July rambling #2: Fog of confusion

6 Ways Social Media Affects Our Mental Health

Poverty Is Criminalized, Wealth Is Immunized

10 Signs of Fascism

Accused Russian Spy’s Boy Toy Is a Serial Fraud

Fog of confusion

There Are 3 Main Theories That Explain His Approach to Putin and Russia—Which One Makes the Most Sense?

What changed in Helsinki

What if Russia took over the United States? We saw it in 1987

He doesn’t want skilled immigrants either

God, the regime, and the meaning of morality

She warned America that Russia hacked our voting rolls. Why is she in jail?

Dan Rather’s New Podcast

On Bullshifting

This conservative would take Obama back in a nanosecond

More Evidence That Half of Americans Are In or Near Poverty

What kind of justice would Brett Kavanaugh be?

Trevor Noah Responds to Criticism from the French Ambassador – Between The Scenes | The Daily Show

stating the obvious

What the Mystery of the Tick-Borne Meat Allergy Could Reveal

A Century of Global Warming, in Just 35 Seconds

A history of modern capitalism from the perspective of the straw. Seriously

Disney’s magic highway (1958)

Why Don’t More Men Take Their Wife’s Last Name?

Mr. Rogers was my actual neighbor. He was everything he was on TV and more

The Jackie Robinson of Rodeo

Jaquandor writes his Thoughts on THE LAST JEDI, a lot of them

Greg Burgas: tribute to Steve Ditko without using Spider-Man or Doctor Strange!

Pepe Le Pew

Mark Evanier: Yet Another Harlan Ellison Story, featuring Jack Kirby

Actress Mari Blanchard

Now I Know: The Crime Witness Who Missed the Point and Why Hunters Wear Orange and Full-Circle Wikipedia and The Man Who Was Buried in Paperwork and How a Failed Star Trek Episode Helped Save the Franchise and The Far Side Dinosaur

Internet wading: Lost and found


Warzone – Yoko Ono

Keep a Little Soul – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, previously unreleased

Sober – Demi Lovato

Let’s Impeach The President – Neil Young

Tango Seasons: Seasons Recomposed III – the Cappella Gabetta ensemble

Benadryl – Sofi Tukker

3 a.m. eternal – KLF

Phree Burd · Beth Patterson

50/50 -Garfunkel and Oates

Sleepwalk – Scott Bradlee

These Days – Erin Bode

Lost in the Supermarket – the Johnny Clash Project

Coverville 1224: You’ve Got To Hide Your Indie Hodgepodge and Requests Away and 1225: Rolling Stones Cover Story V

Karelia Suite – Sibelius

Sergei Lyapunov’s Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes

Forgetting- Philip Glass

Die Fledermaus overture by Johann Strauss

Car Phone – Sheeler and Sheeler

RSA – comedy duo The Fan Brigade (Have you signed in?)

Those Sesame Street psychedelic videos

Obladi, Oblada – Bing Crosby

D is for Death Cafe

At work, I took a question over the phone from one of our business advisors in the field, about a client wanting to become a funeral director. I asked the advisor if she was familiar with the Death Cafe, She was not.

“At a Death Cafe people drink tea, eat cake and discuss death. Our aim is to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives.”

While Death Café is NOT a grief support group, it does offer a safe space to openly discuss thoughts, feelings, and experiences regarding dying and death. Death Cafés help us move toward being “a society that mindfully accepts dying and death as a part of everyday life.”

As I’ve mentioned, I had attended the first Death Cafe event in Albany in January 2018, and while I had not had a chance to go to subsequent talks, I have been following the local group on Facebook.

As my work colleague discovered, I’ve been fascinated by the issues surrounding death, going back to the passing of my paternal grandmother in 1964 and maternal great aunt in 1966.

I was also influenced by a now-infamous individual, Bill Cosby, who, in one of his routines, told us that when one dies, a person could be rigged up so that each time a mourner passes his open coffin he sits up and says, “Don’t I look like myself?” It’s funnier in context.

Cosby indirectly got me to read, when I was a young teenager, the landmark book The American Way of Death, “an exposé of abuses in the funeral home industry in the United States, written by Jessica Mitford and published in 1963.”

