Saturday, May 30, 2009

The King Of Swing

Benjamin (Benny) David Goodman was the ninth of twelve children born to poor Jewish immigrants from Russia. At the age of 10, he and two of his older brothers were enrolled in music lessons through an area Synagogue. In the following years, he also played with a boys band and studied with a classical clarinetist. He was greatly influenced by the New Orleans style jazz musicians who played at some of the local Chicago clubs. He learned quickly and by his mid teens, was already playing with some of the top bands in the city. He made his first recordings under his own name in 1928 on Vocalion Records. Goodman also worked as a sessions musician, recording under an array of group names and recording numerous pieces.

Benny Goodman moved to New York City in 1929 and continued to build his reputation as a solid musician who was reliable and prepared. He did recordings for Columbia, Melotone and many other labels before signing with Victor in 1935. Some of the Columbia sides featured Jack Teagarden, Joe Sullivan, Dick McDonough, Arthur Schutt, Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson, Coleman Hawkins and the first vocal recordings of a very young Billie Holliday.

Goodman was also doing regular appearances on radio shows. Since he needed new arrangements every week, his manager John Hammond, suggested that he purchase jazz charts from a very popular African American musician named Fletcher Henderson. Goodman purchased all of Henderson's charts during the 1929 stock market crash and also hired Henderson and members of his band to teach his musicians how to play the music.

In 1934 and 1935, Goodman was one of the featured bands on NBC's "Let's Dance". The east coast broadcast was fairly late so he didn't have much of a following outside of Harlem, but unbeknownst to him, he was developing a large fan base on the west coast who were hearing the broadcast much earlier. The show was cancelled due to a strike in spring 1935 so Goodman took his show on the road to tour America. His reception was less than favorable in many locations as audiences weren't impressed with his "hot" jazz. They wanted a smoother jazz to dance to.

"King Porter Stomp" and "Sometimes I'm Happy" were released to rave reviews in July 1935, but the band was on the road and unaware of the success of this recording. The last stop on their tour was a three week engagement starting August 21 at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles. The band was discouraged and nearly broke. The ballroom could hold 4,000 couples but the response was tepid to the opening set of traditional smooth jazz. With a little urging from his drummer, Gene Krupa, Goodman decided to go for broke. If they were going down, then they were going down playing the music they loved - the arrangements of Henderson and other swing arrangers that were writing for the band. With the opening notes of "King Porter Stomp", the audience went wild! This was the music they had been hearing on "Let's Dance" and what they had come to hear!

During that engagement a new dance craze known as "The Jitterbug" came into being and newspapers across the country were praising the new phenomenon which was called "The Swing Era'. This era quickly led to the explosion of the "Big Band Era".

In 1937, Goodman's publicist, Wynn Nathanson, suggested that Goodman should do a concert at Carnegie Hall. Goodman was skeptical as this was a venue that catered to more refined and elitist music, but eventually went along with it. He had already gained some mainstream success with his recordings and appearences on the silver screen in movies like "Hollywood Hotel" (1937).

The Hall was sold out weeks in advance. Top prices were US$2.75 - a lot of money for the time. The audience was reserved in their response in the beginning, but by the end of the night it was a smashing success. The recordings of the concert that were eventually released have never been out of print. Goodman had brought Swing to the masses and been accepted.

Goodman, focused much of his career on the swing music and the big band arrangements. He worked in various size groups such as trios, quartets, sextets and full orchestras. He had forays into classical and bebop, but the most success was with what he knew best - swing.

Benny worked with many, now legendary artists, including Coleman Hawkins, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Christian, Louis Armstrong and many others. Through the years he featured many great soloist such as Anita O'Day, Helen Forrest, Helen Ward and Rosemary Clooney. He wasn't the easiest man to get along with. He was seen by many as a taskmaster and a domineering perfectionist who could freeze you out with a cold stare if you didn't tow the line the way he expected. At the same time, he apparently was a generous private contributor for several young people to attend college with scholarships. He acknowledged that the music that he played - in particular that of Fletcher Henderson - had been a part of the black community for years, but it was Goodman who brought the swing music to the masses and made it a hit in the white community as well. He was also instrumental in helping to integrate the black musicians into the usual white only groups. He opend doors for other professions to also cross that racial line.

