The Wanamaker…er…Macy’s Christmas Light Show

Macy_'s AdIt’s that time of year again…

Walk into Macy’s at 13th and Market Streets (formerly John Wanamaker’s department store) from November 28 through December 31 and you’ll see crowds of people standing in the grand court staring upward at the now famous Christmas Light Show.

Yes, that’s Julie Andrews you hear.

I remember seeing the original show for the first time as a child. I could not have been more than 3 or 4 years old. The happy music, blinking lights and dancing water fountain seemed like magic to me. My grandmother then took me a few blocks east to Gimbel’s department store for a walk through the Christmas village and ultimately, a visit with Santa Claus.

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Christmas 1967 (I was two)

I thought it would be interesting to compare the Wanamaker’s and Macy’s productions. While I like the updated version, I do miss the dancing water fountains.

The original John Wanamaker’s Christmas Light Show (archival recording 1983)

The Philadelphia John Wanamaker’s department store premiered their iconic Christmas Light Show in 1955. The show, a large music and light display several stories high, is viewable from several levels of the Philadelphia landmark. Its popularity as a holiday destination for tourists and locals alike ensured a continuous run, even after the building changed ownership from Wanamaker’s to Lord & Taylor, and now Macy’s. The show was narrated for decades by Philadelphia’s own John Facenda, locally known for reporting the news on radio and television, as well as nationally as the voice of NFL Films. Various announcers narrated the show between 1995 and 2005. Beginning in 2006, under Macy’s, Julie Andrews became the show’s narrator.

In 2007, the entire Christmas Light Show was completely modernized and rebuilt by Macy’s Parade Studio on new trusses with lighter materials and LED lighting. In 2008, a new and bigger Magic Christmas Tree with LED lights debuted. However, due to safety concerns and logistical issues, the dancing water fountains were retired and will not return.


 

John Wanamaker Christmas Show from the 1980’s.



 

The Updated Macy’s Christmas Light Show (2013)

“The updated holiday show, titled “Christmas Pageant of Lights,” features narration by the actress Julie Andrews” –  via hdampf007

According to Friends of the Wanamaker Organ at Macy’s website, the light show program is as follows…

Greg Sonsini has compiled a list below of music used in the Light Show. Help is requested in finding the artists of those works not yet identified. Please e-mail us at execdirec@wanamakerorgan.com if you can add details.

  1. Opening fanfare during John Facenda’s/Julie Andrews’ introduction: Provenance unknown.
  2. Selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite-specifically “Overture,” “Waltz of the Flowers,” and “Closing Waltz,” played during the Nutcracker storyline. Album unknown.
  3. “In The Clock Store” by Charles Orth (1893), which is played during the Clock segment.  The version used in the Light Show comes from an album titled “The Sound Of Musical Pictures” (1960).  It was arranged by Ralph Hermann and played by the Medallion Concert Band. Walt Disney adapted the piece for one of his Silly Symphonies in 1931. You may here it on YouTube here.
  4. “Alpine Sleigh Ride” by Frank Chacksfield and his Orchestra, played during the Snowflake sequence.
  5. “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” by the Ray Conniff Singers.
  6. “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms, later replaced by “The Rudi Bear Song” (part of a Teddy Bear promotion), played during the candy cane, toy soldier and toy drum segment.
  7. “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” by an unknown artist played during the Santa Express Train segment.
  8. “Frosty the Snowman,” by the Ray Conniff Singers.
  9. A snippet of “So Long, Farewell” from “The Sound of Music” movie soundtrack, played during the fading of the snowmen.
  10. “O Tannenbaum” by the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra played during the final lighting of the entire board. This was replaced in 1988 by “Deck the Halls” by an artist that I have not been able to identify. The arrangement is by Carmen Dragon and has been adopted for the Wanamaker Organ (with grateful assistance from Mr. Dragon’s daughter) by Peter Richard Conte.

 

Christmas ButtFor more information, see the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ website.

You can find some interesting archival photos from Temple University

Also visit U Wish U NU

 

 

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Voter ID and ME… with update.

