Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Auld Lang Syne - Yuletide Greetings

"It's Christmas Day!" said Scrooge to himself. "I haven't missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can." - Charles Dickens

Alas, joyously and thankfully not too late, the spirit of the season finally shines upon some of us. Fostering those festive feelings, nycityman shares some short thoughts and brief wishes for those who take the time to visit, “…and several butcher’s aprons,” as I am grateful that you do so. And for others who will never read these words, I still extend sincere salutations of the season.

So, Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a healthy New Year …

… to family and friends. To friends constant and to friends new. To friends old and to old friends recently and happily rediscovered. To those who make the working place far more than just a place for work. To those who toil at a certain singular watering hole and serve treasured companionship along with the Brooklyn lager - no extra charge. To the current President of these United States, who we all must admit has had quite a successful week. To people of all religious affiliations and to those who believe in no god at all. (Can we please lighten up on Muslim Americans? They are our fellow citizens and have the right to worship whomever and wherever they chose.) To the members of “Darin Lifetime Events ’07,” and to every man, woman, child, domesticated animal, sea creature, protozoa that has been so benevolent as to read the oft-ridiculous ramblings of this shadowy scribe. To the New York Jets (please make this real, I’ve been waiting 41 years, I won’t be alive forever.) And to all my fellow New Yorkers who prove time and again the strength, creativity and unity of diversity, tolerance and multiculturalism.

And by the way, why doesn’t anybody air, “The Bear Who Slept through Christmas? “

Bobby Darin and “Christmas Auld Lang Syne.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Job that Stole Christmas

"Are there no prisons?"

"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

"And the Union workhouses." demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"

My friends, just a quick hello. Nycityman is still among the living. I so want to be writing and so want to be posting. I have much to say about Barack Obama's constant capitulating to those whose only stated wish is to destroy his presidency; and the resulting undying government devotion and dedication to the wealthiest top 2% at the expense of the remaining 98% percent of the wonderful American population (with the obvious exception of the heroic Bernie Sanders.) I want to continue to expose and ridicule the sadistic, shameful, mean, malicious, callous and cruel nature of defenseless animal slaughterer and media ho (how pleasant and holiday themed) Sarah Palin (oh, how I wish caribou and moose had carrying permits so at least it would be a fair fight.) I've been remiss in my recognition of Bobby Darin and, horror of horrors, I even forsook the commemoration of the anniversary of old blue eyes' birth (I suddenly feel so reprehensible, and somewhat dirty.) I'm not on strike, nor on a work-stoppage from this non-paying blog job - but, alas, the multi-national corporation by whom I'm employed is reticent to recognize the joyous nature of the holiday season. Parties have been canceled, vacations have been postponed and the labor we all toil under has only been increased many times over while the powers that be twirl their waxed mustaches, tie defenseless young women to train tracks, snap their whips and throw their heads back and cackle demonically at our sad yuletide plights. I've been desperately trying to embrace the Christmas spirit since the Thanksgiving weekend, while simultaneously the media conglomerate to whom I dedicate my daytime (and now nighttime) hours has been desperately trying to quash those very same festive feelings. I've yet to partake in my yearly Christmas traditions - no South Street Seaport Singing Chorus Tree, no store windows, no Rockefeller Center tannenbaum, not even a viewing of my all-time favorite TV series Christmas episode from "Good Neighbors" ("The Good Life" to our friends across the pond - "Yuletide felicitations" "shoes, Jerry," "Christmas doesn't come in a van.") Time is rapidly running short, but the towel has not yet been thrown in. After all, Christmas is a time of miracles. I maintain sincere aspirations that Dickens-esque seasonal specters will shatter the solemn seasonal slumber of those who control the fates of us in the labor force, and I dearly hold on to the hope that the holiday will not escape them, and soon enough the spirit will encapsulate us all. Although my employer will not allow us to add more coal to the stove we, like Bob Cratchett before us, will all overcome and not only properly discover, but even generously share, that which is the true meaning of Christmas (Linus: "lights please.") So, much appreciated blog perusers, until we meet again, I wish you the best the season has to offer and hope we will be communicating much sooner than later.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Weekly Dose of Darin - Mack the Knife

“I’ve heard a few people say I’m premature about going for adult audiences, but I have to be the one to decide that.”

When I first started posting about Bobby Darin, my intent was to stay away from obvious song selections and attempt to find things that might not be known to everyone. As I said then -
“… the hope is to go beyond, “Beyond the Sea,” and “Mack the Knife,” so that those unfamiliar with the Darin canon and history will be exposed to his impressive and varied body of work while, at the same time, his more knowledgeable and loyal followers will still find something to pique their interest.”
So, consequently “Dose of Darin” has shared “Things,” Distractions,” and “Simple Song of Freedom” among other choices that the casual fan may be unaware of. But, sometimes, one has to acknowledge greatness, and history, and perhaps veer slightly off-course from initial intentions when specific situations require it. On this date, November 29th, 51 years ago, Bobby Darin was honored with two Grammy Awards - Best New Artist and Record of the Year for “Mack the Knife.” While well-deserved, the interesting thing about being crowned Best New Artist of 1959 is the fact that Darin had already charted the previous year with “Splish Splash” and ‘”Queen of the Hop,” had been appearing on television since 1956, and had been releasing recordings since ’57. But why quibble, historically the Grammy-folk have always been a little slow on the uptake (word has it that Adam Ant is a current contender) it was a triumphant year for Bobby and one that saw his career move in a dramatically new direction.

As reflected in the opening quote, Bobby Darin desired to expand his repertoire beyond the pop/rock songs that he was recording and felt, although still a very young man, that he was ready to make his move into more sophisticated and adult material. He had already been performing “Mack the Knife” in his live act, so this was not unfamiliar musical territory for him.

“This is not really what I’m about. I want to record an album of standards.”

When Darin approached Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records with this radical new idea, his reaction was negative but not unexpected, “What are you talking about? You’ll ruin your career!” So, undeterred and using personal funds to pay for the recording session, Darin began work on the album, “That’s All.” Ertegun eventually came around and the result changed Darin’s career, popular music history and the karaoke industry worldwide.

The following day, November 30, 1959, became a celebrated one in Bobby Darin lore as well. This was the day of the famous, and infamous, UPI story quoting Bobby as saying, “I hope to surpass Sinatra in everything he’s done.” As innocent and unimportant as that statement appears, it caused a seismic stir in the music industry and in the public’s perception of Darin. Even today, there is still much controversy surrounding the legitimacy of that citation. “Dose of Darin” did cover and comment on this event in an earlier blog, posted on Sunday, October 23, entitled “Two of a Kind” - http://nycityman.blogspot.com/2010/10/sunday-dose-of-darin-two-of-kind.html
(So, I’ve already quoted myself and am now referencing a previous post. I sincerely hope that when I’ve completed composing this I’ll be able to fit my considerably increasing cranium through the bedroom doorway.)

Darin on your Dial -
Check your local PBS stations, for they’ve just begun running a pledge week special, “John Sebastian Presents: Folk Rewind,” that features a clip of Bobby Darin, that master of musical multiplicity, performing his original composition, “Simple Song of Freedom.” If you find that you’re not in the mood for two hours of sometimes, saccharinely-sincere and overly-earnest folk group vocalizing very likely to convince you that you’ve stumbled upon the film, “A Mighty Wind,” Bobby Darin’s clip comes in at about the forty minute mark of the program.

