March rambling: Odyssey of the Mind

Vote for Rebecca Jade!

The team from Wizard’s Wardrobe, the one-to-one literacy program in Albany’s South End,  won an Odyssey of the Mind program’s regional competition. And they’ll travel to Syracuse next month to compete on the state level!

If you would like to donate to Wizard’s Wardrobe to defray the additional expenses of travel, please go to the Wizard’s Wardrobe website or send a check to Wizard’s Wardrobe, PO Box 61, Albany, NY 12201. I should note that my wife is the Program Director of Wizard’s Wardrobe.

News and features

‘Cowardly’: NY Times Pummeled for Ignoring NC GOP Nominee’s Hitler and Holocaust Remarks

SCOTUS failing

Incomplete vs. overshoot
Biden Met the Challenge (SotU) 

Boeing: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

The real problem with anonymity

The Death of Peak TV

Grandparents and Their Coresident Grandchildren: 2021

The Advventures of Prisma and Hydrofera Blue

THE ART AND HISTORY OF LETTERING COMICS by Todd Klein, a free online book by Todd Klein and why you might want to check it out 

From eerily prescient to wildly incorrect, 100-year-old predictions about 2024

Iris Aptel. renowned New York designer and style icon dies aged 102

How to Move a 1,000-Pound Rescued Manatee (Swimming Isn’t an Option)

Why Peter Pan Needed a Dusting and The Guy Who Flew to School and The Philadelphia Poison Plot and Can Killing Vampires Cure Tuberculosis?

Wikipedia is home to a list of lists of lists.

SMH: Catskill High School

Catskill, NY, is about three-quarters of an hour south of Albany. The basic facts are not in dispute. Choral director Michelle Storrs-Ryan was conducting a rehearsal for the upcoming high school production of Cinderella. Storrs-Ryan said facetiously to the young performers, “Be quiet, I’m going to get the tape!” according to a student named Madison, who said she volunteered. Madison took the piece of tape, put it on her mouth for about 30 seconds, removed it, and everyone laughed.

Well, almost everyone. Someone reported the occurrence, and the district superintendent, Dan Wilson, suspended Storrs-Ryan and school Principal Junait Shah.  Several protests and walkouts involving students and parents have occurred over the suspensions. Many want the superintendent to be removed over what most considered a “non-incident.”

Meanwhile, Cinderella is scheduled to premiere on March 15. The show’s choreographer, Marcus McGregor, is trying to hold things together. But would the student actors want to continue without their beloved director? McGregor was quoted in the March 12 Times Union that the show  wouldn’t be ready by then, with a dress rehearsal over the past weekend canceled.

Having seen several productions at Catskill High School – my niece Alexa was in them – I can attest that the shows were quite good to excellent and that her students adore her. Unsurprisingly, I have seen universal anger on the Catskill Community Board page on Facebook regarding the treatment of the teacher and principal.

The Board of Education released a statement noting its regularly scheduled board meeting would be March 13. As Frank S. Robinson pointed out, this is an insanity machine

Albany Public Library trustees

Albany people: Want to be a library advocate for the community? Consider becoming a library trustee!

The APL is looking for three new library trustees this spring. Two seats carry full five-year terms, while one seat carries a partial term of one year.

Albany residents interested in running for a seat on the board need to complete and submit nominating petitions by May 1. Please visit the website for full details and to download a nominating petition

There will be two information sessions for people interested in running:

You’ll learn more about the nomination and election process, and what it’s like to serve on the APL board. Several current trustees will discuss their experiences. The trustee election is set for May 21.


The San Diego Music Awards voting is open until March 27th at 5pm. I’m voting for #21 Best Video: My Reason by Rebecca Jade and #3 Best Jazz Album: Side Streets- Peter Sprague.

The Jade Element – Move On: Live from Higher Ground Music & Media

Peter Sprague Plays Have You Heard featuring Leonard Patton

Eric Carmen of the Raspberries and a solo career, died at 74. Here are some K-Chuck Radio songs

American Festival Overture by William Schuman, with Leonard Bernstein conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

J. Eric Smith’s favorites: NoMeansNo and The Damned and CAN

Coverville 1478: Cover Stories for Manic Street Preachers, Corinne Bailey Rae and The Alarm and 1479: Cover Stories for The Who and Justin Bieber

The Sirens by Reinhold Gliere

Bob Dylan – Things Have Changed

Scandal in Oz: Was “Over the Rainbow” Plagiarized? Concert Étude, Op. 38 by Signe Lund, played by Rune Alver; Over The Rainbow – Judy Garland

With A Little Help From My Friends – Joe Cocker; I am namechecked!

