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Sunday, March 22, 2009







Miss Jenkins is all right in my book and a brave patriot; she has made several trips to Iraq and Afghanistan and has even been under fire. Beauty, talent and guts.
The soldiers and Marines who saw her thought she was just magnificent and very hospitable and gracious. Memories like that will never be forgotten.

The Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks-produced epic World War II television series Band of Brothers is based on a true story adapted
from the best-selling book by Stephen Ambrose. FIRST RATE film. I rank it as one of the best WWII films ever made barring none. It must be in anyone's top five for script, story and action. Great authenticity and production values.

The story depicts a regiment of U.S. Army Airborne Soldiers (Paratroopers)
who parachute into France on D-Day, fight off the Nazi Panzers
at Bastogne and climaxes with their daring
capture of Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Bavaria.

The music was composed by the award-winning Michael Kamen, and the new lyrics are by English songwriter Frank Musker. Sung by the lovely Katherine Jenkins in London, England.


Requiem for a Soldier

You never lived to see
What you gave to me
One shining dream of hope and love
Life and liberty

With a host of brave unknown Soldiers
For your company, you will live forever
Here in our memory

In fields of sacrifice
Heroes paid the price
Young men who died for old men's wars
Gone to paradise

We are all one great band of brothers
And one day you'll see we can live together
When all the world is free

I wish you'd lived to see
All you gave to me
Your shining dream of hope and love
Life and liberty

We are all one great band of brothers
And one day you'll see - we can live together
When all the world is free


Music by Michael Kamen
Lyrics by Frank Musker
Published by Music Sounds Better / BMG Music
Publishing UK Ltd./ Copyright Control/ Sony /
K-Man Corp./ ATV Music Publishing (UK) Ltd.
Additional percussion and programming
by Nick Patrick
Orchestra arranged and conducted
by Nick Ingman
Produced by Nick Patrick

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Jussi Björling sings Nessun Dorma

“Of all 20th century tenors, Björling is the one who possessed the most perfectly balanced combination of a voice of unmistakable beauty (sufficiently ample and wide-ranging to cope with a vast repertoire), exceptional musicality and technical assurance.”

Jussi Björling: The Supreme Singing of a Shy Man

By Stephen Hastings

On September 9 1960 the newstands of Stockholm were plastered with the news “Jussi död i morse” (Jussi dead this morning). It is rare for newspapers to call an opera singer by his Christian name, but then Björling's relationship with Sweden was a very special one. It had begun forty-five years earlier, when his father David Björling - also a tenor - decided to take little Jussi (born on February 5, 1911) on tour with his brothers Gösta and Olle. The “Björling Male Quartet” could not fail to win audiences over, with the boys dressed in traditional costumes singing music (including compositions by David Björling and the Swedish national anthem) calculated to move. Yet the quartet's survival for twelve years (they remained active until 1927, a year after the father's death), and the success of their United States tour (during which they made six acoustic recordings for Columbia) were attributable to less ephemeral qualities: the uniqueness of the “Björling sound” that the boys had inherited from their father and grandfather, and the superior quality of their musical and vocal training, described by David in a booklet entitled “How to Sing”.
David Björling had studied at the Metropolitan School in New York at the beginning of the century and then at the Vienna conservatory, and was prevented from having a successful operatic career only by his obstinate character. Once, during an argument, he went so far as to kick Count Hans von Stedingk, the manager of Stockholm’s Royal Opera, in the backside. It was thanks however to his training that Jussi (after completing his studies with the baritone John Forsell) was able to enter that same company when he was just nineteen years old, and to make his debut in 53 of his 55 roles in the time span of nine seasons. Only Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut and Don Carlo were added later (together with Calaf, performed only on record).
In 1938, after his first United States tour (as an adult), Björling left the company, but continued to sing at the Stockholm Royal Opera every year (excepting 1949) until his death. Most of his career in fact was divided between the United States and Sweden, with much briefer visits (often only for recitals) to other countries. He sang in Italy (Florence and Milan) during the 1943, 1946 and 1951 seasons; at the Vienna State Opera in 1936-37 and at Covent Garden in 1939 and 1960.

