Where have all the rockers gone? Our idols whom we’ve followed faithfully and shown our support for them and their songs sincer our days in high school are no longer with us. Those who had plenty of years of life left in them decided to cut it short. Drug abuse, family problems, taxes and the law, the paparrazi and the media chased them from the mike (microphone), erased their abilities to create and export their songs, causing them to disappear without a trace.
But with one question: why?
After losing Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots), and Chris Cornell (Soundgarten) among many gift musicians, we’ve lost another singer in Chester Bennington from Linkin Park.
And he was only 41 when he hung himself.
A father of six children, Chester and other members founded Linkin Park in 1996 and gave alternative rock a new face with a mixture of rap, electronic rock, metal and lyrics that looked at the domestic issues that he and others faced in life. Being a member of Generation X, this generation served as the bridge between the Baby-boomer generation- which grew up on platinum records, Vietnam, sex-drugs-and rock and roll, as well as Billy Joel- and the younger generations of today, who are self-absorbed but self conscience, want to experience everything but are “Holly-go-lightlies” eating breakfast at Tiffany’s, and are well-informed but digital natives spending time buried in their Smartphones. It was also the same generation that has suffered from tumultuous times, having survived two major financial crises, 9/11/2001, and rapid changes to our own environment, while being sandwiched between the two generations, not having a chance to live the dreams we wanted to, working to make ends meet and not even thinking about retirement. All of these aspects, which resulted in the fight to find one’s identity and deal with all the personal issues in life were the themes of the songs he and Linkin Park produced in the almost 20 years the band has been together.
One More Night was the last album released by the band before Bennington’s death, having been in stores since May of this year. However, if there is one song that best describes his legacy, it is this one, Shadow of the Day, which was released in 2007 from the album Minutes to Midnight. Produced with keyboards and guitars, the song reflects on a person’s life and the need to move on. It’s walking into the sunset honoring a person and his work. Yet at the same time, it also means the rise of the next sun and the start of a new day with a new sheet of paper to draw or write about. This song definitely reflects on Chester’s life, leaving us with questions of why it had to end the way it did, when he left a legacy as one of the best singers in his time. It does leave a question of what happens next, and who will be able to fill in his shoes, just like we have to with our other heroes who had followed before that.
Especially when the sun rises again…….
Our condolences to members of Linkin Park and the family of Chester Bennington on this unexpected loss of a great singer, who left us with songs we will listen to for years to come, and a legacy that will be difficult to outdo. God bless you……
When I was a child spending time with my grandmother in a rural Minnesota community, I would spend my time in her basement, building and enacting a small community called Warnerville. Fictitiously located between San Bernardino and Los Angeles, the town of 22,000 inhabitants was an oasis surrounded by mountains and desert, located next to a lake and priding itself on professional sports. While everything was built together and up, using old boxes, metal rods and wooden boards, I brought it to life with a weekly newspaper, depicting scenes one would find in Minnesota, not California. That means, the model town was a deadman’s town, similar to my recent visit to the German town of Glauchau, in western Saxony, but its stories were typical of the ones that could be found in a local Minnesota newspaper, such as pen and plow-style gossip, crops and weather, local racing on the streets of downtown and a creative mentality that makes a traditionalist share the laughing and crying pillows! 🙂 While my grandma made sure her entire basement was not an urban sprawl (my town took up half her basement floor) and my dad dreamt up concoctions of the town being destroyed by natural disasters and toxic waste spills, my idea of the town and its stories came from my aunt, whose third husband was an art teacher at a small city college in Minnesota (specifically, Marshall), and up until their divorce in 1996, were passionate about listening to public radio, and in particular- A Prairie Home Companion. 🙂
Before diving into this topic, here’s a question for the readers out there, including those residing outside the US: Have any of you heard of A Prairie Home Companion?
A Prairie Home Companion was started as a morning show in 1974, being broadcast live from a theater at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was later relocated to the Fitzgerald Theater in 1978, where it has been its home ever since. The show’s structure originally followed that of several shows in Germany, in particular, the NDR Comedy Club (now known as Comedy Contest): live performance with acting and music combined with a little taste of home. While NDR’s show originates from the north of Germany, A Prairie Home Companion has a taste of Minnesota, with the likes of Guy Noir- Private Eye, The Lives of the Cowboys, News from Lake Wobegon, and all kinds of performances, capped off by the piece “Tishomingo Blues“, composed by Spencer Williams but the lyrics were added by the creator of the show himself, Garrison Keillor.