And now a song, arrangement and recording that needs no introduction - except, I guess, that this entire post has been an introduction - it’s iconic, timeless and simply one of the greatest records since “Edison recorded sound.” From the 1959 album, “That’s All,” from the Brecht/Weill work, “Threepenny Opera,” with an exceptional and almost startling orchestration by Richard Wess - Bobby Darin performing his signature song, “Mack the Knife.”

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Devil in Disguise - Pondering Palin

“I thought that I was in heaven
But I was sure surprised
Heaven help me, I didn't see
The devil in your eyes”

Simple, seductive, satanic Sarah - this blog has been dancing around her like I’m Fred Astaire and she’s a coat rack. Since its very inception I’ve poked, prodded, preached, proselytized and protested but always within the confines of other subjects. There’s been the occasional jab, a frequent needle, but never an entire posting solely dedicated to the wonder that is Sarah Palin. The reason - the school of thought (school: skuul noun - 1. an institution from which Palin gained very little and one that produces educated individuals, a quality she considers to be negative and highly elitist) that should we all just ignore her, she would eventually vanish upon her, ignorance is blissfully, way. Alas, between her job at Fox News, her reality show, her frequent appearances on “Dancing with the Stars” and her succeeding Jigsaw in the next installment of the “Saw” series, it has become abundantly clear that, like crohn’s disease, that other stomach turner, she will not go away simply by being ignored. The role, then, of any thinking and reasoning human being, or even of any species that might possess an opposable thumb, is to regularly remind the voting public who, after all, have already gifted us with George W. Bush twice (okay, once) of the wasteland behind the wink, the superficiality behind the smile and the bull behind the “you betcha’” that is “Weekly Standard” page 6 girl, Sarah Palin. In order to properly protect ourselves, our peoples and the future of the greatest democracy the world has ever known we must remain alert of what the un-intelligentsia has in mind (using the word “mind” loosely, of course) for our nation.

As an xy chromosome individual, and as a vessel for testosterone, I do comprehend the appeal that Palin carries for certain hormonally-heavy members of our population, and I’m fully aware that many men would desire her mukluks under their beds anytime. But, simultaneously, as a beneficiary of the evolutionary process, blessed with a frequently employed and fully functioning cerebral cortex, I can rise above my native Neanderthal nature and surmise that running, and not ruining, our republic requires distinctly different qualities than just good looks, skintight clothes and “f - me” pumps.

"Obviously we gotta’ stand with our North Korean allies."

North Korea - South Korea. North America - South America. North Carolina - South Carolina. Or even the novel, “North and South,” by John Jakes. When you’re proudly ignorant, indifferent and often incoherent, facts, actualities and realities can be difficult to grasp and retain. On last week’s “Meet the Press,” moderator, David Gregory, began a question for Hillary Clinton with the suggestion that Sarah Palin has now approached Clinton’s level of accomplishment. Secretary Clinton, demonstrating remarkable poise and restraint, did not resort to her “second amendment remedies” in response but rather answered as if a query of some astuteness had been posed. (Where have you gone, Tim Russert? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.) So what exactly are these accomplishments to which Gregory refers? Sarah Palin won the title of Miss Wasilla of 1984 and was the runner-up in the Miss Alaska beauty pageant. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Idaho in 1987 and, said degree in hand, became a working member of the “lame-stream” media, as a TV sports reporter in Anchorage. Entering politics in 1992, she won a seat on the Wasilla City Council. (Population 5469, more people live on my block.) Four years later, she was elected mayor of that same tiny hamlet. In January 2007, Palin began her position as Governor of Alaska (population 698,475, that about covers my neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen) a post she resigned from a mere two years later to prove to the world that she was dedicated to public service and not a “quitter.”

I believe, perhaps optimistically so, that Palin will not run for President in 2012. While clearly not the sharpest icicle in the igloo (don’t think about that too much as it actually makes very little sense) she may just be smart enough to realize that she’s not smart enough to be the leader of the free world. With her beauty pageant training and her television background, what she is knowledgeable in, is show business. She knows how to play a crowd, she knows marketing and she knows how to promote her brand. A major worldwide failure in the political arena could hurt her entertainment future and damage her vast money-making potential. While seeing her constant, daily presence in every possible media outlet from television to newspapers to Facebook to podcasts - until finally. Krueger-like, she invades our very dreams - may certainly seem torturous, imagine the torture she could inflict both literally (she was pro-Bush water-boarding) and figuratively, should she ascend to the highest office in the land. Among other things, Miss Wasilla supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. She opposes all abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Ecologically, Sarah believes that climate change is a myth, and despite the recent disastrous Gulf oil spill she wishes to continue deep water drilling and wants to expand drilling even into protected areas. She believes not in evolution but creationism and so envisions a Flintstones-like past of a 4000 year old earth where humans and dinosaurs co-existed. We need her to stay on Fox.

And now, “Deep Thoughts by Sarah Palin” -

"They are also building schools for the Afghan children so that there is hope and opportunity in our neighboring country of Afghanistan.''

''If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat?''

“The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil." - defending one of her many fictional claims

“Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate."

“They're in charge of the U.S. Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom." - getting the vice president's constitutional role wrong after being asked by a third grader what the vice president does

"I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism. And I have a communications degree."

“Dr. Laura: don't retreat...reload!” - coming to the defense of radio host Laura Schlessinger who decided to retire after using the N-word on the air 11 times in 5 minutes

"Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant - they're quite clear - that we would create law based on the God of the bible and the Ten Commandments."

"Who calls a shot like that? Who makes a decision like that? It's a disturbing trend." – defending yet another falsehood that "In God We Trust" had been moved to the edge of coins by the Obama administration

"I think on a national level your Department of Law there in the White House would look at some of the things that we've been charged with and automatically throw them out." - referring to a department that does not exist

“How are we going to kick in the plan that will get this economy back on the right track and really shore up the strategies that we need over in Iraq and Iran to win these wars?"

"I like being here because it seems like here and in our last rally too - other parts around this great Northwest - here in New Hampshire you just get it."

"We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity." - quoting fascist right-wing columnist Westbrook Pegler, an avowed racist and anti-Semite who once expressed his hope that Robert F. Kennedy would be assassinated

"I think God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that."

"What would your response be if I asked you to remove some books from the collection?" - encouraging Wasilla librarian Mary Ellen Emmons to ban books.

“It’s you and me forever
Sarah smile
Won’t you smile awhile with me, oh Sarah?
If you feel like leavin’
You know you can go” - Hall and Oates

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hey Kid, Get Off My Lawn! - Grumpy Thoughts from a Cubicle Dweller

My after-work beer gang in the early days of my office

As I approach the start of my 24th year with the same employer, it’s hard not to reflect on how dramatically the workplace environment has been transformed, primarily for the better, in that relatively short period of time. Surely to some of the younger blog readers, 24 years would seen akin to a time travel jaunt and a pleasant visit with Aristotle (I would thank him for “Poetics.“ written in 350 BC and still an indispensable tome for those learning the skills of dramatic writing.) On the other hand, considering the topics covered on this webpage, it’s highly likely that my younger readers may have actually studied with Aristotle. When I speak of said changes and differences with youthful co-workers (to quote Jean Shepherd’s, “A Christmas Story,“ soon to be seen on TBS, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) they look at me as if I have “lobsters crawling out of my ears” and I commuted in to work that morn via horse and buggy. Well, juvenile jobbers, there were, in fact, periods of recorded human history, prior to your very essential existence, when events and changes of actual consequence did occur. And so in the great tradition of older, crankier people lecturing younger, more na├»ve people about how much harder we perceive we used to have it - listen well, take heed and believe - or perhaps, instead, gather that this is all but a weak set-up for a litany of office-place related jibes - your choice.