Björling was no less precocious in his recording career, which until the invention of the LP was entirely confined to Sweden. As early as October 1929 he signed a contract with Skandinaviska Grammophon, that represented His Master's Voice in Stockholm, and in the years that followed he recorded with them regularly, first for the Swedish market alone (a number of recordings of popular songs were sold under the pseudonym Erik Odde), then - from 1936 onwards - for the international market (with arias sung in the original language). In the 1950's on the other hand, Björling did most of his recording in the United States and Italy, making several complete opera sets (ten in all, plus the Verdi Requiem), almost all of them for RCA, which up to 1957 was linked to EMI. He never entirely stopped recording in Sweden, however, and his final Swedish recordings (1957, 1959) can be heard , together with 85 other recordings made in Stockholm between 1930 and 1953 (including all those originally made for the international label) and four selections recorded in London (1952) with Ivor Newton at the piano, in the EMI anthology entitled “The Jussi Björling Edition”: An edition that includes a booklet with exemplary essays by Harald Henrysson - Curator of the Jussi Björling Museum in Borlänge in Sweden and author of “A Jussi Björling Phonography” distributed by the Amadeus Press - and English translations of the Swedish songs.
These recordings confirm the tenor's exceptional vocal reliability throughout thirty years of adult career. The 1959 recordings reveal much the same beauty of timbre and flexibility heard in those made in 1930: the slight loss of freshness being compensated by a more solid production of the voice. This vocal longevity may seem less exceptional if one recalls that Luciano Pavarotti (whose voice is similar to Björling's in color and volume) was capable of singing with almost equal accomplishment at the age of sixty. Pavarotti however made his debut at the age of 26, and enlarged his repertoire very gradually, while at the same age Björling had already sung the following roles: Don Ottavio, Almavava, Arnoldo, Nemorino, Lensky, Radamès, Tonio, Turiddu, Canio, Pinkerton, Florestan, Dick Johnson, Lionel, Il Duca di Mantova, Roméo, Narraboth, Cavaradossi, Alfredo, Manrico, Tamino, Erik, Riccardo and the Fausts of Gounod, Boïto and Berlioz (I have omitted the less important ones!). In the final years of his career, moreover, he suffered from a serious form of heart disease. He often experienced alarming palpitations during performances, and in March 1960 he had a heart attack shortly before the beginning of a performance of La bohème at Covent Garden - which he courageously sang in spite of everything. He also suffered from alcoholism, alternating throughout his adult life between colossal drinking bouts and periods of semi-abstinence. This problem caused considerable unhappiness within his family (as his wife has testified in her superb biography of her husband written together with Andrew Farkas and published in 1996 by Amadeus Press), but had relatively little influence on the singer's professional behaviour. When, in the winter of 1953-54, Björling was forced to cancel many engagements, including the Toscanini recording of Un ballo in maschera, the cause - in spite of rumors to the contrary - was a persistent laryngitis. And it was his weak heart and not his drinking - as record producer John Culshaw claimed - that accentuated the misunderstandings that led to the interruption of another recording of Un ballo in maschera (that conducted by Georg Solti) in 1960.

The fact that Björling was able to cope with an extraordinarily heavy repertoire in his youth and sing impeccably even when his health was undermined is a tribute to his exceptional musicality and technique. Kurt Bendix, who conducted him many times at the Stockholm Royal Opera, stated that the tenor was practically incapable of making a mistake: “he was the kind of vocal and musical genius one is lucky to meet once in a lifetime.” The composer Sibelius (whose music Björling found singularly congenial) also described him as a “genius.” And Nils Grevillius, who conducted 275 of the performances sung by Björling in Stockholm and 81 of the 94 pieces included in the “Björling Edition,” likened his control of his voice to “a Kreisler on the violin, a Casals on the cello.” The English tenor Joseph Hislop - who helped Björling with the placement of his extreme upper register at the beginning of his career - said that he “got as much out of one single lesson as an average singer after six months instruction…His musical taste, his phrasing, and feeling for rhythm reminded me of the violinist Jascha Heifetz's playing.” One of the tenor's friends, Gösta Kjellertz, has spoken of his “incredible coloratura technique, fully comparable to the greatest instrumentalists” - and further evidence of his vocal flexibility has been revealed by his wife Anna-Lisa (herself a singer) who recalls his vocalizing up to G above top C, and a performance in Stockholm during which he calmly terminated an aria in falsetto for a soprano who had a fish bone stuck in her throat.
On record I have not found examples of Björling's falsetto, and his florid singing does not go beyond a fluent “Il mio tesoro” and a brilliant cadenza at the end of “La donna è mobile.” The highest note recorded is the brilliant top D flat that crowns one of his most joyful and exultant performances: “Ich hab’ kein Geld” from Der Bettelstudent (sung in Swedish). Overall however the opinions quoted are fully confirmed by what we hear on disc.
Of all 20th century tenors, Björling is the one who possessed the most perfectly balanced combination of a voice of unmistakable beauty (sufficiently ample and wide-ranging to cope with a vast repertoire), exceptional musicality and technical assurance. If one judges tenors by these three criteria only Caruso and Pavarotti can be considered of comparable stature. The former however - in possession of an incomparably rich and suggestive timbre (in whose thrall Björling was to remain throughout his life) - lost in the last ten years of his career that ease of dynamic modulation which Björling maintained until his final concert with orchestra, recorded live a month before he died (it includes an unforgettable excerpt from Lohengrin; a role he never performed complete). Compared to Pavarotti, Björling's musical instincts were less fallible, his command of the mezza voce and register break more assured (without those tight sounds that the Italian tenor sometimes produces). At this point one might object that even Björling's voice production seems to lack spontaneity alongside that of Beniamino Gigli, who possessed a still more luxuriant timbre. No one would dream however (I hope) of comparing the musicality of Gigli with that of the 20th century's greatest instrumentalists.
This unique combination of qualities does not however automatically make Björling the greatest tenor of the century. As often happens with naturally gifted singers, his interpretative talent was not always brought fully and imaginatively into play. He did not like rehearsing, and both his singing and acting could seem at times simply “competent and businesslike” (to quote a review of a London recital in 1937, which could equally be applied to the Bohème duet filmed with Renata Tebaldi in the mid-1950's), while on other occasions - in operas such as Manon Lescaut - he left “his heart and his blood on the stage” (Regina Resnik).
His first operatic recordings made in 1930 – “Ah! lève-toi, soleil!” and “Questa o quella” - reveal scholastic phrasing and an occasionally unfinished technique (understandable in a 19 year-old). But the timbre is unique in its silvery overtones, and he already possesses such bel canto requisites as evenness of tone throughout the range and a natural feeling for legato. It is one of those rare voices that seem to adorn even the tritest of melodies (such as Idabelle Firestone's songs in the famous TV programs now available on video); the sound blending bewitchingly with the accompanying instruments.

