Follow up to Dave Itzkoff’s NYT column about his 4 year old and home video, “Yellow Submarine & Me” .


Follow up to Dave Itzkoff’s NYT column about his 4 year old and home video, “Yellow Submarine & Me”  .

(I posted this as a comment on his greeting on Redit. Never been signed up on Redit before. I couldn’t send a message on Twitter and the letters section for the article was closed. I liked what he wrote, I hope he enjoys this additional info.)

Hi Dave, I’m Bill Abbott and I greatly enjoyed your NYT piece about “Yellow Submarine“. My kid, now 22, was also a big fan at that age. Great stuff! Same kid prefers “Help!” to “Hard Day’s Night”. Admittedly, “Help!” has more tigers, and the four attached home front doors leading to one room, with John’s bed below floor level. How I wanted one of those! Same kid offered a Nina Simone song as “what’s going through my mind now” this afternoon. I have no complaints.

Not long after “Yellow Submarine“, we were lucky enough to have another pre-schooler loan us a copy of “My Neighbor Totoro“. We didn’t know the film, didn’t know Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli. But we learned in a hurry! VERY kid friendly, and (spoiler) their mom is in the hospital but gets better! No Hollywood Movie disease! Totoro? You’ll meet the neighbor. You’ll be happy you did.

Then my brother loaned us a VHS of “The Way Things Go“. Its a 31 minuite Rube Goldberg machine made of industrial and consumer junk, in a disused factory setting. One thing knocks into a second, which tips a third, whick pulls a string, which releases a weight that falls on the end of a folded, partially inflated, vinyl boat, which unfolds, starting a tire rolling up (!) a ladder, which hits a second tire, starting it, and then a third, and a forth… you get the idea. Eventually the rhythms of the events , repetitions and variaions become identifyable, and after that, you start seeing the pauses where they had to reload the camera, every 3 minutes to 3:30 or so. I’ve probably seen it 100 times by now. When it ends, the delighted child says, “Again!” So always leave enough time to watch it twice.

Around age 5 or so, the family across the street loaned us a copy of “Spy Kids 2“. There were 3 “Spy Kids” movies, by Robert Rodriguez, and now there’s a fourth. We started with “Spy Kids 2”, because that’s what our neighbors loaned us, and they were right! Like “Night At The Museum 2“, “Spy Kids 2” explains nothing. There are characters. They have relationships. It will be come clear as it goes along. And there aren’t 30 seconds wasted in either film. “Spy Kids 2” has the great cast (Alan Cumming, Teri Hatcher, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, Tony Shalhoub.) of the first film, adding Ricardo Montalban and Holland Taylor as the Kids grandparents, on their mother’s side, a second Spy family, mom, dad, sister, brother, and Steve Beucimi as the mad scientist hiding in the volcano on the invisible island because he’s afraid of the creatures he’s created. Half to himself, he wonders “…if God hides in Heaven because He’s Afraid of what He created.”

“Spy Kids” explains everything, how the Kids parents (Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino) work for the OSS, and the kid’s Uncle Machete built the tree house next to their house. You get more explanation about the Cumming and Shalhoub characters. Then truey odd stuff happens, big adventures, and it winds up ok. Takes a while, but OK. That’s nice but its not the one to start with.

Spy Kids 3” involves video games and Sylvester Stalone, not as successful in my opinion. ßtart with “2”, then watch “1”. Be happy.

If you liked “Totoro” then “Kiki’s Delivery Service” is a good second helping.

If you like “The Way Things Go“, there are two follow-ups, “Rendezvous“, “C’était un rendez-vous”, by Claude LeLouch, offers an 8 and a half minute, completely illegal, drive through Paris starting at about 5:30 am, so a man can meet his wife at Sacré-Cœur Basilica A “rendezvous”. They embrace in the headlights of his car. The whole thing is one shot, from the front of the car. What you see is the streets. The stop lights (they are red, the driver doesn’t even lift their right foot). Pidgeons. An early dog-walker, a trash truck. The route includes the courtyard of the Louve, because you used to be able to drive through it.

