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January 19 2017Over The Rainbow
It doesn’t always happen that a great song immediately finds its great singer. The mating helps when composers write with a particular performer in mind. As happened when Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein wrote “Old Man River” for Paul Robeson.
Robeson, however, was on a European tour when “Show Boat” opened in 1928. It wasn’t until Show Boat was revived in 1934 that Robeson got to sing it for a live audience.
Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg should have had an easy time when MGM hired them to write music for “Wizard of Oz.” MGM already had fourteen year old Judy Garland under contract. But some studio bigwigs wanted a bigger name.
“Oz” was to be the most expensive movie MGM had ever made, and they wanted a sure hit. They flirted with number one star Shirley Temple of Fox and operatic Deanna Durbin of Universal. Fortunately, Judy won out because of economy, not vocal timbre.
Actually “Over the Rainbow” almost did not get written. Arlen and Harburg had completed the plot-related songs like “Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead”; “We’re Off to See the Wizard”; and the “Merry Old Land of Oz.”
Arlen, however, felt a song was needed to balance these, “something with a sweep, a melody with a broad long line.” While driving along Sunset Boulevard the tune came to him. He stopped in front of Schwab’s Drug Store and wrote the music down.
Kip Harburg was not enthused by the melody. He felt it out of place. Too grand for a little girl to be singing and it clashed with the simplicity and lightness of the other songs. Arlen got a second opinion from Ira Gershwin who liked it, which convinced Yarburg. He wrote the lyrics and titled the melody “Over the Rainbow.”
However, the song was almost cut from the completed film. Producers felt the movie too long for the targeted audience of children, and “ Over the Rainbow” would be over their heads. Assistant producer Arthur Freed, a songwriter himself, and Director Victor Fleming argued for it. The reprise at the conclusion, however, was cut.
Ray Bolger was the original Tin Man and Buddy Ebson (Jed Clampett) the Straw Man. But Bolger wanted to be Straw, so they switched. Ebson was allergic to the aluminum paste of the Tin Man costume, so production was shut down until Jack Haley was found. Haley made a new recording of “If I Only Had a Heart” but Ebson’s voice can still be heard in group vocals.
“Over the Rainbow” won the Academy Award for best song. And as sung by Judy Garland was named the number one show tune of the Twentieth Century, ahead of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” Paul Robeson’s “Old Man River” was not on the list of 365.
Bill Haley and the Comets “Rock Around the Clock” was #12; Jerry Lee Lewis “Great Balls of Fire” #64. “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard was #140, quite a bit ahead of Enrico Caruso’s “Vesti la Giubba” at #329.
Caruso did beat out “Doo Wop” which ranked only #359. But “September Song” sung or spoken by Walter Huston made no showing at all.
January 19 2017
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Now is a good time to clean your garden tools
If you did not get your garden tools cleaned before you put them away, now is a good time to clean and sharpen them. Good tools are not cheap, so take good care of them so they will last forever. Clean sharp tools are much easier to use and you can do a better job with them.
All you need is a bucket of water, soap (dish soap will do) and a steel brush or steel wool. Gather up your trowel, shovels, hoes and hand pruners. Soak them in the water so that the dried soil will turn into mud Now use the steel brush to get them nice and clean. You might need an old tooth brush to get into the cracks and crevices. If there is any rust,, use the steel wool to remove it.
After they have completely dried, use a file to sharpen them. They work better with a sharp edge. Once they are cleaned and sharpened they should be covered with a fine layer of oil to prevent rust. A rag soaked with WD-40 does a good job. If some of the tool handles blend in with the grass and are hard to see, you can paint the handles with a bright color.
Also check the handles, for most of the wood handles, you can use fine sand paper to get rid of the potential splinters. Then use a rag soaked with linseed oil to coat the handle. On the fiberglass handles, you can use superfine steel wool to smooth them. You do not need to use linseed oil on them.
Also make sure your hand tools, saws and loppers are cleaned, sharpened and oiled.
When the right weather gets here you are ready to go.
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by Jim Bennett • firstname.lastname@example.org
January 19 2017
Open Letter to Reps. Davis, LaHood
DEAR RODNEY Davis and Darin LaHood: I am writing you simultaneously since you are both Republicans with constituents in and around my hometown of Bloomington-Normal.