If then we move on to his first operatic recordings in the original language (1936), we encounter a supremely confident performer, perhaps already aware of having few rivals on the world's stages. I do not believe in fact that any other tenor in that period could have achieved in “Celeste Aida” such a perfect combination of purity of line (the legato is impeccable, the breath spans long and the breathing imperceptible), translucent beauty of timbre and dynamic control, even though Björling does not attempt the morendo on the final high B flat (many years later he regretted not attempting it on the complete recording made with Jonel Perlea). His diction moreover is excellent, and his pronunciation decidedly good. Björling's highly musical ear enabled him in fact to reproduce Italian vowel sounds most convincingly, though consonants caused him occasional problems. The passing errors of pronunciation that can be heard in many of his recordings rarely disturb the listener (Bruno Bartoletti, who conducted him in Trovatore, Tosca and Bohème in Chicago in 1956-57 was struck by both the power and ring of the voice and by the «perfect pronunciation»), even though his use of words lacks the inner resonance that we can hear in the finest Latin tenors. In his first recording of “Che gelida manina” (Rodolfo was the role Björling performed most frequently, followed by Faust and Manrico) the errors of pronunciation are somewhat glaring, but they do not prevent the enjoyment of his highly musical timbre and phrasing that convey not only the enthusiasm of youth, but also the shyness and melancholy that often accompany that enthusiasm. In this sense Björling's approach is very different from the traditional Italian interpretation, but it is a difference that enriches the expressive potential of the role.
There is no doubt that compared to the polyglot Nicolai Gedda or to Lauritz Melchior (who studied at length in Germany), Björling had little direct knowledge of the cultures that most of his operatic repertoire derived from. After conducting him in Vienna in 1936, Victor De Sabata would have liked to take him to Italy, but Björling's contract with the Stockholm Opera made that impossible. He did however have an excellent Italian maestro in Tullio Voghera (an ex-assistant of Toscanini and accompanist of Caruso who had settled in Sweden), and in a certain sense his limited exposure to the Verismo style of singing then in vogue in Italy enabled him approach the earlier 19th century repertoire in a purer style that proved particularly telling in operas like Il trovatore.

Of this century's tenors, Björling is the one who has perhaps come closest to embodying the ideal qualities for a role such as Manrico, thanks to his exquisitely youthful timbre, his inspired phrasing and formidable ring in the upper register. These qualities are very much in evidence in the 1938 and 1939 studio recordings of “Ah sì, ben mio” and “Di quella pira,” but they emerge still more irresistably in a live recording of a performance conducted by Vittorio Gui at Covent Garden in 1939. A performance worth hearing in its entirety (the cabaletta and the final duet with Azucena are particularly memorable) that includes the most perfect interpretation of “Ah sì, ben mio” ever preserved. Comparing this performance in fact with others by Caruso, Fernando De Lucia, Aureliano Pertile, Antonio Cortis, Helge Roswaenge, Franco Corelli, Carlo Bergonzi, Placido Domingo and Pavarotti - and also with Björling himself in the complete recording conducted by Cellini - one discovers that no other tenor has succeeded in rendering so poetically every detail of Verdi's score, both in the recitative and aria. This achievement was made possible by Gui's respect for the prescribed tempo - Adagio (many conductors transform it into an Andante) - and by Björling's ability to sustain that tempo with extraordinary virtuosity. Only Bergonzi approaches the effect he makes in this aria, but his line is less liquid, the details less finished, the timbre less caressing.

