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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Here's to Tony Bennett on his 90th birthday!

I'm not staying contemporary for the big record companies, I don't follow the latest fashions. I never sing a song that's badly written. In the 1920s and '30s, there was a renaissance in music that was the equivalent of the artistic Renaissance. Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer and others just created the best songs that had ever been written. 

- Tony Bennett
Winston-Salem Journal, September 5, 2010, "Tony Bennett says a key to his continued success is being true to the audience", by Tim Clodfelteer

…his voice is still a technical marvel, and no one else on Earth can make a lyric written eight decades ago sound as natural as a conversation at a coffee shop.

- New York Magazine

Happy Birthday to Tony Bennett, the ageless crooner, who turns 90 years young today.  Tony was born Anthony (Antonio) Dominick Benedetto in Astoria, Queens. New York on August 3, 1926.  His parents, John Benedetto, a grocer, and Anna, a seamstress, were Italian-Americans.  John was an immigrant from southern Italy, while Anna was born in the United States to parents who had just immigrated from Calabria.

The Benedetto family, including Tony's older brother John Jr. and his older sister  Mary, struggled through The Great Depression.  John Sr. became too ill to work and he died when Tony was just ten years old.  Despite the hardships, young Tony found joy in music.  Growing up, he listened to artists such as Bing Crosby, Judy Garland and Al Jolson and such jazz greats such as Louis Armstrong.

Tony attended the High School of Industrial Arts in Manhattan where he honed his musical and painting skills.  However, he dropped out to help support his family by taking various menial, low-paying jobs.  His goal, however, was to launch a singing career.  To that end, he competed in New York City amateur night contests and performed at a nightclub in New Jersey.

In 1944, Tony Benedetto was drafted into the United States Army.  He served overseas in World War II and remained in Germany as part of the occupying force.  Upon returning to America in 1946, he studied at the American Theatre Wing, a New York-based organization devoted to excellence and education in the theatrical arts.  In 1949, the great Pearl Bailey invited the young singer to open for her in Greenwich Village.  After seeing the show, Bob Hope asked Benedetto to tour with him.

In 1950, Tony recorded a demo of a song called "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and producer Mitch Miller signed him him to the Columbia Records label.  Tony's first big hit was "Because of You," produced by Miller with an orchestral arrangement from Percy Faith.  He followed the success of "Because of You" with a pop version of country singer Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart."  In 1953, Tony had another big hit with "Rags to Riches."  As he reaches his 90th birthday, this remarkable music legend is still going strong.

What I admire about Tony Bennett is that he has managed to stay true to his music and to his audience.  He is a man who was born in the "Jazz Age" of F. Scott Fitzgerald.(Young people were dancing the Charleston when Tony was born).  Yet he still remains relevant in the 21st century and the "Digital Age.".  He performs duets with Lady Gaga, a woman 60 years younger than he, but continues to sing songs that are suited to his style.  He doesn't try to dress ridiculously young or to cultivate a cooler image. Tony's not phony.  He seems comfortable in his own skin.  He hasn't dyed his hair platinum blond or tattooed his arms just to appeal to a younger demographic.  Not only that, but Tony has a good sense of humour too.  He once stated: “I think one of the reasons I'm popular again is because I'm wearing a tie. You have to be different.”

Tony Bennett is all about his music and mainly his music.  That's why he's received 19 Grammy Awards (including a 2001 Lifetime Achievement Award).  That's why he'll continue to sing his signature song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," at the age of 90 and beyond.  By the way, Tony released "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." as a single in 1962.  He first sang the song in the Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

It appears that Tony Bennett has discovered the fountain of youth.  The man simply refuses to slow down.  He has a full fall tour schedule and he will be performing in Detroit next week.  Oh yes, according to an AFP story, he has declared himself in good health and "ready for a new collaboration - with Beyonce if she's interested."  He told NBC's Today show that his doctors "keep telling me, "There's not a thing wrong with you. Just keep going at it.'" Not bad for a nonagenarian, eh?


* Tony Bennett's 2007 autobiography is entitled The Good Life.

* Tony is an accomplished artist and signs his paintings with his real name, Anthony Benedetto.

* It was Bob Hope who suggested that Tony change his name from "Benedetto" to "Bennett."

