The Last Of James Fennimore Cooper

The 19th Amendment

In due course, we’ll get to The Last Of James Fennimore Cooper (by a Mohican). 

The next item at our Albany Symphony Orchestra’s American Musical Festival was the composer talk moderated by ASO conductor David Alan Miller on Saturday, June 8 at 6:30 pm. All four composers were present. It’s always entertaining.

In answer to a question from the audience, both of the women composers noted that they absolutely hate hearing their compositions the first time it’s being played. Until then, it’s all in their ears, in their heads. As they listen to more often, they think, “Well, maybe it’s not so bad. Perhaps I don’t have to change it substantially.” This was a fascinating glimpse into the minds of music creators.

At 7:30, the concert began with 1920/2019 by Joan Tower, who has had a sixty-year career. In the talk beforehand, in response to Miller’s emphasis on playing living composers, she joked about her mortality. When asked what the piece was about, she often quips, “About 15 minutes.”

1920 was the year of the 19th Amendment allowing women the right to vote. 2019 was amid the Me Too Movement. Here’s a recent recording of 1920/2019 by the National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic, conducted by David Alan Miller.

Albany High, again

Michael Gilbertson created his Flute Concerto, a world premiere, based on the famous Rudyard Kipling poem If. The flutist was Brandon Patrick George, who was very good. Gilbertson worked with the Albany High School Chamber Choir, who were excellent.

A rant here: back when my daughter was entering school, someone I knew thought allowing her to attend Albany public schools was tantamount to child abuse. But many Albany High kids thrived, attending Ivy League schools, becoming name performers, et al. Earlier this month, the AHS band was the only US high school represented at D-Day+80.

After the intermission, the next piece was On the Bridge of the Eternal by Christopher Theofandis. This was his contemplation of time, impacted unsurprisingly by the pandemic. I thought the best part was the extraordinary vocalise section based on a short text from St. Augustine’s Confessions, performed by the Tantalus Chamber choir. The music followed from the vocal setup. 

Finally, Brazilian-American Clarice Assad‘s world premiere of Flow, for she also played piano, a small percussion instrument, and even plucked the piano strings briefly. It may have been the most entertaining of the pieces. 


On Sunday, June 9 at 4 pm, we went to the Sanctuary For Independent Media in Troy.  It uses “art, science, and participatory action to promote social and environmental justice, and freedom of creative expression.” A lot of cool stuff is taking place there.

Brent Michael Davids “(Mohican/Munsee-Lenape) is an internationally celebrated Indigenous composer and music warrior for Native equity and parity.” He explained the complicated legacy of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, of which he is a member, as his ancestors were driven from their lands. 

He read several sections of an essay that Mark Twain wrote about James Fenimore Cooper, including the paragraph starting with “Cooper’s gift in the way of invention was not a rich endowment,” which discusses the dry twig ruse, ridiculously magical resourcefulness by the white settler, and the inane and physiologically impossible actions off the Indians.

Then, he narrated  The Last Of James Fennimore Cooper (by a Mohican) as a string quartet played. It’s occasionally very funny. Here’s a performance with Davids from 2022.

A person from the Sanctuary interviewed Davids and David Alan Miller. Then guides conducted a tour of how the Sanctuary has helped the neighborhood to be revived. It was a VERY full weekend.

I must note that I saw at least two dozen people I knew at the various events over the three days, many of them more than once.

The 25th annual sweat seasons

Sweat at Cap Rep and more

My wife and I saw a play, a musical, and a concert in eight days.

March 9: The drama Sweat at Capital Rep in Albany. ” This stunning Pulitzer Prize-winning play exposes the devastating impact of the loss of work in America’s Rust Belt circa 2000. Based on interviews with residents of Reading, Pennsylvania, Lynn Nottage brings her breathtaking storytelling to characters and situations that have become far too recognizable in the heart of de-industrialized America. “

From Nottage’s page: “Her play moved to Broadway [in 2017] after a sold-out run at The Public Theater… Inspired by her research on Sweat, Nottage developed This is Reading, a performance installation based on two years of interviews at the Franklin Street, Reading Railroad Station in Reading, PA, in July 2017.”

The Times Union’s Steve Barnes loved it.  “The nine-member cast, under the accomplished direction of Margaret E. Hall, connects so intimately with their characters and the audience that we’re ground down alongside them, albeit with the remove of fiction, as financial turmoil ruins life, family bonds, and decades-long friendships in Rust Belt America while the Bush-Gore 2000 election unfolds.”

Sweat is about labor and the threat of exported jobs, ethnic bias, and the good old days. It’s playing through March 31 and is well worth your while.

