Christmas music in November

The Boston Globe had a story in mid-November: Are you crazy for Christmas music in November – or does it make you crazy?

“Is there anything that can summon the Scrooges quicker than early-onset Christmas music? ‘If you listen to Christmas music in November, you are a psychopath,’ one person recently wrote on Twitter.

“Yet, for a small but dedicated contingent, the jeers and eye rolls offer little deterrence. Yes, the jack-0’-lanterns might still be perched on doorsteps. True, Thanksgiving might be weeks away. They just can’t help themselves.”

I’ll admit being in the “made crazy” category for much of my adulthood. But I’ve found that finding my own soundtrack, in my own mind if necessary, works reasonably well so that I’m not totally bored by seasonal music by the Ides of December.

Still, the fact that Thanksgiving in the United States in 2018 is the earliest it can be is slightly problematic. It seems to invite turning to the “all-Christmas music all the time” radio station in the car. Not by me, and not by my daughter. Fortunately, the Hamilton soundtrack or some K-pop usually wins the day, at least until December 1.

That said, the fact that Arthur posts Christmas ads in his blog in November, from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the United States. I find interesting and charming because I don’t tend to see them otherwise.

Here’s something I’ve known for decades: Santa’s Elves Live in … Schenectady? Schenectady is near Albany, so this is required information. But this story about the Christmas transit transfer was new to me.

A typo augers a special appearance, for naughty boys and girls.

Finally, frankincense has been proven to be a psychoactive antidepressant. I’ll keep that in mind the next time I hear too much Christmas music in November. Or October, fercryinoutloud.

(X is for wanting to X out Xmas music in November, for ABC Wednesday)

Baseball Hall of Fame: Mariano Rivera

There will be a time that I’m less invested in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I don’t follow the game nearly as much in the past decade as I did last century.

But the Hall points to past accomplishments. One must be retired for five years to be eligible. Then one must receive 75% of the votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to be inducted.

There are 35 players on the ballot, 20 players eligible for the first time, and 15 players who had received at least 5% of the ballots in the previous year. The writers can pick up to 10 players.

If I were to be able to vote, I wouldn’t pick the colorful outfielder Manny Ramirez, despite his mostly stellar career. This article by Jay Jaffee of Sports Illustrated addresses the reason: “On performance alone, [he is] a Hall of Famer, but his drug transgressions make voting for him anything but automatic.”

Interestingly, the author “draws a distinction between allegations stemming from the ‘Wild West’ era before testing and penalties were in place and those that resulted in actual suspensions, I wouldn’t vote for Ramirez at this juncture.”

My picks – stats are HERE.

1. Barry Bonds (7th year on the ballot, 56.4% of the votes need last year) – 14-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove Award winner, seven National League Most Valuable Player Awards, the most of any player all-time.

2. Roger Clemens (7th year, 57.3%) – Won record seven Cy Young Awards. Jaffe alludes to the fact that the alleged performance-enhancing actions that the best outfielder and best pitcher on the ballot were not actually banned at the time.

3. Edgar Martinez (10th year, 70.4%) – Named to seven All-Star Games, Won AL batting titles twice. It’s his FINAL year of eligibility, and while I’m no great fan of the designated hitter, who generally bats for the pitcher, he’s SO close to the 75% promised land.

4. Fred McGriff (10th year, 23.2%) – A five-time All-Star. Also his final year of eligibility. “Crime Dog” is a borderline great player, and he won’t make it, but what the heck.

5. Mariano Rivera (1st year) – Led American League in saves thrice, Named to 13 All-Star Games Ranks first all-time in saves (652). The best closer (relief pitcher) of his generation.

6. Todd Helton. (1st year) – Five-time All-Star. I think I have an anti-Colorado Rockies bias because the altitude gives hitters an advantage.

7. Miguel Tejada (1st year) – Six-time All-Star. his name came up in the steroid scandal. Rafael “Palmeiro had told an arbitration panel he tested positive after receiving a vial of liquid vitamin B-12 from Tejada. Tejada was cleared of any wrongdoing,” but I’d be surprised if he got in this year.

8. Larry Walker (9th year, 34.1%) Won seven Gold Glove Awards, Named to five All-Star Games. Another Colorado Rockies player who deserves more support.

9. Andy Petitte (1st year) Holds all-time Postseason records for wins, innings pitched and games started. If he hadn’t been playing for the Yankees, he might not have had such opportunity to play in October.

10. Mike Mussina (6th year, 63.5%) 11 seasons with at least 15 wins, Named to five All-Star teams, Won seven Gold Glove Awards.

