A Bit of Trivia for the Holidays

Useless trivia…but is it, really? I often wonder that when I find myself becoming fascinated by odd factoids. Sometimes I wonder if I should actually be allowing such useless knowledge into my brain. What in the world am I going to do with it? For example…

I’ve always been fascinated by the career of Tony Burrows. Except for one person I know (who probably doesn’t read this blog), I imagine you are wondering, “Who the heck is Tony Burrows?” Exactly! He is the most famous anonymous rock and roll singer you have ever heard! Why?

You may not know the name Tony Burrows, but if you were listening to pop music in the spring of 1970, you know his voice. In a three-month period, Burrows was the lead singer on four different hit records by four different groups.

Music Monday: Tony Burrows, the Five-Time One-Hit Wonder.

Tony Burrows, now age 79, is a British singer who had an outstanding career as a studio musician. Here are the songs that Tony sang lead on that you probably have heard and know. We’ll begin with the four hits from the Spring of 1970. Enjoy!

Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes by Edison Lighthouse (1970). Reached #1 on the UK Top 40 on January 31, 1970 and stayed there for five weeks. It dropped off the UK Top 40 on April 18, 1970. In the U.S., it went to #5 on the T0p 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 on March 28. It would eventually go to #1 in Ireland and New Zealand, #2 in Australia, and #3 in Canada and South Africa. In the U.S. it was the #40 biggest hit of 1970.
United We Stand by The Brotherhood of Man (1970). By March of 1970 “United We Stand” was on the Top 40 charts. It went to #10 in the UK, #13 in the US, #8 in Australia, #9 in Canada it was rated the 64th biggest hit of 1970 in the U.S.
My Baby Love Lovin by White Plains (1970). Released on January 9, 1970, this song went to #4 in Canada, #8 in South Africa, #9 in Ireland and the UK and #13 in the US on Billboard’s Hot 100 list. For the year, it came it at #62 in the US. Actually, it seemed it went much higher than this in the US. At least, that’s how it seemed to me and my friends as we “cruised” Morning Sun, Iowa in the Winter of 1970 and listened to Larry Lujack on Chicago’s best radio station of that era…WLS.
Gimme Dat Ding (from American Bandstand) by the Pipkins (1970). This was a novelty song that featured Tony Burrow’s singing with a raspy, gravelly voice. In March 1979 it became a bonifide hit. It went to #1 in New Zealand, #6 in the UK, #7 in Canada and Ireland, #8 in the Netherlands, and #9 on the US Hot 100 from Billboard. Weirdly, it went to #20 in the US on Billboards Easy Listening chart. Hmmmm… Overall, in 1970 it ranked #86 on the US Hot 100.

Also in 1970, Tony Burrows came out with his own solo song, Melanie Makes Me Smile. It became a minor hit for Burrows in 1970 in the US, going to #87 on the Hot 100. It was the only hit under Burrow’s own name.

One of my favorites, that I didn’t realize Burrows sang until very recently, is Beach Baby by The First Class (1974). Tony was the lead singer for this studio group and on the record but did not appear on television with The First Class (let’s hear it for lipsyncing)! The recording did very well. It went to #1 in Canada, #4 in the US, and #13 in the UK. Its overall rank in the US in 1974 was #94.

So, there you have it! See, a great bit of “useless” trivia you can use to amaze and astound your friends over the holidays! Please do! For me, there is nothing more interesting than these odd bits of knowledge.

Ah, but is this really “useless” trivia? Frankly, no, I don’t think so. You’d be amazed how many times I have drawn upon such factoids to break the ice with people and start the process of relationship building.

Happy holidays!


In memoriam: This one is for my lifelong friend, Mark Keltner, who loved a good 1957 Chevy (the ultimate cruising car), fixing cars of all kinds, Pam and his family, building extraordinary dirt track race cars, driving and winning races and track championships, and rock and roll. Except for Ebay, where he could buy car parts cheaply, he hated using computers so he would have never seen this anyway. Whether on trikes when we were 3 year olds, foot races in grade school, or any athletic competition in junior high and high school – he won, usually beating me badly. He also beat me into this world by exactly three months on January 24, 1954. He also won the last race we’d ever have. He left this world much too soon on December 14, 2021. Rest in peace, MK41.

