Prepare to enter a world of both shadow and substance

Take a journey of body, mind and spirit where you'll encounter things you won't find anywhere else.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Who Are They?

No, this is not a review of a long-lost album by the Who. It was my response to something that was told to me by an employee of Wal-Mart.
Regular readers of my blog know that I record my own albums of Christmas music. To do that, I not only have to be the artist and the back-up band, I also have to be the producer and recording engineer. And to be the recording engineer means that I employ headphones when I'm laying down tracks. Working like I do next to my computer, it is imperative that each track doesn't pick up another sound. For instance, when I'm recording an acoustic guitar track, I don't want the sound of my vocals bleeding over onto it. I want each track to be "pure," that is, when I go to mixing them down and choosing their position in the "stereo picture," I want each track to be clean so that they will be heard in the precise area of the overall sound picture that I am looking for. To do this most effectively, it requires a good set of headphones, the kind that go over your head and cover your ears completely. What is known as "earbuds" will not work.
Two days after Christmas, I went to purchase a new set of headphones. Having not needed to purchase new ones for a couple years, I just assumed it would be an easy task. Why shouldn't it be? You need headphones, you go pick out headphones and then you buy headphones. Simple, eh? Wake up, America!
I don't normally buy electronics at Wal-Mart, because.... well - you know why. They're usually not worth buying there. But, this time, I figured to try them, because headphones are a pretty simple thing, and they should have some that are of a good enough quality to meet my needs. Wrong! This time, I looked and found only two pairs to choose from, one being under $5 and other pair under $9. And neither pair really covered the ear, just kind of sat on the ear. I could see they weren't worth bringing home, so I asked an employee if they had any others to choose from. This is what that employee said to me:
"They say nobody wants them anymore, everybody wants earbuds."
Well, everybody does not want earbuds! When I carefully tried to explain this to her, she just shrugged and repeated what she had said, "They say nobody wants headphones anymore."
I calmly asked her who "they" were. She didn't know who "they" were, but apparently believed everything "they" said.
I would love to solve this very important question because "they" seem to have opinions about everything these days and whether or not we need various items. Let's not forget the debacle of about four years ago that I went through in trying to buy a pair of hightop tennis shoes. I went to 11 different stores before I finally found one single pair! Fortunately, they were in my size. But, the response I was getting from most of the various retailers was this: "They say nobody buys hightops anymore." When I replied that possibly it was due to the fact that they didn't have any on their shelves for people to buy, the clerks just looked at me like I was crazy. I swear they were thinking, "If nobody buys them anymore, why should we even carry them?" People will only buy what is there for them to buy. It's a simple fact. Remember when the hightop craze hit about ten or 15 years ago? You couldn't hardly find regular tennis shoes during that time. Having weak ankles, I've always worn shoes that came up over my ankle for extra support - hightop tennis shoes, hiking boots, work boots - all just above my ankle in height.
I want you to spend a few extra minutes the next time you go to a store to buy something. Any store, any product. Look around their shelves and note the fact that there are less choices for you to pick from than the last time you were there. This is not an exaggeration. My sister noted this only a few days ago to me. She buys cans of refried beans to make burritos at home for movie night. 6 months ago, she said, there used to be 6 to 8 different brands to choose from at this certain store she shopped at. She went out to this same store last week and there were now only two brands to choose from. What happened to the selection, or the choice?
This is not really a rant about Wal-Mart, but I'm going to mention them again, so maybe it is. In one of my local communities, they had a fine Wal-Mart store where I purchased several items that I used a lot. Items such as cd jewel boxes, (The original, thicker variety), high-quality cassette tapes for recording my band live, the large, economy-sized baby shampoo, (I want my hair to smell just like hers....!), the larger-sized bag of cough drops. Well, you get the idea. Wal-Mart decided that they needed a super store in this town, so they built a new one across the highway from the old one. When it was finished, they moved from the old one and closed it down. They also stopped carrying a lot of things in the new store that I used to purchase at the old one.
I thought the idea of a "super-store" was to carry even more items than a regular store, not less? I can now no longer find high-bias cassettes, only the cheap grade. They only sell the slim-line cd jewel boxes, and then, not many of those. The large bag of cough drops are nowhere to be found, only a smaller, 30% more package that does indeed have 30% more of the regular-sized package, only it's still not many. When I asked where the large bottles of my regular baby shampoo were located, an employee only told me that nobody bought them any more, so they stopped carrying them. Mind you, this was only in the brand I used, which they still had the regular small bottle on their shelves. They had baby shampoo in two other locations from where they kept my brand and in both of those other locations, they had the larger economy size in the other more expensive brands. If nobody is buying them, why are they still carrying those? Nobody that works at Wal-Mart can answer this question for me - not even the manager. I know, because I've asked to speak to the manager on many occasions. It seems like I'm speaking to the manager of Wal-Mart about every time I go there any more. But still, I get no answers. Nobody knows the answers.
But this is not an isolated Wal-Mart occurrence. Just look around you - you are getting less choice for just about everything you buy. It's only symptomatic of a deeper issue, which I will detail in another blog. Suffice it to say, it is something which is affecting the entire population of planet Earth.
I finally found a set of headphones, at Radio Shack. This is no endorsement for them, for I was trying to buy a simple, countertop cd player for a Christmas present and the Radio Shack near my hometown could not seem to get one for their stock. I went back three times after the initial inquiry and each time, the clerk said one hadn't come in yet. Once again, we are being offered less and less choice. All you have to do is look around to notice it. And when you do see for yourself, be sure to tell someone else. If enough people realize this, maybe we can make our voice loud enough to be heard. At least, while we still have the freedom to voice our opinions. That may not last much longer, either. Oh, the times they are a' changin'.

