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I post a weekly diary of the historical notes, arts & science items, foreign news (often receiving little notice in the US) and whimsical pieces from the outside world that I featured this past week in "Cheers & Jeers". For example .....

By Request FATHER-SON? from Revbludge - actor Paul "Pee Wee Herman" Reubens (who had some legal trouble a few years back) ... and the recently fired Michigan Ass't Attorney General Andrew Shirvell - just found liable in civil court for harassing and slandering a gay University of Michigan student.


OK, you've been warned - here is this week's tomfoolery material that I posted.

PROGRAMMING NOTE - the sorts of work that volunteers do at Netroots Nation (i.e., stuff schwag bags, help organize exhibitor booths, collect on-site registrations, give out name-tags and directions, etc.) is what I'll be doing for a six-day convention (that my employer is arranging for a medical society) that will take place in Geneva, Switzerland in early September.

And because we leave in two days (to do advance site preparation) - I'll be on a two-week hiatus. So I'll see everyone in mid-September; any posting before then will be a drive-by.

ART NOTES - a project by Gwen Gutwein in an exhibit entitled Barns of Indiana - to capture a disappearing symbol from each of the state's counties - is at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art through September 2nd.

FILM NOTES - an upcoming film (starring Antonio Banderas and Gwyneth Paltrow) about Pablo Picasso's vision of a key event in Spain's civil war - the devastation that led to his painting of Guernica - sheds light on a community finally overcoming the tragic scars of what took place 75 years ago.

SPORTING NOTES - following the lead of some US country clubs: an Ontario golf course is the first in Canada to employ goats as an eco-friendly method of keeping weeds at bay ... although (so far) they seem to balk at eating ragweed.

WEDNESDAY's CHILD is William the Cat - an English kitteh who not only survived a horrific dog attack but managed a half-a-mile journey home using just his front legs before collapsing on his family’s doorstep .... which won William the Most Incredible Cat Story Award in Britain for 2012.

TRANSPORTATION NOTES - following reunification in 1990: planners in Germany's capital city of Berlin decided that operating three separate airports became increasingly cost-prohibitive. They decided to (a) close the historic Templehof airport (hub of the Berlin airlift) a few years ago, (b) maintain the small Tegel airport in West Berlin ... but only until 2011, when (c) a new large Berlin-Brandenburg-Willy Brandt airport would be completed adjacent to the (also small) Schönefeld airport in the old East Berlin (which would also be closed).

However, a decision on whether the opening of Berlin's new airport needs to be delayed for a third time (already postponed until 2013) was pushed back until next month ... yet another embarrassing setback for a flagship project.

ART NOTES - works by twelve regional artists are on display in the HeARTbeat exhibition at the Arlington, Texas Museum of Art through September 21st.

WHILE MANY ASPECTS of the old East Germany have faded into memory, one that didn't was the Ampelmännchen ... (or "Little Traffic Light Man") - the pedestrian traffic light figure for "Walk" - which was saved from being replaced by a (mundane) West German symbol following reunification in 1990.

NAUTICAL NOTES - the wreck of the ship (the SS Terra Nova) that carried Captain Robert Scott on his doomed 1910 expedition to the Antarctic has been discovered off Greenland (where it sank in 1943).

THURSDAY's CHILD is Phoenix the Cat - a Northern Irish kitteh who overcame long odds (found in a coal bunker with terrible burn injuries, covered in maggots and whose eyes couldn’t open) to become a beloved family pet .... and winning the Outstanding Rescue Cat Award in Britain for 2012.

MUSIC NOTES - the Scottish guitarist Martin Taylor (whom I had the pleasure of seeing several years ago) was inspired as a child by the Belgian gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt - and in an essay, he explains the musical tribute he will be performing as part of the BBC Proms summer music festival in London.

SCIENCE NOTES - Spain has a reputation as one of the noisiest countries in the world but that may change after measures it is taking: not only such as more controls on night clubs but also measures such as audio-absorbent pavements (to cut down on the sound of traffic).

OLDER-YOUNGER BROTHERS? - the recently deceased Ron ("Arnold Horshack") Palillo and former New York congressman Anthony Weiner.


BRAIN TEASER - try the latest Weekly World News Quiz from the BBC.

BY THE WAY - this week's poll for "Who Lost the Week?!?!" is the most dynamic ever: I filled-it-up by Thursday evening, and had to weigh who to put there afterwards. So if you're tempted to ask, "Why didn't So-and-So make the poll?" - chances are, he or she got edged-out by someone else.