UPDATE: The following was written a year and a half ago. Since then I’ve tried three more times to correct the disparity between my driver’s license and my voter’s registration. As it stands now, my driver’s license spells my last name all one word but my registration separates the ‘De’ from the rest. The poll workers know me but tell me if Pennsylvania’s voter ID law goes into effect, I will not be permitted to vote.

Yeah. Don’t tell me voter ID is about fairness.

 

 

I AM PISSED!!

I’m a registered voter in Pennsylvania, one of the numerous states whose Republican Governors have proposed laws to require voters to present “State Approved Identification” in order to cast a vote in upcoming elections. On the surface, these sound like common sense laws. In reality, they are bureaucratic nightmares. These laws are solutions to problems that do not exist. But that’s not what this post is about.

During last November’s general election, the courts had put a stay on Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID law. They found that there wasn’t enough time to provide proper ID to the thousands of Pennsylvanians who didn’t have it. The lines at the PA DMV were so long that people were being turned away. It was decided that voters would be asked for ID, but it would not be required to vote. Poll workers were also instructed to ensure that each voter’s ID correctly matched what was on record, and to advise the voter to rectify it before the next election. There were leaflets and everything.

I didn’t think this would be an issue for me. I had my ID. So, with ego properly inflated, I confidently marched up to polling place and proudly presented my driver’s license.

The woman behind the table carefully examined my driver’s license, expelled a sigh, and looked up into my smiling face. “It appears we have a problem,” she said. “The way your name is printed on your driver’s license does not match the way it is printed on our records.”

What?

Apparently, my middle name is spelled out on my driver’s license, but my voter’s registration shows only an initial. My registration also shows a “Sr” after my name, as in Frank Senior. This is ostensibly a problem because I don’t have a son named Frank Jr..

NOTE: Other than my address, the information on my voter’s registration has not changed in almost three decades.

After voting, I thanked the nice woman and promised I would fill out a new registration form with the correct information. All was well with the world.

Being the procrastinator that I am, I filled out the new registration form at the end of March. There were a myriad of reasons why I waited. There always are. Three weeks later my new voter’s registration arrived by mail.

The new registration is printed exactly the same as my old one, with the exact same errors. What gives? How difficult is it to copy information from a piece of paper? How hard is it to check the information found on my driver’s license, and enter it into a database? Wasn’t that the reason I was asked to provide them with my license number?

I contacted the Election Commission and spoke to a very patient gentleman who was as puzzled as I was. He accessed my driver’s license information to verify my identity. He looked at a scanned image of my new application, which had the correct information. and couldn’t understand why the records hadn’t been updated. After a few questions, I was told that my new registration should arrive within a week.

It took almost four weeks for the new voter registration to arrive, just in time for Pennsylvania’s Primary Election. This time, my last name was altered.

I have an Italian last name with a “De” prefix, as in DeNiro, DeLuca, or DeAngelo. Pennsylvania driver’s licenses use all capital letters, and the De is not separated from the rest of the surname. On the new voter’s registration however, the prefix IS separated. You wouldn’t think this was an issue. Apparently, the poll workers thought it was enough of an issue that it needed to be addressed. I was told that I could be turned away because of that simple technicality. REALLY??

Now I have to contact the Election Commission AGAIN, and walk them through the correct spelling of my name.

Does anyone else see the problem, here?

I vote every election. I take it very seriously. It’s about more than just selecting a new Mayor, Judge, Senator, or President. There are ballot questions and referendums. The voting booth is one of the few places in which my opinion matters. In the words of ronsuperman, I don’t vote “because campaigns have been drilling it into our heads reasons why we should or should not vote for a particular candidate. But I will be voting because voting = power, and I cannot sit back while decisions are made around/about me, and I have no input.”

I also don’t want some inattentive paper pusher’s mistake to prevent me from casting my vote.

How can they ask for proper ID if they’re not going to ensure that the information they record is correct? Why must I jump through hoops if a bureaucrat can’t get it right?

If we can’t ensure that everyone can easily obtain the proper ID required to cast a vote, then we need to stand down on aggressive laws designed to make it virtually impossible to engage in our Federal Voting Right.