By the way, here are the headphones I ended up buying:

80-26-14-46

The eagle's wings are blue at sunrise. Bravo Charlie Vector.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

First Snowfall Of The Season

Even though it's been a week now since our first snow fell here in Southern Illinois, I thought that by posting these pictures today it would make up for our lack of having a White Christmas! Enjoy the pictures!



















Saturday, December 15, 2007

White Men Can't Rap

I may have mentioned this before, but I'm nearly 17 years older than my brother. Being born like he was in 1977, he started becoming aware of music about the time that rap music became popular. Naturally, he started rapping on his own, in reflection of this influence. Everything he did, he had to get me interested in, too, and since I was already into all kinds of music on my own, I naturally gravitated toward rap myself. Gravitated a little, that is. It's still not my most favorite musical genre for expression, but it does have it's attractions. So, one thing led to another, and my brother and I began writing and recording our own rap songs.
Now, if you're going to record rap music, you have to be rappers. Or at least sound like you're rappers. And that means you have to have a cool name, one that you definitely wouldn't be christened with at birth. And being as I knew how to run the recording equipment, I got to be the rapper front man and he became what is known in rap circles as my "deejay." And also being as the only white guy I'd ever heard of at the time that rapped, (around 1990, or so) was called "Vanilla Ice," the name I chose was only natural for me. You have to know that I love baking cookies, so I chose the moniker of "Vanilla X-Trac" for my name, taken from the flavoring vanilla extract, only I made it look cool by changing the spelling. My brother's rapper name was Sir DJ Rappafellow.
We recorded several songs back then - I never did really keep track of how many at the time - and they just remained "in the can," so to speak. Well, quite a few years drifted past and by chance, I came across them and thought they would make a nice little Christmas gift if they were all gathered up and burned on a cd. I did just that, and made a cool looking rapper cover and gave them out to family members about 3 years ago for Christmas. Of course, I had to play it for the whole family gathering! Everyone got a kick out of it, because they were mostly recorded in a funny matter. Some were serious, but most were not.
Therefore, it is with pride that I offer one of the songs from our album for download: X-Trac's The Man. And as a bonus, I'm including another track, one that I hadn't located in time to make it on the album, so you get a rare unreleased song, too! Here are Shook Up and X-Trac's The Man as recorded by Vanilla X-Trac and Sir DJ Rappafellow. Pictured below is what the album cover looked like:



As always, comments are quite welcome, but please take into consideration that these tracks were recorded in fun and are not meant to rival Tone Loc or Young MC in any way!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Hawaiian Heat


Download the opening of the show here: Opening.avi.
Download the opening theme of the show here: Theme.mp3.

