Chicago, Chicago…

Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin’ town
Chicago, Chicago, I’ll show you around
Bet your bottom dollar you’ll lose the blues in Chicago
Chicago, the town that Billy Sunday could not shut down

I’m off to Chicago for the American Library Association conference tomorrow, and this song is stuck in my head. It plays there pretty much nonstop every time I’m there. My father used to play the Bob Scobey record of this all the time when I was a child, and the lyrics fascinated me. I had no clear idea of what a “toddlin'” town might be, but it sounded cool. I assumed that “Billy Sunday” was a mythical character, like Mother Nature and Father Time, and assumed that this line meant that Chicago didn’t observe the kind of Blue Laws we had in Massachusetts, and that people there went grocery shopping on the Sabbath. I wondered about State Street, that great street, and wondered exactly what they did there that they don’t do on Broadway, but thought perhaps it was better not to ask!

Here’s a wonderful version of the song, featuring Blossom Seeley (voice), Lil Hardin-Armstrong (voice and keyboard), Jack Teagarden (Trombone) and Jimmy Noone (clarinet.) The video quality is pretty bad, but that gives it a hazy, dreamlike quality that I think works well here.

RIP Michael Jackson

Hard to know what to say, what to remember, what’s better forgotten. But I do like this performance of the song “Ben” from the Sonny and Cher show. Here Jackson has outgrown the his role as the talented little kid with the Jackson 5, and not yet become the King of Pop…and all that came later.

You Made Me Love You

Just remembering my mother with this movie clip of Judy Garland singing “You Made Me Love You” to a photograph of Clark Gable. My mother loved this song and sang it often, and described this scene to me many times. She was around 13 when she saw this, and thought it was wonderfully romantic. I never saw the movie, Broadway Melody of 1938, so I was happy to find this clip on YouTube.

I’ll Be Seeing You

I’m posting this in memory of my mother, in honor of her birthday. She loved this song, and I often hear it in my head as I sort through all these old photographs, seeing her (and too many other loved ones now gone) in all the old familiar places…Pheasant Hill Street, Westchester Circle, Columbus Street, Swift’s Beach, Crystal Park and more.

Button Your Eyes

Nina with Button EyesIn Neil Gaiman’s novel “Coraline” and the movie based on it, a girl discovers a secret home within her home, an alternate universe where her Other Mother and Other Father seem like much more fun than her real parents…if you overlook the fact that they have buttons in place of their eyes.

If you’re wondering what you’d look like with button eyes, it’s easy to find out. The Coraline movie website has a Button Your Eyes page where you can upload your picture or use your webcam, and then drag a pair of buttons to cover your eyes. There are several styles available, and you can use zoom to change the size. There are several different picture frames to complete the look, and you can publish your finished creation, or download it, e-mail it or post it to Facebook or another site.


There are lots of other cool, interactive features on the Coraline site, so take some time to explore the house, design a flower for Coraline’s garden, watch the Mouse Circus and much more!

Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry

My aunt has Alzheimer’s Disease. Both my parents died young, and when I see my aunt fade away, I know I’m losing one of my few remaining connections to my parents and their generation.

During one visit with my aunt in the nursing home, I reminisced about what a great dancer she had been. “Do you remember?” I asked her. “You could do all the dances. You taught for Arthur Murray.” I was just talking, I didn’t think she was actually listening. But when she heard the name Arthur Murray, she jumped up and launched into a lively rendition of the song Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry. She knew all the words and did the whole dance routine, with lots of turns and kicks.
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Hard-Hearted Hannah

My mother loved to sing, in the church choir or just for fun. She sang all the time, singing along with the radio or record player, or just a cappella. I especially remember her singing while doing the housework. She sang all kinds of songs, including hymns, show tunes, jazz, TV jingles, and pop songs from Kate Smith to Herman’s Hermits.

But Hard-Hearted Hannah is the song my sister and I always refer to as “Ma’s big number.” I remember she especially liked to sing this one while vacuuming in rhythm. We found this song slightly thrilling and embarrassing, what with lyrics like this:

An evening spent with Hannah sittin’ on your knees
Is like travelin’ through Alaska in your BVDs

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Any Bonds Today?

In honor of Memorial Day, I put together this little video of Any Bonds Today, a song by Irving Berlin, sung by Barry Wood, with images from the Library of Congress and National Archives. Just a first attempt at using Movie Maker.

  • Any Bonds Today? — The 1942 cartoon version, starring Bugs Bunny with Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd. This is the original version, which includes an unfortunate blackface parody of Al Jolson. Because of this possibly-offensive segment, this is one of the so-called Censored 11 cartoons not included in the Cartoon Network’s 2001 June Bugs marathon.
  • Any Bonds Today Sheet Music — From Smithsonian’s The Price of Freedom: Americans at War website.

    “When the ‘tall man with the high hat’ came knocking, as Berlin referred to Uncle Sam, 8 out of every 13 Americans scraped together a total of $185.7 billion to invest in victory.”

Mr. Fancy Pants video

Jonathan Coulton is my favorite singer-songwriter, and I especially like the fact that he releases all his music with a Creative Commons license and encourages people to make videos and otherwise use it.

This one’s not new, it’s been around for a couple of years, but somehow I missed it until recently, and right now I am in the mood for something as silly as Mr. Fancy Pants :

Chances are your pants are not as fancy as the pair
Of very fancy pants that Mr. Fancy Pants will wear
When everybody’s marching in the fancy pants parade
He’s gonna pass the test
He’s gonna be the best
The best in terms of pants

Mr. Fancy Pants — Flash video by Mike Young, self-proclaimed Insane Game Designer, with photographs from Flickr.

Rediscovering Hypnotic Clambake

Years ago, when my daughters were still in high school, we discovered a Boston-based band called Hypnotic Clambake. I don’t remember where we first heard them — we used to go to a lot of random concerts, fairs and events back then. But we heard them somewhere, bought a couple of cassettes, and some of their songs became part of the background music of our family life back then. Their music was a witty and lively mix of styles — folk, Zydeco and Klezmer among other things.
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