Category Archives: Uncategorized

Celebrity deaths

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There is generally nothing that affects me less than a celebrity death. Other than a knowing cluck of the tongue at the “oh-too-soon” expiration of another Hollywood wastrel, most of them pass me by with nary a notice. But in the almost-a-celebrity, or the once-a-celebrity, there I find something of interest, and particularly for those whose efforts long, long ago occupy some shadowy corner of my memory, I feel a sense of loss – not necessarily for the person, for as much as we kid ourselves, these people are unknown to us, but for some little piece of the past that has gone by, a way the world was that won’t be seen again.

Arnold Stang, whom I believe Drew Friedman once referred to as a “high priest of horn-rimmed humor,” represented a time that is now lost to us. He was one of those entertainers who bridged the gap between the early days of radio, the middle years of film, and the dawn of television, seemingly ubiquitous and always playing some variation of the same character. He came from the black-and-white world of late-night movies and TV re-runs, and it seems especially fitting to me that I best remember him for something he didn’t really appear in, a comic page (again Drew Friedman) that paired his nebbishy character with Robot Monster. Who else out there still represents that school of humor? There was a time when humor wasn’t so snarky.

And then there was Jennifer Jones, who appeared in a number of prominent movies and even won an Oscar, but who is forever emblazoned in my memory, in brilliant black-and-white, as the scheming, ditzy Mrs. Harry Chelm in the offbeat and severely underappreciated John Huston film “Beat The Devil.” Other than Gina Lollobrigida, whom Jones outplayed with her charming portrayal of a certain kind of woman who rationalizes her mercurial loyalties, I think she was the last of that interesting cast still alive.

We used to interact with films and television in a different way, and I think their hold over us was different then. If you wanted to see a movie, you had to see it when it was out, or wait years for it to reappear on TV. Our three television stations padded their schedules with forgotten black-and-white movies that, for the most part, few would watch today, but which built my impressions of the world that had gone by, the world my parents and grandparents had grown up in. What I knew of the urban jungle came from Dead End Kids (and East End Kids, and Bowery Boys) movies; what I knew of good guys who took a wrong turn came from John Garfield pictures. And because they weren’t there on demand, on a convenient tape or disc, at the press of a button, there was something somewhat magical about that late-night peek into a world that, while it was Hollywood magic, was still an interpretation of the world just before I came along, a world I’m endlessly fascinated with.

A holiday message

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Stop picking your nose!

I thought perhaps I had hallucinated this billboard when I saw it last weekend, caught without my camera, and I despaired for my sanity when several attempts to view it during the week presented me with no such public-spirited reminder. But yesterday afternoon, there it was again, tucked in among the countdown to Christmas and ads for a nightclub — a special request from Lamar for drivers along I-787 to stop picking their noses.

‘Tisn’t the season

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The run-up to Christmas always involves more than I expect. No matter how early the “shopping” is done, there is always a little more to do – the Christmas Eve gifts, things for people we didn’t know we’d be seeing, the mailing and arranging and serving as a package depot for others sending their gifts here. About 90% of the actual gift-buying is done online, and has been for years, but a couple of purchases required three trips to the mall, which is three trips more than I like to make in a year. The mall is not my thing, and in times of straitened circumstances, it seems not only noisy, busy and filled with horrible people, its offerings of pointless purchases, items of absolutely no value that are only sold because some sort of gift is needed, feels tasteless and desperate. That’s not to say I haven’t given tasteless, unthoughtful and desperate gifts, just that I don’t like to be reminded of it.

It also involves housecleaning on a level that I’m short on time for this year. The simple installation of the Christmas tree led to moving the couch which led to rearranging, realphabetizing, and consolidating every CD and DVD we own into albums, a ridiculous effort that ate up 7 or 8 hours over the weekend and resulted in a room that looks 7 or 8 percent neater. The inside of the refrigerator must be scrubbed, so naturally I’m thinking of putting down new flooring in the hallway, which has gone happily unfinished for years. The outside lights did not get put up and likely won’t – lights were never my big thing anyway – but I am making progress on digitizing my old cassettes, because the living room re-org led to the realization that there is no reason to have the cassette deck in there (and no reason to have the mini-disc player at all). Gone is the complicated system of tubes and wires that connected the tape deck to the laptop, the needless copying of files from laptop to the real computer, etc., etc. I just plugged the cassette deck into the computer, and now I’m happily copying away those gems from yesteryear. Why was that so hard to figure out?

