Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Although we lost our past archives moving to our present web host this past September; long time readers of The Free Choice e-zine know that at the close of each year, we take a brief look back to remember once more those we have lost within the past year.

The men and women of the world’s armed forces and emergency response services who gave up their lives to protect others.
Our friends, family, and loved ones whose presence are sorely missed.

And amongst the more notable names are Edmund Hillary: the first mountain climber officially recognized for reaching the top of Mount Everest in 1953.
Actors Don S. Davis (Stargate: SG-1), Ivan Dixon, Charlton Heston, Van Johnson, Heath Ledger , Paul Newman, Roy Schieder, Paul Scofield, and Richard Widmark.
Actor/director/producers Mel Ferrer and Sydney Pollack.
Actresses Estelle Getty (The Golden Girls), Beverly Garland, Evelyn Keyes, Anita Page, Suzanne Pleshette (The Bob Newhart Show), and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, who needs no introduction to Star Trek fans.
Actress/dancer Cyd Charisse.
Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist accredited for discovering the drug commonly known as LSD.
Famed pin-up model Bettie Page and artist Dave Stevens, who helped revive her popularity within his creation The Rocketeer.
Animator Bill Melendez, who oversaw all the Peanuts animated productions.
Artists Michael Turner (Witchblade, Fathom) and Edd Cartier, who painted a lot of magazine covers, amongst other things. For examples of his work, just look at the reprints of The Shadow and Doc Savage from Nostalgia Press.
Author and commentator William F. Buckley, Junior.
Authors Robert Asprin (of the Myth Adventures), Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Crichton, and Studs Turkel.
Betty James of Slinky toy fame.
Cabaret star and actress Eartha Kitt, a class act.
Chess masters Karen Asrian and Bobby Fischer.
Classic Disney animator Ollie Johnson, the last of the original “Nine Old Men”.
Comedian, author, and actor George Carlin.
Comedian/actors Harvey Korman, Dick Martin, and Bernie Mac.
Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.
Forest J. Ackerman, the man who, among other things, is accredited with coining the term “sci-fi”, short for science fiction.
Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons.
Irvine Robbins, the co-founder of Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream.
Jerry Wexler, the music journalist who coined the term “rhythm and blues”.
Johnny Podres, Major League Baseball’s first World Series Most Valuable Player.
Journalist Tim Russert.
Larry Harmon, not the original, but perhaps the most famous Bozo the Clown.
Maila Numri, known to her fans as Vampira.
Medical pioneer Michael DeBakey and Doctor Adrian Kantrowitz, who actually performed the first human heart transplant in the United States.
Musicians Eddy Arnold, Bo Diddley, Johnny Griffin, Isaac Hayes, Jerry Reed, Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops, and founding Pink Floyd member Richard Wright.
Politician Jesse Helms.
Richard Knerr, the co-founder of Wham-O Toys, responsible for the hula hoop, the Frisbee, and a lot of other fun stuff.
Special effects and make up artist Stan Winston.
Sportscaster Jim McKay.
The multi-talented Odetta.
Voice actor Don LaFontaine, mostly known as the narrator for a lot of movie promos.
And last, but certainly not least since this list tried to be alphabetical...
W. Mark Felt, the former Watergate informant known as “Deep Throat”.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


While some are still in the holiday spirit, let's take a look at some Christmas novelty songs.

Of course the most notable of these Christmas melodies is The Chipmunk Song: Please Christmas Don't Be Late by Alvin and the Chipmunks. Originally recorded in 1958, David Seville (the stage name of Ross Bagdasarian, Senior) reused the technique of speeding up his own vocals, which created the voice of the title character in his earlier hit Witch Doctor; to bring to life three cute characters who have gone on to achieve a fame all their own. The recent stars of a 2007 movie, the trio are scheduled to return to the big screen next winter in Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakel.

But running it a very close second is You're A Mean One, Mister Grinch. The tune, whose verses were heard during the 1966 Christmas special How The Grinch Stole Christmas, was sang by an unaccredited at the time voice actor named Thurl Ravenscroft, who among other roles was the original voice of Tony the Tiger.

All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth, a child's plea for an obvious Christmas present, was first recorded by Spike Jones and His City Slickers in 1948, although artists as diverse as Nat King Cole and George Strait have recorded their own versions since then.

Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, in character as Bob and Doug McKenzie of Second City Television fame, did their own version of The Twelve Days of Christmas in 1982; while Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong's Santa Claus and His Old Lady routine from 1971 is an annual tradition on some radio stations.

