January rambling #2: Don’t Wanna Fight

Doomsday Clock Now ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’

Amy Biancolli: life is huge

John Green: On emergencies

The Women’s Marches Could Have Lasting Consequences

How Arafat Eluded Israel’s Assassination Machine

Water run out: Days are numbered in Cape Town

Evangelical toadies are destroying the Christian brand and The death of Christianity in the U.S.

I Was a Successful Journalist When a Doctor First Handed Me Opioids

Good People Don’t Defend A Bad Man

How he convinced America that character doesn’t matter

His Racism: The Definitive List

How democracies die

Why Don’t Norwegians Immigrate to the United States?

More than 160 women say Larry Nassar sexually abused them; here are his accusers in their own words and It’s Time For Every Last Coward Who Enabled Nassar To Pay For Their Sins

When convictions are clearly wrong, these prosecutors don’t just hinder justice—they actively work against it

N.Y. gun violence costs state economy over $5.6B a year

An experiment involving monkeys watching cartoons shows how far Volkswagen went to manipulate research on the harmful effects of diesel fuel

FACEBOOK begins its downward spiral

“Keep going today. Keep moving amid every obstacle. Keep moving amid every mountain of opposition” – MLK, Jr.

The Reasonable Ineffectiveness of Mathematics

A Tiny New York Town With Not One, But 5 Indie Bookstores

10 Letters We Dropped From The Alphabet

Ursula K. Le Guin, acclaimed science fiction writer, is dead at 88; Le Guin on Tolkien

RIP Hugh Wilson (WKRP)

Connie Sawyer, World’s Oldest Working Actress, dies at 105

Comic strip creator Mort Walker, R.I.P. Beetle Bailey was the brother of Lois in Hi and Lois

Jeopardy! Contestants Present: “Get Well Soon, Alex!” and Alex Trebek returned to taping Jeopardy!

From Robert Waldo Brunelle Jr’s collection of vintage ephemera, circa 1912

How STAR WARS was saved in the edit and Star Wars’ infamous Holiday Special, explained

Some nice Albany photography

Hello Chuckthewriter.blog!

Now I Know: How Fire and Fury Fueled a World War II Revival and Now I Know: How Some Places are Beeting the Snow and When A Penny Saved is Ten-Thousand Pennies Earned and The A-Maze-Ing Solution to a Bar’s Legal Problems and Why Nike Makes Glowing Sneakers

Aristocrat, friend of royalty and cad and card cheat Sir William Gordon-Cumming


Holly Holy- Neil Diamond (live 1971)

Sunny Afternoon – the Rodford Files

Cry Like A Rainstorm – Bonnie Raitt

Don’t Wanna Fight – Alabama Shakes

John Knowles Paine Symphony No. 2: In Spring

Coverville 1201: Cover Stories for Pat Benatar and Shawn Colvin and 1202: Cover Stories for the Kaiser Chiefs and the Thompson Twins and 1203: Journey and Cheap Trick Cover Stories

The River Cam – Eric Whitacre

H.P. Lovecraft’s “Nemesis” has the same meter as Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”

Nights at White Castle

5 Songs You’ve Never Heard That You’ve Heard 1000 Times

Two Catskill HS Students to Perform at Carnegie Hall, one of whom I know well

Hugh Masekela, great South African jazz trumpeter, died at 78

Edwin Hawkins, Known for the Hit ‘Oh Happy Day,’ Is Dead at 74

Mark Edward Smith (1957-2018) of The Fall

Denise LaSalle, singer and writer of earthy songs dies at 78

Hormones appear to affect our musical preferences

D is for Deliberate data distortion

I received a notice about a workshop in Washington, DC on March 8, from The Association of Public Data Users (APDU), Building the Case for Public Statistics: Workshop for Stakeholders.

The opening sentences of the description I firmly believe:

“In uncertain times, we need evidence. Federal statistics are vital sources. Researchers, businesses, governments, and nonprofits rely on this data, and we need to do a better job of telling policymakers that investment in data is important.”

This resonated with me because recent events from the current regime have suggested a blatant disregard for data. Most notably, officials of the Centers for Disease Control have been banned from using certain words, those being Vulnerable, Entitlement, Diversity, Transgender, Fetus, Evidence-based and Science-based. Later, the Department overseeing the CDC, Health and Human Services denied actually banning the words, saying that they are “recommendations.”

