Friday, December 28, 2012

A Poser’s Guide to Les Misérables

Everybody’s talking about the new film, Les Misérables. A bunch of singing by dirty, hungry French people.

Your significant other has been begging you to go see it. You really don’t want to. You want to see Jack Reacher. You’d even go see that Cirque du Soleil movie than see Les Misérables. But there’s part of you that wants to sound sophisticated the next time you get together with some of your friends.

Whether you saw it or not, you want to sound like you know something about it.

The real goal is not to sit through a two and a half hour movie but to sound like you have. Save yourself some money. There’s tickets, popcorn and soda. Probably dinner beforehand. Parking. You’re already $75 ahead.

So, this guide is for you. To be totally honest, I haven’t seen the movie. Nor have I seen the musical. Nor have I read the book.

What? There’s a book?

Yep, a book. It was published in 1862. A guy by the name of Victor Hugo wrote it.

Vick Hugo

When talking about Les Mis, you want to sound knowledgeable, but not too much. First thing is to know how to pronounce it. Lay Ms. That’s all.

You can go down to Barnes and Noble and buy a copy for $12.50. Or you can go to and download it for free. But who has time to read?

Here are some of the passages with which you should become familiar:
"The book the reader has now before his eyes - from one end to the other; in its whole and in its details, whatever the omissions, the exceptions, or the faults - is the march from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from the false to the true, from night to day, from appetite to conscience, from rottenness to life, from brutality to duty, from Hell to Heaven, from nothingness to God. Starting point: matter; goal: the soul. Hydra at the beginning, angel at the end."
"Cosette and Marius fell on their knees, overwhelmed, choked with tears, each grasping one of Jean Valjean's hands. Those noble hands moved no more. He had fallen back, the light from the candlesticks fell across him; his white face looked up toward heaven, he let Cosette and Marius cover his hands with kisses; he was dead. The night was starless and very dark. Without any doubt, in the gloom, some mighty angel was standing, with outstretched wings, waiting for the soul." 
Now, you don’t need to memorize all those words, but you should get the essence. This is a story about redemption and in the end, Jean Valjean dies.  See, pretty easy?

You probably should know some of the characters’ names.

You’ve already met Jean Valjean and Cosette. Javert, Fantine, and Enjolras. Try to say them with a French accent.

Jean Valjean is a convict. Javert is a policeman. Cossette is Fantine’s daughter. Enjolras is the leader of the Friends of the ABC. No, not a Jackson 5 fan club, but a revolutionary student group.

The story is set from 1815 to 1832 in and around Paris.

The characters in the movie sing a lot. An awful lot. I don’t think that they sing so much in the book.

Some things to say about the film are, “I liked the musical better. The film was good, but they did it all in a recording studio. There’s something about live music...”

“Wow, there are just some things that you can’t do on a stage. Did you see what the director did with that ship?”

“That was one of the best films I’ve seen all year. I see some Oscars being awarded.”

A memorable quote from Jean Valjean is:
“To love another person is to see the face of God.”

That should get you some points.

So, I could go on and on, but this is just supposed to get you by.

It is okay to be a poser.

And now you’re an informed poser.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Santa Rides In Airship

Los Angeles Herald - December 26, 1908

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Today, I'm the boss

        Today, I'm the boss

Today, November 4, 1952, I will walk into a voting booth just around the corner from home and tell everybody how I want my country run.

Today, I am the boss.

In a way, of course, I'm boss in my country every day of the year.  Government by the people, they say.  The people, when you come down to it, is me.

But I don't work full time at governing.  I've got my own job to do — a living to earn, a lawn to mow, kids to play with and bawl out and love and look after.  So, for the hard job of running the country, I hire other men — smarter fellows than myself, I hope, but with the same kind of heart and purpose.

They govern for me — but I keep tabs.  I listen to what they say.  I watch what they do.  It's a big country I live in, and there's room for different ways of looking at things. I vote for the people who see things as I do, and if enough other people agree, that the way thing gets done.

That's what it means to be the boss in your own country.

Now, there are places in the world where a man like me is not the boss.  They don't let him vote.  Or they march him to some public place and tell him whom to vote for.  I think the voiceless people of those lands are watching me as I leave my house today saying: "There goes a lucky man."

In this country of mine we love freedom so much, and hate force so much, that I am not even forced to vote.  I could stay home today if I liked.  I could sleep late and take it easy and let others doe the job of choosing.

I could — but who'd want to?  What spirited man or woman would loaf through a day like this, when he can go out and write boldly on the page of history: "Here's how I want things run in my country"?

No, today I am the boss and I must act like a boss.  Today, I must vote.  My freedom, my happiness, my pride as an American, are bound up in that simple and wonderful act.

John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company
Boston, Massachusetts

from a LIFE magazine, October 20, 1952 at Google Books.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Battle of Boyd's Creek Monument

I live about three miles from the location of The Battle of Boyd's Creek. The battle took place on December 16, 1780.  I've often passed this monument and stopped a few times. Earlier this month I took some photos.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

100th Straight

An article about a team that didn't do well. They finally broke the unbeaten string at 138 games. Harrison Chilhowee Baptist Academy (now The King's Academy) helped contribute to that string.  Here's a story by Vince Staten about their final twenty games or so.

