A panoply of reunion festivities

My sister Leslie decided to attend her ##th reunion from Binghamton (NY) Central High School. If MY class had one last year, I didn’t know about it, AND I’m not sure I would have gone. The last one of mine I went to be more than a decade ago, when the Daughter was very small.

Leslie flew to Albany on a Wednesday night, crashed my choir rehearsal on Thursday, then, on Friday, she drove us to the Parlor City, its old nickname, dropping me off with a high school friend and her husband, while she stayed with a grade school chum of ours.

She picked me up a couple hours later and we attended a mixer at a place called Remlick’s. It was a bit overwhelming; a few dozen people from BCHS I hadn’t seen in decades, without the benefit of name tags. But it was a pleasant time, as the cobwebs of forgotten events began to dissolve.

Sharkey’s is a “contender to the throne of spiedie creator,” and that’s where we went Saturday at lunchtime, running into six of my sister’s classmates.

Leslie had attended to Binghamton University, then called SUNY Binghamton, and it was homecoming weekend. So we went to the campus and listened to three choral groups, each performing a piece my church choir has performed. The Women’s Chorus (Zion’s Walls by Aaron Copland), The Chamber Singers (Sicut cervus desiderat by Palestrina) and Leslie’s old group, the Harpur Chorale (Hark! I Hear the Harps Eternal arraigned by Alice Parker).

Onto Thirsty’s, where Leslie sees her old friends Cathy and Bobby and their family, then to a separate room, where a bunch of my First Ward chums were gathering. That was likely the high point, as I recognized several of them without assistance. I got to talk about genealogies, and libraries, and book writing, among the topics.

Round Two of the BCHS reunion was at the Holiday Inn. Now that I had seen many of these folks the day before, AND they had name tags, I was in a much more comfortable situation.

Leslie made the trip specifically for the high school reunion. That it, the First Ward reunion, AND the SUNY-B homecoming were all on the SAME DAY was astonishingly convenient, and wonderful coincidence.

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The OTHER propositions on the NYS ballot

With all the attention on the potential Constitutional Convention on the ballot November 7, I was only dimly aware of the other two propositions that New Yorkers must consider. OK, SHOULD consider, since they’re on the flip side of he ballot.

The proposed amendment… would allow a court to reduce or revoke the pension of a public officer who is convicted of a felony that has a direct and actual relationship to the performance of the public officer’s duties.

The number of corrupt government officials is arguably higher in the Empire State than any other. I assume some judge would decide whether, and how, the crime relates to their official duties.

The problem in this state is that those convictions can be overturned, as they were, just in the past four months, in the cases of former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate majority leader Dean Skelos. If this proposal had been in place, the pensions of the pols whose convictions were vacated could, and I suppose should, be reinstated.

Still, I support this amendment as a step in the right direction.

The proposed amendment will create a land account with up to 250 acres of forest preserve land eligible for use by towns, villages, and counties that have no viable alternative to using forest preserve land to address specific public health and safety concerns; as a substitute for the land removed from the forest preserve, another 250 acres of land, subject to legislative approval, will be added to the forest preserve. The proposed amendment also will allow bicycle trails and certain public utility lines to be located within the width of highways that traverse the forest preserve while minimizing removal of trees and vegetation.

This is largely a land swap, with the State acquiring the same amount of land, “subject to approval by the Legislature, to incorporate into the forest preserve to replace the land placed in the health and safety land account.” This has a lot of precedent, and I’m willing to support this.

I’ve already noted my opposition to the “convention to revise the Constitution and amend the same.” Interestingly, if it were to pass, I’d want to run as a delegate if I thought I had a scintilla of a chance of winning.

The propositions are the most interesting items on the ballot because the candidate races were all but settled in the primaries, at least in the city of Albany. The one surprise for me was that Bryan Jimenez is the Green Party candidate for mayor. After the election, Dan Plaat had a 17-15 lead from the machines, but Jimenez got some absentee or other paper ballot votes.

This is unconfirmed rumor, but I was told by someone in the know that the Greens wanted a primary so they could show up on the stage with the Democrats at candidate talks, not ignored like other minor party candidates.

