Monthly Archives: August 2023

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Song of the Day #2069

Song of the Day: The NBC Mystery Movie (“Main Theme”) [YouTube link], composed by the legendary Henry Mancini, opened this anthology television movie series, which ran from 1971 to 1977. Mancini had such an enormous impact on film music, but his brilliance came to the small screen as well, in shows as varied as “Peter Gunn“, “Newhart“, and “Remington Steele” [YouTube links].

Song of the Day #2068

Song of the Day: Stranger Things (“Main Theme”) [YouTube link], composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of the electronic band, Survive, opens this show, which began its Netflix run in 2016. The music is an homage to the synth-heavy 1980s scores of John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream, and Vangelis. The series is one of my favorites and I’m looking forward to its final season. Check out the extended mix as well [YouTube link].

Song of the Day #2067

Song of the Day: March on Washington (“Oh, Freedom”) is a post-Civil War African American spiritual. It was first recorded in 1931 as “Sweet Freedom” by the E. R. Nance Family, and was later recorded by Odetta as part of the “Spiritual Trilogy” for her 1956 “Ballads and Blues” album. In 1958, a 17-year old Joan Baez recorded it as well [YouTube link]. Sixty years ago, on this date, Baez officially opened the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with this song. That massive gathering, famous for Martin Luther King Jr.’s legendaryI Have a Dream” speech, was not carried in its entirety on television. But Baez courageously added the lyric “No More Jim Crow” to her live rendition, a moral denunciation of systemic segregationist policies. Check out the 1931 E. R. Nance Family original, Odetta’s rendition, and Baez’s rendition from the March [YouTube links].

Song of the Day #2066

Song of the Day: The Price is Right (“Main Theme”) [YouTube link], composed by Edd Kalehoff, opened this show, which debuted in 1972 on CBS. The show was a reboot of a 1956 game show, hosted by Bill Cullen, which was first shown on NBC and then, ABC. This incarnation has aired over 9,000 episodes. Its long-running catchphrase, “Come on down!“, is part of the American vernacular. It was hosted until 2007 by Bob Barker, before being helmed by Drew Carey. I remember Barker when he hosted “Truth or Consequences” but he’d go on to host this show for 35 years. Today, Barker died at the age of 99. He’ll be long remembered not just as a legendary game show host, but for throwing punches with Adam Sandler in “Happy Gilmore” (1996) [YouTube link]. Check out one of Bob’s entrances on “The Price is Right” [YouTube link]. RIP, Bob Barker.

Song of the Day #2065

Song of the Day: Breaking Bad (“Crapa Pelada” aka “Testa Pelata”), based on an old Italian nursery rhyme, features the music of Gorni Kramer and the lyrics of Tata Giacobetti. The original 1936 recording (translated as “Bald Head“—a perfect metaphor for the character Walter White, portrayed by the brilliant Bryan Cranston) was performed by Italian jazz singer Alberto Rabagliati. But it’s a 1945 version by the Italian jazz quartet Quartetto Cetra along with which Gale Boetticher (played by David Costabile) sings in the Season 3 finale (“Full Measure”) of the terrific AMC series, “Breaking Bad“, which aired on June 13, 2010. When I posted my January 2023 tribute in music to the Breaking Bad franchise, I saved two selections (today’s and one next month) for this “TV Edition” of the Summer Music Festival, which includes TV themes and source music. I promised Roderick Tracy Long I’d highlight this song (and another) someday, and that day has come! Check out Gale’s impeccable sing-a-long from the show, the full Quartetto Cetra recording, and the original 1936 Alberto Rabagliati recording [YouTube links]. And look out for “Breaking Bad 2“!

Song of the Day #2064

Song of the Day: The Untouchables (“Main Theme”) [YouTube link], composed by the great Nelson Riddle, served as the theme for this ABC series that ran from 1959 to 1963. Based on the Eliot Ness memoir, it starred Robert Stack as Ness. I have highlighted before—and absolutely loved—the Ennio Morricone theme [YouTube link] to the suspenseful Brian De Palma-directed 1987 film version. Riddle’s theme is a classic in its own right [YouTube link].

