Category Archives: Blog / Personal Business

Song of the Day #2104

Song of the Day: One Hundred and One Dalmations (“Cruella de Vil”), words and music by George Bruns and Mel Leven, is sung in the 1961 animated classic by Bill Lee [YouTube link]. Selena Gomez rocked the song in 2008 [YouTube link]. It paints a lyrical portrait of the iconic antagonist in the story, whose name is a mixture of “Cruel” and “Devil”, ranking 39th on AFI’s List of “100 Years … 100 Heroes and Villains“. Growing up, long before I saw the film that I came to love, my Mom—who was definitely not Cruella de Vil—must have read me this bedtime story at least 101 times, from the 1962 volume, “Walt Disney’s Story Land“. (The Disney story and franchise were based on Dodie Smith‘s 1956 novel, “The Hundred and One Dalmations“.) It was one of my all-time favorites as a child. On this date in 1919, my Mom was born. And I’ll forever cherish all the stories she told, all the love she gave, all the laughs we had, and all the memories that remain deep in my heart.

Photo collage: Clockwise from top left: Mom in the 1940s; Dad, Mom holding me, and my godfather, Uncle Nick, after my baptism on June 11, 1961; Dad, Mom, and me at my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding; Mom and me in the late 1970s; Mom in the 1980s; Mom, me, and my sister Elizabeth, June 1988, New York University, my Ph.D. commencement in Washington Square Park; Mom in the 1990s; Mom at the center, always.

Song of the Day #2102

Song of the Day: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (“When I’m Sixty-Four”), originally written by Paul McCartney when he was a teenager, first appeared on The Beatles’ celebrated 1967 album. It was also featured in the 1978 film of the same name. Check out the original version and the Frankie Howerd film version [YouTube links]. Yesterday, I actually turned 64! I wanted to express my deepest appreciation to all those who sent their well wishes. Much love to my family, friends, and colleagues! Clearly, I know the answer to the questions posed in the lyrics to today’s Song of the Day: “Will you still need me? Will you still feed me? When I’m 64?” Yes! Yes! And Yes! And I plan to stick around a lot longer, so stay tuned!

When I was 21 …

I just learned from my pal Aeon J. Skoble that, apparently trending on Instagram, people are posting pics of when they were 21. I couldn’t be absolutely certain, so I scanned my 1981 NYU undergraduate NYU yearbook pic. “When I was 21, it was a very good year …”

Me in 1966! Baffled by Batman in Bellmore!

On Thursday, August 25, 1966, I was among the estimated 3,000 people who gathered on Bedford Avenue in Bellmore, Long Island to see Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) from the TV series that brought “POW!”, “BAM!”, and “ZONK” into our living rooms each week.

Going through some old files, I just discovered the cover story in “Bellmore Life” (August 31, 1966)* and there we were! I put a little yellow arrow to point out what was most assuredly my debut in print media—at the age of six-and-a-half!

The paper reported: “A ‘see’ of people drowns Batman in Bellmore … some with gay signs, pro and con.” That’s a quote folks. And I can state for the record I was very pro!

Sadly, I remember that Batman and Robin never got out of their Bat Bus, but “it was the people’s own fault for not cooperating. It was said that Batman was wearing his fourth suit that day, the previous three having been ripped apart by overeager admirers at earlier stops at Huntington and Massapequa.”

No matter! I was there! And I saw them! Behold!

__

* Today, it’s known as the “Bellmore Herald Life” (though it ran from 1964-2013 under the original title). It says online: “Richner Communications, the Herald’s parent company, recently acquired Bellmore Life. Bringing the two newspapers and their respective staffs together will allow us to build a better, stronger paper whose guiding mission will be serving our readers’ best interests.”

Here’s a link to the original paper from August 31, 1966 in the archives. The photos there are even clearer (see below). I distinctly remember that Batman was positioned (as in the photo) looking out the side front window of the bus. And Robin was looking out the rear windshield of the bus. He didn’t look thrilled, as I recall.

Facebook Prison!

For the first time in all the years I have been on Facebook, I got restricted for ONE WHOLE HOUR. What nerve!

Apparently, I violated “Community Standards”. At first, I said to myself: “WTF!? What did Ebenezer Scrooge or Mr. Henry Potter suddenly seize control of the platform and take umbrage at my ongoing Holiday Video series? Bah, humbug!”

