• Football: A Commentary

    I write this in response to a Boston Globe columnist’s article calling for phasing out of football and arguing that we should not watch football on TV any longer.
    The columnist correctly pointed out the issue of concussions and injuries in football.

    My response: Your article about the traumatic realities of football is accepted science.
    HOWEVER, AND IN SPITE OF IT ALL, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE AND LOOK FORWARD TO WATCHING AMERICAN COLLEGE AND PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL, both in person and most especially on HD color TV, in living color as the old TV slogan goes. I just can’t help myself. Football games are too colorful, exciting, interesting, compelling, spellbinding, wonderful, heart pounding, jump out of your La Z Boy enjoyable.

    We are all voyeurs. And I don’t watch football to see anyone get hurt. Injuries happen and brain injuries are a reality. I recognize the danger but I don’t accept personal responsibility for watching football. That is the disconnect. I get that it can be dangerous. I acknowledge your science. I buy that football can be linked to the Roman Circus. I understand the psychology and the human nature of Spectacle. Football, however, is not bloodsport, per se. I draw a line between the two.

    Professional bicycling is dangerous. Watch the Tour de France. Professional soccer is full of intentional contact with the aim to hurt your opponent. I give you the World Cup, for example. Skiing is inherently dangerous. Men’s lacrosse is no walk in the park either.

    I don’t apologize for football or my love of it. I don’t think I have to rationalize that. I don’t think I need to apologize for that. I don’t think football should be be turned into some sort of non-contact ballet. I do think that safer equipment and rules modifications which improve safety are important and ongoing. I’m not going to quit loving football. I revel in the history of college football, the fight songs, the uniforms, the halftime speeches, and the legacies of the great players and coaches. Roll Tide Roll. Go Patriots. Rah, Rah, Rah, Boola Boola, Sis Boom Bah, Dot the I, On Wisconsin, All the Live Long Day.

    The world wide popularity of sport is, in general, a good thing. It brings us together. We learn to respect rivalry. In general, War is a bad thing. Therein lies the difference. Football is a game with rules and the contests are officiated.

    If you want to vent, may I suggest railing against hunting, for example, where the object is to kill an animal or a bird. Hunting for pleasure is not sport, nor is it sporting. I don’t have a problem with hunting for food. Culling of herds is occasionally necessary. It’s great fun to be outdoors. I get the thrill of the chase, having hunted occasionally in my past. I like the whole deal except for pulling the trigger or drawing the bow. To me, it’s not justifiable, to kill for sport.



  • Boston Baseball: Where Buying the Future Is Expensive But Called For

    You won’t have Clay Bucholz to kick around too much longer. He’ll get dealt someplace where the glare isn’t so harsh and the scribes are suck ups. Buch is no longer dependable. You know it. I know it. Clay knows it. Even though his stock is low, we can send him packing after the season, eat salary, and move on.

    Expect good things to happen, Red Sox Nation. The Cavalry is coming. We need great pitching and we’re gonna get it, and get it big time. Who’s that coming down Landsdowne Street, it’s John Lester (back in the fold, on his terms), and I see Max Scherzer and Cole Hamels and Justin Masterson and Tyson Ross.

    The Red Sox can reload. It just costs money and money we have, with the shy, but rich, John Henry, who is, no doubt, getting all the more rich by just owning our team. John (if I may call you that), all we want is a really good chance to go deep in the playoffs, each and every year. We don’t have to win the World Series every year, but we should be playing in October.  John, you have the greatest fans in baseball. We hardly complain about the highest ticket prices in baseball. We hardly complain about the fact that Fenway is covered with advertising.  The way I see it, ownership asks something of us fans, and we ask something of ownership. So, c’mon John Henry, buy the top talent. Pony up. Put that sweet product on the field and we’ll sing “Sweet Effin’ Caroline” like we mean it, and a sizable portion of us do.

