Monday, January 21, 2013

The Faith Tones Saga Continues



A few months ago, I wrote an extensive piece about The Faith Tones, a female gospel trio who recorded an album in 1964 titled “Jesus Use Me.” Their album cover depicting the three of them in their 1960s hair styles seems to be all the rage across the internet. 


When I was able to confirm that they’re for real and that they really did release this album in 1964, I decided to put my creative writing skills to use. I wrote some pretty extensive bios about each of the members including making up their names. 

The thing was, my entry was a work of creative writing; 95% of it was fiction. So many sites had made some pretty wild claims about them, so I decided to write a satirical piece but keep it "just" believable enough that people might buy in to it. For example, I identified one of them as Marie Samuels. But any Hitchcock fan would recognize that name as the alias the main character used in the movie, Psycho, when she checked into the Bates Motel. 

My blog entry quickly became Number One on Google. I was surprised

A couple of months later, a Wikipedia article appeared and the information from my blog entry was used as fact. (A link to my blog was provided).  And no, I did not make the Wikipedia entry. As a matter of fact, I’ve tried contacting the person who made that entry but have yet figured out how to do it. 

That’s a perfect illustration of why you can’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia. Or on the Internet for that matter.

So, I’m here to set the record straight. Last week, I noticed that a mint condition LP of the infamous Faith Tones album was up for auction on eBay. This album is exceedingly rare – the last one available was over two years ago. 

I read all about how to “snipe” on eBay and watched the auction carefully. Finally, with ten seconds to go, I leaped out of the bushes like a puma and entered my offer.

I won.

The mint condition album arrived in the mail yesterday. The reverse cover contained some bio information on each of the women including their names. 

From left to right:

Marilyn Seidler -- a licensed cosmetologist
Becky Seidler – has a degree in Business
Rosalie Wolff – an Education major at the University of Montana.

Daniel H. Squire - recording engineer
Bud Tutmarc - Producer.

A friend of mine has a turntable that will convert each track into MP3 recordings. That will be my project for the weekend as well as posting the recordings to YouTube. 

So, yes, my fascination with The Faith Tones is real. I would love to know more about these women and their life journeys, for I’m sure we can all relate to them in some way. 

So, I've come clean about the piece I wrote, but my blog entry remains at the top of Google and the Wikipedia article remains unchanged.  Later, I’ll have the joy of making their music available for us all to enjoy. 

The journey continues. . .

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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Books

When I was in graduate school studying theology back in the 1990s, I wrote a number of papers on the spirituality of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. This was back in the day when we actually had to go to these things called “libraries” and borrow items called “books” and research them for useful information. 


I imagine graduate students these days probably tweet theological treatises, download it, and boom, there’s their term paper. 

Anyway, one of the most inspiring books I came across about St. Thérèse was titled, The Hidden Face by Ida Görres. It had been translated from German many years ago and only a small number of copies were published in English. It was beautifully written, told the real story of this saintly nun (not the usual saccharin-laced stuff mostly written about her) but it was still a very inspiring work. 

It had long been out of print when I tried to obtain a copy about ten years ago. There were some copies out there in rare book stores selling for two or three hundred dollars; a sum I didn’t want to shell out, St. Thérèse notwithstanding. 

Finally, I found a copy advertised online selling for about thirty bucks from a tiny book shop  in rural Maine. I called the shop and the owner told me that someone else had called to buy it; however they hadn’t followed through with the cash. Would I give them another 24 hours? If they hadn’t come through, it would be mine.

She called me the next day to give me the good news. I finally got my hands on this rare treasure of a book. 

The thing is, the owner of this book shop, Wendy, and I became friends through this transaction. I had sent her a nice thank-you note, she wrote back, and we became pen-pals. It was all very much like the movie, 84 Charing Cross Road, starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins back in 1987. 

That was ten years ago. I still have my lovely book, and Wendy and I have enjoyed our Ann-Bancroft-Anthony-Hopkins relationship for many years. (I sent her a DVD of that movie and we had a really good laugh over that.)

Anyway, I was searching on Amazon last year and noticed that this book had been re-published and was now available in paperback. (You can order it here). I sent a copy to my niece as a gift. 

Here’s the really strange part. While riding the bus to work yesterday, I noticed that this book is now available in a Kindle version. Within a few seconds, I was reading it on my smart phone while riding the bus to work. 

That’s how much technology has advanced in just ten years. 

But at what cost? 

No longer can we thoughtfully buy a book as a gift, wrap it, and ship it to someone special.

And longtime friendships that serendipitously occur between a bookshop owner in Maine and a guy in Chicago will never be caused by Kindle. 

Unable to compete with Amazon, Wendy sold her quaint little bookshop and moved to Boston several years ago.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I Like Big Bridges

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had a fascination with bridges. So when I heard on the news last night that a bridge crossing Lake Michigan was proposed, I was intrigued. 


I live on the shore of Lake Michigan and I can tell you this – it’s BIG. 

Huge.

So, I was intrigued by the prospect of a bridge crossing over it. Connecting the shores of Wisconsin with Michigan with a bridge would be mind-boggling.  It would keep me entertained for years.

Then I got to thinking about it and realized such an endeavor would be . . . 
well . . . 
stupid. 

First, let’s talk about the size of the bridge. The longest bridge I know of crosses Lake Ponchartrain in Louisiana and it’s 24 miles long. Lake Michigan is 90 miles across, so this thing would be over three times longer. 