A second follow-up to “The Way Things Go” is “Rivers and Tides. Andy Goldsworthy Working With Time“. It starts with Goldsworthy up before the sun, in Newfoundland. He has a little cup of water and some icicles, which he breaks into short pieces with angled ends. He is using the water to glue them to a rock, then build a loop that goes out, curves, and returns to the rock. With one loop in place, he goes to the other end of the rock and makes tne next loop, higher. And back and forth. When he’s done, he steps back to take a photograph, and thats when the sun rises. The whole icicle “sewn” back and forth “through” the rock lights up like a Neon lamp. Like Steve Martin’s gag “arrow through the head”.

I had admired Goldsworthy’s work on exhibit around the Bay Area, and in books like “Hand To Earth”, but in the movie, you see an imperinant, temporal side of what he does. He builds something between the low tide and high tide mark, and the water rises and inundates it. He pins together bracken with thorns, and the little puffs of a light wind wrench it appart. All the rest of the film consists of wathching Goldsworthy go out into the wild world, make something with what he finds, take a picture, and leave it. And film of projects he did in the past. He narrates everything. Not every project succeeds. There’s a pinecone-ish shape he likes to build with stones, and he’s trying on a rocky shingle beach, and he hasn’t figured out how to use the rock. It keeps falling. Be talks about it while he works.

Another project is just jaw dropping. He’s drawn to the meandering shape of an old river on a nearly level plain, big loops that will be come oxbows, etc. He draws one in light snow on a frozen stream. He is offered a  wall in a gallery, and he builds a meander on it, using a soft, porus, material, and soaks it with water. Then he covers the whole wall with mud. So its a uniform, hand-smoothed, wall, entirely made of mud. And he lets it dry. Well, part of it dries quickly, there’s no water source under it. But part dries slowly, stays dark, and when it does, eventually dry, its immediately aparent where the meander is because the mud  that dried quickly has one characteristic set of cracking and the mud that dried slowly has a different looking cracking, and the two couldn’t be clearer in their difference. Although both are dried mud, the same dried mud. You can see the shape he wanted to show. How cool is that?

Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater on-line!


Thanks to my friend Eric Lindberg, I can report that the 45 rpm “The Ballad of Ronald McDonald“, can be found at “https://beta.prx.org/stories/14394“, from 16:00 to 19:15 or so.

and Dr. Science: 20:33 to 21:40 – the Human Brain compared to the Computer.

Also found “Household Appliances“!  https://beta.prx.org/stories/14399 = #2 Behind the Comedy, from 32:50. Sounds like the lp version from “Out of Season“, with acoustic intro, then studio, rock and roll, contents.

Here’s the complete set of Behind the Comedy:

#1  https://beta.prx.org/stories/14394

#2  https://beta.prx.org/stories/14399

#3  https://beta.prx.org/stories/14403

#4  https://beta.prx.org/stories/14405

#5  https://beta.prx.org/stories/14492

The Ballad of Ronald McDonald – Merle Kessler / Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater


Thanks to my friend Eric Lindberg, I can report that the content of the 45 rpm “The Ballad of Ronald McDonald“, can be found at “https://beta.prx.org/stories/14394“, from 16:00 to 19:15 or so.

The Ballad of Ronald McDonald – Merle Kessler

His face painted gayly, young Ronald did ride

All with his soldiers, 2 Shakes and Large Fries

Big Mac he rode with him, and Mayor McCheese

To fight Colonel Sanders, his worst enemy

 

While in the White Castle fair Wendy did stay

She watched all a-tremble her lord ride away

She loved not Lord Ronald, though she was his McBride

Another clown had the franchise on her pride

 

All in the moonlight Jack’s onion rings shone 

To court this fair damsel he’d come all alone

The Taco Bell struck the young lover’s McDoom

As Ronald McDonald stepped into the room.

 

“My burgers are bitter!” young Ronald he cried

as he wiped a McTear from his orange McEye

“I blew-up your boxes, Jack, outsold you too”

“And Wendy, oh Wendy, I did it all for you!”

