Category Archives: birthday

The Lydster, Part 72: Lydia is Six

Here are some things about the daughter that I think I’ll remember forever, but fear that I will forget:

*She’s 50 inches tall, weighs at least 65 pounds. I can still lift her, though I prefer the over-the-shoulder method of transportation.
*She’s in kindergarten, going to school with the wife.
*I make her lunch four days out of five. She eats a cheese sandwich (sharp cheddar) on whole wheat bread, with the crust cut off. Every day. That’s what she wants. She’ll get carrot or celery sticks, fruit cup or apple sauce, pretzels or fig bars, and a juice.
*She has developed a bit of sweet tooth, but she’ll eat yogurt as often as ice cream, and seem to find them each acceptable.
*Her favorite cereal used to be Cheerios, but when she tried Froot Loops when we visited my mom in Charlotte in June, that was the only cereal she’d eat for about six months. Lately, she’s really into Life cereal.

*She was the fastest girl in her class this fall in the Apple Run, by a considerable margin.
*She dances to EVERYTHING – TV theme music, especially the outro. She’s taking ballet once a week, and she likes to choreograph her parents.
*Her favorite show is Martha Speaks (PBS), about a talking dog, though she’ll watch her Nick Jr. favorites such as the Backyardigans, Ni-hao Kailan, the Fresh Beat Band and the Wonder Pets.
*She hates it when I pretend I don’t remember her name, or make a variation on it. Yet she often makes a variation of MY name or title, and THAT’S funny.
*She doesn’t seem to have a single favorite book. Carol’s reading the Little House on the Prairie books to her, while she prefers that I read the Dr. Seuss books or other texts. She can read Green eggs and Ham herself; we tend to take turns reading it.
*She’s somewhat less shy than she was last year.
*She still covers her ears when she sees conflict on a TV show or movie.
*She’s lost at least seven teeth; I believe she ahead of schedule. And she’s gotten five back, four lower and one upper.
*Usually, I dress her in the morning and put on her pajamas at night, except Thursday night, which is my choir night.
*She’s increasingly more helpful, putting away her clean clothes in the drawer. she also has this system to pick out her clothes for the week.
*We bought her trucks and blocks and other gender-neutral items, and she still is more a girly-girl than I would have anticipated. She likes pink and purple. Someone in Salon was fretting about her girly-girl daughter, who to be fair is even moreso than Lydia. Lydia will wear pants.
But I guess I don’t fret about it. If she wants a Disney princess tent and sleeping bag for Christmas, I don’t object. I may cringe a little on the inside, but she is who she is.

I love the girl.



I wrote a little piece about pet peeves a little while ago. But I’m interested in asking you folks if there are things that really bug you, especially if you have not much to do with it. Maybe it’s the political discourse that’s distasteful.

I was at work helping someone with a question, and I rediscovered that there are a couple issues that really have been bugging me, and really are, in the end, none of my business. Though I will make a case for the idea that, at least the former issue is a public health issue and therefore everyone’s concern.

Issue #1 is the huge number of Cesarean section births in the United States. From this document, the CDC notes that the C-section rate went up for the 11th straight year in 2006 up to 31.8%, the highest ever reported in the country. Lowering the rate was a governmental objective for the last quarter century. The mission actually seemed to be working for a while – the rate went from 22.8% in 1989 to 20.7% in 1996, but it’s been going up ever since. The optimal rate is between 5% and 10%. The whys are varied, but it concerns me regardless. And it worries some in the medical community as well.

The other issue involves pregnant women smoking. I know that tobacco is addictive, but when I see it, it makes me crazy anyway. Low birth-weight babies are often the result.

So what issues that really don’t affect you directly nevertheless gets on your nerves?



So, today is my birthday. How the heck can I remember how old I am? It’s not as though it’s a round number.

Get a bottle of ketchup.

Ketchup? What will…

Brand name.

You mean like Hunt’s?

The other one.

OK, so what does…

Look at the bottle.

Hmm. What am… OH, 57!


But what will I use NEXT year?

We’ve got time to work on that.

