Sunday, August 20, 2017

David conquers Goliath...again!

Well, this afternoon, noted theater organist Dave Wickerham came back for another taste of the three-manual, 21-rank Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ at Omaha's Rose Blumkin Performing Arts Center.

It was the second time in three years that the Californian-turned-Arizonan-turned-Michigander concertized for the Omaha-based River City Theatre Organ Society. 

And just as he did in 2015, Dave hit it out of the park.

Except this time, it was a tape-measure home run. 

Dave kicked off his 2017 show with a "Happy" medley, where he hitched "C'mon, Get Happy" to "I Want to Be Happy."

Once the medley became water under the bridge, Dave- now the co-manager/organist in residence at the Crystal Theater in Crystal Falls, MI- told the huge audience at the Rose Theater that he wanted to take the Omaha crowd through several musical themes.

With that in mind, Dave went back to what's now the only concert-ready theater pipe organ in the whole state of Nebraska and delivered Scott Joplin's "Original Rags," then followed it up with a medley from "Mary Poppins," the 1964 theatrical movie that put Julie Andrews on the map for good. (All she did was pick up an Oscar for playing the title role.)

Keep the word "movie" in mind as you keep reading this post. 

Before attending today's concert, I thought "Colonel Bogey March" was written for the 1957 big-screen smash (and seven-Oscar winner) "The Bridge on the River Kwai." 

It wasn't.

The tune goes all the way back to 1914, when a man named Kenneth J. Alford (1881-1945) came up with the march. (His real name was Frederick J. Ricketts.)

When Dave played "CBM" today, he really made the audience feel it. 

Another theme Dave wanted to touch on was the Great American Songbook...and the first move in that direction was to fire up "I'm Beginning to See the Light" and "Take the 'A' Train," two tunes made famous by Duke Ellington (who cowrote "Light" while one of his most famous arrangers, Billy Strayhorn, penned "'A' Train").  

Leonard Cohen's most familiar number, "Hallelujah," got into Dave's menu...and gave lie to the idea that songs written right here in the 21st Century can't work if played on a theater organ.

And then...the Encino Man paid tribute to John Williams (that's right, five-time Academy Award-winning John Williams).

After the ensuing medley (the longest medley in this afternoon's concert), it was intermission time.

Fifteen minutes or so later, Dave got back on the now 90-year-old organ to play three dance tunes from the 1920s...two of which were "Doin' the Raccoon" (a 1928 ditty written by Raymond Klages and J. Fred Coots) and the more familiar "Charleston."  

Then the audience was treated to a "Pie Fight." 

Actually, the film's title is "The Battle of the Century," and it came out in 1927- the very year the then one-year-old Paramount Theater (the Rose's original name) received the organ Dave triumphed on. 

And all that's left of this Stan Laurel-Oliver Hardy romp are the opening credits and...well, the three-minute pie fight (the biggest one ever filmed up to that time). 

In years past, RCTOS concerts paired a big-name theater organist with a local act.

This time, the Rose Theater audience became the local the form of an audience singalong. And after cuing up the three-minute-and-forty-second movie, Dave accompanied the crowd in longtime singalong favorites like "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and "Bicycle Built for Two." 

Now it was back to the movies for Dave as he turned in a great version of the Oscar-winning "My Heart Will Go On," one of the many reasons the 1997 movie "Titanic" remains so memorable. 

Time was running out on the performance, and Dave knew he went on and knocked out two Cole Porter numbers, two by Irving Berlin, and two by George Gershwin in a "2-2-2" medley. 

It's hard to stage a Rose Theater Mighty Wurlitzer get-together without a patriotic medley...and this year's edition passed the test, too. This year's patriotic tribute started with the theme songs from all five of America's Armed Forces branches (from "The Caissons Go Rolling Along" to a stirring, stirring version of "The Marines' Hymn"), went to "America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)," and morphed into "America the Beautiful."

"God Bless America" and "You're a Grand Old Flag" would've made the cut, too...if they hadn't been part of the singalong. 

We weren't going to let Dave get away to his next stop (Manchester, England) without an encore.

Result: Dave put an exclamation point on the end of his Rose romp by performing a classical piece. (Man, I wish I knew its title!) 

