A is for Albany High School awards

Albany High School was up for six awards in an event fashioned after Broadway’s Tony Awards®

Hairspray Director Gregory Theodore Marsh, Annabelle Duffy , Theatre Ensemble Director Ward Dales
Back on Saturday, May 19, the family went to Proctors Theatre in Schenectady to attend the 2nd Annual High School Musical Theatre Awards for New York’s Capital Region in partnership with The Broadway League.

Albany High School was up for six awards in an event fashioned after Broadway’s Tony Awards®. The evening celebrated “the achievements of the region’s theatre students from 23 area high schools, highlighting the importance of arts and theatre education.”

The AHS March production of “Hairspray” won for best musical, best technical execution and best choreography execution. Moreover, “Albany High junior Annabelle Duffy won best actress for her portrayal of feisty Tracy Turnblad.”

She received an all expenses paid trip to New York City to receive training from working Broadway professionals. Annabelle and a young man from the area participated in the Jimmy Awards, the national stage in which high school performers across the nation acted and sang, on June 25.

At Proctors, our family applauded wildly for AHS and also my young niece’s high school; one of the supporting characters in their The Music Man was nominated, which somehow meant that the niece got to perform in the energetic opening and closing numbers.

Truth is that some of the Albany High School rooting was a bit of chip on the collective shoulders of the city dwellers. On the standardized tests, the urban schools don’t fare nearly as well as the ones in the suburban districts. But as someone wrote on a Facebook listserv:

“What I do know is my children will have experiences like many others won’t. They are exposed to the world thanks to classmates, teachers, and courses not available in many locations… Remember money talks and those districts with most living in poverty are underfunded and inundated with unfunded state mandates.”

Not incidentally:

Grammy-nominated jazz artist Stefon Harris (Albany High School ’91) was named a recipient of a 2018 Doris Duke Artist Award – “one of the most prestigious arts grants in the country – for his continuing contribution to jazz.

“Harris is one of seven performing artists that will receive $250,000 in flexible funding, along with up to an additional $25,000 to encourage contribution to his retirement account.”

For ABC Wednesday

The Lydster: Academic Achievement

kidsheaderThe Daughter just graduated from sixth grade. It was really nice having her attend at a building that was literally a stone’s throw or two from our house for a half dozen years.

This fall, she will be taking the bus, as she moves on to middle school, what they used to call junior high when I was of age.

In June, there were a lot of awards given. She was recognized by the school board for being first in First in Math in the state of New York, the only person in the Empire State to be in the Top 100 in the country. She gave the board two terse sentences of explanation.

Her school gave out a set of achievement recognition. There were LOTS of these – I’m guessing a couple reams of paper worth – and I could see from a distance that she was disappointed that she got only three awards, two for honor role, and one for music, while some of her classmates were collecting quantities in double digits. She thought she might get one for citizenship, as the only active student in the PTA, e.g. She didn’t even get the award for math, which we both had expected.

Finally, there was graduation. There were awards from the state comptroller, the attorney general and other luminaries. A couple kids, including her best school friend, received The President’s Award for Educational Excellence, which “recognizes a student’s academic success in the classroom.”
Then The Daughter and another student received The President’s Award for Educational Achievement, which “recognizes students who show outstanding educational growth, improvement, commitment to or intellectual development in their academic subjects.”

It goes on to say in the description on the website: “This Achievement award should not be compared to the President’s Award for Educational Excellence or be seen as a second tier award; it recognizes a very different type of academic achievement. It is meant to encourage and reward students who work hard and give their best effort in school, often in the face of special obstacles to learning.”

I do not know what “special obstacles” the award is referring to, but no matter. The Daughter is thrilled by the award, “signed” by President Obama, which totally eliminated the disappointment of four days earlier.

I should note she got a paper certificate, rather than the pin.

Steve Martin is 70

For better or worse, Steve Martin helped to popularize the air quotes gesture.

