Monday, December 24, 2007

A Child Is Given

Trust shows the way.

---Hildegard Of Bingen

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.

---Friedrich Nietzsche

The invariable mark of wisdom is seeing the miraculous in the common.

---Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was sitting yesterday morning in the balcony with the rest of the choir at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church. In our robes from there each Sunday we sing the Introit, then hustle downstairs to process with the first hymn. It was about 10:30. Marsha Reilly was concluding the second organ prelude, John Ferguson's particularly mysterioso setting of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. That would be our entrance hymn too on this 4th Sunday of Advent. Suddenly my wife appeared next to us up there, urgent but smiling. "You became a grandfather about half an hour ago," she whispered. In the service a bit later, a prayer of thanksgiving went up from our congregation for the birth of Nina Marie.

Winter Solstice and Karen's labor had arrived at the same time, a little after 1 AM Saturday. The Cold Moon was nearly full. When the couple was sure her body and the baby were in agreement about the hour of beginning, quiet helpers were called to their little home. Well, Nina was sort of in agreement about it. She would turn her back on the situation eventually, and require at the last a sure hand to go in and turn her gently around for the final slide into the birthing pool. They were in the water by then, 24 hours had passed, and contractions were in the hours of intensity. Karen said yesterday each exhalation was a battle cry.

Dana, Ilona and I entered their living room of peace and silence at mid-afternoon. Jeroch was in a large chair, holding the baby as you see them here. Karen walked in, radiant and welcoming as always. We felt worshipful here. These young people have matured with the months of the process, guiding us and each other with trusting hands of love. We grandparents had come to know each other quickly and better. Karen's mother, the children's book author Erica Magnus, had flown in from LA a couple weeks earlier. Already we had become friends with her father, David Thomas of the OU film department. Karen's sister and her partner are here from the world of New York theatre. Has there ever been such a wondrous Christmas for all of us!

On Wednesday Jeroch had written a message to their many friends. The due date was the previous Saturday, and I guess all of us were on the brink of a considerable energy of expectation. His came out this way, and he titled it "fire spells and ancient wisdoms." I know he approves if we thus shout it like a father from the rooftops~~~

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Wow! What a wonderfully excellent group of people to be writing to! Just thinking of all of your gorgeous smiles and huge hearts makes me so excited to have been part of your lives How have you all been since I have last seen you? New projects, endeavors, adventures, breakthroughs, unraveled any mysteries or conspiracy theories lately? Well I am sure you all have been doing all those things. What a brilliant group of people. So positive and progressive, it is just amazing. Thrilling to the core.

These are all reasons why I am so excited to help bring a new child onto this planet right now. Gathering the Cosmic light together to brighten the hearts of all beings on this planet. For those of you wondering, Nina Marie, our little daughter, has decided it has not been the absolute most perfect time in the Universe to be born as of yet. But we expect her in the next couple of days. We are prepared and ready to deliver her at our little cabin in the woods right outside of town. We share 70 acres with a couple of other families, so we have the easily accessible privacy and space we need. It is a relatively small town, so all of our friends and even folks we have never even met before will walk up to us wanting to know if the baby has been born yet. Her due date was December 15. Nope. She knows when it is time to come. It is sweet, but everyday 4 to 9 people call asking "when, when when" and it starts pretty early. Don't worry we tell them, we will call you when it happens. Nina Marie is already a popular item, and if she is as cute as I think she will be, the world isn't going to know what hit it. She is a comet of love.

I would love to send out thank yous again to anyone who has contributed anything at all, even a warm thought or prayer, it has all helped. Karen and I are so grateful, we really feel the love and appreciation. Karen is doing very well through all the trials and she is being so patient. She looks amazing and has been doing yoga and swimming and walking throughout the pregnancy. She is able to connect with her ancient Goddess wisdom and I deeply respect that. I am so proud of her. She is ready to have this baby. I send love out to all the Mothers out there, thank you for nurturing us so much and loving us unconditionally. We will do our best to pass the love along.

So as we wait for our bundle of joy we think about Christmas next week and the New Year coming soon. I hope you all have peaceful holidays and that love is the gift you give and receive the most of. Eat delicious foods and give hugs to your Grandmothers and sing carols about Angels. 2008 is going to be a most phenomenal year. A year with more responsibility for everyone. Helping to educate everyone on how to care for the planet and ourselves. As we clean the planet we feel more connection with the spirit and learn more about love. I hope I have the honor of working with some of you during this period of reclaiming Mother Earth.

I would love to hear about your lives and what you have been putting your energies towards. Feel free to write back or call my new cell phone, which I got to stay connected for the birth. Happy Solstice as well. The shortest day of the year and then the light returns to us. And with the light we walk hand in hand into the future. I will write again to let you all know what Nina Marie's Mayan glyph is and her astrological sign too. She might be right on the cusp.

So much love and respect to you and yours. I hope you all feel the Universal Love deeply right now, and if not call me, we will see what we can do.

