Monthly Archives: February 2010

Americana: Mount Rushmore

Washington, as the first president, Jefferson for the Louisiana Purchase, Lincoln for unifying the country, and Teddy Roosevelt for leading into the 20th century. Uploaded by

Okay, first the amazing scale of Mount Rushmore. The memorial covers 1,278 acres. The heads of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln are about 60 feet across. At that rate, the entire bodies would have been 465 feet tall. The carving took fourteen years to complete, and more than 800 million pounds of stone were removed during its creation.

Located near Keystone, South Dakota, Mount Rushmore was called “Six Grandfathers” by the nearby Lakota Indians. A local historian conceived of turning it into a monument to our presidents as a way of increasing tourism in South Dakota. It’s definitely accomplished that goal – more than two million people visit the monument each year.

Mount Rushmore was a giant prop in Hitchcock's North by Northwest. Uploaded by

Chosen as the sculptor was Gutzon Borglun, a student of French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Borglun was the natural choice, having just completed the carving of Confederate generals on Stone Mountain, Georgia. Carving began in 1927, supervised alternately by Gutzon and his son, Lincoln. Sadly, Gutzon Borglun didn’t live to see the dedication, dying from an embolism just before the monument’s dedication in March, 1941.

Oh, and if you think Congress only recently started losing its senses, consider this: In 1937, a bill was introduced to add the head of Susan B. Anthony to the mountain. Really. You can’t make this stuff up.

Food: Blind Betty’s Hot Sauce

Blind Betty's comes in Original Recipe, Pineapple Pizzazz, and Blind in the Rind flavors. Uploaded by

Blind Betty’s is certainly hot enough, but it’s not going to kill brain cells in the process, as some other sauces will. It definitely adds a potent zing, but doesn’t overpower the flavor of food.

St. John Spice in Cruz Bay, St. John. Uploaded by

We discovered Blind Betty’s where it’s made, on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. On our first visit we stopped in at a great shop right at the ferry dock, called St. John Spice. We wanted to take something from the island home with us, and I remembered that store owner Ruth Ernst had featured Blind Betty’s on her Web site. We purchased the Original Recipe sauce, along with Jalapeno Pepper Jelly and Hot Mango Chutney. We’ve gone through them all, and it’s time to reorder!

In addition to the Original Recipe, the sauce is also available in Blind in the Rind and Pineapple Pizzazz flavors. What’s in the stuff? Ingredients include pumpkin, apple juice, tomato juice, carrot, onion, habanero pepper, soy sauce, Worcestershire, lemon juice, and garlic.

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Blind Betty’s was the first-place winner of the Fiery Food Challenge in 2003 and the international Scovie Awards in 2004. A couple of reviews at Hot Sauce World echo what my wife, the main partaker of hot sauces in our household, says about Blind Betty’s. Dave said, “This stuff is too good to tell people about, the price will go up.” And Clark said, “This is the best hot sauce I’ve ever had the pleasure of adding to a meal.”

Here’s a video in which St. John Spice owner Ruth Ernst explains where Blind Betty’s comes from:

Travel: The Greenbrier

The Greenbrier is spread out over 6,500 acres, has 721 rooms, and hosted 26 U.S. Presidents as far back as Martin Van Buren. Uploaded by

The Greenbrier’s classic exterior doesn’t immediately bring to mind a world-class resort; its architecture perhaps calls to mind a Government building on the mall in Washington, D.C. But this property has been serving visitors in one form of other since 1778. And once you’re there, the resort’s history is as evident as the discerning service you’ll enjoy at every turn.

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The resort’s statistics alone are staggering: 6,500 acres, 721 rooms, 10 lobbies, more than 40 meeting rooms, 1,800 employees. Against a backdrop of the Allegheny Mountains, The Greenbrier has welcomed kings, princes, Hollywood’s brightest, and 26 presidents, as far back as Martin Van Buren.

There’s not much in the vicinity of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, but that’s okay – The Greenbrier gives you plenty to do. Three championship golf courses that have hosted the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup. A spa that includes the healing springs that brought the hotel into existence. Indoor and outdoor pools. Billiards and bowling. Hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and whitewater rafting. And, coming in the spring of 2010, a Monte Carlo-style casino.

