Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas with Daniel 2011

Well, it's been an exciting year in many ways, as you may be able to tell by the lack of 2011 posts. This blog, like so many other blogs, is caught in the bog of real life keeping the blogger too busy to update regularly. I enjoy writing, so I keep hoping things will change. You loyal readers are a blessing to me & I thank you for taking the time once in a while to check in. It's time once again for a holiday tradition. "Here's "Christmas with Daniel", but it's not Daniel O'Donnell this time. . .it's the star of children's TV, Daniel Striped Tiger.:

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. 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,” Daniel 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.

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and holiday season.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

New music (not new music) and Nessie (not Nessie)

While scrounging through some music CDs on a recent visit to my parents' home, I was surprised to find a Katy Perry CD. No, no, I said. This is not possible. My parents like old 1950s music, not Katy Perry. Katy Perry is too hip. Even I don't have a Katy Perry CD! How could my parents have one? This must be an episode of the Twilight Zone.

But no, it was reality. My mom says that she heard Katy sing "Firework" on TV and enjoyed the song so much that she bought the CD. It's far different from 1983, when I would have to beg for $1.69 to buy a 45 rpm single. Now, they just go out and buy the whole CD. As mentioned before, I don't know where you would even buy a music single these days. Today, if you don't use itunes, you just go out and buy the whole CD. I'm thankful my parents (and I) are in a position to do such things.

My trip home also gave me some exposure to some new music artists that I wanted to share with you (In this case, "new" means I'd never heard of them before, which means they've probably been around for several years. So I beg of your patience if you've already got five albums by these folks. I just enjoy what I enjoy, and here's some of what I enjoy). For examples of their work, the easiest option is just to watch them on YouTube. I'll also list a few music artists that I have more recently discovered elsewhere.

1. JACKIE EVANCHO. Like many others, I heard the voice and thought it belonged to a great operatic singer who'd been at the met for years. But no, it belonged to a little girl who hadn't really known of her talent until she began to sing along to the movie version of "The Phantom of the Opera." Jackie Evancho is a great singer for all ages and I enjoyed her recent PBS special.

2. STRAIGHT NO CHASER. These guys, like their suits, are very cool - they demonstrate that vocal harmony is very vital to musical success. I really enjoyed their show as well. Check out their Youtube videos for "Africa" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Great stuff.

3. MUSIC GO MUSIC. If you like Abba, you'll like them. They also use harmony to their advantage.

4. LA ROUX. Speaking of Abba, synth music plays a key role for La Roux as well. If you enjoy the single "Bulletproof", you'll enjoy their debut album.

In other music news, I was saddened to hear of the breakup of R.E.M. While it may be true that they've reached the "peak", it's just as true that we enjoyed having them there. Like many great bands, their best work is classic, and their mediocre work isn't too painful. As one of the band members once said, they have been able to do things their own way. That's a blessing for them. The fact that we liked it so much was a blessing for us.

What is not much of a blessing is the recent bankruptcy and closing of Borders bookstores. Remember my posts about making your own music CDs at Borders? Well, forget them! I believe it's still possible at some FYI stores, but none of them are near me, and it's just too much of a hassle to do it any other way but online. Nothing wrong with that per se - I just like to have options. It's like the idea of the Post Office closing on Saturdays. I understand the need to save money - but I don't like the idea of losing the option of mailing things on a Saturday. And I liked the option of making my own music cDs in a store. I'm obviously not against the Internet at all - but I hate to think of a world where there are no other options.


NESSIE SPOTTED IN UTAH: I took a very rare (for me) business trip recently which gave me the chance to fly over Nevada and parts of Utah. As I looked out the window, I saw several large lakes. In one of these lakes, I noticed a white object swimming in the lake which appeared to have at least three long legs behind it. A giant white squid? As I watched, I remembered the picture of the "Loch Ness Monster" that was reported on Google earth & that I had blogged about in the past. This creature looked almost exactly like it! A little while later, we flew over another lake, and I saw several more monsters that looked almost exactly the same! Wow! I must be the luckiest guy in the world!

