Thursday, December 30, 2010

Weekend Assignment: The Gift That Keeps On Living

Ack! I got sidetracked and missed my own Weekend Assignment deadline!

This week's Assignment is short and seasonal--again!

Weekend Assignment # 350: Best. Gift. Ever.
What is the best gift you've ever gotten from anyone?

Extra Credit: To the best of your recollection, what is the best gift you ever gave someone else?
I'm tempted to say the Chinon SLR I got for my birthday in 1986, but the real answer is this:

As I said at the time: Could be my Best Birthday Present Ever!

which led to this:

Pepper, the day we got her. We were calling her Newdog.

We had to bathe her twice in two days - the second time after
she dug her way out of the back yard!

Pepper is much harder to photograph these days. Whenever I turn on the camera she turns away! But that doesn't stop her from being a great dog and a great gift.

My best gift ever given, I was hoping, would be the one I was putting together for my brother Steve for Christmas this year. John and I have put many hours into putting it together, but we can't quite seem to get it right. It's meant to be a book, or at least a pdf file, if we can ever get the pages to appear in order with no duplications or superseded versions. The title page reads,

The Ruth Anne Johnson Songbook
Version 2.2
Songs and parodies by Dr. Ruth Anne Johnson Funk
Sheet music scanned by John Blocher
Lyrics transcribed from sheet music or memory by Karen Funk Blocher

Yes, it's a serious attempt to scan every page of surviving sheet music my Mom ever wrote, along with my transcriptions of many of her song lyrics. I've been carrying at least half a dozen of her songs in my head for forty years, more or less intact, with more fragmentary memories of her other efforts. Most of them were first performed in musical revues she wrote in the 1960s, and a one woman show she co-wrote for local stage star Bea Solomon in the early 1970s. An astonishing 20 songs of Mom's, some with original music, others with mom's lyrics set to Chopin and other composers, appeared in her show DeManleyville USA (1964) and its update, DeManleyville '65.

Obviously it was all a long time ago, and the people who performed those songs would be in their seventies or eighties by now, those who are still alive at all. I don't know if any of them would remember or care about The Ending of Desire or Come Back, G.E., or any of my mom's music from her Limestone Theater and Syracuse Little Theater days. But I care, and I know Steve cares. Now he will have everything I have in my mom's old notebooks, digitized and darkened and with some of the yellowing removed from the pages. She wrote mostly in pencil on staff paper, so it's important to get legible files out of them before the originals deteriorate any further.

Now if we can just get those pages in order on the PDF, I can get it sent off to Steve. By mail, that is. The last version of the pdf was 130 MB, and Steve's still on dial-up!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Weekend Assignment # 349: So Not a Party Girl

For Weekend Assignment # 349: Party Hardy or Party Hardly? I asked,

Weekend Assignment # 349: Party Hardy or Party Hardly?
This is the time of year for office parties, family reunions, New Year's Eve parties and holiday parties in general. Are you a party animal or a party avoider? Do you go to parties because you want to, or out of obligation, or not at all?

Extra Credit: How many parties are you likely to attend between now and New Year's Day?

Let's see - what was the last party I attended? It was a friend's birthday party in September 2009. That one was bearable, even fun, because several of the people attending were friends from the old Doctor Who club whom I hadn't seen in years. Also it was in a beautiful setting in the Tucson Mountains foothills, and well organized with a fun Disney theme. I venture to say it was the most enjoyable party for me since the Doctor Who club disintegrated a decade ago.

Most parties are not like that, I suspect. The last few parties I attended before that were a few food-at-work deals in the accounting department at Beaudry RV, at which I was acutely uncomfortable. I didn't really know any of those people, even after working with them for several months, and they certainly didn't know me. (They also totally failed to wish me a happy birthday, despite the existence of a "next birthday" whiteboard, from which I'd been erased, and a policy for keeping track of such things.)

The last party I attended before that was the Casino Night held by First Magnus in June, 2007, almost exactly two months before the company folded. I dressed up, with someone I sort-of-knew, played games that didn't interest me and took pictures. In retrospect I should have guessed from the chintziness of the prizes that the glory days were over for the company. I came home with a Barnes and Noble gift card for I think $25. But even that was better than the Christmas party in 2006, which I left early. (That's the party at which people are dancing in the photo at the top of this entry.) There was no seat at the table with people I knew, my attempt at nice clothing and makeup was a disaster, and I felt ill until the moment I got back to my car.

You see the pattern, of course. Except for my friend's surprise birthday party, all the parties I've attended in the past decade have been basically obligatory parties thrown by employers. And I pretty much hated them all. For me to enjoy a party, it pretty much has to have a small guest list, consisting largely of friends whose interests are similar to mine. It also helps is there is no alcohol or dancing. We had something like that in the 1990s. They were called UWoT meetings. I miss them.

Yeah, big party girl, me. I don't drink, I don't like socializing with strangers and near-strangers, and mostly I don't see the point of parties. The only exception is small get-togethers with people I know well, and can talk with on subjects of genuine mutual interest. The closest I get to that these days is at Coffee Hour or the occasional Pot Luck at my church - and no, I don't count those as parties. Total number of parties attended by Karen Blocher in 2010, year to date or prospectively, equals zero.

However, if five or six of the old Whovians crowd call me up tomorrow and invite me to New Year's Eve at some local restaurant, I won't say no!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Round Robin Challenge: Signs and Symbols

For this week's Round Robin Photo Challenge, Symbols, as suggested by Ruth of  Scrabblequeen, I initially thought of religious symbolism. Here's just one example:

Deacon Michael Meyers lights the Advent Wreath

In the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches (at least), the four week "season" leading up to Christmas is known as Advent, symbolized by the Advent wreath. Unlike the wreath on your door (or my alcove wall) at Christmas, it hangs horizontally. On Sundays it is lowered so that a priest, deacon or subdeacon can light one or more of the four candles on top of the wreath, one for each week. (One candle is lit the first week, two the second, and so on.) Three of the candles are purple, but one is rose colored.

Each part of the Advent wreath has its own symbolic meaning. The wreath itself, like most Christmas wreaths, is made of evergreen branches, symbolizing eternal life, since evergreen needles don't die with the autumn leaves. An advent wreath, again like many Christmas wreaths, may have red holly berries, symbolizing the blood of Christ. The candles represent the four weeks of Advent, a time to repent (literally to "think again") in preparation for Christmas. As more candles are lit, the Light of the World draws closer. The violet color of the three candles is the color of penitence. The rose candle, lit on the third Sunday (Gaudete Sunday, "Gaudete" being the Latin word for "rejoice"), symbolizes an element of rejoicing in the midst of our preparation.

And now you know more than you ever wanted to know about Advent wreaths, right?

