Andrew Lloyd Webber turns 70

A recent PARADE article, 10 Things You Might Not Know About Andrew Lloyd Webber, noted that his new memoir, Unmasked, came out March 6.

#1 on the list: “When Sunset Boulevard joined School of Rock, Cats and The Phantom of The Opera on The Great White Way in early 2017, Webber became the only person to equal the record set in 1953 by Rodgers and Hammerstein with four Broadway shows running at once.”

In our Proctors Theatre subscription packet for 2018-2019, School of Rock is included, and Phantom, the longest play on Broadway ever, is one of the additional musicals being offered. I’ve seen Phantom and Cats (#4 on Broadway all-time) at Proctors in prior years, and Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Mac-Haydn Theatre.

Still, my all-time favorite Lloyd Webber piece is Jesus Christ Superstar, written with lyricist Tim Rice. I have noted that it was one of my top 20 albums that came out prior to me going to college. It was the source of great theological debate, especially with my friend Pat, on issues of predestination and the role of the apostles, among many other things.

I watched the 1973 movie. It is one of only a handful of shows that I saw on Broadway, in 2000.

When I read this review of a production at Schenectady Light Opera Company, described as “amazing”, I tried to get tickets; alas, it was sold out.

I’m sure to record and watch the Jesus Christ Superstar Live! event with Alice Cooper as King Herod, Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene, and John Legend as the title guy, scheduled for Easter Sunday, April 1, on NBC-TV.

Here’s the entirety of Jesus Christ Superstar, with Ted Neeley as Jesus, Carl Anderson as Judas, and Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene. Oddly it doesn’t have any of the pops and skips that my well-worn LP has. I Don’t Know How To Love Him was a hit single in 1971, which went to #28 (Elliman), and #13 by Helen Reddy.

Coverville 1209: The Andrew Lloyd Webber Cover Story


Ask Roger Anything: overthink my responses?

Interesting, at least to me: sometimes, when I ask y’all to ask Roger Anything, I really need your input on topics to write about. But it isn’t the case at present.

It’s partly because there’s a lot of political fodder. Surely it’s a function that, as I creep toward 70, there are more folks in the public eye turning three score and ten that I seem to think warrant commenting about.

My revived interest in genealogy will eventually pay dividends for this blog. But the looking can take a while and, as often as not, leads me down unexpected rabbit holes. Interesting and relevant, yes, but it doesn’t always translate to 350 words here.

I suppose mortality may play into this. I might be freer to write about things I might not have before. When you’re 65, you pretty much know you’re not going to hit 130, or even 120. And my eye doc’s assessment that my eyesight is deteriorating at a level “consistent” with my age means there are some old papers I better peruse and write about sooner rather than later.

Still, I openly welcome addressing what you might have on your mind. Among the reasons is that I tend not to overthink my responses, usually.

When you ask anything of me, I am required to respond, generally within the month, to the best of my ability. Obfuscation is allowed on my part, though I have not had to rely on it very often, much to my surprise. Maybe you are very polite folks.

Per the usuals, you can leave your questions below or on Facebook or Twitter; for the latter, my name is ersie. Always look for the duck. If you prefer to remain anonymous, that’s fine, but you need to SAY so; you should e-mail me at rogerogreen (AT) gmail (DOT) com, or send me an IM on FB and note that you want to remain unmentioned; otherwise, I’ll assume you want to be cited.

K is for Kirsten Gillibrand

When Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) was appointed Secretary of State by President Barack Obama in 2009, New York governor David Paterson selected Kirsten Gillibrand to fill the Senate vacancy.

Liberal Democrats, primarily from downstate (New York City) were not happy with the pick of the upstate Congresswoman with moderately conservative credentials. But, as Paterson knew, Gillibrand had won her House seat in 2006 and 2008 in a district gerrymandered to be in the Republican column.

As a Senator, she moved her political positions towards a far more liberal/progressive agenda. Her first early issue that I was aware of, though, didn’t seem to skew left or right, as she worked hard for passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

She has become a champion for victims of sexual assault, first in the military and then nationwide. She said, “This is a moment in time, unlike any other, with the ‘Me Too’ movement. Women are feeling the ability to tell what happened to them, some of the worst moments they’ve lived, and tell it publicly, and that is powerful and it is affecting everything.”

She’s also championed female candidates for office with the group Off The Sidelines, which professes not taking any corporate PAC money.

