About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
Born in Illinois, I grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. I am married, for the 2nd time now, to Butch & got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me grandmother 25 times over & great-grandmother to over 20!. After many years working in industry, I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication, & was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 & returned to school & got my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore & genealogy - & add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/author/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play many folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I write the "Aunty Jeff" column for the Informer, newsletter of the Jefferson County NY Gen. Soc. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega & Sara Cochran as Genealogy Journeys® where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that: genaandjean.blogspot.com. More on our podcasts: genjourneys.podbean.com. More about my own projects: Circlemending.org.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Sunday Singalong - AI - Absolute Idiocy, Asinine Interference


I don't really mean that Artificial Intelligence is Absolute Idiocy, but neither do I feel like singing its praises. I've had more issues with AI than pleasant experiences. I won't detail them all, but I believe my latest issues hie back to AI interference. Combined with computer use. Combined with recordings. Combined with Zoom. NOT combined with my new computer, which is the one thing that is trying to be successful in spite of the AI interference. Ah, that's the accronym: Asinine Interference.

So, here's where I'm going with this . . . Computer domination of my life. Perhaps you know the song (hey, there are songs for everything and I do believe there is now a plethora of computer compositions): 

"White Collar Holler," written by Nigel Russell, published in 1979, and sung here by Stan Rogers. This recording is particularly special . . . 5 days later, Stan was killed in an airplane crash and fire. We lost one of the best artists - singer-songwriter - and this first song on this recording, and those that follow, show why I say that. It was recorded on 28 May 1983 at one of my very favorite venues in Southern California: McCabes Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. It's an authorized recording.

Enjoy . . . and do listen to other songs that demonstrate his love of life and history.

Your turn!

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Fire! Fire!


Nope, didn't get this written and posted last weekend. But the subject here should explain, sort of. I left my computer in the carry bag because I had no idea what would happen next! Read on.

Where we live, up in wildfire country, we experience (often simultaneously) hot (like 100+ temps), dry, windy (gust up to 40 MPH or higher, on rare occasions), and dried out vegetation. All the necessary components for raging wild fires, which have graced our region over the past few days (when I might have otherwise been writing this post, I was packing for possible evacuation with a fire bordering my street and just 2 miles away . . . but, thankfully, burning in a SE direction - I am NW of the fire's position). Though it continued into the week following its outbreak on 15 July 2023, they managed to surround the fire in an effort to contain it within a predetermined perimeter. It worked! The firefighters are amazing. 

I know that a lot of folks in the region of the state where I live (as well as many, many others) are not as fortunate as I and houses, outbuildings, animals, cars, and more fell victim to the flames and/or smoke of one of the fires that has plagued us so far this season. It's always sad when I see the destruction . . . I'm overwhelmed with emotion at the sight of precious belongings being burned beyond recognition, but even moreso when I learn of people being caught in the event, either suffering horrible burns or succumbing to the conflagration or smoke inhalation.

A favorite song of mine, especially when sung by my friend Stan Shapin (of Orange County, CA) - our association goes back to years in Chicago. I moved to CA in 1973 and he moved out here not long after - he has family nearby. So every now and then I get to see him and request he sing this song: "Baltimore Fire." Now, he didn't write it and, as far as a I know but when he sings it, accompanied by his amazing banjo playing, he "owns" it. So I share it here on a YouTube recording of Stan in the mid-1980s and on the site of another Chicago musician, Paul Goelz (I remember so many great times with these 2 guys - music going on for hours in a living room or the Quiet Knight where our Friends of SING OUT! group would meet a few nights every month). Click the link for the lyrics, below, to hear my old friend show how easy it is to play the long-neck banjo in clawhammer style, playing it at Adler House Museum, Baker City, Oregon.

