The Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales

I didn’t have a huge interest in the British royals, though I’ve seen two movies featuring George VI (The King’s Speech and Hyde Park on the Hudson). His successor, his elder daughter Queen Elizabeth II, has been monarch for my entire life. The late Anthony Armstrong-Jones, the royal photographer, and QEII’s former brother-in-law (her sister Margaret’s ex), had his birthday on 7 March, as do I.

But it was impossible not to be aware of the wedding on 29 July 1981 between Prince Charles and Diana Spencer. As I noted back on 2013-07-27, about a half year after the event, my friend Jessica developed a parody skit of that event, a narrative accompanied by a slide show. The presentation was the Eighth Step Coffee House when it was still located at First Presbyterian Church, and it was hilariously irreverent. I played the Archbishop of Canterbury.

When Diana died on 31 August 1997, I thought it was most unfortunate. But like QEII, as portrayed in the movie The Queen, I did not realize what an outpouring of grief would transpire.

I know my ex-girlfriend (now my wife) was more affected as well. They were about the same age, among other things. I don’t know if she knew that the Spencers were related to her family, the Olins, at that time, though it’s been much codified since, so they are actually distant cousins.

Still, in my possession is a CD of the BBC Recording of the Funeral Service of 6 September, released on 30 September. I may have purchased it for someone else. I play it nearly every year around this time, and I find it quite moving. The tolling of the bells, the various hymns and readings, her brother Earl Spencer’s loving but bitter tribute, and of course, Elton John’s reworking of his song Candle In The Wind [listen]. Rerecorded shortly thereafter, it became one of the biggest singles of all time.

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August rambling #3: struck by a cow

Professor Jonathan Frink Sr, voiced by Jerry Lewis

U.S. Productivity: What Is It, How to Calculate It

Workers, the labor movement and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Play The Bail Trap Game!

Hitting the pavement instead of the sheetcake

Vice News/HBO Documentary on Charlottesville

Vloggger brothers: Race is uncomfortable for me to talk about

Kim Kingsley: My Life Lessons in Rust Belt Racism

Even With Affirmative Action, Blacks and Hispanics Are More Underrepresented at Top Colleges Than 35 Years Ago

Kickstarter: Mine! : a comics collection to benefit Planned Parenthood

8 years of suffering under Barack Obama

Religion for the Nonreligious

Alaska’s permafrost is no longer permanent. It is starting to thaw

The yard of campaign yard signs

Forgotten Technology: Man Lifts 20 Ton Block By Hand

Warren Roberts: Reflecting on my blogs at the Times Union

REVIEW: “Monty Python’s Spamalot” at the Mac-Haydn – the Wife and I saw this show. It was great, but we were so near the stage we feared that we’d have our feet being stepped on. And I was struck by a cow – seriously. A stuffed cow that was launched from the French castle; ’twas but a glancing blow

Jay Thomas on Letterman.- The ‘Lone Ranger’ Story (2014)

Which Gaming Console Was the Most Popular?

Tony Isabella: To Black Lightning, with love

Now I Know: The Political Race Which Was, Literally, a Race and Drinking and Drive-Overs

Give the back of your hand to opisthenar

THAT GUY AND HIS FAMILY

Friedrich wrote letter begging not to be deported

The White nationalist House

The Message in Joe Arpaio’s Pardon and Fascism as a Unifying Principle

The Constitutional Crisis Has Begun

DJT’s list of false and misleading claims tops 1,000

How He Uses Deceit And Propaganda To Shape Perceptions

The Village Voice did a profile back in 1979—nothing’s changed, he’s always lied

How the Secret Service Treats Protestors

How he Ruined My Relationship With My White Mother

Chelsea Clinton comes to Barron’s defense after conservative criticism

MUSIC

Housequake -Prince, live (1987)

Waiting For The Waiter – MonaLisa Twins ft. John Sebastian

Coverville 1182: August birthday cavalcade

It’s Good News Week – Hedgehoppers Anonymous

K-Chuck Radio: I want a Beach Boys a cappella album right now!!

