I almost always hear music

relative pitch

An old friend, C, asked:

When you hear non-playing music, what genre(s)? Do you recognize the tune right away, or do you get to play ‘Name that Tune’ with yourself?

I suppose I should clarify. Often, I have said that I almost always hear music. Even when there is no obvious music source, I can hear music.

There are two answers to the question. One is that I usually hear the bass line. About 5% of the time, it’s the bass at the beginning of Keep On Running by the Spencer Davis Group, which I used to hear when trying to to ride a bicycle uphill. But it could be almost anything I’ve heard more than a dozen times.

It doesn’t have to be pop music. The pedals on the organ often come to mind. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor may be my favorite, not just the last three chords, but that deliciously dissonant section at 7:25 to 7:35 on this recording.

Sometimes, it’s vocal, usually something in my range. The low harmony part of Rosanna by Toto during “Not quite a year since she went away.” (0:51-1:04). I don’t love the song, but I love that bit, and I don’t have to have listened to it recently to recreate it in my head.

But it could be almost anything.

The siren song

The other answer to the question is that music is everywhere. Someone was mowing the lawn next door the day after I received the question. I discovered I was humming to the tune, only a third higher. Specifically, harmony is everywhere.

I was on a plane recently, an A321. The sounds I heard were two pitches, which reminded me of the song, Western Union. I couldn’t even remember the group’s name – the Five Americans.

My not-so-old friend ADD posted an article about David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, and Jerry Harrison discussing “the restored version of their iconic documentary [Stop Making Sense], the band’s classic albums, and being a Talking Head for life.”

As I’ve mentioned frequently, I saw Talking Heads on that tour in Saratoga Springs, NY, one of the two greatest concerts I’ve ever attended, though I’ve never seen the movie. Moreover, I’ve met backup singer Lynn Mabry, pictured in the article. She sings backup for Sheila E. and is her business partner. Niece Rebecca Jade made the intros.

In the article, David Byrne recalled that keyboardist Bernie Worrell of Parliament-Funkadelic, the music director for the tour, “had perfect pitch. So, he would hear a siren go by, or car brakes, or something on the street when we’re on the bus. And he had a little tiny keyboard, and he would start playing along with it, perfectly in the right key.”

I certainly do NOT have perfect pitch. Like many singers and other musicians, I have relative pitch, so I’ve also harmonized with sirens, which is interesting because it’s not a sustained sound but variable and often multiple.


All that said, I listen to external music, usually compact discs [wotta dinosaur], for most of the day when I’m writing (currently listening to Double Fantasy by John and Yoko) and ESPECIALLY when cleaning the house. And I’ll sing harmony to them if necessary.

On a recent Sunday, there was a hymn in the church bulletin. The words were unfamiliar, but the tune was a standard. Only the melody line appeared, but now there were altos, tenors, and basses singing harmony in the middle verses.

Happier Now Sunday Stealing

Hembeck, ADD, AmeriNZ, Forgotten Stars

happier nowThe Happier Now Sunday Stealing questions this week are all over the place.

What flavor Popsicle is the best?

I haven’t had Popsicles in years. But I remember that I favored grape, lime, cherry, and orange, in approximately that order.

Do you have a DVR feature with your cable?

Yes, and increasingly it’s the ONLY way I can watch television. It’s not only much faster – JEOPARDY! in 18 minutes – but I also get to avoid the plethora of advertisements for prescription drugs that are ubiquitous on American television. I’ve been told, and someone can correct me, that the ads are banned everywhere except in the US and New Zealand.

How many drawers does your dresser have?

Five. Or not nearly enough.

Is your closet a mess?

Actually, I have an armoire. After our daughter was born, the room with a large closet became her bedroom for a time. Now it’s my wife’s office. So no.

Have you ever solved a Rubik’s Cube?

No, but I haven’t tried in decades.

Describe your favorite pair of pajama pants:

They’re blue and have moose on them.

What color is your wallet?

The brown color of probably faux leather.

