Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys

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Monday May 16th,2016-the album Pet Sounds is 50 years old. It is one of my absolute favorite albums EVER!

The story of Pet Sounds is the story of art versus commerce, youthful optimism versus adult cynicism and the independent spirit versus the mundane status quo. It’s also a story of tremendous courage. In 1966, 23-year-old Brian Wilson hijacked the Beach Boys, a multi-million-dollar industry consisting of his two brothers, cousin and childhood friend, to give voice to the sounds he heard in his head and the emotions he felt in his heart. The result was an album that had leading musical figures struggling to match his technical innovation, lyrical depth and melodic genius. Half a century later, it’s questionable whether anyone has.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the seminal album’s release, here are some facts about Pet Sounds‘ creation:

Pet Sounds‘ lyricist penned jingles for Barbie dolls, Max Factor cosmetics and Gallo wine.

 In an effort to craft material that moved beyond the Beach Boys’ lightweight fun-fun-fun-in-the-sun fare, Brian Wilson sought to work with a lyricist from outside the band’s usual circle. In late 1965, he tapped Tony Asher, a copywriter at the prestigious Carson-Scott advertising agency, who had written campaigns for Mattel toys (“You can tell it’s Mattel – It’s swell!”), as well as Max Factor, Gallo Wines and a host of other high-profile clients. The pair was loosely acquainted through mutual friends, and had recently crossed paths in the recording studio where Asher was producing advertising jingles. The meeting was short and uneventful, but the urbane and articulate ad man stayed on Wilson’s mind.

“A few weeks later, I got a phone call, ” recalled Asher in an interview for the Pet Sounds 30th-anniversary box set. “And Brian said, ‘Listen, I have an album that is overdue. Would you want to help me write it?’ I thought it was somebody in the office playing a joke on me.'” After confirming it wasn’t a prank, Asher secured a leave of absence from his job and reported for duty at the pop star’s Beverly Hills home several days later. Though it may sound like an unusual pairing, Asher’s experience turning long meetings with ad clients into crisp copy and memorable slogans made him an ideal partner for Wilson. Most of their writing sessions began with abstract conversations about life and love, which would inevitably seep into their work. As Asher relayed to Nick Kent: “It’s fair to say that the general tenor of the lyrics was always his and the actual choice of words was usually mine. I was really just his interpreter.”

 

“God Only Knows” was written in under an hour.

The track has become one of the most beloved in the band’s canon, famously praised by Paul McCartney as the greatest song ever written. Its legendary status is even more remarkable considering that it came together in less than an hour. According to a 2015 Guardian interview, Wilson claims that he and Tony Asher composed the song in just 45 minutes. “We didn’t spend a lot of time writing it,” confirms Asher. “It came pretty quickly. And Brian spent a lot of time working on what ended up being the instrumental parts of that song. But the part that has lyrics really was one of those things that just kinda came out as a whole.”

Author Jim Fusilli theorized that the song’s title was born out of a love letter Wilson wrote to his wife Marilyn in 1964, signing off with “Yours until God wants us apart.” Whatever the true genesis, this reference to God created a dilemma for the two collaborators. “We had lengthy conversations during the writing of ‘God Only Knows,'” remembers Asher. “Because unless you were Kate Smith and you were singing ‘God Bless America,’ no one thought you could say ‘God’ in a song. No one had done it, and Brian didn’t want to be the first person to try it. He said, ‘We’ll just never get any airplay.'” Though a handful of Southern radio stations banned the song for blasphemy, it was warmly received nearly everywhere else.

The original title of “I Know There’s an Answer” caused major conflict within the band.

While Brian Wilson was busy writing and recording instrumental tracks for Pet Sounds, the rest of the Beach Boys spent early 1966 touring Japan on the back of their most recent hit, a brainless campfire cover of the Regents’ “Barbara Ann,” which Wilson had tossed off in the fall to fulfill record-company commitments. When the group reconvened in the studio that February to record vocal parts for what they assumed would be another sunny Brian Wilson anthem, one of the first things they heard was a track called “Hang on to Your Ego.” Written with the band’s road manager Terry Sachen, the lyrics were inspired by Wilson’s experience using LSD. The whole band was taken aback by this jarring new direction, but Mike Love reportedly took particular offense to the piece, which he rejected as “a doper song”.