If you like theater organ music and you've never heard Dave Wickerham, check his music out...whether it's in person, on YouTube, or some other way.

You'll come away happy, too. 


Sunday, July 16, 2017

It's all about the fun!

I was so afraid that nobody was going to attend the 2017 Ragtime to Riches Festival. 

As things turned out, the 7-9-2017 get-together drew six paying customers to Omaha's First Central Congregational United Church of Christ (same as on 7-10-2016).

The difference was...everybody had tons of fun this year!  

Faye Ballard came back for her fourth R to R experience...and this time, fellow Illinoisan Nathan Beasley came along for the ride. (He'd just gotten through conquering the Junior Division competition at the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival, the Oxford, MS event where Faye serves as contest coordinator.) 

This year's activities (everything took place at First Central's Memorial Hall) got started with a bang...with Nathan and Faye kicking off the 1:00-2:00 PM open-piano session.
(In the meantime, while the twosome were working out Luckey Roberts' "Pork and Beans," I was still trying to set up chairs so that people would know that an actual festival was going to happen.) 

Our first R to R patron for 2017 came in during the open-piano session...and was blown away by Nathan's playing. 

Now, if another function at her church hadn't taken her away from First Central that afternoon, she would've loved the rest of the thirteenth incarnation of the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area's annual old-time piano celebration. 

At 2:00 PM, this year's workshop began...and it focused on the woman who penned "I Love You Truly" and 174 other songs.

If you've forgotten about (or if you haven't heard of) Carrie Jacobs Bond, you're in a lot of company.

Bond (8-11-1862/12-28-1946) didn't even think of trying to get a career going until she was 31...when the catalyst was the drive to turn to something to support herself and her young son Fred. 

Her first husband, E.J. Smith, abandoned her in 1887- after seven years of marriage. Then Carrie's next hubby, Frank Lewis Bond, died early in 1895 of an accident that a child caused by knocking Frank over and causing FLB to hit his own head on some pavement. (That child and some other kids were throwing snowballs and roughhousing in the Iron River, MI neighborhood where Carrie and Frank lived at the time.)

On top of that, Frank- a doctor by trade- was out of a job when the local mines shut down. And when that happened, CJB wanted to be the family breadwinner...but Hubby told Wifey to put that dream away. (Never mind the fact that when our twosome got hitched in 1887, Frank encouraged Carrie's songwriting efforts.) 

With Frank under six feet of dirt, Carrie had to borrow some loot to move to Chicago, IL, where she rented an apartment building that served as the first music-publishing headquarters for her and Fred.

And then there were CJB's frequent bouts with rheumatism...bouts that kept her bedridden for weeks (if not months) and put her into a position where Bond's tenants ended up looking after her.

Those health issues caused her to have to sell off all her belongings until she and little Fred were down to the family piano. 

Without those 88s, the two visitors one of CJB's neighbors asked her to look after one day in 1900-01 wouldn't have found- and played- "I Love You Truly." 

And Carrie's career wouldn't have taken the point where she not only became the first woman to make it big writing pop tunes, but also the first woman to take in a million dollars from composing ditties.  

Plus: I would've had to build my 2017 R to R workshop around somebody else.  

The workshop ended early (2:48 PM, Central time)...and that gave Faye plenty of time to get ready to be the first performer to give a 2017 Ragtime to Riches concert. 

It was Ragtime 101 as the Champaign, IL native took to the church's 2015 Yamaha grand and launched her concert with "The Entertainer" and followed that up with Tom Turpin's "Harlem Rag," the first published rag an African-American composer ever came up with.

Next were three Ballard favorites: "Sailin' Away on the Henry Clay," "Mack the Knife," and "It Had to Be You." (Faye told the crowd that these were examples of songs ragtimers and stride pianists back in the first thirty or forty years of the 20th Century might've used in "cutting contests," where performers tried to top each other for audience applause.)

After the newly-retired office manager offered "Puttin' on the Ritz," she got back to rags...beginning with Scott Joplin's "The Cascades" and Irene Giblin's most famous number, "Chicken Chowder." 

