Month: May 2014

My Life As A Pet Photographer….

A recent post by “Cheerful Monk” and comment by “The Cozy Minimalist” reminded me of my days as a pet photographer back in the mid-eighties. It was rather by accident that such had come to attrition. I had gotten interested in pursuing photography as a hobby and as is so often the case, one thing led to another.

As it happened, a friend at work was a dog person and bred Basenjis which are dogs whose heritage is founded in Africa. In passing, one day at work when I was talking about looking for photographic subjects he said I should come over and take some photos of his dogs. Shortly after that on a weekend I went by his home and took some photos of his dogs and that was how it all began. The next weekend another friend said I could come over to their house and take some photos of their German shepherd if I wanted some experience. I laughed but did end up going and took what was to be one of my favorite photos of all the ones I had taken during my dog photography era.

German Shepherd(German Shepherd – Click to Enlarge)

From then on I was taking photos of anything from show dogs to fancy pigeons and horses to hamsters. If someone wanted a photograph of any critter whatsoever, I was game!

Fancy Pigeon(Fancy Pigeon – Click to Enlarge)

All this was of course back in the ‘film’ days way before digital cameras had made their entrance. My mainstay camera in those days was the Canon AE-1 35mm and I also had a Bronica medium format camera but did not use it much for pet work. Pet photography was painstakingly slow work in those days, primarily because in my case I was developing my own film and processing my own prints. I can only imagine how much more pleasant life would have been doing digital work.

White Cat(White Cat – Click to Enlarge)

I actually quit my job in nuclear power plant construction for a period of time, rented a small studio and did pet photography on a professional basis. Funny though how that often works out, as soon as you turn a hobby into a job, well that’s just exactly what it turns into and the fun and passion leave by the back door. I think for me it lasted about six months.

German Shorthair Pointer(German Shorthair Pointer – Click to Enlarge)

Well, I guess that pretty much concludes this little ‘show-and-tell’ regarding my life as a critter photographer. You know, thinking about it, I don’t think after putting all that behind me in the mid-eighties I have ever taken another pet photograph. At least not in the “portrait” sense. Oh well, as they say life goes on….

Doggie Mix(Mixed Breed – Click to Enlarge)

You Don’t Miss Your Water (till your well runs dry) – William Bell

I was elated when found the video below on YouTube. I had originally seen the performance as aired by PBS last year at the White House but never thought I would find what I considered to be the best performance on the show available for personal use.

Since the featured song and video in this post was filmed at the White House during a performance there, let me say this post is all about the music and the artist and has nothing to with politics so come on in, sit down and listen to some of the best of Memphis Soul you will ever hear… but leave your politics at the door!

In my opinion it doesn’t get any better than what you see and hear in this video. William Bell grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and recorded his first hit with Stax Records in Memphis titled “You Don’t Miss Your Water” which is a classic blues piece of music. That’s the song you’ll hear in the video and the man has only gotten better with the years considering he first recorded the song back in 1961. He was 73 years old when he performed on this video in 2013.

And I cannot fail to mention that the group backing up the performers on this particular night was led by none other than Booker T. Jones of Booker T. & The MG’s fame. It was in 1962 when that group recorded their rock anthem Green Onions” at Stax Records.

Music as seen thru the eyes of a genealogy chart….

Being a music lover, I ran across something I thought very interesting recently regarding the genres of music. Most of us tend to keep our music references to genres pretty basic I would say for the most part such as country, rock and classical for example. But in reality, much like a genealogy chart or scientific classification chart, there are many specific music genres seemingly tied to one another in a maze of interconnections enough to boggle one’s mind. Even candies have genealogy charts, much to my surprise!

Candy Scientific Chart(Click to Enlarge)

This was all brought to light several days ago for me when I ran across a news article in the Entertainment Section of a media website that had referenced the blog which is part of a website run by ConcertHotels.Com. Their blog contained a post entry titled “From Gospel to Grunge – A Rock Time Machine” which led me to the chart (partially shown below) I frivolously referenced as a genealogy chart in my post title which is actually titled “100 Years of Rock”.

Music Genres - 01(Click to Enlarge)

The chart is actually an interactive chart that allows you to follow how the various genres of music developed and also allows you to listen to selected samples of the numerous genres. The evolution of music will slowly evolve as the page opens. I actually found the chart to be quite educational along with being somewhat entertaining so I thought I would post it. Back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s it seemed aligning one’s self with a particular genre of music was a rather simple task but these days, not so much.

Perhaps it’s just that old age has taken me over but I haven’t listened to any popular music in quite a few years now. Music just isn’t as melodic as it use to be and the lyricists of today’s music lost me a long time ago.