In the same period (1937-39) Björling recorded a numer of discs that have become touchstones in the history of operatic performance: “En fermant les yeux” (Manon), “Salut, demeure” (Faust), “Adelaide” (which reminds us of his intense activity as a Lieder singer) and “Ingemisco” from the Verdi Requiem (that Björling sang three times with Toscanini in the years 1939-40). They are four miracles of vocal beauty and expressive balance, in which the singer's sensibility appears profoundly attuned to the music performed.
It is interesting to compare his performance of another aria – “Cuius animam” from Rossini's Stabat mater - with that of Pavarotti. The Italian tenor's phrasing is more emphatic, the tone both indignant and expansive, while Björling is more intimate and melancholy, his top D flat less prolonged and sunny. There are also a number of oddly pronounced words here, as in “Cielo e mar” (where they are more conspicuous), but on the whole this performance of Enzo's aria makes almost all other recordings of the piece sound crude by comparison.
In the 1940's Björling continued to record popular arias from the Italian and French repertoires and added a number of duets with the soprano Hjördis Schymberg (prima donna at the Stockholm Opera) and with his wife Anna Lisa (a lyric soprano). Vocally they are splendid, but interpretatively they seem more superficial than the 1930's recordings, with a conspicuous lack of nuance in the more lyrical arias: “Una furtiva lacrima,” “Je crois entendre encore” and “È la solita storia del pastore.” “Nessun dorma,” on the other hand, is a triumph, and “L'alba separa dalla luce l'ombra” represents a moving homage to Caruso, whose recording inspired Björling. He sought in fact to imitate the phrasing and timbre of the Italian tenor (as he did when he recorded the Otello duet with Robert Merrill after listening repeatedly to the recording made by Caruso and Titta Ruffo). In the end however Björling wins over the listener even here with qualities that are entirely his own: an airy lyricism that contrasts with the warmer - but less elegant - sensuality of his model.
One notices often a difference between the 1940's studio performances - rather stiff in expression - and the live radio broadcasts of the same period. In the aircheck of Roméo et Juliette at the Metropolitan in 1947, “Ah! lève-toi, soleil!” is more varied in dynamics and spontaneous in rubato than in the 1945 recording. In “Dì tu se fedele” (Un ballo in maschera) Björling is more high-spirited in New Orleans in 1950 than in the studio in 1944: he plays with the rhythm, adds the odd embellishment, and performs (the second time with brilliant success) the fearful leap from high A flat to low C. And in “Donna non vidi mai” (Manon Lescaut) the words are more alive and more passionately projected at the Met in 1949 than in the studio recording a year earlier. And it must be said that Björling betters his earlier performances also in the operatic recital conducted by Alberto Erede in 1957 (available on a Decca CD), where he sings splendidly, and in unusually idiomatic Italian, a number of arias recorded for His Master's Voice in the 1940's.
The Italian role which proved perhaps most congenial to Björling (among those recorded complete) was Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut. It was one of the few parts in which he achieved a total identification with the character. Being reserved and in some respects emotionally repressed, Björling found emotional release in the extrovert passion of certain verismo characters (other examples are Turiddu and Canio). A sense of release that is all the more electrifying in that it is clearly the expression of someone who is used to controlling his emotions. He rarely fractures the musical line in the manner of Latin tenors, but that line itself is stretched almost to breaking point by pent-up emotion.

A similar expressive abandon - though at a lower emotional temperature - can be heard in many of the Swedish songs included in the EMI anthology, some of which he had sung since his childhood. It is significant in fact that even in the 1930 recordings - two sentimental yet attractive pieces by Wilhelm Peterson-Berger - he reveals an interpretative assurance absent in the operatic recordings made at that time. Here and in the romantic Ballads by Söderman (1957-59), Björling's timbre seems to reflect ideally the peculiar luminosity of the northern landscapes evoked, and he spins out the tales with truly binding legato. In a love song that Hugo Alfvén composed especially for him – “Så tag mit hjerte” (So take my heart) - the 48 year-old Björling apostrophizes his beloved with the timid delicacy of an adolescent. While in patriotic songs such as “Sverige” (Sweden) and “Land, du välsignade” (Thou blessed land) his fervent phrasing and open-hearted, ringing tone never compromise the perfect finish of the vocal line. Still more fascinating is “Tonerna” (Music) by Carl Sjöberg, that speaks of music as a refuge from everday sorrows. This was a message deeply felt by Björling himself and he sings the two verses with such spontaneity of expression that he seems to have access to the same source of inspiration as the composer himself (there is also an English language version with a piano accompaniment and a very different text).
Claude Levi-Strauss once wrote that “the invention of melody is the supreme mystery of mankind,” and personally I feel that no tenor better than Björling enables us to understand the depth of that mystery. Oscar Wilde on the other hand wrote that “real beauty ends where an intellectual expression begins.” He was referring to physical beauty, but the phrase is nonetheless applicable to the singing of this tenor, who had nothing particularly cerebral about him (if he had not been a singer he would have liked to be a fisherman), but who achieved in his moments of highest inspiration that limpid fusion of form and feeling that other more sophisticated performers have sought in vain.

