The steamed hams of Albany: “Greatest Comedy Scene Ever”


Jaquandor saw this article from the UK. He wrote to me on Facebook: “‘It’s an Albany expression!’ Hmmm…really? Hey, do you call hamburgers ‘steamed hams’? (I’m guessing, no.)”

The piece from March 2017 refers to a scene from the TV show The Simpsons. I was a fervent viewer of the program in the first decade, but I rarely see it now. So I was unfamiliar with the particular segment.

“This scene comes in at about 340 words, and 67 sentences. Every line serves a purpose – either as a joke, or as character building.”

Cookywook goes into great detail about:

1. The script about principal Skinner trying to impress school superintendent Chalmers. “Skinner’s charade is woefully transparent, but the deception doesn’t completely fall apart until the very last line.”

2. The structure of a faux opening

3. The animation

4. The psychology of space

5. The climax, with “Skinner’s most extravagant lie by far”

Of course, “steamed hams” really isn’t “an Albany expression.” It’s probably a Schenectady thing.

November rambling #3: The American In Me

Australia cut off food and water at an offshore detention camp; asylum seekers there more determined than ever to find freedom

Meet the Teenagers Who Started a Film Production Studio in Their Refugee Camp

Where Brexit Hurts: The Nurses and Doctors Leaving London

From the November 26 lectionary: Matthew 25:44-45 (NIV): They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

When Unpaid Student Loan Bills Mean You Can No Longer Work

The recent tide of apologies by famous men have been ‘awful’

Fear of a Black Princess: Britain’s Royal Racial Problem

Bringing an XX perspective to an XY world of movies

What Latino Film Critics Are Saying About Pixar’s ‘Coco’

I’ve seen a variation of this more than once on Facebook: “If we’re being technical here, Charles Manson isn’t actually a serial killer and never killed anyone that we know of.” I think this is pedantic; encouraging others to kill made him legally culpable

How evidence once thought destroyed helped free a man after 39 years behind bars for murder he didn’t commit

NYT responds to readers’ accusations of normalizing a Nazi sympathizer

Fear of crackdown haunts daily life of undocumented immigrants

Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now and Without it in Portugal, mobile internet is bundled like a cable package

Thomas Brunell’s appointment “signals an effort by the administration to politicize” the decennial survey

Supporters backed a time-honored American political tradition, disavowing racism while promising to enact a broad agenda of discrimination

Supporter Says He’d Trust Trump Before Jesus Christ

He Now Says That Wasn’t Him on Access Hollywood Tape

Schroedinger’s Tax Hike

In the Land of Vendettas That Go On Forever

Why the rise of the robots won’t mean the end of work

NOW YOU CAN ENJOY GLUTEN FREE VERSIONS OF FAMOUS ART – As gluten-free options are on the rise in trendy circles, someone had the bright idea to go back into classical art and make it ggluten-free too

David Brickman’s Italy photos

Marie Severin is a Comic-Con Icon Award Recipient

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour at 50: The Rise and Fall of a Groundbreaking Variety Show

a few thoughts on bathroom signage

This New York Times Website Comment Is the Single Best Comment of the Year

These Aren’t the Tootsie Rolls You’re Looking For

Lessons from the Worst Food Hack of 2017

The strategically planned implosion of the Georgia Dome, captured by The Weather Channel

MUSIC

The Passenger (Randall Thompson) – Chris Trombley, baritone; Todd Sisley, piano

Simple Gifts (excerpt) – Aaron Copeland

Suite from JFK – John Williams

The American In Me – The Avengers

Abraham, Martin and John – Dion

In My Life – Jose Feliciano and Jools Holland

Obsession – OK Go

R. Stevie Moore

Hero and Leander by Victor Herbert

The True History Of The Traveling Wilburys

Neil Young Launching Online Music Archives December 1

Joe Sinnott and the first black President

In mid-October, my friend Mark went up to a little town in Ulster County, south of Albany, to listen to a talk Joe Sinnott was giving, and afterwards asked if he would give a presentation to a comic book club for some disadvantaged adults. He had never met Joe before, but found him “delightful.”

I’ve known Joe a bit personally since my days at FantaCo back in the 1980s. My strongest recollection was when he showed up at the store in 1983 and bought 10 copies of The Life of Pope John Paul II, which Marvel Comics put out in, for which he was the inker. I sold them to him at a deep discount, as I recall.