Faye's thirteen-tune set closed out with James P. Johnson's "Carolina Shout" and Zez Confrey's crowd favorite, "Dizzy Fingers." 

And then...seventeen-year-old Nathan came up to bat.

He nuked it on that same Yamaha grand piano. 

The Eldorado, IL native had the audience going right from the start, kicking off his concert with Eubie Blake's "Charleston Rag" and Andy Razaf's and Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose."   

Just as Faye doubled up on Scott Joplin, Nathan did, too, offering "Maple Leaf Rag" and "Pineapple Rag..." in addition to "Swipesy," where Scott collaborated with one of his proteges, Arthur Marshall.

The Eldorado High School student added another Eubie Blake number along the way: "Fizz Water." And his superb command of the 88s continued, with tunes such as Joseph Lamb's "Bohemia," the Creamer and Layton tune "After You've Gone," Harry Belding's "Good Gravy Rag," and W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues..." the first published blues song ever composed. 

Faye- one of otherwise largely self-taught Nathan's mentors- jumped in to turn "Pork and Beans" into a duet (this time, with both pianists working the Yamaha). She jumped back into the set right after his "St. Louis Blues" to team up with him on "Give My Regards to Broadway" and fellow George M. Cohan standout "You're a Grand Old Flag." 

Beasley and Ballard were a hit together.

And it seemed like a great time to jump in and make it a trio.

So...I sneaked back over to the church's early-20th-Century Anderson & Newton upright (the workshop piano) and joined Nathan and Faye (both of them still at the Yamaha grand) for "Beer Barrel Polka" and "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey."

There it was...the Three B's.

Nathan consummated his conquest of R to R 2017 with his set's seventeenth tune, a standout version of "Ol' Man River."

It's up on (along with some more efforts of his, Faye's, and mine)...and Nathan's version of "River" has proven highly popular. (Check it out if you haven't seen it yet!) 7:00 PM, I ended up running the anchor leg of this year's Ragtime to Riches Festival.

And, thanks to a sore left pinky that I received a cut a couple of days earlier when I went in to rehearse at First Central Congregational, I kept threatening to drop the baton.

At first. 

Even with a couple of bandages covering the cut on that left pinky, I wanted to keep in mind that I didn't want that cut to hamper the only thing I've been successfully able to copy from ragtime great Del Wood: Her sock action on the keys.

I wanted to lead the audience through a musical tour of America...but I thought I'd have time for only twelve of these fifty states.

So...I started out with a 1923 waltz from a Missourian named Charlotte Brackelsberg, "Carry Me Today, Away Back to Iowa," then went to a 1902 Paul Dresser number called "In Dear Old Illinois." (I ended up eventually jazzing up both tunes.)

Then things started to get more comfortable as my set progressed through "Back Home Again in Indiana," "Beautiful Ohio," and a 1913 Ballard MacDonald-Harry Carroll collaboration called "There's a Girl in the Heart of Maryland (with a Heart That Belongs to Me)."

Even a 1967 hit for the Bee Gees, "(The Lights Went Out in) Massachusetts," got into my set. (Well...the crowd didn't mind.) 

Had fun with "Tennessee Waltz," "Mississippi Mud," "California, Here I Come," and a 1919 song written by the team of Dorothy Terriss and Ethel Bridges, "Hawaiian Lullaby."

By then, it was time to wrap things up...and I didn't want to go into overtime, knowing darned good and well it was time to "get everybody back to Nebraska."

Well, anyway...the six people who heard me play gave me the green light to perform the song I thought I'd have to cut out: "North to Alaska." 

The whole thing ended with a 1915 Ray Sherwood-Bert Rule ditty called "I'm Goin' Back to Old Nebraska (Goodbye)."  

Everybody DID have tons of fun at this year's R to R celebration...especially you-know-who. 

Something Nathan told me just before R to R 13.0 got under way really helped: "I performed at an event where just three people showed up. And I still had a lot of fun."  

Faye, Nathan, and I are coming back to First Central next July...and we hope to see you there, too!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dear Democrats in Georgia's 6th House District:

You've got no excuses now.

If you want Donald John Trump out of there, you're going to have to vote for Thomas Jonathan Ossoff this coming Tuesday.