Can you spell…

March 10: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was performed at Albany High School. The musical has been around for almost two decades, yet I had never seen it in any iteration.

As the Wikipedia page notes, “An unusual aspect of the show is that four real audience members are invited on stage to compete in the spelling bee alongside the six young characters.” 

It was hilarious but also touching, especially as the number of spellers was winnowed down and the kids acknowledged the stress of the bee. There were only three performances, and we caught the final performance.

The Albany school district page noted that “some of the show’s content may not be suitable for young children.” Probably true.

We had to go because one of our church attendees was a speller, and also Jesus. Albany High often has high-quality productions, and this continued the trend.

Here’s the Broadway cast album of the musical


March 16: That day, my wife and I picked up our daughter from college for spring break, then promptly abandoned her so that we could attend the Albany Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor David Alan Miller. It took place at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.

We got the tickets from a woman at church and her husband who had another engagement. The first surprise: they have box seats! They’re kind of neat. Among other things, I can see that the music for the strings stage right of the conductor was mostly traditional, but two of them used electronic devices.

 The first piece was  Murmurations by Derek Bermel. The composer explained that a murmuration is a noun plural for a flock of starlings, which sometimes fly in unison and at other times move independent of the group. And the music does the same. Here’s the Gathering at Gretna Gardens and Gliding Over Algiers and Swarming Rome, recorded six years ago. 


The second piece is The History of Red by Reena Esmail. She says: “The first time I heard Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, it changed my life. I was fourteen years old, and as I sat under the stars at the beautiful Ford Theater on a summer night in in Los Angeles with my parents, I completely identified with the voice of the child who narrates the text of the piece – so aware of the huge, complex world that I was seeing, even through young eyes. Just trying to parse it all. I can pinpoint that one performance as a pivotal moment in my decision to be a musician. I just wanted be someone who could create that kind of beauty.

“The History of Red is borne from the same bones as Knoxville: it is also a large-scale work for soprano and chamber orchestra (intentionally written for the same instrumentation), where the singer grapples with the world around her. And yet it is different — Linda Hogan’s beautiful text is clearly the voice of an adult woman, aware not only of her own current world, but of the entire, complex history of her ancestors. Perhaps that is why her words instantly grabbed me — at this time in the world, when we are each grappling with our own complicated, intertwined histories, her journey felt so resonant to me.”

The soprano at ASO was Molly Netter. Here’s Kathryn Mueller singing from 2021. It may take another listen for me to really warm up to it.


In the pre-concert talk, David Alan Miller made an interesting parallel. He and the orchestra work closely with so many living composers, working through the best way to actualize the intent of composer and musicians. But, he claims, it happens with dead musicians as well. It’s almost like seance.

It helped that they were able to access older bows and traditional strings. Four young violinists  each played a season of  Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons:  Ravenna Lipchuk, Amelia Sie, Shelby Yamin, and Edson Scheid. The musical dialogue between solo violins and cellist were wonderful; at least one fiddler turned to face the cellist, like I’ve seen a couple rock guitarists do.  It may an old chestnut, but it was a good one, and it’s better live.

Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons. Voices of Music, Freivogel, Moore, Youssefian. 

The theater and other diversions

Some Like It Hot; Hadestown; Gordon Parks

While filling out one of those quizzes, I realized I must be missing some other diversions. I’m not watching much television. The movies I see (primarily) get reviewed here. So what else have I been doing?

My wife and I went to the Albany Institute of History and Art and saw “Gordon Park: I, too, am America” in early February, just before the exhibit closed. I loved his work, which I remember from the pages of LIFE magazines in the 1960s. He exposed the disparity of American life with his camera. A reviewer called the installation “incomplete but still rewarding.” The description of the works in one medium-sized room and a tiny annex seems accurate.

I realized that I related to Parks as a singular figure, the only black photographer I knew of, just as Arthur Ashe was the sole black male tennis player in my awareness.


My wife and I have season tickets to musicals at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady.  The first one scheduled was Aladdin in October 2022. Unfortunately, that was the timeframe when my spouse was experiencing her leg injury.

I could have gotten the money credited to our theater account, but at that late date, Proctors wouldn’t fill those seats. Instead, I posted my issue on Facebook; I got a taker – a guy and his very enthusiastic mom – and our digital tickets could be used, which made me happy.

Thus, the first show we saw was Hairspray in January. I’d seen the original  1988 movie, written and directed by John Waters. The iteration we saw was more moving than a previous production I had seen, especially when Motormouth sings I Know Where I’ve Been.

