The year 2020: Hugh Downs, because

The Zen of alphabetization

The nail in the coffin of my 2020 recollection after I stick a silver dagger in its chest.

What was the best book you read?

Hugh Downs
Hugh Downs

This Brilliant Darkness by Jeff Sharlet. Probably because I’m briefly mentioned therein.

What did you want and get?

Some semblance of connectivity. Zoom is good for Bible studies, the Dads group at church. Actually, it’s been great for communicating with my sisters. It’s fine for keeping in touch with the choir, but not nearly as good as singing together.

What did you want and not get?

The sense of the creative. I didn’t sing or see a lot of performances or read a lot of books.

What were your favorite films of this year?

This will be different because I didn’t see a lot of films at the cinema. Note these are not the BEST films, necessarily, which is probably Parasite or 1917, but the ones I most enjoyed.

Knives Out 
Just Mercy 

On video:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 
Coco 
Thor: Ragnarok 

What did you do on your birthday?

Our church did a performance of Once On This Island the following day, just before the lockdown. So I spent much of the time at the dress rehearsal.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020?

Comfortable footwear. These long-sleeved shirts my wife bought from L.L. Bean that help prevent me from getting sunburned.

What kept you sane?

To the degree that is true – and one could argue that – I play music constantly. Compact discs, because I like the tangible. Then every three months, I put the ones I played away because it involves the mental exercise of alphabetization.

Yeah, most of it is already online, but listening to that doesn’t bring me… JOY. I love reading the liner notes – Ricky Fataar is on a 2016 Bonnie Raitt album; Emmylou Harris is everywhere.

And sometimes, I would alternate between listening to a CD and riding the stationary bike for 15 minutes. The CD might be 29 minutes, or 45, or 74. I like the asymmetrical nature of the process.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Chadwick Boseman (RIP), Kobe Bryant (RIP), Lebron James.
Ji-Man Choi – pronounced like Eliot Ness – the pudgy but amazingly athletic first baseman of the Tampa Bay Rays.

There are probably others. But it’s been a long year.

In fact, this is so true that I actually forgot Hugh Downs died in 2020. Of course, he did.  And I mentioned it 

What political issue stirred you the most?

My general belief that we may have already irrevocably destroyed the planet. Democracy in the USA may be unfixable. Oh, and that – surprise! – racism still exists in America.

Who was the best new person you met?

Who meets new people? Actually, one of the best things, in my telephoning exercise, is to reconnect with people I had not talked with in years, such as Janet, Diana, Jeff, Al, Judith, Kim, Maureen…

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020

Sometimes, the workarounds are successful, and sometimes, not so much.

Small Zoom gatherings work. Or they don’t for reasons some of us can recite in our sleep. I’m betting Jeffrey Tobin’s  ZOOM meeting was really boring. Someone failed to mute, so he forgot to turn off the camera.

“Parties” on Zoom I’m most uncomfortable with. If you’re at a real party, you talk for a while, observe for a while, haul empty cups to the kitchen. But online, you’re expected to be “on.”

At one gathering this year with three dozen people, someone asked ME specifically why I hadn’t said anything. It’s mostly because 1) it’s difficult to know when to speak and not talk over people and 2) I didn’t really have anything to say.

Takeout food. Some are great. Pizza, Indian food. I haven’t had Chinese this year, but I imagine it’d be pretty good. But some, from restaurants I love, are lackluster. Italian food is hit or miss, e.g.

Telemedicine, as noted – meh.

Performances – better than nothing, but an ersatz experience. It’s interesting that, because of the pandemic plus the technology, there are MORE opportunities to hear music online than I could possibly take in.

Tell you what, 2021. If you don’t suck as much as 2020 did, my summary about you will be half as long. Deal?

December 36, 2020

Hey, 2021, you’re not starting off very well. Sluggish COVID vaccine distribution.

And such a blatant attempt to steal the election by the Republican party that all living former defense secretaries have condemned  GOP attempts to overturn the election and involve the military.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who I do not like, nevertheless is partly correct in opposing challenging the Electoral College tally. “Congress would take away the power to choose the president from the people, which would essentially end presidential elections and place that power in the hands of whichever party controls Congress.”

Newsmax, having sold its soul, said that it has “reviewed the full tape and transcript of [his] call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

It claims “The transcript shows [Trump] pressed the Secretary on serious vote fraud issues in Georgia and Trump never acted improperly.”