In the early days of my current employment, ashtrays were given out as corporate swag, company logo proudly displayed - and make no mistake about it, they were put to use in cubicle after cubicle. Great, grey clouds of cigarette smoke billowed from office to office, down winding corridors, seeping into conference rooms and air ducts, infiltrating entire buildings. Choking, coughing, red-eyed and ashen-faced, we met our daily duties. Smokers had not yet been forced to become nicotine-addicted postmen - neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these smokers from the swift completion of their appointed tokes - huddled together against the elements and the harsh environs, leaning against building exteriors, sheltering under eaves, bodies pressed tightly, one against the other, like Survivor contestants, desperate for the warmth projected by a co-workers body heat. Such is the embarrassment, the shame, the degradation that has befallen these once proud people, despondently clinging to their back of the bus high school days and their mythology of cool.

On each and every desk one would find a large, bulky, weighty typewriter - and we loved them. If you were fortunate enough to have one with a correction ribbon you awoke each morning with a smile on your face, a song in your heart and animated blue birds on either shoulder. What computers there were, were the size of the highest-compensated executive’s offices. Massive, “Colossus: The Forbin Project” monstrosities, they excreted millions of cardboard punch hole cards which were meticulously ordered, numbered, filed by hand, only to be disposed of; while large tape reels were continuously being spooled, un-spooled and then pointlessly exchanged by silent drones in white lab coats. Happily, these primitive computers have all been replaced, as movie depictions teach us that they were planning the eventual take-over and destruction of all mankind.

Office conversation consisted of phrases like, “say, what’s the big idea?” “so’s your Aunt Tillie,” and “well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.” If a female co-worker proved exemplary, corporate policy was to reward her with a pat on the posterior as a sign of approval. Not only was interoffice fraternization not discouraged, it was actually required. There were more “accidents” from office parties than from a Bristol Palin abstinence lecture (sorry, mess with the purity of America’s most sacred reality program and one has no choice but to bristle, Bristol.) Monthly expenses were calculated on abacuses, and when lengthy memos needed composing, we would read into dictaphones. Unfortunately, since I have previously pledged to never work blue (although, I may occasionally slip into periwinkle, for as Aristotle tells us on page 56 of Poetics, “polysyllabic ‘p’ words are always amusing” ) I must regrettably pass on this logical opportunity to share the ancient dictaphone joke that concludes with the punch line, “no, I use my finger.”

In conclusion, and with that last proud gag (although I defy you to find any other blog that references Aristotle three times, and a genitalia joke in the same posting) I actually thank you younger co-toilers for patiently listening to the repetitive prattling and exaggerated eccentricities of days of yore - and can you show me, just one more time, how this new software works again? I hold down “control” and then what? Which is control?

And now, for no particular reason but that I’m in a Kinks mood and I love the wit and intelligence of Ray Davies' writing, “Sunny Afternoon.”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Weekly Dose of Darin - As Long as I'm Singing

“And if this band don't desert me
Then there's nothin'
In the world can hurt me”

The gala return of a Dose of Darin, after my brief and extremely eventful respite (working, sleeping, drinking Brooklyn Lager at House of Brews – ah, those days were full and fruitful), is a tad atypical. A “Dash of Darin” might even be a more appropriate moniker for, this week, we reveal a Bobby Darin that could really cook. And not “cook” as expressed by faux-50’s, jazz-hipsters, or by their modern-day equivalent, Williamsburg residents - but literally, “cook,” as in “preheat the oven to 450 degrees” cook. In my eager and incessant endeavor to search out, seek and share only the most critical, most vital and most essential documents in the vast and varied annals of human-kind - the Magna Carta, the lost Shakespeare Sonnets, Decision Points – “…and several butcher’s aprons,” presents with much pride, pleasure and even a certain degree of smug, self-satisfaction – Robert Walden Cassotto’s personal creamed spinach recipe. And I can already sense the elation and excitement coursing through the internet tubes. Oh, the hours, the effort, the sources one must scour to continually uncover new fascinating, captivating and enthralling information – or in this case, the email one has to open. For this bit of research, I must confess, no blood was drawn, no sweat was dripped and no tears were shed, I simply rediscovered an email sent a little over a decade ago when a friend and I were going through our creamed spinach phase. And after all, as painful as it sometimes may be, who among us hasn’t experienced a creamed spinach phase? Now, from the celebrity cookbook, "Singers & Swingers in The Kitchen" by Roberta Ashley, Bobby Darin’s creamed spinach. I have not prepared this myself, but if any of you do, feel free to comment and share your results.

Bobby’s Favorite Spinach
(Serves 6)

2 packages frozen chopped spinach
3 tablespoons butter (or margarine) 2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour 1 cup milk (or light cream) 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2
teaspoon ground nutmeg

Follow the directions on the spinach boxes; drain thoroughly when cooked.
Melt the butter over low, low heat; add the onion and cook until the onion
is soft, stirring every so often. Remove from the heat; mix in the flour
(no lumps now). Add the milk slowly, and cook until it's thick. Stir in
salt and nutmeg, and then mix this sauce into the drained spinach. Heat a
bit longer over a low flame.

A Fictional Bobby Darin Sighting -

Yesterday, Kevin Spacey and I happened to be lunching in the same dining establishment – Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant, Maze. Nothing of any great import occurred - Spacey was not warbling in a bright yellow suit, and Ramsay did not appear to be present, and so we were not privileged to enjoy his always appealing lack of charm or his vulgar manner.

This Week in Darin History -

On November 19th, 1967, Bobby Darin appeared on the Debbie Reynolds television special, “And Debbie Makes Six,” other guests included Frank Gorshin, Jim Nabors, Donald O’ Connor and Bob Hope. It appears that Darin had no solo numbers but rather performed a few duets with Reynolds.

Almost exactly three years later, in 1970, Bobby made a guest appearance on the November 20 episode of the Flip Wilson Show, where he sang the song, “Melodie,” and with Wilson and Roy Clark, “Who Takes Care of the Caretaker’s Daughter.”

And on November 17th, 1959, Bobby Darin guest-starred on the TV special, “George Burns in the Big Time,” alongside some amazingly important and historical performers who, unfortunately, are very likely mostly forgotten today - Eddie Cantor, George Jessel and Jack Benny. Darin performed, “Clementine.” We’ll delve substantially more into George Burns and his place in Bobby Darin’s personal and professional life sometime in the near future.

A Double Dip of Darin -

Lastly, we conclude with another fun look at an original Darin composition, first as performed by Bobby himself, and then as covered by another artist.

Released as a Capitol single in 1962 and performed here on a January 1964 episode of “The Jack Benny Program,” here’s a really great clip (I know I always say that) and a great find - Bobby Darin and “As Long as I’m Singing,”

And from the 1998 album, “The Dirty Boogie,” the Brian Setzer Orchestra with their interpretation of the very same song.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nightmare on East Capitol Street!

“Too many distractions.
False retractions.”

