May Rambling #2: New Zealand music

I rant about the JEOPARDY! Million-Dollar Tournament.
Descendants of Solomon Northup, who recounted his story in a memoir, 12 Years A Slave.

The Real Origins of the Religious Right. “They’ll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record’s clear: It was segregation.”

Dustbury points to an article about how the ineptitude of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and its predecessors, go back nearly a century.

The Worst Argument Ever Made Against Gay Marriage.

Amy Biancolli’s book: To plunge is to live. Also, her parents in love.

Judy Sanders, a former local news reporter and photographer, is dying of ovarian cancer. Confronting the long goodbye from Paul Grondahl, and a piece by her former colleague, Ken Screven.

Diane Cameron’s blog Love in the Time of Cancer has been going on since 2008, but I just discovered it.

Getting kicked out of the prom.

New York Erratic asked: “Have you ever dated anyone who turned out to be gay?” I had a serious relationship with a woman who left me for another woman, with whom she stayed for some time. About 20 years later, she married a man, an old friend of hers.

Dan writes about The Casino And All The Promises, which is both a local issue and a cautionary narrative if casinos are offered to your town.

Lisa has been having the same blog problems I have

Mr. Frog on meeting celebrities

The Good Wife is my favorite TV show. Here’s why I love it, and why I have a difficult time explaining it to others.

Dustbury reminds me why I love word processing, and wish I had a goat.

A great interview with Mel Brooks, who’s promoting the rerelease of Blazing Saddles.

Dead Man Walking, and Burying the Bentley.

Mark Evanier’s childhood, and the color orange. Sweet story of coincidence.

New Paltz Students Find $40K in a Couch; NP is my alma mater, BTW.

Luckiest Unlucky Man or Unluckiest Lucky Man?

You’re Not Here. Abbott and Costello with the famed movie tough guy, Mike Mazurki.

How did Fred Astaire literally dance on the ceiling in the movie Royal Wedding?
The Oatmeal cartoon about irony. Is it ironic that the song Ironic is not about being ironic?

LYNDA BARRY SELLS OUT. I love her work.

Irene Vartanoff writes about Marvel Comics’ original artwork in the 1960s. And she would know.

Drawn Out: The 50 Best Non-Superhero Graphic Novels.

The Documentary “Stripped” shows the past and future of comic strips. I supported Kickstarter for this.

Arthur celebrates NZMM: New Zealand Music Month. Lots of good stuff, but I must note #14, “New Zealand’s First Record.”

Tosy: U2 – Ranked 80-71 and 70-61.

Another great review of the niece’s album: Rebecca Jade & the Cold Fact. (Hey, it’s good!)

Pantheon Songs remembers Marvin Gaye.

Muppet section: Joe Raposo and Roosevelt Franklin and Time In A Bottle. “Today me will live in the moment unless it’s unpleasant, in which case me will eat a cookie.” – Cookie Monster.

What IS a photocopier?

How do you spell the color: grey or gray?
The local Jewish Community Center had an ad campaign many found offensive. Several others thought it was poor because they couldn’t even read what it said. In any case, the ad is gone, and a couple of people suggested my blog post on the topic may have helped.

SamuraiFrog said ‘Why Not Ask Me Anything?’ and blamescredits me for him doing so. He answers my questions about music, and specifically about Billy Joel.

Likewise, Arthur’s Internet wading was my fault, or suggestion.

I rant about the JEOPARDY! Million-Dollar Tournament.


I HIGHLY recommend that you get a notebook when you go to the hospital with someone – and you SHOULD have someone, if at all possible.

hospital-billThe bill came for the Daughter’s two-day stay at a local hospital:
Over $4,000 for the emergency room
Over $4,000 for the MRI brain scan
Over $12,000 for the MRI spine scan (which they probably didn’t finish when she balked after an HOUR)
Over $4,000 for various labs
Over $4,500 in “accommodation fees”
Plus drugs and physical therapy

The hospital actually got $4,889 from my insurance company, with over $25,000 eliminated by the “Insurance Contractual Adjustment.”

That made the total due from us $100.

THAT is why I LOATHE it when I’m without insurance.

One can argue whether it was all necessary, to eliminate what she might have had, but evidently did not. Had she suffered from Guillain-Barré syndrome, rather than the viral infection she likely had, it would have been terrible.

