Thursday, December 31, 2009

The view on the last morning of 2009.

Here's the view from my window this morning, looking across Pierrepont Place toward Pierrepont Playground and Columbia Heights beyond.

The playground occupies the site on which formerly stood the Henry Pierrepont mansion, the rear of which is seen in the center of the turn-of-the 19th to 20th century photo at left. (The photo comes from this Brooklyn Heights Blog post.) The Pierrepont mansion was designed by Frederick A. Peterson, a German-born architect perhaps best known for the Cooper Union building in Manhattan. The mansion was demolished in 1946.

The building the edge of which is seen at the left of my photo at top, the rear of which can be seen toward the right in the old photo, is the Abiel Abbott Low mansion, designed by Richard Upjohn and completed in 1857. To its south (part of the rear visible at the right of the old photo) is its near mirror-image twin, also by Upjohn, the Alexander M. White mansion. Low and White were prominent merchants, Low in the China trade and White in furs. Low was the father of Seth Low who, at various times, served as Mayor of the City of Brooklyn, President of Columbia University, and Mayor of New York City.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Once in Royal David's City"

My favorite carol, performed by the choir of King's College, Cambridge, as shown on the BBC "Carols from King's" series. Thanks to edders05 for the clip.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Your correspondent rides the Adirondack with Beckey Bright of the Wall Street Journal.

About six weeks ago I received a call from Daniel Machalaba, a freelance writer who sometimes writes on railway related topics. Dan said he was working on an article for the Wall Street Journal about retired baby boomers discovering or re-discovering rail travel. He had read my blog post about riding the Adirondack, which, he said, might be an ideal "starter train" for someone wanting to sample rail travel because its route is very scenic but also short compared to Amtrak's or VIA Canada's transcontinental routes. We talked for a while about my history as a railfan, having spent time in my childhood watching action on the four-track main of the Pennsylvania Railroad at my mother's hometown, Tyrone, Pennsylvania, and about my experiences riding the Adirondack from Penn Station up to Plattsburgh, New York and back on trips to visit my in-laws in Massena. He asked me about things that could be seen from the train, the quality of the service, and timeliness. Finally, he said he had what he thought was some good material for his article.

I heard from Dan again a couple of weeks ago. He said his article would be in the December 19 issue of the Journal, then, to my delight, added that his editor thought it would be good to have me interviewed while riding the Adirondack as far as Poughkeepsie, and to have the interview as a video to accompany Dan's article. So it was that, last Tuesday, I stood under the arrivals/departures board at Penn Station and was greeted there by Beckey Bright, who proved, in appearance and personality, perfectly to embody her name. Beckey did a superb job of editing the ensuing rambling discourse to include only those parts in which I managed to sound the least foolish. I have two regrets: first, that the views of the scenery are less than inspiring because of the weather, and second, that my voice couldn't be edited so as to make me sound a little less like Ben Stein.

You can read Dan's article here.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Liam Clancy, last of the Clancy Brothers.

Though we were both Lion's Head denizens, I never met Liam Clancy. I did meet his brother Paddy, who died eleven years ago, at the Head's bar one afternoon in the 1980s, and even harmonized on a couple of songs with him. Tom, the oldest of the singing Clancys (there were nine siblings), died in 1990, and their singing partner Tommy Makem in 2007. Liam was the last remanant of a group I came to love in 1965, when I got a copy of their record album Recorded Live in Ireland. As announced on his website, Liam died in his native Ireland on Friday.

12/7 update: Liam was buried today. There was a rainbow. Photos and text are here.

Friday, December 04, 2009

New York Senator Diane Savino on marriage equality.

New York state Senator Diane Savino represents parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island. Her measured, well reasoned yet impassioned plea to her colleagues to approve marriage equality for same sex couples, in what I was dismayed to learn was a losing cause, has been well distributed on the web, but I'm compelled, on behalf of my many friends in committed same sex relationships and out of my sense of justice, to add it to my blog. To anyone who might accuse Senator Savino of playing to a gay vote in her district, I can vouch that it is an area that is largely middle class, Roman Catholic or Jewish, and "traditional" in values. Her speech, I believe, is an appeal to the better angels of her constituents' being.

Thanks to Brooklyn Heights Blog reader "Lifer" for giving me the link to Sen. Savino's speech. By following the link to BHB, you may also see the speech by Sen. Daniel Squadron, who represents my district, in favor of the marriage equality bill.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Grace Slick at seventy.

Someone once wrote that Jefferson Starship's Red Octopus was "proof positive that rockers can age gracefully." This photo (thanks again to Michael Simmons) of Grace Slick at seventy bears out that statement. Below is a YouTube clip of Starship doing "Fast Buck Freddie", the opening cut on Octopus, accompanied by a slideshow of photos of a younger, but not necessarily prettier, Grace (thanks to liquidgee13 for the clip):

Monday, November 30, 2009

Blue trees.

According to a sign at the far end of this row of trees, this art project at the World Financial Center is sponsored by Korean Air Lines. The artist isn't identified.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Paulina Sinaga: a Polish siren in Ontario.

Ontario, California, that is. Back in 1983, low-budget movie genius Mark Pirro gave us A Polish Vampire in Burbank, which included, among its highlights, this delightful Sonny and Cher cover by brother-sister duo Steve and Bobbi Dorsch:

Today, in Ontario, not too far from Burbank, there lives a Polish singer and ukulele strummer par excellence named Paulina Sinaga, who my friend Michael Simmons has dubbed "The First Great Star of the 21st Century." Here she is doing her cover of Weezer's "Island in the Sun", accompanying herself on both uke and kazoo, with supporting action by her cat, Pom Pom:

You can read about, and see and hear more of, the lovely Paulina on her MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube pages.

Harvard vs. Yale--The Game I never watch.

Maybe I should, though. When I was in my first year of law school, I went to a couple of Harvard football games. South Florida, my undergraduate alma mater didn't have football back then, so it was a new experience for me to be able to take a Saturday afternoon off, walk a short distance, and catch some gridiron action. I cheered for the Crimson, to no avail on either occasion, as I saw them defeated, first by Dartmouth, who edged them 23-21 for their first loss of the season after four wins, then by a Princeton team that demolished them 45-6 using the single wing offense, which was considered archaic even in 1967. Later, I read a piece in the law school newspaper that instructed 1Ls like me about a point of etiquette: it is uncool, as a law student, to root for Harvard athletic teams unless you are a graduate of that college located a block down Mass Ave. There was no exculpatory provision for having gone to a college that allowed only "participant oriented sports".

