I find there is never “nothing to do”

“This is theater as teaching tool, artistic expression and catharsis”

HersOne of my pet peeves – nah, it’s stronger than that, more an irritation – happens when I hear folks from around the Capital District say, “There’s nothing to do around here.”

For instance, last weekend was chock full. On Friday, author L. Lloyd Stewart spoke at my church about his 2013 book The Mysterious Black Migration 1800-1820: The Van Vranken Family and Other Free Families of African Descent in Washington County, New York.

Now mostly rural, Washington County, not far from Albany, is not a place people around here think of as an African-American stronghold. But the growth of free blacks, and slaves – the institution didn’t end in the Empire State until 1827 – was huge.

Saturday night, the Albany High School Theatre Ensemble challenged “gender conformity and misogyny in its… production of a student-written played called HERS: An Explanation of Our Expectations.”

Times Union newspaper critic Steve Barnes wrote: “This is theater as teaching tool, artistic expression and catharsis, for the performers and their audience, and it is often deeply moving to experience.” It was so much so that our daughter went AGAIN on Sunday afternoon.

Instead, I went to Remembering a Life of Words, Art and Music, celebrating the life of Greg Haymes, a/k/a Sarge Blotto a/k/a Will Bill Hayes, et al.: musician, writer, artist and Nippertown founder. I saw a LOT of people I’ve known over the years, such as intellectual property lawyer Paul Rapp, a/k/a drummer F. Lee Harvey Blotto, and photographer/critic David Brickman.

Peter Lesser from The Egg, the venue where the event took place, started things off. Sara Ayers, true love of Greg. was wonderfully gracious. Then Paul Jossman (guitarist Bowtie Blotto) and Bill Polchinski (guitarist/songwriter Broadway Blotto) gave touching and funny tributes to their band mate.

Michael Eck (Ramblin Jug Stompers) was particularly emotional. Local musician Bryan Thomas spoke of Greg’s encouragement. Kirsten Ferguson discussed Greg’s light touch as Nippertown editor. The aforementioned Steve Barnes marveled how Greg could know EVERYTHING about what was happening in the local music scene.

Rosanne Raneri and Steven Clyde sang and played a Jefferson Airplane tune. Then there was proper New Orleans sendoff with The 2nd Line Driveby Jazz Band. A wonderful celebration.

We were so busy that weekend, we didn’t make it to the annual Greek Festival. Monday night, I had three choices of activities, including something promoting the census; I did none of the above.

This is not a complaint, but most of my weekends have been very busy all year. There’s NEVER “nothing to do.” I can tell as my email queue gets longer and my prepared blog post list gets shorter.

Music throwback Saturday: Blotto

Metalhead by Blotto featured guitarist Buck Dharma.

comboakimbo.jpegFor Ask Roger Anything, Tom the Mayor, who used to work at FantaCo, the now-defunct comic book store in Albany, NY, inquired:

What is your favorite Blotto song (For you Albany people)?

For you non-Albany people, Blotto was a popular local band who performed with humor and panache. Like the Ramones, the various performers took on the S-less band name as their surname. It was vocalist Sarge, bassist Cheese, guitarist Broadway, guitar-vocalist Bowtie, and drummer Lee Harvey Blotto. Female lead singer Blanche joined the band for a while, then quit, and was replaced by Chevrolet Blotto.

As you know, Tom, FantaCo sold the band’s various EPs, their single, and the album Combo Akimbo during the 1980s. The cover was designed by the late John Caldwell. I hung out with some of the guys at a Troy diner after the funeral of FantaCo mainstay Raoul Vezina back in 1983.

Cheese died back in 1999. He was also known as Keith A. Stephenson.

I still come across a couple of the fellows now and then. Sarge, a/k/a Greg Haymes, is a music writer, and co-creator of the Nipper Town website; he reposted an interview from 1980. F. Lee Harvey, a/k/a Paul Rapp is an intellectual property lawyer.

From Wikipedia: “The band in its current incarnation (Broadway, Bowtie, Sergeant, F. Lee Harvey, Clyde, and Hammerhead Blotto) is still active, and has reunited for occasional concerts in the Albany area.”

My five favorite Blotto songs:

5. She’s Got A Big Boyfriend HERE. I especially like the call-and-response. “I’ll make him laugh.” “He’ll break you in half.”

4. I Wanna Be A Lifeguard HERE or HERE. This was the 36th video played on the first day of MTV, I read, and got played a LOT. I’m surprised that the single never charted.

3. Goodbye Mr. Bond HERE or HERE. It has every 007 cliche.

2. Metalhead HERE or HERE. This was an over-the-top parody, which eventually found its way onto a compilation album called “Metal for Breakfast.” The song DID feature guitarist Buck Dharma from Blue Oyster Cult.

1. We Are the Nowtones HERE or HERE. The part “she can sound like Linda/she can sound like Joni” floored me when I first heard it. “Play something good!”

John Caldwell

John Caldwell was also known locally for that great cover he did for the Blotto album Combo Akimbo.

mugshotsI have no idea how Tom Skulan, owner of a comic book store in Albany called FantaCo, where I worked for several years, got John Caldwell to allow us to publish one of his books. Mug Shots: A splendid collection of cartoons by John Caldwell came out in September 1980, just in time for the second FantaCon convention. The book was a 64-page trade paperback, with a wraparound cover by Caldwell.

I was surprised because I knew John’s work, if not his name, from the magazine NATIONAL LAMPOON, from which some of the strips had previously appeared, along with the SATURDAY REVIEW. Yet John was willing to let a publisher with a minimal record put out his book.