There are others I definitely considered such as the Omar Vizquel, Jeff Kent, and the late Roy Halladay, who died in a boating accident in 2017.

December rambling: Ken Berry’s been “Bush-wacked”

Your Tax Dollars Help Starve Children in Yemen

The End of the American Order

7 Mutually Contradictory Arguments for His Own Innocence

America’s democracy problem

Self-dealing – of the money contributed to his 2020 campaign, $1.1 million has been spent at his businesses

“Witch hunts” explained

The Lame-Duck Power Grab

The Media isn’t “Polarized”, It Has a Right-Wing Cancer

Racism in America: Why Nothing Has Changed

Deconstructing a Genius Climate Change Argument

*Why Americans are opting out of parenthood

*Facial Recognition Fooled by 3D Printed Head

The Insect Apocalypse

On The Melian Dialogue

My car lost its hometown…

Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis

How Restaurants Got So Loud

Graduate School Can Have Terrible Effects on People’s Mental Health

Everything That’s Ethical to Steal From Work—And Why We Do It in the First Place

Ken Berry, Star of ‘F Troop’ and ‘Mama’s Family’ has dieds at 85 and Dance like Ken Berry and Ken Berry’s been “Bush-wacked”

Did Ross Perot cost George HW Bush a second term as President? and The Dirty Secrets of George HW Bush and Why All the Bush Nostalgia?

*The Triumph and Tragedy of Sondra Locke

*The Year Star Wars Fans Finally Ruined Star Wars

*‘Toxic’ is Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year, beating ‘techlash’ and ‘gaslighting’

This ’80s PBS Show Made It Cool To Love Math

The first installment of the Gasoline Alley newspaper strip appeared in newspapers 100 years ago, and it is still running

Toy Industry to Induct Three New Members into Esteemed Hall of Fame, including the late Stan Lee

Chuck Dixon is now the most prolific comic book writer of all time

The Chilling Killing Wind cover reveal

City Lights is the greatest silent film ever made

Now I Know: The International Dispute That Slowed Down Time and The Space Capsule That Crashed in Oklahoma and The Helium Balloon With a Magical Ending and Floating Away On a Raft of Disappointment and The Hockey Save that Started in the Stands

Cookie Monster: pays a visit to the popular vlog, Rocketboom and The Lord of the Crumbs and C is for Cookie and CM Nosh and Les Mousserables and Furry Potter and the Goblet of Cookies and the Cookie Ballet with superstar ballerina Misty Copeland and HashtagPBS with Martha Stewart


*Grammy-Winning ‘Song Stylist’ Nancy Wilson Dead At 81; The Very Thought of You

Here’s to the State of Mississippi – Phil Ochs

The Split – Cordell Jackson, the rockin’ granny

Coverville 1242: The Randy Newman Cover Story III

Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody #2

K-Chuck Radio: I need a good Squeeze right now

Overture from Der Freischutz, composed by Carl Maria von Weber

Arthur’s Weekend Diversion: George Ezra and Hot Chocolate

Tightrope – Janelle Monáe

The Little Things – Chris Heron

Jump For My Love – Perpetuum Jazzile

Saturn (Sleeping at Last cover) – That Cello Guy

Help You Out – AlexSpacesOut

Hell No- Ingrid Michaelson, who attended Binghamton University

Hazel Scottn Was Once the Biggest Star in Jazz. Here’s Why You’ve Never Heard of Her

Once was smooth jazz

Deadpoll defends Nickelback

Top graphic from the short story “The Castle” from Vertigo Jam 1 by Neil Gaiman, Kevin Nowlan, and Daniel Vozzo. Later collected in The Kindly Ones.

Music throwback: Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’

black santaAs you may know, Stax Records was the great record label out of Memphis, TN. Motown may have been “The Sound of Young America,” But Stax was “Soulsville U.S.A.”, the title of a tremdous book by Rob Bowman.

For this holiday season, I decided to reprise some songs from the Complete Stax/Volt Soul Singles box sets I have. But I had forgotten that there are THREE box sets of nine CDs each. I only bought the first two. So the third set is new to me, and possibly to you.