Steve MartinYears back, I found it weird and strange that, in some circles, people decided that Steve Martin was not funny because he wasn’t angry enough, was inauthentic, too oblique, or whatever.

This bit from a February 18, 1982, Ben Fong-Torres Rolling Stone Interview, somewhat explains his humor:

“[College] changed what I believe and what I think about everything. I majored in philosophy. Something about non-sequiturs appealed to me. In philosophy, I started studying logic, and they were talking about cause and effect, and you start to realize, ‘Hey, there is no cause and effect! There is no logic! There is no anything!’ Then it gets real easy to write this stuff because all you have to do is twist everything hard—you twist the punch line, you twist the non sequitur so hard away from the things that set it up.”

Martin further describes the development of his humor in this 2008 Smithsonian interview.

WATCH 1976 Standup Comedy.

Success came early for him, from working as a magician at Disneyland when he was 15 to getting an Emmy as a writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour when he was 23. He also wrote for the shows of Glen Campbell and Sonny & Cher.

On his TV appearances, on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and, most notably, on Saturday Night Live, which he’s hosted 15 times, he created catchphrases such as “Excuuuuuse Me.” He was one of the wild and crazy guys with Dan Aykroyd, who played a “couple of bumbling Czechoslovak would-be playboys.” For better or worse, Martin helped to popularized the air quotes gesture.

WATCH Steve Martin Has to Leave – Johnny Carson, 1978.

On JEOPARDY! a couple of weeks ago, there was a clue about King Tut, and the contestant mimicked the hand gestures from the Steve Martin song that debuted on SNL, featuring the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, which only went to #17 on the pop charts in 1978, but ultimately sold a million copies.

WATCH King Tut SNL, 1978 and Live, 1979.

But he really wanted to be in pictures, and I’ve seen him in several films.

1979 The Muppet Movie, as a waiter
1984 All of Me, with Lily Tomlin
1986 Little Shop of Horrors, as the dentist
1987 Roxanne, which he also wrote and executive produced; I was quite fond
1987 Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, by far my favorite John Hughes movie
1989 Parenthood

1991 L.A. Story, for which he was also a writer and executive producer.
1991 Grand Canyon, which has my favorite quote about cinema: “That’s part of your problem: you haven’t seen enough movies. All of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.”
1992 Housesitter
1992 Leap of Faith, as a faux faith healer
1995 Father of the Bride Part II – an awful film
1997 The Spanish Prisoner – a decent drama
1998 The Prince of Egypt (voice)
1999 Fantasia 2000 (introductory host)

2008 Baby Mama
2009 It’s Complicated
2011 The Big Year, about birdwatching

He’s also been writing plays, articles, screenplays, and a very well-received 2007 memoir, Born Standing Up.

More recently, I’ve seen him on TV playing his banjo. In the comedy years, he’d play it mostly as a diversion for the joke. But now he, primarily with the band the Steep Canyon Rangers, has been playing a number of banjo gigs.

WATCH Steve Martin and Kermit the Frog in “Dueling Banjos”, 2013.

He’s won several honors, including the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the Kennedy Center Honors, the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year, the AFI Life Achievement Award, and an Academy Honorary Award. He became a father for the first time at the age of 67.

WATCH an interview with David Letterman – May 1, 2015.

Half a Bupkis is better than nothing

Bupkis means nothing. I mean literally nothing.

DVD.DTOne of the very few Facebook “fan” items I follow is The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book. As you may, or may not recall:
1) The Dick Van Dyke Show is one of the two TV shows of which I own the complete set on DVD; I’ve been slowly watching it with The Daughter, and
2) I really liked this book, as I noted here.

The book’s fan page posted recently:

I thought I’d pose a follow-up question to my recent post about Danny Thomas’s legendary cameo on “It May Look Like a Walnut!” For a super-sized supercilious and super-invisible Bupkis Award, name the one other time Danny appeared on screen in a scene with at least one character from the show?

