Monthly Archives: January 2010

Film: Raising Arizona

They didn't break out of prison. They released themselves on their own recognizance. Uploaded by

This movie would have been featured here before now, but I’ve already included a couple of Coen Brothers films (O Brother Where Art Thou and Fargo) and wanted to showcase other classics. But I can’t put off Raising Arizona any longer.

It’s not a complicated plot. H.I. and Edwina McDunnough want a baby, but can’t conceive. Nathan and Florence Arizona have quintuplets. That doesn’t seem fair to H.I. and Ed, so they help themselves to Nathan, Jr. And, as they say in the movies, hilarity ensues.

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Lots of great performances in this one. Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter are terrific as the childless couple, John Goodman and William Forsythe are brilliant as escaped convicts who take refuge in the McDunnough’s trailer, and Frances McDormand is typically excellent as Ed’s friend Dot.

But, like most Coen Brothers movies, the script is the real star. Raising Arizona is one of those movies you can’t help but quote. These lines will bring back specific scenes to anyone who’s seen this movie. And the more you see it, the funnier it is.

Ed: You mean you busted out of jail.
Evelle: No, ma’am. We released ourselves on our own recognizance.
Gale: What Evelle here is trying to say is that we felt that the institution no longer had anything to offer us.

Gale: Why ain’t you breast-feeding? You appear to be capable.

Glen: I said, “Healthy white baby? Five years? What else you got?” Said they got two Koreans and a negra born with his heart on the outside. It’s a crazy world.

Evelle: You hear that, you dang hayseeds? We’re using code names!

Dot: What if a truck came along and splattered your brains all over the interstate? Where would that leave Ed and the little angel?

Gale: So many social engagements, so little time.

Person: Rachael Ray

She's been a success at just about everything she's tried. And it seems like she's done it all in 30 minutes or less. Uploaded by

“Hi, I’m Rachael Ray, and I make 30-minute meals. That means in the time it takes to watch this program, I’ll have made a delicious, healthy meal from start to finish.” On her first network show, 30 Minute Meals, Rachael didn’t try to teach us haute cuisine, or to use advanced chef techniques. Instead, she showed how to prepare family food within the time frame the average person has to fix a meal.

Her girl-next-door beauty and effusive personality made her a star, and more television opportunities followed. The Food Network, recognizing her star power, gave her two additional shows: Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels and $40 a Day. But others were noticing her as well, including the Queen of All Things – Oprah. Harpo Productions launched Rachel Ray, a talk show that goes beyond the kitchen to explore Rachael’s other lifestyle interests. Launched in 2006, the show won Daytime Emmys in 2008 and 2009 for Outstanding Talk Show (Entertainment).

Photo by Andy Kropa, uploaded by

Now Rachael has her own magazine, Web site (of course), best-selling cookbooks, and lots of product endorsements. She even got her signature “EVOO” (for “extra virgin olive oil”) into the dictionary. She’s lived a charmed life, and she knows it.

“I’ve just sort of gone with the flow and I ended up here,” she said. “Crazy. I’m not going to start planning anything, my life is way better than anybody could have planned it.”

Here’s an excellent interview that demonstrates why America loves Rachael Ray:

Singers: The Blind Boys of Alabama

They started singing together in 1939, but the Grammy people didn't recognize them until 2002. Uploaded by

The Rolling Stones formed in the early sixties. That’s a career span coming up on 40 years, which is remarkable. But the Blind Boys of Alabama started singing in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in Talladega. And though only two of the original members are still living, they’re still touring, still performing.

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For most of the group’s history, the Boys performed pure gospel music in the traditional black churches and gospel music venues. Then in 1983, they appeared in The Gospel of Colonus on Broadway, and their new audiences were thrilled. So were other well-known artists, who asked the Blind Boys to record with them. In fact, they’ve featured some of these sessions on their album Duets, in which they sing with Ben Harper, Timothy B. Schmidt, Bonnie Raitt, Jars of Clay, Lou Reed, and others.

