Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas with Daniel

Christmas is where you find it. This Christmas story has nothing to do with the actual holiday – and everything. The story is from episode 1550 of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, the classic PBS series.

Since Fred Rogers' death, I have collected several episodes of the show (anybody have any really early episodes? Contact me for a trade!). This episode aired earlier this year and hopefully will be rerun for many years to come. That's assuming MRN will stick around. Sadly, many stations have dropped it from their schedule.

Anyway, the story opens with Daniel S. Tiger attending a bass violin festival (long story, folks). During the festival, two of the characters decide to put on a puppet show using bass violin puppets. The play begins with the two bass violin puppets talking to each other – the tall one is the older brother, the short one the younger brother. The older brother decides he doesn't want his younger brother playing second fiddle to him anymore, so he tells him that he is going away to play with his older friends.

“But I want to play with you!” the younger brother cries. “Sorry,” the older replies as he walks (slides?) away from the younger brother. Alone on stage, the younger brother begins to cry. “Boo-hoo! Boo-hoo-hoo!” After a few moments, forgetting that it's only a play, the shy Daniel Tiger walks up to the crying bass violin. “I'll play with you,” he says.

If all we ever do this holiday season is make someone feel that they are not alone, and that we care for them, then we probably will have fulfilled more of the work of Christ than we could ever imagine. But heed a word of warning: it will only work if you meet THEIR needs, not just your own. Don't kid yourself: True love involves bravery. I wish we could always be guaranteed that we would be loved in return. That would certainly make the job easier.

If I were in charge of Heaven, the first rule I would make is, “All right, from now on, nobody will ever be without love again. Everybody will always have someone special to hold them and help them when they need it. Everybody will always be loved.”

This holiday season, I wish for you – and for me – the love of someone very special to fill your heart, whether that someone be a family member, a friend, the Lord, yourself, a fantasy, or even a certain striped tiger.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Farewell, Tower Records

Let me begin by thanking Time Magazine for making me person of the year. I appreciate it, guys. But I wish you could have used a better picture of me for the cover. :)

Speaking of me, it seems that “I” (or somewhat tech-savvy people like me) have been blamed for the demise of Tower Records, one of the largest independent music stores. The week of December 17 should be their last week of business. Responding to a local ad last week touting their huge sale, I visited two regional Tower Records stores. Sure enough, by this time most of the “big name” music stars had left the building. But being the scrounging expert that I am, during my 2-store Tower shopping spree I was able to find (but not always buy) material from Kelly Clarkson, Enrique Iglesias, Heart, the Roches, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Pete Seeger, John Denver, Raffi, Enya and the soundtracks to both “Superman” and “Follow that Bird.” That's not too bad for stores that were probably nearly 75% empty.

With any luck, soon I will make my last visit to a Tower Records near my family's home. And if I'm not too hurried by crazed shoppers, I'll take a moment to be thankful.

Why am I bothering to make the trip when the stores are practically empty now? Ah, that's the glory of music stores. There's always that tiny chance that you'll find a real treasure. And that was the power of Tower. Music fans shopped Tower Records because of the great potential of finding something special. Most of the places you buy music today (including many Internet sites) don't have that kind of draw. They may have a large selection, but they don't have a UNIQUE selection, or even a GOOD selection. There is a difference.

Tower's demise has been blamed on the rapid rise in Internet music downloads. I don't have an iTunes account (yet), and I don't download much music from the Internet. Yet I haven't been doing much music CD buying either. Why not? Two main reasons:

1. The high cost of music CDs
2. The lack of music I want to buy

I'm not too old yet, but I already feel that I'm out of the loop as far as modern popular music is concerned. Although there are certainly some fine artists out there, most of the acts hold no special appeal to me. And I don't think I'm alone. Do you know what the number one single in the nation is right now? Do you CARE? Hey, how long has it been since you even bought a single? How long has it been since ANYONE has?! I'm only partly kidding. The demise of Tower is visible evidence of a general “who cares” attitude toward collecting popular music that is permeating our culture. It's sad. Music is usually a good thing, and diversity in music is appealing. With Tower gone, some of our choices are also gone. It's like we're being punished for not spending more money on music.

The music CD craze was a great opportunity to get good-quality copies of some of our favorite albums. But now, we've already got most of those albums on CD. While I may like a band, if I've already got all the songs by them that I want, I probably won't make the effort to buy a lesser-known album by them. So with us old guys completing our collections and the young guys moving over to the Internet, Tower Records was in a bad position which it ultimately couldn't recover from.

But there are plenty of albums out there that STILL haven't made it to CD. And I would definitely have purchased music from Tower Records if they had carried classic albums by the Centurymen, the Gamble Folk, Lorin Whitney, Marj Snyder and of course – THE UNRELEASED 1970-1985 SESAME STREET RECORDS! (You knew that was coming, didn't you?) But sadly, because these are such “niche” markets, I have to rely on my analog stuff.

On a somewhat related note: The success or failure of the new HD radio will rest on how important it is to the average listener. But if consumers think that paying too much for music is bad, it's doubtful that they will be willing to pay too much for more music – or more talk shows. Hence the initial weakness of HD radio. Frankly, I haven't heard of much material on it to justify getting it. There we have the two reasons again: Too costly, and not enough good material.

What's the future for pop music consumers? Internet downloads bring the price down. But at the cost of album aesthetics and the enjoyment of browsing the record bins. Will future generations miss the fun of picking out who is who on the Sgt. Pepper cover?

