Archive for November, 2017

As I have mentioned, the Daughter is really into the music of Weird Al Yankovic. She asks me questions about who did the originals of his parody songs. I’m pretty good with the pop/rock stuff, not so hot with the rap sourced items.

One exception is Amish Paradise, one of our favorite Weird Al songs, which I know came from the Coolio song Gangsta’s Paradise, featuring singer L.V. But truth is that I am only aware of that because it’s a reworking of Pastime Paradise, a song on the first side of the epic, Grammy-winning 1976 LP Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder.

A couple days later, the Daughter asked if Al gets permission to use other people’s songs, and I said that he did. But by this point, she knew of the Coolio/Weird Al feud. “Coolio claimed that he did not give permission for the parody… Yankovic claimed that he had been told Coolio had given the go-ahead through his record label and apologized.” Coolio too has since apologized for allowing his ego to get in the way.

For a while, the Daughter would play the three songs back-to-back. But eventually, she really glommed to the Stevie original, playing it a few times every day. I think it is the rhyme:

Dissipation
Race relations
Consolation
Segregation
Dispensation
Isolation
Exploitation
Mutilation
Mutations
Miscreation
Confirmation, to the evils of the world

Proclamation
Of race relations
Consolation
Integration
Verification
Of revelations
Acclamation
World salvation
Vibrations
Stimulation
Confirmation, to the peace of the world

I always liked it, but her affection for the song has enhanced my enjoyment of it.

Listen to:

Pastime Paradise – Stevie Wonder (1976) here or here
Pastime Paradise – Ray Barretto (1981) here or here
Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio, featuring L.V., #1 for three weeks on the Billboard pop charts (1995) here or here
Amish Paradise -Weird Al Yankovic, #53 (1996) here or here
Pastime Paradise – Patti Smith (2007) here or here

When my sister Leslie and I were in Binghamton in early October, we decided to go visit a couple grave sites. Frankly, it’s not something I do all that often, but since my sibling hardly ever gets to this side of the country, I decided that it’d be interesting.

First, we went to Floral Park Cemetery in nearby Johnson City, not very far from where our family moved to during my freshman year in college. I had found my paternal grandmother Agatha Green’s grave in 2013, and I was certain that I could discover it again. We traipsed through the entirety of Section M, but neither of us could find it.

Yet we were indeed in the right place. I showed her the nearby headstones of her father Samuel Walker, who I remember. He died in 1963, only a year before Agatha, a fact I had forgotten. It was also the location for the grave of Agatha’s brother Earl (1904 – 1961) – him I also recall; and his sister Melissa Walker Jackson (1914-1955), who I remember only in photos. Most mysterious.

Then we were onto Spring Forest Cemetery in the First Ward of Binghamton, my part of town growing up. We used to sled in there, back in the day. It is amazing now that we didn’t smash our heads into the trees, riding those crooked trails. We also would cut across the cemetery to play baseball at Ansco field.

We easily found the gravestone of Lilian Yates Holland, my maternal grandmother’s mother, her her son Ed Yates’, and a couple people named Archer, who are related to us in some fashion.

Peculiarly, there has never been a marker for either my maternal grandmother, Gertrude Yates Williams, who died on Super Bowl Sunday 1982, or her sister Adenia, who died in the mid-1960s, and are buried in the same section. My sisters and I have decided to rectify this in the coming year, though we also said that LAST year.

To quote Bullwinkle J. Moose, “This time for sure!”

Back in mid-October, I got this email from Phil Eppard, chair of the Department of Information Science, on the listserv of my alma mater at UAlbany:

“I am writing to inform you that the Information Science Department is moving from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences to the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity (CEHC). This move is the culmination of discussions between the provost, the deans of the two colleges, and the faculty of the department. We see great opportunities in locating the department in this emerging new college, for which information technology and management, information access and use, and information literacy and analysis are all key areas of study and concern.

“This relocation of the department will have no impact on students and their academic programs. On the contrary, we hope to be able to improve our course offerings and student services as we are integrated into CEHC.”

I posted it on Facebook, musing on what I thought of it. My initial thought was of feeling disquieted. As one friend wrote: “Librarians as a profession are guardians of free speech and free access to information. I can think of a bunch of my former professors who must be turning over in their graves.”

