The skewed perspective of a conservative Catholic employee-side employment lawyer living in the most exciting city in the Milky Way, Las Vegas, Nevada USA, who listens to a lot of really strange music and who, for some reason, lives and dies St. Louis Cardinal baseball


Jason Giambi: no cautionary tale here

Sportswriters, being prone to the pack mentality, are jumping on the idea of slumping New York Yankees 1B/DH Jason Giambi as some sort of "cautionary tale." Here, for example, is an editorial writer in USAToday opining that Giambi's example is a "huge steroid deterrent" and, yes, predictably, a "cautionary tale." But is it?

Going into tonight's road game against the Oakland A's, in which manager Joe Torre gave him a "pity start," Giambi was hitting .192, with three home runs and a measly six RBI, in 28 games. (Over the course of an entire season, that projects to a .195 batting average!) Quite the come-down for a man who as recently as 2001 hit .342, with 38 HR's and 120 RBI (.660 SA), while playing half his games in a pitcher-friendly park. And that was arguably a down year from his 2000, where he hit only .330, but with career best 43 HR's and 137 RBI. Giambi cashed in on those monster years in Oakland when he signed a seven-year, $120 million contract with the New York Yankees.

Then, in 2003, Giambi testified before the BALCO grand jury, reportedly admitting to steroid use, and his numbers have not been the same since.

Giambi never was a particularly well-conditioned athlete (in other words, he's no Barry Bonds). He's shrunk up like a leaky balloon since the BALCO testimony, which is consistent with one getting off the 'roids. He's also 34 years old, an age that it is not unexpected for a professional athlete to noticeably decline. And he has not even completed the halfway point of the obscene long term contract the Yanks gave him in response to losing the '01 World Series to the Arizona D-Backs.

Giambi had a remarkable six-year run from 1998 to 2003. Triple digit RBI each year. OPS over 1.000 in 2001, 2001, and 2002. Not a long enough stretch to be Hall of Fame worthy, but it got him a $120 million contract, TV commercials, fame and (I would guess) babes. So, at age 34, he no longer can cut it as a major leaguer. And that's supposed to be a cautionary tale?

More like a walking billboard for the juice, unfortunately. Giambi represents a Faustian bargain that many many young players will still find inviting. And if we can't be honest about this, then how do we ever expect to discourage steroid use when Giambi is horribly miscast for the role of "cautionary tale." Steroids may have dangerous long term health consequences, but Giambi's not yet a canary in this particular coalmine. He's merely a ballplayer who's declining numbers happened right on schedule, but perhaps a bit more steeply.

And, by the way, he's not coming back. He's 34. This is the second terrible year in a row for him, even worse than the last (.208 BA and 12 HR's in just 80 games). It's over.

Sainthood for the Great John Paul II

Mixed emotions from this report: "Process begins for John Paul's sainthood."

Normally, a person is not eligible to be considered for sainthood until at least five years have passed since passage from life to death. John Paul II went to the next life only a month ago.

I trust the Church absolutely on the idea of saint-making, or, more appropriately, saint-recognition. If anyone in the last thousand years is more worthy of an accelerated saint-declaration process than Karol Wojtyla, I am not aware. But still, need there be an accelerated process at all? Even for the Great John Paul II and, as worthy, Mother Teresa?

The Catholic Church does not "create" saints. It merely recognizes ones whose deeds following death cause us to know that they are in Heaven. If you believe this, as I do, then the purpose of the five-year "cooling off period" is in place to prevent the emotions of the moment from being confused with the directives from the Holy Spirit. The mixed emotions are not in regard to either John Paul II or Mother Teresa. It is fear of future line-drawing. These two are obvious candidates. But will the next candidate for accelerated sainthood be on par with these two? (And, indeed, how could he? or she?)

Pope Benedict XVI and the saint-making machinery at the Vatican know better than I. I trust them to do what is right. Nevertheless, I have some trepidation about accelerating the number of accelerations, notwithstanding the obvious sainthood of the Great John Paul II.

