Dr. Charlie Kite (August 15, 1949-January 4, 2019)

charlie kiteDr. Charles Havener Kite Sr was a pillar at my church, an ordained elder and deacon. When his grandson, who is in the third grade, received his own Bible this past fall, Charlie proudly held up the Bible HE got when he was a kid.

Charlie Kite was very helpful to me when my sister Leslie had her bicycle accident in June 2018. He explained that the fact that the brain bleed was detected for only a short time was a good sign. I was happy to get feedback from a neurosurgeon and a respected faculty member in the anatomy program at Albany Medical College.

The interesting thing I that I didn’t ask him straight out. I had put put Leslie on the church prayer list and was musing about her condition during coffee hour. Charlie, and/or his wife Tara, who also teaches at the medical college, would give me the 411.

Sometime in the past couple years, my wife noted, in his presence, some pain she was having, and he’d suggest how long one could take some over-the-counter medicines at a slightly higher dosage without causing other damage.

I’ll always remember that I found out that Charlie announced that he had metastatic pancreatic cancer at the semiannual breakfast of the Bible Guys in early December. My contact with him that day was brief but meaningful to us both.

His family, literally and figuratively, rallied around him, most visibly at church. At the first service after his diagnosis was made public, there were nearly two dozen Kites in the front of the sanctuary for an Advent candle lighting and reading. But Charlie alone got the honor of reading.

After the initial shock and sorrow, he seemed liberated to say what was truly on his mind. During December, he spoke to me every week, telling me to fight the good fight online. He specifically enjoyed the jabs I took at a certain orange-haired persona. He would have enjoyed what former senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, experiencing the same medical diagnosis, had to say.

Charlie was an unabashed liberal. His late mother Dorothy (1923-2011), who I remember well, was a real advocate for civil rights and social justice. He supported LGBTQ rights, the local Planned Parenthood, the FOCUS Churches outreach programs, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

I knew very little about the signs of pancreatic cancer except that most of them mimic other diseases. In other words, “many of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by other conditions,” so it’s tricky to diagnose early.

The funeral of Charlie Kite is scheduled for this Sunday afternoon, January 20, 2019 at First Presbyterian Church, with the choir singing. Double-digit inches of snow are forecast.

Gillette, toxic masculinity, and the “war on men”

The Gillette The Best a Man Can Be “short film” on Toxic Masculinity has become a phenomenon in a very short time. Two of the bloggers I follow, Arthur and Chuck, have already written about it. They favor the ad, and so do I. But that’d be a brief post.

I’m also interested in other reactions. Common Dreams says ‘Gillette Must Be Doing Something Right’: Toxic Men Freak Out… “So-called ‘men’s rights activists’ are mad that the shaving razor company has started a campaign calling on men to not be misogynists, jerks, and bullies.”

Some of the right-wing sites I follow naturally have followed the issue. GOPUSA quotes the CEO of branding firm Crutchfield + Partners that Gillette could quickly alienate its long-time supporters. “Does the customer want to be told they’re a naughty boy? Are you asking too much of your consumer to be having this conversation with them?” he asked. “It’s about execution. Sometimes brands stretch themselves too fine, and they snap.”

It then shared some of the negative comments: ““Get woke, go broke. Stick to selling razors.” “When did shaving have to get political?” “How to irreparably damage a brand in under 120 seconds: A Documentary.” And “See this is actually genius. What Gillette is doing here is trying to lower our testosterone to the point we won’t have to shave anymore.”

RedState complained that “Gillette seems to send the message that we can be better by being the men who heroically intervened in these various scenarios. The man who stops his friend from hitting on a girl, the guy who angrily prevents a man from telling a girl to smile, the man who rejects the idea that treating women as objects is okay.” Well, yes, it is.

I was most annoyed by the dismissive “Side note.” “I’ve never experienced a man telling a girl to smile more. I’ve seen women do that to other women, but not a man. I’m not saying it has never, or still doesn’t happen, but in my 35 years of life, I’ve yet to experience a single male member of our species advise a girl to smile more.” I’ve known lots of women who’ve experienced it, and I’ve seen it myself.

Should business be involved in “political” positions, risking the bottom line? Last I checked the ad had 321,000 thumbs up but 695,000 thumbs down.

Perhaps the company can be comforted by a statement by The American Psychological Association: “Socialization for conforming to traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict, and negatively influence mental health and physical health.”