Peace through cooperation.
Jeroch, soon to be papabear

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ernest Chappell's A Christmas Carol

Four years ago I wrote an article about a radio production of Dickens' Christmas Carol that my father constructed in our hometown back in the 1940s. He had based his presentation on an RCA Victor set of 4 12" 78 RPM records of the story, produced by famed radio personality Ernest Chappell in 1941. Nothing I've ever written has yielded such a prolonged response. Google still carries it and eventually Wikipedia picked it up in its entry about Chappell.
Each year I get requests from people in at least the English-speaking world for CD copies of that old RCA release, which of course is long gone in its original form (although EBay sometimes offers one I understand). In my original essay, I offer to make a copy for anyone---and that offer still stands.
In honor of radio drama and all the actors who made a living in that unique format---and who had such a huge impact on my life---I've decided to re-post the article...and some of the comments that have appeared since. My main motivation is the interactions with those people who want a copy, and the stories they tell of how much this production meant to them and their families. Hopefully the search engines will be reinvigorated and other people will get some answers---and maybe provide more!
The image accompanying this version is of the cover of the original set of records. It was sent to me by a contact this year in Ontario. The photograph I refer to at the beginning of the essay can still be seen at the original printing here .
Do not be an embodiment of fame; do not be a storehouse of schemes;
do not be an undertaker of projects; do not be a proprietor of wisdom.
Wander where there is no trail.
Hold on to all that you have received from Heaven but do not think you have gotten anything.
Be empty, that is all.
The Perfect Man uses his mind like a mirror---going after nothing,
welcoming nothing,
responding but not storing.
One can not be certain of living
even into the evening.
In the dim first light
I watch the waves
from a departing boat.
The truth dazzles gradually, or else the world would be blind.
---Emily Dickinson
The Kodachrome we have here most probably is of Christmas 1952. That would make me 12 and in 6th grade in the picture. Color photography just was becoming available to the public---although most people still could not afford it for another 10 years. My sister Ann seems to be wondering whether or not she is too big to be held by our father like that. Our mother Rhea never liked having her picture taken---and yes, there still were quite a number of people like that 50 years ago. Nowadays, when the TV or computer camera could be transmitting our image somewhere at any moment, we've learned to walk around with a pose available at all times.
Our father was known as J. Ralph Carlson. Ralph was his middle name and the "J" stood for John; but as his father's name also was John, the family soon called him something else so that both father and son didn't respond when the name was called out. When Dad went into local theater and radio, the name had a nice ring to it when said together so he kept it all. Everyone called him J. Ralph. Last Christmas I wrote about how he used to play Santa Claus at the biggest on-air celebration of the holiday in our hometown of Jamestown, New York. (There's a picture of him---and more important of the Children---at the archived entry, entitled You're Santa Claus from December 21, 2002 ) But there was another side to my father...and he found a way to celebrate that on Christmas too.
Beginning sometime in the late 1940s, Dad devised a one-man radio production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. At first there may have been a handful of other actors, and of course the ever-present Hammond organ accompaniment of George Pfleeger in all his original work. But soon my father figured out a way to do it all, narrating and playing Scrooge---and in a format that took only around half an hour. By the time this picture was taken, an electric transcription (ET) had been made of the show which was played thereafter every year. Before that it was done live---and I have memories of watching these programs from a space reserved for me under the studio piano. In fact, one year I even was given a line to say---no, not Tiny Tim. I got to be the boy Scrooge calls to Christmas morning about the turkey hanging in the butcher's window. I got to shout, from under the piano, "It's hangin' there STILL!" And of course the bird got bought and delivered anonymously to Bob Cratchit's house.
The production was enlivened by other voices that had been recorded painstakingly by one of the 2 brilliant engineers we had working at WJTN. His name was Ray Frehm, and he'd try to do anything you asked him---a rare trait in a radio engineer. My father had discovered a production on 12" 78 RPM RCA Victor records, done by a cast headed by one Eustace Wyatt and a collection of the most familiar voices in radio drama of that day. These were dramatic actors, many of them hiding out from Hitler on these shores, and they graced the very best live programs on the radio then, chiefly detective shows and the biblical The Greatest Story Ever Told. Radio drama did not fool around, these people were contracted actors, and the images they created in imaginations of those who heard them have lasted a lifetime. This production of A Christmas Carol was like that, and my father loved it. I did too, and to this day it is my favorite acted version---bar none. I have no idea who Mr. Wyatt was, nor are the names of the other actors listed on the album---but anyone who heard radio in those days would recognize their voices...even now.