So, I went back to following the fortunes of Florida and Florida State, though news of either was hard to get in the Boston area. I remember being surprised by a late night jock on one of the local radio stations saying, "Well, I've got to hand it to my old Florida State team. They beat Florida today." I did get caught up in the celebration of Harvard's 1968 "victory" (actually a 29-29 tie--this was before overtime was introduced to college football) over a Yale team that had Brian Dowling, model for Doonesbury's "BD", at quarterback and Calvin Hill, later a running back for the Dallas Cowboys, and which, going into The Game, was ranked tenth in the nation in the AP poll. After leaving Cambridge, though, I scarcely gave Harvard football a thought.

That is, until I read this account of this year's Harvard-Yale game. It made me wish I could have been in the Yale Bowl for this nail-biter with a finish in doubt until the end, unlike today's Alabama-Auburn game, which was closer than anyone (except Auburn's coach, players and fans) expected, and featured some razzle-dazzle by Auburn early on, but in which I knew that other Crimson (the Tide) would prevail. (Update: See Pete Thamel's analysis in today's New York Times.)

Scanning the comments on the Harvard Magazine article, I found this by my friend and neighbor Bronson Binger:
My first cousin once removed, who graduated from Harvard around 1918, used to say that the Harvard-Yale game was called “The Game” because it was held to decide the amateur championship of the US.
I think that may be more true now than it was in 1918, because much of college football has become distinctly non-amateur. The BCS teams are, in effect, a minor league for the NFL, from which the most promising players are often taken before their college careers are done. Coaches, too, often rise from the BCS schools to the pros (though, unlike players, they may go in the opposite direction as well). I've never been a great fan of the concept of amateurism in athletics, which has historically been used to keep poor people from competing. Still, it's refreshing to see a college game in which the players can all be called "student athletes" without a knowing smirk, and where, perhaps, the game is played with a bit more brio because it's regarded as a game, not a career move.

Update: On big-time college athletics generally, see Gilbert Gaul's op-ed piece in today's Times.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"We Gather Together"

The North Guilford Congregational Church Bell Choir plays the Dutch folk melody that has become perhaps the most popular (Hey! I almost wrote "iconic", but I caught myself) Thanksgiving hymn.

A joyous Thanksgiving to all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Message to Jude Law.

New York City is a densely populated place. If you're going to live here, and have a balcony on your apartment, and your apartment is visible from other nearby buildings, and you're a celebrity (or an attractive person given to sunbathing on your balcony), people are going to watch you. Deal with it; preferably without throwing fruit.

Thanks to New York Blips for the link.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Zelda, the Battery Park turkey, says, "Thanksgiving, Shmanksgiving!"

Here she is, bold as brass, a little over a week before the holiday on which millions of her co-speciesists will be roasted or, for the brave, deep-fried, calmly resting on a well-traveled footpath in a busy park in downtown Manhattan. I first spotted her (at the time, I was unaware of her name, and insufficiently steeped in turkey lore to perceive her gender) shortly before Thanksgiving three years ago. I saw her again in March of 2007. In a comment on that post, ChickenUnderwear pointed me to a New York Times City Room blog post post in which Sarah Grimké Aucoin, director of the New York City Urban Park Rangers, gives her history and name, including its provenance (Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott, who wandered Battery Park in her episodes of mental distress). I don't know the average, non-Thanksgiving threatened, turkey life span, but I wish Zelda many more years of wandering the park.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Someone in Myanmar visited my blog.

I'm delighted, of course. Could it be an indication that President Obama's visit to Asia is bearing fruit? Perhaps. I'm curious to know, though, how my reader in Rangoon got to S-A B by way of Amazon's Christmas page?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The house that Jeter is building, and the aftermath of a victory parade.

The old Yankee Stadium was called "The House that Ruth Built". Will the new one be called "The House that Jeter Built"? Derek Jeter has been the preeminent Yankee player for the past decade, just as the Babe was in his day. Time will tell, and A-Rod may offer a dissenting opinion.

When I was in Tampa recently, a friend said, "You've got to see the house Jeter is building on Davis Islands." It was pretty easy to spot from Bayshore Boulevard: a massive edifice under construction on the western waterfront of the larger of the two islands. I drove out there and got the shot above. I've been told it's to have twenty three rooms, and is even larger than George Steinbrenner's house, which is located a few miles to the north.

The day after the Yankees' victory parade on lower Broadway, trees in City Hall Park were still festooned with paper.

Update: My colleague Bill, a Yankee fan (but a fine fellow nevertheless) kindly shared this photo of The House That Ruth Built being unbuilt:

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Please bear with me.

No sooner had I returned from Florida, where Mom is now doing fine, when my Vista-cursed computer suffered cataclysmic OS failure. I am in the process of replacing it with a Windows 7 machine. I hope to have it up and running by tomorrow, and be back to posting as usual.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Live blogging Florida-Georgia from the Tapper Pub, Tampa

For the First Time Ever in History, Georgia wears black helmets. Dawgs won toss, chose to kick. Gators promptly marched to TD.

On their first possession, Georgia can't buy a thrill, but get a good punt to put Gators deep.

Florida receiver Brandon James could maybe double as a juggler--nice try.

Tebow throws a strke to Rodney Cooper, his roomie, for another TD. 14-0 Gators, Still 1st Q.

First play of second possession, Georgia penalized for false start. Gator LB Brandon Spikes (how many Florida players are named for this Tampa suburb?) has great dreads.

End of 1Q. Georgia passing game starting to click.

Start of 2Q. Georgia march stalled, but Dawgs get on board with a FG.

Second is all Georgia so far, as they get a pretty TD on a pass by QB Cox over the middle.

Gator offense gets stuffed, but Sturgis notches 56 yard FG.

Nice Georgia run nullified by holding, but Urban Meyer still looks as if his patience is sorely tried.

A Dawg defender also has impressive dreads, so long I can't read the name on his jersey.

Tebow scores on a dive play, passes Herschel Walker for SEC rushing TD record. 24-10 Gators.

Cox sacked. Shades of Watergate! Halftime.

Watching halftime report. Northwestern has a QB named Kafka. Wonder if he's subjected to inexplicable penalties.

Start of second half. A.J. Jones hits Georgia QB Cox, ball goes up and Jones grabs it for interception. Next play produces another Tebow rushing TD.

Georgia drives and gets a TD on a strike from Cox to a receiver with magnificent dreads. 31-17 Gators.

At this point, I had to forsake the Tapper when a call on my cell phone brought the unexpected but welcome news that my mother was about to be discharged from the hospital and sent to a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility. Earlier in the day I had been told that, for administrative reasons, this wouldn't happen until Monday.

