Reflections on “Blog Year One”

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One of my Facebook friends noted on his page that this weeks marks the 100th birthday of comedian Red Buttons.  Red was known for his “never got a dinner” and “I was there” bits which he did frequently at celebrity roasts.  I remembered that last year, on his birthday, I blogged about Red and included many of my favorite “never got a dinner” lines.  It was one of the first blogs I wrote when I started this Word Press Blog.  It’s hard to believe that this blog is over a year old!

The beginnings

When I began this blog, I really didn’t have any idea of what it would be.  In my head, I thought that I might blog about some things I liked.  I also knew I would probably write about some favorite memories.  I might also write tributes to important people in my life or just random thoughts to help me deal with emotions or life situations.

This blog was meant for me.  It was to be a “sort of” therapy for me.  I envisioned it as a way to keep track of thoughts, write down stories I didn’t want to forget, and occasionally just vent. I had often joked about writing an autobiography, and in a way, this blog has become “chapters”.

I never thought that anyone would actually want to read these blogs (unless, of course, the blog mentioned them)!  Yet, here I am over a year later and I have “followers” – people who actually make it a point to read this no matter what the topic.  It humbles me.

Looking Back

The last few years of my life have been full of many changes:  job changes, deaths, divorce, depression, stress, remarriage, happiness, bliss, and the rekindling of old friendships.  It is interesting to go back and see the variety of topics this blog has covered through it all.  It really is a hodge-podge of randomness.

There is no shortage of posts about music here!  My iPod selections and the various connections that I make with songs, events, and people in my life are well documented.  There are so many great songs!  Musical blogs are among my favorite to write.  I recently started following another blog (PowerPop) which shares many of my musical tastes and I have enjoyed some great conversations with the owner of that blog.

My love for movies is also represented by blogs I wrote about movies I watched for the first time and movies I have watched over and over.  Television is also represented by a salute to the Dukes, childhood memories of School House Rock, TV Catchphrases, and my favorite cartoons. My hatred of movie and TV remakes was one of my very first blogs.

My radio career is also reflected in this blog.  You’ll find blogs that include some of my favorite radio stories, about listeners who became friends, my first morning show partner, radio mentors, radio bosses and co-workers, and encounters with famous people I met during my career all make up a good chunk of this blog.  One of my favorite blogs about radio is the World Radio Day blog, which thanks many of those people.

My family and friends, who are very special to me, are also well represented in this blog.  Tributes to my mom, my dad, my grandparents, my children, and my uncle/Godfather often were very emotional to write.  A blog about those teachers who were so influential and helpful to me was one of the easiest to write.  As my first wedding anniversary approaches, a long overdue blog about my wonderful wife will appear here.  One of my favorite blogs was about the trip to Florida that my wife and I took, which also doubled as our honeymoon.  Re-reading that one brings back many happy memories!  It still amazes me how we were able to keep it a secret.

The Christmas holiday spawned many blogs.  Blogs about Christmas memories, Christmas specials, Christmas characters, Christmas songs that drove me nuts, Christmas coffee, and yes – even a letter to Santa!  Christmas remains one of my favorite times of the year.  One thing I was unable to really blog about was the Christmas songs I love.  My friend, Chris, asked me to do that and I started it … just never finished it.  Consider it a head start for next year!

It was always fun for me to write about famous people.  As you look over the list of those who I wrote about, it is easy to learn a lot about me and what I like.  Comedians Red Buttons, Jackie Gleason, Shemp Howard, Curly Howard, Soupy Sales, and Rich Little give you a glimpse and who and what I find funny.  Musicians Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Weird Al Yankovic, Frank Sinatra, and, of course, Dean Martin give you a picture of my musical tastes. Other blogs about Mr. Rogers, Jack Webb, Christopher Lloyd, and Wolfman Jack expose you to other aspects of who I am.

At times, my blog can tackle serious topics, too.  Breast cancer is a big one.  Cancer, in general, is a big topic. It took many people from me.   I foresee a blog about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the future. I’ve been there and they do amazing work.  The importance of Music Education in schools is another great cause I will always fight for!  I have yet to write about Autism, but that is definitely on my list of future topics.

One of my favorite blogs summed up a lot about the past and the changes that occurred in me and my life over the past two years.  The subject was “Negativity, Judgement, and Happiness”.  Moving from sadness to happiness and moving from away from negativity and finding positives made a lot of difference!  Living with a positive attitude was such a game changer – and life is good.

The Future

Not so long ago, I was told my someone once close to me to stop writing.  “Nobody wants to read about that crap!  It is a waste of time.  Stop trying to be creative. Nobody cares about what you like and don’t like!”  If I have learned anything from Facebook and this blog, it is that people do care!  People do like to read what I write!  In the end, I don’t really write for others, I write for myself.  The fact that other people read this blog and get some enjoyment out if it is a little bonus.

