What I See ~

Jump or Burn

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March 23, 1944: Man Falls 18,000 Feet and Survives

Jump or burn. That’s the choice. You are 18,000 feet in the air in a burning plane. Your parachute is on fire and melting in from of your eyes. Things are getting a little warm. What do you do?

That was exactly the choice RAF gunner Sergeant Nicholas Alkemade made after his Lancaster bomber, the Werewolf, was hit by a German fighter plane.

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Luftwaffe Ju 88

Luftwaffe Ju 88

Sgt Alkemade was only 21 on this day in 1944 sitting in the tail end of the Werewolf. It was his 13th mission as the Werewolf was flying a raid near Frankford Germany. The plane was attacked by Luftwaffe Ju 88 night fighters when it caught fire and began to spiral out of control.

From his account he now feared for his life. He was surrounded by fire with the heat melting the mask on his face. He saw his parachute was no longer on the rack but burning on the floor of the aircraft. In a later account he describes how he felt:

“For a brief moment I stared while it dissolved before my eyes. It was not so much a feeling of fear, or dismay, or horror, as a sensation, a sort of twisting in the stomach”.

His clothes were scorched and began to burn. He had two options burn or jump. He elbowed the hatch open and fell back. Fell back 18,000 feet. He says that as he fell he could see the burning Lancaster explode, then stars beyond his feet. He gained momentum and breathing became difficult. His account reads:

“Funny, I thought, but if this is dying, it’s not so bad. Then the rushing air, the stars, the ground, the sky, all merged and were forgotten as unconsciousness crept over me…”

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Sergeant Nicholas Alkemade

When Alkemade opened his eyes he cautiously moved each part of his body. He was a bit stiff but everything seemed alright. He looked at his watch, it read 3:25. He had jumped just after midnight.

He realized then, as he lay under a pine tree, that it was the trees and snow that had broken his fall. He was cold and unable to move so began blowing his rescue whistle. Alternating between whistle blows and smoking the remainder of his cigarettes he was finally found by a German patrol.

Nicholas was taken to one of the Germans most notorious prisoner of war camps, Stalag Luft III, the one that 76 men tunneled to freedom. The one the blockbuster movie was made of, “The Great Escape”. The one he was sent to the very day after the 76 had escaped.

Of course they threw him into solitary confinement for being a spy.

“Oh sure, you just fell 18,000 feet with no parachute. You just fell out of the sky. Of course we believe you!”

After examining the wreckage of his aircraft, they found the remains of his parachute and were so amazed by his escape, they (reputedly) gave him a certificate in acknowledgment of his testimony.

He spent the next 14 months as a POW.

Crew of the Werewold

Crew of the Werewolf

Babe Takes the Mound

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March 20, 1934: Babe Takes the Mound for Philly

March 20, 1934, “Babe” Didrikson pitched an inning of exhibition baseball for the Philadelphia Athletics in a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. She pitched a no hitter allowing just one walk.

bz41Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias is considered one of the greatest female athletes of the century.

In 1932 she single-handedly won the AAU championships, which served as a qualifying event for the Olympics. She was a team of one scoring 30 points, 8 more than the whole runner-up team which had 22 athletes. In just 3 hours she competed in 8 out of 10 events, winning 5 outright, and tying first in the high jump. Oh yeah, she also set world records in the javelin, 80-meter hurdles, high jump and baseball throw.

002155She gained national hero status in the 1932 Olympics when she won two gold medals. She qualified for five events but at the time women were restricted to three events – go figure.

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Babe set a world record in the javelin, then set a world record in the 80 meter hurdles the next day. She tied with the declared winner in the high jump and got the silver. The judges disqualified her because they didn’t like her “head first” style (even though she used that style in all her previous jumps). She was named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year for the first time.

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Born Mildred Didrikson on June 26, 1911, in Port Arthur, Texas, hometown people knew she was a special athlete early on. As a teenager she could hit a baseball farther than anyone else in town. Even then she knew her life’s ambition, “My goal was to be the greatest athlete who ever lived”. She said she got her nickname “Babe” by hitting 5 home runs in a childhood baseball game. The reality is that her mother called her “Bebe” from the time she was a toddler.