“Banned” in a functional sense

There was this blogpost that community, unpaid blogger Heather Rusaw-Fazio wrote for the Times Union site in the spirit of #MeToo. It became not visible and the site inaccessible to the blogger because the post did not meet whatever community standards the Times Union thought were being violated.

Which standards, exactly?

Ultimately, Chuck Miller posted the piece on his blog, and I on mine. I referred to it as a “banned” post.

Rex wrote publicly, to a friend of mine:

We did not, in fact, silence a woman’s voice. A woman who is the senior editor in charge of engagement – and thus the supervisor of community blogs – took the step of protecting Heather and the Times Union from a potential libel claim. (As publisher of the blog, we are susceptible to libel claims.) We are quite eager to publish Heather’s post, but we have suggestions to make it less likely that we – and Heather – might be vulnerable legally. Since we have a lot of experience in legal matters, we could advise her on this, but at this point she has chosen to remain silent rather than accept any such suggestion. It is very regrettable, but there is certainly no intent on our part to shut down conversation.

What does Heather have to say about this to Rex? That this is pretty much the opposite of what Heather was told by TU folks:

There has been very little to no consistency on blogger standards from blogger to blogger or post to post for some, and I hope you take the time to read all of this and truly understand.

Is it the use of f**k?
This is the first time I’ve actually censored myself in using the F word in this blog or the Books blog. I’ve said worse and have used the full word minus asterisks in the past with no shut out or removal of the blog. Not consistent.

Is it the word penis? Insertion?
How would you prefer I describe sexual assault? His “thing?”

Is it because it’s pornographic?
The definitions of sexual assault and pornographic content is vastly different. I’ve violated neither the contract I signed, which is valid, until another is presented.
Kristi wrote about mother/daughter porn and it’s still there. Readers have shared others. Not consistent.

Tena specifically mentions “graphic.”
The only correlation between the word graphic and the newly shared ToS to which we must also adhere, is to the word pornographic or child pornography. Show me differently where I’m in violation.

It has been eight or nine months since [Mike] Huber left, yet he’s being blamed as the reason for no contact information? If you have his equipment or network access through AD, you have access to everything he had, specifically his Outlook contacts. Not one person there has made an effort (in 8 or 9 mos) to take a couple hours to organize your community of independent bloggers?

Let me just present you with the scenario. I was terrified while writing that blog. Every emotion came back to me as it usually does when I allow myself to recall the assaults. I was in tears. I was shaking. I felt like I was going to vomit. I felt like I was going to be dismissed – again. I published and then unpublished. I finally scheduled it for 6am when I knew my alarm would go off at 6:30 and it would be too late to change my mind.

Then the comments are coming all morning. I received about 30 private messages, 10 texts, couple phone calls, about 5 emails from women saying “me too” and sharing their story with me and saying thank you. I’m finally beginning to understand the impact one story can have. My stomach calms down and I stop shaking. I’m finally able to actually to get food in my stomach.

Then I get the email from Tena. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain what that did to me emotionally. I’m sure I don’t have to explain the impact that had on the women who follow me. I shouldn’t have to explain that once again I was shut down, silenced, and made to feel as if I had done something wrong by sharing sexual assault stories. Go to my Facebook page to find out. It’s all public.

Hundreds more are involved now and asking what I want them to do. I’ve been asked if you’ve apologized. No.

Rex, I appreciate your attempt to explain it was all a miscommunication, but it was absolutely wrong and in direct discord with what was agreed to after Chuck Miller’s situation until the “mysterious new Hearst blogger contracts” appear. Communication is supposed to happen prior to pulling a blog.

Shannon, you, and Tena have my email address and I can be reached on Facebook. There is no excuse, especially not Huber leaving you with nothing.

Unfortunately, it’s clear that no one on staff really cares about our little group – and that’s fine. It is what it is, right?

I will call XXXXX tomorrow to gain access so that I can simply delete the post.

Thank you…

Thus the disconnect.