John Hammond was one of Goodman's closest friends and advisors. Goodman dated his sister, Alice Frances Hammond (1913 - 1978) and married her on March 14, 1942. They raised two daughters, Benjie and Rachel. John and Benny didn't always see eye to eye and the relationship was strained for many years, but they did reconcile the friendship in their later years after Alice had died.

Mr. Goodman continued to play the clarinet and occasionally perform, despite increasing health problems, right up to his death of a heart attack at age 77 on June 13, 1986 in New York City.

Today, May 30, 2009 marks the 100th birthday of this incredibly talented musical genius. Over the years, he has been honored with countless tributes and awards to celebrate his contributions to the musical world. His biggest hits such as "Sing, Sing, Sing", "Stompin' At The Savoy", and many others are still being played and recorded today.

Happy 100th Birthday to The King Of Swing!


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Dam Beavers

I got this e-mail back in January and saved it to post today. Today my dad would have turned 94. He died in 2003. My dad would have loved this story! He lived all but the last few months of his life on the family farm. He loved the land and he loved the peaceful surroundings of the countryside. However, there was one element of this tranquility that gave him no end of grief and frustration. There is a small creek, that twists and turns through our family farm yard and dad did battle with the beavers for years! He'd dig out the dam in the day and they'd build it back up at night! He had a guy come in to trap the beavers and move them to a different location on more than one occasion. Either they came back or new beavers moved in. He also had the dams blown up a couple of times. The beavers rebuilt every time. This went on for years!!!

So, today's post is for you dad!

The Dam

This is an actual letter sent to a man named Ryan DeVries regarding a pond on his property. It was sent by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Quality, State of Pennsylvania . This guy's response is hilarious, but read The State's letter before you get to the response letter.

State Of Pennsylvania 's letter to Mr. DeVries:

SUBJECT: DEQFile No.97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec. 20; Lycoming County

Dear Mr. DeVries:

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity:

Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.

A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity. A review of the Department's files shows that no permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Pennsylvania Compiled Laws, annotated.

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel. All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 2007.

Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff. Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.

We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter. Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.

David L. Price
District Representative and Water Management Division.

Here is the actual response sent back by Mr. DeVries:

Re: DEQ FileNo. 97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec. 20; Lycoming County

Dear Mr. Price,

Your certified letter dated 12/17/06 has been handed to me to respond to. I am the legal landowner but not the Contractor at 2088 Dagget Lane, Trout Run, Pennsylvania.

A couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two wood 'debris' dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, I think they would be highly offended that you call their skillful use of natures building materials 'debris.'

I would like to challenge your department to attempt to emulate their dam project any time and/or any place you choose. I believe I can safely state there is no way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.

These are the beavers/contractors you are seeking. As to your request, I do not think the beavers are aware that they must first fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity.

My first dam question to you is:
(1) Are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers, or
(2) do you require all beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request?

If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, through the Freedom of Information Act, I request completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits that have been issued.

(Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Pennsylvania Compiled Laws, Annotated.)

I have several dam concerns. My first dam concern is, aren't the beavers entitled to legal representation? The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said representation - so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer.

The Department's dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event, causing flooding, is proof that this is a natural occurrence, which the Department is required to protect. In other words, we should leave the Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling them dam names.

If you want the dammed stream 'restored' to a dam free-flow condition please contact the beavers -- but if you are going to arrest them, they obviously did not pay any attention to your dam letter, they being unable to read English.

In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream. They have more dam rights than I do to live and enjoy Spring Pond. If the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection lives up to its name, it should protect the natural resources (Beavers) and the environment (Beavers' Dams).

So, as far as the beavers and I are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more elevated enforcement action right now. Why wait until 1/31/2007? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice by then and there will be no way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them.

In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention to a real environmental quality, health, problem in the area. It is the bears! Bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the beavers alone. If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your dam step! The bears are not careful where they dump!

Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Is it spring yet?

It appears that the bad economy has even affected Mother Nature this year, as she seems to have forgotten to pay the heating bill.

I generally prefer the cooler weather, but even I will admit this is a little bit too cool for the season. The normal highs for this time of year are about 18-20C and lows around 5-8C. This year, we have had only a handful of days where we have broken into the double digits on the plus side of the thermometer. Brrr!!

