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AUGUST \ JULY 2011

 

AUGUST 28, 2011     COME THEN, MAIDENS AND MEN!

In high school, I wrote a script for a proposed musical play called Follow Your Star.  For more details, click the logo.

The musical numbers were, in general, not original.  One of them was envisioned as an Act I ensemble for the whole chorus, something like this Scottish show-starter from Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon:

Come all to the square!
     The market square!
          The market fair!
Salted meat I'm sellin' there!
     At the fair, laddie!
Ale for sale or barter there!
     At the square, laddie!

Come ye from the hills!
Come ye from the mills!
Come ye in the glen,
Come ye bairn, come ye men.
Come ye from the loom!
Come from pail an' broom!
Hear ye ev'rywhere:
Don't ye ken?  There's a fair
Down on MacConnachy Square!

Here’s that song in an admirable performance by a high school — not ours, unfortunately.  But “Down On MacConnachy Square” wasn't the song I stole.

My sprightly tune was borrowed from the printed music that my mother saved from her high school days.  First published in 1917, it has music by Easthope Martin and words by Englishwoman Helen Taylor (who would also write “Bless This House” ten years later).  You can listen here to a choral performance.

“Come to the Fair” evokes a picture of an earlier age, when “gay” was a synonym for “merry” and “love-making” meant little more than heavy flirting.  And for me, it evokes memories of this time of year, when the carefree days of summer reached a happy conclusion with the Richwood Fair.

The sun is a-shining to welcome the day,
     Heigh-ho! come to the fair!
The folks are all singing so merry and gay,
     Heigh-ho! come to the fair!
All the stalls on the green are as fine as can be,
With trinkets and tokens so pretty to see,
     So it's come then,
     Maidens and men,
     To the fair in the pride of the morning.
So deck yourselves out in your finest array,
     With a heigh-ho! come to the fair!

The fiddles are playing the tune that you know:
     "Heigh-ho! come to the fair!"
The drums are all beating, away let us go,
     Heigh-ho! come to the fair!
There'll be racing and chasing from morning till night,
And round-abouts turning to left and to right,
     So it's come then,
     Maidens and men,
     To the fair in the pride of the morning.
So lock up your house, there'll be plenty of fun,
     And it's heigh-ho! come to the fair!

For love-making too, if so be you've a mind,
     Heigh-ho! come to the fair!
For hearts that are happy are loving and kind,
     Heigh-ho! come to the fair!
If it’s "Haste to the Wedding" the fiddles should play,
I warrant you'll dance to the end of the day;
     Come then,
     Maidens and men,
     To the fair in the pride of the morning.
The sun is a-shining to welcome the day,
     With a heigh-ho! come to the fair,
          Maidens and men,
          Maidens and men,
Come to the fair in the morning,
     Heigh-ho! come to the fair!

 

AUGUST 23, 2011     BOUND TO A SWING

The details are fuzzy.  It was probably in the 1890s that my great-grandfather Richard Foster Thomas moved his family from Springfield, Tennessee, to Livermore, Kentucky.  There he got a job in a flour mill.  Upstairs there was an auditorium.  In that auditorium a couple of decades later, an infamous shooting took place. 

“We are not especially proud of the story,” my uncle told me in 2002.  Nevertheless, the incident inspired a play.  I told about it in the article that is this month's “100 Moons” feature.

 

AUGUST 18, 2011     MAGICIAN SIGHTING

Last night, the mentalist I first televised in 1978 was back on TV — national TV this time — to test a few alleged psychics.  Although a million dollars was at stake, none of the psychics proved they could actually do what they thought they could do.  I’ve updated my article on Banachek.

 

AUGUST 17, 2011     USING IT IN A SENTENCE

When I was a lad in school, my teachers taught me — as an established fact — that in the English language, the longest word in the dictionary is a certain 28-letter tongue-twister that begins with the letter a.

Nowadays, there are some who wish to disestablish that piece of knowledge by citing counterexamples, such as the names of complex chemical compounds.  However, I still cling to my antidisestablishmentarianism.

 

AUGUST 11, 2011     HAIL TO THE ’TATERS!

The National Football League's Washington Redskins will host the Pittsburgh Steelers in their first preseason game tomorrow night.  In a blog last year, “Mr Nethead” noted that the Redskins are “one of the last few remaining professional sports teams with a racist name.”

“There are many Redskin fans who say the name can’t be changed because that would be breaking with tradition.  Well, I guess they have a point.  Racism has been a longstanding tradition in the United States.  And let’s face it, Native Americans have always been a pretty easy target.  Isn’t it a little ironic having a bunch of black guys playing for a team with a racist name, though?

“Anyway, in my spare time I went ahead and solved the whole controversy.  The Redskins can stop being racist and they don’t even need to change their name!  All that is required is a simple logo change.  ...And just imagine all the delicious potatoey snacks they could serve at the games!”

So I tried my hand at creating that new logo for the Spuds.  (A few months ago, Duane Mathis of Parma, Ohio, made the same suggestion to columnist Norman Chad, whereupon the Couch Slouch paid him the usual $1.25.  I get nothing for my design efforts.)

