Cinco de Mayo Event

On May 5th—”Cinco de Mayo” in Spanish—nearly 1,000 children from Bay Area inner-city neighborhoods were treated to a day unlike any they had experienced before.

They were bussed to St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco where they were treated to an original musical drama about Junípero Serra, the 18th century Franciscan who founded many early California missions. The play, Always Forward, featured costumed actors, live choruses, and dancers. The children were surprised and excited to see 8-foot puppets representing Spanish soldiers enter down the aisles.

A lesson on Serra and native peoples

Research into Serra’s personal writings shows that he loved the native peoples. He wrote, “They have stolen my heart away. They are like members of my family.”6. French soldier puppet

When Serra became aware of the abusive way the Spanish soldiers treated the natives, he grew increasingly dismayed. The play dramatized how, in 1773, at the age of 60, Serra set out from Carmel for Mexico City—a journey of 2,000 miles—to protest this treatment. Once there, he presented demands to the Spanish viceroy on the natives’ behalf. The viceroy agreed to almost all of Serra’s proposals, thus creating the first significant body of laws governing early California. It has been referred to as Serra’s “bill of rights” for native Americans. It came 15 years before the Bill of Rights was added to the U.S. Constitution.

After the play, the children were given a bountiful “fiesta” featuring lunch, serenades by troubadours, dancing, crafts, games, talks with the play’s characters, face painting, and fresh flowers to arrange and take home.

The origin of Cinco de Mayo

The issue of “bullying” found voice when children joined actors to enact the May 5, 1862, Battle of Puebla, which is why Cinco de Mayo is celebrated today. The children portrayed the Mexican citizen-soldiers who defeated the much larger and elite French army, represented by giant 8-foot puppets. But that “army” couldn’t overcome the children who locked arms and found strength chanting, “Doubt and fear make us small; love and courage make us tall!”

A little known history is that the French army had been planning to travel north and support Confederate troops against Union forces in the U.S. Civil War. Had they succeeded in this battle, their support of the Confederacy might have changed the outcome of the Civil War.2. Serra and spanish dancers

Purpose of the day

This novel Cinco de Mayo event was presented by Francis in the Schools, a nonprofit group based in Walnut Creek that offers this new form of nonsectarian education for children from underserved neighborhoods. The program was founded in 2011 by Dr. Carol Weyland Conner as a way to nourish feelings of love, kindness, courage, and brotherhood in these children. This was the 20th time the program has been presented, having been staged for a total of 10,000 children in cities including Oakland, New York, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. Over 350 volunteers work for months to prepare and stage each event. The entire day—from the bus rides through the play, lunch, activities, and flowers—is offered free to the children and participating schools.


After these Francis in the Schools events, children have written: “I will never forget this day.” . . . “This was the most wonderful day of my life.” . . . “I felt like a king, a cool king!”3. Giant puppets enter

One educator wrote: “It was a magical day of beauty and learning and is a potentially life-changing event in the lives of our children. You provided our community with a wonderful combination of spiritual, historical, and cultural activities that will have a lasting impact.”

Theme Music – Radio, Television & Film

Let me take you back in time when the primary form of entertainment in the home was radio. Before and during the radio era the other basic form of entertainment was the phonograph.

Vintage radio on deskThis may seem strange to younger folks but there was: no television; no computer and internet; no cell phone; no smart tablets; no CD players; no DVD players; no MP3 players and no e-books to read on nooks or kindles. Of course, there was always entertainment in the form of sings and playing musical instruments.

In my pre-teen years the main entertainment in our home was the radio. It was standard procedure that we would go into the living room after dinner and Dad would turn on the big console radio for the evening programs. One of the first things you would hear would be theme music, with the show’s announcer speaking over the music.

The theme music sets a mood for the show and lets the audience know that the show is beginning. This was very important in early radio shows. Theme music becomes very familiar as we listen over a period of time. The music gives us a feeling of warmth and recognition.

Theme music was the radio show’s signature piece. It was always played at the beginning of the program and often repeated in some form during or after the show ended. Theme music clearly identified the program. After a few listenings people would automatically associate the music with the program.

Theme music was often original and unique to a particular show. In other cases music that already existed was put to new use. Often it was classical music that quickly became associated with a certain program.

The theme music for the Lone Ranger program, a very popular western show in its time, became so familiar to audiences that they started calling it “The Lone Ranger Theme.” Actually, it was Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” but a lot of the public didn’t know the real name of the piece.