But while there are way too many to Christmas novelty songs to name in this "short" column, in my humble opinion, perhaps the funniest is I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas. Recorded by Gayla Peevey in 1953 when she was 10 years old, it was a local favorite in her native Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. But as the urban legend goes, when the song eventually went on to a national audience, some thought it was recorded as a fund raiser for the local city zoo and somehow, somewhere along the way, someone got the bright idea to actually present Peevey with a real hippopotamus for Christmas the following year, which she in turn donated to the Oklahoma City zoo. Matilda the Hippo went on to entertain children and adults alike for fifty years until she passed away from natural causes.

The person behind Ms. Waxy Dragon and other Internet avatars wanted the
weekend off to be with their family. The Sunday Funnies will resume next weekend
to kick off 2009.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


It's the last weekend of 2008.
So for our fun this Saturday, The Puzzle Corner features a quiz about the past year in chronological order.
How well were you paying attention?

01. What is the name of the space probe NASA launched that should land on Mercury in 2011?
02. When Fidel Castro resigned his position due to health problems, who became President of Cuba?
03. What is the name of the latest space probe that landed on Mars?
04. What did it find there?
05. When Bill Gates stepped down as chairman of Microsoft, what did he plan to do next?
06. Who hosted the Summer Olympics?
07. What individual athlete won the most gold medals?
08. Whose record did the answer to the previous question beat?
09. What event did the answer to question 6 host next?
10. We all know who won the 2008 Presidential election in the United States. But which side had their slate of candidates ready first?

The results will appear in the first week of 2009.
Meanwhile, here are the answers from last week when we asked what artist(s) sang each of the following famous Christmas carols first.

01. Frosty the Snowman was first sung by Gene Autry in a 1950 recording.
02. Judy Garland was the first to sing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas during the 1944 MGM musical Meet Me In Saint Louis.
03. Here Comes Santa Claus was first sung by its co-writer Gene Autry in 1947, although the radio version is actually of a later recording.
04. The Jingle Bell Rock was first performed by Bobby Helms in 1957.
05. Vaughn Monroe first pleaded Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow in 1946.
06. Believe it or not, there are two possible answers for this one!
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first shined in 1948 when Harry Brannon sang it live on various New York City radio programs, but Gene Autry was the first to actually record the song the following year.
07. Eartha Kitt first purred Santa Baby in 1953.
08. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town is actually the oldest song on our list. Eddie Cantor was the first to sing it in a 1934 recording, although I personally like the rendition by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
09. Silver Bells was first performed in the 1951 Paramount Picture The Lemon Drop Kid by its star Bob Hope, who continued to perform it on every TV Christmas special he did until his passing.
10. The two versions of Sleigh Ride.
The Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler performed the first instrumental version of this tune in 1949, although the popular radio version is actually of one of their later performances.
Meanwhile, the Andrews Sisters were the first to sing the lyrics to the song in a 1950 recording.

See you in 2009!

Friday, December 26, 2008


For those of our readership who acknowledge the seven principles of life between today and January 1st, HAPPY KWANZAA.


Although it has never had a nickname like "Black Friday" or "Cyber Monday", December 26th is when retailers keep their fingers crossed and hope things go well.
This is the dreaded return day, when people hope to exchange that ill-fitting sweater or inappropriate Christmas gift for something better. Meanwhile, other consumers hope to find something special to use whatever gift cards/certificates they might have acquired over the holiday upon.
And of course everyone hopes to find bargains amongst all the prices retailers slashed in hopes of selling the merchandise that did not sell before December 25th.
But while the sales normally would outweigh the returns, this year is different with the current economic situation leading consumers to not spend nearly as much as retailers hoped.
Yet only time will tell whether or not all the checks and minuses balance out for any business to report a profit for the final quarter of 2008, let alone how the results will affect the spring of 2009.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


To our readership that celebrate a special birth that occurred lo these many years ago.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Even if the world was not facing the economic troubles it is at the moment, please remember:
It is not the actual gift or the amount that you spend upon someone.
The most important thing you can give those you care about at Christmas, or any other time of year, is your love. YY

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I've posted the following in the past as a humorous illustration of the eternal optimist.
But with the long, cold winter some parts of North America and the rest of the world are experiencing right now, I thought some of you might enjoy seeing this image again for another reason.
In any event, enjoy!

Sunday, December 21, 2008


For those in our readership who honor and celebrate the Festival of Lights, may the week ahead be only the beginning of brightness and happiness within your lives.


On a cold winter's day, isn't it nice to just stay home, keep warm, and tell jokes?
With that attempt at a segue out of the way, here's our resident comedienne Ms. Waxy Dragon.

