March rambling: as good as Jacinda Ardern

John Oliver’s Monica Lewinsky Interview Should Be Required for Internet Use. The Secret Life of Muslims: An education.

I helped convict two men of murder. I’ve regretted it ever since.

The Secret Life of Muslims: An education.

Jacinda Ardern Has Rewritten the Script for How a Nation Grieves After a Terrorist Attack and Why The World Looks To New Zealand — And Not US and NY Times Editorial Board: U.S. Deserves Leader ‘As Good As Jacinda Ardern’.

These Are the World’s Healthiest Nations. The US is #35 on the list.

Early responses to the Mueller report from Weekly Sift and AmeriNZ.

Public Shaming: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver; this Monica Lewinsky Interview Should Be Required for Internet Use.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: The Reparations Debate: Should America Compensate the Descendants of Slaves?

Why You Should Stop Saying ‘Committed Suicide’.

The Trump–Rosie Feud That Ensnared Barbara Walters and Blew Up The View.


Top 10 Most Populous City Ranking History (1950-2035).

Confronting Season-Change Denial.

Vlogbrothers: Writing and Marriage Advice from Michelle Obama and How to Get a Colonoscopy.

The ‘Men’s Liberation’ Movement Time Forgot.

The only metric of success that really matters is the one we ignore.

When Hoarding Is a Disorder.

Mispronouncing Students’ Names: A Slight That Can Cut Deep.

8-year-old homeless refugee takes chess world by storm.

The Power Of Doing Only One Thing.

Chuck Miller spoiler: My big problem with the new Shazam! movie.

Jim Carrey and Michel Gondry on Making Eternal Sunshine.

Green Book: History vs. Hollywood.

Jim Meskimen doing some impressionist “warm-up” exercises.

Happy retirement to Joe Sinnott.

Historian finds first grand slam in MLB history — in Rensselaer County, NY.

Maple Sugaring Time In The South End of Albany.

Now I Know: The Trail Ink Left Behind and How a Silly Social Media Thing Helped Break the Ice and When You’re Glad The Bank Isn’t Trustworthy.


Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind – MonaLisa Twins featuring John Sebastian.

Postmodern Jukebox: Video Killed The Radio Star in the style of Queen ft. Cunio and Pinky And The Brain Theme.

King of Anything – Sara Bareilles.

Workshop versions of songs from Hamilton.

Unforgettable Covers of Aretha Franklin songs.

The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore – Walker Brothers.

In Ireland -Sir Herbert Hamilton Harty.

The Irish Suite – Leroy Anderson.

K-Chick Radio: Harry Nilsson.

Coverville: 1256: Tributes for Keith Flint, Dick Dale and Cover Stories for Ric Ocasek and Nick Lowe.

Light Calvary overture – Franz von Suppe.

George Winston’s Linus and Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi.

Dick Dale, Surf Guitar Legend, Dead At 81.

Aubrey Logan and her band talk about her new album Where the Sunshine Is Expensive, including a couple clips of the niece/backup singer Rebecca Jade.

Areopagitica: press attacked well before Nixon

The Milton argument regarding prohibition against prior restraint is fundamental to the US Constitution.

The New York State Writers Institute, a local treasure, offered a two-day, six-panel “symposium of topics crucial to an open democratic society” called Telling the Truth in a Post-truth World. The session I attended the evening of Friday the 13th of October at Page Hall on the UAlbany Downtown Campus, was “Presidents and the Press: Trump, Nixon & More.”

This turned out to be extremely timely because the Washington Post had just published Trump’s threat to NBC’s license is the very definition of Nixonian.