June 12, 2020 – Who is Antifa?

Today is Friday, June 12, 2020 also known as National Jerky Day. Yes, it is a day to celebrate that chewy, severe-halitosis-creating tasty treat of dried meat. It is a fairly new “holiday,” created in 2012 by the Jack Links Beef Jerky company which is in full celebration mode. Interesting factoid: Jerky is an ancient food that has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. However, it was not until 1996 that it became a space food for astronauts. Finally, the astronauts have something they wash down with all that Tang.


who is antifa? (or, do you really know what your grannies are up to?)

The Washington Post had a fascinating article this week that I’ve been reflecting on for two days now. It is titled Know the Signs: How to Tell if Your Grandparent has Become an Antifa Agent. I’ve been studying the signs very carefully and have finally arrived at this conclusion: I must be an Antifa agent. I thought I qualified simply because I’m anti-fascist but that doesn’t matter much according to list of tell-tale signs.

For a while I thought I was the lone Antifa agent in our house then I saw this:

Gathers with loose-knit, disorderly group of figures you have never met to play “mah-jongg,” governed by mysterious “rule cards” issued annually from a nebulous central authority.

Alexandra Petri, The Washington Post, June 10, 2020

Now I know Clemencia’s secret identity too!


A Haircut!

Today I got my first professional haircut since February 21. That’s it. Just wanted to let you know. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I tried cutting my own hair in late March with a cordless hair clipper and a handheld mirror. What a stupid idea! I won’t say never again, but before I try that stunt again I’m going to have to be more desperate than I was at that time.


Chickenman – episode 56

The Police Commissioner sends the “emergency chicken” to summon the Winged Warrior to help save the world from the big, bad Diabolical.


News from back home

“Back home” for me is Iowa…you know, one of the mostly square states on a map of the U.S. found in the middle of the country and which appears mostly green when you actually fly over it? Somehow I started receiving the digital version of The Burlington Hawk Eye which was the newspaper I grew up reading. For the past several months I’ve been trying to read the paper to keep up with news from there. Plus I’ve always loved the Sunday comics section of the paper.

In today’s Hawk Eye there were two articles which illustrate so well the juxtaposition of ideologies in Iowa today. The first is an article about a move by the majority party (Republicans) in the Iowa Senate to restrict the use of mail-in ballots for the Presidential election in November.

I know. When we talk politics in Iowa you think of the notoriously racist Steve King who, thankfully, lost and won’t be on the ballot for the Republicans next Fall. And, of course, you think about the terribly botched Democratic caucuses last January. However, Iowa also holds primaries. Now, unfortunately, you may have a third befuddling faux pas to add to the list.

In preparation for the June 2nd primary, Secretary of State Paul Pate (Republican) mailed absentee ballot request forms to all registered voters in the state in an effort to keep voters and poll workers safe in the midst of the pandemic. Please note, he did not send them absentee ballots, only the request forms, which they would still have to complete, find a stamp, and mail back. Pate’s good work resulted in a record-setting 80% of all votes cast were by absentee ballot.

“My goal was to protect Iowa voters and poll workers while finding ways to conduct a clean and fair election,” Pate, a Republican, said in a statement sent to the Des Moines Register last week. “… I stand by my decisions.”

Paul Pate, Iowa Secretary of State

For this, Mr. Pate deserves a medal for keeping democracy alive in the midst of a public health crisis. So what did he get for his effort?

The Republican legislature decided to pass a law that now prevents him from sending any absentee ballot for the November election unless voters first request it on their own initiative. But wait…there’s more…the bill prevents county auditors from decreasing the number of polling places by more than 35% which some counties did to decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19. And even more…this bill was a 30 page amendment attached to a bill that was only one page in length. Ironically, I could find no evidence in the story that Republicans raised an objection to the most obvious drawback of proactively sending request forms to all voters: the cost of postage. Hey, aren’t they supposed to be the fiscally responsible ones?

