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History Lesson

To say that Hamilton is a work of genius would be understating things.

What was it that pushed Lin-Manuel Miranda to tell the story of Alexander Hamilton in such a brilliant and bold way? On paper it must have looked like an insane idea, but what I saw on the stage at Proctor’s this week was like nothing I’d ever experienced could have even imagined.

I know I’m a little late to the game on this, but it’s easy to understand how people have become obsessed with the show — and too bring history to people in this way, even if it’s a wee bit superficial, is a positive thing for our culture. Think of all the people who have delved more deeply into Hamilton and American history after this musical ingited their interest.

That’s good for all of us.

NBTW, Miranda left a lot of material on the table that didn’t make it into the show, mincluding a song about Ben Franklin that the Decemberists scored and recorded. It’s pretty great


So, Governor Ralph Northam’s of Virginia had a tough couple of days.

Interesting, because it brought back memories of painting my own face on Halloween. Wore a robe once, too. As a matter of fact, painted the face and wore a robe on the same day.

But unlike with Governor Northam, my face was painted white and my robe was black.

The getup was supposed to be some sort of phantom druid or something, who the hell knows. What do you expect from a weird teenager who’d seen too many 60s British horror movies.

But it’s easy to remember doing it — and that’s why this Ralph Northam thing’s so strange. It seems to me that you’d recall wearing blackface or a Klan robe on Halloween when you were in college.

Fast forward to 1986. The Mets had just won the World Series, and the legendary Mookie Wilson/Bill Buckner play in Game 6 was a very big deal. So this guy — a friend of mine — showed up at work on Halloween in his Mookie jersey and his face painted as black as coal.

Think about that, walking into work in blackface. Pretty crazy. And I don’t think the boss did anything about it, except maybe tell him not to go see any clients dressed that way. He was in sales, and God forbid his Mookie costume cost the TV station some money.

Today he’d be fired on the spot.

Halloween’s a funny thing.  How far is too far when it comes to costumes? Or is Halloween like stand-up comedy, where anything goes and no topic is taboo or too offensive?

Either way, it’s a different world out there. If pictures of me in whiteface emerge, I could be in hot water with the phantom druids.

Faux Hawk

The Times Union Center is looking good. They’ve made a number of improvements lately, including a grand new atrium and giant electronic signs that make South Pearl Street look like Times Square. Heck, they even got rid of their most unsavory tenant, Talk 1300.

But there’s one problem that’s hard the fix: the pigeons.

Downtown Albany’s pigeon population is thriving, and they seem especially drawn to the arena’s nooks and crannies — so much so that a maintenance worker is outside every morning scrubbing pigeon shit off the sidewalks and walkways.

I noticed recently that the TU center was taking measures to scare off the birds, by fighting fire with fire. Ladies and gentlemen,  I give you the faux hawk.

You’d think this bit of fakery might have some effect, but I’m guessing the faux hawk is a flop. It’s covered pigeon poop — and in fact, the day I took this picture, several of the birds were roosting just above it.

What to do next? I’d suggest using REAL hawks. Every day when I walk from my parking lot, I see pieces of dismembered pigeons scattered about. One time I saw an entire set of wings still attached in the middle by a chunk of pigeon spine. The rest was completely gone. These hawks mean business.

So, you don’t need to be an ornithologist to figure this one out: bring more hawks to the arena and your problem will be solved. Maybe they could try releasing rats to draw in the hawks. That may sound unpleasant, but hey, it’s Downtown Albany. Nobody would notice.


Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to end the free release of mugshots and other booking information, and the media is freaking out. Cuomo says it’s to preserve privacy and to squelch sleazy websites that extort money from people who want the pictures to disappear from the web. News outlets like the Times Union say it will lead to abuse and “secret arrests.”

It’s hard to take newspapers and TV stations seriously on this since they exploit mugshots just as shamelessly as the websites Cuomo is fighting.

Today it’s worse than ever. Local TV and newspapers don’t just use the mugshots as part of the regular news coverage, but they plaster them all over social media. That’s when the fun begins, as people get to leave comments about the depraved/evil/corrupt/contemptible/ugly person in the photo. It’s open season, and it doesn’t matter that the person has only been accused, they are dragged through today’s town square — the internet — and locked in the pillory.

In Canada and the UK, mugshots are not released unless there’s a compelling reason to do so, like in a matter of public safety. Some countries go even further, like Ireland, where it’s flat out illegal to release the identity of someone accused of a sex crime. You may not like that, but it protects the rights of someone who may be wrongly accused.

Yeah, so tell me again how this is about transparency and the public’s right to know. Could it also be about selling papers, boosting ratings, tallying clicks, and counting shares and likes? Either way, the media is complaining loudly — so loudly that I can barely hear the cha-ching of their cash registers.

A Bit of Puffery

The morning began with computer problems as the SD card reader was not reading. Hmph.

There were a lot of solutions online and none of them worked — until this one turned up: blow air into the slot. With your mouth. OK, why not? It only took one sharp puff into the SD reader for the card to work when it was reinserted.