What my father got Ray to do was record, possibly first on wire recording (an almost impossible medium, because if it broke it was like a spring that flew into a snarling mess all over the studio) and later on tape, specific speeches which he lifted off the 78s. My father would signal or "throw a cue" from the studio to Ray to start and stop the tape for a flowing dialogue. By 1950 or so, I think, the stolen speeches had been honed to perfection and cut onto an ET for easier handling in the control room. Now my father and the station did not think they were stealing. After all, commercial records got played on the radio everyday, and this was a commercial release. Artists got paid, in a very circuitous fashion, by the stations and the networks. So, they didn't see they were doing anything wrong...although I never heard them identify the 78 album---which wasn't available anymore anyway. For years, I listened to the 78s all the time---and still probably can recite most of it from memory. But eventually I broke one or 2 of them and the set was ruined. RCA reissued it on LP on its bargain Camden label in the late '50s, and miraculously I found a copy in a used record shop for a dollar. I was in heaven---and I still have it, as well as the ET of my father's production.
Mr. Wyatt's Scrooge was heartchilling, as was my father's and all the truly great ones. There is no sign of redemption in the character. He barks at a caroler at the office door. He threatens Cratchit for a lump of coal. He throws his nephew out, who simply wanted to invite him to dinner. He taunts the charity guys by urging death upon those who would rather die than go to debtors prison. "If they'd rather die they'd better do it...and decrease the surplus population." He even scorns the Spirit of his dead business partner, when Jacob Marley appears to him. Scrooge keeps it dark in his haunted old house: "Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it."
The challenge for all actors who attempt creation of this role is the graveyard scene when Scrooge begs for mercy. I thought my father's delivery became too shrill---but he was soaked with sweat when he finished each year. George C. Scott's choice was to underplay it...and weep out the words, "Spare me," at the end. It's not a bad choice I think---but any way it's a huge challenge to pull it off. I like Albert Finney's realization because, besides his breathtaking acting, the musical approach becomes so joyous at the end. But enough of all this. If you have favorites to speak for, please do so in a comment---and we'll talk it over.
"Nephew, you keep Christmas in your own way...and I'll keep it in mine."
"But Uncle, you don't 'keep' it."
"Let me leave it alone then!"
My father became known for both his Santa and his Scrooge around our town---and so Christmas each year absolutely sparkled beyond belief! I do the best I can to carry on the traditions we grew up with in the 1940s and '50s at home. J. Ralph had a daily radio program of common sense inspiration, which he called The Radio Scrapbook. George accompanied in flawless improvisation at the electric organ. It probably was pretty corny, but the town and especially my mother loved it---and listened everyday. He honored Tiny Tim and Dickens in each show with his closing salutation---which now I will leave with you. "God bless us...every one."
~~~~~~~~~ Comments ~~~~~~~~~
Zepp: Beautifully written, a warm and very human piece! Thanks for sharing! (Posted on 12-23-03 at 11:26 am)
jstarrs: Ah, Jazz, this is pure poetry...I love your personal, historic essays...thanks. (Posted on 12-23-03 at 4:46 pm)
swan: I can't agree more, this is what I have missed about your newslog, the personal essays. This is a gem. I remember our first television. It was so small that we had to all sit under a sheet so it was dark enough to see the screen. I think that was the closest we have got as a family. My favorite Christmas memory is of going to my grandmother's house on Christmas day. All the relatives were there and we would pack around the dining room table like sardines. My uncle Bill would alway drop an olive in my milk at dinner, it was some kind of "Christmas Tradition". The tree was my favorite tree of all time. There were beautiful old ornaments from many Christmas' hanging among the twinkling bubble candles and tinsel. Under the tree was a Christmas scene, with a manger and houses and a skating rink made from a mirror with snow sprinkled on it. I could lay under the tree for hours watching that scene as though it were real. I still have the manger and a few of my grandmothers ornaments and that memory of Christmas is still alive in me today. Merry Christmas Richard. (Posted on 12-23-03 at 5:34 pm)
spiritseek: Merry Christmas Richard...your memories brought back some of mine, so heartwarming to remember some of the family who are gone now. Grandma's was the best place for the holidays, lots of food,presents and a family gathering that allowed us to visit with the rest of the relatives we didn't get to see all year. The presents were few but the memories are huge. Love to you! (Posted on 12-24-03 at 4:49 am)
RP: Thanks for this lovley insight into your roots and for the opportunity it brings to explore common ground. I had no idea you were offspring of an eminent radio personality! I remember well our hometown station, WJTN, George Pfleeger, Jack Dunnigan, the Radio Scrapbook, and expecially the Swedish Hour. It was on Sunday afternoons, and I would often be out in the barn helping my dad with chores or working in the shop. We wern't allowed to know or use any language other than english, but that Swedish fiddling and the vocal harmonies penetrated me right to the core. It seemed that the Swedish hour was always too short, and I'm sure my affection for folk music started there. Jack Dunnigan with his " window at the end of the lane" somehow generated a curosity and reverence for the magic of radio which is still a part of who I am. We usually had the old floor console radios in the barn, and when they quit it was often a bad tube and I started learning electronics keeping them running. The humid atmosphere would kill any radio eventually, so it would be replaced & I would take the dead one apart to try & find the magic. I ended up with boxes of parts and started trying to put them togather in new combinations with my own magic. Early attempts were weak and feeble "crystal" sets and (surprise) I couldn't get anything but WJTN with it's massive 500 watts a couple of miles away. I got older, the sets got more sophisticated the antennas got longer ( and longer and longer), and I moved up to shortwave bands where I could tour the entire world in bed pretending to be asleep and listening on headphones! Preu, Ecudor, Cuba, Germany, It seemed as if I could find any country if I listened long enough. The magic on the internet just isn't the same as hearing voices and music of people from anywhere in the world all at the beck & call of mother nature and the way the atmosphere feels right now. Well, it's almost 2004. WJTN now