S is for journalist George Seldes

Somehow, it wasn’t until the past few months that I heard of journalist George Seldes. This brief biography serves as a emphatic primer.

“The story of George Seldes is the story of the Twentieth Century. He has written 21 books and is the archetype of the independent and crusading journalist. He was a witness to and occasional participant in some of the most important events of this century.”

His interview with Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg, the supreme commander of the German Army during World War I was censored by the Allies. He reported from the Soviet Union for a year in 1922-23 until he was expelled “for not bowing to its censorship of the news.” He was also eventually bounced in Italy after reporting on the rise of Benito Mussolini. He witnessed the fascist dictatorship in Spain.

“Dissatisfied with censorship and the Right-wing bias of the American media,” Seldes and his wife Helen Larkin “started In Fact, the first publication in America solely devoted to press criticism. It was published from 1940 to 1950 and had a peak circulation of 176,000 before being Red-baited out of existence.”

From the Spartacus Educational bio: “One of the first articles published in the newsletter concerned the link between cigarette smoking and cancer. Seldes later explained that at the time, ‘The tobacco stories were suppressed by every major newspaper. For ten years we pounded on tobacco as being one of the only legal poisons you could buy in America.'”

I found his some of his observations, as noted in Wikiquotes appropriate today. “Never grow weary of protesting. In this sensitive business of dealing with the public which depends on faith and good will, protest is a most effective weapon. Therefore protest.” – Lords of the Press (1938)

And from the same source: “The failure of a free press in most countries is usually blamed on the readers. Every nation gets the government—and the press—it deserves. This is too facile a remark. The people deserve better in most governments and press. Readers, in millions of cases, have no way of finding out whether their newspapers are fair or not, honest or distorted, truthful or colored….”

From the Wikipedia: “Having both staunch admirers and strong critics, Seldes influenced some younger journalists. He received an award for professional excellence from the Association for Education in Journalism in 1980 and a George Polk Award for his life’s work in 1981. Seldes also served on the board of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).”

George Seldes was born in Alliance, New Jersey, on 16th November, 1890 and died at Windsor, Vermont, on 2nd July, 1995, aged 104.

For ABC Wednesday


Mother’s Day is NOT a day for melancholy, is it?

Since my mother died in February 2011, with me by her side in a Charlotte, NC hospital, there are periods that are harder than others throughout the year. November, her birth month, and February can sometimes be rough.

Mother’s Day is a mixed bag, emotionally. After all, I can celebrate my wife as the mother of our daughter, and my mother-in-law as the mother of my wife, and all those women, living and dead, who have been like a mother to me over the year.

This May, I attended a production of The Music Man at a high school about an hour south of Albany. My wife’s niece, and therefore my niece, was in the production, as she has for the previous five years, going back to 6th grade. It was quite good.

If you go on Sunday matinee, after the performance, the director thanks various folks individually. Then she says goodbye to the seniors, which is difficult for her each year, as they literally leave their shoes on stage.

One of the seniors, the one who played the mayor’s wife, really bonded with the director. Each of them had lost their mothers, I don’t know when, but recently enough that the sentiment felt really raw.

And damned if seeing them mourning their mothers on stage kicked up similar feelings for me.

Then there was that woman who got partially sucked out of a Southwest Airlines plane and soon died. At least two of the news networks reported on her husband telling her parents of their daughter’s death. But then he had to figure out how to tell their two children that their mom was not coming home. I had no reaction… ah, who am I kidding?

So this Mother’s Day is a tad more melancholy for me, for these reasons, or maybe something else, or for no discernable cause at all. Of course, I know that even if your mom’s alive, one can dread the commemoration.

Steve Winwood turns 70

I own this album: “Winwood is the first compilation album of music featuring Steve Winwood. This two-record set was issued in 1971 by United Artists Records and features music which Winwood performed with The Spencer Davis Group, Powerhouse, Traffic and Blind Faith.”

And I loved it, a great overview of his career up to that point. Alas, “Issued without Winwood’s authorization…, it was taken off the market after legal action by Winwood and Island Records.”

Winwood joined the Spencer Davis Group at the age of 14, after playing at pubs with his father and his brother Muff as early as eight, “the piano… turned with its back to the audience to try and hide him.”