The other symbols I thought of were the pictographic and color-based symbols of traffic signs - the red that means stop and green that means go (Starman thought that yellow meant "go very fast"), and most especially the shapes we recognize as meaning "Walk"...

...and "Don't Walk"...

...and similar symbols meaning "Pedestrian Crossing" and so on. Such symbols are a big factor in making the streets safer, because we can read the symbols faster than the words they represent. But photographically, they're kind of boring, aren't they? Let's move on to a street sign that symbolizes much more than is printed on it. Here it is:

John bought this retired road sign from US Route 66 in Oklahoma, as I recall, on our big trip up and down the country (plus a bit of Canada) in 1986. We had been watching the 1960-1964 tv series Route 66 on Nick at Nite, and I was going to write a book about both the tv show and the road that inspired it. But U.S. 66 had been decommissioned by the Federal government, on the theory that it had been superseded by the Interstate Highway System and was consequently no longer needed. Towns and cities unlucky enough to be on Route 66 but without an exit off I-10, I-40 or any other Interstate, were bypassed and struggled to survive. A truck stop owner in New Mexico told me that each year, more towns fell off the Rand McNally road maps as their populations fell below the threshold for inclusion.

(Okay, so I only took two or three of these photos. But I did the editing!)

So what does a Route 66 sign symbolize? It's a symbol of the Open Road, the two-lane blacktop that could take you "more than two thousand miles all the way," or to the next adventure, like the adventures of Tod and Buz, on some obscure piece of classic American real estate. It symbolizes Roadside Americana, like the Buffalo Ranch and motels made from metal teepees. It symbolizes the call of the West, the Mother Road that the Joad family followed from the Dust Bowl to California. It represents that trip we took in 1986, the only time in our adult lives when we had no obligation to hold down a job and pay the rent or the mortgage.

End of the Road: the unedited version from 1986.

Most of all, it represents a time gone by, a time that was already starting to fade away as writer Stirling Silliphant drove around the country and wrote about the adventures of two guys and a car, and Martin Milner, George Maharis and (later) Glenn Corbett filmed those adventures on location. When we drove the old route in 1986, it was a patchwork of state routes called 66, which had a tendency to dead-end with little or no warning. The most memorable case was when it petered out at a cemetery, at which a cow was grazing. We thought that was a perfect symbol of Route 66 as it existed by then: quirky, picturesque, and dead, but with life still hanging on where it had been.

More on Route 66: there is an Historic Route 66 designation now, but back when we were driving it there wasn't. The signs for it are sporadic, and it's basically a collection of state routes where the original highway was. The highway itself did not have a completely stable route over its long history, and is not only about 85% drivable. The good news is that interest in Route 66, with an historic preservation society, travel guides and so on, have saved some businesses from the brink of extinction. More info here:

National Historic Route 66 Federation
Wikipedia entry

Now let's see what other symbols the Robins have found to show us!

Linking List
as of Saturday, December 18th at 8:35 PM

Ruth - Posted!
The Scrabblequeen Knits, Too

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Jama - Posted!
Sweet Memories

Monica - Posted!
Shutterly Happy

Linda - Posted!
Mommy's Treasures

gMarie - **Welcome, new participant!**

Halie - **Welcome, new participant!**
My Memoirs

Krista - Posted!
Through the Eye of my Camera

Gattina - Posted!
Keyhole Pictures

Manang Kim - Posted!
My Photography in Focus

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Weekend Assignment # 348: Influences

Watching tributes to John Lennon last week was my inspiration the the latest Assignment:

Weekend Assignment # 348: Trendsetters

Musicians, writers and other artists frequently have an impact on their fans that goes beyond simple enjoyment of their work. Many rock stars have had an influence on fashion or politics or both, and fictional characters sometimes inspire real people in their opinions and career choices. [I'm not going to try to prove these assertions here; just go with them, okay?] Has an artist or artistic work ever inspired you to do or believe something that might never have occurred to you otherwise?

Extra Credit: Do you think it's appropriate for artists to be political activists? Does such activism have a positive or negative impact on your respect for that artist?
I would say that I was subject to such influences when I was younger. When I was in fourth grade, I used the word "ain't" for a week while reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and started an essay with an  ungrammatical sentence meant to follow the language of teen magazines and my favorite tv program: "My favorite show is The Monkees, because us groovy kids gotta have some groovy show to watch!" My fourth grade teacher wisely responded, "Karen, I'm surprised at you!"

Harlan and the hat
Harlan Ellison at the Clarion Writer's Workshop 1977
photo by Mike Orgill

But that's art influencing me, not the celebrities themselves. How about this, then? I used to stare out the window, hoping to see the Monkeemobile randomly fulfilling the theme song promise, "We may-a-come-a-to your town!" In high school, I started to move away from my mom's middle of the road politics as I read the work of Harlan Ellison. My first letter to Harlan began, "I used to be a Democrat for Nixon," and went on to credit him for my political education. In college, I applied to a writer's workshop Harlan had written about and taught at, and would be teaching at again that summer. He and Peter S. Beagle, also teaching that year, were the main reasons I applied. As some of you know, that workshop was where I met my future husband, and was encouraged by Harlan to "go after him, girl!" I did, and we've been married for 31 1/2 years so far. Celebrity influences don't get much more consequential than that!

I've been involved in fan clubs for three different favorite shows over the years, and met most of my friends that way. Once in the 1990s, I deliberately had a hairdresser whiten a lock of my hair before a Quantum Leap convention, in homage to the white streak in Scott Bakula's hair. That lock is still grey, fifteen years later, while the rest of my hair is still mostly brown. Oops! But I don't really mind. I am 53 years old, after all.

One more, very positive influence: after more than a decade of religious indecision, almost agnosticism, I decided to give the Episcopal Church a try, largely because Madeleine L'Engle was Episcopalian and it sounded like a good fit for a lapsed Catholic. You know how that worked out. I mention St. Michael and All Angels often enough around here, so I won't bother to go into detail again tonight. But I have my favorite writer to thank for what is now a major part of my life, beyond the actual religious consequences.

As for celebrities and politics, I don't think I've been particularly impressed since Harlan in the mid-1970s. It's absolutely fine with me if a rock star or an actor speaks out on a cause or for or against a candidate. The caveat is that celebrity does not confer wisdom. There's no particular reason to follow their lead except on the merits.

I had a great, simple idea for the next Weekend Assignment as we lurch toward Christmas. Now if I can just remember what it was...oh, yes! More on that Thursday evening.


See also:
Harlan Ellison, Matchmaker
Blame it on Tiger Beat

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Thirty Years Later, John Lennon Is Still Dead - But His Music Isn't

foollenn2I'm old enough to remember where I was then I heard John Lennon had died. For that matter, I'm old enough to remember the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in the summer of 1964. I've been cruising YouTube and Google tonight for appropriate clips and tributes, and it occurs to me I should get something posted here before this 30th anniversary of his death passes.

