Friday, December 27, 2013

See ya next year

Pull Up A Chair will be on hiatus for a few days. (Pause while the tree falls in the forest and nobody hears.)

My wish for us all is that 2014 proves to be a vintage wine from a fine ol' keg, pouring sweet and clear.

See ya next year!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

'Still Within The Sound Of My Voice'

To paraphrase the great songwriter Jimmy Webb, I just want you to know that the ol' feller here loves ya so, if you're still within the "sound" of my voice. 

Hope you had/have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holiday, Seasons Greeting, Festivus, whatever you celebrate, and may 2014 be a very good year for us all. Live long and prosper, or as Bill Householder and I say, LLAP!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

May your day be merry and bright...

... and may all your Christmases be white...

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My kind of Christmas card...

Monday, December 23, 2013

Many times, many ways...

This concludes a Monday feature on Christmas songs. 

Legend has it this song was written during a sweltering summer.

Bob Wells wanted to cool off. Mel Torme saw the opening lines scratched on a sheet of paper. Quietly came "The Christmas Song."

Let's not let the facts get in the way of a good story, so we'll go with it.

This is my favorite Christmas song. Always has, always will.

Everybody knows (no pun intended) the 1961 version. Here is the version Nat Cole recorded with his trio in 1946.

Such a song to savor, huh?

Here we are, the holidays upon us, holy cow.

We'll talk again, but just in case:

Although it's been said, many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you...

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

A little chat over late-afternoon coffee

Polyester pants, turtleneck, Bing Crosby on Sirius/XM, late afternoon cup of coffee.

Perfect time to talk.

This is going to be quiet, conversational, cool. No vigor. No vitriol.

I don't like to read about kids being killed at Christmas. Happened last year in Connecticut. Happened this year in Colorado.

Don't like to read about it anytime. I know you don't, either. Doesn't matter one's politics, does it?

So what do we do? Let's start talking. That's all. Just talk.

I own a couple of guns. One is a gift from my late grandfather. I've never fired either, although I know how.

You may own some. You may own none. Don't know. Don't care.

Herein lies the rub with wedge issues. They don't get us anywhere.

Discussion does. Not what passes for it on FOX News or MSNBC (names listed in alphabetical order), but the calm kind, chatting over coffee, just like this conversation.

Some say inanimate objects don't kill. Others ask, "Who needs weapons?"

Middle ground? Marvelous!

Why does moderation have a bad meaning? Not sure. Not with me.

Funding for mental illness treatment/prevention? Makes sense. So, too, did the assault weapons ban that was allowed to expire. Don't start yelling. We're just talking here. Leave the talking points with Matthews or O'Reilly (names listed in alphabetical order).

I know plenty of people who hunt on weekends. I know plenty who hunt happiness. They may or may not be the same person.

I hope for this purpose we hunt for common sense, common ground.

I never want to see kids killed at Christmas. It will happen again. I'm quite familiar with human nature.

Let's just start talking. Calm and cool, nice and easy.

Bing and Dinah are singing about a white Christmas. Gotta go.

Salud to you, liberals, conservatives, libertarians, Communists, moderates, militants.

And may all your Christmases be white...

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dec. 21, 1970

No words needed...

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Friday, December 20, 2013

After Hours

TCM on the TV, Sinatra on the stereo.

Here's to the end of a wild week. Hello, Old Fezziwig!

The motion picture is muted. Something with Glenn Ford. Sinatra is singing with Bill Miller (and I suspect others) at the piano. "After Hours." Limited edition release. Part of a present. To myself, naturally.

You'd be so nice by the fire...

Survived my solo show on WDVX. What fun. Jim Childs and I jazzed up the holiday with two hours of the familiar (and a few surprises!). Nice and easy, you might say.

Tonight, I met friends after work, headed home, plopped up my feet on the couch, turned down the lights.

I like listening to music with monochrome flickering from the flatscreen.

Oh my dear, our love is here to stay...

Sunday is Jonathan Schwartz's holiday party. Wouldn't miss it. Listen here at noon (EST).

Hope you survive the last weekend before Christmas. If you motor to the mall, don't go mad.

I'll be here, singing a song, remembering when, after hours and anytime.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

'Marching On' after JFK

Roger Staubach is Mike Brown's hero.

Nothing strange about that. Roger Staubach was/is a hero to men and at least one woman of a certain age.

Mike's wife, Paula,  (full disclosure: she's my cousin) recognized Staubach in an airport a few years ago.

"You're too young to know who I am!" he said.

"He's my hero, too!" Paula jokes.

We throw that word hero around like yesterday's garbage, but Staubach and Rollie Stichweh fit the bill.