Naturally, Newsmax blames the mainstream media for “duplicity” in spreading “false” information. The man said on tape, “I just want to find 11,780 votes” and alternately berated, flattered, begged, and threatened with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims. He is soliciting election fraud, in his increasingly desperate attack on democracy, dammit.

Author Jeff Sharlet at APL April 22

born in Schenectady County, NY

Sharlet, Jeff_credit_JuliaRabig“Why do we sometimes gravitate toward the unknown when we feel alone? The writing in Jeff Sharlet’s gorgeous new book, ‘This Brilliant Darkness: A Book of Strangers,’ takes place between lonely traumas: his father’s heart attack and his own, two years later. As a magazine writer and the author of several books, Sharlet has made a long career of telling stories, but after his heart attack he started to re-evaluate the kinds he thought were worthwhile.”

That’s the opening of the stellar review in the New York Times of Sharlet’s seventh book. “He turned to posting snapshots on Instagram. These were not solipsistic selfies but images of strangers and their lives.” It’s a book framed by insomnia, late-night driving and “the companionship of other darkness-dwellers: night bakers and last-call drinkers, frightened people and frightening people, the homeless and the lost (or merely disoriented), addicts and people on the margins.”

Jeff, who was born in Schenectady County, notes that while most of the book is reported, every now and then, it returns to the personal. He says it’s a very upstate book. Three chapters take place in Schenectady, including the longest narrative text-image sequence and the penultimate scene. There are a few other bits of the Capital District, too. It also takes place in L.A., Moscow, Dublin, and Vermont, but there’s a Schenectady sensibility throughout, he believes.

The Family

The acclaimed author and journalist is noted for The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, his bestselling 2008 book. It explores the most powerful and most weirdly secretive Christian conservative organization in Washington. The book was adapted to a 2019 five-part Netflix documentary series, THE FAMILY.

Jeff Sharlet is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Dartmouth College. His work has earned numerous awards, including the National Magazine Award and the Outspoken Award.

Please join The Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library for the National Library Week Distinguished Author Dinner and Lecture on Wednesday, April 22th with author Jeff Sharlet. The dinner begins at five o’clock p.m. at the University Club, 141 Washington Avenue in Albany and costs $30 per person. If you wish to attend, please purchase tickets online.

The lecture by Mr. Sharlet begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Washington Avenue Branch, 161 Washington Avenue. It is free and open to the public.

December rambling #1: Sheila E. turns big 6-0

Rebecca Jade [the niece], Ashling Cole, Sheila E., Lynn Mabry before taking the stage at the Paramount Theatre of the Arts in Oakland, CA during 60th birthday month of Sheila E., Dec 2017
How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You’ve Ever Met

“Apocalyptic” Melting Transpires in Antarctica as Earth Wraps Up a Scorching Year

The Environmental Protection Agency wipes climate change from its website

Huge Bubble of Hot Rock May Be Rising Under New England

Atheists are nicer to Christians compared to the other way around

The Jerusalem Issue, Explained

Joe Biden to Anita Hill: “I Owe Her an Apology”

Arthur voted for John Anderson

Inspirational news stories that are anything but

With 2020 Census Looming, Worries About Fairness and Accuracy

American prisons end face-to-face visits – and families suffer

Why Verizon’s insurance plan covers… nothing

Congratulations, Australia!

Racism, Fundamentalism, Fear and Propaganda

Americans receive ‘threatening’ automated calls telling them to stop criticising Trump

SATIRE! Palestinians recognize Texas as part of Mexico and World to recognize Moscow as capital of the United States

A president… unfit to clean toilets in Obama’s presidential library or to shine George W. Bush’s shoes

Former ‘Son of Sam’ at Albany Med for heart ailment

On SNL, Santa’s Tricky Moment With Savvy Kids

Derivative Sport: The Journalistic Legacy of David Foster Wallace

Colonoscopy…..is such a lonely word – as I heard a comedian say recently, life is like a colonoscopy prep

Once in a while the pessimist is wrong

Why we need art

in praise of second fiddle

Levidrome – a series of letters that yields up a word in one direction and a wholly different word in the other

Mark Evanier’s blog post #25,000

The Complicated Legacy Of A Panda Who Was Really Good At Sex

Now I Know: The Largest Man-Made Accidental Explosion and What Do You Do With 10,000 Pounds of Spoiled Mayo? and How NASA (Almost) Got Its Rock Bag Back and The Problem With Five-Cent Hot Dogs and The Surprising Way to Get Rejected

Talking about Kevin

MUSIC

Que je t’aime – Johnny Hallyday; and A million take to Paris streets for his funeral

Pat DiNizio, lead singer and songwriter of The Smithereens died at age 62

Happy Harry Chapin Day and Coverville 1196: Cover Stories for Billy Bragg and Harry Chapin

Trump vs Talking Heads – Swedemason

Coverville 1195: The Jimi Hendrix Cover Story IV

The Alan Parsons Project: If you believe in the power of magic…

More of the Whitney Avalon Show!

