Former Vice-President Al Gore turns 70

There’s a lot about Al Gore, 45th Vice-President of the United States, under Bill Clinton, that seems misunderstood to me.

It is suggested that he ran such a lousy campaign when he ran for President in 2000 that he lost his home state of Tennessee. But it is understood in some circles that
egregious intimidation and disenfranchisement of certain voters wasn’t limited to Florida.

The former college roommate of Tommy Lee Jones didn’t say he invented the Internet. The then-senator did create and introduce the High Performance Computing Act of 1991, which “led to the development of the National Information Infrastructure and the funding of the National Research and Education Network (NREN).

“The act built on prior US efforts of developing a national networking infrastructure, starting with the ARPANET in the 1960s, and the funding of the National Science Foundation Network (NSFnet) in the 1980s. The renewed effort became known in popular language as building the Information superhighway.”

“A spirited defense of Gore’s statement penned by Internet pioneers Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf (the latter often referred to as the ‘father of the Internet’) in 2000 noted that ‘Al Gore was the first political leader to recognize the importance of the Internet and to promote and support its development’ and that ‘No other elected official, to our knowledge, has made a greater contribution [to the Internet] over a longer period of time.'”

Then there was the kiss of his wife Tipper at the 2000 Democratic national convention. From all reports he wasn’t the wooden figure he had been portrayed.

“Claire Shipman of NBC speculated… the kiss sent a message. It signaled that Al Gore (unlike some presidents we know) is a faithful husband. Excellent point; imagine what would have happened if the Clintons had dared such a scene. Though some viewers were charmed by the Gore kiss and others squirmed, no one doubted that it was based on reality. There you have what really makes it seem odd. The kiss struck everyone as a political gesture based on truth, and nothing is rarer than that.”

Then there’s his wonky slide show presentation An Inconvenient Truth, which won the Academy Award in 2007 as Best Documentary, Feature.

Did any of this actually ‘save the world?’ “OK, you got us. Ten years after the movie’s release, climate change is still a growing threat and a polarizing issue, with record-breaking heat unable to stop skeptics from tossing snowballs on the Senate floor.

“But we’re also seeing corporate, political, and societal mobilization against the crisis on a scale that would have been hard to imagine 10 years ago, and there’s no question the film played a big part in getting us there.”

As Albert Arnold Gore Jr. said recently, “In 2017, Mother Nature certainly got our attention with a series of devastating extreme weather events. Our thoughts continue to be with the people of the US Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico, and California as they recover from the floods, powerful hurricanes, and wildfires made ever-more severe by our warming world.”

Christ Lag in Todesbanden @FPC 1st Friday

Photo by David Hinchen

Friday, April 6 at 5:30 PM – 8 PM. Music starts at 6 pm (despite what the poster says)

First Presbyterian Church of Albany
362 State St at the corner of Willett St
across from Washington Park
Albany, New York 12210

In concert:



In the gallery:





Gallery opens at 5:30 pm, concert starts at 6:00 pm

This is a free and family-friendly event.

March rambling #2: librocubicularist

The invasion of Iraq more than a US “blunder,” or “colossal mistake;” it was a crime

The Return of the Chicken Hawks

John Bolton Paid Cambridge Analytica $1.2 Million to Make Americans ‘More Militaristic’

Scientific American: Why Are White Men Stockpiling Guns?

Give Teachers Guns, And More Black Children Will Die

How baby-toting, robed-and-hooded moms paved the way for today’s white hate groups

Surveillance footage shows the Las Vegas gunman’s methodical steps in the days just before the massacre

Obamas to Parkland students: “You’ve helped awaken the conscience of the nation”

I Tried to Befriend Nikolas Cruz; he Still Killed My Friends

Don Blankenship, the worst man in America, is running for Senate

“Death Penalty for Drug Dealers” Proposal Reeks of Eugenics

Non-disclosure agreements for White House staff? Not so fast

Why the Stormy Daniels story matters – it’s not about sex, it’s about the abuse of power

Austin Goolsbee says the tariffs are like his Aunt Trina’s lasagna

After the Storm – post-hurricanes Irma and Maria in the U.S. Virgin Islands last fall, some people showed up and stayed

New York City exporting homeless families to other parts of the state, including my hometown of Binghamton

Some millennials aren’t saving for retirement because they don’t think capitalism will exist by then

Living like I’m dying

NY Mets hitter Rusty Staub dies at 73

Kimmel Produces PSA For Melania’s ‘Cyberbullying’ Campaign

How to Decipher a Sarah Huckabee Sanders Press Conference

Librocubicularist (noun; plural: librocubicularists) (rare) A person who reads in bed