Uh, no. They were boats. Clearly they were boats. And as I remembered the Nessie Google earth image, I can't believe nobody (including myself) ever positively identified it as a white boat with wakes flowing to the side and behind it! Surely people who do a lot of flying would have been able to say, "It's a white boat. That's how they look from an airplane." I guess it's just so much fun to believe in the Loch Ness monster that we overlook obvious solutions in favor of what we want to see. I kind of liked the idea of Nessie swimming butt-first in protest of everyone trying to bug her all the time.

Here's one site that got it right:


QUICK THANKS: To the few (and I do mean few) of you who know about all the garbage I'm going through right now, thank you for your continued prayers and/or good vibes. They are much appreciated, as are you.


PAST MINUTES: In keeping with our "all Carolyne Heldman all the time" mantra, I'd like to point out a new webpage dedicated to the MTV show "120 Minutes," which Carolyne hosted a few times. (Check out the year 1988 in the archives for a playlist from an episode that she hosted). They're seeking contributors (and so am I), so if you happen to have a video of an older episode, please contact them, and then contact me. :) I have a little bit of footage to trade with.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

So Many Dreams

In keeping with the trend of listing tracks from some of my mix tapes, I'd like to offer you this mix from circa 1992. It is a fun album and it features something I don't do very often - cover art drawn by me. The picture is of Ginger from "Gilligan's Island" and Grover from "Sesame Street" enjoying a sunny day in the enchanted forest. Of course. Neither Ginger, Grover nor the enchanted forest actually perform on this album, but it's a cool picture anyway. (Although if they WERE to sing a song, they could probably sing the "two g sounds" song from the alphabet album, since their names have both sounds. . .but I digress). The picture is here reproduced so that all my die-hard fans can enjoy it.

It's my blog. Let me dream.

On a day of jury duty not long after this tape was finished, I found myself writing out the lyrics to EVERY song on side one of the album. Yes, I was bored. But it demonstrates how much "into" the album I was at the time.

The album title comes from a lyric in the famous song "You Light Up My Life", which is of course on the album. It is true that the lyrics to my mix tapes are somewhat important to me. I don't like to put songs on them that I find objectionable. It's a rare problem, but I have sometimes had "fights" with myself over songs that I felt were OK musically but wrong for an album of mine due to lyric content.

1. If - Bread
2. Losing my religion - R.E.M.
3. A Teenager in Love - Dion and the Belmonts
4. Island of Dreams - The Seekers
5. I Started a Joke - The Bee Gees
6. Caribbean Amphibian - Kermit the Frog
7. You Light up my Life - Debby Boone
8. World where you live - Crowded House
9. Unchained Melody - The Righteous Brothers
10. California Dreamin' - The Mamas and the Papas
11. Duke of Earl - Gene Chandler
12. Bless this House - Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians
13. Evening Falls. . . - Enya
14. River - Enya
15. If I were - Kermit the Frog
16. We can work it out - Beatles
17. Perhaps Love - John Denver and Placido Domingo
18. Someday My Prince will Come / Finale - Snow White soundtrack

Looking over the list, I can identify the trend of putting a few songs on from the same album. (Enya's "Watermark"; Jim Henson: A Sesame Street Celebration; Snow White soundtrack). I can also ID some cassette singles from the time that were purchased (R.E.M.; Dion). Yes, this was before CDs were the big thing in our house, and everything is from an LP or a tape.
Listening to this again today, I still love it a lot. The songs are fun and full of emotion and often full of longing, and the finale to Snow White is a symphonic masterpiece. It's hard to believe I did this almost 20 years ago. "Boy, you old."

The version of the finale to Snow White on this tape is the one from the Disneyland LP, which is slightly different from the version made available on CD. Read more about that here:

Ginger's fans can read more about her here:


EAT YOUR HEART OUT, MAPQUEST: We are finally able to answer one of the greatest geographical questions of all time. "Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?"
According to the 1971 Year Book of the World Book Encyclopedia, in article on page 485 by Allan Davidson, "Sesame Street is near 104th Street and Second Avenue in New York City's East Harlem." He then goes on to say that it not a "real" street (no way!) and talk about the show, which at that time was quite a force in the TV world. So now we have a much better general idea than we've ever had before. I feel like I've discovered a boat on Mount Ararrat.


ON YOUTUBE: DARTH VADER'S VISIT TO DISNEYLAND. Friend Jenny pointed out this video recently & I thought it would be fun to add it to my page as well. The new Star Tours is here, and this video from Disney Parks explains exactly why good things come to those who wait and have knowledge of the force. A fun and funny video that you can watch on my Youtube page in my favorites folder.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Won' t you be his neighbor?

