ABC Wednesday: O is for Overheard

The conceit of this exercise is that everything I’m writing about I actually overheard in the last 30 days, and that every image (save for the video) is from a government website.

The guest minister preaching at the stewardship (read that money, among other things) service this past week noted that doing that kind of campaign in this economic atmosphere is “counterintuitive”. Somehow, I loved that.

I often take the city bus, after dropping off my daughter at day care, in order to get downtown. A couple middle school girls were talking.
GIRL #1: What was English about?
GIRL #2: There were three witches…
at which point GIRL #2 hands over her notebook to GIRL #1. Less than five minutes later, GIRL #1 returns the notebook and says, “At least now I won’t fail the quiz.”
I wish I could have absorbed Macbeth in five minutes like that.

A couple days ago, a couple of middle school males were talking on the bus:
BOY #1: Hey, did you ever go snowboarding?
BOY #2: Yeah, but when you fall, it can really hurt.
BOY #1: How much can it hurt? You’re falling on SNOW! I’m gonna try it this winter.

These middle schoolers are pretty loud; not raucous, but definitely at a higher volume than the general public. This week, when they got off, I said, to no one in particular, “Hey, listen to that.” The college student behind me replied, “The rest is silence.” She was quoting Hamlet, which may have been a paraphrase of Psalm 115:16-18, “The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the earth he hath given to the children of men. The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the Lord.” But I thought she was quoting the Broadway musical “Hair”, that verse in The Flesh Failures/Let The Sunshine In in which Claude reprises “Manchester England” and sings, “I believe in God, And I believe that God believes in Claude, That’s me, that’s me, that’s me”, while the chorus ends their response with “the rest is silence.”

I was in the barbershop getting a trim when one of the barbers was making a comment about one of his previous customers who got a traffic ticket despite a warning from that barber. It was an interesting enough tale, but then a woman, waiting for her boyfriend to get finished with his haircut, exclaimed, “Oh, this is just like the movie ‘Barbershop”!” Immediately, the whole barbershop went dead silent. No one likes being caricatured.

I was downtown when this man, a good 15 years older than I, walked over to me and said, “You look just like my grandfather.” I’m assuming his now deceased, beloved grandfather. Many years ago.

I was riding my now departed bike when a woman, standing on the corner waiting for the light to change, scolded her daughter for being too close to traffic while she was literally walking circles around her mother a good six feet from the curb. “No one cares about anybody,” she said. I thought that was very sad.

I was in the grocery store and heard this great song: OR this. I was even able to remember the original artist, the Main Ingredient. Better than the Aaron Neville cover, which I heard four days later.


ABC Wednesday: N is for Newman

One of the things I just didn’t realize that I just did not see that many of Paul Newman’s films. I never saw either of the billiards pictures, The Hustler or The Color of Money, I managed to miss Hud. Though I swear I had seen Cool Hand Luke, when I was watching some PBS special about Warner Brothers pictures, WHICH SHOWED THE ENDING, I realize that I’d just seen several clips and not the whole thing.

I did absolutely see some of his films, though:
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969 – especially loved the knife fight
The Sting 1973 another film I enjoyed greatly
The Towering Inferno 1974 this not so much, but I went to see both shake (Earthquake) and bake (TI) in the day
The Verdict 1982 – possibly my favorite movie of his
Blaze 1989 – Paul as Huey Long
Nobody’s Fool 1994 – filmed in upstate New York; an underrated film, I think
Message in a Bottle 1999 – it was OK, but loved the scenes with Paul
It must be the presence he had in the films that I DID see that gave me the sense that I had see more of them than I had.

I read lots of things about Paul Newman after his death on September 26, 2008. Some were in obvious places such as People and Entertainment Weekly, and even Sports Illustrated. But my favorite piece actually appeared in Advertising Age, talking about the secret to marketing the Newman’s Own products. He realized that people might buy the product once because his name was on the bottle, and perhaps twice because the proceeds were going to charity. But if he wanted an ongoing relationship with his customers, he had to make sure the product was actually GOOD. A simple, perhaps obvious point, but one that many celebrity-owned businesses and other entrepreneurial ventures failed to realize.