has a late afternoon feature every day with a guy who is way to the right of Rush. Radio doesn't play the same role in our lives that it use to, and we are tho poorer for it. If we are given an open forum where we can present the best our cultures have to offer in creativity and in beauty surely love and respect will be able to fill the void where selfishness and hatred flows. All the best to you and yours this holiday season! With gratitude and respect for who we were, and joyful anticipation of who we can become... Merry Christmas! RP ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Well RP leaves enough material here for me to add a whole new entry of footnotes. First of all, he's a brilliant guy who, with his equally brilliant and rather more beautiful wife, lives way out in the sticks around our home stomping ground in New York. Our mutual friend Indira, currently from LA, had been staying with them for a few days, and so I thought especially to send RP and Sally a copy of these memories. Hopefully all of us might get together for New Year's Eve. What do you say, RP? Jack Dunnigan (there may have been only 1 "n" in that name) was a C&W singer and player, who'd been to Nashville, gained a little fame and a wife, and come back to town. He had his own show everyday on WJTN for years when he just played records, but during the period about which RP and I are chatting he and Gertrude performed live all the time. I'm surprised you didn't mention Gertrude, RP...unless you never got to hear Little Lena. Jack 'n Gert had an imaginary little girl, who appeared with them on the radio. She was a cross between Charlie McCarthy and Baby Snooks, but with a Tennessee twang, who got into and made trouble and kept everyone laughing on the show. The first time I watched Gertrude create Little Lena, from my viewing spot under the piano, I couldn't believe my eyes! That's what radio did to you. As a kid I thought there really was a little girl somewhere, who'd show up! As for the Swedish Hour, I didn't share your love for that music of our ancestral heritage until just recently. I don't know if you've heard any of the groups recording out of Sweden these days, but they are simply staggering! But back then, all the HOUP-la polkas and stuff embarrassed me, and it was years before I even could listen to an accordian. (West Coast jazz is just about the opposite from Swedish folk tunes. Except for Stan Getz.) The host of that Swedish Hour way back was named Inge Kilberger, who also was some kind of local diplomat sent to Jamestown from Sweden itself. Jamestown had so many Swedes in it that it merited an official ambassador. However, the city had an equal population of Italians. Sicilians particularly came to Jamestown in great numbers, but the ambassadors they sent were rumored to be of a rather less official sort. Swedes and Italians have absolutely nothing in common---except the meatball...and even they are so different in size and texture that a war easily could have started over the recipes. We also shared skills in furniture-making though, and that is how the two nationalities worked side-by-side in the many furniture factories that used to be there. My friends and I were 3rd generation and so we didn't care so much about the rivalry---although we each got a smattering of education about both cultures. I remember some wonderful Christmas Eve celebrations among Roman Catholic friends and families. Well, here I have gone and written a couple more Log entries in complement with RP's comment. Thank you, friend, for stopping by...and also for reminding us of the big old tube-driven radio consoles that were so like temples in the living rooms---and the barns apparently (yes, dairy farmers used to tell my dad all the time that the cows enjoyed his show and gave especially good milk then) of our youth. I used to love standing in BACK of ours, and looking at those glowing tubes---like some fantasy city from Flash Gordon. How sad I was when there no longer were any shops where I could take a bagful of tubes to test and replace, if need be! There's no romance WHATEVER in a transistor. Thanks again for stirring me up, RP. And now I'd better get another Swedish transfusion (that's a cup of coffee to you outsiders). ;-) Love, Richard (Posted on 12-24-03 at 3:54 pm)
Grange Rutan: Remembrance Because....Tis more than a moment I spent with yea as I rode the magic carpet to that point in time when you were someone's child and...believed in the true spirit of Christmas, created by Big Daddy. The picture is caught in a freeze-frame and the gift of time stays, and keeps you, ever young. Thanks for the memories shared and I truly felt a bit of the old fear which stays waiting to jump out at me even at this young age. You gave me a smile. Each day you stir up the emotional pot when I least expect it. Dannn-ah, you must be a powerful ingredient which keeps R. C. mentally going 90 miles an hour while the rest of the world is fast asleep. I am sure Santa is putting some extra thought in what he will leave at your house. Greetings from New Jersey and thanks! Happy Holiday. Grange and Rolf ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Grange has finished a book about her deceased husband, jazz pianist Al Haig, and we currently are looking around at publishers. Anyone interested? ---R. C. (Posted on 12-25-03 at 7:49 am)
sparkle: May 2004 bring you all the light you need to flow in life waves, a toast to you and all your loved ones A bright and happy New Year *cheers* (Posted on 12-26-03 at 11:35 am)
