Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Old stuff and a partroness of pharmacists and students for April 11

According to several of the Usual Suspects, Thursday, April 11 will be Eight Track Tape Day.

There will be a brief pause while younger readers speculate whether the object at left might be an eight track tape in an eight track tape player.

If that was your guess, you are correct (the image coming from a website depicting "modern antiques" that will be unfamiliar to anyone born after the Baby Boom).

Eight track tapes were similar, but inferior to, and larger than, later cassette tapes. Many had an annoying tendency to switch direction in the middle of a song -- an interruption that was jarring enough when the tape was new and taut, but positively annoying after repeated use. As annoying as this was, however, it was still not quite as bad as the tendency of these tapes to eventually 'bleed' tracks together -- so that one would hear a song being played as recorded in the aural foreground, but a different song, playing backwards, in the background.

Eight track tapes were big in the mid-60s and early 70s and, mercifully, gone by the 1980s. Eight tracks, like 45s, were formats which were popular among young people -- so there probably weren't many barbershop quartets who released albums on eight tracks at any time.

Nevertheless, Thursday will be Barbershop Quartet Day. Back in the 60s, when we were listening to eight track tapes, we'd roll our eyes and hold our noses at the prospect of listening to a barbershop quartet. Today, though, with the passage of time, the innocent sounds of the barbershop quartet are a soothing balm and a reminder of a more innocent and joyous time. Rent or download a copy of the classic musical The Music Man Thursday night to enjoy the bickering school board that Robert Preston magically turns into a barbershop quartet.

Usual Suspect has a number of saints on any given day of the week, but Saint Gemma Galgani caught our attention for Thursday, her feast. (Gemma died on April 11, 1903 at the age of 25.) The daughter of pharmacist, Gemma wanted to enter religious life, but was rejected because of concerns about her health: She had contracted spinal meningitis, and recovered, but convents were skeptical of her claim that she had received a miraculous cure. Several members of her family died from tuberculosis, as did she, but not before becoming a Stigmatist, receiving the wounds of Jesus on the Cross between Thursday evening and Friday afternoon every week for over two years. Her claimed visions would prove controversial, during her life and after, when her spiritual director, Venerable Rev. Germanus Ruoppolo CP, pressed her claim for canonization. Wikipedia says that Gemma is a patron saint of pharmacists and students (she was reportedly an excellent student before she was forced to leave school).

Today's college kids won't know about barbershop quartets or even eight track tapes -- but they will know about upcoming final exams. A prayer to St. Gemma might prove helpful. Pass it on.

Finally, on April 11, 1814, Napoleon was exiled to Elba. This would be a bigger deal but for his escape and temporary return to power in 1815.

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