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She made a noticeable impact in basketball at Beaumout High School and was hired by Employers Casualty Company of Dallas to play basketball for their Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team. Of course she couldn’t accept money to play so was officially hired as a “secretary” so she wouldn’t spoil her amateur status. The team won the AAU Basketball Championship in 1931.

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Babe took up golf in 1933 and went on to dominate the sport. She won 82 tournaments, winning 21 straight in 1947-48 and 19 in a row in 1949. Eventually she helped found the LPGA (Ladies Professional Sport Association).

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Didrikson wanted to play in the USGA, the ruling body of men’s golf. Her play was impressive enough but despite there being no specific rules prohibiting women from playing the guys quickly scrambled to rewrite the rules so only men could enter.

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Shortly after winning the inaugural Babe Zaharias Open in Beaumont in April 1953, she learned that she had cancer. Surgeons removed the tumor, but discovered the cancer had spread into her lymph nodes, which were inoperable.

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Fourteen weeks later, she played in a tournament. By the next year she had completed an incredible golf comeback, winning her third U.S. Women’s Open – by an unbelievable 12 strokes.

Many sports writers didn’t appreciate Babe, condemning her for not being feminine enough, “It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed at home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring,” Joe Williams wrote in the New York World-Telegram.

Clowning with Babe Ruth

Clowning with Babe Ruth

Others were captivated by the 5-foot-5 Babe, who was muscular but never heavy. “She is beyond all belief until you see her perform,” famed sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote. “Then you finally understand that you are looking at the most flawless section of muscle harmony, of complete mental and physical coordination, the world of sport has ever seen.”

Pain in her lower spine, caused by cancer, became unbearable in 1955. On Sept. 27, 1956, Babe died of the disease in Galveston, Texas. She was 45.

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Babe Didrikson was named female “Athlete of the Half Century” in 1950 by the Associated Press. One of the greatest female athletes in history, Babe Didrikson Zaharias mastered every sport she pursued and was a defining figure for all women in the world of athletics.

File photo, Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Georgia O’Keeffe

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March 6, 1986: Georgia O’Keeffe Dies in Santa Fee

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.”

– Georgia O’Keeffe

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Two Calla Lillies

Fig1-lgO'Keeffe-(hands) GeorgiaGeorgia O’Keeffe dies in Santa Fee, NM at the age of 98. She was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, in 1887… my Wisconsin connection with O’Keeffe. Growing up in Virginia she first studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago. If you’re a fan you know most of her bio, I just wanted to take a moment to remember the artist.

Melting Volcano

Melting Volcano

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Oriental Poppies

Regarding Her Art

O’Keeffe was one of the first artists to adapt the method to painting by rendering close-ups of uniquely American objects that were highly detailed yet abstract.

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Shell

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Series No 3

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Autumn Leaves

She didn’t follow any of her contemporaries but experimented with abstracts from nature. She often worked in series creating works with high detail or stripping away what she considered inessential.

Rams Head

Ram’s Head

Single Calla Lilly

Single Calla Lilly

She used intense observation of nature and experimented with scale and nuanced line and color. Her art was considered outside the mainstream… as others were exploring non-representation she embraced it.

Rust Red Hills - this is my current desktop image

Rust Red Hills – this is my current desktop image

GEORGIA O’KEEFFE QUOTES “I said to myself ‘I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me- shadows and ideas so near to me – so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn’t occurred to me to put them down.’ I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught.” SC217551 “It is easier for me to paint it than to write about it and I would so much rather people would look at it than read about it. I see no reason for painting anything that can be put into any other form as well.”

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Leaves of a Plant

“Color is one of the great things in the world that makes life worth living to me and as I have come to think of painting it is my efforts to create an equivalent with paint color for the world, life as I see it.”