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A part of the Greenbrier’s unique history is an underground bunker that was designed as a destination for the U.S. Congress in the event of a nuclear attack. The bunker, constructed between 1959-1962, was a classified secret that wasn’t revealed to the public until 1992. For a fee of $30, the general public can take a tour of this relic of the cold war era.

The Greenbrier experienced financial problems in recent years, but now has a new owner and is experiencing something of a renaissance. If you go, you’ll enjoy elegant decor with Southern hospitality in what is rightly considered one of America’s finest resort hotels.

Americana: The Sunday Paper

As a kid, I wanted the comics first. As a young man, I went for the sports section. Today, I read business first. I'm not sure that's progress. Uploaded by

Everyone says the Internet will eventually run newspapers out of business. And there’s no disputing the facts – according to Yahoo! Finance, 24 of the 25 largest newspapers are experiencing record decline in circulation. And while I completely buy that, there’s simply nothing the Internet can do that compares to a hefty Sunday newspaper.

I don’t really read the newspaper for, well, news. Or even sports. I read those online, and get to enjoy the writing and commentary of people from lots of newspapers, not just one. But I love the local news. I like seeing who got new jobs, who got married, what’s happening on the local arts scene, what new businesses are coming to town. I even hold my nose and read the local editors’ views of the world.

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Other sections of the paper have their place as well. My wife and step-daughter go straight for the advertising circulars and coupons. I hope that kids still look forward to the Sunday comics as I used to. And the Sunday crossword is a challenge I rise to when Sundays are leisurely.

Of course, the best Sunday paper is the New York Times. There I find the Book Review section, an extensive Travel section, a Style section that frequently causes me to shake my head (“Those crazy New Yorkers!”) and the NYT Sunday Magazine.

I hope the newspaper industry can right itself, because it’s definitely got an important niche that no other media, not even the Internet, can fill. But Monday through Saturday I’ll leave to others, just let me enjoy the Sunday paper.

Music: George Gershwin

Tragically, George Gershwin died of a brain tumor at age 37. Who knows what wonderful music we never got to enjoy. Uploaded by

What do you call someone who wrote endearing classical music, some of the greatest popular songs of all time, as well as a number of Broadway’s most memorable hits?

You call him Mr. Gershwin.

Gershwin quit school at age 15 to write songs in New York’s Tin Pan Alley. His first published song didn’t give a hint of the greatness to come. It was called “When You Want ‘Em, You Can’t Get ‘Em, When You’ve Got ‘Em, You Don’t Want ‘Em.” His first hit was “Swanee,” made famous by Al Jolson.

George began working with his brother Ira in 1924, and they produced a string of Broadway hit Broadway productions, including Funny Face, Girl Crazy, and Of Thee I Sing, the first musical comedy to win a Pulitzer Prize (Great American Things, February 19, 2010).

Uploaded to Flickr by IrishDave500.

Even while producing popular entertainment, Gershwin was composing some of the twentieth century’s most memorable classical works, including Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris. He also wrote the American opera “Porgy and Bess,” which included some of his most sophisticated compositions, as well as such great songs as “Summertime,” “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin,” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”

Unfortunately for music lovers worldwide, Gershwin started experiencing terrible headaches and was diagnosed with brain cancer. He was only 37 when he died. But the impact he had on American music can’t be overstated. In addition to the songs noted above, his compositions also include: “But Not For Me,” “Embraceable You,” “I’ve Got Rhythm,” “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” “Love Walked In,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” “They All Laughed,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” and “‘s Wonderful.”

Maybe no one sang Gershwin better than Ella Fitzgerald:

Song: “Born to Run”

Baby this town rips the bones from your back, it's a death trap, it's a suicide rap, we've got to get out while we're young. Uploaded by

In the liner notes to his Greatest Hits album, Bruce Springsteen (Great American Things, April 22, 2009) wrote this about “Born to Run”: “My shot at the title. A 24 yr. old kid aimin’ at ‘The greatest rock ‘n roll record ever.'” If he didn’t succeed, he came amazingly close.

This song, and the album of the same name, were evidence of Springsteen’s perfectionism at work. He recorded it over a period of months in 1974, experimented with several different arrangements, and laid down eleven guitar tracks. It’s indisputably a BIG song – loud, layered, important, and epic.

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And it came at the right time for Springsteen’s career. His first two albums (Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ and The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle) were well received, but not commercially successful. He knew that the next album had to make an impact, and this anthem delivered in a big way.