We got through one holiday concert this week, then we have The Nutcracker on Sunday (every last minute of Sunday), a couple of school days next week and then a long, drawn-out Christmas. Divorce screws up Christmas plans for everyone, even those of us who aren’t divorced, so don’t do it. What used to be a fairly compact little celebration that started on Christmas Eve and was completely over with by the next night this year requires an extra day, an extra meal plan, extra logistics on who is opening what when, and a plan for how to fill the time that would have been spent with the family members who won’t be here. (Our current plan for that, by the way, is to be one of those families who go to the movies on Christmas day, and go enjoy a bit of rampant silliness in the new Sherlock Holmes movie.)

I also haven’t played any Christmas music yet, which is probably responsible for a good chunk of my lack of feeling, so I guess it’s time to put “Daddy Drank Our Christmas Money” into the rotation. Merry Christmas!

Going all modern on ya

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Well it only took about two years longer than I had hoped, but now there’s a place for everything and everything in its place. The old template is gone, the new one is nearly working, and for the first time all the pieces of my many personal websites are all running from the same location – meaning of course that when this server goes down, everything goes down. C’est la vie.

I’d wanted to make this real snazzy, with abbreviated posts and my very latest posting on Flickr showing up, and maybe someday I’ll get that code to work but today wasn’t the day. I do have all my family history pages linked up here now, plus some cool local history pages, including a new gallery of Hampton Manor-related newspaper articles (link below). More of that sort of thing to come, now that I finally have an atomic-speed computer that rips web galleries in the blink of an eye (debugging the code, however, still goes at the speed of me). If you had any of my old stuff bookmarked, time to update those because I’m not keeping it in two places. I think I have the archives working again, and comments are showing up right, too, so take it all in while it’s still functioning because I’m in way over my head.

Also, if you’re the RSS type, grab the RSS feed, which includes not only this blog but all my latest Flickr posts. What more could you want?

Oh, was that November?

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This extended absence from the blogging world (I am so 2002) was brought to you by Work – Work®, Keeping Families Solvent Since The Industrial Revolution. And, more miraculously, it has suddenly been actual work, where something gets done, rather than the kind of work that is actually just looking for, bidding for, and trying to get work, which is the bane of the consultant’s existence. Doing it’s the easy part, getting it is miserable.
The absence was also brought to you by Sudden Breakthroughs in Family History®, occasioned by some deep searches of an odd little site that inexplicably has thousands upon thousands of perfectly searchable scans of quite old upstate newspapers; it’s odd because it purports to be a history site for Fulton, NY, but somehow it has resources that the major library networks don’t have. I’m not asking questions, I’m just searching while the searching’s good, and finding all kinds of birth, death and marriage announcements I never had before, as well as the true story of why great grandpa was sent up the river for a while (which is coincident with the true story of how casually the residents of Amsterdam treated attempted murder in those days).
And mixed in with all that has been the usual rush of Nutcracker rehearsals, fundraisers for this and that, and a number of utterly splendid fall rides, and I’ve been up to my ears. Today would be another day for a late ride, but for a freak accident with my achilles’ tendon – and don’t think I’m happy that my figurative achilles’ heel is also my literal achilles’ heel. Much hobbling will be done for the next few days as I try to quiet it down. Tomorrow, after the family tradition of watching the parade on TV while making applesauce, we’ll be enjoying a fabulous outdoor Thanksgiving on the farm of some friends – it’s not quite a reenactment, but I may still throw in some genuine cursing of the Dutch, just for good measure.

Happiness is . . .

