October rambling: Three Chaplains

“he pledged to donate almost all of his money to causes before he died”

I’ve seen and recommend that you watch the hour-long film Three Chaplains. “Muslim chaplains aim to make change in one of America’s most powerful institutions—the military.

“For them, the fight for equality and religious freedom begins on the inside.” Broadcasting on PBS, Independent Lens, November 6, 2023, and available elsewhere after that date. Here’s a review.

 “The Lie Detector Was Never Very Good at Telling the Truth” 

Per Giffords.org, there have been at least 565 mass shootings in the United States this year. Five hundred sixty-five mass shootings in the first 299 days.

Legal Eagle: When Police Raid A Newspaper for No Reason

There Is No Such Thing as Cancer (Hank) and A Tale of Two Cancers (John)

The Census Bureau has posted a new Federal Register Notice inviting public comments on proposed changes to the 2025 American Community Survey (ACS) and Puerto Rico Community Survey (PRCS) questionnaires. Comments are due on or before December 19, 2023, and, once submitted, are part of the public record.

NYS geographic primer Food Safety and Prison Health Care and McKinsey consultants and chocolate: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

The GOP bets on extremist Mike Johnson (LA) as Speaker, risking 2024 prospects; also, his positions on health issues, his impossible agenda, and his belief that separation of church and state Is only a ‘shield for people of faith.’ A blistering rebuke from his hometown newspaper’s op ed. He is worse than you think.

Using Learning Styles to Your Advantage: the Complete Guide.

Early History of Bedloe’s Island, now known as Liberty Island.

When Hybrid Works … But Doesn’t


An early name for Albany and how it’s pronounced

How Lena Horne Won Over MGM — and Became a “Test Case” for Hollywood

Hasan Minhaj Offers Detailed Response to New Yorker Story: “It Was So Needlessly Misleading”

Oscar Winner Buffy Sainte-Marie Responds to Questions About Her Native Heritage: “I Know Who I Am”

The 100 Greatest Film Books of All Time. The only two I’ve read were the annual Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide (#17) – I’ve had at least a half dozen iterations over the years, and Life Itself by Roger Ebert (#45)

Interview with a SamuraiFrog by Splotchy

Opening titles for 18 situation comedies of the seventies. I watched two of them, both on CBS, on Saturday nights at 8:30 p.m.

“The kick is up … and it’s … CLANG…”

Now I Know: The Halloween Costume You Can’t Buy and When Science Gets Unexpectedly Expensive and An Awkward Phone Call from Mom and The Giant Pink Bunny in the Middle of Nowhere and Everybody Was Kung Fu Panda Fighting and Paved With Good Intentions and Why Dorothy Couldn’t Surrender


Charles Feeney, Who Made a Fortune and Then Gave It Away, Dies at 92. “After piling up billions in business, he pledged to donate almost all of his money to causes before he died. He succeeded and then lived a more modest life.”

Kevin Phillips, who died at 82, published his first book at 29, a landmark work,  The Emerging Republican Majority, which “presciently predicted a rightward realignment in national politics driven by ethnic and racial divisions and white discontent.”

Richard Roundtree, Suave Star of ‘Shaft,’ Dies at 81. I never saw Shaft, but I did watch him as “the disgraced doctor Daniel Reubens on the NBC daytime soap opera Generations,” c. 1990.

Matthew Perry, Chandler on ‘Friends,’ Dies at 54. He “Masterfully Walked the Line Between Mirth and Melancholy.” All spiders are named Phil.

Burt Young, Oscar-Nominated ‘Rocky’ Actor, Dies at 83. I saw the initial four Rocky pics, the first one with my mother

Richard Moll, Bull the Bailiff on ‘Night Court,’ Dies at 80


Ghost Story soundtrack album

Celtic Rock – Donovan

Bless The Child OST suite

Songs from the Woods – Jethro Tull

The Great Pumpkin Waltz – Vince Guaraldi

Theme From Shaft – Isaac Hayes. My sister got this double album, but it contained two copies of the same record (Sides 1 and 4, I believe), and we had to get it replaced.