Speaking of constitutional rights…

The logic of the GOP astounds me. :\

I threw that last thought in there as an expression of my angst.

Seriously though… If anyone, regardless of criminal background, can order an assault weapon online without proper identification, why should my middle initial, or the prefix of my ethnic surname cause so much trouble at the polling place?  #smh

PS: The point of this rant is simple. I’m surviving on minimal resources. If I’m having trouble meeting the requirements for “State Approved Identification”, what about the people who don’t even have what I have?

Things To Do In Philly When The Internet Goes Down.

You never really understand how much of your life is dependent upon the internet until it’s not there anymore.

For almost a month, my internet has been suffering drop outs and sluggish speeds. It’s been a nightmare for which I’ve been preparing a long vengeful blog post that, because of outlandish accusations and rough profanity, will probably never be published in it’s entirety.

We did find productive things to do around the house while the internet was down. Sunglasses are now required in the bathroom because the bathtub sparkles so brightly! 😎

In our downtime we caught a few good movies, some of which I share with you here.

I happened to catch a late night broadcast of Crime and Punishment (1935) starring Peter Lorre, on GetTV (one of the myriad broadcast movie channels that have been popping up lately.) I’ve never seen this early adaptation. Lorre is brilliant. Strangely enough, this version is not available on Netflix but it is available in it’s entirety on Youtube.

“The story goes that Peter Lorre wanted to star in the film version of the Dostoyevsky novel, but was certain that Columbia Pictures chieftain Harry Cohn would turn the project down. So Lorre hired a secretary to type up a synopsis of the story in words of one syllable then submitted this simplified resume to Cohn. Enthusiastic over the project, Cohn gave Lorre the go-ahead — but first he asked “Tell me —  has this book got a publisher?”” – Hal Erickson (Rovi)

Whether true or not, that rumor makes for good entertainment.

Here’s the movie, in it’s entirety. Bookmark it. Save it for when you’re looking for something good to watch.

Out of the Furnace (2013) stars Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker and Casey Afleck (yes, THAT Afleck). When police stop looking for his missing veteran brother, Russell Baze takes matters into his own hands.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but clearly not anything as deep and thoughtful as this flick turned out to be. It’s slow to unfold but it’s good story telling. Woody Harrelson is creepy as hell.

While we’re on the subject of Christian Bale… If you haven’t seen American Hustle (2013), put it on your list. it’s a great piece of entertainment that’s loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s. I don’t know why people love to hate this film so much. I enjoyed it. The clothes and the cars alone gave me flashbacks.

Warm Bodies (2013) A zombie saves a teenager. They fall in love and save the world. What’s not to love? Even the Romeo and Juliet references that get shamelessly thrown in your face didn’t manage to ruin the film for me. It’s cheesy, pop corn chomping fun.

The Call (2013) How can you go wrong with Halle Berry? A 911 operator gets a call from a kidnapped teen. This is a joyride movie! It had me shouting at the screen.

The 2014 Robocop reboot was a lot better than I had expected. It’s still silly and a bit of a stretch for suspension of disbelief, but it was good entertainment. Perhaps I’m just a little biased. I’ve been a huge fan of Gary Oldman since Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, one of my all time favorite films.

I started following Simon Pegg on twitter long before I learned of his incredible career as an actor/writer/comedian. Seriously, I had no idea. That was almost four years ago. Since then I’ve gotten all caught up. I’ve enjoyed him in everything from Shaun of the Dead to Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, Star Trek and everything in between. On Monday night we had the pleasure of watching A Fantastic Fear of Everything. It’s about a crime writer whose research has turned him into a paranoid mess. It’s a little strange but bizarrely funny. Pegg spends half of the movie in his underwear chasing his imagination. The running gag is incredibly funny.

Thankfully, our internet trouble has been dealt with. Everything is running smoothly. We sacrificed a goat and danced around in circles naked while singing the alphabet song backwards. That seemed to have appeased the internet gods. …for now. 😉

Bonus Material…

Everything Wrong With Robocop (1987) in 7 Minutes or Less. by CinemaSins

 And finally…

Simon Pegg rapping old school style in ‘A Fantastic Fear of Everything

Oh, fair warning. The following clip is probably not safe for work.