So, what happened to spring? According to the calendar, it started back in March. That is generally a week or two before it actually hits this prairie berg.

Mother Nature usually likes to tease us a bit and throw a few spring like days at us in late February and early March - just enough to get us ready for the real thing.

We, here in Manitoba, have just come through one of the longest and coldest winters in a very long time. We had our usual cold January from late November through late March. Parts of April were more like February and May has just been ridiculous!

The Victoria Day long weekend was last weekend and that is traditionally the time that gardener's plant their flowers and veggie gardens as the risk of frost is very low. Camp grounds are full with people who have been chomping at the bit to get out and enjoy the first long weekend of the summer season.

Not this year! This May has been more like late March and early April. Most nights, the temperature has been around freezing or even colder. We've woken to temps in the -7 to -10 range with a wind chill!! We've had snow and freezing rain several days in the last month. Last weekend areas around Gimli and Dauphin had several inches of snow. Granted, it didn't last that long, but it really puts a crimp in the plans of winter-weary Manitobans.

If this were a normal spring, we'd already have packed away our winter gear and some would already be using air conditioners. This year, I did pack my winter boots away in mid April, but left out my duck boots which are insulated and perfect for wet weather or up to a couple of inches of snow. I wore them the first week or so of May to keep my feet warm. I haven't packed my winter or spring/fall jackets away yet as I've still been wearing the spring/fall one. I want to wash them both before I put them away, and well, there is no point in washing them if the cold weather isn't past yet.

The morning of May 14, I actually contemplated wearing long johns. The temp was about +4C but with the wind, it would be more like -4C. I didn't wear the long johns, but I also nearly froze standing at the bus stops and doing the walking between my destinations.

Most of us don't need to use our furnaces and heating systems past mid to late April. I had mine on till last Saturday. I also haven't switched my down duvet for my lighter weight down blanket. Even with a profusion of hot flashes, I still need the heat and duvet to stay warm.

Their should be leaves on the trees by now. They are just starting to open. The lilacs should be starting to bloom. I haven't seen or smelled any yet. The grass should be growing and we should be enjoying the patios and green spaces in and around The 'Peg. I've only heard a couple of lawn mowers so far this spring.

Instead, we are still wearing our polar fleece and shivering as we walk and stand at bus stops. A friend of mine told me that she sat out on her patio on Thursday morning and enjoyed her coffee - while wearing her parka! That's just wrong! I'm certainly not asking for hot weather - I don't like HOT weather - but seasonal would be very welcome!!

We Manitoban's are a tough bunch. We endure a lot of bad jokes and even tell quite a few of our own about our weather, BUT we also live and thrive here. We make the best of whatever Mother Nature hands us. Sure we complain about it, but we just put on another layer and go out and fill our lungs with the fresh crisp air as we go about our daily lives.

Looking at the long range forecast, it seems that the weather may finally be starting to become more spring-like. If the predictions are to be believed we should be above normal temps by late next week!

Mother Nature has been playing with us for months now, so I'm not putting any money on these predictions!

I may get brave and wash the winter jackets this weekend so they can be packed away till fall, but I haven't decided whether or not that act may just annoy Mother Nature to the point where she turns down the thermostat again.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

dn's Farmer's Sausage Casserole

Have you ever had farmer's sausage? If you haven't lived in or visited southern Manitoba then you may have missed out on this delicious specialty meat! It is most commonly eaten by the Mennonites in the area, but is also a favourite of almost anyone who tries it. If you speak with anyone who no longer lives in Manitoba, odds are one of the foods they miss the most is farmer's sausage! People have been known to buy hundreds of pounds to take with them for themselves and other former Manitobans when they travel.

This isn't your basic sausage! No way! This is a smoked pork sausage with a taste all its own. It's spicy but not overly spicy or hot. It is also a much coarser than a kielbasa. I've never tried anything that even comes close to the uniqueness of the farmer's sausage flavour.

There are several brands available in the province, but the two most popular are Winkler Farmer Sausage (made in Winkler) and Pioneer Farmer Sausage (made in Altona). The two towns and companies are only about a half hours drive apart and there is a bit of a friendly rivalry between the two brands. Both are excellent but given a choice, I'll take Winkler! The sausage is packaged in a number of ways, including links (with or without casing), mini links and patties - which are perfect for the grill. They even come in low sodium varieties!

