More Views of Niigata

Gather ’round and see a few more pictures of Niigata! In case there’s any confusion, my explanations appear under the photos they’re about, not above.

Niigata Station

Not a lot of explanation needed here that the caption doesn’t provide. It’s the main train station in Niigata.

Bus boarding area in front of Niigata Station

Likewise here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that crosswalk without a crowd of people on it.

The type of bus I typically ride

This is in the area between the station and Bandai City. (Bandai City is a section of Niigata, not a separate city. I was confused about that when I first arrived.) The buses I ride to and from the university are that color.

Looking toward the station

I’m going to get fired as a commentator! No “color” to add on this one, either! It will be more interesting when Chris adds the monsters with his digital vandalism.

Bandai Bashi: "The Bridge of Ten Thousand Generations"

Okay. Back in the early sixties, during the Great Niigata Earthquake, all the other bridges collapsed, but Bandai Bridge stayed intact, ever standing astride the flood of the Shinano. This is one symbol of Niigata. Tourists come to see this bridge. There used to be a fantastic pub, the Kirin Bandai Beer Hall, diagonally opposite (across the river) from where I stood to take this picture. It had ivy-framed windows overlooking the river, and you could gaze out on the night view of the bridge, lighted with golden lights, as you quaffed your Kirin or your Guinness. Closing that place down is one of the five worst things the city has ever done. Now an apartment building stands there.

I more often see it from this side.

This is looking across from the Okura Hotel side toward the Bandai City side.

The Anastasia

Sightseers can ride this boat up and down the river on dinner cruises. I always find it somehow comforting when the Anastasia chugs past me. (Its name, you know, means “Resurrection” in Greek.) I’ve always fantasized about jumping off one of the bridges onto its roof as it passes beneath me. I’ve never done it, because I’m not sure what the next step would be. Rescuing the girl, I suppose. But what if there wasn’t a girl on board?

Yasuragi-Tei, a park on the bank of the Shinano River

In my younger days, I spent a LOT of time on this riverbank — reading, writing, viewing cherry blossoms in season, playing catch with friends, lighting fireworks (which are perfectly legal here!), practicing my trombone . . . I even set up a tent one night and camped here! (I was only 23 or so — the age at which you do stuff like that.) I remember a few curious senior citizens peering in through the mosquito mesh early the next morning. I only did that once . . .

Little waterfall in Hakusan Park

Very peaceful place. In this park, there is a cage full of big grayish-brown monkeys of the type that inhabit the mountains of Japan and sometimes compete with guests for space in the outdoor hot-spring baths. Well, once about ten or fifteen years back, the monkeys escaped and climbed high up into the park’s trees. Just at that time, Niigata City’s official monkey-wrangler was away in Africa. So it fell to the city employees to deal with the situation. There were a lot of guys from the city hall, all in conservative suits, ties, and wingtip shoes, clambering around through the park, trying to coax the monkeys down from the trees. The monkeys sat up there laughing for about three days, beaning their pursuers on the heads with pine cones. Eventually they came down to eat and went back into their cage.

Pond in Hakusan Park

My parents visited this park. I remember reading a lot of the book Shiokari Pass here, and it was one of my haunts during my first few years in Niigata. The park was another place I came to think of writing ideas and to write. The glimpse of bright red you see is the main front torii gate of the park and shrine.

Directions and hours

This stone bench has a central dial engraved with the ancient Chinese symbols for the compass directions. Here are also the hours of the day. I always liked hearing of the Hour of the Ox, the darkest, deepest part of the night, when ghosts appear.

Scenic footbridge over the pond

This bridge is covered with wisteria vines. When the pale purple flowers bloom, the bridge has a living, fragrant ceiling and walls.

Famous tree (I think)

I’ve heard that this tree is a national treasure of Japan, being of profound age. I think I have the right tree.

Guardian dogs at Hakusan Shrine

These dogs guard the entrances of Shinto shrines. Notice the mouths of the dogs. This one is open, forming the syllable “a.”

"A" and "N"

His companion has a closed mouth, forming the sound “n.” In the Japanese syllabary, “a” is the first sound and “n” is the last. So the dogs are mouthing the equivalent of alpha and omega, an all-encompassing circle.


The shimenawa is the woven grass rope that hangs on the torii. And smaller versions hang in the entranceways of the homes of Shinto practitioners. The shimenawa prevents evil from entering. On New Year’s Eve, a great bonfire is built here at the shrine, and people bring their old shimenawa and toss them into the flames. People skewer dried squid on long sticks and roast them over the fire, then gnaw on them (it’s like beef jerky, only squid-flavored). And new shimenawa are hung to replace the old.

First plum blossoms, Hakusan Park

Here’s a stone lantern, or tourou. The monkey cage is just behind me and to my left. The monkeys were hiding up on the roof of their inner sanctum that day, and I couldn’t get a decent picture.

First plum blossoms, Hakusan Park

The first plum (ume) blossoms are a sign that spring is indeed coming.

Site of Dead Poets Society meetings

Yes! The first few years I was in Niigata, I convinced a group of friends (church members and adult students) to come with me out into the pine woods on Midsummer’s Eve, and by flashlight beam, we each read aloud a poem or two we’d chosen for the occasion. This is the actual site of one of our meetings. (We also did that on a camping trip to Sado Island one summer, in a spider-haunted grove.)

The Matsubayashi

Maybe you remember that my friends had a black cat named Pucca. This is where we found Pucca as a newborn kitten, alone and abandoned in the brush, crying and crying. Pucca had a long and happy cat life, but we always wondered about her . . . a jet-black cat, found in the dark woods on Midsummer’s Eve. And she would attack the Bible, biting its pages, but not other books. (Her name was chosen because I had read a poem that night featuring the pooka or pucca from Irish folklore. The name stuck.) We found her near the top of this staircase.

My first apartment, Mezon Matsunami

This is where I lived when I first came to Niigata. That was my place on the corner, where that sign is, just above the garage. If anyone remembers the first newsletters of mine — this is where they were written. I was still living here when I started Dragonfly, though much of it was also written at my friends’ place and in Taylorville. Across the street are some houses, then the pine woods, and then the sea. I remember when there would be a storm at sea with high winds, afterwards there would be sand in my apartment.

Niigata City Hall

Niigata City Hall.

A castle near the sea

I hung out in this park, too, back in 1989-92 or so. It’s between the pine woods and the sea.

Historic stairway

This stairway is historic only to me — on it, and in the park and woods around it, I read Algernon Blackwood, Ambrose Bierce, H.P. Lovecraft, and wrote most of A Green and Ancient Light.

The violent Sea of Japan

It was cold the day I took this picture. Somewhere over there is mainland Asia.

Nozomi Lutheran Church

This is where I served as a lay missionary for my first few years in Japan, through the Overseas Volunteer Youth Ministry program, teaching English in classrooms on the second floor. I also taught one day a week at Niigata High School and one day a week at Niigata University. The church’s appearance has hardly changed a bit in all these interposing years.

Niigata High School

Niigata High School. My task was to come into the classroom and correct any mistakes I found in the English sentences the students had written on the chalkboards before class. That was one of my favorite jobs in all the years. It was regimented like a military unit — the boys all in black uniforms with gold buttons, though the girls were allowed to dress however they wanted (because when the school began, it was only for boys . . . so the dress code was never added for the girls, although in my day, it was about half boys and half girls). At various times I would privately ask a student, “Doesn’t it . . . you know . . . bother you that the boys have to wear uniforms and the girls don’t?” Invariably the student, whether male or female, would blink in confusion and say, “Well, no.”

The desks were all in rows, and the teacher stood on a raised platform. At the beginning of class, all the students would stand up, and at the command of their class leader, would all bow to the teacher (and I would bow back). They worked very, very hard. It was probably the best high school in the prefecture then (may still be), and the students were striving to pass the rigorous college entrance exams which have an enormous influence on the future of a person in Japan.

The room was packed with desks and people — no place to stand except on the platform. When they would have a space cleared for the arrival of the heating stove in the late fall, before the stove got there, I would always joke “Oh! You’ve finally made a space for me to stand! Thank you!” The students loved that. I wasn’t that much older than the kids in those days, so the girls would blush and whisper and giggle and drop pencils when I came into the room or passed nearby.

Part of my job, too, was to suggest alternative ways to say certain parts of the sentences, and the students would eagerly copy those down. But I always had to watch the Japanese teacher, who stood at the back. There were ways that we actually say things in the States that would have been marked wrong on a Japanese college entrance exam. If the teacher gave me a shake of the head, I would say “Wait! Cancel that!” and the students would smile and note that they’d just learned some “forbidden” English.