Rolling Stone named it the number 21 song on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. And the Recording Industry Association of America placed “Born to Run” as number 135 in its Songs of the Century. Ironically, the New Jersey legislature chose it as New Jersey’s “Unofficial Youth Anthem” – which tickled Springsteen because he said, “It’s about leaving New Jersey.”

Sports: The Masters

Amen Corner got its name from the way Arnold Palmer played the 11th, 12th, and 13th holes in the 1958 Masters. Uploaded by

When the trees are just beginning to foliate their bare branches in North Carolina, the azaleas are already in bloom in Georgia. I know, because the cameras show them to me in all their spring-is-here glory surrounding Amen Corner at the Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia .

Oh yes, and there’s a pretty good golf tournament happening there, too. Usually held the second week of April, the Masters has a long and (mostly) proud history. Augusta National didn’t admit black members before 1990 and still doesn’t admit women as members. But this post isn’t about Augusta National, but the wonderful tournament it hosts each year.

The Masters has been contested every year since 1934, when golfing legend Bobby Jones felt the sport needed a new and exclusive tournament. Jack Nicklaus has won it more than any other golfer (six victories), with Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods next with four victories.

Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images, uploaded by

Augusta National has kept The Masters unique by placing more emphasis on tradition than any other tournament. These traditions include the awarding of a green jacket to the winner, proffering a lifetime invitation to tourney winners, the hosting of a champions’ dinner to which only past winners are invited (and the current winner selects the menu), and caddies being required to wear white jumpsuits and white tennis shoes.

The tournament broadcast also has strict limitations. The Masters doesn’t have a rough surrounding the fairways, but rather “a second cut.” There are fewer commercial breaks, no blimps are allowed, and all announcers must maintain proper decorum. Gary McCord found out the hard way, when he was banned for saying, “They don’t cut the greens here at Augusta, they use bikini wax,” and saying the lumpy course looked like “body bags.”

From the ceremonial first shot by one of golf’s legends (Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus in 2010) to the drama of Amen Corner to the presentation of the green jacket in the Eisenhower Cabin, the Masters proves that it truly is a tradition like no other.

TV Shows: Greatest Theme Songs

The Beverly Hillbillies theme didn't quite make my Top 10, but it's a great example of a theme that sets up a show's premise. Uploaded by

I’m not sure if theme songs are as important to TV shows today as they used to be. In the early days of TV, they were used to lyrically set up the premise for the entire series. A good example of this was the theme to The Flintstones (“Flintstones. Meet the Flintstones. They’re a modern Stone Age family…”) Then there was a trend toward instrumental themes, the majority of which seemed to be created by Mike Post.

Those that I think are worthy, but not quite in the top ten are: All in the Family, The Addams Family, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, The Simpsons, Hill Street Blues, The Jeffersons, Miami Vice, Rawhide, Peter Gunn, The Waltons, Welcome Back, Kotter, The Muppet Show, and Fraggle Rock.

Anyway, you may disagree with these selections – of course you will – but here are my top ten television theme songs:

10. The Brady Bunch “Here’s a story of a lovely lady who was bringing up three very lovely girls…”

9. The Garry Shandling Show The show broke the fourth wall, and the theme song was the first (only?) to announce itself as a theme song.

8. Gilligan’s Island “…five passengers set sail that day for a three-hour tour…”

7. Mission Impossible Created by Argentine musician Lalo Schifrin, it signaled danger from the first note.

6. Hawaii Five-O Jack Lord said the words: “Book ’em, Dano.”

5. Mister Ed “A horse is a horse, of course, of course…”

4. The Patty Duke Show Probably the least well known on this list, but great lyrics prove it belongs.

3. Cheers “You want to go where everybody knows your name.”

2. The Andy Griffith Show Whistling that takes us back to the good old days.

1. Twin Peaks From the opening notes of Angelo Badalamenti’s score, you know this isn’t going to be just another TV show.

Food: Hamburger Joe’s, Myrtle Beach

A couple of the patrons are signing dollar bill to add to Hamburger Joe's decor. Uploaded to Webshots by afchic214.

Like most good hamburger joints, there’s nothing fancy about Hamburger Joe’s. Oh, you can dine out on the back porch with a nice view of the marsh, if you like looking at marshes. But it’s not the ambiance that people line up for at Hamburger Joe’s. It’s those delicious, sloppy, Carolina-style burgers.

