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I’m Dreaming, or Do I Need a Shovel?

This time of year makes us nostalgic. We prepare our Thanksgiving Day dinner while high school bands march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We root for an angel to lift James Stewart out of despair in It’s a Wonderful Life. We listen to “White Christmas” again and again and again.

Photo by: Williumbillium

Photo by: Williumbillium

Bing Crosby first sang the Irving Berlin song on his radio show in 1941 and then in the 1942 musical Holiday Inn for which it was written. It topped the charts that October and stayed there for eleven weeks. Over the years its estimated sales are over fifty million copies worldwide.

The over five hundred versions of the song since recorded by various artists around the world account for another fifty million plus copies sold. Before the decade was out Frank Sinatra, Kay Thompson, Jo Stafford, and Perry Como gave the song their own special spin.

In the fifties the Drifters, Eddie Fisher, Johnny Mathis, Dean Martin, and Ella Fitzgerald chimed in. Both Frank Sinatra and Perry Como again recorded the song, but not together. Elvis put the song on his first holiday album in 1957.

There are instrumental versions by Mantovani and His Orchestra (1952) and Kenny G (1994), as well as sing alongs. In 1961 on the cover to his holiday album, Mitch Miller didn’t print the song’s lyrics, but rather this disclaimer: “The publisher assumes everyone knows the lyrics to this song!”

The song knows no genre. Neil Diamond (1992) recorded a doo-wop version. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (1984) harmonized on Once Upon a Christmas. Country and Western singers, Garth Brooks (1992), Martina McBride (1998), Taylor Swift (2007), Blake Shelton (2012), and Kelly Clarkson (2013) among others, have made it part of their holiday repertoire. So, too, did Motown with The Supremes (1965), boy bands, including New Kids on the Block (1989), and female performers from Barbra Streisand (1967) to Diane Krall (2005). Lady Gaga added a verse when she recorded it for A Very Gaga Holiday (2011), which goes like this:

I’m dreaming of a white Snowman

With the carrot nose and charcoal eyes.

And, oh when he cries, I’m gonna tell him

It’s okay,

Because Santa’s on his sleigh and on his way.

 

Conversely, most recordings drop Berlin’s opening verse:

The sun is shining,

The grass is green,

The orange and palm trees sway.

There’s never been such a day

In Beverly Hills, L.A.

 

Both California’s La Quinta Hotel and the Arizona Biltmore claim Berlin wrote his popular song while at their resort.  Without dispute, however,  only someone sitting poolside misses the snow and cold while the rest of us shovel our driveways so we can make it to Grandma’s for pudding and pumpkin pie.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Who’s in the Kitchen?

(Please note: this was first posted on my new website YourBiography2.com.)

No one is in the kitchen, not even Dinah. Nor is anyone making dinner, not even “simple, easy, everyday meals,” per chef Mark Bittman in an October issue of Time.

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No one’s in the kitchen. No one’s home. Photo by: designbuildinhabit

That’s a shame for a lot of reasons.

As Bittman points out, it’s so much healthier to eat at home. A home-cooked meal, compared to the same served in a restaurant, has two hundred fewer calories. It’s less expensive, too.

Sure, eating out is convenient. That’s why fast-food restaurants are so popular. But, when was the last time you had a real conversation at MacDonald’s or Burger King or even Chipotle? Do you even remember your last meal in a fast food restaurant? Who were you with? What did you talk about? Did you try something new?

Currently, Del Webb, the retirement community developer, is running a slice-of-life commercial narrated by a young-looking senior citizen who proudly claims, “I never cooked Thai food in my life, and now I’m cooking it for twenty people.” Well, I used to laugh at the ad, thinking he was treating his guests no better than guinea pigs. Now, I think, why not?

Why not step out of your comfort zone? Why not learn a new skill and make new friends? As a personal historian, I’m all for creating memories, as well as recording the past.

By the way, those of you who didn’t catch my reference to “Dinah in the kitchen” probably never had the pleasure of singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” around a campfire. You can make up for lost time by listening to Muffin cartoon characters here. I’m sure any resemblance to “Hell on Wheels” is purely coincidental.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Mickey Mouse Rules

When you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, stand up for Mickey Mouse’s “House of Mouse Rules”:

No smoking. No villainous schemes. And no guests eating other guests.

Photo by: J.E. Skodak

Photo by: J.E. Skodak

Happy Thanksgiving!

