Sweet for 4G (apologies: James Taylor)

I had not seen Deborah in decades because she lives in Europe.

Deborah MendsThe envelope was in a box of unsorted miscellany, rather than in the mail drawer. I discovered it about a month after the May 2 date on the letter. It came from MetLife.

“RE: Case Number…

“DEAR ROGER GREEN:

“We are trying to locate ROGER GREEN regarding an important insurance matter. They last resided at [my address in 1999-2000].

“If you know ROGER GREEN…” Do I! Calling the 800 number, I was told I would get some form to fill out.

Three weeks later, the Identification Questionnaire letter came. Section I was easy enough, Insured’s Information.

But Section II was nigh unto impossible. “Insured’s address when policy was issued.” I didn’t know THAT the policy was issued. “Date”? Dunno. “Name of agent who issued the policy” – seriously?

I ASSUME this was some sort of policy that was arranged by my parents at some point, though they never told me about it. Back in the 1990s, I started receiving these minuscule dividend checks every quarter from MetLife. $2.64 or $2.97 or $3.18, which I thought was a function I set up from something I must have set up.

In any case, I spoke to a different customer service representative. HE told me that I shouldn’t have needed to fill this form out, since I had an account with them. Long story short, I received a check for about $4,400 in early August.

It’s not life-changing money, but it’s life-made-easier money. We had one laptop among three of us; now we have two. And when it’s lacking software protection I assumed incorrectly that would be included, I acquired it.

I took a trip for work to Washington, DC, and the credit card bill came due before the reimbursement check arrived; not a problem. My trip to Yankee Stadium was affordable. I purchased tickets for an upcoming concert.

Most spontaneously, I could take a train to Poughkeepsie one morning to see my friend Deborah. I had not seen her in decades because she lives in Europe. She drove 90 minutes from Connecticut. We share hot drinks and a muffin at the nearby coffee shop for a couple of hours. Then I took the train back so I could go to work in the afternoon.

To be sure, some of these – the Yankees game and seeing Deborah, for sure – I would have done WITHOUT the extra cash.

BTW, the JT reference is to Suite for 20 G. From Songfacts: “This song was an amalgamation of several bits of songs/melodies/lyrics/themes that Taylor had laying around as kernels for three future songs that hadn’t yet come together. He and his producer, Peter Asher, had a deadline to meet for completing the Sweet Baby James album, and they needed one more song to do it. Asher had him string these loose themes together to make a single ‘Suite’ and get the $20,000 (20G) they were promised by Warner Bros. Records for completing the album, which is how it got the title.”

James Taylor turns 70 (March 12)

James Taylor explained how the late Gerry Goffin, would go there to get away from the family troubles

I have seen James Taylor perform live exactly once, at the anti-nukes rally in NYC in 1982. Strange since he’s performed several times at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center at little north of here, and especially at Tanglewood in extreme western Massachusetts.

I decided that, since he would be performing in Albany for some benefit concert in January 2018, I would go see him, and John Legend, among others. The show got canceled for some reason, but Taylor made a $10K donation to the Albany Med pediatric unit instead.

Those of us of a certain age all owned the album Sweet Baby James in college, required along with Carole King’s Tapestry. I have almost all of James Taylor’s albums, the ones in the 1990s and later on CD, including his Christmas album, the earlier ones on vinyl. I need to listen to the last two, aside from the Covers album.

Some songs:

Back in the High Life Again (Steve Winwood: Back in the High Life, 1986)
Everyday (That’s Why I’m Here, 1985) – a Buddy Holly cover
Secret Of Life (JT, 1977)
Her Town Too (Dad Loves His Work, 1981) [this is a live version with with J.D. Souther]

Traffic Jam (JT) – I think it’s a hoot
That’s Why I’m Here (TWIH)
Home by Another Way (Never Die Young, 1988) – reference to the Three Wise Guys who visited thje baby Jesus
Sweet Baby James (Sweet Baby James, 1970) – the song is not about himself but about meeting his nephew James, the son of his older brother Alex, for the first time

How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) (Gorilla, 1975) – Marvin Gaye cover
Walking Man (Walking Man, 1974)
Your Smiling Face (JT, 1977)
Copperline (New Moon Shine, 1991) – this is one of those songs that is effectively the title track of the album

Carolina in My Mind (James Taylor, 1968) – recorded back in his Apple Records days, then re-recorded for the first greatest hits album
Lo and Behold (Sweet Baby James) – interesting theology
Up on the Roof (Flag, 1979) – I gained a new appreciation of this song when James Taylor, at some program honoring Carole King, explained how her writing partner, the late Gerry Goffin, would go there to get away from the family troubles
Shed a Little Light (New Moon Shine) – namechecks ML King, Jr.

