Monday, April 30, 2012

A great get well gift

Talk about a great "get well" gift.

My friend Charles Robert Davenport, former teacher at the old Brickey Elementary and a long-time librarian (now retired) in the Knox County Schools, called me last week.

"I've got some vinyl records here if you'd like to have them," he said in his trademark laconic tone.

I did not meet Mr. Davenport until briefly working in public relations for Knox County in late 2002/early 2003 until illness forced me to resign the position. "Mr. D" had left Brickey long before I became a student there.

So, I met him for lunch today just before going to the medical center to receive my CPAP machine. He pretty much let me take my pick of a variety of vinyls, including country, classical, gospel, and Broadway and film soundtracks.

As I type this, I'm listening to the late and great Eddy Arnold sing "Faded Love" and "The Tennessee Waltz" and (on another album), one of my favorites, Eddy's excellent cover of "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye," performed in the crooner style that became his trademark. Every time I hear Eddy, he always makes me think of Marshal Andy Smalls, who has to be Eddy Arnold's biggest fan.

Next up is either Glen Campbell or "South Pacific." We'll see when I summon the energy to get up.

Wish me luck on this CPAP, y'all. I think it might make me a new man.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dylan, Beatles and 'Looking for Space'

So, I'm exhausted.

Put in a full eight-hour work day today. Got to feeling rough about mid-day (countin' down the hours until Monday morning), but we had quite a bit of fun.

The Rossini Festival was fantastic. Yep, we're about $100 poorer, but it all goes to a great cause. We even found a few classical and Celtic CDs.

After lying down for a minute (I hate to even say the words, but I also think I've got a kidney stone), I made it to the Halls Alumni Dinner. Biggest crowd we ever had. Congratulations to Halls High Hall of Fame inductees Larry Hodge, Wilma Hacker Jordan and F. Carl Tindell.

Oh, yeah, they made some guy named Mabe the president.

On the way downtown, I got a call from Nathan Moses at Lost and Found Records. They had a copy of my all-time favorite John Denver album, "Windsong," which contains my all-time favorite John Denver song, "Looking for Space."

Hobbling up the steps, I noticed a sign that said "Sealed Records Inside."

I found two prizes: Bob Dylan's "Nashville Skyline" (my favorite of his) and -- get ready for it -- The Beatles's "Abbey Road." Yes, they are both SEALED.

Gotta run. We're heading to South Pittsburg, Tenn., for the National Cornbread Festival tomorrow. I'm covering it for the Shopper. Mom and Mike are driving.

Have a great Sunday, y'all.

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

'JD' and the Boston Pops

Here is a great clip of the late, great John Denver performing with my favorite orchestra (other than the KSO), the Boston Pops. This is taken from the classic PBS series "Evening at Pops."

Far out!

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Friday, April 27, 2012

One last 'Dark Shadows' post

Folks, I feel like total crap.

LONG story made short, which you don't care about anyway, a couple of months ago my blood pressure skyrocketed to 186/116. Soon I began having occasional coughing fits that were soon followed by dizziness, seeing stars and thinking I was going to pass out.

Had a sleep study Wednesday night. Was awakened at 1 a.m. and given a CPAP machine to wear. It made a big difference and it looks like I'll be wearing one at night for some time.

Yesterday, I developed a throbbing migraine headache. Then I got dizzy, saw the stars and almost passed out twice. At the Halls High Academic Banquet, I "recognized" a complete stranger whom I mistook as a girl I've known for 10 years.

Tough night.

So, I thought I'd do something fun before trying to get to sleep and give you a glimpse of my "Dark Shadows" collection.

Included in the photograph are a complete set of all 32 Dan "Marilyn" Ross Paperback Library "Dark Shadows" books from 1966-72 (and a few other Paperback Library books tied to the series, including a photo collection from the late Jonathan Frid), the 1969 soundtrack LP, and two later books on the series, "The Dark Shadows Companion" and "Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood," the latter released earlier this year.