If there is a general rule for Americans, especially Minnesotans residing overseas or in Canada, you never know what American culture really is unless you listen to two hours of Garrison Keillor’s show and Lake Wobegon stories every weekend. Since being connected to internet at our home in Germany in 2009, my wife, daughter and I have been listening to a Prairie Home Companion on Sundays in the evenings at supper time, listening to fiddlers on the roof, people with Minnesota accents talk philosophy in the corn fields, celebrities impressing the audience with their solo performances, and Keillor advertising fictitious products, such as Powdermilk Biscuits, Guy’s Shoes and the Barn Machè Beauty Salon, all in beautiful Lake Wobegon. If one is wondering, Lake Wobegon is a fictitious town on a lake in central Minnesota between Sauk Centre and St. Cloud in Stearns County, even though Keillor in his show names it Mist County. A story behind the creation of Lake Wobegon can be found here. The show in general shows American culture, especially in the Midwest, that has been rarely shown in the classroom but should. The theatricals are scripted on one hand, but looks so real to the audience that after watching a live performance, the people become attached to American life from the eyes of the creator. All scenes are lively and the performers are really relaxed and into the scenes, sometimes intermingling with the audience. It is a combination of theater and madrigals into one, with some special guests making the show even more enjoyable to watch. Sometimes, the show gives the expats a sense of home that they miss but also have in their home country.
To give you an idea of what you are missing, here are some examples:
Despite all this, 2 July, 2016 will be remembered as the day people leave Lake Wobegon forever. Its creator Garrison Keillor is retiring from the show after 42 years. Born and raised in Anoka, Minnesota in 1942, Keillor is both a writer and a broadcaster, having graduated with a Bachelor’s in English at the University of Minnesota and starting his broadcasting during his time as a student for a campus radio station, known today as Radio K. After graduating from college, he started his career at Minnesota Educational Radio (now known as Minnesota Public Radio- MPR) in 1969, where he hosted a few programs, including the forerunner to the popular show, A Prairie Home Entertainment, which featured music that veered away from the classical music MPR had played before. The show was later changed to A Prairie Home Companion in 1971 and it remained a radio show until it was launched as a show with live musicians three years later. Keillor was the host….
…..and the rest was history.
Minus a two-year hiatus, Keillor was a host for 40 years, and omitting the four years in New York City, all of the shows have taken place in Minnesota, which he has called home. And it is good that way as when one calls a place home, it is the place where the person does his best. This was the signature of A Prairie Home Companion and even more so as a writer. Keillor has 21 novels to his credit, ten of which come from the Lake Wobegon series, which started with the first one published in 1985. A Guy Noir novel was produced in 2012. Three poetry anthologies and three poems are included in the mix. He also created The Writer’s Almanac, a daily post by Minnesota Public Radio which features a poem by a famous author, combined with some interesting facts about famous people, including writers, politicians, inventors and historians, just to name a few. Keillor intends to continue writing and producing for A Prairie Home Companion, yet come this fall, the show will become the care of another host, who will carry the torch and create his new version of Lake Wobegon. But even if the host, Chris Thile, has large shoes to fill and the show will be different, his previous experience with the show when Keillor was hosting will help him bridge the gap between the patrons who came to love Keillor over the years and those who listen to MPR and have heard of Keillor’s work, but are looking forward to a new chapter in A Prairie Home Companion.
For Keillor, there is this: Lake Wobegon brought the Minnesotan in this author, listening to his show and following the Writer’s Almanac from Germany. Like the works of Sinclair Lewis, including his famed literary work, Main Street USA, Lake Wobegon allows a person to close his eyes for a couple hours, head to a rural Minnesota town and enjoy the company of some interesting but friendly local people, while giving the author some ideas of what to write about in terms of articles, pieces for newspapers and even novels. And while I’m doing the first two, his ideas and stories from the shows are contributing to a concoction of events for a novel which I will get to soon. If published, I owe you a copy with a round of thanks, for bringing the two homes together for two hours on a Sunday night. 🙂
Before doing this send off, I asked some readers if they knew about A Prairie Home Companion and what they remembered about Garrison Keillor and a lot of ideas came about. I decided as a way of closing to provide the top Garrison Keillor Greatest Hits for you to watch and listen. Most of the Prairie Home Companion shows can be found on youtube, while you can subscribe to A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer’s Almanac via the Files’ Educational and Cultural Links (scroll down to the end and on the left).