Joe is STILL “delightful”, as I’ve noticed when I get to the occasional Albany Comic Con. At 91, he’s still a working artist, as inker of the Sunday Spider-Man comic strip for King Features. Quite coincidentally, my answer to the question which penciler/inker teams have had the most impact on me reappeared in my Facebook feed. The answer was Jack Kirby with Joe Sinnott on the Fantastic 4.

Friend Mark has discovered another credit for Joe. A bi-monthly comic book called the Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact was distributed in Catholic parochial schools. “The Treasure Chest was intended as a remedy to the sensationalism of traditional comics: it contained educational features, narrated the lives of saints, and presented adventure stories featuring realistic characters with what were considered wholesome values, like patriotism, equality, faith, and anti-communism.

“By the early 1960s, the Treasure Chest was at the height of its popularity… In 1964, Joe Sinnott… teamed up with writer Berry Reece to produce a story depicting a U.S. presidential election. It was set in the future: the presidential election was supposedly that of 1976, the year of the nation’s bicentennial. ‘Pettigrew for President’ lasted for ten issues, following the campaign trail of the fictional Tim Pettigrew from the announcement of his candidacy through the national convention of his party. The candidate’s face was carefully hidden in every panel, until the final page of the final issue of the story, when Pettigrew is finally revealed: the first black candidate for president of the United States!”

Note that the original links no longer work – http://www.lib.cua.edu/wordpress/newsevents/802/ – but the material is still out there via the Wayback Machine.

U is for USB port

I needed a U post and decided on USB port. My first problem? Despite my use of them virtually every single day, I didn’t know what it stood for.

A USB port is a “standard cable connection interface for personal computers and consumer electronics devices.” Yeah, I knew that.

USB stands for Universal Serial Bus, “an industry standard for short-distance digital data communications. USB ports allow USB devices to be connected to each other with and transfer digital data over USB cables. They can also supply electric power across the cable to devices that need it.”

When I first got chargers for my cellphones and tablets, they were in one piece, with a USB cable doohickey on one end and a plug on the other. Now they come with the cord with different size connectors on each end and a plug as a separate attachment, I gather for greater flexibility.

It has come in handy. At a conference last year, I received – well, I didn’t know WHAT it was. It had an In DC 5V port and an Out DC 5V port at the same end. It turned out to be a portable charger. You stick one end of a cord into a laptop or computer, and the other end into the charger. Then you use the charger when your cellphone or tablet is dying.

Oh, and speaking of phones, I finally got a smartphone this year, kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I can text without typing the 2 three times to get the letter C. I still don’t do it much, but I COULD.

It happened because I lost my not-smart cellphone in NYC in August; I didn’t really miss not having one until I traveled to Binghamton in early October. And while I could have gotten the same phone I had, with the same $7 a month deal, I ended up with an LG something-or-other for $35 per month package, which seems sufficient right now.

And I got a new bike light this year, which was expensive. But it is rechargeable. I had to take it to the bike shop to FIND the USB port, and someone with better fingernails than I had to take off the hard plastic piece hiding it. Plug it in, And There Was Light.

For ABC Wednesday

Earthquakes and global warming related?

Hot, hot, hot

I came across an article in Newsweek, The Weird Way That Climate Change Could Make Earthquakes Worse.

“There have to be natural risk factors—specifically, unstable fault lines—for an earthquake to occur. However, the evidence is there that humans are creating situations that can agitate, lubricate, and put pressure on these plates. In fact, a book called Waking the Giant by Bill McGuire documents the science behind climate change creating ideal conditions for tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.”

I had not heard of this 2012 book with the subtitle How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes. It reviewed well on Good Reads and Amazon, though some thought it was too technical. And most believe the ending was too much a recapitulation.

“Here’s how climate change can lead to more earthquakes, according to scientist emeritus at the US Geological Survey and CEO of earthquake app Temblor Ross Stein.”

He explained something called Reservoir-Induced Seismicity or Dam-Induced Seismicity, earthquakes caused by building dams near fault lines. “People are building reservoirs on fault lines all around the world, filling and draining them. The water in the reservoir can lubricate faults, and filling and draining the reservoir creates and lifts pressure. Furthermore, filling a reservoir can force pressure on water at the bottom, which can run into the ground and create cracks and instability.”

And yet, “it’s difficult to objectively prove that reservoirs cause earthquakes.” Wouldn’t those plate tectonics create earthquakes anyway? This is maddeningly like the general conversation about climate change. One cannot attribute hurricanes Harvey, Irma or Maria to global warming, or the earthquakes in Mexico. But directly, or indirectly, the rising temperatures may be factors.