Rex took exception to my term “banned,” and in a limited sense, he is correct. Heather herself said that if the second overture made to her by the paper, as it turns out from Rex himself, had taken place initially, the problem might have been resolved.

But I was thinking of “banned” as in what happens in Banned Book Week, when it celebrates items that were banned or challenged.

I was reading a September 28 Times Union editorial. Make absentee voting easy, and it actually explains an effective ban:

Eligible voters in New York may legally cast an absentee ballot only for certain reasons — sickness, disability, infirmity, or being out of town on Election Day. But those who juggle work and obligations like child care, or who lack transportation, or who simply have no time to get to the polls, are left with a choice: forfeit their democratic right, or falsely claim a legal excuse, as some admit they do.

This obstacle is likely a key reason why turnout to choose local, state and national leaders is so poor in the Empire State. This form of voter suppression — intentional or not — is fundamentally little different from strategies employed in states that purposely make it difficult for many people, especially low-income urban residents, to vote, from requiring photo IDs to having fewer polling sites or locating them out of the way for those without personal transportation.

Now, I happen to agree with the sentiment of the piece. But a literalist would argue that, since there was apparently no intentional bias against a class of people, there is no voter suppression, even if the vote is suppressed.

So the Times Union may not have INTENDED to suppress Heather’s piece. But by locking her out of her page, and being slow in communicating with her why, it effectively accomplished the same thing. And she’s going away, which is a shame.

Unsurprisingly, Chuck Miller has a take on this issue.

The Color Purple: screen to stage

I never finished reading Alice Walker’s powerful 1982 novel The Color Purple, though I had read good chunks of it.

The movie came out in late 1985, so I would have seen it in the first three months of the following year. I thought it was strong, powerful, and occasionally difficult to watch. Danny Glover played Mister/Albert, who was a brute. Whoopi Goldberg as Celie Johnson, Margaret Avery and Shug Avery, and, surprisingly, Oprah Winfrey as Sofia were quite good, as was the rest of the cast.

The film garnered 11 Academy Award nominations, including for those three women, winning zero, making it the film with the most noms with no Oscars. Goldberg and director Steven Spielberg did win the Golden Globes, and the film was named best drama.

Then there was the first Broadway production which ran from December 2005 to the end of February 2008, nominated for 11 Tonys, and winning one, LaChanze as Celie. Renée Elise Goldsberry, later of Hamilton fame, played Celie’s sister Nettie. The touring company production ended a couple years later.

The musical was revived at the end of 2015 and closed early in 2017. It was nominated for four Tonys, and won Best Revival of a Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, Cynthia Erivo as Celie.

The touring show started on October 17, 2017 in Baltimore. But wait. What did I see on October 8 at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, featuring “director John Doyle’s deceptively simple set design, a towering array of angled, broken barn boards and mismatched wooden chairs that rise up from the stage to the overhead fly-space”?

Technically, it was a preview show, working out the bugs in the story and technical issues. I’,m told the cast in the early production was quite large, but only 17 in this iteration. The story is strong, especially in the first half. The songs are very inspirational, especially in the second half, and performed well throughout.

A couple actors weren’t miked well, and I couldn’t really make out what they were saying.

A bigger problem for me, though, was the transformation of Mister/Albert from Act 1’s bully to Act 2’s saint. It didn’t feel earned, and as my wife noted, when a child is left in hs care, she worried about the baby’s welfare, unnecessarily so, as it turns out.

I’m sure that the technical issues will be fixed. Whether the storyline will be, I don’t know. Still, even with that caveat, it was well worth seeing.

O is for occupation: librarian, NY SBDC

October 19 marks the 25th anniversary of when I became a working librarian, all, as it turned out, at the Research Network of the New York Small Business Development Center.

Now it’s not the first job I ever had in a library. I spent seven months as a page at the Binghamton, now Broome County (NY), Public Library back when I was in high school. I used to help people use the microfilm machines, find and then refile the magazines in the closed stacks, and check the shelves to make sure the books were in Dewey Decimal System order.

