‘You Don’t Have to Be a Star, Baby, to Be in My Show’

It was Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. who sang that line, “You don’t have to be a star, baby, to be in my show.” It’s a good thing, too, or I’d be up the creak without a microphone. Indeed, I discovered last night that the best way to kill a classic is for me to sing it. But, oh, the “song-icide” can be so much fun. 

We’ll be hosting a birthday party for our son this weekend, and the main activity is a karaoke event with his friends. Last night he came over, and we set up the equipment in our family room to test it and make sure it all works. One thing led to another, so for nearly three hours we added song after song to the queue, and we sang ourselves raspy over the course of the night. My selections included:

  • “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Queen)
  • “My Heart Will Go On” (Celine Dion)
  • “Theme from the Brady Bunch” (Sherwood Schwartz)
  • “Footloose” (Kenny Loggins)
  • “New York, New York” (Frank Sinatra)
  • “Y.M.C.A.” (Village People)
  • “Climb Every Mountain” (The Sound of Music)
  • “Kiss the Girl” and “Part of Your World” (The Little Mermaid)
  • “Somewhere in the Night” (Barry Manilow)
  • “I Will Always Love You” (Whitney Houston)
  • “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” (Billy Joel)

And that’s just the tip of the iceburg of all the songs we attempted. Worse than my singing was the misguided attempt (by me) to dance during “Footloose.” All digital evidence of the spectacle has been destroyed. But the funniest moment was injecting Scuttle’s throaty little descant into “Kiss the Girl.” I may have ruptured something laughing at myself.

I didn’t realize how much fun karaoke could be, or how much I needed to blow off a little steam after the crazy schedule I’ve been keeping lately (not to mention the awfulness of the pandemic year). As King Solomon once said, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Prov 17:22). 

All my life I’ve wanted to be a singer in the worst possible way. I can finally say that I’ve reached my goal.

Image Credits: CuteWallpaper.org

Friday Fun: What If Cartoons Got Saved?

A student reminded me of this fun little song by Chris Rice from a few years ago. Hey, why not? Doesn’t the phrase “all things” include cartoon characters? “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

Enjoy! And have a great weekend!

Throwback Thursday: My Little Cherubs

So, here we have a Minnie Mouse and a mini me. I couldn’t tell you what the ages of my kids are in these two shots, but I know my own lifespan has been shortened by including them here. I won’t disclose Andrew’s likely weapon of choice, but I’m fairly certain Bethany will sic her cat on me. Still, what an overload of cuteness. Best of all, they both love Jesus and seek to honor him with their lives. I am blessed. Can’t help thinking, though, where have the years gone? In that spirit, I’ll throw in Enya’s “Time Flies” today, too.

Friday Fun: Bob Newhart and the Best Series Finale Ever

Final episodes of long-running television series are notoriously disappointing. The ending of Newhart, however, was the best of all time, hearkening back to the earlier series featuring the eponymous star of The Bob Newhart Show and his wife Emily, played by Suzanne Pleshette. The final scene on Newhart was a well-guarded secret, kept from most of the cast and crew. They even wrote a fake ending to the show to throw off the tabloids. I was glad I got to see this one live. What a hoot.

Throwback Thursday: More from the High School Scrapbook

When you spend 2 hours a day in the pool (high school) or 4.5 hours in the pool (college) for swim team practice, your hair tends to get kind of crunchy. Hairstylists could always tell that I was a swimmer because my hair would “snap” when they cut it. The picture below indicates a certain stiffness setting in even as my hair is drying. No such problems exist these days, except for a slight lightening of the color when I spend time in the chlorine and/or sun. This morning it was back to the Lebanon Y for another workout—this time 1,850 meters (74 laps) at something of a “cruise” pace. It went much better than the past couple days. But unlike the newspaper article, no records to report this time.

A Dream Is a Wish Your Mouth Makes

This weekend I’m participating in the Future Church Summit put on by Fresh Expressions. (I’ve had the privilege of teaching in our doctoral program with a couple of the presenters, so I decided to pop in and see what they have to say.) Last night the conference coordinator prayed that God would speak to us in our dreams. (Yes, I believe that God can and sometimes does speak to us in our dreams.) Feel free to psychoanalyze me if you like, but I dreamed of coffee. Does that count as an answer to prayer?

Image Credit: goodfon.com.

Throwback Thursday: Where My Swimming Career Began

My introduction to swimming pools began a long time ago in Reading, PA. My brother and sister and I grew up in a row home with a very small backyard, but it was big enough to accommodate an inflatable pool. My Nana, who lived just a few houses down the street from us, also had a blow-up pool. We eventually graduated to the real thing, as the East Reading Swimming Association featured an outdoor pool that was only a few blocks from our house. Neighborhood kids loved it, even though it was an odd size for racing (33-1/3 yards instead of 25 or 50 yards/meters). The faded color of these Kodak snaps shows how long ago they were taken.

L to R: Me, my mom (with her beehive hairdo), my younger sister Ronni, and my older brother Bobby. (Presumably that’s my dad’s finger on the far right.) Bob and I are preparing our containers to squirt our sister.
Me going solo in the inflatable pool at my Nana’s house. Apparently, we had a cookout that day. And, apparently, I was up to something sinister, as indicated by my tongue sticking out.
My first time off the 1-meter diving board at the East Reading pool. The following year I tackled the 3-meter board behind me.