Finally, trees

There’s just one thing left to say in this post. You may have been wondering about the nostalgic tone of the last couple entries here. There’s a reason for that. After twenty-two years in Japan, I have made the decision to relocate to my homeland.

There’s no calamity, no scandal — it’s just time. Nor is it sudden: this is a decision I’ve been feeling my way toward for close to ten years. The little signs and “nudges” have been steadily accumulating, and . . . well, it’s just, as I said, time. Leaving here is extremely difficult, but I am convinced I’m doing the right thing.

I am returning to the States two days from now. It may be a little while before I can post again, so please be patient. And be assured that, Lord willing and I have safe travels, the blog will most certainly continue. There will be new adventures to chronicle, new points to discuss as the writing life goes on!

I appreciate your prayers for fair winds and happy journeys.


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151 Responses to “More Views of Niigata”

  1. Michelle Muenzler Says:

    Oh, wow! It’s going to be hard to leave all that behind (and I can’t imagine how much packing you must be cramming in right now), but consider this an early welcome back to the States. *hugs* 🙂

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Michelle! I’m always thrilled, honored, and delighted when you comment and let me/us know you’re here!

      This is the first time in my life that my packing was done early (it had to be, since I was moving out of my apartment).

      Thank you for the welcome back! I look forward to hearing your latest!

      • Michelle Muenzler Says:

        Crap, I just heard about the huge earthquake off the east coast of Japan. I’m pretty sure Niigata is on the western side, but I still worry. Please let us know you are okay. 😦

      • Elizabeth Says:

        Michelle, Fred is in the United States. I heard from him yesterday.

  2. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    Friends — Is not Niigata a beautiful place? Thank you, Fred, for sharing all of these photos with us.

    I confess to having been warned in advance of the impending return of FSD to the U.S. and wondered how he would let everyone know. From the evidence I would say it has been done in a classy fashion — but that was to be expected.

    It will be up to us to keep the current thread alive. I have an idea for a great ‘alphabet’ game and will start it up in a few days under this post.

    I just want to say, publicly, that Fred’s departure is the biggest loss to strike Niiagata since the earthquake (was it 1968?). While I am thrilled to have my friend back in America and already anticipate our first in-person visit since Christmas of ’06, I feel for his friends in Japan and especially for his students and those students who will now not be blessed by having sensei Durbin.

    Safe travels, my friend of 40 years. I look forward to seeing you sometime this spring or summer!

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thank you, Mr. Brown Snowflake! (I’m thinking the Niigata Earthquake was 1963 or ’64. If I remember right, it was the year Lawrence of Arabia and To Kill a Mockingbird (the movie) came out. Or it may have been a year later, but right around that time.)

      Isn’t it strange that I’ve never before thought of doing a photo tour of Niigata on the blog?

      I’ll try not to leave you all hanging for long before the next post. (But yes, play the alphabet game!)

    • Scott Says:

      The last time that you were home, I commented that I had the impression that Fred wanted to move back here. You got a strange look on your face and asked where I got that idea from. I wonder if you knew then.

      Most importantly, has anyone else realized what this means? Soon, the infamous Taylorville Storage Vault will soon be opened. No longer will Fred have the excuse of “I don’t have that here. It must be in storage back in the States.” What wonders and treasures must be in there. Hopefully the vault is still accessible and the tunnels haven’t collapsed. Taylorville has had a lot of problems with mine subsidence the last few years.

  3. Chris Says:

    $%^&! Wow. I am floored by this news! Is Fred going back to T-ville? Is he going to be teaching there?

    I remember hearing rumors years ago that Fred was thinking about this but then when he remained in Japan I figured it was that he was going to be there forever. Or at least until he had fulfilled is debt to the radioactive monsters (or they chased him out).


    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Going back to Taylorville as a base of operations, but only for a few months. I’m actually drawn to the Uncanny City, Pittsburgh, where there are more bridges than in Venice.

      Teaching is the strongest possibility, but I’m open to all good ideas.

      That’s right — rumors years ago . . . it’s been in the works for a long, long time.

      • Chris Says:

        Well, that might mean a worthwhile trip back to Illinois!

        As for Pittsburgh I believe you and my wife are the only two people I know of who romanticize Pittsburgh like that. She really liked Pittsburgh. When her office in New Orleans closed down and my postdoc ended we had two choices for her transfer: Pittsburgh or Concord Mass…we chose Massachusetts (thankfully) but Pittsburgh wasn’t too bad. She really liked Pittsburgh though.


        Welcome back to the States! You’ll be surprised at how messed up we’ve become in just the past 20 years! Yay!

      • Tim in Germany Says:

        I was born in Pittsburgh. I only lived there as an infant, but I visited in 1992 and found it to be beautiful in both an urban and natural sense. It’s like a glimpse of what Detroit could become if that formerly great city can ever emerge from blight.

  4. elizabethdelafield Says:

    I guess I should say that I’ve known Fred was coming back here for a little while. There is both sadness in his departure, and happiness in his return. It seems to me that Bilbo Baggins would have an appropriate piece of hobbit wisdom to share on an occasion such as this, but at the moment I cannot remember it.

    Blessings and safe travel, Fred!

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth! It’s really a coincidence that you bring up Bilbo! I seriously thought about ending the post with his words from his eleventy-first birthday party: “I have things to do . . . I am going now. Goodbye.” But for most of you, I’m not “going” at all. I’m coming toward you.

    • Chris Says:

      Elizabeth, your point about the sorrow of his departure but the joy of his arrival reminds me:

      Does anyone remember the Monty Python sketch where various 19th century men of wit were standing around at a party trying to find ways to insult thePrince of Wales and then blaming one of the other “wits” forcing them to find a way to turn it into a compliment ? (The Oscar Wilde Sketch, Episode 39)

      Oscar: Your Majesty is like a big jam doughnut with cream on the top.

      Prince: I beg your pardon?

      Oscar: Um … It was one of Whistler’s.

      Whistler: I never said that.

      Oscar You did, James, you did.
      (the Prince of Wales stares expectantly at Whistler. )

      Whistler: … Well, Your Highness, what I meant was that, like a doughnut, um, your arrival gives us pleasure and your departure only makes us hungry for more. (laughter) Your Highness, you are also like a stream of bat’s piss.


      Indeed Fred is like unto a great jam donought with cream on top…and NOT like that other thing that Wilde says a few lines later! 🙂

      • Elizabeth Says:

        Yes — exactly like a jam doughnut! What a great quote. 🙂

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Hello, everyone! Yes, I am safely on U.S. soil! Thanks for your concern and prayers for the people of Japan! Talk to you all soon!

      • Chris Says:

        Speaking as a recovering geologist I think that the recent quake in Japan was due to the “offloading stress” of the loss of Fred’s literary gravitas.

        I believe this is called “Artistic Isostatic Rebound” and it usually happens when a great creative talent leaves a place.

      • Michelle Muenzler Says:


        Very glad to hear it.

      • Jedibabe Says:

        Yup, I’m glad to hear you’re safe too. After a few minutes at this morning, some tears and prayer, I came here next to make sure Fred made it out safely.

        And Chris, I appreciate your scientific explanation; it makes perfect sense now that I understand, although I’m fairly certain Fred would have stayed forever if he had known about this phenomenon! Thank heaven’s for the lephrechuans that saw Fred to the U.S. Hope that gold lasts longer than the peanuts!

  5. fsdthreshold Says:

    This is the day before I fly out. Thank you all!

  6. Shieldmaiden Says:


  7. Jedibabe Says:

    I know this was a difficult decision for you and I applaud it on that basis alone. No doubt Niigata will miss you fiercely, but the U.S. will be pleased to have you back. The pictures were a great segway; it was fun to reminisce with you. To paraphrase a south American friend- May you fly with the angels! And find a fabulous new life awaiting you in the States.

  8. Daylily Says:

    Thanks for the tour of Niigata, especially of your favorite writing places! It was good to see Japan through your eyes. Now you will have to find some new favorite writing places in the States. We look forward to seeing what you will create next! Welcome to the next chapter of your life; it should be just as good as the Japanese chapter! Different, but good.

  9. Scott Says:

    Welcome back to the States. I loved the pictorial tour of Niigata. It looks beautiful there. I am sure you will miss it.

    I just want to warn you. Do not try to camp in a city park in Illinois. You will be arrested. We leave that to the homeless people.

  10. morwenna Says:

    Godspeed, Fred, on this new adventure!

    “May the leprechauns be near you
    To spread luck along your way.”
    Irish Blessing

    • Chris Says:

      Now I’m imagining Fred on an airplane back to the states where the entire flight crew are leprechuans.