I miss mouthing off. To the detriment of the rest of the English speaking world, I guess it’s just in my nature to share my thoughts and opinions. Whether it’s desired or reviled, I’m apparently always going to impart my self-perceived wisdom on humankind. I speak to animals, as well, but I’ve come to believe that their rapt attention is based much more on my supply of Beggin’ Strips than on my thoughtful musings on Alaskan ex-governors. The ego, being a well-developed and powerful force, has convinced me to return to the possibly pointless pursuits of the blogosphere. So Facebookers, I set you free once more. Your days of unintentionally reading reams of radical rants are over.

Superman was disposed of, at one point (how’s that for a segue?) and yet, still he lives to perplex myopic sky-watchers (to hopefully finally put this to rest - Birds are small feathered creatures who are likely to defecate on your shoulder. Planes are extremely large, metal crafts and have a distinct and loud engine sound. Superman is a person in blue tights and a red cape. Are they really so hard to distinguish between?) If a rebirth is acceptable for Superman, an illegal alien who, by law, is prohibited from battling baddies in the enlightened state of Arizona, a revival would seem in order for Nycityman too. And while my, heretofore, secret super power is much less impressive (injected with a serum called Haberdasherum, I can correctly ascertain one’s clothing size with a mere swift glance) “… and several butcher’s aprons” returns to bewitch, bother, bewilder and bore.

I’ve been told that there was some form of government take-over while I was gone at the cryogenics facility. Candidates who have openly campaigned on eliminating or privatizing Social Security, the VA and Medicare; eradicating the Department of Education, health care and unemployment insurance; forcing rape victims to carry their babies; proposing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage; giving tax cuts to the top 2% wealthiest in the land and ending any regulations on Wall Street, banks and other financial institutions have, reportedly, been voted into positions of power. Taking a rational step back, clearly this cannot be true. No one would ever actually vote for such ludicrous, un-American and harmful ideas. Then it came to me. I understand that Jackass 3D opened at this very same time. One can only assume that such an incomprehensible political outcome was, in actuality, just a promotional stunt perpetrated by Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O and the other mono-syllabic, Cro-Magnons from MTV. I look forward to the genuine elections, whenever they might occur.

Which of these 3 is the new speaker of the House of Representatives?

Being the astute observer of human behavior and trends that I am, and being a student of all things political, in my last blog I predicted - nay, not predicted, but guaranteed - that the Democrats would retain, not only the Senate but also, the House of Representatives. In my civics class defense, and this will surely impress, I wrote comically negative profiles on three of the Republican/Teabagger candidates - “Crazy” Carl Paladino, Christine “Samantha Stevens” O’Donnell and Sharon “nothing clever here, just plain bat-s**t” Angle, and none of them enjoyed a successful conclusion to their political campaigns. Had I but a clue of the prolific power that I was wielding I would have skewered and scorched every right-winger from Rand “Papa’s Boy” Paul to Michele (everyone do this one with me) Bachmann “Turner Overdrive.“ On to 2012!

“I’m not a witch. I’m you.” First off, I resent that remark and am highly insulted by it. Secondly, maybe I’m alone on this, but I don’t want our leaders to be just like me. I don’t care whether they’d be jolly to share a Brooklyn Lager with. I want someone better than me. I want someone smarter than me. I want someone more experienced than me. When did knowledge and intelligence become a negative thing in our culture? If I’ve been unclear, I don’t want someone just like me in charge of our nuclear arsenal. I want someone a hell of a lot more qualified. What are you all thinking? Get up right now and go look in the mirror. Now, take a long, hard, critical look. Is that the person you want to run this country? I seriously think not.

Finally, although this is not a “Dose of Darin” post, I did want to return and conclude on a note from Bobby. From his folk period, and feeling somewhat appropriate for this just concluded, frenzied, cable news channel driven, election period - Bobby Darin and “Too Many Distractions.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thank You

The cyber-heart of this, simultaneously too insecure and too egotistical, blogger is full. In the day since I decided to take a hiatus of undetermined length from, "... and several butcher's aprons," this blog has received a wealth of page views, some accompanied by very nice personal notes. I'm feeling sincerely appreciative. And, as any readers might know, you don't generally see much sincerity on these pages. Sarcasm, I do. Snark, I do. Derision and disdain, I do. Sincerity - not so much. So, in these few, rare moments before Mr. Hyde makes his return engagement, I thought I'd just share these few thoughts. Thank You.

To the good people at Darin Lifetime Events 07, I don't actually know who Michael Cembalest is, so I am not he. I was born the year that Mack the Knife was the number one song in the nation and, while growing up, Bobby Darin was always a family favorite. A few years back, I began some work on a self-created and since stalled, Darin related project and so immersed myself in the details of his fascinating and dramatic life. Upon its probable return, "A Sunday Dose of Darin" will very likely become, "A Weekly Dose of Darin" as, in all honesty, it's currently acutely cramping my football viewing.

To you all, and Sarah Palin, see you soon. Now, quite appropriately, Bobby Darin will take us out on a very positive note with a song by Steve Allen. As the old joke goes - Steve Allen claimed to have written thousands of songs - name two. (Ah, the snark returns!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Abyssinia, Henry - Saying Bye for Now With Another Obscure Reference

“So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye
I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye -- Goodbye!” - Oscar Hammerstein

It seems that the lifespan of, “… and several butcher’s aprons,” was, like that of the fruit fly, possibly meant to be pesky and very brief. Although I've had the good fortune to tally over 2700 visits, the readership has steadily and consistently dwindled to where the last 3 posts garnered views totaling 11, 3 and finally zero. And so, I may take a little breather from the blogosphere. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If someone posts a blog and no one reads it, is there a point to writing it? No one wants to be a voice in a vacuum.

Is this a final farewell or more of a Brett Favre-type farewell - sans the texted genitalia, of course? It's mostly been a fun, rewarding and satisfying endeavor, as well as an excellent writing exercise and so, one never knows. Perhaps I’ll see something on Rachel Maddow this very evening that frustrates me to such a degree that I just have to let it out. Perhaps I’ll relaunch, retool, or rename the blog to something that actually has some meaning and take another shot at in the future. Or perhaps I’ll just resume my rightful place on a stool at the House of Brews or on the couch in front of the 46 inch Samsung. But for now I leave the proselytizing and satirizing to others - and Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Carl Paladino and Christine O’Donnell have one less thorn to remove from their sides. (Really, how long will I be able to refrain from regular snide Sarah sassing?)

Thanks very much to those of you who did check in on occasion, and to you I leave one final thought - I guarantee you (yes, guarantee) that the Republicans, while winning many seats, will take control of neither the House nor the Senate.

Lastly, as he has had such a presence on the blog these last few months, and to continue this melodramatic mood, I close, quite fittingly with a Bobby Darin song - The Curtain Falls.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Sunday Dose of Darin - Things

“A few singers wrote their own material but very few wrote songs for other people at such an early stage in their careers - a clue that he was exceptional.” - Sir Tim Rice

Today, we hark back to our academic days - and I’m afraid that means that there’s an assignment involved. So, take out your blue books (do they still use blue books or are these things done on ipads or something, now?), put away your notebooks (ditto, the very same question), and store the Dodd and Di’orio biographies - this is not open book. Below, you will find a Youtube video with Bobby Darin’s recording of his own, original composition, “Things,” followed by a second Youtube clip of Dean Martin and Nancy Sinatra performing the same song. Your task, as in high school and college essays of old, is to compare and contrast the interpretation that Darin brings to his own work versus that of Martin and his cover version. As a little cultural background to explain the differences that each may bring to the tune - one is an Italian-American, inner-city kid with a lower-middle class upbringing while, on the other hand, the other is an Italian-American, inner-city kid with a lower-middle class upbringing. Begin.

