30 July 2009

Heading west on I-84 this morning...

...we saw a new car from KIA called the Soul.


In a few years we'll be hearing such things as

"Yeah, I'm pretty bummed; had to sell my Soul yesterday."

"My Soul is a lemon."

"How much does a good used Soul go for now?"

"What color is your Soul?"

The new Souls are really hot!"

Pythagoras would be so proud.

29 July 2009

If someone is willing to spend $223.65...

...for a used book (even one as good as A Storied Singer: Frank Sinatra as Literary Conceit) on Amazon that one can buy new for $75.15, shouldn't the author be willing to read it live to the buyer?

Well, if nothing else, the seller should have his/her head examined!

Frank Sinatra "A Hole in the Head" (The CT Wit's 200th Post)

Last night attended with the family a screening at Wesleyan University of Frank Capra's 1959 film, A Hole in the Head, starring Frank Sinatra, Edward G. Robinson, Carolyn Jones, Eleanor Parker, Thelma Ritter, Keenan Wynn, and "introducing Eddie Hodges."

My initial reaction was "Man, old movies are SOOOOOO much better in a real theatre rather than at home."
Secondly, kids today (at least a certain 10- and 13-year-old) can really enjoy 50-year-old movies, too.

Thirdly, do kids today still get the job of filling cigarette lighters with lighter fluid?

Fourthly, James Komack traveled a long way in a decade from idiot son Julius to cool Uncle Norman in the television series The Courtship of Eddie's Father.

Fifthly, I'd choose Eleanor Parker (above) over Carolyn Jones (left) any day of the week and twice and Sunday.

And, finally (and most importantly), while I've always enjoyed E.G.R.'s performance (no one says "You're a bum" better!), and that Eddie Hodges had one heckuva voice, Frank's performance in AHITH (which I've in the past have tended to dismiss) was a revelation. His tearful entrance into his hotel after the dog track scene was remarkable -- perhaps all the more powerful since his face filled the big scene.

28 July 2009

A 2004 letter about Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame

My complete letter sent to the Hartford Courant on 1/13/04 and reprinted (with edits) in the 1/17/04 issue:

To the editor:

I write in response to your editorial support of the continued ban of Pete from baseball and, as a result, the Baseball Hall of Fame.

First, let me say that, as someone who grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio; who assiduously practiced signing the balloon-ish "P" and "R" of Rose's signature; who in his backyard pool created and perfected the "Pete Rose Headfirst Slide" game (a diving game that challenged the "runner" to dive and slide into the pool's opposite wall before being tagged out by the underwater catcher); who cherished his Pete Rose bat, acquired at Bat Day at the recently-built Riverfront Stadium; who, even when playing softball, crouched in the Pete Rose batting stance; and who, in short, wanted nothing more than to BE Pete Rose (only smarter); I too think that Pete should never again be allowed to manage or hold an official position in any Major League Baseball organization.

That said, however, it makes absolutely no sense to me to continue to bar him from the Hall of Fame. What kind of Hall excludes the record holder of one of its sport's most difficult records: 4256 hits? What Hall keeps out a player who started more All Star Games at the most different positions: 5? What Hall doesn't contain a player who was NL Rookie of the Year, NL MVP, World Series MVP, a three-time batting champ, etc., etc.? For all of these statistics only reveal a player who played the game the way it should be played, with enthusiasm, with tenacity, and with longevity.

In contrast, it seems comical to induct a Paul Molitor, an admittedly fine player who for almost half of the games in his career didn't play defense (and who admits that the DH is the only reason he lasted as long as he did), while Rose, a two-time Gold Glove winner whose variety of successful shifts in position on one of the greatest teams of the modern era underscores a true team player, is excluded.

Now, there are those who will say that he's getting what he deserves because he broke the cardinal rule of baseball. And, I agree: he deserves to be banned from current and future participation in the sport. His memory and his past achievements (along with a clear display of his offenses, I might add), however, cannot be omitted from the League's official memory bank. To do so, only calls into question the purpose of the Hall of Fame. If the most accomplished aren't there for fans to recall and revel in their achievements, why bother to remember anyone at all?

Feel free to strip Rose, once inducted, of his right to vote for future inductees; refuse to let him attend Hall functions; exile the man utterly from Major League stadiums; but put the player in the Hall where his achievements have more than merited a spot.