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Barbershop Harmony Society

Gated reverb: The sound of the ’80s

Gordon Lightfoot’s 10 Best Songs

Gene Kelly would have been 105 this month

The Good Old Days, and Two Lost Souls – Jerry Lewis in Damn Yankees

Rent Party Rag – Spider John Koerner

Sesame Street: ’80s Music Mashup Parody and El Patito, featuring Ernie and Rosita

Children’s March: Over the Hills and Far Away, by Percy Grainger

Hello Goodbye – the Beatles

H is for the Hamilton effect

As a result of the tremendous success of the musical about the United States’ first Treasury Secretary, there have several articles referring to “the Hamilton effect.” This 2016 article in Playbill describes saving the $10 bill, popularizing Hamilton as a first name, and increasing an interest in late 18th century American history. See also
here and here, for instance.

In the Albany, NY area, the Hamilton effect is strong. The historic Schuyler Mansion celebrates 100 years as state-run site. It’s a bigger deal than it might be because Alexander Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler “in the mansion’s parlor on Dec. 14, 1780. The couple lived in Albany for nearly two years after their marriage and they brought their children on summer vacations to the 32 Catherine St. house. Scholars believe Hamilton wrote three of the 85 articles known as the Federalist Papers in the house.”

My wife finished Ron Chernow’s acclaimed biography, all 832 pages of it, this summer. The daughter insists that we listen to the music every time we are in the car. This is actually less than last year when the playing was nonstop.

“Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash Broadway musical altered the lives of countless unsuspecting fans with a powerful history lesson embedded in hypnotic, rhyming lyrics and a hip-hop beat.” It won 11 of 16 Tony awards for which it was nominated.

Long before the phenomenon, we were positively disposed toward Hamilton. A. Ham’s wife was a member of First Presbyterian Church, my current church, albeit in a different location.

Upon the death of Alexander Hamilton in 1804, highly-regarded First Presbyterian minister Eliphalet Nott delivered a “powerful sermon condemning the practice of dueling. It had a profound influence in curtailing the custom and has been recognized to this day as a work of great oratory.” I heard the sermon delivered at First Pres in 2004.

The three of us are hoping to finally see Hamilton in the next couple years.

The soundtrack
The soundtrack
The Hamilton Mixtape: Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)
Hamilton’s “rap” still rings true today

Jack Kirby would have been 100

The Wikipedia post reads: “Jack Kirby (/ˈkɜrbi/; August 28, 1917 – February 6, 1994), born Jacob Kurtzberg, was an American comic book artist, writer, and editor widely regarded as one of the medium’s major innovators and one of its most prolific and influential creators.” This is understatement; he was known as King Kirby for a reason.

Check out this page for just some of the characters he was responsible for creating or co-creating.

Lots of people can write more eloquently than I about Jack Continue reading

Remembering the accouterments

The day after our work trip to Syracuse in April, a remarkable thing happened. I brought my keys, my wallet, my cellphone, one of my Amazon Fire tablets, and my work identification to work. That had not happened in so long I do not recall when. Then it happened again on Thursday, June 1.

Usually, I know where my keys are, unless the Daughter has borrowed them, or they’re in a pair of pants that have ended up in the laundry. Still, it’s a good thing we have a spare house key.

Generally, I bring my wallet, though occasionally it’ll be in the OTHER coat. Loose change in the backpack, or an emergency credit card in the mail drawer, can be a salvation.

I like carrying one of my tablets to check emails and play games. I remember more than half the time. In fact, I now have TWO tablets because I misplaced one for a couple weeks, and then the other, eventually discovered in the clutter we’ve been tackling.

Incidentally, one of them, the 8, as opposed to the 7, can be charged for hours, but it will only show as 1% charged. I can then use it for quite a while before it really IS at 1%, then at 0%, and it shuts down.

There was a recent report that more people are living without a landline. That won’t include me for some time, unless, like the folks in Illinois might be, I’m forced to give it up.

It seems that either my cell is MIA, or it has zero juice. The other thing I’ve noticed is that my cellphone does NOT work well in my own house. When I call the phone company to get the landline fixed, I usually have to use it on the front porch.

But I seem most resistant to the ID. That definitely DID go through the washing machine, because my badge has a bit of of a psychedelic look. Moreover, almost every time I use the thing, I sing, “Let me see your ID.”

My parents used to call me the “absent-minded professor,” so I assure you that this is not a function of age. It’s just how my mind works, or occasionally, fails to.

As noted, technology doesn’t always work for me the way I understand it’s supposed to.

A friend of mine was visiting a friend in London, when two guys on a scooter snatched her phone out of hand as she was happily gesturing and chatting with her friend. Beyond feeling sad for her, it points to my distrust of becoming dependent on any device too much.