AP — Celebrity birthdays: March 7:
TV personality Willard Scott is 76.
Actor Daniel J. Travanti is 70.
Bassist Chris White of The Zombies is 67.
Singer Peter Wolf of The J. Geils Band is 64.
Actor John Heard is 64.
Keyboardist Matthew Fisher of Procol Harum is 64.
Guitarist Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers is 58.
Blogger Roger Green is 57.
Actor Bryan Cranston is 54.
Actor Bill Brochtrup (“NYPD Blue”) is 47.
Comedian Wanda Sykes is 46.
Singer Taylor Dayne is 45.
Drummer Randy Guss of Toad the Wet Sprocket is 43.
Actress Rachel Weisz is 39.
Singer Sebastien Izambard of Il Divo is 37.
Singer Hugo Ferreira of Tantric is 36.
Actress Jenna Fisher is 36.
Actress Laura Prepon is 30.

Feeling Your Age QUESTION

One of the things I hated about some of the music of the 1990s was that it sounded like songs I knew, sort of. This wasn’t just a copyright issue (Hammer, for one, was very good at attribution of the original source). It was that I would be briefly lulled into the familiar, only to be jolted into…something else. P. Diddy’s music did that to me a lot.

(Though the Every Valley from Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration was a GOOD surprise.)

So my family was at the 60th birthday party of the colleague of my wife’s. And this song comes on. I think it’s Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon, a song for which I have deep affection. Turns out to be some popular tune by Kid Rock that I had somehow missed. And, just for the moment, I was feeling my age.

What makes YOU feel like, just maybe, you’re not still a kid?
Blue Is Frustrated from Blue’s Clues. Pray tell, what is Blue frustrated about?

Smokey is 70!

If William “Smokey” Robinson was known just for the songs he performed, he would be a memorable artist. But the fact that he has written over 400 songs, according to ASCAP, and probably hundreds more and is a producer as well, then you have a musical force.

The first song released by his group the Miracles was Got A Job, a response song to Get a Job by by the Silhouettes, written by Smokey, Berry Gordy and Roquel Davis.

Here are just a other few songs written or co-written by Smokey. The group listed usually is NOT the only artist who’s performed the tune:

You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me- the Beatles; also performed by the Miracles
My Girl-the Temptations
My Guy -Mary Wells; anyone who could write My Girl AND My Guy is the consummate songwriter
No More Tearstained Makeup – Martha & the Vandellas; a relatively obscure song with one of my favorite lines: No sponge has the power To absorb the shower Of what pancake and powder couldn’t cover
Who’s Loving You – Jackson 5ive. From the 1st J5 album, a cover of the Miracles tune. Isn’t Michael preturnaturally experienced in love in this tune?
Ain’t That Peculiar – Marvin Gaye
Tears of a Clown -the (English) Beat. But it was from the Miracles’ version that I first heard of Pagliachi, which led me to find out that the reference was to a Leoncavallo opera.
Don’t Mess with Bill – Marvellettes
The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game-Grace Jones, covering the Marvelettes’ tune
Get Ready -Rare Earth, a song I first heard from the Temptations
No More Water In The Well – the Temptations, with a relatively rare Paul Williams lead vocal, from arguably my favorite Temps LP, With A Lot O’ Soul, 1967.
Still Water (Peace) – Four Tops
Floy Joy – the Supremes

I suppose I should do a couple more Smokey songs. I pick the oft-covered Tracks of My Tears and I Second That Emotion.

So, happy 70th birthday to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters’ Hall of Fame inductee, as well as 2006 Kennedy Center honoree, Smokey Robinson!

1993 photo of Smokey from LIFE magazine, for non-commercial use


Berry Gordy is turning 80

Back in 1998, when I went to Detroit, I visited 2648 West Grand Boulevard. No, “visited” is not the right word; I made a pilgrimage to Hitsville USA, the house that served as the recording studio for a great number of artists recording for Motown Records. It is a physically unimpressive building, even dowdy, but it was the launching pad for a great amount of music that I own, tunes by Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, the Four Tops, the Temptations), Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5ive, and the Supremes, among many others. The visionary for all of this was Berry Gordy, Jr.

Gordy, whose Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bio you can read here, developed songwriters, artists, and underappreciated backup musicians to create music that was not marginalized as “race music” or “soul music”, but in fact became “The Sound of Young America.” This is astonishing: “In 1966, the company’s ‘hit ratio’ – the percentage of records released that made the national charts – was 75%.”

