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I post a weekly diary of historical notes, arts & science items, foreign news (often receiving little notice in the US) and whimsical pieces from the outside world that I often feature in "Cheers & Jeers".

OK, you've been warned - here is this week's tomfoolery material that I posted.

CHEERS to Bill and Michael in PWM, commonmass (along with Geoffrey the Cat) plus our Wyoming-based friend Irish Patti and ...... well, each of you at Cheers and Jeers. Have a fabulous weekend.

ART NOTES - works by the Expressionist painter in an exhibition entitled The Scandalous Art of James Ensor will be at the Getty Center in Los Angeles through September 7th.

PROGRAMMING NOTE - I will not be posting next week, due to attending both a family reunion and my high school reunion - which will prevent my attending Netroots Nation this year, alas. See you later this month.  

HISTORY NOTES - in the diary of the Nazi party official Alfred Rosenberg (recently located after having been lost for many years) he revealed that the decision to invade Denmark was precipitated by - of all people - the Norwegian Fascist leader Vidkun Quisling - whose last name has become a synonym for 'traitor'.

THURSDAY's CHILD is Flower the Cat - a Turkish kitteh who had become the mascot of a shopping center over a dozen year period .... then fled when management threatened to have the cat removed (over the objection of the merchants themselves).

SIGN of the APOCALYPSE - the Spanish newspaper ABC - in noting the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I - (intentionally) used the headline from The Onion with its "War Declared by All" for effect.

BRAIN TEASER - try this Quiz of the Week's News from the BBC.

HAIL and FAREWELL to the Grammy-winning jazz bassist (from avant-garde to mainstream) Charlie Haden - who revisited his family's musical roots with a 2008 bluegrass album - who has died at the age of 76.

FRIDAY's CHILD is Boo the Cat - an English kitteh who crawled into a wall (to avoid workmen coming to do repairs) .... then had to be freed since their repairs included ... replacing tiles that opened that hole in the first place.

YUK for today - told by the former congressman, judge and law professor Abner Mikva about when he was a student at the University of Chicago law school:

On the way home from law school one night in 1948, I stopped by the ward headquarters in the ward where I lived. There was a street-front, and the name Timothy O'Sullivan, Ward Committeeman, was painted on the front window. I walked in and I said "I'd like to volunteer to work for (Adlai) Stevenson and (Paul) Douglas."

This quintessential Chicago ward committeeman took the cigar out of his mouth and glared at me and said, "Who sent you?" I said, "Nobody sent me." He put the cigar back in his mouth and he said, "We don't want nobody that nobody sent." Thus began my political career in Chicago.

WORLD CUP NOTES - the championship match is today as Germany takes on Argentina - a rematch of their 1986 and 1990 championship matches (each side won once) - which will be on free TV (ABC) at 3:00 PM Eastern.

OLDER-YOUNGER BROTHERS? - the recently-deceased TV star Bob Hastings (of "McHale's Navy" fame) and TV/film star Fred Willard ("Everybody Loves Raymond", "Fernwood 2-Night" and "Spinal Tap").


....... and for a song of the week ................................................. although she's lived in New York City for decades, it wasn't until I relocated from the NY metro area to New England twenty-seven years ago that I learned of the folksinger Christine Lavin - due to my new local radio station. And even if, like myself, you don't identify with folk music as a genre: her blend of zany humor, relationship woes, serious love songs and - this decade - her political ideas make her someone you should at least give a listen to.

A native of Geneva, New York (near Rochester) and who came-of-age in the NYC suburbs, she worked at the Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs - the oldest continuously operating coffeehouse in the US. Her break came when the late Dave Van Ronk convinced her to move to Manhattan. She did and recorded her first album in 1981 (out-of-print for quite a while until the year 2000). But it was her 1984 album Future Fossils that first garnered attention. And with song titles such as "Cold Pizza for Breakfast (Warm Coke to Wash it Down") .... well, you knew this wasn't your typical folksinger.