In the end, separating the ban from baseball and his induction in the Hall of Fame will put Pete Rose in his rightful place(s): a Hall of Famer who will never be a part of baseball again. Baseball fans deserve the right to celebrate his accomplishments, even if Rose himself does not.

25 July 2009

Amanda Carr at Playhouse on Park (7/24/09)

On Friday, I attended the first jazz concert at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT, and, as a result, my first performance by Boston-based singer Amanda Carr.

A fine voice + great enunciation + impeccable song selection + a real sense of the joyously artistic communion the Great America Songbook offers to her, her musicians, and her audience = a wonderful evening of finely tuned renditions of Rodgers and Hart, Duke Ellington, Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, Antonio Carlos Jobim, etc...

If Friday was my first Amanda Carr performance, I certainly hope that it will not be my last... a wish I may not have to wait too long to be granted with a new (big band) cd due for a Fall release, and a tour for which she indicated that a return to POP would be most welcome. I second that emotion....

6 degrees of separation moment: Ms. Carr sings a duet with Rob Zappulla on the classic "Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing," released on Rob's new cd, You Ought to be Havin' Fun, on which my older daughter joins in on background vocals on the title track.

(Already ridin' on the kids' coattails, I have no shame!)

Seussical the Musical

Drug Abuse!
Unwanted Pregnancy!
Child Abandonment!
Environmental Calamity!

Just what children's theatre should be...Seussical the Musical (All this weekend at NCTC in Newington, CT. Full disclosure: both daughters are in the cast!

What's remarkable is that the feel and approach to the score and script is all very true to the original books -- which is why they remain so popular and powerful. The poet translates real problems into language kids can understand and problems with which they can grapple.

23 July 2009

Frank Sinatra as WHO?

Everyone knows Ronald Reagan was considered for the role of Rick in Casablanca before Humphrey Bogart and that Frank Sinatra was considered for Dirty Harry prior to Clint Eastwood, and there are many other -- and, yes, even more -- actors and roles that never quite made it to the silver screen.

But imagine this for a moment:

Frank Sinatra as St. Paul in a Frank Capra biopic:

Music Express June 1959
Nat Hentoff, "American Airmail": Now 'Saint Sinatra'?
Frank Sinatra may play St Paul in a film that Frank Capra will direct.

Oh, what might have been!

For an intriguing defense of the idea, check out Tom Santopietro's Sinatra in Hollywood (9-10).

Mr. Chips, Jimmy Durante, and Frank Sinatra

Given my recent interest in Goodbye Mr Chips, I was surprised, while reading Tom Santopietro's Sinatra in Hollywood that I had forgotten that, in the 1947 film It Happened in Brooklyn (Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante, Kathryn Grayson, and Peter Lawford), Durante's character, Nick Lombardi the school janitor, had a thing for Mr. Chips -- even with a picture of Robert Donat as Chips on the wall of his apartment (Santopietro 87).

Really don't know any of the "Harvard Prof Arrested" facts...

...so I won't weigh in on whether the Cambridge police officer acted appropriately (although my gut tells me both sides acted badly, albeit with cause), but, if I were going to charge Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr. with something, it'd be for letting his The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers (Basic Civitas Books, 2003) -- that should have been insightful and telling and groundbreaking -- be published when it was still only some loosely connected thoughts about an important writer.

Yes, granted, the book grew from from the Thomas Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities he delivered at the Library of Congress in March 2002, but, hey, if you're going to publish an expanded version (that's still short by any definition of a book), make the expansion worthwhile and truly telling. If not, publish a videotape of the lecture with, I'm sure, a quite valuable and enlightening post-talk Q &A with Professor Gates as a bonus track.

PS: Always wanted a nickname that I could put in quotation marks in the midst of my legal name...maybe not "Skip," but I'm flexible.

22 July 2009

One man's avant-garde is...

...another man's Ava Gardner!

The New "Frank, Gil, and Friends" Website

Please check out the new website for the alternative Frank Sinatra radio program
"Frank, Gil, and Friends,"
which airs every Tuesday morning, 8-10.

I was limited in design choices, but let me know what you think...
especially in terms of what information, links, etc., you recommend I add.

Once again the Courant shows that the Romans were far wiser than we...

