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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Skating away

I told my wife that Eddie Albert had died last week at the age of 99 of pneumonia and Alzheimer's. She said that she figured he was already dead. I suppose that was a reasonable assumption.

When I was a kid, I admit to not only watching Green Acres, but liking it. (I also enjoyed Switch, but there was no shame in that.) Maybe it was because it was another show in the same Hooterville universe as Petticoat Junction. (Think Buffy/Angel on TV, or Marvel Comics crossovers.) Or maybe it was that it had Green in the title. I realized that Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert), who initiated the move to the country (check out the theme lyrics) remained a fish out of water, confounded by Mr. Haney, Arnold Ziffel the pig, and their handyman Eb. Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor), on the other hand, seemed to take it as it came in "Hootersville". Like most supposed "airheads" on TV, she was probably smarter than her husband, the lawyer. I'm not defending it as Great Television, just not as bad as it has been portrayed.

Eddie Albert sang the title song (Eva Gabor more or less talked it). It is unusual for a star to sing the title song, I thought. Oh, there's Dean Martin, Tom Jones, Jimmy Durante, and Happening '68, hosted by Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders, but those were entertainment shows. And, of course, there's Mr. Rogers. But I'm thinking scripted comedies or dramas. There was Erica Gimpel on Fame, but that was an ersatz performing arts school.
The only other ones I could think of were Drew Carey (Drew Carey Show, "Moon over Parma" -first season only) and Linda Lavin (Alice, "There's a New Girl in Town"). Oh, and I nearly forgot the classic Carroll O'Connor/Jean Stapleton rendition of "Those Were the Days" on All in the Family, so notorious that it had to be recorded twice. (No one could understand, "Gee, our old LaSalle ran great.")
But then I checked out some of my Television's Greatest Hits CDs and discovered Tony Danza ("Hudson Street") and Marla Gibbs (227, "There's No Place Like Home"). And how did I forget Will Smith (with Jeff Townes, a/k/a DJ Jazzy Jeff) on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"? But the leader in this category, as far as I can tell is Greg Evigan from My Two Dads ("You Can Count on Me") and the title song of "B.J. and the Bear"; this is in quantity, not necessarily quality. For my money, Green Acres told the story as well as any theme.

CBS canceled Green Acres and the Beverly Hillbillies in 1971, part of its de-ruralfication, despite its still strong ratings. Would that happen now? Maybe, with emphasis on "demographics", the coveted 18-49 market. But these days, some cable outlet (TNN?) would have snatched them up.

But my everlasting recollection about the Green Acres theme is the routine performed by the ice dancing duo of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto. The couple, who won a silver medal at the World Championship in Moscow in March, do a goofy, sexy exhibition featuring the Green Acres theme segued with the theme to Deliverance. (BTW, I didn't look this up. My wife watches skating; now, I'm watching skating. I know more about the new international scoring system than I care to.)

So, as Eddie Albert skates away to a new existence, Green Acres lives on, not only in reruns, but on the ice as well.

Monday, May 30, 2005

What Did You Do In the War, Daddy?

My father entered military service on May 1945, just after V-E Day. It was still the period of segregated units. He didn't talk much (or at all) about his time in the army. What little I know were stories my father told my mother, and my mother told us, of course, long after the fact and second hand.

One of these piecemeal tales involved the fact that my father was temporarily raised to corporal (or sergeant) for a particular task, because the army wanted someone of that level to do the task. Then, when the task was complete, he was busted back down to private (or corporal), something I gather he was none too happy about. (Allegedly, lowering his rank was done to save money for the government.) If this sounds vague to you, trust me that this is all I've got.

A year or so ago, my sister Marcia had contacted the VA and was advised that the records that would have included my father's records were destroyed in a fire in 1973. We found it strange that he only served 1 1/2 years, rather than 2-4 years, being honorably discharged in December 1946.

The one other aspect of the story is that there was a copy of an article from Ebony magazine from 1945 or 1946 that described "Negro servicemen" fraternizing with the local (white) women in Germany (I think), much to the chagrin of some, that was discovered in my father's papers (and temporarily misplaced by me. Subsequently, there was a Newsweek article that reported on the Ebony piece.) I have no idea if this had anything to do with my father - it could have been about a friend of his - but straw grasping is what I've got.

So, blogiverse, on this Memorial Day, I'm hoping that somebody out there knows something about the military career of one Leslie Harold Green (b. 9/26/1926) from Binghamton, NY. If so, please e-mail me, if you would. Thank you.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Force is Trying to Suck Me In

I ran into one of my FantaCo buddies, Joe Fludd, the other day. Joe did some art for the Chronicles series. Anyway, he asked, "Did you see Sith yet?" And I said, "No," and that I really hadn't planned to see it. But he seemed very enthusiastic. "It's everything that you wanted in Episode 1." Hmm. And, of course, it explains how Anakin becomes Darth Vader.

Let me look at the PROS and CONS:

PRO: I really loved the first three Star Wars movies, or Episodes 4-6, if you prefer.
CON: I was really bored by the fourth film, Episode 1, except for hating a particularly universally loathed character, which I will not name (JJB). So,
CON: I never saw the fifth film, Episode 2.
PRO: The sixth (and final, according to George Lucas) film, Episode 3, is playing at the local, independently-owned, recently reopened Madison Theater, right in my neighborhood. I wouldn't have to go to the mall and/or to some big chain of theaters to see it.
The Madison has been around since 1929. In 1994, it was sold, renamed the Norma Jean Madison Theater, after Arthur Miller's ex-wife (or was it Joe DiMaggio's?) It was closed in 2001, then opened under new management, only to close again in 2003.
PRO: Carol would like to see it.
CON: We'd have to get a babysitter, which isn't always easy. Indeed, we were invited to view the film with another couple this past Thursday, but care for the child became the deciding factor in not going.
CON: Episode 3 is rated PG-13, and I know why - one of those parental warning pieces appeared in the local paper. The second Raiders film, a scene from which I found a bit disturbing, practically created PG-13. The Hoffinator, who also saw it last week, said it was very good but "dark."

The logical solution is to rent Episode 2 (I heard it was on broadcast TV recently, but broadcast TV is a TERRIBLE way to see most movies), THEN go to Episode 3. Based on the box office for the first DAY ($50 million), it'll probably be around a while.

And now, this message from the Organic Trade Association, featuring ObiWan Cannoli, Cuke Skywalker, Princess Lettuce, C3 Peanuts, and Artoo Tofu. (Thanks, Anne.)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Confidential to JDM

You'll get over a relative getting married on a date that he or she knows is your birthday; I did. (And Happy Birthday, BTW.)

JEOPARDY! Part 1

I plan to do a JEOPARDY! column every Saturday, complete with cliffhangers. This may be an artifice, but so were the Saturday matinee cliffhangers. You always knew if OUR HERO were hanging off the precipice at the end of the reel, that his horse and a piece of rope would save the day in the beginning of the next scene. Didn't you?

Every weekday at lunchtime from 1965 to 1968, while growing up in Binghamton, NY, I would go to my maternal grandmother's house and watch JEOPARDY! with Art Fleming as the host, and Don Pardo (later of Saturday Night Live fame) as the announcer. I watched with my great-aunt Deana Yates, who lived with Grandma Williams. (About the only decent scene in the movie Airplane 2 was the Art Fleming JEOPARDY! sequence.)

