Being for the benefit of…

Yes, THAT Paul Simon

I shall have gone to three benefit events in a two-week period in October. None of them, unsurprisingly, were in person. Two of the three I HAD attended in person LAST year. But that was so long ago.

Wizard’s Wardrobe

The Wizard’s Wardrobe is a program in Albany’s South End. “Children spend time with a special tutor just for them — to read, write, and explore the wonderful world of books.” It was started by two members of my church, Deb and Eric Fagans. They were inspired by the TED talk Once Upon a School.

The program grew out of the relationship our church had developed with the Giffen Elementary School in the South End of the city of Albany. Several of our members tutored at Giffen and held an annual Book and Author event there.

The benefit on Monday, October 5 featured Katherine Paterson, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Bridge to Terabithia. She read as did local authors Margaret Miki Conn, Lorraine Garnett, and Marion Roach Smith. The Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York performed The eyez in the wall, written and directed by Aaron Moore. The ASL Interpretation was provided by Marian Eaton. The Master of Ceremonies was Rex Smith, Editor of the Times Union newspaper.

There was a ZOOM afterparty following the presentation. I knew about half of the participants personally. One of the attendees was Gregory Maguire, a local author who’s done well. He wrote the book Wicked, upon which the musical was based. What’s the correct protocol for departing a gathering online?

Green The Senate, Save the Planet

Paul Simon hosted an event to support seven US Senate candidates on Thursday, October 8. The singer wrote, “In a year that has been incredibly challenging, often overwhelming, and too often heartbreaking, it is easy to become discouraged. But future generations are counting on us, and I urge you to channel your energy in these final days before Election Day to help secure a pro-environment majority in the Senate.”

Simon began the program by singing American Tune. Then there were videos, including from the sponsor Give Green and from former Presidential candidate and rich guy Tom Steyer. Some of the candidates gave brief video presentations.

Then Simon interviewed three of them: Steve Bullock (MT), Jamie Harrison (SC), and Theresa Greenfield (IA). Paul was an unsure questioner, seeking to ask certain things and at the same time wanting the candidates not to be hemmed in by his queries. Still, the candidates acquitted themselves well.

After another video, Paul sang The Boxer, Homeward Bound, Sound of Silence, and Here Comes the Sun. He was accompanied by a guy named Mark Stewart. He was wearing a mask, but I think he’s this guy.

Literary Legends@Home

The Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library are having its annual Literary Legends Gala on Saturday, October 17 from 7 to 10 pm. Each year, the group “selects a new outstanding person of letters in our community, and invites the community to celebrate them with a cocktail reception in their honor.” Well, not in person THIS year.

The FFAPL is honoring the writer Elisa Albert. Past honorees have included William Kennedy, Paul Grondahl, Amy Biancolli, Gregory Maguire, Barbara Smith, Marion Roach Smith, Dr. Leonard Slade, Athena Lord, Frankie Bailey, Alice Green, Peter Golden, Lyn Lifshin, and Dan Wilcox. (The second time Gregory and Marion appear in this post.)

The gala is the primary fundraising effort of the FFAPL, which “provides critical financial support to the Albany Public Library in order to help the Library provide education, literacy, career development, cultural enrichment, and lifelong learning.” It can provide mini-grants for the library to offer programming that the APL cannot. One can buy tickets here.

BTW, on October 20 at 12:15 pm, there will be a ZOOM review of the book Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide by Richard Dawkins. The reviewer will be Carl Strock, a former columnist for the Daily Gazette, Schenectady. It is free but one must preregister here.

PANDEMIX: Cartoonists respond to Covid-19

A benefit for The Hero Initiative

PandemixAs the press release says, “At a time when many in the comics industry were told to put their pencils down, a group of diverse cartoonists have raised theirs to tell timely, personal stories in a new benefit anthology, PANDEMIX: Quarantine Comics in the Age of ‘Rona. The 56-page full-color digital anthology will become available July 21 at for $5. All proceeds go to The Hero Initiative, which aids comics creators in need.”

As one would expect, it’s an eclectic mix of styles and foci by a group of creators, most of whom live in New York. The first story is particularly compelling if you watched the news about New York City in April, or some southern cities right now. Josh Newfield tells about a hospital worker trying to find Personal Protective Equipment for hospital staff and to figure out what to do about the dead. The protagonist, who is Josh’s brother Jake, eschews the label of “Supply Chain Superhero.”

Marguerite Dabaie decides that “It’ll Be Alright” during her lockdown in Brooklyn, even in those moments when it’s not. Peter Rostovsky’s “The Storm” suggests we’ve seen this movie before, and we’ll get through this film as well. Joan Reilly appreciates her “New Normal.” N. Steven Harris’ “‘Rona Routine” is among the most visually pleasing and namechecks the George Floyd protesters.

“Skin Hunger” by Kristen Radtke had been in the New York Times back in March. I surely relate to missing touch. Whitney Matheson spends a page celebrating “My Pandemic Boyfriends”, such as Stuart the Soap. Morgan Pielli’s “Protection” is an effective, wordless paean to the possibility of love.

Curated by Dean Haspiel

Dave Proch’s “Plague Fashion” page segues into “Plague Journal”, six days in April and May that Jen Ferguson creates in somewhat different styles; I found it compelling. Yes, J.J. Colagrande and George O’Connor, it is “Why We Are All Doomed.”

Ellen Lindner had me wondering if I ought to take things “One (COVID) Day at a Time,” as they (sort of) say in Alcoholics Anonymous. I’d hate to think that “Iterations of the Apocalypse” by Jeffrey Burandt and C. Cassano is all there is.

“Currency of the Community” by Dean Haspiel I was genuinely touched by, probably more than any other story aside from the first one. Incidentally, Haspiel, an Emmy- and Ringo Award-winning cartoonist, edited the collection with Whitney Matheson. Finally, Owen Brozman has a wordless “Quarantine Age Dream” we can hope for. The anthology features cover art by Peter Rostovsky and a Star Wars-inspired back cover by Mike Cavallaro.

As noted, all proceeds from PANDEMIX – five bucks! or more if you’d like – go to The Hero Initiative, a not-for-profit organization that helps comic book creators with emergency medical aid and/or essential financial support. “PANDEMIX will be promoted via Twitter (@pandemixcomix), Instagram (@pandemixcomix), and The Hero Initiative.”

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