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The Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918, 1919 and 1920 produced illness rates and death counts unheard of in the 21st century


About the Spanish Flu

Almost exactly 100 years ago, the Spanish Influenza swept the world and created death tolls well into millions. Today’s numbers seem pale to what happened just as WWI was drawing to a close.

By modern estimates somewhere between 50 and 100 million people died, when the worldwide population was  approximately 1.2 billion. This translates out to a death rate in the range of 4.2% to 8.3 %.

Though the worst is yet to come, it is hard to imagine anything like that happening today.

During the Spanish Flu Pandemic, on the worst of days, bodies piled up like cordwood.



A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Today, COVID-19, which is caused by a coronavirus, is causing a lot of pain of misery all around the planet. It is hard to imagine how we would react today, if our current outbreak was even half as severe as the one that began in 1918 and lasted for two years.



The Seattle Police are pictured here in uniform and all wearing a mask.



Masks Were Worn by Almost Everybody

Perhaps, not at first, but by time the second and third waves hit, it did not take a big PR campaign to get everyone to wear a face mask.



Then as now, health care workers took their jobs very seriously.



A Different Era

The Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 and 1919 came at the end of WWI, so it is more than likely that all the energy and effort that went forth into the war effort was easily channeled into fighting the new and deadly pandemic. Even so, dealing with tens of millions of dead any many more, who were sick from the virus, is hard to fathom today.



Death tolls from country to country varied, but so did the populations.


Comparing the Two Outbreaks

Though the numbers on this chart may seem to vary by a lot, it is important to note that the populations of each nation listed, also varied. For example, today Canada is 10 times smaller than the US and Australia is almost 20 times smaller in its population. So when you take into account the different population size of each nation, the death rates are really much closer.

Compare that to today, where we have a great variation in death rates among different countries. Take the case of Taiwan, South Korea, Cuba, Costa Rica and Rwanda, which all have extremely low death rates. In contrast, other bigger nations such as the U.S., Brazil and India, have staggering body counts and even when broken down to actual death rates, these places are suffering immensely, while other places seem to have completely avoided the calamity. It is hard to pinpoint the reason for these discrepancies at this point in time, but I’m sure that these two outbreaks will be studied extensively in the near future.


In this whacked-out scenario, pandas have taken to wearing masks in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19



Back in early February I made this drawing poking fun at the Corona Virus that was just starting to cause problems in China, especially within the city of Wuhan. Now, some three months, we have a worldwide pandemic with this disease that is wrecking havoc in such civilized countries such as Spain, Italy, the UK and our very own USA. It hasn’t progressed to the point where pandas near face masks, but the extent of the global spread is quite troubling.

To buy coffee mugs, T shirts and bags with this image go here



According to the artist, Milton Glaser, this image of Dylan with wild free-flowing hair was not inspired by psychedelics.

Milton Glaser Dies

Overnight, Milton Glaser, the renown commercial artist and illustrator passed away at age 91. Not only does he live behind a wife and many family members, but also a huge collection of graphic designs and posters that have on occasion been displayed and purchased by major museums and galleries.

Perhaps, Milton is best known for this memorable 60s portrait of Bob Dylan. Nonetheless, the NYC artist also gave the Rolling Stones, their signature tongue and lips image and furthermore, he created the I heart NY icon that both the city and state have adopted.

A retrospective of Glaser’s work can be found in this book, along with a bit of his philosophy.





A Simple Philosophy

Milton Glaser’s attitude can be simply summed up in three words. Art Is Work. This also happens to be the title for a coffee table-sized picture book that the artist put out in the year 2000. Whether you are a commercial or fine artist, this is wonderfully functional sentence describes just how any visual imagist should approach their craft.

Over the years, Milton worked on numerous art projects, mostly in the graphic design field. In no way should this diminish or reflect poorly on the man’s accomplishments. They are many and widely distributed in our visual world.

Besides his illustrations, Glaser made landscape prints specifically for the fine art market



Fine Art vs Commercial Art

When I was much younger, I often distinguished between commercial and fine art. My thinking, which was and still is quite prevalent, went something like this. Serious art work was considered to be fine art, while pictures made for commercial endeavors, like album covers, posters and book covers, were not considered as important.

The painting that freed me from this way of thinking was The Giant by N.C. Wyeth. Up until viewing this huge painting in person, I considered N.C. to be strictly a commercial artist, while his son, Andrew, and his grandson, Jamie, fell into the fine art category. However, after standing in front of the Giant, a very large oil painting, which was actually created to be a book illustration, I quickly realized that these distinctions were superfluous. For in the art world, there were images, created in a commercial vein, that were extraordinary in their presence. And on the other hand, there were many works of so-called fine art that seemed ill-conceived and poorly executed.

This 1975 likeness of Hermann Hesse is often viewed as one of Glaser’s standout pieces.