I made a tactical error on a trip to New Paltz, my old college town, recently. We were rushing to leave Albany, but I was short on cash. The Daughter’s phone says there’s a branch of my bank within a store in town, but when I get there, the store ownership has changed. It’s essentially the same establishment, with a different name, but no longer even an ATM. Fortunately there was another option only a couple miles away, but still…

The technologically bashful Arthur recognizes that all his new technology is a product of his great good fortune. So I reckon I oughtn’t to kvetch about my techno stress too much.

The Lydster: Religious Ally at the Pride Parade

One of the MANY things I’ve worried about as a parent is, while trying to instill values, trying not to turn the Daughter into some sort of philosophical mini-me. I’m not sure how that’s supposed to work.

Five or six years ago, when the LGBTQ Pride Parade was on Sunday, as it is this year, I took her along. I’m sure the marching and seeing all the people along the parade route was FUN. But was it really her choice?

The great thing about her getting older is that now I know she gets to make decisions for herself. Not only did she help decorate the church’s van, she helped led the Presbyterian Connection contingent.

When she was younger, she knew a friend with two mommies and thought that was fine. Now, though, she’s more aware of the bullying and discrimination that still takes place against LGBTQ people.

And she knows the world is not always a safe place. Back when we left the Tulip Festival in Albany’s Washington Park in May, she noted the concrete barriers at certain locations. These were deployed, no doubt, to try to prevent to ward off people using motor vehicles as weapons, as has happened in Nice, France; London, and elsewhere.

She expressed surprise that such measures weren’t used in the Pride Parade, given the increased backlash against equality. Indeed, during the parade, I’ve been long been wary of the intersection of Madison Avenue and Lark Street, where the religious resistance against the parade appears strongest. I waved at the guy with the giant 10 Commandments sign, but he scowled back.

Conversely, most of the people on the parade route absolutely LOVE the fact that the faith community is so active in the parade. And not just the Presbyterians, but the UUs and quite a few others.

It’s local election season, and a ton of political candidates actually led the parade.

I mentioned to one of our church members, who is gay, and suggested that I think the Pride Parade is more important than ever. He agreed, though five years ago, he thought the time might be right to abandon the event.

Next year, should the Daughter participate, I’ll know it is entirely her decision, based on her proudly wearing an Ally rainbow button.

Rotten Tomatoes’ BEST SCI-FI MOVIES, part 2

Continuing my Lazy Summer Blogging series: here’s the second half of Rotten Tomatoes’ Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time

A * indicates one of the paltry number of films I’ve actually seen.
The links at the titles are of my reviews from this blog.

50. ALPHAVILLE (1965) – I’ve heard of it, but have never seen it

*49. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) – saw it at the cinema. Brutal; I’ve never heard Gene Kelly crooning Singing in the Rain quite the same way Oddly, it was the sex scene to the sped-up Lone Ranger theme that got this movie an X rating, not the violence.

48. STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT (1996) – another Trek movie I want to see
47. INCEPTION (2010) – I REALLY wanted to watch this at the time – it was the most intriguing film that year – and it just never happened
46. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013) – probably will see eventually

*45. THE FLY (1986) – one Cronenberg film I did see, based on my affection for the actors Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. I found it quite sad, actually.

44. MINORITY REPORT (2002) – yet another “planned to see it”
43. THE WORLD’S END (2013) – another one from the Shaun of the dead folks I didn’t gravitate to

*42. MEN IN BLACK (1997) – I tend to eschew summer blockbusters, but somehow caught this one, which was a lot of fun, actually

41. GHOST IN THE SHELL (1996) – don’t know this animated piece
40. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016) – yeah, I should see this
39. TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991) – ANOTHER Arnold movie unseen
38. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (2013) – nope
37. SOURCE CODE (2011) – missed this entirely

*36. DISTRICT 9 (2009) – “technically brilliant and emotionally wrenching.” I’ll buy that.

*35. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) – may I say that I think this better than the original?

