Friday, January 13, 2012

Sophie Tucker's Birthday

Well, I now see that my credentials are no longer recognized by the rotating globe as being from "Freeport, Maine". Now, the ID thingy lists me as being from Winchester, New Hampshire. Don't tell anyone, though. That area's a haven for ritzy money types, they'll freak out at having to associate with me. All in all, I'd rather Comcast stop playing around at whatever it is they are doing and get my IP address to show up again as Brattleboro, where I live and attempt to pay my bills.

Today is Sophie Tucker's birthday. I've been aware of her since I was a kid and heard her quips, "I've been rich and I've been poor, and believe me, rich is better", and my favorite, "Money may not buy happiness, but it sure does help ease the pain". She was known at the time as "The Last of the Red Hot Mamas". Born in the Ukraine, her family emigrated to to the US and settled in Hartford, CT when she was an infant. She started her performing career as a "coon shouter" in blackface - vaudeville managers thought she was too fat and ugly to be accepted by audiences as herself. She performed songs like,  "Nobody Loves a Fat Girl, But Oh How a Fat Girl Can Love". She hired African American singers to giver her lessons, and African American composers to write material for her. She was such a hit in the Ziegeld Follies in 1909 that problems arose with other female performers. Then William Morris booked her at his new theater on the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway. At one point, on tour in Boston, someone stole the luggage that contained her makeup kit, and she went on without the blackface. She went over so much better that, at the behest of Mr. Morris, she never wore it again.

In 1911, she introduced a song that not only became a huge hit, it became her theme song (and the title of her autobiography). Over the years she recorded it many times. The following clip is from my own library of stuff. It is the first clip I've digitized, as well as the first clip I've posted to YouTube (private link).
This was accomplished using the device I bought myself for Christmas that I mentioned in yesterday's post.. It plays great on my computer, but as uploaded to YouTube gets a bit out of sync. I've no idea why, but I'll try to figure it out later.

So here you go, an old school entertainer doing exactly what she knows how to do.
Happy Birthday Ms. Tucker.

Here's a nice little bio if you'd like to read more:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Curses, or the Pirate's Bounty

Sometimes I think that I must be the victim of a curse. I have no idea who would have placed it, but to be honest, I think it was probably one of those "and on your child" kinds of things. It would certainly explain a lot. The now perpetual motion machine of itching scratching skin condition which doesn't give much room for peace would finally have a reason for existing.

Part of the problems with the depressions in which I live when not medicated is that I quickly become convinced that I am not "allowed" to have nice things or to enjoy a few simple pleasures. These thoughts aren't just wild fantasies, they are tried and true repeatedly observed realities of the way my life works and has always worked. Trying not to have that filter in place is very very difficult. I've really begun to question whether or not the years and years of anti-depressants that allowed me to trudge on were really an acceptable answer. I sure spent a lot of money on them. And all along, I only needed to understand that it was just a curse somebody put on me for some unknown reason. Someone I knew back in my NYC days once had a vision and told me that in a previous life I controlled patronage money in a medieval court and frustrated the lives and dreams of many artists (how could one not in such a situation?) and that I was working out the karma.

When preparing for the holidays, I decided to hook up my old stereo equipment so I could listen to a few tapes of my old radio shows. Of course, at first that the right hand channel no longer worked.. After a number of experiments and switching of wires, I finally got things going. But of course, it goes out every now and again. Last night, the tapes played fine. This morning, day off, lovely snowfall out the door windows, coffee made, old fashioned steel cut Irish oats with maple syrup all prepared, I turn on the music and - no right hand channel. After playing with wires and trying the old fashioned fist bang on the top of the amplifier, sound was restored. But the peaceful, satisfying moment was gone, robbed, stolen, cursed. It also turned out that the box of my tapes turned out to be DJ Princess Wendy's old shows. And the other box turned out to be Henry's old shows. Mine? Aside from a few I found, in storage in a barn several miles from here. I'd also been planning on re-connecting the turntable so I could play the records I have with me (most are in that barn). I'm no longer sure I want to attempt that.

Of course, I'm behind in the bills again, which is beginning to obsess me. I spent a bit of money at the holidays I shouldn't have. I bought myself a little something for $40.00. It's the piece I need to put my 8mm video, VHS, BETA, Laser-discs into a digital format on my computer - which means I could burn them to DVDs. Several years ago, I put my father's 8mm movies into video. Did it myself, using one of those home rear projection screens and some really basic circuitry to narrate a date or two into the images. The transfer is on an 8mm video cassette. I made several VHS copies for the family, and kept one for me. If I could see it. My VHS player conked out in a move, and I've got one or two of Laura's old ones, but they don't work for me. Something from the same move gave the heebie jeebies to the Beta machine. So the other day I got out the 8mm video. Something sticky was on the outside top of the camera. Not the way I leave things, and nothing, I mean nothing in that tote to have produced it. And it doesn't want to come off with a simple careful washing or cleaner-ing. After an hour or so delay for that project, I got things to an acceptable level and went back to hooking things up. And - it no longer works. If I were in better touch with my feelings and let myself, I would be devastated. I loved the 8mm video camera. If I was hiking and found a mountain stream, I'd find it a place to sit and let it record 5 or 10 minutes of a stream flowing. The cam records in HiFi stereo, so natural sounds applied. Or maybe the scene would be the ocean from the days when I could afford those 4 day off season vacations to Provincetown on Cape Cod. Or a pond with peepers peeping. Hikes on Wantastiquet in heavy snow - I think I was recording the time that I got there before there were any other footprints in the snow. Etc. All this has been closed off in storage for so many years, and I have it with me now. But it seems I shall have to wait a while longer. I looked up a couple of sales sites to see what used 8mm camcorders that could play hifi stereo were out there. And the answer is: not much. A lot of Hi8, a later technology. But just 8mm video? A few. The best part was the price. If I can't tinker the damn thing into working, it's gonna be a long time before I get to see those again.