BBC: Perfect Day and God Only Knows

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 2018 inductees. Performer Category: Bon Jovi (inevitable), The Cars (voted for), Dire Straits (would have voted for if there weren’t 19 candidates for five slots), The Moody Blues (my pick), Nina Simone (worthy but hardly rock – see Baez, Joan). Award for Early Influence: Sister Rosetta Tharpe (should never have been on the competitive ballot; just put her in!)

July rambling #2: Let The Sunshine In

The Most Boring Day of the Last Century

cartoon.awesome

A Real Pro-Police Agenda is Liberal and A Black Republican Tackles The Police ‘Trust Gap’

Why I Don’t Talk About Race With White People

How Abigail Adams Proves Bill O’Reilly Wrong About Slavery

Presbyterian Church USA Joins Growing List of Denominations Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery – It also voted to develop recommendations of how Presbyterian congregations “can support Native Americans in their ongoing efforts for sovereignty and fundamental human rights”

NAACP calls for national moratorium on charter schools

The Sewage Still Spills. The Park South neighborhood in Albany still dumps raw sewage into the Hudson River

Journalist Jeff Sharlet on What’s Wrong (and Right) With the Media

The 7 biggest problems facing science, according to 270 scientists

SamuraiFrog is 40 and had been having a difficult time with the medical bureaucracy. So Jaquandor suggested some natal day music

The writing process: Levine and Isaacs and Sedinger

MAD magazine’s Jack Davis, R.I.P. and more on Jack

I participated in TWC Question Time #47: Do you find creator controversies make you more or less interested in comics by those creators?

What Calvin and Hobbes taught me about mindfulness

Old photos and other miscellany

Walter Cronkite Apollo 11 Interview with Robert A. Heinlein & Arthur C. Clarke

Alan Moore is the best author in human history

Star Wars book review

Legally Blonde – Feminist Review and Analysis

TV shows made special television commercials to represent the products of their sponsors

Bummer: Sesame Street’ Lets Go Longtime Cast Members Bob, Gordon and Luis

Comedians in cars getting coffee: John Oliver

Now I Know: Calling Dar Bizziebee and The Key to Seceding and Buds But Not Buddies and The Most Boring Day of the Last Century

Sunshine bloggers fillyjonk and Chuck Miller

Is it Mary or Sue? and Hominy and understanding

Potato

Elephants and Donkeys

Weekly Sift: The Big Lie in Trump’s Speech and You Have to Laugh

Understanding Trump

Inside the scramble to oust Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “Aides to President Barack Obama urged him to get rid of the troublesome DNC chair last fall. He passed, figuring she was Hillary Clinton’s problem to solve”

Tim Kaine on Abortion

The Houston Chronicle endorses Hillary Clinton, already

Oldest Presidents inaugurated
73 Reagan (II) 1985 Colon cancer, benign prostatic enlargement, dementia (?)
69 Reagan (I) 1981 Life-threatening hemorrhage after gunshot to chest
68 Harrison, W 1841 Died of pneumonia after one month in office.
66 Eisenhower (II) 1957 Stroke, despite taking anti-coagulant medication.
66 Jackson (II) 1833
Reagan turned 70 on February 6, 1981; Donald Trump turned 70 on June 14, 2016; Hillary Clinton turns 69 on October 26, 2016

MUSIC

Marni Nixon, Singing Voice Behind WEST SIDE STORY, THE KING AND I & More, Dies at 86 – I wrote about her last year HERE

Say hello — and then say goodbye — to Qandeel Baloch, twenty-six

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Campaign Songs

Ciara – Paint It, Black (The Last Witch Hunter Soundtrack)

Rossini’s Overture to William Tell

HOFFMAN FILES: Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Coverville 1133: The Linda Ronstadt cover story; and Coverville 1135: Cover Stories for Buddy Guy, Louis Armstrong, and Paul Anka

Michelle Obama & Missy Elliott Do Carpool Karaoke With James Corden

Harry Chapin – What Made America Famous (Soundstage)

A Chorus Hamilton Line

Late 1969: Let the Sunshine In featuring these people and these people and the cast of HAIR. Those scheduled but did not show included Muhammad Ali, Julian Bond, Dick Gregory, John Lindsay and Sidney Poitier

April rambling #2: Smartest place on earth

A World Awash in Purple

Librarian.gang

The 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winners, with links to many of the written pieces!

