Going on an information diet

John Green (no relation), one of the vlog brothers, recently noted that he wanted to go on an information diet. Specifically, he would spend far less time on Twitter. He noted this because it was this platform that helped him and his brother Hank to be more visible.

He said he was pulling away from it because it made him less pleasant as a human being. I certainly understand that feeling.

Quite often I read on Facebook about people quitting Facebook. I’m fine with that, although I wish people would do it more frequently, and announce it less often. I get the sense that the social media platform is so addictive to some, then they get annoyed by some response, or non-response, but then get sucked back in.

One guy in particular was complaining that “everybody” was talking about Lord Dampnut instead of talking about art, or the like. Maybe it was because the federal budget was going to zero out the budget for the arts?

Another fellow objected to me referring to Donnie as Orange, suggesting that I was judging him by the color of his skin rather than the content of his character. Having MLK Jr quoted to me is kind of funny. But, of course, this guy was just sealioning me.

And I felt compelled to correct a number of people who followed some meme that said it was Barack Obama’s birthday in March, which is actually August 4.

One fellow I know personally who actually gave up Facebook seems much happier. Another seemed satiated writing his observations to a select audience, instead of dealing with a lot of bs.
***
On a podcast, someone mentioned musical groups with two people with the same first name, preferably founding or significant members. So Mick Jagger ad Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones I wouldn’t necessarily count.

John Flansburgh and John Linnell of They Might Be Giants, for sure. The 2 Melanies in Spice Girls, Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Wood in the Faces. Also, Wings had a couple guys named Denny, Seiwell and Laine. Who else?
***
I decided to record this new TV legal drama called Doubt, starring Katherine Heigl and Laverne Cox. But it took me a while to get to watch it. As it turned out, it was cancelled after only two episodes. I thought it had potential, but obviously CBS did not.
***
Someone asked me, “Biweekly – Did you know this word means once every two weeks AND twice a week? How confusing!” Yes, I did. I noted that I used to sell comic books, and I needed to know which meaning the publishers were using; fortunately, it was the former.
***
There was a gender-neutral pronoun in 1934, thon, and there were people pushing for it but it failed. Still, it’s the second definition of thon in the Urban Dictionary.

Delaware Avenue: Recalling the Early Days slideshow originally produced in the 1980s by Louise Krasniewicz for Albany Public Library and digitized in 2014 for APL’s digital collection on New York Heritage (nyheritage.org).

Yes, I DID have a happy birthday, thank you

Each month, when there’s a birthday in our office at work, someone, usually the boss, will ask, “What did you do on your birthday?” I thought I’d write it down while I can still remember.

My bride and I got up and had breakfast at a sandwich shop nearby. We might have opted for a more leisurely locale except that: 1) she had to report for jury duty and 2) I had a massage scheduled, and they’ve moved to a place I wasn’t exactly sure of. But find it I did, and it was especially needed.

I walked home, read some newspapers, watched a little TV, notably CBS Sunday Morning, which I never watch actually on the Sabbath, when The Wife came home around noon. Apparently, the court impaneled enough people before they even got into the courtroom.

I went to the library for an hour to blog. For some reason, I find that the most efficient venue to write, in a public setting, near the guy making wheezing noises, and the guy with the peculiar laugh.

The three of us went out to dinner at a family-style restaurant recommended by a bus driver I know. It had been opened since 1996, and I must have passed it dozens of times, but I had never even heard of it. It was good food, though, interestingly, the chicken parm was better as leftovers.

When we got home, PRESENTS! This included Odetta singing Dylan from the 1960s, though the CD version was released around the turn of the millennium. I also received March Book 2, the last of the trilogy penned by Georgia Congressman John Lewis that I received. I got Book 3 as a review copy and Book 1 for Christmas.

Oh, Jaquandor wrote a blog post in my honor!

The following Saturday, I held my annual hearts card game. It’s useful to do this in part because it forces us to clean the house more thoroughly. We talked a lot, ate a lot, and even played cards; I even won one, and by “shooting the moon”, taking all the points, on the last hand.

To paraphrase some song, a splendid time was guaranteed for all.

Video review: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

In anticipation of what turned out to the only snow day I’ve ever had from work, I went to the library and took out seven DVDs. The Wife, the Daughter and I voted on the picks, and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was the consensus.