    The Boston Red Sox are loved more than any local or regional institution, the Church being the exception. More than the Marathon. More than Harvard, more than M.I.T., more than the Celtics, more than the Bruins. The Red Sox are currently only slightly ahead of the Patriots, but when Belichick and Brady are gone, then the Red Sox will run circles around the Pats like they do everyone else. It’s fun to be a diehard Boston Red Sox fan. We’re on the bandwagon, rain or shine. We have been suffering for generations. Our parents and grandparents paid our dues. They overpaid our dues.

    No one begrudges the fact that the Boston Red Sox are a money making machine.  They print the stuff.  Sure, it costs a ton to field a really good players, establish and maintain a great farm system, and pay for the duck boats.  Thankfully, we, the fans, buy the merch, we buy the tickets, we throw money away at Foxwoods, drink Coca-Cola, and buy our office supplies at W.B. Mason. I even know a die hard Red Sox fan who throws a brick through his windshield every spring so Giant Glass can take his insurance company’s money. We support John Hancock, we buy Hood ice cream, and drink and eat Dunkin’ Donuts and shop at Cumberland Farms.  Those folks, in turn, chip in a whole bunch of money to cover the ball club’s annual nut. Nat Geo calls it Symbiosis and it’s a win-win deal for everyone, except probably Clay Bucholz. And if we can’t fix Clay, we’ll find us someone who don’t need fixin’.

    So lighten up on Clay. He did his part for the Red Sox. He has a ring on his skinny finger. That he can’t repeat his delivery now isn’t the end of the world.  This season is just a blip on the Red Sox long timeline, soon to be forgotten, exactly when the equipment truck rolls South next Winter.

    Clay, if you are reading this, it would behoove you to throw another no-no if you don’t want to play for Houston, Miami, or the Cubbies next season.  Frankly, with Scherzer, Hamels, Ross, Owens, Kelly, and Lester in our 2015 starting rotation, there isn’t going to be room for you, unless you figure out a repeatable delivery.

    FYI, two good things we’ve learned this year:  One is that Brock Holt is the real deal. He’s a dirt dog winner and can play any position better than whoever is playing that position.  The other thing is that Jackie Bradley is the best defensive outfielder in baseball.  Yes, he needs to learn to bunt and hit better.  But he’s coachable.  He’ll get in the swing of it. Enough with the strike outs, Jack.  But, given his unreal speed and his world class leather, JBJ needs to be in Fenway’s center field green grass for the next ten years.  Even if he can’t hit a lick. But he will.

    So get ready for some damn good Red Sox baseball in 2015. I have faith in our ability to buy about the best team in baseball each and every year. That is not cynicism, it’s what we all expect and happily pay for. Open up the checkbook John, and Red Sox Nation will have something to look forward to, next season, and every season. –   Harry Lipson III, in old Boston Towne.



  • To Hell with Baseball, It’s Almost Football Season

    One week ago tonight I published the post beneath this. The Red Sox had just won five in a row and beaten Toronto 14-1. Fast forward seven days and the Red Sox have lost six of seven and were just beaten, ironically, by Toronto, 14-1. The point being this: The Red Sox have thrown in the towel (to use a boxing metaphor). We are playing out the cards (another damn metaphor) and our season is lost. We are in last place and it is a tough pill to swallow (pharma phrase, I suppose) for fans of the reigning world champions. Hard to believe. Over the past ten seasons, Boston has won 3 World Series, so we can’t win every year. But from best to worst is a fast elevator ride straight down.
    Now, apparently, we are about to trade or sell a number of our players. Ace lefty, Jon Lester, may be sent packing (big mistake) and superstar closer, Koji Uehara, may be available to the high bidder. Some say it will be a “fire sale.” It took us years to assemble this World Series championship team, and the ownership may shake the dice, and blow it all up in the next three days. The MLB trade deadline is Thursday afternoon so we don’t have long to wait to find out who is going and who is staying. For sure it is a lost season. On the other hand, its just a matter of weeks until football season starts.