One response, from a relative of mine, believed “all data services were already under the homeland security umbrella.” But I noted: “The ethos of the librarian, at least for most of us, is to protect privacy. When the so-called USA PATRIOT Act was passed in 2001, it was the librarians who made it difficult for the government to get patron records. ‘The ALA believes certain sections of the USA PATRIOT Act endanger constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users.'”

The new dean put on a happy spin: “On behalf of the students, faculty, and staff of [CEHC], I would like to welcome you! We are excited that you are joining us! So much of what we do in CEHC is highly correlated with the work you do.

“There are limitless cool synergies we can explore together! Understanding how data become useful information, how to present information in an understandable way, operationalizing big data, analytics, visualization, remote sensoring querying and searching, predictive analytics, defining the role of society, community, and libraries, and developing and using information technology are just a few areas of intersection and collaboration I hope we can continue to develop.

“On a personal note, I am thrilled at the opportunity to work with you as we continue to build out CEHC. As we expand our offerings in intelligence analysis, smart cities/internet of things, crisis communications, extreme weather planning, advanced technologies, or social media I see nothing but exciting opportunities for our students, faculty researchers, creative staff, and operational partners. I also see information science as one of the growing ‘demand’ degrees with enormous job growth and research potential. Come join us and help us make a difference.”

As one buddy asked, “Is this supposed to make Emergency Preparedness cooler or to make libraries less cool? Or maybe an attempt to bring attention to the fact that a college of Emergency Preparedness exists…” Well, I didn’t know. And another: “Is it just me or is Library/Information Science always something of an orphan? (from a UAlbany MLS graduate, back in the day when the library was part of the Rockefeller College, IIRC)” No, it’s not just you.

turkeyThe Thanksgiving of 1987 I had just started dating someone less than a month earlier. Her plan was to go to her mother’s house, about an hour away. My plan had been – well, I had no particular plan, which had been my m.o. for much of the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. So I went with her.

This was at a big old country house, and 20-odd people were to share the meal. Meeting that many strangers at one time was not my favorite situation. Among other things, I’m terrible at remembering the names of that many people in a compressed period of time; they don’t wear name tags.

My general solution for dealing with stressful situations is Being Useful. In addition to making some chitchat, I probably set the table, and almost certainly answered the door when newcomers arrived.

I did none of the cooking, and with four or five people in the kitchen, I had no desire to be in there. After dinner, my Being Useful really kicked in, as I volunteered to wash the dishes. This involved soaking the pans, and then hand washing the bowls, plates, silverware – no dishwasher here – then wash the pans at the end.

And that was fine; I LIKE washing dishes. Maybe it’s a water sign thing. I’m sure I had help, with someone drying the dishes and putting them away.

If you’re ever in a gathering of folks you don’t know, try Being Useful. It’s seen as helpful, rather than antisocial.

I’ve mentioned before the fact that JFK assassination records were scheduled to be released by the National Archives by October 26, 2017. Like most people my age, the killing of JFK in 1963 is among the most recalled events in our then-young lives, maybe the first significant event external to ourselves and our families.

When the current regime announced the impending release of the last documents, I was relieved. To have suppressed them, as rumors suggested, would have only energized the conspiracy theorists.

But then they actually decided to hold back some 200 documents, thousands of pages, for another six months to allow the FBI, CIA, et al to make the case that they should remain under lock and key. The regime cited unspecified “national security concerns,” an argument Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said was “amazing… What possible national security interests are still at risk from an event that happened 54 YEARS AGO?”

I can see where there could be some embarrassment. In fact, we’ve already seen that in the material that’s been released. Lee Harvey Oswald was already on the radar of law enforcement. There had been credible threats on the life of JFK. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI head, was livid about the shooting of Oswald, who was in police custody, by Jack Ruby, as there were credible threats against him.

Pretty much since the Warren Commission Report was excerpted in my local newspaper – I STILL have the black 3-ring binder with the clippings glued to lined school paper – I have wanted to know more. What WAS Oswald doing in Mexico a few months before the shooting?

The Boston Globe noted that the 2,800 records released so far “offer insights into his death that were previously hidden from the public. They help paint a more complete picture of Lee Harvey Oswald and share previously undisclosed details about his background, and they provide color and reaction from the days following Kennedy’s death.

“The records released so far may not confirm or disprove any of the many conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s assassination, but they begin to piece together parts of unknown history and have made some people even more anxious for the remaining documents to be released.” And that includes me.

The JFK Assassination: A Cast of Characters.

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