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It’s Sunday again.

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… and that means it’s time for the weekend check-in.

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I have now opened, I believe, 10 packs of the 1988 Fleer baseball cards previously chronicled here. Nine of the packs contained cards that were all-new to me; the tenth was mostly duplicative.

The method of randomizing printed baseball cards before packing is the sort of thing that would have fascinated my Hope Street grandfather. How do you ensure some kid doesn’t get a pack of all Mets, or all Ed Kranepools?

I’m sure an explanation of how it works is out on the Interwebs someplace, and maybe some other day I will track it down.

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I had a random idea while I was mowing the lawn the other day: What would it have sounded like if Brian Eno produced Lightnin’ Hopkins? I’m picturing feather boas and weird synth textures on one hand, and red-dirt blues guitar playing on the other.

I might have to explore this further.

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What have I been listening to?

Well, earlier today there was an hour’s worth of Southern jazz-funk from Sea Level, recorded live at My Father’s Place on Long Island in October 1977.

The instrumental tunes were pretty fuzak-y, but they were still better than the vocal numbers. Even though parts of this performance scratched my itch for Seventies studio-cat jazzy tastiness, I don’t think I’ll revisit either the show or the band.

From there I have veered wildly into the Internet Archive’s stock of recordings of unknown local bands.

Cued up right now are videos of two mid-1980s shows starring a Wichita, Kansas, band called the Blivets. One takes place outside an art gallery at the local state college. A young man and woman dance in front of the camera, then notice it. The band plays “Sweet Jane” with a friend singing backup. The guitarist wears a fedora. They reach the end of their half-hour, ask for “one more,” are denied.

A year later they are back in front of the camera, playing amidst the highly questionable acoustics of a bowling alley. People bowl behind them, poorly. The guitar player wears tie-dye. They stretch out and jam. The singer’s guitar amp is a Peavey, mainstay of budget-conscious rock n’ rollers everywhere. Halfway through the film abruptly shifts to another performer, playing another venue, in the dark.

These films have a low-rent coziness that brings me right back to playing in a small-time band around that same time period (although the Blivets were better than my band ever was). I can practically smell the rooms where they’re playing, and see them loading their gear into their cars afterward. It’s a fun trip.

(The Blivets’ self-recorded 1991 release Golly Damn! is on the Archive too, and maybe I’ll check that out. But for right now, I’m locked into the moving pictures, not the sound.)

Hi, there.

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You know what I thought of the other day that hasn’t crossed my mind in months? Night in the Ruts, that’s what.

Trying to figure out if that signals an impending return to my regular life-focus on useless information … or whether it’s just a meaningless lightning-flash from the past, the way an elderly monk might randomly recall the taste of a bottle of bock beer stolen sixty springs before from his uncle’s metal tub.

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I remembered another flash this past weekend, too — the notion that the pandemic might be a great time to finally learn how to play guitar like Mississippi Fred McDowell.

Several film clips of the late Mr. McDowell circulate. My favorite is this one, which clearly shows the work of his right and left hands as he spins a hypnotic take on “John Henry”:

 

Over the weekend I tuned my $100 homemade Strat copy to one of Fred’s favorite tunings — D-A-D-F#-A-D — dashed to the hardware store for one or two metal tube-bits to play slide with, and set about bashing away.

The good news is, it’s not too hard to set up hypnotic drones in that tuning, and it’s not too hard to create some basic, driving thumb-and-fingers rhythms. Getting to Mississippi Fred’s level, though, doesn’t happen in a weekend, so I’ll have to keep working on my technique with both hands.

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The music of Watts continues to amass, on average, one spin a month on Boston’s city-operated radio station. I check in on it every day to no avail, and just when I’ve figured it for dead, “Salty Dame” or “Presidentials” shows up again, as it did a day or two ago.

I suppose I should be glad that the station’s on the air at all — though if it were 24-hour automated, my crap might have a better chance of slipping into the mix more frequently.

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My post on junk wax a while ago brought an unexpected and delightful bonus.

A Twitter acquaintance named Mark (he does blog-business here) messaged me to say he had a box of a few hundred cards, mostly ’90 Donruss, he was looking to unload. He didn’t want ’em, his kids didn’t want ’em, he didn’t wanna throw ’em out, and they could be mine for the cost of postage. I said sure.