Volume 3: 1972-1975

What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas – The Emotions; OK, you don’t hear a lot of sad Christmas songs that make the playlist

Season’s Greetings – Cix Bits; totally unfamiliar with this group

Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’ – Albert King; what it says

Volume 2: 1968-1971

Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas – Staple Singers; a downer, social justice song – no airplay for you

Black Christmas – Emotions; the trio returns with a song that won’t make most seasonal playlists

The Mistletoe And Me – Isaac Hayes; I contend that this is a GREAT Christmas song, which I’ve never heard on the radio

Volume 1: 1959-1968

Jingle Bells – Booker T. and the M.G.’s; this actually got to #20 on the Xmas charts in 1966, a special designation that Billboard has had on and off. Of the songs listed here, it’s probably the one you’ve most likely heard in December

Winter Snow – Booker T. and the M.G.’s; I love, LOVE this song. Yes, it is melancholy, but it’s an instrumental

Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday – William Bell; this song, written by Bell and Booker T. Jones, actually made #33 on the R&B charts in 1968. Not strictly a holiday song, it would be a fine addition to a playlist

Everyday will be like a holiday
When my baby, when my baby comes home

Now she’s been gone
for such a long time
ever since she’s been gone,
she been on my mind

I got a letter today,
just about noon
she said, “Don’t worry, I’ll be home soon”

Advent as Lent-lite?

It seems that Advent, the season we’re in now, doesn’t bring me as much joy as it does for others. Someone, I don’t remember who, recently suggested that Advent is Lent-lite.

And I submit it may be true. Just as the Lent precedes the Easter Resurrection, so too is the waiting for the birth. The songs can be somber and in minor key.

It may be Seasonal Affective Disorder, “a type of depression that reoccurs during the winter months and typically lasts until the spring or summer.” The early snow did not help.

Back in the 1980s, I used to go visit my parents’ house in Charlotte, NC January, around Martin Luther King’s birthday. The perfect timing was mandated by doing seasonal music at church and the heavy retail period at the store I worked, FantaCo, followed by doing inventory just after the first of the year.

But I reckon that I also become despondent over how the season has been taken over. Mark Evanier said, “I’m not a Christian but I used to have a very strong respect for what they stood for,” and I knew too well what he meant.

When Christianist apologists act Unchristian, when they “show that on immigration, race, and poverty, white evangelical Protestants have surrendered moral judgment and social responsibility, ” it makes me somewhat angry, but mostly incredibly sad.

Alternet suggests the so-called :war on Christmas” for a proxy war for white supremacy. And it sounds about right.

Then Christmas Eve arrives. It still involves waiting, but it is now of a very short duration. The music that we sing generally has a special magic.

The service has some of the structures of the previous years, yet it always has something new. I trick myself into believing that, for a short while at least, all IS right with the world.

Ted Nugent turns 70

The rocker Ted Nugent turns 70 today and I’m conflicted. On one hand, the vile, racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-animal rights, anti-environmentalist musician should be called out, yes?

On the other hand, as my late mother always said, “If you don’t have something good to say about someone, don’t say anything.” I could write that and leave the rest of the page blank. Which would make the statement, I suppose, and it would be REALLY easy to write, to boot. But it wouldn’t be that interesting to read.

I find him so contemptible that when I saw this faux headline a couple years back Millions Mourn As Rocker/Activist Ted Nugent, Age 68, Found Alive, I’m only mildly embarrassed to admit that I laughed out loud.

His continual disdain for Barack Obama goes back years. “At a concert on August 22, 2007, while wielding what appeared to be automatic rifles, Nugent said in reference to Obama, “suck on my machine gun.”

Naturally, last year, the current resident of the White House “invited Nugent to visit along with right-wing politician/pundit Sarah Palin and rock-or-country musician Kid Rock. The three invitees posed for a picture under the official portrait of First Lady Hillary Clinton — to mock her.”

This year: “Classic rocker and NRA board member Ted Nugent has attacked Parkland’s teenage school shooting survivors-turned-gun control activists, calling them ‘mushy brained’ and ‘soulless’ liars. In an appearance on The Joe Pags Show…, Nugent apparently forgot about his promise to stop using ‘hateful rhetoric’ after last year’s congressional shooting in Virginia.”

He also has, it appears intentionally, obfuscated whether he dodged the military draft.

And yet there is one old song of his with the Amboy Dukes I actually really like. And I enjoy it much more because “Nugent, an ardent anti-drug campaigner, has always claimed that he had no idea that this song was about drug use.”

I would never want to journey into the center of his [string of invectives] mind.

Kennedy Center Honors: Cher, Glass, McEntire, Shorter

“On December 2, 2018, the Kennedy Center held its 41st annual national celebration of the arts — The Kennedy Center Honors.” For the second year in a row, the guy in the White House won’t be there.

“The 2018 Honorees include singer and actress Cher, composer and pianist Philip Glass, Country music entertainer Reba McEntire, and jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter.”