My spouse was surprised that I didn’t select the film higher since it features Amy Adams, who she seems to think I have a bit of a crush on. (Well, maybe…)

From the IMDB:
Guinevere Pettigrew [Frances McDormand], a middle-aged London governess [in 1939 London], finds herself unfairly dismissed from her job [without severance pay]. An attempt to gain new employment catapults her into the glamorous world and dizzying social whirl of an American actress and singer, Delysia Lafosse [Adams].

Miss Pettigrew was initially aghast with the actress’s lifestyle and many suitors, but soon she becomes indispensable in helping her get out of jams. Moreover, they discover a commonality.

It’s an OK, likable, not great but not awful movie, yer basic 2 and a half stars out of 4. I enjoyed seeing Lee Pace, who was the star of a 22 episode TV show I watched called Pushing Daisies from 2007-2009.

What was more interesting was watching the deleted scenes and recognizing why that shot was trimmed – the elevator scene originally was WAY too long. Oddly, though, there’s a scene totally removed and I think it was a mistake. It involved Miss Pettigrew sneaking into the cinema and watching a scene from a film before being tossed out. Not only did that explain how she could fake it in Delysia’s circles, it also explains line Miss Pettigrew delivers, which sees to come out of nowhere in the finished product.

The other interesting extra was learning how the book was optioned three times to be a movie, once shortly after Winifred Watson’s novel was published in 1938, once in the 1950s, and again in the 2000s, with Miss Watson getting paid each time. Perhaps she was the real survivor like Miss Pettigrew.

The Lydster natal day edition

The Daughter is now a teenager. She’s 5 feet, 9 inches, or 1.75 meters, tall. She is enjoying middle school pretty well after the adjustment period. Among other things, she’s figured out it’s easier to take the “blue” bus to Western Avenue then take the #10 regular CDTA bus than to take the crowded “brown” bus which would take her a block from our house.

2010

She is extremely talented. She created this little paper box for her mother for Valentine’s Day. It’s full of little pictures of my wife, including some in her childhood, plus pictures of herself, me and the cats. It must have been very time-consuming.

For me, she got this large box. But it was a ruse, because it was filled with a dozen and a half strips of paper on why she cares for me. The initial tag said, “I couldn’t think of anything,” but she was kidding:

*You wake me up [not always easy]
*You love cats [actually a drawing of a cat rather than the word]
*You make good pancakes
*You help me leave for school
*You give me money
*We watch the news
*You help me with my homework [probably my #1 task for her]
*You tolerate your life [I do not know what that means]
*You play Sorry [board game]
*You play Uno [card game]
*Supergirl [we watched the TV series together]
*You and I Love Lucy [she’s been watching the box set]
*You are FUN
*Your wisdom
*You force me to go to bed
*You read to me
*You love me [that, I do]

She has a strong sense of justice, and likes to participate in working on houses with a church group, or he like.

She presently has two bedrooms, one tiny one where she sleeps, and the somewhat (SOMEWHAT?) untidy room where her clothes are. She tends to do her crafts there.

We had promised her a phone months, before she went to middle school, but she did not get one until Christmas. She likes playing a particular game that involves finding three-, four-, and five letter words from a set of five or six letters.

Right now, she says she wants to be a lawyer, but I think she’ll do something more artistic. Maybe she’ll do both.

Happy natal day, dear daughter.

Elton John turns 70

Elton-John_OptimizedI saw Elton John in concert on 15 September 1998 with my coworkers Mary and Anne at what was then the Pepsi Arena, ne the Knickerbocker Arena, now the Times Union Center. We had what I had thought were not very good seats, in a balcony, practically stage left. But actually they turned out to be great; we could see him making entrances and exits, and what we couldn’t see, we could catch on nearby monitors.

It was a wonderful show. I don’t specifically remember the set list, though I doubt it was much different than what he played a month later at Madison Square Garden. What I do recall is that, even then, he had others sing the highest parts of what he managed to do on his own a quarter century earlier, which is no big deal.

Some years ago, my online buddy Johnny BacardiDavid Jones put together reviews of the Elton John songs that saw release on the 11 albums between 1969 and 1977, plus select singles. I was a big fan of this project. I’m not similarly motivated to replicate it, but I do notice that most of the songs I picked as my favorites primarily cover the same territory.

