January rambling #1: A Patriotic American Liberal

LEAVE IT IN 2017 and Some looks at the year just gone

A Radical New Scheme to Prevent Catastrophic Sea-Level Rise

Americans Don’t Really Understand Gun Violence

How America is Transforming Islam

The scammers gaming India’s overcrowded job market

Proud To Be A Patriotic American Liberal

Senate Judiciary Committee Interview of GLENN SIMPSON, AUGUST 22, 2017, released by Diane Feinstein

Latrine politics

Conspiracy sites claim he was ‘FEARED DEAD’, targeted by ‘DEEP STATE’ in minor Tower fire

A tax on a free press

New mom Serena Williams had to talk her hospital staff through saving her life

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among UK men but this is a faulty conclusion

Google Thinks I’m Dead (I know otherwise)

What’s wrong with the Internet, whether it’s new, and the power (and value) of our attention

Empörungsgesellschaft – Crazy bloggers, twitterers, facebooklings, and so forth, are able to impinge upon the public consciousness in new and historically unprecedented ways?

Cory Doctorow’s recent novel Walkaway imagines a world where scarcity is unnecessary and generosity is a feasible way of life

Takeout creates a lot of trash; it doesn’t have to

This expanding house is ready in 10 minutes

Growable shoes

Chuck Miller: A few words on my son’s wedding day

A Writer’s Guide to Permissions and Fair Use

We Have A New Prime Number, And It’s 23 Million Digits Long

Darlanne in the 1971 Panorama yearbook, Binghamton, (NY) Central High School

Darlanne Fluegel, Actress in ‘To Live and Die in L.A.’ and ‘Running Scared,’ Dies at 64 – I knew her a little when we were briefly in Binghamton Central High School together

Jerry Van Dyke, RIP

Ray Thomas, Moody Blues Flautist and Founding Member, Dead at 76

Keith Jackson, the folksy voice of college football has died at 89

Actress Greta Thyssen, Blonde Bombshell of the 1950s and ’60s, Dies at 90in action; see 185 Pies And Guys, especially from 13:00 in

Musicals Into Movies

Which Film Critics Are The Most Contrarian?

Must there be a Marvel Comics?

Op-Docs Contenders for the 2018 Academy Awards

Babies weren’t cute until…

First new word of 2018 for me: mooted: raised (a question or topic) for discussion; suggested (an idea or possibility) – I’ve known moot, as in “the question is moot,” but not this

Now I Know: The Panhandler Who Returned a Treasure and When Breaking a Record Really Blows

What’s a Wendy’s doing there? The story of Washington’s weirdest traffic circle

How to pronounce Gyllenhaal

MUSIC

The 2017 Coverville Countdown Part 1 and Part 2

Coverville 1200: This Day in Covers: January 3, 1978

Shelter from the Storm · Rodney Crowell / Emmylou Harris (HT to Jaquandor)

Echo Beach (2010) – Martha and the Muffins

Something’s Coming – Voctave

Your Song – Elle Goulding

Bagpipes/Dubstep/Star Wars

Someone to Lay Down Beside Me – Karla Bonoff

Ken – Barbie sings!

50 Best Folk Music Artists of All Time

The Beach Boys Are Better Than the Beatles

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Music throwback: The Air That I Breathe

I was a pretty big fan of the British pop group the Hollies early on – Bus Stop, On A Carousel – before Graham Nash left in 1968 to join some trio, and sometimes quartet. I was less interested in the post-Nash hits, such as He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.

Still, The Air that I Breathe, a gold single that went to #6 on the US Billboard charts in 1974, has those trademark lovely harmony vocals. It was so infectious that the the British rock band Radiohead decided to “borrow” a good chunk of it for Creep, their Top 40 single from 1993.

In 2013, TIME magazine pointed out 11 Suspiciously Sound-Alike Songs and this pairing was on the list. Listen to the Creep & The Air That I Breathe Mashup.

As the Wikipedia notes: “Creep shares a chord progression and melody with The Air That I Breathe… The song’s writers Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood sued and received co-writing credits and a percentage of the song’s royalties. According to Hammond, Radiohead agreed that they had actually taken it … Because they were honest they weren’t sued to the point of saying ‘we want the whole thing’. So we ended up just getting a little piece of it.”