The Dispatch - December 11, 1971

The News-Dispatch - February 16, 1973

images from Google

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Friday, June 29, 2012

Just South Of Village Limits

The North Countryman - July 2, 1931

The North Countryman - July 2, 1931

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hatfields & McCoys in books

Various contemporary books describe the feud.

Current Literature, November 1888

The Inter Ocean Curiosity Shop for the year 1890

The Southwestern Reporter
, 1890

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

More Hatfields & McCoys

I'm a bit taken with the History Channel's Hatfields & McCoys.  I know that the film makers are taking a bit of artistic liberty with the events.  That's okay.  I thought I'd see what the newspapers of the day were saying, so I visited Chronicling America.  I did a search for Hatfield McCoy and came up with 290 hits.  The paragraph from 1882 is the first mention that I could find.  There are articles about the feud at that site until 1921.

Lancaster Daily Intelligencer - August 14, 1882

Alexandria Gazette and Virginia Advertiser - January 14, 1888
The Big Stone Post - March 27, 1891
There are too many good articles to share, but here's a link to an interesting interview with "Cap" Hatfield with photos of some of the participants. 

The Evening Standard - December 31, 1910

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

There was no way Caesar Augustus was wearing Reeboks!

From an old episode of Cheers...
Norm: Want to tell me what that taxi cab was doing parked in front of the Temple of Athena?
Cliff: Uh, uh...It was, was, uh...probably taking Demetrius to the airport!

Anachronisms.  We've all seen them while watching a movie.  A WWII film where the hero is using a very modern weapon.  The contrails of a jet in the sky in a period western.  Things that just don't fit the time frame.

Last night I was watching the Hatfields & McCoys on the History Channel.  Well done.  A bit violent, but well done.  Something caught my eye.  Actually, my ear.

There was a scene shortly after Randall McCoy returns home at the end of the Civil War.  He and his family attend church.  The congregation is singing the Isaac Watts hymn, "Alas! And did my Savior Bleed?" (At the Cross). They sing a verse and the chorus.

I don't have a head full of hymn knowledge.  After hearing it I asked myself, "When was 'At the Cross' written?"  I didn't know.  Off to the internet to find the answers.  I first came across the Net Hymnal that shares the lyrics and brief info on the hymns.  The Isaac Watts version was published in 1707.  The familiar chorus was added by Ralph E. Hudson. In 1885.

The filmmakers had the actors sing part of a song about 20 years before it was written. 

The Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the Rev. Isaac Watts - 1855

Best Endeavor Hymns - 1907

A bit more poking around and I found the songs above.  Interesting to note that how the words changed and what they decided to include.

Was it for crimes that I had done, He groaned upon that tree?  Amazing pity, grace unknown, and love beyond degree.  A good reminder that it is not works that get us to heaven, but by the sacrifice of Christ.  Truths fulfilled some 2,000 years ago and written in song some 300 years ago.

So, the makers of the Hatfields & McCoys got part of one scene wrong.  I'm not going to hold it against them.  The rest of the show is entertaining.

At least I haven't seen any taxi cabs.  Yet.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Tennessee Veterans Cemetery in Knoxville, Tennessee.

What more needs to be said except, "Thank you."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Back in the High Life

On Saturday I stopped at McKay Used Books and found a very clean copy of Steve Winwood's Back in the High Life CD.  I think that I used to own this back in 1986 when it came out.  I was first introduced to Steve Winwood's music by Steve Ott in 1981 or so.  Steve O. was my college roommate for a year.  He shared a lot of good music with me.  One of the bands was Traffic.  A young Steve W. was their vocalist.

Back in the High Life earned three Grammy awards.  There are some catchy pop tunes.  The arrangements are fantastic.  Horn and acoustic instruments compliment the synth that is the root of the instruments.  Reading the liner notes made me realize that there is no bass guitar on this album.

Lots of good players and vocalists.  Bob Mintzer on sax.  Randy Brecker on trumpet.  Joe Walsh and Nile Rogers on guitar.  James Taylor and Chaka Khan added vocals.

But nobody was playing bass guitar.

A fine album.  But it was missing something.  And it still is.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Books from my childhood

I like to read. There was a story on NPR this morning about the artistry of children's picture books. That brought back some vivid memories of going to the Plattsburgh Public Library and selecting books to read. Babar. Make Way For Ducklings. Stone Soup. Mr. Popper's Penguins.

Here are three books that I also remember. Although not 'picture books' they had an influence on my reading. I've even reread two of them in the last few years.

The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall
The Teddy Bear Habit by James Lincoln Collier
Detectives In Togas by Henry Winterfeld

Today is World Book Night.

Take a moment and read. Read to your children. To your spouse. To your friend. Turn of the electronics and read. You'll feel better.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Would you like an Egg Roll with that?