While some of the themes had words or lyrics that helped identify the program or a particular person, most lacked any textual content. Many radio theme songs became quite famous and were immediately identified with certain radio personalities and shows.

Some of the most famous were:

Bing Crosby – Where the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day

Bob Hope – Thanks for the Memories

Jack Benny – Love in Bloom

Red Skelton – Holiday for Strings

Burns and Allen – Comin Through the Rye

Fibber McGee and Molly – Save Your Sorrow for Tomorrow

Lawrence Welk – Bubbles in the Wine

Sergeant Preston of the Yukon – Donna Diana Overture

Harry Owens and His Royal Hawaiians – Sweet Leilani and Aloha Oe

An interesting sidelight of radio shows was the serialized episodes of radio dramas that were eventually called Soap Operas. These shows were sponsored by soap companies: Procter and Gamble, Colgate, Palmolive and Lever Brothers.

As the ‘Golden Age of Radio’ came to a close in the early 1960’s, a new medium of entertainment was already making huge strides in popularity with the public—Television (TV).

As the population adjusted to this new form of entertainment, so did our family.

At my urging, my family bought our first TV set. We were the first family on the block to have one. You could always tell which households had TV by the antenna on the roof (Cable had yet to be invented). Our antenna was 20 feet high!

The new shows on TV adopted the theme music concept from their predecessors in radio. Each show or personality was identified by its opening music and the following themes became household fixtures.

From a national survey these top ten TV themes were selected:

Cheers (1982-1993) Where somebody Knows your Name

Gilligans Island (1964-1967) Ballad of Gilligans Island

Friends (1994-2004) I’ll be There for You

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990-1996) You Know you’re a 90’s Kid When…

The Simpsons (1989-) Simpsons Theme

Full House (1987-1995) Full House Theme

The Adams Family (1964-1966) Adams Family Theme

Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) Love Is All Around

Happy Days (1974-1984) Happy Days Theme

Hawaii Five-0 (1968-1980) Hawaii Five-0 Theme

The network evening news shows also used musical themes to introduce the news and news anchors. They often used classical and semi-classical forms of music. In 1956 to 1970, The National Broadcasting Company’s (NBC) Huntley-Brinkley report used an innovative approach with two different venues: Chet Huntley broadcasted from New York and David Brinkley broadcasted from Washington D. C. Their theme music was from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Later, John Williams composed “The Mission,” the theme currently used for the opening of the NBC Nightly News. Most people never hear the entire piece Williams wrote, and NBC only uses the opening few bars.

The Columbia Broadcasting System’s (CBS) Evening News did not use theme music until 1987. Composers John Trivers and Elizabeth Myers wrote the original theme that is still used today.

The themes for American Broadcasting Company’s (ABC) World News Tonight,

has had many transformations over the years. Its current theme music is written by Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer.

Movie themes have been a major factor in films since the “talkies” came into existence in the early part of the 20th Century. Many movie themes became popular hits and were famous apart from the films where they were introduced.

The American Film Institute picked what they determined were the top ten movie themes:

Over The Rainbow from Wizard of Oz, 1939

As Time Goes By from Casablanca, 1942

Singing In The Rain From Singing In The Rain 1952

Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1961

White Christmas from Holiday Inn, 1942

Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate, 1967

When You Wish Upon a Star from Pinocchio, 1940

The Way We Were from The Way We Were, 1973

Stayin Alive from Saturday Night Fever, 1977

The Sound of Music from The Sound of Music, 1965

Musical themes have been very important in the past, and still are today. They are critical as openers that distinguish the program and talent that follows. For better or worse, it looks like they are here to stay!

Don’t miss a “Salute to John Williams” Danville Community Band’s Annual Spring Concert, Sunday, June 12, 2016, 3 p.m. at Community Presbyterian Church, 222 West El Pintado Rd, Danville. Free concert and parking. Please submit your questions and comments to  Visit our website at for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.





Honda Takes Flight!

It seems that every automotive manufacturer assumes that when they redesign a vehicle, it has to grow in character and size. Some versions, however, end up lacking in character. In most cases, their footprint gets closer to the mammoth Big Foot, or, at least, sprouts enough so that he feels a little less cramped in the back seat! This month’s featured vehicle is the all-new, redesigned 2016 Honda Pilot, emerging with elevated character and a growth spurt.