* Tony Bennett  has been married three times and divorced twice.  On February 12, 1952, he wed Ohio art student Patricia Beech in a ceremony at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.  The marriage produced two sons, D'Andrea (Danny, born 1954) and Daegal (Dae, born 1955).  In 1971, he married American actress Sandra Grant.  The couple had two daughters, Joanna Bennett and Antonia Bennett (born April 7, 1974).  Antonia, now 42, is a singer.  On June 21, 2007, Tony married Susan Crow, a much younger former school teacher, in a private civil ceremony in New York City.

Tony and Susan Crow in 2008 
                                                                        Photo Attribution:
  originally posted to Flickr as Tony Bennett and wife, Susan Crow

* With Cheek to Cheek, his 2014 collaboration with Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett became the oldest artist to have a Number One album on the U.S. sales chart.  He was then 88.

* Fellow Italian-American singer, Frank Sinatra, was a great admirer of Tony Bennett.  In a 1965 Life magazine interview, Sinatra said the following: "For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business.  He excites me when I watch him.  He moves me.  He's the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind, and probably a little more."

* NBC will broadcast a special tribute to Tony Bennett. The two-hour program, entitled Tony Bennett Celebrates 90: The Best is Yet to Come, will air on December 20, 2016, just in time for the holiday season.  Guests will include Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Elton John, Aretha Franklin and Lady Gaga. Tony, of course, will perform some of his hit songs.

- Joanne

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Marvel Comics versus DC: The Great Interior Design Face Off

Here is a fun infograph about Marvel Comics versus DC interior decorating.  I hope you enjoy it a great deal.  Try to guess the winner.

- Joanne

Marvel vs DC - The Great Interior Design Face Off
Marvel vs DC - The Great Interior Design Face Off by Terrys Fabrics.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Trump and Terrorism

When I heard the news about the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France.  I felt like screaming "NOT AGAIN!  OH NO, NOT AGAIN!  A truck rammed into a crowd of revellers celebrating France's national holiday on the city's famed Promenade des Anglais Blvd.  At least 84 innocent people were killed in the attack.and hundreds were injured.  Police fatally shot the driver of the truck, 31-year-old  Mohamed Bouhlel, a Nice resident,   Bouhlel, a delivery driver and small-time criminal, was originally from Tunisia (He could just have easily been French-born), and has never been the subject of a terrorist investigation.  As of this writing, the motivation for the attack is unclear and it has not yet been determined if the attacker acted alone or in conjunction with a terrorist organization.

2016 has been a tumultuous year so far and there appears to be no abating.  It feels as if this is the summer of our discontent. The world news is dominated by stories of terrorism, racial unrest and an unsettling presidential campaign in the United States. The Republican convention begins on July 18th.  It is being held in Cleveland, Ohio.  The presumptive Republican nominee for president is a bombastic real estate billionaire by the name of Donald Trump.  Trump is a polarizing figure and he is also very dangerous.  Nothing I can say, however, will do much to change the minds of his most ardent supporters.  Despite his tycoon status and his luxurious lifestyle, "The Donald" is considered "one of us," not one of the "Washington elite."  Many older, blue collar white males have found a champion in the blustery New York tycoon.  He expresses their fears and their misconceptions. What he says may be racist, misogynistic and patently untrue, but he speaks their language.  They perceive themselves as being oppressed and marginalized. They feel their concerns are not being addressed. They anger needs an outlet. so they blame immigrants, women, blacks, Latinos and Muslims for their predicament.


Immigrants can't win with Trump supporters.  If they are gainfully employed, they are accused of taking jobs away from "real Americans."  If they don't have a job, they are described as lazy welfare bums.  Trump advocates don't blame the real culprits. They don't blame Wall Street moguls who caused a painful, debilitating recession in 2008. They don't blame American financial institutions.

This is not to say that the alienation and frustration of a significant number of Americans should be cavalierly dismissed.  Yes, of course their concerns and fears should be properly addressed. However, Donald Trump's solutions are faulty and divisive.  What Mr. Trump fails to understand is that true leadership is all about building bridges, not walls.

Donald Trump is a master of playing to the fears of his constituency, especially to their legitimate fear of terrorism.  His followers are of the mistaken belief that Trump will make America safer, that he will protect them from terrorists. Nothing can be further from the truth.  In fact, Trump is the terrorists' presidential candidate of choice. Extremists hope that he will win the election because he intends to build walls (literally and figuratively).  Trump's policies will convince young Muslims (native-born or immigrant) that they are not welcome in the United States.  Terrorist leaders will use Trump's rhetoric and his actions to recruit and radicalize Islamic youth. They will tell them that they will always be rejected by Western society and that only ISIS or Al-Qaeda will truly accept them.  They will give them a feeling of belonging, a common cause.