Democrats in the Iowa Legislature are now accusing the Republicans of trying to suppress the vote. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…

One step forward: getting rid of Steve King. Two steps back: Make it more difficult for people to vote.

On the other hand, there is Kennedy Mitchum, a May 2020 graduate of Drake University (one of my alma maters). When she saw the video of George Floyd’s murder she was compelled to act on a matter that had been bothering her for sometime. As a public relations major, with special studies in law, politics, and society, she had been in numerous debates with other students where Merriam-Webster’s definition of racism had been used to defend negative behaviors.

Believing the dictionary did not have a significantly robust definition of racism, she wrote the editor. Her goal was to encourage Merriam-Webster to expand its current defintion of racism to include systemic elements of racism that oppress minorities.

“I just stated my claim that it’s not just prejudice, it’s prejudice mixed with power,” she said.

Kennedy Mitchum

She very quickly received a response from editor Alex Chambers, triggering several email exchanges. In the end Merriam-Webster agreed that the expansion of the definition was needed. Mr. Chambers indicated to Ms. Mitchum that a revision of the definition for “racism,” based on her feedback, will be forthcoming in the next few months.

Thank you, Kennedy, for two steps forward. You did both Missouri (your home state) and Iowa proud! (To learn more about Kennedy, check out this CNN story.)


PRIVILEGE ILLUSTRATED

A blogger I follow daily is Seth Godin, an entrepreneur, author, and former dot.com executive. In fact, Godin inspired me to try this daily blog thing. His blogs are usually very short and quite pithy, unlike mine which tend to be long and drivelous.

You can sign up to follow his blog by following the link below the quote. And, of course, you can also sign up to follow this blog where it is says Follow Blog Via Email in the upper right hand corner of this page. 🙂 If you sign up for Seth’s blog and mine, we’ll both send you an email to let you know we’ve posted a blog.

Seth Godin’s blog this morning got my attention for how it explains and illustrates the concept of privilege.

I didn’t spend any time yesterday worrying about being eaten by a grizzly bear. Or that I would get cholera from the water in my house.

Over time, we’ve built layers of insulation between ourselves and the world.

Shoes make it easier to walk around. We can put one foot in front of the other without constantly scanning for rocks or rusty nails.

This invisible insulation is a form of civilization.

And when it’s unevenly available, it becomes privilege. Just as invisible sometimes, but to make things better, we need to look at it and realize that it’s there and do something.

If other people have shoes, it doesn’t make your shoes less functional. But if they don’t have shoes, then everything else they contribute (to you, to me, to everyone) is going to be different.

We’ve done a shameful job of offering insulation to far too many people. Access to health care. Clean water. Good schools. Freedom of fear from state violence. And the benefit of the doubt, which is easy to overlook. Because it all adds up, every day, for generations.

It’s almost impossible to make a list of all the things I didn’t have to worry about yesterday. We need to work overtime to make that true for more people.

Seth Godin, June 12, 2020 – Invisible Insulation

The Passing of the Shakespeare Lady

Earlier today we registered nearly 115,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States. Many news outlets tell us about the famous people who have died of the disease. Some even try to make us aware of the not-so-famous who were still important to their families and colleagues.

Today I read the obiturary of a woman who died from complications of COVID-19 who was one of those marginalized members of our society. I won’t repeat the story here because I think you will want to read it for yourself. As with most obituaries, it is a quick read: Margaret Holloway, the ‘Shakespeare Lady’ of New Haven, Dies at 68.


Day 70 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Do not imagine for a moment that they are asleep…though I must admit a couple of folks do look very relaxed.