In 2009, Honda reskinned the Pilot with a thicker and more squared-off body. This ended up being a misstep in styling as other manufacturers were edging into a softer-smoother curvy body sculpturing. Seven years later, we have a rebirth of the Pilot. In 2016, we are introduced to new sheet metal that carries softer corners resembling an overgrown Honda CRV. When the Pilot was delivered to my home, I had to take a second look, as it looks so impressive and formidable.2

The 2016 Honda Pilot is a three-row crossover SUV that comes in three trim levels. It enters with the LX front-wheel drive for $31,045. It follows up with the FWD EX starting at $34,480, then as a FWD-Touring 9-speed automatic transmission for $42,070 and finishes up the top of the line, All-Wheel Drive Elite with navigation for $47,470. The LX, EX and Touring are also available in All-Wheel Drive.

Power for all models comes in the form of a 280 horsepower V6 347-cc engine. The EX and LX models mate the V6 to a 6-speed automatic transmission, where the Touring and Elite are teamed with an unheard of 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The LX and EX FWD generates 19 City and 27 Highway miles per gallon. Decrease that by one mile each for the AWD versions. The Touring FWD (20/27) and AWD (19/26) and AWD Elite spits out 19 City and 26 Highway MPG.

The new Honda Pilot is longer in length, narrower and lower than its previous generation, and is also 300 pounds lighter. As noted earlier, the newly-styled Pilot has lost its hard lines and replaced them with elements of well-balanced curves. The low front-end and horizontal grille mesh well and begin the flow.

The eight-passenger interior is very well-finished and appointed with attention to detail. You can see and feel the influences of the Honda Accord and CR-V. New soft-touch points have elevated the interior to a near-luxury level. The front seats are comfortable and carved with better bolsters and more support. The driver seating position is not too high while delivering raised visibility, and the step-in is relatively low for a Crossover.

2016 Honda PilotThe second and third row seats fold down easily and support adult bodies with ease. The large panoramic sunroof creates an open and airy feel allowing in a great deal of light inside. Cabin space is plentiful with 18.5 cubic feet with seats up, or 56 cubic feet with the third row folded down. Need more space? When you drop the second row seat down, you will increase your cargo capacity to a total of 109-cubic feet.

Cool Features:

  • Panoramic Sunroof
  • Rear Entertainment System complete with Blu-ray player and HDMI input
  • Paddle Shifters
  • Push Button Start
  • Remote Engine Start

Safety on the 2016 Honda Pilot begins with many standard safety features, including:  side curtain airbags, even for third row seating, front seat-mounted side airbags, Vehicle Stability Assist, ABS Brakes, Electronic Brake Distribution, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, LED daytime running lights, rear camera, Road Departure Mitigation System, Forward Collision Warning, and Lane Departure Warning. Note some of these items are available as an option.

In Summary –Honda has upped the value-benefit proposal on the new 2016 Honda Pilot with its new interior and exterior styling, high tech features, smooth ride and safety features. If you are looking for a vehicle with plenty of storage and cargo area, you will not find many other vehicles that exceed the Pilot. This notable vehicle offers confident power and steering, while the 3.5-liter V6 surprises you with great MPG.


2016 Honda Pilot AWD Elite


Base price:                 $46,420 as driven: $47,300 (including destination & optional

Engine:                       3.5-liter I-VTEC SOHC 24-valve V6

Horsepower:             280 @ 6,000 RPM

Torque:                     262 @ 4,700 RPM

Transmission:          9-speed automatic

Drive:                        AWD Drive

Seating:                     8-passenger

Turning circle:         39.4 feet

Cargo space:            16 cubic feet

Curb weight:            4,317 pounds

Fuel capacity:          19.5 gallons

EPA mileage:           City 19/Hwy 26

Wheel Base:             111 inches

Warranty:                 3 years/36,000 miles powertrain limited

Also consider:           Ford Explorer, GMC Acadia, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan
Pathfinder, and Toyota Highlander


June = Graduation Day

When one thinks of June, we undoubtedly conjure up images of all the beautiful and talented women, past and present, named June—such as: country singer June Carter-Cash, actress June Lockhart, model June Wilkinson, ‘pointer sister’ June Pointer, the Beaver’s mom June Cleaver and reality star Mama June Shannon (Honey Boo-Boo’s beloved mother). Come to think of it, football coach June Jones might be more attractive and beloved than Mama June. He’s certainly more refined, but that’s just one man’s opinion.5

The calendar month of June, on the other hand, is synonymous with many glorious events including weddings, vacations and graduations. As families all along the I-680 Corridor prepare for high school graduation, on or around Friday June 10th, there’s not a house, condo or townhome that will not be experiencing high levels of excitement, giddiness and euphoria. Once Senior Ball, Declare Day and final exams are completed, the days leading up to the actual commencement ceremony are a magical time consisting of year book signing, pool parties, and mani/pedis. That countdown to “Grad” day is the culmination of K-12 schooling with finality to the monotonous school rules, rituals, routines, homework and horrible cafeteria food.