One more thing on this topic: the Wife and I were at the hospital all the time, but not always at the same time. I HIGHLY recommend that you get a notebook when you go to the hospital with someone – and you SHOULD have someone, if at all possible. You are likely going to see so many different people, it’ll be difficult to keep track of what each one said.

I’m always coming across people – writers, artists, musicians especially – who have no insurance. It’s usually in the context of someone who has had some illness or injury, and is now facing some catastrophic bills. This is why I’ve supported the single-payer insurance plan that never got off the ground in the bulk of the US; Obamacare is definitely a half a loaf, but, I’m hoping, better than nothing for those people going forward.

Cherry Valley and the Limestone Inn 2014

The Limestone Mansion is a happening place.

limestone_mansionBack in October 2001, the Wife and I went to Cherry Valley, NY, about an hour west of Albany. It was, of course, a month after 9/11, and I wanted to get away. She had contended then that we could do what is now known as a staycation. As I have noted, she rather sucks at staycation; she now acknowledges this to be true.

And the Limestone Mansion in 2001 was a pretty good place to be: no TV, no Internet, just nice rooms. The owners, Wolfgang and Loretta, also made breakfast, but they had arranged some chef to do dinners, and they were, I must say, fabulous.

It was probably some desire to recreate that time that when we arranged to revisit the Limestone for Memorial Day weekend, that The Wife asked me to leave all of my devices, save for the cellphone, home. Though I found it odd, I did, and not only did I regret it, eventually so did she.

It was a trip that almost didn’t happen at all. The car, in that past week, had an irritating habit of starting only occasionally, having SOMETHING to do with the ignition doohickey. That Friday, the Wife left before 7 a.m., drove from Albany to Sharon Hill (which is near Sharon Springs) to drop off the car, get the rental, drive back to her schools near Albany, and teach. After I left work early – really tired (more on that eventually, probably) – and we packed., we went to Oneonta (pretty much the junction of I-88 and 28), eat dinner at my in-law’s house (my father-in-law’s birthday), leave the Daughter there, and finally get to Cherry Valley at 9 p.m.
route 20
This time, we were not in the mansion itself, but in the carriage house behind it. Interestingly, it had Internet connectivity – because the NYC visitors become verklempt without being in touch – but the main house still did not.

Saturday morning, we went down for breakfast in the main building. Wolfgang cooked and Loretta served the breakfast. There was a split of champagne for us to have a mimosa if we wanted. The Wife was, as she put it, a mimosa virgin, and indeed did not know what one was. I poured some of her orange juice into the flute glass, added the bubbly, and we both had a lovely addition to the meal.

Wolfie and Loretta told us great stories about moving from New York City. They’d purchased other properties. One of the two fights they ever had in their marriage was when, in 1995, he purchased the Limestone. There was over $450,000 due on the mortgage, but he bought it for a third of that. Still, it needed a lot of work, and they didn’t take their first reservation until 1997.

They are currently open only between Memorial Day weekend and mid-September. They were open later in the season, but it can snow there in mid-October, and too often travelers would cancel out because of the weather. Given that they have to go all the way to Oneonta, 45 minutes away, for supplies, that would be onerous.

No longer does the Mansion serve dinner. They had a series of chefs, some from the famed Culinary Institute, who were great cooks, but lousy businesspeople. Loretta noted that one was spending twice as much for the same eggs as she did. A few of them had a taste for the booze.

It’s a happening place. There have been baseball stars, current and retired, there for the Hall of Fame events. (Sidebar: President Obama was in Cooperstown the Thursday before, promoting tourism; ironically, his presence made it impossible for a couple from Sweden, staying at the inn, from visiting the Hall.) The location also draws the opera crowd from Glimmerglass, near Cooperstown. People from the TV show Castle, I believe the writer Andrew Marlowe, have stayed. As luck would have it, that weekend, I got to talk with a commissioner from the Public Service Commission, which was to be holding hearings about the proposed (dreadful) merger of Time Warner Cable with Comcast that following Wednesday.

More soon.

Gladys Knight is 70

Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye) was, appropriately, one of Gladys Knight & the Pips’ last songs at Motown.