Mexico (Gorilla) – I probably heard this first on one of those Warner Brothers Loss Leaders
Mockingbird (Carly Simon: Hotcakes, 1974) – Taylor and Simon were married from 1972 to 1983
Handy Man (JT) – my appreciation soared when I heard how different this was from the Jimmy Jones original
That Lonesome Road (Dad Loves His Work) – sad songs say so much

Something in the Way She Moves (James Taylor)- Taylor seems cool with the fact that George Harrison pilfered the title as the first line for his biggest hit in the Beatles, Something; this is the WB re-cover
Fire and Rain (Sweet Baby James) – the quintessential JT
Shower the People (In the Pocket, 1976) – the bass harmony vocal is perfectly in my range, and I cannot help but to sing along with it
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (Carole King: Tapestry, 1971)

Kennedy Center Honors 2016

James Taylor: “I had no concept of where I might be next week, never mind 16 years into the next century.”

martha-argerichAs I’ve noted often in this space, I watch the Kennedy Center Honors every year. It’s like a well-oiled machine, with the event taking place in early December (this year Sunday, December 4), then edited down for broadcast in a two-hour slot on CBS-TV the week between Christmas and New Year’s (this time, Tuesday, December 27. 9-11 p.m. EST).

The host of CBS’ Late Show, Stephen Colbert, will return to emcee the Kennedy Center Honors 2016; this is his third consecutive year. This year’s honorees are Al Pacino, Martha Argerich, Mavis Staples, and James Taylor and the Eagles.  Generally, the President and First Lady sit in the box seats with the honorees, while others sing, dance, or speak in tribute to the honorees.

Martha Argerich – the one person I must admit I did not know about. This Washington Post title is interesting: Martha Argerich is a legend of the classical music world. “But she doesn’t act like one.” She says:

“‘But I don’t understand, because I think I haven’t done much in America.'”

“Not much, that is, apart from appearing with most of the country’s leading orchestras: the Boston Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic… Argerich always plays with other people now; she never enjoyed the loneliness of appearing solo on a concert stage, and around 1981 simply decided not to do it anymore… She strides out on stage like someone in a tremendous hurry and plunges right into the music, often leaping up as soon as she has finished.”

LISTEN to Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1. Martha Argerich, piano – Charles Dutoit, conductor (1975)

James Taylor – he’s James Taylor. He has helped honor previous winners such as Yo-Yo Ma, last year’s winner Carole King, and, with Mavis Staples, Paul McCartney. Taylor wrote on his page:

“Having grown up in the confines of Chapel Hill, NC in the 1950’s, I found myself, at the age of 18, on my own in Greenwich Village in the mid-60’s. It was a time of great change, many dangers and near complete freedom, purchased at the cost of any sense of a secure future. I had no concept of where I might be next week, never mind 16 years into the next century. So the prospect of attending the Kennedy Center Honors again, but this time as an honoree, is astonishing. I am deeply moved to be included in such august company and hugely grateful to the Kennedy Center Honors for the gift of this great award.”

LISTEN to James Taylor ༺♥༻ Greatest Hits (1976)

Mavis Staples – I wrote about her in 2011 and about the Staple Singers in 2014 (her, her sisters, and her father).

Al Pacino – I have actually seen him in relatively few films.
The Godfather (1972), Serpico (1973), …and justice for all. (1979), Sea of Love (1989), Scent of a Woman (1992) – which I did not much like, The Insider (1999), Danny Collins (2015)

WATCH Top 10 Al Pacino Performances

The Eagles – in anticipation of their award, I wrote about them this past summer

The Kennedy Center Honors 2016 is the 39th annual event.