The one constant of her career is that of changing labels: she has called Philo, Shanacie, Winthrop, Blind Pig, Appleseed, Yellow Tail (and even briefly Christine Lavin Records) home. Attending her concerts you will be treated to (a) a knitting circle before the show, (b) running commentary before (and during) songs; not merely an introduction but a critique of the subject matter (at a show I saw she once said, "But I couldn't do such a thing because ..... I'm a folksinger!" to some guffaws) and (c) a glow-in-the-dark baton-twirling segment at the end (dating back to her cheerleading days from her youth). She speaks of her knack of talking to strangers: unknowingly meeting the Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas and giving him sports advice ...really.

There are some tender ballads that she performs: The Moment Slipped Away (about telling people what you really want to say to them) as well as Somebody's Baby (which homeless people were at one time). And there are some about subjects of interest: Planet X (decrying the demotion of Pluto from the ranks of planets) plus having an early song Amoeba Hop used as a children's book - as she described receiving mail from science teachers, who used the song to help teach class.

But to understand why she's different from Sarah McLachlan, Suzanne Vega and Tracy Chapman, you need only look at her song titles. "Sensitive New Age Guys", "I Bring Out the Worst in You", "Happy Divorce Day" and of course "Getting in Touch with My Inner Bitch" ... well, any questions? One funny/heartwarming tune is 1987's Ballad of a Ballgame about an adult softball game that someway, somehow went ... right.

In the past few years, she has teamed with songwriter Ervin Drake - the Hall of Fame songwriter ("Good Morning Heartache", "It was a Very Good Year", "I Believe") - on political songs like Card-Carrying Bleeding Heart Liberal - and just look at the lyrics to 2005's The Peter Principle at Work about our former president. Her 2007 We Are the True Americans predates the Tea Partiers, but listening here you'd think it a new tune.

She also "plays well with others" - recording with other women as Four Bitchin' Babes and has hosted radio programs at Fordham University as well as satellite radio. Besides promoting the songs of the 91 year-old Ervin Drake, she compiled the folksinger's comedy (yes, comedy) album Laugh Tracks - spawning a follow-up disc - and a more serious folksinger compilation On a Winter's Night album.

At age 62, Christine Lavin's most recent all-original studio album is 2007's Happydance of the Xenophobe and is now on a tour with singer/comic Don White - which will see them in Great Barrington, Massachusetts Saturday night, in the Midwest later this month and in Texas in early August. She released her memoirs in 2010 ... and she is no less funny in print than she is in person.


I alluded to chuckling at many of her song titles on sight - by contrast, the last song title on "Future Fossils" unnerved me on sight.

She sings of a cab ride thru Central Park, and then seeing the large ornate apartment building (built in the 1880's) located at 1 West 72nd Street in Manhattan. It is nicknamed The Dakota allegedly since it was so far away from the center of Manhattan civic life then, it was as remote as the Dakotas.

But Christine Lavin wrote the song only four years after the murder of a famous Dakota resident ............ John Lennon. And below you can hear Christine Lavin perform "The Dakota".

I didn't-want-to-look:
but I couldn't help staring
At the scene of the crime
There was an old man sweeping last night's dirt
Out of a darkened vestibule
And a uniformed guard in a gold-trimmed cap
Watching the world pass-in-review

I don't believe in coincidence!
So why, then, on the radio:
Did an old familiar voice
Echo back from not so long ago?
"Imagine all the people
Living life in peace"

Well, it's hard to do
When you're on this blood-stained street
I wish I could take these bitter thoughts
And just shake them from my mind

But every time I see the Dakota
I think about that night
Shots ringing out, the angry shouts,
A man losing his life
Well, it's something we shouldn't dwell upon
But it's something we shouldn't ignore
Too many good men have been cut down
Let's pray there won't be any more

Originally posted to DKOMA on Sun Jul 13, 2014 at 08:32 AM PDT.

Also republished by Shamrock American Kossacks.


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