For the album’s emotional closer,”Caroline, No” 23-year-old Brian Wilson cast his mind back to his teenage crush on a cheerleader named Carol Mountain.

He had been obsessed with the girl as a student, rhapsodizing about her beautiful complexion and long dark hair. By 1966, Wilson had discovered that Mountain was married and still living in their hometown of Hawthorne, not far from his Hollywood home. Though also married, Wilson began to call his unrequited high-school love, who had no inkling of his true feelings until decades later.

Though they didn’t meet in person, Wilson grew depressed that the torch he carried for Mountain had begun to dim. “If I saw her today, I’d probably think, ‘God, she’s lost something,’ because growing up does that to people,” he explained decades later. He relayed this story to Tony Asher, who penned a chorus in the form of a dialogue between the two: “Oh, Carol, I know.” Wilson misheard this as “Caroline, No,” giving the song its pleading title. The recording became one of the most heartbreaking tunes ever committed to wax, plodding ahead at a depressive crawl. He played the song to his father (and onetime band manager), Murry Wilson, who advised his son to speed up the tape a full tone to give his voice a sweeter, more youthful quality. The effect made him sound like the lovesick teenager that, in many ways, he still was.

Session musicians used Coke cans, water bottles and orange juice jugs for percussion.
The arrangements on Pet Sounds boast a dazzling array of percussion previously unseen in the rock-music arena. Sleigh bells, timpani, güiro, vibraphone, bongos and other exotic instruments all add color to the album, but certain sounds aren’t instruments at all. In order to create the music in his head, Wilson improvised a number of percussive instruments from whatever he had on hand. For the Latin-tinged “Pet Sounds” track, he encouraged drummer Ritchie Frost to tap two empty Coke cans for a distinctive percussive beat.

Drumming legend Hal Blaine, unofficial chief of the crack team of session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew, had something special up his sleeve for the clip-clop rhythm that kept “God Only Knows” galloping forward. “We used to drink orange juice out of the vending machines,” he explained. “I took three of these small six- or eight-ounce plastic orange-drink bottles, and I cut them down to three different sizes in length. And I taped ’em together, and I used a little vibraphone mallet. Brian loved that kind of stuff.” Session man Jim Gordon (later of Derek and the Dominos) actually played the OJ bottles, but Hal pulled off a similar trick on the introduction for “Caroline, No,” playing upturned Sparkletts water jugs like bongos.

As the flutes from “Caroline, No” fade away, the melancholic sound of a passing train is heard while dogs wail. The locomotive whistle was sampled off a 1963 effects album called Mister D’s Machine (“Train #58, the Owl at Edison, California”), but the barks come from Wilson’s own dogs: Banana, a beagle, and Louie, a Weimaraner.

According to legend, John Lennon and Paul McCartney got together to pen a Pet Sounds-style preamble for their lush “Here, There and Everywhere.” The track found its way onto Revolver that August, but it was their 1967 follow-up that truly bore influence of Brian Wilson. “Without Pet SoundsSgt. Pepper never would have happened,” admitted Beatles’ producer George Martin. “Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds.”

You’ve Got A Friend still Going Strong!

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James Taylor is one of my all-time favorites. For those of you not in Boston, I thought I would share this article in the Globe this morning. FYI- there is a new Sirius station for James Taylor -channel number 17!

WASHINGTON, Mass. — James Taylor hasn’t released an album of original songs in 13 years, but he certainly hasn’t been idle.

The legendary singer known for “Fire and Rain,” “Sweet Baby James,” and “You’ve Got a Friend,” who has sold 100 million albums, won five Grammy awards, and been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is explaining what he’s been up to in anticipation of the release of “Before This World,” which comes out June 16.

Taylor, 67, settles into a couch on the screened-in porch of his spacious contemporary home nestled in the woods of Western Massachusetts. His loyal pug Ting lounges by his side. Unfailingly affable, gregarious, and accommodating, Taylor offers a visitor a fruit plate and silences some wind chimes, and at one point he even stops to gently pluck a caterpillar off his leg and release him back into the wild.

