Sunday Stealing – Identity

hot under the collar

mytrueidentityThe Sunday Stealing this week is about identity, an intriguing topic.

1. if someone wanted to really understand you, what would they read, watch, and listen to?
Read: see #8 below
Watch TV- JEOPARDY, 60 Minutes, CBS Sunday Morning, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Twilight Zone, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Mission: Impossible until Landau and Bain left. See movies: Young Frankenstein, Annie Hall, Casablanca, West Side Story, 13th.
Listen to: see #4 below

2. have you ever found a writer who thinks just like you? if so, who?
He is not exactly like me – he is far more technologically knowledgeable, e.g. But Arthur is a political science guy, sometimes activist, and is open to stealing ideas from me. In fact, he’s doing his Ask Arthur Anything event, which he admittedly purloined from me.

3. do you care about your ethnicity?
Yes, and yes. Yes, it still seems to matter to others; we aren’t in that post-racial society yet. And yes, because it’s interesting to me. Ancestry occasionally recalibrates my DNA percentages. Presently:
Mister Music
4. what musical artists have you most felt connected to over your lifetime?
In response to blog posts J. Eric Smith shared, I wrote a series of pieces that featured Prince, the Temptations, Jethro Tull, Steppenwolf, Johnny Cash, Steely Dan, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Harry Belafonte, plus a bunch of people also mentioned in the previous links. If I HAD to pick three, it’d be The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, and Paul Simon.

5. are you an artist?
Suppose art is drawing, painting, or sculpting; then absolutely not. If art includes singing, then arguably yes.

6. dog person or cat person?
I had cats from when I grew up until 40 years ago. Then, a decade ago, there were two cats, one of whom was certified demented by his vet. The one dog we had when I was a kid bit me; we got rid of that dog when he also bit the minister’s daughters. There are a handful of dogs I’ve liked, especially Random.

7. inside or outdoors?
I like the outdoors when it’s temperate. I like April, May, and September. But I hate heat and fear burning. My tolerance for the cold has diminished with age.
8. five most influential books over your lifetime
I dunno. How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi regarding how I see inequity. Life Itself by Roger Ebert is about how I see movies. The Sweeter The Juice by Shirlee Taylor Haizlip is about how we’re the same. The Good Book by Peter J. Gomes is a philosophical treatise. One of those Joel Whitburn books about music – Top Pop Singles – is about how music rules.

9. would you rather be in Middle Earth, Narnia, Hogwarts, or somewhere else?
By default, Hogwarts. I’ve never read any of the books, but I’ve seen all the movies.

10. list the top five things you spend the most time doing, in order.
Sleeping, reading, sorting through stuff, blogging, eating (including food prep or purchase)

11. have you ever felt like you had a “mind-meld” with someone?
Yes, at random times. A few times on the Amtrak.

12. could you live as a hermit?
That’s what COVID felt like. If I had a phone, Internet, a source of food delivery, maybe for a year before I started going bonkers.

13. do you feel like your outside appearance is a fair representation of the “real you”?
Most people who know me well recognize that my outside appearance is not particularly a high priority for me. So I haven’t a clue.

14. three songs that you connect with right now.
Here are songs by artists who have birthdays in December: Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinéad O’Connor, who died in July 2023;  Something So Right– Annie Lennox from her all-covers album, where she reorders the Paul Simon lyrics;  Love and Affection– Joan Armatrading, which has one of my favorite first lines:  “I am not in love. But I’m open to persuasion.”
made into a PBS series
15. pick one of your favorite quotes.
When I get this question, I pull a book off the shelf and randomly pick something. From The Story of English by McCrum, Cran, and MacNeil: “Phrases like hot under the collar and bite the dust are an everyday reminder of the powerful influence the cowboy has had on the English language. Perhaps this is because, of all of the frontier heroes, the cowboy was the beneficiary of nineteenth-century technology. The camera and the railroad exported the cowboy lifestyle and language back to the east so vividly that a New York dentist, Zane Gray, who was virtually ignorant of the real West, could create a believable picture of cowboy society from the information available to him in New York, thousands of miles from the range.”