Illustrators Today

Thanks to the Pop art and especially Pop surrealism or Lowbrow Art, the illustrator or commercial artist is held in much higher esteem than in the days when Milton Glaser and associates first began their businesses in New York City. Today, many of our bestselling artists, like Mark Ryden or Todd Schorr got their start as illustrators.


Spiral Design




More Extraterrestrial Messages

Spiral designs are often attributed to Native cultures, but after extensive research and consultation, it appears that this particular design originates from extraterrestrials.

Much gratitude goes out to Dr. Bartholomew Tiddlywinkles of Beersheba State College, who helped me with a translation in this manner. According to the professor the message reads as such.

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”

Oh my, the last thing I expected was a cultural criticism from those outside our planet.


Evening Shadows suggest a futuristic cryptic language in use


Binary Languages

Physicists, astronomers, rocket scientists and computers geeks often claim that binary codes are the universal language…and that all cultures within the vast universe can understand a binary language. This may be why, when NASA sent a probe outside our own solar system, all communication was in a binary system. That is to say all letters and words are created from using two symbols.

A Morse code receiver from the late 1800s




The First Binary Language

Most likely, the first language was Morse Code. This system of dots and dashes (often called dits and dahs) was created back in the 1840s. In essence each letter of the Roman alphabet had a specific code. Messages were sent from a simple telegraph machine by wire to a receiver, where another machine transposed the info onto paper strips.

This method lasted up until the 1890s, when radio signals became the transmission method for the dits and dahs. This pathway greatly enhanced the efficiency of the two symbol language and soon the code was being used around the planet by military, aviation and maritime units. Morse Code remained important through WWII, but since then it has faded away to almost nothing.

Over the years crop circles have become more and more sophisticated

Crop Circles et al

If Samuel Morse were alive today he might be quite surprised, even shocked to see how his archaic, binary language has morphed into an amazing world of high tech wizardly. This includes a belief that many that the simple dihs and dahs are the keys to understanding other life forms on other planets.


Recently, I visited Las Vegas and found that bikers had taken over the empty streets, as if living in some kind of weird sci-fi tale.


Defying All Stay-at -Home Orders

Currently, Utah is subject to a non-mandatory stay-at-home order from the governor. Since the state’s COVID-19 stats were so good (41 fatalities out of just over 4,000 infected), I decided to venture out and see how other nearby places were faring. Soon, I found myself in Las Vegas, which has been transformed to a virtual ghost town, especially along “The Strip”, where many of the big casinos are located.

The casinos of Las Vegas are all closed and locked up.


Lookin’ In Thru Locked Doors

If you walk along the strip, you will find  that all the casinos are closed. In fact, not much of anything is open along the famed miracle mile. And if by chance you are looking for a slot machine to play, there is nothing. Even those small rows of slots in convenience stores are out of service. In other words things are locked up tighter than a drum.


Here’s looking at an empty lagoon in front of the Venetia Casino.





Placid Waters

On the little bridge in front of the Venetia Casino and Hotel, there is a little station, where several security guards hang out. They haven’t got much to do. Just keep the occasional tourist from wandering too close to the closed-up business.


Fremont Street and downtown Vegas are closed up as well.









Politicos at Odds

Right now the mayor of Las Vegas is pushing the begin opening the city, while the governor of the state has taken an opposing tack. As the governor holds the higher card, it is likely that those wishing to visit Sin City will have to wait a bit longer for any approaching a normal Vegas visit.




Three angels at Caesar’s Palace signal the encroaching doom.




Is Las Vegas Dead?

Any pronouncement that Las Vegas is dead is most likely premature and inaccurate. The place is just dormant due to concerns over the spread of the Corona Virus. Though the popular place may be closed longer than originally thought, chances are very good that when it open, this vivant city will bounce back like nobody’s business.



Pink House on Mars – It is highly unlikely that the colonization of Mars would look anything like this.




Earth First

We live on the planet Earth. To put it mildly any attempt, successful or unsuccessful to colonize and inhabit the planet Mars, would be a high tech adventure to say the least. With our present technology, just putting a handful of humans on the red planet would be energy intensive. I can’t even manage what sustaining life there would entail.

Living in the Present

Right now, we, who live on planet Earth, have our hands full. Unbelievably, our biggest foe right now is a spherical microscopic object, called the Corona Virus. The little booger is everywhere, filling up our morgues and hospital and completely disrupting our way of life on a global scale. Once we get past this disease outbreak, just the challenge of cleaning up the planet, so that it is a better place to live is daunting.

A Profound Side Effect

Even though the coronavirus pandemic has killed oodles of people, crashed our stock market, put millions out of work and sent the price of oil into a nosedive, there has been one beneficial side effect. Our air quality has significantly improved. The changes in visibility among our largest cities, such as Paris, Tokyo, and Los Angeles has been dramatic. Our air is clean again. I guess this proves to say that you don’t realize how bad things are until something dramatic happens. How long this current situation will last is hard to tell, for in all probability that once the virus subsides and the world goes back to work, the smog will return.