This four-part series is the oldest to be found to date on youtube, dating back to 1987, shortly before Garrison Keillor took a brief hiatus. Strangely enough, during his hiatus, two shows bore out of A Prairie Home Companion, one of which is All Things Considered, which is still being broadcasted on MPR today. (Click here)
A friend of mine (from Minnesota) once mentioned that he was involved in a concert featuring Keillor and the theme on Halloween. This one’s for him, even though this is an earlier version and he was in the concert with his choir about five years ago.
Holidays, especially Halloween and Christmas were Keillor’s main targets for themes in his shows but also when he is live and in person at several venues, like this one.
It’s no secret that Keillor is a lefty in terms of politics. Still he enjoys adding some humor to all the political themes, some of which would never be discussed at the dinner table these days. On his last day of performance on 2 July, 2016, he received a congratulations and best wishes by President Obama, whom he supported during the elections and his presidency. Obama was a regular listener of A Prairie Home Companion and enjoyed Keillor’s Lake Wobegon stories while dealing with political issues at the White House.
Keillor has not kept one handicap back in his career, which is his highly functioning form of autism, which he was diagnosed a few years ago. He was never a person who looked at another person straight in the eye, and was a loner. Yet, he still enjoyed the company of many people from different backgrounds. From an author’s point of view, it never shows. And as a secret ingredient: the best people, and especially story tellers of fiction happen to be the most gifted. 🙂
Guest stars have been welcomed for over a decade, including frequent visitors, such as the Civil Wars duet, who stopped by Lake Wobegon for a dinner and entertainment in 2011.
Keillor could not escape the parody of the Simpsons, like in this episode (he was played by another actor, by the way). Just wished that Homer would take in the entertainment from a different perspective. He will before the TV series finally signs off.
An excerpt from a typical Prairie Home Companion show with The Lives of the Cowboys.
And Keillor’s final News from Lake Wobegon on July 2nd at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Over 18,000 people attended his final performance and an additional 10+ million listeners honed in on his final performance of his 42-year career.
I’d like to start this tribute off along the tracks. The sun, while baking two heroes walking to a small town in Iowa in the late 1880s, is setting slowly. The men, dressed as cowboys and holstering guns, are tired and hungry, yet their town they are walking to is only a mile away. They keep marching along as the train broke down three miles behind them because of a boiler that blew up along the way. Yet the explosion was planned as a party of six bandits try to rob the train. Yet these men, a toothpick and a big burly bearded man use fists and legs instead of bullets to ring them out to dry. After they were tied up, the two men walked the tracks to the nearest town to get help, only to find that it is empty:
Yet they enter a saloon and were met by hostile men wishing to pick a fight while drunk. Again with fists and leg power, they were taken down instantly by the two heroes with no shots fired. Some of them flew through the windows and doors. After chomping down on drumsticks and a good mug, the bartender calls for a doctor and other people willing to help the stranded, as a good gesture and as a way of offering thanks for making the streets friendlier again.
Now this can be found in many American western films with the likes of John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Michael Landon, Henry Fonda, James Arness, Sam Elliot, Clint Eastwood and even “the Dude,” Jeff Bridges. But these two heroes are known by many today as the Spaghetti westerners, known as Terrance Hill (the toothpick) and Bud Spencer (the big man). Today we are saying good bye to the big man, who passed away on 27 June, 2016. Despite their presence on the American stage, Europeans are more attached Bud Spencer than the Americans. Even I as an expat was first introduced to the spaghetti western films when coming to Germany 17 years ago. While perhaps a handful of Americans, mainly baby boomers, may know him for his films, here is a crash course on the big guy which will get many of you acquainted with his films:
He was known as Carlo Pedersoli and was born in Naples, Italy in 1929. He had a younger sister, Vera (born in 1934). In 1940, he and his family moved to Rome and thanks to the presence of the Pope, escaped most of the bombings during World War II. Italy was under the rule of Mussolini until his overthrow in 1943 and subsequentially his execution two years later. He married Maria Amato, the daughter of a movie producer, in 1960 and had three children, Giuseppe, Christiana and Diamante.
Before he became a famous actor, Pedersoli was an all-star swimmer, having started swimming at the age of eight and having won his first championships in high school at the age of 15. He later broke records for freestyle stroke for Italy and participated in the Olympics in Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956). Before retiring from the sport in 1957, he had collected seven national championships and was even on the Italian water polo team which won gold medals in 1948 and 1960. He was very athletic, having competed in and won several championships in rugby and boxing. His size and height of 1.94 meters served to his advantage.