Sweden under jihad: no wonder it's called the "Stockholm Syndrome"

I recently caught this rather dispiriting blog-article from "fjordman" documenting the collapse of Swedish civil society. It is a portrait of a bored, wealthy (although not as wealthy as it perceives itself) culture that appears to have lost its collective will to survive. (Found via Rant Wraith.)

Apparently, internal Swedish muslim groups are calling for terror attacks within Sweden, including Theo Van Gogh/Pim Fortuyn style murders against anyone daring to speak ill of Islam. Crime is out of control in immigrant-filled cities such as Malmö, with the police having surrendered (leaving innocent immigrants at the mercy of the internal Islam terrorists).

This isn't just dhimmitude: the recognition that non-Muslims should be accorded significantly lower status in an Islamic Republic (as Sweden seemingly aspires to be). This is the aptly named Stockholm Syndrome: the psychological pathology that hostages eventually come to identify more with their captors than with their community. Swedish civil society is being held captive by Islamofascist thugs and Sweden's ruling elite reacts by crying for Swedes to surrender faster.

The myth of Scandanavian prosperity has long since been punctured. Multiculturalism will be the next myth to die in the frozen soil of the Land of the Midnight Sun.

My visited countries

The world map is far far less interesting:

My visited states

Courtesy of the World66 website:


50-1 shot wins Kentucky Derby

A 50-1 long shot, Giacomo, won the Kentucky Derby. A 71-1 even longer shot, Closing Argument, placed.

What a boring Derby. The 20-horse field stayed bunched together way too tight for way too much of the race. It was too difficult to follow.

To make matters worse, the winning horse was named for the progeny of Sting. The insufferable Sting. NOw in the sports history books.

Guilty pleasure Saturday: "So Hard to Be in Love with You" - Daryl Hall & John Oates

Voices was deservedly the artistic and commercial breakthrough for the most successful duo in the history of recorded music, the great Daryl Hall & John Oates. On Voices, the duo gave up all pretenses of being a "rock 'n roll band" (E.g.,,they made no attempts at "rockin' out" after the horrific "Alley Katz" from Along the Red Ledge.) They focused on being a great harmony-driven pop band, heavily inflenced by Philadelphia International R&B (appropos for a band from the City of Brotherly Love).

Unlike other Hall & Oates LPs, the album cuts on Voices are even better than most of the singles. My favorite track is the overlooked "So Hard to Be in Love with You." The harmonies are intricate and done to perfection. Present is the new wave influence of the ahead-of-its-time X-Static, especially in the opening drum lick that sounds a lot like that from the new wave/disco classic "Mystery Achievement" from The Pretenders.

The song is a silly nothing about being in a relationship with someone who travels a lot internationally. It's not typical rockstar "life on the road" drivel because the singer is the one who is homebound; the song is sung to the jet-setter, not by him. But so what? The lyrics are just an excuse to exercise the wonderful instrument that is the voice of Daryl Hall, complemented perfectly by his swarthy partner John Oates. A wonderful song o' the day.


Boomtown Rats - "Keep It Up"

The first four LPs from Sir Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats have recently been re-released, re-mastered, and re-bonus-tracked. If you have the Rats on LP, these CDs are worth re-owning.

The Rats were nominally a punk band, a very melodic punk band. Their best songs sound like Bob Dylan tearing through the Van Morrison catalog, as each artist was both lyrically and sonically a great influence on these Irish popsters. Rat music never sounded better than on these remasterings. The band sounds quite professional and polished, without a hint of slickness.

Their third LP, The Fine Art of Surfacing, was their artistic breakthrough. The first two LPs were masterpieces of pop hook-laden DIY (do it yourself) punk. Surfacing represents a great advancement in songwriting and musical craftsmanship. There are so many great songs, many quite intricate and deep ltrically, but for a catchy bit of pure pop fluff, "Keep It Up" is a winner. Song o' the day, material, I tell ya.