The interesting thing about the article is that it appeared as a spam comment on this blog, the entire piece without a title. Usually I’m rather quick in purging spam comments, but the length and coherence of the post slowed me down just enough. I may not have seen it otherwise.

Lydster/music throwback: Pastime Paradise

As I have mentioned, the Daughter is really into the music of Weird Al Yankovic. She asks me questions about who did the originals of his parody songs. I’m pretty good with the pop/rock stuff, not so hot with the rap sourced items.

One exception is Amish Paradise, one of our favorite Weird Al songs, which I know came from the Coolio song Gangsta’s Paradise, featuring singer L.V. But truth is that I am only aware of that because it’s a reworking of Pastime Paradise, a song on the first side of the epic, Grammy-winning 1976 LP Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder.

A couple days later, the Daughter asked if Al gets permission to use other people’s songs, and I said that he did. But by this point, she knew of the Coolio/Weird Al feud. “Coolio claimed that he did not give permission for the parody… Yankovic claimed that he had been told Coolio had given the go-ahead through his record label and apologized.” Coolio too has since apologized for allowing his ego to get in the way.

For a while, the Daughter would play the three songs back-to-back. But eventually, she really glommed to the Stevie original, playing it a few times every day. I think it is the rhyme:

Dissipation
Race relations
Consolation
Segregation
Dispensation
Isolation
Exploitation
Mutilation
Mutations
Miscreation
Confirmation, to the evils of the world

Proclamation
Of race relations
Consolation
Integration
Verification
Of revelations
Acclamation
World salvation
Vibrations
Stimulation
Confirmation, to the peace of the world

I always liked it, but her affection for the song has enhanced my enjoyment of it.

Listen to:

Pastime Paradise – Stevie Wonder (1976) here or here
Pastime Paradise – Ray Barretto (1981) here or here
Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio, featuring L.V., #1 for three weeks on the Billboard pop charts (1995) here or here
Amish Paradise -Weird Al Yankovic, #53 (1996) here or here
Pastime Paradise – Patti Smith (2007) here or here

A cemetery puzzlement – has the stone rolled away?

When my sister Leslie and I were in Binghamton in early October, we decided to go visit a couple grave sites. Frankly, it’s not something I do all that often, but since my sibling hardly ever gets to this side of the country, I decided that it’d be interesting.

First, we went to Floral Park Cemetery in nearby Johnson City, not very far from where our family moved to during my freshman year in college. I had found my paternal grandmother Agatha Green’s grave in 2013, and I was certain that I could discover it again. We traipsed through the entirety of Section M, but neither of us could find it.

Yet we were indeed in the right place. I showed her the nearby headstones of her father Samuel Walker, who I remember. He died in 1963, only a year before Agatha, a fact I had forgotten. It was also the location for the grave of Agatha’s brother Earl (1904 – 1961) – him I also recall; and his sister Melissa Walker Jackson (1914-1955), who I remember only in photos. Most mysterious.

Then we were onto Spring Forest Cemetery in the First Ward of Binghamton, my part of town growing up. We used to sled in there, back in the day. It is amazing now that we didn’t smash our heads into the trees, riding those crooked trails. We also would cut across the cemetery to play baseball at Ansco field.

We easily found the gravestone of Lilian Yates Holland, my maternal grandmother’s mother, her her son Ed Yates’, and a couple people named Archer, who are related to us in some fashion.

Peculiarly, there has never been a marker for either my maternal grandmother, Gertrude Yates Williams, who died on Super Bowl Sunday 1982, or her sister Adenia, who died in the mid-1960s, and are buried in the same section. My sisters and I have decided to rectify this in the coming year, though we also said that LAST year.

To quote Bullwinkle J. Moose, “This time for sure!”

My library school alma mater under Emergency Preparedness?

Back in mid-October, I got this email from Phil Eppard, chair of the Department of Information Science, on the listserv of my alma mater at UAlbany:

“I am writing to inform you that the Information Science Department is moving from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences to the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity (CEHC). This move is the culmination of discussions between the provost, the deans of the two colleges, and the faculty of the department. We see great opportunities in locating the department in this emerging new college, for which information technology and management, information access and use, and information literacy and analysis are all key areas of study and concern.

“This relocation of the department will have no impact on students and their academic programs. On the contrary, we hope to be able to improve our course offerings and student services as we are integrated into CEHC.”

I posted it on Facebook, musing on what I thought of it. My initial thought was of feeling disquieted. As one friend wrote: “Librarians as a profession are guardians of free speech and free access to information. I can think of a bunch of my former professors who must be turning over in their graves.”