Thanks for that indulgence - the point of all that was that this week’s Sunday Dose of Darin is about Bobby Darin, the songwriter. “Things” was chosen as an example of one of dozens and dozens of Bobby Darin compositions that were recorded by other singers as he wrote material, not only for himself, but for other performers as well. He was remarkably prolific and successful as a songwriter, with an impressive range that included rock, folk, country, pop and film and television scores - yet, I would hasten a guess that most casual Darin listeners are unaware of that fact. Although he primarily wrote alone, his impressive collection of collaborators included Terry Melcher, Randy Newman, Don Kirshner and Johnny Mercer.

Lengthy lists are not particularly creative or entertaining (hence my dislike for “My Favorite Things”) but it would be remiss to discuss Darin’s songwriting without mentioning at least some of the songs, so perhaps just a highlighted few will do - “Queen of the Hop,” “As Long as I‘m Singing,” "18 Yellow Roses," “Multiplication," "If a Man Answers," "Simple Song of Freedom," "Somebody To Love," "Two of a Kind," and "That's the Way Love Is."

While still in this enthralling list mode, perhaps a partial roll of other singers who recorded Darin’s songs is also in order - Bobby Short, Wayne Newton, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Buddy Holly, Dion, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Dean Martin.

“I started as a song writer as a hobby really but it became lucrative because I was fortunate enough to do some radio commercials which allowed me to do some commercial songs that I had written and the net result of that was getting lucky with my own records - 'Splish Splash' and 'Dream Lover.' - Bobby Darin

In 1999, Bobby Darin was posthumously, and deservedly, elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

From the 1962 album, “Things and Other Things” and the number 3 spot on the record charts - Bobby Darin and “Things.”

Five years later, performing “Things” on the Nancy Sinatra TV special, “Movin’ with Nancy"- Dean Martin and Nancy Sinatra - featuring Dean pitching woo at his best friend's daughter.

Finally, I just want to say an appreciative and grateful hello to the very nice members of the Yahoo group, “Darin Lifetime Events 07.” Thanks to you, my Bobby Darin posts get far, far more page views than anything else that I do and there’s really no point to writing if no one is reading. I also know that some of you have spread the word of Sunday Dose of Darin and have left me supportive comments. Knowing that you’re reading each week also keeps me on my toes as I imagine that if I get some important things wrong, you can probably call me on it, so that’s a good thing too. Thanks very much, and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog. - nycityman

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday Song Selection - How Do You Do It

Today, in commemoration of Gerry Marsden’s 70th birthday (I already hear the confused cascading chorus of “who?”) we present a first in the long, storied, legendary, controversial, decades-long history of Saturday Song Selection. A rich, vital and essential chronicle of Americana of which famed film critic and half-man, half-walrus Dr. Moreau creation, Gene Shalit once commented, “what?” From our original days on radio with my lovely co-host, Arlene Francis and frequent guest contributor, Dorothy Kilgallen; to our initial forays into the pre-computer days of the abacus; through our first experimental broadcasts with the early, primitive kerosene-powered pc’s, we have never before brought you a Saturday Song Selection Double Feature! So bring your kiddies, bring your wife, guaranteed to have the time of their life - oh wait, that’s the Mets theme - rather, gather your children, call the grandparents, summon the neighbors and hang on tightly to your chapeaus, for this week we look at competing renditions of the classic British Invasion song, “How Do You Do it.”

In this British Battle of the Bands the combatants are Gerry Marsden’s, Gerry and the Pacemakers versus a little-known but fairly successful quartet going by the curious moniker - the Beatles. Both groups hailed from Liverpool and both shared a manager in Brian Epstein. In this beat-driven brawl the Beatles could be considered the Muhammad Ali of the fight, while the Pacemakers are more akin to Jimmy Ellis (baffled bellowing of “who?” number two.) If, for any peculiar reason, anyone out there actually gets this arcane and inane analogy, it is, in reality, a pretty appropriate comparison. I’ll complete the contrast by likening Brian Epstein to Angelo Dundee and then move on as I assume that, at this moment, I’m addressing an audience of none.

Now, one would imagine that it’s a pretty enviable situation being even the second most popular rock band from Liverpool, but when number one is the Beatles, it’s a long and precipitous drop to the number two position - a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon. However, Gerry and the boys did quite well for themselves scoring several other classic hit songs including “Ferry Cross the Mersey,“ and “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying.“ So, happy birthday Gerry Marsden and here from our childhood memories, and number one on the charts - Gerry and the Pacemakers and “How Do You Do It.”

And for today’s special surprise treat, the Beatles now perform the very same number. You’ll just be hearing a demo recording for, although the Pacemakers had great success with the song, the Beatles had no interest in releasing it themselves. And certainly, the quality of the composition does not match the writing standard of Lennon and McCartney.

(More) Saturday, October 23rd Birthdays -

Weird Al Yankovic was born in Downey, California 51 years ago today, and I’m pretty positive that somewhere, somehow there must be someone that actually cares. (well, that was needlessly mean-spirited, wasn’t it?)

Television legend, icon, star-maker and, now we know - utterly and completely irreplaceable - Tonight Show host, Johnny Carson would have been 85 today. For those of us of a certain generation, Carson was a constant and welcome presence, and the undisputed talk-show king. He made look easy and effortless that which too many of his followers make look difficult and laborious.

And finally - last week we celebrated the birth of a woman perplexed by a witch, this week we recognize her male counterpart - a man frequently flustered by a genie. It’s the centennial birthday of Brooklyn’s own, the late Hayden Rorke. You won’t know the name but you’ll surely recognize him from the picture.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor: Reflections on a Life Lived in a Box

An Over-Dramatization of Apartment Living in the Big City

An Essay with a Couple Too Many Subtitles

“Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise, noise. There’s one thing I hate, all the noise, noise, noise, noise!” - The Grinch

“It's just apartment house sense
It's like apartment rents
Remember: one man's ceiling is another man's floor!
One man's ceiling is another man's floor!” - Paul Simon

Saturday, October 9th, 6:30am - I am awakened by loud rhythmic clapping and the repeated top-of-the-lungs shouting of the single word, “Yankees!” First pitch of the game is scheduled for 8:37pm, some 14 hours later. Welcome to life in a densely populated New York City apartment building.

