Mama, mama, forget your pies

userpic=tombstonesIf you can’t figure out why this post is named what it is, you’ll have to read to the end. If you get the connection, I’ve just created an earworm. In any case, this post is a requiem for some things that are nearly or dearly departed:

Oh, right, the title of the post. Take a listen:


And Then There Was One

Tom Faigin (Undated)userpic=father-and-sonSunday, I learned that my uncle, Tom Faigin, passed away at 4:30 AM. It wasn’t unexpected; but it is still a loss. As I did with my father when he died, I’d like to share a few remembrances.

When I think about Tom, first and foremost, I think about folk music. He was a musician at heart. He loved music. He taught music. He was at home playing a guitar, banjo, or mandolin. We shared that love (well, not playing, but of music — I can only play the cassette recorder). He introduced me to so many artists (especially when I digitized his record collection). I introduced him to a few. Although I could never play an instrument, I enjoyed listening to him play (and I’ll enjoy the one CD I have of him). We went to McCabes together a few times (I think he was the one that originally introduced me to Shep Cooke). We also had a lot of folk friends in common, for there are a large intersection between the folk communities and the cybersecurity communities.

He was also the political firebrand of the family. By that I mean that we had wonderful political discussion (especially as we were of a similar political bent). He was connected to the older labor-style Judaism that you don’t see these days. A Judaism more of action — and social action — than anything else. This also came through in the folk music.

In his later years, he was part of a musical group called the Geritones. His daughter is working on a documentary of the group. My memory of the Geritones is when they came to play for a membership recruiting day for Temple Beth Torah. They played a variety of old folk, Yiddish, and other Eastern European music.

I remember that he was an uncle my daughter loved as well. She loved to go over and visit, and as she got older and into Yiddish, they had another shared love. I also felt that her love of Yiddish was genetic, coming from my father and his father before him. Luckily, she was able to share her excitement of her trip to Eastern Europe with him. Alas, she wasn’t able to share her pictures after the trip.

His family suffered a loss a few years ago with the passing of his son, my cousin Nick. Nick, too, was an artist, and I think they shared that passion. Their musical tastes were different (and I’m not sure all understood), but art was in the blood.

He is survived by his wife, Ann, and his daughter Cece, and of course all of us cousins. Of the original four brothers (my father, Adrian; Herbert; Ron, and Tom), only my Uncle Ron remains. May he stay strong and healthy.


An Icon Passes

userpic=frebergSkimming the headlines while changing tasks today brought some real sad news: Stan Freberg has passed away at age 88. This is confirmed by a post on his son’s Facebook: “My father died this morning. I am ok. To me, the father I knew and loved dearly and still very much do left me over a decade ago. He was, and will always be my hero and I will carry his brilliant legacy forward as best I am able. RIP, Stan Freberg, 1926-2015. I love you, daddy.”

Stan was a large influence on my personal sense of humor, ever since I found and memorized “The United States of American, Volume I: The Early Years” when I was child. I was lucky enough to learn about, and be able to attend, a celebration of Stan’s 70 years in the industry at American Cinemateque in November.  Even then, you could see that Stan was in decline — the quick required augmentation from his wife, Hunter.

A man is remembered by the work he leaves behind. The breadth and scope of Stan’s work — from animated cartoons to advertising to humorous records and yes, even to the stage, will ensure that Stan Freberg will long be remembered.

Pardon me while I adjust the iPod to play a little Freberg in his memory, and finish off the day.


Observation Charosis: Foreskin Facials, Breast Physics, Podcasts, and New Looks

userpic=observationsIt’s Saturday, and that means it is time to clear out the accumulated links of a busy week. I’d say I’d make stew, but it is Pesach after all, so perhaps we’ll have observation charosis: a chopped of mix of a bunch of news articles, sweetened with a little wine and cinammon.



Saturday News Chum Stew: Graffiti, Diets, Food, Deaths, and 99 Seat Theatre

Observation StewIt’s Saturday, and that means it is time to clean out the accumulated saved URL links (with a bit of commentary) from the week. Get your fill now — next week’s stew will be chametz-free!