By the way, if you do happen to visit the website I mentioned, check out their latest post “From Bowie to Bieber: What Makes A Singer Great:” and check out the chart listing the voice ranges of the world’s greatest singers. I was shocked to find Axl Rose of Guns & Roses leading the pack…

The Porterhouse Movies….

Porterhouse-Steak(The Porterhouse Steak – Click to Enlarge)

For me, there are a few really, really good movies that are much like dining on an excellent porterhouse steak. Now let me try to explain the intent of that comparison if I can. Typically when I eat a porterhouse steak I eat the main portion of the steak first saving the ‘filet’ portion until the very end, the filet of course being the juiciest and most tender part of the steak. Consumption of the entire steak is quite the enjoyable dining experience certainly but the filet, in the cuisine sense, encapsulates for me the complete experience of an excellent meal – the best of the steak and the best of the meal.

In comparison, there are some films whose plots and storylines are constructed in much the same way as a porterhouse steak. The movie is really good all the way through but when you get to about that last 20-30 minutes the movie explodes with feelings and emotions and a total sense of satisfaction. While the majority of the movie equates to the main portion of the porterhouse, the last 20-30 minutes of the film I reference is the obvious filet.

Now, there are many good movies obviously but only a few are constructed in such a manner as to be referred to as the porterhouse steak style movie in my opinion. The film I came across last night while channel surfing on the television was “He’s Just Not That in to You”, a romantic comedy, which easily fits in the category I’ve been discussing. It’s the film that got me to thinking about all my other favorite movies and which ones had that magical 20-30-minute conclusion, that “filet of film” if you will. After some deliberation I have concluded that those movies which for me fit into the porterhouse steak scenario are as follows and in no particular order….

Sleepless In Seattle (1993)

Trouble with the Curve (2012)

Notting Hill (1999)

You’ve Got Mail (1998)

He’s Just Not That in to You (2009)

Field of Dreams (1989)

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Obviously you would have had to watch the entire movie to truly understand the wonderful climatic scenes of these films but for me, when I watch that last thirty minutes it’s like seeing the entire movie again condensed into a 30-minute time frame. The real plus with regard to these movies is that you don’t have to watch the entire movie over and over again to enjoy the experience; you only have to watch the climatic 20-30 minute conclusion to in fact receive the complete benefit of having watched the entire film.

In conclusion, if you can relate to what I am trying to say then that’s good that you have understood my point. Perhaps you have a favorite movie or two you can relate to this comparison yourself. If you don’t have a clue as to what I was trying to convey, just chalk it up to an elderly man who probably needs to increase his medication dosages.

The Genealogy of a Radio Station….

Question for the day: What do the radio call letters of station “WLS” have to do with the 1924’s Sears, Roebuck Company advertising slogan, “World’s Largest Store”, used during that same era? The short answer is of course… Everything! But surely I have gotten ahead of myself a bit. Let’s go back several decades….

Sears-Roebuck-Co-Worlds-Largest-Store

When I was a teenager and rock and roll was getting itself established into our culture most of us had a radio going whenever possible. We spent the majority of our listening time focused on our local radio stations. But come the night and in large numbers teenagers would start fine tuning their radio dials to 890 kHz trying to pick up the “IT” station of those days which broadcast out of Chicago, Illinois with 50,000 watts of power. Radio waves were less interfered with at night and about the only time you were able to tune the station in given the great distances most of us were from the transmitter.

I suppose there were three reasons we teenagers were so focused on this radio station. First and foremost was the fact that they seem to get the latest record releases first so the station was where you could hear the latest and greatest rock and roll songs first. Secondly was they had great disc jockeys and lastly, well that’s just what you did when it got dark. Below is a bit of audio memorabilia….

(Memorable WLS Radio Commercials featuring The Anita Kerr Singers)

WLS Radio - 1962(Click to Enlarge)

But to the real purpose of my post, what the majority of us never knew unless we perhaps lived in Chicago was that those call letters of W-L-S had a profound meaning. To the majority they were just call letters, that’s all. All radio stations had call letters, right? Well, yes that is right. All radio stations do have call letters but normally not call letters that actually stand for something. WLS as it turns out was the abbreviation for “World’s Largest Store”.

And what is the world’s largest store, well in 1924 when the radio station was started, the major merchandizing company who actually established the station bestowed that title upon themselves and that company was the very well known Sears, Roebuck & Company. Quoting from the Sears Archives themselves…

“In 1924, a new Chicago radio station, with the assigned call letters WBBX, began broadcasting under the ownership of Sears. Despite the assigned call letters, Sears first broadcast the station under the call letters WES (World’s Economy Store). An immediate hit, the station kicked off a grand opening from a broadcast station in Chicago’s Sherman Hotel using new call letters—WLS (World’s Largest Store)—days later. The station broadcast farm and weather reports, music, tips for housewives, and evening entertainment. The National Barn Dance, heard on Sunday evenings, became the most popular radio program in the Midwest. Sears sold the radio station in 1928, but the station continues to use WLS as its call letters today.”

