February rambling: Incompetence Opera

Gun violence dashboard. Every Building on Every Block: NYC property tax photos from the 1930s

red green lightAs the Climate Collapses, We Ask: “How Then Shall We Live?”

Modern Weather Forecasts Are Stunningly Accurate

Greenpeace ships set sail to tell the global story of plastic pollution

Gun violence dashboard

Weekly Sift: A Fishy Emergency Threatens the Republic

Grammar as Resistance

United Methodist Church voted to toughen its teachings against homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and LGBT clergy. It must now decide whether it will stay together

The case for capping all prison sentences at 20 years

Melinda and Bill Gates’s Annual Letter discussing surprises from toilets to sexist data to textbooks

It’s illegal to drive your car covered in snow and ice in New York State

Every Building on Every Block: NYC property tax photos from the 1930s

It’s Impossible to Follow a Conversation on Twitter

This week with John Oliver:Brexit III

New York’s Rejection of Amazon Isn’t Anti-Tech, It’s Pro-People

Deepfake: A Brief History of Unreliable Images

FTC Details Big Jump in Losses, Complaints about Romance Scams

Isaac Newton’s Secret Religious Writings and Apocalyptic Prediction

Ken Levine podcast: TV in the age of Ageism

The original obituary of Frederick Douglass

Meet the Safecracker of Last Resort

What one wants from hotel showers

Europeans Keep Finding Ancient Dodecahedrons in the Dirt

The 25 Most Influential Movie Scenes of the Past 25 Years

Stanley Donen, co-director of ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ dies at 94

Nurses from the Opening Credits of the TV show MASH

The Forgotten Story of the American Troops Who Got Caught Up in the Russian Civil War

For decades, the only thing staving off a worldwide Socialist revolution was a grouchy librarian

Now I Know: When Sears Sold Homes by Mail and Why The $1 Bill Doesn’t Change and When Doing the Math Meant Breaking the Law and How to Recycle Thousands of Tons of Military-Grade Metal

Bella’s journey ends

The canine section: He finished the race, didn’t he? and Good dog

Greg Burgas: More comics lists we can argue about!

Movie trailers for the movies Yesterday (2019), about Beatles music, and Who Is Arthur Chu?,, the sometimes hated JEOPARDY champion

The Most Bizarre Stock Photos I Could Find Brought to Life by Your Captions

MUSIC

The Dunning-Kruger Song, from The Incompetence Opera

Why -Tracy Chapman (Live 1990)

SO CUTE – Aubrey Logan

I Wanna Be a Lifeguard – Scud Lightning

(Gimme Some of That) Ol’ Atonal Music – Merle Hazard

No or No – Twice

The Ball Game – Sister Wynona Carr

Take On Me – Weezer

Coverville 1250: Cover Stories for Robert Palmer and Bobby Brown and 1251: Gerry Goffin Cover Story and 1252: The Chinese Zodiac of Cover Songs

One Hundred Ways – James Ingram

Night and Day – Marc Hunter

Oh, Man – Jain

Orpheus in the Underworld overture – Jacques Offenbach

Theme from The Muppet Show, a cappella rendition – Mr Dooves

You Won’t Bring Me Down – Sina

Private Eyes – Sleeping At Last

Black Velvet Band – Irish Rovers

B.E.R. – The Night Begins To Shine

Chuck Miller: The times that I met Peter Tork

Who Do I Side With 2020 Presidential quiz

Pete Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend Indiana, Mike Pence’s state. I had barely heard of him, yet he’s up at the top of my leader board. Who the heck is he?

I-Side-With-Feb-2019-There is a political quiz that Arthur took called Who Do I Side With? It contains questions on a wealth of issues from national security to education and health care.

If YOU should decide to fill it out, consider clicking on the “other stances” each time in order to get more nuanced responses. I filled this out in June 2016, and – SURPRISE – Bernie Sanders was my pick, with 92%, followed by Hillary Clinton at 68% and Jeb Bush at 28%.

Note that the guy who ultimately won the election isn’t even on the matrix, as he had just announced his candidacy that month.

You’ll see that virtually all the declared candidates on the Democratic side fare about the same with me. In other words, I REALLY don’t care yet.

That said:

Pete Buttigieg – he’s the mayor of South Bend Indiana, Mike Pence’s state. I had barely heard of him, yet he’s up at the top of my leader board. Who the heck is he? Arthur (oh, HIM again) needed to find out. Here’s an article from his hometown paper. There was a compelling interview on ABC News’ This Week earlier in February that I can’t access presently, but he was very impressive.

Beto O’Rourke – has a recently defeated candidate ever gotten more traction than he?

Kamala Harris – the US Senator from California sat down with an extended interview with Trevor Noah, and I found her impressive; you may not be able access it overseas. The noise about whether she’s black enough annoys me greatly.

Elizabeth Warren – she’s a loyal Democrat and Not a Socialist, But She Still Makes Wall Street Squirm

Bernie Sanders – Wall Street likes Biden, Booker, Harris, Gillibrand, and Beto. Guess who they hate? Sanders and Warren. All the rest is commentary.

BTW, the graphic that’s included Arthur kindly designed for me in Photoshop because I know where my skills lie, and it is assuredly NOT in graphic design. Gracias, amigo.

Lydster: high school lockdown

In the lingo, “hold in place” means one stays where they are, and do not change classes. Activity within classroom can go on, however.

I had missed the first message. So when she wrote that she was frightened, I thought it might be in response to some video she watched. Nope, her high school was in lockdown. She was seeking more information.