Have a good weekend, y'all.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Good story on Jon Frid from the 'Telebuddy' and Knoxville News Sentinel TV columnist Terry Morrow has written a great piece about the late Jonathan Frid and Jon's portrayal of Barnabas Collins on "Dark Shadows."

It can be found here:

He mentions that Lara Parker, who played the witch Angelique on the '60s ABC-TV daytime series, was born here in Knoxville. I did some research; she was born as Mary Lamar Rickey, but I have no idea how long she lived here.

The Telebuddy says it better than I did, folks.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A little night music

Yep, I'm up at 1:45 a.m., trying to manage a migraine, wide awake, can't sleep. I could tell this weather front was coming through about four or so hours ago. Sigh.

So, as long as I'm up, I thought I'd put on a Time-Life vinyl LP, "Great Moments of Music: Love Songs," featuring my favorite conductor, Arthur Fiedler, and the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Tchaikovsky, Puccini and a Richard Rodgers medley that includes "Lover," "Falling in Love with Love," "Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'" and "It's A Grand Night for Love"? Yes, oh yes. Perfect.

A little night music...on an evening in which I don't feel too well.

Y'all have a wonderful Wednesday, OK? Sure hope you do.

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My turntable

I got all inspired after visiting Lost and Found Records for National Record Store Day last Saturday and after reading a thread today on KnoxViews here.

So, I moved the turntable into the den tonight. On the player is Jimmy "Orion" Ellis's "Reborn," released on the Sun Records label in '79. (This is a special collector's edition of clear gold vinyl.) On this particular spin, I was listening to him sing Billy Swan's "Lover Please."

Sadly, Mr. Ellis died on Dec. 12, 1998, shot to death during a robbery in his Alabama pawn shop. A buddy and I saw him at the Tennessee Theatre two years before his tragic death. His voice was the closest to later Elvis Presley recordings than anyone I've ever heard.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jon Frid and Dan Curtis's dream

OK, now I've had a few days to think about losing a final chip of childhood. I don't know whether I can put it into adequate words, but here goes.

I've already told you about being obsessed with "Dark Shadows" as a kid. Throughout most of high school, I would immerse myself for one hour a day (30 minute episodes back-to-back) via re-runs in the saga of the crazy characters of Collinwood.

All those memories came flooding back last Thursday when his relatives announced Jonathan "Barnabas Collins" Frid had passed away, ironically enough on Friday the 13th. (Useless trivia: Frid starred in director Oliver Stone's first movie, a horror film called "Seizure.")

Part of the attraction of "Dark Shadows" for me was its story. Think about it. A Gothic mansion filled with ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and attractive young women in miniskirts...for what more could a teenage boy ask?!

Looking back on it, I think I identified with Frid's portrayal of Barnabas Collins, the self-loathing, reluctant vampire. If you suspend belief and take the character for who he was, Barnabas Collins was adrift in a strange world, struggling to find his way, hating the bad aspects of his nature and learning how to fit in. Well, doesn't every teenager do that? Especially one with nostalgic tendencies anyway?

And, of course, I would laugh with mirth at all the live-on-tape mistakes. "Gravestones" blowing in the wind. Cameras crossing cameras. Boom mics slipping down into the scenes. Grips wandering around on the side of the stage.

I collected all but two of the old Paperback Library books (my sweet mom has bought me the other two to complete my collection), several VHS videos and Kathryn Leigh Scott's "Dark Shadows Companion." I bought the 1969 soundtrack vinyl album from Mike and Maria at Lost and Found Records when it was located in West Knoxville. I joined the "Dark Shadows" fan club and subscribed to a few fanzines.

As the years passed, I left "Dark Shadows" behind. College and career took over. When Netflix arrived, I would rent the DVDs from time to time. I'd watch them usually on Saturday mornings, while eating cereal, for old times' sake. It never failed to bring a smile.