 

Pay Attention To The Men Behind The Curtain… #VOTE!

The mid-term elections are underway. Pennsylvania’s primary is Tuesday the 20th of May. Contrary to what some may have you believe, mid-term elections are just as important as, if not more than, the presidential elections.

In September of 2012 I asked if it was possible that the GOP threw the Presidential election to focus on local races instead. Why else would they give us Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney? Are they that out of touch?

Most of the damage is done during midterm elections. I believe wholeheartedly that it’s because people think the President has sweeping power to do as he wishes. I don’t think people get how important these midterms are.

Take a look at what’s going on around the States and tell me if you feel the same.

So, to make it easier, here are a few valuable resources that I always turn to in any political cycle,

The National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL)

The League of Women Voters

and here in Pennsylvania…

The Committee of Seventy
Pay attention folks. There’s a lot to lose in local elections.

Now go out and VOTE!

One Warm And Beautiful Day In September…

Everyone old enough to remember where they were that fateful morning has their story. This one is mine.

One Warm And Beautiful Day In September…

I was jolted awake by the telephone. The breathless voice on the other end didn’t wait for a greeting.

“I’m okay!” It was my partner calling.“Everything’s chaos here. I’m uptown, so I’m okay. ”

“What?” I said. “What’s happening?”

“Turn on the TV.”

“What Channel?”

“It doesn’t matter! Turn. On. The. TV!”

I grabbed the remote, and turned on the set. Images came into focus. It didn’t register that what I was seeing was real.

A plane had hit one of the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center. Was it an accident?

It looked too much like a promotion for the latest Hollywood blockbuster. If so, it was an awfully long commercial.

From the side of the screen, I see movement. Another plane appeared. In slow motion, I watched as the plane hit the second tower. This was no accident.

The phone went dead.

I tried calling him back a few times but could not get through. A mild panic settled in the pit of my stomach. “Wait a minute”, I thought. “He said he was uptown.”

It was little comfort, but it would have to do. I knew I should probably leave the cellular signals free for those who needed it most.

Time slowed. Disjointed images appeared before me through tunneled vision. Horrific images. Smoke. Flames. People covered in ash and debris running for their lives. People jumping from the upper floor windows of the World Trade Center because their only other option was to be burned alive.

All sense of time and space was ripped from my consciousness.

For the next few hours, I joined the rest of America and watched the drama unfold. The Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania followed. The feeling that “this is all unreal” never left me.

I left for work at around noon. I worked at a bar and wasn’t due until 3:00pm, but I couldn’t stay in the house any longer. Maybe the nine block walk would do me good.

The streets were virtually empty. The usual sounds of the city were glaringly absent. I was aware of even the slightest sound; leaves blowing, foot steps, pigeons tapping on the sidewalk. People walked in silence. It was eerie.

The complex mix of emotions on people’s faces was dominated by a collective nervousness. A helicopter rumbled overhead. People glanced up in fear. Some, succumbing to survivalist instincts, ducked for cover. The possibility that Philadelphia could be targeted weighed heavily on the minds of many.

The bar was busy. The saying is true that there’s comfort in numbers. I kept the bar’s televisions on so that everyone could see the latest news. We offered the bar’s land line to anyone who wanted or needed to get in touch with friends or family. By 7:00 PM I received a call from my partner. He would stay in New York City for a few days to help friends.

For the next few weeks I felt as though I was disconnected – like a boat that’s come loose of it’s moorings and floats aimlessly at sea. I was just going through the motions. It’s impossible to remember any of the minutiae that usually bog us down because for the following few weeks we were as one, united against an unknown enemy. Each of us doing what we could to help anyone who needed it.