Uploaded by Hamburger Joe's Facebook fan page.

These burgers aren’t the thick, Red Robin type. Nothing against them, they’re great too, but Hamburger Joe’s burgers are more…old-fashioned. The flavor is great, but when you add mustard, chili, onions, and slaw, you’ve got a little taste of heaven in your hands. And, possibly, running down your arm.

As good as the burgers are, HJ also has some outstanding wings. A friend of mine, who knows good road food, swears by their “gold wings” and their hot sauce. And this is one of the few places I’ll order onion rings, because they’re just outstanding.

By the way, the walls at Hamburger Joe’s are distinctive – they’re covered with dollar bills that have been signed by patrons. Seven thousand dollars worth, I’m told. Which is a smooth segue to my final point, and that is that this is a family-friendly, budget-friendly kind of place. Lots of families have to make a visit to HJ during each trip to the beach, and it’s a locals’ favorite place as well.

So, go and enjoy. Just don’t ask for a fork.

The Arts: Pulitzer Prizes

This photo by the AP's Oded Balilty won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography. Uploaded by

It’s ironic that Joseph Pulitzer, a newspaper owner noted in his time for shaping the truth to fit his personal views, has become synonymous with excellence in journalism and literature. Pulitzer arranged his estate so that, upon his death in 1911, a significant sum would go to New York’s Columbia University to establish a school of journalism and to recognize excellence in his lifetime profession.

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Today, Pulitzer Prizes are awarded in 21 categories, from the broad (Fiction) to the very narrow (Editorial Cartooning). Winners receive a $10,000 cash prize, though the increase in earnings that comes from identifying oneself or one’s works as “Pulitzer Prize Winner” can be substantial.

Looking at past winners of the prizes reveals some exceptionally deserving works. Tom Shales for Criticism… The Road by Cormac McCarthy and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway in Fiction… Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry, and South Pacific by Rogers and Hammerstein in Drama… Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland in Music… Edwin Arlington Robinson, Robert Frost, and Marianne Moore in Poetry… Charles Krauthammer in Commentary… and David McCullough for John Adams in Biography.

Joseph Pulitzer was respected during his lifetime for his intense personal drive and passions. But he rehabilitated his less savory journalistic tendencies by attaching his name to an enduring award for excellence. By the way…the award’s powers that be tell us that the correct pronunciation is “Pull it, sir.” So now we know.

A great video featuring Pulitzer Prize winning photographs of recent years:

TV Show: Lonesome Dove

This miniseries was perfectly cast, starting with Robert Duvall as Capt. Augustus McCrae and Tommy Lee Jones as Capt. Woodrow Call. Uploaded by

Roots is probably the most influential miniseries in television history. But I think you can make the case that the best miniseries ever was Lonesome Dove, based on Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. It received an amazing eighteen Emmy awardnominations, and won seven.

The casting of this series was inspired, beginning with Robert Duvall (Great American Things, August 21, 2009) and Tommy Lee Jones as former Texas Rangers who decide to take a herd of cattle to Montana. Neither of those two actors seems to ever make a false move, they’re entirely believable in whatever role they undertake. And they were flawless here. They were both nominated for Emmys, as were supporting characters Anjelica Huston, Diane Lane, Danny Glover, and Glenne Headly. Others who made this one of the best casts ever include Rick Schroder, Robert Urich, and Chris Cooper.

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In a recent interview, Robert Duvall said the part of Augustus McCrae was his favorite of all he’s had throughout his illustrious career. “I don’t mind doing television,” Duvall said. “Some people don’t do it, but Lonesome Dove was my favorite part ever…You know, it was fun. My ex-wife said don’t let them, they were trying to talk me into playing the other part, and I wanted this part, you know, because it was more like certain aspects of me that people didn’t know. But it was just fun to play, and when I look back on it, it makes me feel good. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. You know, it’s like let the English play Hamlet and King Lear. I’ll play Augustus McCrae.”

Interestingly, McMurtry wrote Lonesome Dove as a screenplay first. He intended for John Wayne to play McCrae, Jimmy Stewart (Great American Things, April 8, 2009) as Call, and Henry Fonda (Great American Things, February 1, 2010) as Jake Spoon. Wayne turned it down, and it was ten years later that the novel received publication.