34. BLADE RUNNER (1982) – I think the original bad press steered me away from this; hope to see someday
33. CHILDREN OF MEN (2006) – this was Oscar-nominated, and still the violent content steered me away

*32. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) – I loved the movie when it first cqame out. Saw the extended version and didn’t think the extras were necessary

31. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014) – I balked at seeing its predecessor, so I was unlikely to see this
30. BRAZIL (1985) – I was torn between fascinated and nervous about seeing it

*29. JURASSIC PARK (1993) – it was good for what it wanted to do. I had no need to see the sequels, though

28. SOLARIS (1976) – only a vague recollection of the ads
27. MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR (1982) – this too I saw bits and pieces on TV
26. EX MACHINA (2015) – usually seeing a movie is a negotiation; I was inclined, but my spouse was not, if I recall correctly
25. GOJIRA (1956) – sounds intriguing

*24. THE IRON GIANT (1999) – I LOVE THIS MOVIE

23. LOOPER (2012) – another “should I see this?” film

*22. BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985) – “inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed” –

*21. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) – I’m not sure I “got” all of it, but an important, inventive and influential

20. LIVE DIE REPEAT: EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014) – saw the trailer, and I considered it

*19. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) – pretty sure I saw this at college; enjoyable cautionary tale

18. FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) – I should see this

*17. STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) – the middle of a trilogy is tough -this is “Dark, sinister, but ultimately… satisfying”

16. SNOWPIERCER (2014) – don’t know this

*15. THE MARTIAN (2015) -“Smart, thrilling, and surprisingly funny”

14. ALIENS (1986) – the first film was quite enough for me, than you

*13. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) -“thinly-veiled examination of McCarthy-era hysteria”

*12. HER (2013) – not only did I like it, I vaguely related to it…

*11 STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE (1977) – for the record, I’ll always hate the retronym renaming of this film- still it brought me to this new place (fictional geographically and emotionally)

10. THE TERMINATOR (1984) – saw bits of this on TV

*9. WALL-E (2008) – it took me a LONG time to warm up to this film, but I saw it on DVD rather than the theater

*8. ARRIVAL (2016) – it’s very heady, yet emotional. I talked to total strangers afterwards groping with its meaning.

*7. STAR TREK (2009) – nice reboot, but this is higher than Wrath of Khan? Oh, please.

*6. STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015) – I liked this well enough, but it’s not better than the original trilogy, certainly not the first two, for reasons well explained by Jaquandor.

*5. ALIEN (1979) – not only did I see this film, I used to have some memorabilia from it. Still, I didn’t need to see any more of this world

*4. GRAVITY (2013) -“eerie, tense.. visually stunning”

*3. E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) – somehow, the family dysfunction was more interesting to me than the alien

2. METROPOLIS (1927) – I’ve seen parts of this, and it was incredibly modern
1. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) – my buddy Chuck Miller was SO enthusiastic about this movie that I ALMOST went over to a second-run theater in a nearby city to see it. But I didn’t.

So there it is. I’ve seen a pathetic 33 out of 100, though 24 of the top 50.

Also, The 10 Most Overrated Science Fiction Films. I tend to agree about 10, 7 and 3, but not 6, 4 or 1.

Sheila E. , B.B. King Blues Club, 18 Aug 2017

Rebecca Jade, Sheila E., Lynn Mabry

When we found out that the #1 niece, Rebecca Jade, was going to be a backup singer for Sheila E., the percussionist a protege of the late artist known as Prince, we were pretty excited. But when we found they were going to be performing in New York City, well, that became a priority.

First, get tickets online at the BB King Blues Club. Next, find a place to stay downtown that cost only an arm and half a leg; the Distrikt fit the bill. I took the bus down early for a work meeting, and the wife and daughter followed about three hours later.

We met at the hotel at 4 pm. I actually took a nap, largely because of some tooth pain (another story). We get to the club less than two blocks away, and found ourselves in line. It’s a dinner theater, as it were, and since I bought only the “cheap seats,” ($49.50 each, plus handling), by the time we got in, there was but one table left that was close by, stage left, already with a single patron.

We had a $10 minimum to eat/drink; easy enough. The Daughter had a cheeseburger and fries that was only $13. I had mac and cheese for $20, with a slab of salmon for an additional $7; not bad, especially the latter. The wife’s meal of shrimp and grits was not only overpriced at $36, but skimpy. I gave her a chunk of both the mac/cheese and fish, and the Daughter was generous with her fries. Her Mississippi mud cake ($12) was like it came from a box of frozen dessert.

Then the show begins, sort of, with two videos. Watch America and Funky National Anthem: Message 2 America, the latter of which shows the Niece at 0:58 and beyond.

The band comes out:
Lynn Mabry – vocals
Rebecca Jade – vocals
Eddie M. – saxophone
Mychael Gabriel – guitar
John Wesley McVicker – drums
Raymond McKinley – bass
Bertron Curtis – keyboards

Ooo, the singers are on stage left, which was close to us. We were watching Sheila, of course, but also my first sister’s only child.