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Grey line with black blue and yellow

“I have but one desire as a painter – that is to paint what I see, as I see it, in my own way, without regard for the desires or taste of the professional dealer or the professional collector. I attribute what little success I have to this fact. I wouldn’t turn out stuff for order, and I couldn’t. It would stifle any creative ability I possess.”

oriental-poppies

Oriental Poppies

“Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.” okeeffemuseum061 Click on images to enlarge. Top photo: Maria Chabot photographed O’Keeffe and Maurice Grosser on his 1938 Harley Knucklehead

Rat Fink

3172782275_e4d866aacf_oMarch 4, 1932: Bid Daddy Born

Big_Daddy_Ed_RothEd “Big Daddy” Roth was one of our leading custom car builders of the 1950s and 6627473_112343837357‘60s. Known for his outrageous, over-the-top designs he started his empire of weirdness selling “Weirdo Shirts” at custom car shows.

There was something about Rat Fink that caught on. The grimy rodent was inspired partially to be an anti-Micky Mouse character as Big Daddy was not a Disney fan.

Rat Fink Middle Finger485729Like most of his screwball misfits, Rat Fink had bulging blood shot eyes and sinister teeth.

Parents hated Rat Fink which was probably part of the appeal to kids (like me). “Some people thought that Rat Fink was ghastly. . . . Moms used to drag their kids away from my booth,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1997.

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I actually had this Tee Shirt

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Young Ed with his '33

Young Ed with his ’33

Big Daddy loved all things automotive. In high school he bought a 1933 Ford he began tinkering with. After being discharged from the Air Force he produced his earliest works, Little Jewel and Outlaw.

Little Jewel

Little Jewel

outlaw

Outlaw

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One of his most famous cars was the Beatnik Bandit. It was such a hit back then that Revell, the model car kit company, made it into one of their most popular kits. I built it as a kid myself.

Beatnik Bandit

Beatnik Bandit

The Beatnik Bandit used a shortened 1955 Oldsmobile chassis as a base. The car had an exposed motor, crazy curves and a bubble top.

Orbitron

Orbitron

Author Tom Wolfe, in an essay about the Southern California custom car scene, described Roth as, “the Salvador Dali of the movement — a surrealist in his designs, a showman by temperament, a prankster.”roth2

home-rothAlways a jokester Revell asked him to clean up his image… he made his entrance to a big car show dressed in top hat and tails, looking a bit like Dali.

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Roth died of a heart attack while working on a project in his garage on April 4, 2001. Five years after his death, Roth was the subject of a documentary entitled Tales of the Rat Fink, which featured, appropriately enough, animated segments using his trademark characters. John Goodman, Ann-Margaret, Matt Groening, Jay Leno and Tom Wolfe all contributed to the project.

His last work, Beatnik Bandit II

His last work, Beatnik Bandit II – Click image to enlarge

Tales Of The Rat Fink – Trailer

Largest Ed “Big Daddy” Roth Automotive Collection at Galpin

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Big Daddy’s Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ed-Big-Daddy-Roth/43180732857

Washington’s Sweet Lips

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February 22, 1732: Washington’s Birthday… (psssst, it’s the wrong day)

In honor of Washington’s birthday, I’ve collected a few details about George you may not have known.

First off, he was not born on February 22, 1732. He was actually born on February 11, 1731. When the colonies switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar his birthday was moved eleven days.

GW had a Crush on Canines

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Painting of one of Washington’s dogs, name unknown

During the battle of Germantown the Continental army was getting beaten against the strong British advance. Some of Washington’s soldiers found a small dog on the front lines. When they discovered the dog was wearing a collar indicating it belonged to the British General Howe, they immediately brought it to Washington.

Remarkably, instead of using the dog in some way to his army’s advantage, he cleaned and fed the hungry animal and ordered a cease-fire. He then saw that the dog was returned to its owner with this note:

“General Washington’s compliments to General Howe. General Washington does himself the pleasure to return to him a dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and, by the inscription on the collar, appears to belong to General Howe.”

Representation of Sweetlipps

Representation of Sweet Lips

The British Commander called the incident, “an honorable act of a gentleman”. Howe seemed to dampen his harsh pursuit of the Continental Army. His soldiers continued to win battles but he showed restraint in crushing Washington’s army despite having opportunities to do so. When The Crown gave him an order to “show little compassion to the rebels,” Howe resigned his position.