There will probably be nothing particularly unique here for many of you. Unless you grew up in Wasilla and have no real worldly experiences of your own, or any realistic perception of how the majority of your fellow citizens exist (got that out of the way quickly) there’s a good chance that you’ve lived in an apartment building at one time or another. But, like Oscar and Felix before me, I’m a more mature fellow still persevering in the world of monthly rent checks (alas, I have yet to locate my Pigeon Sisters) and find myself mostly surrounded by callow, rosy-cheeked, fresh-faced neighbors still in the embryonic stages of life’s long journey, and what they primarily appear to bring with them to this, their post-matriculation phase, are those things that they learned within the confines of the frat house. But soon enough, if they wish to survive and prosper, they will hopefully ascertain that there is more to life than the drunken exuberant screaming of the f-word, the 3am sounds of wall and floor shaking thumping bass and the smoking of the demon weed on my fire escape. Along with other more sober neighbors I have spoken with these children across the hall, have slipped notes under their door, discussed them with the Super and on one particularly extreme party night, even alerted the gendarmes, who failed to arrive. On any type of special occasion - a birthday, a 3-day weekend, a holiday (they really kicked it on Arbor Day), a major sporting event, an awards ceremony, Emo Phillips’ birthday, a day with the letter “y” in it - it’s simply best to just seek shelter elsewhere, even the Port of Authority would be preferable. These rowdy boys, keepers of the half-Delta House, half-Limelight lifestyles, are close cohorts of the landlord and accordingly feel impervious to any possible consequences of their actions. With no obvious kryptonite to play, one considers the crossbow, the catapult or the commando team but, legally and economically, those options are very likely unrealistic.

Currently, I am listening to the mellifluous sounds of a Section 8 woman who at times resides in Bellevue and at other times lives in the hovel directly across the airshaft from me. She spends much of her waking hours engaged in strident and boisterous squabbles with herself. On occasion, her dog does join in on the deafening disagreements but, much to my disappointment, rarely adds anything of value to the debate. When she is about, one must be wary of the glimpse through the levolors as a likely result would be to spy her naked in her kitchen window cooking at her stove top - in my eyes a somewhat dangerous activity to be engaged in when unclothed. Now normally, the chance voyeuristic peek would be a positive happenstance but not when, at first glance, the subject of the naughty nude-view appears for all the world to be Oscar winner and beloved Hollywood icon, Ernest Borgnine. And while maybe he momentarily did it for Ethel Merman he doesn’t really quite boil my cabbage. Interestingly and very strangely, when encountered on the street she’s the embodiment of sunshine and roses and, here’s the kicker, acts as though we are enjoying a relationship and, of course, a romantic one at that. “There you are!” she sing-songs cheerily in my direction, a large Joker-like smile terrifyingly lighting up her face. I wonder how much danger I’m in from this situation. I see a bickering couple, accidentally happening upon my lifeless body, Law and Order opening in my future.

Have I mentioned sex yet? Obviously, I mean not my own sex, as I prefer that the discussion remain in the realm of the realistic rather than delve into the world of the fanciful. No, I speak of the sexual stamina of the dynamic downstairs duo whose ceiling shared a plane with my floor. The promiscuous pair whose bedroom lay directly beneath my very own. They have since moved on but their amorous actions, while here, will dwell forever in my memory. Their frequent and vociferous expressions of shared affections appeared to occur in a very deliberate and scheduled manner - twice a day, everyday. It eventually became part of my daily calendar to be aware of exactly at what point the carnal carnival would commence, and even more disturbing, at what latter time, based on the speed, rhythm and pacing, said passionate performance would reach its conclusion. At that juncture I was free to attempt slumber once more. When I would run into them in the hallway handshakes were never in order as I knew precisely where they had just been.

Then there is the banging, (pardon the inadvertently lowbrow segue, I refer to noise) in populous, old New York apartment buildings you are assured of hearing banging. Constant banging. Incessant banging. Never-ending banging. Ever-present banging. Non-stop banging. Morning, noon and night, 24/7, forever and always, sunrise-sunset, night and day, day in and day out, summer, winter, spring and fall of my life, come rain or come shine (sorry, I’ve wandered into Frank Sinatra’s discography now) banging! If you’re not getting my gist, if you‘re puzzled about what exactly I‘m trying to communicate to you, I’d say it’s that there’s a lot of banging. Be it someone hanging a picture, someone repairing something, someone constructing their Ikea hutch, the heat coursing through the ancient pipes or the enraged neighbor venting his or her ire through recurrent and constant contact of fist on wall – there’s almost always some form of banging sound. If you’ve ever daydreamed of living in a fantasy musical theatre world, congratulations, you’ve made it into Stomp. I would imagine if one has to exist within the parameters of a show, Oh Calcutta might be a more enjoyable choice.

There’s also the rehearsals of all the, not quite Brian Stokes Mitchells or Bryn Terfels, Broadway and Opera wannabes who surround me here in the theatre district of Manhattan. And the never-employed lady above me who somehow can afford to live in the same apartment building subsisting only on her daily collections of cans and bottles which she drags up the stairs in metal carts numerous times everyday. It’s Marley’s ghost and the chains he forged in life, but I get it nightly, Scrooge only had to deal with it on Christmas Eve. As Ebenezer discovered, it can be quite a frightening and alarming sound when jarred awake by it in the wee small hours, whether you’re wearing a nightcap or not. There’s the choir group that regularly works on new harmonies at 1:30am, and the roach problem which has morphed into a bedbug problem, and the something that’s always leaking whether it's your toilet tank, the kitchen sink or the pipe in the wall that eventually causes a ceiling collapse in the apartment below - luckily the aforementioned frisky couple were not involved in anything of an intimate nature at the time. Is it at all a natural existence to live in a cluster of rooms piled on top of each other, sharing our musical tastes, our cooking aromas, even our vermin - our roaches, rats and bedbugs? As a rightfully rejected Devo song might have asked, are we honey bees or are we men? As I posed the questions, I too will answer them. Yes, and I’ll go with honeybees. I love Manhattan, I love my building. And I love my, desperately in need of a paint job, apartment in which I’ve resided for over 15 years. I’m a little more ambivalent about the Google Earth shots of me exiting it, but that’s a matter for another day. When all is said and done, please give me a little box surrounded on all sides by other little boxes in the heart of amazing Manhattan, and not some little box on the hillside made of ticky tacky anywhere else.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Sunday Dose of Darin - If I Were a Carpenter

“I used to be pissed off at Bobby Darin because he changed styles so much. Now I look at him and I think he was a f…ing genius.” - Neil Young

From Splish Splash and Dream Lover to Mack the Knife and Beyond the Sea to Things and 18 Yellow Roses to If I Were a Carpenter and Simple Song of Freedom - no other performer had such success with such a wide range of material and styles. And from Bobby Darin to Bob Darin back to Bobby Darin again - he did it all with sincerity, artistry and authenticity. Add in the fact that besides being this chameleon of a singer he was also a musician, a record producer and record executive, a hit-making songwriter and an Oscar nominated actor and one can’t help but wonder - if he did all of this in his brief 37 years, what might he had accomplished in a lengthier lifetime. I imagine that this is a “what if” game that commonly crosses the mind of Bobby Darin fans. Think of what a fine, older character actor he could have become and the idea of finally receiving the much coveted Oscar seems perfectly reasonable conjecture. In the field of music he might have also experienced the same type of late-life career revival, and much deserved appreciation, that Tony Bennett now enjoys. But as Darin delved into so many various genres of popular music and did so with a fairly equitable achievement in each, he may have been in the enviable position to take advantage of any number of musical style revivals - show tunes and standards, folk, oldies and classic rock.

If Bobby Darin was still with us, at 74, today the shelves of his study would no doubt be dangerously burdened by the weight of myriad additional awards and honors, among them - the aforementioned Oscar, more Grammys, including one for lifetime achievement, and the highly prestigious Kennedy Center Honor. On a lighter, perhaps more irreverent note - we could have watched Bobby’s toupees fake age with him through the years as we similarly did with Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. It would be nice to think that Darin would have demonstrated a little better judgment and a bit more constraint than Bennett who spent far too much time with an apparent ocelot on his head.

