The Old Guy in the Club

“Every club you go into, there’s always some old guy. He ain’t really old, just a little too old to be in the club.” – Chris Rock

Finalizing my Best of 2009 music mix and thinking back over the past year, I pondered, “What was the best show I went to in 2009?” I got a chill – did I go to any shows in 2009? Have I gotten that old and lame? Then I remembered…I did see a show…Herman’s Hermits. Wait – I have gotten that old and lame! The most memorable concert of the year was by a band whose heyday was in the ’60s playing a free show that we took the kids to see while sitting in camping chairs in a park in Hamden, CT? The funny thing is that, even after recalling that I had seen a couple of other shows, it was.

hermanshermits01Peter Noone is a cheeky, winning performer. Judging by the countless YouTube clips I’ve watched with my daughter since the show, his stage banter is well rehearsed, but it’s fantastically self-deprecating. He customized his schtick for the venue, cracking sarcastically about what a rare thrill it was to play in Hamden and stay at the local Clarion Inn. He tossed out tons of free swag. You could tell that he genuinely appreciated still being in the business of entertaining people. And then there’s the songs.

I’m Into Something Good, Wonderful World, Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter, End of the World, Listen People (my personal favorite), Dandy (penned by The Kinks’ Ray Davies), the indomitable I’m Henry VIII, and the show stopper There’s a Kind of Hush.

decemberistsWhile I was young by comparison at Herman’s Hermits, I was definitely the old guy in the club at the other notable show I went to in 2009, Yale’s Spring Fling. The Decemberists and N.E.R.D. headlined. I’m normally a fan of The Decemberists. They made things interesting by leading a Simon Says round of getting the crowd to lay down on the ground before wrapping up the show with a musical chairs jam session where the band switched instruments. But, I think they were annoyed about going on later than expected and Colin Meloy conducted the whole thing with an undercurrent of attitude.

nerd01When the sun went down, it turned out that N.E.R.D. didn’t play a show – they threw a party. Pharrell is a consummate showman, bouncing all over the stage, pulling the dweebiest kids in the crowd on stage to dance with him. At one point he said to the audience, “Yale! On a scale from 1-10, where do you think you are right now? Are you at 8? (crowd cheers) Or, are you at 10? (crowd roars) Well, I was just talking to Shay on the side of the stage and I told him, let’s show them what 20 looks like! (can’t hear the crowd because the two drum kits have already kicked in and the party’s back on).” It’s a testament to Pharrell’s magnitude of cool that he can pull that line off without tripping the cheese detector. Do you think Pharrell will still be charming the adoring throngs when he’s 61 the way Peter Noone still does for the Noonatics?

In it for the Williams (or is it the Johns?)

1918 Series $500 Federal Reserve Note - Front

1918 Series $500 Federal Reserve Note - Front

1918 Series $500 Federal Reserve Note - Back

1918 Series $500 Federal Reserve Note - Back

1928 Series $500 Federal Reserve Note - Front

1928/1934 Series $500 Federal Reserve Note - Front

1928/1934 Series $500 Federal Reserve Note - Back

1928/1934 Series $500 Federal Reserve Note - Back

We had a half-day EdTech retreat at work on Wednesday and, during a break, someone raised the question of who is on the $500 bill.  I couldn’t sleep until I looked it up. Interestingly, two portraits have graced the front of the $500 bill and there have been two different designs on the back.

First printed in 1918, the $500 Federal Reserve Note featured John Marshall on the front and DeSoto Discovering the Mississippi in 1541 on the back.

Why do we not pay greater homage to Marshall? He served as a captain in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Over a span of three years from 1799-1801 he was elected to the House of Representatives, named Secretary of State by John Adams, then was appointed by Adams to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

He presided for 34 years (longer than any other chief justice) and the Marshall Court practically defined our judicial system and the balance of power between the federal and state governments.

All I’m saying is, can we put my boy on some circulating money? Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln all hog up both a bill and a coin. Spread the love Geithner; you’ve got nothing better to do these days. 

Hoboken Bulls pitcher Montgomery Brewster.

Hoboken Bulls pitcher Montgomery Brewster.

Series of the $500 Federal Reserve note were released again in 1928 and 1934, both times featuring William McKinley on the front and just the number 500 on a boring leafy, sheildy thing on the back. The $500 bill was not printed again after 1945, but it was issued until 1969 and is still considered legal tender today. However, as rare as they are, I can’t imagine anyone other than Montgomery Brewster spending one. 

Big bills were issued to accommodate large bank transfers until more secure methods came along in the 1940s. There were also Federal Reserve Notes in the following denominations:

$1,000 – Alexander Hamilton (1918 Series) or Grover Cleveland (1928 series)
$5,000 – James Madison
$10,000 – Salmon P. Chase
and a $100,000 Gold Certificate – Woodrow Wilson

The $100,000 Gold Certificate was first issued in 1934 which I note because Wilson died in 1924 and living people aren’t allowed on US money. It is also notable because it was issued after FDR repealed the gold standard in 1933 and therefore was only used within the Federal Reserve Banks because they took all the gold. Apparently we were still on a gold standard for foreign exchanges until 1971. Did our money become purely abstract at this point?

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank has some nice online exhibits about money and I got most of this information from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s website and  FAQs on the Treasury’s website.

While William McKinley and John Marshall’s first names aren’t as catch-phrase worthy as “I’m in it for the Benjamins,” I think the rap community missed an opportunity when it passed up “I’m in it for the Salmons.”

Time flies when you’re getting drooled on

Sadie Louise Panko

Sadie Louise Panko

Ok, so I haven’t posted in awhile, but I have an excuse. I’m a new daddy! Sadie Louise Panko was born March 30 earl-i in the morning. It’s been almost seven weeks now and I have a backlog of posts slushing around in my head. My wife takes care of the baby blog, so I won’t do much of that here, but I couldn’t resist one debut snap.