As a longtime music collector, I regret the passing of Tower. The store had a lot of potential. That's what brought us in. Let's hope that some other stores will be able to at least try to carry the tradition by providing a good selection of the music we can't find anywhere else.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

One year anniversary; Meredith Vieira

Has it really been a year? Wow. One year ago, these Santas crossed this “Abbey Road”-style street to herald the beginning of my blog site. That means it’s been about 365 days. I’m sure there haven’t been 365 postings. I don’t think there have even been 65 postings. Blogging is fun, but it sure isn’t easy. Real life always takes precedence for me over my Internet musings, so I focus on that first and blog when I have the time. But one reward is certainly the fun I get from sharing my thoughts and information with others. Thank you for reading, and for your patience.

Speaking of Abbey Road, blogging friend and Beatles fan Fred Hembeck has written a review of the new Beatles “Love” album. Short version: He loved it. :) You can read his review at this site:


Now I know that some of you out there may not believe in Santa Claus. One common argument is, “How is it possible for one man to fly all around the world in one night and deliver all those presents? One person can’t do that much!” Well, allow me to introduce you to Meredith Vieira. You may already know her from her work on “The View,” “The Today Show”, “60 Minutes” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” Meredith is also a mother of three and - get ready - she’s got a blog! A BLOG! Folks, if a woman as busy as Meredith can find the time to BLOG, then as far as I’m concerned, Santa can deliver all those presents! Dang, is there anything Meredith CAN’T do? We’ve seen her sing, tap dance and- hey, that’s right, she sings! Hmmm. She’d make a fine Christine from “Phantom.” Matt Louer could be the Phantom, and Willard Scott & Gene Shalit could be Andre and Fermin! Hello, NBC?

Meredith even answers some questions from readers at her site. Here’s one:

How do you like your new job compared to The View?

Posted by on November 18 at 07:41pm

It’s kind of like apples and oranges. I loved doing The View but it was time for a change and this a perfect fit for me right now because it combines much of the free spirited nature of The View with serious journalism—something I did for 20 years. The biggest change is working with a man, after being surrounded by four vaginas for nine years.

Now comes my request - if anybody out there has episodes of “The View” from late 2000, please e-mail me for a possible video trade. I’m looking for a few episodes from just after Meredith lost the World Series bet with Barbara Walters. I have a few clips of Meredith to trade with as well. You can reach me at my new e-mail address (please take out the “nosp” from the e-mail or it won‘t get through):

Here’s the link to Meredith’s blog:


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sarah Brightman; Justine; blogging from prison

My recent obsession with “Phantom of the Opera” has reintroduced me to Sarah Brightman, who played Christine in the original production. Sarah has a new DVD and TV special airing on PBS this month. I’m not much of a classical music fan, so admittedly, I’m biased toward her “Phantom” work more than anything else. But the “Diva” special (that’s what it’s called, don’t be mad!) showcases her other work as well, and her vocal talents really shine. I enjoyed the beautiful “Pie Jesu” at the beginning of the special.

The video for “Phantom” was fun, albeit cheesy. But that’s the way I like it. Ask anyone who’s seen my home movies. :) Also included was the lovely “Wishing you were somehow here again.”

The one weakness of the special is that there was more “talk” than “action.” Sarah gives in-depth information about each of her videos, and in most cases these segments take just about as long as the video itself! Like the “Electric Company” special I wrote about last month, there’s a lot more material we could have seen, but didn‘t. As the PBS hosts will tell you (several times), there are more of her videos on the DVD than in the special.

You can check and see if the “Diva” special is airing in your area by following the link at Sarah’s web site:

Speaking of sadism, (or masochism, depending on your point of view), the “tv shows on dvd” web site announced on Dec. 1 that the U.S. version of “Men behaving badly” is coming to DVD. I rarely watched the show, but as a Justine Bateman fan, I am obligated to let the world know. Sigh. I do miss “Family Ties” sometimes. :) Actually, I would enjoy seeing Justine again. She’s still acting & most recently appeared in a movie on the Lifetime network.

Justine ranks up there along with Courteney Cox, Lea Thompson, Carrie Fisher and Sabrina LeBeauf as one of the “hot chicks of my teen years.” That’s not to say that they aren’t hot now. That just means that when I was a teen, these were some of the girls on TV that I - well, you know where I‘m going with this.

The DVD set is scheduled to be released in February. Keep checking for updates.

Last month I rambled about Dr. Kent Hovind getting arrested for tax fraud. At the time I complained about Mr. Hovind’s attitude and his questionable priorities. Well, Kent is in prison and contributing to his blog at (how he‘s doing this I'm not sure. Carrier pigeon, maybe?) It sounds as if he has made lemonade out of a very bad situation. Here‘s a quote from his site:

I have also been teaching math and science to some of the others. It is great to see convicted drug dealers get excited when they learn fourth grade level math for the first time. I have spent quite a bit of time with one 29-year-old man who cannot read at all. I have been teaching him phonics and we are reading Genesis 1, 2, 3 and John 1, 2, and 3. His face lights up when he sees that he can do it. I offer commissary items like soup or coffee to men who memorize Bible verses. There is no way to describe the joy that they show when they get it right. Many have never memorized scriptures in their life, and maybe that is why they are in jail. Scripture helps us to “cleanse our ways” Psalm 119:9-11.

I don’t support Mr. Hovind, but I do support people who help others. If Kent wants to help people learn mathematics and how to read, then I won’t razz him for doing that. Keep up the great work, Kent.