The money was much less then. The clues in the first round ran from $10 to $50, with the second round double that. Watching that program, I learned that the ZIP Code for the Spiegel catalog in Chicago was 60609, and that Rice-A-Roni was "the San Francisco treat." I probably learned some other stuff as well. But I went to high school in 1968, and didn't come home for lunch, so I watched the program only sporadically thereafter, and by the time the show went off the air in 1975, I was off at college and hardly watching it at all.

Meanwhile, I tried out for one of those Pyramid shows, hosted by Dick Clark, when I was living in NYC in 1977. I must have done miserably; even my sister, who didn't even watch the show, got a callback, though she was not ultimately chosen, either.

JEOPARDY! returned in 1984 as a syndicated show hosted by Alex Trebek, former host of High Rollers, a show I would watch occasionally. I was almost instantly captivated by it. The questions addressed popular culture as well as the more encyclopedic material. The set was more stylish. Also the money had increased tenfold, with the clues running from $100 to $500 in the first round, and again, twice that in the second round. As the show grew in stature in the culture, I knew I'd have to try out "sometime when I get to Los Angeles." Meanwhile, I watched with a fervor that approached devotion.

Then I saw THE NOTICE in the Times Union, Thursday, April 9, 1998, Page: D5, 169 words. I almost missed it:

If you think you have what it takes to win at "Jeopardy!", prove it at a pretest at Crossgates Mall April 29 and 30, 4 to 8 p.m. WTEN, Ch. 10, which airs the game show at 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, will sponsor the competition. About 75 Capital Region contestants who take the pretest are expected to advance to a regional contestant search in Boston May 14.

I hadn't gone to Los Angeles, but Los Angeles had come to me!

The instructions in the paper were to call starting at 9 am to register. I called promptly at 9 and got a busy signal. I hit the redial regularly for about 20 minutes before I got through. Finally, I was able to make an appointment.

I rode up to Crossgates on my bike, not really knowing where I was going. (The tryout was at a closed department store, but since I didn't usually frequent the mall, I didn't know where this store - which I couldn't name THEN, let alone NOW - was.) And I had made a 4:15 pm appointment, which I was in danger of missing.

Fortunately, I saw a WTEN truck. I followed a techie through a narrow passageway that wasn't generally open to the public, getting there about 4:13.

There was a swarm of humanity in queue for the test, some for 4:30 and 4:45 appointments. I signed in, and was seated fairly quickly. We were in a section with a bunch of desks, arranged as though it were a classroom. The test itself was 10 questions. You needed to get seven right to get to go to Boston. I remember little of the test except that there was something about Egyptology that I may have gotten wrong. I also found out later that there was another test in every other seat, so that we couldn't cheat. The other test had a question, the answer of which was Cal Ripken, Jr. (probably something about his "Iron Man" streak of consecutive games played.) Some folks wrote Cal Ripken, which was marked as WRONG, because there was a Cal Ripken, Sr., his father, who was also associated with baseball (and specifically with the Baltimore Orioles.) I thought at the time that I had gotten at least 8 of 10 right.

About 15 minutes later, someone read a list of names of people who had passed the test. I was ON the list! I went to the designated table and got a sheet of paper informing me that I would be able to take a bus to Boston on May 14 to take the REAL test. But I COULDN'T. I had a NON-REFUNDABLE train ticket to visit Detroit and Cleveland that week. (Obviously, I had missed that part of the newspaper notice.)

What will I do?

Continued next Saturday, June 4.
***
I finally watched the last 10 games of the Ultimate Championship over two early morning viewings. All I have to say is: It's too bad more stories didn't say "Brad Rutter wins" (except in his section of Pennsylvania, and on the JEOPARDY! site.) Most stories read "Ken Jennings loses", because of his now celebrity status. At least Brad will have $2 million to lick his wounds.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The writing process

I went to see the author Joseph E. Persico last Saturday afternoon at the Albany Public Library. It seems reasonable that I would have mentioned the event on this blog BEFOREHAND, given the fact that the Friends of the Albany Public Library was co-sponsoring the event, and that I'm on the Friends BOARD. My only excuse is that I was out of town for several days and lost track until the night before the event.

In any case, Persico has been writing for over a quarter century. His current book is Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918, World War I and Its Violent Climax. He stated that more people died on that last half day of the Great War, for no particular strategic purpose, than died on D-Day (June 6, 1944) in World War II.

Persico talked about the process of researching and writing his books, which I found instructive in writing this blog.

While working on My Enemy, My Brother: Men and Days of Gettysburg (1996), he sought to pin down who fired the first shot in this pivotal Civil War battle. He believed he'd finally found the answer. He brought this to a gentleman at the Gettysburg Memorial who had provided invaluable assistance. The gentleman replied, "That's one version."
I'm going to try to get it right, but some of it is all but irretrievable, even my own history, where memory blurs and fails. I'll try to do my best to get it right, especially re: JEOPARDY! and FantaCo, but I cannot swear it'll be definitive.

Persico interviewed Charles Collingsworth, one of "Murrow's Boys" for Edward R. Murrow: An American Original (1988). At one point Collingsworth asked him to shut off the tape recorder, which Persico did. Collingsworth then told of Murrow's affair with Winston Churchill's daughter-in-law, Pamela Churchill (later Pamela Harriman), which almost wrecked Murrow's marriage. Persico decided that Collingsworth wanted him to have the story, but didn't want people to know that the information came from the now late newsman. Persico used the information in the book.
I want to put in as much as comfortably possible. Some might be embarrassing, (even to me.)

As a speechwriter for the former New York State Governor and US Vice-President, Persico had unusual access to Nelson Rockefeller. The author was waiting for Rocky to finish a lengthy meeting with black housing leaders. Finally, the exhausted official collapsed into a chair, looking haggard, and exclaimed, "Amos 'n' Andy got it right." (For those of you too young to understand the reference, Amos 'n' Andy was a controversial radio and television program in the 1940s and 1950s.) Persico wrote this comment down at the time. He put it in the first draft of his book The Imperial Rockefeller: A Biography of Nelson A. Rockefeller, then took it out, then put it back in, ultimately leaving it out. He decided that the then-governor lashed out in frustration that was out of character, and would provide a distorted view of the man.
Re: the blog, I may decide not to tell (for now) some stories.

In that same book he had to deal with how Rocky died. He was with a 22-year old assistant that Persico knew. Not to mention it would have made it "look like the book was authorized by the Rockefeller Foundation." He told the tale succinctly, never mentioning the woman's name (nor did he mention Megan Marshack by name in his talk.)
One can get to the truth sometimes without being TOO explicit.

Persico co-authored Colin Powell's autobiography, My American Journey. He believes his most important jobs were to keep in what was interesting to a broad audience, and to delete what was not. In Powell's case, the general wanted to put in a couple sentences about his two tours of Vietnam. Persico found this not practical, given its import in American life. Conversely, Powell was a policy wonk, very proud of a report he had made. Persico argued that the audience would not be as interested in this story as he was, and the story was excised.
I'll try not to use too much insider language.

Anyways, I enjoyed the talk, though I was troubled briefly that he thought I was there ONLY because I was on the Friends board. I do wish that more folks were present. It WAS a lovely Saturday afternoon outside, though, and that is tough competition in a spring that has been unseasonably cool and wet.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Lydster (Part 14): "24"

Before she was born, I decided that I was going to keep a journal of my thoughts about Lydia as she was about to enter my life. And before she was born, I did write to her a number of times. But since then, nothing. I got caught up in the busy-ness of life with her. This electronic outlet has allowed me to write about her in a way I was somehow unable to put down before.