So why so long?

To begin with, Taylor has toured nearly every year in the United States and sometimes abroad. “I get a huge sense of gratification from playing music and from being in a room with an audience that is there to hear it, [where] there is some kind of a connection that happens,” Taylor says.

He’s hosted events at Carnegie Hall, crafted a series of guitar lessons available for free on his website, and appeared on awards shows. And in the 13 years since his last original release, he has made five other albums, including a Christmas disc, two collections of covers, and two live recordings.

Of course he’s also been spending time with his family — his wife, Kim, and their twin 14-year-old sons Rufus and Henry, doing homework in the next room — as well as his two adult children, Sally and Ben, from his marriage to Carly Simon.

But every time he floated the idea of making a new album, other obligations popped up. So he finally took decisive action: He sequestered himself in a friend’s apartment in Newport, R.I., one week a month for several months in 2013 and 2014, so he could focus on writing lyrics.

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“I’m glad to know that’s what works now, because the next time I have to write I’ll start off that way,” he says with a chuckle.

Taylor acknowledges having felt some trepidation: “I wondered if I still had anything to write about, and how the songs were going to turn out.”

And even after nearly 50 years of success, he knows his music isn’t for everyone.

“Some people hear my music and are just put off by the fact that it’s pretty. And there’s no doubt about it, primarily I’m interested in singing pretty,” he says. “There are people, it occurs to me, [for whom] if it doesn’t sound gritty and raw and slightly painful, it’s not genuine. And I’m not of that opinion.”

Lately, Taylor has been mulling a documentary he saw about Japanese traditional artists, recognized in their country as “living national treasures.”

“These are arts that people give their lives to, and at a certain point they become masters of, and maybe they will affect it three percent or something,” he muses. “They’re repeating an art form and recapitulating. . . . It’s a useful way for me to think of my music. It is not all things for all people. It is something that I was partially born with and partially given and partially discovered on my own. . . . I learned it from other people. I stole it from other people. . . . And people in turn take it from me.”

Taylor remains grateful for the generations of fans who have embraced it, and for the good fortune he has experienced along a path that for many years was bumpy because of depression and substance abuse — a topic addressed on the new album in the sprightly “Watchin’ Over Me.”

“There’s the luck of being in the right place at the right time. There’s the luck of having survived some serious demons that killed so many people. There’s also the luck of having an audience that sustains me, that feels like a community,” he says. “My overwhelming feeling generally these days is gratitude, for how things have turned out. For the life in music that I’ve been allowed.”

“Before this World,” which features guest appearances from Sting and Yo-Yo Ma, is the 16th chapter in a story the Boston native has been telling since he was signed to Apple Records in 1968 and met the Beatles.

For the casual fan, all the Taylor hallmarks are there: the richly textured vocals, the elegant finger-picked guitar, the lyrics that range from poignant and meditative to playful and cheeky, the unfussy production.

But for close observers, there are also fleeting moments — names, phrases, musical motifs — that trigger a sense of recognition, hearkening back to earlier songs.

“I’m re-encouraged that I can still do this and it still works,” Taylor says of such tracks as the moving piano ballad for his wife “You and I Again,” the Latin-flavored “SnowTime,” and the wistful “Stretch of the Highway,” a paean to the twin pulls of a musician’s life, the road and home. (“Getting that balance right is life’s work,” he says.)

“Before This World” was recorded primarily at the Barn, the recording studio and offices right down the hill from his home, with his longtime backing band and producer Dave O’Donnell.

“James just keeps on growing and getting better and better,” says drummer Steve Gadd, who has also played with Eric Clapton and Paul Simon. “It’s just a pleasure for me to be around him, not only him as a friend but as a leader and a musician, too, he’s very inspiring.”

Even after the long hiatus, O’Donnell says, “from the moment the band showed up and he sat down and played the first tune. . . it was pure joy.”

Taylor is eager to extend that joy to the concert trail, including his annual Fourth of July show at Tanglewood and a concert at Fenway Park Aug. 6 with longtime buddy Bonnie Raitt.

Taylor’s band will also play “Before This World” in its entirety at a performance presented by Sirius XM at New York’s Apollo Theater on the day of the album’s release. And the satellite radio company is hosting a James Taylor channel through June 21.