I buy farmer's sausage when it goes on sale and divide it into smaller portions - about 4-5"/serving and wrap each in saran before freezing in a zippered storage bag. I freeze the individual patties between waxed paper so that they are easy to separate for later use.

The most common way to prepare it is to pan fry it and then make a cream gravy from the drippings. The gravy is traditionally made with onions (fried in the drippings), flour, cream, salt and pepper then served over homemade noodles and the sausage. On the off chance that there are left over's, the noodles are fried then topped with the gravy and served along side the reheated sausage. These aren't exactly cholesterol friendly BUT oh man every once in a while it really is worth the calories!!

There are, of course other less fattening ways to serve this yummy meat and one is to grill it on the bar-b-que (or any indoor grill) and serve it with some grilled onions, a slice of cheddar cheese and a little ketchup on a bun. A true Manitoban would be using New Bothwell cheddar cheese!

One of my favourite - and slightly healthier - ways to serve the farmer's sausage is the following recipe. A long time friend and former roommate used to make this recipe at least once a month. As always, I have modified it a bit by adding onions and red pepper but the basic concept remains the same. I really wouldn't substitute any other type of sausage in this recipe, as you just aren't going to get the same taste.

"dn's Farmer's Sausage Casserole"

2 medium potatoes
1 12 oz/340 ml can kernel corn (I use Green Giant Peaches and Cream or Niblets)
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 8-10 inch link of farmer's sausage

- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Spray a 1 1/2 litre casserole dish with Pam or other non-stick cooking spray.
- Wash and pat dry the potatoes and remove any spots. Cut the potatoes into small pieces (about 1/4 to 1/3 inch cubes). Layer evenly in bottom of casserole dish. Sprinkle with a bit of black pepper if desired.
- Evenly distribute the can of corn (and the liquid) over the potatoes. Note that the liquid is needed both for flavour and to help the potatoes cook faster.
- Layer the red pepper over the corn.
- Layer the onion over the red pepper.
- Skin the sausage (if you aren't using the skinless) and cut into discs about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. Layer the farmer's sausage over the onion, overlapping slightly so that all the sausage fits in one layer. They will shrink considerably as they bake..
- Cover and bake in a 375F oven for about 60 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 10 to 15 minutes to brown the sausage.

Serves 2



Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm going to be HOW long???

I recently received an email that invited me to experience a "Life Expectancy Calculator" test. I would be asked to answer a series of questions about my lifestyle, medical and family history. As I answered the questions, my virtual age and life expectancy age would change to reflect my responses.

You start by adjusting the scale to your actual biological age, then enter your gender and race. After that the rest of the questions are all on a sliding scale. The healthier answers are printed in green, the mid range answers are in black and the life shortening answers are in red. The questions include topics like education, exercise, sleep, weight, blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, eating habits, smoking, drug use (prescription and other), regular health checks and more. There were questions on relaxation, stress, happiness, depression, love and friendships. The question on marriage had answers that ranged from happily married to married to single to widowed/divorced/separated to cheating! (Talk about a range of answers!!)

Some of the questions were a little too vague to my liking. The one on driving, for instance, gave a series of miles driven/year, but not the option to say I don't drive. (For some reason the motor vehicles department won't allow legally blind people to drive!) The same with the question of seat belt use. I use seat belts when I am in vehicles that have them, but the options of use did not include one for those of us who rely on public transit that does not even offer seat belts.

It is a simple enough test and only takes a few minutes to complete. The test does cover most of the contributing factors that influence our longevity, but the problem is that it also doesn't ask about some important factors like air quality, neighbourhood, finances or non life threatening chronic health issues.

After answering the 35 questions I was presented with the results that told me how long I can expect to be here in the land of the living. I actually took the test twice as I realized about half way through the first time that the answers for most were on a sliding scale rather than right on any specific answer. That made only a slight difference in my overall scores - less than a year either way actually. My first one was 36.6 for virtual age and 90.4 for life expectancy.Here is the results of my second test:

These types of tests have been around for years. Do a search on Google for "Virtual Life Expectancy calculator" and you will get over 8,000 hits. I checked out the first ten or so and found that several of them were links to the same test I took - even though they were attached to different sites. One site required an account to take a quiz so I don't know what their quiz entailed. The "Living to 100" site asked a series of 40 some questions that touched on pretty much every aspect of life, but gave me almost the same result for longevity. (88). It did not give me a virtual age.

