Maybe I should go to Paris

For a long time, well before I took high school French, I thought the first European city I’d like to visit would be Paris. Two of my cousins were born there; one had been living there again until recently, and the other is working there presently.

I pictured sitting in some cafe watching the people and absorbing the culture, the art, the music. I love this description: “Paris’ grandeur is inspiring but what I love most about the city is its intimacy. Its quartiers are like a patchwork of villages, and while it’s one of the world’s major metropolises – with all of the culture and facilities that go with it – there’s a real sense of community at the local shops, markets and cafes that hasn’t changed since my childhood. Yet because every little ‘village’ has its own evolving character, I’m constantly discovering and rediscovering hidden corners of the city.”

In the past couple years, the director of our library went there with his family; one of my sisters was taken there by her daughter on the way to the south of France; and there have been several others I know who have made the trip.

Maybe it’s that France saved the bacon the of the American colonists during our Revolutionary War.

When I think of the city, it’s the Eiffel Tower, of course. I had a pencil sharpener in the shape of the structure when I was a child. La tour Eiffel shows up in no fewer than five dozen films, including Midnight in Paris, which I saw.

Paris is also the Moulin Rouge, and of course, I saw that film as well. One of the best lines in one of the best films EVER is “We’ll always have Paris.” That comes from the 1942 classic Casablanca, spoken by Rick to his former lover Ilsa.

Oddly, the various attacks against Paris, including the Jewish cemeteries being defaced, Charlie Hebdo, and, most notably, the events of November 13, 2015 makes me MORE likely to want to visit.

LISTEN to some of my favorite music about Paris:

Sous le ciel de Paris – Edith Piaf
My Father – Judy Collins
April In Paris – Count Basie (the “pop goes the weasel” version)

Free Man In Paris – Joni Mitchell
George Gershwin’s An American in Paris – André Previn/London Symphony Orchestra
Audition (The Fools Who Dream) – Emma Stone from the movie La La Land

***
ABC Wednesday – Round 20

April 2017 health report

Beyond the things my primary care physician said when I got to see her on April – the usual “lose weight” and “raise your ‘good’ cholesterol – was my need to get more Vitamin D3. I’m supposed to take 2000 IU (international units). My vitamin D level was 20 this year, up from 16 (on what scale I have no idea). But it’s supposed to be at 30.

Here’s my problem. Even as a kid, I never much liked going out into the sun. I mean, I’m playing baseball, fine, but just sunbathing? No way.

And it’s worse since developing the vitiligo at age 51, which makes me prone to burn in certain areas, including the top of my head, my neck and the back of my hands. I’m rightly concerned about developing skin cancer. This is why I often wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, even in summer.

I just discovered something with the supplements I’ve been taking, off and on, for the last year. It offers 1200 mg of calcium and 1600 IU of vitamin D3 “in just two tablets.” TWO tablets! So I’ve been underdosing, and I need to take three tablets a day.

I must really be deficient, since only 400 IU is 100% of the daily value needed by the average person. Still, my doctor said I wasn’t likely to develop rickets. Rickets is not a term I’ve heard literally in decades. It is “a disease of children caused by vitamin D deficiency, characterized by imperfect calcification, softening, and distortion of the bones typically resulting in bow legs.”

But she did worry that I could be that old man who falls and breaks a bone. And most of us know that falls can be deadly to the elderly for that reason.

Speaking of falling, Dustbury linked to an article about how science shows why shoelaces come untied. This happens to me constantly; they’re ALWAYS untied. I am OK with it, but have tired of people telling me that they’re loose. I know, I know! And now I sort of know why.

The Heart of Christianity

Heart of ChristianityIn trying to explain what I believe, in terms of my faith, I found that the right words were not always available. Then I read the 2003 book The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith by Marcus Borg this past winter. My answer became: “Mostly what HE said.”