Nevertheless, this newspeak has been widely, and understandably, mocked, with folks on social media finding ways to include all the words as often as possible. Jim Reisner wrote, “The science-based study on diversity showed that a vulnerable, transgender fetus was not eligible for any entitlements generated by an evidence-based analysis of Republican compassion.” I thought it was brilliant.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s head, Scott Pruitt, has called for the elimination of the term “global warming.” He has cited the Bible to justify removing scientists from advisory boards. When EPA employees spoke out against the anti-science policies, then came scrutiny of their email.

Also, the regime has reversed the inclusion of climate as a threat to national security.

Meanwhile, as the Federal Communications Commission ended net neutrality – bad enough – it has refused to take action to remove fraudulent comments or to prevent them from being filed.

As a librarian, I count on access to data that are undistorted by political agendas. I need, to quote Joe Friday, “Just the facts.”

For ABC Wednesday

Economic Census, Women’s March, football

A few items that might not generate a whole post:

I went to New York City on January 16 to visit our center at Pace University. The librarians are divvying up the state to find out how we can serve them better. After that, the center director, Andrew. and I met with some folks from the Census Bureau, led by Andy.

Andy and his colleagues were touting the 2017 Economic Census, which will take place electronically in May 2018. This allows them to generate data that help businesses to make decisions on location, demographic trends and the like.

I was REALLY happy I didn’t go down the following day, because it snowed, not just in Albany, but in NYC. Snow in NYC makes travel dreadful.
A bunch of folks met at my church to walk down to the Women’s March in Albany on January 20. Some guy commenting on my Times Union blog said there wouldn’t be 10 people at the event. I replied that there would be more than that going just from my church, and that was true.

I’m lousy at crowd size guesstimation, but I heard everything from three to six thousand. In any case, there were so many there, good friends of mine who were present I simply did not see. But there they were all over Facebook.

I did not know that nearly 60 protesters from the J20 anti-Trump march in DC last year are still subject to prosecution, though 129 indictments were dropped.
I tend to watch football only in the last couple weeks of the season and into the playoffs. The first weekend I saw one game, and watched summaries of the three others online. The next weekend, I saw parts of games. But I recorded the last two games and watched them later. The trick, of course, is NOT to watch live TV, check email or social media. Ignorance in this process IS bliss.

There’s been reports that NFL viewing is down. Some think it’s because of players taking of a knee during the national anthem. Others think it’s that, with the increased reporting of brain damage from CTE, people are less likely to watch it.

I think it is that the official reviews of every touchdown, almost every play in the last two minutes of each half, plus the coaches’ challenges take FOREVER. Still another reason for watching on tape delay. well, not TAPE…

Go, Philadelphia Eagles!

Movie review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

When Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) got tired of the lack of progress regarding the murder of her daughter, she commissions an ad company guy named Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones) to put up Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. That’s the movie my wife and I saw at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany on the Sunday it was touted as Best Picture by the Screen Actors Guild.

Of course, the beloved chief of police William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is not happy to be called out in 20-foot letters, even on a back road. Besides, he has even a bit of an unrelated problem. But one of his officers, Jason Dixon (Oscar nominee Sam Rockwell), who still lives with his mama (Sandy Martin), is a hotheaded bigot who gets even more incensed.

Mildred’s ex, Charlie (John Hawkes) has been spending time with a 19-year old female named Penelope (Samara Weaving). Mildred’s son Robbie (Lucas Hedges, whose last three movies I’ve now seen) is coping with loss.

Three Billboards also stars Amanda Warren and Peter Dinklage.

Lots of people, obviously, really liked this movie and I’m one of them. I appreciated the development of the memorable and distinct characters, which shows that most of us are complicated beings. Occasionally the film is unexpectedly funny, and I laughed aloud more than once. Previous Oscar winner McDormand (Fargo) deserved her nomination, as do Rockwell and previous Oscar nominee Harrelson.

And some critics absolutely hated Three Billboards. A few thought the first part was great and it fell apart, by seemingly redeeming the worst character, which I don’t believe is what happened. Others found the film of little redeeming value, with a deus ex machina ending. What?

I’ve read that the wordplay from Martin McDonagh, who was also the director, was considered too glib and clever for its own good. And some just hate its politics; see, for instance, writer Ken Levine’s scalding take.

A couple other notes: there’s violence, but the murder is not shown, except in photos. In fact, the one time I turned away from the screen momentarily involved a scene practically out of Little Shop of Horrors.