Do you find flea markets and thrift shops enjoyable?

Not really. The cost (of time)/benefit (the find) is too unbalanced. Sorry, Eddie.


Have you met amazing people online?

Yes. I could write a whole blog post on this topic. When I first started blogging in 2005, I followed my friend Fred Hembeck’s now-defunct but still extant blog. I met a slew of great folks there, including Lefty, Gordon, the aforementioned Eddie, and even Greg.

I discovered the late Dustbury, who died in 2019. So I know fillyjonk because I knew Charles Hill.

I stumbled upon Denise Nesbitt’s ABC Wednesday, which I participated in for about a decade. I met Leslie and many other fine folks.

The local newspaper, the Times Union, used to have a blog platform. I still follow folks such as Chuck Miller and J. Eric Smith, the latter of whom is no longer in the area.   

Then there are people for whom I have NO idea how I “met” them, such as  Arthur and Kelly.

This doesn’t count all of the people I’ve become reacquainted with, including Steve Bissette,  Alan David Doane, and a bunch of folks on Facebook.

Between the lines

Would you be happy if I colored a picture for you?

Only if it’s better than I would draw for myself, which is almost certainly going to be true.

What show do you think ‘made’ the 90’s?

Law and Order, The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, NYPD Blue… I think I’m supposed to say Seinfeld or Friends.

Are you happier now than you were last year?

Yes, because 2021 was too COVIDy. An odd observation, I suppose, since I actually GOT COVID in August 2022. But I’ve gone to a few movies, attended plays, eaten at a few restaurants, and participated in the church choir in 2022.

What are you currently drinking?

Not alcohol, and that’s about calories, not any other consideration. Arnold Palmer.

Do you trust people easily?

Not especially. I don’t DISTRUST people out of hand, but when they’ve betrayed me, I always remember. I can forgive, but I seldom forget.

What are you looking forward to in the next three months?

My daughter will be home from her first semester of college.

Dealing with the way stuff happens

The Sad Gap

As luck would have it, I came across two different series of blog posts involving, well, dealing with the way stuff happens in the world.

The first source is a series sent to me by my friend ADD. “If you have any interest at all in where our civilization is going and how we got to this perilous moment, please take a look at Professor Sid Smith’s new series How To Enjoy The End of the World. You’ll find far more reasons to have hope and even know how you want to proceed than you might think; the title is NOT meant to be funny or ironic.

“He’s absolutely serious about making the most out of living in a time of the collapse, starting with understanding why it’s happening.” If you watch none of the other videos, check out the prologue “Why You Shouldn’t Let Collapse Get You Down.”


The other was two videos in the Vlogbrothers series. Hank Green asked Are You Stuck in The Sad Gap? In his piece, Hank notes all the myriad topics he’s concerned about at about 2:25, and the list he says is incomplete.

Hank writes in the notes: “I… think that there are some people who think that The Sad Gap is the honorable, correct place to be. As if you are a bad person if you get out of the place where you only feel hopelessness and outrage. I am, frankly, OVER THAT. I think it’s making things much worse. And I never thought it was the right thing to do and the moment I realized that other people did, I got very worried.”

His brother John Green replied in How Do You Cross the Sad Gap? In four minutes, he notes how impossible it is to fix EVERYTHING, even if you wanted to. He notes what worked for him. Now, he’s focused on maternal mortality in Sierra Leone, where he, with tons of help, has actually turned the tide in that narrow, specific area.

I get it

I see the despair out there, everywhere. “OMG, OMG, what can little old ME do about Ukraine and gun violence and racism and environmental catastrophe” et cetera, et cetera, et cetera? The fretting, I posit, is totally human and understandable, and not terribly helpful. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t happen to me from time to time.

Maybe you and like-minded people can do… something about one of the things you are most passionate about. Or at least recontextualize it. But trying to fret over each perceived crisis until we move on to the next one is not particularly productive.