But the real clincher is that Lake Ponchartrain is little more than a swamp; it’s probably about seven inches deep, so its 24-mile bridge is no big feat. 

Lake Michigan is 300 feet deep. You do the comparison. 

Let’s talk about the weather up here. Namely, winter. 

For three months of the year, Lake Michigan is inundated with wind-driven, thick ice and blizzards. Ships don’t even brave Lake Michigan in the winter. Would you want to drive an automobile 90 miles across that? 

What if you needed to stop for a bathroom break? What if you needed gas? Or worse – How would you stop for Starbucks?

If you still don’t think the weather would be a problem, I have two words for you:
Edmund Fitzgerald. 

Get the picture?

Now, let’s talk about practicality. Why would we need a bridge across Lake Michigan? One argument is so that people in Wisconsin and Michigan could cross over without having to go through Chicago. 

Would this be a likely scenario? Here’s a family in Grand Rapids, Michigan:

“Honey, let’s go to Chicago for the weekend. How about it?”

“Oh, but now that there’s a bridge across Lake Michigan, let’s go to Sheboygan instead!”

So, yes, a big bridge across the lake would be cool. I’d find it fascinating. 

But practically speaking, all I have to say to those proposing such an endeavor is: 
  
“Rub a lamp.”



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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving

A Public Service Announcement:
Having worked in homeless shelters, here is my public service announcement for everyone you know: PLEASE refrain from volunteering to serve meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas. 
STAY HOME. Shelters and food banks are totally inundated with well-wishers who want to serve turkey to the “less fortunate” on Thanksgiving and it requires lots of extra work for these shelters just to handle the volunteers. (Public officials are the worst offenders about this.) 
DO NOT bring your kids there on Thanksgiving, thinking it will do them good to see the less fortunate. A SHELTER IS NOT A ZOO. 
That being said, shelters DO need volunteers to show up regularly all year long. Have your teenager volunteer to unload the delivery truck in the back alley every Saturday morning. Better yet, send an anonymous donation, stay home, and give thanks for your bounty. 
Gobble Gobble.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Dark Side



About two weeks ago, my life completely and irrevocably changed.
No, I didn’t win the lottery or fall madly in love or find out I have a long-lost identical twin. 

I got my first smart phone. 

I had always derided these folks who ride the train or bus while continually engrossed in their smart phones. However, the moment I was able to snap a photo and text it to my niece in Korea, my endorphins went into overdrive and I became one of them. 

I cannot imagine leaving home without my Samsung Galaxy S3. What would I do on the bus? Engage in reflective thought? Out of the question!

Speaking of buses, I never have to wait for one anymore. Before leaving my apartment or work, I just look on my phone, see when the bus is coming, amble out at the right moment and here it comes. 

Carrying a book to read on the bus? No more. It’s on my phone. 

My alarm clock recently died and I didn’t have to buy a new one. Yep, the smart phone wakes me up now. 

Banking: I had a check to deposit and the smart phone took a photo of the check and voila – it was in my account. (That was really cool.)

But the thing that surprised me the most was finding a computer game that I enjoy am addicted to.  I’ve never played computer games. I’ve never played Pac Man or Space Invaders or any of them. But when a friend of mine turned me on to Trainyard, I was hooked. (You get to design all these tracks, get the trains to combine, switch apart, cross over, keep them from crashing, in order to get them all from one station to another.) 

Here's a cool little video about Trainyard:


So now, I don’t even read my good book on the smart phone while on the bus.
I’m playing with my trains. 

So, yes, I’ve gone over to the dark side. 

I really just hope I don’t begin playing Trainyard during the sermon at church. 

Pray for me.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Lakefront Path

In the ever-elusive quest to find a means of exercise that I don’t find repellant, I tried running along Chicago’s lakefront trail again. 


Never again!

On the surface, it sounds nice: Eight miles of paved running path along Chicago’s lakefront with breathtaking vistas of the city skyline. 

Here’s what it looks like. 


See? Isn’t that nice?

In reality, the lakefront running path should be called the Lakefront running/dog-walking/biking/speed-skating Lane of Terror. 

Here’s what it actually looks like:


See? Isn’t that horrible?

Remember in grade school when you jumped rope? Two kids would be looping the rope round and round and you’d have to time it just right, dash into the looping rope and begin hopping up and down with split-second accuracy. 

That’s what it feels like just getting on to the pathway. Dogs and speed skaters and competitive bicyclists are all whizzing by in different directions. You have to time it just right and dash right in to get swooped up in the maelstrom. 

I made it onto the path and began my slow trot-trot-trotting along. 

Keep in mind that the running path is hardly wider than a one-lane road. 

I heard a sonic boom behind me as several Tour de France contenders blazed by with the warning, “On your left!!!” 

My heart was still pounding when roller-bladers whizzed past which left hardly any room for the guy on his bike pulling a toddler in the kiddy-trailer attached. Dogs on leashes complicated the matter. 

Trot-trot-trot . . . 

I couldn’t wait to get off the damn running path. 

I veered off onto a nice, regular sidewalk. If I had brought money with me, a taxi would have been hailed. 

There are some really beautiful, wooded pathways that meander through the bird sanctuary near my place. I’ve mapped out a two-mile route through there that I’ve been using.

True, the paths through the bird sanctuary aren’t really meant for running. 
They’re for bird-nerds. 

But let’s be honest about my running. 

Trot-trot-trot. . . 

Birdwatchers ambling along will probably pass me by.