The next gathering of Death Cafe Albany will be at The Chapel at Albany Rural Cemetery on Saturday, September 29th from 1-2:30 pm. Please bring your own mug. Tea and cold water will be provided.

Here are some links from the Death Cafe Albany site on Facebook:

Photos of love and loss

What is the Meaning of Death? This Man Has Some Words to Share with You

Green funeral

Mom died early Friday the 13th….finally

The Funeral and Cemetery Law Blog

The Death Café phenomenon

And here are some grief-related resources that someone sent me to share:

Preparing for the Death of a Terminally-Ill Loved One: What to Expect, and How to Help the Entire Family Move Forward

Symptoms of Major Depression and Complicated Grief

Guidelines for Helping Grieving Children

Coping With The Stigma of Grieving an Overdose Death

Grief & the Loss of a Pet

Grief At Work: A Guide For Employees and Managers

For ABC Wednesday

Movie review: Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace, which I saw by myself at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, is Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini’s screen adaptation of Peter Rock’s novel My Abandonment, directed by Granik, and produced by Rosellini.

Will (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie) live in the forests near Portland, OR. They are extremely resourceful, collecting rainwater to drink, using tools efficiently, and hiding away their presence when necessary. Chess is their game of preference.

When their life choice is crushed, they are put into social services system separately. Eventually, they are reunited and put into their new surroundings, but it is a challenge. Fitting into this iteration of the world seems beyond reach.

Leave No Trace is a beautiful, poignant American film. It is, I am told, quite different from Winter’s Bone (2010), Jennifer Lawrence’s breakout role in another Granik/ Rosellini collaboration. Thomasin McKenzie, who is being compared to Lawrence by critics, is an 18-year-old from an acting family in Wellington, New Zealand. Her real voice is very Kiwi, but there’s no evidence of that accent in the performance.

There is very good use of music in this movie, most notably Michael Hurley and Marisa Anderson singing O My Stars. And animals, at pivotal points in the story. Nothing in this seems extraneous. Every choice, including the lack of dialogue early on, seem deliberate methods of advancing the plot.

The film may lead the viewer to questions the nature of society and where the line is between the rights of the individual and the presumed common good. This is largely a gentle, non-violent, yet heartbreaking film which should be experienced, preferably in a theater rather than on a small screen.

Odd, but this is the second father-and-daughter saga I’ve seen this summer, after Hearts Go Loud, and I’m looking forward to yet another one very soon, Eighth Grade, the trailer for which I almost know by heart.

Music throwback: 1-2-3 by Len Barry

Len Barry was born Leonard Borisoff in Philadelphia on 12 June 1942. He was the lead singer of a group called the Dovells in the early 1960s, which had a couple Top 5 hits, before he went out on his own.

1-2-3 was Barry’s biggest solo hit, co-written by John Madara and David White, who helped pen songs such as You Don’t Own Me and At the Hop. It got to #2 on the November 20, 1965 Billboard pop charts, kept out of the #1 slot by I Hear a Symphony by the Supremes.

Speaking of whom, as Madera explains:

“In 1965… we were sued by Motown during the period when Berry Gordy was suing anyone whose records sounded like a Motown record… [he was] saying that ‘1-2-3’ was taken from a B-Side of a Supremes record called ‘Ask Any Girl.’ The only similarity between the two songs are the first three notes where the Supremes sang ‘Ask Any Girl’ and Lenny sang ‘1-2-3’…

“Motown kept us in court, tying up all of our writers’ royalties, production royalties, and publishing royalties, and threatened to sue us on the follow-up to ‘1-2-3,’ which was ‘Like A Baby.’ So after battling with them for two years and having a ton of legal bills, we made a settlement with Motown, giving them 15% of the writers’ and publishers’ share.

“We never heard ‘Ask Any Girl.’ The only influence for making ‘1-2-3’ was to make a ballad with a beat. And the sound of ‘1-2-3’ was definitely the sound of the era. Listen to ‘The In-Crowd’ – that’s not the Motown Sound, that’s the sound of the era – and ‘1-2-3′ definitely had a beat!”

I’ve heard both those songs for decades and still don’t hear the connection, except for those three notes, used in Till There Was You and countless other songs.