That's all there is to it.

You just can't afford to sit this one out...the way some of you not only sat out last year's US presidential election, but also the 2010 and 2014 midterms. 

Some people here in America don't think any sort of anti-Trump resistance is taking place. After all, Democrats are 0 for 2 in special elections thus far this year. Kansans in what used to be Mike Pompeo's US House district rejected James Thompson, the Democrat who was trying to take the seat out of Republican hands. 

And Montanans just got through demonstrating that they wanted Republican Greg Gianforte (who beat up a reporter, Ben Jacobs of The Guardian, on the eve of Big Sky Country's US House election, the effort to replace Ryan Zinke) instead of Democrat Rob Quist. 

You folks are the firewall. You can't afford to wait until next year and cross your fingers.

Registered Democrats have GOT to end their history of staying away from polling places whenever there's a midterm election or a special election.   

I mean, don't you understand, after all these years, that if you don't go out and cast a ballot, you give the opposition the choice?

Don't you remember how millions and millions and millions of Americans put their lives on the line- even gave up their lives- to expand the right to vote beyond White male landowners? 

You've got no excuses. None.

The cat didn't eat your homework. What's more, if you electronically turned in your homework, the cat didn't walk across your laptop and hit "Delete."

Matter of fact, I researched Ossoff's platform and that of his opponent, Karen Handel (who, in 2007, became the first elected Republican to serve as the Peach State's secretary of state). 

*First of all, the 30-year-old Ossoff has made suggestions that could save the US government $16 billion (an assertion Politifact agrees with). For example, if the government consolidated its data centers, it'd mean $5.4 billion extra to spend. And if the Department of Defense could try strategic sourcing, $4 billion would be freed up.

*If our businesses played with money the way America's government does, those firms would be in deep doo-doo. TJO wants to bring our government up to private-sector standards. (Think about this: The General Accounting Office found out that, in fiscal 2014, Uncle Sam made improper payments totaling $124.7 billion. Also, GAO found out 6.5 million active Social Security numbers have been set aside for people over the age of 112...despite the fact that only 42 such people the world over are currently drawing breath!)

*Jon Ossoff wants to promote high-tech and biotech a time when today's GOP-led Congress wants to cut funding for the Centers for Disease Control, one of Georgia's top fifteen employers. 

*On top of that, he's out to prioritize STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs, colleges, universities, and technical schools. Ossoff would like to let college students refinance their loan repayment programs and, in the process, reap the benefits of lower interest rates.

*Atlanta native Ossoff supports abortion rights and access to contraceptives.

*He doesn't want nonviolent drug offenders imprisoned. (With those nonviolent drug offenders clogging up the jails, where's the room for the convicted murderers, sex offenders, what have you?)

*Jon won't raise your taxes; in fact, he's in favor of lowering taxes for small businesses.

*Ossoff wants the United States to stay in the Paris climate accord.

*Although he doesn't want a single-payer health-care system, he's in favor of keeping the Affordable Care Act the law of the land. (Don't get him started on the proposed ACA replacement, the so-called American Health Care Act.)

*To top it all off, this son of an Australian mother will work for comprehensive immigration reform...the kind that strengthens enforcement along the US-Mexico border and makes a citizenship path for America's 11 million undocumented immigrants.

If you flip this platform around, you can just imagine what Handel's platform looks like. 

Still, here it is:

*Handel wants to repeal the ACA (as did Tom Price, the new HHS secretary whose House seat Ossoff and Handel are after) and replace it with the AHCA...a proposal that, contrary to Republican assertions, reduces protections for preexisting conditions (in addition to taking health insurance away from at least 23 million Americans!). 

*She's made it clear that she opposes the minimum wage: "I do not support a livable wage."  
*Handel opposes abortion rights, government funding of Planned Parenthood, and embryonic stem-cell research.

*Karen wants to limit Uncle Sam's role in combating climate change; she'd rather leave it up to the states and their cities. What's more, she doesn't believe that we human beings are the biggest reason the world's average temperature has gone up.

*And, of course, Handel doesn't want an automatic (or any kind of) path to citizenship for those undocumented immigrants. 

