April rambling: the automatic runner

Mandela’s Blues

embarrassing-incidentsBonhoeffer musing on Who am I?

Bankruptcy: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

The Unbelievable Story of Europe’s Runaway Nazi.

Planned Parenthood: We’re Done Making Excuses for Our Founder.

“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”
– James Baldwin, “Letter From a Region in My Mind” essay

The anti-trans distraction.

American Library Association: books with antiracist messages climbed the list of most challenged or banned titles in 2020.

These inventors don’t get the credit they deserve.

Weekends In Space.

Best history podcasts: 14 shows that tell you forgotten stories.

Remembering Walter Mondale

Gender reveal party death toll mounts, people ask Why? 

Prince Philip’s Fascinating Family: A Russian Tsarina, A Greek Orthodox Nun, a Banished King, and More.

Make To Don’t Lists.

New JEOPARDY guest hosts announced! LeVar Burton, George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts, David Faber, and Joe Buck.

Theology in the DCU and MU.

Now I Know: The Picture of Abraham Lincoln’s Fake Ghost and The Birthday Problem and When Stalin’s Grapes Went
Sour and The First Boycott and Mussels and When Baseball Went to Pot.

Not me: Four Mustangs caught going more than double the speed limit in Surrey. “High-risk driving behaviour… is one of the leading causes of collisions in BC,” said Sergeant Roger Green of the service’s Community Response Unit.

Not me: Immigrants in Greece who can’t book Covid jabs. Roger Green, a British writer who has lived on the island since the early ’90s, says some are afraid to leave their homes.


MLB’s extra-innings rule is back in 2021; here’s why baseball should use
ties instead. “Each half-inning beyond the ninth — i.e., extra innings — in Major League Baseball now begins with a runner on second base and no outs.” The automatic runner rule is dreadful, a baseball abomination,IMO.

Why Home Runs Are Bad for Baseball.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) in Kansas City is a “privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of African-American baseball and its profound impact on the social advancement of America.”

Pitcher Hope Trautwein Throws A Perfect Game Of All Strikeouts

Mulligan? Golfers consult rule book after ball lands on alligator’s back


Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace by S.S. Wesley (Isaiah 26:3).

Mandela’s Blues -Kinky Friedman.

Wichita Lineman – Peter Sprague, featuring Rebecca Jade.

Solfeggio by Arvo Part, San Diego Master Chorale.

A Rainbow in Curved Air – Terry Riley.

I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo – Glenn Miller band with Tex Beneke and the dancing of the Nicholas Brothers (1942 movie “Orchestra Wives”).

Music for Percussion Quartet – David Crowell, plus Music for Pieces of Wood, by Steve Reich.

Coverville  1355 : The Roy Orbison Cover Story III and 1356: Tribute to Jim Steinman and 50th Anniversary of The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers.

The Swan of Tuonela by Sibelius.

Flintstones theme: Jazz AmbassadorsBarney Kessel and Herb Ellis,  Hungarian Border Guard Orchestra, FMU Jazz Ensemble, Bjørn Jørgensen
and his Big Band, Jacob Collier,  Postmodern Jukebox, The CompanY, and Vinheteiro

Robert Schumann’s Traumerai. You KNOW this tune!

Names: changing, remembering

Archibald Leach

namesI’ve been thinking about names a lot. In my Bible reading, God’s often renaming people. “Abram, you’re now Abraham.”
“But, God, why would you make my name longer? Won’t take up more papyrus when people write about me in a few millennia?”
“Abraham, I created papyrus. Don’t sweat it.”

And when the Holy Spirit – ah – puts Mary with child, will she and Joseph have any say in the naming? They will not. Some angel shows up and says, “Mary, you’re gonna conceive, give birth to a son, and you’re gonna call him Jesus.” Joseph and Mary were thinking, “But we have no one named Jesus in our families.” They didn’t say this aloud, of course, because when angels show up unexpectedly, you tend to keep some of your thoughts to yourself.

The idea of changing one’s name is an old one. Popes always do that. I have no idea who Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin was, but I’m familiar with George Sand. Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, Dr. Seuss, John le Carré are all familiar noms de plume.

I’m fine with people changing their names when it’s their choice. Actors have been doing it forever. I used to be really good at remembering that trivia. Maurice Micklewhite? Michael Caine. Archibald Leach turned out to be Cary Grant at least five times in Jeopardy! clues. Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson. Would John Wayne be JOHN WAYNE if he were billed as Marion Morrison?

George Terebeychuk, a Ukrainian immigrant in Sudbury, ON Canada, changed his surname to Trebek, as his cousin Mike had done. George was Alex Trebek’s dad.