Somebody Like You – Giant Rooks

Coverville 1461: Cover Stories for Ultravox and Thomas Dolby and 1462: The Natalie Merchant & 10,000 Maniacs Cover Story

Closer To Fine – Indigo Girls

Honky Tonk Heroes – Waylon Jennings

Greg’s Drinking Song from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 

The Beatles’ ‘Last Song,’ ‘Now and Then,’ Is Set for Release (Nov 2), Along With Expanded, Remix-Filled ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ Hits Collections (Nov 9)

The Israel/Hamas conflict

‘I Love You. I Am Sorry’

I’ve avoided writing about the Israel/Hamas conflict because I may have nothing fresh to say. Also, it’s fraught with the potential to tick off people. It’s a complicated history.

One can support Israel’s right to exist, understanding how the repercussions of pogroms past are shaping the reaction to the utterly horrific 7 October attack.

At the same time, one could also voice concern about the fate of the Palestinian people, with over 5,000 killed and insufficient aid coming via Egypt.

There’s an opinion piece in the South China Morning Post (behind a paywall) suggesting that “Hamas’ leaders desperately want the de facto veto Palestinians once had on concessions other Arabs make to Israel, ” and Israel’s “mighty vengeance” might be the only way they might get it.

Also, Gaza: The Cost of Escalation by Ben Rhodes. The consequences of the US’s vengeful reaction to September 11 should remind us of the risks of responding to violence with greater violence. The Weekly Sift guy writes about his 9-11 flashbacks. After the US war against Iraq, c. 2003, it’s reasonable to note: Israel Says It Will Destroy Hamas. But Who Will Govern Gaza?

So, the conversations about whose “side” one is on are, to me, not helpful. It’s been brought up regarding the Writer’s Guild,  the Democratic Party, even reporters covering the war, etc, etc, etc. The LA Times reports that Muslim parents say the LA Unified School District’s ‘pro-Israel’ statement made their kids targets.

An article in Medium, which you may not be able to read, talks about the wrongheadedness of the hatred towards the Russian PEOPLE in the Ukraine war and of the Palestinian PEOPLE in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Taking care

Moreover, “inaccurate news reports of atrocities have flooded social media, spreading horror and rage worldwide,” per several sources, including the Boston Globe.

“Some misinformation researchers say it’s primarily up to social media users to protect themselves (and each other) from false information by developing new habits. If we can’t tell fact from fiction at today’s speed of information flow, researchers say, we need to slow down, prepare ourselves mentally, and be extra careful about what we share and with whom.” This is where I’m coming from.

Let me be Pollyannic and say I’m on the side of peace, as reflected in ‘I Love You. I Am Sorry’: One Jew, One Muslim and a Friendship Tested by War. “A Los Angeles program that connects Muslims and Jews has been strained by the war in Israel. But the group’s leaders found that it has strengthened their bond.”

Sunday Stealing: LEP Autumn

sharpening pencils

autumn memeThe Sunday Stealing for today is LEP Autumn. LEP is the League of  Extraordinary PenPals.

1. Do you decorate for Autumn?

There’s a pumpkin on our porch right now. The leaves aren’t swept, so that’s sort of decorative. One of our former next-door neighbors used to have banners for many occasions – Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, etc. I thought at the time that it was rather corny, but in retrospect, I liked it.

2. How often do you clean out your closets?

I don’t have a closet. When we bought the house, there was a closet in one of the spare bedrooms, but that space was converted into our daughter’s bedroom. (She subsequently moved to the other bedroom, which was larger.) So there’s an armoire in our bedroom for my shirts, etc. I hated it at first, but now I merely dislike it. And I’ve NEVER cleaned it out except when I pull a shirt out, and I decide (or more likely, my wife decides) it’s too worn.

3. When was the last time you planned a surprise for someone?

I used to do so regularly, but I can’t recall a recent time.

4. Are there foods you really don’t like?

Anchovies. Sardines. Most canned vegetables (spinach, beets…) Cucumbers. Watermelon. Any candy that has the faux flavor of watermelon or bananas, though I do like real bananas.