 

AUGUST 5     ANOTHER PROBLEM WITH ARIAL

I’ve already griped about how difficult is to distinguish a lower-case M from a lower-case RN in the Arial font.

m rn

Apparently the lower-case M can also be impersonated by a lower-case IN.

Whoever typed up the on-line menu for J’s Deli in Rhode Island couldn’t tell the difference, as we see here.

To whom should we address our complamts?  Sen. John McCam, perhaps?

 

JULY 31, 2011     DEBUT ALBUM

As an amateur pianist, I recorded a live album way back in 1978.  Of course, the studio was merely my apartment, the intended audience was only my mother and father, and the recording medium was 8-track tape!

Flawed though the result might be, the music does survive, and I’m now making it available to you on the Internet in a new article called Great Songs of Broadway.  That was the name of the book of sheet music from which I was playing.

However, you are not my mother.  You do not care to listen to the whole 45 minutes at one sitting.  Therefore, the article so far includes a link only to the first six songs, the first 11¼ minutes.  I’ll let you know every six weeks or so when another quarter of this classic Lo-Fi recording becomes available.

 

JULY 27, 2011     THAT 1958 SITCOM

I've taken a borrowed melody that I wrote down 53 years ago, turned it into a short audio clip, and added it to this month's "100 Moons" flashback.  It's the theme song for the one and only episode of the radio comedy The Bixbys.

 

JULY 22, 2011     KOBES

We in the sports television fraternity lost an old friend recently.  Mike Kobik died unexpectedly on June 30 at the age of 54.  At the time, he was in Maryland for a Golf Channel assignment.

Mike grew up in L.A., as he said.  That would be lower Arnold, Pennsylvania.  I first met him when I came to work at TCS, headquartered in the neighboring city of New Kensington, in the fall of 1980.  When he said “Hi,” it immediately seemed as though we’d known each other for years.  He was a great guy to be around.

Mike appears in several places on this website.  Some photos are from our days on the Penn State Football Show around 1985.  Click here for that album.  You can even hear audio of Mike directing a segment of a “Paterno” edit session.

One of my snapshots ended up in a video tribute that the Golf Channel aired last week.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s on YouTube, here.

Also on my website:  another photo of Mike shows up here.   A couple of his ideas are here and here.  Some of our travels are mentioned here and here.  Some silliness is mentioned here and hereAnd I added some photos here.

In recent years I knew Mike mostly as one of the directors of Big East basketball telecasts at Pitt.  We all are going to miss him.

 

JULY 17, 2011     AMEN, BROTHER!

“You don’t have to convince us,” someone said to a Catholic friend of mine.  “We already agree with you.  Don’t waste your breath.  You’re preaching to the choir.”

My friend was puzzled.  “I’m doing what, now?”

It turns out that the phrase “preaching to the choir” is less than 40 years old, and I had to explain its meaning.

On reflection, I realize that the term might not mean much to a Catholic, or to anyone else who regularly attends a long-established church.  Both the choir and the congregation — in fact all the people in the sanctuary — are already members.  They essentially agree with their pastor’s predictable homilies.

To understand the phrase, you have to imagine an old-fashioned revival meeting.

The evangelist has his choir behind him.  In front of him is an audience that includes nonbelievers and backsliders.

The preacher should speak not to the choir but to this congregation of sinners.  He’s trying to convert them, to persuade them to change their ways and start coming to church.  Maybe even join the choir.


Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry (1960)

 

JULY 11, 2011     BACK IN BLACK

From one show to the next in the TV business, some documents remain mostly the same, with only minor updates.  However, the person making the updates often forgets something.  An error creeps in and is perpetuated for show after show.

Suppose our team played the Fairbanks Fantums last Saturday.  Next week, we’re going to play the Elk City Eskimeaux.  Today, the TV producer calls up last Saturday's format on his computer and makes the necessary changes, but he fails to update some items.  When he prints out the new format for the upcoming Eskimeaux game, it still claims we’re supposed to interview the Fantums head coach.

My technique:  select all the text in the most recent document.

Christmas this year will be Saturday, December 25, 2010.

Italicize it, or change its color to brown.

Christmas this year will be Saturday, December 25, 2010.

Then carefully consider each element.  If it can be re-used in the new edition, change it back to normal text.

Christmas this year will be Saturday, December 25, 2010.

But if an item remains brown or italicized, that means it needs to be updated.  Do so before changing its color.

Christmas this year will be Sunday, December 25, 2011.

 

JULY 5, 2011
SHOULD I OR SHOULDN’T I?

A mile from my apartment, these signs have economized by sharing a single post.  However, they seem ambivalent about the propriety of my making a right turn.

I think what they’re trying to tell me is this:  Don’t turn right into the parking lot exit that’s 20 feet ahead, but if you’re a trucker following the “brown” detour, do turn right at the intersection that’s 250 feet ahead.

Anyway, that’s the interpretation I’m going with.  (But isn’t a bent arrow like the one on top supposed to refer to a turn that’s a little farther down the road?  And isn’t a straight arrow like the one on the bottom supposed to refer to an immediate turn?  Oh, well.)

 

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