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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Somewhere In My Lifetime *

Remembering Phyllis Hyman
July 6, 1949 - June 30, 1995

Phyllis was born in Philadelphia, PA and grew up in St. Clair Village, the South Hills section of Pittsburgh. After leaving Pittsburgh, her music training started with a scholarship to a music school. On graduation, she performed on a national tour with the group New Direction in 1971. After the group disbanded, she joined All The People and worked with another local group, The Hondo Beat. At this time, she appeared in the film "Lenny" (1974). She also did a two-year stint leading a band called Phyllis Hyman and the P/H Factor. Phyllis was discovered in 1975 by internationally known pop artist and music industry veteran Sid Maurer, and former Epic Records promoter Fred Frank, and signed to their Road Show Records/Desert Moon imprint.

Phyllis moved to New York City to work on her career. She did background vocals on Jon Lucien's "Premonition" and worked in clubs. It was during one of these performances that she was spotted by Norman Connors, who offered her a spot as a vocalist on his album, "You Are My Starship" (1976). The duo scored on the R&B charts with a remake of The Stylistics' classic "Betcha by Golly Wow". Phyllis sang with Pharaoh Sanders & the Fatback Band while working on her first solo album, "Phyllis Hyman" (1977), which was released on the Buddah Records label.

When Arista Records bought Buddah, she was transferred to that label. Her first album for Arista, "Somewhere In My Lifetime" was released in 1978. The title track was produced by another famous artist on the Arista label, Barry Manilow. Her follow up album, "You Know How To Love Me", made the R&B Top 20 and also performed well on the club/dance charts.

In the late 1970s, Phyllis married her manager Larry Alexander (who is the brother of Jamaican pianist and melodic player Monty Alexander), but their personal and professional associations ended in divorce. Larry introduced Phyllis to cocaine which led to a life-long dependency and spent a lot of her money during the years. The relationship was tumultuous, to say the least.

Phyllis had her first solo Top Ten hit in 1981 with "Can't We Fall In Love Again", a duet with Michael Henderson. The song was recorded while she was performing in the Broadway musical "Sophisticated Ladies", a tribute to Duke Ellington. She performed in the role for almost two years, receiving a Tony Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical and winning a Theatre World Award for Best Newcomer.

The continued problems between Phyllis and Arista Records caused a pause in her recording career. She used the time to appear on movie soundtracks, television commercials, and guest vocal appearances, working with Chuck Mangione, The Whispers, and The Four Tops. Phyllis provided vocals for three tracks on jazz pianist McCoy Tyner's "Looking Out" (1982). She toured often and did a college lecture tour.

In 1983, Phyllis recorded the song "Never Say Never Again" as the title song for the James Bond movie of the same name, written by Stephen Forsyth and Jim Ryan. However, Warner Brothers informed Forsyth that Michel Legrand, who wrote the score for the film, had threatened to sue them, claiming he contractually had the rights to the title song. An alternate title song composed by Legrand was eventually used for the film and performed by singer Lani Hall, formerly of Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66.

Finally free from Arista Records in 1985, Phyllis released the album "Living All Alone" on Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's Philadelphia International label the following year, capitalizing on the torch songs "Old Friend", "You Just Don't Know", "Screaming At The Moon", and the melancholy title track. Shortly afterwards, she appeared in the films School Daze and The Kill Reflex. She would also continue to lend her voice to albums for other artists and musicians like Grover Washington, Jr. and Lonnie Liston Smith, while at the same time doing international tours.

Again, on Philadelphia International Records, Phyllis released her next album called "Prime Of My Life" in 1991. It was the biggest album of her career. It included her first number one R&B hit as well as her first Billboard Top 100 hit, "Don't Wanna Change The World". The album provided two more Top Ten R&B singles, "Living In Confusion" and "When You Get Right Down To It". Just over a year later, she appeared one last time on a Norman Connors album, singing the title song, "Remember Who You Are", which became a minor R&B hit. "Prime Of My Life" eventually sold 454,000 copies. The album and debut single were both RIAA certified Gold in 1992.

On the afternoon of June 30, 1995, Phyllis committed suicide by overdosing on pentobarbital and secobarbital in her New York City apartment. She was found just a few hours before she was scheduled to perform at the Apollo Theatre. She left behind a suicide note that simply read, "I'm tired. I'm tired. Those of you that I love know who you are. May God bless you." She was 45 years old. A memorial service was held at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Manhattan, NY. The following month would have been her 46th birthday.