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  • Fresh pavement on a road I’d just written off as unbikeable.
  • The smell of basil and lavender all through the house as we rush to beat the frost.
  • Having a major shipment of ginger Altoids on the way.
  • “The Prisoner” on IFC – one instance in which I can forgive a channel’s mission creep.
  • Finding out that the perfect slideshow software for a project was already right on my computer.
  • New shocks on my truck – I fear no cornering!
  • Crisp McIntosh apples and Concord grapes.
  • Having made a backup right before one of my hard drives starting making ominous noises.
  • Clients who may actually pay me.

Summertime blues

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I’m not usually big on lament, but it seems I’m making an exception and moping around about the summer that never was. It’s true that there was precious little warm, let alone hot, and there was an injudicious amount of rain – so much that when it stopped raining every day, it took a few weeks to realize the constant deluge had stopped. And then it started up again. On the one hand, there was little need for air conditioning; I never even opened up the attic windows this year. On the other hand, there wasn’t a lake that didn’t feel like ice, and swimming was more because you just had to than because it was sweet relief.

Still, my displaced seasonal affective disorder aside, it wasn’t a total loss – all those summer things happened. Fewer bike rides than normal, but we got the boats out more. There was rollerblading and frisbee, beaches and camping and one decent road trip. Books were read in hammocks. Food was taken outside to be eaten. And my god were there fresh vegetables, and the ridiculous joy of black raspberry pie. We saw friends and fireworks (though we never did get in a baseball game, again because of the rain). So it’s hard to complain, in retrospect, though a few more days with the sun beating down on me wouldn’t have dismayed me. (Although, if I’m being honest, unless I’m on my bike I never actually put my body in the sun. It’s not for me. I’m a shade boy.)

The bloom is already off the second part of the lament, as the girls have been back in school all week, we’re starting to settle into the ballet schedule, and we’re already getting accustomed to the strains of “The Nutcracker.” Auditions are tomorrow.

Not exactly dog days of August

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For the record, this is The Summer That Never Was. Our hottest day of the year was in April and right now I doubt we’ll ever get that warm again. Though it’s nice to have the cool nights for sleeping, a little bit of sunshine is good for the soul, and we’ve had just about none of it. July was the second wettest month ever – 9.91 inches of rain. (The wettest month was September 1999, at 11.06 inches.) The weather predictions have primarily been waffling, indecipherable, or wrong, so when we get a day like yesterday, when the forecasters are saying there won’t be any rain but the skies are gloomy, I just can’t believe I’m going to be able to go out without getting hailed on. And hail hurts, even through a protective layer of spandex.

Even so, it’s been an adventurous summer for riding, discovering new roads all over the place, making forays into Albany and Saratoga counties and even giving in to the tyranny that is the State Office Campus ring road, a 3.25k oval with little traffic in the evenings that is used by many athletes with a need to go around a flat circuit. And that’s done wonders for my efforts on the flats. We’ve had the boats out more than last summer, which is saying just about nothing, but still. A couple of nice little road trips but I don’t quite have the nerve to go for one more camping trip; it took a week to dry everything from the last one. Perhaps I’ll change my mind.

Discovering a bunch of new music, by which I mean old music, of course. Continuing my love affair with the ranginess of the Rolling Stones in a mess of numbers I’d never heard before (YouTube is a treasure trove of culture and copyright violations), the “so classic I can’t believe I’ve never heard it” Skeletons’ version of “Waiting for My Gin To Hit Me,” and, in increasing desperation a fair amount of good classical music. Not that I don’t love classical, but it is generally unsuited for listening in the car. I’ve even got new vinyl (I mean, New Vinyl!!!) from The Church.

Reading is all over the map. I’m back into the War of 1812, because someone’s gotta be. Loved Christopher Moore’s new one, “Fool,” a wickedly funny retelling of the tragedy of King Lear with non-stop shagging beginning to end. Just finished T.C. Boyle’s “Talk Talk,” which was pretty good, and then I reached back to 7th grade, reading S.E. Hinton’s “That Was Then, This Is Now.” Some of this reading is being done in a hammock, while ignoring the tall grass underneath me, so the summer cannot be said to have been a complete waste.