jazzolog: The CD of a 1938 broadcast by Campbell Playhouse finally arrived, thanks to the diligence of my new friend, Terry Salomonson at What took so long? Well...I don't know about you, but I am finding the postal service, here and/or abroad, has taken to losing at least my packages, coming and going, at a completely alarming rate. (Or is it Homeland Security?) A Christmas gift to Sparkle disappeared too---and packages overseas (or even to Canada) get really expensive! She does admit the postal dudes in Trinidad can be rascals, so I've asked her to listen when she drops by her branch office for any boogieing in the back room to the tunes I sent. Anyway, Terry had to make up a new shipment...and it arrived over the weekend. I went for A Christmas Carol at once. The script does seem to be the basis of the later production mentioned in my essay. There are significant variations but essentially it's there, and I'd guess Chappell used it. However, I was surprised that Welles plays Scrooge rather than Wyatt, who is limited only to an appearance as Christmas Present. My ears tell me Orson also is narrating, rather than Ray Collins. Probably Collins has a part, but I haven't detected what it is yet. Joe Cotton plays Fred, Scrooge's nephew. There are others in the cast who also may have appeared in the later commercial recording, but I'm not sure. I've sent a copy of the CD I made of it to Terry, and we'll see what he comes up with. Overall, it's not a bad show, but Welles is rather bombastic and his Scrooge still doesn't edge out what Eustace Wyatt created. Orson Welles was a tremendous influence on my father. His film career was so amazing and classic that we tend to forget how dominant Welles was on radio before attempting the leap to Hollywood. I would guess that Dad heard this 1938 Campbell Playhouse, in which we have the Narrator also playing Scrooge. Possibly when Chappell's production came out on records, a chord in memory was struck and my father put them together into his own annual performance. If he was commemorating the Campbell yearly production (with a different script each year incidentally) he never mentioned it to me or on the air. But my father was like that. He had a secretive side to his ego, and often concealed sources and influences upon him. He made no secret of what he liked though, and I treasure his influence upon me---and I make sure my children know of it. I believe it is important for fathers to pass their sweet teachings onto their sons and daughters, rather than make a mystery of everything. You see, this is why you find me poking through all this a radio detective in search of clues for an elusive papa. (Posted on 01-27-04 at 5:33 am)
jazzolog: How time flies, as coincidentally my last comment here was 2 Mozart birthdays ago. (Yesterday was 250 though!) Anyway in the meantime I was surprised a couple months ago by a message at this entry's appearance over at New Civilization Network by Sam Walker from Arizona. He apparently was Googling around looking for the Chappell version of A Christmas Carol, because like me he had grown up with the 12" 78s---so easily cracked and broken back in that day. I was delighted to send him a copy of the production I had turned into a CD. (Anyone else want one, just let me know.) Yesterday comes a large envelope from Sam containing his thanks...AND a photocopy of the original cover and liner notes by Chappell. I was incredibly surprised and grateful.He lamented there's no date anywhere. I had decided the performance must have been from the mid to late '40s, because Wyatt was in Hollywood making some very interesting movies from 1942 until 1944 . But this morning I found it at last at a remarkable website~~~
[November 16, 1941 - Washington Post record review headlined "Dickens 'Christmas Carol' Tops Children's Yuletide Albums" by Jay Walz]
We turn for a minute to the Children's Corner where a large variety of things are being piled up, possibly for the help of Santa Claus. For example, Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is done up in an attractive four-disc Victor album which means you can have the famous Yuletide without reading it. Ernest Chappell who has been associated with the annual radio broadcast of the carol for several years, adapted and produced the piece for the records. He also narrates it with the help of a score of actors and musicians. It is all done with the utmost sympathy for the Christmas spirit, with the appropriate exception of the part of Scrooge who is played most villainously by Eustace Wyatt, Lew White supplements traditional Christmas tunes with original music, and plays it all on the organ. The album, G-29, is listed at $3.50.
And so we are looking at 1941, which explains the extra fragility of the records given the needs for the materials of the ingredients for the war effort. It also brings us closer to the Campbell Playhouse annual radio productions, upon which the script seems to closely based.The most delightful aspect of the liner notes is the listing of the entire cast...including the sound man! Bob Cratchitt was played by John McGovern, no less, who was only 29 at the time. I wish there were a picture of him here for you , if you don't place the name, because you'd recognize him at once. John Gibson (NOT the rightwinger on FOXNews) played Marley, Belle's husband, and was a network radio actor in a number of minor series, like "Casey, Crime Photographer." Richard Gordon is Christmas Past, who I still believe was the doorkeeper at Inner Sanctum, where the organist here, Lew White, also provided eery and brilliant music. Shirling Oliver is listed as Christmas Present, although I thought it was Bud Collyer who also plays Fred. (Collyer is spelled "Collier" here.) Craig McDonnell, an incredibly versatile radio actor, played The Solicitor---and I think was Peter each week on The Greatest Story Ever Told. Helen Brown is a wondrous Mrs. Cratchitt, while Larry Robinson was Tiny Tim. (We used to hear him on Let's Pretend.) Evelyn Devine was Martha, and "Master Dickie VanPatten" was Peter. OK, everybody knows Dick Van Patten ---even if only as the maker of your favorite dog food ! Lesley Woods, playing both Belle and Belinda Cratchitt, was as typically versatile a radio actor as the rest of this amazing cast---although I fell in love with most each week when she was Margo Lane to Brett Morrison's Shadow. A favorite interval for me in this version is when the 2 pompous businessmen meet in the street to discuss Scrooge's funeral. They were played by Alfred Shirley, who is best remembered as Dr. Watson in the later Sherlock Holmes series, and Burford Hampden, who I think played Mr. Keen (Tracer of Lost Persons) later on. The boy who runs to get the turkey was James Donnolly.Trying to find these radio actors online only demonstrates to me how much research still could be done, if for no other reason than to pay tribute. Goodness knows, not all the old radio shows hold up to contemporary dramatic and comedic scrutiny. But here we have an essentially radio production that's 65 years old this year...and Sam and I clearly both still are torn up by it! (Posted on 01-28-06 at 7:54 am)