Dear Santa:
I have been a good girl all year long, whether you believe me or not, and...
OOPS! Sorry, wrong notes!
Well folks, with Christmas just a few short days away, I thought you would all enjoy some holiday themed jokes.
At least, I hope you appreciate the ones I do have.

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Dexter who?
Dexter halls with bows of holly.

Okay, so it's not Walt Kelly's famous "Deck us all with Boston Charlie" from the classic Pogo comic strip, but at least I'm trying!
Here's another:

Why are there only 25 letters in the alphabet instead of 26?
Because the angels said "Noel!"

Noel. No L. Get it?
Wait... What do you mean "No L" was used as the answer for the last Rebus in the weekly Puzzle Corner feature?
Give a girl a break! I'm only a three year old baby dragon avatar.
Let's try this one...

What is Tarzan's favorite Christmas carol? Jungle Bells.

Oh come on. That was at least worth a chuckle. I'm just getting warmed up.
Warmed up. Get it? This avatar of an avid Internet surfer is supposed to be a three year old baby dragon and...
Okay. Okay. I'll try another one.
No, don't groan. At least not until after I tell the joke.

How did Darth Vader know what Luke Skywalker was getting for Christmas?
He used the Force and felt his presents.

YEAH! I hear you laughing out there!
Now for the big finish!

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Mary who?

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Once again, another Saturday and more puzzles for you to ponder the solutions to.

Being deep into the holiday season with Christmas next Thursday, this week I thought we would try something a little different with our "reindeer games".
Listed below are ten famous Christmas carols.
Now there have been many recordings of these classics and much debate can be made over whose version is the best.
But your challenge is to name the VERY FIRST recording artist(s) for each song.

01. Frosty the Snowman
02. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas e
03. Here Comes Santa Claus
04. Jingle Bell Rock
05. Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!
06. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
07. Santa Baby
08. Santa Claus is Coming to Town K
09. Silver Bells
...and for an extra challenge:
10. Sleigh Ride P
This tune has been recorded as both an instrumental and with lyrics.
Can you name the first artist(s) for each version?

Of course, the answers will appear next weekend. But for now, here are the results from December 13th.

Although he has since transcended his retail roots and become part of the Christmas iconic folklore, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer started life as part of the Montgomery Wards Department Stores annual Christmas sales campaign when he was created by Wards employee Robert L. May in 1939.

And for an extra special Christmas treat. The answer will be provided by guest commentator BradW8 courtsey of

The Christmas carol in question is The First Noel.
All three lines are missing the letter L. So when said, or sang, aloud:
Noel. Noel. Noel. (Born is the King of Israel.)
I live in Arlington, Texas; and would you believe that with a population of over 300K we are the largest city in America without any sort of mass transit. In other words, unlike Chicago, all year 'round we have no "el."

See you folks next Saturday for more Puzzle Corner!

Friday, December 19, 2008


Snow in winter is as common as cold air and less hours of daylight.
But snow in Las Vegas, Nevada?
That is what citizens of the Sagebrush State experienced earlier this week as a very strong Arctic cold front came down from Alaska and swept through the North American continent.
Snow in areas that do not usually experience the seasonal white stuff like Los Angeles, California and Houston, Texas were coupled with higher snowfalls and colder temperatures in the states that traditionally experience such classic winter conditions.
Of course The Free Choice e-zine hopes that everyone in the affected areas stays in, stays warm, and keeps off the roads unless it is absolutely necessary for you to travel.


With the recent release of the twenty five cent piece commemorating Hawaii becoming one of the United States of America, the commemorative State Quarter program that began in 1999 has come to a close.
But while the quarter will return to its traditional sides of George Washington on the front and an American Bald eagle on the reverse for 2009, we may not be saying "Aloha" to specialty coins just yet.
A bill is pending that, if passed, will allow the United States mint to start a similar commemorative program honoring America's National Parks beginning in 2010.
More details on this as the story develops.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Our resident comedienne, Ms. Waxy Dragon, Waxy Dragona self-professed three year old baby dragon, was last seen trying to track down every representative of Santa Claus she could find to convince Mr. Kringle that she had been a good enough girl to merit receiving a "Sesame Street Elmo Live Stand-Up Comic" doll on Christmas morning. It remains a mystery however as to why every copy of the annual naughty list has been reduced to a pile of ashes.

In 'real' life, the avid Internet surfer behind this and other avatars, had to take care of a sick relative and could not spare the time to provide jokes for this week's episode.
Hopefully the Sunday Funnies will be back on schedule next weekend.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


To try and get everyone a little more into the holiday spirit, I thought we would try some themed puzzles over the next couple of weeks.