  • Baseball and Death

    Our Boston Red Sox are surging, finally. As of this update, the Red Sox have won eight of nine games, including five in a row. On the down side, we are still five games under .500, but a week ago, it was a whole lot worse. Maybe the All Star pause was the break we needed. Everybody is hitting now. Last night we scored 14 against Toronto. And our pitching has been rock solid. Koji is still the best closer in all of baseball, Lester and Lackey aren’t giving up many hits, much less runs. Rubby De La Rosa is the real deal, a bonafide major league pitcher. And nobody tries any harder than Jake Peavy. Recently, even Clay Bucholz, streaky and freaky, has been getting the job done nicely. I will also single out Andrew Miller for his excellence out of the bullpen. I call him “Stop Sign;” when he comes in, the other team grinds to a sudden halt.

    Brock Holt. He should win the Rookie of the Year in the A.L. Batting about .330 for the year, he is one of the best lead off hitters of 2014. He could conceivably win the American League batting crown. And what leather! So far this season, Brock has played every position except pitcher and catcher. And he plays them all extraordinarily. Blessed with speed and good reflexes, he is always in position to make a play if the ball is hit in his direction. Of the circus catches Brock has made, a few of them are all world. Brock Holt may be the best position player in baseball this season.

    So we’ll soon see if the Red Sox are going to make a run at defending their World Series title, and I know they are in a hole that will be tough to dig out of. But, you know me, I say why not?

    Other musings: Like everyone else, I don’t have a good answer for the Middle East. I certainly support Israel’s right to defend itself from attacks. They are surely justified, but the loss of civilian life in Palestine only fuels hatred that lasts a lifetime. That Hamas hides its offensive weaponry among the civilian population, makes for grim circumstances. Hamas, a terrorist organization, won legitimacy in Gaza by being elected, by the very people bearing the brunt of the Israeli incursion. I feel for the Palestinians and want them to have statehood and peace. Of course, Israel deserves lasting security within its borders, which must include the West Bank and Jerusalem. The Palestinians deserve a home, just not where Israel now flourishes. And Israel’s neighbors should turn their swords into plowshares and coexist peacefully, every religion respecting the other. I know the map of the Middle East will change as Shia, Sunni, Kurds, and Christians redraw old boundaries. Someday, kingdoms, dictators, and terrorist organizations will lose power and intelligent, reasoned, and compassionate leaders will find voice.

    Further up the Road: For consecutive nights, I have been startled to see the names of two acquaintances in the obituaries. Both died from health related issues, but both were happy and well, when last I saw them. Michael Libin, an old golfing buddy, died yesterday of heart disease. Always quick in commenting on the ironies of life, I never heard him say a word in anger. I think he led a happy life, had a million friends, and I grieve his passing. Last Saturday, my former State Senator died from a brain tumor. Funny, well dressed, and full of knowledge, I had not realized he graduated from Harvard until I read his obit. A former stand out hockey player, he served my town very, very well over three decades. If there was a go to guy, it was Bob Havern. He was very popular, handsome, smart as a whip, funny, knew where all the bodies were buried, so to speak, and could get things done. He was my attorney, off and on, over the years, always was a straight shooter and his opinion was nearly always right when it came to local politics. He once lost a driveway dispute of which I was a party, and refused to take his fee for not winning, despite having worked on the issue for more than a year. I can’t believe he is gone. He died four days ago, two days after his 65th birthday. So it has been a hard week locally and throughout the Big Blue Marble. I know the sun will come out tomorrow, but right now I wish I could smile.



  • Wassup

    When you reach the age of 64, as I have; you tend to look at life in two directions. I look forward to the future with cautious optimism; and more and more, I choose to look back and reminesce. I’ve been blessed with four legacies: my two children, FolkTree, and my passion for photography (replacing my passion for golf, which I had to give up (arthritis)). I’m extremely proud of my Son, Andy, and Daughter, Sarah, both of whom, always were, and still are, the stars in my sky.

