Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Music (part 10) - Silent Night during Troubled Times


Silent Night

Known in German as Stille Nacht Heilige Nacht

It was first performed Christmas Eve, 1818, in St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, as shown in the above picture.

The lyrics were written in 1816 by a young priest in Austria, Joseph Mohr and the melody by Franz Xaver Gruber. Because the church organ was being repaired, the carol was first played on the guitar.

Since then, Silent Night has gone viral and has been translated into over 300 languages with many renditions.

Fast forward to the next century:

Christmas Eve, 1914

During a temporary truce on the battlefield of the First World War, soldiers sang carols from home, including "Silent Night," which was simultaneously sung in French, German and English.

The video of a chocolate ad harkens to this event of peace during war.

Fast forward to 50 years later, during troubling times....


Simon and Garfunkel did their rendition of Silent Night with the reading of the 7 O'Clock News.

In a world of bad news--wars, conflicts, violence, unrest--there is a yearning for Good News.

And Christmas celebrates the coming of the Savior--the Prince of Peace.

Peace this Christmas 2021
 and blessings for the New Year of 2022.



Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Great Speeches (part 1) - Gettysburg Address



The not so United States was engaged in a great Civil War.

The Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) , one the bloodiest battles--over 50,000 casualties--marked a turning point for the Union. But victory came at a heavy cost of blood and treasure.

November 19, 1863President Lincoln was asked to deliver a message at the dedication of Gettysburg Civil War Cemetery

Following Edward Everett's two hour speech, Lincoln spoke for about two minutes.  And the rest is history.

(reference: )

America was conceived in liberty and the proposition that all men are created equal. 

Those words brought America back to her roots- beyond the Constitution to The Declaration of Independence.

Lincoln's address is considered one of the most powerful speeches in the English language, as well as any language expressing freedom and liberty. 

In these divided times, it bears to be remembered who we are.

And with this new thread, Great Speeches

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword



Other resources on this topic:

American Rhetoric

The 35 Greatest Speeches in History



Photo: LincolnGettysburg/

Friday, October 29, 2021

Pop Culture (part 5) - There's a Light...


Many traditions have evolved around Halloween.

And about this time of year--late fall--many movies of horror and science fiction genre debut to catch the spirit of the scary holiday.

One was an offbeat musical comedy horror that has become a cult classic,  

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

When it premiered in the US, the movie was a flop; and hence, it pulled from many theaters. 

But when it played at midnight showings, the musical caught on fire, garnering an international cult following.

Reference: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

This offbeat musical presents rock 'n roll style, precursor to punk rock, and even spiritual-like songs throughout its parody of the horror and 1930s-1960s SciFi B movie plots. And its music became popular--part of Pop Culture (the title of this thread.)

Richard O'Brien composed, in my opinion, this beautiful spiritual-like song:

There's a Light (Over at the Frankenstein Place)

(reference: )

I love this song as it speaks to my soul and spirit.

In times of trouble and dark and scary times, like Brad and Janet getting lost and stranded with a flat tire on a cold and rainy night, there is hope... 

There's a light,
light in the darkness
of everybody's life.



Previous Post in the series:

Pop Culture (part 1) - Only Time and 9/11 (2015)

Pop Culture (part 2) - Halloween Martian Invasion (2015)

Pop Culture (part 3) - It's Gonna Be All Right  (2016)

Pop Culture (part 4) - Brrrr! ... California Dreamin' (2018)



Photo:  Oakly Court/

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Americana (part 3) - Appeal to Heaven


An Appeal to Heaven?

Sound like a call to prayer. It is. And it was almost 250 years ago as well as one of the motto on one of the earliest American flags.

In 1968, the US post office issued its series of historic American flags (then 6 cents). Among them, Washington's cruisers flag 1775 - AN APPEAL TO HEAVEN.

Close up below:

(reference: )

For the history of the Pine Tree Flag, the description in the video explains it best:

The Tree Flag  was one of the flags used during the American Revolution.  The flag, featuring a pine tree with the motto "An Appeal to God" or, more usually, "An Appeal to Heaven", was used originally by a squadron of six cruisers commissioned under George Washington's authority as commander in chief of the Continental Army in October 1775. 

(reference: )

And General Washington (with his cruisers and this flag) has been considered the Father of our country, as so aptly described in this description and video below: 

There would have never been a United States of America without George Washington. John Rhodehamel, author of "George Washington: The Wonder of the Age," details how Washington successfully guided the budding nation through war and nurtured her in peace.

(reference: )

Now, 250 years later, in the chaos and turmoil of our times, the Appeal to Heaven is the ongoing prayer for our republic.

 And as Ben Franklin allegedly said,

“A republic . . . if you can keep it.”



Other articles on the Appeal to Heaven flag:

An Appeal To Heaven Flag – 1775 

* For more on the historic flag stamp collection, check out: Jim's Stamp Album

Previous posts in the series:



Photo:  wikipedia/appeal to heaven flag

Monday, August 23, 2021

STC (part 1) - S*T*C


cover by DAVIS Creative

It's 1984. 