After 8.5 years at the comic book store FantaCo and a dreadful year at an insurance company, I was nagged by two librarians and a lawyer, all friends of mine, to go to library school. I was resistant to return to graduate school, having suffered a disastrous experience a decade earlier.

But this time, I survived, and even thrived in grad school. I worked in the dean’s office and one of my tasks was to calculate the demographics of the students. I discovered that I was, at that time, the average age of a student at UAlbany’s School of Information Science and Policy. There were lots of returning students.

The task has always been to provide reference to remote SBDC counselors who were meeting with their would-be entrepreneurs and active businesspersons, Still, the job of this librarian has changed a lot over the quarter century. We used to send packets of information via the US Mail or UPS.

My first phone was a shared line with the fax machine. When it would ring, I was never sure when it rang if I would pick it up and hear a wall of aural pain.

In the days before the wide use of the Internet, we had a number of CD-ROMs to use, and we had to take turns using them. It was a radical innovation when the discs were on a LAN (local area network) so that two or three librarians could use ReferenceUSA at the same time.

The World wide web, of course, changed our reference ability, but it was a gradual evolution early on. We wanted to be able to deliver data via email. Now EVERYONE has it, but in the 1990s, it was hardly a universal service, even at the colleges and universities where our SBDCs were housed.

When email became more universally available, sometimes the data packet was so big that it would bounce. Now, there’s a location on a closed website where counselors can pick up the information.

Being a librarian has changed a lot in the past two and a half decades, but finding the information remains the goal.

For ABC Wednesday

#MeToo – Heather Rusaw-Fazio’s banned TU post

My fellow Times Union blogger Heather Rusaw-Fazio posted the item below at 6 a.m. on October 17. It was not easy for her to write, obviously.

She received a note from the TU that while they’re sorry what happened to her, her reportage was too “graphic.” Her blogs have been blocked and she’s been suspended. Per the terms of the TU bloggers, they can’t change the content, but they can block it if it is considered “pornography” or “child pornography”

Reposted with her permission.

#MeToo

*Caution – strong adult language/topic*

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days but I haven’t been brave enough until tonight. Do I publish my story or do I simply write “me too” for a Facebook status? Is that enough to have a genuine impact? Do I tell you his/their name?

Do I share the names of the Massena NY Police Department officers who dismissed me because I was 15 and had two beers at a high-school party? Or do I share their names because they told the 21-year-old man who was enlisted in the Army that he’s a “good guy” and “doesn’t need the hassle” as they interviewed me IN FRONT OF HIM on the front steps of his house?

No hospital visit, no nurse, no female police officer – just me, three grown men, and a kid my age who hosted the party and protected his big brother even though he knew the truth. The only question I was asked by the police officers was “How much did you drink?”

It’s something that (obviously and rightfully) bothers me to this day because I think about it often. I think about the man “DM” often – his real initials. I even think about his little brother who protected him. I was friends with the little brother on Facebook for a while until he began spewing hate, homophobia, and racism as soon as Trump announced he was running for office. I sent him a private message to remind him his brother is at the very least a sexual predator if not a rapist. Who knows what he had done before and after me?

After this experience I quickly learned that sexual harassment is common, should just be accepted by women, we should be grateful someone is attracted to us, and if reported you will rarely be taken seriously by other men – and sometimes women. In the 80’s, it seemed that was par for the course and unfortunately these lessons stayed with me until my 30s.

The only “men” who believed me were two of my best friends who knew DM. They even went to his house to confront him but he called the police. The same two police officers told him to stay inside until his leave was over and then he could forget about the whole situation and put it behind him. My friends were threatened with arrest but were able to go home with a warning.

At 15, this wasn’t the first or close to the last time I had been sexually harassed but it was the first time I was sexually assaulted – but not the last. Continue reading

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame snubs

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced the nominees for 2018:

Bon Jovi
Kate Bush – first time
The Cars
Depeche Mode
Dire Straits – first time
Eurythmics – first time
J. Geils Band
Judas Priest – first time
LL Cool J
MC5
The Meters
Moody Blues – first time
Radiohead – first time
Rage Against the Machine – first time
Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
Nina Simone – first time
Sister Rosetta Tharpe – first time
Link Wray
The Zombies
“To be eligible for nomination, an individual artist or band must have released its first commercial recording at least 25 years prior to the year of induction which means the 2018 nominees had to release their first official recording no later than 1992.”

