Sunday Stealing: If…


The current iteration of Sunday Stealing is If…

1. If you could change the ending to one movie you have seen, which one would it be, and how would you reshoot it?

At the end of Titanic, Rose is brought back to the site three-quarters of a century after the disaster. She drops the Heart of the Ocean necklace into the ocean. I think this was supposed to be romantic. It feels like the last three-quarters of a century in her life, with children and grandchildren, was meaningless.

But it’s better than an alternative ending which was filmed but not used. “Lizzy (Rose’s granddaughter) spots her grandmother climb up on the railings. She rushes forward with Brock [the expedition leader]… Rose tells them not to get any closer. She holds up the Heart of the Ocean and threatens to drop it.

“Brock pleads with Rose to let him hold the diamond just once, but Rose tells Brock that he ‘looks for treasure in the wrong places,’ telling him that life is priceless and they should make each day count.

“Rose tosses the diamond overboard while Brock’s team shows up and watches on incredulously. The same scene of the gem hitting the water is used before we cut back to Brock and Rose. The former laughs at his team before asking Lizzy to dance.”


2. If you were to select a food that best describes your character, what food would it be?

Spinach. Green, crunchy, underappreciated.

3. If you could cure any disease, which would it be?

Cancer seems to manifest as several different diseases. My father died of prostate cancer, but I know several people who have died of other cancers. My dear choir friend Marion Motisher died, and I was a pallbearer on my 39th birthday.

4. If you had to describe the single worst thing a friend could do to you, what would it be?

I have a current example of someone I considered a dear friend. They accidentally butt-dialed me some months ago but promised to call me soon—radio silence. 

5. If you could be a contestant on any game show, which would you like to be on?

The $100,000 Pyramid, no doubt. I tried out for it in the 1970s when I was living in NYC, when it was the $10,000 Pyramid, but I never got past the first round. I enjoy watching it when it returns each summer.


6. If you could choose the music at your own funeral, what would it be, and who would play it?

I’ve actually thought about this a lot. I would like a pianist I know to play Chopin’s “Raindrop Prelude” Op.28 No.15. Of course, my church choir would sing. I have a few possibilities. I Will Not Leave You Comfortless by Titcomb,  which the choir just sang at the funeral of a choir spouse. Or How lovely is thy dwelling place from the Brahms German Requiem (in English), which I sang with others at my former church for Jim Kalas; there are probably other choices.  I want hymns that have harmony vocals; no unison stuff. And I want an Amen; we don’t sing amens – maybe a Sevenfold one.

7. If you had to spend all of your vacations in the same place for the rest of your life, where would you go?

Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I was there in 1991 and 1992 but not since.

8. If you could ask God a single question, what would it be?

This is a serious answer because all the Big Questions about the afterlife would be self-evident. When I was about twelve, I walked down the street in Binghamton, NY. Suddenly, a lens on the glasses I was wearing cracked. What happened? I heard nothing. It couldn’t have been a BB gun, I don’t think. Was it a tiny meteorite? In any case, my eye was fine, but I was greatly startled.

Almost picked ice cream

9. If you could eat one food in any quantity for the rest of your life with no ill effects whatsoever, what food would you choose?

Pie because it is the perfect food. You can have savory like a chicken pot pie. You can have a variety of fruit pies, and I would eat them in rotation. Then there’s pizza.

10. If you could have a year anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, where would you go?

New Zealand. It’s about as far away from me as you can get. It’s a reasonably safe place. They speak English there. And I could meet Arthur.

11. If you could forever eliminate one specific type of prejudice from the earth, which would it be?

May I pick xenophobia? No? Okay, I’m going with sexism because the current manifestation of it, in big ways (Iran) and small, diminish men as well as women.

12. If you could own one painting from any collection in the world but were not allowed to sell it, which work of art would you select?

The Scream by Edvard Munch. I relate to it sometimes.

13. If you could ask a single question of a dead relative, what would it be, and whom would you ask?

That would be Pop, my father’s dad. Someone told me something about him I had never heard before, and I wanted to verify it.