It took the Postal Service 11 days to get the box from San Antonio to the Boston suburbs, including at least three to get it from Springfield, Mass., to my home inside Route 495. (I guess this is the reality of the Postal Service in the year 2020.)

But as of a day or two ago, it is here as promised, and I am enjoying yet another influx of essentially worthless but perfectly charming cardboard.

There’s still other things to do tonight, so I’ll end with one or two stories from the box.

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There are very few major-company baseball cards, to my knowledge, that openly acknowledge the recent death of the person shown on the front.

The ones that come to mind include the black-bordered 1964 Topps Ken Hubbs … the ’65 Topps Jim Umbricht … and the Canadian 1972 O-Pee-Chee Gil Hodges, which delivers its late-breaking news with a singular lack of grace. (That front-of-the-card text works fine when the message is “TRADED TO CARDINALS” or “NOW WITH ORIOLES;” it’s less sufficient to deliver news of life-or-death import.)

There is another such card, from my own lifetime of baseball fandom; and now I own one, as part of my new box of friends.

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(I wonder if Donruss gave thought to slapping a black border on this one. Paint splatter does little to connote grief.)

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I remember a great outpouring of grief in the sports world at the passing of Bart Giamatti, who was gone far too soon. Baseball loves its intellectual warriors, too, and anyone who could write a passage like “it is designed to break your heart” was bound to find a place of honor.

(I also remember a daft Saturday Night Live skit, one of the ones they wedge on at 12:50 a.m., that parodied grief-stricken baseball types rushing to rename half the features of the baseball diamond in Giamatti’s honor. Why I still remember that and not a thousand other things that might help me in my middle age, I do not know.)

Looking at this from a 2020 perspective, one cannot help but think:

– Baseball could use a “fan’s commissioner” now as opposed to the tone-deaf dolt currently in the job, who appears to have little understanding of what makes people baseball fans.

– I wonder what a guy who could wring such poetry out of the arrival of every fall would have made of this moment in time. (You want heartbreak, Bart? You wanna be left alone when you need it most? Come see a Memorial Day weekend that will pass without a single organized baseball game anywhere in the U.S. I only hope we get the game back sometime this year, before the chill rains descend again.)

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I don’t feel like ending there. So I will end on something marginally more uplifting. I’ll settle for that.

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Here we have Kevin Hickey, relief pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles.

He has already lived a most unusual baseball life. Unlike most prospects, he doesn’t even play high school baseball growing up in Chicago. Instead, he plays softball, before being signed by his hometown White Sox at an open tryout day in August 1977.

He makes the big leagues and pitches three years with the White Sox, including 23 appearances in 1983, on the first White Sox team to make the postseason since 1959.

And that’s just where his saga — and one of the most unusual baseball-card backs I can remember seeing — begins.

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Following a shoulder injury, Kevin Hickey spends five solid years — one of which isn’t even shown here — in the minor leagues, trying to regain his stuff and make it back to the bigs.

It would be impossible to list his minor-league experience on the back of this card even if Donruss wanted to, because Kevin Hickey bounces through 11 teams in those five years. We can list them here, though, for a litany that would chuff even Johnny Cash: Denver, Columbus, Glens Falls, Appleton, Albany-Colonie, Reading, Portland, Hawaii, Phoenix, Rochester, and Charlotte. There are bus rides.

He spends his age-30 season, in 1986, racking up a 6.51 earned-run average in Triple-A. But he talks the White Sox and San Francisco Giants into chances at the same level the following year. Then he does the same with the Baltimore Orioles in 1988, personally contacting Orioles general manager Roland Hemond, who ran the White Sox in the late ’70s. He finds something, perhaps another pitch, that allows him to post a 1.93 minor-league ERA at age 32.

And the following year, he makes the Orioles out of spring training. He comes in on Opening Day and gets Marty Barrett, the first major-league hitter he’s faced since July 1983, to ground out. He goes on to work 51 games out of the Baltimore bullpen, third-highest on the team, with an excellent 2.92 ERA.

Perhaps it is persistence. Perhaps it is the sort of cantankerous determination the British call bloody-mindedness. Perhaps it is simply a great and sweeping lack of interest in doing anything else with his life besides throwing a baseball. Whatever stokes his fire down below, Kevin Hickey has won. He has earned a baseball rebirth, and he has made the most of it.