In future blogs, I will continue to write about things I love.  I will write about things that people want to know about.  I will continue to participate in Blogathons (I have a few coming up that I am excited to write for) on various topics like movies and music. I will continue to write about things in my personal life.  I will continue to write – because I enjoy it.  The minute this is no longer satisfying and I feel that I have written all I can write … I will stop.  Until then, thank YOU for reading my “various ramblings”.  I appreciate you!

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Knowledge is Power!

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As a kid, we lived for Saturday mornings! We never slept in because we knew that all morning long we had our choice of back to back cartoons! There was Scooby-Doo, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Hong Kong Phooey, Blue Falcon & Dynomutt, The Laff-O-Lympics, The Flilntstones, The Pink Panther and many more! It was great! We’d sit and watch these shows all morning long with a big ole bowl of cereal and laugh away!

One of the things I remember most about Saturday mornings was also one of the things that helped me in school – School House Rock. These little musical features helped me learn multiplication, history, and English. If that it what they set out to do, it worked. Oh, how many times did I find myself singing those songs in school!

Multiplication Rock

Learning the times table is one of those things that ALL kids absolutely hate! God, I hated those 60 second tests where you had to write the answers to as many problems as you could. The stress of that was awful for an elementary student. School House Rock helped!

Let me start with the most memorable. I remember when I had to help my son learn his times tables, I sang the “ready or not, here I come” song which helped you count by 5. This little song centered around a game of hide and seek, and they had to count to 100 by fives while the rest of the kids hid. To this day, when I have to count by fives – I think of this song!

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Counting by twos was illustrated by Noah and the ark. The biblical account talks of Noah bringing all the animals on the ark in pairs. So throughout this number, Noah answers his son’s question of how many animals were on the ark by counting the animals two by two as the exit the boat.

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The first song that was recorded for the series was “Three is a Magic Number”. The story goes that creator Bob Dorough’s son could remember “every lyric to a Rolling Stone’s song, but could not remember his multiplication tables”. If it truly is a magic number, what better way to illustrate it than with a magician?

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What child didn’t do a bit of daydreaming in school? To remember how to multiply 8, all we had to do is think about the little school girl who daydreamed she was a figure skater. She skates her figure 8 and the song told us how.

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Grammar Rock

English was one of my best subjects. I remember being in 5th or 6th grade and going to something called the Academic Olympics. Schools within the district had these little game show like contests with teams for Math, Science, English, and History. I was chosen to be on the English team. I certainly never had an issue with the parts of speech because of School House Rock.

Well every person you can know,
And every place that you can go,
And anything that you can show,
You know they’re nouns.

Yep! Thanks to SHR, the little girl and her dog – we knew a noun was “a person, place or thing”!

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What’s happening? Verb! That’s what’s happening! The coolest “action” hero? Well, I don’t know about that, but a verb shows action….and I always remember him!

I get my thing in action (Verb!)
To be, to sing, to feel, to live (Verb!)
(That’s what’s happenin’)

A verb expresses action, being, or state of being. A verb makes a statement. Yeah, a verb tells it like it is!

Why do I remember this? Because the music was cool. The character was cool. We didn’t even know they were trying to teach us something!!! We were learning and it was cool!

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And what about describing a noun? Well all you had to do was unpack some adjectives…but watch out for the scary, hairy bear!

Adjectives and adverbs were so hard for some kids to get. I could not ever understand why. I got it pretty quickly … because of a little girl and her trip. You see, her friends ask her to describe her camping trip. She said that all she had to do was unpack some adjectives.

We hiked along without care.
Then we ran into a bear.
He was a hairy bear,
He was a scary bear,
We beat a hasty retreat from his lair.
And described him with adjectives.

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Moving on to Adverbs, I had help from SHR and also The Electric Company (which was mentioned yesterday). On the Electric Company, they turned to Tom Lehrer (who is pretty darn funny and has some comedy albums you can still get today). He created the simple song “L-Y”. Why? Well, most adverbs end in “ly”.

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School House Rock’s song about adverbs was memorable because it was just a fun little song that takes place in (where else?) an adverb store! Need an adverb – shop at Lolly’s! The brilliance of this song is it is like a commercial for the store…and they really sell it! Hell, if I really needed to go buy and adverb – I would shop at Lolly’s!! After all … they are family owned!

Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here.
Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, got some adverbs here.
Come on down to Lolly’s, get the adverbs here!
You’re going to need
If you write or read,
Or even think about it.