Stephen Hastings is an English music critic who has been living in Italy since 1978. He has been Opera News' correspondent from Milan for the last decade and recently became Editor of the Italian magazine Musica. This article was first published in that magazine in the winter of 1998.

[We thank Harald Henrysson and Carlo Ceruti for bringing this article to our attention and providing preliminary translations to us, and to Andrew Farkas and Greg Fitzmaurice for their comments. Ed.]


Saturday, March 14, 2009


My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer,
A-chasing the wild deer and following the roe -
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go!
Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birthplace of valour, the country of worth!
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.
Farewell to the mountains high cover'd with snow,
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below,
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods,
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods!



Go n-éirí an bóthar leat
Go raibh an ghaoth go brách ag do chúl
Go lonraí an ghrian go te ar d'aghaidh
Go dtite an bháisteach go mín ar do pháirceanna
Agus go mbuailimid le chéile arís,
Go gcoinní Dia i mbos A láimhe thú.

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

FRANK SINATRA at his patriotic best



What is America to me?
A name, a map or a flag I see,
A certain word, "Democracy",
What is America to me?

The house I live in,
The friends that I have found,
The folks beyond the railroad
and the people all around,
The worker and the farmer,
the sailor on the sea,
The men who built this country,
that's America to me.

The words of old Abe Lincoln,
of Jefferson and Paine,
of Washington and Jackson
and the tasks that still remain.
The little bridge at Concord,
where Freedom's Fight began,
of Gettysburg and Midway
and the story of Bataan.

The house I live in,
my neighbors White and Black,
the people who just came here
or from generations back,
the town hall and the soapbox,
the torch of Liberty,
a home for all God's children,
that's America to me.

The house I live in,
the goodness everywhere,
a land of wealth and beauty
with enough for all to share.
A house that we call "Freedom",
the home of Liberty,
but especially the people,
that's America to me.

But especially the people--that's
the true America...

I FORGIVE Mr. Robeson for his alientation from America and Communist sympathies.



very worthy to listen to just for the glory of the human voice!!!

Just got this from a friend. ALEXANDER SCOURBY had a lovely voice; he also was my father’s classmate at MANUAL TRAINING HIGH SCHOOL( class of 1933 Brooklyn New York). My father did Shakespearean readings with Mr. Scourby

What a model voice! An American Ronald Colman…. Here we have, in my opinion, the LIMITS OF ART…

Mr. Scourby had the same mentor as my parents and godmother Mr. O’ Connor their 11th grade English teacher ! My parents spoke of their teachers and pastors and elders with respect and reverence and I know I am in part what I am because of Mr. O’Connor. No one knows him but he was a great teacher and a good man. The child of Irish immigrants from Galway. He hated not my father –though Mr. O’Connor was an Irishman- he often told my father that they were brother Gaels but now fellow Americans.

Mr. O’Connor was a great patriot of the old school. He encouraged my father to become a scholar in English as well as Foreign Languages. And as most of you know my father graduated from Brooklyn College; later (after WWII ) he did post graduate work at NYU but he never took his MBA.

Remember my mother –also a graduate from Manuel Training HS and my father were the first and only members of their families every to go past grade school and graduate from high school.

They felt they owed a great deal to their American school teachers –many were Jewish - a very great deal and to New York City and to America. Can’t every forget that –that’s why I could never hate New York.

My grandparents were fishermen, crofters, laborers and from time to time mercenaries –sailors and soldiers of the Queen.

But always the rankers, corporals and NCO’s ; my father always said there is no romance in being cannon fodder and so tried to diminish my romantic tendencies.

My father taught me that we owed everything to America and to forget this or deny it would be the height of dishonor and ingratitude.

So I remember the people I came from and their friends, teachers, comrades and associates. They are all part of our Splendid Ancient Heritage.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

It's a Wonderful World and Its a Wonderful Life

It's A Wonderful Life
Produced and Directed by Frank Capra, 1946
based on the story, "The Greatest Gift,"
by Philip Van Doren Stern
Screenplay by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett,
Frank Capra, and Jo Swerling
Starring . . . . .
James Stewart as George Bailey
Donna Reed as Mary Hatch
Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter
Thomas Mitchell as Uncle Billy
Henry Travers as Clarence (the Angel)
Beulah Bondi as Mrs. Bailey
Frank Faylen as Ernie
Ward Bond as Bert the Cop