      • morwenna Says:

        Chris, that would be a good flight. Instead of free peanuts, the leprechaun flight attendants would hand out pots of gold!

  11. Chris Says:


    For those of you from T-ville and are looking forward to the opening of the VAULT, why don’t we set up a fund to help defray the costs of having all the various 8mm films (which many of us were either on or involved in the making of over the decades) onto digital format and sending them out.

    We can probably set something up via PayPal and I can do a little research as to services in the T-ville area that transfer film to DVD. Then have them make as many copies of the DVD(s) as there are folks on here who want a copy and we can get this done without grossly inconveniencing Fred (other than to unlock the VAULT and retrieve the films).

    Just thinking here.

    Any suggestions? (We could probably even help Fred set up a PayPal button quite easily RIGHT HERE ON HIS BLOG!)

  12. Chris Says:


  13. Chris Says:

    Part II (sorry)
    PayPal Donation Button for websites:

    (Not sure how easy that is to install on a WordPress blog, if so I can set up a webpage quickly that is just this…)

  14. Chris Says:

    I’ve put in a few e-mails to some folks in Taylorville to find out where the nearest film–>digital conversion facility may be.

    If needed I can easily set up a webpage to accept PayPal donations for the project for those that want to donate.

    I’d like to find a way to make everyone feel comfy so if I can generate some “third party” place for the money to go (we could set Fred up with a PayPal account or if he has one he can generate the button and either put it on his Blog or send it to me to plug into a simple webpage.)

    I want to make this as “stress free” as possible for Fred since I assume moving half way around the globe is not “outpatient surgery” and he’ll have his hands full anyway.

    (I must also admit some amount of selfishness in this project since visiting this blog I’ve begun to really want to see the old films again! When I recently converted some of my old 8mm films to DVD I realized I had almost none of the stuff that Fred and I had done back in grade school, and I’m sure others that were there with him during high school years must have generated even more interesting footage)

  15. Marquee Movies Says:

    Chris, that is a GREAT idea! I will be happy to donate to such a cause. Perhaps you should figure out how much it would cost to buy a DVD-proof envelope, the cost of a DVD, the cost for shipping, and the cost to copy said DVD – altogether shouldn’t be more than ten dollars per disc, which isn’t bad, considering the potential treasure trove. Then everyone should contribute something OVER ten dollars, so that the costs of their getting a DVD is covered. This sounds like a lot of work for you. Oh, and welcome home, Fred!

    • Chris Says:

      I’ve got a couple of e-mails out to photogs in T-ville to find out who offers this service in the area (it may be in Springfield), and then I’ll contact them to find out costs.

      I want to make this something Fred can do easily so we get around Mr. Brown Snowflakes point “D”. I’m guessing the films are in fine condition (mine were stored in a tin can for about 20 years and were fine).

      As I learn more I’ll inform everyone on here via the comments in this thread. And if Fred checks his blog sometime in the next day or so (after his jet lag wears off) we can coordinate with him and find out if he’d be OK with this whole thing.


  16. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    I join with Marquee’s idea. As someone who appeared in many of these films I am DYING to see them again.

    Of course, this is all based upon Fred a.) actually opening the vault; b.) finding the films in question; c.) assuming the film is in salvageable condition; d.) wanting to do this in the first place.

  17. Daylily Says:

    On a different note 🙂 those of you in the Chicago area might be interested in hearing the premiere of an eight-part a cappella composition of mine, “O the Depth!” It is being performed by the Calvin College Capella in Western Springs, IL on April 16. I cannot attend, alas, because I have three commitments on April 17 here in New England. But I am telling my Chicago friends in the hopes that someone I know can attend the concert. And now, back to our regularly scheduled blog discussion . . .

  18. Chris Says:

    The Vault Project Part IV

    OK, I’ve dummied up a page for the “Vault Project” if Fred buys into it and if I can find a service in T-Ville to do this.

    It’s here:

    Sorry for the crudeness of the page, I only do stripped down html scripting and this doesn’t really need a lot of “bells and whistles”.

    BUT PLEASE DO _NOT_ CLICK ON THE DONATE BUTTON AS IT IS LIVE AND LINKED TO MY PAYPAL ACCOUNT. I don’t need any donations as of yet…this is just to give a feel for how this can be enacted. It is a LIVE DONATE button, so be careful! (Unless, of course, you just really like me and want to give me money at this time.)

    Fred, when you are settled, let us know if you are “up” for playing along and we will attempt to make this as easy and pleasant a process as is humanly possible.


    PS: We are expecting tsunami action here in SoCal today because of the Japanese earthquakes. I don’t know if Rita will be in her office down by the shore today, but if she sees anything interesting I’ll pass it along as well!

  19. Ella Says:

    Hey Fred,
    Was hoping you were alright. Glad to hear you made the trip safe and in good time. Seems you squeaked out at the last minute. Maybe instinctively you felt it coming. I really hope all your friends are ok and that you can get back in touch with them soon.

  20. Chris Says:

    Just heard the Niigata prefecture was hit by either a 6.5 or 6.6 quake.

  21. Nick Oz Says:

    Awww relief! As soon as I had access to Internet, I came here to make sure you were okay, Fred. What timing–maybe there is something to Chris’s theory! Giving credence to this is that Niigata is on the west coast of Japan, and the earthquake and tsunami hit the east coast, suggesting that the removal of the artistic gravitas had a sort of teeter-totter effect.

    All joking aside, though, this looks like a catastrophe of monumental proportions–the largest recorded earthquake in that nation’s history, with hundreds dead. My kidding–as well as Chris’s, I’m sure–are an expression of relief for our friend’s safe arrival, and are not meant at the expense of the tragedy and its victims. Prayers and any other support people can offer are most warranted right now.

    • Chris Says:

      Yeah, this seems like a pretty bad thing overall. As I said earlier I also heard that Niigata Prefecture had been hit with a 6.5, which isn’t good iself.

      Japan owes its very existence to the place it sits. At the juncture of several tectonic plates. The geology going on there is pretty complex and the reason Japan is what it is is because of the intersection of these plates which are constantly moving against and subducting under each other.

      If any country could have withstood an 8.9 or 9.1 (depending on which news story you hear) earthquake, it would be Japan. The USGS is estimting this quake was 30 times stronger than San Francisco’s 1906 quake and 700 times stronger than Haiti’s recent quake. (The richter scale is _logarithmic_ so an increase of 1 point on the richter scale is an order of magnitude, 10X, greater).

      What is frightening is to see how much devestation has occurred and how even the best prepared places can be really badly hurt.

      I also worry now about what is going on with the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Again, “best laid plans” and all. This will be a very nail-biting bit of time we are seeing now.

      (I heard recently that they are getting ready to pass out iodine in the area nearby the nuke plant. That’s not a good sign. If I recall correctly they do that because if they load the people up with non-radioactive iodine it will protect the thyroid should 131-I (one of the radioactive isotopes of Iodine) be released. It is a common by product of nuclear fission. And your thyroid and other parts of the body have a strong affinity for Iodine. They usually use KI (potassium iodine) if I recall correctly. A soluble salt of iodine.)

      Oops, sorry for all the geology and chemistry loaded into one post.

  22. jhagman Says:

    WOW! Talk about sheer-blind-luck! Fred is on a plane relocating 48hrs before that horrid natural disaster. Make no mistake, this is effecting all of Japan. Now Fred can kick it on a couch at “The House of Chris” in beautiful San Diego, have some tacos in Old Town, take in a Padres game, and some of San Diego’s more distracting “attractions”,,, but then again “The House of Dr. Chris” is probably kinda close to San Onofre.

  23. fsdthreshold Says:

    I am back in my hometown. I am overwhelmed by the flood of concerned messages. Thank you all very much!

    I spoke by telephone with my closest friends in Japan, and they are all right. Niigata was not greatly damaged, but as you know, countless people in Japan are suffering.

    On my way home, I marveled at how small in one sense — and yet how wondrous — the world is. Just a few days ago I was taking those pictures in Japan, standing on the coast of the sea there. Then I was peering out of airport windows at the landscape of Los Angeles. Then I flew low over the Great Salt Lake and the low brown mountains on our descent into Salt Lake City. At least from the air in this season, it reminded me of the Brown Lands in LOTR. Then I stood on the windy shore of Lake Michigan, watching great, shining waves roll in and crash against the rocks. Then I watched from train windows as the fields and forests of central Illinois unfolded. A few generations ago, such an odyssey couldn’t have been made in one human lifetime!

    I will get back into the swing of the blog when I’m over jetlag, which is now hitting with a vengeance.