The Anthropocene Reviewed, reviewed

Essays on a Human-Centered Planet

I agreed to review The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet by John Green on September 12 at the Albany Public Library, mainly for selfish reasons.

I’ve been having a terrible time reading books this year. I’ve attended many book reviews and author talks this year and have even bought several books from the authors.

So if I agree to review the book, which I bought when it was brand new in 2021, read about 50 pages, then never got back to it, I MUST finish it. I completed it the day before the review.

Next issue: how to present the review. The first thing, I suppose, is to explain the title.  What the heck is the Anthropocene? According to the video The Anthropocene and the Near Future: Crash Course Big History #9, the Anthropocene is “an unofficial geologic era where humans have an immense influence over the biosphere.”

Then, I needed to explain what Crash Course, started by John Green and his brother Hank, is.  “At Crash Course, we believe that high-quality educational videos should be available to everyone for free. The Crash Course team has produced more than 45 courses to date, and these videos accompany high school and college level classes ranging from the humanities to the sciences.

“Crash Course transforms the traditional textbook model by presenting information in a fast-paced format, enhancing the learning experience.” I learned. I discovered that my daughter had looked at several videos for her Advanced Placement history course, notably on the French Revolution.


And, of course, I needed to introduce them to John Green. Fortunately, on the 20 February 2023 episode of  JEOPARDY, episode  #8811, there was a category called A CRASH COURSE IN JOHN GREEN. One clue mentioned his book The Fault in Our Stars,  which was “largely inspired by a young friend, Esther Earl, who died of cancer at 16″  in 2010.

I noted that the earlier book had been banned or challenged in certain schools and libraries, much to John’s dismay.

The answer (or question) of one J clue was, “What is  Nerdfighteria?” How do I explain that?!  It is the mainly online-based community subculture that originated around Vlogbrothers videos, to “get together and try to do awesome things and have a good time and fight against world suck.”

This led to the DFTBA (Don’t Forget To Be Awesome) store and other activities. They’ve raised about $5 million to help fight maternal mortality in Sierra Leone. The Awesome Coffee Club, Awesome Socks Club, Pizzamas, and other endeavors have funded this.

Back to the book!

But what do I want to say about The Anthropocene Reviewed itself? In a Vlogbrothers post from 2021, What is my new book about, John admitted that it was difficult to describe. It’s an adaption of 2018-2021 essays, plus others going back to 2008. It’s a memoir.

Answers from some Nerdfighters: “The Anthropocene Reviewed attempts to capture what it means to be human. It is both joyful and terribly sad, filled with light and darkness, levity and grief. “

“It’s essays that “review facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale.”

“It is about honoring your lenses from which you see the world, letting yourself wonder and wander, but never forgetting that your lenses are not the full picture, and they depend on who moves them.”

John reviewed the reviews of his book.

Ultimately, I spent most of my time reading from the book. The only section I shared in its entirety is the section about the movie Harvey.

I did NOT play these videos. But if YOU want to get a sense of The Anthropocene Reviewed, check out these three, at least the first one.


Auld Lang Syne

The Sycamore Tree

I liked the book a lot. Moreover, I loved the integration of self and the stuff around self. My audience seemed to appreciate the artfulness of the duality of the form in the book.


Sunday Stealing: The Pen Company

The Good Book

Here’s the new Sunday Stealing, The Pen Company. But before I get to that, a couple of Independence Day announcements in Albany, NY.


First, the July 4 oration will take place at the Stephen and Harriet Myers residence, 194 Livingston Avenue in Albany, NY, sponsored by the Underground Railroad Education Center (UREC). Music by Magpie, who will be joined by Kim Harris.


Second, Sheila E. will be performing at 8 pm at the Empire State Plaza. One of her singers cannot make it, so subbing will be Rebecca Jade, who is my niece. Rebecca was backing Sheila when my wife, daughter, and I saw them at the New York State Fair in Syracuse back in September 2019.
Onto the show
1. If your house was on fire, which three items would you save?