For some more insight into this speculative exercise, the book, “That’s All,” contains the thoughts of two of Darin’s good friends and musical associates - Nik Venet and Bobby Scott

“Had he lived today,” Scott said,” he would probably be doing what a guy like Tony Bennett is doing: Doing a lot of things that are considered jazzier. And he would bring interpretive things to songs, and a different look at them, so that people would happily pay their money to hear him.”

Venet holds a quite dissimilar opinion, “He’d probably have his own film company and his own record company, and he’d be the executive like Francis Ford Coppola.”

And then it’s entirely possible that both men would actually have been correct.

This Day in Darin History -
On October 17, 1960, the "Darin at The Copa" album entered the record charts where it eventually peaked at the number 9 spot. Songs on the live LP included Some of these Days, Mack the Knife, Bill Bailey, I Have Dreamed, Clementine, I Got a Woman, That’s All and many others.

I really love this clip, I find it a moving, genuine, heartfelt performance and I think you’ll agree. There’s a beauty and elegance in its sparseness and simplicity.
From 1966, released by Atlantic Records, written by Tim Hardin, a song that reached the number 8 spot on the charts and earned Bobby Darin another Grammy Award nomination - If I Were a Carpenter.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday Song Selection - Little Rascals Theme Song

“Don't call me Norman. Call me Chubsy-Ubsy.”

Saturday salutations once again. Today the Song Selection takes us on yet another journey through the portals of time. We’ll voyage back to a magical, mystical, almost mythical era when Republicans still believed in Social Security, public education, minimum wage and even (gasp) freedom of religion. So let’s board Peabody’s Wayback Machine or dive into Irwin Allen’s swirling Time Tunnel and traverse among the epochs until we arrive at that most desirable of destinations - the days of far too frequent youthful television watching. This week’s nostalgic nugget is the Little Rascals theme song, more properly entitled Good Old Days. The response to the birthday profiles of Bud Abbott, Groucho Marx and Spanky McFarland was so positive and so sincere that I thought revisiting some additional pleasant childhood memories might just be in order.

In my case, as was the case with millions of children in the New York Metropolitan area, it was WPIX Channel 11 and Captain Jack McCarthy and Officer Joe Bolton who brought us the extremely edited adventures of The Little Rascals. Later DVD releases, with the correct theatrical title of Our Gang, revealed scene upon scene excised for the television versions. The cuts were made primarily for time considerations so as to fit two 20 minute film shorts into a 30 minute time slot, while also breaking for commercials, and comments by the aforementioned Captain Jack and Officer Joe. Edits were also made, quite correctly, with concerns to racial sensitivity, but as we were never privy to those parts of the films, it was an issue that we innocent tots were completely unaware of.

The first silent short premiered in 1922, entitled Our Gang, and featured members Sunshine Sammy Morrison, Jackie Condon, Peggy Cartwright and the celebrated, Dinah the Mule. And after all, is there really any form of entertainment that doesn’t benefit from the presence of a comical mule? Take note New York Metropolitan Opera. The final Our Gang comedy was released 22 years later in 1944. The cast of Tale of a Dog included Buckwheat, Big Shot Hickman, Froggie Laughlin and a completely uncharismatic, Robert Blake. By that time the series had long since run its course. It had become preachy rather than funny and was poorly cast with fairly unappealing children who were, for the most part, too old for their roles.

Robert Blake can be seen in this picture, second from the right.

But the classic episodes still hold up and have been entertaining viewers for generations. So here’s to Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, Porky, Buckwheat, Jackie, Chubby, Wheezer, Scotty, Dickey, Stymie, Mary Anne and, even those lesser-lights, Uh Huh, Breezy Brisbane, Woim, Dorothy Echo DeBorba and the ever enchanting Miss Crabtree.

Breezy Brisbane

One final Our Gang thought - how about a contest? While a classic and beloved song, perhaps Good Old Days could benefit from words. So take a listen, and if you feel so inclined, hit the comment button and contribute your original lyrics. As contests go, it’s not a particularly good one as there are no prizes involved, but I could post an entry or two on the blog and you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that a vast handful of people, a virtual throng of a few, a swarm of several - will be appreciating your hard work and creativity.

Saturday, October 16th Birthdays -

She was Mame, Mama Rose, Mrs. Lovett, Jessica Fletcher and, even at this advanced age, she recently played Madame Armfeldt in A Little Night Music - many, many happy returns to musical theatre legend and television sleuth, Angela Lansbury who turns 85 today.

She was a jiggle TV pioneer. She married a major Canadian talk show host. She no longer speaks to former fictional roommate, Joyce DeWitt. But now she’s perhaps best known for having firm thighs - but who among us isn’t? She’s turning 64, although much of her anatomy is significantly younger than that, happy birthday to Suzanne Somers.

And finally, she was the quintessential nosey neighbor, and harkens back to a day when witches were on sitcoms and not in politics. She left us many years ago but lives on forever in TV lore. Alice “Gladys Kravitz” Pearce was born 97 years ago this day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Call for a Virtual Peace Corps

We’ve got a special treat for you today, some words of wisdom from a guest blogger. She’s a concerned mom and citizen, an all-around good egg (yes, I said “good egg” you know I’m about 100, right?) and, importantly and impressively, she’s also a published author. If you appreciate what she has to say or would like to have a return appearance, please comment and give her some love. It’s a win-win situation, I get to just lazily lie around and watch TV and you get the benefit of a new, intelligent and refreshing voice free of sarcastic Sarah Palin references, forced alliteration and Bobby Darin songs. Enjoy.

A Call for a Virtual Peace Corps

blog for your (political) lives!

Young people are, as they have been in every generation, our hope and 'salvation'. Young people are fresh, open minded, not stubborn or intractable like older folks. Because they are still forming their opinions, they are less opinionated.
If you believe that it's not guns - or bombs - that kill (although weapons certainly do facilitate); that it's people's beliefs and hatred that kills - then you may wish to be part of the solution: to change people's minds. Banning weapons is not easy - it's more effective to convince people not to use them.

Young people today have a bigger challenge than us Baby Boomers. My generation saw injustice and rallied against it - civil rights, women's rights, the Vietnam war; we protested and we won - we made great strides. It was a deeply satisfying feeling that we could and did change our world.
Now the world is faced with terrorism, of many kinds. Not just a clash of cultures and lifestyles, but of philosophies, with no geographical borders. Most alarming is the assault on rationality.

This generation has powerful tools for the spread of understanding - social networking. Reach out to those on the opposite side- exchange ideas and info. It's not as exciting as marching in the streets. It is appealing and rewarding to be part of a cause. Check out message boards and start a polite dialogue. Participate in exchange programs if you have the means.
Be a representative for good. Friend an extremist, or an evangelist, or a Tea-bagger. Avoid proselytizing - the last thing we need is digital missionaries. Get to know them, aim for mutual understanding. The world does need more reasoned dialogue.

It's time to discourage extremism and craziness (here and abroad). So how can we explain our viewpoint to someone who thinks very differently from us? More challenging - how can we explain how we think if we are interacting with people who are acting out of emotion or 'people of faith'?