Husband John's best friend from college (CGI wizard John Berton) called that night (the 8th) and said, "Lennon's been shot."

I couldn't believe it. "Is he all right?"

"He's dead."

It was a shock. I had been a Beatles fan most of my life, had done a report on them in high school, and had bought all of their LPs (except for Revolver, which I already owned) during high school and college. John had not only their commercial albums, but a number of bootlegs of their demos and studio sessions. We even had a large Beatles mirror hanging on our living room wall.

But Lennon was dead, and I was the co-owner/manager of a tiny Rock memorabilia store, Rockarama in Columbus Ohio. I had to do something in response to this horrific and life-changing event. Five years ago, I wrote about what happened next in my life, as a direct result of John Lennon's death:

Memories of December 9th
(reprinted from a post 5 years ago

On December 9th, 1980, I went to work as usual; but it was decidedly not an ordinary day.

My job at the time, such as it was, was as co-owner, manager and sole employee of Shirt Off My Back / Rockarama. The first part of the name was the original business, started by Kal and Larry in 1979. Yes, it was a used T-shirt shop. Kal and Larry also did computer portraits (primitive dot matrix portraits printed on cloth banners) at Lazarus and elsewhere on a seasonal basis.

I made about half of the buttons shown here.

We were next door to Mole's Used Records, so the rock and roll angle worked much better than the used shirts. We bought out Larry, and started carrying new rock T-shirts, posters, stickers, patches and buttons. I designed and made some of the buttons myself, while others came from suppliers in New York and London. Before we moved to a larger storefront, the place was crammed so full of all of these things, plus 45s and vintage rock collectibles, that our slogan was "A Lot of Stuff in a Tiny Room!"

John Lennon had spent half of the 1970s out of the public eye and away from recording studios, instead playing househusband to Yoko and father to little Sean. He was expected to reemerge around his birthday (and Sean's) in October, 1980. This was the meaning (or, at least, a meaning) of some buttons we had for sale, that simply said "Where's Lennon?" But John had recently relaunched his career on schedule, with the Double Fantasy LP and the hit single (Just Like) Starting Over. We knew where Lennon was, so those particular buttons were no longer topical as of early December 1980.

But the morning of December 9th, those buttons seemed to have a new and sadder meaning. People started coming in, looking for something to wear in memorial to him, and leaving with that button. So I used press-on lettering to design a new button: just the name John Lennon in white on a black background. I made about 75 or 100 of them, and gave them away. It didn't seem right to profit by his death.

Just a few weeks before that, I'd had a conversation with someone about every major rock band having at least one dead member. I figured at the time that the Beatles were "pre-disastered" (a Garp reference), because they'd met their dead member quota with Stu Sutcliffe, back in 1962. The rest of the Beatles weren't drug addicts (not anymore), and weren't likely to die of a brain hemorrhage (as Stu did), so they ought to be pretty safe. But it turned out I was wrong about that one.

Two other things happened at Rockarama on or about December 9th. One was a run-in with a couple of loud-mouthed college boys, who tried to get a rise out of me by saying they were glad John Lennon was dead. I kept my temper, and asked them to leave my store. They declined to leave on demand, but soon wandered off when I failed to entertain them further.

I wrote the cover story for this.

The other was a phone call with Toni from Relix, wholesale purveyors of rock buttons, Grateful Dead collectibles, and Relix Magazine. Toni told me she didn't have anyone to write a Lennon tribute for the next issue of Relix, which was going to press almost immediately. I offered to write it for her, and have it ready the next day. That little article was my first professional sale as a writer. I got paid $35.00 for it, and was glad to get it.

I remember other things from that tiny room, such as Mark Eitzel writing in his songs and poetry notebook in my store, back when his stage name was Billy Lee Buckeye. I remember that early on, I was so ignorant about 1970s rock that I didn't know Led Zeppelin was popular. I remember buying someone's vintage Beatles collection for about $75, including 1964 drinking glasses and bobbing head dolls. I didn't mean to cheat the guy; I just didn't realize the items were old, because they were in such great condition (and because a lot of the old stuff had been pirated in the 1970s). And I remember selling lots and lots of Pat Benatar posters, and buttons of Pink Floyd's The Wall.

Groovy times, man.

Rockarama moved onto 13th Ave. in 1981, and shut down in 1982. It never paid me more than lunch money and the occasional record or collectible. It didn't really break even, most of the time. We supported it by taking selected stock to record shows on weekends. Eventually I had to go get a real job. But heck, it was fun while it lasted. I have no regrets. Well, almost no regrets. Not about Rockarama itself.


That terrible, awful night still echoes across the intervening decades, like the final chord in A Day in the Life. It silenced John Lennon, ending a period of musical creativity shortly after it began, with no possibility of more brand new music to come. The much longed-for Beatles reunion happened only in the form of a posthumous collaboration, with Lennon's old bandmates adding on to a couple of his old demo recordings.

Amazingly and rather wonderfully, however, the musical legacy of John Lennon and the Beatles continues, even without John Lennon sitting at his piano or guitar. My husband published a handful of books about the Beatles in the late 1980s, written by the pseudonymous L R E King. The books were an attempt to catalog all the Beatle-related demos, live recordings, studio sessions, remixes and "outfakes" (recordings marketed by bootleggers as something they weren't) that had surfaced illegally. Much of the best material was later released legally, on The Beatles Anthology, Live at the BBC and so on. Nowadays, much of the information King worked so hard on is really available online. There is even sort-of-new material in the form of the Love album, plus gray market remixes and tributes.

And the Internet is such that tonight I've watched a 1966 video of Paperback Writer/Rain, which I probably first saw the night it aired on The Ed Sullivan Show. I've watched a 2007 live clip of a Beatles tribute band perform Hold My Hand, the Rutles song from 1978, which parodied the Beatles' appearance on Ed Sullivan in 1964. I've read parts of a 1980 interview with Lennon that Rolling Stone just got around to publishing. All these years later, Lennon's legacy is as vital as ever.


Weekend Assignment # 347: The Cars

For Weekend Assignment # 347: Car Crazy, I asked,

Weekend Assignment # 347: Car Crazy
Some people are car connoisseurs, able to discuss the finer points of 1960 Corvette engines, find or build replacement Model T parts, or argue the merits of the latest high-end Italian sports car. (Okay, maybe it's not the same person in each of these scenarios, but you get the idea.) Other people know a lot about their own beloved car and its automotive brethren, but not much about other cars. Still others are mostly just concerned whether their car still gets them to work and back safely. How about you? Do you pay attention to automotive trends, or quickly identify the unusual car sitting next to you at the light? What is the extent of your knowledge and interest in cars?

Extra Credit: If a long lost rich uncle insisted on buying you any car you wanted, as long as you promised to keep it and drive it around, what kind would you get?