He’ll be back

Still, I was oddly pleased when a bodybuilder named Arnold Schwa…something-or-other decided to keep his moniker, which the so-called tastemakers thought was career-killing. Schwarzenegger, that’s it. According to Box Office Mojo, films in which he has acted “have grossed a total of more than $1.7 billion within the United States, and a total of $4.0 billion worldwide.”

I recall real antipathy in the 1960s when a heavyweight boxer changed his name to Muhammad Ali. He may have been revered upon further reflection, but in the day, some of his opponents would taunt him with “Clay! Clay!”

One of the terrible things that happened to enslaved people is that they lost their names. Likewise, indigenous people from the Americas to Australia experienced intruders who thought they needed a change in order to make it “easier.” Easier for whom?

Lots of people’s names were changed because of bad transcription, or willful changes at Ellis Island. Conversely, my Nordic ex took back her family name.


I’m rather bad with names. I am of the opinion that everyone should have name tags. This is especially true when almost everyone is wearing a mask. The last time I watched Grey’s Anatomy, the doctors wore picture IDs so you could tell who the heck was treating you under all that PPE. I could never be a teacher, learning new names every year.

Some folks are great with names. Former US Senator and basketball star Bill Bradley would go on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He’d meet the audience before the show and share all of their names. Likewise, my former Congressman Matt McHugh was astonishingly good at remembering not only people’s names but the names of their spouses and children.

The Name Game -Shirley Ellis
The Name of the Game  – ABBA
You Know My Name – The Beatles (Anthology 3)

Review: Judas and the Black Messiah


Judas and the Black MessiahThe movie Judas and the Black Messiah was the finest of the Best Picture nominees for this year’s Oscars. It presents a piece of American history that has either been forgotten or, more likely, heavily distorted.

Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) was chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and deputy chairman of the national BPP. In this capacity, he founded the Rainbow Coalition and “an alliance among major Chicago street gangs to help them end infighting and work for social change.”

FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen) considered Hampton a threat to decency in America and wanted him surveilled from the inside. Enter Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), a con man captured by the feds. Under the direction of his FBI handler Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons), Bill infiltrates the Panthers and gets close to Fred.

The two leads were nominated for Oscars, oddly both as supporting actors. They are excellent, as is the rest of the cast. Kaluuya imbues the charisma Hampton must have possessed at such a young age, 21 at the end of the film. Even though I knew how the story resolved, I was tense throughout.

It’s impossible to totally separate the movie from the events, not only of the late 1960s but the early 2020s. s one reviewer noted, “Although the events occurred so long ago, the ramifications that they led to are clearly still being felt in the US.”

Think Christian

Two months before I saw the movie, I read an article in Think Christian called Judas (Iscariot) and the Black Messiah. “The Bible’s Judas and history’s Bill O’Neal share more than a record of betrayal.”

The premise is this: “Eyes worn, bloodshot, and on the brink of tears, the disciple looks his teacher in the eye and performs his final act of betrayal.” It’s an emotional strain to be a rat in an organization built on loyalty and discipline.

“Though drawn from the final scene between Bill… and Fred…, the fact that this description could fit an imaginative retelling of Judas Iscariot and Jesus illustrates the unique impact of the film.

“A tense and stunning historical drama, Judas and the Black Messiah explores a neglected moment in our national history. At the same time, it presents a fresh angle on the complex weight of guilt, especially if we consider the interpretive interplay between Stanfield’s O’Neal and the biblical Judas.

“The film’s Judas figure—and the way Stanfield embodies guilt—help us think about the biblical Judas and vice versa, with a call to contemplate the Judas tendencies that lurk within us.” And I think Stanfield reflects that pain.

The story was written by identical twin brothers Kenny and Keith Lucas, along with Will Berson and Shaka King. Berson wrote the screenplay with King, who also directed.

Highly recommended.

Chauvin is guilty, guilty, guilty- and now?

“We can be better than this”

Derek ChauvinBefore I heard that Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter, I was sitting in front of my computer, waiting for about a half-hour. My wife was downstairs in front of the TV, likewise waiting. I’m sure my daughter was doing the same on her phone.

When I heard the news, I felt a little numb, to be honest. No fist pump. But I did exhale, as though I had been holding my breath. Maybe, unconsciously, I was.

Though I only watched bits and pieces of the trial, I felt distraught, primarily over the re-traumatization of the people who watched George Floyd die, afraid to interfere with four cops on the scene. And I was infuriated when the defense suggested that the gathering was a “distraction” to Chauvin.

To be honest, I decided that he’d be found guilty of the manslaughter charge. But finding a cop guilty of murder? Certainly, the prosecution made the case.

But this got me wondering what it means for the future. This was a case featuring about three dozen prosecution witnesses, including several police officers.

A change is gonna come?

I keep hearing this case is an “inflection point.” What the heck does that mean? “An event that results in a significant change in the progress of a company, industry, sector, economy, or geopolitical situation and can be considered a turning point after which a dramatic change, with either positive or negative results, is expected to result.”