Last Thursday night, I toasted Frid, dug out my VHS copy of the 1970 film "House of Dark Shadows" (which did so well at the box office it single-handedly saved M-G-M from bankruptcy) and Jenn and I spent two hours with those crazy characters from Collinwood. I bought Mr. Frid's autograph on eBay and decided to splurge on the second-edition of the complete series DVD set, which comes out in July.

Dan Curtis's dream called "Dark Shadows" will forever hold a special place in my heart. Crazy camp and all, it was (and is) a heck of a lot of fun.

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Monday, April 23, 2012


Pete Rose.

He was one of my heroes when I was a boy. My dad would take me to Weigels gas station to buy a few packs of Topps baseball cards. I'd go through the stack, save the Rose and Dale Murphy cards, put the others in a box, and throw the gum away.

Sept. 11, 1985. Rose did the impossible. He broke Ty Cobb's all-time career hits record of 4,191. When he hugged his son, Pete Jr., at first base, I cried too. Hey, sue me. I was seven.

Then came 1989. I took Pete's side. Read his book, "My Story," the one written with Roger Kahn.

Ten years later, I couldn't believe that NBC reporter who shall remain nameless brought the betting thing up again during the All-Century Team ceremony, when Rose got the loudest ovation of the night.

The next year, I met Rose at a baseball card show in Richmond, Va. My grin vanished when the guy wouldn't acknowledge my polite "How are you, sir?" (His former teammate, Joe Morgan, by contrast, grasped my hand, said it was nice to meet me and told me he hoped I enjoyed his book.)

A year or two later, I read James Reston Jr.'s "Collision at Home Plate." It is a dual biography of Rose and the late Bart Giamatti, former commissioner of Major League Baseball. Giamatti died several days after banning Rose for life from the game.

My feelings about Rose changed. My blood really got to boiling when Rose finally admitted to Charles Gibson on ABC, his legs spread so widely apart you could have driven a Sherman tank through them, that, yes, he did indeed bet on baseball.

My childhood hero, Charlie Hustle, the guy who worked harder than everyone else, the guy who remembered janitors' names and came back out of his car at Ramsey's Restaurant to sign something for a special needs kid, had lied to me. To us.

Then he would tell kids on the street to give him five bucks for an autograph. Then he started holding signings in casinos.

Nah. Forget it. I thought about taking my autographed baseball and using it for batting practice in the back yard.

And then, last night, I watched the excellent documentary film "4192." And I began to remember why I loved Pete Rose when I was a kid.

Well, it goes through Rose's entire career. He tells about how his dad pushed him, made him work as hard as he could, knowing he wasn't the most talented guy on the field. He said his dad got sick one day, made it home and died on the doorstep. Big Pete taught his son to be tough.

The documentary goes through Pete Rose's childhood, the minor leagues, the Crosley Field years, the Big Red Machine, the still-unbelievable dismantling of one of baseball's greatest teams, to the Phillies, the Expos, back as player/manager Cincinnati and, finally, to the night of hit number 4,192.

Money quote from Pete Rose: "I got my 3,000th hit on and my birthday is on April 12, the day the Titanic sank, the day Abe Lincoln was shot. I got (hit 4,192) on 9/11. I'm a weird dude."

OK, here's the deal. Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, will ever top most of his records. The timing of his inclusion can be debated. But when you have a Hall of Fame wall that includes Bill Mazeroski and not Peter Edward Rose?

Give me a break.

Find a link to purchase the DVD of "4192" here. It is also streaming on Netflix and Amazon Instant.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Dan Rather responds to my question!

Folks, this has got to be one of if not the highlight of my personal and professional life, other than my marriage to my beloved Jenn.

A few weeks ago, I submitted a question to legendary reporter and former CBS News anchor Dan Rather on his Facebook page for his cable/satellite show on HDNet, "Dan Rather Reports."

This morning, the "Dan Rather Reports" social network folks contacted me to thank me for my question an say Mr. Rather has responded in the first of what will be a series of videos called "Ask Dan."