Taylor acknowledges having received lots of advice over the years on what exactly his next album should be, from country to standards. But in the end, he said, it came down to this: “If I have a couple of more James Taylor records in me, I should make those.”

 

In Boston Globe Tuesday June 9,2015 by Sarah Rodman

 

Big Bird From Sesame Street

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On the way back to Cleveland where we lived at the time from New York, where I had just been to my Dad’s retirement party, I sat down on the plane next to a very nice man and his wife. They also seemed to be traveling with a gentleman a row ahead of us. The two men were exchanging all kinds of funny lines back and forth which finally led me to ask if he was a comedian. He answered very shyly “I”m Big Bird”! I didn’t really know Sesame Street that well at the time-I only had Kate who was 6 months old. In the end, he invited my family with extra tickets to bring another family(our best friends) to come to Blossom Music Center-he was going there to conduct the Cleveland Orchestra for Father’s Day. He told me all about his role as Big Bird-he had been in every major parade,been to literally almost all countries, been on Hollywood Squares repeatedly,met millions of movie stars and yet could travel like he was as a “normal” person, as he called it. That friend who we invited to go to Blossom and see him sent me this article that recently came out. Thank you, Nancy! Here is a picture of Kate,Tom Johnson and me with Big Bird in June 1984:

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from the Los Angeles Times-May 6,2015 by Patrick Kevin Day

“There aren’t many octogenarian entertainers who have managed to stay relevant in the ever-changing cultural zeitgeist, but then there haven’t been many people who have played Big Bird. Caroll Spinney helped create the big yellow bird for PBS’ “Sesame Street” in 1969, and he’s been playing the character ever since-for 45 years.

And if that isn’t impressive enough, he’s also played Oscar the Grouch for the same number of years. Although Big Bird is an international star, Spinney, 81, has mostly remained hidden behind the feathers. But an Oscar season parody of the film “Birdman” titled “Big Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Orange Pants),” which went viral, and the new documentary “I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story” (opening May 15) are finally giving the veteran puppeteer his due. And as “Sesame Street” heads into its 46th season, he has no plans to retire.”

Q-“Watching “I Am Big Bird” is a very emotional experience for someone who is just a fan. How was it for you to watch?”

A-“It was something else, because I don’t like to make it a big deal that I’m on TV. I just have a wonderful job. I’m used to seeing characters I play on movies and things but not to see myself. [My wife] Debra and I didn’t realize it was going to be a romantic movie about our love affair. Well, it’s not an affair — we’ve been together for 42 years come June. It’s a joyous 42 years, let me tell you, the way we get along. If everyone in the world got along the way we get along, divorce would be almost unknown.”

Q-“The film makes extensive use of your home movies. Are you constantly shooting them?”

A-“That’s probably only 1% of everything we have. It took them 4 and a half years to go through everything to put [the documentary] together. We gave them boxes and boxes of stuff. We had 8mm films and even some 16mm. I used to be an animator, and they used some of that here and there in the show. They came in three separate cars to our house, and their back seats and trunks were completely filled with boxes of films and videotapes and photographs. They put it all on DVD for us, which is great, even though I keep a VHS player in the house so we can put in a videotape now and then.”

A-“Yes, definitely. It was the second time I was in the White House performing for a bunch of U.N. children from different countries in the costumes of their land. I’m trying to walk out of the scene — we were performing in the East Wing — and I stepped on one child’s lap. I heard this sound, and I thought it was a squeaky toy it was so small. I didn’t hurt the child, thankfully. I can’t see down, and there’s no way to see out. The only connection to the outer world is through the little, tiny TV set I’m wearing on my chest.”

A-“It was a joke I told when we first worked together three years before we went to China. In 1976, I was invited to be on “The Bob Hope Special.” They wanted Kermit the Frog, but Jim [Henson] was too busy, so he said, “You can have the bird.” One of the writers said they could make some jokes for the bird, but when I got there, they were all Col. Sanders fried chicken jokes. I thought he could do better.”