    Although I’m not too technical, I love photography and have a knack for observation, which is at least half the battle. And even though FolkTree Concerts is no more; we had a good run. Nowadays, I primarily listen to Americana music; that mix of folk, country, bluegrass, and the blues. The music I stream here at HarryShots is slightly more eclectic and I hope you’ll find some tunes that float your boat.

    As some of you know, I have been working for years on a book of unusual first names that I hope will be published, at least online, in the not too distant future. I have found over 30,000 “unusual” first names, and I keep finding new ones every day.

    With the weather warming, and the trees greening up, it’s time for me to get my camera out of hibernation. Remember, you can email me at harrylipson3@yahoo.com

    Don’t forget the sunscreen,



  • “PAGE ONE:


    a documentary (premiered at Sundance – 2011)

    A very interesting movie about a very interesting subject. The question posed was (paraphrased): “Do we need the Grey Lady in an age of internet news, instant information, tweeting, the blogisphere, round the clock cable news channels, among the myriad ways we find out about the news?”

    There are those who see the New York Times, always “the newspaper of record” as either anachronistic now or soon to be so. In this digital age where everybody is a reporter and we all have cellphones, cameras, and are “tapped in” to what is happening, how important and useful, relevant is the NYT and its worldwide bureaus, staff writers far flung around the globe, and the thousands more in New York City who shape and deliver a newspaper on a daily basis?

    Michael Kingsley of the New York Times panned the movie saying it was “all over the place” and “it does little to illuminate that struggle, preferring instead a constant parade of people telling the camera how dreadful it would be if The Times did not survive.”

    David Carr, the Times media and culture columnist, is the man who gets the lion’s share of the face time. Frankly, I don’t think the Times could find a better advocate, one who can relate to the question of “relevance.” David is a very interesting man, casually impressive in an offhand but on-point way. I found the movie engrossing and highly interesting.

    So, I’ll disagree, rather strongly, with Michael Kingsley and say that this is well worth a couple of hours, if only to see behind the veil and watch decisions being made and the paper put together. I give it “five highfives” “and it goes well with popcorn.” HL


  • Ratatouille

    Ratatouille (rat-a-too-ee) is just plain fun to watch. For adults and kids alike. From Disney/Pixar studios and the creative people behind Cars and The Incredibles. Paris never looked so beautiful at night. Voicing by Patton Oswalt, Brian Dennehy, Janeane Garofolo, Peter O’Toole, Brad Garrett, among a host of others. Light, friendly, and charming, although set in a Paris restaurant’s kitchen that is anything but. As improbable as a story can get, but it’s animation, so relax take off your critic’s hat, and let yourself be entertained.

    I give Ratatouille five highfives, and and it goes well with popcorn.” HL


    stars George Clooney, John Goodman, John Tunturro, Tim Blake, Holly Hunter, Chris Thomas King and Charles Durning

    From the creative minds of Joel and Ethan Coen. Which means its both funny and good.

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

    click to buy the mp3


    We start out with a chain gang prison break at Mississippi’s Parchman Farm Penitentiary in Sunflower County in the Mississippi Delta. The year is 1937. The film is said to be loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey, but you sure don’t need to be a Greek scholar to enjoy the hell out of this great movie. The soundtrack won the Grammy award and is good to the very last “Amen.”

    We’ve got buried treasure, wanted prisoners trying to stay wanted, a scene at the Mississippi “crossroads of musical fame”, the Ku Klux Klan, Mississippi state elections, and a great deal more to feast your tired eyes upon. John Goodman is extraordinary as always in his cream colored Southern business suit and suspenders. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? is a great movie and I give it five highfives, “and it goes well with popcorn. HL



    starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep (1985)

    About once every year when I am restless and looking for something good, really good, to watch, I reach for one of the all time great movies, Out of Africa with maybe the finest work ever done by both Meryl and Bob.

    This is an epic movie. It won the big awards as it should have: Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Set Decoration, Best Musical Score, Best Sound, and Best Screenwriting.