The Elton John (EJ) album, which I had thought at the time was his first album, I played a LOT. Tumbleweed Connection (TC), with this Wild West motif, is even more poignant now, since my father died. Madman Across the Water (MATW) was probably my favorite, though Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (GYBR) challenged it.

If memory serves, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy opened on the Billboard charts at #1 in 1975, and it wasn’t my favorite collection. The single, Someone Saved My Life Tonight I did not like. “Sugar bear” reminded me of pre-sweetened cereal. So my prime EJ period may be shorter, though I probably have more tolerance of the later Disney songs that David has.

Elton John made minor news recently when he walked into Vancouver record store and asked for gangster rap.

Here are 20 songs, my favorites roughly last. I could have picked 20 different ones.

Crocodile Rock (GYBR)
Come Down in Time (TC)
Honky Cat (Honky Chateau)
I’m Still Standing (Too Low for Zero)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (GYBR)

Border Song (EJ) – this, and Your Song, probably suffered from too many covers that wore on me
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting (GYBR)
Don’t Let the Sun (Caribou)
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters (HC)
Your Song (EJ)

Where To Now St Peter (TC)
Tiny Dancer (MATW) – undoubtedly enhanced by its appearance in the movie Almost Famous
Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding (GYBR)
Take Me To the Pilot (EJ)
Madman Across the Water (MATW)

Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word (Blue Moves) – this seemed to have risen from a recent listening to his 2004 duet with Ray Charles
My Father’s Gun (TC)
Rocket Man (HC)
Daniel (GYBR)
Levon (MATW)

Bernie Wrightson; Chuck Berry

When I was working at FantaCo, owner Tom Skulan had Bernie Wrightson do the covers for the FantaCon comic conventions in 1980 and 1981. (The artist was going as Berni at the time to distinguish himself from another person.) He was a guest at three shows, at least.

FantaCo also published a comic called Deja Vu in 1982, featuring a front cover by Bernie Wrightson and two 1971 stories, The Last Hunters and King of the Mountain, Man, plus works by others in the artistic pantheon, Michael Wm. Kaluta and Jeff Jones. That was edited by Mitch Cohn, so my dealing with Bernie was usually a hello before passing the phone on to Mitch, who felt as though he were in heaven.

But I’ve been even current comic professionals have expressed the same sensation. As my friend, illustrator Fred Hembeck put it:

“I found myself invited to the already annual Wrightson Halloween party in a nearby town. I’ll admit to being a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of rubbing elbows with Bernie and a passel of his highly accomplished peers–after all, I was just a guy who drew squiggles on character’s knees, and he was, well, he was Bernie Wrightson. But my nerves were soon soothed, as Bernie was such a nice guy that he made me feel totally relaxed, even as he stood holding a butcher’s knife while wearing a blood-spattered apron as we pleasantly chatted (it was a Halloween party, remember).
“Over the next decade or so, there were plenty more Wrightson shindigs, holiday-centric or not, as well as a weekly volleyball game attended by Bernie and a host of other local cartooning notables. After awhile, I almost got used to Bernie just being that nice guy I was trying to set up at the front of the net in hopes of scoring on a Wrightson spike. Almost. But I never quite shook the awe I had–and continue to have–for the work he did that so inspired me during key years when I was ramping up my own attempts to get published.”

EVERYONE I read online, including Elaine Lee and Wendy Pini, spoke about how nice Bernie Wrightson was. Some DID complain about his limited danceable music collection: “A little Blues Brothers can go a long way,” someone wrote, and made him mixed tapes.But even in my limited contact, I always knew him to be a sweet guy.

And generous, famous for encouraging younger talent, both artists and writers. Steve Bissette revealed that when “DC in its benevolence sent Bernie a bonus check out of the blue, Bernie would split that bonus check up and mail checks to Alan Moore, John Totleben, Rick Veitch, and me, and when asked what for, he laughed, saying ‘I didn’t earn this, I know this bonus was because of what you guys did on the character, but don’t tell anyone about this because you don’t want DC to have a reason not to send another check!'”

Unfortunately, the enormously talented artist Bernie Wrightson died March 19 of a brain tumor at the age of 68. Ugh, I had a friend die from that; not pleasant. Here’s the notification.