See you soon, I hope.



This Corona Virus Not Wanted handbill has recently appeared all over the Salt Lake City area, courtesy of an anonymous cartoonist.




A Not Wanted Poster

Out here in Utah, the coronavirus has been a little slow to make its appearance, but that’s not to say the sometimes deadly micro-organism won’t show up in full force in the near future. Here’s one unnamed visual artist, who’s hoping it stays away. Definitely, a sign of the times.


A recent photograph of John Prine taken by Ron Baker



The Coronavirus Takes Another

John Prine died the other day. Ordinarily, I would not take note of the passing of another entertainment personality, but Prine’s death has taken on a special meaning, for he has died of complications caused by COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus disease.

John Prine’s View of Death As a Young Man

Back in 1978 John Prine penned his first view of dying. In a song, called Please Don’t Bury Me, John outlines, in a hilariously tongue-in-cheek style, what doctors can do with his body, if he should meet an early and untimely demise. This song was featured on the Sweet Revenge album and since then has become a genuine standard of the American Folk and Indie scene.  Here is a recent (2017) recording of John performing the song, along with Sturgill Simpson.

A Deadly Pandemic

As this worldwide pandemic makes it mark, the number of people infected is still climbing as are the fatalities. How long this will last is uncertain, but it is pretty good bet that life after the Coronavirus will be different from what it is now. With vast numbers of people worldwide advised to stay at home, viewers might want to take a few minutes to check out these two humorous takes on dying.

John’s View of Death As an Old Man

A couple of years ago, 2018 to be exact, John released his second take on dying, with “When I Get To Heaven”. In true Prine form, John begins this irreverent tune by shaking hands with God. To get the rest of the story, you’ll have to check out the video below. Contrasting this recent version with the one made 40 years makes for an interesting comparison with the recent version.


The owl is often thought to be the symbol of wisdom



Projecting Human Characteristics onto Animals

For ages, owls have often been seen as creatures of wisdom, This trend, most.likely extends back to the ancient Greeks, when Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, was often pictured with an owl. Today, many modern people still see the owl as being super-intelligent, though among the animal kingdom, there are many smarter birds, such as crows and parrots.

A Lightweight Bird with Superb Night Vision

An owl may not be able to mimic human speech, but its ability to see in the night is an extraordinary tool, allowing the creature to make out faraway objects extremely well despite the absence of almost any light. This would not be possible without a highly wired and oversized brain along with eyes that are huge in relation to the predators actual size and weight. You see, owls are mostly feathers, many having a body mass of only a few pounds.

Not All Cultures See Owls As Wise

In India, the owl often represents foolishness or ill-gained wealth. At times, the mysterious avian creature may be pictured with the goddess, Lakshmi. Lakshmi, by herself, usually, indicates wealth, but when accompanied by an owl, she becomes the symbol of corruption.

Then there are the American Indians, who on occasion may see the owl as a symbol of death, not necessary for the person, who encounters the night creature, but often for a loved one or close relative of the night viewer.


Reggae Loves Country

Back in 2014 a reggae singer, named Busy Signal (Glendale Goshia Gordon) performed this popular Kenny Rogers hit to a large Jamaican crowd. And don’t be fooled by Busy Signal.s respect for Country music. In reality, he is a street tough, Jamaican dancehall, reggae singer with a long line of savvy hits credited to his name. His live performance of The Gambler, though 100 per cent sincere is a bit of an anomaly. And don’t forget that Bob Marley’s first recorded hit was a C & W hit standard, Another Cup of Coffee. So all in all, Jamaican admiration for Nashville is real.



Breaking Even

Kenny Rogers died on Friday of natural causes. Not a bad time to pass on, considering that this Corona Virus thing is just really getting ramped up and nobody knows how bad things are going to get. Then there is the flip side, ole Kenny won’t be around to see how this pandemic ends. Just lucky I guess. For it doesn’t look good no matter how you slice the pie. Perhaps this is a good time to quote Mr. Rogers from his megahit, The Gambler.

“And the Best You Can Hope For Is To Die In Your Sleep”.

A Most influential Singer/Songwriter

Kenny Rogers first gained national recognition with The First edition, a kind of whacked out, Hippie, Acid-rock band that had a few big hits in the late 60s and even made it onto the Smothers Brothers Show. Below, you can see the band performing their big counterculture hit, Just Dropped In,.



Kenny’s Transformation

Even while still performing for the First Edition, Kenny’s transformation from rock to country was plenty evident. The song that did this was Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town (1969). Released, after Just Dropped In, this pop hit, first penned and recorded by Mel Tillis in1967, hit a nerve among the general public that all but guarantied a crossover to Country & Western. The story about a disable Vietnam Vet and unfaithful love resonated all across the Billboard charts, even despite the fact that it had been recorded before by Waylon Jennings and Mel Tillis.