Does anybody remember the tv show that was on ABC back in 1984 called Hawaiian Heat? Probably not, since it was only on for 11 episodes before it got cancelled. Well, I loved that show and saw all 11 episodes. (I still have the last two on videotape.) It was all about two Chicago cops that got tired of the wind, snow and cold weather and transferred out to the Islands, where they were on the police force there. They were played by Jeff McCracken and Robert Ginty. Both of them shared a beach house with 5 beautiful women, who all led fascinating lives and had fascinating careers, (wouldn't you just know it!). One of the roommates which had a bigger part on the show was played by Tracy Scoggins. Their superior at the police headquarters was portrayed by Mako and would always be gruff with them. "Mac," played by Ginty, drove a mid-60's convertible Cadillac and the two actors played well off of each other. On the whole, I've always liked shows that were set in Hawaii - Hawaii Five-0, Magnum P.I., The Byrds Of Paradise, Hawaii, etc., and this one was no exception. If only the executives at ABC would have given it a little more time. You'll remember that that was also the year Miami Vice came out and was a smash hit after awhile. So, police/detective shows set in sunny climes was a popular background in which to set a series right then. I would mention that ABC has cancelled another show I like, which I felt was before it had been given enough time, called Cavemen, but that's a topic for another time.
If anyone remembers this show, feel free to post a comment about it. And if anybody happened to tape the movie-length pilot episode or any of the rest of the hour-long episodes, other than the last two, Maybe we can get together for a swap of some kind. I sure would like to see that show again from the beginning because it will probably never be released on DVD.

Here is an advertisement picture for the show that ran in TV Guide. It's just the artwork, without the blurb for the current week's episode plastered all over it:

Episode list:

Episode 1: Pilot
Air Date: September 14th, 1984
Episode 2: Ice Cream Man
Air Date: September 21st, 1984
Episode 3: Wave Of Controversy
Air Date: September 28th, 1984
Episode 4: Inherited Trait
Air Date: October 12th, 1984
Episode 5: A Different Kind Of Justice
Air Date: October 19th, 1984
Episode 6: Missing In Hawaii
Air Date: October 26th, 1984
Episode 7: Yankees Vs. The Cubs
Air Date: November 2nd, 1984
Episode 8: Ancient Fires
Air Date: November 9th, 1984
Episode 9: Old Dues
Air Date: November 16th, 1984
Episode 10: Andy's Mom
Air Date: November 23rd, 1984
Episode 11: Picture Imperfect
Air Date: December 21st, 1984

February 19th, 2008 update:
I have been contacted about this series and by working out a trade, I can now add the original pilot to my collection - the movie-length episode that began the series! Keep these episodes coming and maybe all us dedicated viewers can assemble a complete set. If so, I hope to be able to have them all on one set of DVD's, so stay tuned!

Here is how the Hawaiian Heat DVD Project stands at present:
1. Pilot (Acquired)
2. Ice Cream Men (Still looking to acquire)
3. Wave Of Controversy (Acquired)
4. Inherited Trait (Acquired)
5. A Different Kind Of Justice (Acquired)
6. MIH -- Missing In Hawaii (Acquired)
7. Yankees vs. The Cubs (Acquired)
8. Ancient Fires (Acquired)
9. Old Dues (Acquired)
10. Andy's Mom (Acquired)
11. Picture Imperfect (Acquired

I'll keep updating this as things change, so stay tuned!
January 27th, 2009 update:

I will have information soon about acquiring episode #2 "Ice Cream Men," so stay tuned. (This just in - I have located episode #5 "A Different Kind Of Justice," and will have an update soon!) For now, the cover art I created for this set looks like this and if you would like to see a more detailed look, download the cover for Volume 7 here. Here is the cover art:

January 29th, 2009 update:
I have just created an entry for this series on Wikipedia. The Hawaiian Heat page can be found here.

March 17th, 2009 update:
I have been contacted by one of the stars of this show, Robert Ginty, and he has generously agreed to donate the four episodes that he has in his personal collection for this project! So, keep faith, there's still hope for a complete set yet!