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My Facebook Fan Page

Charlie Chaplin eats his boot in "The Gold Rush."

Charlie Chaplin eats his boot in “The Gold Rush.”

I have created a Facebook fan page for Hollywood or Bust: Movie Stars Dish on Following their Dreams, Making it Big, and Surviving in Tinseltown.

But the best part: for every “like”, comments count, too, I am donating a penny to the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF). Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith, also founders of United Artists started this private, non-profit charity  over 90 years ago  to help those in the movie industry who had fallen on hard times.  It hasn’t gotten any easier.  Today the fund serves more than 150,000 people annually with healthcare and other social services.

Charlie Chaplin once said, “We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery.”

So, please, go to Facebook and “like” Hollywood or Bust: Movie Stars Dish.  And if you love silents, film noir, westerns, or some other genre on the silver or small screen, ask your friends to ask their friends. The pennies will add up.

Ready, set, click.   Thank you.

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For more information on MPTF, visit: http://www.mptf.com

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Change is Such Hard Work.

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The theme of this website is “the more things change…” I thought I’d return to my roots by sharing some thoughts on “change.”  This is not the kind of change you carry around in your pocket, but real, honest-to-goodness change, the type of change at which you have to work.

From poets, presidents, jokesters, songsters, hipsters, fashionistas, and others:

I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed.

—  George Carlin

Change is such hard work.

—  Billy Crystal

Fashion changes, but style endures.

—  Coco Chanel

Change. Not always a pretty sight. In fact, it could get pretty ugly.

—  The Narrator, The Wonder Years

If you don’t change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever. Is that good news?

—  W. Somerset Maugham

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

—  George Bernard Shaw

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

—  Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

We are the change we have been waiting for.

—  Barack Obama

If you want to make enemies, try to change something.

—  Woodrow Wilson

This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.

—  Taylor Swift

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

—  Charles Darwin

One day spent with someone you love can change everything.

—  Mitch Albom, For One More Day

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85 Years Ago: The Best Thing

Photo by: JimmyMac210

Photo by: JimmyMac210

I can’t let this month end without a word about sliced bread.

Eight-five years ago this July Chillicothe Baking Company in Chillicothe, Missouri introduced an automated machine that both sliced bread and wrapped it to keep it fresh.

We might take sliced bread for granted. And those who bake their own bread today probably enjoy making that first slice themselves more than anything in the world.  But in 1928 it was a game-changer.  With the pop-up electric toaster available to the general public for a couple of years, think of how much easier it was to use without getting out the cutting board.  And anyone, children, too, could make a sandwich without losing a finger on a sharp knife.

When Wonder Bread began marketing sliced bread in the 1930s, consumers worried that it would dry out too quickly, but convenience soon took precedence over other concerns.  The slices were smaller and more uniform, and housewives knew exactly how many servings they were getting in a package.

“The best thing since sliced bread” is still the ultimate compliment.  Imagine that.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

 

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Peeps Show

 

 

Peeps in the hand.  Photo by: Nate Steiner

Peeps in the hand. Photo by: Nate Steiner

 

 

The days are longer and the weather is warmer. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  It’s holidays and family gatherings and possibly a parade.  And Peeps – those yummy chicks and bunnies in a veritable rainbow of colors– are everywhere.

 

Who doesn’t look for Peeps in their Easter basket?  It’s that sugary marshmallow concoction made of sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin.  And don’t forget the carnuba wax, also known as Palm wax.  It’s perfectly safe.  Applied by pharmaceutical companies, it makes pills easier to swallow.  Used in cosmetics it thickens lipstick and produces a glossy finish.

 

For over ten years, Peeps celebrations have been held across the country.  In its honor, the Washington Post holds a Peeps Diorama contest, but the deadline for entries was in February.

 

On this, the sixtieth anniversary of Peeps, candy maker Just Born put a survey on its Facebook page.  Before you turn the page, here are some things to ponder:

 

How do you eat Peeps:  head first, tail first, all at once, or in tiny bites?

 

What’s your favorite Peeps color: yellow, pink, lavender, green, and blue?

 

Does eating Peeps make you: proud, laugh, happy?

 

How many Peeps do you typically eat at once:  1 or 2, more than 10, or until you get a stomachache?

 

As a nation, we devour Peeps.  The candy maker hatches five million Peeps a day.  And they’re not just for Easter anymore.  Have some for Valentines Day, the Fourth of July, Halloween, Christmas, or an after school snack.