*Do you remember when the 55-year-old Handel was an executive with Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure? Remember when, in 2012, the foundation pulled back a $700,000 grant to Planned Parenthood to fund mammograms and other breast-cancer-related services?

The cutoff was completely and totally political.

And it had Handel's fingerprints all over it.

The same woman who purged voter rolls as soon as she became Georgia's secretary of state five years earlier. 

So there you are, Democrats in GA-6. Take it from me, a man who, in 1986, failed to cast a ballot in an historic election here in Nebraska.
Two women- a first here in these fifty states- fought for Bob Kerrey's gubernatorial seat as he sought a seat in the US Senate. Instead of former Lincoln Mayor Helen Boosalis keeping the governor's mansion in Democratic hands,
State Treasurer Kay Orr put it back in the GOP's lap.

My excuse: "I ran out of time before I had to go to work."

I got raked over the coals for my decision...and ever since, I've made it a point to cast a ballot every chance I could get.

This one's too important to pass up...especially if you want Trump impeached and then convicted (before he and his people do further damage to America and its reputation).

Please...get up off your excuses and VOTE for Jon Ossoff! 

Sincerely, Jim Boston

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Let's write carefully out there...or at least try to

Last week, a memo was placed on the bulletin board just inside the apartment building I live in.

The message was to get tenants to move their vehicles out of the parking lot used by the residents of the whole apartment complex...because the lot was going to be STRIPPED. 

We were warned that if we didn't move our cars/trucks/SUVs/vans by this morning, our gas guzzlers (or gas savers) would be tenant expense.

Today, this work began. (To prepare for it, I moved my car- the same car from last month's post- into an adjacent parking lot. That lot used to belong to a bowling alley...but now the lot belongs to the church that bought the building where bowlers used to roll strikes, spares, and gutters.) 

I spent this morning looking for heavy construction equipment.

The backhoe(s) never showed up.

That's because the parking lot in front of the building I live in got STRIPED. 

Abso-freaking-lutely right: A truck pulled into the lot to repaint stripes for parking spaces. 

And now, after less than an hour's work, the lot's ready for use again.

Just like that. 

Funny the difference an extra "R" makes...especially in a world where certain journalists (and some of the media executives paying them) here in the world's most talked-about nation have spent the last 130 days professing to rediscover the truth after spending the last two years treating it like a toothache or like a migraine headache. 

Oh, well...

Sunday, April 23, 2017


At 11:35 PM on Wednesday, 4-19-2017, I parked my car on 49th Street between Hamilton and Caldwell Streets, next door to the apartment building I live in. (No space was available in the building's parking lot.)

Before I could shut the ignition off, a man in his twenties or thirties approached me. I went ahead and rolled my car's left front window down.

First thing he asked me: "Do you have a cigarette?"

"No," I told him. "I don't smoke."

"Do you have a cell phone that works?" he asked me.

"No, I don't," I answered.

This same man then pulled a gray semiautomatic handgun, pointed the gun at me, and asked me for my car keys. After I turned the ignition off and relinquished the keys, he instructed me to "Run down the street. I won't try to hurt you." 

He pointed toward Caldwell Street, and I ran down Caldwell...for a few seconds. 

I then turned around and saw him speed up 49th Street before he made a right turn to Hamilton.

After that, I jogged (and eventually walked quickly) toward home. 

At 11:45 PM, I called the Omaha Police and reported the theft. About a half hour later, two officers and, later, a detective stopped to interview me about the carjacking.

This incident DOES have a happy ending:

At 1:57 AM that Thursday morning, the police phoned me to let me know that my vehicle was a parking lot at the 3000 block of South 104th Plaza.  

Two more OPD officers stopped by outside the apartment building I live in to deliver my car...and I was able to drive it again at 2:56 AM that Thursday morning.

The car was left intact.

In fact, the thief not only left $2.14 in change in my 2006 car...he also left a Black & Mild cigar band inside the car (as well as the cigar's wrapper).  


Even so, the second-guessing already has begun: A loved one told me that "I would've just rolled the window back up and driven off."

With my luck, I would've been shot and killed for rolling the window back up. 