Amazon has the import CD for $25.99. That's a lot, but this one is worth a premium. Would be nice for a record label to do a domestic release at a nice discount. I couldn't wait for that day, though, so I bought mine from a British store off the invaluable GEMM site.

British elections

I followed the recent British elections. Not too closely, but from a safe distance. Like all good red-blooded American conservatives, I support Tony Blair, but I can understand that on British domestic and regional (i.e., European) issues, he's not (as they say "across the pond") my cup o' tea.

Putting aside the critical issue of who, precisely, was the Silly Party and who was the Sensible Party (the Liberal Democrats, apparently, would have been the Very Silly Party, or would that have been Sinn Fein), here's what I do not understand about the 2005 British elections that just saw Tony Blair returned to power with (New) Labour getting 356 seats (56 percent of the Parliament) on just 36 percent of the popular vote.

Labour performed disappointingly, worse than expected.
The Tories did worse than expected.
The Liberal Democrats did worse than expected.
No minor party really did anything other than the expected.

So how do you have an election in which every party, every candidate, has under-performed? Unless the consensus of the experts was that the three parties would divvy up 120 to 130 percent of the vote, and win a combined total of 740 seats in a 646-seat parliament, how is this possible? How can everyone do worse than expected? Please explain, someone, British electoral politics.


Chris Isaak - "Livin' for Your Lover"

What better song o' the day to choose on my birthday than my favorite song off my favorite album?

Chris Isaak released Silvertone in 1985, just as new wave and the new romantics was dying, but before "alternative" had been commercialized into a distinct genre. It sounded like nothing else that was happening in 1985. Truth be told, it sounded like nothing else that had been released since approximately my birth at the dawn of the '60s. The rockabilly "Gone Ridin'" was getting airplay on Washington's then-great WHFS (and, if memory serves, on MTV's 120 Minutes, or (better yet) USA's Night Flight, great video show that I think were still on the air then). I saw Isaak in concert at the 930 Club, wearing what I would later learn was called a "Nudie Suit," with his great supporting band of guitarist James Calvin Wilsey, bassist Rowland Salley, and drummer Kenney Dale Johnson. He looked, as well as sounded, like nothing I was listening to at the time. The concert was great. Not only was the music hot, but he was a riot, with his in-between song monologues.

I became a fan for life. The brief Silvertone -- even with a bonus track on the CD it still clocks in under 40 minutes -- never gets old for me. It is such an exuberant downer of an LP. Yeah, it's stylized, but it's a sincere and loving homage to so much great music from the cusp of the 50s/60s. Despite the blue mood, it never gets tiresome. It's probably my favorite CD I own.

"Livin' for Your Lover" is the closest things get to an update track. Not that that means anything. E.g., two tracks later is "Funeral in the Rain," a great song, but not the quicker-picker-upper, if you know what I mean.

Chris Isaak also is one of my all-time favorite live performers. I definitely would watch his show over and over. And he's coming to Las Vegas: June 2-8 at the MGM Grand. I'll be there for at least one show. Having a grand time.

Which means I am going to Montevideo, Uruguay

The process works as it should. Sometime, in Year 45, most like December, I vow to visit Montevideo, Uruguay.

Ever since I did a seventh grade social studies report on Uruguay, I wanted to visit this country. Why? Why not! Should I hit southern Brazil (Rio de Janeiro!) en route? Do I need to visit Argentina while I'm in the neighborhood, or will Montevideo have all the charm of Buenos Aires without the snobbery (and traffic fatalities)?

As I did the day-by-day selecting out vacation spots, Montevideo was one of the places that I kept hoping I would not eliminate. When it made the final two, I knew I was going to pick some place great. I picked the great international option.

I'm not going to New Madrid, Missouri

Today is Birthday 45. Actually, technically, it's my 46th birthday, since I was born on my first birthday, so my first birthday was actually my second, which makes my 45th my 46th. Follow?

