Saturday, June 13, 2009

Burl Ives: Sin, Whiskey, Wickedness Galore

In the mind of a child like me, Burl Ives swirled in a soup of beardy boyos, along with Santa Claus, Captain Haddock, all the menfolk from the Asterix books. I knew Ives was bearded from the photograph on the album sleeve of the vinyl 78 rpm record we had in my home, a scratched, crackly treasure of him singing Christian hymns, in his richer-than-honey voice.

Now, to our household, a simple fundamentalist Christian household, the record was proof enough that Ives was a born-again Christian; why else would he be singing The Old Rugged Cross, Amazing Grace, Are You Washed in the Blood?

And so, Ives crooned often from our record player, a big square box covered in a red fake leather coating, with stubby knobs for volume control.

A preacher called Jimmy Martin was a frequent visitor to my home. Brother Jimmy was a fearsome man on the platform (pulpit), but his story-telling abilities, which he never failed to put to use for the saving of souls, was given full rein when he visited our home. Unshackled from serving God, Brother Jimmy held the room in the palm of his hand as he told of his preaching journeys across the American Midwest, through the exotica of Kansas City, Arkansas, Missouri, Omaha, of trains through the Rocky Mountains, of flying into Portland, Oregon, by the vast Pacific.

However, after one such trip, he brought fateful news. At an airport one day in the Midwest, a stranger called his attention to a man sitting across the terminal at the bar. That man, said the stranger, that man is Burl Ives.

And, said Brother Jimmy, relishing a preacher's use of the pause: "I got up for to take a look at this man who had sung with such sweet sincerity of the LORD's saving grace. And if he wasn't sitting the bar... drinking a big glass of whiskey!"

Only now do I wonder at Brother Jimmy's ability to smell whiskey at sixty paces; at the time, though he lived on until 1995, Burl Ives died to us that day.

My Burl Ives memory was prompted by a BBC Radio documentary about Ives, folk singer and committed socialist, who was born 100 years ago this year. Available for listening at the above link for only three more days!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Where There is Discord...

...May We Bring Harmony, said St Francis.

Alternatively, a weird yet colorful graph will help make sense of anything.

[A note: a brief dispute between me and a friend resulted in the above graph as an amusing way to help dispel clouds. I thought of Margaret Thatcher's use of the so-called Prayer of St Francis which she spoke from the steps of 10 Downing Street on May 4th, 1979, the day after she won the general election. The prayer, "Where there is discord, let us sow harmony..." was made darkly ironic by the divisiveness of her rule over the U.K.

But the Internet is made for pointless reveries of research, and so, in googling the text of the prayer, I was led to discover a truly remarkable web site, the portal for all texts and documents relating to events before and during Thatcher's premiership (twelve years she was in power! twelve effing years!), including a facsimile of her tiny note card, image below, with the brief remarks she made that morning from the steps of Number Ten. As a site for serious researchers as well as general interest, this one sets a standard...

And so, Thatcher's use of the Prayer of St Francis: the series of inspirations leading to it are set down here.]

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

From Past Fantastical Moments of Joy

Moments after scientists discovered the double helix, a blinding flash of blue light revealed to stunned observers on Wards Island, a quadruple pink fairy in dark pants (above).

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was struck down by the Lord. For all your actual (as opposed to wannabe) Supreme Court needs:

Monday, June 08, 2009

Manny Woolith

As the TONY Awards ceremony swung a mallet at the great Broadway gong last night, I watched with a friend who at a certain point in the evening mentioned that he had invested a part of the previous evening watching 10,000 B.C.

"How was it?" I asked, and he went off on a fairly detailed account of that weird and strange attempt to explain... uhhh... myths... ummm.. early humans...

"And you see, " he said at one point, "there's a lot of Manny Wooliths in it."

Manny Wooliths... Manuel Wooliths?... I'm thinking of a perhaps Dominican? Puerto Rican? actor, but nothing and no one comes to mind. But as my friend's knowledge of theater, film and music is vast, I listen and he keeps on referencing this Manny Wooliths. Then I realize it's plural — there's more than one Manny Woolith in the movie. Something dimly starts to take form in my mind...

"Wait, wait," I said. "Who's Manny Woolith again?"

"You know," he said, "those huge tusky elephant things from prehistory."

Sunday, June 07, 2009


OMG, did you notice that rough beast came round last night? and was slouching towards Bethlehem, but i beat it to deAth with the poker??!!!