Also used for ABC Wednesday, Round 15 – K is for Knight:

Gladys Knight & the Pips, if I had thought of them, I could have put in my weekly family music groups. One of those pieces of trivia I’ve long known is that “at the age of seven in 1952, she won Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour television show contest.” In 1953, Gladys,” her brother Bubba, sister Brenda, and their cousins William and Eleanor Guest started a singing group called ‘The Pips’ (named after another cousin, James ‘Pip’ Woods). The Pips began to perform and tour, eventually replacing Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest with Langston George in 1959 and Edward Patten in 1963.”

I felt a bit badly for Gladys and the Pips during their tenure at Motown. They were getting a lot of the same songs as the Temptations’ album cuts. Moreover, their biggest hit on the label, Grapevine, was bested on the charts by Marvin Gaye the next year. I remember reading in the press how frustrated the group was when people would ask them why they were doing Marvin’s song.

They moved to Buddah Records in 1973 and later went to Columbia.

Here’s a bit I thought was hysterically funny at the time:

In 1977, the Pips (minus Gladys) appeared on comedian Richard Pryor’s TV special that aired on NBC. They sang their normal backup verses for the… “Midnight Train to Georgia;” during the parts where Gladys would sing, the camera panned on a lone-standing microphone.

The group, which broke up in 1989, when Gladys decided to be a solo artist, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

My favorite songs; LISTEN to all:

15. Every Beat of My Heart (US #6 in 1961) – that early hit; it’d be a while before their next one
14. The End of Our Road (US #15 in 1968) – one of those songs also recorded by the Tempts
13. Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me (US #3; UK #7 in 1974)
12. Friendship Train (US #17 in 1969) – might even be the Tempts’ same musical arrangement
11. The Nitty Gritty (US #19 in 1969)

10. I Don’t Want to Do Wrong (US #17 in 1971)
9. You Need Love Like I Do (Don’t You) (US #25 in 1970) – another Tempts song
8. It Should Have Been Me (US #40 in 1968) – the variation on the Wedding March in the beginning always tickled me
7. Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye) (US #2 in 1973). Appropriately, one of their last songs at Motown.
6. Take Me in Your Arms and Love Me (US #98; UK #13 in 1967) – can’t believe this didn’t do better in the States

5. Daddy Could Swear, I Declare (US #19 in 1973). I even forgive the rhyming of write and right.
4. If I Were Your Woman (US #9 in 1970)
3. I’ve Got to Use My Imagination (US #4 in 1973)
2. Midnight Train to Georgia (US #1 in 1973; UK #10 in 1976)
1. I Heard It Through the Grapevine (US #2 in 1967) – I suppose it’s sacrilege to say, but I’ve always preferred this version to Marvin’s, or Smokey’s, or CCR’s…

T is for Talking Heads

The album Speaking in Tongues had come out only a couple months before the SPAC concert, featuring their only American Top 10 hit, Burning Down the House.

Frantz, Weymouth, Harrison, Byrne
Frantz, Weymouth, Harrison, Byrne

One of the two greatest concerts I ever saw was the August 1983 performance of Talking Heads at the Saratoga Performance Arts Center, which someone put online; actually, here’s another recording. It starts with David Byrne by himself on guitar and percussion. He’s joined by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, who were married in 1977, on drums and bass, respectively, for a song or two, before Jerry Harrison joins on guitar. That was the core band, but then the additional players are added in; the process was so organic.

This is the same tour from which the classic Jonathan Demme film Stop Making Sense was taken, but this is the complete concert, not just a truncated show.

The album Speaking in Tongues had come out only a couple of months earlier, featuring their only American Top 10 hit, Burning Down the House. LISTEN to the whole album. I always associated that album, along with a few others of that period, as forerunners of the compact disc, for the versions of several songs on the CD, which I got a number of years later, were longer than the versions on the LP, which I had purchased soon after it came out.

The new wave band Tom Tom Club was founded in 1981 by Frantz and Weymouth as a side project. Their big hit Genius of Love [LISTEN], which is in the Talking Heads concert, has been sampled by several artists , including Mariah Carey on her hit single Fantasy.

LISTEN to Psycho Killer from Talking Heads ’77, and the parody Psycho Chicken by The Fools.


ABC Wednesday – Round 14

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