  • Graffiti Busting. Two articles related to graffiti-busting caught my eye. The first looks at the battle that LA’s army of graffiti cleaners face. Many years ago, my mother-in-law was one of those busters. How bad is the problem? Here’s the second article, which notes that LA cleaned up over one square mile of graffiti last year. It is a problem, and I’ve never understood the reason why people enjoy trashing something that belongs to someone else. Hmmm. I wonder if taggers and graffiti artists are the trolls of the real world?
  • Going on a Diet. Were you annoyed when they put Wilbur St. on a road diet? Get ready to be annoyed again. This time, it’s not Wilbur that is changing but Reseda Blvd, between Parthenia and Plummer. They aren’t getting rid of driving lanes (although it looks like the center dual-left is going away); they are converting the conventional bike lanes to protected bike lanes. Be forewarned if you are driving or parking in the area — it will take time for people to get used to them.
  • Food News. A few food-related news items. Fresh and Easy is closing 50 stores — and the one near us in Northridge is one of them. That’s too bad — I like the selection at that store and it was very convenient. Graeters Ice Cream, which we enjoyed when we visited Louisville KY, is opening shop in Caesars in Las Vegas. I think I know where we’re stopping in Vegas, and perhaps it might entice our friend Linda to come west for a visit. Lastly, ever wonder what happens to ugly fruit and vegetables? In a society that demands perfection, do we mock the misformed carrot or potato? The answer is that they are actually becoming more popular.
  • Deaths of Note. Two deaths of note this week. The first, Dr. George Fischbeck, was a long-time weathercaster here in Los Angeles. He had a delivery style and presentation (and longevity) that made him memorable, and was one of those genuinely good people. The second was musician John Renbourne.  I learned of Renbourne through my uncle, Tom Faigin, when I recorded his collection of folk albums for him. Renbourne made a number of classic folk albums: solo, with Bert Jansch, and with his group Pentangle.
  • Revitalizing Congregational Life. Here’s something to chew on: What is the business of a synagogue? Rabbi Larry Hoffman explores the question. He starts by noting the business is not religion. In the past, it was continuity: providing activities that ensured Judaism would continue to the next generation. Today, he argues, it is providing an authentic identity. Do you agree? If so, how do congregations achieve it through the services provided. Great question.
  • The 100 ¥ Store. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve never been in Daiso. Here’s the history of the store, and why it became what it is. The short answer is that it is Japan’s dollar store, but unlike the 99c store, they don’t remainder items — they make their own unique items.
  • Not So Hidden Anymore. Here are two articles on “secret” hiding places: 15 from DIY crafts, and 20 from Family Handyman.  My big concern with all of these is that I’d forget about them. Hiding something does no good if you can’t remember where you hid it, and you leave the valuables in the house when you sell it.
  • Pro99 - Vote No NowTheatre Items of Interest. Thought I wouldn’t have anything on the battle to save 99 seat theatre in LA? Wrong. Here is a collection of editorial cartoons on the subject.  They truly prove that a picture is worth 1000 words. But if you want words, here’s an interesting article on the lies we tell about audience engagement. The article makes the great point about the important of indie (read small and intimate) theatre — and how it often provides the only engagement for young people and for artists and audiences of color. Here’s the great paragraph about that: “In most American urban centers, there’s a vibrant, thriving indie scene—small theatres operating on a shoestring budget, paying people a stipend and operating out of 99-and-under rentals or non-traditional spaces. Think of it as DIY theatre. Indie theatres are now connected via the internet in ways they’ve never been before. The people working within them now have a picture, at least anecdotally, of the national scene, and can see that indie work all over the country is filled with young people, women, and people of color, both as creators and consumers.” It goes on to note: “We don’t, however, care to look at the indie scene.Because we ignore and undervalue indie theatre, we imagine we’re discussing issues in “theatre” when what we’re actually discussing is a particular segment of theatre—one from which women, young people, and people of color are largely shut out.”. What AEA wants to do is destroy indie theatre — and in the process, they are reducing the opportunities for women, young people, and people of color to grow in theatre (and this from a union that protested photoshopping a civil rights protest photo (inadvertently) because they are pro-civil rights. Are you a Los Angeles AEA member? You know what you need to do. Vote “no”, so we can work together to create the change the LA theatre community needs.



Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.

userpic=star_trekThe big big news today has been the passing of Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy was the touchstone of multiple generations as a result of the iconic character he created — and how he fought so valiantly against the Vietnam War and for the healthcare of children. Whoops. Wrong Spock.

Seriously, Nimoy was much much more than the character he created. He was a long-time supporter of Yiddish and the Yiddish Theatre, and excelled in multiple artistic venues. As we remember that “pointy eared Vulcan”, let us also remember the other sides of Nimoy. Here’s a great article from Tribute that recalls Nimoy’s recent interview for the Stars of David book, and how Judaism and Yiddishkeit influenced his life and the characters he portrayed.

P.S.: I love the quote that titles this post, which was Nimoy’s last communication. It so reflects why theatre is so important in life.


Saturday News Chum: Deaths, Mergers, Departures, Health, and Foreign Aid

userpic=lougrantFinally, it’s Saturday. This has been a busy week — I’ve been accumulating articles, but haven’t had time during the week to post them. Before we jump into the stew, Happy Valentine’s Day to those that observe. What are we doing? We’re going to a wonderful organic Shabu Shabu restaurant we’ve discovered, and then seeing a musical story about the Loch Ness monster. And you?

  • Deaths in the News. A few major deaths have happened in the last couple of days that are quite noteworthy — primarily because these are people about which no one says anything bad. Really good people are rare to come by, and we’ve lost three. The first is Stan Chambers, long-time newscaster at KTLA — and by long, I mean 63 years! This is someone beloved in the news industry, a fixture in Los Angeles, who just reported the story and the facts. Forget your Brian Williams and Dan Rathers — this was the real deal, a reporter to look up to. The second is Gary Owens, a long-time radio and TV personality in Los Angeles. Again, this is someone who everyone looked up to, who helped loads of people with their careers, and of whom no one said anything bad. The third is Florence Sackheim, a long time member at Temple Beth Torah — again, this is someone who was there for everyone else, and whom no one had anything bad to say about.
  • Corporate Mergers. There are a number of corporate mergers of interest. Two weeks ago. Staples made an offer to buy Office Depot Office Max. This is a major consolidation in the office supply industry, and I think it is a bad thing. Loads of stores will close, loads of employees will lose jobs, and prices will rise without two equivalent competitors. Where are the regulators. In a similar consolidation, this week Expedia made an offer to by Orbitz. Expedia already owns Travelocity, so this is a major consolidation in the online travel booking industry. Again, I think this is a bad idea, although there’s a little less of a problem here in that the two services were about the same on price.
  • Going Away. Last week, the news was focused on Radio Shack going away. This week brings news of some other going-aways. First, Costco is celebrating Valentine’s Day by breaking up with American Express.  Well, the breakup will happen in 2016. AmEx has already been hammered as this brings them a lot of business; I know it is the only reason we have a non-corporate Amex card. Costco is reportedly near a deal with a new issuer; it is unclear whether accounts will be transferred, or reapplication will be necessary. In another going-away, the rumors are increasing that the Riviera Hotel may soon be closed and demolished. This makes me sad — there’s not much of 1950’s Vegas left on the strip — some two-story wings at the Tropicana and the original 9-story 1955 Riviera are about it. When the Riviera goes, so goes the history. However, the plan makes sense: the place has become a dump and cannot compete with the newer hotels; it is on the slow end of the strip next to a dead partially completed hotel, across the street from Circus-Circus and… not much else, as Echelon/Genting World is still under construction as well. Supposedly, the Riv is being bought by the Las Vegas Convention Bureau, who want to extend the Convention Center’s reach up from Paradise Blvd to LV Blvd, between Convention Center and Riveria Blvd. Not much is there — the parking lot that was the Landmark, a Dennys, a Walgreens, the Riv, and a 3-story apartment complex and some small businesses. I think we can kiss the Riv — and it’s history — goodbye.
  • Nose and Throat. A week or so ago, on This American Life, I heard a segment on a annoying condition (for some) called Vocal Fry. I’d never heard of it, or could even notice it — so luckily, Mental Floss had a nice article on Vocal Fry.  Now that I know what it is… I still don’t get why people are annoyed. People’s voices are their voices. Get over it. In another interesting article, Vox had a nice exploration of mucus. I actually found this interesting, as I have continual sinus trouble (and I’m also one of those addicted to Afrin).
  • You Know How Foolishly Generous Those Americans Are. So said Stan Freberg in United States of America, and many people believe America gives too much Foreign Aid. However, those beliefs don’t correspond with the facts — and American really doesn’t give that much foreign aid. In fact, less than 1 percent of the $4 trillion federal budget goes to foreign aid. The largest portion of the money goes to health: a third of the U.S. foreign aid budget in 2014, or more than $5.3 billion. The next two biggest portions go toward economic development and humanitarian assistance. Small sums of aid support democratic elections in other countries. A tiny portion goes to protect forests in countries where logging is destroying natural habitats. Some aid funds programs that train local law enforcement to combat drug trafficking. (But no foreign aid goes directly toward another country’s military.) Proof again that most people wouldn’t know the facts if they bit them in the …
  • Dealing with Death. One problem when you die is that you can’t update your Facebook anymore. Fear not. Facebook will soon let you appoint a digital heir.  This is actually a good thing, as  there are more and more memorial Facebook pages, and it would be nice to know they are memorials (so you don’t keep wishing them a happy birthday).
  • Used Bookstores in LA. LAist attempted to do a list of the 10 best used bookstores in LA. Used bookstores are great, and we have lost some significant ones in the last year — both Cliffs and Brand Bookstore are gone. But LAist missed some great ones — in particular, Bargain Books in Van Nuys, and Books 5150 in Chatsworth. But this is no surprise — all those Los Angeles lists are done by westsiders who forget that the valley exists.
  • Women and Work. Last week’s Backstory was on women and work.  As part of this, they did a special segment on women in computing.  Well worth listening to, and something we should encourage. The segment gives me the opportunity to pimp for a project of ACSA: the Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security.



In Memory of Rod McKuen…

userpic=tombstonesThe poet Rod McKuen died yesterday at age 81. When I think of McKuen, I always think of the following song, which was sung so beautifully by Mary Travers during her solo period. The words of the song ring true today, and provides something very important to remember as we see battles between black and white, right and poor, immigrant vs native, and all the other divisions of our society:

Rod McKuen
©1968, 1972 Editions Chanson Co.

Some of us live in big white houses
Some of us live in small
Some of our names are written on blackboards
Some are written on walls
Some of our daddies work in factories
Some of them stand in line
Some of our daddies buy us marbles
Some of them just buy wine
But at night you can’t tell  Sunday suits
From tattered overalls
But then we’re only children
Children one and all

Some of us take our lunch in boxes
Some in paper sacks
Some of us kids join in the laughter
Some hear it at their backs
Some of our mothers sew fine linen
Some can’t sew a stitch
Some of our mothers dress up poorly
And some of them dress up rich
But at night you can’t tell party dresses
From hand me downs too small
But then we’re only children
Children one and all

Some of us learn our lessons poorly
Some of us learn them well
Some of us find an earthly heaven
Some of us live in hell
Some of us go right on a’preachin’
Without making too much sense
Some of us hide behind a wall
And some behind a fence
But at night you can’t you tell picket fences
From bricks a tower tall
But then we’re only children
Children one and all

Some of us grow up tall and handsome
Some of us grow up plain
Some of us own the world in ransom
Some of us just our name
Some of our people die in misery
Some of them die in peace
Some of our people die for nothing
But dying doesn’t cease
And at night you can’t tell fancy coffins
From boxes in the hall
But then we’re only children
Children one and all