 

It was not Colonel Mustard in the hall with a knife

That parted the lovers away from their lives

But Ronald McDonald killed them and himself

Crying, “No need to go-o-o anywhere else!”

 

The Burger King found them on the sanitized floor

The blood thick as catsup, it grieved him full sore

He said, “Millions consumed your fast food while they roamed!”

“Now your arches have fallen, we’ll eat burgers at home”

 

This was a single put out by Mr. Kessler but also performed as part of Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre shows. He was a member of that comedy troupe. I have the 45 rpm disc, autographed, somewhere, I hope. I meant to keep it.

This song was written and performed by Merle Kessler, and he holds the copyright to it. This publication of the lyrics is intended to keep knowledge of the song alive, and provide a reference for discussion. I assert that this is “fair use” under current law.

The rhythm is 10 syllables, 1,2,3; 12, 3; 12, 3; 1; : da da da, da-da  da, da-da  da,  da

It looks like 4 bars, or  6 groups of notes, per line, repeated 4 times per verse.

 

11/9/18 – add *what* struck the McDoom, then follow Eric’s note and get the rest! Thank you!

11/8/18  – add McDoom line & one after

Our story, integration


In response to two of David Brooks’ columns about “our” problems, 7/23 & an earlier one, I wrote the following. From the recommendations and replies, I gather I’m not the only one who feels this way…

 

Bill Abbott
Oakland California July 23
David,
The “we” you see is not the one I experience. You write,
We post-Cold War Americans haven’t really settled on what story we are a part of.
Really? I’m pretty clear what story I’m part of. Objective truth exists and is important. We are measured by how we treat the least among us. Science works because it is based on reality. Hope can overcome fear. Do unto others as we wish to be done to ourselves. The challenges we face mean we have no-one to waste, yet too many people are poor, marginalized and left behind. Women’s rights are human rights. Black lives matter. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Love wins. We don’t educate our neighbor’s children because of charity, we educate them because we will have to live with them. We are not perfect, we have never been perfect, but we can always get better. That’s my story. That’s the story of my country, and of humans in general.
The first President I voted for was Jimmy Carter, in 1976. I’m still waiting for a Republican I could vote for to appear on a ballot. Any ballot. Local, State or Federal.
In an earlier column, you wrote, “As a nation we seem to have lost all enthusiasm for racial integration.” Maybe that’s true for you. Its not true for me, or my friends, or our kids, or the cities and states we live in. Come visit us in Oakland. We are still working on it. Its hard work, that doesn’t mean its not the right goal.
Bill
546 Recommend
6 REPLIES
Mark Thomason commented July 24
M
Mark Thomason
Clawson, MIJuly 24
@Bill Abbott — Not everywhere is California. To win, we need the politics of the Venn Diagram overlap. I don’t devalue what you say, nor what is said in other regions. I say there is enough in common to make a politics that will resonate with a majority of voters, without using hate and fear.
2 Recommend
TinyBlueDot commented July 24
T
TinyBlueDot
AlabamaJuly 24
@Bill Abbott
Mr. Abbott, please consider running for office in some capacity. Your remarks are clear, intelligent, and convincing. And I agree with every word you wrote, perhaps especially the line, “We are measured by how we treat the least among us.”
Recommend
Leslie Durr commented July 24
L
Leslie Durr
Charlottesville, VAJuly 24
@Bill Abbott Brooks isn’t talking to you or to many of us. He’s talking to the disaffected white people who have been co-opted by the Republicans to ‘look over there, not over here.’ And, yes, some of them actually read the NY Times.
Recommend
Au Gold commented July 24
A
Au Gold
New Jersey, USAJuly 24
@Bill Abbott Well said!
Recommend
Pete Hollister commented July 24
P
Pete Hollister
Oregon WIJuly 24
What a great comment. Bravo!
Recommend
Leslie Durr commented July 24
L
Leslie Durr
Charlottesville, VAJuly 24
@TinyBlueDot We really need people like you who resonate with Bill Abbott’s words in places like Alabama to run; Oakland already has it down pat.
Recommend

The roots of “Enhanced Interrogation”


Since WWII, the United States forces have conducted one or another form or what’s now called SERE, “Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape”, training. The obvious intent is to prepare those going in harm’s way, particularly operating in or flying over enemy territory. Aircraft crash, or get shot down; unplanned and unforeseen events occur whenever service people are in enemy territory. Knowing how to shelter, hide, escape, fight back and resist interrogation are teachable skills and our services teach them.