I should note that the sales were not terribly robust, but only because it didn’t appeal to the superhero-driven comic distributors we were dealing with. My personal copy is nearby the computer in our home office.

And John Caldwell not only showed up at FantaCon that year, and a few other events, he was a witty, pleasant, not at all arrogant guy. My friend Bill Anderson wrote: “I’m immeasurably saddened to learn of the death of the wonderfully funny and friendly John Caldwell. Meeting, and getting to spend time with, John was a highlight of the early FantaCons for me. Here [below, is one of] two drawings I own by John: a huge sign that he drew for his table at FantaCon (which I literally yanked from his hands as he attempted to throw it away after the convention).”

FantaCo.Calwell

He was also known locally for that great cover he did for the Blotto album Combo Akimbo. One of the Blotto folks, Sarge remembers John.

On Facebook, MAD magazine expressed its profound sadness as well at the “passing of longtime MAD writer/artist John ‘Hammerhead’ Caldwell:
“John became one of ‘The Usual Gang of Idiots’ in October 1978, MAD #202. Over the years he contributed hundreds of pages to the magazine. He received the enduring nickname ‘Hammerhead’ after mailing a piece of his original cover artwork to the MAD offices wrapped between two flimsy pieces of cheap cardboard, the kind you would expect to get when buying a dress shirt at the Dollar Store. The artwork was almost destroyed in the mail.”

The last time I saw John was an unexpected meeting at the Albany Institute of History and Art a few years back. He remembered the guy who shipped out those Mug Shots for FantaCo. One fan wrote: “I have a whole case [of Mug Shots] buried away.” We both thought that John Caldwell, with his off-center sense of humor, would have appreciated the joke.

November rambling 2: Walmart returnables, and Blotto musicology

A Writer Gets Grilled By His 18-Year-Old Self

Dan said: “Perhaps someone absquatulated with an important part.”
ladder

Meanwhile, in America…, the succinctly brilliant viral meme from Andy McClure.

Trying to follow what is going on in Syria and why? This comic will get you there in 5 minutes.

9 questions about Daesh you were too embarrassed to ask.

Jeff Sharlet: The Darkness Show: On Jokes and Terror in Paris.

Gate A-4.

Walmart employee fired for redeeming a few dollars of cans and bottles. Local story goes national. And international. And becomes a cause.

It’s a tawdry catfight… between bourgeois actors who desperately seek to inherit the imprimatur of the Civil Rights struggle.

Being frugal with outrage.

High Cheekbones and Straight Black Hair? “100 Amazing Facts About the Negro: Why most black people aren’t ‘part Indian,’ despite family lore.”

The Original Conscious Uncouplers.

Texas Women Are Inducing Their Own Abortions.

If you enjoyed a good book and you’re a woman, the critics think you’re wrong.

The Internet Is Freaking Out Over This ‘Jeopardy’ Contestant’s Voice. “It’s time to stop policing the way women sound.”

A Writer Gets Grilled By His 18-Year-Old Self In ‘Later That Same Life’.

Dustbury has a birthday.

the death of comedy.

The oldest known video footage of New York City.

Now I Know: Not Safe, But Fired and Prisoner of Honor and Comma Chameleon Law.

Explaining Einstein. We have a winner!

How to count coins.

Miss Rose Marie, The Longest Active Career In Entertainment, Honored with Shirley Temple Award.

Justin Bieber Just Beat The Beatles’ 51-Year-Old Billboard Record.

It’s time to have a Blotto musicology conference.

The New Yorker Editor Who Became a Comic Book Hero. (Françoise Mouly).

Smilin’ Ed Comics Kickstarter Only Hardcover Editions!

Muppets: From the mouth of frogs and Bert is sick and commercials and Little Muppet Monsters (1985) and miscellaneous stuff.

GOOGLE ALERT

Arthur’s Internet wading. And it’s all my fault!

SamuraiFrog: I Spend Thanksgiving Alone Every Year. I’ve done so, and at a very basic level, I understand his position.

V is for Victor and Voice

I wonder if she knew about REAL kitsch, and a REALLY big dog.


The story of Nipper is rather interesting, involving struggling artist Francis Barraud, and his by-then deceased dog, which had previously belonged to his brother. The painting was originally called “Dog looking at and listening to a Phonograph”; only later would it be dubbed “His Master’s VOICE”. Through a series of transactions, as described here, Nipper became the trademark of the VICTOR Talking Machine Company. The original 1900 trademark is shown below.


Ultimately, the logo was on a wealth of RCA Victor records. RCA Victor put out an 80th anniversary series of albums in 1997. The earliest album represented a period when “Victor was the leading jazz label.” But I associate RCA V with classical music, often played by the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra. RCA Victor was always a technological pioneer, experimenting with 33 1/3 RPM as far back as 1934, and introducing the 45 RPM in 1949.

When a Long Island photographer recently described a local Nipper as “a big kitschy dog”, I wonder if she knew about REAL kitsch and a REALLY big dog:

From Wikipedia: “A huge, four-ton Nipper can be seen on the roof of the old RTA (former RCA distributor) building on Broadway in Albany, New York.” It is likely the largest extant Nipper in the world, though the Baltimore Nipper DOES include “a gramophone for Nipper to listen to.” More details about Albany’s Nipper, a local landmark that I see every weekday on my way to work, can be found here.

Local musician Greg Haymes, a/k/a Sarge Blotto from the legendary Albany band Blotto, has a blog with Sara Ayers called Nippertown, where they run down the current happenings in and around New York State’s capital city. And guess what appears in the logo?


ABC Wednesday – Round 7