Borg was a “world renowned Jesus scholar” who, as the book sleeve notes, is out to reclaim “terms and ideas once thought to be the sole province of evangelicals and fundamentalists.”

As the Amazon description of The Heart of Christianity notes: “Being born again… has nothing to do with fundamentalism Continue reading

Music, April 1971: What’s Going On

More random music recollections based on the book Never A Dull Moment.

You probably think you know the story of Marvin Gaye’s standout album, What’s Going On, how the Artist recognized what’s REALLY happening in the world and puts out a album designed to stick it to the Suits at the record company. The actual story was a bit more prosaic.

In fact, the title song began with a wisp of of an idea by Obie Benson, the bass singer of the Four Tops, who thought that maybe he had another song like the Coke commercial, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” He and Motown songwriter Al Cleveland thought it might fit Marvin, but he wasn’t impressed. They pushed, and Marvin gave it some tweaks, thinking he might produce it for the Originals.

In July 1970, he came into the studio, had some football buddies for the party noise, captured sax player Eli Fontaine warming up, and basically fell into a sound. He managed to slip it out as a single in January 1971, while Motown owner/brother-in-law Berry Gordy was out on the West Coast. Gordy thought two things: 1) he hated the song, and 2) wondered where’s followup album was after it became a hit.

The What’s Going On album was recorded in March and released in May, with a second mix by Gaye that defined not only the LP, but changed the expectation of listeners regarding what was expected from a Motown album. I played it a lot in college; Inner City Blues especially STILL seems relevant.

Another Motown artist was giving Berry Gordy headaches. Stevie Wonder was married, living in NYC with new wife Syretta, and about to turn 21. His lawyers sent a letter to Gordy disavowing his Motown contract.

Meanwhile, Stevie discovered The Original New Timbral Orchestra, or TONTO, keyboard system. Wonder had lost interest in his new album, Where I’m Coming From, which was actually the first Stevie album I ever bought, as his own sound was developing.

His next album, Music of My Mind, made in 1971 and released the next year, was more representative of the groove he was going for. The FOUR albums after THAT, all dominant on my turntable in the 1970s won FOUR Grammy albums of the Year awards in five years.

Sly Stone’s album was two years late, and he became “the least reliable superstar in the history of popular music.” The eventual downbeat, indecipherable There’s A Riot Goin’ On, released in November 1971, was a contact high of an album. One did not have to BE stoned to FEEL stoned listening to it.

Was Shaft blaxploitation or black empowerment? It was a movie by noted black photographer Gordon Parks, with Richard Roundtree as the handsome black detective, whose looks drove the lyrics written by STAX artist Isaac Hayes. The “shut your mouth” was delivered by Telma Hopkins, whose hit with Dawn, “Knock Three Times”, came out earlier that year. My sister Leslie owned this double LP, which he had to get partially replaced because the package had two of the same LPs.

Listen To

What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Inner City Blues – Marvin Gaye
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott-Heron
Family Affair – Sly & the Family Stone
I Can’t Get Next to You – Al Green
Toussaint L’Ouverture- Santana

Death knell for the Environment Protection Agency?

The Environmental Protection Agency was created 47 years ago this coming December. Why was that? How Did the U.S. Look Before the EPA?

“Time [magazine]’s story on the burning Cuyahoga River [near Cleveland] sparked outrage among Americans, and brought national attention to the country’s need to clean up its waterways and protect the environment. It eventually helped lead to changes like the Clean Water Act…

“The Cuyahoga article was even instrumental in President Richard Nixon forming the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970. Its mission then — and now — is to ‘protect human health by safeguarding the air we breathe, water we drink and land on which we live.'”

The regime announced its morally obscene budget proposal in March, and it’s even worse than most observers expected. For instance, EPA is looking at a 31% cut in the agency’s budget, eliminating 3,200 staff positions and zeroing out funding to enforce the Clean Power Plan. It is an all-out assault on our planet.

The proposal now needs to be negotiated in both the House and Senate — and with EPA antagonist Scott Pruitt leading the agency, the budget director proclaiming that fighting climate change is “a waste of your money” and the House already taking steps to abolish the agency entirely — it is pretty much a worst case scenario.

From the very beginning of this regime, scientists have been muzzled and research blocked. After four and a half decades of progress on the environment, we’re aiming for a regression. And of course, the added pollution that will be allowed won’t stop at our national borders.

The United States was a signatory to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change agreed to in 2016. It appears, though, that this administration has chosen to go in another direction.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
This was disappearing, but had started coming back. On this Earth Day, there is most unfortunately very little to celebrate, certainly not in the United States.

April rambling #2: Greatest Sanctuary of Knowledge, Freedom, and Democracy


Do Not Lose Heart; We Were Made for These Times

On earth as it is in heaven: Why Jesus didn’t call his followers to be safe

The Gaslight Zone, Part 1 and Part 2

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Gerrymandering and Marijuana

Can We Get Real About Opioids? and Opioids, My Mom’s Death, and Why People Trust Science Less

How my daughter died from a simple case of flu

The Perception of Liberal Bias in the Newsroom Has Nothing Whatsoever to Do With Reality

Facebook use is a predictor of depression

The Internet Isn’t the Wild Wild West Anymore, It’s Westworld

Killing the Church with Sunday School

Girl, 2, defends her choice of doll to cashier

Carolyn Kelly, R.I.P.
Mark Evanier’s getting by, with the help of Henry Fonda

Sheryl Sandberg: ‘Everyone looked at me like I was a ghost’

Letterman’s mom was everyone’s mom: Dorothy Mengering dead at 95

A Tribute to Carrie Fisher

The Public Library: A Photographic Love Letter to Humanity’s Greatest Sanctuary of Knowledge, Freedom, and Democracy

Dianne Bentley saved receipts, helped take down her cheating governor husband

Arts in the Parks

Not me: Two longtime artists offer stunning works in ‘Traces’ exhibition

“Let me help” (Thoughts on “The City on the Edge of Forever”)

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in the 1960s

Ken Levine interview: Voiceover artist Randy Thomas

I wrote about helicopter parenting four and a half years ago, and someone wanted to know if I wanted to read Abandon Helicopter Parenting, Embrace Negotiation Parenting; xooloo has developed an app for that.

7 Tips for Donating Old Books Without Being A Jerk

Now I Know: The Slave Who Spied on the Traitor and The Campaign for the Other Gary and Taking “One Person, One Vote” Literally — and Accidentally

Queen Elizabeth has someone break in her shoes before she wears them

Dawn Wells: Forever Mary Ann

I keep seeing references to crushed Doritos in recipes, e.g. replacing bread crumbs on fried chicken, or as the crust for mac and cheese. Have YOU used them?

Chopped liver

Music

Just a clown singing Pinball Wizard to the tune of Folsom Prison Blues

The Beatles – Home Recordings, May 1968 (white album)

Coverville: Elton John cover story

Back in June 1980, the legendary Chuck Berry performed in the little village of Ladner, British Columbia, Canada

K-Chuck Radio: Music to help pretty plants grow

5 truly explosive performances of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture

Appreciating an Unusual Beach Boys Album

Who has opened for the J. Geils Band?

Linda Hopkins; blues singer won Tony for best actress

The Neuroscience of Singing

There is a reason to have a B# and an E#

John Coltrane Draws a Picture Illustrating the Mathematics of Music

Monkees Star Mike Nesmith Reveals All on Drugs, a Near-Crippling Illness, and Jack Nicholson ‘Bromance’ in New Memoir

Where Have All The Bob Seger Albums Gone?

Genesis Tour Manager Recalls His Role in One of Rock’s Most Embarrassing Moments

Rock’n’roll shrimp named after Pink Floyd because of its deafening vocal ability

How to center yourself to write

I had a quick question which I’d like to ask:
if you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing.
I have had a hard time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there.
I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or hints? Thanks!