Sunday, May 24, 2020 – Live to Blog (kind of) from Quaker Meeting

Keeping Social Separation
Keeping Social Separation in the Time of COVID-19 – #alonetogether

We attended Quaker meeting again today via Zoom. I’ve been impressed with how seamlessly people have adapted to the new environment for Meeting for Worship. Thanks to Zoom, Clemencia and I have been able to attend Quaker meeting more than usual. She’s a bit camera shy so she sits off to the side but I am usually on camera to represent us both. Besides, being on camera is my incentive for avoiding nodding off.

So, Can You Gather with God Over Zoom?

This is the question the New York Times asked on Friday, May 22. To answer it they focused on unprogrammed Quaker meetings where Friends (the other term often used for Quakers) gather for worship. The article in the New York Times is filled with photos of Quakers sitting in silence with their eyes closed. Do not imagine for a moment that they are asleep…though I must admit a couple of folks do look very relaxed.

What Quakers all around the world are finding…no, rediscovering…as a result of their Zoom worship experiences is something we learned from George Fox over 300 years ago in his Journal:

The Lord showed me, so that I did see clearly, that he did not dwell in these temples which men had commanded and set up, but in people’s hearts … his people were his temple, and he dwelt in them.

George Fox, Journal, 1694

Quakers have held since the beginning of their movement that God inhabits the hearts of people, not buildings or other sacred places. You can imagine this did not endear them to the Church of England, which the Quaker movement initially sought to revive and reform. In more recent years we may have drifted a bit from that ideal as our ancient Meetinghouses have caught the attention of various historical societies and become state and national historic sites. Our own Meetinghouse is a beautiful 200+ year old building which seems to breathe on its own infused by the lives of so many who have gathered there over the past two centuries.

The Zoom experience seems to have reminded us that God’s real address in our hearts – not at 17715 Meeting House Road, Sandy Spring, Maryland 20860. While many churches and faith communities around us seem anxious and distressed about whether they can worship outside their buildings, we are rediscovering one of the original tenet’s that sets Quakers apart from many other groups. We don’t need a building to commune with God because God is present in our midst whenever – and how ever – we gather in worship.

This in one of my favorite depictions of Quaker worship. All wait in silence yet one person, a woman, is hearing the still small voice of God. It is unclear, of course, whether this is a message for all, or a message for her alone. Throughout our history, the voice of women in worship has been welcome and encouraged. This painting is by James Doyle Penrose, 1864.

So when we gather we sit silently and listen for that of God within us to speak to us. Sometimes the messages we receive in this gathered meditation are to be shared aloud with others. Many times, though, the messages speak very individually and personally to our condition in that moment. In the years I have attended Quaker meeting I have rarely spoken in worship. However, I have been spoken to many times through messages from others and by the still small voice of God that whispers to me in the hush of the Meeting for Worship.

When I learned of the New York Times article today in the announcement period that typically follows Meeting for Worship, I wanted to capture a picture of our meeting to share with you. Taking pictures in Meeting for Worship is something we do not generally do nor do we allow. Fortunately, a Friend offered a way for me to capture a photo that was agreeable to all. Friends who did not want to be pictured in a screenshot were given a few seconds to turn off their cameras. When it seemed every one still on camera was fine with having their picture taken, I grabbed the screen shot below. Thank you to my friends and Friends at Sandy Spring Friends Meeting in Sandy Spring, Maryland for participating in this photo and allowing me to post it here.

On May 24, 2020 there were more than 40 Zoom sign-ins for the 11:00 AM Meeting for Worship with Sandy Spring Friends Meeting. Because several couples were on camera, attendance was likely well over 60. This is a sampling of those present.

The Passing of a Friend

A few weeks ago I shared with you that a friend had passed from complications of COVID-19. She was special to us because she was among the first people we got to know at Sandy Spring Friends Meeting when we first started attending. Actually, we met her at the Passion Bakery Cafe after Meeting for Worship where she and we loved to eat. It is less than 200 yards from the Sandy Spring Friends Meetinghouse making it a convenient place to stop for lunch after Meeting. In my previous posting I did not give her name.