I also try to include non-American candidates, as well as non-political ones. Just to make it interesting.

FRIDAY's CHILD is Leo the Cat - an English kitteh who awoke his family at 5:00 AM one morning with howls .... and they realized that Leo had scared off a burglar (who had chiseled open a window) and who, in a panic, had left all of their Christmas presents as is. Leo did not win, but was a finalist in Britain's Hero Cat Award for 2012.

ONE of the GREAT SYMBOLS of Great Britain are the famous White Cliffs of Dover - commemorated in song by an American who never saw them - and Britain's National Trust (as part of a campaign to purchase the last remaining stretch in private hands) has commissioned a philosopher and poet to write about them for a week; who in a short essay explains why they are so special.

THIS PAST WEEK I wrote about the fortunes of two South Americans whose lives were changed - one for heroism and one for blame - in the 1950 World Cup, where the host nation Brazil - despite having won this championship five times later - still seems to be traumatized by its loss when it hosted the Cup in 1950.

YUK for today -  years ago, a well-known tea company removed the image of its founder (Sir Thomas Lipton) from its logo when sales analyses indicated 20-somethings thought it an 'old people's brand'. As one advertising exec put it ..... "Well, you couldn't exactly put the guy on rollerblades".

.............. and finally, for a song of the week..............although his first name is Jean-Baptiste (and he was made a Baron in his native Belgium in 2001) - the world knows him as Toots Thielemans - and in addition to his famous chromatic harmonica playing he is also known for his professional whistling, and has played guitar throughout his career. He may not be a household name outside of jazz, but it would be an uncommon household that has never heard his work at least once.

Born in Brussels, Belgium in 1922, he began performing primarily as a guitarist (influenced by Django Reinhardt - a fellow Belgian). Thielemans said that at age 18 hearing a Louis Armstrong record was "instant contamination" with American jazz - and he performed at American GI clubs in Europe. He toured Europe with Benny Goodman and he emigrated to the US in 1952, becoming a member of the George Shearing Quintet for much of the 1950's.

In fact, the American Rickenbacker guitar he used while touring with Shearing in Hamburg, Germany was noted by an audience member: a young John Lennon who later purchased one himself. But all along, Toots developed his sound on the chromatic harmonica - a more complex instrument than the simpler blues harp favored by, obviously, blues musicians. And he also became a noted melodic whistler, although less so for recordings and performances.

Toots had his own releases, such as 1958's Man Bites Harmonica featuring the Great American Songbook - but it was 1962's Bluesette - featuring both his harmonica and whistling skills - for which he became widely known.

Yet his career was largely as an accompanist (not a band leader) until the 1990's. His recording The Brasil Project established him once again to a wider audience. His 1998 album Chez Toots explores his French language musical influence and he has continued to record to this day, often with guest stars.

Even if his name is still not registering in your ears: the number of popular music standards he has performed on is immense. For example, at this link you can hear his whistling featured on the Old Spice commercials of many years ago.

And on harmonica? By clicking at these following links, you can hear him play:

(a) the 1970's ending theme to the TV show Sesame Street as well as ...

(b) the opening theme to the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy plus ...

(c) Billy Joel's Leave a Tender Moment Alone - not to mention on recordings with Paul Simon, Ella Fitzgerald and many others.  

Talk about high honors: Toots Thielemans is a Chevalier des arts et des lettres in France, was named a Baron in 2001 by Belgium's King Albert II, made the Top 50 Greatest Belgians in his native land - and in 2009, he was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in the US.

At age 90, his tour dates are, understandably, few ... but has a new boxed set for his birthday and - if he makes it to your town - take the time to hear a legend while you can.

Another popular song he performs on was Too Late for Goodbyes - the break-out song for Julian Lennon in 1984.

Although Toots does not appear on the video below it's his harmonica playing that you actually hear ... and from the "Coming Full-Circle" file: how fitting is it that Toots recorded with the son of a man ...... who listened to him play in Hamburg decades earlier (and bought a Rickenbacker guitar in part due to Toots' playing)?

Ever since you've been leaving me
I've been wanting to cry
Now I know how it feels for you
I've been wanting to die

Time has gone since I've been with you
We've been starting to die
Now it seems you don't care for me
and I don't understand why

But it's much too late for goodbyes
Yes, it's much too late for goodbyes

Originally posted to DKOMA on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 08:37 AM PDT.

Also republished by Shamrock American Kossacks.


Who Lost the Week?!?!

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