If you bought Motown ALBUMS, as opposed to singles in the 1960s, as I tended to do, you’ll note that not occasionally, the same songs would make it onto more than one artist’s LP. Famously, Gladys Knight & the Pips had a #2 single in 1967 (#1 on the R&B charts) with I Heard It Through the Grapevine; about a year later, Marvin Gaye had a massive #1 hit on both charts with the same song, albeit arranged quite differently, written by Barrett Strong and the late Norman Whitfield. It was the stable of songwriters, including Holland-Dozier-Holland, some of the singer-songwriters such as Robinson, Wonder and Gaye, and less well-known folks who may be the unsung heroes in the saga.

Another writer was Berry Gordy himself. Songs written or co-written by him include:
Do You Love Me by the Contours, covered by Temptations
Try It Baby by Marvin Gaye, covered by the Supremes and the Temptations
I’ll Be There by the Four Tops
You’ve Made Me So Very Happy by Brenda Holloway, covered by Blood, Sweat & Tears
Money by Barrett Strong, covered by the Beatles and many others
You’ve Got What It Takes by Marv Johnson
I Want You Back, ABC, The Love You Save, Mama’s Pearl, Maybe Tomorrow – all Jackson 5ive; songwriters billed as The Corporation (Gordy/Mizell/Richards/Perren)
Even pre-Motown, Gordy had written hits for the late Jackie Wilson, including Reet Petite and Lonely Teardrops

I refer you to this episode of the podcast Coverville, featuring the music of Motown and Berry Gordy; yes, the thank you in the notes (and the fulfilled request of Remove This Doubt by Elvis Costello, the cover of a song from The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland album) is in reference to me.

Also check out this article celebrating not only 50 years of Motown records but also another milestone; Berry Gordy turns 80 on November 28, 2009. ROG

Picture from, “for personal non-commercial use only”

My Mom's Birthday

My mother’s birthday is today. When I went down to visit her and other members of the family in Charlotte, NC back in June, I was reminded of the fact that I am happy that she’s had the opportunity to get to know my daughter. This is particularly true since Lydia never got to meet my father, since he died almost four years before she was born. But it really is not adequate. Lydia knows her, and my sisters, for that matter, more from pictures than from personal relationships. Whereas my in-laws she sees with a fair frequency. At some fundamental level, I’m jealous of this fact.

My mother goes to an adult day care every weekday. I believe it has been tremendously helpful in engaging her mind, which is important at her vintage.

As I noted before, my mother, sister and niece were in a car crash a couple weeks ago. They’re OK physically. But the vehicle was totaled, and the amount of money they’ll get from the insurance will be inadequate to get as comparable used vehicle.

I was having a conversation with someone recently, and the question was whether either of us had been knocked unconscious. I had, twice. The second time was the car accident I was in when I was 19. The first was when I was pitching in a sandlot baseball game, when I was 10 or 11, and the batter, who was the older sister of one of my sister’s friends, hit the ball straight back to me, hitting me on or near my left temple. My mom stayed up with me all night, waking me up periodically to make sure that if I had a concussion, it didn’t lapse into something worse, which was the recommended treatment at the time. My parents may have called the doctor, but I’m almost positive we didn’t go to the doctor’s, but instead engaged in that course of treatment. I’m sure she did lots of other things that moms unselfishly do, but this is the strongest recollection that came to mind.

These pictures were taken in the Bojangles Coliseum parking; my niece Alex’s high school graduation was held at the center.


A Couple Lennon Flicks

Sometimes I see October 9 creeping up on the calendar and have not much to say past “Happy birthday, John.” This year, though, as a result of the 09/09/09 VH1 Classic extravaganza, there were a couple Lennon-related items worthy of noting, neither of which I had ever seen before.

One was a live concert in New York City in 1972, a benefit for the mentally handicapped (the preferred term in the day). It was odd, though. It all SOUNDED particularly familiar, such as him referring to his old group as the Rolling Stones. That’s because I own the album that was released posthumously in 1986; I have it on vinyl, perhaps one of the last LPs I ever bought. A photo of Lennon given to me by my friend Rocco was almost certainly from the same set of concerts. (Yes, the same Rocco who gets a mention in Love & Rockets 40.)

VH1 bleeped a couple words in the concert, one of them a pronoun. One was in the title of Woman Is the N***** of the World, which was excised several times. The other word was from Well Well Well. In the line, “She looked so beautiful, I could eat her,” the “her” was clipped. The interesting thing about the technology is that it didn’t affect the backing track, only the vocal track.