They released their first album in 1948, the intriguingly titled I Can See Everybody’s Mother But Mine. They’ve released dozens of albums since, and the Grammy folks finally took notice a few years ago. The group received the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album every year between 2002 and 2005. And in 2009 they were awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Though they’ve expanded their appeal, they haven’t abandoned their faith. Here’s one of their great performances. Head over to YouTube and catch some others. It’s still not too late to get on the bandwagon.

Song: “Desperado”

Though it's one of the Eagles' most popular songs, it was never released as a single. Uploaded by

There’s a Web site devoted to love song lyrics, and “Desperado” is featured there. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t work. Sure, it’s nominally about a cowboy who won’t allow himself to be vulnerable, but I don’t see any way to stretch things and call this a love song.

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“Desperado” the song was on Desperado the album, released in 1973. It had a western theme, with numbers like “Outlaw Man” and “Doolin-Dalton”. And while it’s easily one of the Eagles’ most popular songs, I was surprised to learn it was never released as a single. Even so, Rolling Stone considered it one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

I’m also surprised more people haven’t heard “Desperado” in a spiritual context. “Come down from your fences – open the gate,” alludes to opening your heart, being open to God, who is “the rainbow above you”. And the call for a decision is, “You’d better let somebody love you – before it’s too late.” Probably not at all what Henley and Frey were thinking, but…that’s what it’s always brought to my mind.

Kid Stuff: Pac-Man

The ghosts would get you - unless you gobbled some power pellets and turned the tables on them. Uploaded by

Back when video games ranged from the ultra-primitive (Pong) to the still simple (Space Invaders), the introduction of Pac-Man was more than an improvement in game technology. It was as much an icon of the 80s as disco was of the 70s.

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Pac-Man navigates through a maze, eating pac-dots along the way while avoiding the ghosts. But power pellets awaited in each of the corners that gave Pac-Man an energy boost and the ability to eat the ghosts. Of course, the ghosts moved faster than Pac-Man, so running away from them wasn’t a prudent strategy. I’ve read where the game had 255 levels – I never made it past the first three or four.

Let’s pause a moment to praise one Billy Mitchell of Hollywood, Florida. He was the first ever to get a PERFECT SCORE on all levels – eating all the fruit and pac-dots and never losing a life. It took him about six hours. But think of how many hundreds or thousands of hours it must have taken him to achieve that proficiency!

Want to enjoy Pac-Man once more? You can play it for free on your computer, assuming you have Flash. You even get the same sounds. Good luck!

Sports: Vince Lombardi

When Lombardi took over the Packers, they were coming off a 1-12-1 season. They were in the championship game two years later. Uploaded by

Q. Vince Lombardi has become synonymous with which of the following? A. Winning B. The NFL C. Hard Work D. All of the Above

A. D, all of the above

In 1956, the New York Giants won the NFL championship under head coach Jim Lee Howell. That’s forgettable, until you consider that Vince Lombardi was the offensive coordinator and Tom Landry, legendary head coach of the Cowboys, was the defensive coordinator.

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The Green Bay Packers gave Lombardi the opportunity to be a head coach in 1959. The team was coming off a 1-10-1 season. His first year, they improved to 7-5. The next season, he had them in the championship game, but lost. It was to be his only postseason loss. Lombardi led the Packers to NFL championships in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, and 1967. The last two wins were in Super Bowls I and II.

Lombardi was known as a strict disciplinarian. “Lombardi time” meant being 10 minutes early or you were considered late. He said, “Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it character in action.”

Lombardi is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, of course. And the Super Bowl trophy has been named in his honor. He’d probably be embarrassed by the awards and accolades, but he earned them. Despite his strict regime, his players loved him. And when he died of cancer at age 57, football fans everywhere lost not only a great coach, but a great man.