The space shuttle Challenger is up in orbit. The Reagan administration is beefing up defense to fight the Evil Empire of Communism. And the Satellite Tracking Center, known as the S*T*C, is staffing up to meet those challenges. 


This was the spirit of the times in my latest book---S*T*C

And what was going on during the era of the Cold War during the Reagan administration?

Go back another 20 years and hear the rhetoric...

Below is a recording of then-Governor Reagan's speech given at the 1964 Republican Convention that nominated Barry Goldwater.  The visuals are updated to reflect the continuing struggle since then.

(reference: )

Yet in 1984, the Cold War was at an inflection point as the former USSR would soon fall apart and the Iron Curtain would be coming down. 

Likewise more paradigm shifts rocked society, especially the S*T*C as...

The old boy network finds itself turned upside down when young professional women, such as Samantha Clark and Rosalind Hart, breach the male-dominated mission control teams inside the S*T*C. In the secrecy demanded in the classified world, how do Sam and Roz cope with men behaving badly? Will the women or the old boys break first? 

This fictional historical novel gives a personal feel of the struggles many women faced with a touch of humor in the mix.  It's not all black and white. Not all women were angels. Neither all men Neanderthals.

S*T*C is available as a paperback, kindle, kindle unlimited. (Links below)

Your readership is appreciated.


More information on S*T*C:


Photo: Cover by DAVIS Creative

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Politics (part 1) - Chicken Little, The Music Man, and Fear


Welcome to the start of a new thread...


We may have a sense of what politics is as we see it everyday, so it seems. But for grins, here's a definition:  merriam-webster

Our elected government servants are politicians, hence they politick. Politics prevails in business, in the office, in commerce, in various organization, in personal relationships,....everywhere.

Often politics has a negative connotation. What comes with the territory is in the struggle for power. One way to get power and and stay in power is to manipulate the masses.

A proven tactic for that...


That's obvious to the casual observer watching the political ads during election season. The opponent and their cohorts are likened to the antichrist and their policies will surely usher in the Apocalypse. 

Fables contain that ugly truth of human nature wrapped in a children's story for easy digestion.  One such as

Chicken Little 

Who hasn't heard the end of the world cry--

The sky is falling!

Here's a darker version of Chicken Little (1943), as shown below in this animation, as told by Disney, during World War II.

(reference: )

Foxy Loxy, through fear, discredits the wise with character assassinations and manipulates Chicken Little, certainly not the brightest bulb in the box. This useful idiot leads his barnyard denizens into the jaws of Foxy Loxy, who not only got Chicken Little, but all the fowls in the barnyard as well.

Yet, the fear tactic is timeless.

Other examples abound, such as in advertising -- hygiene, health, safety, etc... Bad things will happen as we obliviously go about our business. But we'll sell you the product to solve all your problems and assuage all your fears. 

A more innocent version of this type of manipulation is found in the musical, The Music Man (1962), about a con man during the early 20th century.

Ya Got Trouble

After scoping our the sleepy town of River City, Iowa, Professor Harold Hill searches for an angle to exploit the denizens...using fear. Finding none, he creates one and demonizes the coming pool table.

Thus is born the following catchy tune:

(reference: )

That's Trouble in River City, with a capital T that rhymes with P and that stands for Pool.

Inciting the fear of moral degradation creeping into the town and its youth, the Professor offers the solution: A boy's band to channel the youth's energies and keep them from the immoral influence of the pool hall.

Then he sells the instruments and uniforms for this band. Yet he has plans all along to bilk these suckers of their money and skip town before delivering on his promises. (But the love of Marian the Librarian complicates his latest con. The Professor lingers, gets caught, and faces the music.)

Creating a problem, inciting fear, profiting from it. Nothing new for foxes to get their dinner or con artists to separate the naïve from their money.


In the words of a politician's inaugural address in the dark days of the Great Depression:

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933)

Very wise words.



Related articles:

The Politics of Fear (2019)



Photo: Chicken Little/ 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Music (part 9) - June


June - It's busting out all over!

It's the month where spring meets summer.  It's a popular month for weddings.

Flowers are in full bloom. Many young ones are born.

And June is bustin' out all over is the title of the lively Rodgers & Hammerstein’s song in the musical Carousel (1956), as shown below.:

Spring and summer can bring optimism, new birth, new relationships. It's much celebrated.

Flowers appear on the earth
 the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.
Song of Songs 2:12 (NIV)

Yet, any season there are the storms of  life. And one of Carousel's poignant songs, You'll Never Walk Alone is most remembered for the end of the Jerry Lewis telethons.

Singer Sissel does a lovely version of this number:

Weather, stormy or sunny--for those who trust in God, we have this promise:

Never will I leave you; 
never will I forsake you.
Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

You Will Never Walk Alone!


Monday, May 24, 2021

Write Stuff (part 3) - The Critic


The Critic

In 1916,  Lajos Tihanyi  (29 October 1885 – 11 June 1938), a Hungarian painter and lithographer, painted the above portrait of Andor Halasi, a literary critic. 

What is a critic? 

It may be a simple question with an obvious answer.