Despite a short career as a pianist, Pedersoli’s biggest break came with an offer from Giuseppe Colizzi, an Italian western actor who was an acquaintance of his wife Maria and an admirer of his swimming career. Colizzi offered him to play a key role in the film “God Forgives, I don’t,” which he was to team up with another Italian actor, Mario Girotti. The film was released in 1967 but not before the two actors changed their names for marketing purposes. Giorotti became Terrance Hill, while Pedersoli became Bud Spencer, which was based on his favorite beer Budweiser and his favorite actor Spencer Tracy. For 27 years, the duo appeared in 17 films, including two Trinity films, Miami Supercops, and Troublemakers.
In addition, Bud Spencer went solo in 10 other films, such as Aladin and Banana Joe as well as guest starred in many other TV shows. His side dish career as a musician added some cinnamon and spice to his storied career as he produced two solos for two films in two years (1981-2), while releasing 13 albums and dozens of musical pieces to his credit. While most of the films have been translated into 20 languages, Spencer can speak only three other languages in addition to his Italian: Portuguese, English and German, although the first one was his primary foreign language.
The last interesting fact that is worth noting was his passion for flying. After starring with Terrance Hill in the film, All the Way, Boys, in 1972, where they played airplane pilots in Columbia, Bud Spencer decided to take up flying, which was for him the symbol of freedom and passion. He took flying lessons and clocked up 2000 hours flying several different airplanes and jets as well as 500 hours of flying with the helicopter. He flew for 35 years, flying not only for business and pleasure, but also utilizing his talents as a pilot for later films. He even founded Mistral Air in 1981, which became one of the well-known freight airlines in Italy. He later sold it to a larger company.
While many people in America think that guns are the answer to all conflicts, they should also see how Bud Spencer handled all his problems in his films, with a fist full of coins and dollars. When seeing him in action (especially together with Terrance Hill), the first characteristic that comes to mind is his size and wit. The second is always the fist, taking down fools who dared to try and mess with him. Some examples at the end of the article will show his signature character.
Yet not all fighters and “bouncer-actors” did not live like that alone. Hulk Hogan is an artist, Road Warrior Animal became a priest, and Bruce Lee was a writer and teacher. With Bud Spencer, he was a man of multiple talents, whether it was an aviator, writer, musician or even an inventor (he invented and patented 12 items in his lifetime). One can learn a lot from the big guy himself- a person of justice and a spaghetti westerner on the set, but a well-talented Luciano Pavoratti off the set. Therefore one should open up to a guy who, like Spencer, is a teddy bear with a heart. And as Bud Spencer and his counterpart head off into the sunset, with food, supplies and some help from other locals to rescue the people stranded outside the small town, we have one word to say for what you’ve done through the years and what you’re continuing to do in Heaven, Bud: Grazi/ Danke/ Thanks!
The Flensburg Files would like to pay homage and tribute to Bud Spencer, thanking him for showing his talents both on and off the stage. He will be missed by many who watched his films over the years. For those who have yet to watch a spaghetti western, you have 30+ reasons to do that and Bud Spencer and Terrance Hill will show you why. After watching some of their films since coming here in 1999, all I can say is you don’t know what you are missing. 🙂
Author’s Note: This is a throwback article going back to 2014, when the world lost one of the best comedians in the business, Robin Williams. He was a great figure for people of all generations and from all aspects of life. This article comes with a small addition at the end.
Somewhere on the beaches of Travemünde (in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein), where kite-flying is one of the most popular sports to find along the Baltic Sea, traces of Robin Williams will be found, either in a form of kites, or the sound of the radio with his voice on there, doing his finest impersonations, and making people very happy, laughing all day and making their day. Yet the news of Mork being found dead in his home in California, breaking Mindy’s heart is not typical of the comedian. In fact, we are all speechless, trying to find answers as to why he left so soon- at a young age of 63, but many miles to go in his career.
Leonard Nimoy once coined his famous term while saving Krusty the Clown from jumping off the Monorail in the Simpsons (in 1998): The World needs laughter. Logically speaking, yes- in dark times as well as in the age of euphoria, we do need some laughter to make our day. Robin ensured that we would receive it, either as an actor, a stand-up comedian, or anything that is Hollywood-related.
Yet as we pay our respects to the greatest comedian with many faces, it makes me wonder if Robin had not been not a comedian or an actor, how he would have fared out in other professions. After all, as some people become greats in their careers, others keep looking for the right fit, even in their 50s. I dug out some examples of alternative careers that one could see Robin playing a role in, in real life. Let’s take a look at some of them:
Doctor: An apple a day can keep the doctor away. Yet if it is imminent, a doctor visit can chase the sickness away. Especially for children and the elderly, doctors can cheer them up and just be plain funny, as is seen in the clip from the film, Patch Adams. Robin played the medical student doing his internship at a hospital, despite having been in a mental institute for depression at the beginning of the film. Based on a true story, the actor showed that you can (and should) have a little bit of humor when treating patients, as happiness and humor go hand-in-hand in treating and curing (almost) all illnesses. Perhaps he would have done the same as a doctor, which if it was the case, he would have been honored in a film bearing his name: Dr. Rob, or Dr. Willie, or something like that.
