Ode to Bobbie Gentry

I have Sirius Satellite Radio in my car and my presets include music from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. On a recent ride, Ode to Billie Joe came on and I found myself haunted by the writing as well as being transported by the eerie music backing it. I was really happy to learn that Bobbie Gentry, the singer, wrote it and this was her debut recording.

Although it was created just short of 50 years ago, I doubt that any current readers are not familiar with the song.

Here is the first verse:
It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton and my brother was balin’ hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And Mama hollered out the back door “y’all remember to wipe your feet”
And then she said “I got some news this mornin’ from Choctaw Ridge”
“Today Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”


Look at how specific the phrases are: The third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day. Lovely alliteration with the d sounds, too. Very strong images. She paints such a clear picture for us to immerse ourselves. Great verbs in the next line Choppin‘ cotton and balin‘ hay. Very specific and also very vivid. In seconds, the listener is transported to the Delta on a summer day doing field work. And, then the day is done and we have a leisurely walt back to dinner. I love the introduction of Mama who runs the house reminding them to wipe their feet. And then the refrain … the horrible news about Billy Joe MacAllister.
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I wrote this for my other blog, but these heroes are among my favorites. What do you think?

One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100

I am asking about heroes without empathy because I really don’t know the answer  Over the past few years, we have been offered several heroes that have become hugely popular yet who do not seem to care at all about other people. They have no empathy.

Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Wikipedia says, “By the age of two, children normally begin to display the fundamental behaviors of empathy by having an emotional response that corresponds with another person.”

A hero is someone admired for achievements and noble qualities. Someone who demonstrates a lot of courage. The heroes below are over the top on achievements, but seem utterly lacking in empathy, a quality I consider a noble one.


I like movies and TV and as a retired guy indulge in my share. I am thinking of two heroes of popular TV shows…

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Toccata and Fugue For Glass Harp

Let me say in advance that I love music, but don’t care much for gimmicky performances of it.

I saw Walt Disney’s Fantasia as a child and was blown away by it. One of the songs in particular, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor took my breath away. I have it on my iPod to this day.

A friend sent me this You Tube video of it and I loved it.

I hope you feel the same.


Thank You – All 200 of You!

I just got this little badge from WordPress that said I had a LIKABLE BLOG.

When I started writing this blog last month, I fully expected to post about two dozen items over the coming year. Here I am in my second month and I am on number 35. Go figure!

I saw and loved the movie Premium Rush and wanted to write about it. It didn’t seem to fit the other blog that I co-write with my friend John, so I started this blog. I wanted to write about My Favorite Things as I said on my About page. I guess didn’t know that I had so many.

It’s gratifying that my simple message of positivity and beauty can find such a welcome.

I want to thank all of you folks who have visited my blog and taken the time to LIKE what you read and saw. I am thrilled that someone else likes my photos. I don’t think I am dry yet, so I hope you will return from time to time.

Just informationally, I also co-write a blog on Diet, Exercise and Good Health including Healthy Aging. It was John’s brainchild, an old friend from Reuters. You can check it out at: guysandgoodhealth.com.


Bumble Boogie by Jack Fina

This one has roots all the way back to my childhood. I first heard this incredible piece of music in the 1940’s and it electrified me then as a child. I would always stop whatever I was doing to give it my full attention and move to the beat. As with all things we love, it is impossible to put into words why we love them. Love is emotional and comes from the heart not the head. I can’t explain why I loved it as a child nor today as a grown up, I only know it makes me feel alive in a special way.

Before you hear it, though, you need to learn a bit about its genealogy. Bumble Boogie actually has classical roots. It is based on The Flight of the Bumble Bee an orchestral interlude by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for his opera The Tale of the Tsar Saltan in 1899-1900.

Wikipedia says, “Flight of the Bumblebee is recognizable for its frantic pace when played up to tempo, with nearly uninterrupted runs of chromatic sixteenth notes. It is not so much the pitch or range of the notes that are played that challenges the musician, but simply the musician’s ability to move to them quickly enough; because of this and its complexity, it requires a great deal of skill to perform….

Flight of the Bumblebee was featured, along with other compositions by Rimsky-Korsakov, in the fictional 1947 biopic Song of Scheherazade.

“The radio program The Green Hornet used Flight of the Bumblebee as its theme music, blended with a hornet buzz created on a theremin. The music became so strongly identified with the show and the character that it was retained as the theme for the later TV series, Wikipedia reported.

Enter Jack Fina, New Jersey born musician and composer. Born August 13, 1913. Fina played in a number of bands in his life, including the Freddie Martin band in the 1940’s. It was with this group that pianist Fina composed his version of Flight of the Bumble BeeBumble Boogie. It was so popular that Walt Disney included it in his 1946 Melody Time which took my breath away when I saw and heard it on the big screen in a movie theater as a child.

I am including a You Tube video of a recording of Jack playing his version in the 1940’s. It’s obviously dated and not up to current standards of acoustics, but I thought you ought to hear the composer play his song.

