Sunday, April 30, 2006

Read the fine print

It has been a few months, but I still feel cheated.

In the bargain rack at a discount store, I found a CD, "20 Best of 60s Rock 'n' Roll." From experience, I was aware that some music companies hire studio musicians to re-record popular songs. Thus, I was cautious.

Nonetheless, I still got burned. Madacy Entertainment Group, from Canada, cleverly labeled the CD case, using the names of the acts that made these songs famous, including Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Troggs, The Animals and even the falsetto-voiced Lou Christie. The folks at Madacy even printed the words original artists atop the playlist. And there it was on the cover: "New stereo recordings by the original artists." I was sold.

After paying $7 or $8 for the CD and popping it my car's player, I congratulated myself for careful shopping as I listened to the opening on Track 1: "Sugar Sugar." Yep, though I don't like it -- does anyone admit to ever liking 1969's Pop Song of the Year? -- there is no question that those are The Archies (ironically, a group made up of studio musicians) in the original version.

However, a different emotion took over with Track 2: "Devil With a Blue Dress On." That was NOT Mitch Ryder. Track 3: "Kicks," did NOT feature Paul Revere and company -- just sound-alikes. And on and on.

I re-scanned the CD cover. Yes, there are the names of the well-known artists next to the titles. Yes, it says "original artists" above the list. Wait. Under the list, in what might be the tiniest type available, appears these words: "All selections are new stero recordings, except selections marked (*) are the original recordings. So, the only artists on the CD who actually recorded the hit are The Archies and The Shangri-Las ("Leader of the Pack").

So, according to Madacy, the "original artists" are so original, we have never heard of them. Except for those, mentioned in the disclaimer, who cut the "original recordings."

Buyer, beware!

Saturday, April 22, 2006


I have not heard much from the publisher of my Red Faber biography, and I'm told that is to be expected. Other authors cautioned me that there is lots of silence after the manuscript is submitted.

McFarland Publishers told me a couple of months ago that my manuscript, which was submitted just before Christmas, will be a fall release.

After sending an inquiry this week -- I asked, "May I assume that no news is good news?" -- McFarland surprised me with a preview of the book's cover. I was happy to see that McFarland's art department showed the good judgment to use the design developed (as a suggestion) by Brian Davis, an artist at the Telegraph Herald.

McFarland confirmed that the book will be part of its fall catalog. So, I guess this book really is going to happen!

Monday, April 17, 2006

"When I'm 64"

Not that I needed another reminder of my advancing years, but I came across a Web site carrying a magazine interview with ex-Beatle Paul McCartney.

What was the publication? The Association of Retired Persons Magazine. Retired persons!?

Anyway, in the interview, McCartney admits his paranoia that fans will forget or be unaware of his early contributions as a Beatle -- that John Lennon was the genius and McCartney was a back-up singer.

Said Sir Paul: "If this revisionism gets around, a lot of kids will say, 'Did he have a group before Wings?"

"Legends of Dubuque"

When I wasn't risking my neck on the Slackline, visiting with family or watching it rain, I spent some of Easter Weekend reading the latest book by Msgr. Francis Friedl. The retired priest, ex-president of Loras College and expert homilist assembled 26 of his homilies at funerals or wake services for 26 notable Dubuquers. It seemed an appropriate time to reflect on the resurrection.

Most of these homilies were delivered in the past 10-15 years. He has officiated at many other Dubuquers' funerals during his more than 60 years as a priest. However, the two dozen chapters in this self-published book give the reader an appreciation of Msgr. Friedl's skills as a homilist.

Two of the chapters are former recipients of the Telegraph Herald First Citizen Award -- Roger Rhomberg and Frank Hardie.

I learned a little something about each and every person featured in the paperback. And I felt fortunate that I had met and interacted with about one-third of them during my nearly 20 years in Dubuque.

"Legends of Dubuque" is a quick read, and a special way to learn more about just a few of the people who have made this city great. The book will be available at River Lights and perhaps other outlets.

I would be honored to have Msgr. Friedl deliver the homily at my funeral. (Considering our ages, the odds are against that. But, remember, God works in mysterious ways. Msgr. Friedl just might outlive me.) My only concern would be that he would use the opportunity to rail against my decision to cut back the frequency of the bridge column in the TH!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Don't try this at home

Well we did try it, and we did it at home.
Our younger son, home from college for Easter break, brought home his birthday present -- a slackline kit. Slackline, I learned only a month ago, is similar to a tightrope -- except the line has slack and, when in use, stretches to within a few inches of the ground.
Our son is pretty adept at using the slackline -- he can even walk backwards! -- but the rest of us were rank amateurs. In the photo above left, I managed 5-7 seconds just standing still on the line. That was the highlight. In my other attempts, I was able to walk -- slowly -- but only with assistance. Fortunately, there is not too much distance to cover in a fall. Our future daughter-in-law, however, catapulted far from the line. (Right photo.)
I don't foresee taking up slackline as a hobby any time soon, but I can see why younger people enjoy it.