    Chris, I’m all for the Old Films to DVD project, if you can make it so simple for me that I don’t have to do any of the technical stuff. I can find the materials and get them to the proper address in Springfield and mail out DVDs to people, but I’d rather not deal with collecting money or setting up buttons on my blog. It is a great idea — the films are in metal cans, plastic cans, and/or just sitting in cardboard boxes.

    It may be a few weeks before I can get to them; I may not get seriously into opening The Vaults until after my stuff from Japan has arrived. (And that’s still, as far as I know, in a warehouse in Tokyo — I hope it’s all right.)

    Wasn’t that a suspense/horror film, Leprechauns on a Plane?

    • Chris Says:

      Glad to hear you are back. Hopefully all your friends in Japan are doing well.

      I’ll work out the details of the “Vault Project” over the next several weeks (giving everyone time to process all the stuff going on).

      I have been anxiously watching CNN pretty much non-stop. My technician here at work is former Navy and her husband is in the fleet of ships that accompany the USS Ronald Reagan. I believe they’ve been re-deployed from a stop in Guam to deliver humanitarian aid to Japan now.

      I also heard the Ronald Reagan at 100 miles offshore was detecting above-background radiation and had moved even further offshort. Yikes!

  24. morwenna Says:

    I’m so happy you’re home, Fred, and that your friends are safe. Prayers ascending for the people of Japan.

  25. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    hey Shieldmaiden and Jedibabe: I am now on facebook, under my real name (shieldmaiden knows it; I think Jedibabe does). Fred hasn’t been on in awhile … I am waiting for him to OK the friend request I sent. So yes, at long last, about 10 days ago I finally joined the rest of the world on facebook. The invitation is open to Christ, too, who also knows my carefully concealed (to protect the innocent) identity.

    • Chris Says:

      Ummm, couple things things:

      1. I am uncertain if you meant that subliminally or not, but even when I was on Facebook I didn’t tell people I was Christ. Now I know I used to sign papers like that back in kindergarten when I failed to capitalize and also failed to put a space between my first name and my last initial, and I can understand how people would mistake me (despite my inability to grow a good beard)


      2. If you were hoping salvation comes through friending Christ on Facebook then you are working from an updated soteriology than I am aware of.

      3. I left Facebook after a year. It was frustrating that I would find an old friend whom I hadn’t spoken to in years only to realize that they either never updated or never hit their Facebook page or if they did they spent most of the time playing Farmville which means the only information I got from old friends was some autogenerated spam trash telling me about Dorothy’s latest harvest of bunnies in Farmville! Facebook was a void of meaninglessness and disastisfaction for me. In fact I think it hastened my conversion to existential nihilism (along with seeing how many people out here in California make a living as “human directionals” on street corners).

      Just an FYI.

  26. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    hey Fred, this may be a good time to tell us how the Japanese people will, on a religious level, deal with the recent disaster.

  27. PYJ Says:

    In honor of your safe return I am, for once, leaving a comment on your blog. That was it. Now back to lurking.

  28. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    sorry for the slip, O Exalted One! Less than two weeks into facebook and I am already experiencing some regret, largely along the lines you described.

    At first flush it was “oh boy! all my old classmates!” and then I realized that, save for a handful, I was already in contact with those I gave a damn about. The rest are just noise.

    • Shieldmaiden Says:

      Hi Mr. Snowflake, welcome to Facebook. I will friend you as soon as Fred does because there are waaay too many your names out there. I hated Facebook the first month I was on it… people coming out of your past 24/7 nonstop. Crazy. Now however I find that it is great for family and friend updates, and mostly seeing and sharing pix easily. And (a new development) you can block any game and you don’t have to look at it. Ever. Just X it and it will ask if you want to hide that person or the game and then it is permanently poofed. Hope you don’t give up before you give it a chance. I still miss Chris and I wasn’t even his friend, just loved reading the stuff he posted on Fred’s wall and on photos, links, etc.

  29. Daylily Says:

    IIRC, there was to be an alphabet game here on the blog . . . 🙂

  30. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    At the request of Daylily and from Sheildmaiden’s urging on Facebook I will start a new alphabet game. I think we have done favorite movies, amybe even fave TV shows. How about favorite albums?

    For A i turn to U2 and Achtung Baby, probably their last great album front to back.

    While on the thread, I offer the self-titled “Black Sabbath” for B. Any metalheads on the blog should agree with me … no Sabbath, no metal.

    We now turn to C … but, as always, you are encouraged to fill in letters someone else may have already used, so if you have a great A or B …

  31. morwenna Says:

    C is for The Best of the Chieftains. I love traditional Irish music!

  32. Shieldmaiden Says:

    I have two for for D: Discipline –King Crimson and Dark Side of the Moon –Pink Floyd. And Morwenna I absolutely love the Chieftains!

  33. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    OK, I regress back to C for “Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy” by Elton John. I listen to it at least once a week.

    For E I offer “Everyone Is Doing It, Why Can’t We?” from The Cranberries.

    And now, F:

  34. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    egads! A coworker distracted me. My fave album of 1993 is “Everbody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” by the Cranberries. Sorry for the title goof (I love the album and still got the title wrong! old age I guess!)

  35. Marquee Movies Says:

    Speaking of how great The Chieftains are, has anyone else heard their version of “On Raglan Road” as sung by Joan Osborne? Spectacular – very moving. Hard to go wrong with that song – Sinead O’Connor’s version is powerful as well. Hope everyone had a great St. Patrick’s Day! (Now I want a Guinness.)

  36. fsdthreshold Says:

    I have indeed heard “On Raglan Road” — it, among other songs, was a great comfort and encouragement to me during my last days and nights before the big move. I’m thrilled that Mr. Brown Snowflake chose albums as the topic of this game, because I’m just gearing up to write a new post, in which I intend to talk about some of the music that is inspiring me and coloring my time recently — so, great choice!

    Going back to D — Dancing Feet by The Tannahill Weavers. And C is Enya’s The Celts — both are albums I’ve listened to until the CDs must be worn thin; both saw me through some difficult stretches. Music is a great gift!

  37. fsdthreshold Says:

    And Morwenna and Shieldmaiden: I just acquired The Best of the Chieftains a few days ago! Talk about timing! I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, because I’ve been listening to some of the things I’ll be talking about soon! (But to give you a sneak peek: today I finished listening to the two-disc anthology The Celtic Circle by various artists. Highly recommended! But that’s not all I’m going to say about that or a couple other albums –stand by!) (By the way — thanks, Morwenna, for putting me on to The Chieftains! I still want to learn how to play the Irish bagpipes! I wonder if I can find someone who gives lessons . . .)

  38. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    as usual I will have to crash the party.

    Since my boyhood days I have been repulsed by the sound of bagpipes. You will note that I listed two Irish bands — U2 and The Cranberries — early on my list, but The Chieftans? Happy for all of you, but not up my alley (as I am sure my selections are unlikely to be on most of your lists).

    No one has picked up F yet, so my choice is “Fair Warning” from Van Halen, 1982. Rock my world.

  39. morwenna Says:

    Brown Snowflake, we won’t torture you with bagpipes (although the uilleann pipes are thought to have a sweeter tone). 🙂

    But for those who do enjoy traditional Irish music, The Chieftains and Alison Krauss do a lovely version of the haunting song “Molly Ban” (it’s on YouTube).

    • Shieldmaiden Says:

      Morwenna, you won’t believe this, I was actually listening to The Chieftains & Alison Krauss singing “Molly Ban” while I read your comment. Funny, right? I was thinking today that I wanted to mention Alison somewhere on here because I love her so much, but not sure which of her albums is a favorite. I also wanted to mention The Corrs so I am glad Snowflake did it for me. “At Your Side” is a favorite song of theirs (I like their live version best).

      I haven’t thought of any G yet, but I will be back with some J for sure…

  40. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    While we are talking about the Irish, I love The Corrs, too, especially the lovely Andrea Corrs :-)=

    A friend pointed out to me that I should have put “Endless Summer” from the Beach Boys for E. Egads!

    We need a G! c’mon people, you know how I am … I will hog it all if you dont get involved (you know how sportswriters are … we love to read what we have written!)

  41. Chris Says:


    “Girlfriend”, Matthew Sweet 1993.

    “Guit with it”, Junior Brown

    “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” has a couple good ones, Elton John

  42. Chris Says:


    “Hermit of Mink Hollow”, Todd Rundgren (“Can We Still be Friends”, “Lucky Guy”, “Fade Away”, “Hurting for you”).

    “Hounds of Love”, Kate Bush (actually saw a great documentary on that album the other day). No doubt you celt-o-philes would find stuff to like on that one!

  43. Chris Says:

    H (cont’d):

    “Houses of the Holy”, Led Zeppelin, some of their most melodic and “pretty” stuff IMHO.