Staubach, you may know, was a Navy cadet, Heisman winner, quarterback of the Midshipmen's great football teams of the early 1960s. Stichweh was an Army cadet, the Black Knights of the Hudson general, between the gridiron lines anyway, or at least coach Paul Dietzel's aide-de-camp.

They shouldn't be friends. They are best buds.

And, one incredible late fall day in Philly, they and their teams created a national catharsis, one it needed, oh, did it ever, after Lee Harvey Oswald blasted away America's perceived innocence that dark Friday in Dallas.

This friendship, that game, that moment, is the subject of a new CBS Sports documentary, "Marching On." Holy cow.

The abbreviated summary of the game is that Army had the ball within two yards of the goal line with seconds left and a chance to win. Stichweh called for a time out. Loud crowd.

He'd gotten two. He didn't get the one he needed. Navy won. "Anchor's Aweigh!"

With fitting irony, No. 2 Navy went to Dallas to play No. 1 Texas at the Cotton Bowl. Stampeded by the Longhorns that day despite passing for nearly 300 yards, Staubach returned to Dallas a few years later to play for Tom Landry.

How 'bout that?

Read this article by George Vecsey. Look for the documentary on CBS Sports Network.

It was a different era. Coaches wore coats and ties and sometimes fedoras. Cadets (even quarterbacks) wore crew cuts and said, "It's my fault, sir." Too many of the latter didn't come home from Southeast Asia.

On  Dec. 7, 1963, two quarterbacks stood tall -- one victorious on the field, the other victorious in the quality of his character.

They're best of buds. Holy cow.

Tell you what, Mike. I'll take Rollie Stichweh in honor of U.S. Army veteran Larry Gregory Mabe, and we'll watch the Army/Navy game together next year.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

You knew this one was coming...

This continues a Monday musical feature until Christmas...

Oh, no. I'm not leaving out this Christmas classic.

(But there's a twist!)


Sunday, December 15, 2013

It was all started by a mouse...

Dreamer, visionary, pioneer in television, film, travel, magic, moments, Mickey.  

To Walter Elias Disney, who passed on this date in 1966, a man who taught (and is teaching) generations to wish upon a star.

At left, Walt Disney shows Julie, Trisha, Pat and Richard Milhous Nixon (and Art Linkletter in the bubble!) the monorail at Disneyland -- June 1959


Nice and easy

Like the old song says, let's take it nice and easy.

This weekend has been quiet, comfortable, cool. Other than an impromptu performance of "Suspicious Minds" at Casa De Frith on Friday night and a migraine last night that didn't make the morning, I've taken it nice and easy.

Yesterday afternoon, Jon Schwartz was playing somebody -- I missed her name -- singing "You're The Top." I hummed along, laughing at a memory of Larry Matthews (the kid who played Ritchie Petrie on "The Dick Van Dyke Show") learning it for a school play on one show. I hated that little guy. (Ritchie, not Larry.)

Snow fell in Philadelphia during the Army/Navy game. I spotted Roger Staubach and was treated to Tracy Wolfson using the word "here" three times in one sentence.

Hear, hear, Tracy!

Before the Big M kicked in, I watched Thomas Sullivan Magnum try and fail to get to the Army/Navy game in Season Four's "No More Mr. Nice Guy." I still convulse into maniacal laughter when Magnum throws his popcorn bowl in the air after Higgins tells him the score.

Today, I woke up late, drove to Shelton's, read the papers, watched Miami beat New England, put the penultimate punctuation on my plans for the last weekend of the year.

Tonight, I'll enjoy dinner with the Giant Rat of Knoxville, head home, watch "CBS Sunday Morning" and "60 Minutes" and  drift off to dream.

Nice and easy does it, baby, every time. 

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

We're throwing Frank a party and you're invited.

This invitation cordially invites you to join Bradley Reeves and Jake Mabe for a birthday tribute to Francis Albert Sinatra, 10 p.m. (EST) tonight.

No need to RSVP. Simply turn your Knoxville radio dial to WDVX-FM at 89.9 or 102.9, or surf here to stream us via the interwebs.

This very special installment of Reeves' "East Tennessee Quiver" pays homage to The Voice, The Chairman of the Board, Ol' Blue Eyes, or as they say in Australia, Ol' Big Mouth.

We will be playing tunes from each studio era, 1940-84, a few live cuts, rarities, quotes and clips.

We hope to have a knocked out, cuckoo, groovy wind in your hair night without care.

Ring-a-ding-ding, Jack!

For those who can't attend, the show will be archived for two weeks.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

'Smiling faces try to understand...'

