When I became a high school teacher, I started collecting my students’ stories, and I incorporated these into my first efforts to write for others. I taught English to refugees from Latin America and organized concerts of Latin American music, and the people I met inspired and encouraged me to write the novel that years later would become Gringolandia (2009)…
I enrolled in the MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts and there gained the confidence to write the story I’d been avoiding or skirting for my life up to that point —growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism that made it so hard for me to make and keep friends. My 2013 novel, Rogue, is based on two incidents that happened to me as a teenager.
In addition to my published fiction for preteens and teens, I have complete drafts of two young adult novels, one of them a companion to Gringolandia, and am writing a middle grade novel. I am also working on a graphic novel featuring a Lego town I’ve built, Little Brick Township, and the minifigures who live there and/or visit. The stuff that happens in Little Brick Township sometimes appears on my blog, along with tips for other Lego builders.
While I occasionally offer writing advice, my blog mainly features my other interests, including the experience of living abroad and learning another language (I spent the last four months of 2012 in Portugal and hope to return), my work as assistant host of a bilingual radio show of Latin American, Spanish, and Portuguese music, and what’s new in Little Brick Township.
Rob Ford died of a more respectable disease.
Weekly Sift: My racial blind spots.
Game Theory for Parents. “Mathematically tested measures to make your kids cooperate—all on their own.”
American Bystander is a printed humor magazine that’s about to release its second issue, with the help of a Kickstarter campaign.
I generally have good success, but Chuck Miller reports on the UPS epic fail.
What does superfetation mean?
Now I Know: The Secret Life of Honey Buns
Patty Duke, 69: Oscar winner was the youngest at the time to receive the award. She went through so much before becoming a mental health advocate. And yes, I watched The Patty Duke Show – she was the youngest actor to have a TV show named for her in the day, and I even remember the theme.
Ken Howard, 71: he of The White Shadow, 30 Rock, Crossing Jordan, Adam’s Rib and a bunch of other stuff I’ve watched. He was also SAG/AFTRA union president.
Garry Shandling, 66: comedian’s influential career spanned decades. I watched his eponymously-named show regularly. He also gave us the greatest TV show about television; I didn’t see it often, it being on HBO, but I DID see the finale while I was in Boston taping JEOPARDY! Mark Evanier rewrote for Garry.
Larry Drake, 67: from L.A. Law.
My Window Faces The South – George Morgan with a young Glen Campbell.
Not Given Lightly – Chris Knox, a New Zealand artist (1989).
Fragile – Sting and Stevie Wonder, from the former’s 60th birthday concert.
Green Onions and Sophia Loren. Loren was in Schenectady giving a talk recently; I didn’t see her, alas.
Google searches (me)
Do I say to him what he ought to do in order to try to save the relationship?
The always curious Sharp Little Pencil wants to know:
Why do you think no one has made a movie about Herb Jeffries yet… and if they did, whom would you cast?
To the former, because I think most people don’t know Hollywood’s first singing black cowboy.
Tell you what: you write the screenplay and I’ll send it off to Jada Pinkett Smith. Actually, if there WERE a screenplay, I’d probably send it to Nelson George – I backed one of his Kickstarter projects – and he could get it to Spike Lee, with whom he has collaborated.
Maybe it’s because I just saw my niece singing with him, but I was thinking El DeBarge, of that singing DeBarge family, or Prince. If you needed a younger actor, maybe Jussie Smollett from the show Empire, which I’ve never seen, or Drake.
Who is your favorite ex-president?
My first strong awareness of an ex-President was Herbert Hoover (1874-1964), who I was SHOCKED to discover that he was still alive by the time I first learned about The Great Depression. I must confess that I was entertained by Richard Nixon, who tried REALLY hard to be an Elder Statesmen of the Republican Party, writing books, and pontificating, hoping that we’d forget about that Watergate thing.
My second favorite ex-President has to be John Quincy Adams, who went back into the House of Representatives and argued the Amistad case before the Supreme Court.
