Saturday, December 2, 2006

For this week's musical feature we have a return engagement by one of my favorites. This morning while shopping I found this CD, just released, with Chente's first new studio recording session in a couple of years. I'm happy to report that the king of ranchera music is still the king. As usual, the great voice is accompanied by talented musicians playing great arrangements, mostly by Pedro Ramirez. And also as usual, only real instuments are allowed, with no synthesizers or other electronic contamination. In September I wondered whether Vicente Fernandez would be doing any U.S. concerts in the near future. I went online and found that he would be appearing in Dallas in October. But the only tickets still available were being scalped at prices ranging from $286 to over $600. I decided I'll listen to him by CD and by radio for now. Maybe I can remember to keep checking for future concerts and get a ticket at a normal price before they sell out.

Today was a bit of a bummer. Since the turn signals on my VW quit, I drove up to Wichita and bought a shop manual that has diagrams and troubleshooting directions. If I had come straight home, all would have been well, but I made the mistake of going to the hardware store and having a spare key made. When I got home I went to the VW and put the key in the ignition switch to try it out. I turned the key, but it would only turn a little way. When I tried to turn it back, it wouldn't turn at all. So the power to the accesories was on, and couldn't be turned off. No amount of jiggling or wobbling the key would turn it, and it wouldn't come out so I could use the old key. I ended up using a visegrip to yank the key out, but that messed up the lock so I couldn't get the old key in to shut off the juice. Finally I just disconnected the battery. Now I have to take down the steering column and remove the lock, and hope a locksmith can fix it. If not, I'll have to buy a replacement lock.


Sunday, December 3, 2006

Not much going on today. Just did some grocery shopping and took Andy for a walk. I would have gone for firewood, but I want to wait a few days for more of the snow to melt. After three days of cold, most of it is still on the ground and covering a lot of the downed trees I need to cut.


Tuesday, December 5, 2006

This afternoon I removed the VW steering wheel, took down the steering column, and took out the ignition lock. A locksmith said there was nothing he could do for it, so I'll have to take one out of the parts car. I thought I'd be driving that bug by now, but as somebody once observed, life is just one damned thing after another.


Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Well, instead of attacking the parts car for an ignition switch, I decided to see if I could figure out some way to fix the broken one. This afternoon I figured out how to take it apart, and now I have to study it to see how it's supposed to work. If I can manage that, then maybe I can fix it. I really would like to get that car working so I could have something to drive when the Buick is in the shop for maintenance or repair.


Friday, December 8, 2006

After working on the lock for a couple of days, I got it working again. This afternoon I took it to a jeweler to see if he could solder back a part that was originally crimped on. If he can manage that, then I'll be ready to go to work on the turn signals.


Saturday, December 9, 2006

Here it is. This is the CD that caused all the uproar. "How dare they sing our national anthem in SPANISH?!" Well, I'd say the performances for the most part are pretty good. The national anthem is the last of twelve songs, some of which are to my taste and some of which are not. With an anthology containing the work of various performers, it's not a surprise that a listener would like some and not others. Some of the songs here are too much like current American pop music for my taste. On the other hand, I found others very listenable, like Ramon Ayala's Ahí Viene la Migra, Pablo Milanes's Exodo, and the Kumbia Kings' Mi Gente. That brings us to the grand finale. There are three versions of the Himno Nacional (national anthem). The first features twenty pop singers and groups, each singing one or two lines of the song. Even with a couple of lines unfortunately delivered a la rap, for the most part these folks do a fine job. Current pop music in any language is not my cup of tea, so I've never heard of most of these people, but there's a lot of singing on key and with good harmony. The second version of the song is billed as a remix featuring P-Star. I have no idea who or what that is. It's definitely not John McCormack. But again, considering that it's done pop-style, it's not bad. Finally, there's an instrumental version for those who don't need to hear any words at all. But what about the larger question of whether The Star Spangled Banner should be sung in any language other than English? The people who performed this Spanish language version saw it as a patriotic expression of love and respect. Conversely, others say this is an English-speaking country, and the song should only be sung in English. I don't get my shorts in a bunch over this. The people who speak French in Louisiana, the folks in South Dakota who speak Lakota, or those in Arizona who speak Navajo or Hopi, or those in New Mexico whose families have spoken Spanish since before there was a United States of America, are all Americans, and just as patriotic as anybody else. If they want to sing the national anthem in any of those other languages the message is still the same. I say more power to them.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Well, what a weekend! Yesterday morning I went to town and picked up my repaired lock cylinder at the jeweler's. When I got home, I decided to take advantage of the warm weather (over 50º) to gather some firewood. I loaded the chainsaw in the truck and drove down to the woodlot. Then I remembered that I had the repaired lock cylinder in my coat pocket. I didn't want it to fall out and get lost, so I thought I'd put it up on the dashboard in the truck where I'd see it when it was time to leave. Of course, it fell off the dash. I heard it hit the floor once and bounce into oblivion. Was it on the floor? I took out everything that was on the floor. Not there. On the seat? I took out everything that was on the seat. Not there. Did it go under the seat? I took out the seat. Not there. Did it bounce into the space around the gear shift lever and land on top of the transmission? I took up the floorboard over the transmission. Not there. Did it roll off the transmission onto the ground? I moved the truck and looked all over the ground. I didn't see it. I decided I would probably have to start the VW with a screwdriver until I could find another lock cylinder. I gave up the search and spent the rest of the afternoon cutting firewood.