The best part of going to a Thursday matinee at Proctors is that a few actors will come to a smaller theater and talk to the audience. They told their stories of putting on a production in the midst of COVID. One performer was cast two years earlier, while another auditioned online on a Thursday in Mississippi and was in NYC the following Monday. That first rehearsal involved practicing the exhausting finale. You Can’t Stop The Beat.

Hell, you say

In March, we saw Hadestown. The Tony winner still plays on Broadway but also has a touring show. The musical by Anaïs Mitchell tells a variation of an ancient Greek myth about Eurydice, a young woman desperate for something to eat. She ends up in “a hellish industrial version of the underworld. Her poor singer-songwriter lover Orpheus comes to attempt to rescue her.” The tour will continue through May of 2024. Well worth your time.

My wife and I saw Rent at UAlbany in March; some great performances. Ditto Sister Act at the newly refurbished Albany High School, where our daughter, home from college, joined us. Some difficulties with the sound marred both shows.

Norma Jeane

My wife and I also saw the movie Some Like It Hot (1959) at the Spectrum in Albany. While I had seen a movie ABOUT Marilyn Monroe, this was the first film I saw that she starred in.

The movie was very good. Indeed, it has been “voted one of the best films ever made in polls by the BBC, the American Film Institute, and Sight & Sound.”

Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis play two musicians on the run from the Chicago mob in 1929 who dress up as women and join an all-female band heading to Miami.  Marilyn as Sugar Kane is more than another “dumb blonde,” even though the band’s singer describes herself that way.

I had heard about her clashes with director/producer/co-writer Billy Wilder, with her demanding many retakes. Ultimately, Wilder acknowledged: “Anyone can remember lines, but it takes a real artist to come on the set and not know her lines and yet give the performance she did!”  She won a Golden Globe for Best Actress.

My wife and I thought that the lighting made Marilyn seem to be topless in a couple of nightclub scenes, though she was wearing clothing.

There is a bit of mob violence in Some Like It Hot. But fortunately, it wasn’t like seeing a Scorcese or Coppola film.

Also, I imagine that they should ban the movie in Kentucky. Lemmon and Curtis are in drag. And Joe E. Brown’s famous last line just nails that down.

March rambling: quotation marks

Support the Albany High School robotics team!


In a world-historic first, microplastics were detected in human blood

The Our World in Data COVID vaccination data

 How American conservatives turned against the vaccine

The Lancet: Paul Farmer

Cameroonians fleeing conflict are in dire need of Temporary Protected Status – cf.  Inside “the most diverse square mile in America”

What Caused the War? Ukraine and Russia in Historical Context

The Race to Archive the Ukrainian Internet

Ukrainian Actress Oksana Shvets Killed in Russian Rocket Attack

Non-war conflict

Hate and extremism

How did Christianity become so toxic?

The Interactive Theater of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Confirmation Hearing

Addressing racial inequality in paid leave policy

Sara Jacobs, one of the youngest members of Congress, talks about sexism and ageism in politics. 

Writing Women into History

Women in medicine are running up the wrong side of the escalator

Where Does the Religious Right Go After Roe?

Sojourner Truth’s Battle to Free Her Son from Slavery

Actor Tim Reid on addressing racial issues on WKRP in Cincinnati

Texas’ New Voting Law Disenfranchised Thousands Of Otherwise Eligible Voters

The Tangled, Messy Roots of Fake News, long before it became djt’s favorite term

Ginni Thomas demanded Congressional Republicans take the fight to overturn the 2020 election to the streets

John Bolton admits that ‘it’s hard to describe how little [djt] knows’

I Know There’s An Answer

Climate Change Brings Uncontrollable Wildfires

 The Illinois town that got up and left

The 1950 Census is Coming: What You Need to Know

Timbuctoo Institute would build opportunities in the Adirondacks 

About Those Gas Prices

Concert  Tickets: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

2021 County and Economic Development Regions Population Estimates for NYS

Luka’s mural

Jobfished: the con that tricked dozens into working for a fake design agency

“They’re called ‘quotation marks’.”

Phobias. Aibohphobia is the (unofficial) fear of palindromes. Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is used to describe the fear of very long words.

The official Girl Scout cookie power rankings

The Result of a Rabbit Hole

Audience participation

GoFundMe page for the Albany High School Robotics Team to compete at the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Houston, TX on April 20-23. They placed 2nd in the New York Tech Valley Regional Competition.

Four Open Seats on Albany Public Library Board in May 17 Election. Nominations are due to the Clerk of the City School District of Albany by Wednesday, April 27, at 5 pm.

