Since you asked: Sunday Stealing


Sunday StealingSince you asked: will I participate in Sunday Stealing this week? Why, yes, I will.

1) What one event from your lifetime would you change if you could, and why?

The outcome of the Presidential election of 2016. It led to the Big Lie and the January 6 riots. It’s also caused a lot of people to lose their bearings. An article in the New York Times asked What in the World Happened to Elise Stefanik? She is a member of Congress in the district adjacent to mine.

“There was a time in 2016 when Elise Stefanik, now the third-ranking Republican in the House, was so disgusted by Donald Trump that she would barely mention his name. Today he proudly refers to her as ‘one of my killers.'” [That’s a good thing, apparently.]

2) If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be, and how old would your younger self be when they got it? Do you think your younger self would listen?

To leave a particular job in 1998. Or certainly by 2005. And no.

3) Would you be any good on Survivor?

No, because I haven’t the energy for that level of manipulation and deception.

4) What’s a safety rule that’s very important to you?

Keeping aisles clear of items that might trip someone, and signage for wet floors, essentially anything that might create a hazard in which someone could trip and fall, slip and fall, et al.

We blew it

5) What would you like to say to people in the future?

Are there people in the future? Sorry, we screwed up your planet so much.

6) What’s your favorite dish to bring to a summer cookout?

Deviled eggs.

7) How much time have you spent outdoors this week?

As little as possible because it’s Too Darn Hot. Also, because of my vitiligo.

8) Where do you set your thermostat?

My wife controls the thermostat. It’s too warm in the summer and too cold in winter.

9) How did you learn to swim?

I don’t swim well. But when I was growing up, my grandma’s next-door neighbors had an above-ground pool, so I learned to hold my breath for over a minute and do perfunctory strokes.

10) How do you avoid overheating?

Take a shower and then sit in front of a fan. Or the air conditioner if it’s available.

11) What are you going to do this weekend?

Go to church. Talk with my sisters on ZOOM.

12) What’s your favorite way to spend time?

Listen to music. Always.

13) What’s the most useless thing you own that you would never get rid of?

Mementos of certain weddings I’ve attended.

14) Have you started planning your next vacation?

Yes and no. My wife has this vague notion of going to NYC to see some Broadway shows this fall. But NYC is COVID-red presently, so we are wary of planning anything.

15) Are you very active, or do you prefer to just relax in your free time, or is it one and the same for you?

I’m more active by necessity.

National Youth Festival Chorus

Carnegie Hall

Robyn Lana
conductor Robyn Lana

The first performers for the concert at Carnegie Hall on Monday, June 13, 2022, were the National Youth Festival Chorus, a mass choir. It was conducted by Robyn Reeves Lana, the director of the Cincinnati Youth Choir, except for one song. Here are the selections.

Vidi Aquam by Kevin T. Padworski. The recording here is by the Cincinnati Youth Choir. CYO was one of the choirs at Carnegie Hall. And the video is from 2021, so it’s quite possible that some of the kids in the video I saw on stage. indeed, I believe I recognize a few.

The next song is The Persistence of Song by Alex Gartner, with the text by the late Howard Moss, the poetry editor of the New Yorker for almost forty years. I could not find a recording because I saw its world premiere. Gartner is the director of the Pensacola Children’s Chorus and directs the Festival Chorus for this song. Here’s him interviewed before he and the group headed to NYC.

Children Will Listen is by Stephen Sondheim from Into The Woods. It’s often covered by adults. This version is the Craighead Chorale part of The Big Sing 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand.

Common Threads by Andrea Ramsey. The 2019 recording is by the Allegro Choirs of Kansas City, another participating group at Carnegie Hall.

When Dreams Take Flight, music by Rollo Dillworth and based on a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar. This is College of the Holy Cross, St. Joseph’s Chapel, Worcester, MA.

We Will Do Miracles by Dominick DiOrio. This seems to be the Sunday rehearsal in NYC before the Monday performance!


The other choirs participating in the National Youth Festival Chorus were the British International School NY Choir from NYC; Greenville [SC] Youth Chorale; Marin Girls Chorus from San Rafael, CA; and the Young Naperville [IL] Singers.

Next, the Masterworks Festival Chorus and New York City Chamber Orchestra performed the Mozart Requiem. The participating ensembles were The Celebration Singers, Cranford, NJ; Columbus [OH] International Children’s Choir; FUMC Allen [TX]; Gainsville [GA] Festival Singers; Scotch Plains [NJ] – Fanwood High School Chamber Choir; Trinity University Chamber Singers and Alumni, San Antonio, TX; and the Villanova [PA] Singers and Villanova Voices.

James Webb Space Telescope


James Webb
“Cosmic Cliffs” in Carina

Like many, I’m impressed – totally inadequate description – by the pictures from the James Webb Space Telescope. But long before that, I was wowed by the very process.