Americana: The American Farmer

The American supermarket is the envy of the world. But its shelves would be virtually empty without the American farmer. Photo by Paul Mobley, uploaded by

You think you work hard? No doubt you do, but no one works harder than those who live on a farm. Up before sunrise, often laboring until there’s no daylight left. And what do they get for it? Higher oil prices, lower wholesale prices, losing economies of scale to agribusiness, and the condescension of urban elites who need what they produce and yet treat them like rubes.

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Despite all the obstacles, these are the people who have made America the breadbasket of the world. Potatoes from Idaho, apples from Washington, hams from Virginia, corn from Iowa, grapes from California, oranges from Florida, wheat from Kansas, beef from Texas. American supermarkets are the envy of the world, and their shelves would be virtually empty without the American farmer.

Farmers pay their taxes. They raise their children with values. They pray. They love the land, and respect the climate. All they want in return is a fair shake for their products, the right to start with seeds and deliver a crop without interference or handicap.

Although I’ve lived almost all my life in cities, I now live on the edge of my wife’s family farm. Her daddy, William West, grew tobacco there, as well as some livestock destined primarily for his family’s table. When he died, the family leased the farm to a neighbor, who still grows soybeans there. It’s a beautiful, rolling property that looks like the pictures I’ve seen of Tuscany. My wife worked the farm while growing up, and I’ve been able to observe how it shaped her character. She works hard. She doesn’t complain. She’s adept at a wide variety of tasks. And she doesn’t expect things to be handed to her, she realizes that her comforts are a direct result of her labor.

As deeply as I love her, I admire her just as much. And I think a lot of that comes from her life on a farm. So I salute American farmers and their families. Thank you for all you’ve done to make this a nation of abundance like the world has never known. And for showing us the value of hard work, grounded values, and solid family life.

Food: New Orleans Cuisine

Let's face it, someone had to be the first person to eat crawfish, and it wouldn't have been me. Uploaded by

For those who don’t get to New Orleans often, the area’s two distinctive cuisines – cajun and creole – are often considered one and the same. But no no. Cajun is country-style food, influenced by the city’s French history. Think one-pot dishes, like crawfish étouffée and jambalaya. Creole is cajun’s city cousin, more refined, with both French and African influences. Shrimp creole, gumbo, and much more.

These dishes may be spicy, they may not. They often make use of local seafood, spices, and roux, and they’re hearty, robust, and rich.

Of course, there are other foods that New Orleans has helped to bring to America’s taste buds. You could enjoy po’ boys, beignets, muffulettas, red beans and rice, bbq shrimp, and just about anything made with andouille sausage and crawfish. And of course, bananas foster, a classic New Orleans dessert created by Brennan’s Restaurant, and creole bread pudding with whiskey sauce.

Oh, baby!

Chef Paul Prudhomme. Uploaded by

Certainly, celebrity chefs have helped carry the gospel of New Orleans cooking. Emeril Lagasse has three restaurants in the city, along with his television productions. And people come from near and far to dine at Chef Paul Prudhomme’s restaurant, K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen.

There are any number of Web sites that feature appropriate recipes, but if you want to stay authentic, consider The Gumbo Pages, the New Orleans Cuisine Blog, or New Orleans Online. Then…enjoy!

(By the way, may I suggest that you not start reading the above recipes on an empty stomach…)

The Arts: Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton was a successful novelist, screenwriter, director, and television producer. Uploaded by

You probably know Michael Crichton as a best-selling author. But he also achieved great success as a screenwriter, film director, and television producer. In 1994, he became the only artist to simultaneously have the number one movie (Jurassic Park), television show (ER), and book (Disclosure).

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As a writer, Crichton’s first top seller was The Andromeda Strain. It established his theme, the worst-case scenarios possible when modern technologies aren’t properly controlled. His novels were usually picked up quickly by Hollywood. Other books he wrote that became films include The Terminal Man, The Great Train Robbery, Sphere, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and Timeline.

He wrote and directed Westworld, a hit that established his directing credentials. Though he never focused on this part of his craft, he directed six film, including hits such as Coma, The Great Train Robbery, and Looker. His screenwriting credits include Jurassic Park, Rising Sun, and Twister.