Now that your party has control of both houses of Congress and the White House as well, will you use that advantage for real leadership, or just the latest, best opportunity for extended attempts to undermine and/or discredit Barack Obama? There are extremists in your party who long to do precisely that, content to use the intoxicating GOP majority for political purposes.
Unfortunately, Donald Trump does not come with an owner’s manual. True leadership will require you to write one for him. It won’t be easy.
I’m sure you both (as well as many of your Republican colleagues) are swallowing hard each time the new president lashes out sixth-grader style on Twitter when someone dares to criticize him.
Somehow, you’re going to have to stifle the better angels of your nature to support the man who believes we should build a “great wall” along our southern border, who disgraced himself by mocking a disabled reporter, who has advocated killing all the family members of captured terrorists, who has dismissed Republican Senator John McCain’s military service, and even boasted about groping women without fear of reprisal due to his celebrity status. I could go on, but then so could you.
IN SHORT, your role—unwelcome thought it may seem—will be writing that manual to mentor Trump in the ways and means of grownup behavior. You’ll have to teach him that, like a child, he can’t always get his way.
The best way to do this may be to show by example. And the best place to start may be health care reform. The GOP’s mad rush to “repeal and replace” Obamacare as soon as the gavel falls may satisfy a political agenda, but real leadership would require a careful, measured approach.
You’re in a unique position to demonstrate to Trump, and the American people, your seriousness by keeping the following in mind:
1. Millions of Americans have health insurance coverage due exclusively to the establishment of the state and federal exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act. These people are your constituents; you represent them (and presumably their best interests). Many are terrified that repealing the ACA will deprive them of coverage and thus put their health care on hold.
2. “Repealing” Obamacare immediately, without a well-defined alternative, is reckless. If Republicans have a plan to “replace” the ACA, make it available for inspection by Congressional members of both parties as well as the public. This would not merely be responsibly cautionary, it would serve, at least in some measure, to reassure those millions o™f Americans currently dependent on the exchanges or Medicaid.
3. MOVING AHEAD carefully and deliberately is not surrender. Rather, it fulfills a long-standing Republican history of working for a privatized mandate for the nation’s health care. As Republicans, you have owned the basic principles of Obamacare for more than 40 years. From Richard Nixon to Bob Dole to Mitt Romney, the template for the ACA was a Republican goal. You can own it again.
4. Many parts of the ACA have the approval of Donald Trump as well as several Republican leaders. These parts would include the coverage mandate for those with pre-existing health conditions, keeping young adults on their parents’ policies, eliminating the “caps” previously imposed on long-term illness costs, and reining in the budget-busting costs of prescription drugs. Heck, even Medicare Part D is an important Republican initiative.
Rather than “repeal and replace,” why not work for meaningful reform? “Review and refine” would be a mature, bipartisan approach already favored by many of your Republican colleagues. Even Obama himself would endorse (has endorsed) this strategy.
5. What’s the rush? Long-standing spleen for Obama? The urge to provide a portion of your constituency with instant gratification? Promises to big insurance and big pharma? None of these motives arises from a commitment to actual leadership or the well being of the American people.
As for that Great Wall, I assume that you, as budget-hawk Republicans, would be disinclined to appropriate the billions of dollars necessary to build it, especially since we already have some 700 miles of border fencing in place. Forcing Mexico to pay for the wall has never been anything but a pipe dream. But you already knew that.
You will both need some courage. Donald Trump will probably tweet all over you and other Republicans who choose a deliberate, measured path. Like I said, being a parent is never easy.
The Rest is Still Unrwritten
by John Colclasure of Lexington
January 19 2017
More Than A Game
As of this writing The Mclean County Tournament is well underway and one of two teams is usually in the championship game. That would be either Lexington or Ridgeview (formerly Octavia, remember them?) One of the most frequent questions that I am asked is, “Who was the best to have played in this century-old tournament?” I’m sure that everyone has their favorite and many may have the same ones. But for me, that question becomes harder year-after-year. Just as with the game of football, baseball and even basketball, things do not remain the same. While the game does not change, the players, coaches and the fans do. After all it is more than a game and I have written a piece about it in January of 2010 in a Lexingtonian in an article entitled “More than a Game” Who was the best??? While it’s true that I once bled maroon and white (Octavia High School), today I can proudly reveal that I bleed only one color and that is “PURPLE.” Thus, there really are only two of whom I would choose as the best: Steve Laub of Octavia and Fred Hardman of Lexington.