This is why I've felt reluctant all these years to tell loved ones about personal troubles. When I make a move to try and change all that, this is what I get: "I would've just rolled the window back up and driven off."

Things just AREN'T that simple! 

This morning, a reporter from one of the local TV stations interviewed me about the incident as part of that station's report tonight about local carjackings.

I originally intended to tune in...but because of tonight's second-guessing by this loved one, I won't watch tonight. 

I mean, it's not enough that the last 94 hours have been ruined because of this carjacking.

It doesn't matter to that second-guesser that I'm safe and that I got my car back. 

Here's my question for the second-guessers out there:

"With all that I've been going through these last sixteen months, how would you feel if this carjacker had gone on and shot and killed me?

"Who would you turn to next to dump on? HUH?" 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

An Omaha landmark for 22 years

On Saturday, 3-11-2017, one of the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area's best and most famous places to eat called it quits.

I'm talking about the Pizza Shoppe and Pub (AKA Pizza Shoppe Collective), located at 6056 Maple St., Omaha, NE 68104.

From the day in 1995 that the restaurant first opened its doors, the Pizza Shoppe served up some of the best pizza in town (well, I like to think it did!), along with a variety of sandwiches, salads, and oven-baked pastas. 

PSP/PSC served up something else that was superb: Live entertainment.

Some of the best local bands (such as Clark and Co.) played the Pizza Shoppe did some of the best solo acts in the Omaha Metro.

And down through the years, restaurant owner Amy Ryan and operations manager Carla Kerrigan opened up the Pizza Shoppe and Pub to different nonprofit organizations so that the groups could do fundraisers.

One such group was Omaha Together One Community, which held a 2013 fundraiser at the Maple Street eatery. (Man, that fundraiser was a success!)

The OTOC fundraiser inspired the Great Plains Ragtime Society (the folks responsible for the local Ragtime to Riches Festival) to try its luck at drawing a crowd at the Pizza Shoppe. 

Result: Starting in 2014, Amy, Carla, and the rest of the staff greenlighted the first Sunday night in November for Ragtime Night at the Pizza Shoppe. 

For the 2014 and 2015 events, Bob Arsenault and I teamed up to play for the eaters.
Last year, though, things didn't work out for Bob (what with the busy, busy schedule he and his wife Pat went through during 2016) I ended up being the whole bill. 

Still, all three Ragtime Nights at the Pizza Shoppe were fun! 

We drew some good crowds for Ragtime Night, with 2015 being the most successful incarnation (GPRS earned $99 that time...10% of what the restaurant took in that entire Sunday).

Here's what prompted the decision to close down the Shoppe: Amy accepted a new gig...that of operating the Benson Theater, next door at 6054 Maple St.  

But beginning next month, if you're still looking for a deep-dish delight (or a thin-crust one) at 6056, you'll be in luck: David and Brenda Losole will start up a new eating place, Virtuoso Pizzeria. [Currently, David's still at the family restaurant, Lo Sole Mio (3001 S. 32nd Ave., 68105).] 

Here's wishing David and well as Amy and Carla...all the very best. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Now, you KNOW I love me some "Storytime!"

Every Saturday morning at 9:00 AM (Central time), KPAO- Omaha's public-access TV station that's available on Cox Channel 22 and CenturyLink Channel 89- shows a half-hour program called Storytime with Lydia. 

I started watching it last year...after finding out about the show online. (Oh, the power of the Internet!)

Storytime with Lydia first came on the air a couple of years ago, occupying the 9:30 AM-10:00 AM slot on KPAO. And initially, it was a mother-daughter collaboration as far as hosting was concerned: A local teacher named Jill Bruckner and her then nine-year-old daughter, Lydia.

Also at first, the series' name was Story Time. 

As first conceived, the show featured Lydia talking about what she'd read and why she enjoyed what she'd read. It was really fun to watch Lydia and her mom banter away. (I'll never forget the time Lydia told the viewers about what it was like to read "Morgan and the Artist," a children's book James Cross Giblin and Donald Carrick came up with in 1985. It was about a troll- Morgan- who inspired a painter. Eventually, Jill playfully asked Lydia how people get snail mail...and Jill tried to tell the folks trolls deliver it. But Lydia playfully exclaimed: "No trolls!") 