1. Most of the film is told in flashback, beginning with various prayers
by characters in the story for George Bailey. What does this tell us about George
Bailey? ___________________________________________________________
2. What important thing happens when George is twelve?
3. The director Frank Capra wanted only one actor, Lionel Barrymore, to play the
role of the “meanest, most greedy, most selfish man in town.” What is the character's
name? ____________________________________________________________
4. What personal news caused Mr. Gower, the druggist, to get drunk?
5). What mistake has Mr. Gower made with his prescription?
6) What are the names of the policeman and the taxi driver?
7) The Bailey Building and Loan Company is a small bank which
takes depositors' money and uses it to build and mortgage low cost
homes for people who don't have a lot of money. Why doesn't George
want to spend his life working for the Building and Loan Co?
8. Mary has many values which are different from those of George.
Why doesn't she want him to throw a rock at the old Granville House?
9. What do you think Mary wished for?
10 According to Mr. Potter, what is wrong with the way the Bailey
Building and Loan does business?
11. Why does George decide not to go to college after all?
12. How has Harry's marriage after four years of college affected
George's plans?
13. Mary's mother wants her to marry Mr. Sam Wainwright. What is there
about Sam that would make him a better husband than George in Mrs.
Hatch's eyes?
14. A run on a bank is when people all try to withdraw their money at
the same time. What does Potter mean when he says he'll pay 50
cents on the dollar for people's accounts?
15. Where does George spend his honeymoon?
16. What is Mr. Martini celebrating?
17. Why is Bailey Park a threat to Mr. Potter?
18. How does Mr. Potter serve his country during World War II?
19. What did George do during the war?
20. What medal for valor has been given to Harry?
21 To whom does Uncle Billy allude when he says, "Some people like
George had to stay home. Not every heel (canalla/bad person) was in Germany and Japan
during the war?" _________________________________________________
22. What happens to the $8,000 Uncle Billy loses?
23. Why do you think George is taking the blame himself for losing the
24. Clarence decides to save George by jumping in the river himself.
Why does he know this is the best way to prevent George's suicide?
25. What is Potterville?
26. How has Martini's bar changed?
27 Who is the sleazy (slutty) woman the police arrest?
28 What happened to Ernie's family?
29. Why did all the people on that naval transport during World War II
die when a Kamikaze (suicide pilot) hit the ship?
30). What decision does George make at the climax of the film?
31. As part of the film's turning point, or resolution, what does the bank
examiner do?
32. What is the denouement (conclusion) of the film?
Of course, It's A Wonderful Life relies on a great script, captivating performances and the inspirational drive of its director/producer, Frank Capra, to deliver the essential message: every life counts and the result of kindness, generosity, self-sacrifice and - although not immediately apparent - is friendship, love, personal happiness and a better world.


To have little is to possess.
To have plenty is to be perplexed. Lao-tzu, The Way (or Tao) of Lao-tzu

True happiness flows from the possession of wisdom and virtue and not from the possession of external goods.~ Aristotle

In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.~ Ivan Illich (1926 – 2002)

The future of civilization depends on our overcoming the meaninglessness and hopelessness that characterizes the thoughts of men today. --Albert Schweitzer

The best things in life aren't things. Art Buchwald

This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.
John F. Kennedy



“The Nameless Lassie”. James Ballantine (1808-1877)Melody by Alexander Mackenzie. (late 19th century) SOURCE SLIPPY STANE BROADSHEET (N.D.)

There's nane may ever guess or trow my bonnie lassie'name,
There's nane may ken the humble cot my lassie ca's her hame,
Yet though my lassie's nameless, an' her kin o' low degree,
Her heart is warm, her thoughts are pure, an' O, she's dear
to me.

She's gentle as she's bonnie, an' she's, modest as she's fair;
Her virtues, like her beauties a' , are varied; as they're rare—
While she is light and merry as the lammie on the lea,
For happiness an' innocence thegither aye maun be.
When she unveils her blooming face, the flowers may cease
to blaw.

An' when she ope's her hinnied lips, the air it trembles a';
But when wi ithers sorrow touched the tear stands in, her e'e,
Oh, that's the gem in beauty's crown the priceless pearl to me.
Within my soul her form's enshrined, her heart is a' my ain,
An' richer prize, or purer bliss, nae mortal e'er can gain—
The darkest paths o' life I tread wi' steps o' bounding glee,
Cheer'd onward by the love that lights my nameless lassie's e’e!!!

This was a song my grandparents love and my parents knew it too. I first heard Kenneth McKellar sing it; he recorded it in the early 1960's.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Old MAN: THOMAS MUNRO, jr "Mbuti Teniente"

The tears have all been shed now
we´ve said our last goodbyes
His souls been blessed
He's laid to rest
And it´s now I feel alone
He was more than just a father
A teacher my best friend
He can still be heard
In the tunes we shared
When we play them on our own

I never will forget him
For he made me "what I am"
Though he may be gone
Memories linger on
And I miss him, the old man
[ Find more Lyrics on ]

As a boy he'd take me walking
By mountain field and stream
And he showed me things
not known to kings
And secret between him and me
Like the colors of the pheasant
As he rises in the dawn
And how to fish and make a wish
Beside the Holly Tree