“Winwood met drummer Jim Capaldi, guitarist Dave Mason, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Wood when they jammed together at The Elbow Room, a club in Aston, Birmingham. After Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group in April 1967, the quartet formed Traffic.”

He was part of a couple supergroups, Blind Faith in 1969 with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Ric Grech, then Ginger Baker’s Air Force, with Grech, Denny Laine, and others. Working on a new solo album, Winwood called in Wood and Capaldi to help, which led to Traffic’s comeback album John Barleycorn Must Die in 1970.

After a few more Traffic albums, he became a solo artist and had greater success. Some favorite songs- links to all. Chart action refers to US Billboard pop charts.

Spencer Davis Group:

Keep On Running (#76 in 1966)- one of my favorite songs EVER, for its bottom; I hear it when I’m riding the stationary bike, even when it’s not playing
Gimme Some Lovin’ (#7 in 1967)
I’m A Man (#10 in 1967)
Can’t Get Enough of It
Somebody Help Me (#47 in 1967)

Paper Sun (#94 in 1967)
Heaven Is In Your Mind – heard the cover version by Three Dog Night before the original.
Dear Mr. Fantasy
Smiling Phases – heard the cover version by Blood Sweat & Tears before the original
Medicated Goo – my favorite Traffic song. I own the single, the one with the dead stop, which I prefer to the album version

Blind Faith:
Can’t Find My Way Home
Sea of Joy

Freedom Rider
Empty Pages (#74 in 1970)
Stranger to Himself
John Barleycorn (Must Die)
Every Mother’s Son
The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys

While You See a Chance (#7 in 1981)
Arc of a Diver (#48 in 1981)
Spanish Dancer
Night Train (#104 in 1981)
Valerie (#70 in 1982)
Higher Love (#1 in 1986), with Chaka Khan, won the Grammy Award for “Record of the Year”; you may have heard James Vincent Mc Morrow’s version in a recent car commercial
Freedom Overspill (#20 in 1986)
Back in the High Life Again, with James Taylor (#13 in 1987)

Five films that reflect parts of your personality

While I was watching the Academy Awards on my birthday – only three days late – I saw on Facebook this meme. “Suppose, to help a potential partner or mate to understand who you are, you had to name five films that reflect parts of your personality.”

Without giving it much thought, I came up with Annie Hall, West Side Story, Hidden Figures, Howard the Duck, and Being There.

Annie Hall, which I’ve seen at least four times, was easy. At least three of these things are true:
I hate going to the movie theater after the film has started
I don’t like to drive
I wish I could pull out an expert, such as Marshall McLuhan, to end idiotic conversations
Sometimes, relationships ARE like sharks
Cocaine makes me sneeze

West Side Story, which is, upon further review, not a great movie, taking too long to get started, among other things. But it has great music.
It was the first “grown up” movie I saw
It’s amazing what you can do with counterpoint
Racial and ethnic strife suck

I had a conversation with an African-American woman about Hidden Figures during my church’s Black History Month celebration, which, BTW, was amazing. We agreed that, of the movies that were nominated for Best Picture for 2016, Moonlight was the best. But we noted that we weren’t likely to see it again any time soon. Whereas Hidden Figures, another nominee, was a joyful celebration of recent history.

Howard the Duck was previewed in Albany in a movie theater, sponsored by FantaCo, the comic book store where I worked from May 1980 to November 1988. The “trapped in a world that he never made” description in the comic book reminds me of me, sometimes. And also The Pretenders.

Being There reminds me that sometimes we manage to bumble through life, with people fooled into believing you have an idea what you’re saying. Maybe we’re just fakin’ it.

Incidentally, when The Shape of Water won the Best Picture Oscar, it meant that I have seen exactly half of the 90 victors. It occurred to me that I should write about the ones I’ve seen (the earliest: Casablanca) and the significant ones I have not (Gone with the Wind, e.g.).

Guide us our whole lives through, hail, Daniel Dickinson

Carol’s wedding reception in 1979 with Vito, Karen, me, my friend Susan, Becky from DSD

My group from the K to 9 school Daniel S. Dickinson entered Binghamton Central in February of 1968, along with far more kids from West Junior and also MacArthur. I felt a bit overwhelmed.