As always with our trivia challenges on this page, this is “closed book” quiz–so no fair googling!

Of course, if you don’t know the answer, there’s never a penalty for just making something up! — with Danny Thomas and Richard W Van Dyke.

Do any of you know? I sort of half-remembered the plot of a Danny Thomas Show episode, which was included in the DVDS box set.

Someone had previously written: “The character of Buddy Sorrel [Morey Amsterdam] was a guest on the Danny Thomas show.” That didn’t sound right, so I dashed off a response to that: “I thought Buddy was a writer for the Danny Williams [Danny Thomas] character.” Some guy named Ian noted: “Buddy crossed over to The Danny Thomas Show, writing for Danny and his wife.”

The response:

Actually, Ian and Roger, you’re both partially correct. In the crossover show, Kathy hires Buddy to write for her, at which point it’s established that Buddy has an exclusive contract to write material for Danny’s nightclub act. What Alan Brady’s lawyers would’ve thought about that arrangement remains unexplored. I’ll write more about this episode when I have a minute. But for now, your partially correct answers have earned you a shared Bupkis Award. (You can decide between yourselves on whose non-existent mantle you’ll display your non-existent award.)

Bupkis, BTW, means nothing. I mean literally nothing of value. The award is named after a later episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show when Rob Petrie (Van Dyke) hears a song on the radio and discovers an old army buddy of his has left Rob off the songwriting credits. It gets even more complicated by the end of the show.

So I’ll be placing my half a Bupkis award over the mantle proudly.
Then I got a FULL Bupkis related to this pic:
It is, of course, Barbara Bain, who played Cinnamon Carter on Mission: Impossible; her then-husband Martin Landau played Rollin Hand. Bain was replaced by Lesley Ann Warren, Landau by Leonard Nimoy. And while I watched them on MI, I’ll bet others know Landau and Bain best from Space: 1999, though I never actually saw it.

I did not know this: during the Van Dyke show’s early days, Bain and Landau were personal friends of Carl and Estelle Reiner, and Bain regularly attended the show’s Tuesday night filming at Desilu Cahuenga. So when the part of Rob’s sultry ex-fiancee came up in season two’s “Will You Two Be My Wife?”, casting Barbara in the role seemed only natural.

The Idle Chatter award

Lots of songs make me cry.

Cheri at Idle Chatter has been kind enough to nominate me for a Liebster Award, whatever that is.

I’ve been doing this blogging thing long enough to do a few things with awards:
1. Accept them graciously.
2. Struggle with the random facts, but find some anyway, ideally, ones I hadn’t mentioned before.
3. Totally ignore the part about passing it on, on the theory that some people get really ticked off by it. I don’t, but I’ve long learned that my reaction to stimuli is not a universal.

{1} Each blogger should answer the questions the tagger has set for you.

Not only will I do that, but I’ll also even answer the questions Jeannie had for Cheri:
Butter or margarine?

Olivio, which is an olive oil-based product. I grew up on margarine, but now prefer butter, which I will cook with.

Fact or fiction?

Fact. Truth is stranger…

Musical or Action film?

Musical. Grew up with LOTS of soundtracks of my mother’s.

Realist or a dreamer?

Realist. Yet, I hold out hope…

Do you read between the lines?

I try to take it at face value until proven otherwise, which happens a LOT.

Are you as tall as you want to be?

At my tallest, I was 5 feet, 11 5/8 inches. I couldn’t get an extra half an inch? That said, I don’t much care.

Pet peeve?

Bad drivers who imperil pedestrians and bicyclists. The latter act badly, but car hitting a person is more likely to harm the person than the vehicle, or the person inside it.

Introvert or extrovert?

If you ask me, introvert. If you ask most people I know, extrovert. Make of that what you will.

Favorite quote/movie or song?