Whether your high school senior is headed to college, trade school or the military, they are on their way to their future. But first, they must go through the cap and gown ceremony, grad night and a few dozen Beer Pong themed grad parties. At my high school graduation ceremony, I couldn’t wait to be released from the shackles of education and be free of high school. Granted, I did attend a boys’ detention center where we did actually wear shackles under our robes, so this was a literal reference not just a figurative one. I had to know the difference between literal and figurative to get my GED diploma, but I digress. Graduation is a special time for any teenager and one that will be a life-long memory. If you’re interested, I have a few other “graduation” thoughts and memories.

The movie The Graduate was a film released in 1967 that tells the story of a disillusioned college graduate (Dustin Hoffman) who’s torn between his older lover (Anne Bancroft) and her daughter (Katherine Ross). I do remember watching that movie for the first time while I was in high school, and just wishing I had Ben Braddock’s (Hoffman’s character) dilemma. At my high school there were several girls who had very attractive mothers that fell into that “WOW” category. I won’t name names, Donna Granowski, but I ran The Graduate movie in my head too many times to count with one Mrs. Granowski playing the part of the alluring and seductive Mrs. Robinson. Sorry Donna.

I’m not a big fan of Kanye West, the celebrity, but before he became Mr. Kardashian he released a CD entitled Graduation that was brilliant. I’m here to tell you, Graduation is an amazing collection of boldly crafted songs by an incredibly talented master word-smith. Very few of my countless number of fans know that I love me some hip-hop. Truth be told, I have actually counted all of my fans and I’m up to seventeen. Kanye’s third studio album was released in September of 2007. The CD contained numerous bold, innovative and utterly captivating lyrical masterpieces such as: Stronger, Good Life, Good Morning, The Glory and Everything I Am. Kanye won his third Grammy when Graduation was named Best Rap Album. Some might say with that album, Kayne graduated to a larger pop culture acceptance and audience.

Sadly, the high school graduation episode of most teen television series often proves to be the kiss of death for many of the main characters and decent plot lines, beginning with Happy Days. The Happy Days graduation episode aired in 1997 revealing Fonzie’s secret plan to graduate with Ritchie and Potsy’s senior class. You can’t have a town hoodlum go all cap and gown. What were they thinking? Different story lines, but the same results followed Saved by the Bell, The Wonder Years, Boy Meets World, Beverly Hills 90210, all the way up to Glee’s graduation episode in 2012. Did anyone really think Finn and Rachel would get married when she had a chance to star on Broadway? Come on! It seems that graduation day is usually when a good teen series “jumps the shark” and begins its downward descent. While the series regulars always seem so youthful, enthusiastic and filled with promise while in high school, the minute they graduate they appear awkwardly older, directionless and seemingly out of place. It goes totally off the rails when these 18 – 20 year old college dropouts pursue unrealistic careers like club owner, apparel designer and politician.

Graduation itself starts with the procession of academic staff and students. The school band will likely play some off-key version of the graduation walking song, Pomp and Circumstance, to get everyone’s attention. The principal or school superintendent will wax on trying to inspire the 2016 class to greatness. The class valedictorian will try his or her best not to throw up or wet them self. Someone (often times the school janitor) will eventually get around to handing out the diplomas. The ceremony ends with caps being thrown in the air and Facebook blowing up as proud parents post millions of iPhone images of their kid’s noteworthy accomplishment. Let me stop now before I start tearing up. That darn pollen.

This year, as we sit through the commencement address, invocation and speeches, sit back and recall your own graduation ceremony and see what kind of memories it brings back. What type of hopes and dreams did you have on that special day? I envy where the kids are today, but they are also faced with challenges much different than anything we ever had to consider. The good news is that the possibilities are limitless once they graduate, …, college. Check back with me in four years.