In 2017, no senator voted more often against the regime’s Cabinet nominees than Kirsten Gillibrand. She said recently: “We have a president who silences and demeans women, rigs the economy so corporations and the wealthiest few get richer while American families get by on less, allows the NRA to dictate his gun policy and threatens Dreamers with deportation from the country they call home. And what’s worse, the Republican Party has fallen in line behind him.”

A vulgar and suggestive message from the Tweeter-in-chief may have done her more political good than harm. The Washington Post reported that he raised her profile and fired up her supporters. She denies that she’s a contender for the 2020 presidential election.

She has been quite visible on television of late, including a 60 Minutes profile. “We are here to help people. We are here to put others first, to live a day in their shoes, to understand what their life is like and try to make it better.”

Kirsten Gillibrand is running for re-election to the Senate in 2018, and it appears extremely unlikely that she could lose.

The enslaved people of New York State

In the IHARE article Undoing the Whitewashing of Black History in New York, Peter Feinman continues to address “some of the ways the first two centuries of black history in New York from slavery to emancipation had been forgotten or downplayed over the years.”

He was referring to Hunts Burial Ground in the Bronx and the Harlem African Burial Ground. As some know, slavery was not ended in New York State until July 4, 1827.

To that end, as he noted, The New York Slavery Records Index is a “searchable compilation of records that identify individual enslaved persons and their owners, beginning as early as 1525 and ending during the Civil War. According to the website:

Our data come from census records, slave trade transactions, cemetery records, birth certifications, manumissions, ship inventories, newspaper accounts, private narratives, legal documents and many other sources. The index contains over 35,000 records and will continue to grow as our team of John Jay College professors and students locates and assembles data from additional sources.

Amy Biancolli wrote a great article in the Times Union, New York’s slave past unearthed, showing how some surnames in the Albany area represent slaveholders with at least 13 enslaved people at some point: Dow, Beckman, Abeel, Van Buren, and Schuyler.

Feinman states, sarcastically: “Everybody knows slavery only occurred in the South. Everyone knows that the North is morally superior to the South because we never had slavery here. Everyone knows that slavery had nothing to do with the origin of the Civil War. Making 200 years of history disappear is quite a trick, but that history is still there and little by little it has emerged into the historical record.”

I haven’t had much of a chance to play with this tool yet. But I did a quick and dirty search on slaveholders with the last name Bell, because the oldest ancestor I can find, Harriet Bell Archer’s father, was William E. Bell, born in Orange County, NY. Harriet, born March 12, 1838, was the wife of James Archer, the Civil War vet I mentioned recently.

Type of Record Slave Owner
Year of Record 1790
Owner Last Name Bell
Owner First Name John
County or Borough Orange
Locality Orange
Number of Slaves 1
Number of All Persons 7
Source Document Census1790

Type of Record Slave Owner
Year of Record 1800
Owner Last Name Bell
Owner First Name William
County or Borough Rockland
Locality Orange
Number of Slaves 1
Number of All Persons 6
Source Document Census1800

And nothing in 1810 or later, suggesting the one enslaved person was freed, or escaped, in the first decade of the 19th century. Obviously something to investigate more fully in my purported free time.

47 hours: hearts, symphony, Humans

The past six weekends have been extremely busy, with Black History Month at church. The last Sunday in February, there was a miscommunication by the guest minister.

We ended up having two different preachers for our two services, the latter showing up five minutes before the latter worship started, and she was great, but it was nerve-wracking. That’s also the day of the luncheon, which my wife is heavily involved in.

March 10 began with cleaning the house in anticipation of having folks over to play the card game hearts. Back in 1987/1988, a rotating cadre of us would go to Broome’s house to play three or four times a week. It has been reduced to once a year, the Saturday nearest my natal day.

But it’s not all card play. There’s a lot of talking among old friends, some of whom hadn’t seen each other in a year or two. There’s also eating, especially Orchid’s lasagna(TM).

At one point, there were six of us left. We could have played two games of three players each. Instead, we pretty much invented, on the spot, a double-deck game, stripping the deck of the pair of 2 of clubs. One CAN get BOTH queens of spades at the same time. It was so bizarre, in a GOOD way.

Pretty much as soon as the last guest left, my wife rushed down to the Palace Theater to attend the Albany Symphony. Early on, the mayor of Albany, Kathy Sheehan gave brief remarks about how great the ASO is. I had introduced her at my church for her talk on her equity agenda six days earlier.