*Bill Messner-Loebs, comic book artist worked on Wonder Woman and Thor, now homeless

*Every Wes Anderson Movie, Ranked Worst to Best

Lois Weber, early 20th-century filmmaker

Sophia Jex-Blake, part of the Edinburgh Seven who campaigned for the right of women to study medicine

Steven Spielberg Doesn’t Think Netflix Movies Should Qualify for Oscars

Now I Know: How Chairman Mao Turned Freedom into Oppression and How Hitchcock Kept Psycho a Secret and How a Nearly-Perfect Crime Became Perfect Again and When the Driver Walks Away and Why Tennis Balls Are Yellow and Why You Shouldn’t Eat Those “Do Not Eat” Packets

Lois Lane, The Pulitzer Committee Wants Their Prizes Back

A video essay about cartoon sound effects

“73 Questions” video – Christine Pedi as Liza


Three Manhattan Bridges, for Piano and Orchestra: I. George Washington Bridge – Michael Torke, composer; Albany Symphony Orchestra, David Alan Miller, conductor; Joyce Yang – piano; Torke, Miller, Yang discuss the work

Pluto – King of the Underworld (Hades) – Taimane

Chicken Shack Boogie – Amos Milburn

Snake Farm – Ray Wylie Hubbard

Hendrix doing Hendrix on an acoustic guitar

5 O’Clock World – the Vogues, with more of their songs

Long Time Gone -Tom Jones & Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Coverville 1210: Aerosmith Cover Story II

WKRP in Cincinnati new home recordings and end theme lyrics

TV Theme Song medley – Jimmy Fallon & Will Smith

Stream a 346-Hour Chronological Playlist of Live Grateful Dead Performances (1966-1995)

DJT and I have the same favorite song

The curiously elusive date of Bach’s birthday

50 years ago: the beginning of political activism

When I was 15, I was a conventionally conservative kid, fueled by my religion and small city roots. I had been in a couple civil rights marches but that was a topic that affected me personally.

I was preternaturally aware of the political issues, reading the op-ed pages of both the morning Sun-Bulletin and the Evening Press. Chet Huntley and David Brinkley were on the NBC news and Walter Cronkite was over on CBS, and I watched one network or the other since I was 11.

I entered Binghamton Central High in February 1968 and was asked early on by someone on the school newspaper, the Panorama News, who I supported for President. Oddly, I hadn’t given it much thought. I opted for Richard Nixon, noting that he had eight years as Vice-President.

By the time this was published, two or three weeks later, I was MORTIFIED by my response. I was going through…something. It may have been the influence of new friends or Cronkite’s assessment of the Vietnam war on February 27 as a likely stalemate.

On March 12, Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-MN) received 42% of the vote in the Democratic primary in New Hampshire against a sitting President, Lyndon Baines Johnson. I was utterly fascinated by this turn of events.

Still, I was not prepared when Johnson invoked the pledge in his March 31 national address, announcing, “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.” I had developed mixed feelings about LBJ. Great on civil rights, but like many, I was doubting the point of the war in southeast Asia.

So I’m pleased that my daughter, at an age younger than I was, is feeling all riled up about some issues in her world, more about which I’ll mention in due time. I think the Resistance play she was in this month at church was really in her emotional wheelhouse.

Music throwback: requiems for Holy week

Requiem. Orozco, José Clemente: Mexican, 1883 – 1949

There was a pastor of my church who considered himself a Lenten person, rather than an Easter person. I totally got it. And requiems are the music I most associate with the period between Mardi Gras and Easter, arguably more interesting that the tunes associated with the culmination of the season.

Maybe it’s because it’s the music I have sung personally most often that it resonates so. Or, to quote Elton John yet again, Sad songs say so much.

I’ve only sung one movement of A German Requiem by Johannes Brahms (1833–1897), and that in English, but several times during services. But I’ve sung the requiems by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) in the mid-1990s, Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924) in 2000 and 2005, Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) in 2008, and John Rutter (1945- ) in the mid-1990s. the ones from this century I have recording of.

The famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) requiem I’ve sung thrice, once in 1985, once in the mid-1990s, and most recently on September 11, 2002, outdoors on a windy day, the only time I’ve ever worn a tuxedo to work.

There’s usually a pattern, starting with the introit:
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine:
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Kyrie, eleison.
Christe, eleison.
Kyrie, eleison.

It ends with In paradisum deducant te Angeli -May the angels lead you into paradise.

Not every requiem uses every element, or exactly the same text, but they are quite similar.