It was a bit nerve-wracking occasionally, though. And if I didn’t realize this on my own, the woman sitting directly behind me let me know by telling her friend that she was so nervous she needed to ear more popcorn.

Music throwback: Super Freak – Rick James

The odd thing about Super Freak by Rick James from 1981 is that I read ABOUT it a lot, but I didn’t actually HEAR it very often, due in part, I was led to believe, by its then-controversial subject matter.

And while it’s #481 in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame list, it wasn’t his highest charting single. He had several hits starting with 1978’s You and I. Of course, what gave Super Freak a second life is when M.C. Hammer used it, with permission, as the basis of U Can’t Touch This. James got a Grammy out of the deal.

He collaborated with fellow Motown artists such as Smokey Robinson (Ebony Eyes), and The Temptations. The Temps sing background on Super Freak. James is featured on Standing On The Top, from their REUNION album, when the group briefly had seven members rather than five.

Rick James, born James Ambrose Johnson, Jr., was an upstate kid, born in Buffalo, New York. He was in various bands before joining the Navy Reserve, mostly out of fear of being drafted. But he took off to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where he formed the rock band the Mynah Birds, which, for a time, featured Neil Young.

His music career ground to a halt when the “military authorities discovered his whereabouts and eventually convicted James on a one-year prison term related to the draft charges. After being released, James moved to California where he started a variety of rock and funk groups in the late 1960s and early 1970s.”

Unfortunately, success did not bring joy. He reportedly spent $7000 a week on cocaine for five straight years. He was convicted of assaulting two women in the early 1990s, and spent a couple years in jail. “After divorcing his first wife, he married Tanya Hijazi on December 24, 1997 and they divorced in 2002.”

Then he died of a heart attack on August 6, 2004 at the age of 56. He would have been 70 on February 1, 2018.

Listen to:

You and I – #13 pop, #1 soul for two weeks in 1978 (long version)

Mary Jane – #41 pop, #3 soul for two weeks in 1978

Super Freak – #16 pop, #3 soul for five weeks in 1981

Standing On The Top (Temptations featuring Rick James)– #66 pop, #6 soul in 1982 (long version)

Cold Blooded (long version) – #40 pop, #1 soul for six weeks in 1983

Ebony Eyes (Rick James featuring Smokey Robinson) – #43 pop, #22 soul in 1984

Loosey’s Rap (Rick James featuring Roxanne Shante)– #1 soul in 1988, looking very Prince-like

U Can’t Touch This (M.C. Hammer) – #8 pop, #1 soul in 1990 but it felt WAY more ubiquitous than that

The Lydster: the 11th-hour homework

The Daughter and I are alike in many ways. One of the way we are not is in the approach to homework.

When I had it, I tried to get it done as soon as possible, lest it hang over my head. Her attitude is more… relaxed.

Back on November 9, I asked her if she had any homework over the three-day Veterans Day holiday, but she gave me a rather enigmatic answer. It was HER homework, after all, so I was not going to worry about it.

Still, on Friday the 10th, I asked her again. This time, she said, “The marking period ends today.” And do you have homework? “Yes, social studies.”

Well, how was she going to get this assignment done THAT DAY, when there was no school? Why, she could send it via Google docs. So at 3 p.m., she starts answering four questions, about Reconstruction after the Civil War, robber barons of the second half of the 19th century, and a couple other topics.

She completed the assignments. “There, an hour and a half and I’m done.”

I should note that at least one of these pieces was given out back when she was ill the second week in October, and I know she had started working on it when she got back to school the following week. But it was only the impending end of the marking period that motivated her to actually FINISH the task.

It is very easy for a person to project him- or herself in a situation and say, “If it were me, I’d have been a nervous wreck.” But that’s the point; she isn’t me.

And she isn’t her mother either who, less often these days than before, would preach the value of having the homework put away the night before in the proper place. I’d be my inclination, too.

But, as I’ve indicated, in this matter, she is VERY much her own person.

In search of a blue tsunami

My friend Carla, who I’ve known since high school choir, suggested:

I have an idea for your blog… or maybe just a title…. something like “keep it up Mr. President and the tsunami in November is going to be very, very blue”

What she means is that there could be be far more Democrats in Congress after the November 2018 election than after the 2016 vote.