Phyllis actually recorded her last album, "I Refuse To Be Lonely", on Philadelphia International Records prior to her death and it was an in-depth journey into her personal life. The album was finally released posthumorously in November 1995, five months after her death. Although the project had an overdrawn gestation, to combat the delay in its commercial release, she had begun performing the tracks, "This Too Shall Pass" and "I Refuse To Be Lonely" in concert. The delay in the album's release adversely affected her both emotionally and financially and the delay was said to be cited over "cost negotiations." Both the title track and the single, "I'm Truly Yours", became minor R&B hits.

Three years after her death, another posthumorus album of unreleased material came forth. The songs were pulled together from various recording sessions that took place from the mid-1980s into the early 1990s. The album was called "Forever With You" (1998) and contained love songs, torch songs, bittersweet ballads, smooth jazz offerings, and uptempo tracks, most of which showcased her usual interpretation of heartbreak and strife. Phyllis was quoted as saying that the songs were about "relationships gone bad". Much of the material on the album was initially intended for her "Living All Alone" (1985) release. The song "Funny How Love Goes" contains a posthumous "duet" featuring vocalist Damon Williams. Half of Phyllis's vocals were re-recorded with both singers alternating vocals and providing Williams with exposure.

In December 2003, Expansion Records, in association with Michael A. Grimaldi's The Other Artists' Entertainment (Canada), released the compilation album entitled "In Between The Heartaches: The Soul Of A Diva". This album contained more previously unreleased demos that Phyllis recorded during the 1980s. Included are the McCoy Tyner tracks, which remain Phyllis's most critically acclaimed recordings. Many anecdotes outlining his personal relationship with Phyllis, along with rare and insightful information about the songs, was included by Grimaldi, a personal and professional friend of the songstress. In September 2007, an authorized biography was released. The book entitled "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story" is written by Jason A. Michael, in cooperation with the Estate of Phyllis Hyman.

In 2008, an original version of the James Bond theme "Never Say Never Again" that wasn't used in the film due to contractual issues, was released by the track's co-writer Stephen Forsythe. He explained that the legendary Phyllis Hyman was his first choice to sing the song and working with her was one of the highlights of his musical career. He personally auditioned and sang the song to her while she was having breakfast in her manager’s office. After agreeing to sing the song, she arrived at the studio and, without any rehearsal and only having heard the song sung once at the breakfast audition, sang the song in one perfect take. The year before she died, Phyllis called Forsythe late one night and told him that she felt "Never Say Never Again" was her best effort and favorite recording.

* This will always be one of my favorite songs by Phyllis Hyman.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Join The Celebration (Already In Progress)!

Friday, June 25th, 5:00pm - Taste of Philadelphia
Penn’s Landing, Columbus Boulevard @ Chestnut Street
Interested in sampling cuisine from the region’s best chefs? Come and try amazing “tastes” from some of the most popular restaurants in the city and find new favorite menu items. Stroll the waterfront while you’re “dining” and listen to some great beats at the same time. Participating restaurants include: Hard Rock CafĂ©, Tony Lukes, Steaks on South, and many more.

Saturday, June 26th, 11:00am - Taste of PhiladelphiaPenn’s Landing, Columbus Boulevard @ Chestnut Street
Taste of Philadelphia continues with its first full day of music, food, and fun. Sample some of the best cuisine in the city. There’s music all day to enjoy and help you keep your appetite up.

Saturday, June 26th, 8:00pm - Morris Day & The Time Concert / Fireworks
Penn’s Landing, Columbus Boulevard @ Chestnut Street
Brush off your bird dance, take one last look in the mirror, and head to Penn’s Landing to hear Morris Day & The Time perform “The Bird”, “Jungle Love”, and all their greatest hits.

Sunday, June 27th, 11:00am - Taste of Philadelphia
Penn’s Landing, Columbus Boulevard @ Chestnut Street
Don’t miss the delicious bites from Philadelphia’s many restaurants. There’s more music and fun to be had, so bring your family and friends.

Sunday, June 27th, 4:30pm - Rev. Hezekiah Walker
Penn’s Landing, Columbus Boulevard @ Chestnut Street
The "Hip-Hop Pastor," Rev. Hezekiah Walker, graces the Taste of Philadelphia with a free concert presented by Praise 103.9, Philadelphia’s Inspiration Station. Blending the sounds of Gospel and Hip-Hop, Rev. Hezekiah Walker & the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir will surely have you out of your seat.

