September rambling #2: Land of Confusion

The republic for which it stands

The NRA’s Catch-22 for Black Men Shot by Police

US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Demands Taxpayer Money For Religious Schools

The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans Living Paycheck to Paycheck

10 Years After: The Post-Recovery Economy

Stephen Colbert Made DJT’s Hurricane Response Into A Children’s Book

Sexual assault survivors tell ‘why I didn’t report’

Stop Making Victims of Sexual Assault into Martyrs for Virginity

We Need to Rethink Our Ideas About Aging

The Plot to Subvert an Election – Unraveling the Russia Story So Far

China is building a digital dictatorship to exert control over its 1.4 billion citizens. For some, ‘social credit’ will bring privileges — for others, punishment

John Oliver: Facebook’s global expansion has been linked to political turmoil overseas, so maybe their ads should focus less on how they “connect the world” and more on why connecting people isn’t always the best idea.

Doug Ford Cancelled Ontario’s Basic Income Pilot Experiment Because It Was Working

How Golf Digest helped free a golf-course artist imprisoned 27 years for a murder he didn’t commit

Arizona’s Gosar family asks voters NOT to re-elect their brother to Congress

Noor Inayat Khan, one of the bravest women of World War II

RIP Thad Mumford, MASH writer and former Yankees batboy

R.I.P. Norm Breyfogle, 1960-2018, Batman artist

Chevy Chase can’t change

The 2018 Winners of the Ig(R) Nobel Prize

You Can’t See ‘Round Corners: The Vietnam War as a rare TV miniseries

Two People with Paralysis Walk Again Using an Implanted Device

In Saratoga Springs, NY! This Enormous Warehouse Of Used Books In New York Will Be Your New Favorite Destination

Interview with Dick Van Dyke at 2017 Salt Lake City Comic-Con (30 min)

What’s coming to Broadway in the coming months

Premiere night of The Minor League Mecca, the Albany Patroons documentary

The million-dollar brownstone that no one owned​

Bruef slide show on the history of the Horn & Hardart Automats

Now I Know: Why the Big Bad Wolf Wouldn’t be a Good Baseball Player and Why You Shouldn’t Pass Gas Near a West Virginia Police Office and When Flying First Class Isn’t Good Enough and How Long It Takes to Find a Needle in a Haystack

The history of cookies as explained by the world’s foremost authority on the subject

Would-be robber loses trousers

MUSIC

Fugue on “Donald Trump is a wanker” based on Seven-Man Army – White Stripes. Plus So You Want to Write a Fugue? – Glenn Gould

René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War – Paul Simon (Live from Copenhagen); Feeling Lost with Paul Simon One Last Time

Land of Confusion – Hidden Citizens

Africa -Weezer (starring Weird Al Yankovic)

Estancia, by a composer named Alberto Ginastera

Good Times – Pheobe Snow

Ravel Left Hand Piano Concerto played by Yuja Wang

Overture to The Jolly Robbers -von Suppé

Bonehemian Rhapsody – 28-Trombone Collaboration! (from ITF 2018!)

Gangsta’s Paradise – Jain

Marry An Ugly Woman – Rafael de Leon (Roaring Lion)

Weekend Diversion: Coldplay

How big was Helen Shapiro? The Beatles opened for her in 1963

Paul McCartney: Lands No. 1 Album for First Time in 36 Years and Answers the Web’s Most Searched Questions and Talks to Howard Stern and at the Kennedy Center Honors (2012)

Jefferson Airplane Co-Founder Marty Balin Dead at 76

Music throwback: Rock the Casbah/Mustapha Dance

super black market clashAlthough I was a big fan of the eclectic and significant English group The Clash, I must admit the band was not a massive commercial entity. The group, consisting of vocalist/guitarist John Meilor, a/k/a Joe Strummer (d. 2002); Mick Jones on lead guitar; Paul Simonon on bass; and Nicky “Topper” Headon on drums, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.

Their first two albums don’t even reach the top 100 in the United States. The two-LP London Calling (1980) was their breakthrough collection, with quite a few songs getting airplay on my favorite Albany radio station at the time, WQBK-FM, Q104. That was followed by a triple album, Sandinista! (1981) that also did reasonably well.