Listen to The Air That I Breathe (original) – Albert Hammond (1972).

So I was incredulous when I read that Radiohead is suing American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey for… guess what?… copyright infringement, suggesting that her track Get Free from her most recent album, Lust for Life (2017) was copied from Creep.

This, of course, rekindles that unanswerable question of where to draw the line between homage and theft. I think Get Free sounds less like Creep than Creep sounds like The Air That I Breathe, especially the Hammond version. Presumably, if the Radiohead wins the suit, Hammond and Hazlewood would also profit.

Del Ray tweeted on January 7: “It’s true about the lawsuit. Although I know my song wasn’t inspired by Creep, Radiohead feel it was and want 100% of the publishing – I offered up to 40 over the last few months but they will only accept 100. Their lawyers have been relentless, so we will deal with it in court.”

Seems that Radiohead is being creepy about this.

Women’s March 2.0: Saturday, January 20, 2018

ALBANY, NY — One year ago, the Resistance was born out of the desire to fight back against the Trump administration’s assault on our shared values and its attempt to erode our democracy and the rule of law. On Saturday, January 20, 2018, citizens of the Capital District will participate in a peaceful rally and march as we continue to demonstrate our determination to resist.

We will renew our insistence on the right of all Americans, no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, or creed, to live without fear and discrimination. We will demand that the administration implement policies that lift up everyone rather than just the wealthy. We will voice our unbending resistance to this administration as we recapture the spirit of the historic Women’s Marches that took place all across the nation and the world one year ago. This rally will be in support of all members of our community, and it will be a public discussion and affirmation of the values we consider fundamental to our society: fairness, inclusiveness, community, justice, and respect – for each other and for the law.

“We’re standing in solidarity with marchers all over the world to resist,” said co-organizer Emily Marynczak.

Speakers will support and defend those pillars of American society constantly threatened by the administration and Republicans in Congress: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, voting and civil rights, justice, public education, and environmental protections.

Speakers will include: Congressman Paul Tonko; Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan; Assembly member Patricia Fahy; Judith Enck, former EPA Regional Administrator; Barbara Bartoletti, former legislative director of the League of Women Voters; Donna Young, Albany Law School Professor; Libby Post, co-founder, CapitalWomen; Deirdre Patterson, organizer with NY19 Votes and IndivisibleNY19); Fabrizia Rodriguez, attorney and advocate for the migrant community; Albany Councilwoman Dorcey Applyrs; Kathy Stevens, women’s rights advocate; and Jennifer Lemak, Chief Curator of History at the New York State Museum

There will be short musical performances by Annie and the Hedonists; and Kevin McKrell.

Co-Sponsors of the March include: Altamont Main Street USA / Bethlehem NY Indivisible / Bethlehem Morning Voice Huddle / Schenectady ROAR / Progressive Schenectady / IndivisibleNY19 / NY19 Votes / Labor-Religion Coalition / Indivisible Rensselaer County / Healthcare Education Project /Robert F. Kennedy Democrats of the Capital Region / CapitalWomen / Hudson Valley Labor Federation / Capital Region Resistance and Civic Action Coalition / Moms Demand Action / Albany Vegan Lady Gang / 1199 SEIU / NYS Nurses Association / Solidarity Committee of the Capital District / Watervliet Huddle / Planned Parenthood

CONTACTS: Castina Charles of Altamont Main Street USA, 917-335-8519, womensmarch2.0 [at]gmail[dot]com; Emily Marynczak of Bethlehem NY Indivisible, 518-478-0062

FOR MORE INFORMATION: https://www.facebook.com/womensmarchalbany/

The Frances Beal Society

Right photo by Howard Petrick

I was in Binghamton, NY, my hometown in October for a work-related trip. That evening, a couple of my friends get me to go to this film about Costa Rica, which I’ve written about. It was sponsored by the local Green Party and some other activist organization. The friend of an old high school buddy of mine says he’s from The Frances Beal Society. What?