With Mom safely and comfortably in her new place, I stole a glance at the game's final minute on the activities room TV. From the highlights, I gather that after I stopped watching Florida got another FG, then the aforementioned Brandon Spikes scored on an interception to make the final score Gators 41, Dawgs 17. Apparently, having knock-'em-dead dreads was very important in this game.

So, my latest fearless prediction about the Gators, just like my previous one, has proved wrong. Once again, I'm glad it did.

My skepticism about my alma mater, South Florida, also was unfounded, as they rebounded from their drubbing by Pitt to defeat the 20th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers, 30-19.

Addendum: Tebow has a thing about putting scriptural citations in the little black anti-glare patches on his cheekbones. For the Georgia game it was Phil. 11-something (I never could discern the verse number). From Georgia's point of view, however, it probably should have been Hebrews 13:8.

Second addendum: Here's a photo of the Tapper's proprietor, and my high school friend, Kay Groetsch, tending the bar:
As you can see from Kay's welcoming smile, the Tapper is a friendly place. If you find yourself on Dale Mabry Highway (once designated the ugliest stretch of road in the U.S.) in the vicinity of Britton Plaza, a strip mall that has been around for about fifty years and should probably be on the National Register of Historic Places, and feel like having a brew or two, by all means drop in.

Marine art preserved in a New York subway station.

In 1913, the elegant Hotel McAlpin was completed at Broadway and 34th Street. The artist Fred Dana Marsh was commissioned to produce paintings illustrating the history of New York Harbor to decorate the Hotel's restaurant. These were executed on tiles, bordered by decorative terra cotta. Because of the paintings' popularity, the restaurant became known as the Marine Grill. In the early 1990s the McAlpin and its restaurant closed, and a developer bought the building for conversion to condominium apartments. The paintings, and their terra cotta borders, were preserved and re-installed on the walls of the heavily trafficked east-west passageway of the Broadway-Nassau/Fulton Street subway station in lower Manhattan. The painting above shows a four-stack transatlantic liner with Cunard's funnel markings (still in use today), probably the first Mauretania, which went into service in 1906.

This painting shows one of the coastal or inland waterway vessels that, in competition with the railroads, carried passengers between New York and places upstate along the Hudson as far as Albany, or New England by way of Long Island Sound.

This painting shows Dutch ships of the early seventeenth century bringing settlers to what is now New York. In the background is a gallows, with the bodies of two hanged criminals dangling from it.

I began work on this post several days before, in Brooklyn, and was referring to a photo I took of a plaque mounted in the station for information about the paintings and their removal to their present location. When I came to Florida, I neglected to include my photo of the plaque in my draft for reference, and therefore had to search the web for information to complete this post. In so doing, I discovered a much more thoroughgoing post on this subject by my friend Flatbush Gardener. It confirms my identification of the Cunard four-stacker as Mauretania, identifies the coastal passenger vessel as Commonwealth of the Fall River Line, shows some other paintings in the collecction, and gives the full story of how the art works were preserved and reconstructed after having been removed from the walls of the old McAlpin and the tiles scattered willy-nilly in bins.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Score one for the Real Baseball League: Phils 6, Yanks 1

Cliff Lee outpitched his old friend C.C. Sabathia, who gave up two dingers to Chase Utley, as the Phils beat the Yanks in the Series opener, at Nuevo Yankee Stadium.

Fans of short-attention-span ball may argue that, this game having been on an AL field, it was won with the DH rule prevailing. Nevertheless, the result without the DH would likely have still been a Phillies win, as they could have done without the two RBIs of their DH, Ibanez. (The Yanks' DH, Matsui, scored zip.)

Update: Has this Phillies fan taken "ball game" to a whole new level?

Game 2 update: Yanks even the Series, improving the chances for my hoped-for seven games.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Series from Hell?

According to Lisa Swan, a Yankees versus Phillies Series should give any Mets fan agita. This Mets fan wanted the Yanks to win the pennant once the Red Sox (my favorite AL team by dint of spousal loyalty) were out of contention, if only for the boost it would give to New York City's economy. Now that they're up against the Phils, the question is, for whom do I root? As a Mets fan, I should naturally loathe the Phillies, who are division rivals and frequent nemeses (and, for those with long enough memories, sent us Juan Samuel in a slumping year). On the other hand, I'm a Pennsylvania native with Philadelphia ancestry, and loyal to the National League for preserving real baseball instead of pandering to short attention spans with the DH rule. So, what's to do? Flip a coin?

For now, it's not who I'm rooting for, but what: seven games.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

College football: USF falls again, and a fearless prediction.

The South Florida Bulls, designated gladiators of my alma mater, appear to be reiterating a familiar process, i.e. start hot, get a big upset victory, lose a tough one, then fall to pieces. Have the sports gods cursed me by making me both a Mets and Bulls fan?

Meanwhile, the Florida Gators, my arch-loyalty from the days before USF football existed, managed to keep the longest winning streak in college ball going with a victory over Mississippi State. Last week, I wrote that this game had upset potential, and it was something of a struggle for the Gators, though not as much as their previous game against Arkansas. Next Saturday, though, Florida faces a different set of Bulldogs: their arch-rival Georgia. Here is my fearless prediction: Dawgs over Gators, in a close one. (Note, however, that my last fearless prediction came a cropper.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bach's third Brandenberg, two ways: Advent Chamber Orchestra and Punch Brothers

The clip above is of the first movement, allegro, of J.S. Bach's third Brandenberg concerto, performed by the Advent Chamber Orchestra, using traditional instrumentation. Instead of showing the musicians playing the piece, this clip, made by smalin, presents a "scrolling, bar-graph score" that lets you visualize the notes being played by the various instruments.

Now, as the Pythons would say, for something completely different. Here's a performance by the Punch Brothers, a five man string band who use traditional bluegrass instruments--banjo, bass, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin--to play both bluegrass and classical music. The clip above shows them, along with Rob Moose on an additional violin, performing Rob's arrangement of the third movement, also allegro, of the third Brandenberg.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Football, finally: Gators survive, Bulls don't.

I've held back on my usual commentary on college football this season, waiting for the shoes to drop. As of now, one has, but the other hasn't. The one that has is that my alma mater, South Florida, has continued its pattern of starting hot, pulling off a stunning upset (this year of Florida State), getting nationally ranked, then losing. This year's nemesis is Cincinnati, which comes out of the game still unbeaten and ranked fifth in both the AP poll and the BCS. It wasn't an instance of the Bulls getting the vapors because of their previous week's ranking of 21st in the AP poll and being on national TV; Cincy was just a better team. What remains to be seen is whether USF can prove resilient instead of going into a funk, as they have after their first loss in the past two seasons. It won't be easy: their next game is away against Pitt, 6-1 and 20th in both AP and BCS, after which they come home to face West Virginia, 5-1, 22nd in AP and 23rd in BCS.

