November rambling: we’re in trouble

notable books

A great cover illustration by Walter Molino, repurposed by Jan Strnad, and used with Jan’s permission

Democracy and the Press: We’re in Trouble

Revisiting the fascism question

Liz Cheney’s new book blasts GOP as ‘enablers and collaborators’ of djt

Why Georgia Republicans Are Protecting the D.A. Who Indicted Trump

In the wake of the Voting Rights Act ruling, North Dakota to appeal the decision that protected tribes’ rights

ProPublica reviewed 12 of the nation’s strictest abortion bans. Few changed in 2023, as state lawmakers caved to pressure from anti-abortion groups opposing exceptions for rape, incest and health risks.

Dollar Stores: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

The Remarkable Biden Economy

You Cannot Rely on the Government to Protect You From Bad Charities

FTC Authorizes Compulsory Process for AI-related Products and Services

Rosalynn Carter, Outspoken Former First Lady, Dies at 96

Chuck Miller: A big toe named Elise Stefanik

NYPL service was impacted due to City budget cuts, including ending Sunday service at the vast majority of locations that currently offer it.

 About 8.2 Million People Moved Between States in 2022

Of special interest to me

Finally — a PROFESSIONAL Comics Magazine! COMICS SCENE 1, January 1982. At this point in the video, there is a discussion about a FantaCo ad. Tom Skulan noted that the ad wasn’t particularly successful, whereas the ads for horror items in Fangoria magazine were much more profitable.

New York Times: 100 Notable Books of 2023, one of which was written by an author I actually know 

Obit for Bob Maye, who grew up not far from my house in Binghamton, NY

Consumer Value Stores

Boston Globe: CVS pharmacists are at a breaking point, imperiling the company’s reinvention plans. The link may be behind a paywall, but basically: “There are not enough pharmacists in the pipeline, and the ones the company employs are reaching a breaking point. The company… has spent billions remaking itself into a sophisticated healthcare conglomerate. A key goal is turning its thousands of stores into community clinics where pharmacists, doctors, and nurses work together to improve patient health. But none of this works if the company can’t hire or retain its pharmacists. ‘Pharmacists are burned out,’ said a former CVS executive.”


Warner Bros. Reverses Course on ‘Coyote vs. Acme‘ After Filmmakers Rebel. I don’t understand how a studio makes money scrapping a film it’s completed.

The people who ruined the internet

The Boy Who Captured JFK From His Parents’ Basement

John Oliver – Finding a Place for Satire & Immigration as a Comedian | The Daily Show

Do You Want to Build a Movie? An Oral History of Frozen

How TMZ Became Hollywood’s Grim Reaper

Frances Sternhagen, a two-time Tony winner and television and movie actor, Died at 93. I’ve seen her on The Closer, ER, Sex and the City, Cheers, and the movie Misery, among many other roles.

What Is the Value of a Scenic View?

Medical Malpractice On Law & Order, episode 1, Ft. Legal Eagle

Mark Evanier bankrupted his grandmother in Monopoly, and in life

Greg’s long, strange trip of collecting comic books
There is no such place as Wyoming
Now I Know
 How Fake Fish May Save Coral Reefs (And You Can Help!) and Cops of Coffee and The Very Expensive (and Not Very Nice) Surprise Party and The Man Who Bought (And Returned?) Stonehenge and

The Hole in a Swiss Citizenship Application


Peter Sprague Plays Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You featuring Rebecca Jade

Tray Wellington: Crooked Mind

Mr. Big Stuff – Jean Knight, who died recently at 80

The Highwomen: Crowded Table

Jake Blount: Didn’t It Rain

Rhiannon Giddens: You’re The One

Coverville 1465: The XTC Cover Story II and  1466: The 20th Annual All-Beatles Thanksgiving Cover Story

Amythyst Kiah: Hangover Blues

Our Native Daughters: Black Myself

On The Beautiful Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II

Rina Sawayama : Chosen Family

Kara Jackson: Pawnshop

Rossini: L’italiana in Algeri – Overture

Michael Pollack accompanies Billy Joel on “New York State of Mind”

You Were Meant For Me – Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds

Notation Must Die: The Battle For How We Read Music, which starts with ten minutes about chess notation

Early Pop Chart Hits of Christmas

Does Daddy know who Mommy is kissing?