    Further, Out of Africa was nominated for: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Costume, and Best Film Editing

    Suffice it to say that Out of Africa is a triumph of the human spirit. It is grand, it is large; a tour de force and very well worth your seeing, or seeing again. I love the scene where Meryl’s character, Baroness Von Blixen surprises a lion in the Kenyan brush. She implores Robert Redford to shoot the beast and the dialogue and tension are memorable. And that is just one of a great many rather extraordinary scenes we are part of, in this riveting and well told story. I give it five HighFives, “and it goes well with popcorn.” HL



    Want to see the coolest movie you never heard of? Want to see a movie with a cast that includes Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Val Kilmer, Ed Harris, Mickey Rourke, Luke Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Bruce Dern, Christian Slater, Fred Ward, Angela Bassett, Cheech Marin, and stars Bob Dylan?

    Then you want to seek out an amazing piece of cinema called “Masked and Anonymous” (2003). The soundtrack is sensational. John Goodman channels The Big Lebowski to a certain extent. The dialogue is incredible. Val Kilmer is at his peak in his brief but unforgettable cameo.

    The poster at left is a Spanish language promotional poster.

    I give this film five highfives, “and it goes well with popcorn“. HL



“Calling Trains



Click here for this mp3 download

INTRODUCTION TO THE SONG:    I’d like to say thanks to a friend of mine.   This song, “Calling Trains” is on one of his many record albums, and it is his photo and album cover that you see down below.  He was the real Dos Equis guy.   Bruce  Phillips  (1935 – 2008) was his name, and he was in the running for the most interesting man in the world.   “Utah” was the name he answered to.  His nom de guerre was  U. Utah Phillips.

In this little adventure, Utah was my personal tour guide at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, on a day, just months before the Gardner Museum was robbed in what was, and remains, the biggest art theft in American history.  That is all I have to say on the subject of robbery until they up the reward, wink wink.  I’m kidding.

There are individuals and there are INDIVIDUALS.  Bruce Phillips was the latter.  Ask anyone who knew him, and plenty did.  He had merriment in his eyes and a benevolent aura about him.  His hair and beard were snow white.  He wore a flannel shirt and painters overalls.

Utah Phillips was a less well known American icon, a railroad man, a hobo, a gandydancer, a writer and performer, a Wobbly, a pain in the ass to conservatives and bosses, and a people person of the highest order.  Utah got paid to travel the world and sing songs, and tell his always hilarious stories.  He was far more of a story teller than a song singer.

On this particular day, at the Gardner Museum, Utah Phillips was piss full of vinegar and details about Rembrandt this and Rembrandt that.  He morphed into a museum tour guide, as versed as if he worked there.

Bruce was telling me exactly how many self portraits Rembrandt had painted as we stepped  into the beautiful home of the late Isabella Stewart Gardner, a 19th century Patron of the Arts, who would eventually own one of the great private art collections in the world.  It is now a museum in Boston’s Back Bay.

Utah pointed out a small painting on the wall to the right and blurted, “Ah, the ‘Storm on the Sea of Galilee.’   Harry did you know that Rembrandt painted himself into this very painting.  Look in the lifeboat, right there.  It’s  Ol’ van Rijn himself.”

About a half hour earlier, Utah and I had been at a nearby conference and the proceedings were sliding downhill into Pedantics 101. He got my attention, gave me a thumb sign, and motioned toward the door, with a jerk of his head.  I had no idea where we were going.  He obviously did and it was off to the Gardner Museum.


As mentioned above, this is about a song that appeared on one of  his many records.  He didn’t sing the song.  We don’t know who did.   It is titled “Calling Trains” and it is all of 46 seconds long.  It is spoken word.

It is a chant by an unidentified gentleman, inside the Union Railroad Station in New Orleans, circa 1935 give or take five years, announcing the departure of the City of New Orleans passenger train bound, eventually,  for Chicago.

This is not an express train to say the least.  It is the Local, making stop after stop (forty in all) as it rolls north from New Orleans toward Chicago, through Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois.  “Calling Trains” calls out each of the  forty scheduled stops the City of New Orleans was scheduled to make on its journey.  The recording is from the Library of Congress.