The shoe that didn't drop, at least not yet, was Florida losing to an unranked team, as they did last year to Ole Miss, though the Gators rebounded from that and went on to win the SEC and the BCS championship. While they dodged disaster in the Arkansas game, their next two have, in my view, high upset potential. Next Saturday the visit Mississippi State, which has upset their applecart in the past. A week after that, they face Ur-rival Georgia which, though thrice beaten and unranked, will be hungry for revenge after a string of losses and well-rested, having this weekend off.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bruce Wasserstein, 1947-2009

I was shocked, while skimming the news a while ago, to come across this Reuters story announcing the death of my law school classmate, Bruce Wasserstein. I hadn't seen Bruce since a class reunion almost twenty years ago; at the time, it struck me how fit he looked compared to the chubby youngster (he started law school at 19, two years younger than most of his classmates, and three years after entering the University of Michigan at 16) I had known from classes and the occasional shared lunch table twenty or so years before. Until I saw the Reuters story, I didn't know about the recent concerns over his health, or the heart irregularities that put him in the hospital several days ago.

The Bruce I knew back in the day was a committed leftist who had been active in Students for a Democratic Society ("SDS"), the pre-eminent student radical organization of the 1960s, as an undergraduate at Michigan. I was surprised when he told me that he was entering the newly announced joint J.D./M.B.A. program, which entailed spending an extra year in Cambridge taking courses at the Business School. He needed, he said, to understand the workings of the system he opposed. For a time, he worked for Ralph Nader, and put his business degree to use in heading the team that produced Nader's critique of Citibank, a thick, statistics laden book the cover of which was adorned with a cartoon pig.

I was surprised, but not shocked, when I heard he had gone to work for Cravath, then and now perhaps New York's most prestigious corporate law firm. The Cravath partnership included several prominent former Kennedy New Frontiersmen, and some who had been student radicals of the '60s were settling into similar career paths, perhaps rationalizing that they could do more good (and make some money in the process which, of course, could also be put to good use) by working inside the system. His leaving Cravath for investment banking, initially at First Boston, also seemed a logical move. By then, I had pretty much lost touch with him, but assumed he still was on the left politically. I was disabused of that notion in 1980, when I volunteered to work on a law school fund raising telethon, and Bruce showed up with a stack of invitations to a fundraiser for Mark Green's congressional campaign. Mark had been Bruce's closest friend in law school and after that a fellow Nader Raider. As he passed around the invitations, Bruce said, "Friendship compels me to do this, but I hope no one here is still a liberal Democrat."

Bruce was preceded in death by his younger sister, Wendy, a Tony and Pulitzer winning playwright, who succumbed to lymphoma at the age of 55. He adopted her young daughter.

I'm impressed by the succinct comment made by "JHL" in response to the piece in today's New York Times Deal Book blog:
Good banker. Created value for clients. Sine qua non of banking, but he would have offered more over time. Peace.
I, too, think "he would have offered more." I envisioned his winding down his frenetic deal-making and, re-kindling his youthful fervor for social justice, applying his tremendous intelligence and practical know-how to some grand project or projects for which he might be remembered long after the RJR/Nabisco and Time/Warner deals are forgotten.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Still life with jellicle.

Jellicle Cats are black and white,
Jellicle Cats are rather small;
Jellicle Cats are merry and bright,
And pleasant to hear when they caterwaul.

--T.S. Eliot, "The Song of the Jellicles"
Hepzibah at one of her favorite perches, next to the wheatgrass on which she and her brother, Attila, love to graze. (Photo by Martha Foley.)

Update: Twif asks: "[I]s posting cat photos worse that baby pics?" You decide.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dolly Trolly wants you for an indie band angel.

Dolly Trolly (clockwise from top left: Sam Trioli, bass, guitar and piano; Tara Lynne Mallon, rhythm guitar, keyboards, percussion and vocals; Tami Johnson, drums and vocals; and Gerard Kouwenhoven, lead guitar, bass and vocals) is a Brooklyn-based band with a self-described style--"Indie/Southern Rock/Pop"--that caught my eye. Having listened to their songs on their MySpace Page, I'm convinced of this group's potential. In some of their vocal harmonies and guitar work I hear echoes of the early Byrds, and their arrangements bring to mind Smiley Smile and later Beach Boys, so perhaps the "Southern rock" refers to Southern California (although when Tara Lynne dons the blonde wig and shades she bears some resemblance to Marshall Chapman).

They're now appealing for funds to complete their demo CD; counting, in these fraught economic times, on their fans to come through for them. Their appeal is stated in a video, no longer available, that used as its musical background the song "Night":

In order to raise the $2,799 (of which $820 has already been pledged) needed to complete the project, the band is asking for pledges (which will only be called upon if they reach the goal by 9:00 A.M. on November 9), for which they are offering rewards based on the amount of the pledge (the rewards are also presumably contingent on their meeting the $2,799 goal by the stipulated date). These are described in detail on this web page. A pledge of only $9 gets you a CD; $25 an autographed CD and a t-shirt. Above that, the reward selection becomes a veritable narcissists' candy store. A $50 pledge gets "props mobile", meaning the band will dedicate a song you choose to you at all their performances, and $150 will have you listed as an "executive producer" of their CD. Pledge $200 and they will write a song about the subject of your choice, list you in the song credits, and dedicate it to you at their three subsequent performances. For $300, you get the "YOUniCyCle" award, which means the group will write a song about you; and $500 gets you a starring role in their next music video.

Update: Dolly Trolly reached their goal on Kickstarter and their CD, Tiny Love Pieces, was produced. (I have a copy, signed by the then band members.) The band still exists, though reduced to three members: Trioli, Mallon, and Johnson.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Yanks win, Red sox lose.

It's official. I'm a Yankee fan for the duration of the ALCS, and maybe for the Series. Sorry, Twif; I hope you enjoy your quality time with Lil' MacDuff and Harold.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

John Prine, "Paradise"

Above, courtesy of jordanthecat, is a clip of a young John Prine, on the steps of what had been his family's house in Maywood, Illinois, with his "number one partner in crime", John Burns, singing "Paradise", a lament for his parents' home town in Kentucky. Here's jordanthecat's description of the provenance of this song and clip:
"Paradise" is one of the three songs John Prine first performed on stage- the others being "Sam Stone" and "Hello In There." He still plays all of these songs in his concerts today, almost forty years later.