The concert was conducted, as usual, by the adventurous David Alan Miller: it was the preview of what would be performed at the Kennedy Center in April 2018. The first piece in the second half was Dorothy Chang’s The Mighty Erie Canal, featuring 150 fourth-through-sixth graders from the Troy Public Elementary School All-City Choir.

Of course, their parents were there to see them, bringing along the singers’ younger siblings, who made the noises that toddlers will make, during the first half, Joan Tower’s Still/Rapids featuring pianist Joyce Yang, and Michael Daugherty’s Reflections with tuba virtuoso Benjamin Pierce.

It was great that the parents got to hear the concert. My wife overheard one parent of a small child sigh that they were not able to afford a babysitter. So it was what it was.

Still, as a snobbish symphony goer, it was easier to listen to Michael Torke’s Three Manhattan Bridges, also with the dazzling pianist Yang, after the kids, and their parents, and their sibs departed.

We got to bed about 11 p.m. EST, but woke up about 7 a.m. EDT. My position about the evils of changing the clock is on the record.

We dragged ourselves to church, then the Daughter went to the movies while we went to see the touring production of the Tony-winning play, The Humans, by Stephen Karam, at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady. It’s about a family dinner on Thanksgiving.

Instead going to the homestead in Scranton, PA, the folks celebrate at the apartment of younger daughter Brigid (Daisy Eagan), a struggling composer living with her 38-year-old, still a student, boyfriend Richard (Luis Vega) in Lower Manhattan.

The visiting Blakes are the father, Erik (Richard Thomas, yes of The Waltons), the mother, Dierdre (Pamela Reed), older daughter Aimee (Therese Plaehn), with a plethora of problems, and Erik’s dementia-stricken mother (Lauren Klein), who’s having one of her “bad days.”

If you’ve ever had a holiday meal with extended family, you will recognize these people. The play is funny, sometimes uproariously so, and sad, and a little eerie, as disappointments about life bubble up.

The Tony-winning set by David Zinn is recreated here, and it’s brilliantly designed and used. The Humans was sensitively directed by Joe Mantello. Here’s a review.

St Patrick’s Day: the Burns Sisters

When I was growing up in Binghamton, NY, John Burns was the mayor for a dozen years. From his November 2004 obituary:

“John was elected mayor of Binghamton in 1957 and re-elected in 1961.” He served in a bunch of other positions, including working on Robert Kennedy’s tragic 1968 campaign for President. “Governor Hugh Carey asked John to serve as his Appointments Secretary” in 1979, for instance.

I blew up balloons and the like for his brother Bill’s failed 1969 campaign for mayor.

What I most remember about John Burns is that he and his wife Theresa had 12 kids, double digits, just like his friend and mentor RFK. As far as I know, I didn’t know any of them.

At some point, several of the sisters moved to Ithaca, NY, not that far away, and The Burns Sisters began their professional musical career. “One of their earliest successes was when their music appeared in the Louis Malle film Atlantic City as a result of their brother Patrick who was working on the film. As a quintet [they were] made up of sisters Marie, Annie, Jeannie, Sheila, and Terry…

“In 1993 the quintet released Songs of the Heart before older sisters Terry and Sheila dropped out to devote more time to their families.” The trio had a modicum of success, including touring with Arlo Guthrie more than once.

“In 2012, the Burns Sisters released… The Hills of Ithaca. The title was inspired by a 1947 Woody Guthrie poem which the Burns Sisters put to music after being given the unpublished version by Woody’s daughter, Nora Guthrie.”

“Jeannie Burns left the band in 2013 to study guitar and songwriting, with Marie and Annie continuing to perform as a duo.” And it was the duo’s music that popped up on my YouTube feed, unbidden,

So it seems as though I am required to link to The Burns Sister’s rendition of Oh Danny Boy. The video shows pictures of their family over the years. It’ll link directly to some of their other songs.

Algebra: How do YOU solve for 10x^2+x-21=0?

Someone I know IRL recently wrote, “I didn’t use algebra at all today.” That was probably not true, but no matter.

The Daughter is studying algebra right now in 8th grade and it’s a real PITA. Because she was so good in 7th grade math, she skipped over 8th grade math, what that was, and is now taking the math for 9th grade. This is a problem because she doesn’t know, and I surely don’t remember, what she’s missing.

I should note that when I was in 9th grade, I was very good in algebra. I remember helping a fellow student, Sid, at the chalkboard, when Miss McNulty couldn’t get him to understand.