The most disgusting rhetoric that came out of 9/11/2001 was the assertion by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson that America somehow brought the terrorist attacks upon itself. On September 13, just two days after the terrorist attacks, they appeared on The 700 Club and claimed that God smote America because of all the “Pagans, Abortionists, Atheists, Feminists, Gays, and Lesbians, the ACLU, and People for the American Way”. What?! I thought my head would explode when I heard this. How could purported “Men Of God”, mock the memory of so many innocent lives with such hatred and vileness? I’ll let God settle that one.

Remembering September 11th still puts me in that numb place where time and space mean nothing.

I can’t begin to comprehend what those people in New York City were going through. It would be an insult to them if I said I did. I also can’t imagine what could have transpired on UA flight 93 that made the passengers overtake the hijackers before crashing into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, or the passengers of flight 77 and their families, and those of the Pentagon. I have no frame of reference from which I can compare. The best I can do is empathize.

May the people, and their families, who were affected by the events of that day somehow find the comfort that they need.

Note: “One Warm and Beautiful Day in September” was originally posted Sept 2011 on ADignorantium.tumblr

An Open Letter To Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey (R)

File this one under #DiggyRant

It may surprise some that, though I’m a registered Democrat, I don’t vote along party lines. I lean liberal. I also believe in some conservative ideas. I understand that the freedoms I want often come with responsibilities to my community. Seems fair to me.

I got a mass email today from the office of Pennsylvania Senator, Pat Toomey, in which he blames President Obama’s environmental policies for Pennsylvania’s unemployment issues, which have been ongoing for years.

The email reads, in part: “…due to the Obama administration’s policies – the company FirstEnergy is deactivating coal-fired power plants in Fayette and Washington counties and leaving hundreds out of work. These unemployed Pennsylvanians are unfortunate casualties in President Obama’s ‘war on coal,’ which I will continue to fight against in the Senate.”

War on coal? It that a thing?

He also mentioned his visit to Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe Inc. in Chambersburg – one of Franklin County’s largest employers – to hear concerns over excessive government regulations.  “One was the cost of Obamacare, the unreasonable mandates that are associated with it, including the contraception and abortifacient mandate, which is so problematic for so many people.”

So, Senator Toomey is concerned about the cost of contraception, but not the 18+ years of childcare that comes after? What kind of strange logic is that?

The email was an itemized list of the usual GOP propaganda that is meant to stir up their base. It was so filled with exaggeration and inaccuracies.

…and begging for this response from me.

To: Senator Toomey

RE: The Toomey mass email

Instead of whining about President Obama’s concern for the environment, you should be looking for ways to retrain coal workers in clean, renewable energy.
Your push for fracking without regard for the ecological effects is frightening. Drinking water should NOT be flammable, Mr Toomey!

Thank God I don’t have children. I’d be terrified for their future.

The biggest roadblock to economic recovery is the mass layoffs of public employees like police,  fire, and teachers. This is a threat to public safety as well. The GOP’s focus is tax breaks for corporations, not struggling families. So stop lying about it.

It was greed that caused our economy to fall into a deep recession, Mr Toomey, not Social Security and Medicare. But the first thing you guys do when times get tough, is pull away the safety nets for those in need.

The worst part is that no one even bothers to read the emails I send. I get a form letter in response.
I have to wonder why I even bother. What’s the point? Why waste my time when nobody is listening?

I do it because I care, Mr Toomey. I care about my city, my state, and most of all, my country.
In spite of fools like you, I love my country.

Here’s a suggestion for you. Try living on the average minimum wage.
I think our elected officials should receive the same level of healthcare that Medicare provides. Maybe then they’d understand the struggles of the average citizen.
But that will never happen. You’re so disconnected from reality, it would be funny if it weren’t so damned tragic.

I feel so much better now. :\

Philly Places: Headhouse Square

Headhouse Square

(2nd street between Pine and Lombard streets) Philadelphia, Pa.

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facing south to Lombard St.

Top image taken from under the Headhouse into the shed, which serves as shelter for the Headhouse square Farmers’ Market (Sundays, May through December, 10 am – 2 pm)

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Facing south from under the shed.

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Facing north to Pine St.

photos by ADignorantium

Originally posted on ADignorantium.tumblr.com