July rambling #3: Everybody Knows

From MAD via Vanity Fair

“I think I speak for a great number of Americans, in and out of government, when I say: One normal day. Is that too much to ask?” – Charles Pierce, in Esquire, July 26, 2017

The Darkness and the Rot

This is the most clueless, incompetent, self-defeating and weakest, most chaotic, toxic, confusing administration in American history

A new interview reveals his ignorance to be surprisingly wide-ranging

The fact that we’re even talking about it is a measure of how far we’ve fallen

Boy Scouts president has 85 billion reasons to excuse wildly inappropriate Jamboree speech; the Scouts apologize; cf President Obama Addresses 2010 Boy Scout Jamboree

An open letter from the father of a transgender soldier; BTW, Transgender Troops Fight for Israel, 17 Other Nations

Fatherly Advice to Eric and Don Jr.

Scaramouche – an unscrupulous and unreliable servant. His affinity for intrigue often landed him in difficult situations, yet he always managed to extricate himself, usually leaving an innocent bystander as his victim. Also – He was often beaten by Harlequin for his boasting and cowardice; The Mooch did his homework

“Nobody is standing on the rooftops begging for dirty water, dirty air, dirty soil, and those sorts of things.” – Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nevada) to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (start at 1:42:00)

Wilbur Ross’ fishing ruling could harm conservation

Take Me To Your Leader

Here are the women who saved healthcare

This Is How Your Fear and Outrage Are Being Sold for Profit

HIV epidemic fight needs black church

Poverty is like a monster, sucking the life out of you

A Death Row Convict’s Final Words Set Two Innocent Men Free

Sperm counts continue to plummet in Western nations

Risks of Harm from Spanking Confirmed by Analysis of Five Decades of Research

The Surprising Truth About The Silent Treatment

Walking Myrtle Ave, end to end (Albany, NY)

Please Stop Saying These Ridiculous Phrases. I’d add “game changer” as a phrase I’ve tired of

A Very Awkward Breakup

The value of theatrical talk-backs

June Foray, RIP, the premier female voice talent of her era

RIP Flo Steinberg, Marvel’s ‘Fabulous Flo’

The 10-game winning streak that ignited Red Sox Nation

8 Things I Hate About HGTV

These Are Not School Supplies…

Tony Chapek, an original magic act

Many people can’t tell when photos are fake

MUSIC

Dancing Queen – ABBA. The Wife and I saw Mamma Mia at Capital Rep this month and liked it WAY more than the Times Union reviewer. And QE2 allegedly said, “I always try to dance when this song comes on because I am the queen, and I like to dance.”

Everybody Knows – Stephen Stills and Judy Collins

Coverville 1178: Roger McGuinn and The Byrds Cover Story

Mahler Symphony No. 1

K-Chuck Radio: You really needed to edit THAT song?

Can’t Prog Rock Get Any Respect Around Here?

Die Young – Sylvan Esso

A crowd of 65,000 sings ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ while waiting for a Green Day concert

Ave Maria – Maria Callas

10 Best Guest Performances on Beatles Records

The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women. I have 50 of them

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My first trivia event

Considering that I used to be very good at the board game Trivial Pursuit back in the 1980s, and even appeared on JEOPARDY! in the 1990s, it may be surprising that I had never participated on a trivia team before.

Then Chuck Miller invited me to participate in something called Summer Bowl VIII , and I agreed. I had a real concern, though: I know pretty much know nothing that happened in pop culture in the past 20 years, so I thought I would not be able to contribute.

Here are the questions, but you have to go to Chuck’s page for the answers.

(2 pts) Who is older, Harrison Ford or Tommy Lee Jones?
I knew that Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones were roommates in college, which helped my thinking. We got it.

(4 pts) What pop star appears in the 7th season premiere of Game of Thrones?
I wouldn’t have known this except it became an Internet sensation. Poor guy. We got this.

(6 pts) Who starred in the 1990’s action film Barb Wire?
I had no idea, but we got this.

(8 pts) Where will Super Bowl 52 be held?
I had no clue. I think about the next Super Bowl in about December. We missed this.

(10 pts) Passing away in 1962, Raymond Kaighn was the last survivor to play the first game of what sport?
This we figured out, mostly because there are aren’t that many sports that old for which we’d know a starting date.

Round 2:

(2 pts) Which amusement park is older, Disneyland or Walt Disney World?
E-Z, especially if you grew up with Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, though I saw it in black and white.