Additionally, they put out various other packages including several non-LP singles, and Black Market Clash (1980), a 10″ album, with dub versions of some songs.

The last album of new Clash music I bought, and the last vinyl, was Combat Rock (1982). It was the group’s most successful album, getting to #7, and probably my least favorite. It did, however, contain two of their charting singles, Should I Stay or Should I Go, and Rock the Casbah.

I must have also purchased around that time an single or EP that contained a dub version of Rock the Casbah called Mustapha Dance, with fewer vocals and a more prominent bass line.

Super Black Market Clash was a compilation album released in 1993 “that contains B-sides and rare tracks not available on their studio albums. It is a repackaging of the original 1980 Black Market Clash,” with 20 songs rather than nine.

Listen to the Clash:

Train in Vain (Stand by Me), #23 in 1980, from London Calling, though it was recorded so late that it didn’t make the album liner notes

Time is Tight from Black Market Clash (1980)

Should I Stay or Should I Go, #45 in 1982 and #50 in 1983

Rock the Casbah, #8 in 1983

Mustapha Dance, from Super Black Market Clash (1993)

Artistic intent versus audience interpretation

One of my favorite Pete Townsend solo tracks is Let My Love Open the Door from his 1980 album Empty Glass. I recall that there was some conversation about whether the song was religious in nature, as Townsend occasionally hinted. or a romantic song.

Here’s the thing, though: it doesn’t matter. Whatever the artist’s vision of the work, how the audience perceives it will usually carry the day.

So I found the whole rather vigorous discussion of whether Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street were gay – it made several mainstream news stories – as rather beside the point. As Muppeteers Frank Oz and the late Jim Henson came up with them, the characters reflected their friendship.

When Sesame Street scriptwriter Mark Saltzman noted in an interview that he wrote Bert and Ernie with his longterm relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman, that was his process. He clarified to the New York Times, “As a writer, you just bring what you know into your work. Somehow, in the uproar, that turned into Bert and Ernie being gay. There is a difference.”

The Sesame Street folk responded, initially awkwardly. Ultimately, the audience decides what it chooses to believe.

Another showbiz buzz this month involved Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens found working at a Trader Joe’s market. Beyond the pushback against some trying to shame him is a more basic reality; you don’t always get that next job in the entertainment world.

It’s not for me to judge if GoodFellas costar Ray Liotta does a commercial for Chantix, an anti-smoking drug. He’s a working actor, but we’re not paying his bills. If he needs the money or loves the product or both, so be it.

Working actress Blythe Danner is still in those ads for Prolia, an injection to fight osteoporosis. Ditto for her.

That said, I STILL wish the flood of pharmaceutical ads would end in the US. But we’re quite unlikely to see that genie put back into the bottle.

Enjoying Aussie interaction: sports edition

Making only my second trip to the new Yankee Stadium, Marconi and I took Metro North from Poughkeepsie (halfway between Albany and NYC) to see the New York Yankees take on the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, September 15, 2018. I’ve only known him since September 12, 1971, so not very long.

In the bottom of the 2nd, the two empty seats on the aisle nearest us were filled by this young couple from Australia, in the City for a couple weeks. She was wearing a borrowed Blue Jays top, while he was nominally a Yankees fan.

Soon after they arrived, the Yankees starting pitcher, the usually reliable CC Sabathia, had given up five runs in only 2 1/3 innings, including two solo home runs by right fielder Randal Grichuk. CC was taken out of the game.

Meanwhile, the Yankees had opportunities to score, twice with the bases loaded, and once with runs on second and third base, but failed to do so. This really deflated the home team crowd.

We, mostly I, since I was closer, answered some of the idiosyncrasies of the game, such as the foul ball rule and how the defensive positions are numbered.

Yankee shortstop Didi Gregorius hit a solo homer in the bottom of the 6th, and the female Aussie frowned. “You still have a big lead.” I also coaxed her into acknowledging that he had made a great basket catch over second base.