This morning I went out back and warmed up by splitting firewood. After a while I took a break and walked down to the woodlot where I lost my lock cylinder yesterday. There it was, lying on the ground and shining in the sun. Its position between the tire tracks told me what had happened. It hit the floor, bounced through the opening around the shift lever, and rolled off the transmission onto the ground. I didn't waste any time putting it to work. I reassembled the lock and installed it, and found that it works better than it did before I wrecked it and had to fix it. With the lock back in, I got the turn signals working again, though I don't know what I did that made them work. Anyway, the ignition works, and the signals work, so now I can drive the car. That leaves only the horn not working. I hope my good luck continues, so I can get it working this week.

So now I'm spending the evening watching Ed Sullivan. Well, not exactly. Raul Velasco was the Ed Sullivan of Mexico. His show, Siempre en Domingo (Always on Sunday), was on TV from 1969 to 1998. Since he died November 26, Univision is reshowing a four hour tribute that was first aired in October. It's a parade of performances by major stars like Ricky Martin, La India Maria, Vicente Fernandez, and Marco Antonio Muñiz. It's the kind of show that these days would be seen on American TV only on PBS.


Friday, December 15, 2006

This week I drove the VW to work. I got the turn signals working last weekend and cleaned out a lot of clutter that had collected in the car. I also bought a new radio which I hope I can get installed this weekend. The old radio still works, but it's a cheap one with poor reception. The new one should be better at bringing in distant or lower power stations, and it has a CD player.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Everybody knows 1812, and this recording with the New Philharmonia Orchestra, Cathedral and Children's choirs of Saint Ambrose, Central Band of the Royal Air Force, Guns of the King's Troop, Royal Artillery, and Russian church bells, delivers the fireworks in fine style. Much less famous than Tchaikovsky's orchestral spectacular is Beethoven's earlier venture into the same arena. This is a classic recording from the early days of stereo LP's, digitally remastered. Even if you've never heard the piece before, you'll hear familiar melodies. After a bugle call from the English side, the English army marches up to the tune of Rule Brittania. This is answered by the French bugle call and Marlborough, familiar to Amercians as The Bear Went Over the Mountain. After a couple more bugle calls, the battle commences, complete with cannon. The battle is followed by the six and a half minute victory symphony, which ends the piece with plenty of orchestral pyrotechnics. Music critics are much less impressed by Wellington's Victory than by Beerthoven's more famous works. Even if this is not Beethoven's best work musically, it's great fun. And since Beethoven is the greatest composer, even his lesser work is better than most other composers' best.

Today was a day off from the usual activities around here. I drove down to Tulsa for the commencement ceremony at Tulsa University, where my cousin Karl received his Phd in geology. After lunch with Karl and his wife, Lupe, and their youngest son, I took advantage of being in the big city by shopping for VW parts. Of the eight items on my list, five were in stock. When I learned that installing new door window scrapers requires removing the door panels, windows, and regulators, I decide to forego that operation until I'm ready to do a restoration. So I came home with four of the items in my wish list.


Friday, December 22, 2006

I've been pretty lax about doing any blogging lately, busying myself with working on the VW, collecting firewood, and working on my late Christmas letter. Since I always include pictures in mine, it takes time to find the photos I want to use, scan them, and compose the letter. I started it last January, then neglected it until December. Maybe next year I'll be better organized.