I see the ad following in the tradition of The ‘Dove Real Beauty Pledge’. The Procter & Gamble ‘The Talk’ ad “showing how black parents have discussed racism with their children over several decades” won an Emmy.

Will the ad hurt Gillette’s bottom line? Perhaps. Conversely, Taking Risks Can Benefit Your Brand – Nike’s Kaepernick Campaign Is A Perfect Example.

Gillette’s website details plans to “donate $1 million per year for the next three years to non-profit organizations executing programs in the United States designed to inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal ‘best’ and become role models for the next generation.”

January rambling: quotidian stupidity

How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually

The Impact of Climate Change on Language Loss

NBC’s Meet the Press devotes the entire show to climate change with no time for deniers

Saving American Democracy

Are powerful women likable?

A double diagnosis — cancer while poor

NOW I AM

Chronic lying and self-contempt

Why He Reigns as King Cyrus

He Is the Damn Emergency; Post-Speech

The wall speech v. the prediction

He Was Never Vetted

Terminally Ill Harry Reid Minces No Words

Celibacy isn’t the cause of the church sex-abuse crisis; the priesthood is

Comic book artist Batton Lash, October 29, 1953 – January 12, 2019

Former Yankees Starter, Pitching Coach Mel Stottlemyre Dies at 77 – I was there at the Stadium when they retired his number

Broadway legend Carol Channing dies at 97

Bob Einstein, R.I.P.

Arthur answers my questions about blogging stuff and gay conversion therapy and current gay issues and his parents

The Crimson Permanent Assurance (Monty Python’s)

Everyday smartness is definitely no match for quotidian stupidity

On books, and joy, and hoarding, and having too many books…

I Used to Write for Sports Illustrated. Now I Deliver Packages for Amazon

After 30 years, Elisa Streeter has retired from WTEN-TV 10 in Albany

Every The Dick Van Dyke Show Episode, Ranked

Review time! with ‘Planet of the Apes Visionaries’

Lady Cop: A 70s Comic that Tried (and Failed)

Disgusting Food Museum opens

What is Glitter?

Cookie Monster in the UK, interview by Melissa Nathoo and Cookie Monster visits the Ellen show

Now I Know: The Dog With Strings Attached and Meet Kelly, The Really Smart Dolphin and The Avengers Burial Ground and Why You Can’t Make a Phone Call with a Calculator and How to Beat Traffic in Moscow

11 foot 8 bridge

2018/2019

In review

The Story that Really Mattered

Bringing out the dead

fillyjonk’s year

The Worst Political Predictions

35 years ago, Isaac Asimov was asked to predict the world of 2019

Dave Barry: What made 2018 so awful? A month-by-month look at the most outrageous highlights

MUSIC

K-Chuck Radio: Sail on, Captain… (Daryl Dragon)

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Fanfare For The Common Man (complete)

Winter Melody – Donna Summer

Getting Better – MonaLisa Twins

All Along The Watchtower – Playing For Change

Loving You Today – Amy Barlow

Downtown – Saw Doctors with Petula Clark

Lawyers, Guns and Money – Warren Zevon

Don’t Turn Away – Hollie Sue

Some People, from the Broadway show Gypsy, performed by several big stars

Safety Dance – Men Without Hats

Overture to Johann Strauss’s operetta The Gypsy Baron – Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

22 Musicals In 12 Minutes w/ Lin Manuel Miranda, Emily Blunt, and James Corden

Year Of The Cat – Al Stewart

Nature Boy: Eden Ahbez and Annie Haslam and Sun Ra

Coverville: 1246: Cover Stories for Marilyn Manson and Foo Fighters and 1247: Cover Stories for Susanna Hoffs and Sade

Dawn over the Land – Night Breeze

I Just Want to Be a Star – Nunsense

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life – Sonny Vande Putte

Meow Mix – cats at a rave

Baby Shark went viral and hit the Billboard Hot 100

How one designer created the “look” of jazz

The End of Owning Music: How CDs and Downloads Died

Review time! with ‘Crossroad Blues’

Comfortable versus challenging Martin Luther King Jr

This TIME magazine piece from January 2018 struck me:

“In 1963, most Americans disapproved of the [Augugust 28 March on Washington] event, many congressmen saw it as potentially seditious, and law enforcement from local police to the FBI monitored it intensively (under code name Operation Steep Hill).