Unless I can lift the curse.

I can't go to Broadway with you.
Why Not, dainty June?
Because I'm staying here with my favorite cow, Caroline!
(Applause and cheers)

I have one of my old mix tapes playing as audio backdrop desktop. I used to love making mix tapes for myself and friends. Swing bands, show tunes, etc. Over the years mix tapes were so reviled in cheap joke land that they just fell away without commentary or memorializing. I'd forgotten how much fun they could/can be.  Is this what all those ipods are really about, making a kind of for me only mix tape?

I really should get started making the applesauce. It's something else I used to love to do. I had another of those damn the cost moments. Bought several different varieties of apples. (This area is blest with a large inventory of old fashioned varieties you don't get just anywhere.) A little apple cider to cover the apples in the pot. (Gawd, cider got expensive over the last several years. It used to be about as cheap as soda.)

So, before I go, I think I'll mention one or tow things. 

First up, a little story on the newswires and HuffPost this morning. A very, very rich man named John Castle (I'm not making this up - he runs a partly eponymous  "leading private equity investment firm distinguished by its disciplined focus on investing in control positions in middle market private ..." translation- focuses on buyouts...) Where was I? Oh, yeah, this Mr. John Castle was not pleased. A waiter had brought the check, as per Mr. Castle's wife's request. Calling the waiter a Yiddish word for a male private part, he grabbed the waiters hand and broke one of the waiter's fingers. 

The other thing I wanted to mention is that today is the birthday of United States Founding Father John Hancock. He's the guy who was president of the Continental Congreass when the Declaration of Independence was forged in endless meetings. He was the fist signer of the official copy of the document, and famously signed his name in large letters so that King George was would have a male member in his eye. Hamilton was something of legend for being the first to stand up to the Brit storm-troopers. He was a child of wealth and privilege, but he did have some morals, dammit. After all, he restrained himself enough to keep only  the one slave.  

(Just looked at the clock. It's 11:11) Remember the Brits marching on Concord? They were after the Colonist's armaments, officially. They were also after John Adams and John Hancock who were at one of those pesky uprising meetings. (After the incident at Concord Bridge, and getting the army back to Boston, all participants were given a blanket pardon - except for Adams and Hancock.

At the time, Hancock also seems to have been running some kind of smuggling operation. The Brits had tried to investigate one of his boats. He got there lickety split and refused to let them go below deck (see above "first to stand up to" note). There was a court case, and the charges were dropped.

There followed another incident over his ship  the Liberty (I'm not making this up). Seems a good part of the ships contents were unloaded in the middle of the night avoiding scrutiny and taxes. After about a month, a Brit ship hit port called - The Romney (I'm not making this up) with someone who swore he was forced to unload the Liberty in the middle of the night thus escaping scrutiny and taxes. The authorities seized the Liberty. There were riots, and the colonists eventually managed to burn and destroy the ship of Liberty to save it from the Romney... oh, never mind.

As a man of wealth, Hancock managed to get away with a lot. He was one of the main forces behind the Boston Tea Party, although he did not take part. And took great care not to comment on the destruction of property.

After the war was over, he was elected the first (and 3rd!) Governor of Massachusetts. As such, it was his decision to put down the Shays Rebellion. Seems there were been many unpaid Revolutionary soldiers whose homes were being seized by Boston banks to pay off the debts of Boston's wealthy elite to British purveyors of goods and finery. Hancock let loose the storm-troopers. After they finished firing into a crowd of protester/occupiers of a county courthouse, 5 lay dead. At least that's the figure now used. It used to be much higher. These things have a way of changing over the years.

The John Hancock Insurance and financial services corporation has absolutely nothing to do with John Hancock, his family, or his businesses. As befits the operation of an Insurance Company, they simply stole his name to make themselves look better. Guess they didn't realize that he was an elitist crook who skirted the law as often as possible, especially in paying of taxes, and only seems to have seen everyday people as an income stream which needed to be kept in line when they protested the outright thievery of their lives. Or maybe it was their little joke.

Oh, by the by, he was also a Mason.

Do the Masons put curses on people?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Friggin' SOB Bastards

Just got back from a quick run downtown. I stopped at the Post Office to get any new mail. I shouldn't have. There was new mail, from Prudential. It was Prudential that had the enough money to bury me insurance policy that was taken out in the 1960s that I cashed in to save my financial ass last spring. There had been a loan on the policy, and interest charges on it had eaten away at the funds which were supposed to be providing interest on the principal. After cashing it in , all I got was $2,666.94, which was less than the figure I had been told (they found fees to charge & etc.). So what do I get in the mail today? An income-tax declaration - showing no  income tax withheld (they were supposed to), for "Gross distribution" of $6398.30.

I had been counting on my income tax refund to help catch up with my bills, and maybe get new sheets, new shoes, etc. But that's not going to happen now. Thing is, I sure didn't get $6,000+ out of them. What do they do, just make things up? Make me pay the taxes on the money they made off of the policy over a 40+ year period?

In my life I only had one dealing with an insurance company (Aetna, back in the mid 1970's) which seemed appropriate and above board. Every other dealing I had ever had with an insurance company has left me feeling cheated, screwed, and abused. I'd come up with even more descriptive terminology except I'm so mad and frustrated that I can't think properly.

I always said, even in my early 20's, that I would never sink so low as to take a job selling insurance.
Now I remember why.