Way back when, I had a half year course in Japanese. We learned basic conversation, the Hiragana alphabet, a bit of Katakana and snippets of Kanji (the adoptive Chinese characters). I don’t have much use for the language anymore except for one thing — singing.  

When my granddaughters spend the night, I always sing.  Oh Shenendoah (see August 14,2011) and other fraternity songs.  And I inevitably launch into the famous Kyu Sakamoto song – Sukiyaki (Ue o muite Arukō).  I remember that tune vividly from my junior prom in 1963.   So when my granddaughters are closing their eyes, I’m warbling to them in Japanese. 

The song title means “I look up as I walk.”  It is about a man who walks whistling – while looking up.  So his tears will not fall.  Sukiyaki was released in Japan in 1961 and the U.S. in 1963.  Kyu Sakimoto (1941-1985) was an instant phenom.  For nearly a year (1963-4) Kyu was on a world tour — performing and appearing on television (including in the U.S.).  On August 12, 1985, Kyu Sakamoto sadly died in the crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123 — the deadliest single aircraft accident in history.  He left behind his wife and two young daughters.  

If you’d like to hear Kyu Sakamoto’s beautiful song – and visualize me singing it – click on     



All Saints Day

Sunday, November 5th was All Saints Day.  A celebration of all those men and women who have been canonized by the Church.  Do you have a headache? Then pray to St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). She is the patron saint of those who suffer from headaches. Are you a lawyer? Then St. Genesius of Rome (circa 300 A.D.) is your patron saint. Though perhaps it’s no surprise that St. Genesius is also the patron saint of comedians, actors and clowns. . . . .

Where do we find the saints of today?  Do we need a window? Or can we use a mirror? As I have gone through life,, there have been plenty of people who have been “saints” for me. Teachers, a judge, a college dean, friends, strangers.  And then there are those who have been saints to all of us.  Parents.  Relatives.  Founding Fathers.  Men and women of the armed services.  Clergy and laity.  Charitable organizations.  Volunteers.  Teachers and tutors.  None have been canonized but many deserve the title “saint.”   Who are the saints in your life?    

We all are equipped with the same tools to be saints to others.  Are you using yours?  


My brother-in-law’s favorite word to describe those of questionable intelligence is “knucklehead.”  He likes the word – and so do I.  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term “knucklehead” was first used in 1942 by ventriloquist Paul Winchell for his dummy “Knucklehead Smiff.”  The word was adopted to describe a “stupid person.”  There are dozens of synonyms for the word.   And there are millions of people who fit the description.  Many are in Washington. . . . . 

The word “knucklehead” is the name of a Canadian punk rock band.   It is the title of a 2010 movie and a 1975 song by Grover Washington.  It is the name of an indoor amusement park in the Wisconsin Dells and a bar in Kansas City.    The word is not derogatory as to race, religion, gender, ethnicity, culture or sexual orientation.  It is an equal opportunity descriptor for a really stupid person. 

I frankly can see limitless application for using this word.  In fact it can probably best be used for anyone who disagrees with me on any given topic.      

Addicted to Love

[A repeat from November 29, 2015]

In my post of January 5, 2014, I referenced some of the most popular music videos (which I happen to like). One I neglected to mention was the biggy of Robert Palmer (1949-2003). In 1986, Robert Palmer – a Brit from West Yorkshire – recorded the top-of-the-charts “Addicted to Love.” The corresponding music video was classic and catapulted Palmer into the national attention. In 1987, Palmer won the Grammy for best male vocalist for “Addicted to Love.” This music video can be seen at

The back up musicians – all women who are identically-clad and heavily made up – are thought to mimic or mock the painting style of artist Patrick Nagel. Robert Palmer – a heavy smoker – sadly died of a heart attack in Paris at the age of 54. But the women are still around. The ladies were interviewed by Yahoo at the 2014 Grammys. Interesting to see then – and now. Check out

Facial Recognition Software

Donna and I were at O’Hare Field last weekend – off to Florida for a few days. At the airport, I walked by thousands of people.  And I didn’t recognize a soul. One or two prompted a second glance – is that . . . . no.   And then – from a hundred feet away, I went – that’s JT.   And it was.   A golfing pal.   We chatted (we were on the same flight) and boarded.   We arrived at the West Palm Airport and again saw a veritable sea of people as we shuffled toward the exit.  All shapes, sizes and attire.  But not one person did I recognize.  All had the same standard equipment.  Face.  Nose.  Eyes. Ears.  Hair.  But all were different (some really different).    