“Indeed, it was after King’s speech… that the FBI — with President Kennedy’s approval — decided to increase their monitoring of the civil right s leader. With the FBI describing King as ‘demagogic’ and ‘the most dangerous… to the Nation… from the standpoint … of national security,” Attorney General Robert Kennedy signed off on intrusive surveillance of his living quarters, offices, phones and hotel rooms, as well as those of his associates.”

Also from last year, this Folio Media. piece:

“Which Martin Luther King Jr. will we celebrate? There is a comfortable Martin Luther King Jr. and there is a challenging Martin Luther King Jr.

“The comfortable Martin Luther King Jr. gave only one speech in his life, and we’re required to quote one line from that one speech…

“The challenging Martin Luther King Jr. was a relentless critic of American foreign policy, racism and an economic system which left so many destitute…

“The challenging Martin Luther King Jr. makes us uncomfortable in our complacency and asks that we live out the courage of our convictions.

“The comfortable King has a dream. The challenging King knows the dream has yet to be realized and much work is still to be done.

“The comfortable King is the one we celebrate at the expense of the challenging King.”

In remembering that King became beloved by the broader community only after his death, we are called to continue the fight.

And the struggle seems more dire today than in many years, some of which I was certain, a half-century ago would have been largely resolved by now; inequity in education, voting rights, lack of access to health care, environmental challenges… pick your issues.

So in honor of MLK, please DON’T quote that one line, proclaim “We HAVE overcome”, and become blind for all the work there still is to do, even if you’re dubbed as “radical.” It would put you in good company.

Blackout: sometimes in winter

Over the years, I’ve experienced many a blackout, usually in the summer, when too many air conditioners are overloading the electrical grid. The one I experienced on January 6 was a real epiphany.

It was a strange day in that it was quite mild in the morning, but got considerably colder in the afternoon, thanks to bitter winds from Canada. So even though the air temperature was above freezing, it felt 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit colder.

We were surprised, though, when the power went out about 4:13 p.m. It didn’t much faze us, and it came back on less than five minutes later. They were on long enough that I had started to reset the clocks in the kitchen when the power cut out again c 4:23.

Our daughter was doing her homework in her room, but that was no longer an option. She tried completing it on the front porch, but it was by then far too cold. She ended up working at the dining room table by candlelight. Oh, and an emergency flashlight that I’d purchased for Christmas 2017, plugged into the wall and forgotten about until I saw its illumination in the corner.

I inventoried what we had to eat that did not involve either using the stove or opening the refrigerator. There were saltine crackers, apple sauce… and COFFEE CAKE that my wife had baked that morning.

The elementary school across the street had power, and the traffic light a couple blocks away in the other direction was working, so I figured the outage was limited to a narrow band; not so. The local news reported that around 1,500 customers were in the dark in the city of Albany and nearly 3,000 in the adjacent town of Bethlehem for at least three hours.

we walked to the pizzeria a block away since we could see from our house that it was operational. After sandwiches were eaten and homework was completed, we played a game of SORRY. Near its completion, the blackout ended at about 7:20 p.m.

Sitting in the dark made me really tired. Yet I stayed up and watched the last nine minutes of the Eagles-Bears NFL playoff game; Philadelphia partially blocked the Chicago field goal at the end of the game and won 16-15.

***
For ABC Wednesday

Movie review: If Beale Street Could Talk

if beale street could talkThere was a trailer for If Beale Street Could Talk which I must have seen a half dozen times. You know how some previews tell you so much that you feel as though there’s no need to see the film at all? This one was quite the opposite as I could hear, more than once, puzzled utterances from the audience.

The movie was written for the screen and directed by Barry Jenkins, the creative force behind Moonlight, which beat out La La Land for best picture. It is based on the book by James Baldwin. The story is set in 1974, but, in many ways, it could have been 2018.

The movie quotes Baldwin as saying, “Every black person born in America was born on Beale Street.” Though the original Beale Street is in Memphis, this story is clearly in New York City.

Without being a spoiler, I’ll tell you that the movie is primarily a love story in the midst of an unjust system. Tish Rivers (newcomer KiKi Layne) and Alonzo ‘Fonny’ Hunt (Stephan James from the Homecoming TV Series) have known each other forever. Their friendship evolved into love. Tish and her family struggle to prove Fonny innocent of a terrible crime.