I wrote at length about Cher on her 70th birthday a couple years ago. SINCE then, she continues to do concerts, received the Billboard Icon Award, co-starred in the romantic musical comedy film Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and put out a hit album of ABBA covers called Dancing Queen.

She’s now the subject of “The Cher Show, a jukebox musical based on Cher’s life and music, [which] officially premiered at the Oriental Theatre, Chicago, on June 28, 2018, and had its Broadway debut on December 3, 2018.”

Philip Glass (b. 1937) is a minimalist composer. Some soundtrack of his used to drive an old girlfriend of mine crazy when I played it. I have two of his CDs; one is The “Low” Symphony, based on the music of David Bowie.

The other is Songs from Liquid Days, “a collection of songs composed by… Glass with lyrics by Paul Simon, Suzanne Vega, David Byrne, and Laurie Anderson… The recording features performances by Bernard Fowler, the Kronos Quartet, Janice Pendarvis, Douglas Perry, The Roches, Linda Ronstadt…” Listen to Forgetting.

Reba McEntire (b. 1955) is one of the most successful country artists ever; if I have any of her songs, it’s on a random compilation. But she shows up in films, on TV and even on Broadway. She’s ubiquitous.

Wayne Shorter (b. 1933) is a major jazz saxophonist. He played with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis’ jazz quintet in the 1960s. I know him best from the jazz-fusion group Weather Report.

He has a 2018 magnum opus, Emanon. “Encompassing three discs of music (just over two hours) and an original sci-fi graphic novel, the project is a grand statement that seeks to blur distinctions between the premeditated idea and the spontaneous gesture, or between ‘classical’ and ‘jazz’ as they’re usually framed.”

“This year, the co-creators of Hamilton — writer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, and music director Alex Lacamoire — received a unique Kennedy Center Honors as trailblazing creators of a transformative work that defies category.”

Though I’ve not yet seen Hamilton, about first Treasury Secretary, I’m in that group that has heard so often that I know the songs as well as I’m familiar with On the Street Where You Live, even though I’ve never seen My Fair Lady.

The writers of JEOPARDY! use Hamilton references a lot, to mixed results: “This musical includes the song ‘The Room Where It Happens'” was a missed Daily Double. No one knew “In the entrance hall of Monticello Jefferson placed a bust of himself opposite one of this Cabinet secretary & rival.”

“The Honors Gala will be broadcast on the CBS Network for the 41st consecutive year as a two-hour primetime special on Wednesday, December 26 at 8 p.m. ET.” 2017 Honoree Gloria Estefan will host.

Woe, weeping: San Francisco, November 1978

The events of November 1978 were terribly difficult for the city of San Francisco.

The The Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ… was “a new religious movement founded in 1955 by Jim Jones” in Indianapolis, IN. “Jones used the Peoples Temple to spread a message that combined elements of Christianity with communist and socialist ideas, as well as an emphasis on racial equality.” The Peoples Temple had moved a few times, relocating to San Francisco in the early 1970s.

In 1974, the Peoples Temple rented land in Guyana and “created the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, or, informally, ‘Jonestown.’ It had as few as 50 residents in early 1977.” After Jones left for Guyana in 1978, under increasing media scrutiny, he encouraged Temple members to follow him there.

“On November 17, 1978, Leo Ryan, a U.S. Congressman from the San Francisco area investigating claims of abuse within the Peoples Temple, visited Jonestown. During Ryan’s visit, a number of Temple members expressed a desire to leave with him, and, on November 18, they accompanied Ryan to the local airstrip.”

They were intercepted by “self-styled Temple security guards who opened fire on the group,” killing Ryan, NBC News journalist Don Harris, NBC cameraman Bob Brown (who filmed the shooters), San Francisco Examiner photographer Greg Robinson and defecting Temple member Patricia Parks. “The murder of Congressman Ryan was the first and only murder of a Congressman in the line of duty in the history of the United States.”

That evening, in Jonestown, Jones ordered his congregation to drink a concoction of cyanide-laced, grape-flavored Flavor Aid . In all, 918 people died, including 276 children, mostly from the Bay Area. I remember an ashen Mayor George Moscone announce Rep. Ryan’s death, and soon thereafter, the massacre.

Then, on November 27, Moscone and San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk , who were shot and killed in City Hall by former Supervisor Dan White. “White was angry that Moscone had refused to reappoint him to his seat on the Board of Supervisors, from which he had just resigned, and that Milk had lobbied heavily against his reappointment.”