I was a sucker for numbers songs, so I used to replace the subsequent lyrics of 1-2-3 with even MORE numbers, up to 21; it DOES work:

1-2-3 (1-2-3)
Oh, how elementary (4-5-6-7-8-9)
it’s gonna be (10-11-12)
C’mon, let’s fall in love, (13-14-15)
it’s easy (16)
(It’s so easy)(17-18)
Like takin’ candy (19-20)
from a baby (21)

Listen to :

Bristol Stomp- the Dovells (#2 pop for two weeks, #7 soul in 1961)
You Can’t Sit Down – the Dovells (#3 pop, #10 soul in 1963)

Ask Any Girl – the Supremes (1964)

1-2-3 – Len Barry (#2 pop, despite Madera’s recollection, #11 soul, in 1965)
Like A Baby – Len Barry (#27 in 1966)

Chart action per Billboard. This post is the fault of Dustbury.

Movie review: Three Identical Strangers

The documentary Three Identical Strangers starts off with a fun re-enactment. In 1980, on Bobby Shafran’s first day at Sullivan County (NY) Community College, about 110 miles from Long Island, he’s being high-fived and hugged by people who are total strangers. This leads to the discovery that he has a twin brother, Eddy Galland.

David Kellman sees the news, recognizes himself in the pair, and soon there is a wonderful reunion 19 years later of the three boys born July 12, 1961. This is a story so absurd that, if it were a piece of fiction, it might well have been rejected as absurd. The brothers already had many of the same affectations; they all smoked Marlboro cigarettes, wrestled in high school, and claimed similar tastes in the kind of women they were attracted to.

As they started dressing alike, their infectious personalities and toothy grins made them talk show fodder. (I’m fairly sure I saw them on NBC’s TODAY show at the time). These boys instantly loved one another. Sometimes they could complete each other’s sentences. They enjoyed their modicum of fame. They even appeared in a cameo with Madonna in the movie Suddenly Seeking Susan.

Once the initial exhilaration passed, the adoptive parents started asking questions. To say more here would be giving away too much. I will say that the movie addresses the ethics of adoptions and asks, though not fully addresses – because it can’t really be answered – the question of nature versus nurture in childhood development.

Tim Wardle is a well-regarded British documentary director. He had a tough time negotiating through the sometimes raw emotions, not only the boys and their adoptive parents, but some of the more peripheral characters.

Of course, I needed to know how frequently one will find identical siblings. “Only about one in 250 births is identical twins, according to a 2003 study in the Journal of Biosocial Science. Identical triplets are even less common, occurring about 20 to 30 times per 1 million birth.”

The movie Three Identical Strangers would be well worth your while.

Hammering aluminum foil balls shiny – what?

This spring, the Daughter was in the kitchen, took a some aluminum foil, crumpled it up into a ball, and started hammering it until it became shiny.

For some of you “with it” folks, you would have understood what she was doing. My wife and I, on the other hand, were totally puzzled. Now the Daughter EXPECTED her mother NOT to know about what trendy things that going on in the world.

She was surprised and disappointed, though, that her father had no idea why she was pounding a foil ball. Because I was busy/tired, I didn’t even try to find out for well over a month.

One day while I was watching one of those four-minute vlogbrothers video, there was, on the sidebar, a 2015 TEDx Indianapolis video Paper towns and why learning is awesome by vlogbrother/author John Green.

“Some of us learn best in the classroom, and some of us … well, we don’t. But we still love to learn, to find out new things about the world and challenge our minds. We just need to find the right place to do it, and the right community to learn with.”

Somehow, it finally occurred to me that I could – [shock] – search “aluminum ball polishing” on YouTube. There are 17,300 videos, some with hundreds of thousands, or even millions of hits.

Mirror-Polished Japanese Foil Ball Challenge Crushed in a Hydraulic Press-What’s Inside? has over 18 million views. The article People in Japan Are Polishing Ordinary Aluminum Foil Balls Into Shiny Orbs explains the how of the phenomenon, if not the why. Still, I have learned something else new from my daughter. I’m not sure of its applicability.