What famous Christmas icon actually started out life as a department store sales campaign?

The images below will hopefully inspire you to remember a famous holiday tune.

1. Q, W, E, R, T, Y, U, I, O, P, A, S, D, F, G, H, J, K, Z, X, C, V, B, N, M.
2. B, V, C, X, Z, H, G, F, D, S, A, Y, T, R, E, W, Q, N, M, K, J, I, O, U, P.
3. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.

The answers will appear next weekend, but now here are the results from December 6th, 2008.

Although not on the same episode or with the events in relation to each other, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin's Laugh-In was the first program to actually predict the Presidency of Ronald Reagan and the Fall of the Berlin Wall as part of their weekly "News of the Future" segment.

The letters O, P, S, and T can be used to form all the answers.
1. Chooses = OPTS
2. Stain = SPOT
3. Lids = TOPS
4. Mail = POST
5. Cookware = POTS
6. Halt! = STOP

Friday, December 12, 2008


We all know how the economy is going right now. Bailouts, cut-backs, lay offs, etc.
But one industry that has not had much press of late, although affected just as much as any other by the current economic situation, is the retail industry.
It is no surprise that sales are down, with consumers buying little more than what is absolutely necessary, and certainly shying away from the higher priced items, looking for bargains and trying to spend as little as possible.
There have been no reports of any notable Christmas hires this season outside of the traditional Santa Claus representatives and their photo taking associates.
The results of the annual Black Friday sales push starting the holiday season for retailers were nowhere near expectations. The crowds were out and about, but for the reasons stated above, a physical presence did not always translate into revenue.
Cyber Monday the following week was better, with less overhead for businesses since all transactions of the day were conducted on line, but then again the end results were not as spectacular as hoped for.
Retailers are closing less profitable outlets and cutting back staff in others, which will put more people out of work.
Other businesses are following suit, as well as cutting back hours. There have been a lot of companies that are now only giving full time employees 32 hours a week instead of 40.

Personally, I cannot blame any of the above for doing what they must to stay open. It is better to operate a business at a reduced capacity than to close outright.
Although I must point out that there are some companies that do not think of those affected by the "cost cutting measures" and others that go out of their way to minimize the impact of those actions upon their employees. If any of this involves you dear reader, hopefully you work(ed) for one of the latter.
The best news for the consumer in all of this is that right now retailers are doing everything they can to earn your business. Sale discounts are the highest they have been in a long time. Most stores have even gone ahead and left their discount areas open and even added additional stock to those shelves instead of putting it all away for the holidays.

But while the bottom line is the ultimate objective for both retailers and consumers alike, only time will reveal the results of this annual contest between the need to buy and the need to save.


The following is a news editorial.

I'm sure by now everyone has heard the latest on what hopefully the soon to be ex- Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, tried to do while searching for a candidate to fill out the the remainder of President-elect Barack Obama current term as an United States Senator.

It is bad enough to try obtaining personal advantage(s) from a public position, and Blagojevich is far from the first politician to do so. But as the Federal investigation continues, with the possibility of even more charges to be filed pending the inquiry results, let us take a brief look at the damage thus far, starting at the bottom of the scale and working our way up.

Jesse Jackson, Junior and who knows how many more legitimate/viable candidates have been completely ignored because they did not want to "play ball" and enter the potential bidding war for the vacant Senate position.
The people of the fine state of Illinois are shaking their heads in disbelief, no longer knowing who to trust, let alone what will happen to them now.
The financially troubled Chicago Tribune is making their own accusations against Blagojevich, claiming that although some of the Tribune's dealings are international in scope, he would not help them on the state level unless they honored his "requests".

But perhaps the biggest potential damage might be to the fledgling Obama Presidency.
While the President-elect is innocent of any wrong doing in the matters currently before the courts, the Republican party is having a field day wondering about what skeletons might still be hiding in the closets of the past as investigators continue to look into Blagojevich's entire public service history.

In June 1858, then Illinois Senator Abraham Lincoln said:
"A house divided against itself cannot stand."

PEOPLE: If this country, let alone the world, is to get better, WE ALL NEED TO WORK TOGETHER!

Don't let the Blagojeviches of the world cast out whatever hope remains.

"We shall not fail -- if we stand firm, we shall not fail."