Muhlenb[e]rg County, in western Kentucky, was once one of North America's largest coal-producing regions. The Peabody Coal Company, now called Peabody Energy, is to this day one of the world's largest coal companies.

The town of Paradise[,] in Muhlenb[e]rg County, was flooded by the waters of the Green River in 1969 when a dam was erected, in order to facilitate barge traffic to and from the Peabody coal fields.

This clip is from the outstanding "JOHN PRINE LIVE ON SOUNDSTAGE 1980" DVD, released in March, 2007.

John Prine's site:
Today is John Prine's sixty third birthday. Many more years of good living and singing, John.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Baseball playoffs: where I stand.

So long as the Red Sox are in it, I'll root for them. Spousal loyalty and all that.

If the Sox fail to make it to the Series, I'll root for the National League team, unless that team is the Dodgers, in which instance I'll back the Designated Hitter League team, even if that team is the Yankees.

Update: The Yanks trashed the Twins in the ALDS opener Wednesday, and yesterday the Sox fell 5-0 to the Angels, which my wife, using convoluted Bay State logic, takes to be a good sign. Meanwhile, in the Real Baseball League, the Phils went one up on the Rockies, and the Cards, doing their best Mets impression, blew it on an error and lost to the Dodgers. So far, so bad.

artandsoul says, anyone but the Yankees. Twif says, if the Sox are eliminated, he'll return to repeated viewings of Harold and the Purple Crayon.

Second update: I hadn't considered the possibility of an Angels/Dodgers Series. Perhaps I should check Netflix for availability of Harold and the Purple Crayon.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Yale of the Beauforts demonstrates Google's continued superiority to Bing

                                Flickr photo by M Kuhn

Your correspondent is in Tampa for a week that commenced with his 45th year high school reunion (coincident with a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of his now truly grand old school) and will conclude with the celebration tomorrow of his mother's 93rd birthday.

This morning (conveniently now switching to the first person) I was sitting with my mother, going through her collection of memorabilia that includes extensive documentation of our time (1951-54) in England, where my father was on assignment with the U.S. Air Force. We were there during the coronation of Elizabeth II, and one of the items I found was a pamphlet titled "Westminster Abbey in its Coronation Setting". The text of the pamphlet begins:
Approaching the west end of the Abbey from Dean's Yard, the visitor comes first to the west side of the Annexe, which is composed almost wholly of glass. On this are engraved panels showing the Royal Badges--the Rose, the Thistle, the Leek and the Shamrock. Below, at eye level, are The Queen's Beasts, which were specially modelled by Mr. James Woodford, R.A., on the lines of the King's Beasts carved for King Henry VIII at Hampton Court. The Beasts and the arms they carry exemplify the descent of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen's Beasts in the order they are approched from Dean's Yard are as follows:

1. The Falcon of the Plantagenets
2. The Bull of Clarence
3. The Griffin of Edward III
4. The Unicorn of Scotland
5. The White Lion of the Mortimers
6. The White Horse of Hanover
7. The Dragon of the Tudors
8. The Yale of the Beauforts
9. The Greyhound of the Tudors
10. The Lion of England
This raised two questions in my mind. One was, "Why did the Tudors rate two beasts?" The second, and more immediately compelling, was, "What the heck is a yale?"

Since Mom's computer has MSN as its homepage, I was prompted to try Bing for my web search, "Yale of the Beauforts". Bing drew blank, suggesting several unhelpful alternatives including "Beaufort Sea" and "Beaufort, S.C." (which, incidentally, are pronounced differently). So, I turned to old, reliable Google, which directed me to M Kuhn's Flickr photo that appears at the top of this post, and which is accompanied by the following text:
The yale was a mythical beast, said to be white in colour and covered with gold spots. It's [sic] peculiar characteristic was that it could swivel each of its horns independently. It de[s]cends to the Queen through Henry VII, who inherited it from his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort. The shield shows a portcullis surmounted by the arched royal crown. The portcullis (uncrowned) was a Beaufort badge, but was used both crowned and uncrowned by Henry VII.
Now I know of another member of the mythical bestiary, as well as to continue to rely on Google.

Update:  artandsoul answers my first question (which I never attempted to do):
I think the tenuousness of his right to the throne spurred Henry VII to acquire TWO beasts to pull the carriage of his [Tudor] name.
One mythical and one natural, no less.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Opera on the street: Martha Cardona Theater

On my home street, Montague, in Brooklyn Heights, singers and instrumentalists from the Martha Cardona Theater performed this piece from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, along with many other opera vignettes, as part of the Montague Street Business Improvement District's "Summerspace" program.

Things like this are among what makes living in New York great.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mets may blow their last chance.

Today, the Mets beat the Nats with superb pitching by Tim Redding, timely hitting by Jeff Francouer, Daniel Murphy, and David Wright, and a rare--these days--save opportunity made good by Francisco Rodriguez.

Unfortunately, this puts the Mets thirteen games "behind" Washington in the one race the Mets can still win: the race to the bottom of the NL East. This is with thirteen games left to play.

I'm contemplating the bleak prospect of a Yankees-Dodgers World Series. If it happens, I may hold my nose and root for the Yanks, unlike in 1955 and '56.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Old-time country music from the green hills of Brooklyn.

Yesterday afternoon I attended part of the Twelfth Annual Park Slope Bluegrass & Old-Time Jamboree, at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture. I walked in as a group of musicians, led by a fiddler with an impressive red beard, were jamming under a tent (see clip above).

After that, a smaller group performed under a tree.

Finally, on the lawn nearby, a group that included accordion and autoharp as well as a guitarist and vocalist, did the Carter Family classic, "Will the Circle be Unbroken?" Unfortunately, my memory card reached capacity before the song was over.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Melanie Hope Greenberg: "Beams of Hope"

Yesterday, riding the "M" train to Bushwick, I noticed the bright red pedestrian walkway on the Williamsburgh Bridge next to the track. While I've walked over the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges many times, I've only crossed the Williamsburgh once on foot. That was on September 11, 2001, with my daughter, my friend Marie, and her two sons as we made our way back to Brooklyn by the then only available route from the kids' school, P.S. 150, in lower Manhattan, a few blocks north of the World Trade Center. I remembered looking south at the smoke blowing eastward toward my neighborhood, Brooklyn Heights, and the fighter jets flying overhead along the path of the East River. I also remembered the Hasidim who greeted us on the Brooklyn side, offering us cups of water.

