January Rambling: looking for good news

Ever confuse palate, pallet and palette? I did this month.

attemptedmurder Arthur’s article Why we think the news is worse than it is. This led to a thread that I wrote about finding good news amongst the bad which are here and here and here.

People I know personally, at least one artist, seemed really irritated that a Norman Rockwell painting fetched a record price last month. This antipathy seemed to be tied to the notion of Rockwell as artistic pablum. Another view of the artist is Closet Case as Gay Icon. I find these assumptions interesting, but highly speculative.

I am tired of being the T in LGBT.

Albany, NY has been a city since 1686; got its first woman mayor in 2014.

The Albany Symphony Orchestra Wins a Grammy Award! And I went to that ASO concert the week the recording was made.

In the small town of Binghamton, New York there spins a 1925 carousel that once inspired Rod Serling and has since become a portal into… the Twilight Zone.

Re: the Chris Christie/George Washington Bridge story, Stereotypes still caught in gridlock. You’ve probably already seen the take by Jimmy Fallon and Bruce Springsteen.

Speaking of whom, an NPR interview with Springsteen.

Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic.

My Pete Seeger obit, which is a rewriting of what I wrote when he turned 90.
The first obituary I saw for Amiri Baraka, formerly LeRoi Jones, whose Blues People book I loved, was a prolific author. Later stories focused on him being polarizing and controversial. I prefer the balanced NPR report.

Morrie Turner, R.I.P., creator of the comic strip Wee Pals, revolutionary in its own way.

Growing Up Unvaccinated. “I had the healthiest childhood imaginable. And yet I was sick all the time.”

In 1919 wave of molasses in the North End of Boston killed 21 people.

Because dictionary.

The Decoy Effect and, re: Fidel Castro, Elimination by Illumination, and early phone service via barbed bells and the medical wonder of tiny sideshows.

Lefty Brown is open-sourcing his weight loss and exercise.

About the new Presbyterian hymnal, written by my pastors’ niece.

50 Shades of Smartass, Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 and Chapter 11 and Chapter 12. Plus SamuraiFrog explains his visual autobiography.

Jaquandor is killing his darlings, so to speak.

The New York Times’ Most Popular Story of 2013 Was Not an Article.

Dates you won’t find on your calendar, such as January 0.

Happy introverts day was January 2. I so relate.

Melanie’s A Bit of Happy: Reading, Russian, and the Soviet Union and The Memory is in There.

Ever confuse palate, pallet, and palette? I did this month, but I had the good sense to stop and look it up before sending it.

The Official Website of William Schallert. He’s a character actor I know best as the dad in The Patty Duke Show.

The new and ugly Monopoly “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

Fables, Elfquest, Marvel’s Conan, and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman are the best fantasy comics of all time, according to Comic Book Resources.

Ever since two Atlanta Braves pitchers got elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame this month, people have been telling me about this commercial, which also features a former player NOT yet in the HoF, and who may never be.

Alex Trebek raps clues on ‘Jeopardy’, sort of.

Robert Downey Jr. sounding more like Sting than Sting does.

Leon Theremin playing the theremin.

Between the music and the history, well worth watching; I will say no more.

The history of Amazing Grace with Bill Moyers from 1990.

Quaker Parody: What Does George Fox Say.

We have two felines and can’t argue: Sorry, But Your Cat Is Actually A Total Jerk. It’s Just Science.
The website is the brainchild of Roger Green, founder, and owner of £10m national office cleaning contractor, Spotless Commercial Cleaning Ltd.

Re: Statistically speaking: ‘Anti-mayor’ voting block overstated. Brighton Independent By Greg Smith and Roger Green.

Up on a rooftop, Beatles, quick.

I just figured out that the rooftop concert was on the 16th birthday of my good friend Fred Hembeck

BeatlesAcrossPage495Only recently did I realize that today is the 45th anniversary of the Beatles rooftop concert above Abbey Road studios. This was performed and recorded as part of some album/movie project, both of which would eventually be called Let It Be.

Here’s the 20-minute performance until the cops shut things down.

Of course, as Beatles junkies know, the project was scrapped and the band essentially split up, for a time. Yet they were able to get together again and put out the Abbey Road album and a few singles in 1969, which I’ve long thought was extraordinary.

Let It Be, the album was released practically simultaneously with Paul McCartney’s first solo album, McCartney, in April 1970, which was the final blow in the breakup.

It’s interesting how brief their stay as an influential working band was, six years in the US, a bit longer in the UK. Of course, their post-band impact remains enormous.