I’ve known Fran Beal pretty much all my life. She was my mom’s only female cousin on her mother’s side of the family. Fran, her late mother Charlotte Yates, and her three late brothers, Raymond, Donald and Robert all lived in Binghamton or in nearby Johnson City until 1954, when her father, Ernie Yates, my maternal grandmother’s brother, died suddenly.

Charlotte moved the family to St. Albans, Queens, New York City and the Greens visited the Yates at a minimum annually. And they visited us frequently as well. I wrote up an excerpt of this 2005 interview, the early part about her growing up in our shared hometown.

Fran grew up to be a black feminist activist icon. A couple years ago, local author Barbara Smith told me how much she admired her. I told the FBS person that my cousin’s politics are so far left that she made me feel like William F. Buckley.

So what IS the Francis Beal Society? As far as I can ascertain, it’s an entity at Binghamton University that occupied the campus administration building for a couple weeks in the spring of 2017, in part over opposition to the Blue Lights Initiative. Now, community organizations have been offered a seat at the proposed Town-Gown Advisory Board by the school administration.

I think I let Fran know about the FBS via Facebook, but I don’t know if she saw the notice. For their part, the guy from the Frances Beal Society would LOVE to have contact with the organization’s namesake. I’m not feeling a desperate need to play matchmaker.

BTW, happy birthday, cousin. It’s SOMETIME this month.

Memory, or my lack thereof

Chris said: Your memory is striking. Next “Ask Anything” I’m asking about that: do you remember the first time usually, or do you have to return to it repeatedly like most people, just you’re more diligent about than most?

Well, let me say that there are plenty of things I don’t remember. Some of it has to do with functionality. For instance, I know that Sonny Perdue is Secretary of Agriculture. When Obama was President, I knew Tom Vilsack was. But since he’s not anymore, he has slipped my mind. The only former Secretary I can remember is the infamous Earl Butz, under Nixon.

This isn’t a recent thing. When I worked at FantaCo in the 1980s, I usually made the bank deposits every weekday, and I’d see and briefly chat with one of the two tellers. One of them left, and seven months later, I saw her on the street. I could ask her about her cats or the problems she had with her apartment. Yet for the life of me, I could not remember her name.

I hate going to parties and meeting a bunch of new people. Despite all of those tricks I’ve read about overcoming this issue, it continues to dog me.

In junior high, I was supposed to memorize the Gettysburg Address; the whole thing is two minutes long. But I was unable to accomplish this. Likewise, I had a monologue in a high school production of The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco, and the Fire Chief had some incoherent rambling I just couldn’t master.

If people tell me things, I’m not as good as if I read them. I specifically have no capacity for line dancing because the mind can;t remember what the caller just said thrice before letting us go on our own.

On the other hand, things involving numbers I’m much better at. My daughter’s Social Security number, my library card number. If I get hit by a car, I won’t remember anything about the car except its license plate.

Music, too, is a tremendous help in recalling things. The Daughter is doing well in social studies because she knows most of the lyrics to the musical Hamilton. This is how she knows the first four Presidents.

But some things I just know. All of the Presidents, their political parties and the years they took office. I don’t know ALL the Secretaries of State, but a good chunk of them.

When I was on JEOPARDY! in 1998, and I had to put in order the statehood of three states, I could visualize a map in my fifth-grade class, with California already a state in 1850, when the other territories north and west of Texas were not. So Nebraska was next. Oklahoma, which I know from Rogers and Hammerstein, didn’t become a state until 1907, so it was the 46th, I know without looking it up.

Of course, like most people, I also remember things tied to a significant event. How beautiful the weather was in New York State on 11 September 2001. The look on Lee Harvey Oswald’s face when he as shot by Jack Ruby in November 1963, which I watched on live TV.

And I can remember things that astonish people, but only because some other fact triggered it. I believe I try to pay attention.

Finally, writing it down is useful. The blog is often doing just that, so, if for no other reason, I should keep it up for a while.

Musical review: Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland is the story about how James Matthew Barrie (Billy Harrigan Tighe) wrote the story of Peter Pan by befriending a widow, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Lael Van Keuren) and her four boys. One of the boys is named Peter, and the death of his father had damaged his sense of childlike wonder.