Are you in the market for a new home? Well, if you're willing to do a bit of digging, you may be able to buy Mister Rogers' home! (Or at least, a home in the Mr. Rogers style.) That's exactly what blogger TL of the Nieghborhood Archive did. He now owns an exact replica of Mister Rogers' television home - that is, the tiny model one you see at the beginning of his TV show! Okay, so it's a bit small, and unfurnished. You will probably have to put in your own plumbing and electicity lines as well. But how cool. I urge you to read his post about how he found and restored the home. It's much funnier than this post.

Speaking of Mister Rogers, now is the time for all die-hard Mr. Rogers video collectors to shell out the big bucks and buy some copies of their favorite episodes, most of which are being made available on home video for the first time from the Fred Rogers company. Most of the episodes are only available as downloads to your computer or iPod, but some are available as DVDs. TL has a link to a page where you can pick out the exact episodes you want. This is a real treat for "old school" Mr. Rogers fans who want to peek at the older episodes again. It's almost like the "Noggin" revolution of 1999-2000. Old school PBS rules!


HOW TO DISAPPEAR: I have a great excuse for not keeping up with the blogging. This is a long story, but for the moment I do not have a working Internet connection. And this very long moment has lasted for several months now. So now I'm without live TV or the Web. I'm missing the Web a bit more. What I miss most is the ability to get information quickly. That's probably the best luxury the Web has to offer us, and the reason why sites like Google and Wikipedia have been so successful.

It also may be the reason why within the past two months, no less than four local stores/companies have decided to close up shop. The stores have one thing in common - they sell CDs and DVDs. At one going out of business sale, there was a DVD set of the old "Superman" TV show "on sale" at 20% off. When I did a search for the same item on, I found that its normal price on Amazon was the same as the sale price at the store. There you have it - the reason why the store went out of business. If the Web offers items at a lower price, why buy it at the store? I'm losing four favorite shopping haunts. Obviously, the Internet is not completely to blame - but when so many similar businesses leave the scene, you can't deny its impact.

So if I don't immediately answer your messages, there's a good reason for it. I do have computer access, so I can occasionally check in to see how things are going. It sucks, I know. I won't bore you with the details (too late, I know), but I'm going through some bumps in the road of life. But I'll get through this. So thanks, dude, for letting me borrow your computer so I can do this post.


POKER FACE: One of the stores going out of business is a local Borders, which is the one that had the mix and burn station where you could burn your own music CDs. Darn it, we finally get this awesome technology, and now it's out of my reach! :) Again, you can look at the Web and say that music can be downloaded from home, so why go to the store to do it? A good point - well, what about folks like ME who don't have Web access, huh? Sigh. The Internet has revolutionized the music business, both in good ways and bad.

But I digress. I wanted to give you another playlist of songs from one of my Borders albums that you may enjoy looking at. At the time I mentioned Lady Gaga in a post last year, I was more familiar with her image than her music. But a local radio station has been playing some of her "hits", and I must admit to enjoying much of what I've heard, as this song list will show. This is one of my favorite "Borders albums."

1. Poker Face - Lady Gaga

2. Wonderful Woman - The Smiths

3. Hearts Courageous - Azure Fields

4. Boa Constrictor- Marylee

5. Haven't met you yet - Michael Buble

6. Come Harvest Time - Steve Amerson

7. Love Never Dies - From the musical

8. Alejandro - Lady Gaga

9. Hi Friend - Bob McGrath

10. A smile connects us - Kermit the Frog

11. Paparrazzi - Lady Gaga

12. Solsbury Hill - Peter Gabriel

13. Already Gone - Kelly Clarkson

14. Jenny Dreamed of Trains - John Denver

15. Bigmouth Strikes Again (Live) - Morrissey

This album is fun to listen to. At times quiet, at times rocking. It's almost exactly an hour long, making it a good fit for a recording. But I don't think the cursing in "Paparazzi" is necessary. It's there to try to sell records to sheltered teenagers who think that cursing is so grown-up and will make them cool. Couldn't she have sung, "Snap snap to that crap on the radio?" It means the same thing, and it almost rhymes!