  44. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    amen brother on ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” one of the best double albums ever, and ditto “Houses of the Holy” although I think II and IV are better. I thought you would but “Aja” from Steeley Dan up for A, but maybe you are waiting for P …

  45. Marquee Movies Says:

    Sinead O’Connor’s “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,” one of the greatest albums ever.

  46. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    Marquee, I forgotten Sinead. Great voice, but a heretic, and I do not jest.

  47. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    For H I submit two albums so different …

    “Hang On Little Tomato” from the incredible Pink Martini featuring trombonist Robert Taylor, a high school friend and DnD member of Fred, Scott, Mike on West Main Cross, Tim in Germany and myself.

    “Highway To Hell” from AC/DC. Rocks your teeth loose. Awesome.

    “I” could easily be the rare LP import from 1984 “Icarus Falling” from Iron Maiden, but I am leaving I open.

    Cmon people, get in here ….

  48. Jedibabe Says:

    Just to break up this rock fest:
    “John Denver’s Greatest Hits”. I had planned to go with one of my favorite Denver albums “Higher Ground”, but since I missed H, I’ll go generic with a greatest hits. Btw- The Chieftains are second in my music collection only to John Denver. They are awesome, and so cute in concert! (Yes, they sound fabulous too)

    • Shieldmaiden Says:

      Jedibabe: I’m glad you artist lettered because I have three that I love and can’t choose an album. You already said one of them, and I am glad you beat me to it. My J’s are any album by John Denver, James Taylor, and Jim Croce. Anyone else have a J album?

      PS- One of my very favorite albums is “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” glad it was mentioned. The Van Halen and AC/DC albums too! Makes me want to sit and listen to all my favorite music again. This is a fun alphabet game Snowflake!

      • Chris Says:

        There’s very few AC/DC albums I’d pay money for but there are a few select songs that are really just good “rockers” (Back in Black).

        I am always surprised by Brown Snowflake’s heavy metal selections.

        There is little in heavy metal I like but there are few islands. Blue Oyster Cult is probably my top fave in the genre.

  49. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    Hey Jedibabe: you can use the Force and regress back to a prior letter anytime you want … that is one of the standard rules of the game. Everyone should be able to have their say, even if they miss a letter …

  50. morwenna Says:

    Jedibabe and Shieldmaiden, we’re on the same wavelength! I was thinking of John D., James T., and Jim C. too!

    Another J: Jesus Christ Superstar.

  51. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    The Ladies of the Blog rock! And Morwenna: Jesus Christ Superstar! I have not talked about it here, but Superstar is an obsession of mine. I have seen it on stage four times, own the movie (not the horrible 2000 remake) and own both the movie and Broadway soundtracks. Whenever I stick my head into the parish office (at least once a week, checking on K of C stuff) my tradition is to open the door singing “What’s Buzz/tell me whats happening!”

  52. Chris Says:

    K: Kimi Ga Suki: Raifu, Matthew Sweet, 2003. Sweet apparently really loves Japan and did this album only for release in Japan. I bought it on import but it was later released in the States. Has some great songs on it: “The Ocean In Between”, “I Don’t Want To Know”.

  53. Shieldmaiden Says:

    Chris, I am with you on the select songs for heavy metal. In highschool I could listen to Black Sabbath, AC/DC, etc. for entire albums. I still love them, but find I only choose certain songs to play now. Concerts are another thing, I can still hang in there for hours if something is live.

    As we have been playing this game I’ve been wondering about itunes and downloading music for a dollar… will my kids even appreciate albums properly? Play lists are the thing.

    For K: Köln Concert, Keith Jarrett.

    • Chris Says:

      Strangely enough as I grow older there are some harder bands I actually enjoy now that I hated when I was young (weird, I know). Mainly because as I grew older I realized “Hey all music doesn’t have to appeal to some higher mental faculty…sometimes you can just enjoy the stupid, inane and killer riffs. But still most heavy metal misses me and probably always will.

      As for iTunes and downloads I think we have indeed seen the pendulum swing back to the pre-LP era. Back to “singles”. It’s a shame because sometimes the only way I ever found the GREAT songs was because I bought an LP based on a song getting some radio play but the GREAT song was buried down in the ablum itself. (I call these “Track 4” songs since for some reason a LOT of my favorite “hidden gem finds” have been the 4th track on any given album…don’t know what happens so often!)

    • Shieldmaiden Says:

      Most heavy metal misses me too, but there are some I love. I realized after I read my comment that I wasn’t actually in high school when I really started to listen to it, all my friends did of course, and I was around it plenty, but didn’t really like it until I hit my 20’s. Believe it or not, all I listened to in high school was country music. I still love it and listen to it lots, but I love other things too. Also love Motown, and anything Marvin Gaye is my favorite house cleaning music. It is hard for me to pick favorite albums, favorite artists are much easier.

      I love your Track 4 Songs title. Might be fun to make a track 4 play list of all the gems you’ve found over the years. It’d be interesting I’m sure.

  54. Scott Says:

    L is for “Love Me Tender” – Elvis Presley

    B is for “The Best of Bill Cosby”. When I was a kid, my Dad had this album. I listened to it every time I went to his house.

    F is for “The Foundation” – Zac Brown Band. A Country band, but this album has a lot of songs that have a Jimmy Buffett feel.

  55. Chris Says:

    M: Matching Tie and Handkercheif (Monty Python), includes “A Background to History”. Which actually had the potential to be some really great rock songs in it!

  56. Chris Says:

    M: could also be said to include a couple albums that contain only one or two songs of value like:

    Mirrors (Blue Oyster Cult); especially “The Vigil”

    Mystery to Me (Fleetwood Mac); especially “Hypnotized”

    Monty Python’s Previous Album : Especially “are you embarrased easily?”

    The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill: Especially “Everything is Everything”

    Momentary Lapse of Reason (Pink Floyd): Especially “Learning to Fly”

    Multi Kontra Kulti vs Irony (Gogol Bordello): Especially “through the roof and underground” which is featured nicely in “Wristcutters: a Love story”, a cool flick

  57. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    OK here we go:

    H: “HELP!” the Beatles
    I: “In Through The Out Door” Led Zeppelin … All of My Love, Fool in the Rain, Hot Dog
    J: Johnny Cash, any number of them, but I am thinking of “Johnny Cash: Live at San Quentin.”
    K: KISS Alive. Great double LP and one of the best live rock albums of all time. Also, “Kind of Blue” from Miles Davis
    L: “Life’s Rich Pageant” the last good R.E.M. album and “Louder Than Bombs” by The Smiths
    M: agree with Chris on “The Miseducation of Miss Lauryn Hill” also “Music For All Occasions” from The Mavericks

  58. Jedibabe Says:

    M: Mambo Birdland by Tito Puente. Fell in love with this album in Costa Rica where it saved me from the pop music the kids on the trip wanted to play on the bus. Our driver really dug it when I pulled this out, and thankfully, it grew on the kids. Seriously great music.
    And I’m so glad to see Johnny Cash has made out list!

    • I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

      did that album have Hey! Pachucho! on it, or am I thinking of a different artist? LOVE that song, love that beat

  59. Marquee Movies Says:

    Hey, Jedibabe, when were you in Costa Rica? I was there about three years ago around Christmastime. Beautiful country, though with many poor people. As for “N” albums, I notice we’ve strayed into naming artists as well as album titles (I don’t mind bending or breaking the rules), so I’ll just state Neil Young (for many songs, but particularly “Long May You Run”), and Nine Inch Nails, for a number of fascinating contributions they have made to movie soundtracks over the years. By the way, Brown Snowflake, are you making sure that every artist listed here adheres specifically to Catholic doctrine, or are you just singling out certain artists who don’t agree with some of the Church’s teachings? (By the way, love “Jesus Christ Superstar” too!)

    • Jedibabe Says:

      Marquee, I was in CR in July of 2009. Would move there in an instant if I could figure out how to support myself! The people may be poor, but they would willingly give you the shirt off their back if you had need. I even enjoyed the gigantic insects that filled the forests. We were working with organic farmers and when we asked what their biggest pest problems where- monkeys! There’s a pest you don’t study in American agriculture classes.

  60. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    N: “Nebraska” from Bruce Springsteen and “Number of the Beast” from Iron Maiden.

    No, Marquee I am not beginning a new Spanish Inquisition {No one expects the Spanish Inquisition! Among our three weapons are fear, surprise, terror and an almost fanatical obsession with the pope … no, wait, we’ll come back in again} Rather, I am calling anyone who says they are Catholic but who espouses the excommunication of the pope and the college of cardinals a heretic. This would, in its strictest interpretation, also include any Catholic who is pro-abortion, disavows the Real Presence and willfully disregards the Creed (at which point you are no longer Catholic, but one in name only) and I do not consider any of my dear friends among the other Christian demominations heretics. They are Protestants, so how can they be heretical?