I don't want to write primarily about how well she's walking or how she says "Uh, oh" when she drops something, though both are quite endearing. I want to talk about how she's affected me (besides sleep deprivation).

So, naturally, I need to talk about the television series "24". The two-hour season finale was Monday night; I didn't see it. I watched the first season intently, and thought the first 13 episodes made up a fine story arc, though the remaining 11 episodes stretched credibility (amnesia, the Perils of Kim Bauer). Still I was willing to try it a second season, and I watched, though not as regularly. Super Jack Bauer, suffering intense torture did all THAT?

Carol and I discovered she was pregnant in July 2003. When the third season of "24" came around, I just didn't feel like subjecting myself, and by extension, our unborn child, to such violent vibes. I didn't see the fourth season, and won't watch the fifth one when it starts up again in January.

It changed my movie viewing habits, too. Mystic River is a movie that, three years ago, would have gone to see in a heartbeat, but now: a film about an abused child who becomes the accused in the murder of his childhood friend's teenaged daughter? No, thanks. A few months after Lydia was born, my in-laws in Oneonta watched Lydia will we went to the movies. There were only two choices at that particular theater: Man on Fire with Denzel Washington trying to save Dakota Fanning from being abducted (and FAILING), or Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls. Lindsay won.

(Incidentally, no spoiler alert needed: the information I cited came from the trailers of those films.)

My family was visiting shortly after Lydia was born. They were watching CSI; I was reading the paper. But I couldn't help but to note that the plot was something like this: a couple kills their own kid because they were afraid the kid would get some debilitating disease or die from a pesticide, or some such, which the kid (as it turns out) was NOT subject to. Oh, YUCK!

I need uplifting or funny or fun or silly. That's where I am right now. So it will be a LONG while before I see Frank Miller's Sin City movie, no matter how stylized the violence is.

Getting back to "24", I found it humorous that not one, but two people I know, who are connoisseurs of the program, Mark McGuire of the (Albany) Times Union -who I bug occasionally, and Fred G. Hembeck (April 8-12, et al.) -who I bug more than occasionally, managed to tape or TiVo "24" this season, then fell weeks behind, only to catch up in marathon sessions. What's THAT all about? BTW, it was Fred who put my feelings about the show best in his May 24 column: "I mean, I know it's just a TV show and all, but the always mounting body count can be disturbing at times, especially considering the number of completely innocent people who are so casually slaughtered along the way, y'know?" Yeah, I DO know.

So, happy 14 months, Lydia. I've learned a lot about me through you.
***
The JEOPARDY! Ultimate Tournament is over. And the winner is..I DON"T KNOW. I'm still a week behind, so PLEASE don't tell me, don't ask. I know Jerome is one finalist (and Ken Jennings, of course, is another,) but I haven't seen the last pair of semi-final games, nor the three-day final. My wife knows the results, so talk with HER about it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Handicapping the Already Challenged

High on the list of very enjoyable presentations at the conference in Lake Placid a couple weeks ago was "How to Work with Differently-Abled Clients", given by the NYS SBDC's Mike Soufleris, who I warned I might put in my blog. Mike's a great guy, but he's had trouble holding on to vehicles; they tend to get stolen from him. Don't ever park next to him.

One of the exercises involved listening to a tape where certain sonic qualities were lost. People asked to have it turned up, but it didn't help much. It was a great demonstration about how the hearing-impaired have to deal. Another activity involved putting a headset on one person so that she couldn't hear at all, and for two others to try to figure out how to communicate with her. (Hint: getting up close and yelling doesn't work.)

The discussion about the barriers that those who are physically impaired have to deal with was also intriguing. But when I participated in the discussion, it touched off a very raw nerve. I'm sure it was because it reminded me of the inconsiderate things I see in my neighborhood almost daily. They've been bugging me for a while.

There are a couple people who park their cars so that it blocks the sidewalk. I can get around if I'm on foot. But if I'm pushing a baby carriage or a cart for transporting groceries, I have to go back to the PREVIOUS driveway, ride in the street, and come back the NEXT driveway. It CAN be a busy street. And what of someone in a wheelchair or a walker? Or a blind person?

Another regular irritant involves the people who stop at the local bagel shop "for just a minute" and stop in the crosswalk, because "there's nowhere to park." I've seen this when there was a good spot two or three car lengths away. One time, I saw a blind man walk across the street; his cane hit the car, and he was totally disoriented. (I was too far away from him to help.) Fortunately, someone closer came to his aid. But it oughtn't to have necessary.

Fantasy #1: I "key" them. The reality: I was raised too well - Mom and Dad's fault, no doubt. Also, I don't know if that would be commensurate with their rude act. Also, I believe that it's illegal.
Fantasy #2. The reality: Oh wait, I may DO Fantasy #2 someday. It doesn't cause damage, and I don't THINK it's illegal. It's definitely commensurate with their behavior. Yeah, maybe I will...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

What's in a (Band) Name?

I went to see the Funk Brothers and the Family Stone Experience in Washington Park back on May 14. It was great, but it got me to thinking: When personnel changes in a rock group, can it still be considered that group? There were, last I knew, TWO splinter groups from Sly and the Family Stone, both with original members. Since NEITHER includes Sly, there's no issue of being the real thing. But there have been other bands during the years that have had more complicated issues.

The Beatles: When the Beatles broke up in 1970, it was considered "Paul's fault" in some circles. After all, he had the audacity to put out his first solo album at about the same time as Let It Be. (Even though the others had all released solo discs earlier.) And he had different management (the Eastmans, Linda's kin) than the others (Allen Klein). There was a widespread rumor at the time that the Beatles would re-form with Lennon, Harrison, Starr, Billy Preston (keyboardist on Get Back) and Klaus Voorman (designer of the Revolver album cover) on bass. Would they have been accepted as "The Beatles"? I seriously doubt it. They could survive the switch from Pete Best to Ringo Starr on the cusp of their stardom, but as the icons they became, there could be no substitutes.

The Rolling Stones: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, and Bill Wyman was the line-up, with Ian Stewart as session and tour keyboardist. In June of 1969, guitarist Jones quit the group, quickly replaced by Mick Taylor. (Jones died a month later.) Taylor left in December of 1974; Ronnie Wood played (on loan from the Faces) on the 1975 tour, and the following year is installed as a permanent member. Bassist Wyman calls it quits in 1994. It seems that the Rolling Stones will survive as long as the Glimmer Twins (Jagger, Richards) continue to perform. With a new album and tour in 2005, it is still very much an active band.

The Beach Boys: Brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine (replaced briefly in 1962 and 1963 by David Marks) were the band. Brian quit touring in 1966, replaced briefly by Glen Campbell, and more permanently by Bruce Johnston. Dennis drowned in 1983. When Carl Wilson, Alan Jardine, Mike Love, and Bruce Johnston toured as the Beach Boys through 1997, there was a real legitimacy. But Carl died in 1998. [I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shortly after Carl's death, where they had a nice tribute piece to him and to another Carl who had died recently, Carl Perkins.] Mike Love and Bruce Johnston regained the legal right to use the Beach Boys name and have been touring as "The Beach Boys" ever since. Even with short-timer David Marks, it's hard for me to accept this band as the Beach Boys. Maybe if Mike & Bruce kissed and made up with Brian & Al (who was a respondent in a lawsuit for using the Beach Boys' name in his "Al Jardine's Family & Friends Beach Band", featuring Al's sons, Brian's daughters, and several former Beach Boys' backing musicians), then THAT would be the Beach Boys.