January 17th, 2010 update:
Of the four episodes donated by Robert Ginty, namely Inherited Trait, A Different Kind Of Justice, MIH - Missing In Hawaii and Old Dues, none of them have the closing credits on the tapes provided. So, if anybody has complete copies of these four episodes, I would like to upgrade them. If I don't come up with any better versions, I'll try to come up with the closing credits and create some kind of sequence to include them on the DVD copies I make, just so they're as complete as possible. One person was looking for one of the needed episodes in his collection, but he hasn't found it yet. That episode was Ice Cream Men. If he does find that episode, that means only three episodes are still needed to complete the set! These three episodes are Wave Of Controversy, Yankees vs. The Cubs and Ancient Fires. So, if anybody has copies of any or all of these missing shows, please contact me. It's getting very close to being completed and I know there are still a lot of fans out there who would like to see this show again! So, keep the faith!
Robert Ginty sent me the episodes he had and I'm certain he knew he was dying when he did so and this was his way of giving his blessings to the Hawaiian Heat DVD Project. Let's help keep the memory of this great actor alive by completing the set and making it available for all his fans.

 April 14th, 2014 update:
I have updated the list above of the episodes I now have for the collection.  As you can see, all that's missing are the two episodes "Ancient Fires" and "Ice Cream Men."  I had a line on "Ice Cream Men," but apparently it didn't work out.  So, if anybody knows the whereabouts of copies of these two episodes, please let me know by leaving a comment or e-mailing me at haarfage@hamiltoncom.net.

June 5th, 2017 update:
Looking through the tapes that Robert Ginty sent me a little bit closer, I have now found out he sent me 8 episodes instead of the 4 he mentioned.  That means I now have the pilot and all the episodes except the first and one, namely "Ice Cream Men."  The episode entitled "Wave Of Controversy" was acquired from a fan and contact in Texas.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

That Touch Of Skunk

Dateline: Skunkageddon.

It is hard for me to write these words. Not because I can't think of anything to say, but because of a certain scent in the air. And, no.... it's not the smell of mistletoe from on high. Apparently, a skunk has decided to move into my backyard and take up permanent residence. I smelled him the other night and went out the back door to investigate - only to spot him coming around the corner of the house, a scant five feet away. Needless to say, I beat a hasty retreat back indoors. Well, tonight it seems he let loose with his funky cologne and from the concentration of the odor, it looks like he sprayed the front porch with a heavy dousing. It was so close that it's penetrating into the house even as I compose these words. Here is what the culprit looked like:


Artist's representation

I went online to see if there was any way to rid your house of a skunk and found several suggestions. The only problem seemed to be that everybody had a different suggestion, and that it didn't seem to work for anybody else. So, who do you believe? I think further research is called for. Somebody said mothballs would do the trick. Others suggested that if you boiled vinegar, it would get rid of the smell. I'm going to cut this blog short while I go hunt up some mothballs and heat up the stove.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Of Cabbages And Kings -or- History 101

My mother has always been big on the genealogy of our family, and to a certain extent, so have I. And I know of at least one other relative in my family that has worked extensively to trace our roots. It was "Uncle" Ralph Harrelson who came up with the realization that we were descended from hearty Nordic stock and had, in fact, been Vikings. Now, I don't know about the regular readers of this blog, but I'm mighty proud of my heritage. In fact, for the last census, I registered as a "Viking-American." I figured I'd be the only one to do so, but found out later that there was around 50 other kindred souls who registered the same way. Now the truth can come out.

Tracing our ancestry back, it was found that we were related to the first Viking King to unite all of Norway, and he did so in the year 872. His name? Harald Haarfager. The name "Haarfager" translates to mean "fair hair." Back in those days, sons were named after the father, usually by just tacking on the moniker son to the end of the name. Therefore, one of his relations became known by the name of "Haraldsson." That was the first beginnings of our name in how it looks today - "Harrelson."

Pictured from a 14th century Icelandic manuscript known as Flateyjarbók, you see the young Harald:


Harald receives the kingdom out of his father's hands

Harald's father was named Halfdan the Black and controlled a few areas in the southeast portion of Norway. But it was actually Harald who united all of the country and become it's first true ruler. One fascinating story surrounding Harald happened before he was crowned King. There was a princess he loved and he vowed to never cut his hair until he could have her hand in marriage. This went on for ten years and he became known as Shockhead for awhile. When she finally consented, he had it trimmed and from then on, was known by the more familiar name of Fairhair. As you can see in another picture of Harald, his hair was indeed "fair":


Harald prepares to slay another enemy

Harald ruled his country wisely until he grew old. By then, his favorite son had acquired his own nickname, Eric "Bloodaxe," by killing 7 of his 8 brothers, so he inherited the job of King of Norway. What better person to turn the kingdom over to? Harald lived until the year 933, when he was 84 years old.