The narrative is nonlinear, bouncing around in time, but one always knows where we are in the story. Yes, there are a couple terrible folks. But there’s also great kindness and generosity bestowed upon the couple. And why not? My wife, in particular, LOVED this attractive pairing.

Regina King deserves her Golden Globe for best supporting actress as Sharon, Tish’s mom. In a smaller role, Aunjanue Ellis is also strong as Fonny’s mom. Some critics thought the film wasn’t gritty enough, to which I suggest that not every film about black people need be oppressively bleak. A mote legitimate complaint, I suppose, is too much music doing the atmospheric lifting, but it’s a minor quibble.

Only at the very end does If Beale Street Could Talk become a tad pedantic, and by that point, it was earned. As usual, my wife and I saw it at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany.

Music throwback: banned songs

Julie Brown

Julie Brown

The discussion about whether radio stations should play Baby, It’s Cold Outside heated up in 2018, with some suggesting that the song should go away and others suggesting the song is not a problem. A LOT of people in this discussion argue, “Don’t they have something better to do?”

I commented about the song back in 2017. My basic belief is that I don’t much care – ban it, don’t.

These posts led to some nifty conversations about what ELSE has been banned. To be sure, a radio station choosing not to play a song isn’t an outright ban unless some government entity actually prohibits it. The FBI checked out Louie Louie by the Kingsmen (#2 pop for six weeks, #1 r&b for six weeks in 1963) but couldn’t figure out what was said.

I recall Society’s Child by Janis Ian (#14 pop in 1967) didn’t get played on certain radio stations because of the interracial reference. Even Love Child by Diana Ross and the Supremes (#1 pop for two weeks pop, #2 r&b for three weeks) got yanked by a couple stations.

The more interesting conversation is what songs SHOULD be axed now. More than one person noted Run For Your Life by the Beatles (1965), “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man.” I admit it is one of my least favorite songs by the group, and John Lennon himself has dismissed it. It’s possibly the reason the Revolver album ranks higher with me than Rubber Soul.

What about Hey Joe, by the Leaves (#31 in 1966), famously covered by Jimi Hendrix (1968), about actually shooting someone? Ditto Neil Young’s Down by the River (1969). Or do they belong to the genre of “murder ballads” such as Pretty Polly (1968), famously covered by Judy Collins?

Now here’s a song – and I think it’s a good thing – that you DON’T hear much anymore. The Crystals’ He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss) (1962) was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.

There’s one song that I own a Dr. Demento album that I’ve not heard for decades on the radio. Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun by Julie Brown (1983) was played on MTV in the early days. School shootings were once a rare event, so this was just an absurd, possibly tasteless, joke in the 1980s. I can’t imagine it being played in the era of Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Stoneman Douglas, and Brown hasn’t performed it in two decades.

What songs, if any, would you ban?

Ancestry DNA redux: Bantu, centimorgan

The very day I posted my DNA results from Ancestry.com back in September, I got this:
“We’re always working to improve our DNA science and with more than 150 new regions, we’ve brought even more detail to your results.”

“This update may connect you to additional new regions or migration stories. It’s also possible that some of your previous regions have disappeared, as our data has become more precise. Either way, it’s an update that gives you a clearer picture of your origins than ever before.” They say my DNA hasn’t changed, but their understanding does. Compare with the last one:

So I’m part southern Bantu, which didn’t show up at all the first go round. I’m more from Benin/Togo. I’m more from Great Britain/Ireland, and there’s a potential familial lead in Munster, Ireland.

But I’m less Scandinavian, and less Nigerian. My Native American went from less than 1% to 1%, not exactly a telling statistic.

Meanwhile, they’ve added some additional information to the familial field. There’s some woman they’ve identified as my potential 2nd or 3rd cousin. “Shared DNA: 302 cM across 14 segments”. What the heck is a cM?

In genetics, a centimorgan (abbreviated cM) or map unit (m.u.) is a unit for measuring genetic linkage. It is defined as the distance between chromosome positions (also termed loci or markers) for which the expected average number of intervening chromosomal crossovers in a single generation is 0.01. It is often used to infer distance along a chromosome. However, it is not a true physical distance.”

Got it. OK, don’t “got it.” What? BTW, the person I know IRL who is my second cousin- Shared DNA: 250 cM across 17 segments. Lillian Bell Archer, is our common ancestor, our great-grandmother. Lillian is my mother’s mother’s mother.