The radio station only stayed under the guise of Sears, Roebuck Co. for about four years but given the fact that they even had anything to do with the origin of such a nationally known station is just an amazing fact to me because it was only recently after all these years spanning from the 1950’s until now did I myself have the slightest inkling of the station’s genealogy.

Below are some interesting links if you are interested or curious with regard to a more comprehensive tour of the stations history….

The History of WLS Radio
WLS Radio Timeline
WLS – Wikipedia

Remembering Little Samantha Smith….

With the situation in Ukraine and the rhetoric being swapped back and forth between Washington and Moscow, it certainly brought back vivid memories of the Cold War for me. And often is the case such as it was back in those days we talk of all the bad things that could happen and sometimes not really thinking about the small child who may be off in the distance casually listening absorbing our frivolous talk about consequences. Giving that thought a lingering moment, it brought back a memory that I would happily like to share with those who may be unfamiliar with the young girl or her small part in that a fore mentioned Cold War.

Andropov - Time MagazineWe have to go back to the year 1983 some eight years before the Cold War would officially be declared as over for the beginning of our story. In November of 1983 Time Magazine published a piece on the new Soviet Premier, Yuri Andropov, to include a seemingly auspicious portrait displayed on its cover. There had been an enormous amount of rhetoric and media attention lavished on this new Russian Premier and his underlying intents with regard to relations with the United States and with regards to Russia’s nuclear arsenal. And as was the norm in the days of the Cold War, these type news stories only fed into the stress levels and anxieties within the American populace.

It was during this time that Samantha Smith, a ten-year old little girl living in Manchester, Maine became very disturbed and concerned with all she was hearing about the perceived war and saber rattling. She questioned her mom with regard to all the talk about wars and nuclear bombs and it is said that her mother, having the referenced issue of Time Magazine at hand opened it and read the article regarding the new Premier to her daughter. Samantha then suggested to her mother that her mother should write the Premier and find out who was causing all the trouble. Her mother simply responded, “Well, why don’t you write him a letter?”

Samantha Smith - 01(Samantha Smith)

And so it was that a few weeks later in December with the help of her mother she sent the following letter to Premier Andropov in an obvious effort to waylay the fears of a ten-year old.

Dear Mr. Andropov,

My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren’t please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war.

This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country. God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.

Sincerely, Samantha Smith

Samantha did not hear back directly from the Premier or any other official from Russia in the short term although the Soviet newspaper Pravda did run a story on the letter written by Samantha, even printing excerpts from the letter. But still she hadn’t received any response after a couple of months or more so she wrote a second letter to the Soviet Ambassador to the United States questioning the Ambassador as to the reasons the Premier had not answered her letter. A week later the Soviet Embassy called Samantha directly and informed her that a letter from Premier Andropov was on the way to her. Finally on April 26, 1983 she received the letter from Premier Andropov, one written in Russian and one translated to English. The letter read as follows….

Dear Samantha,

I received your letter, which is like many others that have reached me recently from your country and from other countries around the world.

It seems to me – I can tell by your letter – that you are a courageous and honest girl, resembling Becky, the friend of Tom Sawyer in the famous book of your compatriot Mark Twain. This book is well known and loved in our country by all boys and girls.

You write that you are anxious about whether there will be a nuclear war between our two countries. And you ask are we doing anything so that war will not break out. Your question is the most important of those that every thinking man can pose. I will reply to you seriously and honestly.

Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are trying to do everything so that there will not be war on Earth. This is what every Soviet man wants. This is what the great founder of our state, Vladimir Lenin, taught us.

Soviet people well know what a terrible thing war is. Forty-two years ago, Nazi Germany, which strove for supremacy over the whole world, attacked our country, burned and destroyed many thousands of our towns and villages, killed millions of Soviet men, women and children.

In that war, which ended with our victory, we were in alliance with the United States: together we fought for the liberation of many people from the Nazi invaders. I hope that you know about this from your history lessons in school. And today we want very much to live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on this earth—with those far away and those nearby. And certainly with such a great country as the United States of America.

In America and in our country there are nuclear weapons—terrible weapons that can kill millions of people in an instant. But we do not want them to be ever used. That’s precisely why the Soviet Union solemnly declared throughout the entire world that never–never–will it use nuclear weapons first against any country. In general we propose to discontinue further production of them and to proceed to the abolition of all the stockpiles on Earth.