I know that there is a limit to what these tests can gauge and they can be used as a stepping stone towards creating a more healthy life style, but they are not the be all and end all of how old you will be when you finally do kick the bucket. When your time is up, there isn't a whole lot you can do about it regardless of how healthy/unhealthy a life you have led.

Some people may be shocked or even horrified by answering these questions. They may discover that they are expected to be around a lot longer than they thought or have only a few years left or are even living on borrowed time.

Many members of my family have lived well into their 80's and generally have led fairly healthy lifestyles. There isn't a lot of cancer, diabetes, heart disease or other factors that would shorten a lifespan. I, on the other hand have lived with vision loss my entire life. I also have a bit of arthritis and other health factors that would shorten my time, but these factors were not addressed - so according to the quiz I took, I can expect to be here for another 39 years!

39 Years?? Are you kidding me? I'm really hoping that this was a bit of a cosmic joke, as I really can't see this body holding up another 39 years. My mind could probably do it, but I can't imagine how my body will survive that long and still allow me to have any kind of independent life. I know, never say never - and I'm not - it's just that my physical independence is a critical factor to my emotional health. Some people can visualize themselves at advanced ages and be completely convinced that they will be there someday - celebrating their 90th or 100th birthday. I can't and never have been able to see myself as an old person. I know I am getting older every day - I'm not denying that. I just can't see myself as living that far into the future. I'm not giving up or saying that it won't happen - I just can't seem to wrap my mind around the possibility that I'll still be here in 30 years let alone 39!

Well only time will tell how accurate these things really are and of course there is also a lot of things that could happen medically or financially or through the day to day circumstances that can change everything. We live in an unpredictable world where life can change in a split second.

I am not taking these tests too seriously. I prefer to live each day as it comes. I try to find the positive in things and enjoy this ride called life, whenever possible. I try to learn from my mistakes and from the people around me.

"Attitude is everything. Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. Live simply, Love generously, Care deeply, Speak kindly. Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain."
- Anonymous


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

A few weeks ago, I got these gems of wisdom about mothers in one of my emails. I read it to my mom during our weekly Sunday morning phone calls and she thought it was quite humourous. She also admitted to having said many of these things to my siblings and I! So I thought that in honour of Mother's Day, I would share these with all of you!


1. My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE .
'If you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning.'

2. My mother taught me RELIGION.
'You better pray that will come out of the carpet.'

3. My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL .
'If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week!'

4. My mother taught me LOGIC.
' Because I said so, that's why .'

5. My mother taught me MORE LOGIC .
'If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you're not going to the store with me.'

6. My mother taught me FORESIGHT.
'Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an accident.'

7. My mother taught me IRONY
'Keep crying, and I'll give you something to cry about.'

8. My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS.
'Shut your mouth and eat your supper.'

9. My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM .
'Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck!'

10. My mother taught me about STAMINA.
'You'll sit there until all that spinach is gone.'

11. My mother taught me about WEATHER.
'This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it.'

12. My mother taught me about HYPOCRISY.
'If I told you once, I've told you a million times. Don't exaggerate!'

13. My mother taught me the CIRCLE OF LIFE .
'I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.'

14. My mother taught me about BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION.
'Stop acting like your father!'

15. My mother taught me about ENVY.
'There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don't have wonderful parents like you do.'

16. My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION.
'Just wait until we get home.'

17. My mother taught me about RECEIVING .
'You are going to get it when you get home!'

18. My mother taught me MEDICAL SCIENCE.
'If you don't stop crossing your eyes, they are going to freeze that way.'

19. My mother taught me ESP..
'Put your sweater on; don't you think I know when you are cold?'

20. My mother taught me HUMOR.
'When that lawn mower cuts off your foot, don't come running to me.'

21. My mother taught me HOW TO BECOME AN ADULT .
'If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll never grow up.'

22. My mother taught me GENETICS.
'You're just like your father.'

23. My mother taught me about my ROOTS.
'Shut that door behind you.. Do you think you were born in a barn?'

24. My mother taught me WISDOM.
'When you get to be my age, you'll understand.'

25. And my favorite: My mother taught me about JUSTICE
'One day you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you.'