14. If you had to choose the best television show ever made, which one would you pick?

I will pick The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966). It’s one of three programs that ran longer than a season for which I have the complete DVD set. Not incidentally, I just discovered that you could see the episodes at FilmRise Television.

15. If you could write letters to only one person for the rest of your life, who would receive them?

I’m a terrible letter writer. And I used to be quite good before the advent of email. I’ll say my friend Mark because he writes lovely and loquacious prose.

The titanic #1 hits of 1912

It’s A Wonderful Life

Among the titanic #1 hits of 1912 are tunes I have actually sung.

Before that, A Century of Pop Music by Joel Whitburn notes that in July of 1912, “Columbia stopped all production of [wax] cylinders.” This left “Edison as the only major company still producing the recording format that had ruled the industry only decade earlier.” All of these songs were on the Victor label, except the Burr/Campbell track on Columbia.

Moonlight Bay – American Quartet, 8 weeks at #1. Billy Murray, John Bieling, Steve Porter, and William F. Hooley. Those of you who own The Beatles Anthology 1 will recognize the song, performed on the British TV series Two of a Kind by the band and the show’s hosts, comedy duo Morecambe and Wise.

Down By the Old Mill Stream – Harry MacDonough, 7 weeks at #1. “Not the new, but the old.” It is so embedded in the culture, it’s been used by the Marx Brothers, the Chipmunks, and All In The Family. I feel I’ve always known the song.

Ragtime Cowboy Joe – Bob Roberts, 6 weeks at #1
Waiting For The Robert E. Lee – Heidelberg Quintet, 6 weeks at #1. Apparently, this was actually Billy Murray and the American Quartet, supplemented by countertenor Will Oakland. When I was growing up in Binghamton in the 1960s, we had this ancient songbook at the school, probably from the 1930s. That song must have been in the text because I remember the lyrics, specifically “There’s Ephraim and Sammy.”

Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee – Ada Jones and Billy Murray, 5 weeks at #1
Ragging My Baby To Sleep – Al Jolson, 5 weeks at #1, gold record

When I Was Twenty-One and You Were Sweet Sixteen – Henry Burr and Albert Campbell, 4 weeks at #1

My star turn

Love Is Mine – Enrico Caruso, 3 weeks at #1

That Haunting Melody -Al Jolson, 2 weeks at #1. I couldn’t find this on YouTube. So I used the Discography of American Historical Recordings, which I described here
I Love You Truly – Elsie Baker, 2 weeks at #1. When I was a boy soprano at Trinity AME Zion Church in Binghamton, I sang this song at weddings at least twice. The song appeared on various TV shows and movies. Notably, Bert and Ernie serenaded George and Mary Bailey on their wedding night in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). The song was recorded several times after its initial release.

Everybody Two-Step – American Quartet
Oh, You Beautiful Doll – Billy Murray and the American Quartet. I know this song quite well, and it’s not from its various usages in movies and even cartoons. Did my mom sing this around the house?

X is for the Unknown; X marks the spot

Each summer, Dr. Ballard and his team will launch an exciting expedition on the E/V Nautilus to explore ancient history and learn more about the ocean. YOU can watch it as it happens.

After our trip to Newport, RI in April, we stopped for a day in Mystic, Connecticut to see the Mystic Aquarium. The daughter especially loved the beluga whales. But it was by sheer happenstance that we arrived the very day a new exhibit about the Titanic opened. We learned quite a bit about Dr. Robert Ballard, whose team found the Titanic in 1985.

Robert Ballard was a kid – born in the Midwest, but growing up in San Diego, California – who identified with Captain Nemo in the Jules Verne novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. So he logically asked what real jobs would point him in that direction. Ultimately, he earned undergraduate degrees in chemistry and geology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a Masters in geophysics from the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Geophysics, and was working towards a Ph.D. in marine geology at the University of Southern California in 1967 when he was called to active military duty. Upon his request, Ballard was transferred from the Army into the US Navy as an oceanographer.