2015 in review

All men and women living on the Earth.
Ties of hope and love,
Sister and brotherhood,
That we are bound together

2015This is the thing that Jaquandor does on December 31, but I do on January 1.

Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

If I made one, it was to do less. I failed miserably, except when I had to because of the hernia operation, which felt really good, actually.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not that I recall.

Did you attend any weddings?

Affirmative: Ron and David, just a couple of weeks ago.

Did anyone close to you die?

Well, yes, three people in the first six weeks of the year. Jimmy Rocco, who was in my church choir, and Bonnie Deschane, who cleaned our house for a while, and Robert Yates, my mom’s first cousin, who was closer in age to me than her. I think it made the winter far more difficult. And the average of 12F in February, cf the normal of 19F, didn’t help.

What countries did you visit?

None and I would like to change that someday.

What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?

World peace. Or some approximation thereof.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Surviving November.

What was your biggest failure?

Not finding someone to whom I could delegate a specific task.

What was the best thing you bought?

Marvel Masterworks book of The Defenders comic book, written by Steve Gerber.

Whose behavior merited celebration?

Anyone who acts with caring and compassion in the midst of fear and paranoia.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

And speaking of fear and paranoia, let’s just put it this way: I’m more distressed by the political supporters of a particular political candidate than I am with the candidate.

Where did most of your money go?

The house, specifically the bathroom renovation.

What did you get really excited about?

Learning new stuff, often through this here blog.

Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

I have to admit, sadder.

Thinner or fatter?

Yo-yo much of the year.

Richer or poorer?

Richer, marginally. We had pledged a chunk of money for our church’s elevator, and that is paid off.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Reading books.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

I’d like to say “watching the news”, but I don’t want to be beholden to false narratives, so I watch more, from various sources.

How did you spend Christmas?

Christmas Eve means singing at church, so that. Eventually, we go to the in-laws.

Did you fall in love in 2015?

You betcha.

How many one-night stands?

Jaquandor: “Now, that’s not the kind of question a gentleman answers! (Another stock answer!)”

What was your favorite TV program?

The Good Wife, CBS Sunday Morning, JEOPARDY!

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Hate hurts the hater. Now, intense dislike, I have a few.

What was the best book you read?

The Heart of Christianity by Marcus J. Borg. This will require a review, eventually. But kudos to Jaquandor for Stardancer.

What was your greatest musical discovery?

I blame someone from church, who put two Bruno Mars songs on a mixed CD, one of which was Uptown Funk. But more important, and on the same mix, is the song Glory, from the movie Selma. The more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it. Some lyrics:

The biggest weapon is to stay peaceful
We sing, our music is the cuts that we bleed through
Somewhere in the dream, we had an epiphany
Now we right the wrongs in history
No one can win the war individually
It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy
Welcome to the story we call victory
Comin’ of the Lord, my eyes have seen the glory
God Isn't Fixing This
What did you want and get?

Out of Corporate (frickin’) Woods, and working downtown.

What did you want and not get?

An office with a door, which was bitterly disappointing beyond belief.

What were your favorite films of this year?

Selma; Love & Mercy; Inside Out.

What did you do on your birthday?

I thought I would have written about this, but I can’t find it. I had my annual hearts game with friends Broome, Mary, and Orchid. Lifelong friend Karen came up because of work that evening, regaling us with stories about Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney, and elevators.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?

See these stories. This is about five minutes longer than what I care about in terms of fashion.

What kept you sane?

My dads’ group in church.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, George Takei.

What political issue stirred you the most?

Congress couldn’t even limit guns to those on terror watch lists, because FREEDOM, which epitomizes my despair that ANYTHING will happen to make guns less available to people who ought not to have them.

Who did you miss?

Madre, padre.

Who was the best new person you met?

Our acting presbyter, and a young woman at a church dinner.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015:

Doing the right thing sometimes backfires.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

After the Charleston shooting, James Taylor sang Shed A Little Light in Columbia, SC. The lyrics:

And recognize that there are ties between us,
All men and women living on the Earth.
Ties of hope and love,
Sister and brotherhood,
That we are bound together
In our desire to see the world
Become a place in which our children
Can grow free and strong.
We are bound together by the task
That stands before us
And the road that lies ahead.
We are bound and we are bound.