Herman's Hermits: There's the group headed by Barry Whitwam; it also featured Derek Leckenby before he died in 1994. Then there's Herman's Hermits Starring Peter Noone, which at least has the original Herman. The two groups create an unfortunate dilution of legitimacy.

Bob Dylan: No, wait, he's solo artist. He's just had so many phases in his career. He is 64 today - happy birthday to the "unwilling counterculture icon."

I liked what Cream did. They break up, the name's done, even though 2/3s of them (Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker) end up in Blind Faith. And when there's a Cream reunion this year (with Jack Bruce), there's no question of their legitimacy.

Say, this is FUN! Think I'll do it again with some more groups some other time.

Monday, May 23, 2005

A lap around the lake

Reflections about Lake Placid:

The hotel where we stayed was on a short but steep hill; taking it slowly was advisable. It wasn't too onerous, though I broke a sweat pushing the baby carriage up on the one hot day we had.

Right at the bottom of the hill is Mirror Lake. It's called that because when you're on the far side of the lake, you can see the buildings of Main Street reflected in the water as though it were...you get the idea. The conference presenters, including myself, received a framed photo of the lake, which is quite lovely. The path around the lake is a 2.7 miles of red brick.

There is a Kate Smith library (which is but one room) in the hotel, and a couple blocks from the hotel, a Kate Smith Avenue. Several other places are named for the singer as well. She summered there for 40 years and was baptized in the village in 1965. For more about Kate (and to hear "God Bless America" in an interminable loop), you can go here.

One afternoon just off the hotel lobby, there was some kid hitting on a stuffed seven-foot (or so, it was seated) bear that was perched on a bobsled from the 1932 Olympics (or a good replica of same), while his mother watched, seemingly unconcerned. I was quite annoyed until I realized what a great headline it would make: "Belligerent Boy Beats Bobsled Bear."

There was a bakery that had THE most annoying sign on its wall - 35 "stupid" things that their customers have asked, and their "clever" responses:
"Do you bake everything here?" "No, we have it flown in from Chicago. The plane lands right on Main Street to deliver daily."
"Aren't you hot in here?" "Yes, but we can eat what we want and sweat it off."
"What's a Snickerdoodle?" "There is a sign in the showcase. It is in front of a Snickerdoodle."
"Is that ALL you have?" "No, we keep the really good stuff for ourselves to eat later."
And my personal favorite:
"Do you have any water?" "No, we lick our dirty dishes clean."
My wife wouldn't go back there because of this rude "humor" (and despite the quality of its pastries), and I absolutely agree with her on this. Telling your customers that they're stupid is a bad marketing plan.

That sign is much worse than the one I saw in a Lake Placid restaurant a couple years ago. I'm paraphrasing the first part, but the second is a direct quote: "We cook your food to order. Not responsible for overcooked meat."

I've been here twice in the past three years, and I'd come again any time. (But I've never been here in the winter, nor during the notorious black fly season, so maybe not ANY time.)

Our driver on the way home, the Hoffinator, warned us to expect a roadblock on Interstate 87 so that officials could check for illegal immigrants. This is not at the Canadian border crossing, but some 20-25 south of there. She had made the trip up to Lake Placid and back to Albany several times in helping to plan the conference. But, surprise - no checkpoint. We were oddly disappointed.

What was it that Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, while she clicked the ruby slippers?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The RULES (Part 1 of 37)-The Name Game

You've got a lot of rules for somebody from Binghamton.

No, not THOSE Rules. MY rules. I don't mean like "Follow the Golden Rule," (which I try to do). It's more like, "When I get a new album, I must play it at least three times before I file it away" or "When I play racquetball, and the score gets into a rut, I must find arcane ways to recite the score" or "Almost any song can be done in chicken, the more bombastic, the better. Ode to Joy and Smoke on the Water are good examples."

I knew I had rules, but until we got into naming Lydia, I don't think that Carol was aware of my naming rules. *I* wasn't aware of my naming rules. When you've never had a child, naming is more a conceptual thing, as it were.

So the rules were:
  • No name in the top 10 in the Social Security list of most popular names for the most recent year available. There will be enough Emmas in her kindergarten class (but Emma IS a lovely name).
  • No naming after any family member, living or dead. I want her to have her own identity. And I didn't want, "Oh, you named her after Aunt Hortense!" We'll call her Little Horty!" No, you won't.
  • No unisex names: Terry, Madison, e.g. This comes directly from the fact that my father AND my sister were both named Leslie. Confusion ensued, and often at my expense. Since my father had a child named Leslie, it was ASSUMED it was his ONLY son, i.e., me. "Hey, little Les," one guy from church constantly called me. "That's NOT my name," I'd mutter under my breath (but never aloud, for that would have been considered rude.)
  • It had to have two or more syllables, to balance off the shortness of Green.
  • No names that easily went to the nickname. Elizabeth is in the top 10 anyway, and which variation (Liz, Lizzie, Beth, Betty, Betsy, or several others) would ensued? No thanks.
  • It should have a recognizable spelling. While a few people have spelled her name as Lidia, most have opted for the more traditional option.
  • No names beginning and ending with A. This is a practical consideration. I have a niece named Alexandria. Carol has nieces named Adrianna and Alexa. One of Carol's best friends has a daughter named Ariana. And there are several others. Having but one child, I didn't want to run through a litany before I found hers.

    So, Lydia it was, named in part after a woman in Acts who was rich even to put up the apostle Paul and this cohorts. It was only later that a friend pointed out that the church I attended as a child, Trinity A.M.E. Zion, was on the corner of Lydia and Oak, and that I walked down Lydia Street every day on my way to school. Obviously, I knew this to be factually true, but never crossed my consciousness.

    The only downside to her name has been those streams of choruses from Marx Brothers' fans of "Lydia the Tattooed Lady", a song that had TOTALLY slipped my mind.

    So, even with RULES, tattoos happen. But so do encyclo-pidias.
  • Saturday, May 21, 2005

    JEOPARDY! Part 0

    I had fully intended to talk about my JEOPARDY! experience from 1998, starting today. Unfortunately, I've had limited computer time recently, and moreover, I have little time at home to do the research. (It was only seven years ago; you'd think I'd remember every detail as though it were yesterday. But, NO. Memory cells lie gasping on the side of the road.) SOON.

    So, I thought I'd write about...JEOPARDY!
    First off, I haven't watched it since last Tuesday, May 10. So, PLEASE don't ask me what I've thought about the end of the "Ultimate Championship". In due course, I will watch these shows IN ORDER. I almost always watch the show IN ORDER. If I happen to catch that some person had won the game I've not seen, it diminishes the enjoyment somewhat. (I've also taped World Series games, and some "March Madness" basketball games", and as long as I don't know the outcome, it a great watching experience - better because I can zap through the commercials, and close basketball games tend to have coaches using all of their timeouts, which means a LOT of commercials, near the end.

    On the other hand, during the first round of the JEOPARDY! tournament, I watched some games out of order, because it didn't inform who won a previous match that I didn't see. Likewise, in some of the other tournaments with 15 players, I'll watch the first week Monday-Friday shows in any order so long as I avoid the end of Friday's "who makes it to the next round" segment. The following week, M-W in any order, with the same caveat. The final two days IN ORDER.