It may have been a “miniseries,” but that’s all that was mini about it. Consider that the series had 89 speaking parts, 1000 extras, 30 wranglers, 100 horses, 90 crew and 1400 cattle. That’s as big as the West, which was barely big enough to capture the epic that we appreciate today as Lonesome Dove.

Americana: EMS and Rescue

At any hour, in any conditions, for any emergency, they're ready. Uploaded by

When you need them, they arrive quickly with sirens blaring and lights flashing. In my case, they came because of an auto accident. But they’re ready for other emergencies as well, from chest pains to breathing difficulties, from household accidents to violent assaults.

Some cities and towns have paid squads, others depend on volunteers. Sometimes the two work side-by-side. Either way, you’ll be helped by people who are calm under pressure, who are trained to make critical decisions in life-and-death situations.

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If that stress wasn’t enough, EMTs deal with the physical stress of lifting heavy objects or people, working in all weather conditions. They have to be extremely careful to avoid situations that may lead to contracting hepatitis or AIDS. And they can be on call for extended periods with little rest.

I was fortunate that my injuries were very minor. The squad members who evaluated my condition and transported me to the ER were very calm and professional. And because of my preoccupation with my own condition, I didn’t get their names, I didn’t even get to tell them how much I appreciate all they do. So this year, when the squads have their annual fundraising activities, I’m going to make a healthy contribution. It’s the least I can do for the men and women who are willing to put it all on the line for me.

Kid Stuff: Captain Kangaroo

Mr. Green Jeans was just the kind of non-threatening adult the Captain needed for his young audience. Uploaded by

Kids growing up from the mid-50s until the mid-80s all had one thing in common – they could watch Bob Keeshan bring his warmth and imagination to American children’s programming. Captain Kangaroo ran for an hour in the mornings until the CBS Morning News premiered, and was cut to a half hour thereafter.

Keeshan incorporated regular characters, puppets, and videos into his program. These were non-threatening adults who didn’t look down on kids. People like Mr. Green Jeans (Hugh Brannum) and The Banana Man (Sam Levine). Gus Allegretti performed several of the show’s best-known puppet characters, including Bunny Rabbit and Grandfather Clock.

Tom Terrific and Might Manfred. Uploaded by

One of the segments I remember fondly was Tom Terrific. I guess I just had a soft spot for a kid who went around with a funnel on his head. Tom and his buddy Manfred the Wonder Dog had to constantly outsmart the villain, Crabby Appleton.

Bob Keeshan died in 2004 without a lot of fanfare. Consider who affected more people for good – Captain Kangaroo or Michael Jackson – and look at the way their deaths were covered. Makes a very sad comment on popular culture today, doesn’t it?

Actress: Marilyn Monroe

Before she felt she had to maintain her image as a sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe was a naturally beautiful woman. Uploaded by

I hope you realize that under no circumstances would Marilyn Monroe be considered one of America’s greatest actresses, although her skill did increase during her career. And this list doesn’t honor those who are merely sex symbols. But time has created enough distance between Marilyn’s lifetime and today that we can better appreciate her. And she remains beloved to a degree that eclipses her talents.

A photographer for Yank magazine discovered Marilyn in 1944 when he came to a factory to take photos of women helping out in the war effort. He then began giving her leads for modeling jobs, which led eventually to a film contract with 20th Century Fox. She earned $125 a week.

Uploaded to Flickr by Danibu.

Marilyn changed her name from Norma Jeane Baker and dyed her hair blonde, and though she got small, inconsequential roles, it’s not as if she became an immediate star. It wasn’t until she had a part in All About Eve with huge star Bette Davis that her career began to take off.

You know her hits – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, Some Like it Hot, The Seven Year Itch, Bus Stop, and Some Like it Hot. And you know her husbands, or at least the last two – Joe DiMaggio (Great American Things, January 12, 2010) and playwright Arthur Miller. You know about her flirtation with President John F. Kennedy, highlighted by her famous birthday serenade. And you know about her mysterious death, ruled a suicide but never settled in the minds of fans and conspiracy buffs.

What you may not know is that Marilyn became an actress. She worked hard at her craft, and it showed. Here are some quotes from those she worked with. Famous acting coach Lee Strasberg: “I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of actors and actresses, and there are only two that stand out way above the rest. Number one is Marlon Brando, and the second is Marilyn Monroe.” Bus Stop director Joshua Logan: “I found Marilyn to be one of the great talents of all time.” And acting legend Laurence Olivier: “Marilyn was quite wonderful, the best of all.”

