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.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Over the Cuckoo's Nest 3: Your 2010 Republican Nominees

Sharron Angle
People are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."

What can be said about Sharron Angle that hasn’t already been said about Charles Manson? Although, I do have to admit to having a bit of a soft spot for Angle, one almost has to feel sorry for her, as she clearly has no capacity to camouflage her craziness. Her lunacy is just so completely lacking in subtlety. Christine O’Donnell has cultivated a certain coyness, a coquettishness, an almost child-like innocence that aides in disguising her heinous intentions. Weekly Standard centerfold, Sarah Palin, goes with a more overt sexuality. She attires herself in that skin-tight, S&M leather jacket with the zippers over the nipple region (sorry kids.) She winks at all the old rich, Republican white guys, and then blows kisses in their direction, which is apparently enough evidence to the aged randy GOP’ers that she has the qualifications to run our republic. Have you ever seen Pat Buchanan get all jittery and frisky, and hot and bothered when discussing Sarah? It’s not a pretty sight. It’s embarrassing for him. It’s embarrassing for her. And it’s embarrassing to witness. But Sharron can pull off neither Palin's MILF-technique nor O’Donnell's youthful naïveté. Angle’s more the nutty old lady down the street with the 75 cats and every periodical she’s ever purchased since 1959.

Now, in recent weeks, you’ve no doubt heard more than you’d ever want to hear about Sharron Angle, so what’s left to add to the debate? Musical comedy. Has anyone else discussed her policies or her beliefs in song?! I think not. So, to the tune of “Bloody Mary,” from the musical “South Pacific,” presented from the viewpoint of a tea bagger - and really, who appreciates a good Broadway musical more than a tea bagger? – “Sharron Angle is the Girl I Love.”

Sharron Angle is the Girl I Love
Sharron Angle is the Girl I Love
Sharron Angle is the Girl I Love
‘Cause she’ll shoot Harry Reid

Says if she loses you should be alarmed
It’s your sworn duty to do others harm
The constitution lets you take up arms
So go shoot Harry Reid

You’ll keep the fetus you bore from attack
Or when your uncle forced you on your back
Or if it kills you just like Bernie Mac
‘Cause she says that’s God’s plan

(instrumental break)

She’ll strip your freedoms from you if you’re gay
Or Ramadan is your big holiday
Your education grants will go away
Big business needs that dough

If you are jobless she will take your cash
Thinks unemployment pay’s a lazy rash
Social Security she’ll also dash
And then kill Medicare

Knows fluoridation is an evil plan
Joined a militia like a proper man
Now she’s an Oath Keeper and has a fan
In violent, inbred folks

Sharron Angle is the Girl I Love
Sharron Angle is the Girl I Love
Sharron Angle is the Girl I Love
‘Cause she’ll shoot Harry Reid
‘Cause she’ll shoot Harry Reid!

"I think that two wrongs don't make a right… they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade." - Senseless Sharron’s cheery reasoning on why she would forbid abortion even in cases of rape or incest.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Sunday Dose of Darin - Two of a Kind

“I have a rock and roll hit, that makes me one of a thousand other guys. Now I’ve got to prove I can sing.”

This week, let’s go all “Behind the Music-ish,” and take a look at the famous and infamous supposed Frank Sinatra reference that kept these two Italian-American, lower middle class, New York area music legends - who really had so much in common - from ever performing together in what could have been an unforgettable, magical, musical moment. Obviously, it’s purely conjecture to suggest that without this flap that pleasing pairing would have ever come to be, but it is definitely interesting to imagine. And speaking of ”unforgettable,“ as they covered so much of the same material and even shared an arranger in Billy May, one would think that current technology would certainly allow a Natalie Cole/Nat King Cole “from the great beyond” type of duet. But for the sake of artistry and musical purity it’s probably best to leave that as something only John Edward can experience.

November 29th, 1959 was an important night in Bobby Darin’s career. That evening marked the first time that the Grammy Awards were ever aired on television, and on that important, premiere telecast Bobby not only performed “Mack the Knife,” but was honored with two awards - one for Record of the Year and another for Best New Artist. Afterwards, at a post-awards cocktail party, when encountered by a UPI columnist, Darin reportedly said, “I hope to surpass Frank in everything he’s done.” Those simple words, which he always denied ever actually saying, set off a firestorm in the entertainment industry, followed Darin until his death and began a never-resolved feud with Sinatra. Maybe.
That notorious quote was never verified as being true, but Sinatra and Darin are on record speaking about each other, so perhaps their own words can help clarify the situation.

Bobby Darin -
“Everyone wants to grow up and be an adult, and so do I, and I want to have an adult audience, but I know that the teenagers of today will be adults tomorrow… Maybe when they get older and turn to Sinatra, as everyone seems to do eventually, then, they’ll like me too.”

