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This is a few months before he starts singing for the Harry James orchestra; he’s 22. The charge of sleeping with a woman is revised to adultery when she turns out to be married, and eventually dropped.

Sinatra’s life makes an interesting way to look at 20th-century America. Just this famous mugshot shows things have changed a bit since 1938: The charge is seducing a single female of good repute.

He was born in 1915 and died in 1998. Crowds screamed for him two decades before the Beatles. The documentary “Sinatra: All or Nothing at All” grounds young Sinatra in an America where race hatred commonly extended to Italians, Irish and other groups and where the Depression meant not just working hard to survive but possibly literally not surviving. Once a singing waiter, he becomes famous in every medium from radio onward; gets credited for destroying American morality by adultering with Ava Gardner; from JFK to civil rights, mobsters, Vegas and Reagan, that’s a pretty good shuffle through the decades.

He became a cliche partly because of age (paunch, fading vocals, less self-reinventing) but also by the “Seinfeld is unfunny” principle — so successful in his groundbreaking that he became the status quo. (One of my favorite moments in “High Society” is when Bing says “You must be one of the newer fellas.” Turnover is always with us.)

Late-era Sinatra parodying himself is painful, but earlier in his career, when he’s still doing it straight and singing with sincerity, the power is clear. You can probably hear it even through the audio flaws in this film of him singing to a roomful of WAVES in 1943. Criminal seduction, you say? 🙂

imageThis isn’t a Dr Pepper smoothie, of course, because the ingredients in Dr Pepper are secret, right? (See below.) But it is a quite good smoothie that soothes my Dr Pepper cravings.

  • 1 cup pomegranate-cherry juice, chilled
  • 2 cups nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup frozen fruit — H-E-B cherry/blueberry/currant mix
  • 1 cup frozen fruit — H-E-B blackberry/blueberry/raspberry mix

(Makes about 1 pitcherful, say two 16-oz smoothies)

Internet speculation on the secret 23 flavors in Dr Pepper follows. Bear in mind it was invented in 1885:

  • Cherry, vanilla, almond, plum, blackberry, raspberry, apricot, coriander, clove, amaretto, anise, caramel, molasses, birch beer, allspice, ginger, sarsparilla, sassafras, juniper, spikenard, wintergreen, burdock, dandelion.

Glitter is sharp and bright and contains movement — like the quick trip of its two syllables set apart by sharp little t’s. One-syllable blink and wink are slow, but have movement, whether it’s your eyes or a light doing the winking and blinking (though its pace picks up when it becomes a repeated/ongoing action, doesn’t it? Winking, blinking). Gleam seems slow, soft, steady, and according to its definition applies most to reflected light, which seems right to me; my mind’s eye pictures gleaming as the yellow glow that comes off a large, smooth, golden object in a darkened room. But glow is more properly what a light source itself does; not reflecting light, like gleaming, but creating it: shine, beam, radiate.

Glimmer has movement too, but more the failure of your eyes to see something disappearing and reappearing; while its cousin shimmer has movement of a different sort, feeling more side-to-side. Or perhaps that’s shimmy I’m thinking of 🙂 (and glimpse).

Twinkle, sparkle again are repeated, sharp, two-syllable, hard consonant, flashes that repeat. Is sparkle reflected light while twinkle should be the light source itself? Nursery rhymes of stars would have it so. Flash itself is short, sharp, but without the hard consonants. Glint is quick but smaller, perhaps. Because of reflection, again? Every light loses brightness when reflected, shedding some of its brilliance as it bounces off the intervening surface. Or the moon would blind us, instead of just showing us how it sees our shared sun. Pretty flicker goes back and forth, friendly like a candle.

Scholarly side-note:

Why so many gl- beginnings in our words for light? Root words are one answer: Higueras and Clavera (2002) name two, Middle English glymsen, “to shine faintly or intermittently,” and Middle Low German glaren, “to gleam.” Sadowski (2001) compared modern English gl- root words and concluded more than half connoted light/dark or looking/seeing (with more related to smoothness, like glossy, plus glamour originally related to how something is perceived and glory also connected to light). Some scholars have even “argued the existence of sound and color patterns, whereby back vowels tend to denote dark colours (as in gloom or glum) and front vowels tend to be ‘bright’ (gleam, glitter, glimmer, etc.)” (Sadowski citing Jespersen 1922 and Jakobson 1979; front vowels being those pronounced with the tongue forward in the mouth and vice versa).

Image via Fotolia

Got a chance to crawl around inside the type of bomber my grandfather flew, a B-24 Liberator, today as several Collings Foundation aircraft visited our town. America’s most-produced plane of World War II, these heavy bombers typically dropped 5,000-pound loads of explosives deep behind enemy lines across Europe and in every theater. B-24s were harder to fly but carried heavier payloads farther and faster than the B-17. There are only two operational B-24s left in the U.S., and it was a great opportunity to look around and into this aircraft on a beautiful day. My dad and I are repairing a model B-24 and I can tell you, those distinctive oval tail fin pieces look a lot smaller in plastic.

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Visitors get to step up a little ladder into the tail and go through the airplane up towards the cockpit. The B-24J would typically have had a crew of 10, including gunners at the nose, turrets, waist and tail. This particular plane is painted to represent the Witchcraft, which flew 130 missions, the most in the Mighty Eighth Air Force: http://electraforge.com/brooke/flightsims/b24_flights/witchcraftHistorical.html

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Seen in the background here is Collings’ restored B-17 Flying Fortress, which we also got to see in the air a few times as it passed over.