Something that I DIDN’T know until recently is that there were two concerts. And Elephant’s Memory, John and Yoko’s backing band, was reportedly really ticked off with Yoko Ono, believing she should have released the music from the tighter second concert rather than the first. A few of those second show performances appear on the box set Lennon Anthology. John messes up the lyrics to Come Together in both.

Here’s a performance of Instant Karma, followed by Mother.

The other item I saw was the 2006 feature film, the U.S. vs. John Lennon, which chronicled the development of John Lennon’s evolution from moptop to the famous/infamous “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus” comment to John & Yoko on the cover of Two Virgins. But ultimately, he was recognized as a political creature – black activist Angela Davis, e.g., took notice of the Beatles song Revolution. Many may have thought John and Yoko’s bagism and bed-ins were silly; John didn’t seem to care. Yet “Give Peace a Chance”, recorded at the Montreal bed-in, became as much the antiwar anthem as “We Shall Overcome” was the anthem for the civil rights movement.

Post-Beatles, John and Yoko’s activism became more pointed, hanging out with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Bobby Seale (who appears in the film). When John was seemingly successful in freeing activist John Sinclair, the Nixon White House became concerned about the 1972 election, especially given the passage of the 26th Amendment allowing 18-year-olds the right to vote for the first time nationally.

What to do? Based on a suggestion by Senator Strom Thurmond, the Nixon White House decided to try to deport John Lennon. The basis was a marijuana conviction that lots of pop stars in England had been subjected to, all performed by one overzealous officer.

The twists and turns of that four-year journey are fascinating, especially as told by among others, Walter Cronkite, Mario Cuomo, John Dean, Ron Kovic, George McGovern, Gore Vidal, and Geraldo Rivera, who had broken the story of the abuses in the mental health system, and was MC for the One to One concerts. Most interesting, though, was Watergate convict G. Gordon Liddy, who freely confirmed that the Nixon White House WAS out to get John.

October 9, 1975 was not only John’s 35th birthday, it was the date of Sean Lennon’s birth AND the day their immigration lawyer Leon Wildes informs John that he’d won the case. In some ways, I think the movie should have ended there. Instead, we get happy scenes of John, Yoko and Sean for a few minutes, followed by four gunshots. It seemed tacked on, though Yoko’s only complaint was that the bullets should have been louder.

Still I learned a LOT in this film that I did not know. Recommended. Here’s the trailer.


The Lydster, Part 65: Stretching It Out

As I have mentioned, there were a couple weeks this summer when Carol was away at college and I got to play what is quaintly referred to Mr. Mom. (Did I see that film? I have vague recollections of it.)

It was not too bad during the week. I would drop her off at daycare in the morning. On Monday/Wednesday/Friday, my friend who has a daughter slightly older and a son slightly younger than Lydia would pick up the daughter and take her to their house and I would pi her up from there. On Tuesday/Thursday, I’d leave work early and pick up Lydia from daycare myself.

This meant truncated workdays. I don’t know about your work habits, but mine has a certain rhythm which involves getting through the e-mails, and doing some of the tasks therein before working on reference questions. It was not an optimal situation but it was doable.

The weekends were trickier. It was daddy being “on” for 15 or 16 hours. Not only did I need to do her hair in the morning (and preferably at night), and give her all her allergy medicines at night, I needed to entertain – read more than the evening books, play various games inside and out. On a weekday evening, by the time I made supper, cleaned up after supper, did her evening routine (which involved her 30 minutes of television per day), then got ready for bed, there wasn’t all that much time. On weekends, it was a LONG period.

Fortunately, there were birthday parties for Lydia’s classmates each of the two Saturdays. The first party was in a suburb of Albany called Clifton Park. The father of the birthday girl picked us up. It was one of those combo bouncy bounce/video places; it seemed very LOUD. Of course, we had to wait to get a ride home until after the clean up, but this was not at all a bad thing as it ate up the time. If I were using a baseball analogy, it would be like a workmanlike pitcher eating up innings.

The second weekend, the party was in another suburb, Latham. This time, I was determined to find a way to get us there without help. Plan #1, taking the #29 Cohoes bus was out; it doesn’t run on Saturdays. What I discovered, though, is if I got to the uptown SUNY campus (via the #12 bus), there is a #90 bus that goes to all the malls in the area, including Latham Farms, near where we were heading. It meant leaving the house at 10:15 to get to the party at 11:30 (a half hour early) and staying a little longer to catch the right buses back. But since we were at Chuck E. Cheese, this was not a problem.