Well, it really is Wednesday morning, 3 a.m., and I'm listening to the album of the same name by Simon and Garfunkel.

Can't sleep. Tough day. Such is life.

I put the record on to wind down, to listen to "Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream," to seek healing in haunting harmony.

And then I heard "Bleecker Street."

"Voices leaking from a sad cafe; smiling faces try to understand..."

Somehow it fits.

Vinyl Side A's final is "The Sounds of Silence" (sic). This is long before "The Graduate." The title is still plural -- sounds. Mystic melody.

"It's theme," Art Garfunkel wrote, "is man's inability to communicate with man.

"There is no serious understanding because there is no serious communication -- 'people talking without speaking -- hearing without listening.' The words tell us that when meaningful communication fails, the only sound is silence."

Written on Feb. 19, 1964, nearly 50 years ago, a song for today.

Jonno Schwartz just reminded me of something.

"'How do you know so much?' John Guare once asked Stephen Sondheim. 'I listen,' was the reply."

Points to ponder on Wednesday morning at 3 a.m., or any ol' day of the week.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hearts and minds

Last night's 8-1 vote by the Knox County school board to extend Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre's contract may prove to be a pyrrhic victory.

It also may be the best argument for a return to an elected superintendent, a move -- to be blunt with you -- I have long feared.

McIntyre is good-hearted, deeply intelligent, tremendously talented. He's nowhere near being Adolf Hitler, contrary to a widely-held perception.

But he has lost the hearts and minds of the rank and file, to coin a phrase. And we all know where that left President Lyndon Baines Johnson during the Vietnam War.

I don't see how McIntyre wins them back.

Calling in the beautiful people, establishment types, sycophantic administrators and tone-deaf butt kissers to sing the good doctor's praises last night -- all of whom have been noticeably absent up 'til now -- is obvious, telling, cynical, pathetic.

The Shopper-News asked anyone and everyone to call us beginning way back in September about the good, the bad and the ugly in Knox County Schools. Please make special note of the word "good."

Do you know how many "good" calls we received? Exactly two, neither of which came from an educator. The "bad" and "ugly" responses reached three digits.

If you missed the resulting columns, send me a note and I'll send them to you. The teachers clearly articulated their arguments. As Carolyn Greenwood said at the meeting, those who said McIntyre deserved an extended contract did not. Most never even attempted anything other than banal cliches.

Board chair Lynne Fugate said, "When a coach asks for a contract extension and if you don't (grant it), that speaks volumes."

It also speaks volumes when you do. (Paging Phil Fulmer and Mike Hamilton.)

At least one school board member came close to scolding the teachers as rabble-rousing complainers. That's tin-eared at best and insulting at worst. The vast majority of the teachers with whom Sandra Clark, Betty Bean and I corresponded are top-notch educators, recent teachers of the year, young and old(er), TEAM 4s and 5s.

My jaw literally dropped when Rebekah Carson, a recent high school grad and daughter of school board member Karen Carson, actually said, "Teachers need to be focusing on students instead of griping."

Focusing on students is the reason most of those red-shirted educators have left school in tears day after day and decided to pack recent school board meetings to stand athwart history, yelling "stop!"

Board member Pam Trainor bizarrely said the discussion "is not about Jim McIntyre, it's about the school system." Then she said McIntyre "is the right man for the job."

McIntyre has succeeded on a host of things -- opening the STEM Academy, focusing laser-like on academics and rigor, creating Community Schools, planning to open a Career and Technical Education high school. At least one of his failures -- delaying high school start time -- was an excellent idea. I supported his advocacy for more money for needed school technology last year so much that I broke several rules of journalistic ethics by voicing my opinion at County Commission and singing a John Denver song. (Don't ask.)

But he has failed at a leader's most important and precious responsibility: taking care of the troops in the trenches.

Several principals were reassigned for reasons that remain murky. I have no idea, for example, how former Central High and Powell High principal Ken Dunlap strengthens his leadership skills under a principal with one year under her belt.

Deciding to blow up Vine Middle before holding a just-for-show public meeting was inexcusable. Learning your principal has been reassigned via a robocall, or a week before school begins, or at the supermarket, is super awful, potentially crushing to youngsters who form deep, important, life-altering bonds with them. My elementary school principal is like a second father.

Some of this is perception. A sliver of it is ax grinding. Some of it is happening because McIntyre isn't being well served by some of his high-ranking subordinates. The majority of it is happening because of teachers who love their jobs and their kids and reached a breaking point, refusing to stay silent, consequences be damned.

But some of it is the cold, plain fact that McIntyre isn't a back-slapping hail-fellow-well-met. With Shakespearean irony, that's his greatest strength and biggest weakness.