Nora Caplan – A Friend to All – 1927-2020 – Source: Washington Post, May 22, 2020

On Friday, May 22nd the Washington Post ran a wonderful article about our friend Nora Caplan. I hope you take the time to read it. It is quite brief. The article did a wonderful job of capturing her as we knew her. What I didn’t know until I read the article is that Nora was a native Midwesterner like me. She grew up in Springfield, MO, just a few hours south of where I grew up in Southeast Iowa. When I read that in the article I immediately understood her friendliness. We Midwesterners are, often to a fault, very friendly. Nora’s friendliness left a mark on us. It assured us it would be a good thing to return to Sandy Spring Friends Meeting. She left us on April 25, 2020 at the age of 93.


For Dog Lovers…

Ever wonder what your dog does when you aren’t at home? This dog owner, training his new Labrador puppy, Lucy, to handle being alone at home, wondered what would happen when he took Princess (his other dog) out for a walk but without Lucy.

The View from Jeff

Jeff Logan is my friend and was my cohort-mate in the doctoral program at Eastern University. He lives in Calgary, Alberta and is a cartoonist, educator, linguist, and co-pastor’s a Baptist church with his spouse. He has graciously allowed me to share some of his cartoons here. Enjoy!

Jeff explains: I thought of this joke while sleeping and thought it was hilarious… Woke up and realized it’s just a mediocre pun based on the word “admit.” But it still made me laugh.

The Adventures of Chickenman

How about a double shot of Crimefighting Chicken Goodness to “celebrate” Day 70 of our sheltering-in-place?

First, we have Episode 39 of the original Chickenman. He has finally found the Teddy Bear he has been tailing. But what will come of that?

Next we have a cartoon version of an early episode of Chickenman from animator Michael Wahlberg. Enjoy!

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep the faith – in whatever ways you express it.

Tom

Day 69 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Of all the graves we visited I think there was only one that I associated with a person I knew anything about – Uncle Will. I don’t recall if I ever met him, but I was named after him…or so I’ve been told.

Saturday, May 23, 2020 – Live to Blog from Just Outside a Cemetery

Keeping Social Separation
Keeping Social Separation in the Time of COVID-19

Happy Memorial Day! Really now, doesn’t it sound just a bit odd to wish someone a “happy” Memorial Day? How about this? Have a “Reflective Memorial Day.” No, that doesn’t work. How about, have a “Memorable Memorial Day!” No, too many “mem” sounds. I’ll keep working on it and get back to you.


The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 38 – The Wonderful White Winged Weekend Warrior has followed the Teddy Bear to a hotel. Now what?

Cemeteries and Memorial Day

We have a spectacular view of Maryland National Memorial Cemetery from our bedroom, kitchen, and my office windows. We actually enjoy the view though Clemencia started refering to it as a “park” to avoid creeping out our visitors.

We not only love the view but we like the location for at least one reason that is extremely pragmatic: nobody will be building anything else on that site in our life times. It also means we have a sound buffer between us and busy U.S. Highway 1.

Memorial Day has become just another vacation day for many people, however, for me it has always been associated with cemeteries. When I was very young, and had no choice about where I was made to go with my parents, Memorial Day was when we loaded up the car with flowers and started making the rounds to visit the graves of various dead relatives.

To appease me, we’d turn on the radio and listen to the Indianapolis 500 as we drove from cemetery to cemetery. At that time the race was still being held on Memorial Day rather than the Sunday before. It was a hot, sticky, dusty, and smokey trip. Generally, I hated it and would have done anything to get out of it.

It was hot and sticky because Memorial Day in Iowa is often very hot and very humid. Cars were not airconditioned at that time…at least not the cars my family could afford.

It was dusty because my parents seemed to have an aversion to driving on anything but back roads. Back roads in Iowa were, at that time, graveled with a rock that created a thick, bright white chalky dust when you drove over them. It is not an exaggeration when I tell you that a car driving fast down an Iowa road in that era looked like it had a vapor trail similar to the one you’d see on the occasional jet flying overhead. That chalky dust got everywhere, including inside the car. It was really tough to breathe.