So I was in the bird [suit] when he walked onto the stage in front of 300 people. It was the warmup period before they start the tape. Big Bird looks at him — he was known for his swoopy nose — and says, [Big Bird voice] “Boy, I thought I had a funny-looking beak.” Here he is, one of the greatest comedians in the world and he laughed so hard he almost hit the floor. He laughed so hard, he had to put his hand down to catch himself. That was satisfying. It won him over, and it got me all the way to China.”

Q-“Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch are two of the most popular “Sesame Street” characters, but since you do both, are they never able to meet?”

A-“I was asked to be on “The Colbert Report” last year as Big Bird and Oscar. But when we got there, we discovered they wanted both characters on at the same time. Stephen Colbert didn’t know one man plays them both. We called Joey Mazzarino, our head writer, who’s a very good puppeteer as well. He agreed to zip over and do Oscar. I pre-recorded Oscar’s words, so it sounded right.”

Q-“You’ve gotten to meet and work with so many people through Big Bird. Your wife, Debra, says in the documentary that you still haven’t met Paul McCartney. Has that changed?”

A-“Not yet, but I’m determined. One time, we heard when he was a guest on some show, he said he would love to do a children’s show that had rock ‘n’ roll in it. I said, “I want to be with him on that special.” I told our cameraman, Dave Driscoll, who’s also a cameraman for him when he plays big arenas, to mention it to him. He comes back from tour and I say, “Did you see him? Did you tell him?”

He says, “Yeah, I said, ‘Paul, Big Bird wants to do something with you.'” Paul says, “Doesn’t he know I’m married?” That’s not what I’m talking about! I’m a happily married dude!”

 

Fifth Season- Final Downton..sigh…..

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Even though Downton Abbey’s fifth season got off to a shaky start, it ended up being so eventful that the estate’s fearless leader suffered a cardiac scare tonight from all of the activity. Among the year’s high and lowlights inside our favorite Yorkshire household: Mary got a haircut, a weirdly inconsequential fire ravaged Edith’s room, Isis died, a creepy art critic preyed upon Cora, the Dowager toyed with the idea of running off with a long-haired Russian refugee, Daisy quit the kitchen George Costanza-style only to revoke her notice, the Bates family was subjected to a tired retread of that whole falsely-accused-of-murder-and-sent-to-prison plot, Lord Grantham took in an orphan only to realize it was Edith’s illegitimate child, and Rose married a Jewish fellow. And during tonight’s two-hour season finale—which aired in the U.K. as the show’s Christmas special—the gang joined the Sinderbys at Hogwarts for grouse hunting before ringing in the holidays at home. (We are serious about Hogwarts—Downton filmed the Brancaster Castle exteriors at Alnwick Castle, which doubled as Hogwarts in the Harry Pottermovies.)

Let’s Review:

Carson Makes It Official by Proposing to Hughes (Believability: 3)

We are not monsters—we all want Carson and Hughes, longtime work husband and wife, to continue their march to full-on coupledom. They are far better suited for each other than any other couple in the house. But if we did not love these characters so much, and already have their housewarming gift ordered (a lovely calendar to remind Carson on a daily basis that it is no longer 1890), we might be dubious about Carson’s decision to commit to Hughes after her red-flag filled confession. In the course of a two-minute scene, Hughes reveals that she has possibly psychotic family members whom she will need to support financially for the rest of her life . . . and no money. And somehow, Carson is still like, “‘Das cool. Here are the keys to the house I bought in both our names.”

While Suze Orman may not approve, Carson goes ahead with his plans and proposes to Hughes on Christmas Eve while she awkwardly holds two drinks in her hand. The moment is perfect though—who would have thought that last season’s hand holding would lead to this?—and our hearts swell when Carson tells Hughes, “I am not marrying anyone else.”

Anna Is Thrown in Jail Because One Man Thinks He Saw Her Throw a Serial Rapist Into Traffic (Believability: 0)

We know this happened last episode but we still can’t wrap our minds around this plot twist, even though we’ve spent five seasons systematically lowering our expectations for Downton Abbey storytelling logic. We’ve been through this whole a-Bates-family-member-is-falsely-imprisoned-for-murder plot before and it doesn’t make much of a difference to us that Anna is now goingOrange Is the New Black instead of Bates this time around. (We will say that Anna’s miserable-in-prison expressions are not much different than her everyday expressions and Bates’s worried-about-Anna faces aren’t any less creepy than normal.)