Last year, I posted a photo of the "Tribute in Light", the twin searchlight beams sponsored by the Municipal Art Society in memory of the September 11 tragedy. This year, I've posted "Beams of Hope", by my friend and neighbor Melanie Hope Greenberg, an artist, author and illustrator of children's books. Image © 2004 Melanie Hope Greenberg.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Jeter ties Gehrig's record.

Much as I've made it clear that my dislike of the Yankees goes a long way back, and I think most Yankee fans (though there are important exceptions) can be classified as either financial house quants who spend their time plotting new securitization strategies that could lead to the next market meltdown or gum-beating airheads who, when asked, "Why the Yankee cap?", will answer, "Oooh! Derek Jeter...he's so-o-o-o cute!", my animosity does not extend to most (though, again, there are exceptions) individual Yankee players, past or present. Indeed, the roster of baseball's truly great includes a disproportionate number of those who, for most or all of their careers, wore pinstripes. Perhaps the greatest of these was Lou Gehrig.

Nevertheless, I'm not dismayed to see Jeter (who, the last time I attended a Yankee home game, was rushed by two of the aforementioned airheads who came out of the stands to kiss him, and no doubt were rewarded with a night in the lockup) tying Gehrig's hit record. He's worthy of this, both for his play and for his character. I think Lou would be pleased.

Bravo Obama!

The details of the plan are good, if not all I might have wanted. What made the speech great was his peroroation in which he addressed the larger issue of government's role in society, and the people's relationship to government.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Self-Absorbed Boomer reaches the four year mark.

The fifth anniversary is usually reckoned the first biggie, but I can't resist giving the fourth a bit of fanfare.

Thanks to my Site Meter, I've learned a lot about who's visiting my blog, and why. Relax. I can't, in most cases, identify specific visitors, unless you're using a server at work, like one regular reader who works for a local college. When I get a hit from that college's server, I'm pretty sure it's him. If you're reading me from home, and use, say (as I do), Verizon as your ISP, your IP address will vary depending on which of your ISP's local servers your traffic is being routed through at the time. I can "tag" you if I send you a link to S-AB by e-mail and you follow it back; if you have, for example, a Road Runner address, and I see a hit referred from Road Runner at your location, I'll be reasonably certain it's you. But, unless you have your own dedicated server, I won't be able to use the IP address to identify future visits from you.

I've learned from my Site Meter that upwards of ninety per cent of hits on my blog (of which I'm averaging just over 1,000 per month now) result from web searches for things other than my blog or me. Some of these are just for concatenations of words that occur randomly in different posts (Google will aggregate these); my favorite, to date, being "married Nashville women wanted for casual sex". A fair number are for terms or phrases incorporating the word "boomer". For a while, I was getting a lot of hits from India, where apparently there was some kind of on-line game going called "Play Ben Ten Boomer". "Self-absorbed" is also an attractor: I get lots of visits off searches like "how to deal with self-absorbed husband" (no, it wasn't my wife). Most of these searches, however, are for topics about which I've posted. The two most popular, over time, have been subjects on which I've unwittingly become something of a web authority.

The first of these is the Eisenhower Lock, which is part of the St. Lawrence Seaway system, which allows ships of considerable size to transit from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. The Lock is located about two miles from my in-laws' house in Massena, New York, and, being a ship buff, I almost always visit it when we visit them. I've posted about it here, here, and here. The other is a train we sometimes ride when going to visit my in-laws, Amtrak's Adirondack, about which I've posted here and here.

I'll conclude by commending to you some posts I've made over the years that I think deserve your attention, if you haven't already seen them. In the area of political economy, I recommend Is corporate greenery undemocratic?. For literature, please look at Riding the train with Fred Exley. For music, check out Marshall Chapman can't be like other girls. For visual arts, please see Pierre Bonnard, "Late Interiors", at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Finally, for local color, take a look at The Bells of Hell and The walk home through Red Hook.

I promise that, during year five, I'll do my best to merit your continued attention. I also welcome suggestions for improvement.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"Abundance", BWAC outdoor sculpture show.

The 27th annual Brooklyn Waterfront Artists' Coalition ("BWAC") outdoor sculpture show is set up in Empire/Fulton Ferry State Park and adjoining Brooklyn Bridge Park, along the waterfront in DUMBO, and will be on view through September 5. Here are some of the works on display:

"Dodecaps", by Bernard Klevickas.

Untitled, by Nova Mihai Popa.

"Windwave", by Maximilian Pelzmann (contrast this with my nighttime image of the same sculpture).

"Mirror Mobile", by Summer Yates.

"Recurrence", by The Friendship Project Collaborative Group (Corrina Sephora Mensoff, Terri Dilling, Susan Ker-Seymer, Alison Weldon, Amandine Drouet, and Mary McCarthy).

For images of works in last year's show, click here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bruntlett's unassisted triple play: at least the Mets find interesting ways to lose.

Addendum: Today I'm reminded of what Greg Prince, co-author of Faith and Fear in Flushing, wrote some time back: "Being a Mets fan is recognizing reality and accepting that sometimes things are too funny to be sad and sometimes too sad to be funny." (Quoted in John Koblin, "The Anti-Homers", New York Observer, July 20, 2009).

Update: Twiffer, evidently wanting to steer me to the "too funny to be sad" side, sent me a link to this Onion article. Like all good satire, it empearls a grain of truth. (Indeed, I wish someone could tag the Wilpons out.) The Mets did dutifully lose to the Marlins last night (Pelfrey had one of his too-frequent misadvetures; can anyone tell me who is on the Mets' starting rotation now?).

Today, the Mets rose from the dead to trounce the Marlins 10-3, courtesy of not-so-bad pitching by Redding (Pelfrey + Redding: there's 2/5 of the rotation) and good pitching by the bullpen; lots of offense; and lousy fielding by the Marlins. But, while you're on that link, scroll down (and down, and down) through the Mets' D.L. It sorta looks like the casualty roster from Antietam.

Update-update: at least the Cyclones haven't imploded. Yet.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Your correspondent finds, to his great surprise, that he's a really cool guy.

Today's New York Times fashion section includes an article by Guy Trebay that starts with this welcome (to me, at least, if not to Robin Lester, who tipped me off to it) news:
This summer the unvarying male uniform in the precincts of Brooklyn cool has been a pair of shorts cut at knickers length, a V-neck Hanes T-shirt, a pair of generic slip-on sneakers and a straw fedora. Add a leather cuff bracelet if the coolster is gay.