Then, a friend showed me that the same thing happened to a mutual friend of ours … and I figured that it probably had something to do with me scrolling thru my feed and giving too many Thumbs Up, Care, and Heart reacts to people. I never dreamed that liking too many posts would be deemed as aggressive!

So many of my FB pals have been in FB prison in the past, for a helluva lot longer than an hour! I was beginning to think I could do no wrong here! But after an hour, the dismissal bell rang, and I got my wings and flew the coop! I’m happy to have finally joined the ranks of the (fallen) angels.

Next time, I won’t be so nice with generous reacts and do something REALLY naughty! 😉

Check out the lively Facebook discussion this provoked.

It’s been a year …

It’s been a year—since your suffering ended.

It’s been a year—and I miss you so deeply.

It’s been a year—but the gift of your love is eternal.

It’s been a year—my Bitty, and I will always love you.

Elizabeth Ann Sciabarra
September 2, 1952 – November 26, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving

At a time when so many people in this world are suffering and in the depths of despair, I count my blessings for all the love and support of family and friends that have gotten me through one of the most difficult years of my life.

My best wishes to all for a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving.

JFK 60

This essay also appears on Medium.

Sixty years ago, this week, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Since that time, there has been a never-ending debate over who was responsible for JFK’s death: Lee Harvey Oswald? The CIA? The Mafia? Cuban Exiles? All of them? None of them?

I have no intention of even attempting to resolve these controversial questions. I write neither to praise the promise of “Camelot” nor to condemn Kennedy’s “fascist New Frontier”, as Ayn Rand famously characterized it.

My focus here is a bit more personal. It’s about what it was like to be a 3-year-old kid, living in Brooklyn, New York, watching these events unfold on a vintage black-and-white television screen. And how that experience—and the experience of seeing the events of the 1960s—sparked my interest in history and politics.

My earliest childhood TV memories are of Saturday morning cartoons, as well as primetime gems like “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons“. But, for me, watching televised real-life events was even more exhilarating. I was enthralled when John Glenn orbited the earth three times on my mother’s birthday, February 20, 1962, only three days after I turned 2. Seven years later, I was ecstatic to see the first human beings step on the surface of the moon. That fascination with heroic acts of exploration and the promise of human possibility have remained with me throughout my life.

There were also quite a few unsettling news reports that I absorbed in those early years. I saw black children being blasted with high-pressure firehoses, clubbed by police, and attacked by snarling dogs because they dared to protest against the disgraceful segregationist policies in Birmingham, Alabama, in May 1963. I may have been too young to understand exactly what was going on. But I saw my mother do the sign of the cross, saying a prayer for those kids, as our family witnessed this heart-wrenching display on television.

On Friday, November 22, 1963, we watched another unfolding event of brutality that was, quite frankly, unbelievable. Though I was less than three months away from turning 4 years old, that day and the days that followed remain seared into my consciousness.

Early on that Friday morning, we received a phone call that my Yaya had fallen. My mother picked me up in her arms and held me as she walked a few blocks away to assist my aunts and uncles as they tended to my bruised grandmother. By early afternoon, things had settled down. The TV was on, and everybody was watching “As the World Turns”. A few moments into the broadcast, Walter Cronkite made his first announcements that shots had been fired at the motorcade in Dallas and that the 46-year-old President had been “seriously wounded.” Everybody in the room gasped. Within an hour or so, Cronkite confirmed that JFK was dead.

That news flash—and the horrifying reactions of my family members—rattled me. In the days that followed, my entire family was glued to nonstop television coverage. Perhaps even more unsettling was what we witnessed on November 24, 1963, as the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was gunned down on live television by Jack Ruby. The screams of family members were so intense that the whole apartment seemed to shake.

The traumatic effects of all this cannot be underestimated. Like many who bore witness to this tragedy, my family was deeply affected, even while offering us youngsters all the comfort and support we required. After all, for kids of my generation, this was our first experience not only with death but with televised violence. We saw world leaders taking part in a mournful funeral procession, played out on a global stage. Images of JFK’s own kids—including little John John saluting his father’s coffin—were replayed over and over again.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that one aunt of mine, who was quite vocal in her hatred of the Kennedys, expressed annoyance with the networks for having “robbed” kids of those Saturday morning cartoons. Nevertheless, our family was part of that 90% of the American public that embraced what author Joseph Campbell once called “a deeply significant rite of passage” over those four historic days of television coverage.