My immediate reaction is that I’m not so sure that it’s true. Sure the Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has allowed drilling along all the coastline of the United States. And then excluded Florida because 1) Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, is probably running for the US Senate and Floridians HATE looking at off-shore rigs, like the rest of us do, and 2) Mar-a-lago, where Agent Orange likes to spend time, is in Florida.

And sure The Tweeter-in-Chief says stupid stuff on a wide swath of issues, from marijuana to immigration – I need to write on these more extensively – and I feel he makes the US a laughing stock all over the world.

He lies so much that I don’t think he’s even fully aware of it. When his trip to the UK was canceled, he blamed it on the Obama administration’s design of the new embassy even though it was arraigned by George W. Bush.

In short, he is an embarrassment.

Yet, if the stock market is up, and the tax bill cuts people’s taxes in the short term, and unemployment, which fell sharply under Obama, continues to do so, and stores such as Walmart raise wages (from $9 to $11 per hour, even as they slash jobs at Sam’s Club outlets), then some people will be satisfied with the status quo.

It is true that in the generic electoral ballots, Democrats are doing quite well. But one does not vote for a generic candidate, but for specific individuals. I’m pleased that over 30 Republicans have deigned not to run for reelection. An “open” seat is much easier to win rather than running against an incumbent.

Nevertheless, unless people go out and work these elections, getting people registered and then get out to vote, Democrats will not automatically win. It can happen, as it did in Alabama in December 2017, when Doug Jones beat Roy Moore for the US Senate seat that had not been blue in a quarter century.

Just counting on disdain for the guy occasionally at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to translate into Congressional victory is a terrible plan. But the blue tsunami IS possible.

Oh, I love this picture above. Read the story about its creation.

The “joys” of home ownership, kitchen edition

For all the advantages of home ownership, it does have its downside. In December 2017, for instance, we paid our property tax a month early in anticipation of the new US tax bill, which make itemizing our taxes less advantageous in subsequent years. Or so I understand, because of these things, MEGO (my eyes glaze over).

Our hot water heater died in December. It actually lasted over 14 years, which, I gather, is a good long time, a decade being the usual functionality, or so I’m told. And the furnace ($4000) was also replaced in 2017.

The pipes to our kitchen sink is near an exterior wall to the house. When it gets really cold, as it did for several days in the past month or so. Our contractor discovered: 1) there’s a small hole under the sink that goes directly OUTSIDE; and 2) there is a heating coil on the piping that burned out. And that was a good thing, apparently, because, it could have shorted and BURNED DOWN THE WHOLE HOUSE. Yikes – not MEGO.

The dishwater has ceased to work. Oh, it still turns on and off. But the dishes don’t get clean because the water doesn’t drain properly. Or really, at all. I used a ShopVac to suck out the excess water a couple times, hoping that it would solve the problem; it did not.

Fortunately, my primary job as a child was Washing the Dishes, by hand of course. I didn’t really mind either because we used to get graded at school on “health” or some such. The space under my fingernails were always dirty UNLESS I had recently washed the dishes. Ah, soapy water.

So those are the immediate problems. There are also the ongoing issues, such as the oven that you have to set higher than you want, 350 if you want 325, 450 if you want 400, but if you set it TOO high, it doesn’t make it above 300.

Or our freezer door that hasn’t closed properly since 2007, when one of my relatives (not my wife or daughter), while I was putting away something in the lower refrigerator section, decided to get something in the upper freezer section AT THE SAME TIME. I didn’t notice, so I stood up and my head and shoulders rammed into the freezer door, making the seal less precise.

When we first moved into the house in 2000, redoing the kitchen, especially the ugly and dysfunctional cabinets, was a goal. We got a new floor, and the aforementioned stove, dishwasher and refrigerator have all been purchased since 2002.

There’s no money to buy them ALL again, let alone the redo, because we didn’t win the lottery. (Oh, yeah, we didn’t PLAY the lottery.) The dishwasher will probably be replaced first, because it’s most chronic.

So, to you new home owners – you know who you are – THESE are the joys of being the landed gentry.

C is for Carol Kaye of the Wrecking Crew

Carol Kaye was the bass player on a lot of songs you’ve heard, even if you don’t know her name. She was part of a group of about 25 or 30 studio musicians from the Los Angeles area who played on records by artists ranging from Andy Williams to Frank Zappa. They were mostly men whose services were constantly in demand in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Only after the fact were they dubbed The Wrecking Crew. Most of them you’ve never heard of, though a few became successful recording artists in their own right.