His artistry on Swamp Thing and the stuff at Warren Publications was legendary. Tom Skulan referred to him as “the greatest horror comic artist ever.” A fellow artist said, “That might be Wrightson’s greatest gift to us: no matter how terrible the image he portrayed, it was always captivatingly beautiful.” That’s why I was happy to do my part to keep Creepshow selling when its publisher had given up on it.
***

Chuck Berry was 90 when he died, and I was filled with all sorts of contradictory feelings. On one hand, he is, to my mind, THE single person who had the greatest impact on creating rock and roll. He took the blues that wasn’t, in his words, blue enough, added some country chops, and voila. He was a charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The legendary duck walk, developed when he fell on stage and was getting up, was amazing. His music is literally in space.

He was an obvious influence on scores of artists, such as the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones, with the former two as subjects of lawsuits by Berry. Here are
20 of his essential songs, and it doesn’t include his only #1 pop hit, 1972’s My Ding-a-Ling.

But he had his demons, which are touched upon in this article. There was the stuff with a 14-year-old girl back in the 1950s, though the use of the Mann Act to prosecute him, usually applied to high profile cases from boxer Jack Johnson to former governor Eliot Spitzer, was troubling. Much later, there were the bathroom cameras.

The article mentions, among other things, the 1987 concert movie about him, Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll, which I saw in the cinema at the time, and I found the musician, to my surprise, rather unlikable. He seemed glib in giving honorifics to almost everyone, he botched Robert Cray’s name, he made Julian Lennon look bad, he practically drooled over Linda Ronstadt.

He was to be kind, complicated.
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I was living in New York City during the summer of the Son of Sam killings, so of course I was reading Jimmy Breslin, from then and for probably a decade or more. But his most famous piece was much earlier: Digging JFK grave was his honor.

Movie review: I Am Not Your Negro

i am not your negroI saw I Am Not Your Negro at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany a couple weeks ago with my wife and a friend. I wrote a decent review, which I have managed to lose. So I’m cobbling together something else.

From Rotten Tomatoes:
“In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends-Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only thirty completed pages of his manuscript. Now, in his incendiary new documentary, master filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished. The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words and flood of rich archival material.”

I remember watching James Baldwin on the Dick Cavett Show, one of the clips used in this movie. Peck uses the choices of film segments very impressively. It’s not just video from 1965 when Baldwin debated William F. Buckley. It’s bits of old movies, and scenes from Ferguson, Missouri.

As my buddy Ken Screven wrote, “Even though Baldwin died in 1987, and much of his words contained in the movie reach back 50 years, the issues Baldwin talks about are still with us, raw and festering in the minds of many of Trump nation… This is a significant spotlight on an America we thought no longer existed.”

Interestingly, the RT critics’ score is 98% positive, but the viewers’, only 84%. Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic wrote: “‘I Am Not Your Negro'” is important. And urgent. And almost certainly unlikely to be seen by the people who would benefit from it most.” Rick Bentley of the Fresno Bee: “Whether it’s Baldwin speaking or the readings done by Samuel L. Jackson, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ pulls no punches. It’s painful for a society that declares itself to be educated to be forced to look at how ignorant it has been and remains.”

The one caveat, I suppose, is that maybe America should all go out and buy it on DVD, because there were more than a few times in the watching when I thought, “I’d like to see that part again.” Here is a trailer of the Oscar-nominated documentary.

Literally sick of the topic

A local writer posted about stopping with the no-citations copy and paste stuff on Facebook. “Opinions, OK. Assertions of fact passed along without some source are rumors…Don’t play.”

I replied: “I suppose you’re right, although sometimes I think the info is SO obvious. e.g. someone was complaining about the proposed federal budget cutting EPA, et al, and someone else popped, “Citation, please.” Really? OK, here’s CBS, oh, and here’s WSJ and Common Dreams and… Are there no agreed upon facts anymore?”

Someone else chimed in: “It’s pathetic when Facebook friends have to demand higher standards for reposting than the President of the United States.”

And THAT, I suddenly realized, is one of the reasons it’s been such a tough winter. I wonder if it’s made me literally sick.

My friend Dan Van Riper has been saying for a while now what will bring a country down is “looting by the elites.” The draconian budget that will, among other things, cut medical research 20%, and the awful health plan are going to destroy our country if passed anywhere near their present forms. Why offer such an orgy of unnecessary cruelty?

Yale historian Timothy Snyder warns If We Don’t Act Now, Fascism Will Be on Our Doorstep; comments about fascism always seem to irritate people, but if the regime fits… And who IS running the show?