Steve Lawrence, the Grammy and Emmy winner who made up pop music duo Steve & Eydie with wife Eydie Gormé, has died. He was 88.

Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm is coming to the Portland (ME) Art Museum Opening September 14th, 2024 until January 19th, 2025

December rambling: who isn’t running

“Girls were girls, and men were men”

Who isn’t running for re-election in the House and Senate in 2024

A deluge of violent messages: How a surge in threats to public officials could disrupt American democracy

What Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court, could teach today’s SCOTUS:  Her embrace of the rule of law and empathetic jurisprudence are sorely missed.

Will Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State under Nixon and Ford, actually RIP?

Jewish American Families Confront a Generational Divide Over Israel 

Comics For Ukraine, the benefit hardcover comic anthology to benefit folks in Ukraine, which I got in its original crowdfunding push – it’s very good – is still available for purchase 

How Much Pain Is ‘Enough‘ to Prescribe Opioids?

Massive Tuberculosis News

Don’t Neglect Tobacco Use in People Experiencing Homelessness — Cessation programs can save lives and improve financial stability.

Organ & Body Donations: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver 

Why Do You Get to Do That? A few words on your “rights”


Watch videos from the November 17, 2023 Telling the Truth conversations by the NYS Writer’s Institute. The fifth Telling the Truth event, this 2023 edition featured two panels.

The American Presidency: A conversation about the Biden administration and the prospect of a second Trump administration with  Miles Taylor, former Trump Administration staffer and author of Blowback: A Warning to Save Democracy from the Next Trump and Franklin Foer, author of The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden’s White House and the Struggle for America’s Future.

Also, The American Backlash: A conversation about the politics of revenge, and the impulse to punish ‘out groups’ who have made political gains — particularly racial, sexual, and cultural minorities, and women with Jeff Sharlet, author of The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War and Juliet Hooker, author of Black Grief/White Grievance: The Politics of Loss.

I attended these seasons in person. 

That’s Entertainment

I was on a team for Any Questions Live! WAMC‘s Inaugural Trivia Challenge on December 7. The final question was that five of the 15 largest cities in the United States are in one state. Of THOSE five cities, which one is the smallest in population? Answer below. 

2023’s TIME Person of the Year. I was totally off; I thought it’d be Bibi.

The 100 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment of 2023

Everybody knows Flo from Progressive. Who is Stephanie Courtney?

Actor Andre Braugher Dies at 61. I was a massive fan of the NBC series Homicide: Life on the Street; the episode for which he won an Emmy was gutwrenching. He appeared in six episodes of Law and Order: SVU, including this one featuring Mike Tyson. He appeared in the movies Glory,  Salt, and She Said, all of which I saw. I occasionally watched him on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and some Kojak TV movies.

Marty Krofft, the Brains Behind a Kids TV Empire, Dies at 86

Ryan O’Neal, Star of ‘Love Story,’ ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ and ‘Paper Moon,’ Dies at 82. I never saw Love Story, but I saw the others and the evening soap opera Peyton Place.

The Ritz Brothers, comedy pioneers: A Retrospective. 

‘Doctor Who’ Doctors: Every Actor Who Has Played the Part

‘Home Alone,’ ‘Terminator 2,’ ‘Love and Basketball,’ ‘Desperately Seeking Susan,’ ‘Fame,’ ‘Apollo 13’ Enter National Film Registry. Of these, I specifically recommend 20 Feet from Stardom

The murky math of the New York Times bestsellers list

Why Do Airplanes Dim the Cabin Lights During Takeoff and Landing?

Hinsdale, NH, man had no car and no furniture but died, leaving his town millions.