Crichton originally planned ER as a movie. However as he was discussing it with Steven Spielberg (Great American Things, July 22, 2009), Spielberg asked him what he was working on these days. Crichton said, Oh, I have this idea about dinosaurs being brought back to life. So Spielberg focused on Jurassic Park, and Crichton turned ER to a television series. He wrote the first three episodes, and became the show’s executive producer.

Crichton held passionate views about the mistake of politicizing science. State of Fear made a statement about the issue of global warming, and how governments can control and manipulate citizens by keeping them panicked about environmental catastrophes.

Spielberg said this after Crichton’s death from cancer in 2008: “Michael’s talent outscaled even his own dinosaurs of Jurassic Park….There is no one in the wings that will ever take his place.”

Americana: Chuck Taylor All-Stars

Before 1966, Chucks were available in two colors - black and white. Boy, has THAT changed. Uploaded by

Used to be, any sport shoes that didn’t have cleats were called “tennis shoes.” And if you needed a new pair of sneakers, you got Pro-Keds or Red Ball Jets. Unless you were really serious – then you got Chuck Taylor All-Stars by Converse.

“Chucks” were first made all the way back in 1917 as just the “All-Star.” Then Chuck Taylor, a noted basketball player in the early twenties, went to work for Converse. It’s said that everyone knew him and liked him, and when he made improvements to the shoes, they became an instant hit. Converse soon added his name to the brand.

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Until 1966, the shoes were only available in black or white. Then, as the psychedelic era demanded, Chucks became available in a variety of colors and materials.

They went out of fashion for a while when expensive leather basketball shoes (Air Jordans, et. al.) became the rage, but came back into fashion in the nineties. It was the music scene that revived them – the Ramones, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, and U2’s The Edge have all worn them regularly.

You won’t see Chucks on the basketball court anymore. They don’t offer the arch and ankle support athletes can get from today’s athletic shoes. But go to a college, or a rock concert, and you’ll see that the love for Chuck Taylor All-Stars has been passed to a new generation.

Travel: Beale Street, Memphis

For ribs. For history. For shopping. But most of all, for the blues. Uploaded by

You can eat ribs on Beale Street. You can shoot pool on Beale Street. You can definitely see and be seen on Beale Street. But most of all, you can hear some of the world’s finest blues on Beale Street.

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The connection between Memphis and the blues goes back to legendary musician W.C. Handy, who located there in 1905. He formed a band and started playing a kind of music that folks hadn’t heard till then. And they liked it. It wasn’t long before Louis Armstrong (Great American Things, May 11, 2009), Muddy Waters, Albert King, B.B. King, Rufus Thomas and others started playing the style that came to be called Memphis Blues.

Now Beale Street offers clubs for a variety of tastes, whether you feel safer with chains (Hard Rock Cafe, Coyote Ugly) or prefer eclectic little clubs like Miss Polly’s Soul City Cafe or Tater Red’s. Either way, you’re on a street that’s been declared a National Historic Landmark, and been declared “Home of the Blues” by Congress.

A good time to visit (if you don’t mind crowds) is during the Beale Street Music Festival, usually held in late April or early May. The official Web site brags: “Music lovers from around the globe gather at the Beale Street Music Festival to celebrate this vital heritage, this deep river of sound. Three magical days. Four big stages. More than sixty top acts. One outrageous weekend on thirty-three acres overlooking the Mighty Mississippi, right on the heels of historic Beale Street.”

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TV Show: ABC’s Wide World of Sports

Drag racing, badminton, jai alai - Wide World of Sports took its mission as a sports anthology seriously. Uploaded by

“Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is “ABC’s Wide World of Sports!”

That was Jim McKay’s introduction, and it lasted all the way from the show’s start in 1961 until its cancellation in 1997. One of the most familiar television images of the age was Vinko Bogataj’s disastrous ski jump that perfectly illustrated “the agony of defeat.”