Kenny Rogers in 1997



A Nashville Fixture

Kenny Rogers released his first solo album in 1976, eventually becoming a stalwart of the Nashville music scene. Since then he has worked with such music legends as Dolly Parton, Lionel Ritchie and Dottie West. Kenny passed away this past Friday. His death was reportedly caused by natural causes, a coincidence that has allowed commentators to liberally quote from his classic song, The Gambler. Since Friday, Kenny’s death has been marked with headlines like Kenny Rogers Runs Out of Aces, The Gambler, He Finally Broke Even or the one I used in this article


The White House is a busy place with lots of hand-shaking and social interactions



The Story

Finally, on Friday the 13th, Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, relented and took a coronavirus test. Even though the results are supposed to be available in two hours, they were not announced till the next day, Saturday, and were declared negative. That is to say that Donald Trump does not have the COVID-19, the official name for the coronavirus disease.

Can We Believe the Results?

This administration and especially this president have been so full of half-truths, misdirected statements and absolute lies that sometimes it is hard to believe anything they say. Furthermore, if the president was to actually be sick, the White House staff might work hard to shield the public from the actual truth. Keeping all of this in mind, I still tend to believe that the president does not have coronavirus. Even after considering that the president is overweight almost to a point of obesity and his advanced age of 73 years, it might still might be that he has avoided the contagious disease that has struck other public figures. At least so far.

Donald Trump enjoys the game of golf, almost to a point of obsession




The Answer Lies on the Golf Course

This president spends an inordinate amount of time on his own golf course, usually at public expense. Though this may not be good for the well-being of the nation, it may be enough to keep Donald Trump reasonably healthy. Besides the physical assertion, the sunshine exposure Trump receives may be critical in keeping the president’s immune system functioning. I know this may sound strange, but exposure of skin to sunlight (especially in light-skinned people) plays an important role in strengthening one’s immune system.

The Science

The science behind this is both simple and profound at the same time. Succinctly stated, sunshine on the epidermis stimulates the production of vitamin D, which in turn is important in strengthening the body’s immune system. This will not make you resistant to epidemics like the coronavirus. It just improves your chances of fighting off minor infections.

Dr. John Campbell, an English medical instructor, explains the situation quite well in the following video.



If you are self-quarantined at home, you might want to consider spending as much time in the sunlight as possible. This would include going outside and getting some real exercise. Just avoid associating with other people. This is especially true if you are in self-isolation as a preventive measure.

For More Info go here.


Sign of the Times – this posted notice reminds WWI soldiers that there is an epidemic going that just might be more deadly than warfare.



The Facts Are Staggering

At the time the world had seen nothing like it. One third of the world’s population was infected with a death rate of between 2% and 5%. Today, researchers believe that the actual death toll could have been somewhere between 50 and 100 million.

Today’s Outbreaks Are So Much Smaller

Currently (2020), the world is all abuzz about the newest coronavirus, also called COVID-19. This disease, which now borders on becoming a world pandemic, is currently in 70 countries and has killed over 3,000….and it’s still growing as the respiratory ailment is about to hit the USA. Even the Swine Flu of 2009, only managed to run up a total infected in the 20% range (about 1 billion) with a resulting death toll of approximately 500,000. Still, this current outbreak is kind of scary in that so many nations (including the good ole USA) seem so unprepared to handle the outbreak.

This Epidemic Is So Small It Seems Almost Personal

As the news stories in the U.S. unfold, the individuals almost seem personal. Actual names aren’t used, but still we get personal information as to age, health condition, where the person lives, how many children they have and so. Sure sign that this is still in the beginning and unfortunately will get much bigger.

Want to Learn more about the gre.at Spanish Flu influenza?


George Washington was a remarkable founding father.



President’s Day Again

When I was a kid, we would always celebrate the birthdays of dead presidents individually and not as a group. Fortunately, not everyone of this continuously growing club, got a special Shout Out, but for those who did, February was an especially busy month, for it contained the birthdays of a two of the greatest, Lincoln and Washington. At the time, February also contained the birth date of the shortest-lived presidency of all times. William Henry Harrison, who only served 31 days before dying of pneumonia. Since then Ronald Reagan has joined this unique club, but despite Reagan’s current popularity, President’s day still seems to focus on Washington and Lincoln. Not surprisingly, this year’s President’s Day features a TV special on the life and times of George Washington, perhaps are most enigmatic president.