Only two envelopes left in the jar. Either one would make a great vacation. I pulled out one, the last to be eliminated, leaving the vacation choice in the jar. I'm not going to New Madrid, Missouri.

New Madrid is fascinating to me, given that it's the unlikely spot for the most powerful earthquakes to ever strike the conterminus United States. I know they've long since repaired the damage done in the 1811 and 1812 quakes (except that done to the course of the Mississippi River), but still, it would have been great to get a look at the landscape from one of the most interesting geological events in U.S. history. It would have been the centerpiece of great trip through the Heartland. Of course I would have driven up to St. Louis and taken in a Cardinals baseball game![*]

But it's not happening in Year 45.

Footnote: [*] The Cardinals, by the way, are now 5.5 games in front in the NL Central and, at 18-8, are the only team in their division with a winning record. It looks like the Central Battle may be over.


City Boy - "The Violin"

A rock song, about an elderly woman sitting around ... hallucinating ... about a long ago young man playing ... the violin? Hell yeah!

My CD collection has one thing in common with "Canadian Content" radio stations. I own my records that sound just like classic Top 40 pop music, yet is something that regular people just haven't heard much. City Boy is one such group.

City Boy was a six-man British "prog-pop" group, i.e., they made hook-laden pop music that was deeply rooted in 1970s British "progressive rock" scene. They had a minor U.S. hit in 1978, "5-7-0-5," (#27 U.S. pop) off 1978's Book Early. But their best effort, far and away, was 1976's Dinner at the Ritz, an absolute hidden masterpiece of 1970's British pre-new wave pop. Dinosaur pop at the dawn of the punk era.

Every song is a gem. "The Violin" stands out. It is about as non-traditional of rock song material as it gets. An old woman. A violin. Let's rrrrraaaawwwwwwwck! It's gentle and delicate. It's respectful and reflective, without being maudlin or condescending toward its subject. It's great pop music.

Today's song o' the day, "The Violin," is dedicated to the best violinist who I ever had as a friend.

Does the Catholic Church need "de-homosexualizing"?

My standard reaction whenever I read Maximus at RomanCatholicBlog is: preach on, brother! His blog is normally dead-on in his defense of orthodoxy and traditional Catholicism in the ongoing struggle to defeat the forces of liberal, anti-traditionalists who would turn the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church into a mushy muddled (yet still more colorful) Episcopalianism. His views are desperately needed to be heard both within and outside the Catholic sphere.

Though I rarely disagree with him, I strongly disagree with his brief essay on
"De-Homosexualizing" The Catholic Clergy. We all have our particular, individualized crosses that we must bear. For some, it might be a temper, or being prone to violence. For others, it might be gambling, or being prone to substance abuse. It might be sexual. It might be women. Or men. Each of us is tempted by some sins more than others. And I do not think that a priest should be judged by which sins he is more tempted to commit than others, especially if the actual temptation is being overcome and the sin has not been committed.

As long as the priest remains celibate and is faithful and committed to the true teachings of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, what does it matter what particular cross he must bear? Put it this way: some are tempted by Brad Pitt, others by Jennifer Aniston. I don't want my priest telling me that he finds either of them "hot". There's just no good reason for it ever to come up in the course of a homily. It doesn't matter which, when his head hits the pillow at night, which one he sees in his dreams.

On the other hand, though, rather than Brad or Jen, if the one he is seeing in his dreams is Angelina Jolie, well, that's downright scary ... and that may be a reason to exclude someone from the priesthood.

I'm not going to Medicine Hat, Alberta!

The process of selecting a vacation option by eliminating one choice at a time, randomly, is a good way to gauge one's attitudes toward each individual option. When I selected the 20 places I'd never been, but wanted to go, I liked some places more than others, but I absolutely wanted to go to each and every place.