5. What is something you recently learned?

Charles Curtis, Vice-President under Herbert Hoover, was “the first Native American and first person with acknowledged non-European ancestry to reach either of the highest offices in the federal executive branch.”

6. Items you’re most likely to buy at a convenience store

Cough drops or Vitamin C drops, diet Pepsi.

7. Do you believe in the paranormal?

I don’t either believe it or not believe it. That’s a solid maybe, but I spend almost no time thinking about it.

Have you got good religion?

8. How would you describe your spirituality?

The idea of religion is quite appealing. But it’s too often ruined by its supposed believers. Some evangelicals called Jesus “liberal” and “weak, forgetting that Jesus hung out with pretty scuzzy people who heeded the call to follow Him. Others have mistaken Jesus for an ATM. No wonder Mahatma Gandhi famously noted: “I like your Christ, but not your Christianity.” As a Christian, it alternately depresses and enrages me that some of my nominal fellow followers make it difficult/impossible for others to embrace the faith.

And I won’t even get into talking about the heretics of other faiths because it’s not my area of expertise.

9. Do you make plans far in advance?

I HATE doing things at the last minute. But FAR in advance? Aside from our trip to France, which had many moving parts, I avoid planning so far in advance that I can’t envision the end goal.

10. Do you like being scared for fun?

No. Not at all. I don’t see scary movies. Haunted houses are not for me.

11. What has been difficult for you lately?

Time management. Some of that is directly related to my wife’s job as one of the two employees of an afterschool tutoring program. One of the two became sick with COVID, so I spent about 15 hours helping her with simple tasks (sharpening pencils, taking out garbage, etc.) It was fine, but the things I had previously had on my docket got crunched.

12. Have you ever written or read fanfiction?

No; and a smattering.

Barren walls

13. What type of wall art do you have in your home?

This is a bit of a sore point. We have quite a bit of art we COULD put on our walls. My wife said she wanted to wait until the walls got painted before decorating. So they were painted over a decade ago, and still, no art on the walls. Now, you might say, “Why don’t you put them up yourself?” Mostly, I lack the artistic eye to ascertain what piece should go with another and at what height. Maybe I can get my daughter to help me at Christmas.

14. Are you more likely to be private or overshare?

I’ve thought about this a lot. When you have a blog you’ve written for 18.5 years, people think they know all about the blogger. This is not true, but I rather enjoy the myth.

15. What have you recently learned to live without?

Reading a daily newspaper. It tends to collect, and then I’ll pour through a week’s or fortnight’s worth in one sitting. I can skip the stories I already know about, but there’s always something I learn.

My top 5 rock albums

1966 to 1989

There was a question on Quora asking for people’s top 5 rock albums. What an inane question! How can anyone pick just five? So I decided to do it anyway.

First, some guidelines. I am not going to get into the definition of what is “rock.” I hear this every year when an ABBA, Nina Simone, or Joan Baez enters the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nor will I address the “best” albums because “best” has become an increasingly elusive term for me.

I could have picked Blue by either Miles Davis or Joni Mitchell, Who’s Next, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Abraxas by Santana, k.d. lang’s Ingenue, or approximately a zillion more, including at least three by Stevie Wonder.

I’m not selecting a greatest hits album; Sly and the Family Stone would otherwise be on the podium. There are no soundtracks, Broadway cast albums or compilations, so no The Harder They Come, Hamilton, or  West Side Story.  And if I do this in five years, three of these might be different.

The Eclectics

I decided on three of these because they are so eclectic.

Spike – Elvis Costello, which I mentioned back in 2009 in my 25 most influential albums. The All Music review calls it “maddeningly diffuse.” Its diffuseness may be why I like it because I don’t find it maddening at all. 

Veronica, Chewing Gum, Last Boat Leaving

That’s A Plenty – the Pointer Sisters. I first wrote about this album in 2006.  Then in 2014; unfortunately, only the links to Little Pony, Fairytale, and Black Coffee still work.