I watched then-Board President Dianne Feinstein weep as she announced the murders of Moscone and Milk, almost certainly the most prominent gay politician of that time. Harvey Milk, the subject of a 2008 film starring Sean Penn , graduated from New York State College for Teachers in Albany in 1951, the predecessor of my alma mater, UAlbany. Feinstein became the first female mayor of San Francisco and eventually U.S. Senator for California.

Some believe the two events are even more related, because some politicians gave early support to the charismatic Jones, including Moscone, Milk, governor Jerry Brown and state Assembly leader Willie Brown (no relation).

Most of this I remembered reasonably well, given the fact that it took place 40 years ago. One piece I did not know was that Jackie Speier , a congressional staffer for Ryan, was shot five times at the Guyana airstrip and waited 22 hours before help arrived. She survived and now is a member of Congress representing much of the district that Ryan, her mentor, served.

For ABC Wednesday

Gallery of the Louvre

At work, I’ve got an office for the first time in 12 years. I’ve been in cubicles, and for more than two years in a part of a storage space; long story.

*The only thing on the wall in the latter location was a picture of John Lennon c 1972 which my friend Rocco of FantaCo gave me decades ago.

My wife and my daughter decided to rectify that situation. Most of the items were in the attic, not getting the love they needed.

*The largest item is a print my wife had of Gallery of the Louvre, 1831-33 by Samuel Finley Breese Morse. Yeah, the guy who invented the telegraph was also an artist.

It appeals to me, a picture of pictures in a picture. But I also appreciate that one can be an artist and an inventor too.

*My friend, the late Raoul Vezina, did a pencil drawing of me as the duck and had it framed. The large word balloon reads “SURPRISE, ROGER!” The thought balloon was of me thinking, “Is it time for Agronsky and Company already?” That referred to a news talk show I watched regularly.

The duck is reading a New York Times Magazine, which featured the actual content of the issue dated Sunday, March 7, 1982, SELF-SEARCHING IN ISRAEL by Michael Elkins. I think Raoul gave it to me the next day. The picture reminds me of Raoul, of course, who died in November 1983, but also FantaCo, and my birthday.

*A little picture of a pear in the foreground. The caption: “‘Whoever you are, you’ve got Charisma!’ exclaimed Red Ball.” My wife tells me it’s suggestive. Whatever.

In a WTEN (Channel 10, Albany) interview of me before I appeared on JEOPARDY! in 1998, I noted that passing the test doesn’t necessarily mean I’d be on the show. The interviewer said what makes the difference between appearing and not. I said, cheekily, “I don’t know, charisma?” And for about five years after that, one of my work colleagues noted that I had CHARISMA.

*There’s a tiny photo of the top of Binghamton (NY) City Hall, which my friend, and ex-girlfriend, gave me. My hometown.

*The last piece is abstract so difficult to describe. I expect from the color scheme it was from Central America. We got it as a wedding present, I believe.

Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks has died

The lead singer/songwriter of Buzzcocks, Pete Shelley, has died, apparently of a heart attack, at the age of 63. Yeesh.

Back in my FantaCo days, c. 1978, I remember listening to Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) on Q-104, WQBK-FM, quite often. I loved, among other things, the double contraction. Someday, maybe we’ll have a conversation about how much on target that title was in my life.

My neighbor Don Levy wrote on Facebook: “Buzzcocks were there at the beginning of punk, and one of the bands (along with The Sex Pistols and The Clash) to receive a fair amount of commercial success. What set them apart from their contemporaries was that they were less concerned with Thatcherism/consumerism/urban violence and more preoccupied with personal relationships.”

Don notes that both Buzzcocks’ first single, Orgasm Addict (1978) and Shelley’s first solo single, Homosapien (1981) were both banned by the BBC, the latter, at least, for “explicit reference to gay sex.”

Arthur, now a half a world away, had a sudden recollection about Homosapien. “Around that time, I remember seeing guys in Chicago wearing white t-shirts with the word ‘Homosapien’ and no other printing. I was sure they were kinsmen, and, at the time, it seemed like they were giving a knowing wink to anyone who knew the song.”

Totally new to me, though, was something Chuck Miller linked to: Pete had “a solo LP called XL-1 that got lots of play on my college radio station WHCL. I should note that XL-1 had a feature that allowed one to somehow load the LP into a Sinclair computer and produce a digital music video that ran synchronously with the LP. Thankfully, somebody synched up an old XL-1 copy to a Sinclair … HERE IT IS.” This is, to use the erudite lingo of the record reviewer, REALLY COOL. The lyrics pop up as well as interesting graphics.

Read some tributes from fellow musicians and from Rolling Stone.