One response, from a relative of mine, believed “all data services were already under the homeland security umbrella.” But I noted: “The ethos of the librarian, at least for most of us, is to protect privacy. When the so-called USA PATRIOT Act was passed in 2001, it was the librarians who made it difficult for the government to get patron records. ‘The ALA believes certain sections of the USA PATRIOT Act endanger constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users.'”

The new dean put on a happy spin: “On behalf of the students, faculty, and staff of [CEHC], I would like to welcome you! We are excited that you are joining us! So much of what we do in CEHC is highly correlated with the work you do.

“There are limitless cool synergies we can explore together! Understanding how data become useful information, how to present information in an understandable way, operationalizing big data, analytics, visualization, remote sensoring querying and searching, predictive analytics, defining the role of society, community, and libraries, and developing and using information technology are just a few areas of intersection and collaboration I hope we can continue to develop.

“On a personal note, I am thrilled at the opportunity to work with you as we continue to build out CEHC. As we expand our offerings in intelligence analysis, smart cities/internet of things, crisis communications, extreme weather planning, advanced technologies, or social media I see nothing but exciting opportunities for our students, faculty researchers, creative staff, and operational partners. I also see information science as one of the growing ‘demand’ degrees with enormous job growth and research potential. Come join us and help us make a difference.”

As one buddy asked, “Is this supposed to make Emergency Preparedness cooler or to make libraries less cool? Or maybe an attempt to bring attention to the fact that a college of Emergency Preparedness exists…” Well, I didn’t know. And another: “Is it just me or is Library/Information Science always something of an orphan? (from a UAlbany MLS graduate, back in the day when the library was part of the Rockefeller College, IIRC)” No, it’s not just you.

Thanksgiving 1987

turkeyThe Thanksgiving of 1987 I had just started dating someone less than a month earlier. Her plan was to go to her mother’s house, about an hour away. My plan had been – well, I had no particular plan, which had been my m.o. for much of the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. So I went with her.

This was at a big old country house, and 20-odd people were to share the meal. Meeting that many strangers at one time was not my favorite situation. Among other things, I’m terrible at remembering the names of that many people in a compressed period of time; they don’t wear name tags.

My general solution for dealing with stressful situations is Being Useful. In addition to making some chitchat, I probably set the table, and almost certainly answered the door when newcomers arrived.

I did none of the cooking, and with four or five people in the kitchen, I had no desire to be in there. After dinner, my Being Useful really kicked in, as I volunteered to wash the dishes. This involved soaking the pans, and then hand washing the bowls, plates, silverware – no dishwasher here – then wash the pans at the end.

And that was fine; I LIKE washing dishes. Maybe it’s a water sign thing. I’m sure I had help, with someone drying the dishes and putting them away.

If you’re ever in a gathering of folks you don’t know, try Being Useful. It’s seen as helpful, rather than antisocial.

November 22 always means one thing to me: JFK

I’ve mentioned before the fact that JFK assassination records were scheduled to be released by the National Archives by October 26, 2017. Like most people my age, the killing of JFK in 1963 is among the most recalled events in our then-young lives, maybe the first significant event external to ourselves and our families.

When the current regime announced the impending release of the last documents, I was relieved. To have suppressed them, as rumors suggested, would have only energized the conspiracy theorists.

But then they actually decided to hold back some 200 documents, thousands of pages, for another six months to allow the FBI, CIA, et al to make the case that they should remain under lock and key. The regime cited unspecified “national security concerns,” an argument Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said was “amazing… What possible national security interests are still at risk from an event that happened 54 YEARS AGO?”

I can see where there could be some embarrassment. In fact, we’ve already seen that in the material that’s been released. Lee Harvey Oswald was already on the radar of law enforcement. There had been credible threats on the life of JFK. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI head, was livid about the shooting of Oswald, who was in police custody, by Jack Ruby, as there were credible threats against him.

Pretty much since the Warren Commission Report was excerpted in my local newspaper – I STILL have the black 3-ring binder with the clippings glued to lined school paper – I have wanted to know more. What WAS Oswald doing in Mexico a few months before the shooting?

The Boston Globe noted that the 2,800 records released so far “offer insights into his death that were previously hidden from the public. They help paint a more complete picture of Lee Harvey Oswald and share previously undisclosed details about his background, and they provide color and reaction from the days following Kennedy’s death.

“The records released so far may not confirm or disprove any of the many conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s assassination, but they begin to piece together parts of unknown history and have made some people even more anxious for the remaining documents to be released.” And that includes me.

The JFK Assassination: A Cast of Characters.