But thanks in no small part to Karen, I found a whole coterie of new friends, left-of-center leaning, civil-rights-supporting, antiwar chums such as Vito, Jane, Michelle, Steve, Catherine and the two Georges.

It had been the tradition in student government that someone other than the candidate give the nominating speech. Apparently, my oratory for Karen when she ran for secretary was rip-roaring; I know it came from the heart.

The next year, they changed the rules, and candidates had to give their own speeches. Meh. I ran for student government president, gave what most thought was a mediocre speech, but won anyway. Carol was the vice-president. Dickinson rules!

But before my sister Leslie and her friend Christine, only a year and a half behind me, got to Central, they had to spend a year or two at West Junior.

The thing about old friends is that you don’t have to see them often to pick up on the relationship.

We went to our 10th high school reunion in 1981, and it wasn’t particularly interesting. But the afterparty was great. I DID get tired of Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones, however.

In 1982, Bill invited Karen, Lois, Carol and me over to his house. We stayed up nearly all night, talking. A year or two later, I went to Bill’s wedding as I had gone to Carol’s about a half decade earlier.

When I was at a low point in the fall of 1977, Karen came from the Boston area to New Paltz to proverbially kick my butt. We had some significant conversations when I’d visit her in the Boston area in the early 1980s. Though she had moved to New York City by then, she came to my 1998 taping of JEOPARDY! in Boston.

Karen has turned me on to music, always, from The Beatles to The Band to Los Lobos to latter Johnny Cash to Valerie June. She came to Albany to see Paul McCartney in 2014.

Carol lived in the Mid Hudson of New York State and I was working at FantaCo in Albany. Coming back from New York City, my colleague’s vehicle broke down on the Taconic, and Carol came to our rescue. Before she moved south, she went to one of the MidWinter’s parties I used to frequent.

When my high school class had a reunion – I want to say 32nd? – I went, primarily because Carol and Karen and Bill and Lois and Bernie were going to be there. Circa 2009, we discovered that Karen from NYC, and Carol from TX, and I from ALB would all be in Binghamton the same weekend, and of course got together.

In 2018, I’ve been in email contact with Carol and Karen. I spent two hours on the phone with Bill.

Back when I was in college, they tore down Daniel Dickinson school, which was weird because, by all accounts, it was better constructed than, for instance, Wilson.

But it was in that “bad” neighborhood. It never seemed that bad to me.

3 plays, 3 days: Blithe Spirit, Blaq Boi, The King and I

There was no master plan in seeing 3 plays in 3 days the fist weekend in May. Indeed, it was quite the opposite.

Back in March, I “won” a silent auction at a PTA function at my daughter’s middle school for a play at Capital Rep, which turned out to be Blithe Spirit. Our first three weekends were already full. By the time I tried to redeem the coupon for the last weekend in April, the seat selection was extremely thin; an obstructed view here, very far to the right there.

Fortunately, Blithe Spirit was extended an additional week, and my wife and I got very good seats on Friday night. I was unfamiliar with the 1941 Noel Coward work. From the Wikipedia:

“Socialite and novelist Charles Condomine… invites the eccentric medium and clairvoyant, Madame Arcati, to his house to conduct a séance, hoping to gather material for his next book. The scheme backfires when he is haunted by the ghost of his annoying and temperamental first wife, Elvira, after the séance. Elvira makes continual attempts to disrupt Charles’s marriage to his second wife, Ruth, who cannot see or hear the ghost.”

The production was quite hilarious especially as Charles responds to Elvira, and Ruth believes he is talking to Ruth. There is also a jittery maid whose very presence is quite amusing. Coincidentally, there was a violent thunderstorm outdoors as there was a mock storm in the theater.

Saturday, my wife and I left the Cinco de Mayo party to pick up the Daughter and see Blaq Boi, written and performed by students at Albany High School. It was primarily about Treasure, a young man at various points in his life. The play also used news clips and some music to tell the story.

It was quite compelling, especially the second half. It was so well received that the principal wants all the teachers at the high school to see it on an upcoming Professional Development Day.

There was discussion afterwards featuring a black Albany police officer and how he joined the force nearly 30 ago , after seeing some young black men treated less than respectfully by local cops.