jazzolog: Apparently this article now is linked from Wikipedia in some way or other...maybe regarding Ernest Chappell. At any rate I still get inquiries about it, particularly my burn of the old RCA Camden reissue of the original Chappell production. (I'm told EBay is another place to look for a recording.) This year I got 2 requests for copies, which I'm happy to send out to anyone who asks. One guy is in Dayton and the other seems to be an actor in New York. Craig Wichman knows his radio people and so gave me some additions and corrections to all this~~~
Dear Richard-Got the CD, the graphics, and your essay - thanks! I look forward to listening...A few responses below; forgive me if they're outdated!Happy Holidays,-Craig
"Richard Gordon is Christmas Past, who I still believe was the doorkeeper at Inner Sanctum"That was Raymond Edward Johnson, and then Paul Mcgrath. Ray, though having had progressive dystrophy since his golden age career, attended Friends of Old Time Radio in a gurney! A very sweet man of faith.Gordon played Holmes (in an imitation of William Gillette that doesn't work for me) on American radio before Rathbone"although I thought it was Bud Collyer who also plays Fred. (Collyer is spelled "Collier" here.)" That's Superman himself!"Larry Robinson was Tiny Tim. (We used to hear him on Let's Pretend.)" Yep. RIP.Also, worked with Norman Corwin; THE GOLDBERGS, many soaps, etc."Evelyn Devine was Martha, and 'Master Dickie VanPatten' was Peter. OK, everybody knows Dick Van Patten" Last year, he was the King in CINDERELLA at New York City Opera, where my wife's in the chorus."Lesley Woods, playing both Belle and Belinda Cratchitt, was as typically versatile a radio actor"She did lots of TV, starting in the 50's."although I fell in love with most each week when she was Margo Lane to Brett Morrison's Shadow"Not to get repetitive, but another, Margot Stevenson, did a few lines in a recreation at FOTR last year (and her daughter was Cinderella to my Prince Charming, in the LET'S PRETEND recreation that I spoke of earlier.)
FROM YOUR SNAILMAIL:DID Wyatt (he was indeed British) do Scrooge on Campbell's in '37? I thought Lionel B. was firmly established by that time (he started in '34 or '35.)As mentioned before, Orson subbed for him in '38 (Eustace was in that cast.) Lionel's brother John pitch hit for him once, too; no recording known to exist.Lew White did music for DR. CHRISTIAN, PORTIA FACES LIFE, and NICK CARTER.Keep Christmas well,-CraigCraig, I don't believe Eustace Wyatt ever played Scrooge for Welles. I'll research further and continue this comment if I find something. Craig Wichman studied with Stella Adler, through New York University, and has since worked in all media – from corporate video (for clients such as Kraft Foods and Chase), to Off-Broadway (Fronte-Page's Julius Caesar); most recently, as "Lucifer" in the Boulevard West film, The Devil You Know. New York theater: The Lark ("Warwick" - Horace Mann Theater); The Beggar's Opera ("Macheath" - Florilegium Chamber Choir) Anne Fleming's award-winning The Little Canoe ("Nicholas" - created role); Browning's Fra Lippo Lippi (Player's Club). Regional theater: Twelve Angry Men ("Juror 8" - Act II Prods.); Showboat ("Steve" - Renaissance Players); Tecumseh! ("Lt. Ross"). Television: One Life to Live, All My Children, Law & Order, Kojak. Founding actor/writer/producer of the nationally syndicated Quicksilver Radio Theater, he has performed with them the roles of "Ebenezer Scrooge," "Antonio" (The Merchant of Venice); "Frankenstein's Monster," "Sherlock Holmes," and Abraham Lincoln. (Posted on 11-29-06 at 12:23 pm)
Jen: Im' looking for the old Victor 78's of a Christmas Carol. It sounds as though you may know how I can obtain them. My father listened to it every year when he was a little boy. He passed away two years ago and I've been trying to find it for my brother and sister.I listen to my father's old ones, but when he was a child one of the records got ruined with a soda being spilled on it. ANy help you could give me with this, I would be forever greatful.Thank you and Merry Christmas,Jenny (Posted on 12-25-06 at 4:17 am)
jazzolog: Good morning Jenny, and Merry Christmas! Let's see, how should we do this? Sometimes these comments don't provide a hyperlink to email. Scroll up to one of my comments that is linked and email me. If that doesn't work for you, go to the Guestbook and leave me a private message with your email addy on it. (Posted on 12-25-06 at 7:32 am)
jazzolog: Looking in this year, as a Guestbook comment has appeared with a request for a copy. I don't believe Jenny ever got back to me from last year. If you're still out there, let me hear from you. (Posted on 12-14-07 at 12:38 pm)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Catastrophe Is Coming

The chart illustrated an article by Les Blumenthal in Sunday's McClatchy newspapers, under the headline "Oceans' growing acidity alarms scientists."
All things by immortal power,
Near or far,
To each other linked are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star.

---Francis Thompson

A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.

---William Blake

When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

---Kikuyu Proverb

Last week my wife of 25 years fired off a letter to the editor. She didn't used to do this kind of thing, but world developments in recent years have convinced her wake-up calls like this are crucial. She comes from a family tradition of citizen involvement in current affairs. There's a big difference between a demonstration with folk singers and the hard work of political organizing. Increasingly she's going to community meetings nearly every evening, some of which she chairs.

The letter went to our biweekly newspaper, The Athens News. It was about global warming. The editor, Terry Smith, emailed back saying the piece was too long for the letters feature, but offered to publish it in the occasional Reader's Forum on the Opinion Page. He asked her, though, to compose a blurb about who she is. Well, that's kind of hard to do so we sat down together and came up with something simple and to the point:

"Dana Carlson has been a teacher for 30 years. She's been an advocate for sane environmental policy even longer." Here's her article~~~

Is it possible to get Americans to care about global warming? How about James Lovelock’s terrifying forecast that ‘“We are on the edge of the greatest die-off humanity has ever seen, We will be lucky if 20% of us survive what is coming. We should be scared stiff.” (TimesONLINE, May 2007)