I guess you could say I've never been more than vaguely interesting in cars, beyond their functional value as something to get around in, either across town or across the country (or some portion thereof). In kindergarten, I asked a classmate whether her parents' new car was "a Ford of a Rambler," because those were the kinds of cars my parents had, and I didn't know any others existed. When my brother, circa 1965-1966, was pointing out every "Bonneville '65" he saw on the street, I wondered what the big deal was. In the 1970s I noticed that it seemed as though half the cars in Syracuse were VW Beetles, but I had no opinion whether this was a good thing or a bad thing. My first car was my mom's old 1967 Dodge Coronet station wagon, which my friend Howard used to tease me about, repeating back my words, "But it's a good car," when I had to hold the choke open with a screwdriver or pencil in order to start the car.

The Eagle

No, I'm not exactly a car connoisseur. Even as an adult, my interest has mostly been in whatever car I happened to own, or whatever car my minimal research told me I should buy next. I inspected an EV1 at a car show in Reid Park once, and was disappointed to learn that it was not available for sale. At all. The car most like it, and sitting next to it in the park that day, was a Saturn, which led to my owning a Saturn a few years later. When I kind of wrecked that car, I got another Saturn. When a kid in a 1965 Ford pickup totaled that one, I got...well, there wasn't another Saturn I could afford on what the insurance paid out, so I bought a 1994 Eagle Vision TSi, a make and model I'd never even heard of. But I got it from the Saturn dealer. I don't regret it. The inside door handles are broken, the plastic panel over the airbag is warped, the radio doesn't work and the leather seat in back is starting to split apart, but, well, "It's a good car." Which is to say, yes, I've put a few thousand dollars into repairs and it still has problems, but at least it runs.

Look! It's an old...umm...!

Still, I do notice neat old cars on the street, and occasionally some unusual new car if it's strangely shaped or exceptionally sporty. I'm probably right more often than not when I identify something as an old Chevy, Cadillac or Model T--well, maybe. And once I got a car dealer to give me a test drive in a Corvette, with the car salesman at the wheel. I also watch Top Gear on BBC America, not because I have an opinion about expensive Italian sports cars, but because the three hosts are amusing, and do crazy challenges involving cars and other vehicles all over the world.

Despite the fact that I love the styling and it's iconic and the guys drove one on the tv show Route 66, I don't think I'd take a Corvette if the proverbial rich uncle offered me one. That goes double for any of the insanely expensive sports cars the guys on Top Gear rhapsodize and argue about. No, I'd probably do what I usually do: look at what's available at the used car lots, research what reviewers, consumers and car sites have to say about each of the available models, and then pick the car that best fits the overlap between my research results and "I like it - it's pretty." In the end, buying a car is pretty much always going to be a negotiation between the sensible part of the brain and the emotional response of "oooh...gimme!"

If the Eagle broke down for good tomorrow and I also got a really good job tomorrow and could afford to replace it, I'd love to get a Chevy Volt. The sensible part of my brain tells me that it's Motor Trend's Car of the Year, which has to count for something, and that it's better for the environment, probably, than an internal combustion car. (It depends on the source of the electricity being poured into it. Maybe I can lash up some solar panels.) The not-so-sensible part of me is aware that it's this year's answer to the long lost EV1, only better, and enjoys the commercials for it on MSNBC, with voiceover by Tim Allen. If that proverbial rich uncle turns up any time soon, I guess I'll go for that.


Saturday, December 04, 2010

Round Robin: What Comes After

It's Round Robin time, and this one was suggested Vicki of Maraca.The topic is "Before and After," and I've chosen three things in their before and after states.

First, and probably least original to this time of year: the turkey:

What's wrong with this picture? I don't mean photographically; just look at the turkey. It's upside down! John said this was my most successful turkey ever, "in terms of the cooking. But it leaves something to be desired in the presentation!" You see, this is my before picture: not before cooking, but before John struggled to get the upside down turkey out of a roasting pan that was barely larger than the bird. Actually, the bird was taller than the pan and lid!

Afterward: Frankenbird! We didn't get it turned right side up for days, until it was half-eaten and in pieces.

Second: my disappearing TARDIS mug. I've had it for 20 years, and hardly ever used it for tea or cocoa. (I hate coffee.) But a friend asked me recently whether I needed one, so I decided to see whether my TARDIS mug was indeed, as I half-remembered, a disappearing TARDIS mug from the KUAT gift closet, and whether it still works after all these years.

After the water boils in the cup and before the resulting tea cools, the TARDIS does disappear, sort of, if you don't look too closely. On a revolving microwave turntable, I can't really see it, but when it's set down on a carton of diet cranberry soda, the mug's pale yellow pattern is evident.

After I've drunk some of the tea but before it cools completely, the top of the mug cools enough for the blue of the TARDIS to begin to materialize again.

After the mug cools to room temperature, it is in its original before-tea state, except that it needs cleaning! The TARDIS has fully rematerialized. It never gets the darker blue of the police box prop, any more than it disappears completely. But it will do!

Third and finally: the Christmas house on Calle Herculo, not far from Calle Mumble.

Before dark: the many decorations are there, but a little dreary in the December sun. The inflatable ones slump on the hard ground.

After dark, it's all quite different. The plastic, air-filled creatures extend their cheerful greetings behind a fence of brightly colored lights...

...and my neighbor's house becomes a fairyland of color, music and Christmas joy.

Now let's check out everyone else's before and afters!

Linking List
as of 12/6/10, 5:26 PM

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Monica - Posted!
Shutterly Happy

Kat - Posted! (Monday 12/6)
In My Dreams I Can Fly...

Margaret - Posted!
Margaret's Musings

Linda - Posted!
Mommy's Treasures

Jama - Posted!
Sweet Memories

Ruth - Posted!
The ScrabbleQueen Knits, Too

A Hardcore Life

Sandy - Posted!
From the Heart of Texas

ellen b - Posted!
The Happy Wonderer

Manang Kim, USA - Posted!
My Life's Journey in Focus

Krista - Posted!
Through the Eye of my Camera


Friday, December 03, 2010

Craig Ferguson's Musical Doctor Who Primer

In an astonishing but apparently genuine display of incompetence*, CBS (or, more specifically, the producers of The Late Late Show) recently failed to get clearance to use an uptempo recording of the Doctor Who theme in time for host Craig Ferguson to use it in his opening sketch, a silly dance number introducing viewers to the venerable British series. Ferguson and co. performed the piece in rehearsal only to have the music pulled just before air time, leaving the "cold open" a shambles, to the host's obvious displeasure. (His interview with Who star Matt Smith that night wasn't that great, either, but that's neither here nor there.)

It's taken a while, but the canceled sketch has made its way to YouTube. Here it is:

John's comment was, "'Intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.' That needs to be on a T-shirt."