I didn’t experience a fully personal loss until the sudden death of my 55-year old father in 1972, when I was 12 years old. Still, the 1960s gave me an ever-expanding education on death and destruction. In February 1968, Walter Cronkite reported on “the bloody experience of Vietnam” that was doomed “to end in a stalemate.” Battle deaths mounted; in the end, the U.S. experienced over 58,000 fatalities, and the Vietnamese, on both sides of the conflict, suffered as many as 3 million civilian and military deaths. On March 16, Robert F. Kennedy began his presidential campaign. By March 31, Lyndon B. Johnson announced he would not seek re-election. Days later, on Thursday, April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., 39 years of age, was assassinated and the suspect was a white man.

In the wake of King’s murder, the country experienced widespread riots and civil unrest. Somehow, New York City averted major violence. Mayor John Lindsay traveled to Harlem, in an outreach to black residents, while schools fostered healing. When I walked into my second-grade class, one of my friends, a black girl named Wanda, came over to me and said: “One of your kind of people killed one of my kind of people.” She looked so sad. All I could say to her was: “He was a bad person. Not everyone is like him.” And I reached out and touched her hand. It was a teachable moment as staff distributed educational pamphlets exploring King’s legacy.

Virtually two months later, in the wee hours of Wednesday, June 5, 1968, we were awakened in the middle of the night by my Aunt Georgia, who called to tell us to turn on the TV: Robert F. Kennedy had just been shot in the aftermath of the California primary. Our black-and-white TV flickered on. I could see that RFK’s head was being held above a pool of blood. As another act of violence was beamed into our home, we watched into the wee hours. The next day, RFK died at the age of 42. It was Brooklyn Day and the schools were closed.

I have often looked back on the 1960s as the worst decade in my 63 years. Before the age of 9, I had to process assassinations, war, riots, and deep polarization. And yet, I look around the world today and find myself wondering if we are headed into a period that might surpass that era in terms of sheer brutality.

Having seen so much footage of that fateful November day in 1963—including the graphic Zapruder film—it felt eerie when, years later, I finally visited Dealey Plaza for the first time and toured the Sixth Floor Museum. I relived the experiences of a three-year old in a way that brought the events to life even more vividly. (The photos here were taken by me in Dealey Plaza.)

The JFK Assassination remains a singular emblematic event. I have no doubt that this event, and the other turbulent events of the 1960s, were partially responsible for nourishing my deep interest in trying to understand the social, cultural, and political forces that shaped them. But the decade also offered kernels of promise, the possibilities for change, an enchantment with the stars. It all coalesced to fuel my passionate vision for a nobler world in which hatred, violence, and war were relegated to the dustbin of history.

GoFundMe for Roderick Long

On Facebook, I posted a GoFundMe link for my dear friend Roderick Tracy Long on Facebook. Folks can visit that GFM link here. Sadly, someone attacked Roderick’s character on my thread and another. In response to that, I wrote the following:

I posted this yesterday evening without commenting. In the light of comments that were made on this thread (and subsequently deleted by me) and on another thread as well, I would like to say something about Roderick Tracy Long.

I have known Roderick on both a personal and professional level for more than 25 years. I posted this GoFundMe plea out of compassion for a dear friend. He is among the gentlest human beings I have ever met. Throughout his life, he’s also had his share of problems.

That somebody would use this plea as an opportunity to engage in an outlandish, disgraceful attack on this man’s character is something that hadn’t occurred to me. I would like to apologize to anyone who saw the comments or who replied to them. The person who made the comments attacking Roderick has been unfriended. The comments have been deleted.

Let it be known: Roderick is a man of integrity. He has remarkable intelligence, a hilarious sense of humor, and a kind heart. You may disagree with him on any number of subjects—I do. But on an ideological level, he has been a stalwart defender of human freedom and personal flourishing.

I will not allow this page to be desecrated by comments that disparage my friend. Not here. Not ever.

Roderick needs help; please donate if you can. I love him lots.

Elizabeth Ann Sciabarra (“Ski”): A Life

On September 2, 1952, seventy-one years ago today, my sister, Elizabeth Ann Sciabarra (aka “Ski”), was born. In loving tribute to her life, I culled together photos from the time of her childhood through her professional career. These are snapshots-in-time—of family, friends, colleagues, and beloved students. Creating this chronological collage was both fun and poignant. It is set to a medley of tunes from one of our favorite artists, Michael Jackson, whom we saw in concert twice (in 1984, with his brothers, on The Victory Tour; in 1988, solo, on The Bad Tour).

Our Love Eternal.

See Facebook for comments.