Lovelock forecasts the death of 6.5 BILLION people and 70% of species between now and the end of the century. By 2020 (12 years from now), drought and other extreme weather will be commonplace. Soon thereafter, the southern half of the United States will be unlivable desert, as will most of Europe, and all the rest of the tropical and formerly temperate regions of the world.

James Lovelock is the scientist who developed the theory of the Earth as a self-regulating super-organism---whose system of positive and negative feedbacks keep our planet habitable. Accepted as the basis of present climate science, this theory explains the rapid advance of melting Arctic ice (melting at a rate---not twice as fast---but 10 times as fast as predicted by computer models) and the failure of the oceans to absorb the carbon being put into the atmosphere.

What does that mean? Earth relies on a system of ocean and land carbon sinks to absorb excess carbon from the atmosphere. Recent research shows that the Southern Ocean’s ability to absorb carbon has seriously weakened, decreasing by 35% over the last 25 years. On, land, excessive droughts are decreasing the efficiency of plants to take up carbon. Since 2000, atmospheric carbon has increased 35% faster than expected---in large part because the system of carbon sinks is failing.

When carbon dioxide mixes with ocean water, the reaction produces carbonic acid. The oceans have increased in acidity by 30%---and the prediction is that acidity could increase by 150% by 2100. The acidification of the oceans will have devastating effects on marine life from the bottom (plankton) to the top (tuna and humans) of the food chain. Plankton take in huge amounts of carbon dioxide, using the carbon for growth, while releasing oxygen during the process of photosynthesis. When the plankton die off, that leaves more unabsorbed carbon in the oceans (increased acidification) and in the atmosphere (rapidly accelerating global warming). Plankton already have declined by up to 10% in some ocean basins over the last two decades.

The Arctic and Antarctic regions, when frozen and covered with snow, reflect back much of the sun’s heating radiation. As these areas melt, the darker water and land absorbs at least 90% of the sunlight, which greatly accelerates the rate of warming (you can feel this heat island effect in black-topped parking lots). Scientists now speculate that the Arctic may be ice-free in five years. Rising sea levels mean the loss of immense areas of coastline.

Permafrost in areas like Alaska, Siberia, and Greenland has acted as a carbon sink, keeping dead vegetation from rotting (and releasing carbon into the atmosphere). Now the permafrost is melting and, as micro-organisms break down this rotting vegetation, massive amounts of carbon dioxide and methane are released---and methane is 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

All these are examples of positive (accelerating) feedbacks. As one system fails, it contributes to the further destabilization of the entire system, until the system crashes.

It is amazing to what lengths people and national leaders will go to deny that the planetary organism is failing. The total ignorance of how humans depend on an adequately functioning environment, coupled with a need to maintain our wasteful American lifestyle at any cost, means we just can’t be bothered to care whether our children and grandchildren survive. Politicians claim that it is too expensive to change because they can’t be bothered to educate themselves about what inaction will cost.

While Republican senators shill for automakers and oil companies instead of passing an energy bill that would reduce carbon emissions by increasing fuel efficiency and increasing renewable energy, the Bush administration and China play the blame game, each accusing the other of not doing their part to cut emissions…and so neither country does anything but INCREASE its energy consumption. Rather than decrease US dependence on foreign oil (and so increase security) by mandating energy conservation and alternative renewable energy sources, the Bush administration has actually increased foreign oil imports. Instead of moving to renewable, carbonless sources of energy, power companies want to build more coal-fired plants that will spew even more carbon into the atmosphere.

This is insane. It’s suicide. If we don’t stop now, it will be too late. Demand immediate action by your senators, congressmen, and president.

And then, start looking at your own energy consumption and how you can decrease it significantly. You want to be patriotic? Change your light bulbs to compact fluorescents, weatherize your home, get rid of your gas-hog car, dry your clothes on a clothesline, turn off your energy-wasting appliances, and educate yourself on the global climate change. The future of your country and the lives of your children and grandchildren depend on it.§ion=opinion&story_id=30148

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Need Some Cheer? Here's Dennis!

Man's main task in life is to give birth to himself.

---Erich Fromm

A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.

---Mark Twain

And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks.
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

---William Shakespeare

Everyone likes him. People even smile at the mere mention of his name. Those I talk to, both liberal and conservative, say he seems to be right about everything. He has years and years of political experience. He started out even poorer than Lincoln, but as inspired and dedicated. So why doesn't he have a snowball's chance of a Presidential nomination? The rightwingnuts call him a socialist and crazy, not to be taken seriously. Maybe he's too short to be President. Maybe we're too frightened to have the courage of our convictions.

The breath of fresh air on AM talk radio named Ed Schultz put out an invitation to all the candidates, both parties, to come on his show for the entire 3 hours and answer phone calls. Kucinich showed up right away---and the show is in North Dakota! Nobody else has. The program was a revelation of serious discussion on every issue you or I could think of...and Dennis had answers. Maybe you can stream it somehow at Ed's site...and he rebroadcast it once. If you're reading this today, you may notice Kucinich will be on again this afternoon...and so will Barack Obama. It's on from 3 until 6 in the Athens area...770 AM.