“I don’t want to be a second Frank Sinatra. I want to be a first Bobby Darin.”

“Frank Sinatra is the greatest living lyric interpreter.”

“The biggest single fallacy that has been built up about me as that I think the sun rises and sets on Frank Sinatra.

Frank Sinatra -
“I sing in saloons. Bobby Darin does my prom dates.”

“He’s got it all to himself. He’s the best because it’s a whole new generation.”

There you have it, contradictory proof positive that we will probably never know what they truly thought of each other, or if it really even mattered beyond being a bit of gossipy press, public relations and Hollywood lore. In 1984, Frank Sinatra did cover “Mack the Knife” - some would say, unwisely - on his “L.A. is My Lady” album, and referenced Darin in the lyrics. So, if there ever really were bad feelings between the two, one would imagine that, 11 years after Bobby’s death, Sinatra was no longer harboring a grudge.

This Day in Darin History - On October 3rd, 1958, Bobby Darin began touring with the fall edition of “The Biggest Show of Stars,” with stops all across the country including Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and more. Among the other performers on the bill were Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Dion and the Belmonts, The Coasters, and Little Anthony and the Imperials.

Why “Two of a Kind,” as this week’s selection? Although already an excellent duet with the song’s co-writer, Johnny Mercer, it would seem a natural number for that fantasy recording with Frank Sinatra. So, from the 1961 Bobby Darin/Johnny Mercer album of the same name, with arrangements by Billy May - “Two of a Kind.”

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Saturday Song Selection - Lydia the Tattooed Lady

“I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it.”

“She got her looks from her father. He's a plastic surgeon.”

“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made.”

“Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others.”

- Groucho Marx

When I first started posting songs I said that my intent was to share things that had some relevance to my life with the sincere hope that if the song meant something to me in some way, or was even just one that I found unique or entertaining, you would find some value in it as well. Similarly, with the weekly birthday greetings, the people I choose naturally tend to reflect my interests and background. Today’s entry demonstrates this to almost the ultimate degree. Now perhaps I’m a simple man, and I’m definitely an older man, but the fact that Groucho Marx, Bud Abbott and Spanky McFarland share the same birthday seems quite the amazing coincidence to me. They are each film comic icons. Their careers basically covered the same period. They are all recognized as being among the best, if not the best, in what they did. All three contributed much to not only movie comedy but also to popular culture. And personally, I grew up loving all of them.

Groucho Marx
"Groucho Marx was the best comedian this country ever produced… He is simply unique in the same way that Picasso or Stravinsky are." —Woody Allen

Born this day in 1890, Julius Henry “Groucho” Marx began his career on the vaudeville stage in 1905 and, razor wit still very much intact, continued entertaining audiences into the 1970’s. He made 26 films including 13 with his equally talented siblings, the Marx Brothers. I hope to never again hear another young person tell me that he’s never seen a Marx Brothers movie because he doesn’t watch black and white films. Rent “Duck Soup” this very moment and experience it. I don’t have the vocabulary to try to explain to you what you have been missing all this time. Groucho delayed is Groucho denied.

Bud Abbott

“For twenty years as a professional team, Lou and I were closer than man and wife.”

William Alexander "Bud" Abbott was born on October 2nd, 1895 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He too began his career in vaudeville, where he met Lou Costello in the early 1930’s, formerly teaming up in 1936. Bud and Lou made 36 films together between 1940 and 1956 and they were among the most popular and highest-paid stars in the world. If you grew up in the New York area in the 1960’s and 70’s chances are that you found yourself tuning into Channel 11, WPIX-TV, every Sunday morning at 11, as my brothers and I did, for your weekly Abbott and Costello fix. Those movies never got old and we could never see them too many times. Films greatest straight man passed away on April 24th, 1974. For the black and white-phobic, give “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” a go.

Spanky McFarland
"I wouldn't take a million dollars for the experience...and I wouldn't take a penny to do it again. As a kid I had everything I wanted, we had a good life but when it was over....it was over."

Born in 1928, George “Spanky” McFarland made his first appearance in an Our Gang comedy in 1932 at the ripe old age of 4, and he stayed with the series all the way through 1942. He made a total of 95 shorts with the Gang and even one feature length comedy, “General Spanky.” I was fortunate enough to meet Spanky once in the late 1980’s and although he was no longer a winning and adorable toddler, he seemed a nice and gentle man. On an additional personal note, I have actually encountered two Spankys in my time - aforementioned Our Gang member Spanky McFarland, who has entertained me throughout my life with some regularity, and Spanky the cat, who has damaged my home and knocked down my Christmas tree with equal regularity.
Spanky the cat
From the 1939 Marx Brothers film, “At the Circus,” written by Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen - the same songwriters who brought you, “Over the Rainbow” - the one, the only - Groucho and “Lydia the Tattooed Lady.”