So does this signal real change? Or is it a one-off, involving an act so egregious, and seen so widely, that the jury HAD to convict? And just wait for the appeals after sentencing. The alternate juror, speaking to CBS News, acknowledged that, at least in her mind, the violence from last summer, and the potential for more, was on her mind. Undoubtedly, Maxine Waters’ ill-timed remarks, made before the jury was sequestered, will surely be introduced as well.

I suppose I should appreciate the conviction as perhaps a small gain for police accountability. Still, as one advocate said, there are “no victories today,” for “justice would mean George Floyd is still with us.”

Nearly 29 years ago to the day, the streets of Los Angeles were filled with people rioting after the police officers who beat Rodney King were found not guilty.

The litany of unarmed black citizens injured or killed at the hand of police officers who were acquitted or never charged, just since then, is staggering. Do I need to repeat it?

Moreover, the verdict doesn’t erase the fear that “many of us, particularly Black people, have of interacting with police.” Put another way, being black isn’t exhausting;  racism is exhausting.

The verdict is in. The work continues.

Change the trajectory

Lonnie G. Bunch III, Secretary of the Smithsonian wrote this: “Until we find collective solutions, until we admit and grapple with our tortured racial history, we will continue to suffer the effects of this pernicious malignance consuming the soul of the nation. Now is not the time to shrink from the task, though, nor is it the time to give in to cynicism.

“It is the time to join with all who believe in the promise of America. It is the time to say, “we can be better than this.” It is time to redouble our efforts to build a more perfect union. Justice is so beautiful when it is applied fairly.”

Lydster: COVID vaccine procurement

Albany Public Library and Mohawk Ambulance

COVID vaccineRecently in this blog, I noted the vagaries of COVID vaccine procurement. I had my first shot scheduled for March 31 at the UAlbany campus, when unexpectedly, I got an appointment at CVS on March 3.

Likewise, I had nailed down for my daughter her first shot for April 17 at the Washington Avenue Armory in Albany. Then on March 26, my wife received a text that there would be a pop-up vaccination site the very next day. She’d gotten a text from the Albany Housing Authority a month earlier that she should sign up, though she doesn’t recall how that occurred.

As she was heading for a meeting, she gave me the URL, but it didn’t work. Slightly panicky that the window of opportunity would close, I called the site, the Arbor Hill/West Hill library branch, and spoke to a librarian who I know. He knew the event was taking place but none of the details; I’m sure, as a librarian, that had to bug him. It would have frustrated me.

When my wife was free, she got a second website that DID work, and I got my daughter an appointment. And just in time, because the six-hour window (9-3) was down to about an hour.

The process

Since my wife was going to Oneonta to pick up her mother and take her to Cooperstown for her second injection, my daughter and I needed to take public transportation. We took the #106 CDTA bus, which was the #138 the last time I took it who knows how long ago. It dropped us off at Livingston and Henry Johnson, a couple of short blocks from the library.

One of the things my daughter does that I admire is giving extremely wide berth to those folks we walked past who were not wearing masks. My sense is that these people are on the uptick in Albany, commensurate with COVID cases inching up statewide.

The line was short, and we went through fairly quickly. The event was run by Mohawk Ambulance. Though the information from the website did not specify, I knew I had to go to the table with my daughter because she’s under 18. There were about 10 tables in all, each with someone to register, and another to give the injection.

My registrar was kind but technologically impaired. Fortunately, her teenage daughter was also there to assist her. I offered my daughter’s non-driver’s ID; as I expected, she was confounded. This was because the picture was of my daughter at about the age of six. While the ID is still valid, she hardly looks the same except to me. I was glad I asked my daughter to bring her high school ID. While not an official item, it was sufficient for the registrant.


Next, I handed the registrant the letter from my daughter’s doctor. It noted that she “has medical conditions that meet current criteria for vaccination under the Phased Distribution of the Vaccine set forth by the NYS Department as seen at” this website. I pre-emptively said, “Sufficiently vague, eh?” I could have noted the need for the doctor to respect the HIPAA requirements of his patient, but I thought of this later.

After the injection, we were supposed to wait for 10-15 minutes. Mayor Kathy Sheehan was there. She said her husband had gotten his injection at the site an hour earlier. We walked to the #12 bus, rode it, then walked home. Eighty minutes from leaving the house to walking back in the door, including public transportation. My sister’s friend in the San Diego area spent FIVE HOURS that same day.

My friend Catbird has a friend over 65 in Albany who, as of a couple of weeks ago, still couldn’t find a vaccine. I suggested that the friend sign up for everything. The county site, the state site, CVS, Walgreens, whatever, because the supply is definitely loosening up.


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