Host Jim McKay. Uploaded by

McKay hosted the show from its inception until 1986, and occasionally after that. He presided over an anthology show that featured sports and “sports” not often found on television, such as jai alai, curling, rodeo, demolition derby, and badminton. NASCAR was featured regularly back before its widespread commercial appeal was recognized.

And though we often remember the offbeat programs, Wide World of Sports was also the first American program to broadcast such events as Wimbledon, the Daytona 500, the Indy 500, and the Little League World Series.

Jim McKay won numerous Emmy Awards for his work on the program, and has been inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and the Television Hall of Fame. Here is his introduction to the program, quoted above, which became part of American pop culture:

Actors: The Marx Brothers

Left to right - Julius, Arthur, and Leonard Marx. Uploaded by

Picture this: Groucho on guitar and vocals, Zeppo and Gummo on vocals, and Harpo on harp (duh). Well, that’s how the Marx Brothers got their start, as a musical act. Fortunately, they soon realized Groucho’s ability to get laughs, and switched to a comedy format. The rest, as they say, is show business history.

Of course, those weren’t the boys real names. Arthur (Harpo), Julius (Groucho), Leonard (Chico), Milton (Gummo), and Herbert (Zeppo) used their real names until their first appearance on Broadway in their musical comedy revue I’ll Say She Is in 1924-25. They followed that show up with two more comedy hits, The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers. These two became their first movies, which ended up being little more than films of their stage productions.

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Gummo never appeared in films, and the four Marx Brothers became three when Zeppo quit the act following Duck Soup (1933). They made five features for Paramount, including Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, and Duck Soup. They then switched to MGM, where they had most of their success with their early films, primarily A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races.

At their best they were masters of comic timing and repartee. Here are some great lines from their films, and a couple of wonderful scenes:

GROUCHO: I never forget a face. But in your case, I’ll be glad to make an exception.

GROUCHO: I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.

GROUCHO: How much would you charge to run into an open manhole?
CHICO: Just the cover charge.

CHICO: I wasn’t kissing her, I was whispering in her mouth.

GROUCHO: Remember men, we’re fighting for this woman’s honour; which is probably more than she ever did.

Film: Star Wars

Star Wars was shot on a budget of $11 million. It earned $797 million for 20th Century Fox. I'd say that's a fairly good return. Uploaded by

Director George Lucas had an idea in mind for what he called The Star Wars, a modern space opera like the Flash Gordon films of his youth. About the time he finished his first movie, THX 1138, he began working on storylines. The first movie produced was Star Wars (which later got retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), filmed on a budget of $11 million. It earned $797 million worldwide, so I guess you could consider it, you know, a moderate success.

United Artists and Universal both passed on Star Wars, and one can only wonder whether the heads of those two studios survived when their boards found out. 20th Century Fox made the picture, and reaped the rewards not only of the three original blockbusters, but much of the licensing that became so incredibly profitable.

Lucas created Industrial Light & Magic to produce the special effects, after learning how weak were Fox’s capabilities. What seemed so futuristic then seems so primitive now, and Lucas recreated some of the effects for theater re-release and the DVD.

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America (and the world) was fascinated by the characters, the special effects, and the story. Han Solo, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, R2-D2, C3PO and Chewbacca all became film icons. “May the force be with you” was an ubiquitous catchphrase.

It dethroned Jaws as the highest-grossing film, before being bumped by E.T. Star Wars won six Academy Awards, all in the technical categories. But its influence on popular culture rivals that of any movie ever made. I mean, this was Star Wars.

Person: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Seldom has one person been able to accomplish so much to change his people - and his country. Uploaded by

In December 1999, the Gallup Organization compiled its data and named its Most Widely Admired People of the twentieth century. At number two on the list, ahead of Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill, ahead of Billy Graham and behind only Mother Teresa, was Martin Luther King, Jr.

Anyone who lived through the 1950s and 60s knows that King was the central figure in the major American issue of our time. He burst on the scene as the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, following the refusal of Rosa Parks (Great American Things, Sept. 23, 2009) to give up her seat to a white man. King was arrested and his house was bombed, but a U.S. District Court’s ruling overturning the policy was a major breakthrough in the struggle for civil rights.