Now I Know: A Creative Way to Stop a Celebrity Stalker and The Great Puffin Toss and You Is Now Welcome in Sweden and Pokémon Go to Jail and The Politician Who (Technically) Kept His Pledge and The American Enclave That Pretended to Want to Join Canada

To a deluxe apartment in the sky

Norman Lear, the legendary television producer and inclusive storyteller, died at 101. Here’s the family tree for All in the Family and its spinoffs, all of which I watched, at least for a time, as well as Sanford and Son; One Day at a Time, both iterations;  Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and ITS spinoffs, and others. Heck, I even saw his less successful ventures, such as a.k.a. Pablo, Hot L Baltimore, the underestimated The Powers That Be, and the movie The Night They Raided Minsky’s

Performers and critics lauded him not just for his contributions to entertainment but also for his activism with People for the American Way and other avenues. 

 His son-in-law, Dr. Jon LaPook, gave some personal insights. I recommend you check out If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast, the late Carl Reiner’s 2017  documentary where he “tracks down several nonagenarians” – including his friend Lear – “to show how the twilight years can be rewarding.”

This is what I wrote way back when Norman Lear turned 100.


John Williams’s score to Nixon: “The 1960s: The Turbulent Years

Coverville 1467: The Damien Rice Cover Story and 1468: The Shane MacGowan Tribute

Save Me – Jelly Roll

Rossini: La Cenerentola – Overture

The ten most overplayed piano pieces

Everybody’s Talkin’ – the MonaLisa Twins

Six13 – A Hamilton Chanukah

Arthur describes all of the #1 songs from 1983 and a few more

Paul McCartney Photographs 1963–64: Eyes of the Storm is now open at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, through April 7, 2024

Denny Laine (1944-2023): a remembrance

The answer to the question above is #15 here. (We got the correct state but the wrong city.)

Electric Light Orchestra and the Beatles

a reasonable choice

Electric Light OrchestraFor my next answer to Ask Roger Anything, our contestant once again is Kelly Sedinger, the fine Buffalo-area blogger at

I read somewhere that ELO did the kind of music that The Beatles WOULD have done had they remained together into the 70s. Agree? Disagree? (I’m not really equipped to assess the claim, but it kind of feels right to me, at least in part.)

First, I have to note that you wouldn’t have gotten this question from Kelly two decades ago because he wasn’t a fan of the Beatles at all and likely was unfamiliar with the Electric Light Orchestra. For some reason, I remember what I believe was his first Beatles song of the week, Don’t Let Me Down, a B-side.

In  2010, I asked him: “OK. How the heck could you dislike the entire oeuvre of The Beatles for so long? I can see if one doesn’t like the more avant-garde stuff or thought the early material wasn’t as good as the later tunes. But to reject the whole eclectic eight years? And how did you finally become enlightened?”

His reply: “The flip answer is, ‘Tastes change.’ The more serious answer is… ‘Tastes change.'”

Me? Obsessing?

Anyway, I started obsessing with this. I found a list of bands with three or more songwriters. Eh. The Band, the Eagles. Nah, not the right vibe.

Reddit has a list of Beatlesque bands, but of a later period. The only one I even considered was the Christine McVie/Buckingham/Nicks version of Fleetwood Mac, which is unrecognizable from the Peter Green Days. Heck, they even have their own white album, Tusk.

I thought the snake-bitten band Badfinger could have been it. The group was on Apple Records; their first hit, Come and Get It, was written by Paul McCartney. Day After Day has a lovely guitar line by George Harrison. And No Matter What is definitely of the Beatles genre.

I began fixating on When The Beatles Hit America by John Wesley Harding, the very strange song in which “John, Paul, George and Ringo are going to be reforming as The Beatles in 1993.” Which was, of course, impossible.

But it has this section, “And for anyone who didn’t realize or know, it sounded a lot like ELO, or ELP, or XTC, ABC, YMO, BTO. But it didn’t sound much like P.S., I Love You.”

The candidates

Well, not much like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, though the Billy Preston organ, especially on I Want You (She’s So Heavy), is very nice. Bachman- Turner Overdrive? Not really.

ABC is an interesting consideration. Wikipedia notes, “Their early-1980s success in the US saw them associated with the Second British Invasion.”

Yellow Magic Orchestra, I’ll admit I don’t know musically. It’s a “Japanese electronic music band formed in Tokyo in 1978… The group is considered influential and innovative in the field of popular electronic music… and effectively anticipated the “electropop boom” of the 1980s. They are credited with playing a key role in the development of several electronic genres, including synthpop, J-pop, electro, and techno while exploring subversive sociopolitical themes throughout their career.”