Life after 1990 does not smile entirely so broadly on Kevin Hickey. He pitches two more years in the major leagues before the magic recedes again. He works as a used car salesman for a time, and appears in a baseball movie. In 2003, he is hired to pitch batting practice for the White Sox. He remains in that role until April 2012, when he is found unresponsive in a hotel room in Texas before the team’s season opener; after a month of hospitalization, he passes away.

None of this is foreseeable through the paint-speckled frame of 1990 Donruss, though, and none of it matters.

Card #583 shows an unremarkable baseball instant — a pregame warmup toss, perhaps — but it is a moment of victory. Kevin Hickey has been down and doubted, and he has dug out of it and found the capability to succeed.

“It is designed to break your heart”? No. Not always.

More decisions.

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The deep dive into the Decisions on Geographic Names in the United States continues.

I wouldn’t want you to spend all your free time in this sea of creeks, ridges, points and reservoirs — only one of us really needs to take this trip — so I’m plucking out some of my favorite entries as I go and putting them here.

These entries are actually all from two years’ timespan, between the start of 1969 and the end of 1970. We’ll see if I keep fishing in other years, or leave well enough alone.

(One note on the entries presented below: I have consistently refused to transcribe geographic coordinates — too much hassle — so when you see ellipses, that’s what’s missing.)

Maybe you’ll get some flavor of why I find this fascinating. If not, I’ll probably be flapping about baseball cards or music again sometime soon, so come back then.

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From Jan.-March 1969:Gossan Ridge: ridge, 1 mi long, highest elevation 975 ft. 38 mi SE of Candle; name derived from the gossans that are found on the ridge; Alaska.”

What is a gossan? I had to go to Wiki to get learned: A gossan is the upper, exposed part of an ore deposit or mineral vein. Go know.

I woulda guessed it was a wildflower.

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Oi! I can’t see the bloody gossans!

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Thor, Mount: mountain, highest elevation 12,500 ft., in Chugach Mountains 3 mi. NW of Mount Valhalla; named for Thor, the Norse God of Thunder, because of the noise of avalanches on the mountain; Alaska. Not: Mount Willard Gibbs.”

Sorry, Willard Gibbs. You got the bum’s rush. But chin up, bro: If you gotta lose out to somebody, it’s no shame to lose out to the Norse god of thunder.

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Slims Peak: mountain, elevation 7,112 feet, in the Panamint Range 4.8 mi. WSW of Porter Peak and 23 mi. NE of Trona; named for Charles ‘Seldom Seen Slim’ Ferge, lone resident of the nearby ghost town of Ballarat for fifty years until his death in 1968; Inyo Co., Calif.”

If I didn’t think the Internet had devalued the word “badass” beyond any meaning, I would suggest that this is totally badass. Instead, I’ll settle for quietly envying Seldom Seen Slim his lifestyle. Splendid isolation sounds better every year.

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These satellite photos don’t show you jack; I’m just picking out the ones that look like modern art.

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From April-June 1969: “Quien Sabe Glacier: glacier, 0.9 mi long, in North Cascades National Park, W of Boston Peak and Sahale Mountain; Skagit Co., Wash.”

Who Knows Glacier? C’mon, don’t leave me hanging — there’s gotta be a good story behind that somewhere.

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White Alice Creek: stream, 2 mi. long, in the Aleutian Islands … flows ENE to the Bering Sea on the N coast of Amchitka Island 0.4 mi W of Banjo Point; named for a communications site once located here; Alaska.”

If this entry doesn’t make you imagine a guy at midnight in a wind-whipped little shed, lit only by the glow of vacuum tubes, holding a radio handset to his mouth and whispering fervently, “White Alice here. White Alice here. Do you copy?,” then you are truly dead deep down in your soul, and I’m sorry.

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Two Hearted River: stream, 15 mi. long, heads at the junction of its North and West branches … flows NE to Lake Superior 27 mi. ENE of Grand Marais; Luce Co., Mich. … Not: Big Two Hearted River.”

Eat it, Hemingway.

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Chaos Creek: stream, 7 mi. long … flows SE to where it disappears in Big Sand Spring Valley 8 mi. ESE of Moores Station; Nye Co., Nev.”

If I were writing a novel and wanted to put its protagonist well and truly at the mercy of the elements, I would have him/her follow Chaos Creek southeast until it disappears. You’d sure enough need some deus ex machina to get out of that.

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There’s a crick there somewhere, I guess.