Works for me!

Hat tip to Julie Barrett for the link.


*It's very possible that the fault lies with whoever holds the rights to that particular recording, not the producers, CBS or BBC Worldwide. Just sayin'. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weekend Assignment # 346: Holiday Procrastinator

Continuing with the seasonal theme:

Ack! The holiday shopping season is upon us! What is your shopping strategy for this time of year? Do you spread out your shopping over weeks and months, or try to get it all done at once? Do you mostly shop online or in person? How heavily, if at all, do you rely on gift cards, gift certificates or plain old fashioned cash and checks?

Extra Credit: Do you enjoy shopping the Black Friday and after-Christmas sales?
Um, I haven't started yet.

This is not unusual for me. It's not that I hate to shop, but I have limited patience with lines, and even more limited funds to spend. I'm not likely to get in line to buy anyone a new tv or computer at a deep discount. The only person I can afford to spend significant money on these days is my husband, and frankly we have a history of returning his "big present" to Best Buy (or wherever) immediately after Christmas or his birthday. We do this almost every year, it seems.

Even more limited in supply is my fund of ideas for what to get anyone. As you can tell from the above, shopping for John is a perennial problem. He tends to just buy what he wants. If he doesn't buy it, it means he doesn't think we should spend the money.

For many years, my dad organized Christmas lists, so that we all knew what other family members wanted and could share out gift ideas for each family member to buy; but even he has pretty much given up on this now. He sends a check, and I send Amazon gift certificates, to just about everybody. Or Borders or Barnes and Noble gift cards. Same thing, really, just in person.

A gift from me to me: sandals that fit!

So, no standing in line at Best Buy at 4:45 AM, as an old classmate of mine documented on Facebook Friday morning with a photo of a Best Buy line in Binghamton, NY. No turning in at Park Place Mall. I did want to participate in a push to buy local on Saturday, but I forgot. Nevertheless I managed it, by accident. Michael of Michael's Shoes, who is also the deacon at St. Michael's, coincidentally enough, is having a sale at his store. Since his store was the source of the only decent shoes I've bought in the past decade for my large, flat, pain-prone feet, I decided it was a good idea to get another pair while I could get them, especially at a substantial discount. So I walked in yesterday and said, "Show me anything you have in stock that's likely to fit and not hurt my feet!" Most of what they brought out was either too masculine or not right for the shape of my feet; but I got a nice and non-pain-inducing pair of sandals, probably the first pair I've had since college, if not high school. Okay, so it's a present from me to me, but I did buy local, on the big shopping weekend!

Still, I'm working up my plans and ideas. I have established that John doesn't want me to buy him an iPad, except possibly after I get the job I applied for last week. (More on this if anything comes of it.) On the other hand, he has mentioned a few things in passing, mostly housewares. I'll have to look into those possibilities.

Given that my unemployment benefits are currently under threat by Republicans in Congress, I'm going to have to wait to see whether I can send friends and family the usual Amazon gifts, and how much. There is one exception to this calculation, though. A friend of mine Back East, with whom I've been exchanging birthday and holiday gifts for three decades, was burned out of his home a few weeks ago when his landlord's apartment, which was below his, caught fire. Because it rained the following night, his apartment was so structurally unsound that he couldn't even go back in for the few possessions that survived. He's hoping to use Amazon to replace a few favorite books, and I'll be supplementing that with a few mathoms. I wish I could do more, but he's the sort of person who is embarrassed if anyone does anything in a situation like this!

Here are the guidelines if you'd like to participate in this week's Weekend Assignment.

1. Please post your response no later than than 12:01 AM on Thursday morning, December 2nd, your local time. You can do this either in a blog entry of your own or in the comments section of the assignment entry. No submissions will be accepted after that time unless I really want to.

2. Please mention the Weekend Assignment in your blog post, and include a link back to the original entry. Using one of the logos shown here is encouraged but not mandatory.

3. Please come back here after you've posted, and leave a link to your entry in the comments to the assignment. Please post the URL itself rather than a live link.

4. Visiting other participants' entries is strongly encouraged!

5. I'm always looking for topic ideas. Please see the "Teacher's Lounge" page for details. If I use your idea, you will be credited as that week's "guest professor." Help me out, folks, because sometimes I run dry when doing this week after week!

6. I reserve the right to remove rude or unpleasant comments (not to mention comment spam), and to leave entries off the linking list if the person has been rude or unpleasant, or fails to mention the Weekend Assignment in the entry.

That's it for now. I realize it's a busy time of year, but please jump in with an entry if you can. Have a great week! I'll be back Friday night with my Round Robin entry.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Weekend Assignment #245: Thanks Be to All

It's the night before Thanksgiving, and the last day to answer this Thanksgiving-related question:

Thanksgiving is upon us, the time of year when we're asked what we're thankful for. Let's take the opportunity to interpret this literally, and actually thank someone! Tell us about someone in your life, past or present, whom you would like to thank for what they did, and why.

Extra Credit: Suggest a Weekend Assignment topic, because I'm running dry! Also: would you prefer that the topics be mostly literary, or is a variety better?

I've been thinking all week about who I'd like to thank. John? One or both of my parents? My brother, who used to cheer me up when my parents argued across the hall from my room? Some teacher? A writer? An actor? A politician?

Well, of course I'm thankful to John, my husband and beat friend for the last 31 1/2 years; but an entry in tribute to him would be tricky for me to write, and embarrassing to him rather than gratifying.I've written entries about each of my parents, my brother and at least one writer. As for politicians, well, even the best of them can be a disappointment.

No, I think I'd better go with thanking the people of the Episcopal Parish of St. Michael and All Angels. Don't worry; I'm not here to convert you or anything.

From St. Michael's Slideshow

My first visit to St. Michael's was sometime around 1997. I hadn't been to a church in years, on the theory that until I knew what I believed it didn't make sense to go to church and mouth words with which I disagreed. I was a lapsed Catholic, sort of raised to be a lapsed Catholic because my mom had been deeply ambivalent about the Church since long before I was born. But I was reading religious nonfiction by Madeleine L'Engle, and coming to realize that I'd never come to any decisions about religion without making the slightest effort in that direction. L'Engle was an Episcopalian, as was a friend of mine from my high school and college years. It seemed like a pretty benign denomination, most of the good stuff about the Roman Catholic Church without any of that pesky conservatism about birth control which drove my mom away in the 1940s. The first female Episcopal priest (I think) was at Syracuse University, an innovation that counted in its favor. And conveniently, there was an Episcopal Church just a few miles up Wilmot from me. It had a sign out front, "Jesus was a refugee." I liked that. So I worked up the nerve and went to church there one Sunday.

