Past masters: Jim Croce

“Which Way Are You Goin’?” Jim knew the score, even 40 years ago.

Which way are you going, which side will you be on?
Will you stand and watch while all the seeds of hate are sown?
Will you stand with those who say, “Let his will be done”
One hand on the bible
One hand on the gun
One hand on the bible
One hand on the gun

Which way are you looking, is it hard to see?
Do you say what’s wrong for him, is not wrong for me?
You walk the streets, righteousness but you refuse to understand
You say you love the baby
Then you crucify the man
You say you love the baby
Then you crucify the man

Every day things are changing, words once honored turned to lies
People wondering, can you blame them
It’s too far to run, and too late to hide

So now you turn your back on all the things that you used to preach
Now it’s “Let him live in freedom, if he lives like me”
Well your light has changed, confusion reigns; what have you become?
All your olive branches turned to spears
When your flowers turned to guns
Your olive branches turned to spears
When your flowers turned to guns


Past masters: Gerry Rafferty

Image from telegraph.co.uk

One of the best songs of 1979: “Days Gone Down (Still Got That Light In Your Eyes).”

Scorching guitar solo from the legendary Richard Thompson.

(The video maker has a thing for Danica McKellar. Don’t know how it fits with the song necessarily, but she is quite easy on the eyes.)


Past masters: Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera (and Shug Fisher)

From the 1955 MGM cartoon “Pecos Pest.”

Uncle Pecos got him some mad movez!

From Wikipedia:

The song has been heard by many people (as “Froggie Went A-Courtin'”) in the 1955 Tom and Jerry cartoon “Pecos Pest,” which uses a version arranged and performed by Shug Fisher, in character as “Uncle Pecos.” In Pecos Pest, Jerry’s Uncle Pecos stays with him while getting ready for a television appearance, and continues to pluck Tom’s whiskers to use as guitar strings throughout the cartoon. It is an improvised version with many lyrics that are unintelligible, and many changed. For example, he stutters and gives up when he tries to say “hickory tree” and says “way down yonder by the–,” stammers out the names of several types of trees, finally settling (ironically) on “eucalyptus.” He also mentions while continuing the music “That’s the hard part right in there, n-n-n-n-nephew!” and “there’s a yodel in thar somewhar, but it’s a little too high f’r me.”

Some refer to this song as “Crambone” as it is repeated at the end of many lines and said more clearly than the other words in this version. For example the line is “Froggie went a-courtin’ he did ride/Crambone.” Fisher, in character as Pecos, delivers the coda with a glottal stutter on the letter c.

(Clip from MGM or Time-Warner or Sony or whoever the hell holds the rights these days.)


Past masters: Ernest Hemingway

image from topsecretwriters.com

“The world breaks everyone; and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.” – A Farewell To Arms


Past masters: G.K. Chesterton

The Great Minimum

It is something to have wept as we have wept,
It is something to have done as we have done,
It is something to have watched when all men slept,
And seen the stars which never see the sun.

It is something to have smelt the mystic rose,
Although it break and leave the thorny rods,
It is something to have hungered once as those
Must hunger who have ate the bread of gods.

To have seen you and your unforgotten face,
Brave as a blast of trumpets for the fray,
Pure as white lilies in a watery space,
It were something, though you went from me today.

To have known the things that from the weak are furled,
Perilous ancient passions, strange and high;
It is something to be wiser then the world,
It is something to be older then the sky.

In a time of sceptic moths and cynic rusts,
And fattened lives that of their sweetness tire
In a world of flying loves and fading lusts,
It is something to be sure of a desire.

Lo, blessed are our ears for they have heard;
Yea, blessed are our eyes for they have seen:
Let the thunder break on man and beast and bird
And the lightning. It is something to have been.


Past masters: Charles Schulz

Charlie Brown’s baseball hero is Joe Shlabotnik. He wants Joe’s bubble gum card in the worst way. Thwarted.

Image from Peanuts Worldwide


Past masters: Francis Albert Sinatra

“It’s Sunday”

clip from Youtube


Past masters: Kurt Vonnegut

Image from ethos3.com

From the Letters Of Note blog:

“In October of 1973, Bruce Severy — a 26-year-old English teacher at Drake High School, North Dakota — decided to use Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, as a teaching aid in his classroom. The next month, on November 7th, the head of the school board, Charles McCarthy, demanded that all 32 copies be burned in the school’s furnace as a result of its ‘obscene language.’ Other books soon met with the same fate. On the 16th of November, Kurt Vonnegut sent McCarthy the following letter. He didn’t receive a reply.”

I was a senior in high school that fall. This was my age group Severy was trying to introduce to Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse-Five. One of those “it-can’t-happen-here” moments.


Past masters: Damon Runyon

One cold winter evening I am sitting in my easy chair reading a book, which is a very healthy pastime and a great character builder from all I hear. I wish to say I enjoy this book more than somewhat, as it is written by no one but a scribe known as Damon Runyon. At first Damon Runyon is known by all and everyone as a scribe in the newspaper dodge, and soon he begins to write stories about the guys and dolls such as are around and about Broadway.

Image from artprintimages.com

I am surprised no little that more citizens are not aware of the stories by the scribe Damon Runyon, as the guys and dolls such as are around and about Broadway are always of interest. A very popular television program in recent times tells the story of a family named Soprano, who reside in New Jersey and are known as coming guys in the waste management dodge. This is not a family which I will choose if I am doing the choosing, as I am a law-abiding citizen at all times, and am greatly opposed to citizens who violate the law. But before long it is clear that even citizens who violate the law have plenty of ticker and take care of their loved ones in their hearth and home in first-class style, at that.