Except that there’s something to be said for web searching. I don’t do it much without a specific purpose. Also, now that I DO know why the Daughter was hammering aluminum, I’m tentatively back in her good graces on the “cool dad” meter. It could change tomorrow, though, and it probably will.

Movie review: Sorry To Bother You

I’ve been trying, and failing, to figure out how to describe Sorry To Bother You, written and directed by Boots Riley in his feature film debut. When I was telling a colleague about it, I made the the sign and sound of my head exploding.

In a hyperbolic version of Oakland, CA, black telemarketer Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is working the phones. He and his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), a performance artist, are living in the garage of his uncle Sergio (Terry Crews), who is in serious arrears on the mortgage.

Thanks to advice from co-worker Langston (Danny Glover), Cash discovers the key to professional success and enters the secret world of “powercalling” that means big bucks. But where will he stand when his friends and co-workers such as Salvador (Jermaine Fowler), Squeeze (Steven Yeun), and Cassius’ girlfriend Detroit organize in protest of corporate oppression?

Sorry To Bother You also stars Armie Hammer and Omari Hardwick as guys behind that golden elevator, and Rosario Dawson, Patton Oswalt and David Cross, whom you only hear.

My friend Steve Bissette, who thought it was one of the best films of the year, described it as a “brilliant, ramshackle dystopian sf-comedy” that is “inventive, raucous, antic, and candidly bleak.” It was at times LOL funny. Yet it also felt like only a somewhat exaggerated state of the downside of American capitalism.

Critic Michael Phillips calls it “a provocative, serious, ridiculous, screwy concoction about whiteface, cultural code-switching, African-American identities and twisted new forms of wage slavery, beyond previously known ethical limits.” A couple other critics mentioned Mel Brooks, and I can relate to that sensibility here as well.

Ultimately, there is no way to explain this film further without massive spoilers. Sorry To Bother You is rated R for “pervasive language, some strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use,” most of which made sense in the arc of story line. I liked it a great deal.

A bit of trivia: “The movie was filmed in Oakland, California during the summer of 2017 concurrently with Blindspotting (2018).”

C is for color, or the lack thereof

I’m finding this a little weird. Some of the Daughter’s friends don’t believe I am black, or African-American if you prefer (I don’t), so they don’t think she’s part black.

Her first set of friends are first- or second-generation sub-Saharan Africans, so I sort of get that. But I’ve been getting the same message from her American black and even American white buddies.

In fact, we were all at a play at her school this spring, the fourth iteration of Lion King I’ve ever seen. My wife and I were sitting a dozen rows behind the Daughter and her friends. At the intermission, she and one of her friends came back to where I was seated. She specifically pointed to my hand, pointing out the variated skin tone. “See, he’s darker there. He just has this skin condition.”

As I’ve noted before, the condition is called vitiligo. Incidentally, Chuck linked to Why you don’t say what you shouldn’t say to people who look “different”, including those with vitiligo far more severe than mine. Also see vitiligo queen and Artist Creates Dolls With Vitiligo.

When I was diagnosed with it, I was extremely cautious about going outside, so paranoid about developing skin cancer. I was much paler than I am now. In fact, there were black and white pictures of me from 2010-2015 and I do not recognize myself.

My forehead is somewhat darker, but, as you may be able to see, the top of my head is still lighter, and thus much more vulnerable to sunburn or worse.

I got interested in the issue of skin color – well, always. My mom was very fair, my father much darker, and her family was not pleased when they were courting, I’ve been told. Colorism does exist in many cultures.

And when Roseanne Barr made an offensive tweet about former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, Barr’s defense was that she didn’t know Jarrett was black. Her racial identification was well-reported, but also obvious to my eye.

Of course, race in America has been complicated in what is now the United States only for about four centuries. This is interesting to me: They considered themselves white, but DNA tests told a more complex story.

For ABC Wednesday

Sister Leslie is home, having a birthday

I had this post about my sister Leslie converting to Roman Catholicism this year pretty well constructed in my mind. It’d have been how it was surprising it was – she did it as a secret from virtually everyone – but how it was fine by me.

Then she had this serious bicycle accident on June 4. To recap, she had been on vacation the previous month in Europe seeing her daughter Rebecca Jade sing on a cruise, but also spending a few days in Copenhagen, Denmark on her own.