(4 pts) What type of insect is also known as a “pharaoh”?
No one in the house knew this.

(6 pts) For which team did O.J. Simpson play his last NFL game?
I was 95% sure it was the team that it was, maybe from my trip to Canton last year. We got it.

(8 pts – double bonus) Jared Leto is the lead singer of what rock band, and he started his acting career with what TV show?
I actually watched the show, but the band I had no idea, though a teammate did.

(10 pts) In what decade was the first time a President earned a six-figure salary?
We tried to suss this out. Surely it was by the 1960s, because I grew up knowing the President made $100,000, which BTW is now $400,000. We wisely passed.

We’re in 7th place out of 25 teams. Round 3:

(2 pts) After “Go”, “the Jail” and “Free Parking,” what is the other corner called in a game of Monopoly?
E-Z

(4 pts) Dr. Seuss was born in what state?
I’ve been to places honoring Ted Geisel. We all knew this.

(6 pts) What rapper / actor appeared in the John Carpenter film “Ghosts of Mars”?
No idea, and we muffed this.

(8 pts – quadruple bonus) Name the last four baseball players to earn the Triple Crown.
This was maddening. Chuck knew three of them straight off, and we agreed that the fourth one was much more recent. Chuck and I knew his team and his ethnicity but could NOT come up with his name. This is the kind of maddening thing I hated in this game.

(10 pts) The song “Rock You Like a Hurricane” was recorded by a band who originated in what country?
I had no clue, but teammates did.

Still in 7th place, 28 points behind the leaders.

Final round. Ready?

(4 pts) – Actress / model Emily Ratajkowski first appeared in a 2013 music video for what song?
Nope. But a radio personality mentioned this recently, and that helped us get it.

(6 pts) – What 60’s rock band had an early song called “Boris the Spider”?
We all knew this.

(8 pts – triple bonus) Of the current Justices of the Supreme Court, name the three with the most years of service on the Court.
We worked on this for almost the whole allotted time. Someone suggested David Souter, but I knew that he had retired because I had heard him speak subsequent to that. We GOT it.

(10 pts – John Ratzenberger appeared in the Pixar film “A Bug’s Life” as what character?
I saw the move, but it blurs in the memory with Antz We passed.

“Still in 7th place. 102 points. There’s a two-way tie for the lead… at 130.

“The final question involves American highways. Bet everything.

“Beginning at the top of New York State, and going through Syracuse, Interstate 81 ends in what Southern state?”

Two of us made an educated guess, which was correct, but left us in second place, out of the $500 pot. If I could only have remembered that 4th Triple Crown winner…

Still, it was kind of fun.

Music Throwback: the Royal Guardsmen

You probably know the Royal Guardsmen for their string of hits featuring Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s dog in the comic strip Peanuts by Charles Schulz, versus the Red Baron, the real German flying ace of World War I.

My blogger buddy Chuck Miller wrote a blog post on adjustments in pop songs. Specifically, Snoopy v the Red Baron became Squeaky vs. the Black Knight in Canada over copyright concerns.

This inspired me to play my Royal Guardsmen’s Greatest Hits album that someone gave me, a collection from Australia. But reading the liner notes, I noticed that six of the 20 songs were listed with Unknown by the composer citation.

I decided to write my old buddy John Francis Burdett, the drummer of the group, who I met online when I had blogged some years ago about a single, the much darker Snoopy v. Osama. (Post is below the links.)

He wrote:

Any Wednesday – Written by: B. Masona. Real Name: Charlie Souza, a bassist, singer songwriter and producer affiliated with worldsoundproductions.com. In Groups: Cactus, Fortress, The New Rascals, The Tropics, White Witch

I Say Love – Written By: Barry Winslow, Billy Taylor

Leaving Me – Written by: Barry Winslow

Shot Down – Written by: John McCullough, Dick Holler. “John McCullough was also our road manager on our first tour and worked w/ Dick on Phil G.’s writing team.”

Mother, Where’s Your Daughter – Written by: D. Holler

But he wasn’t certain about Searching for the Good Times, so I asked my favorite musical expert Dustbury, who ascertained that it was a guy named Bob Stone. John said that Bob Stone had written Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves for Cher.

Any Wednesday, a/k/a, Wednesday, is one of my favorite of their songs. I hear a little of As Tears Go By in it. The Royal Guardsmen covered that Rolling Stones tune, not incidentally.