Film: Casablanca

Rick: If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. Uploaded by

“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”

It’s the movie that made Humphrey Bogart (Great American Things, August 11, 2009) a major star. It won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. And it’s one of the most romantic movies of all time. Not happy romantic, like Sleepless in Seattle, but unrequited romantic.

“We’ll always have Paris.”

Uploaded to Flickr by movies&movies.

Ingrid Bergman was at the height of her beauty in this film, and her inability to commit to Bogart broke our hearts. Casablanca was released just a few weeks after war broke out in North Africa, as Churchill and Roosevelt were meeting in the city, making the setting all the more relevant to its audiences.

“Round up the usual suspects.”

As with most great movies, Casablanca had a terrific cast. Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Dooley Wilson as Sam. Although the movie didn’t do overwhelming business at the box office, it was quickly recognized as the classic film that it has become.

“The fundamental things apply as time goes by.”

Casablanca was named #1 in the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Passions category, and #2 in “100 Years…100 Movies.” “As Time Goes By” was #2 in “100 Years…100 Songs”. Also, the movie had more entries in the “100 Years…100 Movie Quotes” countdown than any other film, topped by #5:

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Holiday: Conversation Hearts

Which do you think is better, old sayings like BE MINE or new ones like UR HOT?

The primary manufacturer of conversation hearts in America, the NECCO candy company, makes more than 8 billion of them each year. That’s enough for everyone in the world to have a conversation. What shall we talk about, then?

In truth, we don’t have to talk anymore to have a conversation. Because the hearts now say “Tweet me”… “Text me”… “IM me”… and “E-mail me.” The public also suggested other sayings, so this year you’ll see “BFF”… “LOL”… and “UR hot”.

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Of course, if you’re old-fashioned – and what better day to be old-fashioned than Valentine’s Day? – you can still find such classic favorites as “Kiss me” … “So fine”… “One kiss”… and even “Marry me.”

NECCO’s popular Sweethearts feature new flavors this year. They’re now available in Strawberry, Grape, Green Apple, Lemon, Orange and Blue Raspberry. Supposedly they’re softer and taste less like Rolaids. But I don’t think people buy these things looking for great candy, do they? I sure hope not. They may change the flavors, and even the sayings, but conversation hearts are as much a part of Valentine’s Day as shoe boxes with a slit cut in the top for classmates to drop in your Valentines.

What, they don’t do that in school anymore? Oh, what today’s kids are missing.

Travel: Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch

You can enjoy a ride during an amazing Arizona sunset. Uploaded by

A dude ranch experience isn’t everyone’s idea of a great vacation. But if you love horses, nature, and the West, it could be one of the most fulfilling experiences of your life. One of the best destinations is the Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch, located near Yucca in Arizona’s beautiful desert country.

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You can go out on a variety of rides, depending on your interests and experience level. You can swim in the pool, or relax in the hot tub with a view of the Hualapai Mountains. You’ll enjoy three hearty meals each day. And at night, the lodge is the center of activity, with a roaring fire in the fireplace, a pool table, and comfortable chairs and couches. You won’t have a television in your room, but you’ll have a vacation you won’t forget.

You may know the Web site, where ratings are done by regular travelers, not self-appointed experts. The site has 117 reviews of Stagecoach Trails. 114 of them are “Excellent,” the highest level. The other three are “Very Good.” Here are some of the headlines of people’s reviews: “Best Holiday Ever”… “Wow, Best Vacation Ever”… “Highlight of the Year!”… “A little bit of heaven”… “An oasis in the desert”. Read the reviews here. The Ranch’s Web site is here.

I’m a beach person, and my ideal vacation is sitting on a white sandy beach beside turquoise water in the Caribbean. But when I read about Stagecoach Trails, I think I could be lured away from the water. Once. Maybe.

Uploaded by Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch

Uploaded by Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch

Uploaded by Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch

Uploaded by Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch.

Uploaded by Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch.

Singer: Hank Williams

Hank Williams was fired from the Grand Ole Opry and told not to return until he was sober. He never was. Uploaded by

I have to confess, I had no idea that Hank Williams died at the age of 29. His music was so fully developed, his influence so great, it seems impossible anyone could have accomplished so much in such a short time. Shoot, in the pictures I’ve seen, he even looks older.

