May 7th, 2021

storyteller doll

Catch Up

Celebrity Death Watch: Isamu Akasaki was a physicist who worked on LEDs. Tony Pola was the drummer for Beasts of Bourbon. Arthur Kopit was a playwright who wrote the book for the musical Nine and is best known for the play Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad. B.B. Dickerson played bass for Eric Burden and War. Simon Bainbridge was a composer who set poems by Primo Levi to music. Paul Ritter was an actor, best known for the tv series Friday Night Dinner. Joey Hummel ghost-wrote over 70 Wonder Woman comic books in the 1940’s. Hans Kueng was a theologian. Albee Hastings was a Congressman from Florida. Howard Weizmann was a lawyer with a lot of famous Hollywood clients. John Naisbitt was a futurologist, whose book Megatrends was on the New York Times bestseller list for two years. DMX was a rapper and earned me 19 ghoul pool points. Ramsey Clark was Attorney General of the U.S. under LBJ. Rusty Young was one of the lead members of Poco. Bernie Madoff made off with a lot of other people’s money. Felix Silla was best known for playing Cousin Itt on The Addams Family. Helen McCrory was a British actress. Barry Mason wrote the song “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” among other things. Charles Geschke co-founded Adobe. Black Rob and Shock G were rappers. Jim Steinman wrote, among other songs, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Tempest Storm was a burlesque star. Idriss Deby was the president of Chad, whose assassination should have gotten more news coverage. Joe Long played bass for The Four Seasons. Dan Kaminsky was a computer security researcher. Billie Hayes played Mammy Yokum in the Broadway musical, Lil’ Abner, but is better known for playing Witchiepoo on H. R. Pufnstuf. Eli Broad made a lot of money as a real estate developer and became a philanthropist, expanding the arts in Los Angeles and funding the Broad Institute for medical research at MIT. Bobby Unser won the Indy 500 three times. Yitzhak Arad directed Yad Vashem (a Holocaust memorial / museum in Jerusalem) for 20 or so years. Lloyd Pe=rice was an R&B singer. Lucinda Franks was the first woman to win a Pulitzer for national reporting. Geoff Crowther wrote for Lonely Planet.

Frank Jacobs was one of that usual gang of idiots, i.e. a writer for Mad. In particular, he wrote a lot of song and poetry parodies.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was Queen Elizabeth II’s consort. He earned me 20 ghoul pool points.

Walter Mondale was Vice President under Jimmy Carter and lost the 1984 Presidential race.

Michael Collins flew the Apollo 11 command module, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.

Olympia Dukakis was an actress, best known for Moonstruck, as well as playing Anna Madrigal in Tales of the City.


Non-celebrity Death Watch: Marvin Moskowitz died of COVID-19 in January. He and I had dated briefly in the 1980’s in Los Angeles and reconnected on Facebook. I lost saw him a couple of years ago, when we went to the Museum of Jurassic Technology together during my layover in L.A. on the way to Tahiti. He almost certainly contracted the virus from unmasked people on public transit. I am furious.

Both Merrilee Palansch and her husband, Bob, died abut a week apart in January. She was a talented storyteller and he was a great supporter of her storytelling, as well as a musician in his own right. They also collaborated over 60 or so years of marriage in performances, activism, and raising their family.

I knew Michael Loo from flyer talk. We had dinner together during some of his trips to Washington, D.C. and mine to New York. He was kind and generous and a fine violist. I particularly admired his efforts to continue traveling over the years, despite health challenges.

I hope to experience less loss during the rest of the year.


Non-human Death Watch: Amphora in Vienna closed in mid-January. This was a huge family restaurant, open 24 hours a day, and was the place everyone here went to, often after something like a concert at Jammin’ Java. Their Herndon diner is still open, but is considerably less convenient for me.


Don’t Analyze This Dream: I was at an airport and panicking because I couldn’t find my mask. Then I discovered I had a white paper mask in my pocketbook, but I couldn’t figure out how to put it on.


Mental Health: A few weeks ago, I went to a William Barton Rogers Society talk that had to do with student mental health services at MIT. While the talk was generally encouraging, one of the speakers kept talking about “the stigma of mental health.” Er, I know that she meant the stigma of mental health treatment, but I still found that annoying.


Leading Jewish Minds at MIT: This is a series that has gone virtual, which lets me attend. Over the past months, I’ve been to a couple of talks. One was by Jay Kayser about Modernism. His chief argument was that there isn’t a common language for understanding modern arts and everything depends on Easter eggs. My opinion is that’s a lazy position. It may take more effort but it is still possible to understand, say, that the key word in the title of Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” is “descending” and that makes the painting about motion.

This week, there was a talk by David Autor about “The Faltering Escalator of Urban Opportunity.” This really came out of a study on the future of work. His key point was that the jobs that exist now often did not exist in the past and that this has led to increased inequality.


Ahhhscars: My friend, Paul, and I have gone a few times to the California State Society Ahhhscars party, which is a nice excuse to get dressed up, dance, have fancy food and cocktails, and have photos taken with Oscars-themed props. This year it was virtual and started with a trivia contest. Fortunately, most of the questions were not about movies, though there was a picture round which had to do with vampire movies. It turns out that Paul was really good at identifying those. I have seen a lot of vampire movies but have a terrible visual memory, so was pretty useless. (I was better at the other sorts of questions). Anyway, we were on the winning team. (And the other team was the one that had a congressman on it.) As for the other activities, both of us failed to correctly predict the Best Picture winner. I did enjoy some of the snacks they sent (cheese popcorn, sparkling wine, Oscar-shaped cookies) and gave away others. An in-person party would, of course, have been more fun, but this was still fun.

New Garbage Disposal: I don’t think I mentioned that I finally got my garbage disposal replaced. I have learned that if you google what something should cost, you can expect to pay 2-3 times that amount. I am okay with that as I am not interested in doing much beyond changing lightbulbs myself. At any rate, the new one is remarkably quiet. Next big household project is probably getting the ceiling lamp in my bedroom replaced, largely as part of my quest to get rid of things that have unique lightbulbs.

Earworm: For some reason, Jonathan Richman's "Here Come the Martian Martians" popped into my head the other day. And I can't get rid of it. At least it's a song I like.

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