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From January-March 1970:

Beaver Brook: stream, 8 mi. long … flows SE to the Souhegan River 2 mi. E of Milford; Hillsborough Co., N.H. … Variants: Quohquinapassakessamanagnog, Quohquinapassakessananagnog, Quohquinapassakessananaquog, Quoh-quinna-passa-kessa-na-nag-nog.”

Glad we got that cleared up.

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October-December 1970:

Ogive Glacier: glacier, 6 mi. long … trends SW to a tributary of the Lace River 14 mi. NNE of Lions Head Mountain; so named because of its striking ogival appearance when viewed from above; Alaska.”

Bloody hell, it’s another vocabulary lesson! Off to Wiki once again to learn what an ogive is. To steal blindly, it’s the tapered end of an object. For example, the rounded nose of a bullet is an ogive.

In unrelated news, I have also learned from this fishing expedition that there are no counties in Alaska.

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Whistling Lake: lake, 0.7 mi. long and 0.3 mi. wide, 1.6 mi. NE of Amber Lake and 14 mi. SW of Talkeetna; named for the whistling swans which nest and raise their young here; Alaska.”

Doesn’t that sound beautiful? That sounds like the kind of naturally wonderful place that human beings can f–k up just by looking at. I sure hope we haven’t.

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Northborough: village, 4 mi. NE of Shrewsbury; Worcester Co., Mass. … Variant: Northboro.”

Hey! In this sea of names, here’s a mention of a place I’ve not only visited, but that’s even appeared before on this blog. I’m pleased to know I spelled it correctly.

In this same time frame of late 1970, the Board also verified the proper spellings of the Bay State communities of Southborough and Westborough.

For whatever reason, they didn’t also weigh in on the town of Foxborough. But the same -ugh rule applies to all. As a Foxborough townie told the New York Times a few years ago, “You spell it long, or you spell it wrong.”

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July-September 1970 (we’re jumping around a bit because we can):

Gudde Ridge: ridge, 5 mi. long, highest elevation 1,763 ft. at Round Top NE of Oakland; named for Dr. Erwin Gustav Gudde (1889-1969), for many years a teacher at the University of California at Berkeley, and a scholar of California history who authored many articles and books on the history of California and its place names; Contra Costa Co., Calif.”

Without meaning to defame the undoubtedly pure motivations of the good Dr. Gudde, I wonder if — after a lifetime spent writing about place names — you sortakinda wonder whether you’ve dropped enough of a hint to get your own name put on something. (“Thanks for mowing my lawn, sonny! Did I mention my life’s work was … California place names?”)

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Negro Gulch: ravine, 1.7 mi. long … trends SE to Rock Creek 11 mi. NNE of Chico; Butte and Tehama Cos., Calif. … Variant: Nigger Gulch.”

Yeah, I’d like to think time has caught up with both this approved name and its variant. But if it hasn’t, there was this guy called Dr. Gudde who deserved to have some stuff in California named after him.

Or barring that, there’s always Thor, the Norse god of thunder …

 

Tales from topographic decisions.

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The obvious soundtrack to this would be Yes … but instead I will insert a totally unrelated song that grabs me by the ears sometimes and refuses to let go, as it did this morning.

Having indulged my baseball and music fascinations of late, it’s time for another, lesser interest to sneak in — geography.

I have no idea how I landed on this particular Wiki wormhole, but I was reading today about the U.S. Board of Geographic Names. It’s exactly what it sounds like — the official federal authority that adopts and/or standardizes names for all the places and things that make up America.

I’d known that it existed. But being reminded of it touched off a fascination, just thinking about all those creeks and ravines and islands and villages and canals that apparently still want official names.

(Oh, OK, I do remember what got me started. I was gripped by an interest in learning about U.S. surgeon generals, so I opened the biography pages of five or six of them. In doing so, I learned that C. Everett Koop’s son David died in a climbing accident on Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire. That set off my fascination with all things New England, so I went to read about the mountain — and learned that the Board of Geographic Names had adopted the current name in 1972, switching from Profile Mountain. I have also had an interest for several weeks in trying to learn the name of a small creek near my house, which apparently does not have one.)

So tonight’s jag is reading Decisions on Geographic Names in the United States, a quarterly record of the Board of Geographic Names’ latest official decisions.

I am not sure it is still published — they probably just do it all online now — but for a while they issued four hard copies a year, and you can still find the old ones online. The volume linked above covers, I believe, the years 1972 to 1975.