Ranking the Presidents of the USA

Numbers 32 to 36 ranked highly

John Tyler

In response to my Presidents Day post about knowing all of those guys – they’re all guys – in order, led to a couple of discussions.

One involved a friend of mine whose kid, who I’ve known since he was a baby, has “very strong feelings” about ranking the Presidents. I think we all should have a “resident political scientist” (RPS), in our midst, and a credentialed one at that.

I find the exercise interesting, as an old poli sci major would. Yet I’ve always been mildly conflicted between whether President was successful and how that success or failure turned out historically. (I have one specifically in mind; see below.)

Nevertheless, here’s a list, not the whole roster. The comparative rankings I’ll refer to is the overall 2021 C-SPAN Presidential Historians Survey, linked to here. I’ll not create a full list of my own.

So it begins

1. George Washington, #2. Does he get nicked for owning slaves? Of course, true of many of the early dudes. But as anyone who’s heard Hamilton knows, part of George’s greatness is not staying around too long.

7. Andrew Jackson, #22. Jackson has tumbled over the years. But not far enough for the RPS, who would put him third from the bottom, ahead of only Trump and perennial cellar-dweller Buchanan. As abhorrent as I think he was, I’m not ready to put him down that low. Among other things, he kept South Carolina from seceding and paid off the national debt. Conversely, the spoils system started with him. And he’s responsible for the Trail of Tears.

Surely, he should be off the $20 bill. Incidentally, some versions of his dollar coin are flawed.

9. William Henry Harrison, #40. Seriously? Why is this man even ranked? Some polls exclude him. His only major decision was to give a too-long inaugural speech. Then he died a month later.

10. John Tyler, #39. Can we count the stuff after he left office? I think we do anyway, and I have a couple of examples. This traitor sat in the Confederate Congress for a few months before he died in 1862.

Leading to the Civil War

11. James K. Polk, #18. I was helping my daughter with her history homework last year. The fact that he met every major domestic and foreign policy goal he had set during his single term was impressive. But he led the country into a nasty war against Mexico, which accelerated the divide between free and slave states.

13-15. Millard Fillmore, #38; Franklin Pierce, #42; James Buchanan, #44. Worser and worse, as they say. Shortly after Fillmore’s ascent to the presidency upon the death of Zachary Taylor (#35), he supported the odious Fugitive Slave Law, part of the Compromise of 1850. Pierce, who was recently featured on CBS Sunday Morning, signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which fractured the Missouri Compromise more slavery in the territories.

Perhaps there was nothing for Buchanan to do. As JFK was quoted, “No one has a right to grade a president — even poor James Buchanan — who has not sat in his chair, examined the mail and information that came across his desk, and learned why he made his decisions.”

16. Abraham Lincoln, #1. Perhaps no President has been more analyzed, for good and ill.

17. Andrew Johnson, #43. What might Reconstruction have looked like if not for him? An oversimplification, sure, but…

18. Ulysses S. Grant, #20. Few have been more rehabilitated than USG. Yeah, the Panic of 1873, but Reconstruction helped. So did his book.

20th century

29. Warren G. Harding, #37. When I was growing up, only some of the Presidents around Lincoln fared worse than Harding, with Teapot Dome.

31. Herbert Hoover, #36. Another “worst ” President growing up.

32. Franklin D. Roosevelt, #3. New Deal, WWII. Conversely, internment camps for the Nisei. Plus many provisions of the New Deal actually harmed black people. Much of the positive energy of the administration came from his wife Eleanor.

33. Harry Truman, #6. The fact that the military desegregated under his administration is a BFD for me. Berlin airlift, and reining in MacArthur are pluses.

34. Dwight Eisenhower, #5. Even though he likely wasn’t in favor of the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, he respected the process. So he sent in troops to desegregate Little Rock HS. He also created the armistice in Korea, despite opposition in his own administration. He initiated a massive interstate highway system. But he also gave one of the best farewells, warning us of the “Military-industrial complex.”