Here is the link.

Thank you, Mr. Rather and "Dan Rather Reports," for making my day.

By the way, Dan Rather has a new memoir, "Rather Outspoken," coming out in May.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rest in peace, Barnabas

It was with a heavy heart that I heard today that Jonathan Frid, the man who made Barnabas Collins famous on the '60s ABC-TV classic "Dark Shadows," passed away, ironically on Friday the 13th.

A relative said his health was declining in recent weeks and he died peacefully in his sleep.

"Dark Shadows" was my favorite show when I was a kid. The theme song is my cell phone's ringtone.

I'll write more after I have collected my thoughts. I can't help but wonder if this Tim Burton/Johnny Depp train wreck didn't hasten Mr. Frid's death.

Rest in peace, Barnabas. You'll never know how much this kid liked you and adored Dan Curtis's crazy dream.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

No contest: 'The Artist' is 2011's true Best Picture

The single most delightful thing about seeing "The Artist," 2011's Best Picture Academy Award-winner, on the big screen at Regal Downtown West last night is it reminded me of the reasons why I lost it at the movies, with apologies to Pauline Kael.

At their best, movies shake you, take you tripping, re-create nostalgia for something you've never known.

Such is the case with writer/director Michel Hazanavicius's triumph. Prior to last night, my favorite silent movie was the Greta Garbo/John Gilbert classic "Flesh and the Devil." Prior to last night, my favorite movie about the transition from silents to talkies was "Singing in the Rain."

"The Artist" beats them both.

For a film like this to be made at all, much less made so well, in 2011 is nothing short of a miracle. And for all you jokers who don't think you can watch either a silent film or -- God help you -- a black and white film, "The Artist" will demolish that wall, too.

Briefly, the film is about a superstar silent actor named George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), sort of a cross between Gilbert and Gene Kelly's character in "Singing in the Rain." His hubris and insecurities won't let him make the jump from silents to talkies. Meanwhile, he is both taken with and somewhat resents beautiful up-and-comer Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), who worked with Valentin in her first film. She secretly loves him. The feeling, despite some ambiguity on Valentin's part, is mutual.

Oh, what a joy. The sound, the score, the cinematography. This is a triumph.

Bonus points go to an extraordinarily talented cast of supporting players: James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Ed Lauter, Malcolm McDowell and the incomparable John Goodman.

During the Academy Awards, I was rooting for "The Descendants" and "Moneyball" and "J. Edgar."

Forget it. The best picture of the year is indeed "The Artist."

It is one of the best motion pictures I have ever seen.

Special kudos to Regal Cinemas and Downtown West, which do it better than any other movie theater in town.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pathetic pukes

Guess what, y'all?

I got hacked.

Yep, I was enjoying the cool spring morning, driving to a doctor's appointment, when I got the call from a colleague.

"Your email has been hacked."

Here's the strange part: At least three people I know who are members of or have connections to the Knox area media have been hacked within the last few days or weeks.

Get a job, you pathetic puke.

Wait a minute. Wonder if it's somebody in the Tennessee state legislature? Most of them obviously have way too much time on their hands...

Monday, April 16, 2012

And that's the way it was...

On this date 50 years ago, Walter Cronkite succeeded Doug Edwards as the anchor (a term coined for Cronkite) of the "CBS Evening News."

The newscast was only 15 minutes, which Uncle Walter found ridiculous. Even when it was expanded to 30 minutes in the fall of 1963, Cronkite still didn't think it was long enough. He later praised the hour-long length of what is now called the "PBS NewsHour."

His first producer was future "60 Minutes" creator Don Hewitt. Cronkite took the title of managing editor. He may have been the "anchor" of the program, but he was a feet-on-the-pavement reporter. Many of his newscasts would be hosted on the road -- in China, in Vietnam, in Paris, wherever news happened. After a few years, "The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite" had knocked NBC's long-established "The Huntley-Brinkley Report" out of the No. 1 spot in the ratings.