It’s not hugely interesting a lot of the time, in the sense that a lot of their business seems to consist of whether bodies of water should be called “lake” or “reservoir,” and they do a fair amount of changing from one to the other.

They also standardize offbeat spellings that have veered away from their roots over time — like Propst Knob (elev. 3,161 feet, 2.2 miles south of Franklin, Pendleton County, West Virginia; variant spelling Props Knob) or Rock Lake (village 18 mi. east-southeast of Rolla, North Dakota; variant spelling Rocklake.)

The real fun is in the imagining of some of these places. It’s like looking at a map … except with the added cool feeling that you’re looking at places undiscovered, since they haven’t had names until now.

Consider the listing for Twisp Lake, one-tenth of a mile long, to be found 10 miles north of Stehekin, Okanogan County, Washington state. Apparently a natural feature, and yet it never had an official name until the Nixon Administration. That’s kinda cool.

(Google Maps tells me it’s in a remote part of the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, well off any paved road and well away from the Street View cameras. I wonder how many people make it there in any given year — or decade? I wonder what you even have to go through to get there? See, these things set the imagination flying.)

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Twisp Lake.

While a great many of these names seem to be applied to remote-seeming places out West, a few places in the built-up, populated East show up in these pages as well.

Like Eastman, a community in the town of Grantham, Sullivan County, New Hampshire, around Eastman Pond between East Grantham and North Grantham, which received its name between April and June 1973. Did it truly not exist until that point? Or if it did, what sort of critical mass built up in the ’60s and ’70s to finally get it a proper name of its own?

(Seeing as it’s a lakefront community, perhaps that was the period when the cottages and trailers finally came thick and fast enough to create a nexus of temporary and/or permanent residents, and with it a sense of community. But that’s just spitballing on my part.)

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At times you learn some local history, because some of the entries explain where the names came from.

Take Pickelville, Utah, a town two miles south of Garden City (unaccepted alternate spelling: Pickleville). It was named for Charles O. Pickel, who supervised improvements to the town water supply. A nice enough tribute to an otherwise forgotten person who made a difference, no?

Or consider this direct excerpt from the January-March 1973 edition: “Hart Ridge: ridge, 0.9 mi. long, in Rocky Mountain National Park, between Mount Cirrus and Lead Mountain in the Never Summer Mountains (ed. note: the Never Summer Mountains!), 14 mi. N of the village of Grand Lake; named for Eldon Charles Hart Jr., of the Kansas National Guard, who was killed in the crash of his plane on this ridge on January 30, 1967.” You get tragedy, context, and some geographic cues that help fix the spot in the mind’s eye.

I’ve also found a couple of places I recognize. In the July-September 1972 issue are Leaser Lake and Minsi Lake, a pair of bodies of water in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, both formed by damming unnamed cricks. Apparently both were new in that time period, as no alternate or former names are provided for either.

There is more and more to read … but it is past 11 p.m. and I have to look fresh as a daisy on Microsoft Teams tomorrow.

So maybe after all tomorrow’s meetings, I will once again take up with this board as its members do the people’s work.

Flying the colours.

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We ate up Living Colour’s Vivid when it came out, did my group of high-school friends in western New York.

I’d like to say that proves we were color-blind. (We dug Public Enemy, too.) But more likely, we were just ready for a smart hard-rock group with blur chops that had broken free of all the Seventies shibboleths and was ready to make an Eighties-flavo(u)red noise.

I haven’t listened to Vivid (the band’s debut album, released 32 years ago this month) all the way through in probably 15 or 20 years. Touched off by a recent post by my man Jim Bartlett, I decided it was time to do so again, and rank the album’s 11 songs from worst to best.

Will the flagship “Cult of Personality” reign at Number One? Let’s see:

11. “Middle Man.” This one starts off by rhyming “the best” and “the rest” and goes from there. (Later we get “I’m not your fan / I’mastrangerinastrangeland,” wedged in so it sorta-scans.) I seem to recall we liked this riff at the time. Doesn’t move me much now.

10. “I Want to Know.” A straight-ahead, catchy, hooky, crunchy love song, with harmonies even. I would have put this at No. 2 or 3 back in ’89; I quite liked it then. Now it feels too clean and polished, like they made a deliberate sidestep into pop out of concern that the rawer stuff might not get on the radio.