  61. fsdthreshold Says:

    Well, Costa Rica then has something in common with Japan: monkeys as agricultural antagonists! Farmers are vexed by them in Japan, too.

    Johnny Cash! I went through a Johnny Cash phase as a kid. It sounded pretty funny when I would go around singing songs as Johnny Cash, because my voice hadn’t changed yet. Chris, do you remember listening to him on our 8-track tape player? Heh, heh, heh! I used to sing “Ring of Fire” and “Walk the Line” a lot, and it would crack my dad up. I also liked the one in which the guy steals the car a piece at a time by smuggling the parts out of the factory in his “big lunch box.”

    Hey, here’s an M for you:
    M.F. Horn I&II! When Maynard Ferguson was playing anywhere near central Illinois, we would pile into a car and go hear him. (Well, I think we did it twice . . . but we had all his albums!)

    • Chris Says:

      Do not recall your “Johnny Cash” Phase…perhaps I blanked out of my memory. Rita briefly went through a Johnny Cash phase when she purchased a greatest hits album. I quickly found that one of his extremely old songs (“Teenage Queen”) had almost the exact same tune as “Drunken Ira Hayes” so I found one section of both songs and spent about 3 hours with a tape-deck and computer sound software to make a 2second bit of recording that goes:

      “Not the whiskey drinkin’ indian Who worked at the candy store”

      I had to do almost nothing in way of altering “speed” on the recordings the hard part was getting off the CD and onto the software (hence the tape deck)

      As for “Louder than Bombs” I am glad the Smiths made the cut. I have a few Smiths songs on the iPod. I LOVE Johnny Marr’s guitar work and Morrisey’s singing was a perfect match. I was really disappointed when Marr joined Modest Mouse and the first single didn’t make me think “wow, this is Johnny Marr!!! Wow!!!”

    • I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

      One Piece at a Time is a great Cash song! I did not come to the Man In Black until my mid-30s about the same time I found Bob Seger. And MF Horn I and II are great choices! Carnival was a great album, too.

      Chris, I was going to save The Smiths for “Strangeways Here We Come” but was — no poop — listening to Louder Than Bombs at the exact moment I was entering the post, so it found its way onto my list there. Can’t believe I didn’t put Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me from the Cure for K!

      • Chris Says:

        The Cure was always a tough one for me. When they were “on” they were really good, but when they were “off” they could be really, really off. So I ended up only getting a “greatest hits” type album.

        I LOVE “In Between Days” and “Just Like Heaven”.

  62. Chris Says:

    Here’s the Johnny Cash “mashup” (sorry about the extremely long block at the end of dead silence, hazard of crappy recording technology):

  63. Chris Says:

    N: “Nearly Human” (Todd Rundgren). My first Rundgren show was in St. Louis at the Fabulous Fox Theatre during the “Nearly Human” Tour. Great songs, some of his last really excellent work, imho.

    A couple years later I was working at a lab in Kentucky and I was wearing my Todd shirt. I was sharing an office with a visiting professor who looked at my shirt and said: “Yeah, I,um, knew that guy in high school.” He was a classmate of Todd’s in North Darby (outside Philly) back in the 60’s. Very strange small world when you think about it. His general impression of Todd was that he was kinda strange in high school.

    Well Duh…

    • Marquee Movies Says:

      Wasn’t it Todd Rundgren who wrote that great line, “Gonna kick the night till it bleeds daylight”?

  64. Marquee Movies Says:

    Jedibabe, I absolutely agree that the people in Costa Rica were very kind-hearted, and seemed centered in spirit. That, for me, makes the fact that they are poor all the more sad, in that they deserve much more of what we Americans take so easily for granted. I found that same benevolent spirit among the very poor in Egypt and Ecuador. (It’s very humbling to find such positive people in such poor settings, isn’t it?) As for your wanting to move there, two Americans had a hang-gliding set-up, where their only job was to take tourists up. It was my only time hang-gliding (it was thrilling!), and I found talking to them to be fascinating, in that they were passionate about hang-gliding, and pretty much worked weekends, and they enjoyed just traveling Costa Rica the rest of the time. How are your hang gliding skills? If not so good, maybe consider developing a No-Pest Strip for the monkey problem, one that doesn’t harm them, of course.

  65. Marquee Movies Says:

    Brown Snowflake, I think you would have to travel long and hard to find any Catholic who agrees with 100% of the teachings of the Roman Catholic church. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but to accuse each and every one of those who don’t believe in every aspect of Rome’s edicts of being a heretic seems almost beside the point – as we all fall short of the glory of God. As for Ms. O’Connor, she does not identify herself as a Roman Catholic (she does call herself Christian and Catholic, though of a different faction of Catholicism), and a significant portion of her anger towards the Church has to do with the terribly shameful abuse scandals, for which there is no excuse. I feel there is a great deal of spirituality and depth of faith in much of Sinead O’Connor’s music, and while I don’t agree with all of her positions (who agrees with every single belief of another?), I find her strong spiritual beliefs and vigorous desire for justice to be greatly admirable. In a similar vein, if one were to take your very hard line Roman Catholic approach to “Jesus Christ Superstar,” then the argument could be made that it has elements (hinted and overt) that are truly blasphemous. But, like you and many other Christians, I can overlook the aspects I don’t agree with, and love the great amount of spirituality found in the story. This musical allows me (and I think most other Christians) to re-examine what we believe about Christ, and why we think this, and how it applies to our modern life. (The same argument can be made about the fascinating and deeply religious “The Last Temptation of Christ.”)

  66. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    As always, Marquee, I find myself agreeing with the great majority of what you say. Of course no Catholic (and certainly not me, whose sins are as scarlet but are forgiven by the grace of Christ) agress 100% with the catechism. My point was on a few (for Catholics) settled issues, such as those I mentioned.

    And as for the abuse scandals … there are no words to express the anger, hurt and sorrow this has caused. Wish there had been some excommunications over this.

    Loved your comments, and completely agree with them, about the poor. Materially poor is not spiritually poor.

    Oh yeah there are problems with Superstar and Last Temptation, but I enjoy seeing different views. One of lessons I teach (did it two weeks ago, in fact) is to show my confirmation class (8th graders) two scenes: Gethsemane and a random scene, from Superstar, Jesus of Nazareth, The Greatest Story Ever Told and The Passion of the Christ. We then discuss the matter … and it is always lively and passionate.

  67. Chris Says:

    At the risk of derailing a most exciting thread I simply CANNOT pass up a “heresy” discussion. It’s like crack to me!

    Personally I find the heresies to be the most interesting. It’s lifting the hood to reveal the engine of the faith.

    The history of how the Christian orthodoxy was developed during the first part of the first millenium is beyond interesting! The heresies show this incredible “convergence” of ideas each coming in from so many different aspects.

    The whole set of heresies around “dualism” and the “nature” of Jesus in relation to God, the Arians, the whole mish-mash of how people worked through the idea to hammer out some “concept” that, when viewed now from the outside seems irrational at best but contained so many building blocks that the mere humans developing the orthodoxy pretty much _had_ to arrive at some conclusion that would make some feel less comfortable.

    A kind of “logic compromise”. Maybe inevitable when dealing with that which is “outside of nature” and beyond our ability to ever really grasp, but gosh it’s interesting.

    And of course when humans are involved in the “hammer and tongs” work of “effing the ineffible” as they say, often real hammers and real tongs and real physical fights break out.

    The Church (or the church, whichever) took to breaking heretics as easily as any other group of humans take to breaking enemies throughout history.

    The Albigensian Crusade to eliminate the remaining Cathars in Languedoc gave us the immortal words _supposedly_ (maybe not actually) spoken by the Papal Legate, Arnaud of Amaury: “Caedite eos! Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius” – “Kill them [all]! Surely the Lord discerns which [ones] are his”

    But I digress. All the bloodshed and viciousness humans are capable of aside, heresies and the history of heresies show us how we work to understand God and the establishment of an orthodoxy shows us how we actually deal with the competition of concepts.

    Now, back to our previously scheduled list of albums:

    O: Oblivion (Utopia). Yup, another Rundgren entry from Chris. Surprise! While Oblivion contains a few clunkers and it may not be the best of the Utopian best, it was my first Utopia album and contains the great songs “Crybaby” and “If I didn’t try” and “Welcome to my Revolution”.