Ones I remember

35. John Kennedy, #8. I’d long thought that JFK was overrated, a function of his youth and being assassinated. He had that Bay of Pigs debacle, though the world DIDN’T go to war in ’62. He was coming around on civil rights in ’63. But I must credit him with the initiation of the space program that DID go to the moon in that decade.

36. Lyndon Johnson, #11. The most vexing President in my lifetime. On one hand, he pushed the civil rights legislation, sometimes in the name of his late predecessor. And he had a robust social welfare program. But the massive escalation in the Vietnam war was unforgivable.

37. Richard Nixon, #31. RPS’s mom would put Nixon in the lower echelon of presidents, “but maybe that’s just because I was in high school and college in the 70s.” I DESPISED Nixon politically when he was in office, over Vietnam response but also his war on drugs. The EPA was created, only Nixon COULD have gone to China, and a more robust health care COULD have happened except… Watergate, of course, was the public spectacle debacle that I watched on TV daily.

The unelected President

38. Gerald Ford, #28. ADD asked, “What are your thoughts about the one that was never elected President or Vice-President? That’s my favorite trivia question.” My favorite, “Which President was born Leslie Lynch King Jr.?” Now here’s my unanswerable question: would the Republicans push out Nixon if Spiro Agnew would have become President? I’ll acknowledge that I opposed Ford’s pardon of Nixon at the time, but I’ve softened on it.

His problem was that he was tasked with cleaning up messes: Nixon, but also Vietnam, inflation, an economic downturn. Ford’s social policies were liberal by today’s standards, notably his support of the Equal Rights Amendment, but he didn’t have a lot of political capital, especially after the 1974 Congressional elections, which brought in a wave of Democrats. He did the best that he could. His wife Betty, though: SHE was a force.

Oh, and his appointed Veep was Nelson Rockefeller, considered a liberal, but he ran with BobDole in 1976 and lost.

39. Jimmy Carter, #26. The Camp David between Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachim Begin was a highlight. But the ongoing energy crisis was a drag. He had solar panels installed on the White House (and Reagan had them taken down.) Of course, the Iran hostage crisis sunk him.

A different job

40. Ronald Reagan, #9. I always thought Reagan should have been king. A cheerleader for America. He was good at that, actually. But his policies, from trickle-down economics to anti-union policies to a larger war on drugs to ignoring HIV/AIDS for years. But he knew how to sell it like an actor. Getting shot and coming back healthy certainly helped. He DID appoint the first woman to SCOTUS. The fact that he said to Gorbechev “Tear down this wall” and the Berlin wall came down a couple of years later means he gets to take credit.

41. George H. W. Bush, #21. Breaking his “no new taxes” promise helped to sink him.

42. Bill Clinton, #19. He had to face that horrendous wave of Contract On America tools such as Gingrich. Even at the time, I dismissed the idea that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 would be a boon to competition in local cable markets. His war on drugs was as bad as recent Republicans. He did select Stephen Breyer and RGB for SCOTUS. His impeachment was silly, especially given the behavior of some Republicans, such as Gingrich, which we didn’t know at the time.

21st century

43. George W. Bush, #29. Going into Iraq was the big debacle, though his Hurricane Katrina response was lousy. Oh, yeah, and the 2008 economic collapse. #29 seems high.

44. Barack Obama, #10. He signed the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) when so many others had tried and failed. He also backed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. it appeared Obama was working hard on his economic stimulus program in response to the Great Recession even before he was inaugurated. Unsurprisingly, he talked a lot about race, which I thought was appropriate.

45. Donald J. Trump, #41. Tax cuts for the riches. His disturbing relationship with Putin in Helsinki and subsequently. Amazingly racist comments. His bromance with Kim Jung-un. His pathological need to try to undo everything his predecessor accomplished, from Paris climate change to the Iran nuclear agreement. He lied all of the time, even about things not worthy of the effort. His administration developed the COVID vaccine, but his messaging undermined its success. Still, it was the Big Lie over the 2020 election and his culpability on 6 Jan 2021 that truly puts him so low on my list. Twice impeached.
This is difficult, but my bottom five probably are Buchanan, Trump, Pierce, Harding, A. Johnson. Tyler, Hoover, and W would be in the next five.