Father John Smith

Two things happened that first day. One, I found that the Mass, albeit tricky to follow because it involved switching back and forth between two books and a leaflet, was close enough to the ritual I'd grown up with to be comfortingly familiar. Two, and more important, two different people from the parish took it upon themselves to greet me and introduce themselves. One was a parishioner about my own age, Suzanne. The other was the rector, Father John Smith. He'd been at St. Michael's for about a year. Buoyed by this welcome, I returned the next week, and the week after, and on and on.

Not that I'm just a parishioner. One year, Father Smith called for volunteers to help with Mass, as acolytes (what I used to call "altar boys" growing up) and as lectors (readers of the Bible lesson for each week). I signed up for both. Through that, I made the acquaintance of Proscovia King, the Master of Ceremonies who trains and directs the acolytes and helps out at very nearly all the masses. Born in Africa, Proscovia grew up in England, where her mother was chief acolyte at Canterbury, I believe. I also became friendly with other acolytes, from high school students to University professors and staff.

In 2004, Father Smith started taking about the parish being on BlogSpot. I didn't quite know what that was yet, and when I asked about it, he put me in charge of the thing. From there it was a short step to becoming the parish webmaster. At the same time, I started to get into digital photography, and was soon taking pictures of major church functions to post online. This brought me in contact with other parishioners as well. Somewhere in there, my friend Kevin started riding to church with me, and we started to develop a small circle of friends who usually sat together at Coffee Hour after mass. For somebody like me who doesn't socialize much, this was a big deal!

Alicia Basemann and Nancy Vernon

But my integration into the life of the parish and its people took a big leap forward at the beginning of 2009. My job at First Magnus was long over, I'd been laid off at Beaudry and at that time lacked even a temp job, except for four disastrous days in January as a tax accountant inside a check cashing store in which nefarious things were taking place. An auditor had called for the parish to bring in a second bookkeeper to make the weekely deposit. Was I interested in the job? Well yes, of course! So bookkeeper Pat Strawn and Parish administrator Nancy Vernon showed me the ropes, and I put in a few hours a week at the church office. When Pat quit at the end of June, I took her place as parish bookkeeper.

On paper it was a step down from my various staff accountant jobs, but for me it was a godsend. I was making a little money to keep my unemployment from running out as quickly, it gave me nonprofit accounting experience for my resume and I had a place to go in the afternoons. Just as important, though, I was even more a part of this community. The two parish administrators, Alicia Basemann and Nancy Vernon, became my friends and confidantes, and I saw a bit more of Father Smith, whom I admire. Pat Miller replaced me on the weekly deposits, so I got to work with her as well. The parish has a number of volunteers, also, many of whom answer phones in the church office, prepare food bags for the poor and so on. Nearly all of them are twenty or thirty years my senior, but I've gotten to know each of them a bit as well.

Between carrying a candle or a cross in church, taking pictures, hanging out at coffee hour, doing the books and attending vestry meetings, I've become a rather well-known character at St. Michael's, and in turn have learned the names of many of the other parishioners and a little bit about some of their lives. I feel welcomed, appreciated. I'm part of something, a community with common purpose, not just worshipping God and drinking coffee together, but helping the poor, fighting for social justice and so on. It's not really within my character to go out on protests or travel to Guatemala with Ila Abernathy to help displaced Mayans, but I'm very proud to be at least tangentially associated with such activities.

So thank you, people of St. Michael's. Thank you, Father John and Father Ed, Nancy, Alicia and Pat, Ila, Les and Jim, another Les and another Jim, Jan and Mary and Kevin. Thank you, Proscovia, Jane and Toni Sue, Jo and Mike and the other Mike, Margaret and the other Margaret, and the lady whose name I can never remember but her son wrote a book about a Muslim boy who loves the Statue of Liberty. Thank you, Frances and another Mary, Robin and Al and Bob, and lots of other people I could name if this list weren't too long already. You've all enriched my life, and I'm very thankful for you all.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Round Robin: Untrue Colors

Ack! It's time to show my colors!

Although she doesn't remember it, this week's Round Robin topic, Colorblind, was suggested by Nancy of  Nancy Luvs Pix, three years ago this month. I've been wanting to do this Challenge (Basically, take a photo of something, change the color...make it interesting!) for a long time. This is something I really enjoy doing, taking a fairly ordinary picture and making it surreal (or at least more colorful) by playing with the color settings in my cheap photo editing program, PhotoStudio.

Let me show you what I mean. Here's a recent photo I haven't posted in any form until now:


This shot of Cayenne has had no color adjustment. I did, however, take the liberty of cloning out some of the boxes and stuff behind her - rather unconvincingly I might add!


Same photo, negative image. Is Cayenne a Blue Dog Democrat?

I got a dog and her fur is blue,
I betcha five dollars she's a good dog too!


Same image, solarization effect, I think on top of the negative one. The backgound has reverted, but Cayenne will never look the same again - not in this photo, anyway.

I also have a "dark marker" effect version if you're interested.

The psychedelia above took just a few clicks in the photo editing program I happen to have, but most photo editors have basic sliders to adjust saturation and hue, at the very least. Take a look at this:


I've increased the saturation on this Oro Valley sunset, and shifted the hue a bit. Result: the colors are brighter and just subtly "off."


Last one. This October sunrise, as seen through my bedroom window, has been saturated a little, but is not far off what my eyes saw that morning.


But I think the solarized version is more interesting!

Now let's see the other Robins' oddly colorful photos!

Linking List
as of Sunday, November 21st at 9:58 PM MST

Nancy - Posted!
Nancy Luvs Pics

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Kat - Posted!
In My Dreams I can Fly...

Linda - Posted!
Mommy's Treasures

Day One

Sandy - Posted!
From the Heart of Texas

Monica - Posted!
Shutterly Happy

Jama - Posted!
Sweet Memories

Chris **Welcome!**

mga gihuna-huna

Jeanette - Posted!
Net On The Net

Jessica (new blog name/url)
Waters Edge Photography

Gattina - Posted!
Keyhole Pictures

Peg - Posted!
Who Can Discover It?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Weekend Assignment: I Love Tucson in the Fall

Time to answer my own question!
Weekend Assignment # 343: Fall Favorites

Some people like autumn leaves. Others like foods associated with this time of year, particular holidays, sports, weather, or even the run up to Christmas and Hanukkah. What is your favorite thing about Fall? (Note: if you're in the Southern Hemisphere, tell us about Spring instead!)

Extra Credit: What do you like least about this time of year?

For me it's sort of all of the above. Except for the autumn leaves part. Tucson trees do very little color-changing. It just isn't cold enough for that, and we have the wrong kinds of trees.