But as this has gone on over the last few weeks, I realized that I really have no interest in some of the places. For example, Costa Rica. I'm sure Costa Rica is berautiful: the landscape, the architecture, the people. But, now that I think about it, since I like to travel alone, the beautiful beaches and jungles would be deadly dull. For me. I don't surf. I don't snorkel. I don't climb. This is a place that would be a perfect vacation spot for so many people. I now know I'm not one of them. As you would say in a relationship break-up, it's not you, Costa Rica, it's me.

Of all the options, the one I grew to really intensely dislike was Medicine Hat, Alberta. I love the name, still. I've been to Mexican Hat, Utah, had an absolutely grand time there (seriously, Goosenecks State Park is an awesome (as in "awe-inspiring) site, as is nearby Monument Valley). Medicine Hat would have been the perfect bookend, no?

I have problems with Canada. (See, e.g., Bruce Cockburn - "Peggy's Kitchen Wall," supra.) I thought Alberta, being the most U.S.-like of all the provinces, could be fun. Drive to Medicine Hat, then drive up to Calgary and over to Banff (where I had been before, but certainly could enjoy again). Maybe even head up to Jasper. But that would entail spending money in Canada, and paying taxes to support the duplicitous Liberal Party banana republic type corruption.

I could have made an Alberta vacation work. I probably would have concentrated on Montana. I could have taken in the famous Cut Bank, Montana, Giant Penguin (which, really, should have been the vacation destination and not Medicine Hat, in the first place). But Medicine Hat, which made the final three, did not make the final two.


Momentum building for real filibusters

I'm one of those truly conservative conservatives who is against bending to the whims of fashion and abolsihing the Senate filibuster just because the Republicans can. Momentum seems to really be building for the traditional option, which some on the internet are dubbing "the Nostalgia Option." This is the return of the true filibuster.

The Dems say all that they want is to debate President Bush's judicial nominations. As a result, we have no debate and not enough judicial vacancies being filled. Worst of both worlds. (If you want to attribute this to the utter lack of leadership skills on the part of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who has allowed Harry Reid - Harry Reid! - to run rings around himself - well, I would not offer a counter-argument.)

The Dems want debate? Then it should be debate that we shall have. Return the traditional filibuster to its intended state, before Sen. Robert Byrd (D-Ku Klux Klan) in a naked display of power politics unilaterally changed the filibuster rule to allow these pretend filibusters. As TigerHawk said:

The prospect of John Kerry, Hillary Clinton or Ted Kennedy bloviating for hours on C-SPAN would deter filibusters except when the stakes are dire, if for no other reason than the risk that long debate would
create a huge amount of fodder for negative advertising. If Frist were to enact the "reform" of the filibuster instead of its repeal, he would sieze the high ground. He could take the position that the Republicans are merely rolling back the "worst excesses" of the long period of Democratic majority in the Congress, and that filibusters will still be possible if Senators are willing to lay it all on the line.
If you don't want cloture on a debate, then debate. This is a two-fer. (1) The Dem filibusterers look like idjits on C-SPAN 24/7 droning on and on about particular judicial nominees (how many hours before the remarks against Janice Rogers Brown sounds like unadulterated racism straight outta Bob Byrd KKK past?) and (2) the business of the Senate grinds to a halt. For us small government conservatives, that means they can't do any harm.

(Via Instapundit)

I'm not going to the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador

This is a sigh of relief. Dut to the recent political problems in Ecuador, wussy me decided that visiting the Galapagos was probably a mite risky about now. While I find all of South America to be fascinating and worth visiting (well, except for Bolivia and the Guianas), the timing problem is not right for an Ecuadorian adventure.

Just three to go.


Bruce Cockburn - "Peggy's Kitchen Wall"

Canadian singer Bruce Cockburn is the perfect vessel for my attitudes toward Our Neighbor to the North. My attitudes toward Cockburn perfectly track those I hold toward his native land. I once found both to be interesting, inviting, and worth a visit (or, a listen, as the case may be). Over time, the inherent smugness and shameless sense of superiority disguised as humility, plus the mindless leftist politics, got to me. I know find both insufferable.