Hank got his break in music by standing out in front of a radio station, playing his guitar and singing. The station owners liked him, and invited him in to play. The listening audience in Montgomery, Alabama kept requesting “The Singing Kid,” so the station gave him a regular show.

Hank put a band together, and started playing dates throughout Alabama, Georgia, and the Florida panhandle. But he began having problems with alcohol. World War II took his band mates away, and soon the radio station fired him for showing up intoxicated. Roy Acuff told him, “You’ve got a million-dollar voice, son, but a ten-cent brain.”

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He moved to Nashville in 1946, and soon landed a recording contract. His first song was “Move It On Over,” later covered by George Thorogood. He went on to record such classics as “Lovesick Blues,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Jambalaya (On the Bayou),” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” and the gospel song “I Saw the Light.”

Williams was on his way to a concert, after shooting up with morphine and drinking beer. His chauffeur pulled in for a rest stop, and found Hank unresponsive in the back seat. The drinking and drugs had caught up with him.

Hank Williams is a member of both the Country Music and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame, and CMT ranked him #2 of the 40 Greatest Men of Country Music. Even so, we’ll always wonder about what could have been had this enormous talent been allowed to fully flourish…

hank williams jr and sr – theres a tear in my beer

larry | MySpace Video

Song: “Unforgettable”

Natalie sang with her father on one of his biggest hits, and made it even more memorable. Uploaded to Flickr by Don3rdSE.

This is one of the greatest songs from the Great American Songbook. Nelson Riddle arranged it, and Nat King Cole (Great American Things, November 2, 2009) sang it. That’s a potent combination no matter what the material. It’s even more potent considering the song’s source.

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Sometimes people have one accomplishment in life that nothing else they do can even approach. “Unforgettable” is so far beyond anything else songwriter Irving Gordon wrote that it’s stunning. While he had a few songs make the charts, his next biggest songs are “Mr. and Mississippi” and “Allentown Jail.”

Nat’s daughter, Natalie, helped expose a whole new generation to this classic tune. While Nat originally recorded it in 1951, he sang a non-orchestrated version in 1962, this time in stereo. Natalie sang along with this version of her daddy’s hit, creating the Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance in the 1992 Grammy Awards.

Here’s Nat and Natalie, singing – and being – Unforgettable:

Sports: 1980 USA Hockey Team

In an exhibition before the Olympic Games, the Soviets had humiliated Team USA 10-3. Nobody saw the Miracle on Ice coming. Uploaded by

Grown men cried. Strangers embraced. Groups all around the country spontaneously joined to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America”. All because a group of American amateurs and college students had felled the invincible Soviet hockey machine.

Invincible they certainly seemed. After all, the Soviets had gone 5-3-1 against NHL teams in exhibitions. And in an exhibition in Madison Square Garden, they’d beaten Team USA 10-3.

But the USA squad tied a talented Sweden in its very first game, and gained invaluable confidence. It then stunned heavily favored Czechoslovakia before also beating Norway, Romania, and West Germany. The team took a 4-0-1 record, and undeniable momentum, into the match with the powerful Soviets.

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Two movies detail what happened next – Miracle on Ice (1981) and Miracle (2004). Team USA got behind, 1-0 and then 2-1. But they continued to fight back. Goalie Jim Craig played the game of his life. Then, with one second remaining in the opening period, Mark Johnson scored to even the game at 2-2. There’s no underestimating what that goal did for the young Americans’ confidence. Only the Soviets scored in the second period, and the USA entered the final 20 minutes down 3-2.

But then Mark Johnson scored again, bringing the Americans even. And in the goal everyone remembers, team captain Mike Eruzione scored to give Team USA the lead with exactly ten minutes remaining. Craig kept making saves, his teammates kept the Soviets at bay, until there were eleven seconds remaining. Let’s let Al Michaels take over now:

“Eleven seconds, you’ve got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

Often forgotten is the fact that this game was not for the goal medal. The young Americans had to regroup after their euphoric victory and defeat Finland two days later.

Here’s what USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean said about the victory: “It’s the most transcending moment in the history of our sport in this country. For people who were born between 1945 and 1955, they know where they were when John Kennedy was shot, when man walked on the moon, and when the USA beat the Soviet Union in Lake Placid.”