    O: Oops, Wrong Planet (Utopia). What, two in a row??? Yes. This album contains “Love is the Answer” (the original, not the remade done by England Dan and John Ford Coley)

    O: On the Third Day (ELO). There ya go Brown Snowflake! A peace offering. Contains some early synth work by Richard Tandy. “Dreaming of 4000” is one that rarely gets heard. “Daybreaker” and “Ocean Breakup” and of course “Oh No, Not Susan” (shockingly contains the ‘f’ word…very shocking for an album from 1973, but it’s pretty subtle).

  68. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    Offering taken, Chris, but I was sitting back on O for a different ELO masterpiece, “Out of the Blue”. You have the concerto for a rainy day, the whale, turn to stone … the whole damn thing is incredible. This just might be (and if not it certainly a top five) most listened to album in Flake’s life.

    and one more O, “October” from U2, probably my favorite U2 recording.

  69. Marquee Movies Says:

    Chris, you’re right, it WAS Bruce Cockburn, and the line is, “Gonna kick the darkness till it bleeds daylight.” Also, I am not hip enough to know that there is a Utopia album named “Oops, Wrong Planet,” but I have to say that’s one of the greatest album titles ever. EVER. And Mr. Snowflake, I LOVE the fact that you use different scenes from different films for discussion purposes in your confirmation classes. That’s cool! How do the students react to “Jesus Christ Superstar”? Do they find it less “weird” that some are singing about these topics now that Glee is so popular? Incidentally, Glee had a very interesting look at faith and religion earlier this year, and rather than take the usual all one or the other attitude, they adopted one of respecting other’s beliefs, while keeping your mind open to the possibility of faith. My last question – have you ever shown the SAME moment from the New Testament in each of the films, to talk about how similarly and differently the four films approached the one particular detail of Christ’s life? Just curious – bet that would inspire some discussion as well.

  70. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    Marquee — absolutely. Christ’s agony in the garden and his arrest are shown, in their four different applications, and I will sometimes show scenes before Pilate (once a month we meet for two hours, the other three classes are one hour. It is at the two-hour that we do this).

    The reactions to Superstar are, in a word, amazing. My 2009 class was revolted and angry. “How can you put something as serious as Jesus to music?” etc etc. Others have liked it. Naturally, early 70s rock is not up their alley, but the kids always get that, and their comments never reflect a like/dislike of the music itself so much as in whether it should be put to music at all or their interpretationa and reaction to it (no ‘the music sucks’ comments). I have many Hispanics in class, and their reaction is never appreciably different than the whites, nor do I detect a big difference between boy/girl save that the girls, of course, are more emotional over the sadness while the guys (these are 13-14 yr olds) try to be macho and cover it all up. It really is an amazing class and one I look forward to every year (always the Wednesday after Ash Wednesday)

  71. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    thread continues … Marquee — the movie class leads wonderfully into the following week, where we discuss the different authors of the four gospels, their intended audience, etc. and that leads into a discussion of the canon … why these four books and not others. The kids really get into it, because it is something they can think and argue about and not have to sit there listening to me spew raw info at them. ha ha

    The circle of candles class and the shaded box class also rate high (I know so, because several middle school teachers have told me they have overheard the kids talk about them the next day at school. The spirit moves!) We can discuss that on FB if you prefer or care …

  72. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    OK, third post. Back to the music …

    P is for Phanton of the Opera.

    Chris … I am leaving the best P for you ….

  73. Chris Says:

    I am assuming P is for “Pretzel Logic” (Steely Dan). It does contain some of the greatest SD stuff. “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number” has one of the greatest guitar solos (although Skunk Baxter, if I recall, claimed he wanted to do something less “commercial” but was overruled).

    “Barrytown” is among my favorite snide songs. I love the “insults” in it.

    The note-for-note remake of “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” is simply jaw droppingly amazing considering the musicianship in tha tone.

    And finally I love “Charlie Freak” because it’s amazingly catchy and seriously depressing, even though it is a simple repetitive type of rhythm.

  74. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    now, of course, we come to Q (and Quadrophenia from The Who is disqualified because they suck)

    • Chris Says:

      Sorta agree, sorta don’t. There are some great Who songs but I am torn by Pete Townshend.

      “Baba O’Reilly” is a really good synth loop but maybe I’ve just heard the Who too much.

      I tried to watch parts of “Tommy” (the movie) but ohmygwarsh it is horrid. I am not overly fond of “rock operas” (not overly fond of opera in general, but seems that the Who took pride in the overextension of their skills to the grandiose and maybe self-obsessed?)

  75. Scott Says:

    Q is for Queen. Duh. Nuff Said!

  76. Chris Says:

    Which brings us, inevitably, to R which can only mean “Runt” (Todd Rundgren). His first solo work after Nazz. It’s raw and extremely low-fi even for an early 70’s album.

    “We Gotta Get you a Woman” is an obvious one but it’s not the best on the album. There’s the great “Baby Let’s Swing/The Last Thing You Said/Don’t Tie My Hands” trio on there.

    SOUPY SALES sons Hunt and Tony played on this album!!! (They went on later in life to play with Bowie on “Tin Machine”, but ya gotta give it up for the sons of Soupy Sales!)

  77. Chris Says:

    S: “Something/Anything?” by Todd Rundgren (duh). While the album is a double album with plenty of “filler” (imho) it does feature some greats like “Hello It’s Me” (originally done while he was in the Nazz but this version is much, much better), “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference”, “Torch Song”, “Sweeter Memories”, and “Cold Morning Light”.

  78. Chris Says:

    Hold it, hold it, I’m on a roll! Get ready!

    T: “Todd” (Todd Rundgren) (roll your eyes now). This one was getting more experimental for Todd and includes some cool synth and guitar processing effects.

    “How About a Little Fanfare” is a nice opening where he learns to say it backwards then records it and flips the tape so it sounds really strange.

    “I Think you Know” and “Spark of LIfe”. “A Dream Goes on Forever” and the excellent Gilbert and Sullivan “Lord Chancellor’s Nightmare Song”

    (Now every time I hear someone say “Salisbury Plain” I always think bicycle.)

    “No. 1 Lowest Common Denominator”. Who else could take a junior high math reference and turn it into a rather raw, rude song with a killer guitar part?

  79. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:


    OK, Q is good with Queen, but the self-titled LP aint that good.

    R: Regatta De Blanc from the Police. Contains Message in a Bottle/Walking on the Moon/Bring On The Night/Beds Too Big Without You. Great work.

    R: either Revolver or Rubber Soul from The Beatles, and which one you prefer oftens identifies you as a pre- or post-drugs fan of the band. I fall in the later (barely).

    S: Song In The Key of Life from Stevie Wonder. Yeah, baby!

    S: Sympathique from Pink Martini

    S: Stop Making Sense from The Talking Heads

    backwards additions: L: London Calling by The Clash and P: Paranoid by Black Sabbath

    T: 2112 Rush. YEAH

    • Shieldmaiden Says:

      Stevie Wonder is one of my all time favorite artists ever. Love him!

    • Chris Says:


    • Chris Says:

      There’s a lot of great Stevie Wonder stuff. I’m always fascinated at the ability of a human being to play keyboards like that just by touch. SOme of the “rhythms” he generated on keyboards were amazing and seemed flawless. Even when I LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE KEYS I CAN BARELY PLAY THEM IN ORDER.

      Truly Stevie is a genius. (Even though after about 1982 he didn’t put out much good stuff as far as I can tell)

  80. Shieldmaiden Says:

    S: Swamp Ophelia (The Indigo Girls) My favorite song on the album is “The Wood Song”

  81. jhagman Says:

    U is for “Ummagumma”- Pink Floyd, I think 1969. On another note, did Herr Durbin get his stuff from Japan? I hear (all jests aside) that Marie Curie’s notebooks are still highly radioactive, and scholars have to wear protective garb to look at her research, so if Fred’s stuff is somewhat “glowing”, he will be in August Company!

  82. Jedibabe Says:

    R: Running with Scissors, an especially awesome and hilarious Weird Al album thanks to “The Saga Begins” which sounds like American Pie and tells the story of Anakin Skywalker- what’s not to adore about that? Everything else on this album is your top-notch Weird Al, which I love.

    And that’s it for me on this post; The Chieftains, John Denver, Tito Puente and Weird Al. I am nothing if not eclectic. Lots of other great tunage mentioned on here as well, makes me feel the need to crank up my hard drive and play with my music.

  83. fsdthreshold Says:

    Can I put in an S? Today once again I listened to “Song of Jerusalem” sung by Sinead O’Connor. It’s the old familiar hymn sung with breathtaking beauty. For those of you who can easily buy singles for 99 cents from iTunes — trust me. Invest in this one.