I thought he'd live forever
He seemed so big and strong
But the minutes fly
And the years roll by
For a father and a son
And suddenly when it happened
There was so much left unsaid
No second chance
To tell him thanks
For everything he's done

Thomas Munro, jr son of Thomas Munro Sr was born March 10, 1915 and baptized March 17, 1915 at St. Anthony's Parish (Govan -South Glasgow) while he father was serving in the trenches in the Ypres Salient. He was a naturalized American having immigrated to the USA via Canada in 1927. He served his adopted country 1941-1953 in the US Army Reserve seeing active service 1942-1946 first in the Military Police (he helped unload German Afrika Korps prisoners in New Orleans in 1943) and then as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Transportation Corps (Pacific Theater Saipan, Tinian, Guam and the Phillipines). His cargadores called him MBUTI TENIENTE and he was the godfather to many Phillipino children and the witness at a few weddings and many funerals as well.

He died September 27, 2003 -a date I have known all of my life even before he died because it was the annivesary of the death of his kinsman DOUGLAS MUNRO who was KIA September 27, 1942 (Guadalcanal) and the birthday of my Spanish sister in law.
So to him I dedicate the OLD MAN

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Are there Bad Anes? (Badjins)

RE:” Is There Really Only One Human Race?”


I read with interest your piece on humanity and the nature of good and evil. It is a question that has long interested me.

As a teacher I do all I can to promote good habits –what used to be called breeding- or what you call upbringing and the Spanish and French call ‘educación’ or éducation respectively. It seems to me we do not have the proper word for this very important act or we have lost it. Breeding is the old Anglo-Saxon word for ‘education’, ‘training’ or ‘home-schooling’ but I am afraid it is obsolete, perhaps a victim of the eugenics movement. Of course, classical ‘breeding’ or training has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with discipline and good manners.

Liberals or modernists delude themselves –and so waste a lot of energy and money- by thinking all students can learn. Of course, all students CAN LEARN SOMETHING but how much they learn is really a matter of

1) discipline and habit

2) inspired teaching and association with great minds (via great books). We pitch ‘em but they must hit ‘em however as I like to say. I want students to learn but they must respond and take charge of their own lives and learning.

3) personal desire and aptitude. The student must choose to learn for his own sake and for the sake of his family, community and society. Yet the harsh truth is many people resist education all of their lives. The hardest thing for me to get over is the realization that some people cannot be helped or cajoled. They are goners. All you can do for them is encourage them the best you can and pray for them. One should spend one’s energy on those who truly want to learn.

And then there seems to be what my Auld Pop –a Scottish immigrant and former soldier- called the “bad ane, a bitter bad ane.” (pronounced”badjin” some one thoroughly bad as opposed to a “guid ane” (goodjin) someone thoroughly good).

And just what was a ‘bad ane”? A fause hairt (false heart). a blackguard or if we were to use what I believe is a Yiddish expression a “ no-goodnik.”

But the Highland word for this is very expressive as well and makes me think of your conclusion.

The best thing a man could be called, traditionally was of course, a “leal mon” or a “leal and true mon” or more simply a “goodjin”.

But the worst thing a man could be called was a droch bheist (DROCH VAIST) Or a “beist olc” (EVIL BEAST or MONSTER).

Mind you my Auld Pop was not a man of great formal education but he was a man thoroughly schooled in the character, courage and cowardice of men. I think it far to say he was a canny Scot and a survivor. A sailor, shipbuilder and soldier he sailed around the world three times and fought the foe on three continents. He was of the opinion that some people were just bad and so needed either a “guid skelpping” (chastisement).

Some people were so bad that one must avoid them at all costs. “Never seek a fight,” he used to say, “but never shun it either.” He taught me the wisdom of the Auld Book “Thou shall not Kill” but he had killed many times (chiefly in the line of duty and chiefly Germans and Turks). He was a gentleman and very kind to his grandchildren but he said: “To kill, “ he said, “in a war is something you have to do. In a fight it is kill or be killed. And there is an Evil Beast than canna be trusted or captured only killed.”

That was something that stuck in my head: THERE IS AN EVIL BEAST THAT CANNOT BE TRUSTED OR CAPTURED ONLY KILLED.” I remembered that when I read your article. Perhaps he was speaking of man-eating tigers or sharks –he had killed both- but in the context it was very clear he was also speaking of men. He believed, he firmly believed that some people were born bad to the core. This, of course, today would be dismissed as mere prejudice but he spoke with authority from long experience. “The teaching is strong,” he said, “but the blood is strong.”

