MOVIE REVIEW: The Big Sick

The Big Sick is your typical boy-meets-girl, girl-breaks-up-with-boy, girl-gets-very-sick, boy-meets-girl’s-parents rom com. OK, that was a bit cheeky, but not entirely incorrect.

The one-night stand that became a romance between stand-up comedian Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) and grad student Emily (Zoe Kazan) is the starting off point of the film. Yet it was Kumail dealing with her mother Beth (Holly Hunter) and father Terry (Ray Romano) which drives much of the middle of the film.

Also intriguing is Kumail dealing with his own parents, Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff) and and Azmat (Anupam Kher), the former of whom is especially busy trying to fix him up with a nice Muslim girl.
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The Big Sick is based on the real-life courtship between Kamail and Emily V. Gordon, and written by them. I saw Kamail on The Daily Show recently talking about the writing process. On some of their real dates, they had radically different recollections of how a certain date played out, and they used that conflict in the script.

The movie showed real insights into the culture clash, the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart, without being pedantic. It manages to be quite funny while at the same time dealing with the emotions surrounding Emily’s …well, see the title.

I was really fond of this movie, and if anything, my wife more so, which we saw, naturally, at the Spectrum Theater in Albany. “They” say write what you know, and in plagiarizing their own experiences, Nanjiani and Gordon have avoid hitting any false notes. And in the current political atmosphere, it even seems especially timely.

The Big Sick was directed by Michael Showalter and produced by Judd Apatow. Some believe that, like some other Apatow works, it was too long, but at at a tick under two hours, I thought it was just right

Here’s the trailer. See the movie!

Preliminary list of Albany Common Council candidates

From that July 20 document from the Albany Board of Elections that I requested, I received candidates for offices in Albany County who petitioned to get on the ballot.

Unfortunately, the roster of the one topic someone actually asked to provide is listed as CITY OF ALBANY MEM COMMON COUNCIL, listed alphabetically, with no regard for the district, though I’m sure the Board will rectify this as the election gets closer.

So I went to the voter information section of the Board of Elections’ site and typed in the addresses from which the candidates filed. If any of these candidates are running for a different district, they can let me know.

1
Dorcey L. Applyrs (D, WF)
John O. Williamson (D, I)

2
Derek A. Johnson (D)
Marc D. Johnson (D, WF)
Mary Ellen O’Connor (D)

3
Ronald E. Bailey (D, WF, I)
Joyce Love (D)

4
Kelly R. Kimbrough (D, WF)
Elston Mackey (D)

5
Nigel D. Banks (D)
Cliffton Patterson (D)
Jameel K. Robinson (D)
Malcolm T. Thorpe (D)

6
James Ader (D, I)
Richard S. Conto (D, WF)

7
Sergio Adams (D, I)
Catherine M. Fahey (D, WF)

8
John J. Flynn (D)

9
Judy L. Doesschate (D, WF, I)
John J. Mahoney (C)

10
Owusu Anane (D, I)
Leah Golby (D, WF)

11
Alfredo D. Balarin (D, WF)
Clifton M. Dixon (D)
Beroro T. Efekoro (D)
Judd W. Krasher (D, I)

12
Michael F. O’Brien (D)

13
Ginnie Farrell (D, WF)
Joanne E. Genovese (D, I)
Timothy A. Looker (R, C)

14
Joseph M. Igoe (D)

15
Shauna M. Collins (D, WF)
Thomas C. Hoey (D, I)

So the Democrats will have their primary on September 12. But in several districts, some of the Democrats will face some of the same opponents in November, as candidates have been cross-endorsed by either the Working Families Party or the Independence Party.

No surprise: there are is only one Republican running, cross-endorsed by the Conservative Party, and one other Conservative. The Republican is in this case is running in my district and has been a candidate before. This time, he’s running, not against an entrenched incumbent, but in an open seat. But the party enrollment is not in his favor.

In five districts (but I don’t know which ones), the Working Family party is offering an Opportunity to ballot.

Gracious she, the middle child

On one of our irregular-but-always-lengthy telephone conversations, the middle child asked me advice about this guy. They’d been friends, but he had become what I can only describe as toxic. (Actually, there are other other terms I could use about him, but I’m trying to keep the content here clean.)