    The other rule is that you oughtn't to call me between 7:30 and 8 pm, Eastern time, because I'm not likely to answer. Indeed, there were folks over at my house, and someone wanted to take a picture of Lydia, Carol and me DURING Double JEOPARDY! I was not accommodating. (In other words, I ignored him.) If he'd asked three minutes later, which was during that four minute gap between Double and Final JEOPARDY, I would have posed gladly.

    Finally, I never mock players on the set for not knowing an answer. I AM surprised (and REALLY PLEASED) when I get Final when none of the constants do. I WILL, however, mock bad betting. If one's in first place, one has to bet enough to win if the person in second place bets it all. Conversely, Second only really has to bet enough to be ahead if he/she gets it right and First gets it wrong (assuming that Third is in as distant third. If Third's close, Second should bet similar to the way First bets in relation to Second. (Wha?)

    OK, say, at the end of Double Jeopardy!, the totals are $14,000, $10,000 and $9,000. First should bet twice what Second has (2 X 10,000=20,000) less First's score (-$14,000) + 1, or $6,001. Second will have to bet $8001 to protect against Third. BUT if Third has only $6000, Second can bet $4001, enough to win if First gets it wrong, quite possibly even if Second gets it wrong as well. Being in First is great because, if you get it right and bet enough, you can't lose. Being in a close second is great, because you can win if it's a really tough Final.

    On the other hand, if you REALLY hate the topic, bet little and hope for the best.

    Friday, May 20, 2005

    Slippery affiliation

    I was going to request a tape of the season finale of Gilmore Girls on this blog, but I’ve already been helped by a certain blogger.

    It has been one of the very few shows that Carol and I watch religiously, ever since we caught it in summer reruns during its first season. It’s a soap opera, and I don’t mean that pejoratively at all. (N.Y.P.D. Blue, ER, Hill Street Blues – all soap operas.)

    I had set the VCR to tape at home. But I neglected to tell Carol that she needed to put in a FRESH (just like the WB!) tape and the incumbent tape ran out of space about 20 minutes into the show! (I would have changed it myself except that I was still in Lake Placid.)

    And since I was still in Lake Placid Tuesday, I went up to my room after the SBDC awards banquet at about 10 p.m., turned on the TV, flipped through the channels and came across an episode of Gilmore Girls. Initially, I assumed it was a rerun broadcast on ABC Family cable, but it soon became evident that it was THAT NIGHT’S episode, which I watched.

    Most of the buzz about this series has about the rapier-quick dialogue between Lorelei and Rory, the relationship of Lorelei (and Rory) with Lorelei’s parents, and the Luke and Lorelei relationship- Will they? Won’t they? They did – now what? (An aside: I’ve long wondered if their names are nods to Luke and Laura from the daytime soap General Hospital.)

    But the best thing about this show is about the parallel construction that the show tends to provide. I don’t always pick it up until the show is over. This season ender was about quitting. Will Rory quit Yale? Will her best friend Lane Kim quit her band? Where they each end up, and how they got there, was a real treat.

    But why was it on at 10 p.m.? Was there some (amazingly rare) Presidential news conference or some major catastrophe that backed up the programming?

    Nah.

    In the Plattsburgh, NY/Burlington, VT television market, there is no WB affiliate, so WFFF in Burlington (actually Colchester), FOX 44, broadcasts the 8-10 pm WB shows from 10 pm-midnight!

    Those of you in large markets may not appreciate this fully. When I was a kid, there were 7 stations in New York City, 2 (CBS), 4 (NBC), 7 (ABC), 13 (PBS), and 5, 9, and 11 (all independents). Eventually, 5 became a Fox affiliate, 11 became the WB’s outlet, and 9 went with UPN (and moved to New Jersey).

    (Incidentally, this numbering is the reason most fictional TV stations in those days were 3, 6, 8, or 12, the remaining numbers on the VHF dial, or some upper number on the UHF dial, Channels 14-83. Most notable is WJM, Channel 12, Minneapolis, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And if you don’t know what the heck I mean by VHF and UHF, look here.)

    But in a smaller market, such as Binghamton, NY, where I grew up (and at a time when there were only the three "major" networks), there were only two stations, WNBF, Channel 12 (CBS) and WINR, Channel 40 (NBC).

    Then one Saturday morning in the fall of 1962, I turned on the TV just before 7 a.m. to Channel 34. Where there had nothing, suddenly we had a third station! It was WBJA, an ABC affiliate. My TV viewing choices had just increased by 50%!

    What I didn’t realize until later is that Channel 12 (and perhaps Channel 40) were broadcasting some ABC programming before
    Channel 34
    came on the scene. I specifically remember Lawrence Welk, an ABC show, showing on Channel 12 Saturday nights at 6 or 6:30 pm. I recall that other ABC shows such as Bachelor Father, The Flintstones, Hawaiian Eye, Leave It to Beaver, Ozzie & Harriet, The Real McCoys, and Top Cat would show up on the schedule, often on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, outside of prime time (which was usually 7:30-11 pm in those days.) I remember these shows quite clearly, and most of them were off the schedule by the fall of 1962. I must have seen theme SOMEWHERE. Cable didn’t exist and I didn’t go to New York City that often.

    Apparently, shows broadcast by one network appearing on the affiliate of another network was common in most small markets, going back to the days when there was a fourth network, Dumont, in the mid 1940s to the mid-1950s.

    You big-market folks just don’t understand the confusion…

    Thursday, May 19, 2005

    We forsake you

    Pete Townsend turns 60 today.

    My father and I used to listen to my early Beatles records together, trying to discern lyrics and meaning. By the time the Who's Tommy came out, we were no longer doing that. I remember him coming into the living room when the lyrics, "We forsake you, gonna rape you" came on. He said nothing. But his look said, "What IS that kid listening to?"

    Gerber, baby

    Steve Gerber, writer of fine comic books such as Man-Thing and Howard the Duck (but don't blame the movie on him!), wrote in his inaugural blog on April 4, 2005:

    "I make my living as a writer. There is only one characteristic that distinguishes writers from non-writers: writers write. (That’s why there’s no such thing as an “aspiring writer.” A writer can aspire to sell or publish, but only non-writers aspire to write.) Anyway, writing for a living requires writing every day. Writing every day requires discipline. Discipline requires enforcement.
    "I’ve lost the habit of writing every day. I need discipline. I need enforcement. You’re looking at it.
    "I intend to post something on this blog every day. If I fail to do so, that failure will be very public, and I’ll be embarrassed by it. I don’t enjoy being embarrassed. So maybe, just maybe, making this obligation will help transform me into a habitual writer again."

    But I'm not so disciplined.

    Besides, Thursdays are LONG day during the church year:
    Get up and keep Lydia company (read: distracted) until Carol showers and dresses
    Get dressed and go play racquetball
    Go to work
    Go to Bible study
    Go home and take out the garbage

    It's pretty much a 16 hour slog. But when choir's off for the summer, I'm eager to get back into it.

    Like I'll do with this blog...tomorrow.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2005

    Little sister

    Travel day. Trekking from Lake Placid to Albany.