The moderator of the panel was Bob Schieffer, moderator of three presidential debates and former anchor of CBS Evening News and Face the Nation
The panelists included:
*Douglas Brinkley, CNN Presidential historian and biographer of Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford
*Amy Goodman, investigative reporter, host and producer of the award-winning news program, Democracy Now! that airs on over 1,400 public television and radio stations worldwide
*Harry Rosenfeld, Times Union editor-at-large, and former Metro Editor at The Washington Post who oversaw the paper’s coverage of Watergate
*Shane Goldmacher, chief White House correspondent for POLITICO, who previously reported on the 2016 Republican presidential primary campaign

There were some interesting moments, such as when Schieffer, who I’ve watched for decades, suggested that Goodman, who had a LOT of fans in the audience, was positing her opinions as facts, citing Daniel Patrick Moynihan. However, Goodman did note that it was important that the corporate media defend itself from attack from the regime.

Americans tend to think of freedom of the press as a uniquely American ideal that has spread throughout the world. But that value was codified more than a century earlier.

From here: “In 1644 the English poet and man of letters, John Milton, published the Areopagitica as an appeal to Parliament to rescind their Licensing Order of June 16th, 1643. This order was designed to bring publishing under government control by creating a number of official censors to whom authors would submit their work for approval prior to having it published. Milton’s argument, in brief, was that precensorship of authors was little more than an excuse for state control of thought.”

Although the freedom expressed took a half century to come to pass in Great Britain, the Milton argument regarding prohibition against prior restraint, or pre-publication censorship, is fundamental to the US Constitution. Threatening censorship prior to publication, as the current regime is suggesting, would have a chilling effect on expression and speech, and would interfere with the pursuit of truth.

Norm Nissen (1958-2016)

Norm was a great hugger.

I always thought of Norman as a surprise. He was this bear of a man, who might have been a Viking warrior at a different time. He was farm-boy strong. I learned that many years ago when he accidentally put a Roger-sized hole in the baseboard of our mutual friend Bill Anderson’s apartment.

He had that young man with the gray-to-white hair as long as I’ve known him. He wore it well. I met him, as did a few of us gathered at his funeral, at FantaCo, the comic book shop shop on the first block of Central Avenue, where Broome and Bill and I all worked at some point in the 1980s or ’90s.

I specifically remember the surprise party that was thrown for Norm on his 30th birthday party. Almost all the presents had a bovine theme.

He was this farm boy with a sometimes goofy grin, who was book smart. I could always count on him to make, sometimes unsolicited, great recommendations about what to read, which is why he was so good at the Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza or its Troy location, Market Block Books, where he worked for many years.

It was difficult to try to explain Norm Nissen to other people, except to say that Norman was the GUY. He was the best man for Carol’s and my wedding in 1999. You WANTED Norm Nissen to be your best man. Not only did you KNOW he wouldn’t forget, or lose, the rings, but that he would be a steadying influence on the nervous groom.

I had a shed that needed deconstruction a couple years, and of course, he had the tools, which he brought to me. He brought this young man with him, who had a beard and a deep voice. It turned out to be his son Sam. I can’t keep track of the number of times Norm mentioned that Sam and I were roommates, when I was in the midst of a romantic breakup in 1994, and that Norm and Jay let me stay in Sam’s room for a couple of weeks.

Though I only needed the tools for less than a month, he hadn’t picked them up until nearly a year later. Norm and I sat on the front porch of my house, just talking for over an hour. He was my sounding board, as he always had been.

Norm was such a sweet guy. A couple years ago, my wife and I were talking with our friend Bonnie, who, unfortunately, died last year. She worked at the Bruegger’s Bagels in Stuyvesant Plaza, and she was going on how nice the folks from the Book House were, but ESPECIALLY this guy named Norm.

For a lot of years, we played racquetball, three, four, even five times a week, at the Albany YMCA on Washington Avenue in Albany, only a block from the comic book store. We played regularly from the late 1980s until March of 2010, when they, most unfortunately, closed the place. We played sporadically at Siena after that, but it wasn’t the same.

You get a sense of a person when you play racquetball with someone regularly. A friend of Norm’s, who I know as well, wrote on Facebook that he was going to miss the big galoot, and I appreciated the sentiment. Still, I looked up the standard definition of galoot, and it is “a clumsy or oafish person”. The example: “I was expecting the big galoot to trip over his own feet.” Yet, in his racquetball prime, he was surprisingly quick and agile, and smart.