Washington bred hound dogs that he treated like members of the family. He loved naming his dogs which attests to his love for his four legged friends. Here are a few:

Countess, Doxey, Droner, Dublin, Dutchess, Forrester, Hearkwell, Jupiter, Lady, Mopsey, Music, Pluto, Ragman, Ringwood, Rober, Rockwood, Rover, Searcher, Shingas, Singer, Sweetlips, Truelove, Venus and Vulcan.

He personally owned more than 50 dogs during his lifetime!wahing

The Big Guy

Washington was a big man at six feet, two inches tall and 200 pounds, he was one of our biggest presidents.

Lack of Education

Washington started school when he was six and left school at 15. He was largely self-taught in various disciplines and was so good at math, he became a paid surveyor at age 16!

Favorite Foods

Some of Washington’s favorite foods were:

Cream of peanut soup, mashed sweet potatoes with coconut, and string beans with mushrooms.

Sweet potato and coconut

Sweet potato and coconut

Cream of peanut soup

Cream of peanut soup

Beans and mushrooms

Beans and mushrooms

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Washington’s favorite breakfast was hoecakes – simple pancakes made with cornmeal, served with butter and honey.

Hoe cakes

Hoe cakes

A Sickly Guy

He was one of our sickest presidents in history. Through-out his life he suffered many ailments including: diphtheria, tuberculosis, smallpox, dysentery, malaria, quinsy (tonsillitis), carbuncle, pneumonia, and epiglottitis.

Toothaches bothered him for years. At age 57 he had all his teeth pulled and wore dentures. Contrary to legend his dentures were not made of wood. They were made of carved animal bone and human teeth.

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Washington’s teeth

That was his real hair, not a wig. It looked white because he powdered it.

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He may have died from medical malpractice.

On the day of his death he went through four rounds of bloodletting.

From the New York Times:

On Washington’s fateful day, Albin Rawlins, one of his overseers and a bloodletter, was summoned. Washington bared his arm. The overseer had brought his lancet and made an incision. Washington said, ”Don’t be afraid.” That day, Rawlins drew 12 ounces of blood, then 18 ounces, another 18 ounces and a final 32 ounces into a porcelain bleeding bowl.

Greeting the President as “Mr. President” was his idea.

He was so strong that he could crack walnut shells between his thumb and forefinger.

George-WashingtonHe was widely acknowledged as the best horseman in the 13 Colonies.

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Washington owned a whiskey distillery.

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He installed a distillery at Mount Vernon in 1798 and made aproxitmaly 12,000 gallons of liquor a year. George was one of the most successful distributors in the country. His state of the art distillery also made rye whiskey, apple brandy and peach brandy. The distillery has been restored and is now open to the public.

Rabbit Of Seville

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February 20, 1816: Barber of Seville Premiers

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Rossini

Gioachino Antonio Rossini’s now famous opera, The Barber of Seville, premieres at the Teatro Argentina in Rome this day in 1816. The Barber of Seville is an opera buffa in two acts. ”Opere buffe” is an informal description of Italian comic operas.

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Teatro Argentina

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Teatro Argentina stage

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Teatro Argentina from the stage

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click to enlarge pictures

The Test of Time

Imagine surviving over 200 years of popularity. Rossinui’s Barber is one of the greatest masterpieces of comedy and music… Bugs Bunny attests to it’s popularity

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Rabbit of Seville is a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon released in 1950.

It was directed by Chuck Jones and written by Michael Maltese with musical arrangements by Carl Stalling. The cartoon’s music focused on Rossini’s overture to The Barber of Seville.

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Stalling’s arrangement is remarkable in that the overture’s basic structure is kept relatively intact; some repeated passages are removed and the overall piece is conducted at a faster tempo to accommodate the cartoon’s standard running length. In 1994 it was voted #12 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. [1]

Click on pictures to enlarge

[1] Wikipedia

Where Have You Seen This Face?

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January 31, 1606: The Death of Guy Fawkes

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Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators wanted to blow up the House of commons… they especially hated King James I. It was a religious thing, with the King being Protestant, Fawkes and his cohorts wanted to restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. It was a bit more complicated that that but hopefully you get the gist.