Since we can vote for these folks, I cast my ballot for these:

The Moody Blues: #1 on Culture Sonar’s Top Ten Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs. Commercial and critical cred, evolving in musical styles.

Nina Simone, the high priestess of soul – listen to Feeling Good

Two artists I think they should just plop into the Hall as early influencers are Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Godmother of Rock & Roll, and Link Wray, the father of the power chord.

One band that should be in via the Musical Excellence route, and that’s the Meters, who defined New Orleans funk. And on the subject of Musical Excellence, I restate my case for Billy Preston and a slew of the Wrecking Crew, starting with bassist Carol Kaye.

Again, I’m pushing for Estelle Axton, the AX of STAX Records, as a non-performer. Her brother and business partner Jim Stewart has been there since 2002.

Chuck Miller made the case for Neil Sedaka; I’ll buy that, and would suggest that they include his longtime writing partner Howie Greenfield. Like Mann and Weil and Goffin and King, they were successful Brill Building creators.

If I knew the Meters, Tharpe, and Wray would get in another way, I probably would vote for Culture Sonar’s #9 pick The Cars, plus Dire Straits and Eurythmics.

I’m guessing that Bon Jovi, the Cars (high on the fan ballot in previous years) and the Moody Blues will make it.

High on my disappointed they weren’t even nominated:

Emerson Lake & Palmer – while I’d like to see King Crimson, Greg Lake’s previous band, go in first, I’d take whatever prog rock I could get

The Doobie Brothers- oddly enough, the death of Steely Dan’s Walter Becker has made me, even more, a fan of this choice. Only Becker and Walter Fagen are in the Hall, which means original Dan guitarist Jeff Baxter is not. Neither is Michael McDonald, who had a stellar solo career after singing and playing for Steely Dan then reviving the Doobies.

Warren Zevon – yes. a critical darling, whose songs were heavily covered.

Three Dog Night – yes, they didn’t write their own songs. But they made credible recordings covers of a wide range of artists, including musicians that people didn’t know at the time, including Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Elton John and John Hiatt. I really enjoyed their early stuff. And they had 21 consecutive Top 40 hits.

Guy Fieri and the Fall Preview Issue

Jaquandor asks: Do you have an opinion of Guy Fieri? I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to hate him, but…I don’t.

Oh, THAT guy? No, I don’t have any impression. I mean I know what he looks like, the fellow who seems as though he were in a boy band a quarter of a century ago and never changed his look.

But if I’ve seen him on one of those cooking shows, I don’t specifically recall. Collectively, I tend not to watch them because they tend to want to stress out their contestants – here are ten random ingredients; make something delicious in an hour – which I don’t enjoy watching. Seeing people stressing out stresses ME out.

And that is my general feeling about most reality shows, whether it be those HGTV home improvement shows (the hosts find rot in the foundation AFTER the contestants’ home is purchased!) or dance competitions or other talent events. It’s just not my thing.

My wife watches some HGTV shows and Dancing with the Stars. I did managed to catch Darcy Lynne on America’s Got Talent, which my wife also views, and was suitably impressed.

Then again, I’m not watching many current comedies or dramas either. I’m so glad I went on JEOPARDY! when I did, back in 1998 Recently there was a category on current TV that I totally bombed on. I was at least familiar with House of Cards (I know Kevin Spacey from the movies) and Breaking Bad (Bryan Cranston was in Malcolm in the Middle, which I didn’t watch either, now that I think of it), but obviously not well enough. Yet I got a question the next day about Orange Is the New Black, which I’ve also never seen.

There are a bunch of shows in the new season that, even a decade ago, I might have tried out. I even bought the Fall Preview Issue of TV Guide. But after having a whole bunch of that Vietnam series recorded but unwatched – since rectified – I realized that even shows starring people I used to watch (Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer) isn’t enough for me to view a new series (Ten Days in the Valley).

