I love this arcane stuff

Jane Seymour turns 70

My wife had purchased a few bushels of apples over the late summer. She kept them in the basement, which tends to be cooler than the rest of the house. But by December, the last of the apples were looking wrinkled.

“They’re wisened,” I observed.  This led to a conversation about why the word has a short I rather than long I sound, though it has one S rather than two. Maybe because the long I sounds more like someone who is wise? I love arcane stuff like this, items that make me ponder.

Not a new decade

My friend David and I had a nice back-and-forth about whether the decade should start with 2021 since the century began with 2001. I favored the inconsistency. After all, September is the ninth month, not the seventh.

I think he was won over by how we define people. “An individual who has been alive for two full decades is referred to as being in their 20s for the next decade of their life, from age 20 to 29.” 

Census stuff

My Census buddy, also named David, and I exchange articles about the Census. Several of his finds I’ve used in various articles. I noted for him a Daily Kos report indicating that “the state-level population data from the 2020 census that is needed to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state receives is not expected to be released until April 30, four months after the original deadline.”

Likewise, “the more granular population data needed for states to actually draw new districts won’t be released until at least after July 30, which is also a delay of at least four months from the original March 31 deadline. Consequently, these delays will create major disruptions for the upcoming 2020 round of congressional and legislative redistricting.

“New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice released an in-depth report in 2020 looking at which states have deadlines that are in conflict with a potentially delayed data release schedule and what the impact of a delay may be.

“The most directly affected states are New Jersey and Virginia, which are the only two states that are set to hold legislative elections statewide in 2021 and would normally redraw all of their legislative districts this year.”

I remain a Census geek.

Music and art

My friend and FantaCo colleague Rocco tipped me off about the book Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel (2015). It has a graphic that would have been on a Kitchen Sink Chronicles if FantaCo had ever published it back in the 1980s.

I had just purchased The Beatles (The White Album) [6 CD + Blu-ray]. So I gave him the three-CD set I bought a couple of years ago but didn’t need anymore.

We got into an arcane conversation about the album Graceland by Paul Simon. I had purchased the 25th Anniversary Edition (2011) CD a few years back. It also featured the Under African Skies film on DVD. I gave my old copy of the Graceland CD to a blogger buddy who had never heard it.

But Rocco had NOT purchased it, and I knew why. It was because it did NOT include the 6-minute version of Boy in the Bubble. Rocco had purchased the 12″ from the Music Shack record store back when it came out. I tried to get a copy but it never arrived. Rocco lent me his 12″ and I recorded the song on a cassette. But we BOTH were disappointed that the song failed to show up on the anniversary edition.

NOT the third wife of Henry VIII

The performer  Jane Seymour turns 70 today. I often note people who reach three score and ten in this blog. Though I’ve seen her in few guest appearances, a miniseries or two, and some infomercials I’ve come across, I really only know her from one thing. And if you know her for only one thing, it’s probably the same show: Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. I didn’t watch it regularly, but I didn’t turn it off when I happened across it.

Paul Simon’s Graceland, plus 25

When the Graceland album comes out in the fall of 1986, there are a lot of positive reviews, though there is some discussion of cultural imperialism, talk Simon occasionally faced directly,

On June 5, the 25th-anniversary edition of the landmark Paul Simon album Graceland will be released. It has a few demo or alternate tracks, plus something described as “The Story of ‘Graceland’ as told by Paul Simon,” which could be interesting. But what is really intriguing is the DVD that comes with it, Under African Skies, directed by Joe Berlinger, which I saw on A&E a few days ago. It not only discusses the making of the album, and shows the reunion of many of the artists; it also addresses the huge controversy over the album and the subsequent tour.

There was a United Nations cultural (and other) boycott of South Africa at the time of the recording of Graceland, because of the oppressive apartheid policies of the government. Paul Simon’s record label guy Lenny Waronker said that the African music Simon had been listening to could have been produced by studio musicians; Warnoker says that Simon looked at him as though he were crazy.

From HERE:
“I was very aware of what was going on politically,” Mr. Simon says in the film, though later he admits he really wasn’t. Harry Belafonte had urged him to get the blessing of the African National Congress before going, which he didn’t do. Mr. Simon bristled at such constraints and decided that the welcome and cooperation he got from black musicians was all the approval he needed.

The album gets made, but the release date is pushed back. Simon is already scheduled to appear on Saturday Night Live, and does so, with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, performing “Diamonds on the Soles of Their Shoes”, to thunderous applause.

When the record comes out in the fall of 1986, there are a lot of positive reviews, though there is some discussion of cultural imperialism, talk Simon occasionally faced directly, as shown in the film. Then he decided to go on tour:

From HERE (And check out the videos):

Nearly 25 years ago Paul Simon staged one of the most controversial pop shows in history. When he performed in April 1987 his Graceland concert was seen by some as an affront to a United Nations and African National Congress (ANC) cultural boycott on the apartheid-era in South Africa.

Others saw it as a celebration of the country’s rich musical diversity. At the time Simon was joined by South African musicians Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. But outside leading musicians joined protestors which included Billy Bragg, Paul Weller, and Jerry Dammers, famous for writing the anti-apartheid anthem, Nelson Mandela. Together they demanded an apology from Simon.

Graceland ends up winning the Grammy for best album. Moreover, Simon eventually gets invited by the Mandela government to perform in South Africa after the boycott was over.

From HERE:

At the end of the film, Simon reflects on the controversy with Dali Tambo, founder of Artists Against Apartheid and son of the late African National Congress (ANC) president Oliver Tambo. He is still convinced Simon was wrong to break the cultural boycott, and Simon remains firm in his belief that art and music are a force for good that should never be repressed.

They end their debate with a hug, but you can see that this debate may never be resolved.

Lots of good insights in this film from Belafonte, Masakela, Paul McCartney, and Oprah Winfrey, who initially supportive of the boycott of the album until she heard the music, which transformed her life. I also had a bit of ambivalence over the album at the time, and I was really happy to see Simon’s rationale at the time.

I’m always loath to get an album that I’ve gotten before, in this case, on both LP and CD. But if you haven’t gotten the CD, or your LP is starting to skip, the documentary Under African Shies makes the purchase worthwhile. the film is also available separately, on Blu-Ray, for a price twice that of the CD/DVD combo.

The Boy in the Bubble – Paul Simon