The Viking Age lasted until the mid-12th century when, by that time, they had mostly been converted over to Christianity. Their pillaging and plundering way of life became a thing of the past and Vikings settled down to be farmers or herders. I prefer to think that there are still a few of us left out there. And one day, the Vikings will rise again! (Mwaahhaahhaahhaa!)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I Think That I Shall Never See

As a photographer, some projects turn out to be more satisfying than others. There is one project that I've been working on for almost 30 years and counting. And each year that passes, it pleases me even more. Let me go back to the beginning.
In 1978, I acquired my first good 35mm slr camera. I loved it and used it a lot. The following year, when Autumn arrived, I happened to use it to take a picture that has become a big part of my life every subsequent year at that same time. Who doesn't like to see the Fall colors arrive, with the leaves turning their rainbow hues? Well, I can't see all the shades, but can certainly tell when the leaves on the trees start turning. That photograph I took in late October 1979 is this tree pictured below:

It turned out to be an epochal event for me. There was just something about that particular tree and location that struck me as being.... right. It's symmetrical relationship with the sky and ground; the sidewalk running lazily alongside it until it disappears in the distance; the tree's look of strength and permanence. All of these things came together for me and made it most memorable. I went back another year and another, until I realized that I had to go back each year at the end of October or when the leaves had turned to their fullest potential and capture this moment in time for posterity. And, I still go back there each year to this day. The fact that it is at the edge of the small town I live in makes it somewhat easier to do, but there have been times when I lived elsewhere and had to drive back home just to get the picture. It has become something special to me when it gets to be time to take this annual picture. I highly anticipate it as soon as the heat of summer breaks and the nights begin to grow cooler. Suffice it to say, it's something I never miss.
Now that it's well into November and I have my shot for 2007 in the can, I can gather up my collection of shots and compare them side by side. And rather than post one here for each year since 1979, I have instead opted to just pick one from every now and then. Enough to show the progression "my" tree has taken through the years. Please scroll down through them and enjoy them like I do!

1982

1985

1989

1993

1995

2002

And lastly, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Old Slave House

Imagine you’re a wife and mother and you are at home one night cooking dinner for your daughters. Your husband and son are away on business and it’s just a peaceful Spring night for you and your girls to spend some quality time together. The still of that evening is suddenly shattered when the front door bursts open and rough-looking men file in. You clutch your daughters to your side, but it does no good as the men are too powerful for you to stop them. They take you somewhere and tie you up in one of the men’s basement and then a few days later, you are handcuffed and tied in the back of a wagon and spirited out of the state. You and your daughters are sold into a life of slavery and never heard from again.

This is a true story. It happened near Equality, Illinois in the year 1842. And the man behind this diabolical deed was named John Crenshaw.

John and Sina Crenshaw

John Crenshaw, a man known as the "Salt King of Southern Illinois," had a long history of involvement with kidnapping free blacks and shipping them back down South into slavery in what was known as a reverse Underground Railroad. His base of operations was what has become known today as the Old Slave House.