We used to play this guy who made questionable calls in his own favor, a minister, as it turns out. This used to irritate ME. But instead of getting upset with him, Norm would redouble his effort to whup him on the court.

For a number of years, there was a coterie of us who’d show up at the Y, Danny, Charlie, Mike, Alan, Tyrone. Depending on numbers and arrival times, we would play one-on-one, or three of us in a game of cutthroat, or four of us playing partners. Norm was facile no matter what the game. I loved as a partner, because we developed an often unspoken strategy of how best to cover the court.

Norman was funny. He laughed easily. His humor tended to be self-deprecating, and it was almost never mean. Recently, he was talking with my wife. He had indicated that his daughter Abby was going to go to Europe with a friend, but the friend got sick, so now Abby’s going with her mother. Somehow my wife thought she meant going with the FRIEND’S mother, rather than Abby’s mother, Jay. They both laughed for five minutes.

You know how you say you’re going to get together, but you never do? Well, my wife arranged so that Norm and Jay, and my family got to finally go out to eat this past March at the Old Daley Inn. We had a marvelous time. I paid, only because I had a vague recollection that I probably owed him dinner from some racquetball bet. We played pretty evenly most of the time, but when wagers were made, he was almost always victorious. We agreed that, once he had knee surgery, we could get back to playing again; alas, it was not to be.

Norm was this sweetheart of a guy. The only time I could predictably get under his skin was to start singing the song Norman by Sue Thompson – peak Billboard position # 3 in early 1962. It went “Norman , ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh. Norman, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm.” He HATED that song; his aunt told me she used to sing it to him when he was young, and he hated it even then. Listen to the song Norman HERE or HERE.

Finally, Norm was a great hugger. The problem now is that I could really use one of his bear hugs right about now.

Norm Nissen died last week in his sleep at the age of 57. Here’s a lovely article in the Times Union, written by Paul Grondahl.

Invocation of Peace by Fiona Macleod, read at Norm’s funeral.


Pictures from May 15, 1999 – TOP: Norm giving the toast; BOTTOM: my brother-in-law John Powell (d. 12 Feb 2002), my college friend Mark, me, and Norm.

The Library Gala

This picture of me with Scott Jarzombek is NOT indicative of my mood that night.

Roger.ScottI went to this Literary Legends event Saturday night, sponsored by The Albany Public Library Foundation, organized by former APL board member, and current Foundation head, Holly McKenna.

I had met the three honorees before. Interestingly, two of them work for the local newspaper, the Times Union, and one did for about a decade.

William Kennedy has written eight books of fiction, based on the colorful real characters in Albany’s past. He also wrote a non-fiction book, O Albany! which might be another starting point for the history of the city.

The last time I met Bill Kennedy, he had arranged for Douglas Blackmon to speak at a Friends of the APL event. Blackmon wrote the book Slavery by Another Name. There was a luncheon before that, and I got to sit next to Blackmon, a Wall Street Journal writer. Finally, at some point, he asked to switch with me so that he could talk to Blackmon. I got to sit with Bill’s charming wife, Dana.

Dana, BTW, was outbidding me for several items at the silent auction at the gala. I got to meet two of their children.

Paul Grondahl, who is the best pure writer on the TU staff, I saw read from his book on the long-time mayor of Albany, Erastus Corning a few years ago, and run into him periodically. I’m pretty sure I was the first person to tell him of the death of his buddy Donna George, a year or two after the fact.

When Amy Biancolli was a movie critic, I used to comment regularly. The first time I ever met her in person was at my church when her late husband Chris Ringwald was talking about his book A Day Apart, about the importance of the Sabbath in different religious traditions. Her current book, Figuring Sh*t Out, is about dealing with life after her husband’s very public suicide. I see her at concerts and plays occasionally. I talked with two of her children at the end of the evening.