 

Some people like them warmed in the microwave, chilled in the freezer, or aged to perfection, so they’re slightly hardened or stale.  Have them your way.  You can always repent later.

 

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

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Pie are not Square

Ang Lee’s Pi Day was February 24 when he won the Best Director Oscar for Life of Pi at the Academy Awards.

Pi to 74 digits. Photo by: mag3737

Pi to 74 digits. Photo by: mag3737

For mathematicians Pi Day is March 14, as 3 – 1 – 4 are the first three digits of the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter and represent a good approximation of its value.

Pi has been a source of fascination throughout the ages. It is an irrational number in that it continues ad infinitum without repeating. It’s been proven useful when solving geometry problems, such as the area of a circle or the volume of a cylinder.

The concept of pi was mentioned in the Bible.

In the third century BC Archimedes scientifically calculated pi to about 3.14.

A value equivalent to 3.1416 dates from before AD 200.

In the sixteenth century the German mathematician Ludolph Van Ceulen spent his entire life calculating pi to 35 places.

In 1706 William Jones, a friend of Sir Isaac Newton, first designated the Greek letter “π” to represent the ratio, as part of his work in differential calculus

Until computers less than a thousand digits in pi had been calculated.  Two years ago a researcher claimed he had produced 2.7 trillion digits.

It’s not too late to either see Life of Pi or celebrate Pi Day.  Bake a pie or visit Princeton, New Jersey, which celebrates Pi Day and Albert Einstein’s birthday, also March 14, with various activities.

For example, there’s a contest to see who can recite the most digits in pi.  A recent two-time champion reeled off over two thousand numbers – in order!

There’s also an Albert Einstein look-alike contest.  But unless you have wild and wooly hair and a thick, overgrown moustache, fuggedaboutit.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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To Stay Young, Act Young

You have to hand it to Joan Collins.  She looks good.  She wears red. She’s 79 years old.220px-Joan_Collins_in_Stephane_Rolland_(1)_cropped

And she tweets.

I don’t know how long Collins has been tweeting, but last month she started issuing diet tips.  For a while, she issued one tip a day.

January 8: #1 best exercise – push yourself away from the dining table.

January 9: Ditch all white food, anything made with white flour, rice, pasta, milk, sugar.

January 10: Try just eating eggs only for every meal: hardboiled, scrambled, poached. Very filling, but do it 1 day only.

January 11: Between meals (no snacking) eat an apple.

Really, eat an apple?  Who knew?

I’m going to have to try this one from January 17: If you MUST drink, have vodka or tequila with ice & water, instead of wine.

This one is pretty good, too, from January 20: You must eat life or life will eat you.  And it’s only 39 characters with spaces!

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

 

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Do You Kazoo?

Photo by:  Fulla T

Photo by: Fulla T

The kazoo is a musical instrument that dates back to the 1840s.  It was invented by Alabama Vest, a former slave, and introduced at the 1852 George State Fair.  It quickly became popular.

The kazoo is only one of three instruments native to the United States.  The other two:  the banjo and the glass armonica. If you’re not familiar with the later, imagine rubbing a wet finger around the rim of a bottle or glass.  You’ll get the idea.

Most of us think of the kazoo as a noisemaker, an annoying souvenir or toy handed out a birthday parties because even youngsters can play it.  But it is much more than that.  Accomplished musicians can produce more than forty sounds on the instrument.

A kazoo can be made of metal, wood, or plastic.  A wax-paper membrane sits in a small hole atop the instrument, which vibrates when the player hums into the larger end of the instrument.  Different sizes produce different sounds, so does partially covering up the membrane or singing a variety of syllables such doo, who, rrrr, or brrr into the kazoo.

Frank Zappa used a kazoo on his first album, Freak Out!  Jimi Hendrix used one to simulate a blown-out speaker in his song “Crosstown Traffic.” You can hear the kazoo in the Beatles’ song, “Lovely Rita,” and in Pink Floyd’s “Corporal Clegg” in which they parodied a military brass band.

In a Jerry Garcia tribute night at the home of the San Francisco Giants in 2010, 9,000 kazoo players performed “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”  Or they tried to.  What a racket.  And, oh, so much fun.

Come join the band. January 28th is National Kazoo Day.   If that’s not enough reason to celebrate, it’s also National Blueberry Pancake Day.

Just remember: Don’t blow.  Hum.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved