My bag is sinkin’ low and I do believe it’s time

Ever since I read, a couple days ago, that Levon Helm of the band The Band was near death, I got in a very reflective mood, fueled in part by others’ reaction to the news. One of my colleagues, who has seen him perform in recent years, was already in mourning. Another, who had seen The Band perform in their heyday, was walking around the office singing “The Weight;” “I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin’ about half past dead; I just need some place where I can lay my head.” I’ve known this person nearly two decades, but this was a side of him I had never seen. Continue reading

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The ubiquitous Dick Clark

Dick Clark was everywhere, or so it seemed. I remember him from American Bandstand, which I watched almost every week for well over a decade in the 1950s and 1960s, and occasionally after that. That show had a feature called Rate-A-Record, from which the catchphrase “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it” was made famous. This version of Bandstand Boogie by Les Elgart, which became the American Bandstand Theme, has several shots of Clark. Continue reading

Gotcha journalism

The first big story I noticed when I was out of town last week was the death of CBS News’ 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace at the age of 93. He was one of those old-fashioned hard-nosed reporters who irked politicians, the powerful, and occasionally his own network with his investigative television journalism from the show’s debut in 1968 until his retirement in 2006, and even to his 2008 piece on Roger Clemens. Here is the New York Times obit, and his story in The National Memo. His interviews with the Ayatollah Khomeni, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, and cigarette company insider Jeffrey Wigand, among many others, were legendary.

One of the trademarks in 60 Minutes reporting, used by him, but not exclusively, was the use Continue reading

N is for Newport mansions

Last week, my wife, one of her brothers, and their respective families were in Newport, Rhode Island, during the school break. Among our activities: visiting the mansions that were built primarily between the end of the US Civil War in 1865 and the beginning of the first World War in 1914. This was dubbed “The Gilded Age” by Mark Twain in 1873, and this was NOT meant as a compliment. By this, he was saying that the period was glittering on the surface but corrupt underneath. But those so dubbed took the term as positive, noting the rapid economic and population growth.

While each of the four mansions warrants its own narrative, there were some characteristics in common. Each was built with money from captains of industry, and most were considered summer homes or even cottages. They were inspired largely by the palaces of Europe, and often used Greek gods in the motif.

The families living there Continue reading

Making peace with Facebook

I didn’t “get” Facebook for a long time. I joined Facebook on May 7, 2007 – it’s on the timeline it’s forcing on everyone eventually, not that I’d committed the date to memory. In fact, I had forgotten I had an account (or forgot the password) and started ANOTHER profile, allegedly verboten in Zuckerland, and only recently deleted it.

Moreover, if I were required to give my Facebook password to my employer, as certain people think is OK, I’d delete the other one too, even though there is little on my page that isn’t already public.

I don’t become Continue reading

Jackie Robinson Day

Jackie Robinson Day is an annual “event…in Major League Baseball, commemorating and honoring the day Jackie Robinson made his major league debut, in 1947. Initiated for the first time on April 15, 2004, Jackie Robinson Day is celebrated each year on that day.” The uniform number 42 has been retired by every team since 1997, though any player wearing it at the time was able to keep it until he retired, e.g. Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees. From 2007on , though, Continue reading

Titanic- that sinking feeling


On the 14th of April, 1912, Titanic struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage and quickly sank. Many people were lost due to insufficient lifeboats. Yes, I know; everybody knows. Is there a non-war-related historical event more familiar than this? Not many.

Amazing what a a little 1997 film can help to do. (Not that Titanic was the ONLY film on the topic, but was clearly the most successful.) It “achieved critical and commercial success. It equaled records with fourteen Academy Award nominations and eleven wins, receiving the prizes for Best Picture and Best Director. With a worldwide gross of over $1.8 billion, it was the first film to reach the billion dollar mark, remaining the highest-grossing film of all time for twelve years.” And it was just re-released in 3D, which Roger Ebert reviewed.

I think it succeeded Continue reading

Stupid Design

Despite my claim of being a Luddite, I do recognize and appreciate when things work well. I love, e.g., the whisk with which to mix things; never had one until I was an adult, always stirring with a wooden spoon or whatnot. The whisk aerates the mixture in a wonderful way.

When I first had my own apartment in college, I was forever turning on the wrong burner on the stove. Continue reading

The Small House of Uncle Thomas

Many bloggers, including this one, will start a blogpost and then move on to something else, leaving it in incomplete draft form.

Such was the case of this piece about the two musicals my wife, my daughter and I saw, both in June 2011, at the Mac-Hadyn Theater in Chatham, NY, about a 40-minute drive from our house in Albany.

The first show we viewed was Annie. I’d seen TV productions of it, I’m sure; certainly the one with Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan. But the stage performance made it more real than I remembered.

So my wife asked if I wanted to go see The King and I. She could hear the ambivalence in my response.

You see, I thought I knew the story well enough that I didn’t need to. I remember seeing the movie Continue reading

Not a villainous bone in my body

Hi, Chris-

Recently came across your blog, and I really have been enjoying it, especially your Holy Week post, which was sacrilegious, but funny. I added the blog to my blogroll, which, BTW, was my old blog for five years. (Oh, and to others who might want to be added – please let me know.)

I’ve enjoyed the fact that you’ve been going to other blogs I enjoy, such as Byzantium Shores, even when I disagree with you.

But I am having a bear of a time answering your questions: Continue reading