Salt Peanuts; Love In Them There Hills 

Revolver – The Beatles. I picked this one over other Beatles albums because I hate Run For Your Life (Rubber Soul). Abbey Road has Octopus’s Garden, which is too much in the Yellow Submarine vein. I may as well pick the album with Yellow Sub. It’s not my favorite song, but it fascinated me because the single, in the last verse, has “As we live a life of ease (a life of ease),” but the echo doesn’t happen on the album version I had.

The 2012 post has lots of bad links.

Taxman, For No One, Got To Get You Into My Life, Tomorrow Never Knows

Two more

Still Crazy After All These Years – Paul Simon. As I noted here in 2016. “Inextricably tied to the Okie in my mind.”

I Do It For Your Love, Have A Good Time, Title song.

Peter Gabriel (melt)- Peter Gabriel. I mentioned Gabriel in 2011 and 2020. In this post, also from 2020, I listed my favorite Gabriel songs, and the links still work! The ones from Melt have a 3 after the title because they are on the third eponymous PG album.

Review: Joan Baez I Am A Noise

Also: Stop Making Sense

I know much about Joan Baez, a preeminent folk singer of the 1960s and beyond. But seeing the new documentary Joan Baez I Am A Noise, I discovered I didn’t realize the half of it.

Early in the film, we see an intriguing quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez: “Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life.” While I knew a lot about her public life, her private life, including her relationships with her parents and two sisters and a romance I had not heard about, was revelatory.

As for the secret life, THAT was a heady and sometimes painful exploration.

To understand Joan, the moviemakers took illustrations and diary entries of her at 13. The teen, who grew up with a Quaker background, experienced a fair amount of prejudice growing up with Mexican heritage on her paternal side. Young Joan wrote: “When I think of God, I think of the earth as a very small thing then I think of myself as hardly a speck…might as well spend time making the less fortunate specks in the world enjoy themselves.”

So, when she started experiencing some success, she may have appeared calm and serene. Inside, she felt conflicted by guilt from her fame when so many others were far less fortunate. At the same time, it was fun, especially when she realized that her music was an entree into the activism she felt she needed to participate in.

Of course, there’s the Bobby Dylan section. Most folks don’t recall that she vouched for him on the music scene. They appeared together at the March on Washington in August 1963, but he was far less well-known then.
Save the world
Ultimately, she was addicted to activism in many forms. Her relationships with like-minded folks like David Harris (m. 1968-1973) could not work. She acknowledges that her son suffered from her being on the road so often.

One of the fascinating elements in her helping to develop the story was a shed full of tapes she visits. You can see it in this CBS Sunday Morning segment.

She eventually grew closer to her older sister Pauline (d. 2016) and younger sister Mimi (d. 2001), even as they investigated unpleasant fragments of their growing up. At 82, Joan Baez is more at peace now, accepting the lower range of her voice.

38 of 39 Rotten Tomatoes reviews were positive. The outlier was Mick Lasalle of the San Francisco Chronicle” “The impression that comes through is that the filmmakers were too in awe of Baez to press her — or to seek alternate opinions — and so we’re left with a sense of not getting the whole truth.” I do not know what film he saw.

The audience score was only 80% positive because I believe this was not entirely the feel-good film they may have been expecting. Young Joan once wrote in a journal, “I am not a saint. I am a noise.”  My wife and I saw the film at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany.
This ain’t no disco.
During the same week, and at the same venue, we also saw Talking Heads’ 1983 concert film Stop Making Sense. I cannot reasonably review this movie.

As I’ve said numerous times, that tour, which included a stop at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center about 30 miles north of Albany, proved to be one of my two most extraordinary musical experiences.

But I had never seen the Jonathan Demme film before. I can say that the first half of the movie transported me back four decades, with the attendant awe, from Byrne’s solo Psycho Killer to the pieces with the full band, including Alex Weir, Bernie Worrell, and Steve Scales. Honestly, I was joyfully exhausted by the band and backup singers Edna Holt and Lynn Mabry’s energy.

I met Lynn when she and my first niece Rebecca Jade sang backup for Sheila E. at the New York State Fair in Syracuse in 2019. It was all I could do to contain myself from rambling to Lynn about how great the show was that I’d seen 36 years earlier.

The next venue in the film brought me back to mere enjoyment, but it ended strong.
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