Listen to:

How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place (from A German Requiem by Brahms) – Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra

Verdi: Requiem, UC Davis Symphony Orchestra and University Chorus

Faure: Requiem Opus 48, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus

Durufle: Requiem, Opus 9, Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Rutter Requiem, Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, and members of the City of London Sinfonia

Mozart – Requiem, Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields

L is for Lodge’s, Albany’s oldest department store

Lodge’s, or more formally, B. Lodge & Co., was founded in downtown Albany, NY in 1867, a couple years after the end of the American Civil War. When I stopped working downtown, and our office moved out to Corporate (frickin’) Woods in 2006, one of the things I wrote was that I would miss is that eclectic department store, and I did.

It is the place where one can find school uniforms and medical scrubs. One Yelp review notes: “They mainly sell the essentials here, nothing particularly fancy, ” and that is quite true. Another writes: “The staff is almost unerringly helpful and knowledgeable.” And the prices are quite reasonable.

A 2009 piece in All Over Albany described the place as “eclectic” and that’s certainly the case. It’s open Monday – Saturday, 8:50 a.m. to 5:25 p.m. – who DOES that? and is closed Sundays.

You can read its extensive history here, but basically, it has been at four different locations, all but one on North Pearl Street, changing as a result of business expansions or a devastating 1952 fire, after which it moved to its current location at 75 N. Pearl.

The Lodges sold the business in 1960 to the Ginsburgs. Jack and Elaine Yonally bought it in 1995; as of 2011, it’s now owned by their children, Mark Yonally and Sharon Freddoso.

The December 2017 Times Union article about the store notes: “Lodge’s does not sell any items online, does not have a business Instagram or Twitter account and first added a website several years ago.” It does have a Facebook page.

Now that I’ve been back working downtown since 2015, I’m happy to be able to shop at Lodge’s again. It’s usually on Tuesdays, since they give a senior citizen discount then. Mark and Sharon and some of their other employees know me by sight, if not by name.

I’ve purchased shirts, pants, socks, a belt, winter gloves, and cheap sunglasses in the past few months. As someone who loathes shopping generally, it’s my favorite place to buy clothes.

I have to think that Barrington Lodge and his two sons, Charles and William, would be pleased that their family business has celebrated its sesquicentennial.

For ABC Wednesday

The Lydster: worrying about the Daughter

When I told someone that my daughter was sick in November, for the third month in a row, I was asked, “Am I worried about her?” The answer was, “No, not really.”

In that iteration, it was the same bug that her mother had, only my wife had it a couple days earlier. And other people in church and elsewhere in my circle experienced the same symptoms in the week or two before.

I DID hope that my wife had recovered enough. I was away in Syracuse and Binghamton so couldn’t tend to them.

Now, I WAS worried in October when the treatment of what turned out to be the Daughter’s slowly-developing asthma attack. I felt it was misdiagnosed early, and I felt helpless.

The Daughter wanted to go to the Donald Trump rally in April 2016 in Albany. I said no, not because of his politics – I was rather interested in seeing the phenomenon in person myself – but because I was worried that she (or I) might have been attacked, as some people had been in other venues.

I’m told that some white people see black young people as being older than they are. See, for example, 12-year-old Tamir Rice of Cleveland, who was reported as a man with a gun and ended up dead by police. So I figured my daughter, who was 5’8″ at the time might have been seen, for some reason, as antagonistic to some Trump supporters, and I wasn’t willing to risk it.

Instead, we went to the Bernie Sanders rally that day, and though we didn’t get in, he came outside to give his 7-minute stump speech, one of the highlights of her past year.

Of course, I worry about teenage boys, just by virtue of their boyness. Teenage boys are annoying creatures. Having been one myself, I can testify that this is true.

A buddy of mine wrote about worrying, and I said that it is highly overrated. But worrying about the Daughter just comes with the territory.

Steven Tyler of Aerosmith turns 70

Steven Tyler in the middle

I own two greatest hits albums by Aerosmith. The first collection, unimaginatively called Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits, came out in 1980, and never got above #53 on the Billboard album charts. But it was a steady product, with over 10 million copies sold. I really like it.

The second, Big Ones, came out in 1994, and contains all those 1980s hits, many of which left me cold. It got to #6, and has sold more than four million copies.

Steven Tyler is the lead singer of Aerosmith. He was raised by a classical musician and a secretary, and began his musical career as a drummer in bands as early as 1964.

Meanwhile, guitarist Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton started in a band called the Jam Band, eventually operating out of Boston. They met Joey Kramer, a drummer from Yonkers, NY, who dropped out of Berklee College of Music to join the Jam Band.

“Kramer knew Tyler and had always hoped to play in a band with him.” After the Jam Band and Tyler’s band Chain Reaction played the same gig in 1970, Tyler “wanted to combine the two bands” but “only if he could be frontman and lead vocalist,” which was agreed upon.