He earned the distinction of being "The Most Trusted Man in America."

One of my earliest memories is watching his sign-off in March 1981. It was, in more ways than one, the end of an era. TV news became vapid, network news bureaus slashed both budgets and reporters, and anchors by and large lost their sophistication and urbanity. (Although Scott Pelley is doing a great job on CBS now, much better than the previous "anchor.")

Cronkite remains a hero and my favorite anchor, although I vehemently disagreed with some of his ideas, particularly about one-world government. He championed the space program, told us what we needed to know, occasionally (and it was occasionally) gave us his opinion, and did it all with an avuncular, engaging presence.

I remember him now, will remember him always, as the heart and soul of the "CBS Evening News."

And that's the way it is for Monday, April 16, 2012. This is Jake Mabe, Shopper-News, goodnight.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

So I got to drive a Porsche Boxster yesterday...

I won't lie. When I floored it going down Edgemoor Road by Centennial Golf Course in Oak Ridge, I felt a little like Thomas Magnum, p.i. (Yeah, I know Magnum drove a Ferrari 308, but still. At least I had on a Tigers cap.)

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

An April assassination on Good Friday

On this date in 1865, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

You know the tale. He and Mary Todd went to see Laura Keene star in the comedy "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theatre. Their companions were Henry Rathbone and his fiance, Clara Harris. It was Good Friday.

At the moment that always brought the play's loudest laugh, renowned actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth stepped into the presidential box, put a .44-caliber single-shot derringer to the president's head and mortally wounded the best friend the South would have had during Reconstruction.

If you don't believe me, read what happened after April 14, 1865. I recommend Eric Foner's book.

Across town, Secretary of State William H. Seward was also attacked. He would survive.

Taken to the Petersen House across the street from the theater, Lincoln died about 7:22 the next morning.

"Now," Secretary of War Edwin McMasters Stanton said, "he belongs to the ages."

"The Pale Horse had come," Carl Sandburg later wrote. "To a deep river, to a far country, to a by-and-by whence no man returns, had gone the child of Nancy Hanks and Tom Lincoln, the wilderness boy who found far lights and tall rainbows to live by, whose name even before he died had become a legend inwoven with man's struggle for freedom the world over."

I saw the blood-stained pillow, and that disgusting derringer, in 1998. I have forever been haunted by both.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

The sixth sense

OK, you're going to think I'm nuts.

I don't care. Gotta tell this story.

Don't get the idea I'm a psychic aficionado or anything, but I do believe there's something to Extra Sensory Perception. ESP. See if you agree.

Submitted for your approval:

My friend Ross Southerland came to see me on my birthday. We hadn't talked about anything we'd do beyond eating at Litton's and watching some TV.

When he walked in the door I was watching my favorite movie, the 1969 John Wayne version of "True Grit." (You know, the real one.) I had also laid out a couple of "Magnum, p.i." and classic "Hawaii Five-O" DVDs to show Ross.

He looks at the TV screen, sees the Duke wearing an eye patch, looks in the corner at the stack of DVDs, and says, "You have to open this card now! I wrote this out a few days ago. I'm not kidding."

Sure enough, he had written something like "Happy birthday to Halls' version of 'True Grit'" and then made P.S. remarks about Magnum and Higgins!

We went nuts laughing. I couldn't believe it.

Fast-forward to last night. I'm up late, struggling with insomnia, when I decide to catalog some of my vinyl records. The two artists I catalogued were Elvis and the Carpenters.

When I finished, I decided to check my email. Sent 20 minutes before, while I was cataloguing the records, was an email from Ross -- ABOUT THE NIGHT ELVIS MET KAREN CARPENTER!

I was dumbfounded. Even though it was 1 a.m. I knew Ross is a night owl and would still be up. I called him.

The first words out of my mouth were, "Man, you're not going to believe this."

We went nuts laughing. Again.