But clearly, Jimmy Carter has set the standard for former Oval Office occupiers. If it was just for all the Habitat for Humanity houses he helped build, that would be impressive. But he has also worked vigorously on preventing and eradicating diseases in developing nations.
“A major accomplishment of The Carter Center has been the elimination of more than 99 percent of cases of Guinea worm disease, from an estimated 3.5 million cases in 1986 to 148 reported cases in 2013 to 23 in 2015.” He’s also been involved with peace negotiations and observing elections.
If you got a tattoo, what would it be?
It’d be The Duck. Or a G clef; G is for Green.
The illustrious Alan David Doane reflects:
I recently turned 50, so I’ve been thinking a lot about aging and time and so on lately.
If you could go back in time and talk to your 20 year old self, what three pieces of advice would you give him to try to improve the decades he has ahead?
This is a tricky question. By my 20th birthday, I was already married, and two years later, I was separated. So:
Do I say to him what he ought to do in order to try to save the relationship OR assume those facts to be immutable. and advise him how to survive it better?
If it were the former, I might insist that we not allow boarders, who I didn’t even know, to live in the apartment. I might have been more willing to go with her to the Philadelphia Folk Festival in August 1974, and if I didn’t, to be more direct in finding out what happened hat led to her fortnightly treks out of town the next six weeks, something I don’t know to this day.
If it were the latter, I would suggest seeking counseling earlier, drinking less in 1974-75, save more money, do more exercise… But you know, and I’ve said this before, probably recently, all of those good and bad decisions made me who I am today, for better or worse. I’m not sure he’d believe what I’d say anyway. It’s like at the end of The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy realizes that she had to find out for herself.
The author Jaquandor from Byzantium Shores asks:
Has it become harder to maintain any interest you have in football, as the head-injury thing becomes more and more clear?
I saw the movie Concussion, about a doctor (Will Smith) dealing with this very subject, CTE, in the National Football League a few months ago; it’s a good, not great, film. In the film, another person not from the United States explains to the doctor the sheer beauty of the sport.
So, not yet. Well, maybe, in that The Daughter thinks watching football is stupid, and a lot of that comes from the head injury debate. The Wife has never particularly enjoyed the sport. So it’s taken a hit in viewing in my household to those rare times that I have the TV home alone on a Sunday afternoon.
VERY seldom do I watch TV much after 9 p.m., including football, because it’s bad for my sleep cycle.
I DO think the NFL, having played down the risk of head injuries using research that it falsely claimed was comprehensive, has put itself on the hot seat to actually develop a better helmet. From what little I know, the design they need is actually less hard and more resilient.
Now the league, in particular, could do more. The one game I watched at any length this past season was the New York Giants (my team in my childhood) against the Carolina Panthers (playing in the city my late parents moved to). The officials should have bounced Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for repeated helmet-smacking of cornerback Josh Norman, including a head-first attack.
Ah, but I see you have said farewell to football, and for all sorts of good and valid reasons.
What’s your favorite milkshake flavor?
Strawberry. My favorite yogurt is strawberry. My favorite ice cream is strawberry. My favorite sundae topping is strawberry. For a time, when we used to go to IHOP, I would order the Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity strawberry topping on my pancakes, in part because I liked saying “Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity.” As though one wouldn’t.
There’s a local convenience store chain around these parts called Stewart’s and they make decent ice cream. But they’ve ceased selling strawberry by itself, only with vanilla, or with vanilla and chocolate. One CAN get a hand-packed strawberry pint, though.
What’s inside your perfect taco? (And is the shell hard or soft?)
It’s softshell – that’s easy. Guacamole, tomatoes, and lettuce. It has to have onions, and of course, cheese.
I don’t eat that much pork generally, so the taco is probably shredded pork, though chicken or beef are good too. But shredded. I’ve seen these things with solid meat, or fish, and they don’t say “taco” to me.
Andrew Lloyd Webber received seven Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, and an Academy Award.