The Old Slave House, photographed by me in the late 1970's

The Crenshaw House, started in 1834, and completed in 1838 sat atop a hill in Gallatin County and was known by it’s owner and all who lived in the area as the Hickory Hill Plantation. Abraham Lincoln, while campaigning in 1840 for William Henry Harrison, was a guest at this residence, such was it’s owner’s importance. (My Great-Great-Grandmother danced with Abe at the party that night, but that's another story.) Crenshaw owned and operated a salt mine and was a very big man in those days. It was said that the taxes collected from his businesses alone were fully one-seventh of the revenue for the State of Illinois. The Illinois State Constitution during this era had forbidden slavery but allowed it in certain circumstances. Such was the case with salt mining. The law permitted the use of slaves at the salt works since the labor was so arduous that "no free men could be found to do it." Well, in my mind, that certainly does not justify slavery, but that’s history for you.
As to the Crenshaw House itself, it was the scene of many gay parties and entertainments. But, little did the guests know that right above them, on the third floor, was where the slaves were housed. At night they were kept chained into 12 tiny cubicles, while during the day they were forced to do his manual labors. John Crenshaw owned 700 slaves, which he kept in various locales for the work of his salt mines, and in his grist mill, a steam sawmill and a distillery. We even know that he used the third floor to breed his slaves. One such story came from "Uncle Bob" Wilson, the alleged stud slave, who was a real person and who told a number of people that he had been kept upstairs at the Crenshaw house.
So, what became of this man who was not considered "much of a saint" by members of his own church? In 1848, he lost a leg when his slaves attacked him, allegedly because of a particularly brutal beating Crenshaw was dispensing to several female slaves at the time. In 1850, he moved his family into the nearby town of Equality and hired a German family to take over the operations at Hickory Hill. By all accounts, he became a pious man toward the end of his life and had left his life of crime behind. The house atop Hickory Hill still stands, although it is currently not open for admission. It was purchased by the State of Illinois in 2003 and because of funding woes, remains closed to the general public at this time. I was fortunate enough to be able to tour it in the late 1970’s, when it was still a popular attraction. I can still see the worn, wooden stalls where human beings were kept chained in a life of servitude. That image will never leave me.

One only hopes that John Crenshaw is getting his just rewards in his present situation.

This is the first in a series of blogs dealing with the local history and landmarks of my immediate area. Please let me know what you thought of it.

Update:
Here's what the Old Slave House looks like today, as of 2010:

Friday, November 23, 2007

Blogger's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes

In the course of searching for various pictures I've backed up, I'm always coming across others that I had forgotten of that are interesting in their own right. To say the least. So, in this short blog are just a couple pictures I felt just had to get out. Who knows, maybe a hundred years from now, they'll be ones that the Smithsonian are displaying to explain this crazy era. The first one is a good case in point.


This photograph is from a Hallowe'en gig I played back in the late '90's. As you can see, "Elvis" is posing with "the KKK." What can be said about this but what a strange combination?



This is another Hallowe'en picture, taken this year of 2007. A Pirate and Strawberry Shortcake. I went dressed as a French Guy, complete with a loaf of French bread and somebody in the club was kind enough to use my camera to take a picture of me with Strawberry. Maybe I'll post it someday.


This is a picture of an eggplant my father grew - I thought it looked just like Pinocchio. The eggplant went on to have it's 15 minutes of fame because this image was shown on a local television station's newshour and was seen by people in the whole tri-state area! That includes Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. Here is a link to download that clip, if you'd like to see it for yourself: Eggplant that looks like Pinocchio.


Pictured here are the "Chicago 10." My girlfriend at the time this was taken, (around 2003), standing just to the lower right of me, was a big fan of Simply Red. We went and saw them perform at the House of Blues in Chicago. The other people in the shot were some she had met on the band's website. We all arranged to meet and have dinner together before the show. Since we arrived at the House of Blues so early, we managed to be able to stand right against the front of the stage. Within slobbering distance from Mick Hucknall, the lead singer. What a thrill that was!

This last picture is just a self-portrait of another one of my submarine sandwiches, which I make so well. If you think this sandwich is huge, you should see the one my brother made one year!

I'd say this should just about do it until I can think of what my next blog's subject will be about. Who knows?

Sounds Of Christmas

I may have mentioned this before, but one of my all-time favorite blogs is Ernie (Not Bert). Ernie posts something that is near and dear to my heart - Christmas music! What he does is to go to thrift stores and find used albums, (yes - those big, black round things that revolve at 33 1/3 rpms!), record them to his computer and then upload them to the internet so that anybody that wishes to can download them. How great is that? I have personally downloaded several albums that he has offered and play them frequently. If you're interested, be sure to cruise on over there, (after you've finished here, of course!) and see what he has to offer! He starts uploading them after Thanksgiving, so he's got his season started already. Here's that link. Be sure to tell him that Kenny sent you over!