Happy Mother's Day!


Thursday, May 7, 2009


A few months ago I got an email from a relative of mine asking me to join one of those social networking sites.

It wasn't the first time I'd been asked to join a site like that. I'd gotten "invitations" from other friends over the last year or so. I always said no, as I just didn't want to spend the time keeping up with my profile/homepage and keeping track of what all my "friends" are doing. I'd also heard some horror stories about some of these sites. I didn't need or want the hassle!

I figured that I already had enough computer stuff on my plate as it was with this blog, a couple of message boards, emails, general reading and other web explorations - not to mention playing a few games! I've installed software that I haven't even had a chance to really learn how to use yet. Then there was all the non computer stuff like errands, cleaning, laundry, baking and other necessities of life that were sometimes taking a backseat to my computer time. I had to draw the line somewhere, didn't I?

I really didn't have the time or desire to join this site - but the person that asked me this time was someone who is close to my heart - not just because they are a family member but because they are a kind, intelligent, funny and loving human being that I don't get to see nearly as often as I'd like. They haven't asked a lot of me over the years and it is hard to stay up to date when you are a few thousand miles apart. This would be a good way to keep in touch with them and their family. So, I decided to take a look around the site and see what it was all about.

To do that properly, I had to create an account. I could always cancel it if I didn't feel completely comfortable with it. I was pleasantly surprised to see just how much I could customize the various settings and notifications. There were also a number of ways to keep personal info such as birthday, location, and contact info private. You didn't have to display a real pic of yourself or even allow yourself to be found in general searches or even be seen as a friend of someone if you didn't want to be seen/found. No one can see your page if they aren't one of your friends if you mark it in your settings. You don't have to accept friend requests or even acknowledge someone if you don't want to. You can even choose to ignore friends if they bug you too much!

Hmm, this might not be so bad after all. I can be a hermit when I want to be and social when and with whom I want to be. I could live with that. I accepted my relatives request and sent a few requests to people who had asked me to join in the past.

I started looking for some people from my past - just to see who was there. I looked not only for people that I wanted to reconnect with but also for names of people that I didn't particularly want to be in touch with again. People whom I knew as a kid, or through the religious past or had just been part of my life at some point. Let's be honest here, some people are part of the past for a good reason.

I was actually quite surprised by how many people I was able to find and how blatantly open some were with their information on full display for anyone to see. Most, I found through friends of friends. I looked for more unique names first, then looked at their friends list if it was visible. That made it easier to find the right person among the dozens of similar names like Jane Doe and John Smith.

There were a few people that I really hoped I'd find. People whom I'd been close to at various times in my life and through the natural course of things had gradually lost touch with. I wasn't sure about contacting some, as it had been a long time. I knew how much I had changed and wondered how much they had. Would they even remember me or would we have anything in common other than a past acquaintance? I had "Googled" a few names over the past year or so, and really hadn't had a lot of luck finding the people I wanted to, but this was different. This site would connect me directly with people I hadn't seen in years. That can be a little scary and intimidating.

The first person I sent a note to was a friend I had lost touch with about 10 years ago. We had been close friends for a number of years, but our lives were headed in different directions and we just slowly lost touch.

I also wrote a short note to say hello to someone I hadn't talked to in 25 years. We had met working at summer camp in the mid 1970's. It was one of those friendships where you click instantly and we were close friends for about 10 years, before we lost touch around 1984.

Before I sent each note, I took a deep breath and then hit the send button. I hoped that I wasn't making a big mistake. Well, I didn't have wait long for answers. When I checked in the next day, there were answers from both of them.

The lost friend of 10 years was really glad to hear from me and we are getting reacquainted via emails as they no longer live in the city. Over the years they had taught me a lot about life, love, acceptance, politics and music. I have really missed this persons insights, opinions and humour and am thankful to have them in my life again..

The lost friend of 25 years, was also thrilled to hear from me and had always wondered where I had wound up and what I was doing! We chatted by emails for a couple of weeks and then met for drinks one frosty winter evening. We talked non stop for three hours. We have both changed a lot, but we also still have a lot in common. Neither of us wants this friendship to drift away again.