He was that way to some other people as well, as I understand it. I once told her that he was a tool, and that became my sobriquet for him, in lieu of actually saying his name. “What’s the Tool up to now?” I’d say.

And then, after he was finally out of her life, he suddenly dropped dead. She wanted to know if she should go to the funeral. My counsel was that she should do what she felt moved to do. I have to tell you, though, that I wouldn’t have gone.

Yet she did, and appeared gracious to their mutual acquaintances in doing so. Hmm, graciousness – what a concept. In many ways, I think she’s a better person than I am, more compassionate. She does tend to wear her heart on her sleeve, whereas my feelings tend to be more internalized.

I’m fairly sure that I haven’t seen either of my sisters in person since my mother’s funeral in February 2011. But I very likely will see Leslie this fall. She is going to her high school reunion. I’m perfectly happy to have blown off MY reunion last year – I THINK there was one – but crashing hers has enough emotional distance to tolerate.

Even though I was Student Government president at BCHS, Leslie was the real star in high school, both through performing and by the strength of her personality; I say this with zero jealousy, then or now. And the excitement of her trip east for her classmates, based on social media, is very high.

The photo is from a fashion show at the Fowler’s department store in downtown Binghamton, NY some, OK, many years ago, when there WAS a Fowler’s department store.

Happy birthday, middle child.

Music throwback: Beethoven’s 7th

Jaquandor, the blogger from the Buffalo area , posted a recording of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. He described it as “one of the towering masterpieces of all music (and probably of all human art).” Is this Beethoven’s greatest symphony? One could make that argument.

Beethoven’s 7th is among my favorite pieces of music. And the second movement, Allegretto, is one of the first pieces of classical music that I could identify.

7/2 seems deceptively simple. The melody line is the same note for a couple measures, and then another note for a could more measures. But the layers laced upon that melody line are absolutely gorgeous.

I remember a version of this section on one of those Warners Brothers Loss Leaders albums called I DIDN’T KNOW THEY STILL MADE RECORDS LIKE THIS (PRO 608, 1975), but I couldn’t remember who performed it until I looked it up.

Waldo de los Rios, an Argentine composer, conductor and arranger born in 1934, is “best remembered for his ability to transform European classical music into pop music.” Unfortunately, “a victim of an acute depression…, de los Rios committed suicide in Madrid in 1977.”

I became rather obsessed with finding a vocalized version of this movement, so much so that I actually purchased the piano music online and sang along several of the parts individually. The printed music is cited as being from “The King’s Speech.” It is heard in the movie as George VI (Colin Firth) delivers his first wartime speech.

I did not find what I was looking for – does it even exist? – but I discovered a couple of interesting variations.

LISTEN to:

Beethoven’s 7th Symphony in A major

La Chambre Philharmonique, played on period instruments and using period performance standards

The Proms

Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, 2nd movement

Waldo de los Rios

Sacris Solemnis – Son et Lumiere

Vocal Beethoven Seventh in the movie Zardoz

Some Albany County candidates in 2017

I contacted the Albany County Board of Elections on July 20 and received a list of all the folks who filed the petitions to vie for office this year. Of course, some are running unopposed in their respective parties.

But there will be some contested races on Primary Day, September 12. The primaries are closed in New York State, which means that only the people registered in the party will vote in that race.

And the deadline for changing party affiliation has long since passed. In fact, if you are an already registered voter in NYS who wants to vote in the 2018 primaries, you need to change enrollment by October 13, 2017!

People can still submit independent nominating petitions in August.

Albany Chief City Auditor

Glen P. Casey (D, I)
Susan A. Rizzo (D, WF)

No matter who wins the Democratic primary, the other candidate will still be on the ballot November 7.

Albany County Clerk

Bruce A. Hidley (D, C, I)
Howard M. Koff (R)

Albany County Coroner (2 positions)

Rahmar J. Lockridge (D)
Paul L. Marra (D, C)
Francis M. Simmons (D)
Charles M. Smoot (D)
Scott A. Snide (R, C, I, Ref)
Benjamin M. Sturges 3D (D, WF)

Why on earth is there such interest in a coroner’s race? Why is this an elected position at all?