Then and now, this one loses points for frontman Corey Glover’s smarmy opening growl of “HEY, KIDS!” It sounds like he knows the song is candy-coated radio fodder, and he feels the need to flag that for everyone to notice, and …. I dunno. If singing a poppy song for 13-year-old kids bothers you so damn much, go back to the woodshed and rewrite it.

9. “Open Letter (to a Landlord).” Maybe a touch overwrought (“Last month there was a fire / I saw several children die”), and the drugs in the last verse aren’t necessarily the landlord’s fault. Still, I’m willing to give Living Colour more credit for live-from-the-street reporting than I would most other rock bands.

8. “Which Way to America?” I am prone to grouping similar tunes together when I write these song-by-song breakdowns — ballads tend to clump together, for instance. And in this review, the two Social Realism Dispatches end up side-by-side (and lower than the songs with the big dumb riffs.)

Sincere enough, and real enough, and true enough … but also musically unmemorable, and when they get to the recitative about “Where’s my picket fence? My long cold glass of lemonade?” atop an overcranked Eighties drumbeat, I’m kinda signed out.

7. “Broken Hearts.” Vernon Reid’s slide guitar is likeable, especially the way it resolves at the very end, and as a teenage bass player, I’m sure I flipped over Muzz Skillings’ bass solo … but I like these guys better at high intensity.

6. “Glamour Boys.” Ah, yes, in which Body Glove-clad frontman Glover takes the piss out of the party-boi lifestyle, stopping from time to time to declaim: “I ain’t no glamour boy – I’m fierce!”  (Uh, dude, if you gotta tell people that, you’ve lost the battle already.) I might have enjoyed this more if they’d debated from the opposite position, while keeping the semi-Caribbean groove.

5. “What’s Your Favorite Color? (Theme Song.)” For the first 10 seconds this sounds like Bad Brains, all howl and crunch and jagged edges, and that by itself is enough to lift this above “Glamour Boys.” Drummer Will Calhoun does his best in the verses to take the groove someplace interesting. It doesn’t outstay its welcome … and when it ends, you can always go back and listen to those first 10 seconds again.

4. “Funny Vibe.” Furious tricky riffing, allied to a lyric that I imagine annoyed black men would like to shout at white passers-by roughly twenty times on an average day. Plus, a cameo from Chuck and Flav!

3. “Memories Can’t Wait.” No one could out-chill the Talking Heads’ original version of this, so Glover, Reid, Skillings and Calhoun go the other way and turn it into humid, barbed funk that drops down at the end and gets quiet.

(I was disappointed to hear it go double-time thrash from there — seemed too obvious — but I was delighted when it shifted gears to end on the quiet again, with Reid generating all manner of six-string ghost-voices.)

2. “Desperate People.” I’d forgotten how this one starts off in a sort of desperate sprint before dropping into a big raw half-time riff. Nice bridge, too, and the moment when Glover’s falsetto collides with one of Reid’s whammy-bar whinnies is cool.

“Crying in the sunshine,” “laughing in the rain,” and it rhymes with pleasure/pain … yeah, I think the words on this album were just, for the most part, what Frank Zappa once called “pitched mouth-noises.”

1. “Cult of Personality.” This is monstrous, epochal, generational — the Eighties equivalent of “Whole Lotta Love” or “Black Dog” or somesuch, except its lyrics run on piss and vinegar instead of lemon-squeezing irrelevance.

And, the guitar break is a disorienting whirl of post-Van Halen wang-bar dip n’ dive, and one of the few instances I can think of where I have ever truly liked that spark-spewing, roostertail-throwing solo style.

And and, the triplet bass-drum intro by drummer Calhoun is at least as cool as anything John Bonham ever cooked up.

And and and, “When a leader speaks / that leader dies” is a better history lesson than all forty-three verses of “We Didn’t Start The Fire” put together.

And and and and: Glover redeems any shortcomings in his other performances on Vivid with his fervid closing ad-lib — “I AM THE CULT OF! I AM THE CULT OF! I AM THE CULT OF!” — which is still permanently burned into the hippocampi of millions of Boys Of A Certain Age.

Yeah, this ‘un’s still big.

May the Third.

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It seems like I usually check in on Sunday nights so I guess I will do so again tonight, with my usual stream of random tidbits.

What’s new with me?

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The weather is glorious — probably around 65 yesterday and a good 10 degrees warmer than that today. The warmth goes away Tuesday and stays gone for a week-plus, so I made sure to enjoy it while it’s here.