First it helps to know what you want to write about. Continue reading

O is for orient and Oriental (ABCW)

The verb “to orient” means “to align or position (something) relative to the points of a compass or other specified positions” But it also refers to finding “one’s position in relation to new and strange surroundings.”

The derivation of the term Orient comes from the Latin word for east. While a 20th century definition would suggest Asia, or especially the eastern countries there such as China, Japan, and Korea, “the original East-West (or Orient-Occident) line in the Roman Empire was the Italian Peninsula’s East Coast.” As the definition moved eastward, the area in western Asia eventually became the Near East or Middle East, with China, et al becoming the Far East.

Probably the most famous train in the world is the Orient Express, the “name of a long-distance passenger train service created in 1883 by Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL)….Several routes in the past concurrently used the Orient Express name, or slight variants there of… The name has become synonymous with intrigue and luxury travel. The two city names most prominently associated with the Orient Express are Paris and Constantinople (Istanbul), the original endpoints of the timetabled service.”

The push back against the term Orient is that it is Eurocentric. Some believe the term “Oriental” suggested to them “passivity”, based on portrayals of people in media. A practitioner of Oriental medicine asks, “Is it racist?

When Oriental was official banned in New York State in 2009, Frank H. Wu, a law professor at Howard University, said, “The world ‘Oriental’ is not inherently negative. It’s associated with a time period when Asians had a subordinate status.” He said “the term was associated with exoticism and with old stereotypes of geisha girls and emasculated men… ‘Oriental’ is like the word ‘Negro.’ It conjures up an era.”

“By the strictest definition, Oriental rugs are carpets hand knotted only in Asia. Iran, China, India, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, Tibet and Nepal are some of the biggest rug exporters. Persian rugs also are Oriental rugs but they are made only in Iran (formerly known as Persia).”

Our month of theater, or theatre, if you will

We go to the theater a fair amount, but the first half of April 2017 was quite the outlier.

Sunday, April 2: The Little Mermaid – Catskill High School (three of us)

One of my nieces was in her fifth production, and the three of us have seen them all. This was her largest role yet, playing Flounder. She was quite good, actually, and I say this not out of familial loyalty.

In general the girls were better singers than the boys. Ariel’s sisters were fine as were Ursula’s assistants. But the hits were Sebastian (Edward Donahue), Ariel (Ade Spencer) and especially Ursula (Anna White).

Thursday, April 6: The Sound of Music – Proctors Theatre, Schenectady (three of us)

Proctors has had Broadway-quality productions for a number of years, and this was no exception. The trick with the musical is that the movie is so imprinted in the brain. My Favorite Thing is sung at the abbey, Do-Re-Mi at the Trapp villa, and The Lonely Goatherd in Maria’s bedroom, when she calms the children freaked out by the thunderstorm.

While the two leads (Charlotte Maltby, Nicholas Rodriguez) are fine, and the children are amazingly good, the largest applause went to Melody Betts as Mother Superior after she sang Climb Ev’ry Mountain.

We bought tickets for next season’s shows, including Fun Home, The Color Purple, Finding Neverland and On Your Feet! (the Gloria Estafan story). Buying a subscription THIS year will mean getting dibs on buying toicxkets for Hamilton in 2018-2019.

(Only somewhat off topic: Alison Bechdel is Vermont’s cartoonist laureate. She created Fun Home.)

Saturday, April 8, 2017: They Built America: The Workers of the Erie Canal – local school (two of us)

This is a Capital Rep show commemorating the 200th anniversary of the groundbreaking of the engineering feat that went from Albany to Buffalo. “Meet the real men, women and children, the politicians, farmers, merchants and laborers who…[built] the Erie Canal.” There are four actors, and three of them, the two men and one of the women, play multiple parts. It was quite good, about an hour long and suitable for children.

The Daughter should have come.