Friday Fun: Lucy and Her Grape Stomping Fight

I Love Lucy fans will remember the iconic 1956 episode, “Lucy’s Italian Movie,” where Lucy hopes to get cast in a film about Italian winemaking. In the process, she ends up in a comedic situation involving squished grapes and a hostile grape stomper. Rumor has it Lucille Ball nearly choked to death at one point while filming the scene. All are glad she survived to keep making us laugh over the years. As a bonus, enjoy another classic Lucy (and Ethel) scene—this one at a chocolate factory.

Throwback Thursday: A Good Day at the Pool

Athletes know “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” as Jim McKay put it, and usually there’s more defeat than victory over the course of one’s career. So, here’s a page of thrill from my high school scrapbook. Manheim always gave us fits in the pool (as did Wilson, Governor Mifflin, and Hempfield), but I remember one special meet where we all came together and swam well as a team against the Blue Streaks.

What made this particular meet gratifying was that some of us swam events outside our speciality, which helped us patch together a surprise victory over our division rivals. Additional wins over the other contenders catapulted the Red Knights to a league championship that year, with many of us qualifying for states. It was a good season of hard work and personal bests.

In the “agony” department, I’ve already posted about breaking my arm at a the end of a 50-yard sprint in college. I could also post about various false starts, disqualifications, and losses over the years, along with that time I broke my toe during a swim meet at Lasalle, or got a black-and-blue eye during a water polo game at Lower Moreland. But we’ll just go with the thrill of victory today. This clipping from the Reading Eagle newspaper tells the story.

Friday Fun: The President and Vice President Go Skating

O.k., I know I overdo the memes sometimes (especially with my “Just between You and Meme” posts), but this was way too good not to share.

For those too young to catch the reference, on January 6, 1994, Olympic figure skating hopeful Nancy Kerrigan was attacked after a practice at the Cobo Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The hitman was Shane Stant, who used a collapsible baton to strike Kerrigan’s right leg. When the full story emerged a week later, the nation was caught up in a real-life soap opera.

One of Kerrigan’s chief rivals for a place on the U.S. Figure Skating Team was Tonya Harding, who had a hand in the attack via her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and the hitman he hired to do the job. With Kerrigan unable to skate, Harding won the championship and a place at the 1994 Olympics. Long story short, Harding was eventually banned from U.S. Figure Skating for life, and Kerrigan went on to take the silver medal at the Olympics.

The meme is meant to poke fun at the current Vice President pondering how she might take out the President, replacing him in the top slot of the U.S. government.

(Save your outrage. No political message is implied with the posting of this meme. Simply good old-fashioned fun.)

Throwback Thursday: My First Concert with ‘The Piano Man’

The very first concert I ever attended was Billy Joel at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. I don’t remember the exact year, but it was probably somewhere between his albums The Stranger and Glass Houses. A bunch of us Reading High swimmers drove together in an old beater and had a blast. The Spectrum is no longer there, but Joel is still going strong—at least on the concert circuit. (He hasn’t produced a studio album in over 20 years.) I have trouble picking a favorite song because the repertoire is so vast. 

Beautiful ballads include “She’s Got a Way,” “This Is the Time,” and “C’était Toi (You Were the One),” which I adored, in part because I was learning French when it came out. “Just the Way You Are” was always popular, but it’s a bit too lounge-lizardy for my taste. “Honesty” is lovely, and “She’s Always a Woman to Me” is hauntingly tender, even if somewhat wretched in verbo. “She’s Right on Time,” on the other hand, is evocative and hopeful.

Up-tempo favorites include “Uptown Girl,” “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.” There’s plenty of crudeness across his collection (e.g., “Only the Good Die Young,” “Captain Jack,” etc.), but there’s much raw talent, energy, and passion, too. In many ways, his work is the musical embodiment of the human story—broken, beautiful, and always looking for the right chord. 

Joel is best known for his songs “Piano Man” and “The Entertainer,” which is fitting because that’s exactly what he is—a piano man and an entertainer. In fact, I’ve always found his piano instrumental “Root Beer Rag” to be one his most entertaining pieces, though it never received the accolades it should have.

Enjoy a few Billy Joel songs, which always throw me back to the soundtrack of my earlier life.

Root Beer Rag

Not bad compared to the studio version:

She’s Got a Way

Piano Man

Image Credits: vulture.com; steinway.com.

Friday Fun: Monty Python’s ‘The Ministry of Silly Walks’

Here’s a classic Monty Python sketch to make you smile on this wintry weekend. It’s also a reminder that there’s a government grant for just about everything under the sun these days. The first time I saw the presentation, I laughed my way through it until the secretary made her appearance. Then I just let out a full-throated cackle. Poor Mr. Teabag never did get his coffee.

You can enjoy some background information on this sketch here.

Friday Fun: Raising Your Hands with Tim Hawkins

I got to see Tim Hawkins live in concert several years ago, and I wound up getting a migraine from laughing so hard. Others around me had the same experience. Never before had I gotten to the point of wanting a comedian to stop making me laugh, but it happened that night. He crescendoed to a rapid fire finale that was almost unbearable. Here are a few of his more gentle riffs, separated out so you don’t get a headache.