City of Albany City Court Judge (3 positions)

Michael S. Barone (D)
Sherri J. Brooks (D)
Lavonda S. Collins (D)
Helena M. Heath (D, I)
James E. Long (D, WF, I)
John J. Reilly (D, WF)
Holly A. Trexler (D, WF, I)

The cross-endorsements might matter to some folks.

City of Albany Mayor

Frank J. Commisso Jr. (D, I)
Bryan J. Jimenez (G)
Carolyn McLaughlin (D)
Daniel J. Plaat (G)
Katherine M. Sheehan (D, WF, WE)
Joseph P. Sullivan (C)

The Democratic primary is going to get only nastier, I fear.

Then there were all the Albany Common Council races, which would take too long to list here. But my district has a primary race for the first time in my memory.

City of Albany Pres. Common Council

Corey L. Ellis (D, WF)
Christopher Higgins (D)
Mark A. Robinson (D)

City of Albany Treasurer

Darius Shahinfur (D, WF, I)
Roberta Sims (R, C, Ref)

There are also races in a half dozen towns in the county.

The designations are actual parties in New York State, based on the success of its candidate in the last gubernatorial election, in 2014. Often, but not always, it is the Democrat or Republican who is cross-endorsed. C is for Conservative, WF for Working Families, I is for Independence, WR is Women’s Equality, R is for Reform.

The Independence Party is one reason why I groan when someone identifies themselves as a “registered independent.” What they usually mean is they are not enrolled in a political party at all, which means they CANNOT vote in the primary in New York State.

The Women’s Equality Party is some weird invention of Governor Andrew Cuomo that’s only been around since 2014.

I’m a registered Democrat in the city of Albany because that’s where the contests are, and I don’t want to disenfranchise myself. It’s likely, OK, REALLY likely, although not certain, that the Democratic nominee will win in November, based on historic precedent.

July rambling #2: eclipse simulator


The Uninhabitable Earth

An Iceberg the Size of Delaware Just Broke Off a Major Antarctic Ice Shelf

Senator Al Franken and David Letterman in Boiling the Frog

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Sends You Letters about Your Medical Condition

The decline of American democracy won’t be televised

Enraged by 18th-Century Custard Recipe: Orange Fool

Simply The Worst Human Being We Can Imagine?

Natalia Veselnitskaya was no stranger to Trump business

Donald Jr. Reviews Famous Works Of Literature (satire)

Crackdown on immigrants shakes upstate New York economy

He Became a Hate Crime Victim. She Became a Widow

So this one time at a journalism conference…

Emmanuel Carrère’s “The Kingdom” explores how a tiny sect became a global religion

Three Misunderstood Things, including Christianity and abortion

How to Talk With Religious Conservatives About LGBT Rights

The invention of heterosexuality

The Origin of ‘Husky,’ the Word That’s Traumatized Generations of Fat Boys

The Librarian Who Took On Al Qaida

Higher education and budget cuts

Join in this first-of-its-kind citizen science project, gathering scientifically valuable data from the total solar eclipse that will traverse North America on August 21, 2017; here’s the eclipse simulator; ALB will only get 70%

The Rise and Fall of Toronto’s Classiest Con Man

hy Popularity Matters So Much—Even After High School

Leonard Maltin (Critic): If you’ve never seen silent films, or foreign language films, if your education with film begins with Star Wars then you’re handicapped

Oscar-winner Martin Landau, who starred in ‘Ed Wood,’ ‘North by Northwest’ and ‘Mission: Impossible,’ dies at 89 – before that, he was a cartoonist

Kermit voice actor Steve Whitmire devastated to lose job after 27 years and the Muppet Studio response

A WICKED interview with Winnie Holzman

Chuck Miller gets a postcard from the 2017 Iowa State Fair Photo Competition

NOT ME: THE STAR spoke with Roger Green, who has been driving hearses for more than a decade. “He said nobody wants their dead in a ‘dead’ hearse.”