Fast-forward to this morning. I'm listening to my iPod while I'm getting ready. Up pops the Carpenters' "Oldies Medley" from their 1973 "Now and Then" album.

I get to work. I tell co-worker Emily, "Hey, I went to Lost and Found Records last night and bought the rest of the Carpenters' vinyl I didn't already have," not yet mentioning my iPod experience earlier.

She says, "The album I remember most from childhood is the one with the frame cover. Didn't they do 'Fun, Fun Fun' on it?"

It was the same medley to which I'd listened this morning. Not kiddin'.

Call it coincidence. Call it the sixth sense. Call it ESP.

Whatever it is, it all happened. Just like that.

Maybe I've entered..."The Twilight Zone."

If a cigarette-holding, dressed-in-a-black-suit Rod Serling pops up and starts narrating, I'm going to the hospital...

UPDATE:After I posted this blog, I was reminded of two pieces of information that REALLY brings all this together. Duke Wayne wanted Karen Carpenter to play Mattie Ross in "True Grit." And Elvis was considered for the role that Glen Campbell ultimately played. How do you like them apples?

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

'Just look for the truth'

OK, I'll admit it.

I loved Mike Wallace.

Well, let me back up. I had a love/hate relationship with the guy. Sometimes his "60 Minutes" segments made me stand up and cheer. Sometimes they'd make me mad. But, that was the point.

As Scott Pelley said last night on the CBS Evening News, Mike Wallace had a saying:

"Our job isn't hard. Just look for the truth."

Those words are more important than ever in this social media cyclone, in which even the relatively-new 24-hour news cycle has been reduced to a seven-minute one.

You no doubt know I'm a old soul. I've watched or recorded "60 Minutes" since I was a boy. Andy Rooney was my favorite. Harry Reasoner was the one I wanted to be like. Ed Bradley was the dude that dug great tunes. I had a crush on Lesley Stahl since her White House days. Morley Safer was the courtly one. Dan Rather was Dan Rather.

But the guy whose voice and manner and mere presence quickened my pulse was Mike Wallace. I admired his guts. I'd always laugh whenever he'd nail some crook. I loved to watch the powerful and the dictatorial and the arrogant asses dither and squirm. Pelley and Steve Kroft and the current crew (Safer and Stahl are still around and, for the record, I still love Stahl and now have a crush on Lara Logan) are doing a great job keeping Don Hewitt's baby and Mike Wallace's MO alive.

Wallace had been to the top of the mountain and to the depth of the valley. Gen. William Westmoreland sued him in a famous incident in 1982. Wallace later admitted the incident, plus the death of a son, touched off a series of depressive episodes. He admitted to Safer in a late interview he once tried to kill himself. I felt for him because I, too, have been nipped at the heels before by the Black Dog.

Favorite stories? Oh, the time he scooped Seymour Hersh on Hersh's own story -- while on an airplane! And the time he threw up the word "lunatic" to the Ayatollah.

Don't miss this excellent New York magazine piece by Matt Zoller Seitz.

Of the CBS clips of classic interviews, please watch Wallace's heart-wrenching story on the Secret Service agent, Clint Hill, who blamed himself for JFK's assassination. You can find it among these classic clips. Heck, watch 'em all.

As such things eerily go sometimes, I watched a Wallace-hosted 1992 CBS documentary on Watergate about 24 hours before I heard of his passing. I remember thinking how much I missed that voice, that turned-up eyebrow, that look, on "60 Minutes."

He had his faults and he wasn't a saint, but at least by one viewer who appreciated a guy going for the jugular and giving his all into his 90s, Mike Wallace will be missed.

One last story: Pelley said last night CBS threw Wallace a big party the Friday night of the week he "retired." Gave him a cake and everything.

Guess who was back at work, sitting at his desk, the following Monday?

You can't help but admire that.

"60 Minutes" will air a special tribute to Mike Wallace at 7 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday, April 15.

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Monday, April 09, 2012

'In the squalor of life and war, what a magnificent act!'