Correcting grammar strikes a chord

more cheesier

correcting grammarMy recent post on correcting grammar has struck a chord.

My friend and former editor Alan got me thinking:

How do you feel about Positive Anymore, Roger?

I had not heard the term before, to be honest. But I have heard this construction. From the Wikipedia article, it “is the use of the adverb anymore in an affirmative context. While any more (also spelled anymore) is typically a negative/interrogative polarity item used in negative, interrogative, or hypothetical contexts, speakers of some dialects of English use it in positive or affirmative contexts, with a meaning similar to nowadays or from now on.”

I’d better show some of their examples.

1 “A servant being instructed how to act, will answer ‘I will do it any more‘.” (Northern Ireland, c. 1898)
2 “Any more, the difference between a white-collar worker and a blue-collar worker is simply a matter of shirt preference.” (Madison, Wisconsin, 1973)
3 “Everything we do anymore seems to have been done in a big hurry.” (Kingston, Ontario, 1979)
4 “I’ll be getting six or seven days’ holiday anymore.” (Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1981)
5 “Anymore we watch videos rather than go to the movies.” (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, c. 1991)

Its use as from now on in the first and fourth sentence sounds wrong, as though the word not was left out in error. The usage in sentence three, as nowadays (or these days), sounds oddly familiar and colloquially acceptable to me. Yet the same word in the beginning (sentences 2 and 5) bugs me. Maybe it suggests that the sentence is going in another direction, such as “Any more, do you have bread?”

More Adverbs

Then Alan requested:

Can the other part [of my post] be people who say “whenever” when they mean when?

This one I had not heard at all. Its usage suggests an indefinite time, but they’re talking about a specific timeframe. A regional variation, apparently, but I don’t much like it. It’s two extra syllables that do not convey any more or different information. But it’s all I have to say about that.

Tim, who I remember from back in the days (March 2020) we used to sing in the choir together, quips:

I prefer the brand of macaroni and cheese that is more cheesier. Then there is the -ly being chopped off most adverbs these days.

As I noted way back here: There are rules for forming comparative and superlative adjectives. One-syllable adjectives generally add -er or -est. “For adjectives with three syllables or more, you form the comparative with more and the superlative with most.”

The adjectives with two syllables are… complicated.” The ones ending with -y, -er, -le, or -ow generally use -er and -est, though one changes the -y to -i.

But cutting off the -ly sounds more informal than wrong. “I’m gonna come back real quick.” “She steered that boat real smooth.” The meaning is clear. Incidentally, I came across an article Errors in the use of adverbs. For at least two of the examples, I shrugged, “Whatever.”
Incorrect: She angrily spoke.
Correct: She spoke angrily.
Adverbs of manner usually go in the end-position.
Not really something to concern me.

Descriptive versus prescriptive

My ferocious hearts competitor friend Janna indicates:

I tend to think corrections on my grammar pet peeves rather than pointing them out (except to my kids LOL). In this age of e-communication, I think many are the result of bad autocorrect.

Well, yes, some software corrections are overly zealous. I’ve used Grammarly for years, but I have vigorously disagreed with supposed errors of mine. I’m very forgiving of mistakes in contemporaneous speaking, particularly with noun/verb agreement. On the other hand, I’m much fussier over a formal address.

Alison, who I was once related to – or to whom I was…, if you insist – correctly notes:

Well, there’s descriptive grammar and prescriptive grammar and some of the latter was imposed on the language by a dude who thought English should follow Latin grammar. It’s class-related also so my opinion is that prescriptive grammar is only necessary for formal or academic settings- except for “normalcy.” That’s an abomination.

Agreed. I noted here that the creative use of y’all, et al. for the second person plural you “is not the failure of the speakers, it’s the failure of the language.

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