It seems to me that this is a sufficient answer to your second question: ‘Why do you want to wage war against the whole world or at least the United States?’ We want nothing of the kind. No one in our country– neither workers, peasants, writers nor doctors, neither grown-ups nor children, nor members of the government–want either a big or ‘little’ war. We want peace—there is something that we are occupied with: growing wheat, building and inventing, writing books and flying into space. We want peace for ourselves and for all peoples of the planet. For our children and for you, Samantha.

I invite you, if your parents will let you, to come to our country, the best time being this summer. You will find out about our country, meet with your contemporaries, visit an international children’s camp – ‘Artek’ – on the sea. And see for yourself: in the Soviet Union, everyone is for peace and friendship among peoples.

Thank you for your letter. I wish you all the best in your young life.

Andropov

After some deliberation and consultation on the invite, on July 7, 1983 Samantha, accompanied by her parents, did indeed fly to Moscow spending some two weeks there as Premier Andropov’s guest. You can read more about the specifics of her historic trip by clicking on the two links noted at the bottom of this post.

Sadly, Samantha would die tragically some three years later at the age of 13 in a commuter airline plane crash with her father when the plane was attempting to land at Lewiston-Auburn Regional Airport in Auburn, Maine.

Samantha Smith was mourned by about 1,000 people at her funeral in Augusta, Maine, and was eulogized in Moscow as a champion of peace. Attendees included Robert Wagner and Vladimir Kulagin of the Soviet Embassy in Washington, who read a personal message of condolence from Mikhail Gorbachev, while President Reagan sent his condolences to Smith’s mother in writing.

In the months that followed, the Soviet Union produced a commemorative stamp honoring Samantha….

Samantha Smith Stamp(Commemorative Stamp)

A bronze statue was erected in Augusta, Maine honoring Samantha….

Samantha Smith Statue(Samantha Smith Statue)

Additional tributes and memorials were made in her name and you can read about them and much more about this sweet and courageous young girl by visiting “Samantha Smith – Wikipedia” or “Samantha Smith.Info”.

A Show of Force….

Sheriff’s Department Vehicle

While reading the paper this morning the photo of a rather dark and ominous vehicle immediately caught my eye which I have posted above. I was a bit in awe of course initially but then as I finished reading the caption under the photograph I really had to chuckle when I read it had only been used once and that was to serve a warrant.

Now if it was being used to serve a warrant to the kingpin of some drug cartel I could perhaps understand such cautionary measures and show of force but I seem to be envisioning that it was used to serve the warrant to some poor little old lady sitting on her front porch swing knitting and had failed to show for her court date over an overdue parking ticket. Say it isn’t so…. 😀

Bob Newhart & His “Button-Down Mind”….

The_Button-Down_Mind_of_Bob_NewhartI had just graduated high school in May of 1960 when something of a phenomenon seem to break out on the radio right smack dab in to middle of the birth of rock and roll. The radio stations began playing excerpts of this new comedian who had recently recorded an album of some of his comedic routines. What nerve to interrupt the daily ebb and flow of our rock and roll music but it didn’t take but hearing one routine from this comedian and you were hooked. Who realized at the time that it would be for life and what a stellar career this complete unknown would compile?

The man’s name as it turned out was Bob Newhart and on his new album was a routine titled “The Driving Instructor” that would literally overwhelm the public at large with his dialogue of a driving instructor sitting in a car and giving a woman a driving lesson. It captured the public’s imagination and kept us laughing for months….

(The Driving Instructor)

It’s hard to believe today given all that has transpired in the career of Mr. Newhart that he was but a lowly accountant working in Chicago in the latter days of 1959 who did little but tinker with the art of standup comedy. But rather than me mumble around filling in all the blanks about those days give the interview below a listen from National Public Radio. His beginnings as a comedian are so interesting and entertaining in themselves. Here are those interviews plus what Mr. Newhart says is the routine from those early days which he considers his favorite titled “Abe Lincoln (vs) Madison Avenue”….

(National Public Radio – Interview with Bob Newhart & Conan O’Brien)

(National Public Radio – Abe Lincoln vs Madison Avenue)

Although over the years my favorite routine from those early years has tended to bounce around from one to the other, I think at least in this moment in time the two routines below are probably my own personal favorites….

(Introducing Tobacco To Civilization)

(The Police Lineup)

Just for those who may not be familiar with Bob Newhart’s standup routine I have included a video from 1995 with Bob performing one of his routines released on his second album in 1962. This one involves a bus driver training school appropriately titled “Bus Drivers School”….

It really is hard to comprehend given those days back in the early sixties that a comedian of any stature could have had such a large impact, especially an unknown. When his album “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart” hit the Billboard Charts and took over that number one spot in 1960 it upstaged the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Kingston Trio who were all at the top of their game.

For those of you who may take the time to listen to the interviews and routines I have included here, I truly hope you enjoy….