Initially they rented a house near the Parliament and meant to tunnel underneath it where they would fill the cavern with gunpowder. After weeks of tunneling Fawkes discovered that a filthy unused room was available for lease directly below the chamber where Parliament was to meet.

m3NXdakxjpM3Cvd7SoUMBqAThe schemers secretly brought in 36 barrels of gunpowder with Fawkes in charge of guarding it. He was also the guy chosen to light things off.

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The night before the general parliamentary session was scheduled to begin, Sir Thomas Knyvet, a justice of the peace, found Guy Fawkes lurking around the cellar of the Parliament building. He was detained and while searching the premises, found nearly two tons of gunpowder hidden behind firewood in the cellar.

Initially Fawkes was defiant and did not hold back his plan. When asked by one of the lords what he was doing in possession of so much gunpowder, Fawkes answered that his intention was “to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains.”1 He gave a fake name, John Johnson, and would not give up his collaborators.

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A contemporary engraving of eight of the thirteen conspirators, by Crispijn van de Passe. Fawkes is third from the right

After four days of torture Fawkes finally gave it up.

Fawkes was quickly processed through a brief trial and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The gruesome executions were popular events in London so a huge crowd had gathered to see Fawkes hang. On January 31, 1606 he was lead up the stairs of the hanging platform but suddenly jumped from the ladder breaking his neck, dying instantly.

A 1606 etching by Claes (Nicolaes) Jansz Visscher, depicting Fawkes's execution

A 1606 etching by Claes (Nicolaes) Jansz Visscher, depicting Fawkes’s execution

Brits began celebrating November 5 as the day the Gunpowder Plot was foiled, preventing King James I death. Originally Guy Fawkes Day was very anti-Catholic, but today is has a much lighter tone and is mostly an excuse to watch fireworks, make bonfires, drink and burn effigies of Guy Fawkes and whoever the current politicians and celebrities trending that people love to hate.

So now you know. But did you also know that Guy Fawkes kind of looks like…

Vincent Price

Vincent Price

Or maybe…

Leonardo DeCaprio

Leonardo DeCaprio

This guy…

Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert

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1Wikipedia

I Yam What I Yam

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January 17, 1929: Popeye First Appears in a Cartoon

Initially Popeye was a minor character created by E. C. Segar for the Thimble Theatre comic strip. He was a sailor hired by Olive Oyl’s current boyfriend, Harold Hamgravy. He was never meant to continue but readers took such a huge liking to the oddball sailor that he was quickly brought back.

First Comic

First Comic – click to enlarge

E. C. Segar

E. C. Segar

Segar had been doing the strip for ten years but after Popeye’s arrival he became the main focus of the cartoon. Popeye the Sailor was one of the hottest properties for King Features during the 1930’s. King Features is a print syndication company owned by The Hearst Corporation.

In 1933 Popeye received a foundling baby in the mail. He adopted him and named him “Swee ‘Pea”. Of course a favorite character was J. Wellington Wimpy who was always on the hunt for a hamburger today that he would gladly pay for Tuesday.

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Click to enlarge

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One of the more unusual characters was Jeep the yellow dog-like animal from Africa with magical powers. In Segar’s strip Bluto made only one appearance and spinach use was rare. Popeye got his power from rubbing the head of Bernice the Whiffle hen.

Click to enlarge

Popeye with Bernice the Whiffle hen – click to enlarge

Looking back, Popeye was more than a quirky sailor with bad grammar, weird arms and “a face like a hatchet” (Popeye’s self-description). He was rough but not a bully. He wasn’t very smart… and I mean that in a good way.  He held himself accountable, and put himself in jail a few times when he realized he had screwed up. He admits when he’s wrong and tries to make it right. He’s man enough to face his mistakes.

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Click to enlarge

As Segar himself said: “Popeye is much more than a goofy character to me… He represents all of my emotions, and is an outlet for them. I’d like to cut loose and knock the heck out of a lot of people, but my size and good judgment hold me back.”