...they at least were smart enough to let their military captives row their boats for them (see below).

Heck, even the guy beating the drum to keep them all in sync was in servitude. Roman citizens were just the ones who made sure they all kept rowing!

The only possible exception to my mind would be this:

From the Broadway show "Ziegfield Follies Of 1912"
William Jerome and James V. Monaco

And then he'd row, row, row
Way up the river he would row, row, row
A hug he'd give her
Then he'd kiss her now and then
She would tell him when,
They'd fool around and fool around
And then they'd kiss again.
And then he'd row, row, row
A little further he would go, oh, oh, oh,
Then he'd drop both his oars
Take a few more encores,
And then he'd row, row, row.

From today's Hartford Courant:

The Pull Of The River: Rowing Classes Increase In Popularity

Special to the Courant

It is 6:30 a.m., and I am sitting in a 60-foot rowing shell on the Connecticut River with seven other beginners taking Riverfront Recapture's sweep rowing class.

Each of us is trying to maneuver a 12-foot oar through the water without hitting the person in front or back of us, and without wobbling the slender, lightweight boat.

Trying to keep us in sync is instructor Sarah Griffin, who is seated in the stern of the boat yelling (nicely): " Legs, body, arms. Arms, body, legs." I'm learning that rowing involves not just the arms but also the legs and core of the body, which pull the oar through the water.

It's harder than it looks from shore. Just when I think I'm getting it, my oar slips out of my hands. As I grab it, the boat gets tippy, reminding me of Griffin's remark before we got into the boat that in the "highly, highly unlikely" event that it flips, we should stay with the boat and oars, because they float. (I didn't ask what would happen after that.)

Rowing — also known as crew — used to be the province of Ivy League colleges and universities. But in the past decade, it has become popular as a community sport for people of all ages. At Riverfront Recapture in Hartford, rowing programs director Brian Wendry estimates the number of people taking lessons has increased 30 percent in the past two years.

"Anybody can do it," says Wendry, who notes that Riverfront Recapture also offers adaptive rowing for people with physical disabilities (run in partnership with Mt. Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital). The nonprofit organization's mission is to reconnect the community to the Connecticut River through special events and sports programs.

Over the past few years, Wendry says, he has noticed an increase in the number of baby-boomers taking up rowing, especially women.

Wendry has taught many people in their 50s, 60s and even 70s in his intermediate and advanced rowing classes. Last year, there were two rowers in their 80s, he says.

"It's a sport you can come to later in life," says Chip Davis, publisher of Rowing News magazine, based in New Hampshire. "You don't have to have experience."

I'm told that you also don't have to be in good shape to start, but that it will get you in shape if you stick with it. While aerobic, rowing is also "low impact," which makes it popular with people who have injured themselves in more high-impact sports such as running.

Gently Up The Stream

Riverfront Recapture offers rowing lessons in sweep boats that seat four or eight people. For people who want to row alone, or in groups of two, there is sculling, where each person has two oars.

Wendry says that once people try rowing, they're often hooked.

"I've had people tell me: 'I never found a sport I liked until rowing,"' he says. "It becomes life-transforming."

The sport also offers beautiful scenery and camaraderie.

That's one of the reasons 26-year-old Noah Ratzan, a Hartford teacher, is taking the beginner sweep class.

"In the gym, every person is in their own zone," he says.

At this early hour, all would be quiet if not for the drone of cars and trucks along the I-84 and I-91 highways that skirt the river. With leafy trees blotting out the freeways, however, the view is magnificent — a tableau of mottled green and dark water spanned by the graceful arches of the Buckley Bridge.

The four-week beginner rowing classes — which meet two mornings or evenings a week at the Greater Hartford Jaycees Community Boathouse just off I-91 in Hartford — start on land, with practice on rowing machines. Students graduate to a training "barge" and finally to a rowing shell.

Griffin, who is on a women's racing team at Riverfront Recapture, likes to see her classes bond as they learn to row.

"You really get to see these people come together," she says. "They might know one person when they start, but by the end of the session, they're all saying, 'we should get a boat together and go out rowing.' If you're looking for a community aspect, it's a really great sport."

The next session for sweep rowing classes at Riverfront Recapture runs July 27 to Aug 20. The cost for the four-week session is $160. Classes meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:15 to 7:30 a.m. or 5:30 to 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.rivefront.org. Classes are open to anyone 16 or older who can swim.