As my cousin once said, “This is addicting stuff.” Will I share my DNA with greatness?

George Foreman turns 70

George ForemanThere was a time in the United States when most people could name the current heavyweight boxing champion. My paternal grandfather probably could have named them all, from John L. Sullivan through Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, the undefeated Rocky Marciano to Floyd Paterson.

In 1967, Muhammad Ali was stripped of his title that he’d won in 1964 as Cassius Clay by beating Sonny Liston. This was due to his refusal to be inducted into the military during the Vietnam War. “Smokin'” Joe Frazier eventually won the confusing alphabet soup of titles when he defeated Jimmy Ellis in 1970. Frazier then beat Ali, who was by then allowed to make his comeback, in the “Fight of the Century” in 1971.

On January 22, 1973, Frazier lost his title when he was defeated for the first time professionally by George Foreman. Foreman had won a gold medal in the heavyweight division at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. He turned professional in 1969. After he beat Frazier, he had two successful title defenses.

Foreman’s lost the title in his first professional defeat, to Muhammad Ali, in “The Rumble in the Jungle” in October 1974 in Zaire. George retired from boxing after a loss to Jimmy Young in 1977 and had a religious conversion. He became an ordained minister and opened a youth center in Houston, TX.

In 1987, at the age of 38, George announced he was returning to boxing to raise money for his youth center. From the Wikipedia: “By 1989, Foreman had sold his name and face for the advertising of various products, selling everything from grills to mufflers on TV….his public persona was reinvented, and the formerly aloof, ominous Foreman had been replaced by a smiling, friendly George.” In fact, it was the George Foreman Grill that made him far more money than he made in his boxing career.

Still, in 1994, he fought a guy named Michael Moorer. “With this historic victory, Foreman broke three records: he became, at age 45, the oldest fighter ever to win the World Heavyweight Championship; 20 years after losing his title for the first time, he broke the record for the fighter with the longest interval between his first and second world championships; and the age spread of 19 years between the champion and challenger was the largest of any heavyweight boxing championship fight.” He eventually ceded the title.

He has a dozen kids. “On his website, Foreman explains, ‘I named all [five of] my sons George Edward Foreman so they would always have something in common. I say to them, ‘If one of us goes up, then we all go up together, and if one goes down, we all go down together!'”

Movie review: Vice (2018, re: Dick Cheney)

vice (2018 film poster)In many ways, it’s the early scenes in Vice, the movie about former US President – I mean Vice-President – Dick Cheney, that are the most interesting to me. It was how Cheney (played with eerie physical precision by Christian Bale) went from being a Yale dropout to one of the most significant political power players in recent history.

It is the equally brilliant transformation of Amy Adams, a performer who I’ve seen in a number of films, that really wowed me. She disappears into the role of Lynne Cheney, motivating Dick before they got married. Also strong were Steve Carell as Cheney’s early mentor Donald Rumsfeld, and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, whose own youthful lack of self-control parallels that of Cheney.

One finds out only late in the proceedings why Kurt (Jesse Plemons) is our narrator, and that was a useful device. Even those characters with little to say – LisaGay Hamilton as Condoleezza Rice, e.g. – had the right look.

For me, one of the best laughs came with the fake credits midway through the movie. Oh, if only THAT narrative had actually played out. Since my disdain for Cheney has been quite high for years, not much of the parts after that point were particularly surprising to me. To be honest, I was feeling a bit of confirmation bias. Cleverly, the last scene, which some theatergoers missed because they left too early, addresses that issue.

I enjoyed Adam McKay’s previous movie The Big Short quite a bit more. Maybe it was because I had a lesser understanding of the topic, the market manipulation that helped bring about the Great Recession of 2008. I definitely found the earlier film to be flat out funnier, even as it ticked me off. Dark humor is a tricky thing thing, which is why the critics are so divided over Vice.

Still, despite these qualifiers, I recommend the film for its amazing ability to transform these people, via acting and makeup, into their roles in our recent history which resonate even to this day. For example, just this month, Dick and Lynne’s daughter Liz Cheney rips progressives in preview of House GOP attack plan.

I’m glad my wife and I got to see Vice at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany a couple weeks ago.
***
Only somewhat off topic: I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America. A glimpse of the suburban grotesque, featuring Russian mobsters, Fox News rage addicts, a caged man in a sex dungeon, and Dick Cheney.