dirty water swan

Leda is able to convince her parents and husband that her extraneous pregnancy is not the result of a lover or (horrors) promiscuity. “No! Honest to Athena! Mom, Dad, it was Zeus. Himself! Not just any old guy. And he was a swan! A really big swan (NOTE: Swans are big,) Really.” Good performance, even for a god. And since it was Zeus, the big guy himself, Dad and husband aren’t likely to try to fight him, right?

Right.

The first and perhaps my favorite scene would have to be the first act closer. In this highly emotional musical extravaganza, Leda pours out her distress in a heart-rending soprano rich with passion and despair, yet filled with love for her four children, including those born from eggs. In it, she explains that it really truly was Zeus.

I could imagine another show-stopping moment.

Eggs. Her Zeus children are eggs. Who sat on the eggs? Did they build a nest on her throne? Did she get her ladies-in-waiting to sit on them while she did her Queen business?

Dialog Tidbit

Leda: “The swan didn’t fool me. I knew it was Zeus. You all know how much I love birds and feathers, right? I mean … what girl could resist such a gorgeous bird? Mommy, Daddy, you know I wouldn’t lie to you.”

Tyndareus, King of Sparta: “I want to believe you, darling girl, but I’m having a few small issues.”

Leda: “Trust me. It was Zeus. As a swan. We all know how tricky he can be.” She spits out a white feather. Now that was convincing!

The All-Important Dream Ballet

In a brilliantly choreographed dream sequence, Leda relives the heady romance of the seduction. Some of the technical aspects of the experience make interesting stagecraft.

How, exactly, did he DO it? It will make a heck of a scene! Without any hands?

Curtain Calls

By the final closer, the audience will be on its collective feet! I can hear the roar of the crowd, standing ovation, blown away by swanny sex. Not to mention the eggs. I see the royalties rolling in.

Two swans

I’ve been away from music for too long now to give this kind of orchestration a try, but I freely offer this incredible concept to anyone who has the musical energy to make it work. I will happily help with dialogue.  It might launch multiple careers.

I may even know just the right singers for it! At least ONE of them is deeply in love with swans!

THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT GOOGLE – Marilyn Armstrong

I woke up this morning with an earworm. Not your normal earworm. Mine was a 1920s earworm. It was a song my mother sang often and for once, she actually got the words right. Ask any member of my family and they will assure you: my mother never ever remembered the words to any song — except this one. She would sing words from other songs to whatever melody was bouncing around in her head.

So I get up this morning and this is what I’m hearing, but without the scratches:

And by golly, the words I had in my head were dead on. Next, the obvious question arises:

How did Google get its name? – Mobilis In Mobile


The mysterious mysteries of the Internet!
You may have read this kind of “official answer: “Google derived its name from the word “googol”, a term coined by then nine-year-old Milton Sirotta, nephew of the American mathematician Edward Kasner. … Google was named after Barney Google.”

Barney Google – The History

But will you ever feel the same way about Google again? I bet you won’t! And it all began with an early morning earworm!