She went back to San Diego and decided to start riding her bicycle partway to work. Since she is a safety official, she thought she ought to wear a helmet, so she bought one on June 1; wearing it almost certainly saved her life.

While I was in San Diego July 9-14, her friend Cathy managed to recover Leslie’s stuff that had been in storage at the first hospital she went to, Scripps Mercy. The distinct smell of dried blood remained on the helmet even days after being aired out. She’s keeping it, certainly not to wear again but possibly as a prop, along with her mangled bike, about the importance of bicycle safety.

Sister Leslie was semi-liberated from the SECOND hospital, Kaiser Permanente, on July 4, but she had a hospital bed in her bedroom at home because she still had a feeding tube attached. She was getting 1500 calories via it every night, but we – Leslie, her wonderful friend Leilani, the nutritionist, and i – agreed to start cutting back incrementally.

My primary task while I was out there was to get her from the bed, where she was not comfortable enough to sleep through the night, to a reclining chair. I became moderately competent at detaching and reattaching the “food” line when she needed to walk around.

I went to a couple of her doctors’ visits, notably to a heck and neck guy who removed the eight screws that had aligned her teeth to her jaw but were no longer necessary. Remember the worst pain you ever had at the dentist? Double that and add another 30%. That’s what the removal of the metal appeared to feel like, despite six shots of Novocaine, and I was in the room when it happened.

The good news is that, absent the metallic taste and feel in her mouth, she was more inclined to eat on her own. Then the feeding tube was removed on June 20. Leslie’s tribe of friends had wanted it gone much earlier, and I understood their feelings. I said, and she agreed, that it made her LOOK sick.

A couple of her friends asked me if her cognitive ability had been hampered. She took a test, and not only did she ace it, she explained the flaws in the testing instrument: “If Jill is taking off from her stockbroker job to raise the kids, what money are they living on?”

One of the words she’s had trouble remembering was “morphine,” which she was on during her first two weeks in hospital. It was probably just as well, as she had four broken ribs, but it really disoriented her. Except for that period, she was unfailing polite to everyone.

Given how she appeared in photos a month and a half ago, I note that she looks pretty darn good, i.e., more like herself. She has this little Harry Potter scar, and another hidden by her glasses.

The primary concern now is her left, dominant hand, which is still wrapped. Her friends need to exercise her fingers, lest they atrophy. She also likes lotion, especially between the fingers.

I’ve known sister Leslie longer than any living person and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to help her a little, even though I never did figure out all that long-term disability paperwork.

Movie review: Hearts Beat Loud

When the family went to see Hearts Beat Loud at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, I felt that the relationship between Frank, a widowed Brooklyn father (Nick Offerman) and his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) felt real, genuine. The departed mother figure is not forgotten even as they both negotiate changes in their lives.

Sam is getting ready to study pre-med on the opposite coast. Frank decides that’s just the right time for them to start a band, even as he gets ready to close his record store. The girl IS a talented singer-songwriter, and they’d jammed in the past, but that was strictly recreational.

Moreover, though Sam has started a new romance, this does not alter her plans to move away and find her own way. Frank secretly tries to keep the musical dream alive. Will “We Are Not A Band,” Sam’s declaration, become, well, a band? The film is a bit sentimental without being schmaltzy.

The director and co-writer is Brett Haley, whose worst reviewed film, the Hero (2017) was still 78% positive. I couldn’t help but wondering why Hearts Beat Loud reviewed far worse with audiences (72% positive) than with critics (90% positive). I have a theory, but it’s a bit of a spoiler.

I also resonated with the cause of of death of the mother which resonated in my life far more than it might have a couple months earlier.

The movie also stars Ted Danson as a bartender who is nothing like Sam Malone on the TV show Cheers; Toni Collette as the landlord at Frank’s store, and maybe more; Sasha Lane; and Blythe Danner as Frank’s mom. Danner also starred in Haley’s I’ll See You in My Dreams (2015), which I saw at the Spectrum, naturally, and mostly liked.

The Rogerebert.com page calls Hearts Beat Loud “warm and intimate.” I’ll accept that assessment.