    A writer friend of mine wrote a wonderful story in which a troubled young woman seeks sanctuary in a church. At the door, she blurts out to the priest: “I am not a witch. But evil has followed me all the days of my life and I am desperately wicked.” To which the priest replies, “We all are. Come inside, dear.”

    My point? As the Bible says, no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the power of the Holy Spirit. We writers, singers, artists of every stripe — we are imperfect vessels, but at times the Divine shines through clearly. Get “Song of Jerusalem” from iTunes!

    How’s that for a commercial?

    jhagman: According to the shipper, my stuff is supposed to arrive on April 9th. I’m not sure, though, whether that projected date was set before or after the temporary ban on ships leaving Tokyo. At any rate, I hope I don’t have to wear protective garb to continue work on The House of the Worm or to re-watch episodes of Buffy!

  84. Scott Says:

    R – “Randy Rhoads Tribute Album” – Ozzy Osbourne

    R – “Riding With The King” – BB King & Eric Clapton

    S – “Sweet Dreams” – Eurythmics

    Oh! And going back to L. We must mention “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens. That one goes out to you Snowflake!

  85. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    The Randy Rhoads LP is technically titled “Tribute” but no need to get pissy, as it deserves to be here (notice I did not list Blizzard of Oz or Diary of a Madman? Figured someone would mention Tribute).

    The Tokens … ha ha and I know what the reference is for! I maintain my innocence … “I did not have *$&ual relations with that young woman, Miss %##*#”

    U is throwing me for a loop, but the V has been waiting.

    And now (and Jedibabe agrees, I bet) one of the most incredible debut LPs ever, “Van Halen” yes yes yes yes yes!!! This is the album that changed my muscial world!!

    • Jedibabe Says:

      Yup, “Van Halen” was great, though I didn’t get into rock until 1987, and then “1984” was my favorite album, mainly due to “Jump” which was a blast to work horses to, especially when jumping! “Panama” was the other reason I dug that particular album. Those were some fun, crazy days.

      • I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

        I liked 1984 although I was worried about all the synth stuff. Saw them in Peoria on 1984 tour and they were nowhere near as good as on Diver Down in St. Louis.

        Running With The Devil/Eruption-You Really Got Me/Aint Talking About Love/I’mThe One/Jamie’s Crying/Atomic Punk/Feel Your Love Tonight/Little Dreamer/Ice Cream Man/On Fire …. hot damn! I am — no kidding — putting the CD in as soon as I post this. Time to rock!

      • Chris Says:

        I liked 1984 when it came out (what year was that?) I was dating a woman at the time who preferred the Pointer Sisters “Jump (For my love)”, ironically enough she introduced me to more rock than most other people, she was a college DJ.

        I liked the guitar “glissandos” on Panama (heavily fuzzed) and the video was kind of fun.

        As for Jump my college roommate and I were working on a parody of the song which we had dreams of playing on the quad when “Brother Jed” came a-preachin’ on campus. We were going to call it “Pray”. But we didn’t get very far. I never could get enough of the guitar part down and at the time all I had was an acoustic.

        As for Brown Snowflake’s selections there are many great VH songs I’ve only begun to appreciate as I get older. “Runnin’ with the Devil” and I really like their version of “Pretty Woman” (much better than the original).

  86. Scott Says:

    W – I dunno … hmmm … White Album maybe?

    Oh and yes. DLR VanHalen rocks!

  87. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    For W how about “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” from Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass? Or another great Alpert LP “What Now My Love?” which I am about to play now that it is in my head!

  88. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    OK, so I listen to Herb Alpert. Then, going through my oldies, I pop in The Fifth Dimension’s “Age of Aquarius” the album, not just the song. That sent me to youtube, where I spent an hour watching the Fifth D do their thing.

    Incredible! Only the Beach Boys come close to such harmonies, and they didnt have fabulous babes like Marilyn McCoo and Florence LaRue. Thank God no one was around to hear me trying to sing! Great songs!

  89. Chris Says:

    Retroactive S (since we are on X, this popped into my mind)

    “Skylarking” by XTC. One of the best “subtle concept” albums I own. It kept me company on my one and only research cruise on the open ocean (Rhode Island–>Newfoundland–>Iceland).

    • Chris Says:

      Hey, 3 guesses who was the producer of “Skylarking”. (Apparently Andy Partridge of XTC didn’t like the experience much) 🙂

      • I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

        I’ll take the bait … 1.) Crispian St. Peter? 2.) Jimmy Iovine? 3.) A certain Mr. Rundgren?

  90. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    Well, X is going to hang everybody up again. If you have one I’d love to hear it! Meanwhile, Y ….

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      It’s not a song or an album, but I had a Chinese student this past year whose given name was “Xue.” I loved listening to her pronounce it!

  91. Scott Says:

    How about X for Xanadu-The Soundtrack.


  92. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, I was going to, and thought better of, saying “No one better say ‘Xanadu’ but I knew, I KNEW Scott would.

    After reading the selections of many of my fellow contributors and after seeing Fred’s mentions in his new post, I realize I am more removed socially from the averager responder to this blog than I had thought.

    I simply do not understands the love and devotion given to Celtic music, to The Chieftans, to anything with bagpipes, with Sinead, with Enya … and not with U2, The Corrs or The Cranberries.

    Of course, I fully understand that my own choices are just as confounding to others, so … variety is the spice of life, right?

    Still waiting for Y …

    • Chris Says:

      Since our last discussion of Xanadu I actually sat down and watched the movie. It was, as expected, horrific. It had more skating than should be allowed for a movie that did not bear the subtitle “Rollerskating extravaganza!”

      I can only think that Gene Kelly had some gambling debts or someone had some embarrasing photos of him or something to get him into that.

      BUT, that being said, ELO and ONJ shined. Just seeing ONJ sing (if you could avoid seeing the rollerskating) was great. I had completely missed the song “Suspended in Time”. Which actually was quite good!

      The movie generally was a trainwreck of poorly developed plot, cobbled concept and even the “boys loses girl” portion was so foreshortened it’s almost like they were looking at “Screenwriting for Dummies” and almost missed that chapter and had to cobble the thing in at the end.

      That and the ADDITIONAL synthesizer hoots and honks made perfectly good music horrid. This is aside from the great synth work by Richard Tandy.

      Oh, hey, did anyone notice Fee Waybill of the Tubes the extended segment of the “rock” band playing vs the swing band? THAT was painful. I’m not a fan of the Tubes but even they didn’t deserve to be linked to that…

      Hey! Speaking of the Tubes do you know who their drummer, Prairie Prince plays with a lot these days? How about one of their stageshow dancers? Know who she married?

      Huh? Do ya? 🙂

  93. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:


    I have been feeling a little out of sorts lately, and the reason has now become clear: I blew it on ‘P’

    P is for PET SOUNDS the colossal masterpiece from the genius of Brian Wilson and the penultimate Beach Boys LP. Sir Paul McCartney called it “The greatest album ever”

    whew! feel better now, but still need a Y!

  94. morwenna Says:

    Love Pet Sounds! Great choice, Brown. 🙂

    Right now, the only album I can think of that begins with a Y is Yellow Submarine.

  95. fsdthreshold Says:

    Y . . . I don’t suppose anyone has ever come out with a Cthulhu Mythos album titled Yog-Sothoth. . . That’s what immediately springs to MY mind when I think of Y.

    But Yellow Submarine is cool!

    Mr. Brown Snowflake, you’re right: variety is the spice of life! On this blog, our musical preferences seem to be as varied as everything else!

    By the way, I have now eaten at Taco Gringo three times! My, my . . . isn’t it amazing how the store has moved from one location to another, been around since we were kids, and yet that unique flavor hasn’t changed an iota, and it’s unlike Mexican food anywhere else?!

  96. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    Great choice of Yellow Submarine!

    That takes us to Z (drumroll …) and I have been patiently waiting for this: “Zenyatta Mondatta” from The Police. Any other Y’s or Z’s out there or are we finally done?

    And Fred, I am frothing with envy re: Taco Gringo. The town I live in has a 2010 census pop. of 7800. At least a third are Hispanic (and they missed the 2000 illegals who are scared to sign anything). Most are from Honduras or El Salvador and not Mexico, but we do have two OUTSTANDING Latino food joints here. That said, I still miss Taco Gringo. Guess you always love the taste you grew up with …

  97. Chris Says:

    Taco Gringo. You know how *&^%ed I was when I learned that a “Sancho” wasn’t a real mexican dish?

    Thanks Taylorville, you prepared me quite well for the world.

    When I was home taking care of my mom’s estate my brother and I drug my wife, Rita, to Taco Gringo. It was, indeed, still the same. And every bit as good. And every bit as unreal.

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