Music, October 1971: Parents of rock stars

Clockwise from top left: Zappa, Cocker, Crosby, Clapton

The book Never A Dull Moment by David Hepworth notes a photo display in LIFE magazine in the fall of 1971 called “Rock Stars and their parents.” Among those represented: the Jackson Five, Frank Zappa, Ginger Baker, Joe Cocker, Grace Slick, and David Crosby.

“Eric Clapton was pictured with his grandmother Rose Clapp, who had raised him on behalf of her sixteen-year-old daughter. There was no mention of his actual birth mother. the public wasn’t ready for the complexity of a nonnuclear family.”

While photographer John Olson noted that the rock stars were “uniformly” well-behaved around their parents, they weren’t temperamentally suited for domestic life, having spent years on the road. Moreover, unannounced fans would try to show up on the doorsteps of Bob Dylan, Pete Townsend and others. Paul McCartney was the exception, as he and Linda lived in rural Scotland.

Often even these musicians of means still thought of themselves as creators first, people with homes second. Among the folks with studios actually in their abodes were George Harrison, James Taylor and Graham Nash. Other musicians were impulsive buyers of eccentric structures. Keith Moon’s house had five pyramids. Jimmy Page and John Lennon both needed others to stay in their residences.

As for musical families, the Kinks put out my favorite of their albums, Muswell Hillbillies, Donny Osmond and his brothers were strong on the charts all year since One Bad Apple copped the style of the Motown family’s J5.

The Beach Boys made the cover of Rolling Stones, a wildly successful singles band in the early ’60s who aside from Pet Sounds, were not particularly successful album artists in the latter part of the decade. They were perceived as uncool.

Fortunately, they pieced together the often magnificent Surf’s Up, in a way a tribute to the band’s aura. “Van Dyke Park, who had co-written the title song five years earlier correctly predicted if they used that title, they could pre-sell 150,000 extra copies.

Eventually, though, it was the old songs, first with the Who’s 1971 Meaty Big and Bouncy, then the defunct Beatles, followed by the Beach Boys, post 1973’s American Graffiti, that showed that nostalgia could sell quite well, thank you.

Listen to:

Surf’s Up – the Beach Boys
Coat Of Many Colors – Dolly Parton
Superstar – Carpenters
Old Man – Neil Young
Muswell Hillbilly – The Kinks
Peaches En Regalia – Frank Zappa
Will the Circle Be Unbroken – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Tired of Being Alone – Al Green

Charles McGill and the politics of the golf bag

When we were in Binghamton, NY, my sister Leslie and I went to the Orzio Salati Studio & Gallery at 204 State Street, part of a block of artist venues downtown. We went because our late father knew a guy named Charlie McGill. Charles, who graduated from high school in Binghamton in 1982 must have been Charlie’s son or nephew. The statue, BTW, is a rather good likeness of the artist.

“For the 18 years [Charles] wrestled with the golf bag. He found it to be a ‘very political object due to its its historical associations with class inequality and racial injustice.” The country club had been so long the dominion of people of a certain demographics that, more than once, McGill, an avid golfer, was mistaken for a caddie.

We know all of this this because Salati, the curator, but also McGill’s friend and fellow artist, told us. He explained that McGill’s work was both a physical and mental struggle. Physical because the golf bag is generally well constructed, with leather, steel reinforcement, hard plastic form and rivets. The piece below is Tondos (from the Italian rotondo – round).

Sometimes, he didn’t deconstructed the golf bag, but amplified the message, such as the Three Kings bag with images of Martin Luther King Jr., Rodney King, and King Kong.

Unfortunately, the planned show for Charles in his hometown became a memorial exhibit, as the artist died from metastasized kidney cancer in July 2017. The pieces are all on loan from various galleries.

And, as is often the case, his work was increasingly being recognized for “making a bold statement” and going for far more money than it had just months earlier. Rondos, for instance, is now going for $30,000.

The show continues through the end of October 2017, Saturday from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. and by appointment (607 772-6725).