That lively, unrehearsed mother-daughter banter sold me on the show. 

In time for the show's second campaign, a "BYOB" segment was added; in it, the Two Bruckners invited a guest to bring his or her own favorite book and discuss the publication. 

Now in its fourth season, it's no longer Story Time. Instead, it's Storytime with Lydia. (Jill went upstairs to become the show's executive producer.)

I loved the old format...and this new format (unveiled on 2-18-2017) rocks, too!

The new setup starts out with Lydia talking shop with SWL's newly-hired floor director, Gladys Schmadys. (It's basically the same playful banter that Lydia and Jill got into in the former setup.)

After the opening credits roll, the next segment is "Author's Corner," where Lydia interviews a local writer. [You'd be surprised how effective this eleven-year-old girl is as an interviewer. (Take THAT, Matt Lauer!)]

Some more Bruckner-Schmadys banter takes over, then it leads to the next segment, "Lydia on Location," in which the young host visits a local business or some other attraction (in the season opener, it was Don Carmelo's Pizzeria)
to show the viewers just how things tick over there.  

This whole season is dedicated to Jim Nelson, the KPAO station manager who died last month.
At KPAO, Jim mentored Jill, Lydia, and Lydia's big sister Madeline Lynch (who, at first, was the show's director).

And it was all because Jim thought it'd be cool to bring a show like this- where a youngster talks about how cool reading actually is- to the airwaves. 

If you think it's cool, too, get on Facebook and "like" Storytime with Lydia, check out the show's YouTube channel, and if you live here in the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area...just tune in every Saturday morning.

Don't be surprised to find out that Lydia Bruckner will blow you away.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A playoff cycle for the books!

The first six-touchdown performance in the history of these "shoulda-coulda-woulda" Division 1-A football playoffs...the first second-round loss by a Number One seed in six years...a team that'd been 0-2 in playoff appearances finally rising up to win a pair of postseason contests...a Mid-American Conference team making the Final Four for the first time...and a new color in the throne room.

Well, I'm just going to cut to the chase and tell you how the 2016 edition of this version of a big-school NCAA football playoff went down: 

FIRST ROUND (seeding in parentheses): Michigan (9) 63, Oklahoma State (24) 21; San Diego State (16) 28, Toledo (17) 7; Colorado (13) 30, USC (20) 23; Wisconsin (12) 31, Nebraska (21) 0; Florida State (19) 41, Western Kentucky (14) 34; Stanford (22) 24, South Florida (11) 21; Louisville (18) 28, Temple (15) 14; West Virginia (10) 31, Appalachian State (23) 27

SECOND ROUND: Michigan 37, Alabama (1) 22; San Diego State 28, Boise State (8) 7; Ohio State (5) 21, Colorado 13; Washington (4) 42, Wisconsin 10; Penn State (6) 46, Florida State 7; Clemson (3) 30, Stanford 21; Oklahoma (7) 28, Louisville 21; Western Michigan (2) 19, West Virginia 3

QUARTERFINAL ROUND: Michigan 42, San Diego State 17; Washington 13, Ohio State 12; Penn State 38, Clemson 27; Western Michigan 35, Oklahoma 28

SEMIFINAL ROUND: Washington 20, Michigan 6; Penn State 34, Western Michigan 20

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Penn State 29, Washington 13

Now...on to the highlights!

FIRST ROUND: Freshman RB Chris Evans (12) keyed the Wolverines' rout of the Cowboys by scoring six TDs- four on the ground, one on a catch, and the other on an 84-yard punt return- to break Ki-Jana Carter's one-game record of five, set in 1994 (still the mark for a championship game)...after two first-round failures (1986 and 2015), Aztecs rode RB Donnel Pumphrey's 18-carry, 200-yard spree to victory over the Rockets...Hilltoppers' 30 first downs (and 574-527 yardage edge) weren't enough to stop the Seminoles, who won the game when WR Kermit Whitfield ran it in from seven yards with 3:05 to go in the fourth a battle of Mountaineers, West Virginia pulled it out with 4:15 left in the fourth on RB Justin Crawford's two-yard scoring jaunt after K Michael Rubino's 48-yard field goal gave Appalachian State a brief 27-24 lead...Buffaloes avenged a 20-5 loss to the Trojans when QB Sefo Liufau scooted to paydirt from the USC 11...Badgers capitalized on Husker QB Tommy Armstrong's absence (due to an injury against Iowa) by limiting Nebraska to 229 total yards and by avoiding turnovers and penalties...RB Christian McCaffrey (20 runs, 133 yards, 2 TDs) helped Cardinal overcome Bulls' 14-10 halftime lead.