Sunday, June 27th, 6:00pm - Jeffrey Gaines
Penn’s Landing, Columbus Boulevard @ Chestnut Street
Experience the critically-acclaimed sounds of Jeffrey Gaines who is called “the voice of a new generation” by Rolling Stone magazine. Jeffrey Gaines gives a free and special performance of all his most beloved songs.

Monday, June 28th, 10:00am - Go 4th & Learn About History
Franklin Square, 200 North 6th Street
Mayor Nutter and local celebrities will share in a historical story time with children from across the region. Bring the little ones to this free morning event also featuring face painting, crafts, and interactive games, as well as chances to take your photo with a 1918 Wawa Antique Dairy Truck.

Monday, June 28th, 9:00pm - Philly @ The Movies
Rittenhouse Square, 18th & Walnut Streets
Featured Movie: "To Catch A Thief"
Join us in serene Rittenhouse Square for a free screening of a much-loved film.

Tuesday, June 29th, 10:30am - Go 4th & Learn About Science
Franklin Institute/Theatre, 222 North 20th Street
Children will participate in an interactive program on the science of fireworks. After this exciting program, participants are invited to enjoy the museum’s exhibits. Note: Admission will be free on a first-come-first-served basis, as there is limited availability for this event. All children must be accompanied by an adult.

Tuesday, June 29th, 9:00pm - Philly @ The Movies
Love Park, 15th & JFK Boulevard
Featured Movie: "Grease"
Join us for the sing-along version of this musical favorite and groove to the hits from this classic tale of romance and teen angst.

Wednesday, June 30th, 10:00am - Go 4th & Learn About ArtPhiladelphia Museum of Art, 26th & Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Local youth will participate in a story time presentation by 2010 Caldecott Medal winner illustrator and Philadelphia native, Jerry Pinkney, and will enjoy interactive arts activities exploring summer scenery and the Philadelphia landscape. Note: Admission will be free on a first-come-first-served basis, as there is limited availability for this event. All children must be accompanied by an adult.

Wednesday, June 30th - Wawa Hoagie Day & Philly @ The Movies
Philadelphia Art Museum, 26th & Benjamin Franklin Parkway
7:00pm--Hoagie Day; 9:00pm--Featured Movie: "Rocky"
Join Wawa for an epic Philadelphia double feature: The famed Hoagie Day celebration followed by a special screening of Rocky, all free of charge. Wawa will serve a culinary masterpiece fit for display in one of the museum’s galleries - A mile-long hoagie! Enjoy a party atmosphere and fun before settling down for Philly @ the Movies at the foot of the “Rocky steps” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It's a one-two combo that can't be beat.

Thursday, July 1st, 7:30pm - Philly @ The Movies
Pearl Theatre, 1600 North Broad treet
Featured Movie: "The Last Airbender Preview"
Philly @ The Movies provides an exclusive preview screening of “The Last Airbender,” based on the hugely successful Nickelodeon animated TV series. This special premiere will be screened a day before the live-action feature hits theaters nationwide.

Thursday, July 1st, 8:30pm - Screening Under the Stars: "Avatar"
Penn’s Landing, Columbus Boulevard @ Chestnut Street
See one of this year’s blockbuster movies on the biggest screen we could find!

Friday, July 2nd - Picturing Liberty: Philadelphia’s Legendary Bell
Philadelphia International Airport, 8000 Essington Avenue
Whether you are heading in or out of town, check out this amazing new photography exhibit which highlights one of the most recognized symbols of America’s freedom. Ticketed passengers only!

Friday, July 2nd, 12:00pm - Independence Picnic
Historic Philadelphia
Come and celebrate Dietz & Watson Hot Dog Day in Historic Philadelphia and meet Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross, and a host of other historic characters. While you’re there, visit other unique Philadelphia attractions like the Independence Visitor Center and the National Constitution Center, all located in this remarkably historic area. Stick around for the pre-opening of Liberty 360, the new 3-D, HD, 360 degree indoor show at the new Historic Philadelphia Center. Enjoy great food and history free of charge.

Friday, July 2nd, 8:00pm - Philly POPS on Independence
Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut Street
Peter Nero & the Philly Pops will return to celebrate America’s birthday in a special “POPS on Independence” performance that commemorates the birth of our nation, with a free performance of great American music including stirring patriotic anthems, rousing marches, and holiday favorites, set against the fitting backdrop of Independence Hall.