Critic, according to Merriam-Webster:

1a: one who engages often professionally in the analysis, evaluation, or appreciation of works of art or artistic performances

a literary critic
a film critic
a theater critic

b: one who expresses a reasoned opinion on any matter especially involving a judgment of its value, truth, righteousness, beauty, or technique

Critics of the new law say that it will not reduce crime.

2: one given to harsh or captious judgment


Opinions on writing fall in the category of literary critic, such as  Andor Halasi in the portrait. And as writers, we face many critics--the harshest of all from ourselves. 

Let's look at definiton 2 of criticone given to harsh or captious judgment

In general, criticism is the easiest thing in the world to dish out.  The critic may not be qualified in the field. He/she can be a drive-by snipe, whose motives are far from professional, never the less construction. 

Yet, an unkind word, true or not, can break a spirit...derail a career. Resilience, though, allows the artist to keep on going, keeping in this mind:

“There is only one way to avoid criticism:
 do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

Elbert Hubbard

I remember in college, when stung by a roommate's criticism of my choice of studies. I shared my hurt with one of my professors. He gave me a copy of a newspaper clip, which he kept in his wallet. Clearly, the advice was precious to him.

“It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;

who strives valiantly;
who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;

but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Below is the narration: The Man in the Arena – Teddy Roosevelt (A Powerful Speech from History)

(Reference: )

I received the Teddy Roosevelt quote over 45 years ago. Since then, my professor who gave it to me has passed away. But his encouragement during that low time gave me the courage not to give up during many challenges in my life.

So, my friend, whatever you tackle, such as writing, consider the carping of the critic for what it is. Mine it for any truth that may be constructive. And most of all, get up and keep on going.

Write on!


Other post in series:

Write Stuff (part 1) - Give them Hope  (2017)

Write Stuff (part 2) - History of the English Language (in ten minutes) (2020)


Photo: The Critic/wikipedia

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Space (part 6) - Lyrids and Other Heavenly Things


Meteor showers! Supermoon! Oh, my!

Nature will be putting on a show this week of 18 April 2021: April features a pair of cosmic spectacles: The annual Lyrid meteor shower and 2021's first supermoon

How To Watch The Lyrid Meteor Shower In April 2021? 

Check out the video below:

( reference: )

For all you sky watchers and star gazers, as the late astronomer Jack Horkheimer would say:

Keep looking up!



Monday, March 29, 2021

Americana (part 2) - What a Country!


What a Country!

That is the catch phrase of Russian immigrant comedian,  Yakov Smirnoff

Yakov had been an art teacher in Ukraine, then in the 1970s, he made it to the US from the former USSR. Later, in America, he earned a Masters in psychology and Ph.D. in Global Leadership. In between, he did his comedy acts, acted on TV shows and in movies. (reference: IMDb )

After Yakov became an American citizen on July 4, 1986, he starred in a show about immigrants taking classes to pass the American citizen test: What a Country (1986-1987):

Yakov's acting art on a TV series imitated life.

Many immigrants (like my grandparents) had entered the United States from New York City, so the comedy speaks to many of us. Many came for a better life...freedom...opportunity.

Fifteen years after What a Country! ended, there came the attacks on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a hijacking that ended in a plane crash. September 11, 2001.

And here's the rest of  Yakov's story as the artist:

"After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade centers, he began working on a mural to commemorate the event. Just in time for the first anniversary of the event, the mural was printed on a huge banner, with the quote 

The human spirit is not measured
by the size of the act,
but by the size of the heart. 

It was hung from a nearby building where it was clearly visible from Ground Zero for over a year. Yakov financed the banner with $100,000 of his own money, but kept his donation anonymous, for fear that people would see it as a joke because of his reputation as a comedian." 

Reference: trivia

Yakov Smirnoff made us laugh,
then shared his art
to help us heal during a traumatic time.

Here's to a Russian immigrant
who loves his adopted country! 

What a country!

God bless him.

And God Bless America!


Previous post in the series:


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Space (part 5) - Perseverance



Its definition according to Merriam-Webster:

continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition : the action or condition or an instance of persevering : STEADFASTNESS

These qualities capture the essence of the latest NASA mission to Mars.  Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of the agency's Science Mission Directorate, explained:

"Yes, it's curiosity that pulls us out there, but it's perseverance that does not let us give up." 

Perseverance was chosen from its naming contest for students K-12.  The winning essay was written by seventh grader Alex Mather. For the full story:  What's in a name: Why NASA chose 'Perseverance' for its next Mars rover

And for an overview of this latest mission: Mars Perseverance Mission Overview

Perseverance was launched, July 30, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, another testament to its name:

February 18, 2021, Perseverance successfully landed on Mars, a shown in this animation:


Modern marvels of technology recorded the actual landing:

And what a magnificent view!

Check out Mastcam-Z's First 360-Degree Panorama:

Thus Perseverance joins her four sister rovers: Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity,  and Curiosity.

Reference: The Mars Rovers

So the Maritain Chronicles continue as we persevere!



Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Space (part 4) - Mooned in 2021


With 2020 hindsight, what will 2021 bring?

Leave it to astronomy to predict all the phrases we will be going through:

( reference: )

We've been mooned!

How nice.

Here's to 2022!



Other posts in the series:



Photo: phases