When I listened, at first, I couldn’t decipher much of what was being said.  But I stayed with it,  trying to understand the whole “call from start to finish.    After studying  old railroad maps and Mississippi atlases, I have a written complete precise translation  of the  “call.” Absolutely correct.  Guaranteed or your money back.

As the gentleman is calling out for passengers to board the train on track four, you can probably pick up some of what he say on first listen.  After you hear it a few times take a look at the transliteration below and then listen again as you read along.  I think it is pretty cool.  And it is historic as well.

So enjoy the listen.  However, I still need some help with the transcription.  If you can figure out the last three words spoken, you will get credit for doing so in this post.  It sounds to me like SAL A MATOO.    Obviously, that is not English.  He may be saying “That’s all of my tune”  It has me stumped.  So if you have any idea, please let me know


HERE ARE THE LYRICS, which are absolutely spot on except for the last line.


transcription by Harry Lipson III




GRENADA, SARDIS, MEMPHIS, DYERSBURG, FULTON, to CAIRO, CARBONDALE, Centralia, Effingham, Mattoon, Champaign,

Kankakee, and Chicago.  Train on Track Four.  Sal a matoo.”



 I found it a nice coincidence  that one of the forty en-route stops for the  The City of New Orleans was in  Goodman, MS,  given that Steve Goodman wrote the Grammy award winning song about this famous  train.

One of the  mysteries, to me, is why the gentlemen  calls out “Lux”, Mississippi as one of the train stops.  The  train rolls along the Illinois Central Railroad tracks and Lux was located northwest of Hattiesburg and southeast of Jackson.   It was many miles away from the railroad line, no where near it in fact.   I have looked at  original Mississippi railroad maps and old state maps and you won’t find Lux anywhere near the tracks.  To add to this mystery, Lux disappeared and is no longer found  on maps after a certain date prior to 1950. .    Could the gentlemen have been from Lux and wanted to give a shout out to his hometown?   We will never know how Lux makes the list of train stops, for sure the City of New Orleans never once stopped in Lux.

Deciphering the audio was initially challenging.  I misunderstood the gentleman at numerous points, but eventually it became clearer to me.  Mapping and repeated listening ultimately solved the puzzle of the lyrics.

“Luling” was initially difficult for me to ascertain what he was saying.  I found Luling on an old map right on the train line.

“Amite” was another that took additional time to understand and transcribe.

“Terry” and “Byram” were initially tough to determine.  I thought he was saying
“Cairo bound for Jackson”.  If you listen to it, you might hear him say that too.

I also had trouble understanding an earlier portion that I thought was “Westhaven”.   But there is no Westhaven MS.  It was “Wesson”, “Hazelhurst”.

And as mentioned previously I am unable to understand the last three words that are spoken which sound like  “Sal A Matoo.”    ANY THOUGHTS ?

Vaughn, MS, one of the forty stops along the line in “Calling Trains,” is oft forgotten as the place where famous railroading “disaster” occurred in 1900.
It was near Vaughn that Casey Jones, veteran Illinois Central conductor, died, the only fatality in that accident, (Casey was at fault for rear ending a freight train) forever immortalized in song.    Listen and enjoy and try to catch the words (you can follow along with my transcription above).    

Harry Lipson III @ HarryShots.com

“Calling Trains” by unknown train announcer

  click arrow above to listen

Click here to download mp3 via Amazon.com

A Library of Congress recording, circa 1935, by an unknown gentleman, recorded at Union Railroad Station in New Orleans.  He gives the “all aboard” for the City of New Orleans local train departing shortly, bound eventually for Chicago.  A rare audio and a great audio glimpse into American history.  See my blog CALLING TRAINS for the whole story.  I invite you to see my blog on this historic audio track.  Check out my Ramble in this blog, scroll down to Calling Trains.  This is cool as hell and rare. Check it out.   HL


[AFG_gallery id='5']

Contact Harry

  1. (required)
  2. (valid email required)