I got on a Facebook list for the parents of Albany school children. I also reached out to a news anchor I know, all of us sharing what little we knew.

As it turned out, a kid came to school with a BB gun, looking to retaliate against somebody about something. The student did not come in through the standard security entries. A person let the student in through a side door. The school notes: “While our investigation indicates there was no malicious intent in allowing the student entry to the building, this was a serious breach of our security protocols.”

What made both my daughter and at least one other child in the school nervous was the lack of seriousness her classmates took the event. Many of the students were very loud throughout the lockdown. Also, often the classroom window on the doors were not covered so anyone could look in and see all the students. Both of these issues made them feel vulnerable to an attack.

Of course, when their kids are anxious, parents can’t help but feel the same, along with a dollop of helplessness. Because they have no idea what’s happening, another child believed someone was going to hear them and rush in firing.

Technically, the lockdown lasted 33 minutes, followed by 27 minutes of “hold in place”, which, in the lingo, means people stay where they are, and do not change classes. Activity within classroom can go on, however.

This took place on the same day a 14-year-old planned to commit violence at an Indiana middle school. The police were tipped off and the boy, after firing at some cops, ended up killing himself.

Also that week bomb threats were emailed to multiple locations across the country, including schools, trying to extort the targets unless they paid a Bitcoin ransom.

The next day was the sixth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, during which 20 first-graders and six educators were killed. Naturally, the school needed to evacuated after a bomb threat.

According to an April 2018 Pew survey, a majority of U.S. teens fear a shooting could happen at their school, and most parents share their concern.

It is a scary world, and parents are often powerless to credibly say, “It’ll be all right.”

Annual hearts game: birthday tradition

Queen of spadesWay back in late 1987, hearts, the card game, was played at the home of WBS in Albany. Somehow, through some alchemy that is difficult to explain, it would take place there four, five, even six nights a week at his home.

There were a group of about a dozen people who showed up in different permutations at his house to participate. Most knew where the spare key was.

Occasionally, it took place even when WBS wasn’t home. Specifically, on May 4, 1988, when he called to schedule a game, but work kept him away until after midnight. So three of us played without him.

His sainted wife was aware of this arrangement, but due to the design of the house, specifically the bedroom, she was not disturbed by the comings and goings of these folks.

I should note that we operated by different rules. Traditionally, a hearts hand is started with a lead of the two of clubs, and as a result, no points could be dropped on the first trick. Online games are designed in that manner.

We decided this was a stupid directive; almost every other card game involves the player to the left of the dealer starting the round, so we did that. This meant the queen of spades could be played on the first trick; it’s worth 13 points, and as in golf, points are bad.

A few years later, WBS and his sainted wife moved out to the country, and the hearts games ended. People started having kids, life got complicated, and that was that.

UNTIL six years ago, when my wife asked what I wanted for my birthday. I said, “I want to invite people over to play hearts.” And it was so. Then we did it the next year, and it became an annual tradition.

Well, except for one year, when my wife said we ought to do it another weekend, because the designated weekend was busy, which was true. As a result, it didn’t happen at all, because EVERY weekend is busy.

This year, as usual, the hearts game is scheduled for the Saturday after my birthday. OGA is always late but brings the lasagna. MPH usually brings baked goods. As some writer noted, “A splendid time is guaranteed for all.”

For ABC Wednesday

Movie review: Bohemian Rhapsody

In Bohemian Rhapsody, Rami Malek is as good as advertised as Freddie Mercury, the dynamic lead singer of the band Queen.

Bohemian RhapsodyOnce again, I played hooky from work to see a movie, this time Bohemian Rhapsody. I keep forgetting that just before the Academy Awards, the Regal Theater in Colonie Center brings back some of the Oscar-nominated films.

The good news: Rami Malek is as good as advertised as Freddie Mercury, the dynamic lead singer of the band Queen. He may I’ve read that when Malek had the false teeth in, it helped him in developing the character. Those who care about such things note: “After wins at the SAGs, BAFTAs, and Golden Globes, [he] has run away with the [awards] season,” and will likely win an Oscar.

Also, the makeup and casting people have created a cast that looks very much like the other members of the group: Gwilym Lee as Brian May, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, and Joe Mazzello as John Deacon, although they all appear more annoyed than angry during the band’s arguments, many of which, I’ve read, didn’t actually happen.

The real Mary Austin, Freddie’s sometimes girlfriend, played by Lucy Boynton, seemed satisfied by the portrayal of her relationship with Mercury.

I liked the stunt casting of an almost unrecognizable Mike Myers; the Wayne’s World movie (1992) helped a six-minute song to chart again.

Of course, the eclectic music of Queen is on display. The last scene of Live Aid in 1985 was fun. I saw a couple people in the theater crying at the end. All in all, it might have been a serviceable biopic with a (relatively) happy ending.

The BIG problem is that the movie is emotionally dishonest. It is well known that films based on the lives of real people take liberties with minor characters, dialogue, even chronology.

But the brief movie revelation is that Freddie had AIDS BEFORE the climatic Wembley concert in 1985, when he wasn’t diagnosed until 1987. As this article and others note, the movie then necessarily glosses over the societal response to the disease.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a mostly feel-good movie – did I mention it has the music of Queen? – and one can certainly enjoy it, particularly if you know nothing of the era. But don’t take it too seriously as a real depiction of Freddie Mercury’s life.

Undoubtedly, this is why it’s the worst-rated film of the Best Picture nominees among critics (61% positive on Rotten Tomatoes), yet is a crowd-pleaser (88% positive).