Most people who have been POTUS have stayed within a fairly wide swath of what one could call “American values.” Not so with this regime, measured by the fact that both GWB and BHO have, uncharacteristically, criticized him. His words before and after the election have inspired a wealth of ugly American behavior.

I won’t even get into his embarrassing behavior with Germany chancellor Angela Merkel or his idiot tweets that required a rare “sort of” apology to the UK’s Theresa May. Some are amused by his behavior, but I’m just horrified.

Last year, I was a believer in the “useful idiot theory”, that they’d dump him as soon as they wreaked the havoc to every agency and gotten their murderous health insurance allocation to the rich passed. But now he’s SO embarrassing on the world stage, and with the “health care” bill in trouble, maybe they need to dump him sooner or later, over some emoluments thing, likely.

(Serious questions that I do not know the answer to: are the tweets on the POTUS accounts buffeted somewhat from libels laws? And is Clarabelle, posting on realClarabelle, more susceptible to libel law?)

In fact, the only thing that makes sense – not “sense” in “that’s a good idea” but some sort of keep himself in power salvo is the Secretary of State’s threat to North Korea. Hey, everybody loves another war, right? Clarabelle will expect the country to rally around their “leader,” and Kim Jung Un is possibly the one head of state even more unhinged.

The “right to be forgotten” bill should be forgotten

Intellectual property lawyer/drummer Paul Rapp noted that a “right to be forgotten” bill has been introduced in the New York legislature. “These laws are based on some supposed ‘human right’ that… says you’re entitled to have embarrassing things in your past ‘forgotten’ on the internet.”

From New York Assembly Bill 5323, introduced by Assemblyman David I. Weprin and, as Senate Bill 4561 by state Senator Tony Avella: “Requires search engines, indexers, publishers and any other persons or entities which make available, on or through the internet or other widely used computer-based network, program or service, information about an individual to remove such information, upon the request of the individual, within thirty days of such request.”

The Washington Post writes:

So, under this bill, newspapers, scholarly works, copies of books on Google Books and Amazon, online encyclopedias (Wikipedia and others) — all would have to be censored whenever a judge and jury found (or the author expected them to find) that the speech was “no longer material to current public debate or discourse” (except when it was “related to convicted felonies” or “legal matters relating to violence” in which the subject played a “central and substantial” role). And of course the bill contains no exception even for material of genuine historical interest; after all, such speech would have to be removed if it was “no longer material to current public debate.” Nor is there an exception for autobiographic material, whether in a book, on a blog or anywhere else. Nor is there an exception for political figures, prominent businesspeople and others.

But the deeper problem with the bill is simply that it aims to censor what people say, under a broad, vague test based on what the government thinks the public should or shouldn’t be discussing. It is clearly unconstitutional under current First Amendment law, and I hope First Amendment law will stay that way (no matter what rules other countries might have adopted).

The website Reason received this blistering analysis from First Amendment attorney Ken White of Brown, White & Osborn (and also of Popehat fame):

This bill is a constitutional and policy disaster that shows no sign that the drafters made any attempt whatsoever to conform to the requirements of the constitution. It purports to punish both speakers and search engines for publishing—or indexing—truthful information protected by the First Amendment. There’s no First Amendment exception for speech deemed “irrelevant” or “inadequate” or “excessive,” and the rules for punishing “inaccurate” speech are already well-established and not followed by this bill. The bill is hopelessly vague, requiring speakers to guess at what some fact-finder will decide is “irrelevant” or “no longer material to current public debate,” or how a fact-finder will balance (in defiance of the First Amendment) the harm of the speech and its relevance. The exceptions are haphazard and poorly defined, and the role of the New York Secretary of State in administering the law is unclear. This would be a bonanza for anyone who wanted to harass reporters, bloggers, search engines, and web sites to take down negative information, and would incentivize such harassment and inflict massive legal costs on anyone who wanted to stand up to a vexatious litigant.

Conversely, the Association for Accountability and Internet Democracy (AAID) supports the bill, saying that “that the Right to Be Forgotten has allowed thousands of victims throughout the European Union to reclaim their dignity and their right to live a normal life unaffected by online exclusion from society.”

I remain unconvinced that the possible value of this legislation outweighs the onerous burden of removing true but supposedly “irrelevant” speech, and as a librarian, I actively oppose this bill.