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King was influenced by the civil disobedience practices of Gandhi. He recognized how incendiary the pursuit of freedom was to the majority white public, and believed that nonviolent protest would help him achieve his goals more quickly. He used sit-ins and demonstrations, knowing that he would be arrested and that the resulting publicity worked in his favor.

His fight was not just against segregation, but against all forms of discrimination, so his campaign included voting rights and labor rights. He led marches on Birmingham, St. Augustine, and Selma. But his most famous crusade was the March on Washington that was, at its time, the largest protest ever in the nation’s capital.

Any discussion of Martin Luther King has to include not just his actions, but the inspiration he was to his people during their great struggle for equality. When he was assassinated in Memphis in 1968, his place in American history was assured, and a national holiday was established in his honor in 1983.

King was a Baptist preacher and an exciting orator. Undeniably, his most famous speech – and one of the most famous in U.S. history – was his “I have a dream” message delivered during the March on Washington:

Music: John Coltrane

Those who play jazz inevitably point to the man they call Trane as influencing and inspiring their music. Uploaded by

When driving through North Carolina on the way to Myrtle Beach, we pass through a little hamlet called – well, Hamlet. It has one claim to fame, and it’s not the great chicken plant fire of 1991. It’s the birthplace of one of the giants of American jazz, John Coltrane.

The man called “Trane” said that one of his greatest moments was the first time he heard Charlie Parker play. “The first time I heard Bird play, it hit me right between the eyes,” he said. That was in 1945, just about the time Coltrane began to record.

Uploaded to Flickr by vanveen1967.

During most of his early career, he was a sideman to such jazz stalwarts as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk. He released his first album of his own compositions, Giant Steps, in 1960, and it featured complex harmonic structures and chord progressions unheard before that time. These became known as “Coltrane changes.”

Coltrane gravitated toward more experimental and avant-garde and free form jazz during his later career, and I’ll admit I’m not a fan of that style. What’s undeniable is that he has influenced a whole generation of jazz musicians. He’s in the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame and was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. All in all, not bad for a kid from Hamlet.

Song: “I Can’t Make You Love Me”

Rolling Stone put I Can't Make You Love Me as number 331 on its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was only off by about 325 spots. Uploaded by

“I Can’t Make You Love Me” is a virtually perfect song. It combines incredibly powerful lyrics with an arrangement that captures the song’s emotions, and amazing performances by Bruce Hornsby on piano and singer Bonnie Raitt. Rolling Stone named it number 331 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. I have a lot of respect for that list, but it only got this one wrong by about 325 spots.

I remember the first time I heard “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” like I remember where I was when I heard that Kennedy was shot and learned that Elvis was dead. That’s some impact for a song to make, but this one delivers the goods.

Songwriter Mike Reid. Uploaded by

Songwriter Mike Reid read about a man who was sentenced to jail after getting drunk and shooting up his girlfriend’s car. The judge asked if he’d learned anything. The man said, “I learned, your honor, that you can’t make a girl love you if she don’t.” He then penned the song with Allen Shamblin. Reid, if you don’t know, was the 1969 winner of the Outland Trophy as the best defensive player in college football, and an all-pro in the NFL. Hard to believe such sensitive and powerful lyrics from a former jock, isn’t it?

Raitt recorded the vocal in just one take. Not only was it a difficult song to sing due to its range, but she couldn’t maintain the emotional intensity it required. As for performing it in concert, she said, “I love that song, so does the audience. So it’s almost a sacred moment when you share that, that depth of pain with your audience. Because they get really quiet, and I have to summon … some other place in order to honor that space.”

As the song says, “Turn down the lights” and listen to this song “here in the dark.” It’s still extremely moving, no matter how many times you’ve heard it.

