For a long time, well before I took high school French, I thought the first European city I’d like to visit would be Paris. Two of my cousins were born there; one had been living there again until recently, and the other is working there presently.

I pictured sitting in some cafe watching the people and absorbing the culture, the art, the music. I love this description: “Paris’ grandeur is inspiring but what I love most about the city is its intimacy. Its quartiers are like a patchwork of villages, and while it’s one of the world’s major metropolises – with all of the culture and facilities that go with it – there’s a real sense of community at the local shops, markets and cafes that hasn’t changed since my childhood. Yet because every little ‘village’ has its own evolving character, I’m constantly discovering and rediscovering hidden corners of the city.”

In the past couple years, the director of our library went there with his family; one of my sisters was taken there by her daughter on the way to the south of France; and there have been several others I know who have made the trip.

Maybe it’s that France saved the bacon the of the American colonists during our Revolutionary War.

When I think of the city, it’s the Eiffel Tower, of course. I had a pencil sharpener in the shape of the structure when I was a child. La tour Eiffel shows up in no fewer than five dozen films, including Midnight in Paris, which I saw.

Paris is also the Moulin Rouge, and of course, I saw that film as well. One of the best lines in one of the best films EVER is “We’ll always have Paris.” That comes from the 1942 classic Casablanca, spoken by Rick to his former lover Ilsa.

Oddly, the various attacks against Paris, including the Jewish cemeteries being defaced, Charlie Hebdo, and, most notably, the events of November 13, 2015 makes me MORE likely to want to visit.

LISTEN to some of my favorite music about Paris:

Sous le ciel de Paris – Edith Piaf
My Father – Judy Collins
April In Paris – Count Basie (the “pop goes the weasel” version)

Free Man In Paris – Joni Mitchell
George Gershwin’s An American in Paris – André Previn/London Symphony Orchestra
Audition (The Fools Who Dream) – Emma Stone from the movie La La Land

***
ABC Wednesday – Round 20

Beyond the things my primary care physician said when I got to see her on April – the usual “lose weight” and “raise your ‘good’ cholesterol – was my need to get more Vitamin D3. I’m supposed to take 2000 IU (international units). My vitamin D level was 20 this year, up from 16 (on what scale I have no idea). But it’s supposed to be at 30.

Here’s my problem. Even as a kid, I never much liked going out into the sun. I mean, I’m playing baseball, fine, but just sunbathing? No way.

And it’s worse since developing the vitiligo at age 51, which makes me prone to burn in certain areas, including the top of my head, my neck and the back of my hands. I’m rightly concerned about developing skin cancer. This is why I often wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, even in summer.

I just discovered something with the supplements I’ve been taking, off and on, for the last year. It offers 1200 mg of calcium and 1600 IU of vitamin D3 “in just two tablets.” TWO tablets! So I’ve been underdosing, and I need to take three tablets a day.

I must really be deficient, since only 400 IU is 100% of the daily value needed by the average person. Still, my doctor said I wasn’t likely to develop rickets. Rickets is not a term I’ve heard literally in decades. It is “a disease of children caused by vitamin D deficiency, characterized by imperfect calcification, softening, and distortion of the bones typically resulting in bow legs.”

But she did worry that I could be that old man who falls and breaks a bone. And most of us know that falls can be deadly to the elderly for that reason.

Speaking of falling, Dustbury linked to an article about how science shows why shoelaces come untied. This happens to me constantly; they’re ALWAYS untied. I am OK with it, but have tired of people telling me that they’re loose. I know, I know! And now I sort of know why.

Heart of ChristianityIn trying to explain what I believe, in terms of my faith, I found that the right words were not always available. Then I read the 2003 book The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith by Marcus Borg this past winter. My answer became: “Mostly what HE said.”

Borg was a “world renowned Jesus scholar” who, as the book sleeve notes, is out to reclaim “terms and ideas once thought to be the sole province of evangelicals and fundamentalists.”

As the Amazon description of The Heart of Christianity notes: “Being born again… has nothing to do with fundamentalism Read the rest of this entry »

More random music recollections based on the book Never A Dull Moment.