Saturday, July 3rd, 12:00pm - Super Scooper All-You-Can-Eat Ice Cream Festival
Penn's Landing, Columbus Boulevard @ Walnut Street
Nothing beats ice cream on a hot summer day! Make a $5 donation to the Joshua Kahan Fund and help find a cure for Pediatric Leukemia while enjoying all of the cold stuff you can eat. The event is scheduled to last until 9:00pm, with an hour-long break in the festivities from 5:00-6:00pm.

Saturday, July 3rd, 12:00pm - Block Party in Chinatown
Enjoy cooking demonstrations, a festive open air market, and a multitude of exciting dance and musical performances as we celebrate Asian culture in Philadelphia’s own Chinatown, an urban village just north of the Center City district.

Saturday, July 3rd, 8:00pm - Philadelphia Orchestra Concert & Fireworks
Penn's Landing, Columbus Boulevard @ Chestnut Street
Join The Philadelphia Orchestra for an evening of patriotic and classical favorites to enchant music lovers of all ages. After the free concert, enjoy a brilliant fireworks display.

Sunday, July 4th, 10:00am - Celebration of Freedom
Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut Street
Join Mayor Michael A. Nutter and other local dignitaries as they kick off the day’s festivities at a ceremony honoring America’s 234th birthday.

Sunday, July 4th, 11:00am - Philadelphia Independence Day Parade
Historic Philadelphia
Bring your flags, patriotic spirit, and plenty of energy to America’s best July 4th parade ever and revel in the pageantry that has made this march through Historic Philadelphia a new local tradition.

Sunday, July 4th, 12:00pm - Super Scooper All-You-Can-Eat Ice Cream Festival
Penn's Landing, Columbus Boulevard @ Walnut Street
Celebrate the holiday the right way with all-you-can eat treats. Make a $5 donation to the Joshua Kahan Fund and take advantage of all the free ice cream you can eat.

Sunday, July 4th, 12:30pm - Happy Birthday America!
Independence Visitor Center, 6th & Market Streets
Join us as we celebrate America’s birthday and sample free delectable treats from our hometown favorite, Tastykake.

Sunday, July 4th, 1:30pm - Bell Tapping Ceremony
Liberty Bell Center, 500 Market Street
Descendents of the original Declaration of Independence signers honor their ancestors by ceremonially tapping this symbol of American freedom.

Sunday, July 4th, 12:00pm - Party On The Parkway
Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 20th Street to Eakins Oval
The whole family will enjoy this afternoon of fun, free entertainment, and of course, lots of food.

Sunday, July 4th, 8:00pm - Life, Liberty & You Concert / Fireworks
Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Eakins Oval
Get ready to rock out to the latest music from the Goo Goo Dolls, The Roots, Chrisette Michele, and Chuck Brown as a part of the largest free concert in America. But, come early because you won’t want to miss hearing the other great main stage acts. Directly after the concert, make sure to catch the most spectacular fireworks in the city.

Monday, July 5th, 12:00pm - Super Scooper All-You-Can-Eat Ice Cream Festival
Penn's Landing, Columbus Boulevard @ Walnut Street
Don’t miss out on your last chance to make a $5 donation to the Joshua Kahan Fund and take advantage of all the free ice cream you can eat.

For more information, go to the Welcome America official website

Friday, June 25, 2010

One Year Ago Today, The Music Stopped...

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s unexpected death and several TV networks are providing coverage of the fallen superstar throughout most of the weekend. In addition to tribute specials, including the BET Awards, which will air and honor Michael this Sunday evening, there will be video countdowns, tours of Neverland Ranch, and various documentaries about him. There will also be specials on his entourage, children, family, and the conspiracy theories surrounding his death. Here is a listing of several programs about the "King of Pop" that will be airing this weekend, starting today. And, no doubt, his music will be in heavy rotation on radio stations across the globe for the next few days as well. Sometimes, I still can't believe he's gone. - :(

CBS: The Early Show (Friday, June 25th, 7:00-9:00am)--The entire 8:00am hour, billed as “The King of Pop: One Year Later”, will see Harry Smith, Maggie Rodriguez, and Julie Chen & Company hosting a special tribute performance by James Morrison in London. Also on hand will be guest stars Christina Aguilera, Marc Anthony, and Smokey Robinson, who will share what Michael Jackson’s music has meant to them.