Mary Anderson, inventor of the practical car windscreen wiper

There’s No Crying in Professional Wiffle Ball

Now I Know: The New York Police Officer Whose Job is a Buzz and Who Was the Fifth Dentist — That Didn’t Recommend Trident? and A Profitable Way to Stop Telemarketers and The Internet’s Hidden Teapot and The Best Checkers Player in History

MUSIC

Sgt. Pepper – Big Daddy. The whole thing, live

The Strawberry Alarm Clock Celebrate 50 Years of “Incense and Peppermints”

K-Chuck Radio: Awesome and rare 70’s dance classics and Father’s Day Funk

Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly And Bryce Dessner Play ‘Planetarium’ Track ‘Mercury’

Beating the spread

Amat Te Mehercle: The 1960s Classics Teacher Who Translated Beatles Songs Into Latin

Rapp on This: The Slants’ SCOTUS victory

Carlos Santana turns 70


When Carlos Santana turned 60, I wrote a piece in my now long-abandoned Underplayed Vinyl series, albums I owned as LPs, which I used to play constantly, but because I didn’t have an easily accessible record player, they didn’t get much action.

The album in question that I posted about, 10 years ago to the day, was Abraxas, Santana, the group’s, second collection. “In 2003 [it] was ranked number 207 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time… Abraxas was deemed ‘culturally, historically, or artistically significant’ by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in their National Recording Registry in 2016.”

Like most of America, I discovered Santana at Woodstock. No, I didn’t go to the festival, but I saw the 1970 movie twice, in a row. Soul Sacrifice, complete with occasional feedback, was revelatory.

Carlos Santana and the various iterations of the group that bear his surname waxed and waned in popularity. For instance, the group was on recording hiatus for seven years in the 1990s.

In 1999, they released Supernatural, which debuted at number 19 on the Billboard 200, and 18 weeks later, topped the US charts. I bought it, of course, but I agree with some of the critics that found that the plethora of guest stars means there’s lacking a “consistent voice that holds the album together.” Yet it had good, and commercially successful, songs.

I’ve recently picked up Santana IV, the return of the core band from the first three albums.

The group Santana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

LISTEN, in roughly chronological order; numbers represent the Billboard pop chart action.

Jingo, a/k/a Jin-Go-Lo-Ba, #56 in 1969 here or here
Evil Ways, #9 in 1970 here or here
Soul Sacrifice here or here, at Woodstock

Abraxas, full album, 1971 : here or here (includes Black Magic Woman, #4 in 1971; Oye Como Va, #13 in 1971)

No One to Depend On, #36 in 1972, here or here

Primera Invasion, 1981 here or here
Searchin’, 1981 here

Hold On, #15 in 1982, here or here

Smooth, featuring Rob Thomas, #1 for 12 weeks in 1999 here (single) or here (album)

While My Guitar Gently Weeps, featuring India.Arie and Yo-Yo Ma, 2010 here (video) or here (album cut)

Anywhere You Want to Go, 2016 here or here

The decline of American democracy: Chavez, si; Hitler, nein

When I saw the Vox piece, The decline of American democracy won’t be televised, it made a lot of sense to me. Arthur has conveniently explained the premise further.

What I was really happy about in this piece, though, is what it does NOT contain: a reference to Adolf Hitler. It’s not that one cannot make parallels between what’s going on now in the United States and that prewar period “in which the Nazi party rose from obscurity to stand on the brink of complete power over Germany.” It’s that it has been used so often, in references to both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, that it has lost almost all meaning.

The example used by Vox in the “democratic backsliding” is Hugo Chavez, the late leader of Venezuela, in his attacks on the courts, free press and other institutions designed to create checks and balances.

Not incidentally, his successor, Nicolas Maduro has thrown opponents in jail and now he’s pushing to rewrite the constitution, which will further consolidate his power. This week, his opponents organized an unofficial protest vote against the constitution change. Millions of Venezuelans showed up. Gunmen fired on crowd of protesters in Caracas, killing a woman and injuring others.