First and Foremost a General

On the first segment aired, the History Channel and portrayed a young Washington, who wanted nothing more than become a military officer in the British Army. For better or worse, fate did not cooperate and so Washington was forced out of Great Britain’s military, eventually coming to fulfill a very important role as first General of the Continental Army. The fact that George and all the rest of the Continental Army succeeded is now the stuff of history, but no matter how you look at it, the Patriot’s victory is one of the most improbable events of all time. No wonder, so many of the Founding Fathers contributed their unlikely success due to the presence of a very benevolent higher being.

The Whiskey Rebellion

When Washington became president, he gave up his military colors, but not for good, because before long the fledgling federal government was facing a violent tax revolt on the Western frontier. So it seems that Western farmers were used to distilling their excess grain and selling off the finished product to make an extra buck or two. And as a result, they did not take kindly to a new tax on whiskey.

By today’s standards, President Washington responded in a very unusual way. He rounded thousands of volunteers and conscripted a few non-volunteers to go after the culprits of Western Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. In the ensuing standoff, the farmers backed down, but at the same time the federal government abandoned its notion to tax whiskey. At least for the near future. Nonetheless, the die had been cast, the U.S. was destined to be lead by a strong central government, even though we have governed by numerous Jeffersonian presidents, who favored a weaker central government along with stronger individual states.

Like Washington, Hercules, one of Washington’s slave was also an enigma. The president’s cook charmed Philadelphia with his culinary skills, had his portrait done by Stuart Gilbert and then abandoned Mt. Vernon during a joyous birthday celebration (for George), never to return again.



Washington Surprises Almost Everyone

Just before he died Washington decreed that all his slaves would be freed upon his death. Perhaps, he was tired of chasing down runaways and coming back empty-handed. However appealing this idea is, it is more likely that he saw the handwriting on the wall. Slavery could hold hold its enormous weight. The institution was bound to die. Unfortunately, it took fifty years and a bloody civil war for the nation to come to this way of thinking.


Want to read more, Check out these two articles about the Whiskey Rebellion and Washington’s Runaway Slaves.


This town is a bit like a ship out on the ocean, hence the term township.




Te peaceful quiet of a town at night.


Two Pandas




Two Pandas


This 2013 fiery eruption of Vulcan del Fuego in Guatemala only resulted in the evacuation of several hundred people, who lived near the volcano. Then, in 2018, another blast killed 159 people.


Disaster Invites More Readers

There is no way around it, writing about the world’s volcanoes will attract the most viewers, whenever disaster strikes. Such is the dilemma for science writers as well as the scientists that actually visit and study these monsters. Recently, a rather small volcano in the Philippines sent my daily number of visitors off the charts. Now, some 10 days since the first ash cloud was emitted towards the heavens, my readership has declined back to normal numbers. No doubt though, that another fiery explosion will again send the daily number of visitors skyward, just like the tephra (volcanic debris), which is ejected from the mouth of the volcano. Such is life when you write, study or examine such things as earthquakes, hurricanes, flu epidemics or any other natural calamity that effects our precarious existence here on planet Earth.



In 1991, Pinatubo volcano underwent a very, large eruption that killed over 700 and left 200,000 homeless.


A Very Active Place

First of all, this kind of occurrence is no rare thing for this part of the world. That is because along with Japan and Indonesia, the Philippine islands are one of the most volcanically active places on the planet. Over the years, residents of these beautiful, tropical isles have most likely been more concerned the other major volcanoes, such as Mayon, Pinatubo or Balusan.  Though very active, Taal, is just one of 53 active Filipino sites and overall, it is one of the smaller volcanoes of the Philippines. What concerns scientists the most about this small peak, is its location in a much bigger body of water, Lake Taal, which once, many years ago was an explosive, giant volcano, capable of much local destruction along with world wide climate change.



Fortunately, for the hundred and twenty million residents of the Philippines, there is a place of higher learning called the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. Located in Quezon City, just north of the capital at Manila, this scientific research center has been busy lately, issuing daily updates on the Taal volcano and daily reminders that this volcano may not be done yet and that the alert level is still very high, registering a 4 on a scale of 5. Only recently, two weeks later, has the alert level dropped down to a level 3.

The Long Wait

Next comes the long wait, especially for those displaced by this most recent activity. Residents must remain away from their homes for days or possibly even weeks. And then, when they are allowed back into the volcano zone, there is no telling when Mount Taal will again start spitting lava and ash clouds into the atmosphere, again causing massive more evacuations and disruptions in the island life style.


For more info, you can go here or here or here or here.

Until we cross paths again.




This family really stinks



This family of skunks really stinks. Pictured here are the papa, the mama and two little ones out for a stroll. They’re cute as can be, but don’t get too close.


Philosophy and Christian Belief have not always gone hand in hand, illustration by W. Ridgeway


Louis Jordan Spoofs Religion

If you haven’t heard of Louis Jordan, he was one of the more successful musicians of the 30s and 40s with his musical career lasting into the early years of the 50s. Louis was a saxophonist, who lead a five piece combo, known as the Tympany Five. He recorded numerous hits, many of which, are still covered today by Western swing bands. Anybody who follows the Country & Western band, Asleep at the Wheel, is most likely familiar with a whole bunch of Louis Jordan tunes.