    I need to wish my baby sister Marcia a happy birthday. How long do I get to call her my "baby sister"? FOREVER! She could be 90, but she'll still be my "baby sister".
    I'm the eldest of three children. I have two sisters younger than I. If I had two siblings of different genders, I'd have a "younger brother" and "younger sister". But with two sisters, describing the middle child, Leslie, is more difficult. "The elder of my two younger sisters" is about as terse as I can get. But "baby sister" is deliciously precise.

    Speaking of relations, Marcia, Leslie, and I have NO first cousins. That's because both of my parents are only children. We'd hold our grandparents responsible except that none of them are still alive.

    Which got me thinking, what's this "removed" thing when it comes to cousins? This chart may help.
    I know my sisters' daughters, and Carol's brothers' daughters are my daughter's first cousins.
    But most genealogical types suggest using the grandparent as the marker. So, all of the people who are the grandchildren of my mother and Carol's parents are Lydia's first cousins. (The same people, but a different way of looking at this.)

    "Removed" means that two people are from different generations. "Once removed" signifies that there is a difference of one generation. So, my mother's first cousins are my first cousins, once removed. "Twice removed" means that there is a two-generation difference. Thus, my grandmother's first cousins are first cousins, twice removed.
    And my mother's first cousins' kids are my second cousins, because we share a common GREAT-grandparent, and are of the SAME generation. Got that? NO? Then go here and then explain it to ME!

    This "same generation" concept is particularly tricky in my family's case. Leslie's daughter Becky is 26 (and recently married - congrats to you and Rico), Marcia's daughter Alex is 14, and my daughter Lydia is 1. But Becky, Alex and Lydia are of the "same generation".

    Yet another curve in having a child at 50.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2005

    These messages

    I was going to tell you about the presentation I’m doing today. Our organization is changing from using Standard Industrial Classification codes to North American Industrial Classification System. All businesses are given a classification, which helps in data gathering, and NAICS (rhymes with "snakes") is the most current one. This stuff is actually rather interesting to me. But that’s just me. Others may compare it with watching glaciers melt. So instead I’ll tell you about TV commercials.

    I’ve been watching Sex and the City reruns, usually on tape. I don’t have HBO, so, as NBC used to suggest, “They’re new to me.” During every brace of episodes runs this commercial:

    VOICEOVER OF COSMO KRAMER, WITH THE WORDS ON THE SCREEN: Who’s gonna turn down a Junior Mint. It’s chocolate. It’s peppermint. It’s delicious!
    JERRY SEINFELD (on screen): That’s true.
    KRAMER (on screen): It’s VERY refreshing!

    I’ve seen this commercial a few dozen times. It never fails to crack me up, as though it were the first time.
    What’s WRONG with me?

    I never was a big Seinfeld fan. Oh, I liked the early episodes when it really was about nothing. “The Parking Lot” episode comes to mind. But when George worked for the Yankees, or Elaine stressed over her job- not about nothing. But the ad gets to me.

    There is a commercial for a nasal spray called Nasonex. If you’ve not seen it, go here. The male bee weirds me out! It’s the eyes. The irony is that the ad is "designed and directed" by Neal Adams, one of the most respected comic book artists, one best known for X-Men and Batman, but who I probably first saw (and liked) on the Avengers (the comic book, not the TV show with Emma Peel). The bee is voiced by Antonio Bandares, who I liked in Shrek 2.

    So there it is: crazy about Kramer, crazed by a cartoon bee.

    However, the Nasonex commercial isn't nearly as scary as a Burger King commercial. Someone raises the shade in the house in the morning and there is a person in that eerie Burger King plastic mask. Arrrgh!

    Even worse, though is the ad for some Dodge SUV. A woman, with a girl in the back seat, stops and talks to a guy who reminds me of Clint Eastwood in his spaghetti western days on the side of the road. "Out of gas?", she asks. The motorcycle gets loaded into the back. All the while, the music and the camera work are suggesting that this woman is CRAZY for letting this dusty stranger in her vehicle, with her daughter in the back. Then, "Daddy just HAD to get a motorcycle." OK - he's not a potential murder, he's a relative. But it's manipulative and creepy, and I don't think it engenders the sense of security that the purchaser of such a vehicle would want.

    There's a Coke commercial featuring lots of roller skating or blading. "It's a Coke thing." It must be a generational thing, because every time I hear it, it reminds me of the theme to the Academy-award winning movie "Midnight Cowboy", a depressing flick I've managed to see four times in the theater within 18 months of its release. So instead of "Sparkle", I think of Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) pounding on a vehicle and yelling, "I'm WALKING here!" But what I often tell my wife when she's perplexed by an ad, I need to tell myself: "I'm not the target demographic."

    And speaking of commercials, Mason Adams died late last month. He had a most distinctive voice for radio and television for decades. I was a big Lou Grant fan, so I remember him as Lou's boss Charlie Hume. But he'll probably be best remembered for saying, "With a name like Smucker's, it has to be good." As Vietnam-era DJ Adrian Cronauer, who talks about him on this NPR audio clip might have put it, "To sell the Smucker's catchphrase, Mason Adams had to be good."

    Monday, May 16, 2005

    Winter Games 2022

    I’m in Lake Placid, NY right now, the site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. Even if you were BORN in 1980, you may know at least one thing about that latter Olympics, the Miracle on Ice, called by Al Michaels on ABC, when the US hockey team beat the Soviet Union, in spite of the Soviet’s seemingly superior talent. Obviously, it had Cold War implications as well.

    You would have thought the US had won the gold medal with that game, but that came a couple days later against…

    It’s a lovely little town, with really fine food. It is really in the middle of nowhere. That is a desirable trait for a lot of things. It's easy to get caught up in too much busy-ness. There’s a wonderful walk around Mirror Lake that I take every morning. (Carol and I were here a couple years ago.)

    When I was last up here, there was considerable speculation around here about applying for ANOTHER Winter Olympics. Don’t think it’ll happen because it’s really is IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, and, far more importantly than in 1980, the Olympic games need enough hotels and venues, something that would be difficult to build and then sustain in this little town. Indeed, on this trip, there's a lot less talk about it, at least with the people I've met, so perhaps they've drawn the same conclusion.

    The upstate New York kid in me thinks it would be great to have a trifecta of Olympics in this beautiful spot. The boring, grown-up me thinks it’s nuts.

    …oh, yeah, Finland..SCORE, 4-2.

    And I'm here for the conference of the NYS Small Business Development Center. The SBDC has about two dozen centers across the state offering business advisement at no charge. We get together once a year for educational enhancement, and for the opportunity to actually put faces to people who may have been acquainted only by phone or e-mail. The centers are assisted by the administrative office, within which resides the Research Network, the library of which I am (by a few months) the longest tenured person in the group. There are other SBDCs around the country offering similar services, though not all of them have a librarian, let alone four.

    There's no such thing as an average question. We might be asked about alpacas or home-based jewelry retail or the record industry. We're asked to find demographics or industry trends or state regulations.

    Time for that walk.

    Sunday, May 15, 2005

    Community

    I live in the Pine Hills section of Albany, NY. But I'm also part of a work community, the librarian community, and now, a bloggers' community, among many others. One I've valued a great deal is the church community.

    Carol and I got married in the largest Methodist church in Albany on May 15, 1999. Little did we know that we would be leaving that community less than two years later.

    I'll try not to get too arcane here. In January 2000, the Pastor Parish Relations Committee suspended the choir, the fact that the PPRC had no authority to do that in Methodist polity notwithstanding. At about the same time, the pastor of Spanish-speaking part of the congregation was squeezed out.