I am thinking today of another April, of Appomattox, 1865.

You know the story. Gen. Robert Edward Lee, refusing to lead his Army of Northern Virginia into either slaughter or guerrilla war, called for a meeting to surrender to U.S. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Somebody found a building owned by Wilmer McLean (who has quite a story himself) at Appomattox Court House, Va.

Lee dressed in a crisp new uniform; Grant, taken aback by the request for the meeting and dressed only for battle, sported a private's coat splattered with mud.

They talked awhile. Grant reminded Lee they'd met during the Mexican War. Grant later wrote he enjoyed the conversation so much he almost forgot the reason for the meeting.

(Grant's memoirs, by the by, are the best of the genre.)

Richard Nixon used to tell a story about Winston Churchill's fascination with this April moment at Appomattox.

In his book "Leaders," Nixon said that during a stag dinner in Washington, Churchill declared Lee was "one of the greatest men in American history and one of the greatest generals of all time."

Nixon writes:

"He (Churchill) said that one of the war's greatest moments came at the end, at Appomattox. Lee pointed out to (Grant) that his officers owned their horses as personal property and asked that they be allowed to keep them.

"Grant said, 'Have all of them take their horses, the enlisted men and the officers as well; they will need them to plow their fields.'

"Churchill's eyes glistened as he looked around the spellbound group and said, 'In the squalor of life and war, what a magnificent act!'"

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Sunday, April 08, 2012

Happy Easter!

I hope everyone has a beautiful and blessed Easter Sunday.

Submitted for your approval is an Easter greeting from Elvis 'himselvis', circa '67.

Happy Easter, y'all!

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

Oh, how I love this grand ol' game

I love this game, this national game, this baseball.

Oh, how I love it.

Here's one of its quirks. How many times have you seen a player make an outstanding defensive play to end a half-inning only to come up to bat in the following frame?

That just happened in San Diego, to Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon. He made an amazing play for the third out, one that makes you dance a joy jig. Then he led off the top of the fifth. Oh, yeah. He just hit a triple.


I'm listening to velvet-voiced Vin Scully, octogenarian, master of his craft. Nobody, and I mean nobody, compares to Vinnie. He's been with the Dodgers since Brooklyn and Red Barber and he is a national treasure. I told some folks earlier I could listen to him read names out of a phone book. He's forgotten more about this grand ol' game than most of us will ever know. And I love it when he throws in tidbits about Broadway plays and such during his broadcast.

Today is my birthday, Christmas, New Year's and Fourth of July rolled into one. Opening Day. Hurray!

I watched Al Kaline throw out the first pitch in Detroit. "Field of Dreams" and all that. Yeah, I believe it. Yeah, I got misty-eyed. Sue me.

You can have your football, your hoops, your soccer, your hockey. Whatever you love is fine. I like most of it, too.

But baseball is my balm.

Oh, how I love it so.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

So cruel, and yet so beautiful

You know the quote.

"April is the cruelest month," said T.S. Eliot.

So cruel, and yet so beautiful.

I thought about it today as I drove downtown. The greens, the blues, the vivid hues. Everything feels so alive.

Those who know me well know this is my season. April and its beauty. And its butterflies. And its baseball.

Like the character in Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities," I am recalled to life.

And yet. And yet.

My sister died one April. So, too, did a beloved aunt and uncle. So, too, did my great-grandfather, 40 years ago. My mother was talking about it this morning.

Anyone familiar with American history knows the sadness that lies in this month. Such slaughter at Shiloh. Such an ending at Appomattox. Assassination on April 14, 1865. MLK in Memphis.

Each Easter week I think of one of my professors, Dr. Robert Drake, Southern gentleman, super scribe. He died in 2001.

In one of his short stories, "By Thy Good Pleasure," he writes about his father passing away on Good Friday.

"Everywhere (after the funeral) the afternoon sun was streaming down into the back yard... Everything was terribly, overwhelmingly alive. And Daddy was dead. He would never see those peach trees again."