Another international story that’s caught my attention: Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could lose his job. From, of all things, the Daily Skimm:

“Last year, the Panama Papers were leaked. They’re the millions of docs that outed some high-profile people for being shady with their finances to avoid the Tax Man. On the list: Sharif’s three adult kids. They allegedly used offshore companies to buy expensive London real estate. Pakistanis want to know where the money came from. So, the country’s Supreme Court asked a group of investigators to look into it.

“Last week, the investigators accused the Sharifs of forgery and hiding their financials, but the Sharifs say ‘not true.’ Sharif’s daughter – who also has political ambitions – gave investigators an ’06 document she says proves she doesn’t own these properties. But turns out, the doc was typed out in Calibri font…which didn’t come out until ’07. Oops.”

Of course, there are no parallels between these three children of a politician and any other three adult children of a public official. I just thought it was… interesting.

B is for the bike and the bus

One of the truly civilizing things about living in the Albany, NY area is the ability to ride the bike and the bus for certain trips. Someone noted that taking the bike on the bus to the bike repair place – broken spoke –
was the first time he had considered the value of having a couple bike racks on the bus. But in fact, I use the combo all the time.

Every 28 days, I have to go back to Corporate (frickin’) Woods, where I worked for too long, to get an allergy shot. I ride my bike through town to a rode called Northern Boulevard, then hitch the bike on the bus as it treks up that nasty Albany-Shaker Road hill.

Now, I could ride to the allergist, but time is the enemy here, for I need to catch a bus OUT of Corporate Woods, and since I have to wait 30 minutes AFTER the shot, I stay on the bus. On the subsequent trip then to work, I can ride at least partway to work, and faster than by bus alone.

There are several reasons to take the bike on the bus:

*law – it’s illegal to ride the bike on the highway. As the crow flies, the shortest route from my house to Corporate Woods is I-90, but it would be not only unlawful but dangerous to ride the bike on the interstate

*time – I COULD ride to Schenectady, the next city to the west, but that would take a while

*energy – that is to say, mine, especially when it comes to hills

*the weather – never was that more true than on May 18. I was planning on riding the two miles home, but a severe thunderstorm began. Walking to the bus stop, I got soaked. Putting my bike on the bu, I was paranoid about being electrocuted.

I think the first time I saw bikes on mass transit was back in the late 1980s, when one could put a two-wheeler on the Bay Area Rapid Transit, in San Francisco-Oakland, California. It made sense to me and I’m happy for the option.

Incidentally, Jen Reviews has put out a “detailed, up-to-date 7,000 word guide on how to choose a bike according to science” that describes “10 factors to consider.”

ABC Wednesday, Round 21

The Selma Diamond voice at the CVS

The CVS in my neighborhood I have visited many times. There is a regular set of registers near the entrance/exit of the building, plus a pharmacy register in the back.

I had noticed that some items had been rearranged the last time I went there. Some short woman with one of those carts one can purchase was muttering that she can’t find anything. I tried to commiserate with her; “Yeah, they have moved some items around.” She snapped back, not really at me, but very loudly, “And I DON’T LIKE IT!”

Then she, standing a good twenty feet away from the pharmacist, started berating him , demanding that he help her find some items. This went on while he was dealing with another customer in front of him.

I meandered to the front of the store to get an item. There were two staffed registers. There was a customer at one, and a customer who had just finished his transaction. The two people in line PLEADED with the sales clerk momentarily without a customer to PLEASE help that woman find what she wanted, forgoing being checked out sooner.

“I’m never coming back to this store ever again,” she snarled. I’m sure more than one person in the building was thinking, “Is that a promise?” Then she upbraided no one in particular, “They need to put everything back the way it was!”

And that clerk did help her, but evidently she needed another item. She barks again at the pharmacist, insisting he take care of her, because she was next, though she’s STILL 20 feet from the queue. The front-store clerk returned, as he could hear her kvetching again.

It only occurred to me later that she sounded rather like the late actress Selma Diamond, only five times LOUDER.

Leaving the CVS, I run into one of my friends from my former church on the way to the laundromat. I related the CVS story. She acknowledges that she too has a phobia of going to a store and not being able to find anything. But, I noted, “you just leave, not make everyone around you miserable.”