Let's face it, Cockburn is really nothing more than an overtly political Gordon Lightfoot:

1. Both are Canadian.

2. Both are, ostensibly, folk singers.

3. Both sing in the same resonant monotone.

4. There's not a lot happening melodically in even their best songs.

I discovered Cockburn in the early 1980's. Cockburn's masterpiece, Stealing Fire, was released the same year as I took my first visit into Canada (for a Blue Jays game at the old Exhibition Stadium). I thought Stealing Fire was great. As this was still early in the Reagan Era, my politics had not shifted hard right (I'm a neo-conservative, meaning that I am "neo" to being conservative, meaning I once was a lib.) I thought Toronto was great, too. Just like America, only cleaner and more polite.

As the 1980s continued, I bought Cockburn LPs, but I was enjoying them less and less. The tunes were getting flatter; the lyrics lefter and preachier. And I started to notice that Canada was not as much fun. The smugness was getting to me.

By the mid 1990s, I had enough of both. This, of course, does not detract from the fact that Stealing Fire is a great record. Several of the cuts are great, like today's song o' the day, "Peggy's Kitchen Wall." A few, like the preachy "Nicaragua" or "Dust and Diesel" are clunkers/filler. This is the one Bruce CD worth owning. Alldirect has it with some bonus tracks for
$11.88. Yeah, he's insufferable now, but that does not detract from the quality of his early 80s recordings. Just like I would not enjoy Toronto or Montreal now, but that doesn't detract from how much I enjoyed my trips to those towns back in the day.

I'm not going to the Kona Coast of Hawaii

I want to go for the coffee! Hawaii and Alaska remain the only two of the 50 states that I have yet to visit. The Big Island, with its uncrowded beaches and lava fields, is what interests me most about the 50th State. A few days in Honolulu recovering from the jet flight, where I would visit Pearl Harbor and check out Waikiki, then I would be off island-hopping.

If I could afford Maui or Kauai, I'd go there. But, since I can't, I'm under the impression that the Big Island is the only option for the budget traveler. Maybe I'm wrong. But I won't find out in Year 45. My vacation selection is down to the Final Four. And the Kona Coast did not make the cut.


The Scorpion and the Frog: Terrell Owens and the Iggles

Once again, we are reminded of the old fable of the Scorpion and the Frog:

One day, a scorpion looked around at the mountain where he lived and decided that he wanted a change. So he set out on a journey through the forests and hills. He climbed over rocks and under vines and kept going until he reached a river.
The river was wide and swift, and the scorpion stopped to reconsider the situation. He couldn't see any way across. So he ran upriver and then checked downriver, all the while thinking that he might have to turn back.
Suddenly, he saw a frog sitting in the rushes by the bank of the stream on the other side of the river. He decided to ask the frog for help getting across the stream.
"Hellooo Mr. Frog!" called the scorpion across the water, "Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?"
"Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know that if I try to help you, you wont try to kill me?" asked the frog hesitantly.
"Because," the scorpion replied, "If I try to kill you, then I would die too, for you see I cannot swim!"
Now this seemed to make sense to the frog. But he asked. "What about when I get close to the bank? You could still try to kill me and get back to the shore!"
"This is true," agreed the scorpion, "But then I wouldn't be able to get to the other side of the river!"
"Alright do I know you won't just wait till we get to the other side and THEN kill me?" said the frog.
"Ahh...," crooned the scorpion, "Because you see, once you've taken me to the other side of this river, I will be so grateful for your help, that it would hardly be fair to reward you with death, now would it?!"
So the frog agreed to take the scorpion across the river. He swam over to the bank and settled himself near the mud to pick up his passenger. The scorpion crawled onto the frog's back, his sharp claws prickling into the frog's soft hide, and the frog slid into the river. The muddy water swirled around them, but the frog stayed near the surface so the scorpion would not drown. He kicked strongly through the
first half of the stream, his flippers paddling wildly against the current.
Halfway across the river, the frog suddenly felt a sharp sting in his back and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the scorpion remove his stinger from the frog's back. A deadening numbness began to creep into his limbs.
"You fool!" croaked the frog, "Now we shall both die! Why on earth did you do that?"
The scorpion shrugged, and did a little jig on the drownings frog's back.
"I could not help myself. It is my nature."
Then they both sank into the muddy waters of the swiftly flowing river.