Listen to:

Any Wednesday, #97 in 1967, here or here
I Say Love, #72 in 1968, here or here
Leaving Me here or here

Shot Down here
Searching for the Good Times here or here
Mother, Where’s Your Daughter, #112 in 1969, here

The Silent Parade against lynching in America

“10,000 black men, women, and children wordlessly paraded down NYC’s Fifth Avenue in 1917. Their tactic was silence, but their message resounded: anti-black violence is unjust and un-American.”

From Bowery Boys History

“The Silent Parade of July 28, 1917, was unlike anything ever seen in New York City. Today it is considered New York’s (and most likely America’s) first African-American civil rights march…

“This extraordinary procession was organized by the burgeoning National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a group of concerned black and white activists and intellectuals which had formed less than a decade earlier in New York.

“The march was organized in direct response to a horrible plague of violence against black Americans in the 1910s, culminating in the East St. Louis Riots, a massacre involving white mobs storming black neighborhoods in sheer racial animus. Two sets of riots in May and July 1917 left almost 200 people dead. Rioters burned black neighborhoods, cutting off water hoses and watched as families fled the burning buildings — to be picked off by gunmen.”

Google is financially supporting, and highlighting on its page, the Equal Justice Initiative’s Lynching in America presentation, which you should spend time listening to.

From Heavy.com:

“‘The children will lead the parade followed by the Women in white, while the Men will bring up the rear. The laborer, the professional man – all classes of the Race – will march on foot to the beating of muffled drums…’

“The flyer also contained a list of mottos that were to be used on posters during the Silent Parade. Among them:

“‘Make America safe for Democracy.’
‘Thou shalt not kill.’
‘America has lynched without trial 2,867 Negroes in 31 years and not a single murderer has suffered.’
‘200,000 Black men fought for your liberty in the Civil War.’
‘The first blood for American Independence was shed by a Negro- Crispus Attucks.”
‘12,000 of us fought with Jackson at New Orleans.'”

Justice, compassion and the common good

There’s a delineation in my mind about how one should do Christianity – and I think the faith is action, not just being – versus how certain elements of the faith have manifest themselves.

The theological divide is clear in these two titles: Advancing faith as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good versus Has Evangelical Christianity Become Sociopathic?

It causes one to wonder Is Your God Dead? “Building walls, banning refugees and ignoring the poor are the social expressions of bankrupt theologies…” ‘Any god who is mine but not yours, any god concerned with me but not with you, is an idol,’ Heschel writes.”

On a secular basis, I believe those same values of “justice, compassion and the common good” should be pursued by the state. I’ve become really fascinated that Finnish citizens were given universal basic income, without any reporting on how it would be spent. Not surprisingly, the recipients reported lower stress levels. Perhaps not intuitively, it provided them greater incentive to work.

In this TEDx talk, historian Rutger Bregman long believed, as many people do, that poverty was the result of a lack of character. But now he’s come to believe “Poverty is a matter of cash, not character.” In fact, he recommends that those folks doling out checks to the poor could be eliminated, with the money going to those in need.

To that end, I oppose drug testing or screening for public assistance applicants or recipients. “Such laws demonize the poor, violate constitutional rights, and are a waste of government money.” Fiscal conservatives should be drawn to that third point, the cost-ineffectiveness of these actions.

However, “maybe there is a difference between ‘handouts’ and subsidies designed to induce specific behavior. OK, I’ll bite, but that means that all of Wall Street — and shareholders too — should have been subjected to drug testing after receiving bailouts in 2008 and 2009.”

The Lydster: Planning for Fatherhood

Chris wants to know:

Did you always want to be a dad?

I’d have to say no. It was never anything I ever gave more than a passing thought until I was about 40 and I was with someone who wanted to have kids.

Before that, I went out with a couple women who had already had children and weren’t going to have more, and that was fine by me.

I didn’t dislike children. I was/am very fond of my nieces, Rebecca and Alex, and my wife’s brothers’ girls too. In the family photos, it’s me carrying Rebecca when we were in NYC. I’d be coloring with her at my maternal grandmother’s funeral in Binghamton. I still marvel that I picked out a nice reversible outfit that Alex wore for a couple years.

And I’m actually pretty good with other people’s rugrats. My daughter is amazed and more than slightly embarrassed by my willingness to distract crying babies on the bus, often successfully.