Back in December 2021, a segment of 60 Minutes explained the intricacies of just getting the mirror launched.

And as this article in Science stated: “The launch of the $10 billion instrument did not end the tension. To unfurl its giant sunshield, swing six of the 18 segments in the 6.5-meter-wide mirror into position, and extend the secondary mirror on its booms, engineers had to navigate some 300 steps, any one of which could have doomed the mission.”

The fact that these folk had the wherewithal to do it right the first time – because there would be NO do-over – is remarkable.

Popular Mechanics covered this topic a lot. “On January 24, the $10 billion spacecraft conducted the last of its three course-correction burns, placing it into orbit around the second Sun-Earth Lagrange Point (L2), a gravitationally semi-stable location in space aligned with Earth and the sun.

“The five-minute-long maneuver marked the final step in a months-long journey (not to mention decades’ worth of delays), which included a number of hair-raising moments: a tedious boat ride through the Panama Canal, its launch from French Guiana’s Kourou spaceport on Christmas morning last year, and a series of complicated mid-flight unfolding procedures to name a few.’

What is this L2 thing?

“L2 is the perfect perch from which to survey the stars.

“It [took] the observatory roughly 180 days to complete its halo-like orbit around the L2 point—the diameter of this orbit is roughly one million miles, approximately the same distance L2 is from Earth. Because Webb will be in lockstep with our planet as it races around the sun, it will be able to survey the entire sky over the course of a year. (At any given time, it can see about 1/3 of the cosmos.)”

Of course, it does.

And what does that mean?

Popular Mechanics: “NASA’s first fully focused images from the James Webb Space Telescope gaze into the origins of the universe and examine exoplanets that could harbor alien life. The… telescope’s sensors scrutinize targets near and far, from a galactic arm of our own Milky Way to never-before-seen galaxies being born in the deepest reaches of space. Its spectrograph has also divined the chemistry of another planet’s atmosphere from more than 1,000 light-years away, finding a gas giant called WASP-96b hazed with clouds of gaseous water. The resulting images and data showcase the telescope’s unparalleled versatility.

“It’s a moment of triumph for scientists around the world, who now have a groundbreaking tool to aim at humanity’s most existential mysteries. But it’s also a victory for the flight operations teams who shepherded the telescope through the first critical weeks of its mission.”

But what does it ALL mean?

Kelly writes, “Darkness doesn’t last, but science and knowledge do!” Hank Green addresses, in four minutes, the feelings of those who feel particularly small after the discovery. Not specifically addressing the Webb telescope, John Green tries to answer, Why Do Things Exist?

For me, it codifies something I’ve been wondering about since at least the 1970s. There must be many other places where life, as we understand it – or maybe DON’T understand – must exist out there. Maybe, God, or Whoever, keeps running the same experiment to see if They finally get it right. Will people, and I use the term loosely, live in harmony?

Or will they obliterate each other and themselves with war, violence, climate change, and starvation? Those things are interrelated, of course. Perhaps Whoever is trying to figure out how to allow free will and still get it right.

Maybe Their first take was that there would be no free will, perhaps idyllic but boring as heck. There was no music, art, or literature because there was no need.

What do the discoveries mean to YOU, if anything? Maybe you think it was a colossal waste of time and money, which I would vigorously dispute.

Movies: Elvis; Mr. Malcolm’s List


After seeing the new movie Elvis – and knowing the limitations of the biopic genre – I wish my father were still around so that we could debate the merits, but not the film per se. It was more that he hated Elvis for his cultural appropriation. I believe that the film showed that the kid from Tupelo, MS (the young Australian actor Chaydon Jay) came by his love of black music honestly. (Unlike, say, Pat Boone covering Little Richard’s Tutti Fruiti.)

When my wife and I saw the previews a few months ago, featuring the somewhat older Elvis (the magnetic Austin Butler), my wife asked, “Was Elvis REALLY that sexy?” I SHOULD have said, “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong!” which is (sort of) the title of one of his greatest hits albums. Instead, I just said, “Yes, yes, he was.” Her query comes from only being familiar with the “fat Elvis” stuck in Vegas.

I liked it a lot. Sean P. Means of The Movie Cricket wrote, “It’s big, bold, and brassy. It’s not perfect, and at 2 hours and 39 minutes still doesn’t deliver everything you’d expect in a telling of Elvis’s life story. But it’s always holding your attention.” Yeah, that’s about right.

Who is that?

It’s always nice to see the bits one’s aware of, such as Elvis singing to an actual hound dog on Steve Allen’s show. I don’t know exactly what his relationship with some of the black stars of the era was, but it was fun to try to identify them. I didn’t recognize B.B. King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) or Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup (Gary Clark Jr.). Still, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Yola), Big Mama Thornton (Shonka Dukureh), and especially Little Richard (Alton Mason) were obvious to me. Sadly, Shonka Dukureh died recently.