In truth this get-up was pretty much the unvarying male uniform last summer also, but this year an unexpected element has been added to the look, and that is a burgeoning potbelly one might term the Ralph Kramden.
For anyone too young, or un-steeped in American pop culture, to remember The Honeymooners, here's a photo of Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden, intrepid Brooklyn bus driver, thrusting his ample belly forward. Compare this to the photo of myself at the top of this post. It's not a stretch to say that I have a "Kramden."

Of course, Trebay notes that the hipster's Kramden is "developed too young to come under the heading of a paunch"; nevertheless, I submit that mine has entirely been the product of a period in which I have been Young At Heart (for some odd reason, my wife persists in using the archaic locution "immature").

To top things off, I later got drawn into one of those virally multiplying Facebook quizzes, this one seeking to determine "[w]hich Last Exit [a bar I have actually visited twice] patron are you?" The answer I got was "The Hipster":
What's up with crazy yourself, hep-cat?! Nice shirt... oh, I get it. You're not REALLY a trucker named Randy. You got that at Beacon's closet. Well, congrats you Brooklyn dwelling recreant. You're the kind of customer that is nice, polite, easy on the eye and an excellent tipper. It's okay that the credit card you're using is under you dad's name- we know where that money is coming from. You like to drop by on Friday nights and come in sometimes on Monday for Pub Quiz with your workmates from Google. It's cool. Just don't get too drunk and vomit in the bathroom - that's when you cease to be pleasant. Until then, cheers!
Not too bad a description, I submit, except for the bits about dad's credit card and working for Google. I haven't been in for Pub Quiz yet, but it sounds like something I should check out.

I'll confess, I did have to be a bit creative in answering some of the quiz questions. For example, the multiple choices for "What do you order to drink?" didn't include "craft-brewed ale, e.g. Six Point Brownstone or Dogfish Head IPA", so I had to make do with the closest substitute: "PBR and a shot of Jack." Of course, a couple rounds of that would put my aging liver on the ropes, but never mind. Tomorrow, I shall wake with a new mantra: "I'm cool, I'm no fool, get used to it!"

Oh, yeah. Did I mention that I have an IMDb page?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Elaine Comparone and Queen's Chamber Band play José Bernardo's "Echoes from a Distant Land."

Several evenings ago, I had the pleasure of dining with Elaine Comparone at Bar Pitti, where she hosted a birthday dinner for an old friend of my wife's and mine. I knew Elaine by reputation as one of the greatest of contemporary harpsichordists, and had heard recordings of her work, including Bach with Pluck. I asked about videos of her performances, and she recommended the clip above, in which she plays, with the Queen's Chamber Band (consisting of Marsha Heller, English horn; Robert Zubrycki, violin; Lori Miller, violin; Veronica Salas, viola; Peter Seidenberg, cello; and Tomoya Aomori, bass), "Echoes from a Distant Land", by the Cuban-American composer José Bernardo.

Here's an Italian baroque piece, Scarlatti's Sonata in D minor, K. 517, performed by Elaine solo on her 2-manual harpsichord built in 1968 by William Dowd.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Must there be a worm in every Mets apple?

I've given up watching Mets games this season, so as to maintain "my spiritual well-being, the stability of which [I am here borrowing from my erstwhile drinking companion Nick Tosches] has not commonly been likened to a large rock." Still, I can't avoid hearing the score the next morning as WQXR does its best to rouse me. Last night, I checked it on line, and was amused to see Mets 9, Cardinals 0. Amused, not delighted, because by now it's clear there's no hope. My first thought was, "Who pitched?" I clicked for the game report, and saw the win credited to Figueroa. Strange, I thought, for a reliever to win a lopsided shutout. Could all of the scoring have happened in the last three innings? Then I looked at the narrative. Sure enough, Nieves, the starter, was pulled in the second inning with what was declared a season-ending hamstring tear. (What is it with the Mets and hamstrings? My memory of Mets hamstring woes goes back to Keith Hernandez, and extends through Vince Coleman, Ricky Henderson, and Jose Reyes. Having a pitcher felled by a hammy is a new one, though.) Tonight, they're being trounced by the Padres.

Meanwhile, my fall-back (and wife's favorite) team, the Red Sox, have gone into the sort of mid-season swoon that characterized their long stay in baseball purgatory pre-2004, and have lost their first game to the loathsome Yanks, who now look unstoppable.

Wake me when it's over.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A customized classic Mini in DUMBO.

This classic Austin or Morris Mini (the Mini was made under both of the most popular marques of the British Motor Corporation), apparently a Mark II (1967-70) from the appearance of its grille, was parked on Water Street in DUMBO a few days ago. This one, which was made for the British market with right-hand drive, has been customized as a rally car by removing the roof, covering part of the back, and putting on a plexiglass racing windscreeen. Indeed, a decal on that windscreen shows this car to have been an entry in the London to Brighton run.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cat and chamber orchestra: a Lithuanian diversion.

In the clip above (courtesy of sanmartinfields) you can see and hear a one movement concerto performed by the Klaipėda Chamber Orchestra and composed and conducted by Mindaugas Piečaitis to accompany the piano improvisations of a very clever cat named Nora, whose image at the keyboard is projected above the orchestra as she performs for an apparently appreciative audience of fellow felines. You can read more about this project at the CATcerto website.

Thanks to Geoff Abrams for the link.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Encouraging words on the way to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Seen on the top step leading from Cadman Plaza East/Washington Street to the Brooklyn Bridge walkway this morning.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gail Collins nails the New York Senate.

In her continuing New York Times dialogue with David Brooks, Ms. Collins has this to say:
[Y]ou can’t run a big, complicated country without parties. And if you want to run it with any degree of efficiency, those parties have to have enough cohesion to be able to force people to vote with the group even when they aren’t happy about it. Otherwise, you have little tiny clumps going this way and that, holding the whole process for ransom. And before you know it, you’re Italy. Or the New York State Senate, which is basically Italy minus all the charming people, beautiful scenery and good food.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Frank McCourt: goodbye to an old friend.

"Old friend" may be a strong claim. I haven't seen or spoken to Frank, other than on a couple of isolated occasions such as the memorial party for our common friend Dennis Duggan, since he became famous as a writer and television commentator. Back in the day, though, we spent some hours talking on adjacent barstools at the Bells of Hell and the Lion's Head. I heard many of the stories that later were told in Angela's Ashes, 'Tis and Teacher Man in the course of those conversations.

The Frank McCourt anecdote I have to offer, however, comes from a public event--a memorial concert for Tommy Clancy of the Clancy Brothers--at which he emceed and told the following joke:
How do you tell an Irishman from an Englishman? It's in how they propose marriage. An Englishman says, "Dahling, I love you. Will you marry me?" But an Irishman says, "Mary, how would you like to be buried with my people?"
I pray this will be the last of the "goodbye" posts I must write for a while.