Friday, April 14, 2006

" ... and I've been working like a dog ..."

Knowing my long-standing affinity for Beatles music, a colleague with obviously too much time on his hands, asked me if I had heard of The Barkers.

You probably know where this is going.

Yes, a radio station blog posted on a Web site a batch of Beatles songs with dogs barking the lyrics.

It is sort of like coming onto the scene of an auto accident. It is so bad you can't look, but somehow you can't look away. In the case of The Barkers, it is so bad, you don't want to listen -- but then again you feel compelled to listen just to determine how bad it really is.

If you are feeling brave, listen to The Barkers.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

What did you say?

Bob Byrne’s column in today’s Telegraph Herald is a hilarious look at mondegreens – situations in which spoken words are mis-heard (rather than mis-spoken).

We’re all aware of mondegreens involving song lyrics A classic is the Jimi Hendrix line from “Purple Haze.” How many of us hear Jimi sing, “'Scuse me .. while I kiss this guy” instead of “'Scuse me … while I kiss the sky”?

A personal, non-musical mondegreen occurred five or six years ago at a Dubuque area restaurant. I asked the server about non-alcoholic beers. “We have Buchenais,” she replied, with the accent on the first syllable and a last syllable that rhymed with "day." Somehow, I connected with my long-ago French
classes, where I learned that the word for “mouth” is bouche.

I’d never heard of this French (or was it French Canadian?) brew, but I was game.

A few minutes later, I was a bit surprised – and amused at myself – when the server placed before me a can of Busch N.A.

Any mondegreens you care to share? Post them here!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Honesty still in fashion

Every American schoolkid learns the stories about the legendary honesty of our most famous presidents: Washington's "I cannot tell a lie," and Lincoln's miles-long hike to return a book (or was it a couple of pennies?) were required telling in elementary-school history. Those stories might or might not have been true, and I won't make any claims about the more recent occupants of the White House.

However, I do have a nice story -- not from centuries ago, but today -- about the honesty of a tri-state resident.
Today I received a letter, addressed to me personally. No return address. Inside was a dollar bill. Plus this note:

Dear Sir,
By mistake I took 2
TH's out of the machine at
Hy-Vee Asbury. Here is the money. Thanks.

No, dear reader, thank YOU.
Yes, the TH would have survived without that dollar. But the customer's honesty is much appreciated. As the saying goes, it's the thought that counts.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Readers divided on Keillor decision

It's happened to each of us at one time or another:

You purchase something, only to discover that it was not the product or service you expected.

Garrison Keillor, a gifted essayist and storyteller, started a newspaper column last summer. The Telegraph Herald subscribed, believing the syndicate's pitch that it would be along the lines of his wonderful stories on his radio program, "A Prairie Home Companion." We placed his column in the Lifestyle section.

However, with increasing frequency, Keillor used his column not to weave entertaining tales but to rail against President Bush's administration.

Our roster for columnists to comment on political affairs is full. I wanted a writer to amuse and entertain, for our Lifestyle section, but Keillor apparently has other ideas. Keillor is a wonderful writer; I just don't need more political commentary (especially in Lifestyle). That would be the case whether he was espousing conservative or liberal views.

Absent a change in direction for the column, Keillor has left the TH lineup.

My announcement in the Telegraph Herald has sparked divided opinion. Some readers have complained, arguing, among other things that I am just trying to squelch the "truth" about the Bush administration. I think other writers, with stronger experience and qualifications, are carrying that load just fine. Other readers have offered thanks for the change.

I anticipated that this move would not be universally accepted. It was not 100 percent popular when we carried Keillor's political writings.

The complaints go with the territory.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Shaking off the rust

My 2006 season of soccer officiating started this morning -- a raw, gray day -- with a scrimmage between the Dubuque Senior High and Dubuque Hempstead varsity boys.

I was a late replacement on the officiating crew, and it was a volunteer gig, but I welcomed the opportunity to work off some of the "rust." Players need practice and scrimmages, and officials do too!

Aside from a low-key match or two in Galena last fall, I did not work any official high school matches in 2005. Last spring, I opted to be a spectator, following our youngest son's final season of high school soccer. So, yes, I felt a bit rusty out there on the "pitch" at McAleece Park.

I still might show some rust on Thursday, when I center my first Dubuque high school match since the spring of 2004, but today's workout helped greatly.