SERE materials were at least one point of departure for the Bush II administration’s immoral and counter-productive “enhanced interrogation technique” debacle. None of the chicken-hawks in the Bush II administration had faced hostile fire or been trained to resist interrogation. But if you looked for experience and systematic application of illegal and immoral treatment to hostile captives, in the US Defense complex, you’d quickly find the Resistance training and the simulated interrogations.

And de-briefing of survivors of real interrogations by the bad guys, of course.

The simulated interrogations in SERE training should have taken in all that they could from real experience. And SERE would have training material explaining to the interrogators: what to do, how to do it, where our “bright lines” are, etc. Also, serious, real, experience of how the training interrogations were applied to our own people, how effective they were, what techniques we taught to oppose interrogation etc.

A number of people would have been derelict in their duty if all the records, training materials, etc, didn’t exist, and it would have been further dereliction if this stuff wasn’t brought out when “W” and Cheney wanted to throw out the rule book and start abusing prisoners. At least I hope so.

But there’s one other thing about SERE that poorly supports being used for enhanced interrogation techniques. Getting “actionable intelligence” is a goal of any interrogation, but North Vietnam, North Korea and Iraq were fighting propaganda wars as well as shooting wars, and they really wanted their captives to confess their “crimes” to the international media. Even after the length of their captivity made any factual revelation of limited value, fake confessions to evil intent and behavior were highly desired. No doubt SERE prepared trainees for this as well. Thus SERE interrogators weren’t just trying to get actionable intelligence, they were also trying to coerce fake confessions. Coercing fake confessions wouldn’t be any benefit if applied to “high value” al-Qaeda or ISIL captives. We wanted to know what they knew, not force them to say what we wanted to hear.

Whether the SERE playbook separated interrogation for facts from “interrogation” to coerce lies, the fact is that the two activities were NOT separated, in practice, by our enemies. How well our nation’s intelligence folks separated before they were tried on random victims isn’t something I expect I’ll ever know. And I’m biased against “enhanced” techniques, I confess that. But I can’t believe that either copying our enemies, or the nastiest people we could ask, or using part of SERE’s play book, would lead to anything additional to what conventional, well-understood, interrogation as practiced, without “enhancement”, would yield.

 

Things to know about retirement, USA, married couples.


#1  Can one spouse can retire with the other spouse’s social security benefit?

Yes, a surviving spouse can choose to use their own Social Security Insurance* (SSI) benefit OR their deceased spouse’s SSI benefit – whichever is larger. But not both. SSI was created when a many (but not all) women’s jobs were in the home, and many (but not all) men’s jobs were outside the home. The spouse working outside had an employer and cash wages, the spouse keeping the home had neither.  So a non-working spouse who had no SSI benefits on their own could continue to collect the benefit their spouse had retired on, if the spouse died.

Here’s the clever bit: If both spouses had SSI benefits, each started drawing them when they retired. If one spouse died, the survivor could switch to whichever benefit amount was larger. Say, for example, Pat and Kim both worked and both earned maximum SSI benefits. If Pat starts drawing at age 62, the amount they get is substantially less (30% in my case) than if they hung on to “Full Retirement Age” – (66 2/3 years, in my case).  If Kim keeps working, or can otherwise hold-off starting SSI benefits, Kim’s monthly benefit will be larger, even if both have at least 40 quarters of paid employment and contributed the full amount required by law, every year. Thus, Pat and Kim have different monthly benefits from SSI and always will for the rest of their lives.

IF Kim dies before Pat, Pat can change to drawing Kim’s higher monthly benefit, but can’t keep their own benefit. Pat’s old benefit simply vanishes. If Pat doesn’t want Kim’s higher benefit, they keep their own and Kim’s vanishes. If Pat dies before Kim, Kim already has the larger benefit.