(Emphasis added). I recently alluded to this tale in describing the relationship between the U.S. and France. It is so applicable to the recent goings-on in Philadelphia regarding their dispute with star WR Terrell Owens. T.O. Is a no-show at Iggle mini-camp. He wants to renegotiate his contract. And he's poisoning the team. Why? Because it is his nature, for that it what T.O. does.

Much like the scorpion in the fairy tale (and, yes, I know what I am doing using that phrase in reference to Terrell Owens), T.O. wants to go to the Super Bowl. He hops a ride on the back on Donovan McNabb to cross that particular river to get to the Super Bowl side of the stream. His motivations are wholly sincere. But in the middle of the crossing, he has to stab his stinger in the Iggles collective back. He genuinely cannot help himself. It is genuinely his nature.

The Iggles knew it when they signed him. They have been betting that they, unlike said frog, would be strong enough to survive the poison once T.O. has let loose, as all should have known he eventually would. Given the inherent weakness of the NFC, perhaps they will be. I expect them to be. T.O. is an amazingly talent receiver; but he will never be able to overcome his true nature.

Guilty pleasure Saturday - Petula Clark - "I Know a Place"

I know a singer. Petula Clark was to British invasion rockers what Sonny & Cher was to hippies: a TV-friendly, sanitized bit of youth culture aimed at the adult market. Both also made great timeless pop music that, in its day, was enjoyable to multiple generations and can be enoyed today without feeling dated.

Petula Clark is one of my favorite female pop singers. I remember her as a cute, perky blonde who guested on any of a number of American TV variety shows in the 1960s, like Glen Campbell. Pet peaked with her run of Tony Hatch written and arranged pop songs, from 1964's "Downtown" to 1967's "Don't Sleep in the Subway."

Her follow-up to her international Number 1 hit and star turn, "Downtown," was the great "I Know a Place," which hit Number 3 in the U.S. in 1965. Yes, it can be dismissed as a clone of its predecessor, lyrically and melodically. The soft verse and big bomming chorus. The tale of getting away to somewhere for a hip, happening party. Yes, been there, done that. But, hey, no one ever looked at a Monet and said, "Water Lilies? Again? Claude, some variety, please?" Yes, she's working the same territory, but she works it so well.

There are a number of great Petula Clark collections out there, depending on how far beyond the mid 1960s/Tony Hatch material you want to delve. Just about all of the collection will have the Big U.S. hits. I listen to my Pet on the 2001 Complete Golden Hits Collection, which seems to be difficult to find currently. It is 25 tracks, and includes a precious little 1920s style German language number "Casanova" straight out of a Weimar Era Cabaret. The allmusic site recommends the easier-to-find, 21-track The Ultimate Petula Clark, which goes lighter on the show tune fare, and readily available on alldirect for $11.88, amazon for $13.99.

Guilty pleasure? Maybe. Song o' the day? Absolutely!

I'm not going to Zagreb, Croatia

Croatia, the land of my ethnic heritage, is a place that I must visit someday. Start off in the capital city of Zagreb, visit the seacoast towns of Dubrovnik and Split. Head over to the Marian site of Medjugorje in nearby Croatian Bosnia. If I had more time, I could do a whole Central European vacation and visit Slovenia, or Budapest, Hungary, or Prague, or Sofia, Bulgaria.

All wonderful vacation ideas. But there will be no Croatia trip in Year 45 as Zagreb has been selected. Down to the Fab Five.

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