VH1 Classics: Famous Crime Scene-Michael Jackson (Friday, June 25th, 9:00-9:30am; 4:30-5:00pm)

VH1 Classics: The Jacksons-An American Dream (Friday, June 25th, 9:30am-2:30pm; 6:00pm-11:00 pm)

VH1: The Jacksons-An American Dream (Friday June 25th, 12:00-5:00pm)

BET: Michael Jackson-Life of a Superstar (Friday, June 25th, 1:00-2:00pm)

BET: Inside the Michael Jackson Mansion-Never Can Say Goodbye (Friday, June 25th, 2:00-3:00pm)

VH1 Classics: Michael Jackson-Video Retrospective (Friday, June 25th, 2:30-4:30pm)

VH1 Classics: Classic All Time Top 10 (Friday, June 25th, 5:00-6:00pm; 11:00pm-12:00am)

MTV: Michael Jackson’s Top 10 Video Countdown (Friday, June 25th, 5:00-6:30pm; Saturday, June 26th, 8:00-9:30am)--MTV determines MJ’s top 10 videos based on the number of views each has received on The special features running text commentary, Jackson’s VMA performances, and rare interviews he granted to MTV.

BET: 106 & Park (Friday, June 25th, 6:00-8:00pm)--The 106 gang devotes their "Freestyle Friday" to counting down Michael Jackson’s greatest videos.

MTV: Michael Jackson’s Influence on Music (Friday June 25th, 6:30-7:30pm)--A compilation of videos featuring top music artists discussing Michael Jackson’s influence on their work.

TV Guide: Michael Jackson-His Family Dynasty (Friday, June 25th, 7:00-8:00pm)

Hollywood 411: Michael Jackson (Friday, June 25th, 8:00-9:00pm)

CNN: Michael Jackson-The Final Days (Friday, June 25th, 8:00-9:00pm)--CNN’s Don Lemon talks with Jermaine and Tito Jackson about their brother’s death and drug abuse. Also on hand is Dr. Deepak Chopra and famed choreographer Travis Payne, who shares details about working with Michael Jackson on preparations for his "This is It!" tour.

FUSE: Michael Jackson-The Inside Story (Friday, June 25th, 8:00-9:30pm)--This new documentary examines claims, including those from father Joe Jackson and sister LaToya Jackson, that Michael was murdered.

BET: Michael Jackson History-The King of Pop (Friday, June 25th, 8:00-10:00pm)

TV One: Michael Jackson-30th Anniversary Celebration (Friday, June 25th, 8:00-10:00pm; Saturday June 26th, 12:00-2:00am)

ABC: 20/20 Michael Jackson (Friday, June 25th, 9:00-11:00pm)

NBC: Dateline (Friday, June 25th, 9:00-11:00pm)--The first hour of the show will include Michael Jackson coverage, including an exclusive interview with Katherine Jackson, Michael's mother.

TV Guide: Gone Too Soon (Friday, June 25th, 9:00-11:00pm)--Ian Halperin, New York Times’ No. 1 bestselling author of "Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson", spent five years researching Jackson and declared in December 2008 that the King of Pop had only six months to live. He was only off by one day. Halperin directs this documentary about the factors that he believes contributed to Jackson’s untimely death.

FUSE: Michael Jackson-A Tribute (Friday, June 25th, 9:30-10:30pm)

TV One: Man in the Mirror-The Michael Jackson Story (Friday, June 25th, 10:00pm-12:00am; Saturday, June 26th, 2:00-4:00am)

QVC: Michael Jackson Music & Memories (Friday, June 25th, 11:00pm-12:00am)

VH1: Famous Crime Scene-Michael Jackson (Friday June 25th, 11:30pm-12:00am)

MTV: Michael Jackson’s Music Videos (Saturday, June 26th, 6:00-8:00am)

BET: The BET Awards (Sunday, June 27th, 8:00-11:00pm)--Queen Latifah will host the 10th annual awards show from the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium, with performances from T.I., Kanye West, Usher, T-Pain, Alicia Keys, and Eminem, a Michael Jackson tribute has been added to the lineup.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Much Ado About Feeding Children

As schools close for the summer throughout the country, millions of children will start showing up at summer-feeding sites. This year, the federally-funded program has generated a lot of controversy on the internet after the radio commentator Rush Limbaugh recently bashed summer-feeding programs and suggested that kids "dive into dumpsters" for food.