I got a 97 in the Regents final. (Yes, I remember this; no I didn’t look it up. I got 86 in geometry and 98 is trigonometry.) But that was a HALF CENTURY AGO. THAT will make you feel old.

I have been depending on something called Tiger Algebra to help her muddle through.

For the problem 10x^2+x-21=0, where the ^ over the 6 key represents “power of,” so ten X squared in this case.

The factoring is the tough part to explain.

Factoring 10x^2+x-21
The first term is 10x^2 – its coefficient is 10
The middle term is +x its coefficient is 1
The last term, “the constant”, is -21

Step-1 : Multiply the coefficient of the first term by the constant 10 • -21 = -210

Step-2 : Find two factors of -210 whose sum equals the coefficient of the middle term, which is 1 .

-210 + 1 = -209
-105 + 2 = -103
-70 + 3 = -67
-42 + 5 = -37
-35 + 6 = -29
-30 + 7 = -23
-21 + 10 = -11
-15 + 14 = -1
-14 + 15 = 1 That’s it

By “it,” we’re talking the very beginning of “it.”

Step-3 : Rewrite the polynomial splitting the middle term using the two factors found in step 2 above, -14 and 15
10x^2 – 14x + 15x – 21

Step-4 : Add up the first 2 terms, pulling out like factors :
2x • (5x-7)
Add up the last 2 terms, pulling out common factors :
3 • (5x-7)

Step-5 : Add up the four terms of step 4 :
(2x+3) • (5x-7)
Which is the desired factorization

At which point you take 2x+3=0 and 5x-7=0, and get 1.5 and 1.4 respectively, then do a whole bunch of other stuff with graphing designed to make your eyes glaze over.

We usually work on this in the morning, after the Daughter has felt despair the night before, which means doing it in lieu of me blogging in the morning, which is my best time for writing.

And she SORT OF understands parts of this. Hey, if you have an easier way to find the factors, please let me know. My blog will thank you, publicly if you want.

March rambling: complicated meanings

At Current Rates Of Use World Could Run Out Of Thoughts And Prayers By As Early As 2019

We Are all Nixonians Now

There Are No Good Guys With Guns

What To Do When Racists Try To Hijack Your Religion

‘National Geographic’ Reckons With Its Past: ‘For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist’

‘Stay Strong,’ And Other Useless Drivel We Tell The Grieving

The Encyclopedia of the Missing

When the only way to go free is to plead guilty

3 Far-Flung Cities Offer Clues to Unsnarling Manhattan’s Streets

OVERLOOKED: 15 obits of notable women

‘Wonder Woman’ Lynda Carter: This Is My #MeToo Story

The 2016 election shook one Ohio man so badly he swore off all political news. But what are the ethics of ignorance?

Alaska as a Red-to-Blue(ish) Model

‘The story of a weird world I was warned never to tell’

Union College says it found strand of George Washington’s hair

Stop Using the Label ‘Struggling Reader,’ Author Jacqueline Woodson Advises

Why Do We Need to Sleep?

The Unexpected Benefit of Train Travel

Rare Photo of Harriet Tubman Preserved

Digging into my family’s claims of Cherokee ancestry

in praise of soft targets

Stephen Hawking dies at 76 on Einstein’s birthday and Pi day; despite ALS, his mind roamed the cosmos

RIP, David Ogden Stiers

Dalai Lama, Chicago in May 2008:
“The universe is in a constant state of becoming—an ongoing miraculous creation. Every day we awaken to that miracle with gratitude, respect, and compassion for all who share the gift of being.”

Memories of ‘M*A*S*H’: Inside Stories of the Most Famous Episodes (and Castings)

The Loophole

Smartphones Are Getting Dumber…on Purpose

A Finnish comedian explains the complicated meanings of an English word

Legendary toy demonstrated to have squirrel-repelling properties

Faking It: The Obviously Dubbed Telephone Ring

Aldi’s supermarkets history

A PhD In Batman

A niece at Carnegie Hall

Now I Know: The Florida City Fueled by Soda and Baseball’s Unluckiest Fan and How Bazooka Joe Lost a Baseball Glove

Not me: Couple begins rekindling an eighth-grade romance


Camille Saint-Saens’s Septet for piano, trumpet, and strings, Opus 65!