Funny too that I just figured out that the rooftop concert was on the 16th birthday of my good friend Fred Hembeck, who inspired my blogging. He was/is a massive Beatles fan – here’s his Beatles section on his now unused blog. He’s now on Facebook and, most notably, Tumblr.

So if Fred was 16 and that was 45 years ago: hmm, 16+45= Fred’s older than I am for the next five weeks.
Fred’s birthday, 1992. It involves Superman.


Picture (c) and used by permission of Fred Hembeck.

Rooting interests

Mu sisters live in San Diego, CA and Charlotte, NC, so I’ll root for their NFL teams, unless another loyalty wins out.

RichardShermanThe team you root for in sports is, of course, entirely irrational. In football (NFL variety, not soccer), I support the New York Giants because, when my father was teaching me about how to watch football, we used to watch the Giants every autumn Sunday on our Binghamton, NY affiliate, WNBF-TV, Channel 12. Even went to a few exhibition games in not-too-distant Ithaca, NY.

Who do you root for, though, when your team isn’t there? The Giants were a mediocre 7-9 this past season, starting 0-6, and failed to make the playoffs.

The first playoff weekend I backed the Philadelphia Eagles because that’s buddy Greg Burgas’ team, and the Kansas City Chiefs because the Eagles’ former coach is now the Chiefs’ coach. Both lose, KC in epic proportion, blowing a 28-point lead. (I’ve now seen both the greatest NFL playoff comeback – the Buffalo Bills down 32 to the Houston Oilers, in the 3rd quarter, yet win) and the second best.

I root for San Diego, because one of my sisters lives there, and for San Francisco because I really liked the city when I visited there nearly three decades ago; both win.

The next week, mostly divided loyalties. SF v. Carolina and my other sister lives in Charlotte, NC. Oh, except root against the New England Patriots, who win anyway.

One conference championship has Denver, with Peyton Manning, who I like, vs. New England, with Tom Brady, who I don’t enjoy. Broncos going to the Super Bowl!

San Francisco v. Seattle; I know NOTHING about Seattle, except they are NOT a perennial playoff team, so new blood would be nice. At the end of the game, there was an “incident.” Richard Sherman of Seattle (pictured) tips a pass intended for 49er Michael Crabtree in the end zone, and a fellow Seahawk catches it. Afterward, Sherman gives an amped-up sideline interview that got him fined nearly $8,000 for taunting Crabtree.

But what wasn’t seen until later was Sherman wanting to shake Crabtree’s hand, but Crabtree rejecting it. Forbes magazine, of all things, has a cogent analysis that it was a hard-fought game between division rivals, it was the game-winning play, and that exuberance makes for good TV. Some of the online comments called Sherman a thug, or worse, and a LOT of the remarks had a nasty racial element – Sherman is black – with many of them suggesting the Stanford grad was ignorant.

So my rooting interest in the Super Bowl has been tilted in favor of the Seahawks, though I have no beef with the Broncos, who, as noted, took out the Patriots.

C is for the Carpenters

It was the version of Superstar by an unknown singer named Bette Midler that caught Richard Carpenter’s attention.

Some of the albums I own that came out in 1971, the year I went to college, include Sticky Fingers – Rolling Stones; Pearl – Janis Joplin; Aqualung – Jethro Tull; What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye; Every Picture Tells a Story – Rod Stewart; Who’s Next – the Who; Santana (III); Led Zeppelin (IV); Hunky Dory – David Bowie. And, oh yeah, Carpenters, the eponymous third album put out by the sibling duo of Karen and Richard Carpenter.

Talk about uncool! These are the artists who took one of the Beatles’ hardest rockers, Ticket to Ride [LISTEN], and turned it into a ballad on their first album. (I rather liked it.) I loved Karen’s voice, though, and I thought they performed some lovely songs.

Side 1
The “tan album” begins with Rainy Days and Mondays [LISTEN], written by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams, which I swear radio DJs at the time referenced every time there was precipitation on the first day of the workweek. The Carpenters* had recorded the Nichols/Williams tune We’ve Only Just Begun [LISTEN] on their previous album. Both songs went to #2 on the US singles charts.

Richard Carpenter was a great arranger for himself and his sister, and a decent keyboard player, but often wrote drippy songs, with a person named Bettis, and, worse, sang them. Saturday at least was only eighty seconds long.

Let Me Be the One was yet another nice Nichols/Williams song.

(A Place To) Hideaway was a lovely song by someone named Randy Sparks

For All We Know [LISTEN] was another hit single, going to #3. It was written for the 1970 film Lovers and Other Strangers.