According to a new report by the Foundation For Child Development, the rate of U.S. children living in poverty this year will be around 22%, which is up from 17% in 2006, before the recession began. At 19 Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) sites, as well as at nearly 1,000 neighborhood recreation centers, churches, schools and community centers, officials just started their summer battle against hunger on Monday, as the school year ended here on Friday.

Summer is the hungriest season in Philadelphia as it is elsewhere, because an estimated 150,000 public, charter, and Catholic school children who eat free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches during the school year are cut off. Estimates by the state Department of Education and others show that the meals distributed at these sites will feed approximately 80,000 children, which leaves around 70,000 children without free or subsidized meals.

Throughout America, more than 20 million students eat free or reduced-price breakfast and lunches during the school year; but just one in six will receive similarly subsidized summer meals. In South Jersey, where more than 70,000 students are eligible for free and reduced-price summer-feeding programs, there is little infrastructure in place to serve summer meals, advocates say. Making matters even more difficult, fewer people give to food pantries at this time of year because donors tend to believe that family food emergencies are cold-weather related.

Yet, the number of people flocking to pantries in the area continues to increase. People are hungry, struggling, and searching. Some parents will forgo eating, or eat just cereal for dinner so their children can have something more substantial. Some people have a hard time believing the situation is that bad, and one such person is Rush Limbaugh.

During his radio program last week, Limbaugh complained about summer-feeding programs to his huge audience. In order to help children find food, Limbaugh suggested they look inside "a thing called the refrigerator and in cupboards, where you're going to find Ding-Dongs and Twinkies. If that doesn't work, try a Happy Meal at McDonald's." He went on to say, "There's another place, if none of these options work to find food: There's always the neighborhood dumpster." He added that there are videos to help kids "dumpster dive and survive until school kicks back up in August."

Mariana Chilton, a child-hunger expert at Drexel University's School of Public Health, said she was livid. "What he said is calculated bigotry and, is there a word for hating children?" she said. "Fast food promotes obesity, and telling kids to jump in dumpsters conjures up the image of throwing children away."

Chilton said she finds Limbaugh's words especially galling given her research with Philadelphia women. Out of 40 women given cameras to document their lives, 38 took photos of empty refrigerators, freezers, and cupboards. "They told me how horrifying it feels to tell your children there's no food", Chilton said. She added that while the summer-feeding program is a short-term fix, the real solution is "paying parents living wages and giving low-income people access to credit to pull themselves out of poverty." Unfortunately, until that time comes, children will be eating at the summer-feeding sites funded by the federal government.

For more information about the summer food service program for children, click on the website screenshot or text link at the top of this post. If you would like to help in the fight against hunger for any and all Philadelphians who need assistance, go to or call 215-339-0900. And, if you want to continue listening to the idiotic ramblings of Rush Limbaugh, go right ahead. But, once again, it seems to me that he is creating "Much Ado About Nothing!"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stepfathers: A Special Blessing From God...

"Color Him Father" Performed By The Winstons

There's a man at my house, he's so big and strong.
He goes to work each day, stays all day long.
He comes home each night, looking tired and beat.
He sits down at the dinner table, and has a bite to eat.

Never a frown, always a smile,
when he says to me, how's my child.
I've been studying hard, all day in school.
tryin' to understand the golden rule.

I think I'll color this man father.
I think I'll color him love.
I'm gonna color him father.
I think I'll color the man love, yes I will.

He says, education is the thing if you wanna compete,
because without it son, life ain't very sweet.
I love this man and I don't know why,
except I'll need his strength, till the day that I die.

My mother loves him and I can tell,
by the way she looks at him, when he holds my little sister Nell.
I heard her say just the other day,
that if it hadn't been for him, she wouldn't have found her way.

My real old man, he got killed in the war,
and she knows she and seven kids, couldn't of gotten very far.
She said she thought that she could never love again,
And then there he stood, with that big wide grin.

He married my mother and he took us in,
and now we belong to the man with that big wide grin.

I think I'll color this man father.
I think I'll color him love.
I'm gonna color him father.
I'm gonna color him love.