The Vlogbrothers — John and Hank Green — summarize the tax proposals of the folks who want to be your next President.

John Green: Here’s to civil discourse and David Kalish: Comparing Facebook to a pee-soaked lamp post.

Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy.

Mississippi Interracial Couple Evicted For Being In An Interracial Marriage. In 2016.

Michigan mechanic refuses to serve people from the ‘ghetto’ — but insists he’s not racist – he was a bit coarser than that. “But Jim S. insists he’s not racist — which is exactly what racists usually say. ‘Race has nothing to do with this, let me clarify,’ Jim S. told Mic. ‘What we’re trying to avoid is people who number one can’t afford service.'” In 2016.

Michael Rivest: Thoughts on White Privilege and Colorblindness.

Why You Should Care about Felon Voting Rights.

Jeff Sharlet: Airbnb’s Paris “Open”, during the Paris attacks.

This is what happens when you bury a mass murderer in a small town.

John Oliver: Credit reports and Lead poisoning and Hollywood Whitewashing.

1939 news clipping re: Jack Benny’s “valet”, Rochester.

New York Times: How to Explain Mansplaining.

“Leftover women”, those unmarried by 25, in China.

Greg’s daughter Mia turns 13.

Dustbury: The years take their toll on a body.

Neuroscientists Can Identify You by Your ‘Brainprint’ with 100% Accuracy, and related story.

Albany, New York: Smartest place on earth? Probably.

16 Things I Would Want If I Got Dementia.

Jaquandor has been posting poetry all month, of many varieties.

How to Insult Like Shakespeare.

Now I Know: How Brazil Got to the 1932 Olympics (Mostly) and “We Won’t Give Up Until You Bleed” and A Weighty Issue (about clipboards!)

There’s a Scientific Reason Why Indian Food Is So Delicious.

Funnies

TWC Question Time #33: Part Two– Killing the King.

These Millennials!

Superman: tax evader.

NewYorker.newspaper

BBC have broadcast TWICE as many obituaries in 2016 compared to last year at this point.

The Prince section

“Am I black or white, am I straight or gay?
“Do I believe in god, do I believe in me?”
“Controversy” – Prince

A World Awash in Purple.

Arthur addresses how the Internet Age didn’t create social mourning.

Prince on Arsenio Hall’s show.

Prince & Tamar Davis(Good Morning America 2006)/a>, which I watched in real time.

Former Warner Bros. CEO Mo Ostin Recalls His Long Relationship: ‘He Was a Fearless Artist’.

Weekly Sift.

Prince refused to be a commodity and took a protective stance on music copyrights.

Paul Westerberg: ‘I Can’t Think of Anyone Better’.

Is the water warm enough? Cartoonist Hazel Newlevant discusses Wendy & Lisa’s contribution to Prince’s legacy.

Times When He Showed Us His Great Sense of Humor.

Do It All Night: The Story of Prince ‘s Dirty Mind. An in-depth look back on the 1982 album that allowed Prince to cross over as a rock’n’roll star.

From Bat Dance to his Alter Ego comic.

A guy on Facebook noted: “‪‎Prince‬ was a huge fan of Bonnie Raitt and when he covered I Can’t Make You Love Me for his Emancipation album (1996), in the liner notes, he wrote: bonnieisanamericantreasure. When Bonnie was between labels, before signing to Capitol, Prince wanted her to sign with Paisley Park. They worked together a bit to see where it would go, but then he had to go to Europe to film Under The Cherry Moon. In the meantime, the stars aligned with Bonnie, Don Was and Capitol Records. What followed was Bonnie’s breakthrough success with ‘Nick Of Time’. Whatever they did together remains in Prince’s vaults.”

More music!

Lonnie Mack, RIP.

Amy Biancolli: Music to vote by.

Coverville 1122: Cover Stories for Roy Orbison and Paul Carrack. Roy would have been 80.

Harry Hipster Gibson – Who Put The Benzedrine In Mrs. Murphy’s Ovaltine (1944).

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (1967 Broadway Soundtrack).

Lawrence Welk Meets Velvet Underground.