The Laurens Advertiser - May 5, 1886

This is the earliest mention of 'Easter Egg White House' at Chronicling America.  Perhaps a different set of search terms would provide an alternate result.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rev. Francis B. Hall

The United States Congress has designated March 25th of each year as National Medal of Honor Day, a day dedicated to Medal of Honor recipients. I'd like to share a bit of the Rev. Francis B. Hall's story through his obituary.

The Plattsburgh Sentinel - October 9, 1903

The sermon continues for several more columns.  Rev. Hall was laid to rest at Riverside Cemetery in Plattsburgh.

For more information about the Medal of Honor, please visit the US Army Medal of Honor site and the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

1940 US Census - Clinton Co., NY EDs

On April 2, 2012, the 1940 Census will be rolled out.

Here's a link to the Enumeration District maps for Clinton County, New York.  I'll be headed straight to ED 10-9.  That's Champlain, proper.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Paddy Wagon

A good friend of mine had this conversation on facebook on Wednesday. I lifted it without asking, but did take the time to pixelate.  Okay, I did ask, sort of.  I let Doug know that I was doing it.

facebook conversation - March 14, 2012

That got me thinking, was Doug correct?  It sounds plausible, but I've known Doug for some 25 plus years and he's been known to try to pull one over on people.

So, off to the online dictionaries... entry entry entry entry 

Seems that Doug is right.  But I wanted to see a photo of one.  A bit more searching produced this, with a reference to the Irish Echo newspaper.

Lifted from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, & Abolition

I think that this a modern photo that was grained up. - June 09-15, 1999

A bit more information.  But when did the term come into use?  I'll get to that soon, but some other images caught my eye.

In 1968 Monogram produced a plastic model.

Image lifted from

MPC also came out with one that same year.

Image lifted from 

The Word Detective says this:
Just Don't Get Me Started on "Welsh"

Dear Mr. Morris: Last Sunday afternoon, I heard a discussion on a radio talk show about the use of the term "paddy wagon". The host insisted that the term is a terrible slam against the Irish. He likened it to using "wop" against an Italian. A caller, who was Irish, disagreed, saying that the term "paddy" came about because of the nickname for the policemen who were nicknamed after St. Patrick and "wagon" just referred to the vehicle they used to pick up the people who were creating a disturbance. Can you shed any enlightenment? -- Jo Kozlowski, via the internet.

Certainly. I shed enlightenment the way my cat sheds fur -- in great orange clumps. I've never figured out, since we're on the subject (involuntarily, in your case), how cat fur ends up inside the microwave. Does he make popcorn the minute I leave the house? Is he whipping up dinner for all his pals while I'm gone? Is that where all the instant mashed potatoes went?

As far as your question goes, you have already heard the two likely answers, and no one knows which is the truth. The use of "paddy wagon" as a slang term for a police van dates back to the 1920's, and seems to have originated in either New York City or Philadelphia, cities which had both large Irish immigrant populations and largely Irish-American police forces during that period.

It is true that "Paddy," a familiar form of the common Irish name Padraic (or Patrick) was used in the 19th and early 20th centuries as a generic, and often uncomplimentary, term for an Irishman, both in the U.S. and England. But while "paddy" certainly was used as an insult in the past, and Irish immigrants were without doubt the victims of discrimination, I think that it takes a pretty thin skin to find a grave insult in the term "paddy wagon." Among other things, the fact that it remains unclear whether the "paddy" involved was the arresting officer or the miscreant being arrested rather clouds the logic of taking offense. That "paddy" is also used in non-pejorative contexts ("Saint Paddy's Day") has also largely robbed the word of its sting, which is not the case with words such as "wop," which have always been, and always will be, grave insults.
So maybe Doug is half right.  But when did it all start?

Looking through the Library of Congress' Chronicling America, I found a few early entries for "paddy wagon".

The Houston Daily Post - November 8, 1896

Here's an audio clip of William McKinley from 1896, courtesy of

St. Johns Review - May 29, 1908

But these seem to refer to the payoff of some election bet.  Who would bet having to push someone around in a wheel barrow?  I guess I've seen worse.

Wondering what could be found at Google Books?  Three mentions of what one would conjure in their minds if they heard the words, Paddy Wagon.  The police vehicle.

Newspaper reporting and correspondence by Grant Milnor Hyde (1912)

The National Underwriter - Volume 21 (1917)

Forest Leaves - November 18, 1920

What did other papers say about it?

Spokane Daily Chronicle - January 21, 1936

Meriden Record - December 24, 1938

There are many more instances of the term being used in the news.

So, where does that leave us?  The term Paddy Wagon seems to have entered the reporters' vernacular in one meaning in 1896, but the more common usage doesn't show up in print (based on my research) until 1912.  It then seems to be more wide spread in the 1930s.  I personally haven't heard the term used for years.

Does this exercise pinpoint the origin?  No.  Does it perhaps shed some light?  Sure.  We'll go with that.