Footnote: In 1969, this song ranked #2 on the R&B charts and #7 on Billboard's Hot 100; the composer, Richard L. Spencer, won a Grammy Award for Best R&B song in 1970. Click on the record label for a link to YouTube and listen to this classic gem, the only one of its kind, which pays tribute to all of the stepfathers holdin' it down out there. And, always remember (as my pastor so eloquently pointed out in a sermon once)... Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was actually raised by a man who played the role of a stepfather and his name was Joseph. So, never underestimate the importance of the part you play in God's divine plan. You are loved and appreciated much more than you know. May God continue to bless all of you!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy Father's Day Daddy...

Roosevelt Williams
October 9, 1936 - May 2, 2002

I thought of you with love today, but that is nothing new.
I thought about you yesterday, and days before that too.
I think of you in silence, I often speak your name.
All I have are memories, and your picture in a frame.

In life I loved you dearly, in death I love you still.
In my heart you hold a place, that no one could ever fill.
It broke my heart to lose you, but you didn't go alone.
For part of me went with you, the day God took you home.

No farewell words were spoken, no time to say goodbye.
You were gone before we knew it, and only God knows why.
A million times I needed you, a million times I cried.
If love alone could have saved you, you never would have died.

Gone yet not forgotten, although we are apart,
your spirit lives within me, forever in my heart.
Nothing can ever take away, the love a heart holds dear.
Fond memories linger every day, remembrance keeps you near.

A gift for such a little while, your loss just seems so wrong.
You should not have left before us, it’s with loved ones you belong.
Your memory is my keepsake, with which I’ll never part.
God has you in His keeping, I have you in my heart.

If tears could build a stairway, and memories a lane,
I’d walk right up to heaven, and bring you home again.
Our family chain is broken, and nothing seems the same.
But as God calls us one by one, the chain will link again.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What Would Mr. Wipple Say About All Of This?

Despite the government's best efforts to rebalance the economy, our prosperity still overwhelmingly relies on consumer spending. There are a lot of ways to measure the strength of shoppers via surveys, retail sales reports, and various calculations of net worth. Did you know that some of the most intuitive indicators are the sales trends for simple, everyday products that are the basic necessities of life, such as toilet paper?

Believe it or not, what we wipe our bottoms with is a surprisingly sensitive economic area, according to marketing studies. The success of new premium toilet paper, along with an increase in demand, suggests that people are feeling confident enough to open their wallets and upgrade their bathroom experiences. This does not indicate a return to the free-spending housing bubble-boom times, but this is another sign that some sense of normalcy is returning to the shopping aisles and that things are getting better.

A simple shift from one-ply to two-ply (and in some cases, three-ply) toilet paper may not seem significant, but to ignore it causes us to miss an important point. Because people are literally flushing the money they spend on this particular product down the toilet, spending habits in this very personal area can reveal important clues about the financial health of shoppers, which reflects on the growth potential for the economy as a whole. It all depends on how the roll turns, and it's definitely turning.

For example, the manufacturers of Charmin brand toilet tissue reported a sales growth. They also noted that people are moving back toward higher-priced discretionary items after a long focus on value. The downshift that was driven by the recession is what spurred the manufacturer to create "Charmin Basic" for consumers, which offers a lower-cost option to fend off less-expensive generic and store brands.

However, now it is being reported that innovation is moving the other way. Thanks to this bounce-back in consumer interest, manufacturers like the makers of Charmin are increasing their focus on new products and marketing to win the dollars of consumers moving up to higher-quality items like moist wipe tissues. Such small luxuries are the first steps up for people who are becoming more optimistic as they exit the dark recessionary mindset that has preoccupied so many of us over the past three years.

This trend isn't only focused on toilet paper either. It also includes many other personal-care paper products. Perhaps you’ve seen some of the new commercials for Kleenex hand towels, which are designed as a more sanitary way to dry your hands in the bathroom. Huggies diapers now come in a denim-look material, while Pampers are thinner and more absorbent with the debut of “Dry Max”, which the manufacturer calls its biggest innovation for Pampers in 25 years.

According to a marketing research study done last year, toilet paper was the hottest new product in 2009. The honor of best new non-food consumer launch went to the manufacturers of Quilted Northern Ultra Plush toilet paper, the first three-ply product of its kind ever sold in the United States. Over the past 15 years, less than one-quarter of all new consumer-product brands have exceeded the sales hurdle required to earn what's called "pacesetter" status.