The Blue Jays lead grew to 8-1 in the top of the 7th when Tommy Kahnle from Albany County, NY, the fourth of seven Yankee pitchers, gave up three runs in only 2/3 of an inning. Toronto had the bases loaded and no outs, and the Aussie guy was savvy enough to know that the situation was still perilous for the Yankees even when the lead runner was thrown out at the plate.

In in the bottom of the 7th, designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton (I explained the DH) and Gregorious hit solo homers, and pinch hitter Miguel Andújar hit a grand slam. Suddenly Toronto was up by only 8-7, and the Aussie woman fretted. But that’s the way the game turned out.

The scoreboard displayed narratives of what the batters had done earlier in the game. But in the latter stages, it showed scorecard shorthand. F7 meant flying out to the left fielder. The Aussie guy was bemused to know that a forward K meant struck out swinging while a backward K meant struck out looking.

“How do you KNOW these things?” he asked. “I’ve been only going to games since I was eight.” “So 20 years.” HA! A splendid time was had by Aussies and at least these two Americans.

Oh, I was in Washington, DC at the beginning of September. I was starving one muggy evening, and I ended up at a tavern/restaurant. I sat at the bar, got a burger and a drink, and had a nice conversation with an Aussie woman currently working in the US. She mostly bemoaned the leadership of her home country and her current one as we watched US Open tennis on TV.

Lydster: Cursive writing, analog clocks

The Daughter was practicing her signature, using cursive writing, earlier this year. A couple generations ago, this wouldn’t have even warranted a mention.

Now there’s a great debate regarding the necessity and efficacy of cursive writing. In some circles, it is now considered a form of creativity, art, if you will, and I think the Daughter was attracted to it at that level.

It is also true that, for some time, she was having difficulty READING cursive, notes from her grandparents, for instance. To the degree that she can, it’s like learning a foreign language. I imagine the folks who design logos are cognizant of that trend.

One of the “cons” of cursive listed: “It’s gone the way of the typewriter.” Of course, the typewriter is making a comeback.

Is the loss of cursive a “dumbing-down of our education system” or is teaching it time wasted? As one who thinks that quicker is not necessarily better, I believe that since it appears to be good for the brain, it should be taught.

“Since it engages both the right and left hemispheres of the brain, it can actually aid in reading comprehension, idea generation, spelling, brain development and memory.”

Even thirty years ago, I realized some ten-year-old children could not read an analog clock. The Daughter was learning in second or third grade, but I know I understood it before I left kindergarten, and I might have known it earlier.

The announcement that analog clocks are disappearing from UK schools caused similar conflict, with some bemoaning it, others suggesting that we can’t read a sundial either, times change, etc.

I suppose I like the analog clock – a retronym, BTW – precisely because it’s imprecise. A quarter to three might be 2:44 or 2:46, and unless you’re trying to catch a train or something, it matters little.

If I had to keep one or the other, it would be cursive writing. Yes, toddlers might have computers to type on, but there’s value to the hands-on craft.

Virginia Eubanks on Automating Inequality October 2

The Author Talk for Tuesday, October 2 at the Albany Public Library will be by Virginia Eubanks. She will be talking about In Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor. Eubanks “ably demonstrates why everyone should be very, very worried about the present and future of poverty management,” according to NY Daily News.

Here’s the book blurb:
Since the dawn of the digital age, decision-making in finance, employment, politics, health and human services has undergone revolutionary change. Today, automated systems–rather than humans–control which neighborhoods get policed, which families attain needed resources, and who is investigated for fraud. While we all live under this new regime of data, the most invasive and punitive systems are aimed at the poor.

Automating Inequality systematically investigates the impacts of data mining, policy algorithms, and predictive risk models on poor and working-class people in America. The book is full of heart-wrenching and eye-opening stories, from a woman in Indiana whose benefits are literally cut off as she lays dying to a family in Pennsylvania in daily fear of losing their daughter because they fit a certain statistical profile.

Check out the New York Times Review of the book; a story about the book on NPR All Things Considered; an interview with Virginia on PBS’s “The Open Mind”; and the All Over Albany story from book launch in Troy.