McIntyre is far and away the most purely intelligent superintendent to ever lead the county school system. He can summarize and regurgitate an argument quicker and better than anyone I have ever known. He has shown an enthusiastic willingness to step out of the proverbial box. He has brought ideas to Knox County that a home-grown product might not have.

But we are a culture used to and comfortable with a glad-handing superintendent in the best sense of the phrase. The most successful ones -- Mildred Doyle, Earl Hoffmeister and Allen Morgan -- were the very definition of it.

Wait, wait, you say. Politics has no business in education. Anyone who thinks politics disappeared with elected superintendents is either delusional or on dope.

Elected superintendents also at least have a constituency and can claim mandates driven by more than five people.

But times have changed since the good ol' days, you say. They have indeed.

Effective leadership traits haven't. Common sense, communication skills, street smarts, and letting a teacher teach and giving principals true autonomy (when deserved) can take a person far and wide. Go ask Hoff and Morgan.

McIntyre says that his hands are tied by state and federal reform mandates. That won't wash. He was front and center advocating for them, both in Nashville and before Congress.

I don't want Jim McIntyre to fail. If he does, we all do. Giving him time to do his best with what remains on his current contract would have been responsible, equitable, sensible, fair.

Extending his contract now is curious, questionable and could be calamitous for any of the "aye" votes should they run for re-election. I'll also be interested to see how many people retire from or leave the school system in December and May.

Good luck, Jim. I'm sincere as I have ever been when I say that I'm rooting for you.

If you win back hearts and minds, I'll be the first in line to shake your hand, declare you a genius and invite you over to watch the Red Sox.

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Monday, December 09, 2013

Christmastime's a-comin'...

Yes, my friends, we enter the month that brings us that wonderful, horrible Christmastime.

I say wonderful for obvious reasons. And I say horrible for reasons that have probably become obvious, too. Madcap mobs trampling one another for Black Friday sales should make people of goodwill everywhere embarrassed for the human race.

Anyhow, I'm going to share one favorite holiday song each Monday until Christmas. I start with a granddaddy, the masterful, soaring version of "Ave Maria" by my favorite tenor, the late, great Luciano Pavarotti.

This was recorded in 1978 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal.

Godere, amici! 

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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Nights in white satin, never reaching the end...

Quarter to six in the a.m. and I've yet to slumber.

Could have something to do with the migraine meds I took at midnight. Caffeine in it, you know.

Whatever the case, it put me in mind of a Moody Blues tune. You know it, no doubt.

Nights in white satin, never reaching the end...

Thought about it so long that I finally dug out the vinyl. Boy, does it ever sound good, pops and cracks and all.

Actually, if you're careful and clean, vinyl holds up pretty well. And we all know it's the superior sound for any serious audiophile.

Anyhow, the song also brought back memories of the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp "Dark Shadows."

Purists hated it. Audiences went to see some big budget comic book blockbuster that opened in the same cycle. Dime a dozen, they are, and I can't keep track.

I wanted to despise the Burton/Depp "Dark Shadows" but I didn't. The reason I bring it up is because the scene that's stayed with me is the main title sequence. That haunting Moody Blues melody plays as Victoria Winters travels (by train, of course) to Collinsport.

I felt chills during that moment. Not sure why, but I knew then that I would like the movie. And I did. No, it wasn't "Dark Shadows." But it was fine, fun, visually stunning, and threw enough bones to the longtime fan to make one smile.

So now it's almost six and I guess I should get to bed, eh?

Just what I'm going through, they can't understand...

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Saturday, December 07, 2013


Dec. 7, 1941. Infamy.

I was in Honolulu three months shy of the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The oil still seeps to the surface of the underwater grave.

And that's what the USS Arizona Memorial is -- a cemetery. It isn't a tourist trap, but that didn't stop the uncouth from treating it as such.

I had been told tales of Japanese tourists taking pictures and grinning from ear to ear like a fisherman holding the biggest bass you've ever seen. Well, it isn't exactly true, at least it wasn't the day I was there.

Several posed for photos, some -- incredulously -- with smiles on their faces, but it was people of all nationalities and races, mostly Americans, I'm ashamed to say.

I wouldn't even wear a hat.

Several survivors were sitting near the visitor's center. We missed the boat on meeting them. By the time we finished the tour, they had gone their merry way. It's too bad. I wanted to say thanks.

And so I do today, to those who fought, to those who remember, to the Greatest Generation, that tough-as-nails special breed of human beings who stared both a Depression and a second World War in the face, beat them both and lived to tell the tale. We'll never see their likes again.

