Bye bye, American Pie

There are two pizza buffet restaurants in Garden City in close proximity to one another.  One of them, I haven’t visited yet. I think I should, though, because I’m not likely to be visiting the other one again. American Pie on Middlebelt used to be good, but it has gone downhill in recent months.

The pizza at a buffet restaurant will never be the top of the line, but it has the potential to be decent. And American Pie’s pizza is still decent enough. But the atmosphere has really deteriorated over the last few months.  On my most recent visit, there were no bowls for the pasta. Until now, there were always bowls provided for the pasta to be served with a marinara or a meat sauce. But not anymore. Sure, you can use a plate, but it’s not the same.

What really gets me is this: the music they play in the restaurant consists of the same songs repeated in the same order on a 30-minute cycle. I guarantee that when you go there, you will hear these songs and only these songs:

- the second half of “Got To Be Real” by Cheryl Lynn
- “Say You Love Me” by Fleetwood Mac
- “Rockin’ Me” by Steve Miller
- “Sara Smile” by Hall and Oates
- “Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone
- “Reelin’ in the Years” by Steely Dan
- “Boogie Nights” by Heatwave
- “Dreamer” by Supertramp
- plus others that I have mercifully forgotten, although I know I would remember them if I ever went back.

Now these are not bad songs, not at all. They were hits from when I grew up. But to hear these songs over and over — it’s worse than terrestrial radio!  How can anyone stand to work there, knowing that this is all they’ll be hearing, day in and day out, half-hour in and half-hour out? It would drive me batty. They used to play a more varied mix of songs. I wonder what happened? Whatever it was, it was enough to drive away a customer.

Fifty years of Beatlemania in the US

Here is the latest in what have turned out to be infrequent blog entries. And like the last entry, this one will deal with a 50th anniversary.

50 years ago, in January and February 1964, the Beatles were making their first big splash in the United States. On the date I’ve started this post (January 20), back in ’64, the album Meet the Beatles was released.  The single “I Want To Hold Your Hand” had been issued the day after Christmas.  Beatlemania was arriving on these shores.  And what was I doing? Not a heck of a lot. How could I? I was only seven or eight months old at the time. I was unaware of world and national events. I would only have been aware of what was happening around me.

On February 9, would I have seen (or at least exposed to) the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show? It’s possible; I remember the show being on the air, so I know my mom and dad watched it, at least occasionally.  They might have had it on at home, and I might have been awake for it (7 at night in the Central time zone). Then again, they might not have cared to watch that evening and put something else on. I’ll never know.  But I do know this: a few years later, I can barely remember seeing the credits for the Beatles cartoon show that aired on Saturday mornings on ABC. That was probably the first exposure to them that I can remember.  Did I become a fan right away? No, that took about ten years. And during those ten years, I would hear some of their songs on the radio; I would definitely hear their solo songs starting in ’72 and ’73 (and start buying the singles, too). Then everything clicked in ’76: I got the Red and Blue albums, I picked up the guitar, and I had become a fan.

 

Celebrating Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary

Yesterday, we commemorated the 50th anniversary of a tragic event, the assassination of President Kennedy.  Today, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of another event, albeit an event that wasn’t noticed in the US at the time: the premiere of Doctor Who. It didn’t premiere in the US at that time, just in the UK. Indeed, even if it had been scheduled to premiere here on November 23, it wouldn’t have; the networks were continuously covering the aftermath of the assassination.

According to a Wikipedia article, Canada’s CBC aired the first 26 episodes of the program beginning in January 1965. It may well have been seen in Detroit, Buffalo, Seattle and other border towns in the US. A few US cities might have seen it in 1972; a good friend of mine recalls seeing it then while he was living in Florida. Detroit and Buffalo could have started to see it again via TVOntario in 1976. But for me, the first time I saw Doctor Who was when KPRC channel 2 in Houston started carrying it in 1978 or 1979. At first, it was on in the afternoons, but I was in school then. Later, they started to air it late on Saturday night, Sunday morning after Saturday Night Live and Monty Python. The first story I remember seeing was “The Invasion of Time” — not a very good one to start with. That’s because the Doctor was acting very out of character for much of the story, but how could I have known that? I wasn’t turned off, though; no, I continued to watch, and I became hooked.

For Americans such as myself who became fans at that time, Tom Baker will always be “their Doctor”. But if I had grown up in the UK, no doubt I’d have become a fan earlier, in either the Patrick Troughton or Jon Pertwee eras. I would have been too young to see most of the William Hartnell era, but maybe I would have remembered some of the final episodes from 1966. I don’t know, and there’s no way to know.

And so here we are on the 50th anniversary. Will the 100th anniversary be remembered? I doubt I’ll be around for that one. But I am here for this one, and I raise my glass in a toast to Doctor Who and everyone who’s ever been connected with the program. To the actors who’ve played the Doctor, I echo the comments of the Brigadier when I say, “Spendid chaps – all of them.”