And I wish to say that the guys and dolls in the stories by the scribe Damon Runyon also have plenty of ticker, and yet are ones of whom you would like to retain their friendship. You cannot help only to like these guys and dolls if you are an ordinary human being, such as has always liked hearing about such matters as influential citizens and wet merchandise.

Damon Runyon is such a scribe as can describe guys and dolls in ways you are not forgetting same. He writes as follows, and to wit:

“If I have all the tears that are shed on Broadway by guys in love, I will have enough salt water to start an opposition ocean to the Atlantic and Pacific, with enough left over to run the Great Salt Lake out of business. But I wish to say I never shed any of these tears personally, because I am never in love, and furthermore, barring a bad break, I never expect to be in love, for the way I look at it, love is strictly the old phedinkus.”

“I can see the old love light shining so brightly in their eyes that I get to thinking that maybe money does not mean so much alongside of love, at that, although personally, I will take a chance on the money.”

“When a guy is knocking around Broadway he is bound to accumulate dolls here and there, but most guys accumulate one at a time, and when this one runs out on him, as Broadway dolls will do, he accumulates another, and so on, and so on, until he is too old to care about such matters as dolls, which is when he is maybe a hundred and four years old, although I hear of several guys who beat even this record.”

Image from india.com

Image from india.com

As should not be a surprise to anyone many motion pictures and plays are made from stories by the scribe Damon Runyon, including a well-known musical extravaganza known as “Guys And Dolls,” but I wish to say I do not care for any part of well-known musical extravaganzas, as I believe them to be the phonus bolonus. Although it is known far and wide that the motion picture of “Guys And Dolls” features a guy by the moniker of Brando, and another guy by the moniker of Sinatra, who are regarded as a couple of right gees at that.

So I suggest and recommend that you find and read the stories by the scribe Damon Runyon, as they are high-grade merchandise indeed, if you are such a citizen as will enjoy a good story. And I wish to say that if you do not enjoy them, then you must be such a citizen as will never enjoy much of anything in this world.


Past masters: “Uncle Shelby’s A B Z Book” by Shel Silverstein

I no longer can start my day without the transcendent, exquisite blog authored by Girl On The Contrary (or GOTC, as we fawning fanboys know her). If this were a just world she and I would sit together at the table each morning and she would read it to me over a breakfast of Grand Marnier French toast, Scottish smoked salmon, figs and cream with hazelnut syrup, freshly pressed Kopi Luwak coffee… and a bowl of Cap’n Crunch. Part of this complete breakfast. I’d smile beatifically at her and chuckle ardently over the parts I’d hear above the Crunch of the Cap’n. Such would be my devotion. But this isn’t a just world. Yet.

I digress. (Keep off digress! Goldang kids…)

What solidified my dedication to the contrary girl was a recent post wherein she revealed her love for the works of the estimable Shel Silverstein. She reviewed “Every Thing On It,” a just-published collection of not-yet-released poems and drawings.

Instantly I was catapulted back to grade 10, where my friend Randy Mikkelsen (read his blog, folks, it’s awesome) introduced me to Shel. Well, not literally (neither the catapulting nor the introduction).  He lent me his copy of “Uncle Shelby’s A B Z Book,” Shel’s first original collection from back in 1961. I was amazed. This was a subversive work. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it helped shape my early moral judgments.

Image from blogspot.com

I hadn’t even heard Shel’s name before that introduction. I had heard “The Unicorn” and “A Boy Named Sue” on the radio, “Boa Constrictor” sung in the schoolyard, and “Cover Of The Rolling Stone” hadn’t yet been recorded, and even so I hadn’t a clue that he had anything to do with any of them.

Wikipedia has this to say:

First published in 1961, it is sometimes described as “subversive.” The cover on some editions of the book read “A primer for adults only” while other editions read “A primer for tender young minds” instead. Much of the humor derives from a cynical drive to give the reader misleading, harmful advice.

Subversive indeed, in an empowering way for adolescents figuring out that what they were told as kids was not necessarily reliable. Examples tell the story better than I can.

“W” is for wish. Do you want to get your wish?

When your tooth falls out, put it under your pillow and make a wish. In the morning the tooth will be gone and there will be a shiny new dime under the pillow.

OK, now you have 10¢. How can you get $3.20?

– – –

“R” is for red. The fire is red. The fire engine is red. The fireman’s hat is red.

Does the fireman in the red hat come to your house in his red fire engine? No?

Too bad the fireman only goes to places where there is a fire.

– – –

“H” is for hole. See the hole. The hole is deep. You can bury things in the hole.

See the toaster. You can bury the toaster in the hole.

See the car keys. You can bury the car keys in the hole.

See Grandma’s teeth. See Daddy’s shoe. See Mommy’s diamond ring.

Oh-oh – – – little sister* sees you burying things in the hole. Maybe she will snitch on you and you will get a licking.

What else can you bury in the hole…..?*

– – –

“K” is for kidnapper. See the nice kidnapper. The kidnapper has a lollipop.

The kidnapper has a keen car. The car can go fast.

Tell the nice kidnapper that your daddy has lots of money. Then maybe he will let you ride in his car.

Subsequently I shared it with my best friend John, and he shared it with other friends, and so on and so on. Soon we all would recite long passages of it to one another, like secret passwords in the Underground Resistance. In much later life I have bestowed it as gifts to many, many new parents, more than I can count.

Later in life I enjoyed Shel’s more conventional works such as “Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back,” and “The Giving Tree,” and “The Missing Piece,” and “A Light In The Attic,” and “Where The Sidewalk Ends,” and many many more. But my introduction to Shel remains my favorite of his many creative works.

So again I must thank that lovely contrarian for allowing me this trip in the Way-Back Machine. I hope to return the favor some day.