But fairly quickly into that 3 hour interview, it became clear Dennis was not alone in the studio with Big Eddie. Elizabeth Kucinich was there too, as she usually is wherever he goes. A couple days before the show I got a phonecall from a friend in The Queens, who still does her reading in books instead of here. She said, "Have you SEEN Dennis Kucinich's wife?!" No, I said, I'm not sure I knew whether or not he was married. My friend said---and if you can say this with a Queens dialect it sounds better---"She's absolutely gorgeous!! She must be 7 feet tall with this long red hair down to her waist!" That was enough to nearly blind my imagination, but I persevered. I had seen Dennis Kucinich once in person, when he still was mayor of Cleveland...and while he seemed kind of cute then, I couldn't imagine him attracting someone so statuesquely beautiful. "And she's about 30 years younger," Belle said. Oh oh.

So on this interview, Eddie---also a redhead---couldn't seem to resist trying to get a word or 2 out of this curious creature by the candidate's side. Finally she said a riveting English accent. She's from the UK? With all the distinguished bravado the Brits can muster, whenever they talk about anything, Elizabeth began to give her views on the topics. Soon the couple was talking as a team. I said to myself, "This would be the most perfect First Lady in the nation's history." Folks, she is positively brilliant!

But of course I don't want to be sexist. I've tried to stifle my interest in a potential First Lady, and continue only to talk about Dennis Kucinich. Like a lot of us, I suppose I secretly support Kucinich, but John Edwards is there too...and hasn't Biden been wonderful lately? So it's getting interesting...but here comes the cheer part: in yesterday's Washington Post is a long article about the Kuciniches, how they met, fell in love, and what's it all about. I wouldn't recommend this reading to you, except that I found it absolutely delightful. My congratulations to Libby Copeland, who seems to have gotten caught up in their energy and writes it for us just perfectly. This is a political article about falling in love~~~

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Would You Invest In Green Technology Or Guns?

Photo of Naomi Klein by Andrew Stern.

I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be complete. The earth remains jagged or broken only to him or her who remains jagged or broken.

---Walt Whitman

The trouble is that you think you have time.

---Jack Kornfield

Clambering up Cold Mountain path,The Cold Mountain trail goes on and on:The long gorge choked with scree and boulders,The rushing creek, the dew-soaked grass.The mossy rocks are slippery, though there's been no rain.The pine sings, though there's no wind.Who can leap the world's tiesAnd sit with me among the clouds?


Let's say you just inherited a modest sum of $40,000. Instead of paying off debts, you decide to invest it---or buy something important for your home. You believe there's a climate crisis out there, and here's a chance to do something about it. Whether you want to make money off the situation or contribute in some small way, what would you do? Before you say you'd buy a solar array for your roof or check stock options in a windmill company, perhaps you should consider the gun industry. Which is the "better" investment? When the only water anywhere costs $3.25 a gallon, will some people have to fight over it? Will anyone come to get yours?

I know I'm not alone in thinking about this. Is there still time for human society and individual nations to prepare? Are people already doing it? Should I write on the Internet that I'm a peaceful man and have no guns in my house? Should I confess I have a huge stockpile in the basement? Would anyone protect my family if panic and riot break out over food and water? Would the Carlsons be treated like New Orleans or like Malibu? Is that kind of choice shaping up for our world?

One person who seems to think so is Naomi Klein. Over the last few months I'm seeing this woman's name somewhere nearly every day. Her 3rd book, The Shock Doctrine, came out in September, and is a best-seller. She's been on tour ever since. Almost immediately Amy Goodman scheduled a confrontation on her show, Democracy Now, between Naomi and Alan Greenspan, who also had a new book out. That transcript can be read here~~~

Apparently she was on Keith Olbermann's Countdown on MSNBC Thursday night, discussing Shock Doctrine as it applies to Iraq. I didn't see the program but according to a comment at Naomi Klein's MySpace Profile, Olbermann called the invasion and occupation "a corporate takeover...with guns."

What the Shock Doctrine describes is a torture technique, taught in detail in CIA handbooks, on how to regress a "detainee" to a childhood state. This technique, she charges, can be used on an entire national population...and has been thus used historically. She gives examples of takeovers in Indonesia and Chile and rapid, radical economic changes that ensued. Where American investors and corporations have profited she calls the process Disaster Capitalism.

The book itself is a shock because one does not have to imagine that some mastermind might plan out a series of assassinations of national leaders but should something like that happen over a short span of time, could not a political party or coalition of economic planners take advantage of national trauma and grief? In the last 45 years, has it happened here, in the United States? Once a person or population is thus reduced psychologically, can it be kept there? Can world resources be dominated thus by figures in this kind of control?

On Thursday Naomi Klein published her regular column in The Nation and The UK Guardian. Her writings are picked up by other news services and also Yahoo News. The column is entitled Guns Beat Greens: The Market Has Spoken. It describes where the big investment money is flowing right now. Ms. Klein was born in Montreal in 1970, and studied at the London School of Economics.

At the same time The Guardian reported yesterday the private security firm, Blackwater, is establishing a new 800-acre compound 8 miles from the US/Mexico border...where a lucrative opportunity exists guarding the fence. Blackwater currently trains 40,000 people a year at its main base in North Carolina.