Barrie too had gotten all grown up, married to a high society-minded woman, having fancy dinners with snooty people such as Mrs. du Maurier (Broadway working actress Karen Murphy), and in need of writing another successful piece for a theater impresario, Charles Frohman (John Davidson – yes, THAT John Davidson) and his troupe.

(I’ll admit I love the stunt casting in these touring shows that my wife and I see at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady. I didn’t recognize Davidson straight off – his hair is much whiter than when I watched his TV show decades ago – but he was a solid performer, as was Adrienne Barbeau from Maude in Pippin a few seasons back.)

Barrie discovers he needs to find his own sense of adventure. And – no spoiler here – he finds it, with Frohman the inspiration for Captain Hook. Indeed, the Frohman character BECOMES Hook, taunting/inspiring the writer. Note that we’re not looking for historical accuarcy here.

The production features music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, based on the book by James Graham. It was all quite serviceable to the plot, with a few pretty good songs. But I will admit that I got a bit misty-eyed at the end of the penultimate scene. It was one of the best payoffs I’ve experienced in seeing theater. If it’s touring in your area, I recommend it.

We did see the movie, also based on the play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee. back in 2004 or 2005, with Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, and Julie Christie. I remembered enjoying it, but this iteration, I believe, had a more of an emotional wallop.

Finding Neverland, the musical, ran on Broadway for 565 performances in 2015 and 2016, with Matthew Morrison, the teacher from the TV show Glee, as Barrie; Kelsey Grammer, who starred as Frasier on TV, as Frohman; and Carolee Carmello as Mrs. du Maurier. Morrison and Carmello were nominated for Tonys but did not win.

A is for the Houston Astros

Having no New York State team to root for in the World Series, it was easy to support the Houston Astros. The baseball team started off as the Houston Colt .45’s in 1962, the same year the New York Mets also joined the National League.

The current name, reflecting the city’s role as the control center of the U.S. space program, was adopted in 1965, when they moved into the Astrodome, the world’s first domed sports stadium. They now play their home games in what is now Minute Maid Park in 2000.

But while the Miracle Mets won the World Series in 1969 and 1986, and lost the Series three other times, the Astros had only gotten to the Series once before, losing to the Chicago White Sox in four straight games in 2005.

After that, the team got pretty bad, losing over 100 games out of 162 in 2011, 2012, and 2013, the latter the year they moved from the National League Central division to the America League West.

I had another reason for supporting the Astros. Major League Baseball teams have minor league “farm” teams at various level. The short-season single A farm club for the Astros is the Tri-City Valley Cats, who play in nearby Troy, NY.

Five of the former Valley Cats played for Houston in 2017, and one, Enrique Hernandez has been with their Series opponent, the Los Angeles Dodgers, since 2015. One guy who played in Troy was Houston right fielder George Springer, the 2017 World Series Most Valuable Player.

Coolest of all, the Astros flew a teacher of English as a Second Language, a colleague and friend of my wife’s, from Albany to Houston to attend Games 3 and 4 of the World Series. She had tutored many of the Valley Cats players who came from other countries.

I didn’t ask her specifically who she worked with, but I wonder if one of her students had been second baseman Jose Altuve, who was born in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, played in Troy in 2009, and was named the American League MVP for the 2017 regular season.

The Houstpn Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4 games to 3.

Movie review: Lady Bird (no LBJ)

Lady Bird is a charming, believable, well-acted story about a deeply opinionated teenage girl named Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) who butts heads with her hard-working, deeply opinionated mom, Marion (Laurie Metcalf).

I related to the triad that takes place among mother-daughter-father Larry (Tracy Letts) where the dad tries to facilitate domestic tranquility at a time that he’s lost his job in 2002 Sacramento and is unsure of his own prospects.

My wife, daughter and I all enjoyed seeing it at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany in December 2017. Ronan was the star of Brooklyn, the very first movie I saw at the Spectrum after it had become a Landmark Theatre, and she is equally good here. Metcalf, who I still associate with the TV show Roseanne, has a loving ferociousness.

Letts, who was also in The Lovers this year, was fine, as were supporting characters such as Lady Bird’s friend Julie (Beanie Feldtein) and first potential boyfriend Danny (Lucas Hedges, the teen from Manchester by the Sea).

The movie shows kids in Catholic school without overly bashing it, and that does not happen that much.