The Players: While Steve Laub was the best I saw play at Octavia, there were several others who played during my time that were none too shabby either. Great players and equally great individuals. Dennis Poppe who played for Missouri and in the Orange Bowl and after a 39-year career with the NCAA staff, retired as vice president of championships and alliances in 2014. Poppe ran the College World Series from 1987 to 2013, Dennis Kagel, captained Illinois Wesleyan and Troy Billingsley, (Assistant Fire Chief with the Bloomington Fire Department until his untimely death) and Troy may have been the toughest (mentally and physically) I ever saw. He played with a cast on his left arm and the only player I ever saw that was his equal was Jack Youngblood who played in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XIV, with a stress fracture in left leg. He played with a broken leg! But my all-time favorite player/individual was Dave Orr. What a wonderful person he was. (played at Eastern Illinois and later coached at El Paso, Illinois for 10 seasons. (Dave unfortunately passed away on December 28, 2016 at the age of 70) His 85-86 team enjoyed a 24 and 3 season.
The “Duke” and the Rest: Octavia enjoyed great success over the years and the record book validates that claim. Those teams men played for some great coaches, (Loren Laub; Charles Brannon; Ralph Sackett and Don Carlson) winning 71% of their games The Ralph Sackett era recorded the highest winning percentage during his tenure. Great coaches and great players win. Great coaches and good players win. Poor coaches and poor players lose, as does great coaches and poor players. So it helps to have great players. Octavia has had their share. Perhaps more.
Lexington, on the other hand, does not, and never has taken a back seat to anyone. Thanks to Rick Stepheys’ book, “Lexington High School basketball 1900 – 2004” validates this claim as well. Our boys come to play and they play the way the game is taught to be played. Just ask anyone who has been asked to step into Coach Towner’s office. The room gets kind of small doesn’t it? I didn’t get enough time to study all three of the scrapbooks at the Lexington Public Library on Coach Towner, and have not completely read through Mr. Stepheys book either. But I do know this... the “Duke”was 48 and 12 at Gridley from 1943 through 1945. That’s 80% of his games. The rural area had a lot of great coaches. But again I digress. Back to Lexington coaches. They had a player in 1959 by the name of Al Pickering. Besides his coaching credential he was named Dean Emeritus at Lincoln College in 2001. Just as with Octavia, the consistency and continuity of its coaches, plus a steady influx of coachable players paid off for Coach Towner and his assistant coach Don Eiker who became head coach in 1969 (41 seasons totaling a winning percentage of 62%)
The Best there was... without question it has to be Fred Hardman. He averaged over 30 points per game in 1964-65 season and scored 57 points in an overtime victory against Minonk. He totaled 848 points his senior year and he went on to play for Indiana State University.
What I remember the most about the good ole days was the rivalry between Octavia and Lexington, the McLean County Tournament and the TRAVELING TROPHY. I can still remember walking into McCormick Gymnasium for the first time. It seemed huge! At the north end of the court was a large board in the shape of McLean County and every town/team listed with a light bulb beside or above the name. Each time a team lost the light went out! I’ll always remember the cheerleaders from Lexington. Doing the locomotion cheer. They were the best and they still are. The games were on WJBC and every game was broadcast live. It was thrilling. But those days seem so long ago and it no longer matters whether Octavia or Lexington won.It’s now just a memory or tucked away somewhere in a yearbook. What remains are those relationships that were built back then and live on today. Kids that I remember that are men today. Hugh Freed, Hank Janes, John Brown; George Jones; Jim Lindholm; Ed Brucker; Fred Hardman and a lanky kid by the name of Ed Pyne. Those were solid teams.
In 1969, The Pantagraph Traveling Trophy was presented to Coach E.W. “Duke” Towner and deservedly so. Unfortunately, the traveling trophy was destroyed several years ago in the fire at Lexington High School. Pictures and trophies ultimately perish, but the memories live on. Thanks coaches for the difference that you have made in the lives of your kids.
Till next time…john
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