Radio Talk Show: Closer to his role would have been a talk show host on radio. Of all the radio talk shows that exist, any show with his name on there would rake in more viewers than the Jay Leno, Rachel Madow, David Letterman, and Rush Limbaugh shows combined. Why? No biases, no bashing celebrities. Just some humor, turning any current event scenes into something worth laughing at while driving. Jokes and impersonations of celebrities would belong to what would have been a masterpiece, had he gone into radio instead of acting. Example would be in Good Morning, Vietnam, where Williams played a radio DJ for a station in Saigon, starting off with Goooooooooooooood Mooooooooooooooooooooorning Vietnam! The best scenes from the film can be found here:
Politician: Ronald Reagan would not have had a prayer in the 1980 and 1984 Presidential elections. George W. Bush just would not get it in 2000 and 2004. Sarah Palin would have been taken to the cleaners for reading her script in the Vice Presidential TV debate in 2008. Mitt Romney’s pleas for a “Return to Normalcy under Bush” would have fallen on deaf ears, had Robin Williams ran for political office, even as President, and won in the process by a landslide. It would have kept every viewer glued to the One-eyed Monster 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and the social networks would have been blooming with likes and comments. Yet, as history serves itself, a promise needs to bring practice, as was seen with previous actors who ran for political office- most notably, Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yet the results of Williams’ run would have been more than marginal, as seen in his political satire presented by the likes of Monty Python in the link below:
Cook/Au Pair:I used to work for a restaurant in Iowa while in college and was taught the golden rule of food service: Always make the customer happy, no matter what. These words came from the owner who had gotten his lesson from his father, who had owned a restaurant in Minnesota for over 50 years before retiring in 2008. Could you have imagined Williams working in the restaurant business, or even as au pair had he not gone into showbusiness? Look at this scene and decide for yourself. As the father of the restaurant in Minnesota died two weeks ago and was honored yesterday for his service, I’m sure he and Williams will get along in the business in Heaven:
Teacher/Professor:Like in the doctor role, Robin would have been honored by Hollywood in a film bearing his name, had he decided to become a professor or a teacher. Speaking from experience, a teacher has to be creative, flexible, funny and a person who provides food for thought in order to become a great and have people follow you. This was what he did, playing the role of Mr. Keating in Dead Poet’s Society, winning the hearts of his students of literature at a private college in the northeast of the US. Yet in all reality, being a professor and having such liberal thoughts, using the logo Carpe Diem to encourage students to be successful, may not be to the liking of some (conservative) universities, but to others, they would embrace him and his work in (yes, definitely imagineable), literature. Here is an example of his barbaric yawp in Dead Poet’s Society, where the Captain shows the students for the first time, the meaning of life in literature:
Diplomat: Can you imagine Robin Williams as a diplomat? If you look at a scene where Mork meets Fonz, one could say, yes. Diplomats are open-minded to different customs from different regions, willing to trade values and learn from one another. Had Williams been an ambassador to the United Nations or a US Ambassador, he would have found very successful ways to breaking down barriers, taming countries out of control and even coming up with universal solutions that everyone would have been happy with. Sometimes a smooth and good-humored person bringing a certain sort of magic to Geneva and New York makes meeting international diplomats more enjoyable and entertaining, right?
We will never know which alternative role he would have taken, had he decided on calling it quits. But maybe he did not need to do that, as he made so many people laugh and made a difference in millions of lives. He helped out many who wished to become comedians and actors, yet with his passing, it will definitely be difficult to fill in his shoes, if not impossible. We will never know why Robin Williams left us so soon, as we learned a great deal from him, growing up, watching Mork and Mindy, as well as his films. As a teacher I sometimes refer to his films for guidance and ideas for classes. Others have done the same for their purposes. In either case, he will never know how many of us miss him, or let alone, as drive into the sunset, how many radio shows will play the best of him from his many films that will still continue to play in theaters. He is the man that cannot replaced.
Both the Files and the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to say thank you to Robin Williams for his work and to his family and friends for making him one of a kind. He will be sorely missed but not forgotten.