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Would you believe...
There really is a WKRP in Cincinnati?
A low power/small signal independent television station within the city has started using the call letters on air and in advertising to promote their recent transition to digital broadcasting. Although the channel is still officially known as WBQC-CA, the station's corporate owners, Block Broadcasting, have filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission for formal use of the call letters, because WKRP-LP is currently a low power television station operating in Nashville, Tennessee.
Other radio stations have used the call letters off and on throughout their broadcast history. For more information, visit
The classic 1978-1982 sitcom can currently be seen on WGN America Sunday nights and on the American Life Cable Channel Monday nights. It featured an ensemble cast of characters working for the fictitious radio station in Cincinnati, Ohio. According to the show's creator Hugh Wilson, the call letters were supposed to reflect the status of the station (C-R-A-P) before the arrival of new programming director Andy Travis, played by Gary Sandy, who converted the format from easy listening to rock and roll in hopes of boosting listener ratings.
But on television the letters stood for K-A-R-P, because station manager Arthur Carlson, played by Gordon Jump, was the latest relative in the family owned business who loved to fish.
So with that in mind, our resident comedienne Ms. Waxy Dragon has provided us with some fish themed jokes this week.

Two fish are in a tank and one says to the other, “Do you know how to drive this thing?”

Why do some fish swim together? For the halibut on porpoise.

What is a fish's favorite romantic song? Salmon-chanted Evening.

And remember, you can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish!

See you next weekend for more Sunday Funnies.


Another weekend, and new puzzles to ponder.
Aren't you lucky.

But before we begin, I must admit that I am an avid viewer of the television game show Jeopardy, and I also play along as I watch. But within one game this past week, I was totally surprised that none of the contestants even attempted a response to the last clue ($2000) in the Double Jeopardy round category: Before and After.
Basically, "Feegle and Bingo's grammatical error" is a Banana Splits Infinitive.
Am I the only one to remember that Hanna-Barbera group from the late 1960's?
Anyway, on with our games...

What television program was the first to accurately predict Ronald Reagan as President of the United States and the Fall of the Berlin Wall?

The same four letters can be arranged to form the answers for all of the following clues.
1. Chooses
2. Stain
3. Lids
4. Mail
5. Cookware
6. HALT!

The answers will appear at the end of next week's Puzzle Corner.
But now, here are the results of November 29th.

Okay, I tried to be a bit sneaky with this one. In honor of Noel Neill's recent birthday, every lady listed have all portrayed Lois Lane.
Group 1 were the more recent TV actresses. Teri Hatcher had the role on Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman while Erica Durance is currently the Daily Planet reporter on Smallville.
But Group 2 was trickier. While Ms. Neill was the first actress to appear visually as Lois in the 1948 Superman theatrical serial, these ladies were the first within their respective mediums. Rollie Bester originated the role vocally for the 1940's radio drama The Adventures of Superman, although others have followed her since, mostly in animation. Meanwhile Patricia Marand was the first to portray Ms. Lane on Broadway in the 1966 musical It's a bird, It's a plane, It's Superman!

Pictured were images to invoke the phrase: Bedtime Fairy Tales.

Monday, December 1, 2008


-Today, the world unites once again in hopes of increasing humanity's awareness and help in the fight to stop the spread of AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome; the disease that eventually develops within most suffering from HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
-It is estimated that this pandemic has claimed the lives of over 26 million victims since its formal discovery in 1981 and that at least that many, if not more, are known to be living with HIV even as you read these words!
-While this is the one day out of the year that one will see more red-ribbons- than any other, that does not mean the end is in sight yet.
-Only with time and effort can scientists hope to discover a cure.
-Only by common sense can one hope to prevent from being exposed to the HIV virus.
-If you think you might be carrying the disease, get tested.
-If you're not, don't take the risk of becoming another statistic.

A public service message of the Free Choice e-zine.-


To say that the Internet has advanced both technologically and in popularity over the last decade would be a serious understatement.
A recent development of its increased use is what some business analysts have come to call Cyber Monday. Akin to Black Friday, this is supposed to be the busiest shopping day of the Christmas season for retailers on the world wide web. Whether it is a business that also happens to have a website or strictly an Internet entity like; with just a click of a mouse, consumers can purchase items from the comfort of their PCs without the hassles of crowded stores and hopefully have their merchandise delivered in time for the holidays.
Meanwhile, reactions to this past Black Friday have been mixed. The crowds were definitely out in abundance, and in some cases out of hand, like at the Wal*Mart in New York where a store employee was trampled to death as shoppers rushed in hoping to get bargains. But yet a customer's physical presence within any establishment did not always translate into sales, for reports of the final results for November 28th are mixed.
The Free Choice e-zine will be looking further into the 2008 retail economic scene in a future article.