The one aspect I’m still puzzling about is Tom Hanks’ accent as Colonel Tom Parker. It’s…weird. Parker biographer Alanna Nash says that’s not what he sounded like, which frankly doesn’t bother me. Nash said, “He didn’t have an impediment — he was just trying to wrap a Dutch tongue around the English language, Southern-style… But [director Baz Luhrmann] wanted to make him seem more ‘other.’ Or as Baz told me in an interview, ‘I thought it was very important that Tom presents the audience with a strangeness, a sort of ‘What is going on with this guy?'”

But “Nash did say that there are some things Baz Luhrmann got right with Elvis. This includes the suggestion that Parker did all he could to prevent Presley from fulfilling his dream of embarking on a European tour. It was unfortunate for Presley, as the reason had nothing to do with the singer but with Parker’s lack of a passport.”

I suspect Austin Butler will get an Academy Award nomination for playing Elvis. His energy and charisma, and talent are tremendous. All in all, I recommend the movie.

Very Jane Austen-y

MrMalcolmsList“A young woman courts a mysterious wealthy suitor in 19th century England.” That’s the premise of the newish movie Mr. Malcolm’s List. Do you want more? “When she fails to meet an item on his list of requirements for a bride, Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton) is jilted by London’s most eligible bachelor, Mr. Malcolm (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù). Feeling humiliated and determined to exact revenge, she convinces her friend Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto) to play the role of his ideal match. Soon, Mr. Malcolm wonders whether he’s found the perfect woman…or the perfect hoax.”

My wife loves this stuff and was very fond of the film. I thought it was fine, and the diverse cast was entertaining.

We saw both films at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany in July 2022.

Producer Norman Lear turns 100

People For The American Way

Norman Lear Plugging his 2017 documentary film, “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast,” Carl Reiner had his old friends Norman Lear and Dick Van Dyke come over to be interviewed by CBS Sunday Morning’s Tracy Smith. “They constitute a team of GOLDEN BOYS — older, yes, but no less amusing.”

“The culture has age all wrong,” Lear said. “The culture sells age as utterly going down. Well, it’s the expression, ‘Going downhill.’ And he woke up this morning to come here feeling great. I woke up this morning, I couldn’t wait to get here to see these guys! It’s not ‘downhill!'”

Reiner died in June 2020, but Lear and Van Dyke are still going strong.

TV legend

I watched much of the output of producer Norman Lear. Here’s a paragraph from his IMDB page. “Born in 1922 in New Haven, Connecticut, Lear flew 52 combat missions over Europe in World War II before beginning his television career. His classic shows of the 1970s and ’80s – All in the Family, Maude, Good Times, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, among others – collectively reached as many as 120 million viewers per week and are said to have transformed the American cultural landscape, bringing the social and political issues of the day into American living rooms for the first time.”

Yes, I saw all of those, both iterations of One Day At A Time, and more obscure shows such as Hot L Baltimore (1975). Possibly my favorite of his lesser-known programs is The Powers That Be: “The exploits of a clueless American senator and the eccentric, morally corrupt people who are closest to him.” It was the launching pad for several well-known performers.

Even before All In The Family, I saw the movie The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968), produced by Lear.

He has a trove of awards, including five Emmys. But also the National Medal of Arts (1999), the GLAAD Media Award (2014), a Peabody Lifetime Achievement Award (2017), and the Kennedy Center Honors (2017).


“With the rise of the radical religious right, Lear put his career on hold in 1980 to found People For the American Way, the nonprofit organization that remains a relevant and effective force defending all aspects of the First Amendment.”

Indeed, it’s from his organization that I get messages from Norman on a regular basis.

From December 2021: “Progress can feel painfully slow on issues we care about. And sometimes we even see hard-won progress being rolled back. On my 99th birthday, the Washington Post ran an op-ed that I wrote expressing my bewilderment that some politicians are still trying to make it harder for people to vote.

“I’m hoping that by my 100th birthday we will have renewed a strong federal commitment to voting rights. “

From Memorial Day weekend 2022: “When I joined with Rep. Barbara Jordan and others to create People For the American Way, we felt it was important to give people a way to join with others in asserting that this country belongs to all of us. No one is more American on account of their religion or skin color – or where they were born or who they love.

“Some days the bad news feels overwhelming. The violence and contempt and dishonesty can be so dispiriting. Those are the days we need each other the most. Those are the days I remind myself to be grateful that there are so many of us who have made a commitment to making a difference.”

Then a pitch to donate to People For The American Way. Happy birthday, Norman Lear.

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