“Conversion Therapy” & The Tragedy of Alana Chen

This article can also be found on Medium.

I have long known about the tragic suicide of Alana Chen, a 24-year old woman who was found dead near the Gross Reservoir in Boulder County, Colorado in December 2019. Chen’s death has been the subject of much controversy. She was a devout Catholic, who dreamed of being a nun someday. But at the age of 14, she confessed to a trusted priest that she thought she was attracted to women. And for all intents and purposes, that confession was the beginning of the end.

Alana was a victim of 7 years of “conversion” or “reparative therapy” — an attempt to dislodge the “impure” thoughts of same-sex attraction. The “pious” counselors who engage in this kind of “therapy” employ an arsenal of tools that equip them to wage psychological and spiritual warfare on their victims. What they leave behind, what needs repairing when they are finished, are the fractured souls of those who earnestly sought their sincere spiritual guidance and were taught instead to disown their humanity and to hate the love that was trapped inside them.

new 8-part podcast series, “Dear, Alana,” on TenderfootTV, produced and narrated by Simon Kent Fung, offers us a grueling, shattering portrait of Alana’s life and death. As noted in the official trailer to the series, Fung had access to Alana’s texts and two dozen journals that chronicle her “deep faith, love of fashion, and dream of becoming a nun.” But Alana “harbored a secret,” and when she shared that secret with her priest, she “was instructed not to tell her parents.” For seven years thereafter, she “covertly received conversion therapy which her family believes played a role in her fate.” Fung’s journey into Alana’s past enables him to share the striking similarities of his own story, as he grapples with “the truth of what happened to Alana,” in “an unraveling mystery and … poignant spiritual memoir about teenage rebellion and spiritual manipulation.” It is a series that details “the price we pay to belong and the systems that pay no price at all.”

I don’t want to say too much about this series. It must be heard in full. It will upset you. It will make you angry. And it will provide a hint at how flagrant abuses of clerical and clinical power are a significant aspect of the ways in which power relations operate in our society.

For many years, I’ve argued that power relations are manifested on at least three distinct levels of generality — the personal, the cultural, and the structural. On the personal level, when an individual’s method of awareness is corrupted by therapeutic practices that cut them off from their own emotions and even their bodily integrity, power is being exerted. On the cultural level, when a religious institution creates an atmosphere of intolerance, subjecting its parishioners to moralizing dictates about every thought and action they deem “impure”, preying (not just “praying”) on guilt, shame, and fear, power is being exerted. And when this translates into economic and political practices that attack the individuals and groups being marginalized, power is being exerted. The reciprocal ways in which each of these levels reinforces the others are crucial to a whole system of oppression. Those who fight for human freedom and personal flourishing cannot underestimate the interlocking components of that system.

Ayn Rand opened her 1970 essay critiquing modern education, “The Comprachicos,” with her own translation of a passage from The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo. For reasons that will become apparent, it’s worth reproducing, in part, here:

The comprachicos, or comprapequeños, were a strange and hideous nomadic association, famous in the seventeenth century, forgotten in the eighteenth, unknown today. … Comprachicos, as well as comprapequeños, is a compound Spanish word that means “child-buyers.” The comprachicos traded in children. They bought them and sold them. They did not steal them. The kidnapping of children is a different industry.

And what did they make of these children?


Why monsters?

To laugh.

The people need laughter; so do the kings. Cities require side-show freaks or clowns; palaces require jesters. … To succeed in producing a freak, one must get hold of him early. … Hence, an art. … They took a man and turned him into a miscarriage; they took a face and made a muzzle. They stunted growth; they mangled features. … Where God had put a straight glance, this art put a squint. Where God had put harmony, they put deformity. Where God had put perfection, they brought back a botched attempt. And in the eyes of connoisseurs, it is the botched that was perfect. … The practice of degrading man leads one to the practice of deforming him. Deformity completes the task of political suppression.