The biggest hassle, actually, was getting from the Latham Farms bus stop to the Chuck. To say it was not designed for pedestrians would be a gross understatement. There were trees by the side of the road that jutted out in a way that it was impossible to even walk on the lawn; of course, there was NO sidewalk to speak of.

Did I mention that I HATE the name Latham Farms? There are few to no agrarian features.

I hadn’t been to CEC since 1995 in an Atlanta suburb. It’s more tech oriented now, with our electronic hosts Justin and Kelly (really – but not the folks from American Idol) hosting the gig on a half dozen TV screens until the rat, er mouse, came out.

On the ride back to SUNY, there was a woman with her eight-year-old coming from Troy to SUNY. Her daughter was getting antsy, so it was mutually beneficial when she got to read to Lydia. We got home at about 3:15.

If we had gotten a car ride there and back, we would have been gone from 11:30 to 2, 2.5 hours. Since we took two buses each way, we were out a total of FIVE hours. This is a GOOD thing. It was an adventure. Lydia is good riding buses, and this was new to her.

I’ll admit that maybe she watched a little more television than is generally allowed on the two Sundays, but she survived. As important, *I* survived.

Photo by Ray Hendrickson

The "Obama Birthday Surprise"

It’s Barack Obama’s 48th birthday. While I do have some real policy issues with him (I fear a quagmire in Afghanistan, among other issues), those can wait. After all, it IS his natal day, wherever he was born.

OK, I jest, but that is my basic point. I think that too many people, including me, have gotten caught up with the various attacks on the President, from whether he’s a natural-born citizen of the United States to whether he’s a racist (Jeremiah Wright –I heard invoked by Glenn Beck just recently – to Skip Gates) to whether he’s a socialist (single payer health care). Or merely the Antichrist who wants to euthanize old people. What we’ve been missing, what I’ve been missing, with all those trees, is the forest.

I’ve become convinced that the proponents of these theories don’t need to PROVE the smears against Obama as unAmerican (by birth or by values). It’s merely necessarily to repeat them over and over. And over and over and over again.

Take the birthers, please. Jon Stewart pretty much eviscerated their points a couple weeks ago. The very next day, I get an e-mail that goes on and on and on about how the group (I won’t bother identifying them) will lead a campaign to “FAX All 50 State Attorneys General To Investigate Obama’s Birthday FRAUD”
According to published reports,[WHAT published reports?] Barack Obama’s legal team has been paid over one million dollars, so far, to STOP anyone from seeing ANY of his actual identification documents, or many other documents:
* Actual long-form birth certificate (NOT an easily-forged electronic copy of a short-form document that is not even officially accepted in Hawaii)
except by legal authorities in Hawaii…
* Columbia University senior thesis, “Soviet Nuclear Disarmament” – writing about the USSR; maybe he’s also a Communist? …
* Obama’s client list from during his time in private practice with the Chicago law firm of Davis, Miner, Barnhill and Gallard Hey, yeah, and while you’re at it, reveal why the clients were there. But wait, wouldn’t that violate lawyer-client privilege?
* Baptism records
* Obama/Dunham marriage license
* Obama/Dunham divorce documents
* Soetoro/Dunham marriage license
* Soetero/Dunham Adoption records

But would even THAT be sufficient? Ask David Hernandez.
It’s a longer list, but it’s brilliant in its innuendo.

The point is that it does not matter what Obama does; he will be criticized. And not on legitimate grounds, such as the deficit, but over specious stuff.

Take the mundane example of the so-called “beer summit”. Obama was criticized for his choice of beer – Bud Light. But think about it: don’t you believe he’d be criticized for ANY pick he made? If he’d picked a German beer, he’d be criticized for not picking a domestic brew. (Is Anheuser-Busch still considered “domestic” now that InBev owns it?) Even a selection of Sam Adams would have been picked as blue state elitist, I’m willing to bet. There was never going to be a satisfactory choice.

So for the President’s birthday, we should vow to vow not to get confounded by the – dare I say it? – vast right-wing conspiracy – designed to make sound and fury signifying absolutely nothing. Let us hold this President accountable for the substantive issues, but ignore the politics of distraction. And distraction it is, though it has the capacity of being believed. The repetition gives some the belief that “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” except that it’s the same cabal blowing smoke.