Through those two I have found a few other lost friends. It feels good to have these people in my life again. I haven't sent or received a lot of "invitations" and that is fine with me.

I want to keep this whole reconnecting thing simple and real. I'm not going to connect just for the sake of connecting. Some people have hundreds of friends but that isn't my style. I don't want this to get out of hand to the point of accepting friend invitations from people just because they know someone I do - or having so many friends that I can't keep track of them all. To me that would defeat the whole purpose of me joining this social networking craze.

There are still a few people I would like to find and see how life has been treating them all these years, but I'm going to take this slowly and enjoy getting to know my renewed old friendships!

I guess I owe my relative a big THANK YOU for getting me started on reconnecting!


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sylvester and Tweety

62 years ago today, two of the most beloved animated characters co-starred in their first picture together in "Tweety Pie" This synopsis is taken from page 174/175 of "Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies - A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Brothers Cartoons" by Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald.

As I told you back on March 24, Sylvester made his screen debut in "Life with Feathers" in 1945.

Tweety had made his debut as an unnamed character in "A Tale of Two Kitties" on November 21, 1942 (6:38). The little birdie was featherless and a little harsher in character but the mannerisms and phrasing is most definitely Tweety! He was pursued by two cats named Babbit and Castello (a takeoff on Abbot and Costello). His second feature was "Birdy and The Beast" which was released on August 19, 1944 (7:25) also features a featherless and nameless bird. The unnamed cat could easily be a close relative of Sylvester. "A Gruesome Twosome" (June 9, 1945) was his last cartoon without feathers and also the last before he is permanently paired with Sylvester.

Together the two starred in over 40 animated shorts:
Tweety Pie (1947)
I Taw A Puddy Tat (1948)
Bad Ol' Ouddy Tat (1949)
Home Tweet Home (1950)
All Abir-r-r-d! (1950)
Canary Row (1950)
Putty Tat Trouble (1951)
Room and Bird (1951)
Tweety's S.O.S. (1951)
Tweet Tweet Tweety (1951)
Gift Wrapped (1952)
Ain't She Tweet (1952)
Bird in a Guilty Cage (1952)
Snow Business (1953)
Fowl Weather (1953)
Tom Tom Tomcat (1953)
A Street Cat Named Sylvester (1953)
Catty Cornered (1953)
Dog Pounded (1954)
Muzzle Tough (1954)
Satan's Waitin' (1954)
Sandy Claws (1955)
Tweety's Circus (1955)
Red Riding Hoodwinked (1955)
Tweet and Sour (1956)
Tree Cornered Tweety (1956)
Tugboat Granny (1956)
Tweet Zoo (1957)
Tweety and the Beanstalk (1957)
Birds Anonymous (1957)
Greedy For Tweety (1957)
A Pizza Tweety Pie (1958)
A Bird in a Bonnet (1958)
Trick or Tweet (1959)
Tweet and Lovely (1959)
Tweet Dreams (1959)
Hyde and Go Tweet (1960)
Trip For Tat (1960)
Rebel Without Claws (1961)
The Last Hungry Cat (1961, spoof of Alfred Hitchcock Presents)
The Jet Cage (1962)
Hawaiian Aye Aye (1964)
Carrotblanca (1995)

Sylvester and Tweety also made cameo appearances in several Looney Tunes retrospectives and specials, as well as on the big screen in movies like: "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?", "Space Jam" and "Looney Tunes: Back in Action"

They also costarred in the Warner Brothers cartoon series called "The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries" which ran for 53 episodes from September 9, 1995 – December 13, 2002. In this series, Granny was a renowned detective who traveled around the world with Sylvester, Tweety and a bulldog named Hector who helped her solve cases when they weren't getting into mischief! Although it was not quite as witty as the original cartoons, there was a still a lot of great rapport and topical references mixed in with the humour.

I came across this video on YouTube called "The Sylvester and Tweety Song". The creator goes by the name of toocute4you2 and obviously spent a lot of time adding just the right pictures to the song. I don't know for sure when the song was originally recorded and could not verify if the voice is that of Mel Blanc, but I have my doubts. The Sylvester is fairly close, but the Tweety doesn't quite sound like the way Mel Blanc would do it. Even so, it is a very cute little ditty and a very fitting tribute to this lovable duo!

Happy Anniversary Sylvester and Tweety!