Watch:

Love Bizarre (with a Prince/P-Funk/Sly Stone medley). The niece is in the striped skirt.

Purple Rain. A guy in a blue T-shirt was way too loud nearby with his running commentary.

17 Days/Alphabet St./Raspberry Beret, the latter with an RJ solo!

Girl Meets Boy. Sheila slows it way down to sing a song she co-wrote after Prince’s death. She says it’s available for free on SheilaE.com. She urged everyone to find a stranger and tell him or her that you love them. The Wife and I took that opportunity to catch RJ’s eye.

America/Baby I’m A Star/Glamorous Life.

A nice show. We see the niece after the show far too briefly, then went back to the hotel and were asleep before Snoop Dogg started his 11:30 show at that venue.

BTW, there were a LOT of people recording her, and she didn’t seem to care. The videos above were taken very near where we were sitting, on our side of the stage.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Wedding Plan

The Wedding Plan is, as the LA Times put it, “not your mother’s rom-com, even if it may start out that way.

“Michal (Noa Koler) is a 32-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman in Jerusalem whose fiancé, Gidi (Erez Drigues), announces that he doesn’t love her. Crushed, yet bound and determined to get married anyway, the lonely Michal decides to keep her planned wedding date (22 days away, on the eighth night of Hanukkah); pay up with Shimi (Amos Tamam), the bemused and dashing owner of the banquet hall she’s already reserved; send out invitations, and put her faith in God that a suitable groom will appear in time.”

I note that on Rotten Tomatoes, the critics are 84% positive, but only 65% the general public enjoyed it. I suspect that the audience expected that it would be funny in a more familiar and obvious manner, the way a movie such as The Wedding Planner (2001), the film with Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey, presumably was supposed to be. (I’ve seen only bits and pieces of that one.)

I will admit that The Wedding Plan really started getting interesting as we get closer to the established betrothal date, especially after she meets cute/odd with Yos (Oz Zehavi), the international pop star who couldn’t possibly be interested in her, could he?

Michal has an interesting group of cohorts, including her mother (Irit Sheleg), who is not so secretly mortified by this public embarrassment, her not-happily married sister, and her friend/partner in a mobile petting zoo business.

As you can see from the trailer, the film is in Hebrew with English subtitles. Of course, I saw it at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, during its last week of its run. I was uncharacteristically alone, since my wife was resting after her foot surgery.

If nothing else, it’s an interesting meditation on faith. If you don’t expect to be falling out of your seats with laughter, you may enjoy it.

G is for the girls and women in my family

My wife and I have a daughter, as you probably know. My two sisters each have a daughter. All the females in my little tribe are gathered here together, after my mother’s funeral in Charlotte, NC in February 2011.

As it turns out, my wife’s two younger brothers both have children. One brother has twin daughters, the other a solo daughter, all born in the same year.

When the Daughter was born, one of my very long-time friends heard I had had a child, she mistakenly heard we had a son. Corrected, she was greatly relieved. “Thank God!” she exclaimed.

Maybe it’s because she knows I’ve always gotten along with girls and women, in the main, far more than I have boys and men. I would have one or two male friends, but a lot of female friends by comparison.

I’m not sure why, though. Maybe it’s the testosterone-laden braggadocio that the male of the species engaged in that I found irritating/exhausting.

This is interesting: Dads pay more attention to baby girls than boys, study says. “Fathers of daughters spent about 60% more time attentively responding to their child, compared to those with sons. They also spent about five times as much time singing and whistling with girls and spoke more openly about emotions, including sadness.”

The study notes: “the research could not establish the extent to which innate preferences of girls and boys might be prompting different treatment from their parent. However, the authors concluded that it was likely that social biases were playing at least some role.”

And the song that started running through my mind – there’s always a song, isn’t there? – is a lengthy piece called Soliloquy, from the musical Carousel by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers, and made famous by Frank Sinatra (LISTEN).

The protagonist ASSUMED that he would have a son – “My boy, Bill” – until the thought:
What if he is a girl?
What would I do with her?
What could I do for her?
A bum with no money
You can have fun with a son
But you got to be a father to a girl

Hmm, I DO have fun with the Daughter. I guess, in my heart of hearts, I was glad that we had a girl.

ABC Wednesday, Round 21