BTW, dating women with young kids can be very complicated. Usually, she doesn’t want you to be too seriously involved in her children’s lives until she is sure the romantic couple seems secure. Yet she can’t get TOO involved with you unless she thinks you’ll like her kids and vice versa.

Of course, NOW I am happy about fatherhood.

What are some things that you’ve learned through life that you hope to pass on to your daughter?

It’s always this tightrope. I don’t want her to be filled with my opinions about religion or race, for example, and want her to discover for herself. Yet I have learned a few things on these and other topics, and need to pass along some of that foundational structure, without her being a philosophical clone of me.

I’ve done a good job introducing her to the Beatles and Motown, but there’s plenty more to share.

And the truth is that we do think alike a lot, even in relationship with my wife/her daughter. The two of us literally hear things the same way quite often.

C is for cultural appropriation

If there’s something I DON’T want to write about, it’s cultural appropriation. It’s a no-win topic. So why tackle it? Because it keeps bubbling up in my circle of friends and acquaintances.

In response to a New York Times article, an NPR piece stated Commentary: Cultural Appropriation Is, In Fact, Indefensible. And it’s from there that I’ll describe the phenomenon:

“Writer Maisha Z. Johnson offers an excellent starting point by describing it not only as the act of an individual, but an individual working within a “‘power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.’

“That’s why appropriation and exchange are two different things, Johnson says — there’s no power imbalance involved in an exchange. And when artists appropriate, they can profit from what they take, while the oppressed group gets nothing.”

This distinction is important, and I believe addresses Frank S. Robinson’s post about “the newest gambit of politically correct grievance agitprop.”

The phenomenon is not new, actually. According to the Washington Post, the term goes back to the 1970s or ’80s. Bo Derek’s cornrow hairstyle in the 1979 movie 10 was a REAL issue to some folks, but I’ll admit I didn’t get it.

Weekly Sift had this:

“Cultural appropriation is when somebody from a dominant culture tries to acquire fame and fortune (or just look cool) by using stuff created by a dominated culture…. Sometimes it’s done with respect and a share-the-wealth attitude. (Paul Simon didn’t just steal the South African sound, he toured with and helped popularize authentic South African bands.)” [There are some who would disagree.]

“Sometimes it’s annoying and disrespectful, but relatively harmless (like Anglos who have no idea what Cinqo de Mayo commemorates ‘celebrating’ by drinking too much tequila).

“And sometimes it results in a significant injustice, like Elvis becoming a musical icon while the black pioneers he imitated couldn’t get radio time.” Presley became a source of conflict in my own household growing up.

My father HATED Elvis, but I thought he was bringing his own rockabilly sensibilities to the mix. (Now, if you want cultural appropriation, look at Pat Boone, whose vapid Tutti Fruiti squeezed Little Richard’s version out of the marketplace.) I had none of Elvis’ music until I went to college.

I saw this article about a Portland, OR “burrito eatery being shut down after the two white women who ran it were criticized for making food from a culture that wasn’t theirs.” I believe one or both of them jokingly suggested they “stole” the recipe, which helped generate outrage. I find that was a most unfortunate outcome.

I would suggest that the denigration of a culture, especially knowingly, such as Ted Nugent’s headdress in this context could also be seen as cultural appropriation.

So I believe cultural appropriation, different from cultural exchange, exists, and it’s undesirable. But I accept I don’t always know where the line is drawn.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Big Sick

The Big Sick is your typical boy-meets-girl, girl-breaks-up-with-boy, girl-gets-very-sick, boy-meets-girl’s-parents rom com. OK, that was a bit cheeky, but not entirely incorrect.

The one-night stand that became a romance between stand-up comedian Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) and grad student Emily (Zoe Kazan) is the starting off point of the film. Yet it was Kumail dealing with her mother Beth (Holly Hunter) and father Terry (Ray Romano) which drives much of the middle of the film.

Also intriguing is Kumail dealing with his own parents, Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff) and and Azmat (Anupam Kher), the former of whom is especially busy trying to fix him up with a nice Muslim girl.
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The Big Sick is based on the real-life courtship between Kamail and Emily V. Gordon, and written by them. I saw Kamail on The Daily Show recently talking about the writing process. On some of their real dates, they had radically different recollections of how a certain date played out, and they used that conflict in the script.

The movie showed real insights into the culture clash, the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart, without being pedantic. It manages to be quite funny while at the same time dealing with the emotions surrounding Emily’s …well, see the title.