This week’s genre of the week is a rather somber one, if one has been paying attention to the latest reports on the worst massacre in United States history since Wounded Knee in 1890. It happened in the morning of 12 June, 2016 where a gunman opened fire on a crowd of people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 49 people were killed, more than 50 were injured. The motive seems to focus on terrorism and hatred towards homosexuals, which constituted for most of the people being at the nightclub at the time of the shooting. Since the shooting, heated discussions on how the US should react to the shootings have ballooned in the social network with massive amounts of mudslinging and name-calling on people whose suggestions might even save their lives. The hint is gun control- having people purchasing guns for the first time go through psychometric tests while at the same time have their guns registered and coded to ensure they remain in the right hands. The hints mentioned by opponents consist of stopping Muslims from entering the US; some jeered that the victims were homosexuals and that their choice was like signing a pact with the devil. These suggestions are way too far fetched and can result in the US becoming isolated from its European neighbors.
And while this massacre will result in significant changes in one way or another, the question is how can we do this. One suggestion is shot down by another, people pointing fingers at others, and lots of mudslinging have overshadowed the problems that are affecting American society for years, which includes integrating people of all aspects, tackling social problems which is causing violence and lastly, learning to accept people of different backgrounds. As a former CIA agent mentions in an interview, our problem is we don’t listen to others, but think about ourselves. This selfishness wreaps its own awards and our results are what we see right now.
Instead, why not listen to others and look at the real situation instead of believing in the gossip? This is where this song comes into mind. “For What It’s Worth” was produced in 1966 by the band Buffalo Springfield. Featuring Stephen Stills (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Dewey Martin (drums, vocals), Bruce Palmer (electric bass), Richie Furay (guitar, vocals), and Neil Young (guitar, harmonica, piano, vocals), the band released the song in response to the police riots and protests against Vietnam War. The song received the gold record and other accolades before the members broke off to pursue their own careers. Neil Young, although having a great solo career, joined Stephen Stills and two other musicians to form Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, where their accapella and folk music, developed from Buffalo Springfield, was carried on and many songs became successful during the 1970s and 80s. After 48 years, the band broke up recently, citing age and conflicts within the group. But nevertheless, Buffalo Springfield’s song should serve as a reminder that our decisions do produce consequences, and that problems that have been ignored for years have gotten bigger. And unless we do something about it, let alone before we don something about the problems at hand we have to…..
The Flensburg Files and the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to dedicate this to the family and friends of as well as the victims of the Orlando massacre. Your lives matter, no matter what you do in life. We matter because we want you to be happy. And when we fall victim to hatred and engage in savagery, then we need to look at why and find a solution that is constructive, safe and harmonious. We don’t care about your preferences or backgrounds. We only care about you because we love you for who you are. That is why openess is bliss and ignorance is nothing but piss.
The world has been mourning the greatest boxer in the world, Muhammad Ali, as he died on 3 June of resipratory illness. The boxer lost only five matches in his 20+ year career, winning the world heavyweight belt three times and fought with the best. Ali was also an icon outside the ring, where his devotion to Islam, support for equal rights between Blacks and Whites and his rejection of his entry to the Vietnam War was loved by many, but hated by some. His controversial decisions will remain disputable for years to come.
Having grown up watching the Ali fights and reading up on his advocacy on rights, one would wonder if there was something Ali should be remembered by in addition to what was mentioned. After having rumaged through some videos and interesting facts, I came across one interesting aspect worth mulling about and that is about life. Not the life that he wanted to live beyond boxing. That can be found in this powerful documentary below:
Ali wanted to give back to the community as a way of saying thanks for the support and showing his support for the people who look to him as guidance. During the age of segregation and racial tension, there was not much for effort as far as coming to terms and finding common ground between the two parties, for both sides pointed their fingers at each other and showed their pride in ways that angered the people in general. Yet despite facing segregation by not even being treated as king at a white-only restaurant, let alone spending time in prison for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War, Ali showed society that there is a way to end such conflicts and hatred, by showing one’s goodness and doing something that will make a difference.
Life is based on giving back something good to society, realizing that there is only a certain amount of life there is to live. And when your time comes, there will be a place in the afterlife, no matter what it is. This was Ali’s slogan. He had a lot of religious discussions and other speeches about his career, but as you can see in these example speeches, one has a life to live and should do something during that lifespan in order to earn one’s place in the end. It doesn’t matter which religious affiliation, social background and other handicaps a person has. If there is a will and an idea, it can be done without delay. Check out the greatest speeches below:
Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Speeches:
Keeping this in mind, it makes me wonder, being speechless in the last couple years, what Muhammad Ali would say to the current situation our society has: with the environment running astray at the cost of the livelihoods of millions, many refugees moving to regions where they are not welcomed by the majority of the population and nationalism on the rise- even in the US- what he would have to say to the public had he been asked to speak, despite his suffering from Parkinson’s. How would encourage the people to end this nonsense that people like Donald Trump and Frauke Petry are saying to the public as a way of stirring up hatred and segregation? I doubt his speeches would be like the ones above, but he would have definitely made waves regardless of how he would address it.