More soon.

You might be a redneck geek if…

…when you see the Street View car you run out of your house waving your arms and hollerin’, “I’m gonna get me on the Google!”


I had almost forgotten about this red moment from last summer when I spotted the Googlemobile in my old neighborhood. When I saw Street View up on someone’s screen yesterday it reminded me to check, and there I was, dorkily immortalized. I started jumping and saying, “Look at me Maw – I’m famous! Whooooeeee!”

I’m not the only one. My friend Ken turned me onto the presence of galleries and entire sites devoted to wacky Street View sightings. Here are few interesting ones:

Five Calendar Miss Worcester

Miss Worcester Diner in Worcester, MA. Photo taken by Elizabeth Thomsen on July 24, 2007.

The Miss Worcester Diner in Worcester, MA. Photo taken by Elizabeth Thomsen on July 24, 2007.

A follow-up note on the Worcester trip. When we exited the interstate we blew right past Holy Cross toward downtown looking for what some of my friends and I used to call a slutty breakfast. We totally scored as there, underneath the railroad tracks, stood the Miss Worcester Diner. Inside was a counter that ran the length of the car on one side and booth service (as advertised outside) on the other. The place was perfect following a night of Super Bowl revelry – everyone was talking football and the Boston accents were as thick as the cooking grease. A poke around the web reveals that the Miss Worcester dates back to 1948 and is Worcester Lunch Car Company #817. When still in operation, the Worcester Lunch Car Company was located across the street from the Miss Worcester which served as a model for the manufacturer. Poking around also revealed that, not surprisingly, there’s a whole trainspotting-type diner enthusiast culture out there. I wouldn’t necessarily label Elizabeth Thomsen as such, but I did come across her blog and her Diner flickr set. Her post on the Miss Worcester has links to some great articles on the diner and the history of Worcester diners. The photo above is hers, too, which she kindly shares under a Creative Commons License (respect!). There’s another photo on Panoramio taken by Coert Donker around the date we visited. I even ran across where the Miss Worcester was featured in the wonderfully absurd comic strip Zippy the Pinhead.

The Miss Worcester was featured in Zippy the Pinhead on March 15, 2000.

The Miss Worcester was featured in Zippy the Pinhead on March 15, 2000.

bluehighwaysHalfway through my hash browns I was reminded of William Least Heat-Moon’s lonely journey in Blue Highways. Least Heat-Moon devises an “infallible way to find honest food at just prices” based on the number of calendars hanging in a café. Even if they weren’t all from 2009 (some commemorated past Red Sox and Patriots championships), the Miss Worcester ranks as a five-calendar café. It also has me nostalgic for some good old Cocteau Twins who titled their next to last LP Four-Calendar Café. It’s not my favorite (checkout Victorialand, Blue Bell Knoll, and Heaven or Las Vegas for that), but it’s still an inspired title. Embarrassing confession: for years I thought Elizabeth Fraser sung most of their songs in French. What’s up with that? She’s Scottish for crying out loud. Oh well, her voice was more an instrument than a lyrics-producing device.

sleeve_fourcalendarcafeLeast Heat-Moon has a new one out about traveling the back roads called Roads to Quoz: An American Mosey. We don’t mosey enough, do we? That’s going on the summer reading list.

WordCamp Ed Northeast

WordCampEd logo

Yianni Yessios and I had a blast talking with folks about the educational possibilities of WordPress at WordCamp Ed Northeast up in Worcester a couple of weeks ago. I was particularly impressed with the extention presentations.

Casey Bisson mentioned that a community cataloging piece is being developed for Scriblio. That could be promising for an Anthropology professor we work with who has a large photo collection of a little-known tribal group. Tribal members are willing to help catalog the images and we’ve been wanting to provide an online system to collect the metadata so it can be quality checked by researchers and librarians before being ported into an institutional collection.

Apparently developers at The Institute for the Future of the Book are cooking up CommentPress as a plugin. That would be nice for people who want the CommentPress functionality without their design elements that ride shotgun as part of the theme. I know you can edit the CSS, but it’ll be easier to have things separated.

ScholarPress is coming along nicely, too. I have to commend Dave Lester on enthusiastically carrying the flag for building the WordPress Ed Community. I’ve gotta start being more than a leech on that front.

Thanks to Randy Rode for putting the event together and some good tips on security. He’s put the resources from the day on the WordCamp Ed Wiki.

Here Goes Nothing

I’ve had this URL for ages and I’ve even been paying for hosting for a few years. All I’ve used it for is testing new releases, themes, and plugins for things like WordPress, Mediawiki, Drupal, Joomla, Gallery 2, etc. Ill-advisedly, I was even using it as a proving ground for Yale-related sites before making them live on a Yale domain. Just bad form all around.

It has long been my intention to blog, but I wanted to come up with a clever domain name/title, a slick theme, and something interesting to say first. Well, I give up on the first two for now and I leave the third for you to decide, but I forewarn you – be skeptical.

So, today I embraced the default Kubrick theme as something of a pure nascent state, geared up to WordPress 2.7.1, wiped the slate of old non-posts clean, and now I’m typing. I was actually shamed into this by getting a trackback from Jim Groom at (a mainstay in my RSS reader) just before WordCamp Ed Northeast. I figured that if I’m going to speak in public about the merits of WordPress, I better stop posing.

Professionally, I currently work in educational technology at Yale University. Personally, I get excited about the usual stuff (family, music, film, lit, politics, sports), I recently bought a 1920s-era house/perpetual home improvement project, and over the past year I have taken up backpacking as a hobby. Hopefully I’ll write about all of that stuff from now on and will keep the drippy, overly self-referential posts like this one to a minimum.