Anyway, I had a really good time, talking with Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Theresa and John Portelli (I went to college at New Paltz with John), lots of the library staff, and several others. So this picture of me with Scott Jarzombek, the relatively new Executive Director of the Albany Public Library, is NOT indicative of my mood that night. For one thing, even though I was wearing a suit and dreaded tie, I was also wearing my new blue Chuck Taylor sneakers.
The obituary for Lenny Tucker, who was, among many other things, the long-time president of the Friends of the Albany Public Library, a title I now hold.

May Rambling #2: New Zealand music

I rant about the JEOPARDY! Million-Dollar Tournament.
Descendants of Solomon Northup, who recounted his story in a memoir, 12 Years A Slave.

The Real Origins of the Religious Right. “They’ll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record’s clear: It was segregation.”

Dustbury points to an article about how the ineptitude of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and its predecessors, go back nearly a century.

The Worst Argument Ever Made Against Gay Marriage.

Amy Biancolli’s book: To plunge is to live. Also, her parents in love.

Judy Sanders, a former local news reporter and photographer, is dying of ovarian cancer. Confronting the long goodbye from Paul Grondahl, and a piece by her former colleague, Ken Screven.

Diane Cameron’s blog Love in the Time of Cancer has been going on since 2008, but I just discovered it.

Getting kicked out of the prom.

New York Erratic asked: “Have you ever dated anyone who turned out to be gay?” I had a serious relationship with a woman who left me for another woman, with whom she stayed for some time. About 20 years later, she married a man, an old friend of hers.

Dan writes about The Casino And All The Promises, which is both a local issue and a cautionary narrative if casinos are offered to your town.

Lisa has been having the same blog problems I have

Mr. Frog on meeting celebrities

The Good Wife is my favorite TV show. Here’s why I love it, and why I have a difficult time explaining it to others.

Dustbury reminds me why I love word processing, and wish I had a goat.

A great interview with Mel Brooks, who’s promoting the rerelease of Blazing Saddles.

Dead Man Walking, and Burying the Bentley.

Mark Evanier’s childhood, and the color orange. Sweet story of coincidence.

New Paltz Students Find $40K in a Couch; NP is my alma mater, BTW.

Luckiest Unlucky Man or Unluckiest Lucky Man?

You’re Not Here. Abbott and Costello with the famed movie tough guy, Mike Mazurki.

How did Fred Astaire literally dance on the ceiling in the movie Royal Wedding?
The Oatmeal cartoon about irony. Is it ironic that the song Ironic is not about being ironic?

LYNDA BARRY SELLS OUT. I love her work.

Irene Vartanoff writes about Marvel Comics’ original artwork in the 1960s. And she would know.

Drawn Out: The 50 Best Non-Superhero Graphic Novels.

The Documentary “Stripped” shows the past and future of comic strips. I supported Kickstarter for this.

Arthur celebrates NZMM: New Zealand Music Month. Lots of good stuff, but I must note #14, “New Zealand’s First Record.”

Tosy: U2 – Ranked 80-71 and 70-61.

Another great review of the niece’s album: Rebecca Jade & the Cold Fact. (Hey, it’s good!)

Pantheon Songs remembers Marvin Gaye.

Muppet section: Joe Raposo and Roosevelt Franklin and Time In A Bottle. “Today me will live in the moment unless it’s unpleasant, in which case me will eat a cookie.” – Cookie Monster.

What IS a photocopier?

How do you spell the color: grey or gray?
The local Jewish Community Center had an ad campaign many found offensive. Several others thought it was poor because they couldn’t even read what it said. In any case, the ad is gone, and a couple of people suggested my blog post on the topic may have helped.

SamuraiFrog said ‘Why Not Ask Me Anything?’ and blamescredits me for him doing so. He answers my questions about music, and specifically about Billy Joel.

Likewise, Arthur’s Internet wading was my fault, or suggestion.

I rant about the JEOPARDY! Million-Dollar Tournament.

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