But I will still wonder, even when he moves on leaving his legacy behind for others to learn about…..
The Flensburg Files would like to dedicate this in honor and memory of the man who flew like a butterfly and stung like a bee in many ways in and out of the ring. Muhammad Ali will be missed but will forever be one of the pieces of American culture and heritage that will be in its place forever. Many thanks for your contributions and powerful speeches over the years, and God Bless. ❤
This is a throwback article dating back to 5 October, 2010. One of the first articles written since its inception, this one is a tribute to a writer who created many US TV-series and inspired many, like yours truly to bleed ink. After doing some major make-overs, this one is still for you for your work, Mr. Cannell. I just want your written approval and not your typewriter, that’s all. 😉
This file starts off with a question for you to try and answer: What do Hunter, The Rockford Files, The A Team, and The Greatest American Hero have in common? Any guesses? (guess first before scrolling down)
They are the work of a famous Hollywood screenwriter. That’s one hint. Any further guesses? (down further AFTER you take another stab at it)
Last one: He was famous for his closing slogan with him typing on a typewriter one second then ripping out the page and flies away forming the letter C. One last shot……
OK. So there are many who probably don’t know this person. I know in Germany and parts of Europe, almost no one has heard of this person. But people like yours truly did grow up with this writer and enjoyed much of his work during his career. Unfortunately because of his sudden death on 30 September of this year as a result of melanoma- the deadliest of all cancers- we are now mourning an icon who plastered the airwaves with his work, most of which came from the 1970s and 80s. His name was Stephen J. Cannell.
Since many people probably don’t know much about the gentleman, this file entry will take you through his life and his work briefly, while at the same time discuss the importance of his closing slogan, something I never knew to have existed until stumbling across a website with a library’s worth of archives over the weekend. So without ado, let’s go to work.
Born in 1941 in Los Angeles, was raised in Pasadena and a graduate of the University of Oregon, Mr. Cannell’s career as a screen writer began when he submitted a script entitled “It Takes a Thief” to Universal Studios in 1968. He was hired by the television arm of the studios and started his career as a writer straight away, gathering not only a number of TV shows he wrote and produced over the years but also gaining his popularity. In the 40+ years he was in the business, all but two TV series he wrote for were distributed through Universal, even though his office was at rival motion picture studio Paramount. This included the quartet of B.A., Hannibal, Face, and Murdock, deserted Vietnam soldiers who helped people who were in need when the law did not help them. The group, known as the A-team, spent four years on TV in the USA (1983-1987), and inspired much of the youth of that time to become like them and take the advice of the actor of B.A., Mr. T:
Don’t be a fool! Stay in school!
The two that were written by Cannell and were not distributed through Universal were the same ones I mentioned earlier: The Greatest American Hero and Hunter, the latter was a series consisting of a male cop named Rick Hunter and his female partner Dee Dee McCall, whose mission was to fight crime for the city of Los Angeles. That series lasted six years, ending in 1991. The Greatest American Hero depicts a teacher who encounters a UFO, is given a red flying suit and special powers to help people and take out the criminals. It was around for only three seasons (1980-3) but the theme song still plays on in many radio stations, and even the actor, William Katt is creating a comic strip based on that superhero dressed in a red piece caped outfit.
But of all the TV shows he had written plus at least a half a dozen books he wrote over the years (the last one “The Prostitute’s Ball” was released shortly before his passing), the most important feature that was typical of Cannell was the closing slogan. For those who don’t know, the closing slogan is produced by a motion picture studio and runs for only a few seconds right after the end credits are presented. This is only common in the USA as one can seldom see it in Europe. In fact, closing slogans can normally be found through state-run public TV services like the BBC in the UK and ARD and ZDF in Germany. During the time of the Cold War when both Germanys were divided, there was nothing of that kind in East Germany, where I’m living (specifically in Erfurt).