“So here’s another question up for interpretation. Favorite quote, movie, or song?” Favorite quote from a movie: “I’m walking here!” from Midnight Cowboy. Or about 99 others. Favorite song from a movie? Even more difficult. It could be the Sharks women singing America from West Side Story, or Streets of Philadelphia by Neil Young from Philadelphia. The first thing that came to mind today was the wistful optimism of When You Wish Upon a Star by Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio.

How many projects do you have going right now?

There’s the FantaCo project (bibliography), the attic project (now that it’s finished, a lot of rearranging), and a work project.

What is your “One Thing?” (City Slickers)?

I dunno – music. Or fairness.

And now for my questions from Cheri:

Do you like amusement park rides?

I did as a child. But last summer, I rode a few, and they gave me a wretched headache.

What’s your pet peeve?

The assumption that because YOU experience it this way, EVERYONE does. (Yeah, I answered it differently above. I do that.)

If there was a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?

Roger E. Mosley. It should be a Roger, right?

Last movie you saw at the theater?

Quartet, if we’re talking full length. But I did subsequently see the Oscar-nominated live-action short films for 2012.

Morning person or night owl?

That’s a problem: night owl by nature, but I must, and more to the point, my WIFE has to get up in the morning. I’d go to bed at 11 or 11:30 on my own, but that 5:30 alarm comes TOO early.

What song makes you cry?

Lots of songs make me cry. Crying by Roy Orbison and k.d. lang, for just one.

Realist or dreamer?

Realistic dreamer.

Believe in love at first sight?

Probably not love. Lust, maybe.

Do you play the lottery?

When it gets over $300 million if I think of it. I didn’t last time…

Beach or mountains?

Water. I mean, I’m not going to hang out in the sand, but I’d rather be where a lake, or river is.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Got to answer this recently: flight.

{2} Choose 11 new bloggers to pass the award on to and link them in your post.

Nah. But if you want to self-select, be my guest.

{3} Create 11 new questions for the chosen bloggers.

Feel free to steal any from here.

{4} Go back to their page and tell them about the award.

Not applicable.

{5} Each blogger should post 11 random facts about themselves.

1. When I was in junior high school – before they started calling it middle school – we decided to go by our middle names, mostly. I was Owen, Ray was Albert, etc.

2. Ever since I was in Prince of Egypt, some guy in the choir has started calling me Jethro, the name of one of my characters,. Others are calling me God, my other role.

3. I listen to music at work (on headphones, most of the day). I love music but am loath to use headphones, or earbuds, on the bus, or when I get home.

4. I’ve been a janitor on two separate occasions, once in Binghamton, NY once in New Paltz, NY.

5. I love to engage Jehovah’s Witnesses in theological conversation when I have the time and energy.

6. On the first day of my March Madness pool, I was in 10th place, out of 10th, on the first day. After the weekend, I had risen all the way to 8th, but still with a chance to win.

7. There are certain accounts I have I use so infrequently that I ALWAYS forget the password and have to get a new one.

8. I tend to play music based on the artists’ birthday – a lot of Elton John and Aretha Franklin and James Taylor in March, e.g.

9. I never answer my telephone at home unless I know who it is, and it’s someone I want to talk with. That’s why God created the answering machine. Conversely, I ALWAYS answer the phone at work, if no one else does.

10. I’ve never not voted in a local, state, or federal; election. I might have missed a school board election in my first couple years, but haven’t missed one of those since 1976.

11. I “follow” people on Twitter, then never actually read what they have to say; time is not fungible. I’m only vaguely better on Facebook.
Roger Ebert’s A Leave of Presence, released earlier this week, is a wonderfully optimistic piece, despite the return of his cancer. (I could not get to yesterday afternoon for a time, probably because the server was overloaded.) It was likely the last thing he published before his untimely death this week. I once again highly recommend his autobiography; an excerpt, about his death, can be found HERE. The Chicago Tribune obit.

Mark Evanier on the deaths of comic book greats Carmine Infantino and George Gladir.

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