I was really fond of this movie, and if anything, my wife more so, which we saw, naturally, at the Spectrum Theater in Albany. “They” say write what you know, and in plagiarizing their own experiences, Nanjiani and Gordon have avoid hitting any false notes. And in the current political atmosphere, it even seems especially timely.

The Big Sick was directed by Michael Showalter and produced by Judd Apatow. Some believe that, like some other Apatow works, it was too long, but at at a tick under two hours, I thought it was just right

Here’s the trailer. See the movie!

Preliminary list of Albany Common Council candidates

From that July 20 document from the Albany Board of Elections that I requested, I received candidates for offices in Albany County who petitioned to get on the ballot.

Unfortunately, the roster of the one topic someone actually asked to provide is listed as CITY OF ALBANY MEM COMMON COUNCIL, listed alphabetically, with no regard for the district, though I’m sure the Board will rectify this as the election gets closer.

So I went to the voter information section of the Board of Elections’ site and typed in the addresses from which the candidates filed. If any of these candidates are running for a different district, they can let me know.

1
Dorcey L. Applyrs (D, WF)
John O. Williamson (D, I)

2
Derek A. Johnson (D)
Marc D. Johnson (D, WF)
Mary Ellen O’Connor (D)

3
Ronald E. Bailey (D, WF, I)
Joyce Love (D)

4
Kelly R. Kimbrough (D, WF)
Elston Mackey (D)

5
Nigel D. Banks (D)
Cliffton Patterson (D)
Jameel K. Robinson (D)
Malcolm T. Thorpe (D)

6
James Ader (D, I)
Richard S. Conto (D, WF)

7
Sergio Adams (D, I)
Catherine M. Fahey (D, WF)

8
John J. Flynn (D)

9
Judy L. Doesschate (D, WF, I)
John J. Mahoney (C)

10
Owusu Anane (D, I)
Leah Golby (D, WF)

11
Alfredo D. Balarin (D, WF)
Clifton M. Dixon (D)
Beroro T. Efekoro (D)
Judd W. Krasher (D, I)

12
Michael F. O’Brien (D)

13
Ginnie Farrell (D, WF)
Joanne E. Genovese (D, I)
Timothy A. Looker (R, C)

14
Joseph M. Igoe (D)

15
Shauna M. Collins (D, WF)
Thomas C. Hoey (D, I)

So the Democrats will have their primary on September 12. But in several districts, some of the Democrats will face some of the same opponents in November, as candidates have been cross-endorsed by either the Working Families Party or the Independence Party.

No surprise: there are is only one Republican running, cross-endorsed by the Conservative Party, and one other Conservative. The Republican is in this case is running in my district and has been a candidate before. This time, he’s running, not against an entrenched incumbent, but in an open seat. But the party enrollment is not in his favor.

In five districts (but I don’t know which ones), the Working Family party is offering an Opportunity to ballot.

Gracious she, the middle child

On one of our irregular-but-always-lengthy telephone conversations, the middle child asked me advice about this guy. They’d been friends, but he had become what I can only describe as toxic. (Actually, there are other other terms I could use about him, but I’m trying to keep the content here clean.)

He was that way to some other people as well, as I understand it. I once told her that he was a tool, and that became my sobriquet for him, in lieu of actually saying his name. “What’s the Tool up to now?” I’d say.

And then, after he was finally out of her life, he suddenly dropped dead. She wanted to know if she should go to the funeral. My counsel was that she should do what she felt moved to do. I have to tell you, though, that I wouldn’t have gone.

Yet she did, and appeared gracious to their mutual acquaintances in doing so. Hmm, graciousness – what a concept. In many ways, I think she’s a better person than I am, more compassionate. She does tend to wear her heart on her sleeve, whereas my feelings tend to be more internalized.

I’m fairly sure that I haven’t seen either of my sisters in person since my mother’s funeral in February 2011. But I very likely will see Leslie this fall. She is going to her high school reunion. I’m perfectly happy to have blown off MY reunion last year – I THINK there was one – but crashing hers has enough emotional distance to tolerate.

Even though I was Student Government president at BCHS, Leslie was the real star in high school, both through performing and by the strength of her personality; I say this with zero jealousy, then or now. And the excitement of her trip east for her classmates, based on social media, is very high.

The photo is from a fashion show at the Fowler’s department store in downtown Binghamton, NY some, OK, many years ago, when there WAS a Fowler’s department store.

Happy birthday, middle child.