Update: Here's the New York Times obituary.

Second update: In yesterday's Times, Eric Konigsberg quotes one of Frank's former students as comparing him to Lou Reed.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"And that's the way it is ...."

Will anyone say it with such assurance again? Goodbye, Walter.

Image: O'Halloran/Library of Congress [VIA PINGNEWS].

Update: Television critic Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times has this to say:
Network news anchors still aim for that mix of eloquence and authority that Cronkite embodied, but they compete, at a disadvantage, with the noise of an ascendant punditocracy and the mountain-from-molehill nattering of cable news organizations that live on crises -- it's not the old voice of reassuring honesty that they cultivate, but one of perpetual anxiety. There are many more rooms in the mansion that is television news nowadays, but they have grown proportionately smaller; they are no longer fit for giants.
Thanks to Ben Whitford in Slate for the link.

Second update: Here's an appreciation of Cronkite by Verlyn Klinkenborg in yesterday's New York Times.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Manohla Dargis on Harry Potter yields a magnificent Alan Rickman simile.

In her review of the movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in today's New York Times, Manohla Dargis writes:
[T]he sensational Alan Rickman ... invests his character, Prof. Severus Snape, with much-needed ambiguity, drawing each word out with exquisite luxury, bringing to mind a buzzard lazily pulling at entrails ...."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Charlie Gracie redux: "Butterfly" (1957)

Back in April, I posted a video I made of Charlie Gracie doing a song called "I'm All Right" at the Roots of American Music Festival at Lincoln Center in the summer of 2007. As I noted in the text accompanying that clip, Gracie was the first to record a song I heard many times when I was in sixth grade (1957-58) in a cover version by Andy Williams, "Butterfly". The clip above shows Gracie singing that song on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1957.

Today I received a comment on my earlier post from Gracie's son, Charlie Gracie Jr., who said:
Yes, my dad had the original rock n roll version of BUTTERFLY--which went to #1 on Billboard in the spring of 1957. Andy Williams' cover also went to #1--so this was a monster hit. My dad was and is--Philly's very first rock n roll star... was the first hit artist on the Cameo-Parkway label based in Philly. Dad was also the first solo U.S. rock star to tour the United Kingdom--after Haley's Comets. He's been playing there almost everyear since--and will go there this fall too--including shows in Ireland!

Dad is currently working on a new cd with Graham Nash, Al Kooper, Peter Noone, Keb Mo, Albert Lee and Dennis Diken--several artists he inspired early on. Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Ray Davies and the late George Harrison were also fans. Paul did a cover of my dad's second biggest hit: FABULOUS in 2000. It went to #16 nationally for dad in 1957. He had 5 Top 30 hits in England--including Wandering Eyes, I Love You So Much It Hurts and Cool Baby. He made his first record in 1951 when he was just 15 on the Cadillac Label out of NY. Dad got his start on the Paul Whiteman radio/tv show. Dad's release of BOOGIE WOOGIE BLUES in 1951, is considered one of first rock n roll songs ever released by a white artist--even though the term hadn't officially been coined yet.

Still, Charlie Gracie was making records in a rockabilly vein 3-years before Elvis, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Jerry Lee Lewis had even stepped into a recording studio! PBS aired a documentary on my dad in 2007: CHARLIE GRACIE: FABULOUS! which is still available at as well as his Best of Charlie Gracie cd--containing all his original chart hits.
Thanks, Charlie Jr. I'm looking forward to hearing your dad's new CD.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

An almost-perfect baseball night.

The Mets are breaking my heart yet again, but tonight they gave me a nice tease. Jeff Francouer proved to be an impact player in his first at-bat as a Met, driving in two runs. Although four runs in total off of eleven hits isn't especially efficient, four runs proved enough, as the Reds scored un oeuf thanks to a characteristically good performance by Santana and flawless relief by Feliciano and Rodriguez, as well as error-less defense.

Meanwhile, the Yanks get taken down a peg by Los Angeles de Anaheim, and the Red Sox regain undisputed first place in the Short-Attention-Span League East. The only downer, from my viewpoint, is the Rays' loss to Oakland.

Update: The "little tease" has now been extended. Meanwhile, another Red Sox win and Yanks loss puts the Bronx Bullies further behind.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Aerospace socialism.

Back in the day, Ed Koch was a congressman representing the district on Manhattan's East Side that had been John Lindsay's before he became mayor. During Koch's congressional incumbency he coined the term "aerospace socialism" to describe the regime governing military procurement in this country: the all-too-cozy relationship among defense contractors, the Pentagon, and the congressional committees charged with oversight of the defense budget.

Unfortunately, that regime is still alive and well, as this article from today's Washington Post attests. The F-22 fighter program started, perhaps characteristically, with what the prime contractor and the Pentagon knew was a lowball cost estimate intended to make it palatable to Congress, as one former defense procurement official admits, adding that he's not proud of his role in this. An aircraft designer, Pierre Sprey, is quoted as saying the F-22 program was deliberately made "too big to fail, that is, to be cancellation-proof." In addition:
Lockheed farmed out more than 1,000 subcontracts to vendors in more than 40 states, and Sprey -- now a prominent critic of the plane -- said that by the time skeptics "could point out the failed tests, the combat flaws, and the exploding costs, most congressmen were already defending their subcontractors' " revenues.
Most troubling is the statement of former Pentagon weapons testing expert Thomas Christie that the F-22's enormous costs have caused the Air Force to ignore the rest of its arsenal, putting it on a course of "what we used to call unilateral disarmament."

Update: Obama says he'll veto an appropriations bill if it includes funding for F-22s beyond what the Defense department wants.

7.21 update: Responding to the President's veto threat, the Senate today voted to strip additional F-22 funding from the defense appropriations bill.

Monday, July 06, 2009

One of the "best and the brightest" is gone.

Robert S. McNamara, who died today at 93, may, in President Kennedy's estimation, have been the brightest of them all. He came to public service, as JFK's and later Lyndon Johnson's Secretary of Defense, from the presidency of Ford Motor Company, where he and his fellow "whiz kids" succeeded with a new toolkit of statistical techniques that refined the earlier, blunter techniques of Fordism and Taylorism. He brought that toolkit to Defense, and to the conduct of the war in Vietnam, where the emphasis on statistics was reflected in the periodic "body count" reports. His decisions led to the death or maiming of many thousands, both American and Vietnamese.

He later acknowledged that "we were wrong" (he never said "I was"), in the apology shown in the video clip above.