    For the next couple weeks, Carol and I attended worship in the cold, inaccessible basement of the other Methodist church where the Spanish-speakers found themselves. (By "cold", I mean that my feet got numb, even with my boots on. By "inaccessible", I mean that I helped carry a man downstairs in his wheelchair.)

    There was a meeting of the PPRC chair and the choir in March. The choir members had hoped that this would have been an opportunity to clarify the issues, and to create an atmosphere of reconciliation. Instead, it was, unfortunately, a lecture by the PPRC chair, with no real chance to respond to the mostly baseless accusations. There was a suggestion that the choir could come back if the members signed a loyalty oath to the pastor. A loyalty oath! After the meeting, the chair seemed pleased with the outcome; I told her it was b*******.

    Even before this meeting, I had started singing in the choir of the church around the corner. But, ultimately, Carol & I left our old church, not just because of these events, but because the governance of church had been changed so that there was little redress. (The opposition to this change in governance, labeled as obstructionist, was the primary "crime" of many in the choir.)

    We still have friends at our old church where I was member for a decade and a half, where Carol was member for nearly a decade, where we met, where we wed, but we changed our membership three years ago.

    The story about the folks getting kicked out of their church for their voting patterns resonated with me, and even more if you see it on
    video. (You may need to download software.)
    They were forced out and we left voluntarily, but the sense of sadness, loss, abandonment, and perhaps a touch of anger still lingers. In any case, we feel grateful that we have found another community in which we can participate in the church around the corner.

    Not a very romantic piece for our 6th anniversary, is it? Still, I believe the experience strengthened my bond with Carol. And with Lydia, we have a (small) community of our own.

    Happy anniversary, Carol. I love you.

    Saturday, May 14, 2005

    The culprit

    Rocco Nigro, it’s YOUR fault.

    Rocco was this obnoxious kid that used to come into FantaCo, the (now deceased) Albany comic book store and haggle over the prices of the back issue comics when I started working there in 1980. Eventually, though, I grew to like him, as did the others, and he started working there, staffing the front of the store occasionally, but also mostly doing mail order. Rocco, incidentally, probably knows more about the Beatles than anyone I know who was born after the group first appeared on Ed Sullivan.

    When Mitch was fired in 1983 (for reasons now lost on me), Rocco was outraged, and he quit. But when I was buried in mail order sometime in 1987, Rocco came in with me one Sunday afternoon, and we all but obliterated the backlog. He did that out of loyalty to me, in spite of his (then) continued enmity towards the store owner. I always appreciated that.

    I worked with him again occasionally at Mitch’s Midnight Comics in 1991 and 1992. I visited him in HIS store, Crypt O’ Comics, in the mid-1990s. I’d see him occasionally in a couple book stores he worked at.

    But it had been well over a year since I had last seen him when I went into The Book House an independent book store in Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany in October 2004 looking for my friend Norman, who wasn’t there. Rocco, however, was. We talked at length about many things, but most intriguing was his high praise of this website by one Fred Hembeck, an artist who had done work published by FantaCo with whom I had lost touch at least a decade earlier. I checked out Fred’s site, liked it, got intrigued by this blogiverse, and the rest is electronic history, and, as I said, Rocco’s fault. You can find out more about Rocco here (May 14) or here (May 14) and, as I understand it, here (May 14).

    Happy birthday, Rocco. BTW, you're turning 41, in case you've forgotten.

    Friday, May 13, 2005

    Not so little Stevie

    Before I got a CD burner a year or so ago, I used to make mixed cassette tapes from my albums and CDs. I made one of Stevie Wonder songs that did not appear on a Stevie album for my friend Donna George (who unfortunately died of cancer a couple years ago.) Think I’ll make a mixed Stevie CD soon. After all, he is 55 today. "Gee, 55, gee, double nickel," as the bingo caller in Charlotte, NC used to say when I lived down there in 1977.

    Stevie’s new album, A Time to Love, which has been on my Amazon wish list for over a year, was finally released on May 3. Since his 1995 album Conversation Peace, he's put out a 2-CD live set, a 2-CD greatest hits, a 4-CD box set, a couple songs on the Bamboozled soundtrack, and a single-CD greatest hits. He also produced a tribute album to himself called Conception. So this is his first CD filled with new material in a decade.

    According to Yahoo, Stevie "also appears on" 463 albums, as producer, or performer on vocals, keyboard or harmonica. He worked with Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, Jermaine Jackson, Whitney Houston, and many others. He also appears on the Rent cast album. Some of the selections I’ll put together will be from a series of tribute and/or benefit albums, such as Tribute to Curtis Mayfield, Inner City Blues (Marvin Gaye), Gershwin’s World, Nobody’s Child (Romanian Relief), and America: A Tribute to Heroes, which shows his sense of musical history as well as his heart.

    *****
    Speaking of heart, my brother-in-law John Powell would have been 45 tomorrow. He died three years ago of colon cancer. He was one of the greatest boosters of my relationship with Carol with our various ups and downs before we got married. I'm only sorry he never got to meet his niece Lydia.

    Thursday, May 12, 2005

    Citizen Zhang

    Jinshui Zhang, one of my co-workers, became a U.S. citizen last month. He was one of 63 people from 36 countries to become naturalized. He was from the People’s Republic of China.

    The event was held in the Federal Building, a former post office right across the street from our office. While I went to the building often in its previous incarnation, I've rarely been there recently. One goes through a metal detector not unlike the ones at the airport. The security personnel are not as humorless as the airport workers, and they accepted my work ID, which the airport almost never does.

    The ceremony was scheduled for 8:30 a.m., but at that hour, there was a long line of people waiting in line to get their paperwork checked. This process took over a half hour. I was told that they used to have fewer people naturalized at more frequent intervals, but now have more people but less frequently as a result of 9/11/2001 concerns. How this helps security screening, I don't know.

    There was a big sign at the entrance to the building prohibiting cameras, but apparently the ban doesn't apply to this particular event, so folks were able to run across the street and retrieve their photographic equipment without missing anything.

    An officer from Homeland Security was cheerfully goofy in explaining what was going to happen. I got the sense that he had other duties in his job that weren't nearly so pleasant.

    The ceremony itself started at 9:30, with the judge giving his well wishes, etc. He introduced the representatives from the League of Women Voters, who were, by that point, actually out in the hall waiting to give out materials to encourage the new citizens to vote (something native-born citizens could do well to do better at). He also introduced four ladies from the Daughters of the American Revolution (more on them some other time), who gave out flags, pins and other paraphernalia.

    A lawyer sang a couple patriotic songs, the latter, God Bless America, with the assembled crowd. He wasn't bad, for a lawyer.

    Then the swearing-in took place. The folks running the show, the judge, the court clerk, and especially the Homeland Security officer, were very effusive in their care of the new Americans.

    Everyone in the office knew that Jinshui studied hard to take the written test. I noted to one of my co-workers that I doubted that most native-born Americans could pass it. Try it yourself.

    Congratulations, Jinshui!

    Wednesday, May 11, 2005

    Add Some Music to Your Day

    One of the (faux) reasons I started a blog was because there were folks in the blogiverse that were doing a CD exchange. The list below, which represent an album I gave out at my 50th birthday a couple years ago, wouldn’t have made the cut as it was then constituted, had I been participating in the exchange, for reasons explained below. Still it is, as I wrote at the time, "a list of songs that, for a variety of reasons, resonate to a particular time, place and/or emotion over the years." So, I might well have offered it in a modified form. I had included liner notes; these are not them, except for the stuff in quotes.