First off, autumn is my annual chance to pursue my "pumpkin anything" obsession. Pumpkin bread, ice cream, yogurt (frozen and otherwise), butter, pies, tarts, cookies, and variations on most of the above have all passed my lips at some point in recent years. Last weekend I combined the remains of my pumpkin steamer from the Starbucks counter at Safeway with a small vanilla shake from Whataburger, and made myself a pumpkin shake. It was good, too. Overall, though, I haven't indulged in much Pumpkin Anything this year.

Second, and probably more important to me, the weather from October to April is half the reason John and I moved to Tucson nearly a quarter century ago. This year, October was still quite warm, with an average high of 86 degrees and two days breaking the 100 degree mark. Still, that was a big improvement over September! It's also a big improvement over the Octobers I grew up with in Manlius NY, and later in Syracuse. It nearly always snowed before October was over, but the real misery of autumn in Central New York was all the dark, rainy days and nights, especially if the windchill kicked in as the cold weather roared across the Great Lakes Ontario and Erie. Yuck. It was well worth giving up autumn leaves to leave behind all that rain and snow. What little rain we get in Tucson mostly happens at predictable times, like 5 PM on a summer afternoon when it is mostly a relief!

Here in Tucson, November has been very pleasant. It's cool enough that we were finally able to stop running the air conditioning, but not so chilly as to require us to turn on the heat. There have been a few mornings when I probably would have benefited from wearing a light sweater, but some days I've still been in my short sleeved tops, and quite comfortable. It's great sleeping weather, with a blanket and a few dogs to stave off the chill.

The dogs and Kevin, 2009

The third cool thing about autumn in Tucson, for me, is a handful of holiday and holy day celebrations, and I don't just mean Halloween. As the church year winds down, St. Michael's celebrates the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, otherwise known as Michaelmas. This year that included the English Faire to which John and I donated so much stuff, but there was also a special mass with extra musicians to accompany the choir. A week later was the Feast of St. Francis, featuring the Blessing of the Animals. Someday I'll get a decent picture of Cayenne and Pepper getting blessed, but it's touch to lead them up to the priest, get them to stand still, and take their picture at the same time!

And yes, there is Halloween, and the Días de los Muertos celebration, Mexico's Day of the Dead, which is enthusiastically celebrated in Tucson. There's a very unusual parade downtown, and candy skulls and really amazing folk art skeletons. I've never gotten out to see any of this, but one of these years I will. Mostly I've seen it as decor in a few shops, but St. Michael's had a Días de los Muertos table in the back of the church this year, part of the Anglican Feast of All Souls. Same thing, just celebrated differently.

The Church year is kind of an odd thing anyway. It begins and ends in late November, when Ordinary Time gives way to Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. In other words, it starts about two thirds of the way through Autumn! This year I have a selfish reason to look forward to Advent. As fat as I am, I have had an ongoing problem every Advent and every Lent when serving at Mass. When everyone else switched to different vestments appropriate to those liturgical seasons, I struggled. None of the red cassocks the parish has for Advent fit me at all, and largest of the black ones for Lent I can only get into if I get pinned in instead of buttoning, and try to hid the fact that it's not shut under a white garment called a surplice. Unsurprisingly, I find this extremely frustrating and embarrassing. Most of the time I just end up in my usual white alb, which does fit, but in those seasons fails to match what anyone else is wearing.

Expert tailor Sister Joy Ann in the meeting room at the Benedictine monastery

But the new church year, which starts in a couple of weeks, will mark a major change in my difficult relationship with liturgical garments. Having ordered red and black cassocks from two catalogs, only to return them when they didn't fit, we decided, with the rector's permission, to have red and black cassocks made to measure for me. This is being done at the Benedictine Sanctuary of Perpetual Adoration, the distinctive monastery on Country Club Road that I have photographed before. Sister Joy Ann and a few of her colleagues comprise the Liturgical Garments Department, which makes ritual clothing for priests, nuns, deacons and acolytes all over the country, but especially Arizona. After extensive measurements were taken, I went off to Hancock Fabrics and bought the yards of red and black cloth, for which I was reimbursed, and brought them to Sister Joy Ann. She then worked out how many buttons I needed to get, 14 for each cassock. I got them 5 to a card, half off of $1 a card, so that was a great deal.

Sanctuary proper, Benedictine Sanctuary of Perpetual Adoration

Last week I got a call to go over for a fitting. Rather than risk messing up the red cloth with guesswork for this patternless project, Sister had cut a partial garment from an old sheet, pinned together so she could made adjustments. Afterward she gave me a brief tour of the beautiful old building.

The monastery portion of the building. More photos at My Tucson.

Like a number of major Tucson landmarks, the monastery was designed by architect Roy Place, whose classics-inspired buildings are a big part of Tucson's distinctiveness. This is probably one of his very best works. November 2010 marks 75 years since the Benedictine Sisters arrived in Tucson, and 71 years since the groundbreaking on the current building. I just missed the open house, but there's a big anniversary celebration a week from Sunday. So you see, that's another cool thing Tucson has in the fall!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Weekend Assignment #243: Easy Rereader

Let's see; what have I been rereading lately?

Some people like to read a book once, and then they're done. The plot is resolved and they know whodunnit, so it's time to move on to the next book. Other people reread a favorite book every few years, and still others keep it on their shelves in case they may want to read it again someday. Are you a frequent re-reader, an occasional one, or are you "one and done"? How do you decide what to reread, and when?

Extra Credit: What was the book you reread most recently?

I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I'm a lifelong re-reader. On the one hand, that means that the books I buy are not a waste. Once I buy a book, I am almost certain to read it more than once, probably three or more times over a period of decades. In fact, aside from a basic collector's mania, that's why I buy all the books I read, and have borrowed a total of one book (I think) from a library in the past two decades. I figure, if it's worth reading, it's worth owning, so that I can read it again at a moment's notice. I mean, really! If I'm thinking about the Harper Hall Trilogy at three in the morning, I can go right to the shelf my Pern books are on, and start reading it again. Well, actually, I think the Pern books are in a box at the moment because I pulled them from my closet to put in the library. But the point stands.

But with a world full of books, a large subset of which are fantasy and sf and other stuff I might enjoy, why do I read a few hundred books over and over instead of sampling the whole range of what's available? This is where the embarrassment comes in, because the truth is, I'm not all that well read. A friend asks me what I think of Neal Stephenson or China Miéville, or recommends Charles de Lint or whoever, and I have to admit I haven't read anything by them. Heck, on our first date on New Year's Eve 1985-6, my last boyfriend before I met John bought me Dune and ordered me to read it. Later he also told me to read some Zelazny. I never did it, just as I never read David Copperfield, more because my mom kept saying that I should than because of any distaste for Dickens. When it comes to trying new authors, I am debilitatingly resk-averse.

So when I do find a writer whose work I enjoy, I tend to go overboard. I have over six feet of Madeleine L'Engle books, collected over the past 35 years. I have all of her novels, a reasonable chunk of her memoirs and religious essays, and some of her poetry. I have all of the McCaffrey Pern books except for one or two of the recent ones by her son. With a favorite author I know I will probably like the work, so I buy the books. Most of the time that works out, so I read it again.