The comprachicos had a talent, to disfigure, that made them valuable in politics. To disfigure is better than to kill. … The comprachicos did not merely remove a child’s face, they removed his memory. At least, they removed as much of it as they could. The child was not aware of the mutilation he had suffered. This horrible surgery left traces on his face, not his mind. He could remember at most that one day he had been seized by some men, then had fallen asleep, and later they had cured him. Cured him of what? He did not know. Of the burning by sulphur and the incisions by iron, he remembered nothing. During the operation, the comprachicos made the little patient unconscious by means of a stupefying powder that passed for magic and suppressed pain.

Rand went on to use this metaphor in her indictment of the pedagogical methods at work in contemporary education. She remarked that educators had reversed the process, leaving traces of the damage they had done not on the face of a child, but on his mind. “To make you unconscious for life by means of your own brain,” Rand wrote, “nothing can be more ingenious.” These are “the comprachicos of the mind.”

I could not help but see the parallel between what Rand wrote in 1970 and the nightmarish realities of the practices of “conversion” therapy. That this is often done in the name of religion is even more ironic, given Hugo’s passage. For if one believes that God provided harmony and perfection, one can see the deformity, the degradation, the “botched attempt” that leaves in its wake broken souls. And the more these souls become aware of their “suppressed pain”, of the reality that they are “botched”, the more trapped they feel, such that the only way out is at the end of a noose at the bottom of an empty reservoir.

Both Hugo and Rand were right that this deformity completes the task of political suppression. In actuality, what it achieves is the suppression of the human heart, the repression of the human mind, the oppression of human life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The political attack on the LGBTQ+ community that we are witnessing today requires a multipronged assault on a person’s psychology, methods of awareness, and moral sense. It requires fostering an illiberal culture of intolerance that undermines a person’s ability to flourish by inculcating guilt, fear, and hatred. It is ironic that the reactionary culture warriors often attack “drag”, but they wear drag of a different sort. They wrap themselves in the vestments of religion and turn the holy into the unholy. Where they see life, they create death.

The Culture Wars are not insignificant. The forces of reaction know this. They are providing the cultural and moral weapons that make the current political assault on LGBTQ+ lives and liberties possible. Their cultural values must be exposed for what they are. And they must be fought.

Alana Chen’s spiritual maiming made possible her death. For Alana, spiritual disfugurement was the necessary prelude to suicide. Those who destroyed her soul have blood on their hands. Her death will not be in vain.

My sincere thanks to Simon Kent Fung for bringing this podcast series to fruition. I implore readers to listen to the entire series. It can be found on multiple platforms here.

If you or someone you care about may be at risk of suicide, contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988, or go to

Song of the Day #2063

Song of the Day: The Love Boat (“Main Theme”), music by Charlie Fox, lyrics by Paul Williams, opened this ABC series, which ran from 1977 to 1986. They certainly chose the cream of the musical crop to sing it: a rendition by Jack Jones ran for seasons 1 thru 8 and another by Dionne Warwick ran in season 9 [YouTube links]. 

Harrison Ford Species!

Harrison Ford may have no Oscars to his credit, but he has quite a menagerie of namesakes! A species of ant (Pheidole harrisonfordi) and a species of spider (Calponia harrisonfordi) are named for him.

Moviegoers will remember, however, that as Indiana Jones, Ford famously declared: “I Hate Snakes“. Now, he’s got a species of snake named for him too: “Tachymenoides harrisonfordi“! Read on!

Robert De Niro: Happy 80th!

Eighty years ago on this date, actor Robert De Niro was born in Manhattan. The recipient of two Oscars, a Golden Globe, the Cecil B. DeMille Award, the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, and Kennedy Center Honors, De Niro has given us an enormously important filmography. His legendary collaborations with Martin Scorsese include such films as “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull” (for which he received a Best Actor Oscar), “Goodfellas,” “Cape Fear,” and “The Irishman“. Add to that his Best Supporting Actor-winning role as the young Vito Corleone in “The Godfather, Part II“, his portrait of Al Capone in “The Untouchables“, and his forays into comedy, and you’d still come up short in recognizing his gifts.

Among these is his enduring gift to the city of New York—not counting his iconic “You talkin’ to me?“, a Top Ten AFI Quotable Movie Line: the Tribeca Film Festival, which he cofounded in 2002.

His body of work remains a cinematic treasure.