Virginia Eubanks is an associate professor of political science at the University at Albany who has worked in community technology and economic justice for 20 years. She is also the author of Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age; and co-editor, with Alethia Jones, of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith.

Her writing about technology and social justice has appeared in The American Prospect, The Nation, Harper’s and Wired. For two decades, Eubanks has worked in community technology and economic justice movements. Today, she is a founding member of the Our Data Bodies Project and a Fellow at New America. She lives in Troy, NY.

Author talks and book reviews are sponsored by the Friends of the Albany Public Library every Tuesday that the library is open at the Washington Avenue branch of the APL, 162 Washington Avenue, in the main auditorium at noon.

Les Green, Pop, ancestry, DNA, anger

On the same day this month, I read two oddly similar stores. One was in the Boston Globe: “DNA test tells man the bittersweet truth: His father was a Catholic priest.” The other was a piece by Times Union blogger Robert S. Hoffman When your dad is not your father.

And it got me to thinking, again, about the parents of my father, Les Green. Something in the Globe story stuck out: “For decades, James C. Graham was tormented by a simple, but profound question: Why did his father seem to dislike him so much? The South Carolina man confirmed the bittersweet truth: The man who raised him wasn’t his father at all.”

My father seemed to have at least a mild antipathy his stepfather, for the man we all called Pop, McKinley Green. Clearly, he knew Pop wasn’t his biological father, and that might have been the source of his distress. Or maybe it was Pop’s family, who, even after Mac died in 1980, said disparaging things – “bastard son” – about my father within his earshot.

Regardless, I’m still hoping that DNA will someday help me to identify the identity of my biological grandfather. There are at least five people in Ancestry that are noted as my second or third cousins. One is cousin Lisa, a second cousin on my maternal grandmother’s side. And just recently, there’s a guy named Charles with a very distinct surname, clearly a third cousin on my paternal grandmother’s side.

But what of the other three, two of which are closely related to each other as well as to me? One has a genealogy with 125 names and 10 distinct surnames, none of which are familiar. He’s very African, with lineage almost exclusively from Ivory Coast/Ghana, Nigeria, and Mali.

I should address a question from my friend Carol about Ancestry.com: “I’m concerned about the data storage and privacy issues. Have you researched that at all?” Well, yes, they do, though participants can contribute either pseudonymously or with real names. It is the open sharing of information that the best information will arise.

This is a picture of my dad at the ASBDC conference in Savannah, possibly the best time I ever had with him. It would be Les Green’s 92nd birthday tomorrow. I’ll figure this genealogy stuff out eventually.

L is for the immortal Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks was a poor, young, black mother of five in rural Virginia. She was diagnosed at Johns Hopkins Hospital with cervical cancer. Dr. George Gey soon discovered “that Mrs. Lacks’ cells were unlike any of the others he had ever seen: where other cells would die, [her] cells doubled every 20 to 24 hours.”

This NPR story explains: “For the past 60 years Lacks’ cells have been cultured and used in experiments ranging from determining the long-term effects of radiation to testing the live polio vaccine. Her cells were commercialized and have generated millions of dollars in profit for the medical researchers who patented her tissue.”

These incredible cells— nicknamed “HeLa” cells, from the first two letters of her first and last names — “are used to study the effects of toxins, drugs, hormones, and viruses on the growth of cancer cells without experimenting on humans. They have been used… to study the human genome, to learn more about how viruses work.”

Rebecca Skloot is the author of the 2010 book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. She writes about the African-American woman who passed away on October 4, 1951, at the age of 31. Yet her cancer cells are… one of the most important cell lines in medical research.

But Skloot also addresses “the collision between ethics, race, and medicine,” especially for Henrietta’s family, who, at the time of the book’s publication, could not afford health insurance. The writer founded The Henrietta Lacks Foundation in 2010, which has awarded more than 50 grants to many qualifying members of Henrietta Lacks’ immediate family for “health care and dental assistance, tuition and books, job training…” It has “also awarded education grants to the family members of the survivors of the Tuskegee Syphilis Studies.”