Finally, on Sunday, the three of us saw The King and I at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady. We experienced the 1951 musical back in June of 2011 at the Mac-Haydn Theatre, about 45 minutes away, and while it was a fine performance, this production, on a large stage, was quite exquisite.

The struggle between modernity and tradition, of power politics and gender roles, is based on a real story. There are several well-known tunes such as I Whistle a Happy Tune, Hello Young Lovers, and Getting to Know You, though the song I most recognize is the instrumental March of the Royal Siamese Children.

It was a tiring but satisfying weekend, which also featured being treated like visiting royalty when I attended Free Comic Book Day at the local comic book emporium.

R is for Ramblin’ with Roger

Since I just hit my 13th anniversary of writing this here blog thing, I’d thought I’d describe why I do it.

I’ve mentioned before that my friend Fred Hembeck had started a blog, that friend Rocco had tipped me off to same, and that I read everything Fred wrote, which meant going back about two years.

And Fred was prolific. He wrote every day, usually pieces a lot longer than I write currently. Then I would comment on his blog, and he would mention me therein. I gave him a couple ideas; for instance, I found a page of record album covers based on other album covers, which still exists.

So I thought, maybe I could do this myself. But what would I write ABOUT? I only had two topics that I KNEW I would have to cover. One was the Daughter, who was a little over a year old. I said to myself when she was born that I would write about her in a baby book that people give to parents of newborns, where you track when the child first crawls and walks and gets the first tooth.

There is incontrovertible evidence that I was TERRIBLE at this exercise. Instead, I would write about her every month, on the 26th. And I have, every month, although it’s often been as much about ME having a daughter after I’m five decades old.

The other topic was my appearances on the game show JEOPARDY. It was taped in September 1998 and was broadcast in November, and I was afraid the details were starting to fade.

I started writing in my Blogger blog on May 2, 2005, and I have written every day, at least once a day. In the early days, it was tough because Blogger didn't let me schedule posts. I remember writing at a library in Lake Placid during a break in a work conference.

I was inspired by what the late Steve Gerber, comic book writer of Howard the Duck, Man-Thing, the Defenders, and other Marvel comics I loved, posted about writing in April 2005, essentially saying, “Writers write.”

Oh, the duck. At FantaCo, I was editing something called X-Men Chronicles. I had extra pages to fill, and so Smilin’ Ed artiste Raoul Vezina and I pieced together a story about the rodent buying a case of a popular comic book. I appeared as a duck because… well, I don’t know.

Around that time, Raoul drew the duck for my friend Lynne. In 2010, when I was getting my own URL, Lynne’s husband Dan, who recognized me from the caricature when he met me on the street back in 1985, scanned the drawing, and I have used it ever since, on the blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

For ABC Wednesday

My Ancestral Journey, part 1

The National Geographic had its Genographic (their word) kits on sale and I bought one, registered it, mailed it back, and in about eight weeks got some results.

My ancestors are from:
Western Africa 52%
Northwestern Europe 21%
Eastern Europe 11%
Northeastern Europe 7%
Italy & Southern Europe 3%
South China Sea 2%
Central Africa 2%

My paternal line, in the main, stayed in Africa longer than my maternal line, it appears.

My first reference population, i.e, the obvious comparable, is African-American.

Western Africa 65%
Central Africa 15%
Northwestern Europe 12%
Southern Africa 8%

My second reference population is Bermudan; i.e., “This population is based on samples collected from mixed populations living in Bermuda. The percentages shown here reflect Bermuda’s vast racial diversity, including Africans brought during the slave-trading era (West and central Africa, as well as Southern Africa) and European and Asian colonists and workers (Great Britain and Ireland, Western and Central Europe, and Southern Asia). In addition, some Native Americans were sent as slaves to Bermuda in the 17th century, accounting for the small Native American ancestry. Bermuda had no indigenous inhabitants when Europeans first arrived in the 16th century.”

Western Africa 54%
Northwestern Europe 17%
Central Africa 11%
Southern Africa 9%
North America & Andes 5%
Southwestern Europe 4%

I’m a surprised by the eastern Europeans in my ancestral journey. I grew up in a primarily Slavic part of Binghamton, NY, but don’t know of any intermarriage there. And northeast Europe, which appears to be Finland and the Baltic states, I totally didn’t see coming.