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I still remember learning about interjections for the first time. I also learned about the punctuation that followed it …

Interjections (Hey!) show excitement (Yow!) or emotion (Ouch!).
They’re generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point,
Or by a comma when the feeling’s not as strong.

This song was full of characters – the kid with the flu who needed a shot, the gal getting asked out on a date, the fans at the football game, and others who were all full of interjections!

The chorus of this song is one of the most well known, so sing along:

So when you’re happy (Hurray!) or sad (Aw!)
Or frightened (Eeeeeek!) or mad (Rats!)
Or excited (Wow!) or glad (Hey!)
An interjection starts a sentence right.

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While all of these are memorable, probably the most memorable Grammar Rock song is about three small words and a small little train conductor. The bluesy swing song with the repetitive refrain and the amazing vocal talents of Jack Sheldon makes Conjunction Junction one of the all time BEST sing a longs.

Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?
Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.
Conjunction Junction, how’s that function?
I got three favorite cars
That get most of my job done.
Conjunction Junction, what’s their function?
I got “and”, “but”, and “or”,
They’ll get you pretty far.

Ask any child of the 70’s to give you a conjunction and they will spout off “and”, “but”, and “or” immediately! That’s a sure bet!!

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America Rock

Moving forward, and wrapping up with History, we come to America Rock. Some of the biggest events in US history were brought to life in 3 minutes of musical perfection!

Interest in American History is still abounding today. Recently, there was an AMC series called Turn! which was about the Revolutionary War and George Washington’s spies as well as an HBO series on John Adams and the role he played in the Independence of America. Let’s start there.

No More Kings was a silly little song about the colonists coming to America and being taxed for everything. This leads to the Boston Tea Party and America wanting no part of King George (who can see what’s happening through his telescope).

They wanted no more Mother England.
They knew the time had come
For them to take command.
It’s very clear you’re being unfair, King,
No matter what you say, we won’t obey.
Gonna hold a revolution now, King,
And we’re gonna run it all our way
With no more kings…

Hence the colonization of America!

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What followed was the Revolutionary War. Which got it’s own song called The Shot Heard Round the World, which of course is then followed by the Declaration of Independence, which got it’s own little song … and Fireworks.

The Declaration of Independence
In seventeen hundred seventy six
The Continental Congress said that we were free
Said we had the right of life and liberty,
…And the pursuit of happiness! (You totally saw the guy chasing the gal when you read that line right?!)

Thanks to School House Rock, today I can still recite:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,
That all men are created equal
And that they are endowed by their creator
With certain inalienable rights.
That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

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Who doesn’t sing the “Fireworks song” on the 4th of July??!

Then, of course, after we declared our independence, we had to have a Constitution. Memorizing the Preamble of the Constitution was no problem for me in school … I had it set to music!

We the people,
In order to form a more perfect union,
Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,
Provide for the common defense,
Promote the general welfare and
Secure the blessings of liberty
To ourselves and our posterity
Do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

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There have been many Amendments to the Constitution, and the 19th was a biggie! It allowed women to vote! It is hard to imagine that they didn’t have that right until 1920!! The right was referred to as Women’s Suffrage. School House Rock Tackled this historic occasion with the song “Sufferin’ Until Suffrage”.

Women were American’s too. They wanted the right to vote. The video for this song is part cartoon and part black and white pictures of women throughout history. It’s a rocking number that gets the point across and you can here the “victory” in her voice in this “gospel”-ish song.

Oh, we were suffering until suffrage,
Not a woman here could vote, no matter what age,
Then the 19th Amendment struck down that restrictive rule.

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Throughout history, we’ve seen many inventions that have made our world a better place. “Mother Necessity” was the character who is in this song and the “mother” of the inventors of these wonderful things. We hear of the Wright Brothers and their airplane, Thomas Edison and the light bulb, Eli Whitney and the cotton gin, Samuel Morse and the telegraph, Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone and a few others.

“Mother Necessity where would we be indeed!”

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Finally, the School House Rock showed me how the legislation process happens…with our friend, Bill.

Bill is just that – a bill. How does a bill become a law? I learned how with this song. Performed again by Jack Sheldon (Conjunction Junction) perfectly, you learn about the whole process and lengths a bill goes through to be a law. Naturally, we all feel great when he finally becomes a law at the end!

I’m just a bill.
Yes, I’m only a bill.
And I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill.
Well, it’s a long, long journey
To the capital city.
It’s a long, long wait
While I’m sitting in committee,
But I know I’ll be a law someday
At least I hope and pray that I will,
But today I am still just a bill.

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Thank you School House Rock for helping me and many other children learn so much about so many things! Now, to end with an interjection….

Darn! That’s the end.

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