This day will stand with July 4, 1776, and Sept. 11, 2001, as moments no person of goodwill should ever forget. I'd like to think I won't have to add another tragic date to that list, but it will happen, in my lifetime or in another's.

Until then, here's hoping to heaven we always remember, that their service and sacrifice will seep as strong into our souls as does the oil to the water's surface from the underwater graveyard at Pearl Harbor.

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Friday, December 06, 2013

Every single lovely day...

Tonight's the kind of night for the good stuff -- the Great American Songbook, Francis Albert Sinatra, "It Was A Very Good Year" -- the perfect punctuation for a cold and wet end to the workweek.

Can't get in a Christmas music mood just yet, so I've turned to Frank's Reprise years, thinking of life as vintage wine from fine, old kegs, pouring sweet and clear.

Driving to Beaver Brook Country Club after work, I flipped the radio to Siriusly Sinatra. Blossom Dearie was singing "It Amazes Me." I mouthed the lyrics when I remembered them, hummed along when I didn't, keeping time with the windshield wipers.

And hum this music you can. It isn't of my era, but so what? This is Music that deserves the capital M, lyrics and melodies that serve as time travelers, reminding you of what once was -- that first love, the true love you thought would be the end of you for sure, man in the looking glass.

The other day I heard "Strangers in the Night" and was transported to 20 years ago, Bel Air Grill, a forgotten lunch with a lovely girl who married someone else. She may have forgotten, but the song remembers.

Perhaps it's best heard in small bars or bistros, just you and the bartender and the tune, at a quarter to three, no one in the place 'cept you and me.

It's funny. I remember listening to "It Was A Very Good Year" years ago and thinking that 35 seemed an eternity away. Now it's a memory in the rearview mirror.

 It comes back to you in pieces. The scent of perfume, blue eyes crying in the rain, trying to stay younger than spring and knowing it's a fight you won't win.

But the music, it endures. Sinatra may have left this world in May 1998, but tonight he's here in the room, leaning against the piano, sipping Jack Daniel's and taking a drag on an unfiltered Camel, crooning about the nights it gets lonely early.

It was really more than lovely, wasn't it? Truly lovely, wasn't it?

Every single lovely day...

Jake Mabe will co-host a special birthday tribute to Frank Sinatra with Bradley Reeves on the WDVX-FM "East Tennessee Quiver" at 10 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12. WDVX can be found locally in Knoxville at 89.9 FM, 102.9 FM or streaming worldwide here

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Thursday, December 05, 2013

Saddle up!

Well, I missed a good story, I guess. Pull up a chair and I'll tell you about it.

Sorry it's been a few days since I've ducked in here. I've felt sluggish since Thanksgiving, first with a migraine, then with a bad cold. Such is life. Could be worse.

Doing as little as possible, however, gave me a chance to climb back in the saddle with my childhood heroes.

I told you last month about watching "Gunsmoke." That show stands the test of time. I'm alternating between the early 30-minute monochrome episodes (all of which I own on DVD) and the later color episodes, which air three times a day on TV Land.

I like Festus better than Chester, but I prefer the lean, mean writing and grit of the early shows. (My buddy Charles Williams says he likes them because, as he puts it, "Kitty was sluttier.")

I like 'em all, mainly because the good guys usually win. And, even when they don't, karma usually bites the bad guy in the butt.

When I can't sleep (which is often), I watch old episodes of "Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre," a surprising number of which can be found on YouTube.

Saturdays, of course, mean "Riders of the Silver Screen" with Marshal Andy Smalls and Deadwood Don Calhoun on East Tennessee PBS, which leads me to the tale about the story I missed. Rex Allen Jr. was in town a few weeks ago and I found out about it too late to talk to him.

Don told me that Rex Allen's son was making an appearance on the show to promote his new CD. I've been a fan of his since he had a country hit a few years ago with "I'm Getting Good At Missing You (Solitaire)."

After I posted something about it online, turns out Rex Jr. is friends with a friend from Halls, Paula Proffitt. Small world, ain't it? Well, maybe one of these days I'll run into Rex and be able to tell him how much I like his singing and how much I enjoyed both his daddy's motion pictures and Rex Sr.'s song about that Arizona sky.

Tonight after deadline, I think I'm going to saddle up with Dale Robertson and watch "Tales of Wells Fargo." I haven't seen the series in years, but found the first two seasons' worth of DVDs for next to nothing. Always felt like that show was underrated.

Well, here's to ya, partner. I'm going to mosey down to Delmonico's and grab me a bite to eat before hitting the trail with some small screen cowboys.

Saddle up!

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