Sunday, April 9: Oliver! – Albany High School (two of us)

This was, aside from some occasional sound problems, extraordinarily good. I was’t familiar with the story, though I sang Consider Yourself in glee club in high school. It’s a dark, sordid, violent tale.

The standout were the terrifying Bill Sykes (Ackazemas Myers), the show-stopping singer Nancy (Williemae Fiddemon), and the shifty Fagen (Raphael Cohen), who had a fun bit with the violinist in the orchestra. Oliver was played by sixth-grader Hassan Laing who was good, but occasionally miked badly.

Saturday, April 15: Beautiful: the Carole King Story – Proctors Theatre, Schenectady (two of us)

I saw this on the calendar months ago and said, Who scheduled this for Holy Week?” It’s only on the Wednesday through Sunday. I have to sing or rehearse or travel the other days. Based on the packed house for this matinee, many folks wee in the same boat.

Just from casual conversation with the folks around the Wife and me, it was clear that almost everyone knew the Tapestry album from 1971 but few were familiar with the songwriting of Carole King (the wonderful Julia Knitel) with husband Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin) well before that, competing to get their songs pitched to the right singer or group that might make their songs #1.

As Greg Haymes noted in Nippertown: “‘Beautiful’ could have easily been nothing more than another cliched jukebox musical gathering together the hits by songwriters of the Brill Building era, i.e., ‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ (Leiber and Stoller) or ‘Leader of the Pack’ (Ellie Greenwich). But thanks to some smart, comic dialogue by Douglas McGrath, deft direction by Marc Bruni and strong, all-around performances by the cast, ‘Beautiful’ is a snappy musical that rises above the level of the usual jukebox musical expectations.

“But it’s not all about King, and the title of the show is something of a misnomer. The secondary couple – portraying the songwriting team of Cynthia Weil (Erika Olson) and Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) – and their music is crucial.”

Yes, it wasn’t just a Kingfest, as the early “1650 Broadway Medley” had songs from Neil Sedaka (singer of “Oh, Carol”), Leiber and Stoller, Phil Spector and many others. The Mann/Weil hit You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling was a standout.

But Act 2 belonged to the former Carole Klein. I LOVED this show.

Easter music throwback: Hallelujah (Beethoven)

As I’ve mentioned before, when my sister Leslie and I were in high school in Binghamton, NY, we somehow had the opportunity to visit an eighth-grade class in suburban Vestal. It was only a few miles from the county seat, but, in the late 1960s, it was a cultural canyon.

What was amazing about this group was that they put out an album of classical and popular music. And one of the pieces was Hallelujah, from Christ on the Mount of Olives, Opus 85, an oratorio by Beethoven. They were rather good, as I recall. Where IS that LP?

From the Wikipedia: “[The oratorio] was begun in the fall of 1802… The libretto in German is by the poet Franz Xaver Huber, editor of the Wiener Zeitung, with whom Beethoven worked closely. It was written in a very short period; in a letter to Breitkopf & Härtel written shortly after the oratorio’s completion, Beethoven spoke of having written it in ‘a few weeks,’ although he later claimed that the piece required no more than 14 days to complete. It was first performed on April 5, 1803 at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna; in 1811, it was revised by Beethoven for publication by Breitkopf & Härtel. The 10 years that passed between the composition of the work and its publication resulted in its being assigned a relatively high opus number.”

While the piece as a whole has had mixed response, including from the composer himself, “the “Welten singen…” finale chorus has enjoyed some popularity on its own.

And I’ve been singing it, off and on for about a half century myself, including this very day. There’s a surprise chord about 30 seconds before the end which is always my favorite.

LISTEN: to Hallelujah:

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

William Baker Festival Singers, Guest Singers from Area Parish Choirs, and Symphony Orchestra

Chancel Choir; Scott Dean, director; Wayne Slater, organist. June 12, 2016

Bonus:

Russian Easter Festival Overture – Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

HAPPY EASTER!