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In 1933 Fleischer Studios adapted the cartoon to an animated series. Popeye the Sailor became one of the most popular cartoons of the ‘30’s and continued production to 1957.

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Fleischer’s first Popeye cartoon

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man,

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

I’m strong to the finich

Cause I eats me spinach.

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

I’m one tough Gazookus

Which hates all Palookas

Wot ain’t on the up and square.

I biffs ‘em and buffs ‘em

And always out roughs ‘em

But none of ‘em gets nowhere.

If anyone dares to risk my “Fisk”,

It’s “Boff” an’ it’s “Wham” un’erstan’?

So keep “Good Be-hav-or”

That’s your one life saver

With Popeye the Sailor Man.

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man,

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

I’m strong to the finich

Cause I eats me spinach.

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

Popeye’s theme song, “I’m Popeye The Sailor Man” was  composed by Sammy Lerner in 1933 for Fleischer’s first Popeye the Sailor cartoon and has become forever associated with the sailor.

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The Night Jazz Broke Out in America

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January 16, 1938: Carnegie Hall Sold Out

Carnegie hall sold out at $90.00 a seat. Actually it was $2.75 but in today’s money that’s about $90.00.

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Click on picture to enlarge

Ah yes, Carnegie Hall… Piano Concerto in B-flat by Arthur Bliss… Violin Concerto by Benjamin Britten… Intermezzo from Vanessa by Samuel Barber… Symphony in Three Movements by Igor Stravinsky…

Wild ass jazz…

What?! Wild ass jazz… at Carnegie Hall?! Unheard of !

Carnegie Hall, known for sophisticated, cultured, prestigious classical music, was suddenly put on its ear with toe tapping swing.

Goodman with Lionel Hampton and Gene Krupa

Goodman with Lionel Hampton and Gene Krupa

Benny Goodman and his band which included the legendary Harry James on trumpet, Lionel Hampton on vibraphone and the insane drums of Gene Krupa had Carnegie sold out for weeks prior.

Martha Tilton

Martha Tilton

The concert began with, “Don’t’ Be That Way”, “Sometimes I’m Happy” and “One O’Clock Jump”. The band was smokin’! Things livened up even more as Goodman’s band and quartet hit stride with some of their famous tunes and Martha Tilton’s singing provoked 5 curtain calls.

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1938 Carnegie Hall

Goodman ended with the incredible “Sing, Sing, Sing” featuring solos by Goodman, tenor sax man Babe Russin and Harry James all backed by mad drummer Gene Krupa. Unexpectedly Goodman highlighted pianist Jess Stacy. Music critic David Rickert wrote of Stacy’s jam:

“Used to just playing rhythm on the tune, he was unprepared for a turn in the spotlight, but what came out of his fingers was a graceful, impressionistic marvel with classical flourishes, yet still managed to swing. It was the best thing he ever did, and it’s ironic that such a layered, nuanced performance came at the end of such a chaotic, bombastic tune.”

Goodman’s concert at Carnegie Hall is regarded as one of the most significant moments in jazz history. Taking jazz to the masses and having it accepted by mainstream America.

If you’ve got a couple minutes listen o this. “Sing Sing Sing” Benny Goodman and his band at Carnegie Hall. This is so sweet and Gene Krupa, are you kidding me!

Carnegie Hall set list

  1. Don’t Be That Way
  2. Sometimes I’m Happy
  3. One O’Clock Jump
  4. 4Sensation Rag
  5. I’m Coming Virginia
  6. When My Baby Smiles at Me
  7. Shine
  8. Blue Reverie
  9. Life Goes to a Party
  10. Honeysuckle Rose
  11. Body and Soul
  12. Avalon
  13. The Man I Love
  14. I Got Rhythm
  15. Blue Skies
  16. Loch Lomond
  17. Blue Room
  18. Swingtime in the Rockies
  19. Bei mir bist Du schön
  20. China Boy
  21. Stompin’ at the Savoy
  22. Dizzy Spells
  23. Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing)

Encore:

  1. If Dreams Come True
  2. Big John’s Special

Happy Birthday Albert

Albert_Schweitzer Quote

Albert Schweitzer Born January 14, 1875

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albert

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