In the summer of 1985, Ballard was on a “trip was being financed by the U.S. Navy specifically for secret reconnaissance of the wreckage of two Navy nuclear-powered attack submarines, the USS Scorpion and the USS Thresher, that sank in the 1960s and not for Titanic…The Navy was not interested in spending that kind of money in searching for the large ocean liner. However, they were interested in finding out what happened to their missing submarines and ultimately concluded that Argo was their best chance to do so.” The fear was that, if it was announced that the United States was looking for the submarines, the Soviets would track the Argo. Looking for Titanic was a viable cover story.

But find the Titanic they did, and subsequently a number of other ships, such as the Bismarck, the Lusitania, and JFK’s PT-109. “In the 1990s Ballard founded the Institute for Exploration, which specializes in deep-sea archaeology and deep-sea geology. It joined forces in 1999 with the Mystic Aquarium… They are a part of the non-profit Sea Research Foundation, Inc.”

What’s REALLY cool is Nautilus Live. Each summer, Dr. Ballard and his team will launch an exciting expedition on the E/V Nautilus to explore ancient history and learn more about the ocean. YOU can watch it as it happens.

(Yes, it’s a cheat. I COULD have titled this post-Nautilus, Oceanography, Titanic, Underwater, Ballard, or several others. But X is so difficult, especially the 6th time through!)

ABC Wednesday – Round 10

Titanic- that sinking feeling

Back to Titanic contains a mixture of previously unreleased recordings and newly-recorded performances of the songs in the film.

On the 14th of April, 1912, Titanic struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage and quickly sank. Many people were lost due to insufficient lifeboats. Yes, I know; everybody knows. Is there a non-war-related historical event more familiar than this? Not many.

Amazing what a little 1997 film can help to do. (Not that Titanic was the ONLY film on the topic, but was clearly the most successful.) It “achieved critical and commercial success. It equaled records with fourteen Academy Award nominations and eleven wins, receiving the prizes for Best Picture and Best Director. With a worldwide gross of over $1.8 billion, it was the first film to reach the billion-dollar mark, remaining the highest-grossing film of all time for twelve years.” And it was just re-released in 3D, which Roger Ebert reviewed.

I think it succeeded because it was a kitchen sink film that appealed to a lot of people. There was this love story that touched some, not so much for me. There were the class issues, which I found more interesting. There was the hubris of the boat builders, applicable in other settings. And then there was the disaster itself, which, if you didn’t think too much about the ACTUAL PEOPLE WHO DIED, was rather spectacular. (SamuaiFrog revisits the film.)

Another issue was the music. I have the original soundtrack, composed, orchestrated, and conducted by James Horner, and I found it a bit too much of the same feel. But, I also have Back to Titanic, “which contains a mixture of previously unreleased recordings and newly-recorded performances of the songs in the film…Horner created a new suite of music, comprising light and dark sections from the score, which represents the ‘soul’ of his music for the film.

“In addition, several of the source numbers from the film were included into this second album. From ‘Nearer my God to Thee’ to the raucous pipe and drum rhythms heard in the Irish folk music played in the lower decks, these selections recreate the most poignant moments in the life and death of the great ship. ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ was played on the deck by Wallace Hartley’s small orchestra and lifted spirits as the ship settled, lights blazing, into black oblivion. And ‘Come Josephine, in my Flying Machine’, which Jack Dawson briefly sings for Rose DeWitt Bukater and Rose sings when she is waiting to be rescued in the freezing seas. The song was a top hit song the year before the sinking.”

The second album, to my ear, is vastly better than the first, because it’s more eclectic, and frankly, more representative sonically of the film as a whole. Though I can avoid the bit when Celine Dion’s huge hit ‘My Heart Will Go On’ is interspersed with movie dialogue; that’s the reason for the skip button on the CD player.

See what Neil deGrasse Tyson got James Cameron to fix for the re-release of Titanic.
Then watch the video, which has nothing to do with Titanic, but a lot to do with my own growing up.

Pretty much everything you need to know about the Titanic.

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