And in June of 2018: “A lawyer representing the eldest son and two grandsons of Henrietta Lacks, whose ‘immortal cells’ have been the subject of a best-selling book, a TV movie, a family feud, cutting-edge medical research, and a multibillion-dollar biotech industry, announced … that she plans to file a petition seeking ‘guardianship’ of the cells.

“The question we are dealing with is ‘Can the cells sue for mistreatment, misappropriation, theft and for the profits earned without their consent?'”

For ABC Wednesday

Ask Roger Anything: Bernard Webb edition

questionAbout twice a month, I link to a bunch of articles. I’ve SAID that I would say more about them if I had enough time, but that’s not entirely true.

When I write anything, I need an angle, a POV that isn’t exactly the same as everyone else’s. I shan’t be posting, “I too think that murder is bad.” I mean, I DO think so, but it seems self-evident and not really adding to the conversation.

At some level, I think that’s why I gently follow Quora, in case I can answer a question, assuming the query isn’t so inane that it’s not worth the effort.

I’ve even corrected people on that platform. Someone asserted that the writing credits for A World Without Love, the #1 hit by Peter and Gordon, was attributed to the pseudonym Bernard Webb. No, it was Lennon–McCartney, though Paul was the writer.

On the other hand, Woman, not to be confused with the much later John Lennon song with the same title, WAS credited to Webb, “to see if the song would be a success without the Lennon–McCartney credit.” I did not need to look that up, BTW; the weird stuff that’s stuck in my brain…

Anyway, my Quora experience led me to the conclusion that y’all COULD ask me inane questions for Ask Roger Anything, such as… well, I won’t help you with that. Or you could have me explain what I was thinking when I included a particular link. Did I agree with it, or did I just think it was interesting?

By my self-imposed standard, I would be required to respond, generally within the month, to the best of my ability. Obfuscation is allowed, though, truth to tell, not used very often.

Per usual, you can leave any of your questions, either inane or cogent, below or on Facebook or Twitter; for the latter, my name is ersie. Always look for the duck. If you prefer to remain anonymous, that’s OK, but you need to SAY so; you should e-mail me at rogerogreen (AT) gmail (DOT) com, or send me an IM on FB and note that you want to remain unmentioned; otherwise, I’ll assume you want to be cited.

Olivia Newton-John turns 70 (September 26)

There was an August 2018 article with Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta dancing together, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the movie Grease. The stars have been great friends in the intervening four decades.

It’s weird that, for some reason, I never saw Grease in the movie theater, and it was a massive success. In fact, I’m not sure to this day that I’ve ever seen it in its entirety, though my daughter has watched the film on video

And it wasn’t just the movie that might have drawn me in, it was the music, with three Top 5 singles by Travolta and Newton-John in 1978. I have seen a high school production of the musical i the past couple years.

I’d forgotten that she was born in Cambridge, England. I did recall she was raised in Melbourne, Australia. She was a country artist early on, had some massive “middle of the road” hits before Grease.

But in 1980/1981, she transformed her career. Just as Sandy in Grease changed from goody-goody to being clad in spandex, Newton-John was inspired to do the same metaphorically. As a result, she had her largest hits in the US, Magic, and Physical.

I believe that, for the time, it was constitutionally illegal not to play Physical on the hour, unless you were on one of the two Utah radio stations that banned the single from their playlists. It was ranked by Billboard as the biggest song of the decade.

Her breast cancer had been in remission from 1992 until its metastasis was discovered in 2017. She’s become an advocate for better eating, animal rights, and the environment.

Yes, I have my one Olivia Newton-John greatest hits album, which I play every September. She shares a birthday with my late father.

Listen to:

If Not for You, #25 pop in 1971

Honestly Love You, #1 pop for two weeks, #6 country in 1974

Have You Never Been Mellow, #1 pop, #3 country in 1975

You’re The One That I Want, with John Travolta, #1 pop in 1978
Summer Nights, with Travolta and cast of Grease, #5 pop in 1978

Magic, #1 pop for four weeks in 1980

Physical, #1 pop for ten weeks, #28 R&B in 1981