It’s important to understand that while the Rimsky-Korsakov original has a frenetic pace, Fina tones that down and lets the listener feel the music. After all, it’s Bumble Boogie, not Flight of the Bumble Bee. A lot of pianists get caught up in playing this as fast as they can and it becomes little more than an exercise in fast fingering. I have also included a version by Luis Coloma and his trio. For my money Coloma understands and performs it exactly correctly. Again, this isn’t the greatest recording acoustically, but I think you can get the idea. The version available on iTunes is superb.

I have bought a number of versions on iTunes and the one available by Coloma is my favorite. There are several other good ones which I will let you find and enjoy for yourself. Enjoy the hunt. You can also buy the DVD of Melody Time on Amazon. Disney had it removed from You Tube, so you can’t sample it there. But I recommend buying the DVD just for this tune.


I Love My New MINI Countryman

I was one of the thousands of folks who got a car crush on the MINI Cooper about ten years ago after The Italian Job movie came out and blew everybody away. The car’s popularity was so great at that time that there was a six month wait for delivery if you ordered one new.

This is from the 2003 release of The Italian Job starring Charlize Theron and Mark Walberg

As I wrote in The MINI Kayaker, I didn’t own a car from 1977 to 2004. I live in downtown Chicago and can walk most places. There is also public transportation. I could ride my bike sometimes, take cabs or rent a car. One of the reasons I was able to retire at 60 is that I had not spent all that money on cars for so many years.

This movie poster was so much fun that PlayStation2 used it for their Italian Job game.

Getting back to my car crush, the first one I bought was a used 2003 Cooper. It was dark blue, like one of the Italian Job cars. Over the next seven years, I would own one of each, a red and a white also, the other colors in the film.

In 2009 MINI extended its line with a convertible. There was also a little extension of its length with the Clubman model in 2008. And, last year, 2011 the Countryman came out. It is the MINI version of an SUV. It stretches 15 inches longer and 3 inches wider than the Cooper model. Despite this ‘stretch’ it is still 14 inches shorter than a Prius.

I shot this at the dealer. The car on the left is my new Countryman while the car on the right is the Cooper I traded in. I call the new black Countryman my Badmobile.

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Premium Rush is Worth It

Get ready for this rock ’em sock ’em thrill ride on two wheels. What could be more appropriate for Willing Wheeling’s first post than Premium Rush, the Joseph Gordon-Levitt outing as a bike messenger supreme. I loved this film.

There are a lot of neat elements. First time director David Koepp rivets us to our seats with the almost non-stop biking action on New York’s savage streets. He did a kickass job on the action elements with some tight street level shots of the bikes in motion. It tracks, though. Unlike a lot of action films that get caught up in the action for its own sake. All the activity fits and furthers the story. Very nice use of the GPS as a tool for the messengers and also for shooting out a map for the audience to see and understand the context of the riding. Koepp has first rate screen writing credits including Jurassic Park, Spiderman and Panic Room.

So, what about the story? It involves JGL in the role of Wilee ( as in Wiley Coyote, beep beep, although ironically he is being chased, not chasing) three time winner of the best bike messenger award. He used to do trick riding, but now confines himself to his fixed gear single speed bike with no brakes, a true wheelman. But, that explains some of his cool moves later.

Wilee and Vanessa

His hot ex-gf, Vanessa,  played by Dania Ramirez, also delivers the goods on two wheels. Their issue though is that Wilee quit law school to ride his bike while Vanessa is working on the bike to get a straight job and leave bike messengering. They have split up because he blew off her school program for a bike race.

The plot gets interesting quickly and mysteriously. Koepp here gets credit for his non-linear delivery. You have probably seen the trailer on TV which shows Wilee being chased on his bike and screaming into the phone about ‘what was in that package?’

Koepp fills us in with a number of flashbacks that work wonderfully for my money. They reminded me of Tarantino’s use of them in Pulp Fiction.

A very clever cop with a gambling problem played by Michael Shannon provides the dark side of the story. He wants the message the Wilee has contracted to deliver. Wilee, of course, refuses to give it up. So, we have an establishment cop for a heavy pitted against a rebel bike messenger who plays by the rules.

And the fun begins with the first of many chases.

It’s fascinating to me that the bike messenger world is an outside-the-establishment scene. The writing is so good that you don’t know if this is just good-guy vs bad-guy, or really an anti-establishment story. As authoritarianism has flourished in the last few years in this country, the idea of authority figures being evil is a very understandable artistic response.

Watch this super little Premium Rush Training video on You Tube.

Not incidentally, I loved the James Cameron TV series Dark Angel with Jessica Alba as a bike messenger. There is a slight reminiscence of that off the grid camaraderie here, too.

I always liked JGL in Third Rock From the Sun also on TV.

I recommend Premium Rush highly. It will definitely make you want to get out andride your bike – just not through New York traffic.

I can’t wait for the DVD (out Dec 21, 2012). I hope it will have explanations of some of the trick bike riding.