In a 2006 CBS interview, a flight engineer from the original Witchcraft tells how he came up with and painted her nose art: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/witchcraft-flies-again-for-vets/

Climbing through the B-24 (I did get to sight and aim the waist guns):

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The planes will be here Sunday as well, and visiting them costs $12 adults/$6 kids. Taking a half-hour flight in one is also possible, for $450. Till you get that saved up, here’s the video version 🙂

Here’s Robert Earl Keen as Antonio Vivaldi opening his eighth annual benefit in Kerrville for an organization he said “it’s my passion to tell people about”: the Hill Country Youth Orchestra.vivaldi crop

Keen told the crowd at the Feb. 21 show that on his travels around the country, he’ll get to talking with people about the orchestra, and they’ll say, “Oh yes, we’ve got something like that here,” and he’ll say, “No; no, you don’t.” The HCYO provides full tuition-and-fees scholarships for each of its hundred-plus students.

He’s supporting his bluegrass album “The Happy Prisoner” right now, so his part of the concert had an old-timey feel — just not as old as Vivaldi:

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But first, the kiddos cut loose with the classical goodies:

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(Apologies for fuzzy phone photos taken at some distance)

Watch for next year’s show, likely to be in February again, and go check it out if you can. It’s a lovely night at Kerrville’s Cailloux Theater, and this year it raised $65,000 for those scholarships. Keen closed his part of the show with a completely acoustic set, playing the special guitar they auctioned off to raise part of that money:

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It was beautiful.

(Fellow Aggie/Kerrville note: The auction also included Johnny Manziel autographed memorabilia. Keen is Class of ’78, Manziel is ’15)

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A year kicked off with loved ones in Fort Worth is a year that’s gonna go well. I grew up near here, love the city and was tickled to hear the Metroplex referred to on the radio as “FW-D.”

Sundance Square decked out for the holidays. It was barely above freezing, so nobody’s loitering in the outdoor seats 🙂 But the restaurants and bars were doing good business and have nice views of the square!

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Beautiful Bass Hall, where crowds were arriving for the New Year’s Eve concert by Robert Earl Keen:

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Joe T Garcia’s turns 80 this year – the sign says “Since 1935!” Cannot count the number of great afternoons and evenings I’ve had at Joe T’s. If you go eat there on a pretty afternoon, not a freezing cold night, you can have your “family dinner” in the rambling, maze-like patio gardens out back of the old house.

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First time ever to go in Billy Bob’s Texas. Bewilderingly huge and comic place, with what seemed like half of North Texas there with their New Year’s Eve dates.

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But even at a distance (and this was one of the closer tables!) the Turnpike Troubadours were great. Wonderful way to ring in the year.

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Heard on the radio yesterday: An old norteño version of the old, old Hank Thompson hit “Wild Side of Life.” “Mi Nueva Casa,” I learn from musica.com, was a 1982 hit for Los Invasores de Nuevo León, boosting them to their first gold record. That is totally fitting in a number of ways, one being that Texas (Hank’s home state) and Nuevo León are neighbors, and one being that “Wild Side of Life” has a tendency to spin off hits.

Western Swing pioneer Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys were Billboard’s top country and western band of the year for 14 years straight, 1951-1964. The tune behind “Wild Side” itself is “an old traditional English melody” on which the Southern hymn “Great Speckled Bird” was based, according to a biography of Roy Acuff. “GSB” was Acuff’s first radio hit and got him a recording contract in 1936. In 1952, “Wild Side of Life” stayed at No. 1 for nine weeks, newly fitted out with lyrics about a temptress who breaks up a man’s marriage and then leaves him to go back to her bar-room good-timing ways – its most famous line being, “I didn’t know God made honky tonk angels.” That inspired an answer song, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” the first country No. 1 by a solo female artist, which sold a million copies and launched Kitty Wells’ career. It put the blame back on men for cheatin’ and was considered so shocking that NBC and the Grand Ole Opry both banned it. Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter did a mashup of the two songs in 1981, which brings us neatly back around, chronologically speaking, to Los Invasores:

Hank Thompson:

Hank sang (not wrote, but sang):

You wouldn’t read my letter if I wrote you
You asked me not to call you on the phone
But there’s something I’m wanting to tell you
So I wrote it in the words of this song

Los Invasores’ lyrics with my translation (which reads very stilted because I’m not translating for the feeling of it but literally the words themselves. Language major, sorry 🙂 I like to know what the original words were and then fill in the feeling):

Te escribi una carta y no me contestaste         I wrote you a letter and you didn’t answer me
Fui a buscarte y ya cambiaste dirección          I went to search for you and you’d already moved (lit., changed address)
Como tengo unas cosas que reclamarte          As I have a couple things to complain to you about
me obligaste a que te cante esta canción        You’ve obliged me to sing to you this song

The song goes on to talk about how he gave up his home to be with her and is pretty miserable where he’s living now, a place that features bottles, a jukebox and a neon sign. “Y una cualquiera es la que ocupa tu lugar” — and her place is taken by whatever lady is around.

Kitty’s entry in this tune’s history books:

If you have something stuck in your throat and need to upchuck quickly, or alternately to gain an immediate visceral understanding of the Nashville tendency to slap sappy strings and gooshy backup singers all over a defenseless song that caused musicians like Buck Owens to rebel with the “Bakersfield Sound,” etc., listen to this alternate version of Hank’s “Wild Side.”