History: The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum takes visitors from the rise of the Nazis to the liberation of the concentration camps by Allied troops. Uploaded by

In the twentieth century, Stalin killed some 20 million people, Mao killed even more – at least 50 million. As evil as these men were, as incomprehensible their evil, they killed in order to gain and hold power. Adolph Hitler attempted to annihilate an entire people.

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Located on the National Mall in Washington, DC, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was created to help us recognize these horrors in hopes that genocide can be recognized and confronted.

Opened in 1993, the Museum has received visitors from all over the world, and fewer than ten percent are Jewish. Its focal point is the Hall of Remembrance, where visitors can light a candle and meditate at the eternal flame.

The permanent exhibition spans three floors of the Museum and takes visitors on a chronological journey, from Nazi ascendancy in Germany to the “Final Solution” to the liberation of the concentration camps by Allied troops. It uses 900 artifacts, 70 video monitors, and four theaters (with historic film footage and eyewitness testimonies) to tell the story.

The lesson of the Holocaust Memorial Museum is best summed up in the words of Yehuda Bauer, professor of holocaust studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: “I come from a people who gave the Ten Commandments to the world. Time has come to strengthen them by three additional ones, which we ought to adopt and commit ourselves to: thou shall not be a perpetrator; thou shall not be a victim; and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.”

Americana: Cafeterias

You just can't get pinto beans with onions and a great piece of chocolate pie just anywhere. Uploaded by

My first experience with a cafeteria came as a kid, when my family went to the cafeteria at the Natural Bridge Hotel. I can still hear my father’s admonitions: “Don’t let your eyes get bigger than your appetite,” and “Take what you want, but eat what you take.”

Go to any cafeteria and you’ll find two kinds of good Americans – working people and blue hairs. Get there before 6 p.m., and you may be the only person under 60 in the place. Working people like to eat at cafeterias because they’re easy on the budget. The elderly like that as well, but they also like being able to order vegetables. That’s not usually a choice at Chili’s.

Uploaded to Flickr by Rgdriver89.

We’re talking here about cafeteria restaurants, of course. Schools and hospitals have cafeterias, of course, as do some businesses. But we’re celebrating K&W, Picadilly, Morrison’s, Luby’s and their ilk. Childs Restaurant in New York is credited with being the first to offer trays and a tray line about 1898. It wasn’t long before the country was dotted with this exciting new way for Americans to dine who were mobile and busy.

Cafeterias survived the arrival and dominance of the fast food industry in the 50s and 60s, and still survive despite a growing trend toward buffet restaurants. But you just can’t get some good pinto beans with onions or chocolate cream pie just anywhere, and that keeps folks coming back to the old reliable, Great American cafeterias.

Sports: Joe DiMaggio

The romance that had America enthralled led to a marriage that was over in 274 days. Uploaded to Flickr by shadees.

When Giuseppe and Rosalia DiMaggio were processed at Ellis Island (Great American Things, November 24, 2009) near the turn of the century, they expected they’d raise a new generation of fishermen. That’s what the DiMaggio men had done in the old country, and what Papa took up in California upon his arrival in America. His first two sons obliged – but the last three gravitated to baseball instead. Vince, Giuseppe, and Dominic all became major league center fielders.

As you’ve probably deduced, Giuseppe the younger took the American nickname “Joe.” Good thing. “Joltin’ Giuseppe” just doesn’t cut it.

He burst onto the baseball scene batting ahead of Lou Gehrig, and helped lead the Bronx Bombers to four straight World Series titles. All in all, his Yankees earned nine championships in Joe’s thirteen seasons.

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How good was DiMaggio? Well, his 56-game hitting streak is one of the enduring records in sports, and may never be broken. He was named number eleven in the Sporting News’ list of all-time greatest baseball players. He made the All-Star team every season he played, and was the American League MVP three times.

We can’t talk about Joe without mentioning Marilyn. Their courtship was a national obsession, and they eloped on January 14, 1954. The Yankee Clipper’s career had just ended, however, and Marilyn’s was just taking flight. He was jealous, and didn’t handle being out of the spotlight well. She filed for divorce after only 274 days of marriage.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.