I’m also 0.9% Neanderthal, compared with 1.3% for the average person they tested. “Everyone living outside of Africa today has a small amount of Neanderthal in them, carried as a living relic of these ancient encounters. A team of scientists comparing the full genomes of the two species concluded that most Europeans and Asians have approximately 2 percent Neanderthal DNA. Indigenous sub-Saharan Africans have none, or very little Neanderthal DNA because their ancestors did not migrate through Eurasia.”

Here’s the summary.

I was so interested in the results that I’ve now done the Ancestry.com test, which, I’m gathering, will be even more specific. I’ll get the results in six to eight weeks.

How do you pronounce Albany? Depends

As anyone who has lived in the state capital of New York or its environs for any period of time knows, you pronounce Albany as ALL-bun-ee, with first syllable rhyming with “fall.” One can always tell when an out-of-town advertising firm has created a television spot and the announcer says AL-ban-ee.

But how do you pronounce it in other parts of the world? In New Zealand, North Aucklanders can’t quite agree about its suburb of Albany.

“A 1980 North Shore Times story found ‘Al-bany’ to be the more common pronunciation. However, an English-born councillor at the time David Thornton confessed he said ‘All-bany’, due to a block of London flats called ‘The Albany’.

“Massey University linguistics lecturer Victoria Kerry said there is no ‘should’ when it comes to pronunciation. ‘I would say that there’s no one correct or incorrect way of pronouncing it. In linguistics, we would look at the variety of ways that you can say it that might associate you with a particular area.’

However, “the New York pronunciation is actually closer to the original pronunciation from Britain and Scotland, where past Dukes of Albany came from, she said. Albany originally derives from ‘Alba’, which is the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland.”

So put New Zealand in the AL category, but with a strong ALL contingent.

Oregon Live says that state’s Albany mimics New York’s.

This guide puts New Albany, Indiana in the NYS camp. Yet a fellow on Englishforums.com claims: “Most Hoosiers say ‘New All-ban-ee.’ Some, that have more southern roots, say ‘Nallbanee.'”

I have found inconclusive polls about California’s choice for its city.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Albany, GA is pronounced “AIL-binny.”

It’s pretty definitive that Albany, Western Australia is pronounced “Al-bany”, the first syllable rhyming with “pal.”

One more thing: someone from the country of Albania is an Albanian. Someone from Albany, NY is also an Albanian, but pronounced differently, al-BANE-ee-in vs. all-BANE-ee-in.

Thanks to Arthur@AmeriNZ for the inspiration.

TWO absentee ballots for Albany’s May 15 vote

As someone who has used an absentee ballot for the school district vote, I was intrigued and disappointed by this from the Albany school district:

“Voters wishing to cast absentee ballots in the City School District of Albany’s May 15 budget vote and Board of Education elections will receive two separate absentee ballots — one from the school district for the budget and related propositions, and one from the Albany County Board of Elections for the board candidates.

“The state moved the district’s board elections from November to May last summer to align Albany with the vast majority of public school districts statewide, which annually hold their board elections and budget vote together on the third Tuesday in May.” This, I thought, was a very good thing, and long overdue.

“The state legislation as it is currently written requires the county to be responsible for the board elections, as it has been traditionally when school board members were elected in November in conjunction with the general election. The district is responsible for the budget vote and related propositions as in past years.

Please note that each absentee ballot must be returned separately to the organization responsible.

“…The absentee ballot for the school budget vote and related propositions… will contain the following propositions:
Proposition #1 — 2018-19 school budget vote
Proposition #2 — Proposal to establish a Capital Reserve Fund
Proposition #3 — 2018-19 Albany Public Library budget vote (this item is unrelated to the school district)”

Albany County Board of Elections will deal with “absentee ballots for the board elections. Four candidates are vying for three open seats on the school board.”

Incidentally, the League of Women Voters of Albany County has announced a Candidate Forum for the Albany School board election on May 14 at 7 p.m. at Myers Middle School, 100 Elbel off Whitehall Road. It is cosponsored by CANA, Citizen Action NY and the NAACP. Nell Stokes is the moderator.

I hope that there can be a legislative fix for the voting glitch before the balloting in May 2019. The turnout for these important votes are notoriously low, and I’m in favor of things that will make the franchise easier.