Be respectful. People believe in all sorts of things, some people firmly believe they have been abducted by aliens, and would challenge you to prove them wrong.
Can we change someone's mind? It's almost impossible, since we are all products of our environment. People on the other side of the world grow up listening to their elders' teachings, people they admire and trust. They have been indoctrinated, just as we have been, with certain ideas. Why are people so inclined to mistrust? Partly because of isolation and lack of diversity. Fear of the unknown. Different does not equal scary.

Start with humility. We are not better. Our government does not necessarily make us more free than other citizens. One god is not more merciful or loving than someone else's god.
We're all on the same side. All members of the Family of Man. People who think differently are not our enemies. Different opinions are interesting, stimulating. We can discuss without arguing. Try to divorce yourself from your emotions, because no one can discuss things logically and effectively when they are upset.

Defuse the clash of civilizations. (Even if it's just Red State vs Blue state - Republican vs Democrat) A secular society does not equate to valueless. On the contrary, some believe doing the right thing simply because it's the right way to treat our fellow man, not doing so in order to gain a reward or avoid punishment, is more moral. Value rationality versus mythology. Extreme religion is an excuse for hatred, racism and violence. It's time to stand up against that. It's time to tackle extremism. Inflammatory rhetoric is the first step toward violence. Denounce hate speech.

Take responsibility. It's best to live in the present, plan for the future, but let go of the past. Old animosities lead to a cycle of recriminations. Other people do have legitimate grievances - sometimes about policies you may personally support. Especially in the anonymous online world, people will insult you and possibly upset you. Shed the anger. Don't stoop to their level. Live and let live.

Listen. Instead of changing their minds - maybe they will change yours - be open to that. Put yourself in their place. Ask questions abut their lives, our environment helps shape our beliefs. Some countries particularly suffer from unchecked population growth that leads to alienation. The unemployed will increase around the globe. Find common ground, like global warming or economic concerns. Share your interests: video games, fan fiction, TV shows; sometimes diversion is the best tactic (ask any toddler's parent). People need projects to feel useful and stay out of trouble, engage that energy.

Ask them for specifics. Why do they believe their viewpoint is correct? Check the facts - not just yours - but what they base their arguments on. Push them to think more logically, and not reach hasty conclusions based on one side of a situation.

Form informed opinions. Educate yourself. Curiosity about the world is the driving force for mutual understanding. People who read Steven Hawkins can converse more intelligently about the universe. People who have read Steven Pinker can discuss nature vs nurture with authority. Opinions should be formed on the bedrock of knowledge. Leaders who form beliefs based on listening to others without that intellectual authority should not be taken seriously. Steer people to objective, factual web sites for info - not sensational, biased media outlets.

Celebrate genius, talent and scholarly effort.
When did elite become a 4 letter word? Why do some people distrust intellectuals? We need to swing back towards sense, not sensationalism. Time to stop dumbing down – and smarten up! A large segment of the world is listening to the wild and wacky instead of the best and the brightest.
They're deciding who to trust based on symbolism instead of substance. Worse, deciding who to distrust based on rumor and misinformation.

Make a difference, even if it's tiny. As Edward Kennedy said in eulogizing his brother Bobby:

"Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, (you) send forth a tiny ripple of hope...building a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

It's worth a try. Take the country and the world forward.

-Sharon Long
author of A Kid's Guide 2 Politics

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Sunday Dose of Darin - If a Man Answers

Gonna hang this phone up now and dial again
Ooh … and there better be a soprano
On the other end

The Bobby Darin/Sandra Dee film, “If a Man Answers,” premiered in Chicago, 48 years ago today. The romantic comedy co-starred John Lund, Cesar Romero, Micheline Presle and Stephanie Powers. I found a small number of reviews from the period, but why ruin a perfectly pleasant day. Suffice it to say, despite a few critical barbs, the film did receive two Golden Globe nominations, one for Best Motion Picture - Comedy, and the second for Best Supporting Actor for Romero. It was the fifth and final film release for Darin in 1962, an impressively prolific year. But perhaps best of all, it featured the title theme written and performed by Bobby Darin - and that song is this week’s Sunday Dose of Darin.

By all indications, autumn seemed to be a particularly active time of year for Bobby Darin throughout his career, so let’s take a quick look at a few more noteworthy events that occurred around this date.

October 5, 1959 - “Mack the Knife” hit number one on the record charts where it remained for the next nine weeks. Darin’s signature tune earned him two Grammy wins, one for Best New Artist and the other for Record of the Year. Karaoke bar patrons are forever grateful. On this very same date, “That’s All,” the album from whence the song came, entered the Billboard LP charts where it eventually rose to the seventh position, charting for 52 weeks.

October 6, 1959 - At 23, Bobby Darin became the youngest performer ever to headline at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.

October 9, 1964 - Darin co-starred with Janet Leigh on the Bob Hope Chrysler Theatre, in an episode entitled, "Murder in the First."

October 8, 1966 - The Tim Hardin composition, "If I Were a Carpenter," entered the Billboard top 40. It eventually earned Bobby another Grammy nomination, this one for Best Contemporary Rock and Roll Solo Vocal Performance. In losing out to Paul McCartney for “Eleanor Rigby,” I guess you would say that you can, indeed, judge a man by the company he keeps. The song has been covered by dozens of performers including June Carter and Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Robert Plant, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Small Faces, Bob Seger, The Animals, Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte and the list, like Stephen Bishop, goes on and on. Nevertheless, as surely as one thinks of Darin when thinking of “Mack the Knife,” the same can probably also be said for “If I Were a Carpenter.”

October 9, 1966 - Bobby Darin appeared on the Andy Williams Show with Anthony Newley & the great Nancy Wilson. He performed Jerry Herman’s, “Mame” - that being the song, not the entire musical comedy, as interesting as that attempt might have been.

From the film of the same name, released as a single on September 17, 1962, Bobby Darin and “If a Man Answers.”

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Saturday Song Selection - John Lennon: How?

Part of me suspects that I'm a loser, and the other part of me thinks I'm God Almighty.

This week’s Saturday Song Selection is particularly special. On the occasion of what would have been his 70th birthday, we commemorate the life and legacy of John Lennon.

John Winston Lennon was born on October 9th, 1940 in Liverpool Maternity Hospital, Liverpool, England to Julia and Alfred Lennon. His life was taken on the evening of December 8th, 1980 in his beloved Manhattan, New York. In those tragically short 40 years he lived a life that was remarkable, renowned and best reflected in his own words.

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.

It was like being in the eye of a hurricane. You'd wake up in a concert and think, Wow, how did I get here?

I'm not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I've always been a freak. So I've been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I'm one of those people.

You don't need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are!

My role in society, or any artist's or poet's role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.

One of my first and clearest childhood memories is actually of the Beatles. Although not quite yet five, I do recall sitting in front of the big black and white television watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Even now, in my mind, I can still see the camera panning from Beatle to Beatle pausing just long enough for each one’s name to come up on the lower portion of the screen. Yes, there was actually a time when people did not yet know the names of the Beatles.

For our generation, the Beatles were far more than just a rock group, they were a mammoth cultural phenomenon - they influenced the way we dressed, the way we cut our hair, the things we cared about, the things we thought about and, of course, they completely changed the face of popular music. So, if you have any memories or any thoughts at all that you’d like to share about John Lennon or the Beatles, I very much want to encourage you to do so. This is a celebration of an extraordinary life, please feel free to leave a comment

John Lennon
October 9, 1940 - December 8, 1980
The more I see the less I know for sure.