That is why a Trump victory in November will most certainly lead to an increase in recruits to extreme terrorist organizations.  It is these recruits who actually execute terrorist acts.  Many are disillusioned home-grown radicals.  It is they who are willing to sacrifice their lives for their cause. Extremist leaders simply provide propaganda and encouragement.  If Donald Trump ever occupies the Oval Office, terrorist leaders will have plenty of fodder for propaganda purposes.

- Joanne

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Tribute to E.B. White

E.B. White

''E. B. White was a great essayist, a supreme stylist. His literary style was as pure as any in our language. It was singular, colloquial, clear, unforced, thoroughly American and utterly beautiful. Because of his quiet influence, several generations of this country's writers write better than they might have done. He never wrote a mean or careless sentence. He was impervious to literary, intellectual and political fashion. He was ageless, and his writing was timeless"  
- William Shawn, editor of The New Yorker from 1952 until 1987

E.B. White's literary achievements were incredibly diverse.  Herbert Mitgang, in his New York Tines obituary for the great writer, stated that "Mr. White's writing was appreciated by generations of readers of every age,"  Not only was E.B. White the author of such beloved children's classics as Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little and The Trumpet and the Swan," but he published over 17 books of prose, poetry and sketches.  His adult books include One Man's Meat, The Second Tree from the Corner, Letters of E. B. White, The Essays of E. B. White, and Poems and Sketches of E. B. White.  He also revised and expanded The Elements of Style, William Strrunk Jr.'s influential guidebook for American English usage.

Elwyn Brooks White was born 117 years ago today (July 11, 1899) in Mount Vernon, New York.  He was the youngest child of Samuel Tilly White, the president of a piano company, and Jessie Hart White, the daughter of Scottish-American artist William Hart.  Samuel and Jessie had moved their family from Brooklyn to Mount Vernon because as E.B. put it,  ''Mount Vernon sounded tonier.''

In 1921, E.B. White graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Arts degree.  White, who was editor of his school's newspaper, The Cornell Sun, decided to pursue a career in journalism.  After graduation, he worked as a reporter for the United Press and the Seattle Times.  In 1927, he joined the staff of The New Yorker and was a contributor to the magazine for almost six decades.  He was best known for his essays and "Notes and Comments" pieces.

When cartoonist and author James Thurber came to The New Yorker, also in 1927, the two shared an office and played an integral and distinctive role at the magazine.  Thurber described his colleague as a private man who shunned publicity.  In his profile of E.B. White in Credos and Curios, Thurber wrote about how during their time at The New Yorker, White would slip away to a nearby restaurant to avoid a visitor he didn't want to see.  E.B., he said, "avoided the interviewer, the photographer, the microphone, the rostrum, the literary tea, and the Stork Club (a prestigious, upscale Manhattan nightclub from 1929 to 1965)."

At The New Yorker, White and Thurber were packed into small quarters with, according to White, "just room enough for two men and two typewriters."  Still, they managed to collaborate on The New Yorker's "Talk of the Town" section.  In 1929, the duo co-wrote a takeoff on psychology titled Is Sex Necessary? Or, Why You Feel the Way You Do, a book that featured Thurber's cartoons.  Thurber, however, left The New Yorker in the mid-1930s.

In 1929, E.B. White married Katharine Sergeant Angell, who served as fiction editor for The New Yorker from 1925 to 1960. They met in 1926 at the magazine.  E.B. recalled the moment of their first meeting in a 1980 interview with Nan Robertson for The New York Times.  He had already submitted "two or three short things" to The New Yorker, a then-fledgling publication.  "She came striding out into the reception room where I was waiting.  'Are you Elwyn Brooks White," she said, and I said, 'I am.'  She had a lot of black hair and was very beautiful."

According to White, their love affair was "stormy."  "She was a divorced woman," he told Robertson, "but a conscientious mother with two children."  "I was six years younger than she. We finally went off and got married one day."  Years after the wedding, he wrote: "I soon realized I had made no mistake in my choice of a wife. I was helping her pack an overnight bag one afternoon when she said, 'Put in some tooth twine.' I knew then that a girl who called dental floss tooth twine was the girl for me."