The manufacturers of the new three-ply toilet paper earned enough in its first year to outpace second-place "Tide TotalCare" detergent. The latter's claim to fame is its ability to help keep clothes looking new longer, while Quilted Northern Ultra Plush is all about comfort. The manufacturers acknowledge that a lot of skeptics, both inside the company and out, question if it was right to launch this ultra-premium product, but the traction it has gained indicates the strong desire for affordable indulgences in even the worst of times.

Despite the worst consumer-led recession in a generation, consumers were remarkably loyal buyers of name-brand toilet paper. Meanwhile, consumers traded down from casual restaurants to fast-food, such as McDonald’s. Discounters like WalMart benefited from people moving from Macy’s and other department stores. On the other hand, Kraft and General Mills saw declines, as consumers turned away from name-brand cheeses and cereals. But, people didn't compromise nearly as much on toilet paper. We may have used fewer squares to make the roll last longer, but we stayed with quality.

After all, there are certain non-negotiable aspects of the modern American lifestyle. They include clean water, indoor plumbing, a basic education, and soft toilet paper. Even after recent claims that our insistence on using tender, quilted, multi-ply toilet paper is ruining the environment, consumers haven't turned away from using it and the claims are largely ignored. Did you know that Americans use 50% more toilet paper (nearly 24 rolls per year per person) than our counterparts in Europe and Japan? And, if anyone tried to force a rougher toilet paper on us, there would surely be a revolt!

According to Nielsen, 72% of consumers believe store brands are good alternatives to name brands. Moreover, 62% of consumers consider store brands to be as good as name-brand products. But, that sentiment hasn't taken away from the big name-brand providers of toilet paper, though it has for other products, such as paper napkins and paper towels. Given the special place that toilet paper has in the hearts of American consumers, how should we translate the recent rebound in fortunes for premium products such as Quilted Northern Ultra Plush? Perhaps, it is evidence that consumers are doing better financially and becoming more comfortable than is commonly perceived.

It was recently reported that personal incomes expanded in April, helping households to make somewhat of a comeback by increasing their savings and paying off debt. On the other hand, it is still being reported that a large percentage of the population is underemployed and unemployed. In essence, I guess it all boils down to what you believe and even more importantly, what is your personal reality? As for me, I always have and always will be loyal to Scott toilet paper, no matter what the American economy is doing. Hey, despite the fact that I distinctly remember this particular brand being two-ply when I was growing up and becoming "one-ply-on-the-sly" after I became an adult, it still works for me (Shout Out)!

At any rate, if this scenario continues to play itself out, with consumers trading back up to more premium and name-brand products, it won't be just the manufacturers of these products that will benefit. The entire consumer-staples sector should start attracting some attention after lagging very badly over the past two years. This means the flashy stock-price increases in companies like and Ford Motor could give way to the growth of less profitable companies, which is exactly what happened in 2004 as the economy transitioned from early recovery to mature growth.

So, the next time you're in the grocery store trying to decide whether to buy one, two, or three ply toilet paper, think before you leap because, if all this is true, the economic recovery of our country may very well depend on which one you decide to buy. Of course, you could always decide to "ruff it" and give your financial support to our dying newspaper industry instead. (Ouch!) But, always remember... Whatever you do... "Please don't squeeze the Charmin!"

Footnote: Dick Wilson (aka "Mr. Wipple") died of natural causes on November 19, 2007, at the age of 91, in California. On November 28, 2007, a new commercial-tribute debuted on television, featuring old clips honoring Dick Wilson and Mr. Whipple. The tribute indicated that the deceased actor would be in our hearts forever. If you want to know more about "Whatever happened to Mr. Wipple?", click on the above image to view his Wikipedia page. Yes, he has one too!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Commitment & Purpose

Walk for Autism... Walk for Cerebral Palsy...
Walk for Down Syndrome... Walk for all disabilities...
Saturday, June 12, 2010 at the Philadelphia Art Museum, 8:30am

Photos of the Day
[click on collages for a larger view]

The event was a success and we had a great time!
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Thursday, June 3, 2010

21 Years Ago Today...

Two hearts became one!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Labor Of Love

The Booga Wooga blog is 4 years old today and
a total of 304 posts have been completed to date.

Watch your step!

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As a Christian who is active on the internet,
I hold myself to certain standards of conduct:

  • I guard my online relationships.
  • I am careful to visit websites that do not compromise my life in Christ.
  • I take care that my written communications reflect Christ in my life.
  • I guard my time to assure that my time online is kept in proper balance with the rest of my life.
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