Saturday, December 23, 3006

Here's a CD produced by Rod McKuen, of all people, and it's just what the title says. Some of the biggest stars of the forties perform songs of the season. The greatest star of the forties, Bing Crosby, sings the quintessential Christmas song of the forties, I'll Be Home for Christmas. This was a great hit in the Christmas season of 1943, when American GI's were all over he world, dreaming of being home. Almost as big a hit is Judy Garland singing Have Yourself a Merrry Little Christmas, from Meet Me in Saint Louis. Anybody who was around at the time will know all the other performers here: Benny Goodman, Jo Stafford, Tommy Dorsey, Dick Haymes, Petula Clark, Frankie Carle, Dinah Shore, Lena Horne, and Perry Como. Not all the songs are familiar now, and maybe a couple deserve to be forgotten, but these great performers present the material in the best way possible.

I spent most of the day working on my Christmas letter, with a little time out to bring in wood.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

More work on the Christmas letter, until the printer ran out of ink. This afternoon my cousin Shane helped me work on the VW. It was one of those deals where you need an extra pair of hands to hold something in place. We reinstalled the wiper switch and discovered that all that had kept it from working was a disconnected ground. Now the wipers work as well as ever and I can drive in wet weather. Once that little chore was done, I drove down to Ponca City to buy printer ink. Wal-Mart quit selling cartridges for my printer, so I have to go thirty miles to Staples to get them.


Monday, December 25, 2006

With the printer back in business, I spent most of the day printing Christmas cards, writing on them, addressing envelopes, etc. This is the picture that I used on the card. It was taken a couple of winters ago when I was in the midst of working on the front porch roof and the upstairs windows. It's hard to see in the picture, but that's why there's plastic sheeting in place of windows.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

This morning I bought next year's candy. All the Christmas stuff was half price at the Wal-Mart, so I bought a few dozen bags of peanut M&M's and four boxes of chocolates. All of that will go in the freezer, and will last until next December 26.

With nice weather on the scene, I spent the afternoon cutting and splitting firewood.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Here's another example of why the conspiracy theory of history is a crock. The gas bill that came in the mail yesterday showed my gas usage as eleven times what it was the month before. I figured there must be a leak somewhere, so I called the gas company and they sent a guy out to check. He couldn't find any leak, but he noticed that the reading on the meter was a lot less than the number on the bill. The meter reader got it wrong. People who believe the world is controled by vast conspiracies on the part of the CIA, The Jews, The Liberals, The Phone Company, Hello Kitty, or whatever, assume a sudden, widespread outbreak of competence. The truth is that if a bunch of people are involved in a conspiracy, somebody will probably blow it. The more I see of screwups that take place every day in the normal course of human activity, the more amazing it is that anything works at all.

It was another day of nice weather, so after work I did some more firewood harvesting.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

The forecast is for moisture the next couple of days, so I took advantage of one more day of nice weather for a session of firewood gathering.


Friday, December 29, 2006

The last time it rained there were some leaks in he living room, so after work today I went up and applied some roof cement on all the cracks I could find. The test will come tonight, as the storm system that's been dumping snow on Colorado and Western Kansas is predicted to bring rain here.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

In his short career Thomas Wright Waller had a major impact on the world of American music. Fats Waller was not only a virtuoso pianist, but he was also a composer of great songs that became jazz standards. The most familiar of those songs are not here. Rather, this disc includes Waller performances of a few of his lesser known pieces and several better known songs by other composers. The songs by others include Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do, Love Me Or Leave Me, The Sheik of Araby, Stardust, Christopher Columbus, and S'Posin. Among the songs here are some acoustic recordings made by the nineteen-year-old Waller in 1923. At that point his life was already half over. Only twenty years later, overweight and cigarettes had done their work and Fats waller died in 1943. Fortunately Fats made a lot of recordings, so we can still enjoy his unique combination of dazzling artistry and great good humor. There have been other great piano players, but none as much fun as Fats Waller.


Sunday, December 31, 2006

I spent the last day of the year working on the website. In September I took a lot of pictures at the Gathering of the Orange in Booneville, MO. Today I finally got around to posting several pages of them on the website. It was a good day to work inside, as it snowed most of the day.With the temperature just above feezing, most of it melted right away.