Furthermore, Louis Jordan was a black musician, who was able to cross over to white audiences during the war years and the decade that followed. Some of his big crossover hits include Five Guys Named Moe, Caledonia and Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie. were just getting to know each other.


Louis Jordan was the bandleader of a piece piece jump blues combo


Old Man Mose

Old Man Mose is a Louis Armstrong song that Jordan covered and revised a bit with the Holy Roller routine. Having grown up in rural Arkansas, it is highly probable that Louis Jordan knew the Holy Rollers quite well. Nonetheless, he incorporates the rowdy antics of the faithful into a visual memorable presentation and lays the foundation for own religious number, Deacon Jones.




Deacon Jones

In 1945, just a year after he recorded Old Man Mose, Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five put out  Deacon Jones, complete with many of the same, wacky routines displayed in the earlier jump blues number. Those cray white-rimmed glasses are back along with a bunch of wild prancing around, plus some biting, satirical lyrics. The unusual combination produces barrels of laughs. Be sure to check out the white teenage audience, keeping in mind  that the year is 1945, almost ten years this same age group discovered rock and roll.



In Central Europe, spiders are often revered and thought to bring good luck.



The Much-maligned Spider

Hollywood has not been kind to the spider, for the eight-legged arachnid (spiders are not insects) has often been portrayed as a diabolical creature with a deadly bite. In reality, spiders are just the opposite, for they consume large quantities of insects and unlike their six-legged cousins, they do not carry any infectious diseases.

Yes, some spider bites can be fatal, especially if left untreated, but these events are quite rare. Overall, spiders do a lot more good to harmful.

Spiders in Europe

In many Central Europe nations, the spider web is seen as a symbol of good luck and prosperity. With this in mind, it is no big surprise that ornamental spider webs and even spiders can often be found hanging from evergreen boughs. Across Germany, tinsel is also often found on the “Tannenbaum”. Even more interesting is the origin of this shiny decoration, which is attributed to honoring a family of spiders, who long ago, came out at night and decided to decorate a lonely fir tree with their amazing webs. In the morning, the family awoke to find that once barren tree glistening in the morning sun. Since that beautiful morning, tinsel has been used as a Christmas tree decoration to salute the industrious spiders.








Check out my article on Christmas Spiders here.


Filmed in 1941, but released in 1942, “Ride ‘Em Cowboy”, featuring Abbott and Costello, provided light-hearted entertainment during the darkest days of WWII


Ride ‘Em Cowboy

Ride ‘Em Cowboy was a 1942 comedy that for the war year ranked 8th in box sales. It featured the ever-popular Abbott and Costello, plus the attained some historical importance because it introduced a person-of-color, Ella Fitzgerald, to a large mass audience. Today, her film clip seems to be the most enduring part of the film.

Ella Fitzgerald’s Film Debut

Not long before the release of Ride ‘Em Cowboy, Ella Fitzgerald was an obscure Harlem singer. But then she won a singing contest at the Apollo Theater and then co-wrote and sung A Tisket, A Tasket in 1936. Here she is six years later doing the same song in Hollywood, breaking the color barrier for a supporting role.

The Musical Number That Got Cut

Dorothy Dandridge was a much bigger name during the forties than she is today. Here, she lights up the silver screen with a jazzy cowgirl number called “Cow Cow Boogie”. Unfortunately, this number was not included in the movie, but still was viewed by many because it was released as a “Soundie”.

For more info on these musical numbers and other songs from the 40s, check out my article on the Jump Blues.


If the universe had a brain, it might look something like this


Does the Universe Have a Brain?

I seriously doubt that the universe has a brain, for if it did, it would surely destroy this corrupt, polluted and over-populated planet that we live on. However, if it did have something even vaguely resembling a greater intelligence, this is what it might look like.


Who Was Wild Bill Moore?

Bill Moore was born in Detroit in 1918 and began playing the sax at an early age. After the Second World War he released a few albums with one small hit (1948) called “We’re Gonna Rock, We’re Gonna Roll”. This song still draws interest today because it was one of the first use of the the words, Rock and Roll, plus it had a lively rhythm you could dance to.

Elvis Presley started his career by performing early rock songs from the 40s


Rock’n Roll Did not Begin with a Single Song

Most likely Rock’n Roll did not happen overnight. Nonetheless, it’s a lot of fun to look back and speculate on the first rock’n roll song. Of all the songs released right after WWII, this rockin’ tune by Mr. Moore definitely stands out. Others that might draw a listen, include “Shake, Rattle and Roll” by Big Joe Turner and his band (1939), “Rock the Joint” by Jimmy Preston and “Good Rockin’ Tonight” by Wynonie Harris. Another strong candidate is “That’s Alright Mama” released by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup in 1946.  As the writer at getrockready points out, all the instrumentation is right, though there is no actual mention of Rockin’ and Rollin’. By the way this is the very same song that Elvis released eight years later on his way to fame.