SECOND ROUND: Broncos dismissed the Men from Morgantown by holding WVU to a sickening 76 total yards (44 on the ground, 32 in the air)...RB Saquon Barkley (23 rushes, 101 yards) and QB Trace McSorley (two TD passes, two rushing scores) keyed Nittany Lions' dismantling of Seminoles...QB Baker Mayfield hooked up with WR Dede Westbrook for a 54-yard TD to advance Sooners over Cardinals (and their Heisman-winning QB, Lamar Jackson)...McCaffrey took the opening kickoff 100 yards for a score, but Tigers overcame all that with QB Deshaun Watson's three TD tosses (and 20-of-29 passing for 187 yards)...the Pumphrey Express flattened Boise State (he gained 131 yards on 23 tries and scored a TD)...QB Jake Browning's four air scores (18-29-359 yards-2 INTs on the night) helped Huskies oust Badgers...Crimson Tide outgained Wolverines, 334-253, and kept Evans out of the end zone- but six sacks by Michigan's defense led to Alabama's demise (six years after Wisconsin embarrassed top-seeded Auburn, 28-21, in the second round). 

QUARTERFINAL ROUND: 19 Tiger penalties (for 131 yards) caused Clemson to waste Watson's 38-49-358 yard-3 TD-2 INT effort...for the first time ever, a team from the Mid-American Conference reached the semifinals- because WMU QB Zach Terrell flipped a one-yard scoring toss to WR Corey Davis with 4:54 remaining in regulation to kick the Sooners out of the what was a game of three-pointers, WR Aaron Fuller won it for the Huskies by running a punt back 80 yards to daylight (after returning just one other punt during the season- and that for five yards)...QB Wilton Speight's five TD throws (he went 20 for 31 for 311 yards and two picks) helped the Wolverines bury the Aztecs.

SEMIFINAL ROUND: Terrell outdueled McSorley (316 passing yards to 290), but Trace flicked three air scores to Zach's two- and got help from Barkley, who ran 24 times for 121 yards...Huskies held Wolverines to 272 total yards- 54 on the ground (in 28 carries); meanwhile, Browning and WR Chico McClatcher hooked up for two scoring strikes.

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Barkley (this season's playoff MVP) toted the Nittany Lions on his back by scoring a pair of TDs (while running 24 times for 88 yards).

Result: Penn State won it all for the first time since 1994 (when the team from State College, PA crushed Kansas State, 63-14, in Carter's monster game).

The Nittany Lions kept the "shoulda-coulda-woulda" crown in Big Ten Conference hands (Iowa was last season's champ after stopping Alabama, 14-7, in overtime).

The Blue and White became the fourth club in the history of these playoffs to win it all under two different head coaches- joining Nebraska (Tom Osborne in 1982, 1989, 1990, 1993, and 1997 and Frank Solich in 1999), Miami (FL) (Dennis Erickson turned the trick in 1992, followed nine years later by Larry Coker), and Ohio State (which won in 1996 under John Cooper, then did it again in 2005, 2007, and 2010- all on Jim Tressel's watch).

And 22 years after Joe Paterno brought the crown to Happy Valley, James Franklin got it done...and became the first African American to head up a champion in this version of a D-1-A playoff. 

Had Washington come through, Chris Peterson would've made "shoulda-coulda-woulda" history, the first head coach to take two different teams to the top. (His Boise State squad went all the way in 2006 and 2008.)

This playoff cycle was truly one for the books.

Can the 2017 playoffs top that? 

I'm Jim Boston...thanks for reading this blog!