New York Bike Census

Now I Know

The Biggest Bread Soup in the World and Why Are My Baby Carrots Always Wet? and The First Computer Bug and The Phone Booth in the Middle of Nowhere and Beware the Ire of Caesar and Which Came First, The Algorithm or the Pi? and World War II’s Pre-Email E-Mail


Livinliv – Aleksandr Shymko

Irish tunes

K-Chuck Radio: The musical tree of Ida Red  and green songs

Holiday at Ferghana -Reinhold Gliere

Lullabye of Broadway from 42nd Street

Coverville: 1393 – John Cale and Velvet Underground Cover Story and 1394 – The Blink-182 Cover Story II and 1395 – The Smashing Pumpkins Cover Story II

Unsettled. Deeply unsettled.

too much insurance

unsettled.face-on-the-sun.enIn early 2022, I have felt deeply unsettled. The snow/ice event was an amazing time suck. I spent a minimum of 12 hours chopping ice over five days, and it was exhausting.

Returning the unwanted devices made me anxious because I needed to get them within 14 days. Not two weeks from when I got them but a fortnight after their package was sent. I went to one of those FedEx drop boxes, which was very convenient, even though I felt the persons checking me out gave me the vibe that I was some sort of terrorist dropping off an explosive device. And I’m still unclear about whether I’ve been compromised, though Experian seems to think not.

One of those annoying things I, and most retirees, have to deal with is a ton of solicitations from Medicare Supplement providers. And for a time I had two of these insurance policies. This was NOT a good thing. This involved getting reimbursed for the insurance I no longer had, paying for the new insurance, and waiting for reimbursement for that. Plus the hassle of contacting all of my medical providers.

Other passings

I’ve discussed Paul Weinstein, who I had last seen when his daughter and my daughter were inducted into the honor society in November; I attended his funeral. The choir sang at the funeral of Michael Attwell, with whom I had sung on Christmas Eve.

I had briefly mentioned Kay Olin Johnson, a fellow member of the Olin Family Society, who I last spoke with on 15 January. Subsequently, she commented on my Facebook page how much she enjoyed talking with me. Then she died on 22 January. On 3 February I contacted someone in my old office for Reasons and discovered that Kay had sent mail to my wife and me there.

It was forwarded a week later. Kay had sent her holiday greetings. She wrote of home improvements she did finish in 2021 but promised pictures of the changes in December 2022. She likewise suggested some genealogical news in the coming year. But mostly, her letter was about her far-flung family, who she greatly appreciated, especially since her husband Don had died 31 years earlier.

Betty Curtis, who died 11 Feb was an extremely talented member of my church choir and very generous of spirit. She was the one person who dealt well with a certain cranky soul. She was active in that choir from at least the 1960s to just a few years ago. Her birthday was a couple of days after mine. And she LOVED her Butler Bulldogs men’s basketball team. Her funeral is upcoming.

Health Care in America

It’s always disturbing to me when people are forced to start, or their friends initiate a Go Fund Campaign for someone’s health care. It’s more irritating when it’s someone I know.  Ken Screven, a well-known TV reporter in this area “faces mounting medical bills.”  His friends started a GoFundMe campaign and raised over $33,000, crushing the goal of $25,000.

But should this be the way we do health in this country?


At my daughter’s high school this past Thursday, two freshmen got into an altercation. Then one cut both the other kid and a hall monitor. The school went into lockdown; my daughter texted me that neither the students nor the adults in her room were quiet, as is recommended. Incidentally, the alleged assailant, 14, was hiding in the cafeteria with the other students until he was found out.

I was most annoyed with the tease for WRGB’s news broadcast. “Violence boils over at Albany High School.” The following day was remote, the third school district that went to distance learning that week for non-COVID reasons.

My daughter had already had experienced a rough week, so this did not help.

I read the news today

A crazy lady was complaining about the gazpacho police. Another GOP MOC says Americans must own enough weapons to overthrow the government if 30-40% agree on “tyranny”.

But I was most distressed by a former president hiding or destroying government docs. This goes beyond mere politics. This is proof – once again – that he doesn’t understand that the Presidency is a trust.

Also, not just the country but much of the world is at war over COVID mandates. I’m not quite to the surrender mode yet, but I’m teetering. Hey, I could say, I’ve got my three shots, and I’d get a fourth if suggested. I’m going to keep wearing my mass indoors, so don’t bother me if you don’t like it. But it seems the fight is tearing the fabric of society apart. It is wearying, as is the possibility of another Greek letter.

There are other things, but these are the big ones. The cumulative effect has left me unsettled.

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