Rhythm guitarist Ray Tabano joined what was by then called Aerosmith, but was replaced by Ray Whitford, another Berklee dropout. The band had a “temporary” change of personnel from July 1979 to April 1984, but has otherwise stayed the same.

What really relaunched their career were two things: Tyler and Perry appearing on Run–D.M.C.’s cover of Walk This Way, “a track blending rock and roll with hip hop”; and Tyler getting sober.

Steven Tyler has a famous actress daughter, Liv, who thought Todd Rundgrun was her dad early on.

“Aerosmith is the best-selling American hard rock band of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide, including over 70 million records in the United States alone… The band has scored 21 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100… They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001… In 2013, the band’s principal songwriters, Tyler and Perry, were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.”

Listen to:

Dream On – #59 in 1973, but a longer version went to #6 in 1976, a song “inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for being one of the most influential songs in the development of rock”

Sweet Emotion, #36 in 1975

Walk This Way, #10 in 1977

Walk This Way – Run- D.M.C., #4 pop, #8 R&B in 1986

Music throwback: The Rite of Spring

In November 2017, my wife and I were given tickets to the Albany Symphony Orchestra by friends who couldn’t use them. Coincidentally, another couple of friends were also given tickets.

The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky was the piece played in the second half of the program. I used to play this music every vernal equinox. I fell out of the habit , but I don’t know why, as it’s one of my favorite pieces.

Andrew Appel’s review in the 20 November Times Union describes it well: “it requires that we listen to music in a way not demanded by any other work… Brutal energy, fragmented melodies, repeated rhythmical figures that are hard to define but impossible to ignore…”

Well, if you put it like THAT, no wonder The Rite of Spring incited a riot in a Paris theater premiere of the ballet in 1913.

“The tumult began not long after the ballet’s opening notes — a meandering and eerily high-pitched bassoon solo that elicited laughter and derision from many in the audience. The jeers became louder as the orchestra progressed into more cacophonous territory, with its pounding percussion and jarring rhythms escalating in tandem with the tensions inside the recently opened Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.”

As often as I listen to CDs and LPs and YouTube videos, there is something especially satisfying about hearing music in person. Even when a piece is familiar, and theoretically boring in the recording – think Ravel’s Bolero, which we also heard at the ASO a few seasons ago – it can really become vibrant in the live setting. After the performance of the Rite of Spring, conductor David Alan Miller rightly required about three-quarters of the orchestra, section by section, to take a bow.

So I loved it, my wife loved it. The guy who had gotten one of the other tickets did NOT love it, but I’m sure he did not riot.

Listen to The Rite of Spring:

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yoel Levi

London Symphony Orchestra – Leonard Bernstein, conductor

BBC Proms 2013 – François-Xavier Roth conducts, after 6-minute introduction

Smart black kids and “acting white”

An article in Vox in 2017 discussed The myth about smart black kids and “acting white” that won’t die, declared it debunked, and that’s that, I guess.

“The ‘acting white’ theory — the idea that African-American kids underachieve academically because they and their peers associate being smart with acting white, and because they’re afraid they’ll be shunned — was born in the 1980s.”

I never “dumbed myself down” when I was a kid in the 1960s. But I did feel that, for a variety of reasons, that I was thought to be “acting white.” Part of it I credit with my father, who, though barely a high school graduate, did not like the use of ebonics, for himself and certainly not for his children.

So I have been told I was “talking white,” which, not incidentally, was generally NOT a compliment. My standard retort that since I’m black, and I’m talking, that I must be “talking black” generally did not fly.

Even as an adult, that’s been an issue. I remember those first six years in my current job, when we were serving a national audience with our research. I talked to people on the phone about their library reference requests. When I went to the annual conference, I’d see in the faces of white people, “He’s black?” and in the smiles of African-Americans, “He’s black!”

When I was in 11th or 12th grade in high school, I attended a few days of a Red Cross training session in Manlius, NY, near Syracuse. I had a lovely time. I even got a standing ovation after I performed on stage. People expected me to sing, I gather, but I played blues on my comb for a couple minutes.

There was a group picture (above), and I got a bunch of people sign the back of my copy. One black girl, who I liked well enough, wrote, “You’re a nice guy, but you’re no soul brother.”

If I had been punched in the gut, it wouldn’t have hurt nearly so much. Not only had people who had known me for a while decided I wasn’t “black enough,” someone I knew for less than a week came to the same damn conclusion! Hell, thinking about it now, it STILL stings a little.

I cried, not just at the time, but for weeks – months? – afterward. It took a good long while to conclude, essentially, that they – whoever – can go sod off.

So I never slacked off academically because of being too… whatever. I didn’t know how to be someone else. But I can understand how it could play out that way for others.