So the SSI monthly payment is a benefit for a living person, but it is not an asset which can be conveyed to a person that the original recipient chooses. This is a key difference between SSI, and employee pension plans, and 401Ks and the like. 401Ks, etc., etc., are assets. There are rules about how they are used, and rules about when and what taxes are paid on them. But they are as real as any other account at an investment firm.

 

#2 Is there a minimum amount you must withdraw from a 401K, every year?

Yes. Starting when you turn 70 1/2 years old. In one example I found, its 1/26 of the value of the account, a bit less than 4%. But it is complicated and Morgan Stanley’s retirement fund people say to come talk it through with them on the way to picking a number.

See topic 4, in:

http://fa.morganstanley.com/jteam/retirement_planning_mistakes.htm

There are retirement calculators that cover this as well, with their own lore, sacrifices and mod-cons:

http://www.choosetosave.org/ballpark/webapp/#/estimate

So if you’re 61 and haven’t retired yet, you don’t have to do anything. Yet. If you are working and can pack more money into the 401K, it’s probably wise to do so. If you wonder how much your 401K is worth to you as income, now, today, and you’re less than 70 and 1/2, its likely you can take out less than 4% each year. If you take out more than it makes every year, its a “decreasing asset” and you’ll have to judge your rate of consumption vs. expected lifespan. You can look up your life expectancy, for starters:

http://www.ssa.gov/planners/lifeexpectancy.html

If your 401K is with a different investment firm, they’re who you should speak with.

 

More as I get it. I’ve foot-noted “Insurance” below.

*”Insurance” as in “Social Security Insurance” is misleading.

Conventional insurance products are based on shared risk and supposedly conservative investments. Every week, month or year, you send in your pennies, along with everyone else. All the pennies get invested wisely enough to cover whatever payouts are made over the lifetime of the product. Automobile and home products typically last 1 year, “Term” life insurance lasts for a fixed period, ending at a birthdate or some other agreed point in the future. Payments can be spread out over the term the insurance covers, or be one-time at the beginning.

“Whole” life insurance stays in force as long as the insured person is alive and the regular payments are made. The payout becomes an asset for survivors.

SSI is none of these things. If you want to start a fight, call it a modified Ponzi scheme. The money it pays out comes directly from the regular contributions collected immediately before the payout. Sort of. There need not be a pooled asset which yields profits which support payments. The term of art for this is “Pay as you go”, which is more attractive than “Ponzi Scheme”.

The details, where the devils lurk, are that a pay as you go scheme such as SSI starts with lots of contributors and no recipients. So the first funds collected did, actually, go into some investment, likely US Treasury Bonds, the most boring, safe asset. You’ll note this has the effect of retirees-to-be investing in the National Debt. Then the Baby Boom arrives and goes to work and the number of workers contributing is vastly larger than number of recipients. So the surplus continues going into bonds where it props up the National Debt.  Hiring new devils every year.

One wild-eyed argument against SSI is that NONE of the Treasury bonds will ever be sold, because actual tax dollars would have to pay them out. On the other hand, the Treasury pays bond dividends regularly, and returns the principle at the end of the bond’s life, to all the other bond holders inside and outside the USA. Does SSI surplus go into conventional “T-notes” similar to what anyone can buy, or are there conspiracy-special T-notes that pay no interest and don’t return the principle, because they exist only to suck up SSI surplus? I don’t know and I’m too busy to look it up, today.

A more plausible SSI disaster scenario is that the number of contributors won’t keep up with the number of recipients. This is the “SSI will go bankrupt” trope, and if nobody does anything about it, it will happen. Increasing the payments made by contributors or decreasing the benefits going to recipients seem like logical steps, but logic isn’t universally popular. It *could* happen. If nobody does anything about it.

So the payroll deduction is called “SSI” and it’s a gift to us from history, outdated and misleading marketing language. If we imagined we were as adult as other developed nations, we might make “SSI” part of taxes, in general, and make the payout an expense that must be paid, like our Congressperson’s retirement, medical and dental coverage.

Tami Wilson


via Tami Wilson