My kinsman Major Norman Eliasson ( Bronze Star “V” for Valor in Ardennes, 10th Armored Division -nicknamed the Tiger Division- USA) confronted the SS in combat (I have a souvenir Waffen SS helmet kept locked up in a black box –he bad me never display it nor honor it in any fashion). So he saw the face of real evil. On April 27 1945, the 10th Armored Division, along with the 103rd Infantry Division, liberated the Landsberg-Dachau concentration camp. Many years later I visited the camp with my kinsman (I called him Uncle but he was actually my mother’s cousin). He told me "The Battle for Bastogne was no doubt the worst ordeal of my entire Army career. Hunger, capture and death seemed imminent every day. Under these circumstances you do some serious praying.” He narrowly escaped capture in the first days by driving all night in his jeep without his lights on, trying to find a gap in the German lines. At last he came to a German picket and –my uncle spoke fluent German- he decided to act the part of a German Junker officer and bluff his way through. As he told it, he terrified the slavish German soldiers –probably just kids- and drove right through the lines, keeping his head down. As he approached the American lines, he was being shot at from both sides. He turned the lights on the jeep –it took all the fire- and made his way to the American lives.

So he saw a lot of action and a lot of killing. But nothing topped the horrors of Dachau. The smell was suffocating, sickening. He told me it was hard to imagine how anyone could endure those depths of misery which included slaver labor under unspeakable conditions, the brutality of merciless, sadistic –often drunken- guards who seemed to murder for fun as well as delight and profit, sleep deprivation, starvation, water deprivation, physical and emotional torture, diseases, blistering heat (in the summer) and unceasing chattering cold in the winter. As he spoke German he interviewed both prisoners and guards. To live in Dachau was to live in Hell. That was the only way to describe it. And the Commandant was the Devil in chief and the guards themselves Demons. Public humiliation of the prisoners and collective punishment were commonplace. The most vicious form of torture –so my uncle was told- was to lock the prisoners up and deny them any water until they died. Under such conditions, he was told, the prisoners literally went mad and devoured each other or drank the blood of corpses. I often asked him to write down his experiences but he resisted it. He did not like to talk too much of Dachau in particular though he often spoke of his experiences as a soldier. My uncle told me that after Malmedy and Dachau many American troops shot SS troops on sight. He never said that he did it himself but he did say he saw rows of SS troops who had been killed, presumably after capture.

But despite all this my Uncle Norman was very fond of Germany, German culture and Germans. He was stationed in Germany a few times and visited Germany many times. He asked that German hymns be played at his funeral (he is buried in Arlington Cemetery). He told me that it was wrong to hate Germans just for being Germans. He told me many religious and gentiles suffered under the Nazis as well. One of my uncles’ favorite books Priestblock 25487 A Memoir of Dachau by Jean Bernard

He quoted Father Bernard, a Luxemburger priest, who had been a prisoner at Dachau who said, “We must forgive while remaining conscious of the full horror of what occurred, not only because nothing constructive can be built on a foundation of hatred ... but above all for the sake of Him who commands and urges us to forgive, and before whom we, victims and executioners alike, are all poor debtors in need of mercy.”

I suppose my uncle believed in the traditional idea of Original Sin which meant hat every child was potentially a greedy beast with an alarming capacity for evil. Hence the need for ‘breeding’ or training especially –in the eyes of my uncle- in ethics and religion.

But my uncle ,like my grandfather, felt that some people were ,by nature, almost totally depraved.

There were bad anes. (BADJINS).

But he reminded me, paradoxically, that even Adolf Hitler was not UTTERLY depraved and potentially could have been saved!

I will tell you that I found this shocking and still find it shocking.

I suppose, in theory, Hitler could be forgiven, but to me it seems his crimes are unforgivable. I remember telling my uncle if I woke up in Heaven and saw Hitler I would think I was in the wrong place!

But as evil as Hitler was, my uncle said, he did not kill his own mother nor murder his wife. I still was not convinced that Hitler had a chance in hell but being a polite young lad I listened.

He could have been even MORE EVIL than he actually was by, for example, being more moderate and devious in his hatreds and so winning World War II first and exterminating ALL his enemies later AND FOR A LONGER TIME. In a way, that is what Stalin did.

But both my Auld Pop and my uncle would have agreed, however, that there are some people who are ‘bad anes’.

“Aye, the is such people and perhaps they are incorrigible.”


May you encounter mostly good anes (goodjins) , Dennis.



Richard ("Ricardo") MUNRO

Teacher of English, history and Spanish

Bilingual Certificate of Competence (BCLAD)

Adjunct Faculty (AP Reader) ETS

West High School (Kern HS District)

Home of the Vikings

1200 New Stine Rd

Bakersfield, CA 93309

(661) 832-2822

fax (661) 831-5606

RE:” Is There Really Only One Human Race?”

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Mansions of the Lord

To fallen soldiers let us sing,
Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing
,Our broken brothers let us bring
To the Mansions of the Lord
No more weeping,No more fight,
No friends bleeding through the night,
Just divine embrace,Eternal light,
In the Mansions of the Lord
Where no mothers cry
And no children weep,
We shall stand and guard
Though the angels sleep,
Oh, through the ages let us keep
The Mansions of the Lord