A metal box in my office that has my birth certificate, my father’s death certificate plus other important documents. A box of photos. My laptop.


2. What is the strangest or most awkward date you’ve ever been on?

Oddly, it wasn’t my date. My ex-girlfriend was going to the Washington (NY) County Fair with her new boyfriend c 1996/97. She invited a friend of ours and me to attend as well, because we were all “mature” people. It was…weird. Interestingly, they broke up, I got back together with my gf, and we’ve been married 24 years.


3. What are your biggest fears?

The loss of freedom and justice in the United States, based on the actions of several governors and state legislatures, the rhetoric of several candidates for the 2024 Presidency, and recent Supreme Court decisions.


4. How do you spend your time when you are procrastinating?

Usually playing double deck pinochle or backgammon on my phone.


5. What has been your most memorable birthday so far, and why?

Probably my 50th because I had a big party at my church. I made a mixed CD that I gave out.


6. What is your favorite snack?

Fig Newtons with milk.


7. What was your first pet?
Peter the cat. He was very smart. When he wanted to come in, he’d jump onto a piece of furniture and rattle the door knob.
I am where I am
8. What’s your favorite city in your country?

It might be Albany, NY because that’s where I decided to live. My favorite place to visit might be Galveston, TX; I’d go out to he pier at 5 a.m., watching the tide from the Gulf of Mexico come in.


9. Do you have a garden?

We have a garden. But I have little or nothing to do with it.


10. What is your favorite thing about your home town?

My hometown was Binghamton, NY. It was small enough – and my school was tiny enough – that I can to this day name most of the kids in my 9th grade class. And I’m still friends with three of them. Oh, and went to kindergarten with them too.


11. What was the last book you read?

A Century of Pop Music bt Joel Whitburn.


12. What is the best book you have ever read?

Quite possibly, The Good Book: Discovering the Bible’s Place in Our Lives by Peter J. Gomes. Here’s a reader recommendation from Thrift Books:

“Gomes takes the Bible off its pedestal and presents it to us as a tool for Christian living. This book is a must read for any Christian struggling to read and understand the Bible in modern terms. He explores many of the controversial topics of the Bible, including race, homosexuality, women’s roles, anti-Semitism, wealth, and more. [This is definitely true.]


“He challenges the reader to accept the Bible as an interpretation of fantastic religious events with historical and sociological significance. He teaches the reader to deal with contradictions within the Bible, even within individual books of the Bible… This book challenged my beliefs in positive ways and taught me to never ‘idolize’ the Bible again.”
Roger that
13. Who is your favorite author?

It might be Roger Ebert, whose movie essays I enjoyed greatly. His autobio, Life Itself, is the book I would liked to have written, if I had the skills.


14. Is there a food that you hate?

Olives. Black olives, green olives.


15. Do you get along with your neighbors?
The neighbor to one side, Al, is great. Now, the property on the other side is owned by an absentee landlord, so the quality of the tenants has varied. I’ve written about not great ones here and elsewhere, and the best ones here. But by far, the WORST thing that happened from that house was created by the landlord himself. What a schmuck.

I wrote about terrible neighbors across the street, but thankfully, they’re gone.


16. Do you have any tattoos or piercings?
Nope. And I was never seriously interested in doing so.

Favorite topics: history, books, movies, music

100 $100 bills;

blue booksAnother Sunday Stealing meme. This one concerns some of my favorite topics: history, books, movies, and music.

What period of history is your favorite to read about?

“Favorite” may be stretching it, but it’s the period in American history between the end of the Civil War (1865) and the beginning of the Civil Rights era of the mid-20th Century.

Reconstruction included several black legislators; Jim Crow, which largely undid the progress; the “scientific” rationalization of bigotry; the Red Summer of 1919; the civil rights leaders who were ahead of the curve.


What is your favorite genre of fiction?

I like fiction rooted in real events. The only Stephen King book I ever read was 11/22/63.

Do you choose a book by its cover?

Sometimes. Or at least the book jacket. Does this tell me something I didn’t know AND want to find out? Incidentally, it is true: some librarians DO refer to books by their color. “Can you get me that tall green book, please?”