Am I missing out on a lot of good books I would probably enjoy? Almost certainly. On the other hand, I really enjoy nearly everything I buy with my limited funds, and get good value by rereading them, usually when another book in the series comes out, but sometimes just for the heck of it. And I do occasionally try something new, that long-discarded copy of Dune notwithstanding. I think there were three Harry Potter books out the night I encountered them for the first time. I read the first five pages or so of Sorcerer's Stone right there in the bookstore, and then bought it. Within a week I had all three titles. Since them I've, John Scalzi, I suppose. He's one of the few "favorite" writers whose books I pick and choose from rather than buying them all. And I do at least look at books that might be the next big discovery for me personally.

So what have I reread lately? Most recently I've reread several books by Patricia C Wrede, who used to write lots of witty and helpful posts on the old AOL sf and fantasy writer's message boards. Some of my books by her date back to the 1970s and early 1980s. Many of them were in boxes, inaccessible for over a decade until we went through boxes this summer. Now I can reread those old titles, which seldom turn up in bookstores, even used.

Yeah. I think I'll reread The Harp of Imach Thyssel next.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

Fairness to George, Part Three

George Maharis and me in a Denny's parking lot, 1986.
I received an email today from Rick Dailey of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, who is building an online location guide to the 1960-1964 television series Route 66. Recently he and another fan have been researching the circumstances of George Maharis's controversial departure from that show, looking into actual documentation from the time. Rick got in touch with me because I wrote a couple of posts on the subject several years ago, based on my 1986 interviews with Maharis and others. I still occasionally get feedback from people about the two "Fairness to George" posts, so apparently there is still interest in this 48-year-old controversy. I recently found a dot matrix printout of the Maharis transcript, from our 1986 interview at a Denny's in Las Vegas, so this seems like a good time to post a few excerpts.

First, here's the gist of the story. Route 66 was a television series about two guys (originally Martin Milner as Tod Stiles and George Maharis as Buz Murdock) driving around the country in the late-model Corvette Tod inherited from his father, taking odd jobs, meeting people and having adventures. Three things made it an amazing and groundbreaking series. First, it was filmed on location all over the country, from Oregon to Grand Isle, Louisiana. Second, it was primarilly written by one of the show's producers, Stirling Silliphant, who drove around the country ahead of the production crew, and wrote stories based in the places he visited. Silliphant had a unique, lyrical style that was unlike anything else on tv. Third, the two stars, aside from being young and hunky, were interesting and contrasting characters, well-played by Milner and Maharis. Tod was the largely soft-spoken, well-educated but now penniless son of a failed businessman, with a strong ethical sense. Buz was working class, a bit of a rebel, self-educated, passionate and articulate.

And then George Maharis got sick with hepatitis, and ended up leaving the show under a cloud. There were accusations that he was trying to break his contract to go make movies, just another big-headed star behaving badly. The unreported (at the time) undercurrent of the rift between the star and producer Herbert B Leonard was Leonard's belated discovery that Maharis was gay, with the potential scandal that such a fact might cause the show if it ever came out in the press. This was 1962 after all, decades before Ellen. He was replaced by Glenn Corbett as Linc Case in 1963, but ratings soon declined and the show was canceled in 1964.

Found! The Maharis transcript.

Now let's have a look at a few bits of the transcript, which I typed up tonight for Rick Dailey:
Maharis: Well, they made a mistake with Glenn. It was very funny, because I had never seen the shows that he was in. I was ill. And I don't know what they told you about that, but that was a lot of stupidity and miscommunication. Nobody talked to me about it. And I was the object of all this garbage.

We had been working in cold water. It was winter, and we were working out here in California. We went out to do a show at the Veteran's Hospital, and there was a shot with Steve Hill, and I had to go down to the bottom of a pool and get him. Well, the inside pool that they used there was ninety degrees. The pool that they actually shot was an outdoor pool, and it was forty degrees. And the stuntman, who was my double, couldn't get in the water. It was too cold. So I did it.
He goes on to say that he also worked in a river with Barbara Barrie, at night in 17 degree weather, and she had a wetsuit and he didn't. He got a cold, and they gave him a B12 shot, and he got hepatitis from the needle. Then he worked in the water off Catalina Island, and felt very ill. At that point he ended up in the hospital for a month. After that he says he returned to work too soon, working long hours for the next four months.
Maharis: ...and I was in really bad shape in St. Louis. And the doctor in St. Louis , who they had sent me to, said, "Get home. Now." And for some reason or other, they thought it was something to do with contracts. And the doctor said to me, in St. Louis--and it was their doctor--he said, "If you don't leave now, you're in serious trouble." And I left.

And by that time, it was ugliness. It didn't have to occur. It didn't have to happen. But for some reason or other, the people who were next to the people who were next to the people, talk to each other, and they don't know what the hell is going on. And nobody ever called me about it, and said, "Are you ill?" All of a sudden I started reading this shit in the paper [which said] I was trying to get out of my contract. Trying to get out of my contract? I was in New York; I thought I was dying.

And here is the last page of the 53-page transcript.
Karen: He [Milner] said that he felt that Tod was not anything like himself.

Maharis: He's wrong. From my perspective, he's wrong. Very much of Tod in him.

Marty's not as gregarious as [I am]. He's not as trusting. He's more suspicious. I'm suspicious, but I'm more vocal about it. He's suspicious, but he's hesitant about it. I don't know why. He's been successful in his career, and would think that he'd say what he wanted. See, I don't give a damn. I say what I want anyway. I figure, if they don't like it, too bad. Money doesn't make the difference of whether you can say it or not say it. I think everybody's got that right. The only thing is, you have to stand by it.

That's the best of it. here's also a rather good 2007 interview I found online tonight. Check it out here.

Update: I've had another email on the subject, and without going into specifics, I should state here that Maharis seems to have been more at fault in the circumstances of his departure than I ever suspected. The evidence would appear to indicate that (as usual) the truth is somewhere in between the claims made on each side, and possibly closer to the producer's side of the story than George's. For example, as producer Herbert B Leonard pointed out to us all those years ago, during the "three years" Maharis says it took him to recover from the hepatitis, he made at least three films, as well as recording sessions and singing appearances on tv. My guess, such as it is, is that Maharis felt he was well enough for these activities, but not for the more physically demanding work of an action-adventure tv series shot entirely on the road. What a shame; regardless of who was right and wrong and to what degree, the falling out between George Maharis and the makers of Route 66 cut short an astonishing run of literate, groundbreaking television, and left Maharis with a somewhat tarnished legacy.


See also:
Fairness to George, Part One

Fairness to George, Part Two