One might think that the closing slogans of a motion picture studio represent the tiniest aspect of life- a mosquito which flies around saying Here I am. I’m ready for the next meal! only to be quashed by its irrelevance. However, when I found out about Cannell’s passing and came across the website containing the archives of closing slogans for all motion picture studios- disregarding the type that exists- I found that there were people out there that have a passion for this hobby and wanted to share this with the rest of the audience. Well, they gained one this past weekend as I went through the library and saw how each closing slogan was described in detail, ranging from its appearance on TV to the music score, to even the degree of frightfulness of each closing slogan!!! This is weird; especially with regard to the third variant, but to understand it more further, I have an example of one with regard to Mr. Cannell’s partner, the motion picture studio Universal and its TV studio arm.
We all associate Universal Studios with the revolving globe, but the origins of it go as far back as 1962, after the TV studios was created thanks to the purchase of Decca Records by MCA Inc. Decca owned Universal Pictures at the time of its merger.Â Over the years up until its current slogan was introduced in 1997, the only changes that were made to the globe were the size and type of the fonts, which remained gold and yellow in color, with the name Universal sticking out. The subheadings above and below the UNIVERSAL name were the only variants that changed throughout the years with the bottom subheading representing the company that owned the TV studios, MCA, which was later replaced with the website of Universal Studios in 1998.
As for the music that went along with that, up until 1985, the score consisted of something resembling a jazz ensemble, consisting of French horns, tubas, trombones, and in the case of one score that existed between 1976 and 1982, the rumbling of the bass drum into a crescendo. The degree of scariness was extreme, as there were reports of people having nighmares involving this music score. It was later changed to feature the keyboard, then the orchestra, and when the slogan was changed in 1990 (in connection with both its 75th anniversary and its purchase by Panasonic Inc.), the music score changed as well, and its mellowness served as a relief to those who were too sensitive to the loud blaring of the brass and percussion. Some examples of how the closing slogan of Universal has developed over the years can be seen in the website enclosed at the end.
Going back to Mr. Cannell’s closing slogan, it represented a unique way of ending an episode, and it inspired many small productions to be as creative in its closing slogans as he was. Basically it represented Mr. Cannell sitting at his desk, sometimes smoking a pipe, typing his script on his typewriter and after he reached the end of his page, he would rip it out and the page would fly away, eventually forming a C-shape. The music score represented an orchestra that started out in C major and eventually ended with an electric guitar blaring its signature score in E-flat major. A link to how the closing slogan looked like can be found at the end of this entry. Over the years, the attired changed together with Mr. Canell’s appearance and the music score was altered through the usage, swapping, and addition of musical instruments. This included the exchange of brass instruments with a single flute. But all in all, the format remained the same, and it inspired many TV shows to imitate Mr. Cannell’s signature closing, including the Itchy and Scratchy Show in the Simpsons, which was released in 1993. Can you imagine a cat and a mouse sitting down and typing up their own script about their own chase and catch adventures?
While it is unclear what the future will now hold now that the creator of the shows and his own production is now gone. But one thing is for sure: Whoever takes over will have two big pairs of shoes to fill, as he or she will have to have learned the secrets of Steve’s success in order to continue navigating the ship, which includes being creative in the TV shows to attract an audience and not beg for more money- something that Mr. Cannell only had to do once in his entire 40+ year career. Plus that person would still have to maintain strong ties with the production facilities that worked together with Mr. Cannell in the first place; namely Universal, which is now owned by GE Inc. but is part of the NBC-Universal Television consortium under the name Universal Media.
But most interesting is how he or she would have to create a new closing slogan, while at the same time not alter the signature one that was used by Mr. Canell for all those years. Long gone will be the typewriter, the vintage lamps, the wall of degrees and certificates and the library of books in the background, one will have to resort to either a PC or laptop, a printer, a state-of-the-art LED reading ramp, wardrobes hiding all the literature, only a few pictures in the back-and foreground, and a music score representing techno-music. Can you imagine a closing slogan like that? If so, I dare you to try it in his honor.
In either case, if there was a piece of advice I would have for anyone wanting to become a successful writer, it would be to refer to the works of Stephen J. Canell, as he presented some of the best and most unique pieces of work in recent memory, both in terms of screenwriting as well as his books. Some of the former has been adapted to motion picture films, like the A-Team, others will be rerun on many cable channels. The latter you’ll find in many book stores or you can order online.Â But from my perspective, he will be remembered for attracting many people to the TV screens on a Friday night for an hour or two of the shows that became famous when they came out of the typewriter and will remain famous to not only those who have seen them already, like yours truly, but also those who have not seen them yet but would like to; especially after writing this eulogy in his honor. Now I wish I had a typewriter to rip this last page out of this file instead of typing it on a laptop- while travelling by train on top of it.