Vaughn Monroe

The early pop chart hits that we consider Christmas songs were in competition with non-seasonal songs.  There were no specific Billboard holiday charts until 1963.

Five songs reached #1 between 1934 and 1954, and a few more came close. Most of them you will know. A few you may dislike. 

White Christmas – Bing Crosby, #1 for 14 weeks. The first year was in 1942. It spent 56 weeks on the charts, and that’s just in those 21 years, though the ’47 version replaced the ’42 take. “John Scott Trotter’s drummer on the ’42 ‘White Christmas’ was none other than Lindley ‘Spike’ Jones.”

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – Vaughn Monroe, #1 for 5 weeks.  The first year was in 1945. It spent a total of 14 weeks on the charts.  

All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) – Spike Jones, #1 for 3 weeks.   The first year was in 1948. It spent a total of 9 weeks on the charts.  Jones is #10 on the Christmas charts in terms of chart action.

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – Jimmy Boyd, #1 for 2 weeks.   The first year was in 1952. It spent a total of 5 weeks on the charts.  Jimmy Boyd was 13 when he recorded the song. He married Yvonne Craig, later TV’s Batgirl, in 1960, but they were divorced in 1962.

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer– Gene Autry,  #1 for 1 week.   The first year was in 1949. It spent a total of 20 weeks on the charts. Autry is considered the #2 most successful Christmas crooner in chart action after Bing.

More  hits

Winter Wonderland – Guy Lombardo, #2 for 1 week.   The first year was in 1934. It spent a total of 9 weeks on the charts. Lombardo is a fine example of a generational star. I often used to watch him on New Years Eve, while my daughter has never heard of him. 

I’ll Be Home For Christmas (If Only In My Dreams) – Bing Crosby, #3 for 2 weeks.   The first year was in 1943. It spent a total of 6 weeks on the charts. I find this one of the saddest songs of the season.

The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You) – Nat “King” Cole, #3 for 1 week.   The first year was in 1946. It spent a total of 12 weeks on the charts. Nat is #4 on the Christmas charts. Here’s Mark Evanier’s annual story about Mel Torme, who, with Bob Wells, wrote, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”

Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt, #4 for 1 week.   The first year was in 1953. It spent a total of 5 weeks on the charts. I heard Madonna’s 1987 version first.

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – Spike Jones, #4 for 1 week.   The first year was in 1952. It spent a total of 3 weeks on the charts. The second apearance of both the song and artist.

Flying to ASBDC conferences

Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler

I appreciate that most of my airline flights happened because I worked as a business librarian for the New York Small Business Development Center and attended ASBDC conferences.

The NY SBDC had gotten a contract from the Small Business Administration to provide reference services for all of the SBDCs around the country from October 1, 1992, to September 30, 1998. The contract had previously resided with the Georgia SBDC, and they had to ship all of these reference resources to us.

Part of my job at the time was surveying the state programs, so I always called the new state directors and tried to meet them at the ASBDC conference. At the time, ASBDC was the Association of Small Business Development Center. It was later rebranded as America’s Small Business Development Centers.

1993: I went to Library Director 1 to the ASBDC conference near Lexington, but it was in the ‘burbs, so I had no sense of the city.

1994: I went with Library Director 2 (LD2), who had just started working, to Salt Lake City for the ASBDC conference at a resort in Snowbird, about 14 miles from SLC. I wrote about one aspect of this trip here.


1995: The ASBDC conference was in New Orleans. LD2 was going to present there with her one office favorite. (I thought of getting into that dynamic; maybe another time.) I insisted that it was my job description for me to go; she decided there was too much reference work for me to be away from the office.

Meanwhile, my then-girlfriend, now my wife, had gotten a trip to Hawaii due to achieving an insurance education matrix. The trip was taking place at about the same time. Did I want to go? Of course, but if LD2 wouldn’t let me go to the Big Easy, she certainly wouldn’t release me to go on vacation.

At the last minute, LD2 did allow me to go to N.O. because she had too much equipment to schlep. This conference was actually in the city, which was great.

1996: Orlando was the destination of the ASBDC conference. LD2 brought me and her new office favorite. No, I did not get to Disneyworld. Just before the return trip, New Favorite got sick and threw up. LD2 decided to sit with me instead.

