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It’s Kind of a Funny Story



Spoiler alert: There’s no gunfire, no emergencies, no big-time scary scenes in this movie, but you’ll like it.

I had a friend who I visited in a place like this. The guy worked in my bicycle shop. He had been evicted from three homes because he somehow figured that the furnaces in each place were putting out dangerous fumes. I asked him about that, and all he could tell me is that the fumes were bad and they weren’t carbon monoxide.

When he called the fire department in the middle of the last place, there was nowhere left that he could rent. He ended up homeless. This was winter on the east coast of the United States. He equipped his bicycle with full winter camping gear, and ended up living in the woods.

Then, one night, he got the notion that the local mental ward in the university hospital, where he had been a few times before, wasn’t feeding the patients right. He claimed, perhaps rightly, that the food did not have enough nutrition. As the night shift orderlies tried to calm him and assure him that they’d pass the message along to the doctors in the morning, he became upset because he knew they were just placating him. He became more and more upset, and of course they had to commit him again.

When he didn’t show up for work for a few days, I started asking around and discovered that he was committed. I did visit, and the place was quite like in the movie. However, during the time I was there, I did not see anyone who was catatonic, violent, or looking crazy in any way. There were just people playing chess, conversing, watching TV or reading books.

There’s more to this story. I recorded the whole thing in Five Years in the Bike Shop.

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Sun Valley Serenade

This full movie is cued up to start at the musical and dance entertainment portion. You can rewind to the beginning to see the full movie if you wish. This is a level of entertainment that is probably not possible today.

The orchestra was led by Benny Goodman who was as big as the Beatles in his day – about 25 years before the Beatles. Benny’s instrument was the clarinet, something that’s been nearly entirely missing from the mainstream music scene for at least fifty years.

Sun Valley Serenade was recorded in Sun Valley, Idaho. The venue still exists to this day. Your author and his wife had the pleasure of staying in the Sun Valley Lodge 20 or so years ago where we met ice skating legends Scotty Hamilton, Katarina Witt, Oksana Baiul, and others in person. The room the orchestra played in looks the same to this day.

Skating stars tend to vacation in Sun Valley and neighboring Ketchum, Idaho in the summers during their off season. Many of them practice in the two skating rinks and some participate in public shows on Friday or Saturday nights. Sun Vally has a year-round outdoor ice rink, one of the few, and perhaps the only year-round outdoor rink in the world. To keep the ice frozen, they have four Diesel-powered refrigerators each as big as a full-size cargo container.

I believe you’ll agree with me that the dance sequence is one of the best ever. It is performed by the Nicholas Brothers and Dorothy Dandridge. The brothers were born in 1914 and 1921 to a pianist mother and drummer father.

The Nicholas Brothers, Harold and Fayard, who lived to the age of 92, later taught master tap dance classes as teachers-in-residence at Harvard University and Radcliffe College. Janet Jackson and her brother Michael studied under the Nicholas brothers.

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What the Deaf Man Heard

You know any movie with James Earl Jones has to be great, right? This offbeat movie is no exception. Set in the 1960s, it’s about a boy who grows up hearing more than most people expect and the actions he ends up taking.

James Earl Jones, who was the voice of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars, has played many roles, many are just wonderful and uplifting. Born in 1931, in Arkabutla, Mississippi, James Earl Jones is still with us as of this writing – February, 2024. He is 93 years old. His deep voice is considered basso profondo. He was planning to become a medical doctor until participating in the Korean War where he became a first lieutenant. Afterward, he took up acting, while supporting himself as a janitor, starting with Shakespearean roles. With his basso profondo voice, Broadway was a natural fit for him, where started performing in 1957.

His mother was a teacher and maid. His father who survived until the age of 96, was a a boxer, butler and chauffeur. At five years old he was shipped off to be raised by his grandparents in Jackson, Mississippi.

His childhood wasn’t easy. He had a stuttering problem so severe that he refused to speak for a year, which you’ll understand is very significant in the context of this movie.