Add to it that my dad was a smoker – Camels, unfiltered. We couldn’t lower the windows because of the dust from the gravel. We had a most fatal choice – suck in dust or suck in smoke. Usually it was the smoke.

Of all the graves we visited I think there was only one that I associated with a person I knew anything about – Uncle Will. I don’t recall if I ever met him, but I was named after him…or so I’ve been told. I got my middle name from him – William. I got my first name, Tom, from my dad – whose given name was Carman Chester. I guess he preferred his nickname, Tom. Go figure, eh?

As I got older I became a Scout (Cub then Boy) and got to hang out at our hometown cemetery on Memorial Day. In our town we’d have a Memorial Day parade that ended at a small Veteran’s Memorial in the heart of the cemetery. All of us Scouts would march in the parade then, once at the memorial, line up and stand at attention during the ceremony. The ceremony usually included a brief speech from the Commander of the local American Legion chapter, followed by one of the older Scouts reading Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Then two trumpeters would play taps. One would be next to the memorial and the other would be about 100 yards away elsewhere in the cemetery playing the echo part. It was, as I remember, quite beautiful.

Remember that Memorial Day was usually really hot and humid? That produced an fun side show at the ceremony. We’d watch the other Cub and Boy Scouts to see which one passed out first from the heat before the end of the ceremony. Really…they did. It was nearly as cool as the next thing that would happen.

But the really exciting part came at the very end. All of the veterans from the American Legion, who had marched in the parade with their guns, would fire off a 21 gun salute. That would signal a mad, but dignifed, dash by the young Scouts to collect as many spent rifle shells as they could before the Scoutmaster whisper/yelled at them to get back in line.

In my teens, when I worked for my dad at the cemetery as a grave digger and mower, we would prepare that same cemetery for the ceremony. We’d put in long hours making sure the cemetery grass was nicely cut, all of the grass around the stones was trimmed, and the gravesites were readied for the flowers that families would deliver.

My dad absolutely hated the clean up period after Memorial Day as the flowers began to rot and stink. It was his job to clean up all of the flowers and, before they had gotten bad enough to remove, to mow around them. It irritated him so much that, before he died, he put in his last instructions that there were to be no flowers at his gravesite. There never have been. However, Boomer did make a wrought iron hook which he put next to dad’s grave so that flowers could be hung from it. This meant the cemetery groundskeeper could easily mow or weed whack around it without disturbing the flowers.

Long funeral services also bothered my dad so he also made us promise that his would not be more than 10 minutes in length. It came in at 9 minutes, 18 seconds, if I remember correctly. Yes, I timed it. It seemed the right thing to do.


Memorial Day 2020

As I reflect on Memorial Days of my past, I can’t help but wonder what this Memorial Day is going to be like. With 96,983 reported dead at this moment from COVID-19 in the United States, it looks like we could hit 100,000 right on Memorial Day.

The exceptional cruelty of COVID-19 is that spouses, partners, family, and children could not be with their departed when they passed. In most cases they cannot even gather with friends or a support system to grieve, process the loss, or celebrate the life of their deceased.

What will Memorial Day be like for these survivors? Where will they go to remember the departed when many of them are not yet even in cemeteries?

I don’t have an answer but I do have a suggestion. If you know your departed one’s favorite space, and if you are able go there safely, go. I can’t help but believe that they will be there already in spirit. When you are in that space, tell them everything you wanted to say to them before they passed but never had the chance to – even if all of it wasn’t loving. Closure is about love and truth. The most fortunate of us get to bring the love. The least fortunate of us need to bring the truth. For the vast number of people between those two, it may be a mixture of both love and truth. The most important thing is that you do closure in a way that works for you. The departed is at peace. You are the one remaining. Do what you need to do so you can let them go, if only eventually, and live the life you were meant to live.

To everyone who has suffered a loss due to COVID-19 I am sending you a virtual hug and doing what we Quakers always do: holding you in the Light.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep remembering your departed and what brought all of us to this time and circumstance.

Tom

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