Hamilton Polka

The Music of Paolo Tosti – Carla Fisk and Michael Clement

Will Jesus Wash The Bloodstains From Your Hands – Hazel Dickens

Everlasting Arms – Luke Winslow-King, Vasti Jackson, Dr. John, and Roots Gospel Voices of Mississippi

Norma Tanega (and Dusty Springfield)

There Is A Time – The Darlings (Andy Griffith Show)

Tush – Luna Lee on the gayageum

Cover of Take on Me (a-ha)

Sound of Silence – Todd Hoffman

Taxman – Joe Bonamassa, Live at The Cavern Club

Inside the Life of Brenda Lee, the Pop Heroine Next Door

Comedian Billy Crystal turns 70

One of the first fictional gay characters on US television was Jodie Dallas on the sitcom Soap, played by Billy Crystal from 1977 to 1981. The character’s development was limited by the folks in Standards and Practices, i.e., the censors, at ABC-TV. It WAS a very different time.

Billy spent the 1984-1985 season on Saturday Night, along with Christopher Guest and Martin Short. He did impressions based on actor Fernando Lamas and sports announcer Howard Cosell. He also did a wicked take on Muhammad Ali, which I saw him do with Ali present, probably on a special for the Champ’s 50th birthday special in 1992.

He appeared in movies that I saw such as Spinal Tap (1984) and The Princess Bride (1987) before his breakthrough role in When Harry Met Sally… (1989), featuring one of the most famous scenes in cinema history.

After he starred in City Slickers (1991), Crystal made his pitch as a legitimate artiste in the seriocomedy Mr. Saturday Night (1992), which he directed and co-wrote. It was an an uneven film, but it generated a Best Supporting Actor nod for David Paymer.

By this time, he was firm established in the mind of the public, performing in Comic Relief several times with Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams and playing Robert DeNiro’s shrink in Analyze This (1999).

Crystal also made game show appearances on The Hollywood Squares and The $20,000 Pyramid. “To this day, he holds the Pyramid franchise’s record for getting his contestant partner to the top of the pyramid in winner’s circle in the fastest time: 26 seconds.”

He hosted the Academy Awards nine times, beginning in 1990, when I thought he was quite funny, and most recently in 2012, when it was generally agreed that he was not.

Connecting with his well-established love of baseball, Crystal directed the made-for-TV movie 61* (2001), about Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle pursuing Babe Ruth’s season home run record. This earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special. I learned that he attended Marshall University in Huntington, WV on a baseball scholarship, but never had a chance to play because the program was suspended during his first year.

He did quite a bit of voiceover work, including in Monsters Inc. (2001) and Monsters University (2013).

From watching the Tonys each year, I recall that “Crystal won the 2005 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event for 700 Sundays, a two-act, one-man play, which he conceived and wrote about his parents and his childhood growing up on Long Island.”

I always figured that if I ever met Billy Crystal, I’d get along talking to my fellow Pisces about baseball.

J is for the Johnson amendment

In the midst of the process of creating the massive tax bill at the end of 2017, the US Congress attempted to remove The Johnson Amendment. Fortunately, Congress’ own rules prevented from happening in that particular manner.

From the Wikipedia: It is “a provision in the U.S. tax code, since 1954, that prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. [These] organizations [range] from charitable foundations to universities and churches. The amendment is named for then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, [later the 36th President] who introduced it in a preliminary draft of the law in July 1954.”

Recent claims suggested that the provision was some sort of attack on the First Amendment’s freedom of religion and speech. Defenders of the Johnson amendment, including me, believe that when the churches and other nonprofit organizations that are exempt from taxation, the prohibition against “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office” is appropriate, for it would otherwise be the state establishing religion.

Now the law is fairly narrow in scope. “Nonpartisan voter education activities and church-organized voter registration drives are legal. Pastors are free to preach on social and political issues of concern. Churches can publish ‘issue guides’ for voters.” In other words, preachers can preach on feeding the poor and clothing the naked, and that a just society ought to be doing that.

As it turns out, the piece to quash the Johnson amendment in the December 2017 budget bill was blocked by the Senate parliamentarian. “Because of a requirement called the Byrd Rule, reconciliation bills — which are passed through a simple Senate majority — cannot contain ‘extraneous’ provisions that don’t primarily deal with fiscal policy.”

Nonreligious people have said for decades that we ought to be taxing the churches, and I disagree. But if a religious entity wants to engage in partisan politics, endorsing candidates, it should give up its tax-exempt status.

For ABC Wednesday