You probably think you know the story of Marvin Gaye’s standout album, What’s Going On, how the Artist recognized what’s REALLY happening in the world and puts out a album designed to stick it to the Suits at the record company. The actual story was a bit more prosaic.

In fact, the title song began with a wisp of of an idea by Obie Benson, the bass singer of the Four Tops, who thought that maybe he had another song like the Coke commercial, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” He and Motown songwriter Al Cleveland thought it might fit Marvin, but he wasn’t impressed. They pushed, and Marvin gave it some tweaks, thinking he might produce it for the Originals.

In July 1970, he came into the studio, had some football buddies for the party noise, captured sax player Eli Fontaine warming up, and basically fell into a sound. He managed to slip it out as a single in January 1971, while Motown owner/brother-in-law Berry Gordy was out on the West Coast. Gordy thought two things: 1) he hated the song, and 2) wondered where’s followup album was after it became a hit.

The What’s Going On album was recorded in March and released in May, with a second mix by Gaye that defined not only the LP, but changed the expectation of listeners regarding what was expected from a Motown album. I played it a lot in college; Inner City Blues especially STILL seems relevant.

Another Motown artist was giving Berry Gordy headaches. Stevie Wonder was married, living in NYC with new wife Syretta, and about to turn 21. His lawyers sent a letter to Gordy disavowing his Motown contract.

Meanwhile, Stevie discovered The Original New Timbral Orchestra, or TONTO, keyboard system. Wonder had lost interest in his new album, Where I’m Coming From, which was actually the first Stevie album I ever bought, as his own sound was developing.

His next album, Music of My Mind, made in 1971 and released the next year, was more representative of the groove he was going for. The FOUR albums after THAT, all dominant on my turntable in the 1970s won FOUR Grammy albums of the Year awards in five years.

Sly Stone’s album was two years late, and he became “the least reliable superstar in the history of popular music.” The eventual downbeat, indecipherable There’s A Riot Goin’ On, released in November 1971, was a contact high of an album. One did not have to BE stoned to FEEL stoned listening to it.

Was Shaft blaxploitation or black empowerment? It was a movie by noted black photographer Gordon Parks, with Richard Roundtree as the handsome black detective, whose looks drove the lyrics written by STAX artist Isaac Hayes. The “shut your mouth” was delivered by Telma Hopkins, whose hit with Dawn, “Knock Three Times”, came out earlier that year. My sister Leslie owned this double LP, which he had to get partially replaced because the package had two of the same LPs.

Listen To

What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Inner City Blues – Marvin Gaye
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott-Heron
Family Affair – Sly & the Family Stone
I Can’t Get Next to You – Al Green
Toussaint L’Ouverture- Santana

The Environmental Protection Agency was created 47 years ago this coming December. Why was that? How Did the U.S. Look Before the EPA?

“Time [magazine]’s story on the burning Cuyahoga River [near Cleveland] sparked outrage among Americans, and brought national attention to the country’s need to clean up its waterways and protect the environment. It eventually helped lead to changes like the Clean Water Act…

“The Cuyahoga article was even instrumental in President Richard Nixon forming the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970. Its mission then — and now — is to ‘protect human health by safeguarding the air we breathe, water we drink and land on which we live.'”

The regime announced its morally obscene budget proposal in March, and it’s even worse than most observers expected. For instance, EPA is looking at a 31% cut in the agency’s budget, eliminating 3,200 staff positions and zeroing out funding to enforce the Clean Power Plan. It is an all-out assault on our planet.

The proposal now needs to be negotiated in both the House and Senate — and with EPA antagonist Scott Pruitt leading the agency, the budget director proclaiming that fighting climate change is “a waste of your money” and the House already taking steps to abolish the agency entirely — it is pretty much a worst case scenario.

From the very beginning of this regime, scientists have been muzzled and research blocked. After four and a half decades of progress on the environment, we’re aiming for a regression. And of course, the added pollution that will be allowed won’t stop at our national borders.

The United States was a signatory to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change agreed to in 2016. It appears, though, that this administration has chosen to go in another direction.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
This was disappearing, but had started coming back. On this Earth Day, there is most unfortunately very little to celebrate, certainly not in the United States.

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