Side 2

Superstar [LISTEN], written by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell, was originally recorded by Delaney and Bonnie in 1969. Then it was covered in 1970 in Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen Revue, with ex-Delaney and Bonnie singer Rita Coolidge as featured vocalist. But it was the version by a largely unknown singer named Bette Midler that caught Richard Carpenter’s attention. Their recording had the audacity of changing the line “And I can hardly wait to sleep with you again” to “And I can hardly wait to be with you again,” which solidified their white bread status among many. I thought it was a sage commercial move myself. Yet another #2 single.

Druscilla Penny [LISTEN], another Bettis- R. Carpenter song I hadn’t heard in years, yet remember instantly. Goofy song sung by Richard.

One Love [LISTEN] – a Bettis-R. Carpenter that was NOT goofy. Sung by Karen.

Bacharach/David Medley: Knowing When to Leave/Make It Easy on Yourself/(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me/I’ll Never Fall in Love Again/Walk on By/Do You Know the Way to San Jose – I was never a big fan of medleys, but they are great songs sung well. The idea actually came from Burt Bacharach a couple of years earlier, I learned. (Of course, their first hit was the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song (They Long to Be) Close to You [LISTEN], which had gone to #1

Sometimes. Written by Henry and Felice Mancini, it is a suitable ending.

They won their third Grammy, this time for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group for the Carpenters LP. They had previously won for Best New Artist, and Best Pop Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus, for Close to You in 1970. The quality of her singing on this album reportedly got Richard to suggest that Karen get from behind her beloved drum set and sing center stage in a live performance.

The Carpenters put out a half dozen more albums, with hits such as [LISTEN TO THEM ALL] Top of the World , the Sesame Street song Sing and Yesterday Once More, possibly my favorite of their songs.

This I did not recall: “Richard sought treatment for his addiction to quaaludes at a Topeka, Kansas, facility for six weeks starting in January 1979. He then decided to take the rest of the year off for relaxation and rehabilitation.” But Karen didn’t want to either stop singing or “seek help for her anorexia” Nervosa for a few years. When she did seek treatment a few years later, it caused a dizzying yo-yo weight gain and loss which ended up killing her on February 4, 1983.

The only good thing to come of her passing was a greater awareness of anorexia and also bulimia. Richard, among other things, continues to keep the flame for the music of the duo.

*Yes, I know the name of the group is Carpenters, not The Carpenters, so named, Richard once said, “After much thought, we decided to name the act ‘Carpenters’ (No ‘The’; we thought it sounded hipper without it, like Buffalo Springfield or Jefferson Airplane.)” But I always thought Carpenters sounded like woodworkers.


ABC Wednesday – Round 14

Video Review: Muppet Treasure Island

I think Kermit the Frog is better suited playing himself or a variation of same.

The Daughter went to the library and got out the video of the 1996 Muppets movie adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island. She really liked The Muppets (2011) in the theater, as did The Wife and I. I’ve also enjoyed some of the early Muppet movies and that classic TV program, The Muppet Show.

Tim Curry as Long John Silver was great. Yet this story seemed to meander. Partly, it was difficult to find the tone of the film. Fairly early on Rizzo, the Rat’s character complains that there’s a dead body in a movie geared toward children. There was a lot of grungy, unappealing, and, for my nine-year-old, somewhat frightening stuff in the first third of the film.

The late Roger Ebert made an interesting observation about the source material: “Stevenson is a splendid writer of stories for adults, and he should be put on the same shelf with Joseph Conrad and Jack London instead of in-between Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan.” Maybe that’s an issue.

Captain Smollett I thought was miscast. I think Kermit the Frog is better suited to playing himself or a variation of the same. He was believable as Bob Cratchit in the Muppets’ adaptation of A Christmas Carol because they have a similar persona. Here, the joke IS that this purportedly mean seaman is in fact, an amphibian, and until a late duel, it’s a largely untapped plot device.

Kevin Bishop as Jim Hawkins grew on me as a character after that first third of the movie. Miss Piggy, playing a variation of herself, was more relatable in a smallish role. Indeed, Frank Oz plays most of the interesting characters here, including the strict Sam the Eagle, and the more addled than usual Fozzie Bear, though his jokes about his constant companion wore thin over time.

There were a lot of songs, and I watched this video twice in two days, yet I can’t remember most of them. The second viewing, though, made me more forgiving of its flaws; go figure.

Meanwhile, more recently, we were away on a business trip and managed by chance to catch much of The Great Muppet Caper (1981). Now THAT is a fun movie, especially the Esther Williams-like scene. And the bicycle scene was quite impressive, though they didn’t wear helmets in those days, I guess.

Muppet goodness from SamuraiFrog: A movie blooper reel;
commercials for the new movie; Jim Henson: The Biography.