I was amidst this intensive 34-week study of the Bible called Disciple. By that point, I was probably reading Joshua or Judges. LD2, as it turned out, was a bit of a scholar of Hebrew scripture, which she talked about at length. When we got home, she gave me study materials for the rest of what I’d call the Old Testament. Suddenly, after two years, I became one of their favorites; this was very weird.

Deep in the heart

1996 (not ASBDC conference): One of the Library Director’s jobs was to attend the various state SBDC conferences and tout Research Network services. Texas was having theirs, but it was around Yom Kippur, so LD2 wouldn’t go. They sent me instead. I flew to Houston, got a ride to Galveston, and had a lovely time.

Then, I was to go to the Oklahoma SBDC meeting, which was in Durant. I took a plane from Houston to Dallas and another from Dallas to Durant, which had to be the smallest airport I’ve gone to. We met in a nondescript room in a nondescript building. I gave a spiel for two or three hours, flew back to Dallas, and then to Albany.

1997: LD2 had left the program. I went to Denver with two others, then drove an hour to Keystone, a resort town.

1998: LD 3, who is great, BTW, and I attended the conference in Savannah, GA. Before it officially started, my father drove down from Charlotte, NC, for a few days, as noted here. The New York SBDC had just lost the contract to the San Antonio SBDC for reasons (another time)

1999: The conference was in San Diego. I got to see my sister. The light rail in the area was quite impressive. Another librarian and I attended the San Diego Chargers NFL game on October 3. The Chargers came back from a 0-14 deficit to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 21-14. It’s only the second NFL game I’ve ever seen, the first being October 20, 1969, when the New York Jets defeated the Houston Oilers 26-17 at Shea Stadium.


2000: The conference was in Miami Beach, FL. I recall that the carpeting at the Fountaine Bleau was wet when we arrived from recent flooding. It was really muggy the first week in October.

2001: Our state director had already gone down to Dallas. I was supposed to give a presentation at the conference. My flight was scheduled for September 12. The conference was canceled.

2002: The conference was at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN, which I recall being a massive venue. At some point, we got a free copy of a Toby Keith album, which brings to one the number of Toby Keith albums I’ve ever owned.

2003: The ASBDC conference was in San Diego again at the Sheraton. I saw my sister again.

Subsequently, our state director decided, for budgetary reasons, that most of us couldn’t go to the ASBDC conference unless we were giving a presentation.

2008: I presented at the ASBDC conference in Chicago, and we were in the city. For all the times I’d gone through O’Hare, it was the first time I actually was in the state for purposes of counting it on my list.

2018: I suggested that a librarian attend the ASBDC conference to our new State Director, and they agreed. I went to Washington, DC. However, although I was allowed to fly, I chose to take Amtrak. I’ll take the train for relatively short distances.

Absent these conferences, my flying would have been quite limited.

Million Dollar Quartet Christmas

The Gilded Age

In the jukebox musical Million Dollar Quartet Christmas,  which my wife and I saw at Capital Rep in Albany on November 25, “Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley come together again to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year.” In this timeframe, Elvis (Luke Monday) has left Sun Records and its owner, Sam Phillips (Rob Morrison) for hits on RCA Records and Hollywood stardom. He’s there with his girlfriend Dyanne (Taylor Aronson).

Johnny  Matt Cusack) has signed with Columbia Records and experienced some country hits but not much crossover. Carl Perkins (Jeremy Sevelovitz) had a massive hit with Blue Suede Shoes, but his career was derailed by a car accident. Jerry Lee Lewis (Billy Rude) is still in the Sun stable, aching for chance of stardom.

If you’ve seen the famous photo of the Million Dollar Quartet, there was a woman sitting on the piano, Elvis’ girlfriend at the time, Marilyn Evans. It’s highly unlikely that she was as vivacious and flirty as Dyanne was, or that she was one of the singers.


None of this matters overly much. The bones of the story are largely accurate. Moreover, the musicians were fantastic. Cusack found the timbre of Cash’s voice. Monday could move like Presley. The real Perkins would be awed by Sevelovitz’s tremendous guitar work. But Rude embodied Lewis, from his manic piano playing to the youthful arrogance. Aronson’s Dyanne had a lovely voice.