XTC was actually the band I first considered. “The band gained popularity during the rise of punk and new wave in the 1970s, later playing in a variety of styles that ranged from angular guitar riffs to elaborately arranged pop.” Eclectic, like the Beatles.

And, in the end

But Electric Light Orchestra is a reasonable choice. The group formed in 1970, the year the Beatles officially broke up. They were more commercially successful than many of the other candidates, selling “over 50 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling music groups of all time.” They made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

John Lennon remarked that ELO were the “Sons of the Beatles.” George and Ringo played with ELO. Jeff Lynne played with Paul McCartney. And of course, Jeff shows up in the Traveling Wilburys with George and produced an album of his and the 1995 Beatles songs. This is a bit ironic because “In an article from the 1970s, when the writer described an ELO song coming on the radio, [George] said, almost dismissively, ‘Sounds like the Beatles.'”

Check out the 2008 article in The Guardian. ELO: The band the Beatles could have been. “Critics called them ‘dull’ and laughed at the spaceships. Did they not realise Jeff Lynne was a songwriter to rival Lennon and McCartney?” And Lynne visited the Abbey Road studios while the Beatles worked on the white album.

So, sure, ELO can claim the title. How are Jeff Lynne, ELO, and The Beatles connected?

Moody Blues, Dylan, the Boss, solo Fab

Smile Away

Bob_Dylan_-_Love_and_TheftIn response to my most recent Ask Roger Anything request – you can STILL ask! – TWO music questions.

My old buddy Kevin, who grew up in my area, but who I didn’t know until college, asked:
What are your favorite albums by 1) the Moody Blues, 2) Bob Dylan and 3) Bruce Springsteen?

The Moody Blues is easy. While I have a few albums on vinyl that I haven’t listened to in forever, I never got any on CD or as downloads, except for a greatest hits CD. So the only album I can remember without looking it up is Days Of Future Passed. And I liked it not just based on its themes of dayparts, but the fact that a 1967 album could generate a hit half a decade later. Nights In White Satin went to #103 pop in 1968, but to #2 pop for two weeks in 1972.

My first favorite Springsteen album was Born To Run, the album that got him on the cover of Time and Newsweek simultaneously. And Darkness On The Edge Of Town was a very strong follow-up. Born In The USA is, naturally a great album, but I heard it a bit too often in the 1980s.

I should note that c. 2000, my late brother-in-law John asked me what I wanted for Christmas or my birthday. I said any Springsteen CD prior to 1992, most of which I had on vinyl. He bought me Asbury Park, both Born albums, Darkness, and The River, the two-record set which I had never owned.

Around 2006, my sister Leslie bought me We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. Some great songs, done well. But many of them appear in the two-CD Live in Dublin that came out in 2007, and they’re even better.


Considering the vast number of Dylan CDs I now own, it’s peculiar that I never bought a Bob album in the 1960s. It’s due in part to the fact that I had belonged to the Capitol Record Club in 1966/67, where I got the bulk of my Beatles LPs, not to mention albums by the Beach Boys, Lovin’ Spoonful, and others. Bob was on Columbia. The ONLY Dylan song I owned was from a cheap compilation album, The Best of ’66, which had I Want You.

In fact, the first Dylan album I purchased was for my high school girlfriend, the double album Self-Portrait, which came out in 1970. I wasn’t impressed, and I’m not even sure whether SHE liked it.

Eventually, I bought a few LPs – John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline. But it wasn’t until CDs came out that I started to backfill my Dylan collection: Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde On Blonde, and my favorite, Blood on the Tracks.

I had pre-ordered Love and Theft, which was to be released on September 11, 2001. After I left work early that day – we all did – I was riding my bike home and I went past the record store. I stopped, got the album, and stood around the store awhile as the television was recapitulating the awful news of the day.

I didn’t listen to the album for well over a week. But when I did, I LOVED it, especially the run that began with the third track, Summer Days. I played this album a lot, and it made me happy in a very sad time.

Solo Fabs

Julie, who I’ve known for a few years – I have a pic of her holding my daughter when L was a baby – wants to know:
 What is the best solo Beatles album?