Mary Still Has Not Realized That Marigold Is Edith’s Daughter (Believability: 3)

It seems insane to us that Mary has not noticed that Edith, her blood sister and chief antagonist, has birthed a daughter who is now living in their household. She certainly notices the bizarre fixation that Edith has with Marigold, is annoyed by it, and puts Edith down on the subject whenever she has the chance. Mary’s most immortal line about parenting arrives tonight, and chills us to our core: “Why don’t you just shut [the children] up in a box in the attic and let them out when they are 21?” For once, Edith sees a way in which Mary’s cruelty can be used in her favor: “[Mary] is completely uninterested in me which should keep [my secret] safe.”

Barrow Manages to Uncover Sinderby’s Darkest Secrets, and Lure Them to Hogwarts Within Some 72 Hours of Being There (Believability: 6)

Barrow only uses his vengeful skill set for good these days, not evil. And in tonight’s episode, we see Barrow take up Lady Mary’s invitation to bring down Sinderby’s butler, and then go one step farther, raiding Sinderby’s own closet for the perfect skeleton that could completely undo him—and manages to find it, or “him” specifically: the illegitimate son he sired with another woman. Barrow lures both to Hogwarts during a party, but Rose thwarts his plan and saves the unsavory Sinderby. Why exactly? I suppose to forge a good relationship with her father-in-law on the foundation of his extramarital sins. But we would have loved to see how the episode would have played out Sliding Doors-style had Sinderby’s illegitimate son been discovered.

Lord Grantham Knows Exactly What to Say to Edith in a Tender Moment (Believability: 2)

Who is this new and improved Lord Grantham, who not only detects emotional nuance but is able to appropriately reciprocate it? Last week, we watched as Lord Grantham surprised everyone by going out of his way to do something thoughtful for Mrs. Patmore. And now, when he decides to tell Edith he’s learned of her secret, he does so with sympathy and understanding. “I’m sure I need your forgiveness just as much as you need mine,” he tells Edith after she apologizes. The line is so Oprah-level spot-on, that we half expected Lord Grantham to suddenly rip his face off, Mission Impossible mask-style, revealing that Dr. Phil had been there underneath the whole time. It will be interesting to see how Mary reacts to the news that her sister is Marigold’s mother, and see whether this news will finally soften their relationship as cartoonish enemies.

Branson Says Goodbye to Downton (Believability: 4)

In what was surely the worst moment of the episode, Branson stares off in the children’s nursery and, when Edith asks why, he says because he “is taking pictures in his mind” so that he has memories of the home when he is in Boston. Later, he tops himself for stiff line readings when he tells Lord Grantham that he will not consider leaving Sybbie at Downton but adds this as some weird consolation: “I love the way you love her.” Farewell, Tom.

Lady Mary Essentially Informs a Stranger How Much He Has Unknowingly Inconvenienced Her Extended Family (Believability: 9)

Well what else should she do during the course of the episode? Break Anna out of prison? Mother her child? Forge a relationship with her last living sister? Ha! No, Mary played etiquette police on tonight’s episode, informing Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode) that he had rudely (if unknowingly) crashed their hunting party. Of course, Mary can segue any awkward introduction with a handsome man into a flirtation, and manages to do just that, showing us that she has better chemistry with him and his fancy car than she had with either Blake or Gillingham.

Spratt Challenges Denker to a Broth Off (Believability: 4)

May we never forget that this was actually a storyline in tonight’s Downton Abbey. Spratt nurtures his inner Barrow this episode, suggesting that Denka prove herself as a lady’s maid by making broth. Alas, the challenge only unites Denka and the Dowager and wastes valuable screen time that could have been spent on the surprisingly crafty Molesley.

The Dowager Sends Prince Kuragin Away with His Miserable Wife (Believability: 7)

“I will never again receive an immoral proposition from a man,” the Dowager tells Isobel after reuniting her suitor with his far flung wife. “Was I so wrong to savor it?” After getting a glimpse of the wholly unpleasant Princess Kuragin (who follows Larry Grey and Susan MacClare in this season’s procession of awful Downton guests), we understand why the prince was so eager to leave her. Later in the episode, the Dowager confides to Isobel that the princess once physically wrestled her out of running off with the prince. Asked if the Dowager’s husband realized, when she got home, that she had been ruffled up, the Dowager offers the best-timed retort of the evening: “Men notice nothing.”