The play was quite serviceable, with some clever quips. (The Day Tripper riff made sense, given the dialogue; I laughed out loud.) It is a ssequel to Million Dollar Quartet, which my wife and I saw at Proctors Theatre in January 2013. (This is why I have a blog.)

It’s a brief program, 45 minutes, then a 15-minute intermission, then another 45 minutes, the last 15 minutes or so which was a mini-concert. It was quite suitable for a holiday show.

It’s playing through December 24.

My church was a TV star

There was a watch party for the first episode of Season 2 of The Gilded Age at my church on October 29. That’s because “It’s Easter Sunday 1883… Featured amid the holiday flowers and strolling crowds are three landmark Capital Region churches. First Presbyterian Church at Willett and State streets teams up with St. Peter’s Episcopal Church at 107 State St. to stand in for St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in 19th-century Manhattan…

“‘It was very cool to see. They were in our building for three weeks. They used our assembly hall as a green room,’ said the Rev. Dr. Miriam Lawrence Leupold, co-pastor of First Presbyterian Church.

“State Street and Washington Park appear in the opening episode as the setting for the Easter parade. It starts off the eight-episode season’s continuing clash between new and old money in Gilded Age New York City over competing opera houses.  Julian Fellowes is the creator of ‘The Gilded Age.'”

It’s a show on Max, which I don’t have a subscription for. Though our church’s star turn was over in the first ten minutes, the episode itself was very compelling, especially when dealing with labor issues. I’ve always enjoyed the work of Christine Baranski and Cynthia Nixon, the latter of whom I once voted for governor.

Taylor’s version

In late October, I went to see the film Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour. It was disappointing but it’s my own fault. I went to see it at the Spectrum, a Landmark theater not geared towards the hype three weeks after it opened.

So thee were a total of three of us in the theater, two women in their 20s, and me. They had “only” seen it once before because they’d been busy.

As someone not immersed in Swiftian music, I was impressed how her albums, her Eras, changed. I wasn’t crazy about Reputation, which I learned later has an interesting backstory. But I liked the story songs of folklore. I also enjoyed some of her very early work, with her at the piano.

I agree with this review: “Overall, The Eras Tour concert film is an enjoyable and entertaining experience for any music fan, but it will especially be a blast for Taylor Swift’s fans. It is a well-made film that captures the essence and excitement of Swift’s live shows. The film has good camera work, editing, and sound design that make the viewer feel like they are part of the concert.”

But I’m still not a Swiftie.

The price of tickets were $19.89 (she was born in 1989, which I knew), but since I’m a senior, it was only $13.13, 13 being TS’s lucky number (which I somehow missed.)

Lydster: the grown-up stuff

American Community Survey

My daughter is experiencing the grown-up stuff.

About a week after returning to college, she received in the mail at home what I assumed was a jury summons. After texting her for permission – something I needed to do with my now-adult progeny – I discovered I was correct.

I called the number on the form and spoke to the very understanding representative on the other end, explaining my daughter was currently in another state. “No problem.” They’ll contact her again in mid-May.

She was chagrined; she was looking forward to working that summer. (That $40 per day is not very robust.) Of course, she may not be called beyond one day. Incidentally, I haven’t been called for jury duty since 2014, when I wasn’t chosen.


Then, in early October, she got a notification that she was supposed to contact the campus about a letter she got from the US Census. She wondered if it was legit. I asked her if it was about the American Community Survey, and it was.

The ACS “helps local officials, community leaders, and businesses understand the changes taking place in their communities. It is the premier source for detailed population and housing information about our nation.”

The ACS is the source of much of the more granular data the Census releases. Unless one is a Census nerd like I am, people don’t know about it because only a random sampling of people receives it each month.

The letter from the college was delivered to my daughter’s room, directing her to contact a person with Census. I verified that this person worked for the Bureau because that’s what fathers and librarians do.


When we visited our daughter at college in October, her mother and I marveled at the great organization she had implemented in her tiny room. Everything is in its place. At home, her bedroom is… a work in progress.

On her wall at college is this banner. She painted the flags on the cloth, representing her DNA from Ireland, Nigeria, England, Cameroon, Scotland, Benin, et al. The blue flag I did not recognize is a banner for the Bantu people.

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