September Ramblin’

I wrote recently about music that made me cry, and I left an important piece out.

When I first joined the Trinity UMC choir in the January 1983, the lead soprano was named Arlene Mahigian. She had an amazingly lovely voice, but more than that, she took a liking to me. Though I was almost 30, she, who had a couple grown sons, decided to become my “choir mom”. Among other things, she’d take my robe home when it needed cleaning.

In the winter of 1984-85, she developed cancer. In March 1985, the choir performed the Mozart requiem. Arlene was unable to sing, but she was there in a wheelchair, not only to support the choir, but also her son Peter and her husband Leo as they performed the Adagio by Albinoni (or more likely, Giazotto.) About three weeks later, I visited Arlene in the hospital, her beautiful hair having all fallen out. She looked wan and pale and I don’t even think she opened her eyes. I didn’t know she even knew I was there until she squeezed my fingers; then I knew. She died the next day, and the Adagio reminds me of her.

I hadn’t heard it in quite a long time until it was on public radio one morning in the past 10 days. I heard it, and about 2/3s of the way through, I just wept. Here are three versions; none are as plainspoken as Leo and Peter playing, which I can still hear in my mind’s ear.
Version 1
Version 2
Version 3
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William Safire died, and I’m a bit sad. It’s not that I liked his politics; often, in fact, I loathed them. Nut he at least had some intellect to his position. The current crop of the right-wing, Glenn Beck, et al, are better inciting the crowd, but Safire had miles more candlepower.

But I once appeared in his On Language column. I can’t believe it was so long ago: December 19, 1982. In a piece called Vox of Pop Sixpack, He talked about “Who speaks for the average man? Out of whose mouth comes the voice of the people? A bit of doggerel in the Presidential campaign of 1920, sung by the supporters of James Cox and Franklin Roosevelt, used the Latin term vox populi, for ”voice of the people”: ”Cox or Harding, Harding or Cox?/ You tell us, populi, you got the vox.” At that time, the chorus of voices that intoned ”Harding and Coolidge” went under the name of John Citizen for highbrows, Joe Zilch for lowbrows…” Then he cites my suggestion of Joe Sixpack.

I also wrote to him about my suggestion of the term lunaversary to note the marking of the celebration of a month; e.g., if you were married for a month, you might celebrate your first lunaversary. Far more accurate than “one-month anniversary”, anni- referring to year, and far shorter to boot. Safire did not use it in his column, but he did type me a response suggesting that the idea had merit; I still have that blue postcard somewhere in the attic.
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I find myself agreeing with Mark Evanier over the fate of Roman Polanski. The VICTIM has suffered enough; would it be “justice” if she were forced to testify at a media frenzy of a trial? I find her position paramount. She said six and a half years ago, when Polanski was up for an Oscar: “And, honestly, the publicity surrounding it was so traumatic that what he did to me seemed to pale in comparison.”
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Nova: Darwin’s Darkest Hour – Tues., October 6 at 8 p.m. (but check your local listings)

This two-hour scripted drama presents the remarkable story behind the birth of Darwin’s radically controversial theory of evolution and reveals his deeply personal crisis of whether to publish his earthshaking ideas or to keep quiet to avoid potential backlash from the church.
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How to make a grilled cheese sandwich
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What happens when the world’s most popular comic book company is assimilated by the Mouse Factory

ROG

Black or White

In high school and early in my college days, I made attempts to write songs. In retrospect, they probably were not that good, though I do have some affection for a couple of them. Among other things, I realized that I had, on more than one occasion, unintentionally swiped the tune from an existing song. Still, I wish I could find the notebook where I was keeping the lyrics over a number of years.

One of the songs was called “Black or White”. It started:
“My father was a singer of folk songs,
My mama used to hum along.”
I remember that part, because it was true.
In the chorus, there was this couplet:
“It doesn’t matter if it’s black or white.
Music is music if the feeling’s right.”

I do recall the specific inspiration for this song. My father had moved to Charlotte, NC. Whether it was true or his perception, he felt that the gumbo of folk music that he had performed in hometown Binghamton would not fare as well in the South of the 1970s, and for a number of years, he just stopped playing. I found this quite disheartening.

In the same vein, it was a song for Dionne Warwick, Charlie Pride and Jimi Hendrix, who were often put down, including by black people, because they weren’t singing the music they were “supposed” to be playing, jazz, soul or blues, but certainly NOT pop, country or rock. (I have an irrational affection for the song Then Came You by Dionne and the Spinners – “see, she can do soulful; now, SHUT UP, already!”)

When Michael Jackson’s song Black or White came out in 1991, complete with the lyrics “It Don’t Matter If You’re Black Or White,” it made me feel…wistful. If I ever DID find this book and recorded the song, people who think that I had ripped it off from MJ, when i had written it at least a decade and a half earlier. (And no, I don’t believe he ripped it off from me, either.)
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So, I’m waiting and waiting for Fred Hembeck to post something about his daughter Julie’s birthday this week, but nothing. So I write to him, and he tells me I should have been checking out Facebook! I’m mediocre re Facebook at best, and not much better with Twitter. There’s something rather ephemeral about those social network platforms; it’s different with the blog, which is a web LOG. Anyway, belated happy birthday, Julie! Really, I didn’t forget.

ROG

Know Thine Opposition

I often read the views of people whose positions I have a track record of disagreeing with. (Whereas actually WATCHING them on TV sometimes makes me apoplexic and I’m forced to shut them off, lest I scream at the TV; Bill O’Reilly I won’t even try to view.)