For Christmas 2017, I received a massive book, which I’ve already finished, called The Sound Explosion by Ken Sharp (2015), from which I’ll introduce you to Carol Kaye. She’d been a professional jazz guitarist from the age of 14, in 1949. She, like several others, could see that the rock and roll revolution was eating into her live gigs, but offered opportunities for studio work.

She first worked with Sam Cooke, who she had never heard of at the time. Initially, she played guitar on a number of sessions from 1957 to 1965, but by 1963, she had “tired of playing fills and rock stuff. When the bass player didn’t show up for a date, someone elected me to lay Fender bass. I liked the bass role better and everybody liked my sounds and creativity and started hiring me. By 1964, I was the number one call on electric bass.

“Most early ’60s dates had no music… Your brought your own pencil to write your own chord charts with the licks and phrases you made up on the spot so you’d remember them for the take. we were fast because we were experienced musicians with great ears we developed from years of experience…”

The most famous story I know is that she took the boring bass line for The Beat Goes On by Sonny and Cher and created the iconic hook that defines the song.

Was it tiring? “Yes, you drank a lot of coffee.” But it was good money for gigs that might be Henry Mancini in the morning, the Beach Boys in the afternoon, and Ray Charles at night. “We were not interested in becoming stars. We were part of the process… to make people into stars.

“If I had time between my 2-5 PM date and my 8-11 PM date, I’d always make it home to North Hollywood. I’d check up on my three kids,help them with their homework, and eat dinner with them and our live-in nanny/housekeeper, and maybe take a quick 15-minute nap. Then I was back to Hollywood for date number three.”

She said there was no racial prejudice among the musicians, although she and others would push reluctant record producers to hire more blacks when they knew they were right for the part.

Here’s the massive list of her credits. She played bass on 3/4s of the classic Beach Boys album Pet Sounds. Just a handful of Some of her guitar credits:
La Bamba – Ritchie Valens
Summertime – Sam Cooke
Johnny Angel – Shelley Fabares
Unchained Melody AND You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling – Righteous Brothers
The In Crowd – Dobie Gray
Surfin’ USA – the Beach Boys (electric rhythm guitar, Billy Strange on solo lead)

Here’s a 70-minute Carol Kaye: Session Legend Interview

For ABC Wednesday

Movie review: The Post

After the family got to see The Post at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany in January 2018, the Daughter asked, “What’s Watergate?” That’s because the end of the movie teases about yet another journalistic crusade for the Washington Post, running into federal governmental interference.

Except, the leads of the film realize, perhaps, more complicated. Editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) notes wistfully at one point that his close relationship with John F. Kennedy might have had him pulling a few punches.

Publisher Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) is even more socially involved with the powerful. Her father, Eugene Meyer, had passed the paper down to her husband Philip Graham. When Philip committed suicide in August 1963, sordid matter only peripherally addressed in the film, Kay became titular head of the paper.

Quite telling is one scene in which the men start talking politics, and the women, including Kay, go off to chat about other things. She was good friends with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood), who supported her emotionally after Philip’s death.

The rival New York Times reported a blockbuster story about an extensive, confidential report written by Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) about the United States’ failed policy in the war in Vietnam. Moreover, officials such as McNamara KNEW it was likely an unwinnable conflict. The federal government got a judge to enjoin the Times from publishing more stories.

When the Washington paper, thanks to some sleuthing by Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk), gets access to the reports dubbed the Pentagon Papers, is the DC paper bound by the Times’ legal constraints? And how will this affect the financial negotiations that Kay Graham is involved with?

The Post is a good solid film, directed by Steven Spielberg. It is unfair, though inevitable, to compare it with the Watergate-era film All the President’s Men, but one does. Jason Robards is a better Ben Bradlee than Hanks, which I have read Tom acknowledged. And it wasn’t as taut as Spotlight, the movie about the Catholic priest scandal in Boston.

Ultimately, the biggest arc takes place with Kay Graham, and a lot of that is Streep. I also loved Odenkirk.

Still, I got a little misty-eyed with joy when Meg Greenfield (Carrie Coon) reads Supreme Justice Hugo Black’s opinion in the case. The movie has seemed very current, hitting on both the attack on the media and the role of women in the workplace. A must-see for a political junkie like me.