So cruel, and yet so beautiful, this fourth month called April.

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Monday, April 02, 2012

Happy birthday, 'Dallas'!

On this date in 1978, viewers were introduced to a man they'd soon love to hate.

I speak, of course, of John Ross "J.R." Ewing Jr.

I grew up with "Dallas." It later became a Friday night ritual at our house. We'd watch it just after "The Dukes of Hazzard" on CBS. Though I have to be honest and tell you that, back then, I'd often fall asleep about halfway into it. Hey, 9:30 was late to a young 'un.

My dad couldn't believe it when I called and told him the show is 34. And he pointed something out that I found to be true when I began to watch "Dallas" later in syndication and, still later, on DVD.

"You know, when Jim Davis died, it really wasn't the same."

And he's right. Daddy Jock was the only one who could reel J.R. in. Plus, Jim Davis had such a presence. I know he never tried to do so, but Howard Keel's Clayton Farlow just couldn't fill Jock Ewing's shoes.

Bo Pierce made a comment on Facebook that I've often thought myself.

"Loved the way J.R. used to say, 'Daddy.'"

It always made me giggle. In fact, when I watched the pilot late last night (well, early this morning) to say happy birthday to "Dallas," I laughed out loud when Larry Hagman picked up the phone in one scene and said, in that terrific timbre, "Hello, daddy."

"Dallas" was and is a guilty pleasure, mindless fun, one of those things you love and can't really explain why. We all have a "Dallas" and you know what yours is; this overblown Texas tale is mine.

I usually pull out the DVDs whenever I have a kidney stone (which is more often than I'd like). Watching J.R. in action takes my discomfort away better than any painkiller ever could.

During its original run, we stopped watching "Dallas" after the infamous "dream season," although, looking back on it, the season that followed it (1986-87) was pretty darn good.

And, sadly, soon after that the oil wells of "Dallas" began to run dry. Its last episode was a disappointment, not as bad as some, but certainly not what "Dallas" deserved.

TNT is airing a new version of the show this summer. Yeah, I'm going to tune in, at least at first. I can't believe Larry Hagman is 80.

And, even on a picture perfect spring afternoon like this one, I can't believe both "Dallas" and I have reached our mid-30s.

Where the heck does time go?

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Sunday, April 01, 2012

'My Week with Marilyn'

Last night after supper, I stepped into the 21st century, renting a movie at a Redbox for the first time, and then slipped much more comfortably back into the mid-20th century while watching "My Week with Marilyn" with my wife.

I'd wanted to see this at the theater but never got around to it. Anymore, I'm getting tired of audiences that don't know how to behave and disappointing problems during digital projection. It isn't the same, watching a movie at home, but I'm learning to live with it.

"My Week with Marilyn" was good. Mighty good. Reviews were mixed about Michelle Williams playing Marilyn, but I thought she did fine. She's come a long way, baby, since "Dawson's Creek."

Is she Marilyn Monroe? No. But even Marilyn wasn't really Marilyn Monroe. In so many ways, she was still Norma Jean.

And that's what this film is about, really. Well, that and seeing Marilyn through the star-struck eyes of a 20-something film student named Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne). He was a real guy and he did indeed work on the production that became "The Prince and the Showgirl." The film is based on his diaries. How much of it is real I can't say. What I can say is it's a darn good flick.

But something you need to know is that Kenneth Branagh steals the show as Sir Laurence Olivier. He's good. Darn good. "Probably should have gotten the Academy Award" good.

(Quick aside: I once called Blockbuster Video in Fountain City to see if they had a copy of "Wuthering Heights." I needed it to complement a book report. The clerk responded, "We have the Laurence Oliver version." I hung up, nearly threw up, and never went back to Blockbuster.)

Julia Ormond is given too little screen time as Vivien Leigh. Dame Judi Dench is awesome as always as Dame Sybil Thorndike.

It's good, not great, but a fine show for a Saturday night.

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