21 July 2009

A very cool message to receive in the middle of one's on-line radio show

"Hello, Gil:

I just had to tell you that I am listening to your radio show right now, from India! I didn't really expect it to work from this far away, but I am so excited to hear you and Cecilia...


Now, if I could only hit the curveball

Got stung by bees on each ankle on Saturday afternoon while cutting my lawn.

Went to the doctor yesterday with what the nurse practitioner referred to a serious case of "pregnant lady feet," and was given a prescription for steroids to reduce the swelling.

Steroids? Pregnancy?

I think I now know what it feels like to be Manny Ramirez!

20 July 2009

CAMELOT at the Goodspeed

Attended Camelot at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT, last night with the family and thoroughly enjoyed a marvelously staged production.

The cast was excellent from the King to the maidens and squires although Erin Davie's Guenevere was particularly charming and, at times, seemed lit like she were in some pre-Raphaelite painting. The chemistry between her and the King (Bradley Dean) resonated more with us than between her and Lance, although I fear that has everything to do with the script itself and nothing with the fine performance of Maxime de Toledo. I've never been able to figure out exactly how any actor can turn this comic, obnoxious, holier-than-thou character into Jenny's lover when his two most affecting songs, "Toujours" and "If Ever I Would Leave You," are left until Act II. His opening number, "C'est Moi," is such a great comic song that it just takes too much for the character to shake that image successfully -- yes, even more than resurrecting the dead.

The songs are, as you'd expect from a Lerner and Loewe score, remarkable and (well, at least I hope this is still true!) familiar: the title song, "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood," "What do the Simple Folk Do?," "C'est Moi," "I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight..." All are done simply, wittily, and truly "loverly" (if I may be allowed to mix my L and L shows).

I am an old-fashioned song-and-dance musical kind of guy, so I didn't expect to enjoy this as much as I did the first production of this season, 42nd Street.

I was right. I didn't. I enjoyed it more.

18 July 2009

Walter Cronkite, RIP

The passing away of Walter Cronkite at 92 yesterday brings to mind the wonderful lyric by Nanci Griffith fr0m "It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go" from her 1989 cd Storms:

I was a child in the sixties
dreams could be held through TV
With Disney, and Cronkite, and Martin Luther
Oh, I believed, I believed...I BELIEVED

17 July 2009

Ursula K. LeGuin's "Lavinia"

The conventional wisdom about The Aeneid by Publius Vergilius Maro is that, as important and as elegant as it is, it's simply cold when compared to Homer's epics. Of course, compared to Homer, almost everything ever written is cold, so that's hardly a fair comparison -- even if Vergil himself demands the comparison.

Well, if you're one of those who's never warmed to Vergil's protagonist and/or poem, I recommend Ursula LeGuin's 2008 novel Lavinia, which centers on the Italian wife of the Trojan hero. Through LeGuin's deft handling of how one fleshes out another writer's character with little, if any, help from the original, the entire panoply of the poem comes alive: the characters (from Aeneas, Achates, and Ascanius, to Turnus, Evander, and Mezentius), the landscape, the battles, and the early history of what would become Rome.

At one point, Vergil the poet (with whom Lavinia, his character, communes at a holy site through much of the novel) reproves her by saying that she's asked a question only a woman would ask...which, it turns out, is one of the greatest benefits of the novel since she opens the Latin work to a contemporary understanding -- and critique -- which, I hope, will lead folks (back?) to Vergil.

The reader need not know the ancient epic because LeGuin summarizes well (yet briefly) the necessary plot points, but those already well acquainted with it will appreciate this careful reading and enlightening interpretation.

I can well imagine not a few senior-year high school Latin classes, which are probably populated with more young women than young men at this point, reading this book along with their Vergil...and the read will be well worth their while...and, more importantly, not a little enjoyable.

Was this common at all in 1970?

In an earlier post I mentioned Sir MacHinery, a book I enjoyed tremendously as a boy. Well, after reading the post and remembering his own childhood favorite The Jim Thorpe Story, a good friend (and regular listener of "Frank Gil and Friends" on Tuesday mornings!), went on line, purchased it, and sent Sir MacHinery to me.