My thoughts on the JFK assassination anniversary, part 1

This November brings two important 50th anniversaries. One of those anniversaries commemorates an event that went unnoticed in the US at the time, the debut of the British science-fiction program Doctor Who. I’ll talk about that anniversary another time. The program wouldn’t make a big splash over here until the late 1970’s, but even if it had been scheduled to debut in the US at the same time as in the UK, it wouldn’t have. Its debut would have been postponed because of the news coverage of the other big event from November 1963. I am referring, of course, to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Continue reading

Thoughts about “Redskins”

After having seen the Detroit Tigers stave off elimination in game 4 of their American League Divisional Series and send the series back to Oakland for a decisive game 5, I feel like talking about — the Washington Redskins. And not about their not-very-good season, either: I want to talk about the name “Redskins.”

There has been a growing clamor for the team to retire the name “Redskins” on the grounds that it’s an ethnic slur and is disrespectful and/or derogatory to Native Americans. That is a compelling argument, but I also have heard claims that some Native Americans don’t see it that way. That’s also a good argument. Still, if there is a deep division in the community over the matter, I think that’s justification enough for the name change. That may be the Baha’i in me talking, trying to encourage unity.

The Redskins could always change their logo to a redskin potato….

 

The Thomas Jefferson Hour

When I was on vacation in June, driving through the Texas Panhandle on my way to Amarillo, I was tuning around on the radio dial when I happened to come across an interesting radio program. The Thomas Jefferson Hour is a public radio program devoted and dedicated “to the search for truth in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson” (quoting from the program’s website). The distinguishing characteristic of the program is the series of conversations with President Jefferson himself, as portrayed by scholar Clay Jenkinson, speaking of events and answering listener’s questions in character as Jefferson. I’ve enjoyed it enough to send in a donation to keep the series going.

I listen to the Jefferson Hour on my Apple TV, along with several other podcasts (mainly video). I’ll have more to say about the Apple TV in a future entry.

Are you ready for some more football (end of September style)?

If it’s Saturday or Sunday in the fall, then that means football.  Michigan State was idle on Saturday, so I watched a very good SEC game (Georgia and LSU) and a good Big Ten game (Wisconsin and Ohio State). And on Sunday, I turned on NFL Red Zone and got to see a bit of everything. I was most interested in the Bears-Lions and Seahawks-Texans games, naturally. The Lions dominated throughout their game and ended up winning 40-32, while the Texans had an early lead but allowed Seattle to catch up and tie it, sending it into overtime where the Seahawks kicked a field goal to win, 23-20.

In my opinion, the Red Zone channel is one of the best programming ideas ever. It allows you to see the best of every game that is taking place at that time. And when I first started watching the channel in 2009 or 2010 (I’m not sure which year), it was the only way to see the Lions play at home. They were very bad at that point, and most games were blacked out.

Discovering history through aerial photographs

Over on Facebook, I belong to three groups that deal with the history of where I grew up: League City and the Clear Lake area of Texas. We’ve had some very interesting discussions on a number of topics. Many of those discussions have been sparked by vintage photographs.  A few of those vintage photographs have been aerial photographs that I found on the web.

One of the first places I found vintage aerial photographs is HistoricAerials.com. Their selection varies widely, depending on the part of the country you’re interested in. For my primary area of interest (the Houston area in general, the Clear Lake area in particular), I’m in luck; they have historic images, where historic means 1999 and earlier. More specifically, I found images from 1953, 1957, 1964, 1973, 1981 and a few other years. But if I were interested in historic images from, say, Nebraska, I’d be out of luck; they don’t have any.  Now HistoricAerials charges for its photos; I’ve bought some from them in the past.

A site that contains more government-generated photos and data is Earth Explorer by USGS. I’ve found data from 1953, 1954, 1955, 1969 and some other years for the Houston area.  These photos contain a great amount of detail.  They’re also huge in size; 100 MB is a fairly common size. Thank goodness for speedy connections and large hard drives! The interface isn’t too difficult to use, and the photos I retrieve are free!

Even Google Earth has vintage aerial photography. For League City, you can go back to 1944. Now that’s really mind-blowing for me, because in 1944, there was no Gulf Freeway (that only dates back to 1952), but there was a second bridge crossing across Clear Creek, that being Old Galveston Road (not the current Highway 3, but the original road, which is known in LC as Kansas Street). Unfortunately, there are big gaps in that photo set, because the area west of town isn’t covered, so you can’t see the land without the freeway.  I’d sure like to see the land like that. I’d like to find more aerial photos, and of different years, to see more of the history and the changes.

Spam isn’t just a meat product

I used to keep a blog on this site on two occasions before this current blog. One thing that I remember from the second attempt, and something I’m seeing return with this blog, is spam comments.  Every comment submitted to me has been spam; I haven’t received any legitimate comments at all. Now fortunately, I moderate all of the comments, so no garbage is getting posted here.  But it would be nice to receive a legitimate comment, for a change.

Why I am a Texan

Today’s (Sept. 15, 2013) Houston Chronicle has an article on how NASA’s Johnson Space Center came to be located in the Houston area, a decision that had a profound effect on my life. Because the space center was in Houston, my parents moved down there after they got married, and I was born there and grew up there. I made many friends down there, people I still consider friends some 40-50 years later.

Continue reading