Here’s the problem with the movie Lady Bird: not much, really. Maybe the title, which makes me think of Lyndon Baines Johnson and his wife, who was a perfectly nice First Lady who wanted to beautify America.

OK, the problem with Lady Bird has been, as Ken Levine put it, “praised to the heavens. Ten years ago it would just be considered a cute little movie.” True enough, with a 99% positive reviews in Rotten Tomatoes, and 82% among the general public.

Part of it is that it features the work of Greta Gerwig, who “reveals herself to be a bold new cinematic voice with her directorial debut.” Yikes.

My fear is that the very good movie will disappoint – “What’s the hype about? – rather than being appreciated for the very fine, small film that it is.

Emoluments clause: public office for private gain

My good friend Anne, who I’ve known at least since Gerald Ford was President, asks: Why hasn’t the current regime been charged with using public office for private gain? (Sorry, kinda rhetorical).

It’s a reasonable question, given a recent ruling in which a judge dismissed suits claiming Trump violated the emoluments clause.

“The plaintiffs argued that because Trump properties rent out hotel rooms and meeting spaces to other governments, the president was violating a constitutional provision that bans the acceptance of foreign emoluments, or gifts from foreign powers.

“But Judge George B. Daniels of the Southern District of New York ruled that the plaintiffs, led by the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), lacked standing to bring such a case, saying it was up to Congress to prevent the president from accepting emoluments.”

To the first point, it wasn’t merely that the Trump organization was renting out space, it was with the (wink, wink) impression that those countries would receive favored status in dealing with the United States.

Precisely how much benefit IS the regime leader receiving from these deals? Who knows since he doesn’t release his tax returns. That, of course is why most of us believe the dreadful tax bill that was recently passed and signed will favor him economically. We don’t even need to read the tea leaves.

To the second point, about standing, Judge Daniels wants THIS Congress to hold him accountable? I’m hoping that lawsuits still out there by “a group of congressional Democrats and another filed by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District” will have more success.

Unfortunately, engaging in class warfare and participating in the wholesale looting of America is apparently not an impeachable offense as long as two branches of government agree to it.

Yes, I think it’s obvious that the emoluments clause ha been violated, and repeatedly. But I’m not king.

Musical throwback: No More by Elvis Presley

One of my work colleagues had this Elvis Presley video which I couldn’t identify, though it looked as though it was from one of his movies, none of which I’ve ever seen. Yet the tune was irritatingly familiar. Dustbury identified the video as No More from the soundtrack to Blue Hawaii.

That made sense, he noted, because it came out right after Elvis had an enormous hit with It’s Now or Never, an English rewrite of O Sole Mio, the “globally known Neapolitan song written in 1898.” Its lyrics were written by Giovanni Capurro and the music was composed by Eduardo di Capua. Aaron Schroeder, Wally Gold and di Capua are credited on It’s Now or Never.

Here are a few examples of when Elvis borrowed from classical music; compare and contrast.

Don Robertson, credited as the co-composer of No More with Hal Blair, said he based it on the Italian tune La Paloma. But in fact Sebastián Yradier was a Spanish Basque composer who wrote this habanera around 1860 after a visit to Cuba. It is, “together with Yesterday by The Beatles,… one of the most recorded songs in the history of music.”

From this list of Elvis songs, I checked who was cited for writing Love Me Tender, since it was based on what I thought was an old folk tune, Aura Lee. It’s credited to Elvis Presley; Vera Matson (pseudonym of Ken Darby, uncredited – what’s THAT all about?); and George R. Poulton (1828–1867), who was “a musician and composer, best known for composing the tune to Aura Lea.” (I’ve seen it spelled both ways.)

Of course, Aura Lee has often been rewritten. When we were kids, the lyrics were:
If you must take medicine
Take it orally
That’s because the other way
Is more painfully

Listen to
No More – Elvis Presley here (the video I saw, unlabeled) or here
La Paloma – Plácido Domingo here
La Paloma – Julio Iglesias here

Love Me Tender – Elvis Presley here
Aura Lee – A Cappella Trudbol here
Aura Lee- Jim Reeves here
Aura Lee – 97th Regimental String Band here