A wonderfully unexpected gesture indeed! Many thanks again, Al!

So, my younger daughter and I have begun reading this tale, set in Scotland, of an American scientist and his robot who are recruited by a group of "mythical" figures (including Merlin, a witch, some wee people...) for help against the (re-)gathering of the forces of evil.

Besides enjoying the book tremendously thus far, we have noticed this odd spelling: computor.

Does anyone know if in 1970 there was some real variation in the spelling of a word that would become ubiquitous in our culture only a short time later?

"Goodbye, Mr. Chips"

IMAGINE wanting to make a movie from a book that, at not insignificant points, quotes Vergil's Aeneid (followed quickly by an " Umph -- I need not -- of course -- translate") or from Julius Caesar's Commentary on the Gallic Wars (as the main character reassuringly chooses a particularly apropos passage for the boys to construe while undergoing a German air raid):

"Genus hoc erat pugnae -- this was the kind of fight -- quo se Germani exercuerant -- in which the Germans busied themselves. Oh, sir that's good -- that's really very funny indeed, sir -- one of your very best..."

Hard to imagine, no?

Now imagine actually keeping those parts -- as is -- in the Hollywood movie, and you've got 1939's Goodbye, Mr Chips with Robert Donat and Greer Garson. Saying that today's mainstream films aren't as smart as they once were is perhaps too easy, but to note how far they've been dumbed down is eye-opening (even for a reactionary curmudgeon such as I).

More importantly, remembering that both the book and the movie were so popular (Donat even won the Academy Award for his performance), if, when you finish either the 1933 James Hilton novella or the film, you don't have at least a twinge of a) wanting to be a teacher or b) (re-)learning Latin, then you're simply not being honest with yourself.

Sentimental? Sure. Heartwarming? Indeed. Worth the read/viewing? Immeasurably!

15 July 2009

As a fan of the National League...

...why do I get the sense that we might have been better off fielding Lou Brock, Red Schoedienst, Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, Bob Gibson, and Stan Musiel last night?

And why don't they air singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" anymore. I've no problem with "God Bless America" (it's an Irving Berlin song, after all), but it shouldn't replace "TMOTTBG."

14 July 2009

Another reason why I need an exclusively ceremonial position

Just finished the sixth and final day of new student advising/registration at CCSU. On each day (spread over 4 weeks) I twice deliver a talk to the incoming students' parents highlighting some of the keys to academic survival in a light-hearted and music-filled tour entitled "Dr. G's Vowels of Academic Success: A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y and W."


Matt Monro, "You've Got Possibilities"
Theme song of Cosby Show spin-off Different World
Tom Lehrer, "Lobachevsky (i.e., "Plagiarize")
The Happenings, "See You in September"

Not insignificantly (and probably why I agree to do it annually), I seem to hit it off quite well with the 'rents, who always ask:
1) Is my kid hearing the same things? ("Yes, albeit in a different form, from the director of our First Year Experience Program.")
2) Can I take your class? ("Trust me, once I get beyond 35 minutes, you wouldn't want to take me.")

This just continues the pattern from back when I was a young man and dating: Parents always liked me more than the girls I dated...just ask my wife!

08 July 2009

A footnote from Noel Coward

"Coming across a footnote, Noel Coward observed, is like going downstairs to answer the doorbell while making love."

03 July 2009

Happy Independence Day, Everybody!

Randy Newman's Follow The Flag performed in a restraurant by some guys on YouTube.
Happy 4th, All!
As my staff person Min said on Thursday, "If you haven't lived in a Communist country, you really don't know what freedom means."
Sadly, for many (if not most of us), she's probably correct.

Prepare ye the way...

I'll let you know when the revised edition of David Lloyd's The Gospel According to Frank is available from New American Press! It's coming soon.

"Sarah Palin Steps Down"

Say what you will about the politics of the soon-to-be-ex-Governor-of Alaska, Sarah Palin, but at least she's willing to step down from a position that she no longer wants to run for an office that she does.

'Twould that our Connecticut senators had done the same thing. No one can do a good job if they aren't around to do it.

01 July 2009

Where do you pause in reading this phrase?

Yale Medical School Discovery to Cure High School Internship Program

Yeah, me too...(if you stopped between between the 8th and 9th words)

And I was positive that high school was incurable!