Fixing this trouble impressed me so, that it was hard not to imagine spending my retirement working at the Apple store. That would be my specialty, blowing air into the openings in people’s computers. One could do worse. 

Fast forward 13 hours.

The Beatles White Album has been on my turntable since Christmas. The new remastered version was released in the fall, including my vinyl copy, a double album that’s nearly identical to the original release’s packaging.

This evening, side one sounded odd, and after a moment of Back In the USSR it was obvious that a big old clump of dust was clinging to the stylus. So, what did it take to fix this tech problem? One sharp puff of air directed at the needle. Bam — fixed.

How fortunate is it to be a master of the machines, both digital and analog? And it was just a burst of breath that solved their troubles.


On Christmas, my brother brought some unexpected loot: A stash of the yardsticks my father used to hand out to promote his plumbing business. These were all over the house when I was a kid, and I hadn’t seen one in years. These were produced so long ago, that the phone number still uses the exchange name “Edgewood,” instead of being entirely numeric. Very cool.

Oh, and did I mention these were also my father’s weapon of choice? 

My dad was a great guy, but not shy about meting out corporal punishment. Now, if he were in a hurry he’d just use his hands or whip off the belt, but when there was time to plan, he’d reach for 36 inches of pain: the John L. Madeo yardstick. I should note, he’d often bundle several yardsticks together in his meaty hand when dispensing justice.

I know what you’re thinking. Look, they were different times, and I know now he was doing his best. And frankly, we were probably asking for it.

My father lost his dad when he was very young. My grandfather, Louis Madeo, was know as a bit of a hot-head, which certainly contributed to him being gunned down in the Bronx in 1934. Did he pass this trait down through the generations?

My father was only seven-years-old when it happened.

My memories of my father are all good. He worked hard and made a great home for us. Like everybody, he had his issues. Today I laugh about some of the things he did, especially when he lost his temper. I tell people about his antics and they don’t look amused, but it’s funny to me. I know my older brothers got it worse than me, so I don’t know how they feel when holding one of those yardsticks in their hand.

I put the yardstick up on the wall in garage by the door and I walk past it every day. It will never come down, except maybe to sometimes take measure of things.


We use our fireplace a lot. It’s mostly been for aesthetic effect — until this past weekend.

It was freezing outside and the furnace was barely keeping pace. In mid-afternoon, I stacked a hge pile of wood in the hearth and a short time later it was roaring like a son of a bitch. Within a couple of hours, the temperature was up five degrees and my wife was complaining about it being too warm.

It really makes you wonder what we’re doing here?

I’ve always liked the winter and I spend more time outdoors than most people, but the last few seasons have been tough. It may not be time to look south, but I’ve caught myself glancing once or twice.

What I’ve seen of life down there doesn’t impress me. In Florida, many of the communities catering to retirees feel bleak and crowded. And a lot of people seem not to enjoy it.

We stayed at a friend’s condo once, right next door to her parents who lived in the same building. On morning we wanted to go to the ocean and asked which beach they prefer. They had no idea what to tell us, because they’d never been to the beach. Whoa, hold up: You live in a costal city in Florida and you’ve never been to the beach?

For now, we will continue to shiver, embrace the suck, and throw another log on the fire. Bundle up and deal with it. Moving south may feel like the answer, but at what cost? It seems less like a new beginning than the beginning of the end.

Media Weak

Quote of the Week
“I don’t want to give out any misinformation here.” – Paul Vandenburgh

What?! Vandenburgh is constantly giving out misinformation on Talk 1300. This guy gets things wrong even when he’s reading them directly out of the newspaper — and a lot of what he says comes directly out of the papers. I’m not sure how that’s even possible. Someone should keep a tally of how many things he gets wrong every morning, but who has that much time?

I used to hate WRGB because they were so smug, but the truth is they backed it up by being good. Not so much anymore.

Last night the station ran a story about Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse delivering his “state of the city address.” Yes, that’s absurd in itself — but WRGB failed to mention the recent domestic abuse allegations about Morse. OK, just allegations — but what’s absolutely true is that numerous prominent members of his own party called on Morse to resign, including Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, and Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.

I know who’s working in these newsrooms, and I can excuse some inexperienced producer over this — but what about Greg Floyd who lined up the story? C’mon man.

By the way, Cohoes, the state of the city is that your mayor is a thug.

So Afraid of the Russians

I used to enjoy playing Made for TV’s So Afraid of the Russians when I was a DJ in college.

It was a funny song — but frankly, we were afraid of the Russians. Plattsburgh Air Force Base, a stone’s throw from the campus, was understood to be a first strike target in the event of nuclear war.
Down at the bars we’d sometimes meet kids our own age who were from the base. Instead of going to class every day, they’d load bombs and fuel planes out on the flight line. That seemed strange to us, but when my own son decided he’s rather be a machine gunner in the Marines than a college student, I understood better.

That song was released in 1983, but certainly feels relevant again — even though the greatest threat we face may not be the Russians, but our own president.