Well, I too love Christmas music. So much so that I usually record a Christmas CD each year to give out to my family and friends as a stocking stuffer gift. There have been around a dozen collections so far and I have loved recording each one. The great thing about doing it all yourself is that I not only get to sing all the voices and play all the instruments, I get to pick the songs! Of course, I pick all my favorite Christmas songs - from classic carols to modern pop hits. I even include some that I have personally composed on each CD. So, with no further ado, here is my most recent release, one from a couple years ago: Sounds Of Christmas by Kenneth Dwain Harrelson.

In case you're wondering whether or not to download it, here is a track listing to further convince you of it's Christmasy goodness:

1 We Wish You A Merry Christmas
2 Please Come Home For Christmas (the one the Eagles did in 1978)
3 Glory To God In The Highest (my own composition)
4 Deck The Halls (With Boughs Of Devo)
5 Angels Foretold This Glorious Thing (another one I wrote)
6 Feliz Navidad
7 The Chipmunk Song (yes.... that one with the Chipmunks!)
8 Mary's Little Boy Child
9 It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (my favorite Christmas song)
10 Away In A Manger (the old medieval version)
11 Angels We Have Heard On High
12 Little Saint Nick (the old Beach Boys classic)
13 He's Santa Claus (And He's Comin' For You) (another one of my originals)
14 Listen The Snow Is Falling (the Yoko Ono song that was on the flipside of John Lennon's Happy Xmas [War Is Over] single)

Well, there you have it. If it turns out that lots of people like it and ask for more, then I might upload another one - my first Christmas CD, Peace On Earth, seen below:


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bubblegum Music

Yesterday, November 17th, I went to Henderson, Tennessee with the drummer in the band I'm currently in. We went down there for a thing called the Caravan of Stars XIV, a concert featuring rock and roll artists from the golden age; i.e. the 1950's - 1970's. There were several artists there, including Dickie Lee, Carol Conners from the Teddy Bears, Jimmy Gilmer, Jim Yester of the Association, Bo Donaldson and the Haywoods, Eddie Brigati of the Young Rascals, Jerry Yester of the Lovin' Spoonful and Dennis Tufano, the lead singer of the Buckinghams. But the group I was most interested in hearing, and in fact the reason I found out about the show in the first place, was the 1910 Fruitgum Company.
You may remember them from such hits as the 1968 number 2 smash, Simon Says, 1 2 3 Red Light, May I Take A Giant Step, Goody Goody Gumdrops, Indian Giver, Special Delivery and others. The trip was well worth it! They put on a great show, as did all the other acts there. My seat was in the sixth row, right in front of the middle of the stage, so of course I got several good pictures of everybody. But, since it was the 1910 Fruitgum Company that I primarily went to see, I'll just post a few pictures from their part of the show.


Frank Jeckell

Mick Mansueto

Floyd Marcus

Friday, October 26, 2007

Out Of The Blue


Chances are, you'll recognize the above image as that of a Hot Wheels diecast toy car. It seems like they've been around forever, but in reality, they were only introduced in 1968. I had a few of those original releases, but sadly they're no longer in my collection. I do still have a collection of Hot Wheels, but only one that I started later on in the mid-1970's. They have released thousands of varieties it seems like and they never cease to amaze me at their creativity in coming up with those new designs. Of course, they always have the perennial classics such as this 1932 Ford Roadster:


And some such as this 1940 Ford 2-Door Sedan:


But, what many people may not realize, the good folks at Hot Wheels have designers hard at work to come up with vehicles that are not based on real cars. These are cars you won't find anywhere else, such as the Street Scorcher:



What amazes me the most is where they are able to come up with these futuristic vehicles such as this way cool surfing mobile called the Deora II. They apparently just pull designs like these from out of the blue:



Sometimes, though, I think these far-out, futuristic designs are all too common in their basic nature, and that the draftsmen at Hot Wheels just fall back on something they've seen in real life. They just try to pass it off as something you've never seen before. What prompted me to think this was I was sitting at my computer bidding on a Deora II on eBay one day and looked out the window at my Ford Taurus station wagon sitting below. I saw the back end of it in a whole new light and realized where the inspiration for the Deora II had come from. See if you don't think so, too:


On the Deora II, the way to get inside the vehicle is through the front - the whole nose of the car lifts up like a gullwing door. Kind of like the hatch on my station wagon. Maybe I should apply at Mattel as a designer. I think I could do work like that.