Oh, my, I have been musing on this forever. Conventional Wisdom would put All Things Must Pass by George and Plastic Ono Band by John at the top of the list. These would be totally legitimate choices, especially ATMP, which proved that John and Paul underestimated their younger bandmate. I just watched Concert For George from 2002, and it reminded me just how much I loved Wah Wah.

Yet, and maybe it’s because I’ve listened to it recently, that I’m picking Paul’s (and Linda’s) Ram. Your folks would know that when it came out in 1971, it was savaged by much of the music press. Part of this was a function of the less-than-kind things John said about the album.

Really? Yes

As this 2021 review noted, “The record… saw the singer lay down a blueprint that would eventually help build some of the most notable genres around. You can trace everything from Britpop to pure jangle indie back to this record.” Too Many People, for instance, was a jab at John, much more subtle than John’s How Do You Sleep on his Imagine album.

From All Music: “In retrospect, it looks like nothing so much as the first indie-pop album, a record that celebrates small pleasures with big melodies, a record that’s guileless and unembarrassed to be cutesy. But McCartney never was quite the sap of his reputation… There’s some ripping rock and roll in the mock-apocalyptic goof Monkberry Moon Delight, the joyfully noisy Smile Away, where his feet can be smelled a mile away, and  Eat At Home, a rollicking, winking sex song.”

When I played it recently for the first time this century, I said, pretty much to myself, “Damn, I really LIKE this album!” And I remembered it amazingly well.

Oh, and I have a great affection for the Ringo album, which featured all four of them, not all at the same time. Do the Travelling Wilburys count as “solo”? Because I’d stick that first album in the mix.

My favorite Beatles McCartney songs

“I didn’t know what I would find there”

Paul McCartney.May27Dublin0031

I linked to my favorite post-Beatles Paul McCartney songs on his 70th birthday. So I reckon I ought to post my favorite Beatles McCartney songs on his 80th birthday. When he hits 90, I don’t know WHAT I’ll do.

The list is roughly #11 to #1. Well, except for one thing. Also, comments are based on recollection because that’s what Beatles music is for me.

Helter Skelter – white album. The Who and other bands were considered loud, and this was a response. Paul usually plays this on tour in the latter third of his shows.

Get Back– A-side of a single; Hey Jude(album (US). A joyous song, whichever rendition.

I’m Down – B-side of Help! single, which only made it to #101 on the US pop charts. Yes, it’s surely McCartney’s remake of Long Tall Sally. The ABC-TV broadcast of the live performance at Shea Stadium in 1965 hooked me.

Getting Better – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I am fascinated by the STRUCTURE of this song. It’s verse and chorus, but the chorus gets increasingly longer each time out. I thought it was incredibly clever writing.

Back in the USSR – white album. The first song on the album with fun lyrics and Beach Boys harmonies

Lady Madonna – A-side of a single; Hey Jude album (US). Initially, I wasn’t positive this last Capitol single even was the Beatles.

Revolver and Rubber Soul rule

Eleanor Rigby – Revolver. A moving McCartney story song. But even without the lyrics, it’s a beautiful song, as the Anthology version shows.

For No One – Revolver. Simple yet devastating. Vocal, then horn solo, then vocal and horn. Stunningly effective.

You Won’t See Me – Rubber Soul. It is the Mal Evans sustained chord on the Hammond organ throughout the last verse, last chorus, and outro that gives this song a special buzz. At the same time, I have related to the notion of feeling invisible. On the US version of the album, this is followed by Think for Yourself (Harrison) and The Word (Lennon), and they go well together.

Drive My Car – Rubber Soul (UK), Yesterday and Today (US). Extraordinary chord structure. I’ve noted before that it was John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful, saying in a magazine that this was on Rubber Soul, which eventually led me to realize that the UK and US albums were not alike, even when they had the same name.

Got To Get You Into My Life – Revolver. When I was home alone, as the song got to the final chorus, I started slowly increasing the volume. The horns were so resplendent to my ears and down my spinal column that Ie practically wept for joy. Then it led into Tomorrow Never Knows, possibly my favorite pairing on any album.

One more thing, though. There are some great songs in the medley on Abbey Road. I’m particularly fond of Golden Slumbers. Happy 80th, Macca.

Coverville 1404: Paul McCartney Cover Story IV

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial