English Needs More Words


R.E.M.: So. Central Rain

How many words does English have?  Depending on your source, you get different numbers, so let’s just go with “lots.”  Yet, despite this, there are some situations that call for new words.

A few years back, it dawned on me that there’s no English word to describe your relationship with your child’s in-laws.  I mentioned that in passing in this piece, noting that both Yiddish and Spanish (languages that I have a smidgen or less of knowledge about) have such a word.  Before I started writing this, I found this piece from Slate that discusses that same thing, better, and a few other areas where English is deficient.  So, read that–after finishing this, of course.

Moving on.

Let’s say you are sitting down with a friend, having coffee.  The conversation gets animated, and you knock over your coffee cup, drenching your friend’s shirt with scalding brown liquid.  Of course, while grabbing napkins, you say to your friend, “I’m sorry.”  And your friend, while really pissed off, is likely to respond,”That’s OK,” or something like that.  You respond, “Yeah, I’ve really been out of it since my father died.”  And your friend replies, “Oh, I didn’t know.  I’m sorry.”  Your response is likely to be something like, “Thanks, it’s not your fault.”  Which is probably true.

My point is that we need a different word to mean “Sorry, I did a stupid thing and am seeking forgiveness,” or what I’ll call an “apologetic sorry,” as opposed to “I’m sorry that something bad happened to you, without any fault on my part,” or what I’ll call a “sympathetic sorry.”

To a few friends and family members, I floated this thought–keep using “sorry” for the apologetic situation, and use my new word, “snorry” for the sympathetic version.

What do you think? Can we make it go viral?

Probably not.  Shakespeare is credited with creating more than 1700 English words.  But if there is one thing clear about my writing, I’m no Shakespeare.

Can you think of any other situations where the English language lacks a certain je ne sais quoi?  Does that give you schadenfreude? We could discuss it over hors d’oeuvres.  Or is creating new words just so much chutzpah?

Our featured song is “So. Central Rain,” by R.E.M.  If you don’t know why, I’m snorry.

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AOG Linguistic Kardashian Award 2

Back in April, 2016, before our country’s antiquated Electoral College, Russian interference, misogyny, terrible reporting, and some sort of mass insanity resulted in the election to the Presidency of a buffoonish demagogue who surrounded himself with a crew of deplorable and corrupt fixers, scam artists, sycophants, reality stars, future jailbirds, and unqualified family members that would be laughed at in the worst banana republic, I bestowed the first AOG Linguistic Kardashian Award for overexposure to “firestorm.”  You can read it here.

Since then, I feel the need to bestow another award to “the base.”  I don’t know when this word became in vogue, but now, all you hear about are politicians playing to their base.  Wikipedia defines “Base” as:

In politics, the term base refers to a group of voters who almost always support a single party’s candidates for elected office. Base voters are very unlikely to vote for the candidate of an opposing party, regardless of the specific views each candidate holds. In the United States, this is typically because high-level candidates must hold the same stances on key issues as a party’s base in order to gain the party’s nomination and thus be guaranteed ballot access. In the case of legislative elections, base voters often prefer to support their party’s candidate against an otherwise appealing opponent in order to strengthen their party’s chances of gaining a simple majority; typically the gateway to overarching power in a legislature.

This interesting column from Charles Houmans, the politics editor for The New York Times Magazine, from 2017 notes:

A political party’s base, for much of the 20th century, usually came with an indefinite article attached: a base, rather than the base. This was a straightforward reflection of how parties operated, as sometimes lumpy and uneasy coalitions of disparate interests.

Houmans goes on to describe how this changed:

In 1990, when Bush proposed a tax-reform package that included modest increases in some brackets, House Republicans revolted, led by an ambitious Georgia congressman named Newt Gingrich. “It is a signal,” he told The Washington Post, “that the base of the Republican Party opposes raising taxes and that the package had better be awfully good.” The base had, in Gingrich’s formulation, become something new: not a coalition to be expanded but a force to be propitiated or crossed at Bush’s peril. It was not there to be molded by politicians like Jack Kemp. It was there to give orders to them, through mediums like Gingrich — whose personal policy hobbyhorses, it just so happened, matched the base’s.

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My Favorite Music of 2018


Yeah, I know it is mid-February.  Blame Trump.   And see my prior piece.  The idea of doing a full discussion of my favorite music of 2018 is just too daunting.  If I wanted to do it with the level of detail that I did in the past, I’d never get it done.  So, as part of my new approach, I’m just going to list a bunch of albums that I liked last year, with little or no analysis.

I know that there are some albums from 2018 that would probably have made the list had I listened to them, and I’m sure I left out some good stuff, but that’s just the way it is.

The Best

The album I probably listened to the most last year was The Decemberists’ I’ll Be Your Girl.  Although they did try to bring in some new sounds, it still is a Decemberists album, and I liked it a lot.  And, of course, people get killed in odd ways.  Add to that, their late in the year EP Traveling On, and they had a great year, in my opinion.

Second on my list is Lucero’s Among The Ghosts, in which the band (mostly) stripped out the horns that were part of their last few albums, but it wasn’t completely a return to basics–their writing and playing has just gotten better and better with each release.  And two songs about the Civil War!

I also wanted to mention Angélique Kidjo’s brilliant re-imagining of Talking Heads’ Remain In Light, one of my all-time favorites.  You can read more of my thoughts about it here, where it was Cover Me’s top cover album of 2018.

I did see a bunch of great concerts last year, but want to single out the three different, all amazing, performances by Rhiannon Giddens that I was privileged to attend.  A solo “workshop” performance and full band show at the Clearwater Festival, and the “Sisters Present” group show at Symphony Space.

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David Bowie: Changes

If you know me, or read the small print under my picture, you know that music blogging is a hobby, and that my real work is as an attorney.  Being a lawyer is something that I wanted to be ever since I was a kid, probably because my dad was one, and he seemed to enjoy the hell out of it.  He also explained to me that being a lawyer meant that you could learn something new every day.

He was right–that is probably one of the best things about being a lawyer–over my career, I’ve learned about many different industries, met lots of interesting people, and for a pretty long time, made reasonably good money.  The best period of my career, I think, was when I worked in-house at a large financial services company.  I took the job, kind of hoping to find that elusive position that I could work and grow at until I retired.  Sadly, not too long after I joined, the company sold off the part that I worked for, and my position was eventually going to be eliminated.  I could have stuck around, waiting for another in-house position, and many of my friends and co-workers did that.  Some of them got them, some didn’t, and even those who did often moved around, as consolidation and the changes in the legal and financial services industries eliminated jobs.

I was offered the chance to move to a successor of the small law firm I had worked for before going in-house, and it seemed like a good opportunity.  Ultimately, though, I was not happy, and left to start my own practice.  I worked as a solo practitioner, in a home office.  I learned how to set up all of the technology needed, do my accounting and bookkeeping,  and how to practice law without paralegals, associates, mail room and copy guys, etc.  And I learned how to try to get business.

It was fun being my own boss, working in casual clothing, being able to work at my own pace, watch TV or listen to music, or cook, or do errands during the day without answering to anyone.

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My Favorite TV of 2018


Talking Heads: Television Man

Remember in my last post, where I blamed Trump for my failure to write more here?  Well, I also blame him for the fact that I didn’t listen to as much music this year as I have in the past.  More on that, in my upcoming Favorite Music of 2018 post.  But I also blame Trump for the fact that there is so much good stuff to watch on TV.

Remarkably, as sort of embarrassed as I was  by the number of shows on last year’s list, this year’s list is even longer.  So it goes.  Not everything on here is a gem, but all had something that made me put it on this list.  And, as I mentioned last year, there are a bunch of shows that I watch, even though I know that they aren’t all that great, but are still fun.

Because of the ability to stream older shows, I also discovered some series from prior years, so there’s a separate section for things that were “new to me” in 2018.  But, if the show has a new season in 2018, it is in the main section.

As I have been writing the blurbs for the shows, I noticed that in a surprisingly large number of the shows, the main characters, or the smartest characters, or the most interesting characters, were women, and/or the shows related to women’s friendships, relationships, and issues.  Which is interesting.

Last year, my favorite show of the year was BoJack Horseman, and honestly, it could have been my favorite again this year, because the new season was great–although it probably wasn’t as great as last season, but it still had some incredible moments.  It was hard for me to pick a favorite this year, but if I had to, it would be the final season of The Americans. Last year, I noted that there had been a slight drop off in quality, but the final season was as good as anything the show has done.  They were able to end the narrative in a way that brought closure, but without a happy ending for people who didn’t deserve one, and appropriate ambiguity.  As one of my favorite TV critics, Alan Sepinwall, wrote, “They stuck the landing.”  (He ranked it no. 2, by the way).  The Golden Globes agreed, finally giving this great show its due.

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I Blame Trump


Led Zeppelin: Nobody’s Fault But Mine

I blame Trump for pretty much everything these days, and I’m not done blaming him for things, as you will see in a month or so.  One of the things that I blame him for is the increasing unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s own actions.  And despite my complete contempt for the man, I’m going to adopt this approach, and blame him for my failure to post anything here since September, and anything truly new since May.

And, I’m going to adopt another one of his behaviors, over-praising his own accomplishments, by stating that my writing on other sites has been the best music blogging ever.  No one has ever seen such incredible music blogging,  in the history of the world.  Believe me.

At Cover Me, I haven’t written any stand alone pieces (thanks, Trump), but did contribute to a few group articles: a Best Abba Covers list, in which I wrote about Wilco’s live cover of “Waterloo,” featuring Lucius, from the Solid Sound Festival (which is on my festival bucket list), which came in 25th, Mike Oldfield’s cover of the instrumental “Arrival,” (19), and Richard Thompson’s “Money, Money, Money,” from his great 1000 Years of Popular Music collection (6), a Best Nirvana Covers collection, for which I wrote about The Bad Plus’ jazz version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” (27), Graham Parker & The Episodes’ cover of “In Bloom,” (23), Maya Beiser’s borderline insane/brilliant multitracked cello interpretation of “Lithium” (18), sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer’s intentionally dissonant take on “Lithium,” (8), and Laura Love’s bass and vocal version of “Come As You Are” (2). Personally, I would have ranked Love lower and Beiser higher.

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Falling Down on The Job

Business man falling down the stairs in the office concept for a

Toad The Wet Sprocket: Fall Down

It is almost fall, and I haven’t written a new post all summer.  This really isn’t any way to run a blog.

But I have been writing regularly elsewhere, so let’s catch up on that while I consider how to finish the real post that has been sitting in the drafts folder for a while.

Over at Cover Me, I actually wrote a full piece–a lengthy review of the new William Elliott Whitmore album of covers, Kilonova.  Whitmore is a riveting performer, with a voice that is unforgettable, and he takes a group of covers, that range from Bad Religion to Johnny Cash to Bill Withers, and makes them special.  Highly recommended.

I also contributed to a bunch of group features–two Q&As: What’s your favorite cover of your favorite song?  for which I wrote about Sarah McLachlan’s cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill,” and What’s your favorite original song that’s best known as a cover? which prompted me to write about Dave Edmunds’ “Queen of Hearts,” best known, if at all, from the Juice Newton cover.

We also did a bunch of “Best Covers Of” features.  The one on Beyoncé barely interested me, but it turned out that a friend of a friend of my kids named Garth Taylor, of the Rooks, did a beautiful cover of “1+1,” and it finished 12th.  For the Rolling Stones feature, though, I had ten nominees out of the final 50: Bettye LaVette’s soulful cover of “Salt of the Earth” (8), Susan Tedeschi’s bluesy cover of “You Got The Silver” (15), Cal Tjader’s jazzy instrumental version of “Gimme Shelter” (17), Social Distortion’s scuzzy take on “Under My Thumb” (26), Golden Smog’s faithful cover of “Back Street Girl” (30), Otis Redding’s ad-libbed, horn-heavy version of “Satisfaction” (32), Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’s live take on “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” (34), his former band mate Patterson Hood’s sloppy live version of “Loving Cup” (37), The Feelies’ jangly “Paint It Black” (40), and Elvis Costello and Lucinda Williams collaborating on “Wild Horses” (43).  And for the Madonna feature, another one that really was not that interesting to me, I nominated Tommy Emmanuel’s cover of “Borderline,” featuring. Amanda Shires, and it finished third.

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Summer Reading


Fountains of Wayne: It Must Be Summer

I have excuses for not posting here, really, I do.  I work, my son got married, my daughter came home from Barcelona for the event, I attended an off-year college reunion, and there’s just lots going on, including the greatest sporting event in the world.   So, I figured that the first day of summer is an excuse to post my writing on other sites since the Spring Cleaning post.

And thus our feature song is Fountains of Wayne’s great piece of summery power pop, “It Must Be Summer” from their excellent 1999 album Utopia Parkway.  I’ve long been a fan of the band, and their output is uniformly great, even if some might, humorously, consider it a tad formulaic.

My participation at Cover Me has been recently been limited to contributing to the now-regular “Best Covers Ever” feature.  For the Fleetwood Mac piece, I  wrote about Matthew Sweet & Susannah Hoffs’ cover of “Second Hand News” (No. 30), Whiskeytown’s cover of “Dreams” (No. 20), and Hole’s cover of “Gold Dust Woman” (No. 1!!!).  For the Pink Floyd piece, I discussed The Mavericks’ surprisingly good cover of “Us & Them” (No. 36), Bettye LaVette’s cover of “Wish You Were Here” (No. 29), and Elephant Revival’s cover of “Have A Cigar” (No. 17).  I had never heard of Elephant Revival before, but someone in a Jason Isbell fan group on Facebook happened to post the cover during the nomination period, and I really liked it, and investigated some of their other music.  Sadly, they appear to have recently broken up.  The next artist being featured is Beyoncé.  In addition, in my role as a Cover Me writer, I was a guest, along with editor-in-chief Ray Padgett, on a Sirius XM game show, 70s 80s 90s, NOW, where I attempted  to not sound like a jackass, and, I think, mostly succeeded.

At Star Maker Machine, our Punk theme prompted a discussion of the very punk band Stiff Little Fingers, and their song “Fly The Flag,” and a piece about the relationship between reggae and punk, a marriage maybe brokered by Don Letts.  Our next theme was May/Might, which led me to write about a family favorite, Jules Shear’s “You Might As Well Pray,” featuring Amy Rigby, and about a Left Banke song often covered by Richard and Teddy Thompson.

For the Gems & Stones theme, I reflected on Neil Diamond, whose talents as  a songwriter and performer are sometimes obscured by the schmaltz.  And, most recently, for the Speak/Talk theme, I reminisced about Romeo Void, whose song “Talk Dirty (To Me)” epitomized the interview that I did with the band back in college, and whose success may well have been short-circuited due to their label’s unwillingness to support a band with an overweight female singer.

Going forward, there will be a Clearwater Festival recap, either here, or at Star Maker Machine, if I can figure out a way to work it into the theme.  Also, in July, I will be making my debut as a blogger for the legendary Capitol Theater in Port Chester, which should be fun.

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Art For Art’s Sake?

Last fall, my wife and I drove up to Peekskill to see some folk music in a guitar store.  The main reason that we went was that our friend Judy Kass was performing with her new trio, Us!.  There were three acts, Jeremy Aaron, a young, but very accomplished, fiddler, guitarist, singer and songwriter (and, reportedly) tap dancer, the Karen Hudson River Trio, featuring Hudson on guitar and vocals, Jim Petrie on guitar and vocals and Suzanne Davenport on violin and vocals.  Hudson has been compared by others, accurately, to Rosanne Cash and Linda Ronstadt, and her music is both dark and funny.  Finally, we heard Us!, featuring Judy, Amy Soucy and Glen Roethel, all singing and playing guitars.  They were a very new group, and performed originals, covers and one co-written song, and they sounded great (and I’m not just saying that because Judy knows where I live).  The show was sponsored by Tribes Hill, a nonprofit that supports musicians in the Hudson Valley and connects them to each other, to patrons and audiences.

So, we heard about two hours of excellent music from 7 musicians.  During the show, my mind began to wander a bit, and I started to think about the fact that they all came to Peekskill on a Sunday afternoon to perform before about 20 (at most) people, who maybe paid a suggested donation of $15 per person.  Which made me think about all of the people I know who pursue some sort of art, for little or even no money.

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Michael Cohen’s Lament


I’m trying something different here.  I don’t think Weird Al has anything to worry about, though.  Put suggested improvements in the comments.

Sung to the tune of “Stormy Weather,” of course.

Don’t know why
She ever had sex with my guy
Stormy Daniels
All the sleazy things we did together
Now I’m being raided all the time

My files are bare
Gloom and misery everywhere
Stormy Daniels
They’re gonna put two and two together
Making payoffs all the time

Everything seemed to be OK, ‘til the Feds walked in and met me
If I refuse to flip, I fear the law will get me
I have to pray that POTUS will pardon me
Stay out of jail some more

Can’t go on
If my law license is gone
Stormy Daniels
Can they stop us from working together?
Worried that I’ll do time

I walk around, heavy hearted and sad
News cycle comes around, I’m still feelin’ bad
Charges pourin’ down, the boss is getting’ mad
This Avenatti gloatin’, smilin’ and crowin’ gets me mad
Sex, sex, sex, sex,
This fixin’ is just too much for me

Can’t go on
If the attorney client privilege is gone
Stormy Daniels
If you put crime and fraud together
Like I did all the time

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