After getting our luggage and walking outside, I spotted Bob and Carol driving up in a car.   I find it pretty awesome that we humans all have a facial recognition software hardwired into our brains.  We can pick out someone we haven’t seen in ten years in a crowd of thousands.  We can detect an old friend from across the room (“well look who’s here!”).  And these faces – and what we perceive to be an evolution of them – is reposed with clarity and order in the gray matter between our ears.   Some people change dramatically and become unrecognizable.  But most retain some of the remembered characteristics from years past.   I remember seeing Jon H. – an old friend from Boy Scout camp – at O’Hare.  I hadn’t seen him in years but I knew him in an instant.  It’s amazing how our brains work. 

Now where did I leave my keys. . . . .   

The Gutenberg Bible

No book has received the attention or acclaim as the Gutenberg Bible.  The first example of mass-produced printing using “movable type,” the Gutenberg Bible is surely the rarest and most unique example of the printing art.  The Gutenberg Bible was first produced by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450’s with the financial backing of Johann Fust.  The Bible was completed in an “edition” of approximately 180 two volume sets (Old Testament/New Testament) with perhaps 100 on vellum (no one is quite sure).  The great curiosity is that today only 48 are known.

I first became interested in the Gutenberg Bible when I acquired the rare book room of the Boca Grande (FL) Library in 1984.  The one rarity they would not sell was a page from an original 42 line Gutenberg Bible (grrrrr).  While it is speculated that the remainder of Gutenberg’s Bibles have been destroyed over the centuries, I have my own theory.  I believe that somewhere – out there – there is a copy or two of the Gutenberg Bible.  Lying undiscovered, layered with dust, laced with cobwebs and swarming with dust mites.  My daughter has suggested that I take a sabbatical to hunt for this treasure much as I did in the ’80’s when I traveled to Spain and Portugal every few months on the hunt for manuscript rarities.  I may still do this. . . . 

The last Gutenberg Bible (Old Testament volume only) sold in 1987  for $5.5 million.  Today, one might fetch $30 million.  Individual leaves sell well into five figures.  If and when I find a Gutenberg Bible, I may then go on a quest – to seek out the yet undiscovered ships’ logs from that 1492 voyage of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. . . . .  


[A repeat from March 18, 2013 – and Manual still stands there – every day]

Every day when I walk to work, there is a gentleman standing in front of the Corner Bakery across from my building.  He sells Streetwise — a weekly publication.  Manuel uses crutches to walk but he stands guard outside the CB from early morning until about noon.    Rain or shine.  I often stop and exchange a few words with him and ask him how he’s doing.  And I buy a copy of Streetwise once a weekStreetwise sells for two dollars though my math is not always good.

Streetwise was started in Chicago in 1992 by Chicago lawyer Judd Lofchie   The mission of Streetwise is to assist Chicago area men and women, who are facing homelessness, to achieve personal stability by providing them with a combination of supportive social services and immediate access to gainful employment.  Streetwise vendors are usually trying to make a go of it.  They are not to be confused with panhandlers. 

In my post of July 11, 2012, I wrote about Henry Nouwen – the great religious/spiritual writer.  Henry Nouwen in his treatise Out of Solitude wrote “The temptation is that we use our expertise to keep a safe distance from that which really matters and forget that, in the long run, cure without care is more harmful than helpful.”   Streetwise seems to be on the right track — offering cure, the all-important care — and a strong dose of compassion.