Where do you do most of your reading?

On the sofa, near an end so that I can put one arm up.

Without looking, guess how many books are in your TBR pile. Now, look. Were you right?

Hundreds. Yup, hundreds.


How many movies are on your TBW list?

That’s quite a different calculation. There are tons of movies on various platforms that make the enumeration of the same to be quite impossible. Now, if you’re talking about movies I have on DVD that I have not watched, maybe a half dozen. But I also have lots of unwatched TV episodes and the like.

What’s your favorite genre of movie?

Quite possibly the documentary. Beyond that, comedy.

Do you still go to see movies in the theater?

Yes, but it’s much more difficult. Albany County is currently COVID-red, so my wife is reluctant to go, even though we both got COVID in August.

Moreover, I got out of the routine. When I went regularly, there were a lot of trailers that helped me decide whether or not to see that film in the future. Now, I know there are trailers online, but 1) there are so many that I don’t have the time, and 2) trailers on a computer are not the same dynamically as trailers in a cinema.

BTW, I dislike seeing movies on a computer screen, though I’ve seen several since March 2020. I’m trying to decide if I should get Roku or a newer, larger television set.


You have $10,000 and no strings or obligations for one full day. Where do you go, and what do you do?

Let’s further assume I can’t give it away to a charity, a political campaign, or to random strangers (100 $100 bills; it DOES appeal to me). It can’t be something practical. The one-day limit is a hassle. What I’d LIKE to do is buy out a large theater with at least a 500-person capacity and show a movie that people might want to see on the big screen, such as The Wizard of Oz or Casablanca. But I don’t know if I could pull it off logistically.


How many songs are on your favorite playlist?

About 3,753. I don’t know that I have a favorite playlist. The idea of hearing the same songs more than a dozen times a year is alien to me.

What method do you use to listen to music (Spotify, iTunes, Pandora…)?

I play compact discs. In fact, I’m playing the Psychedelic Soul album by The Temptations as I write this. Before that, I listened to Lyle Lovett, Rebecca Jade, Paul Simon, Tom Petty, Weird Al Yankovic, The Beatles, and Television’s Greatest Hits (TV theme songs).

I do have songs on Amazon, but that’s my fallback position.

Reshuffling the books in the house

Marvel Masterworks

blue booksI spent a few hours reshuffling the books in our house. As someone who has moved some 30 times in his life, you wouldn’t think I’d forget one fact, but I’ve been in my house for over two decades.

Books are heavy.

We have a bookcase in the living room. And there are some books there, especially some coffee table-sized tomes. Bit it also has my daughter’s homework, store catalogs (they are NOT mine), two clarinets, one tambourine (that IS mine), and miscellaneous otherwise homeless items.

Fortunately, the office where I write has almost wall-to-wall bookshelves. It is described in painful detail here. I had received a box of books on baseball which had belonged to Jack, who I saw at the Olin reunions almost every year. But there was no place to put them, unless…

The secret stash

I also have two bookcases in the attic. They are in use, and the contents are in a particular order. I have three Doonesbury collections, the four Elfquest volumes comprising the first series and a lot of books related to comic books and comic strips. It was clear. My Marvel Masterworks had to go upstairs. They JUST squeezed onto the available shelving.

I liked the look of them in the office. But, for the most part, I didn’t REFER to them. I might READ them. But the books I REALLY need in the office are the reference books. And I have a LOT of them. Music, television, movies, sports, the Bible. Some specific: Beatles, Dick Van Dyke Show, The Twilight Zone, even the index of The New Jim Crow.

But then I had to further rearrange the shelves, because, and I’ve known this for decades: books are of different heights. One does not want a paperback on a shelf designed for a tall tome. And the opposite doesn’t work at all.

Now, a few books from here, some shifted from there, and my new baseball books are shelved without leaving a massive gap in the panorama of tomes that I gaze at on a daily basis.

BTW, yes, I could trade in some of these for Kindle copies. But those don’t bring me joy. The panoply of colors and sizes and fonts bring me joy, and I’m really into joy right now.

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