The lyrics are very hard to make out at the beginning and when I looked up the words, I found at least 3 different interpretations of the first line. I went to my "go to" website for such things - Mudcat Cafe - and believe these are the actual lyrics (also, many recordings I've heard left off the last verse):


It was on a silver falls by a narrow
That I heard the cry I ever will remember,
The fire sent and cast its burning embers
On another faded city of our land.

cho: Fire, Fire, I heard the cry
From every breeze that passes by,
All the world was one sad cry of pity
Strong men in anguish prayed,
Calling loud to Heaven for aid,
While the fire in ruin was laying
Fair Baltimore, the beautiful city

Amid an awful struggle of commotion,
The wind blew a gale from the ocean,
Brave firemen struggled with devotion,
But their efforts all proved in vain.

The awful news did spread across the wire
Of another sad catastrophe so dire,
That Baltimore City is afire,
And sinking 'neath the foe's relentless hand.

From New Lost City Ramblers; originally recorded by Charlie
Poole, 1929.

Any fire songs in your world?

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Singalong Sunday - Hot Enough for You?


We are looking at some real heat coming up in the week ahead. Now, when I say that, I understand that my idea of heat is probably different from yours (and from those of a lot of folks). Where I grew up (in suburban Chicago), 88⁰ was hot. Of course, the humidity increased the sense of hot. I remember spending some summer days in St. Louis . . . now the heat could be as it was at home, but the humidity was even greater. Breathing could be labored. And that summer when we vacationed in Washington, DC I got to really experience heat. I recall it raining one evening and I thought that we would have some relief; after dinner I went out expecting to enjoy a cool walk . . . right! It was a sauna, or so that is how it felt (and I’ve never really been a “sauna” person). So, as we hear of days ahead that will push the mercury up to 109⁰ I need to remember that it’s a “dry heat.” And it is, usually. But then the weather reporter added that the onshore flow will be adding some humidity to our days. Hold it! I moved to California knowing that the temps here could get a bit high, but the dry days and nights meant that it was bearable, especially in the desert areas where the evenings would be balmy. Really.

When the weather is particularly warm, I tend to go around singing the song from Kiss Me, Kate. . .

Too Darn Hot,” by Cole Porter, sung by Ella Fitzgerald, 1956

Any summer or warm temperature songs that come to mind for you?

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Sunday (OK, Tuesday) Singalong - Patriotism and July 4th


Back in the 1960s-‘70s, I did more than my share of marching, protest meetings, and singing all the while. A lot of songs I sang then I would not sing today, largely because my personal ideals have changed and my perspective has widened. But I never lost my feelings of pride in my country. And I never forsook the pride I felt for those in my family who had served their country with singleness of purpose. How blessed I have been to be married to a righteous Navy vet. His stories (the ones he was permitted to tell) were always uplifting and added to my sense of patriotism. I don’t regret my activities of my youth and I recognize much of my enthusiasm was fueled by a sense of love for my country. But I also realize that my sentiments were not shared by all my friends, though most of those in my “circle” did come from that same script. I have a great appreciation for a statement Pete Seeger made in one of his songs of protest: “If an army invaded this country of mine, you’d find me out on the firing line.” At this time in my life, and looking at what’s going on around the world, I think I’d look at that action as probably too late.

So, I am actually posting this on the 4th of July, a special date in many ways. My brother was born on this date in 1945, so one of my first actions of the day is always a quick call to him, but then to promise a longer one later as he always has plans on this date (usually involving baseball, which it does today, in spite of his years alive now totaling 78). And it was on this date, 47 years ago, the 200th anniversary of our country, that I had a special “date” with my future eternal companion, watching fireworks at Angel Stadium (OK, outside the stadium, in the grass) where we reminisced about our respective youths and realized we had been in a parade together in 1959 in Illinois!

Lots of thoughts here. Now, which will the song topic be? The underlying “Patriotism” sounds about right. There are a lot of songs, born of America’s Civil War, that speak of love of country and service in the military at the time (1861-65), but when we look closer at the words, we realize that most of the songs, at least those composed during the war years, were anti-war songs. Funny how context can change an entire focus! 

One of my favorite performers, writers, troubadours, and all-'round great guy was Hoyt Axton. He does a rather recognized song here.

"The Yellow Rose of Texas"

Got a song of patriotism that comes to mind?