So I’m reading the latest from Ann Coulter, Obama Birth Certificate Spotted In Bogus Moon Landing Footage, where she cleverly compares the birthers to a bunch of conspiracy theories from the left, both implausible -“Sarah Palin’s infant child, Trig, was actually the child of her daughter” and possible – “the 2000 election was stolen”. Just because I oppose her views most of the time doesn’t mean I don’t think she’s not clever in constructing straw men to knock down.

Meanwhile, Chuck Norris notes in What Obama and My Wife Have in Common that Obama and Chuck’s wife Gena have a birthday in the same week (Barack – August 4; Gena – August 9.) He then ties Obama’s birthday to the birther movement. (Hey, *I* did that; I think like Chuck Norris!) But of course he took a different tactic: “Refusing to post your original birth certificate is an unwise political and leadership decision that is enabling the “birther” controversy. The nation you are called to lead is experiencing a growing swell of conspirators who are convinced that you are covering up something. So why not just prove them wrong and shut them up?” The particular fun stuff is in the letters of comment.

I was reading somewhere that while their parents grouse that liberals (Barbra Streisand, Sean Penn, Al Franken SENATOR Al Franken) should keep out of politics, it’s OK for Chuck Norris or the late Charlton Heston (or, of course, Ronald Reagan). I never biought into that mindset, BTW. How does being an actor (or singer) somehow negate one’s right to participate in the democratic process?

Anyway, I didn’t get much sleep, so here’s former sportscaster Keith Olbermann’s recent rant on health care, which I agree with.
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Peace Through Music Film Trailer
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Friend Walter and his wife went to see the Lovin’ Spoonful recently. The group (sans John Sebastian) performed a song, not an orginal, he’d heard before and wanted to know what it was. It has the lyrics:
Ah-ha-ha-ha (ha-ha-ha-ha)
Hey-oh (hey-oh)
Koo-ba, koo-ba, koo-ba, koo-ba
(Koo-ba, koo-ba, koo-ba, koo-ba)
Ah-ha-ha-ha (ah-ha-ha-ha)
Ah-ah-ah-ha (ah-ha-ha-ha)
Hey-oh (hey-oh)

It was Don’t You Just Know It by Huey (Piano) Smith & The Clowns from 1958; went to #9 on the pop charts. (If link doesn’t work, try this.) Here’s a version by C.J. Chenier from 1996.

ROG

Songs That Move Me, 90-81

90. Wah Wah – George Harrison.
On an album, All This Must Pass, of mostly lovely little tunes, this really rocks. I love the harmonies. And is that a race car engine revving at the end?
Feeling: like playing air guitar.

89. Police on My Back – the Clash.
Just for that guitar line that sounds like a UK siren. The harmonies aren’t as apparent in this version, but the frentic energy certainly is.
Feeling: slightly paranoid.

88. Cancer – Joe Jackson.
The juxtaposition of the topic “there’s no cure, there’s no answer” with the jaunty, piano-driven tune fascinated me. From side 2 of the LP Night and Day. This is a live version, which I ALSO own.
Feeling: conflicted.

87. Born To Run- Bruce Springsteen.
Anthemic, from the drum intro on.
Feeling: see title.

86. Rock Lobster – the B-52’s.
The “hook” is in the very beginning. I especially like the Yokoesque segment.
Feeling: in the mood for seafood.

85. Kiko and the Lavender Moon – Los Lobos.
Based on Three Blind Mice, this is just a weird, weird song.
Feeling: if I HAD taken it, I’d be experiencing an acid flashback.

84. Winter Snow – Booker T. & The MG’s
This is only 30 seconds of this, which does not give the full mood of the piece. From the Album Stax/Volt – The Complete Singles 1959-1968 – Volume 8.
HERE.
Feeling: melancholy.

83. Sail On Sailor-the Beach Boys.
The first song on the Holland LP. This was released twice as a single, somebody believed so much in it, but it was never more than a moderate hit, which surprises me, because I just love it.
Feeling: nautical.

82. Maybe – Alison Krauss.
I wish I could explain musical things better, but in the chorus, but the way the chord resolves in the chorus always moved me. Bonus: Carol and I saw this tour in 2003.
Feeling: a bit melancholy.

81. Summer in the City – Lovin’ Spoonful.
A song I could play on the piano, albeit poorly. The intro, and the instrumentation at the end makes it for me.
Feeling: dirty and gritty..

if this is gone:

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So you want to write a fugue by Glenn Gould.


ROG

Unsettling

I had the TV on last night just before 7:30 pm, when there was a scroll along the bottom of the screen indicating that an Amber alert had been called. I’ve seen them before and they’re always a bit scary, but not as much as this one. The address listed is the school in my neighborhood; indeed, we were at that very school on Saturday, checking out the Pre-K and kindergarten programs. Fortunately, the boy and the man who allegedly took him were found not far away in Cohoes less than one hour later.
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Saturday as a very busy one for us. First, we went to a pancake breakfast to benefit the FOCUS Churches food pantry, then to the school. We went to our credit union to put money into an IRA to mitigate our taxes, using some of the money we’re going to get from the stimulus package. (Shhh! Don’t tell President Bush!!) Then, that evening, we got a babysitter, went to the Troy Music Hall, and listened to an exquisite performance of the Brahms Requiem and other pieces by Albany Pro Musica; here is feedback from one of the singers.
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My computer at work uses Microsoft Office for e-mail. Friday, and again yesterday morning, when I would click on a hyperlink within my e-mail, it would look as though I were trying to download an executable (.exe) file. Apparently, the problem was that when I downloaded an update to iTunes last week, I also downloaded Safari, and it did not play well with Microsoft Office. Eliminate Safari, reroute the e-mail – which someone else did, trust me – and I was good to go again.
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The big news in the area is that Pat Riley, oh, and some other folks, got into the Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s a huge local story because Riley was a high school star in Schenectady; the high school gym there is named in his honor.

ROG