Katharine and E.B, had a son, Joel White (born 1930), who became a prominent U.S. naval architect and boat builder.  E.B. was also stepfather to Roger Angell (born September 19, 1920),and Nancy Angell Stableford (December 7, 1916 - August 3, 1996), Katharine's children from her first marriage to Ernest Angell, the President of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1950 to 1969.

In 1933, E.B. White and his wife purchased a spacious old farmhouse in Maine.  They lived there almost steadily from 1938 on. It became White's refuge, the placed where he enjoyed the privacy and serenity he had always sought.

While living on that farm in Maine, E.B. White was inspired to write his great children's classics Chartlotte's Web and Stuart Little.  He told American photographer Jill Krementz, “I like animals and it would be odd if I failed to write about them. Animals are a weakness with me. When I got a place in the country I was quite sure animals would appear, and they did.”

E.B. thought up the idea for Charlotte's Web after observing a spider at his farm. “I had been watching a big grey spider at her work and was impressed by how clever she was at weaving. Gradually I worked the spider into the story that you know, a story of friendship and salvation on a farm.

In 1959, Macmillan and Company commissioned E.B. White to modernize and revise William Strunk's English style manual The Elements of Style.  Strunk, who had been White's English professor at Cornell University, originally composed the manual in 1918.  The following year, Strunk's guidebook, was privately published for in-house use at Cornell.  It was then republished by Harcourt Press in 1920.  The original version  was a slim book containing eight "elementary rules of usage," ten "elementary principles of composition," "a few natters of form," 49 "words and expressions commonly misused" and a list of 57 "words often misspelled."

E.B. White's update of The Elements of Style was highly successful and it became know informally as "Strunk & White." Professor Strunk and his his student were both advocates of concise writing. Strunk's recommendation was to "omit needless words."  White, for his part, described the professor's little book as a "summation for the case for cleanliness, accuracy and brevity" in the use of English.

In 1961, Katharine White developed a rare and debilitating skin disease.  Cortisone treatments affected her appearance and caused her bones to disintegrate.  Toward the end of her life, she suffered five congestive heart failures.  She passed away in 1977.

E.B. White died on October 1, 1985 at his home in North Brookin, Maine, where he had lived for almost half a century.  He was 86 years old at the time of his death and had suffered from Alzheimer's disease.  William Shawn, onetime editor of The New Yorker, said of White:  "His connections with nature were intimate and ardent. He loved his farm, his farm animals, his neighbors, his family and words."


* In 1963, President John F. Kennedy presented E.B. White with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  In 1971, White received the National Medal for Literature,

* E,B, White never liked his given name, Elwyn.  He said, "My mother just hung it on me because she'd run out of names.  I was her sixth child."  In college, he acquired the nickname "Andy," after Andrew D. White, the first president of Cornell University.  It was customary at Cornell to bestow that moniker on students with the last name of White.

* E.B. White and Katharine were married for 48 years, until her death on July 20, 1977 at the age of 84.  It was difficult for White to adjust to life without her.  In 1978, when Onward and Upward in the Garden, based on Katharine's New Yorker writings, was published, he wrote in the introduction: ''Life without Katharine is no good for me.''

* Joel White died of lung cancer on December 5, 1997 at his home in Brooklin, Maine.  He was 66 years old at the time of his passing.  His obituary in the The New York Times stated that he was "one of the country's foremost designers of wooden boats."

* E.B. and his stepson , Roger Angell, were very close.  Angell now 95 years old, is an accomplished writer, essayist and baseball writer.  He was the chief fiction editor of The New Yorker for many years and a regular contributor to the magazine.  In its February 14, 2005 issue, The New Yorker published an article by Roger Angell about his renowned stepfather.  It is simply titled "Andy" and here are its opening lines:

Lately I have been missing my stepfather, Andy White, who keeps excusing himself while he steps out of the room to get something from his study or heads out the back kitchen door, on his way to the barn again. He’ll be right back. I can hear the sound of that gray door—the steps there lead down into the fragrant connecting woodshed—as the lift-latch clicks shut. E. B. White died in 1985—twenty years ago, come October—and by “missing” I don’t mean yearning for him so much as not being able to keep hold of him for a bit of conversation or even a tone of voice.

Roger Angell

* Roger Angell's older sister, the late Nancy Angell Stableford was a biology teacher.

- Joanne

Companies in Film: Where Would You Work?

Here is an infographic about companies in film.  I hope you find it interesting and fun.

- Joanne

Where in the World (of Movies) should you work? by Euroffice.