Songs That Mention Rockin’ and or Rollin’

Perhaps the first song that links rock with roll was a blues number recorded in 1922 by Trixie Smith. It is titled My Man Rocks Me (with one steady roll), but the musical style is definitely pre-rock. By the late thirties “rock” and “roll” were more commonly used in titling a song. For example in 1938, Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson put out “Roll ‘Em Pete” and then a year later Buddy Rollins released “Rockin Rollin Mama”.

For more insight into this fascinating topic, check out my article on Spinditty,


George Washington’s Cook (traditionally identified as Hercules) poses for a portrait by Gilbert Stuart










“You know, the White House is really modeled after a plantation big house.” Walter Scheib, White House executive chef.

Not Just an Ordinary Picture

In the mid 1700s, you had to be a pretty big wig to have your likeness recorded on canvas by the most heralded portrait painter of the Revolutionary war period, for Stuart Gilbert usually reserved his artistic efforts, for aristocrats. So how this black man, dressed in cook’s attire rate such an honor?

Turns out the man in the picture is  a cook, called Hercules, so named because of his large size at birth. Hercules Posey was born a slave in Virginia and when purchased by George Washington in 1767 at age 14, Hercules was first employed as a ferryman.

Hercules Is Promoted

As George Washington’s newly acquired slave, it did not take long the young man to advance to position of head cook on the Mt. Vernon plantation. In Colonial times, a cook was a demanding position, for the worker had to be adept at cooking over an open fire and maneuvering large pots of boiling water, as well as handling large carcasses of meat. Hercules large size and superior strength made him the best qualified person for the job.

the first president of the United States lived in this modest Philadelphia home






The Washingtons Move to Philadelphia

When George Washington was elected first president of the United States in 1787, Philadelphia was the nation’s capitol, as Washington had not even been built yet. At first, President Washington tried employing several white chefs to work a very demanding job that required feeding the numerous guests that frequently gathered at the presidential residence.

Hercules took to the task with ease and with his superb culinary skills, the talented cook soon became the talk of the town. George W. was so pleased with his new chef that he allowed Hercules to roam the town, when not busy in the president’s kitchen and he was even allowed to sell leftover fixings on the street. Hercules was so successful in this endeavor that soon he became one of the best-dressed men in the city of brotherly love, eventually having his likeness preserved in oils by Stuart Gilbert.

Not the End of the Story

When the Washington family, returned to their Potomac home, Hercules also went there too, after all he was still a slave. According to modern-day historians, Hercules did not take well to his return to Ole Virginia. As punishment, Hercules was forced to work in the fields instead of the plantation kitchen, where he had risen to celebrity status. Finally, after improving his behavior, Hercules was placed back in the kitchen as chef. But then on February 22, 1797 during the midst of George’s birthday party, Hercules ran away from the Mt. Vernon estate and despite the best efforts of George and Martha he never returned.

“a blue coat with a velvet collar, a pair of fancy knee-breeches, and shoes with extravagant silver buckles. Thus attired, with a cocked hat upon his head and a gold-headed cane in his hand, he strutted up and down among the beaux and belles until the stroke of the clock reminded him that he must hurry off to the kitchen and prepare the evening meal.”   Frances Hodgson Burnett

P.S. For info on George Washington and his Runaway Slaves check out my article on Owlcation.


A Toast to all Vets



Saluting All Vets

I can’t afford to buy a beer for every vet, so this photo will suffice, as a salute to all those who have joined the Armed Services and gone overseas in service to this country. No matter what you think of the leadership, past and present, the millions of Vets, who have served, deserve a tribute.


“I thought I’d lost my mind, but then I found it.”






Jim was worried that he had really lost his mind. Then, much to his surprise he found it.



Mr. Trump borrows something from the British.






History is not static; it’s happening all the time. What goes down today will be history tomorrow.


Storm Bahamas, Hurrianes in the Caribbean are nothing new as Homer Winslow so aptly demonstrates in this 19th century watercolor






“Yes, it’s quite insane, I think it hurts from brain, but then it cleans me out, then I can go on.”

Another Storm in the Bahamas

As I write this, the Bahamas is about to get hammered with yet another high intensity hurricane. The hurricane is named Dorian; and yes thoughts of Dorian Grey come to mind suggesting that this current tempest could be a bad one. So far, most forecasters have predicted that Dorian will head towards Florida, possibly running headlong right through Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Largo prized golf estate. The internet has been abuzz with such a timely outcome, but alas, at present, this does not seem to be the likely outcome, as Dorian is now predicted to venture further north, probably towards the coast of South Carolina. Stay tuned to your weather forecaster on this one, for things could get very interesting.