Mowed for the first time. Grilled for the first time. Ran in shorts. Pulled weeds. Erected barricades to keep rabbits and less desirable animals from getting under my shed. Also spent some time lolling flat on my back in the backyard, doing the thank-God-I’m-in-Massachusetts thing I intend to do at occasional intervals for the rest of my life.

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Spent a friendly hour on the phone Saturday, getting an education on how to fact-check stories for the Society for American Baseball Research’s Games Project. So now I will not only be writing these pieces; I’ll also be the guy squinting at other people’s pieces, verifying that Roberto Clemente hit 11 triples in 1966 and not 12.

I didn’t do any Hall of Fame transcriptions or reviews over the weekend, but I’ll probably dip back into that during the week. Seems like there’s always a need for eyes.

So, it appears that my coping mechanism for dealing with the pandemic will be to dive headlong into baseball history.

Beats knocking over banks, anyway.

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On a related note, I requested an email interview over the weekend with a celebrity whose name has appeared in this space before on multiple occasions.

It is quite possible that an agent-type in LA has been laughing over my request for 24 hours now. I figure my chances of success at one-half of 1 percent; I give myself that much odds only because there’s a pandemic on and the person in question isn’t recording or touring.

But, who knows? You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, as the cliche goes.

If I succeed, I’ll tell you who it is. If I fail but don’t get totally humiliated in the process, I’ll probably tell you who it is at some point. If I’m made to regret the act of even considering my submission, I’ll probably just keep it to myself.

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Not a lot in terms of new music. Currently listening to a d/l’ed August 1974 show by Return to Forever, playing at Ebbets Field (the club in Denver by that name, not the ballpark in Brooklyn.)

It’s pretty flatulent and I should just delete it after one go-through, really.

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I’ve broken six packs of my ’88 Fleer stash so far. (I think “breaking” is what the cool kids do to a pack of baseball cards; I always just thought of it as opening.)

I finally got a couple Montreal Expos, which made me happy. Still no duplicates, either. I even got one or two players I didn’t remember at all, which was cool in and of itself — like listening to an old American Top 40 and hearing a song I was totally unfamiliar with.

I’ve also pulled three cards on which players are assigned different positions on the front and back of their card. Topps never fell down on quality control like that.

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Time to go close the windows, I think.

Yesterday’s letters.

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Yeah, I kinda jumped into something.

Yesterday, I mentioned that the National Baseball Hall of Fame has been digitizing its collection of correspondence and is looking for volunteers to type it in.

I logged in today and had a look. It turned out that all the letters they’d scanned in to that point had already been transcribed.

But it also turned out that they need a second pair of eyes on everything, and there was a hefty stack of transcribed documents — probably more than 200 pages’ worth — waiting to be double-checked, re-read, and edited as necessary.

Over the course of hours, I probably worked my way through 30 letters as Mr. Second Set of Eyes, while also getting to transcribe two letters from scratch later in the evening after a fresh batch went up.

I gotta say, it was pretty freakin’ cool.

Around 1935 and ’36, National League president Ford Frick awarded lifetime passes to NL games to retired major leaguers with 10 years of service. I proofread a whole bunch of letters from ex-ballplayers who were pleased as punch to get this unexpected reward, up to and including Pebbly Jack Glasscock.

(Pebbly Jack Glasscock! I read a letter in the hand of Pebbly Jack Glasscock. I’ve not done that before and probably shan’t again.)

One of the more garrulous old hands — I forget his name, though I recognized it at the time — just sorta started to tell Frick how well he was doing and how much he looked forward to the coming of trout season so he could get out with the rod and reel again. I wished I could join him, and I’m not even a fisherman.

There were letters from baseball Hall of Famers working to rustle up financial support for old compatriots fallen on hard times.

There were letters from Connie Mack — Connie Mack! — in the last year or two of his life, to a friend or maybe a business partner, on Philadelphia American League Baseball Club stationery. They didn’t say anything particularly interesting. Mostly they were about travel schedules. But they were letters, from Connie Mack.

(Jackie Robinson and Ty Cobb were in the pile, too, though I didn’t read them. Judging from the document titles, several of Jackie’s letters tackled issues like integration. One of the Cobb letters upbraided somebody who’d written to ask for an autograph without enclosing postage, which sounds about right.)

There was other stuff I don’t remember with great specificity. None of it was of any outstanding historic importance. It was all right up my alley anyway.

I’ll have to check over lunch tomorrow and see what’s cooking then.