June rambling #1: procrastination, and tessellation

The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson: America’s Mozart?

waltz in
When You Kill Ten Million Africans and You Aren’t Called ‘Hitler’ – King Leopold II of Belgium, who “owned” the Congo.

The Dannemora Dilemma. “‘Little Siberia’ turned out to be the prison’s nickname.”

The Weekly Sift addresses the Duggars’ brand of fundamentalist Christianity and other stuff. Plus What’s So Scary About Caitlyn Jenner?

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Race: A Cheat Sheet and The Crystal Ball‘s 2016 Electoral College ratings. I have NO idea who the Republican candidate for President will be.

If it’s not Jeb Bush, and I have my serious doubts that it will be, then one of those people from the “he/she can’t win” category could possibly emerge.

ADD on blaming the victims of today’s disastrous economy for trying to survive it.

What Poverty Does to the Young Brain.

Disunion, The Final Q&A: The New York Times’s series on the Civil War.

Franklin Graham Calls for Christian Boycott — Here Are Some Ideas for Targets.

Rachel Dolezal and minstrelsy.

David Kalish: The Fine Art of Procrastination.

THE MARVEL-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX and a follow-up.

Drawing the Undrawable: An Explanation from Neil and Amanda Gaiman, re: The New Statesman and Art Spiegelman.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 will be available on July 29. This SHOULD mean you can update from Windows 7, and I can get rid of the dreadful Windows 8.

How to create strong passwords.

Why Pluto Is a Planet, and Eris Is, Too.

Now I Know: The Lights That Almost Led to World War III and America’s Most Wanted Coincidence and Why are there so few $2 bills?

Gouverneur is a small town of about 6,000 located in St. Lawrence County, NY. But how do you PRONOUNCE it? In English and in French.

Berowne: George Gordon. Better known as Lord Byron.

Never-before-seen film of the legendary aviator Amelia Earhart — from her last photo shoot ever, shortly before she disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

The origin of that Orange Church of God sign I see on Facebook all the time. Speaking of which: 6 Facebook Statuses That Need To Stop Right Now.

Mark Evanier’s childhood Christmas chicanery.

The app that identifies plants from a picture. Seriously, I could use this.

What is a tessellation? Math, and design.

A marbles tsunami.

True: Why are the Tony Awards so afraid of the Tony Awards?

Sex Pistols credit card.

The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson: America’s Mozart?

James Taylor’s creativity flows anew.

The Mary Lou Williams Suite, the jazz pianist and arranger. Includes the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee.

SamuraiFrog ranks Weird Al: 60-51. He also brought to mind that the birthday of Todd Rundgren is coming up, which reminded me of a 1985 album I own on vinyl that I haven’t heard in a good while. LISTEN to A Cappella, or at least the last song, a cover of the Spinners’ Mighty Love.

Bert Jansch’s Blackwaterside, first recorded in 1966. Which sounds an awful lot like Jimmy Page’s instrumental Black Mountain Side, from Led Zeppelin’s 1969 debut.

DJ Otzi – Burger Dance, “based on the premise that the single aspect of American culture most readily recognizable in the rest of the world is fast food.”

This list is rubbish, but hey, it has links to Beatles songs. The most skippable Beatles cuts, from “All You Need Is Love” to “Yellow Submarine”.

Muppets: Puppetman and Kermit the Frog and Grover on The Ed Sullivan Show and Grover is Special and the 1962 pilot Tales of the Tinkerdee and some other stuff.

Legendary Special-Effects Artist Rick Baker on How CGI Killed His Industry.

Actor Christopher Lee, Dracula and Nazi hunter, dies at 93. From The Guardian and BFI and the Hollywood Reporter and Bruce Hallenbeck in Diabolique and Mr. Frog and Gordon at Blog This, Pal.

Ornette Coleman, Jazz Innovator, Dies at 85.

Dustbury notes the passing of Monica Lewis, a voice, at least, you’ve heard, if you are of a certain age.

GOOGLE ALERTS (not me)

Roger and Carmen Green of Baraboo, Wisconsin celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

UK: An illustrated guided walk tracing the route of the Nickey Line is being led by railway enthusiast Roger Green on Saturday, June 27.