“I must confess, I could use some rest.”

You Can’t Copyright a Title

Tryin To Reason with Hurricane Season is a fantastic title for a super-fantastic song. Fortunately, the law says you can’t copyright a title, so I’m not in any legal jeopardy, by using those clever words as a title for my blog post. Unfortunately the same is not true for the few choral lines that are also included in this look at our current hurricane season, which could turn out to be another doozy. To be honest I stuck the extra words in just for shits and giggles, not to mention their poetic brilliance. Hope nobody complains.



Buffett’s Explanation

This little video of Buffett and Kenny Chesney performing Hurricane Season together is well worth checking out. The best part is Buffett’s impromptu explanation that there is not much you can do about these natural weather events, except to get out of the way, take shelter and perhaps to stop and take a minute or two to admire Mother Nature’s awesome power.


The Original Hurricane Song




The song called The Mighty Storm relates to the Great Galveston Flood (actually a Cat 5 hurricane) which back in 1900 wiped out the Texas coastal city of Galveston, killing some 10,000 people in the process. No doubt this tragic event has inspired countless stories, but none stands out better than the timeless folk song. Featured in the video, is the Canadian group, The Duhks, which are just one of many contemporary bands that have performed this popular tune.

So happens that this song has a definitive history behind it. Turns out that in the years following the destructive hurricane, the song began as a spiritual in the black churches of the Gulf Coast region. Then in 1934, the song was recorded by a colorful black preacher, who went by the name of Sin Killer Griffen. Even so, the song remained in the gospel churches until the 60s, when it was again recorded by Eric Von Schmidt. Since then “Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm” (the official title) has been covered by many mainstream musicians.

The 1900 Galveston hurricane left much destruction in its wake















More About Hurricanes and the Songs and Stories That They Inspire

Just in case you might be interested in more stories and songs about Hurricanes you might check out this article, I wrote for the Spinditty website. It is a more in depth look at the musical appreciation of tropical storms and the fact there is not much you can do about these awesome, natural weather events, except take shelter and perhaps stop and take a minute or two to admire their mighty power.


The Great Electricity Machine was admired by people far and wide





The Great Electricity Machines created bundles of high-powered electricity that was enjoyed by people far and wide.


Back in the 70s Mac Rabanack broke out as a colorful performer, who went by the name of Dr. John and the Night Trippers. Sometimes Dr. John took the persona of the Night Tripper and at other times it was the name for his back-up band.



The News

It just happened yesterday and it didn’t take long for word to get around. Mac Rebennack, better known the world over as Dr. John, has passed away at age 77. I can’t quite imagine what New Orleans is like right now, but I have a suspicion, that the city is mourning his passing, while at the same time, also preparing for one heck of a jazz funeral. Basically, Doctor John put New Orleans music on the map. With its lively street life, bigtime Mardi Gras celebration, funky cuisine, swank jazz clubs and the overwhelming presence of the Mighty Mississippi River, the Crescent City has always an enchanting mystique that draws visitors from all over the globe.  Throughout his musical career, Dr. John consolidated many of the many musical styles found throughout the region and helped define what it meant to be a New Orleans musician.

The Turning Point

At an early age, while attending Jesuit school, Mac Rebennack reached a turning point in his life, when he was told by his teachers to either give up music or give up school. Rebennack promptly dropped out of school and went down the long road of hard knocks of being a blues-funk musician from the Big Easy. Finally, after prison, drug addiction and being shot in the hand, Dr. John released his first alum in 1968 at aged 27. The album was called Gris-Gris ( a New Orleans voodoo term) and it introduced Dr. John and the Night Trippers to the world.

Dr. John’s musical career peaked in 1973 with the release of In the Right Place, a breakthrough musical release that featured the Meters as his back-up band. This album also introduced two of his biggest hits, Such a Night and Right Place, Wrong Time. Luckily, Dr. John’s career did not end after 1973, for the Louisiana Native continued to prosper with live concerts, studio sessions, more albums and even some music, film credits. However, most music critics seem to concur that this year and this album marked the high point of the doctor’s long-lived musical career.

Time Warp

Mac Rebennack procured his legendary stage name from a rear-life Jean Montanee, a root doctor, who lived in New Orleans during the early part of the nineteenth century. Montanee was born in Senegal, but lived most of his life in New Orleans, where he reached a grand old age of 100. For Jean Montanee, Doctor was an honorary title that he acquired from his knowledge of roots and other medicinal plants that he expended to anyone, who was interested.


For many years, Dr. John, had a heroin addiction problem, which he finally kicked in 1989. In 1976, Dr. John joined forces with The Band for this remarkable rendering of one of his biggest hits.




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