Yes, the same man that dyed his hair shoe-polish black earlier this season finds a way to free Bates from his self-imposed Fugitive sentence. (Where were these two back when Bates was wrongly accused of murder the first time around?) While the rest of the house wrings their hands over the criminal drama-prone character—who foolishly confessed to a murder he did not commit to free Anna, and then ran away Dr. Richard Kimble-style—Molesley finds a photo of Bates and then recruits Baxter to travel to each and every pub in York until he finds a witness who can confirm Bates’s alibi. And it is a good thing too: I don’t know that any of us were as invested in this plot retread to purchase “Free Bates” T-shirts this time around. The episode ends with Bates sneaking into Downton Abbey on Christmas Eve and surprising Anna, which is nice for them. But of all the characters on the series, these two need a plot makeover most. Maybe next Christmas.

Julie Miller is a Hollywood writer for Vanity Fair‘s website.

Have Yourself A Messy Little Christmas!

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 This is from my nephew who has three children aged 12-8 years old. I just thought I should share it after yesterday’s blog about Christmas Creativity! It gave me a real chuckle:
“You should tour our house – the theme is “Childhood Christmas Mess.”  I particularly enjoy the way the rumpled clothes and towels on the floor make the shape of a Christmas tree.  The stairsare decorated with last week’s homework, a tie, and a shirt top. Down in the basement we have vestiges of last week’s movie night.  Perhaps I can pick up the left-over popcorn and make a nice string for the tree.The dishes in the sink remind me of the tinkling of Christmas bells as I scrub 3-day-old dinner off them and they clang together.Ahh, we could rival anyone’s house with a little imagination.”

The Favelas in Rio

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We visited a favela one day while in Rio-pictured above is the one where Michael Jackson filmed his video described.

A favela is the term for slum in Brazil, most often within urban areas. The first favelas appeared in the late 19th century and were built by soldiers who had nowhere to live. Some of the first settlements were called bairros africanos (African neighbourhoods). This was the place where former slaves with no land ownership and no options for work lived. Over the years, many former black slaves moved in.

Even before the first favela came into being, poor citizens were pushed away from the city and forced to live in the far suburbs. However, most modern favelas appeared in the 1970s due to rural exodus, when many people left rural areas of Brazil and moved to cities. Unable to find a place to live, many people ended up in a favela. Census data released in December 2011 by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) shows that in 2010, about 6 percent of the population lived in slums in Brazil.This means that 11.4 million of the 190 million people that lived in the country resided in areas of irregular occupation definable by lack of public services or urbanization, referred to by the IBGE as “subnormal agglomerations”.

Michael Jackson connected with Rio in 1996 when he shot part of the “They Don’t Care About Us” video in the Santa Marta favela in Botafogo. The event assumed huge significance for the community, as José Mario Hilario dos Santos, president of the Santa Marta residents association, explained; “There are a lot of fans in the community. Everyone loves Michael Jackson and you could always hear his music here. He could have chosen any of the communities and it means a lot that he came here.”

You can see the video:

Michael Jackson – They Don’t Care About Us – YouTube

excerpts from Wikepedia, article about Michael Jackson, YouTube

Flower Power!

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It is always good to work with friends who are so incredibly creative and fun to work with.We  just had a 60’s party for the Concord Museum and called it” Flower Power”. We had a lot of fun digging out old albums and other memorabilia from the 60’s,buying macrame baskets,pillows and lava lamps and saving wine bottles to put candles in(who doesn’t remember doing that??!). Maryann had the great idea of constructing a VW bus over the doorway that lead to the patio where the bar was and also painted big flowers on each tablecloth in bright yellow,green,pink and orange.We decided to use only daisies for the flowers and my friend Judy constructed(with others helping) these beautiful centerpieces as well as the big peace sign that went over the mantle of our venue. It was a very fun evening with loads of dancing to those old familiar tunes!