Like many people of a certain age, I first became aware of the name Andrew Lloyd Webber when Jesus Christ Superstar, the 1970 “rock opera” with music by Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice was released. The two-LP package stoked a great deal of theological discussion at a point in my life when I had begun questioning my religious upbringing.
The story is “loosely based on the Gospels’ accounts of the last week of Jesus’s life, beginning with the preparation for the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem and ending with the crucifixion. It highlights political and interpersonal struggles between Judas Iscariot and Jesus that are not in the Bible narratives.” I played it incessantly, and know much of it by heart to this day.
Moreover, it generated two Top 100 singles for Yvonne Elliman, who played Mary Magdalene. I Don’t Know How To Love Him went to #28 and Everything’s Alright reached #92, both in 1971. Helen Reddy’s version of the former went to #13 that same year.
Superstar, essentially the title track, got only to #74 in early 1970, but was rereleased and eventually reached #14 in 1971. It was sung by Murray Head, the Judas Iscariot performer, with the Trinidad Singers.
Though written before JCSS, I next became aware of the single album Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which, in the US, was a reissue of the 1969 Decca UK album. This music has been greatly expanded since then, with some song titles I do not recognize.
Evita, a musical based on the life of Eva Perón, turned out to be the last Lloyd Webber/Rice collaboration. It was first released as a concept album in 1976, then was performed in the West End in 1978, where it ran for ten years. Patti LuPone created the role of Eva on Broadway in 1979, for which she won a Tony.
Don’t Cry for Me Argentina is the best-known song, performed by a group called Festival in 1980 (#72 US), and Madonna (#8 US in 1997, from the 1996 movie starring her and Antonio Banderas).
“Lloyd Webber embarked on his next project without a lyricist, turning instead to the poetry of T. S. Eliot. Cats (1981) was to become the longest-running musical in London, where it ran for 21 years before closing. On Broadway, Cats ran for 18 years, a record which would ultimately be broken by another Lloyd Webber musical, The Phantom of the Opera.”
Memory is the big hit from Cats, which I heard LONG before I ever saw the show only a few years ago. “Elaine Paige, who originated the role of Grizabella in the West End production, released a version of the song that… peaked at No. 6 on the UK Singles Chart in July 1981… Barbra Streisand’s cover reached #52 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #9 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart in 1982. In the UK this version peaked at #34 the same year. Barry Manilow released a cover as a single in late 1982; this became the highest-charting version on the Billboard Hot 100 when it reached #39 in January 1983. Manilow’s recording also made the Billboard adult contemporary chart, reaching #8.”
This could go on – the most recent production of Andrew Lloyd Webber is School of Rock, based on the movie – but I did want to cite some of his awards. He was knighted in 1992, and “received seven Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, an Academy Award… a Golden Globe Award, a Brit Award, the 2006 Kennedy Center Honors, and the 2008 Classic Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, is an inductee into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and is a fellow of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors.”
LISTEN TO the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber
Close every door – Donny Osmond (Joseph – 1999, a straight-to-video film)
THAT was my favorite birthday present this year.
1. Say what they did on that day, and
2. Provide some words of wisdom.
What did I do on that day earlier this month? Mostly respond to all the kind comments from you all. This picture came from one of them. And I saw the video of the Daughter’s musical. More on that eventually.
Most people find the latter to be a difficult exercise. So what’s MY takeaway?
The day before my birthday, the sermon was a story about a fictional town, but with a very real message about unwarranted chastisement and forgiveness. I’m reminded of the cliche that you don’t always know what kind of impact you have on others, for good or for ill. This story, A principal met a student she expelled, and it changed her approach to discipline, is also in that vein.
One of those birthday comments I got from a friend of relatively recent acquaintance reads: “‘It’s good that you are alive…’ Thank you for your birthday blog quote, Roger! Happy Birthday! You have the gift of making people feel good to be alive — there were often times when I’d be feeling a bit false, and your cheerful, warm hello often made me feel completely present in the room again.”
And THAT was my favorite birthday present this year, better than the new backpack I desperately needed, or the certificate for snacks at the Spectrum Theatre.