Friday, October 1, 2010

Over the Cuckoo's Nest 2: Your 2010 Republican Nominees

The Ballad of Carl Paladino

“Paladin(o), Paladin(o)
Where do you roam?
Paladin(o), Paladin(o),
Far, far from home.”

He’s an admitted and proud philanderer. He angrily told his opponent that he would, “take him out,“ after physically challenging him and questioning his manhood. He’s threatened the life of a newspaper reporter (not that it’s the first life threatened by a Republican/Tea Party candidate - isn’t that right, Sharron Angle?). And he’s certifiably, bat-guano crazy. Is he currently spending time in a federal penitentiary or a state institution for the mentally insane? No, he’s currently spending time on the campaign trail, because he’s your 2010 Republican Gubernatorial Nominee from the great state of New York. Yes, the slate of Republican candidates continues to look more and more like something from the mind of Ken Kesey, and Carl Paladino is certainly no exception. The Teabaggers like to claim the ethical and moral high-ground, but as long as you’re not Black, or Mexican, or Muslim, or Gay or Jewish you’re in. And as far as IQ requirements - they don’t even know how to spell it.

Now, let’s begin our journey through the mind of Carl Paladino. But first, be sure the little ones are in another room - plant them in front of the plasma and let them regale in the adventures of the square-trouser-sporting cleaning implement, or in the songs of the schizophrenic daughter of the pudgy, mullet-wearing country crooner, or in the lessons learned on the pre-school avenue that has vehemently denied the existence of breasts - because I can promise you one thing, this won’t be pleasant and this won’t be pretty.

In an attempt to prove that he’s not just soft in the head but he’s soft-hearted as well, compassionate Carl has a unique plan to aid those in our society who find themselves financially less fortunate. If you are a New Yorker currently subsisting on public assistance, Paladino will forcibly remove you from your place of residence and transfer you to your new dwelling - a renovated prison cell. Mom, Dad, Little Suzie and Bobby, and don’t forget Gramps, would all now call the pokie, home sweet home. Then, the incarcerated clan will toil in state-sponsored jobs with prison guards serving as their empathetic counselors.

"Instead of handing out the welfare checks, we'll teach people how to earn their check. We'll teach them personal hygiene ... the personal things they don't get when they come from dysfunctional homes,"

That from a fellow who clearly knows a thing or two about dysfunction. But, his social engineering doesn’t end there for his sympathetic soul knows no bounds. One of his first acts as governor would be to cut Medicaid by 20 billion dollars - an action which would essentially take medical care away from those poverty-stricken citizens who have not previously been placed in prison.

As the father of two daughters - one by his wife, and one by his mistress - Carl has a particular interest in issues that greatly affect women. So, as is also the case with most of the other Tea Party candidates, Paladino opposes abortion in all instances with no exceptions.
His sympathetic stance is seen here in this CNN interview with Rick Sanchez -

“Sanchez: Should a woman have a right to an abortion if she’s been raped?
Paladino: No
Sanchez: She should not? She should have to have the baby?
Paladino: The baby can be adopted.
Sanchez: What if it’s a case of incest?
Paladino: The baby can be adopted, yes.”

Paladino’s legendary open-mindedness, class and intellect have been on display in many other ways in this campaign as well. From his referring to State Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver, who is Jewish, as “an Antichrist or a Hitler,” to his proclaiming climate change a “farce,” to his calling former governor George Pataki a "degenerate idiot,” after receiving his endorsement. But clearly Carl’s most conspicuous quality, even more so than the many enviable others, is his celebrated sense of humor. His remarkable wit has shown him to be, nothing less than, “the Baudelaire of Buffalo.” Some humorists specialize in the written word. Some are monologists. Carl’s province, almost his raison d'être, is the email. He has beguiled, charmed and amused those fortunate enough to be on his contact list with such droll, sophisticated and utterly tasteful comic images as - a photo showing a group of black men trying to get out of the way of an airplane chasing them across a field with a caption reading, “Run, (n-word), run.” Then there’s the doctored photo of President and Mrs. Obama, dressed in stereotypical pimp and prostitute-wear, entering a White House formal affair. For those who prefer their humor more sexual and less racist, Paladino has also emailed a video clip of a couple having sex, which he called “a keeper,” and a photo of a woman involved in an intimate encounter with a stallion - and I don’t mean Sylvester Stallone.

And last week’s Quinnipiac University poll showed Carl Paladino trailing Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo by only 6 percentage points.

The sad and somewhat frightening thing is that the polls show the more bizarre and incomprehensible and socially unacceptable the behavior displayed by these extreme candidates, the more they gain in popularity.