ABC Wednesday: L is for Little Roger and the Goosebumps & Led Zeppelin

As is my wont, I was listening to the Coverville podcast a couple weeks ago. Brian Ibbott decided to play several covers of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, some straightforward, some silly. I was disappointed, though, that he didn’t play my favorite cover by Little Roger and the Goosebumps, Stairway to Gilligan’s Island. As it turns out, Brian had played it on this April 2007 episode.

I discovered that the song, recorded in March 1978, and released it as a single in May 1978, inspired Led Zeppelin’s lawyers to threaten to sue for copyright infringement and demanded that remaining copies of the recording be destroyed. This is highly ironic, given the fact that Stairway seems to be heavily copped from the 1968 song Taurus by the group Spirit, the first song on that recent Coverville episode, a snippet of which can also be found here. In fact, this website addresses many of Led Zeppelin’s “influences”.

At least I own a collector’s item.

October 9 birthdays in the category: Lennon, Sean, who I saw perform last year, and his late father John, who is represeented here:
or here.



ABC Wednesday: K is for Keating Five

One of the things that happens in my life is that after a while, the details get fuzzy. So, in light of the current Presidential campaign AND the current fiscal crisis, I wanted to find out just what did happen with John McCain and the Keating Five.

While one conservative commentator wrote recently that he was exonerated, this writer says that McCain was the “most reprehensible of the Keating Five”. Looking at this article from the Arizona Republic, part of a lengthy series on the senator, I’ve concluded that neither POV is accurate.

While it is true that by 1987, McCain had received about $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and his associates, McCain was hesitant about intervening on Keating’s behalf in the dealings with the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Indeed, McCain had previously refused his colleague, Democratic senator Dennis DeConcini’s request to meet with the Lincoln auditors themselves. In his book Worth the Fighting For, McCain wrote that he remained “a little troubled” at the prospect, “but since the chairman of the bank board didn’t seem to have a problem with the idea, maybe a discussion with the regulators wouldn’t be as problematic as I had earlier thought.”

The reprieve did not help Keating’s businesses, but tainted senators as “The Keating Five”, which became “synonymous for the kind of political influence that money can buy. As the S&L failure deepened, the sheer magnitude of the losses hit the press. Billions of dollars had been squandered. The five senators were linked as the gang who shilled for an S&L bandit.

“S&L ‘trading cards’ came out. The Keating Five card showed Charles Keating holding up his hand, with a senator’s head adorning each finger. McCain was on Keating’s pinkie…”

McCain, however, made a “critical error” when he “had adopted the blanket defense that Keating was a [mere] constituent and that he had every right to ask his senators for help.” But on “Oct. 8, 1989, The Arizona Republic revealed that McCain’s wife and her father had invested $359,100 in a Keating shopping center in April 1986, a year before McCain met with the regulators.”

The paper also reported that the McCains, sometimes accompanied by their daughter and baby-sitter, had made at least nine trips at Keating’s expense, sometimes aboard the American Continental jet. Three of the trips were made during vacations to Keating’s opulent Bahamas retreat at Cat Cay.

McCain also did not pay Keating for some of the trips until years after they were taken, after he learned that Keating was in trouble over Lincoln. Total cost: $13,433.

When the story broke, McCain did nothing to help himself.

“You’re a liar,” McCain said when a Republic reporter asked him about the business relationship between his wife and Keating.

“That’s the spouse’s involvement, you idiot,” McCain said later in the same conversation. “You do understand English, don’t you?”

He also belittled reporters when they asked about his wife’s ties to Keating.

“It’s up to you to find that out, kids.”

The paper ran the story.

In his 2002 book, McCain confesses to “ridiculously immature behavior” during that particular interview and adds that The Republic reporters’ “persistence in questioning me about the matter provoked me to rage.”

In the end, McCain received only a mild rebuke from the Ethics Committee for exercising “poor judgment” for intervening with the federal regulators on behalf of Keating. Still, he felt tarred by the affair.

“The appearance of it was wrong,” McCain said. “It’s a wrong appearance when a group of senators appear in a meeting with a group of regulators because it conveys the impression of undue and improper influence. And it was the wrong thing to do.”

So, it appears that while McCain was the most minor of players in the Keating Five, his legendary temper fueled his own difficulties.
Last week, I discovered a website, ABC Wednesday, where every week, one submits a post based on a particular letter of the alphabet. I’ve already picked out my posts for L, M, N, O and Q, and they are far less political than this first contribution.