    Sorry (I Ran All the Way Home) – the Impalas: one of my father’s 45s. But I would have dumped it in favor of the much more obscure “45 Men in a Telephone Booth” by the Top Hatters in a heartbeat. I had ordered a Cadence Records compilation specifically for this purpose in January, but it did not show up until April, well after my birthday.

    Roger Ramjet- TV cartoon theme: pretty obvious. Don’t know if it would still be included, if only because its abrasive quality doesn’t help establish a mood.

    Quintet: “My mother took us to West Side Story, the first “grown up” movie I remember seeing. I didn’t know one could have several simultaneous melodies at the same time.”

    Drive My Car - Fab Four: Lots of people have a certain antipathy for this first song on the British Rubber Soul album. I don’t know if it’s because it’s NOT “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, the first song on the American version of the record, or because it has a weird chord progression. I like it BECAUSE of its complicated chord changes. Sting butchered this song on a bootleg someone gave me.

    Take Me For A Little While- Vanilla Fudge: “Carrying groceries for Mom. One afternoon, I was home listening to the album. Mom came home. I retrieved groceries, and found the stereo off. The crescendo made her think the record player was broken.”

    Worried Man/Ain’t Gonna Be Treated This Way: Carol & I went to see Woody Guthrie’s American Song at Capital Rep, when this brace of songs came up. Both of them were in my father’s repertoire when he sang around Binghamton when I was growing up. This was a year or two after my father died, and I just lost it.
    But as for the compilation, if I were doing it now: the song is TOO LONG, and has TOO MUCH TALK. Every other song I’d lived with for a number of years. This was too much an emotional choice of the moment.

    Spider-Man cartoon TV theme: my favorite comic book character.

    Feel Flows -Beach Boys: freshman year in college. Probably influenced by its inclusion in the movie Almost Famous

    Gone Away - Roberta Flack: “When romance went sour, I developed a quartet of songs to play: Sweet Bitter Love (QoS), this, My First Night Alone Without You (Jane Olivor), and Stay with Me (Lorraine Ellison). Sometimes added Remove This Doubt (Supremes).” QoS means Queen of Soul.

    Fantasy - Earth, Wind, and Fire: Schenectady Arts Council, 1978. “The choreographer needed a partner to help teach the elementary kids some dances, and I got sucker.., volunteered to do that.”

    Naïve Melody - Talking Heads: “The ’83 show was one of the best concerts I ever saw. This song is about rediscovery on the way to Cooperstown.”

    23rd Psalm -Bobby McFerrin: My then choir director Eric Strand “transcribed this song, and choir members Bob, Tim & I sang at church. Eric gave me the high part, which I did almost entirely in falsetto. Someone came up to a church member, expressing concern that a ‘gay guy’ was singing in church.”

    Harvest Moon -Neil Young: “About lost love. Also, about the only Neil song my ex-office mate [the Hoffinator] could stand”.

    Lullabye-Billy Joel: “The melancholy of the song (and the back story) parallels my melancholy about the state of my old hometown” [Binghamton].

    Church-Lyle Lovett: “When four of us [librarians] were in tight office quarters, with very distinct likes (and especially dislikes), Lyle passed muster with all of us. Closing act of a great Newport Folk Festival at SPAC.”

    JEOPARDY! – “an NBC daytime game that I used to watch with my Aunt Deana. “

    Now That I Found You - Alison Krauss: “One of my wife’s two favorite artists; oddly, both of them have last names beginning with KRA. We saw AK at the Palace [Theater in Albany] in 2002.”

    At Last-Etta James: “One of five great songs on the Rain Man soundtrack. Oh yeah, Carol & I danced to it at our wedding.”

    So, I would have changed the first song, dumped the second and fifth cuts, but keep the rest pretty much as is. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, especially the Free Flow to Church run.

    See what you missed out on, bloggers?

    Tuesday, May 10, 2005

    Media Overkill (hubris)

    Gee, it’s STILL bugging me, this “Runaway Bride” thing.

    It’s not that I care why Jennifer what’s-her-name ran away, whether her fiancé still loves her, or whether they’ll marry (but apparently People magazine thinks their readers will, based on last week's cover story).

    I DO care that the media attention has been so wacky, in the Jacko/Scott& Laci tradition. Some of the so-called news networks, including the one apparently named after a canine, were practically convicting the fiancé of murder for his delay in taking a polygraph before she turned up. Jon Stewart skewered them on the Daily Show last week.

    (And I DO care that she unfortunately found it necessary to pick a Hispanic man, along with a white woman as her assailant. Reminds me, just a bit, of Susan Smith or Chuck Stuart.
    The ease of the accusation – “it was one of THEM” – is a bit frightening.)

    (My wife gave me some good advice the other day: if I ever want to go through an airport inconspicuously, I shouldn't wear an orange towel on my head. I'll keep that in mind.)

    And still on the subject of news: OK, I’ve watched American Idol from time to time. But the reason I watched the "ABC Prime Time exclusive" on former contestant Corey Clark outing Paula Abdul as his lover last Wednesday was to figure out the newsworthy rationale for running the program. After viewing the whole hour, I still don’t know. Clark also appeared on Good Morning America that morning AND the next morning, which I thankfully missed. With Peter Jennings fighting cancer, perhaps the network has taken leave of its journalistic senses. But I did enjoy Kelly Ripa ripping into Clark on her show (with Reege) the next morning.

    Oh, and I STILL don't know why Paris @#$%^&*! Hilton is famous.

    I’ve ranted. I feel better now. Thanks.

    I’m listening to the newly re-formed (or reformed) Cream. They sound great.

    Monday, May 09, 2005

    Fan Mail

    I got an e-mail from one of my oldest friends who wrote:
    “I don't understand blogs. Are they to be viewed as online diaries?
    ”I can't imagine anyone giving a s*** or taking the time to read about anything I had to say.
    ”I find it all hubristic.”

    To which I wrote:
    “You may be right.”

    Actually, writing this blog has been very helpful to me already. It’s allowed me focus better. Since I'm tired a lot, the blog has become, dare I say it, my daily meditation.

    Oh, no! I had the ghost of 1970s Bill Cosby lurking in my head. “Be careful or you might learn something” he used to say on Fat Albert. I don’t want to be that parental about it, but I am trying to provide a site where if you’re not absolutely riveted by Lydia stories (but you WOULD be if you knew her- she’s also VERY charming), you can click on a hyperlink and find out a little about Mother’s Day, e.g.

    Tomorrow: Hubris! Or as Jack Nicholson once said in a movie, “You want the hubris? You can’t handle the hubris!”

    No, the OTHER one

    If you Google Roger Green and Albany, most of the hits will NOT be of me (And I’m all right with that, BTW.) Most of the hits will be for Roger L. Green , NYS Assemblyman from Brooklyn since 1981. He seemed like a decent sort, the little that I knew of him. However, he had to resign his seat on June 1, 2004 for some fiscal irregularities. In the tradition of New York State government, he was nevertheless elected again in November 2004. I think he lost some privileges.

    Given the fact that I’ve been in Albany since 1979, it is curious that we’ve never met. I did meet one of his assistants once at a summer party; I accidentally hit her in the face with a volleyball.

    Also, I receive phone calls for him. Often, I’ve been the only Roger Green in the Albany phone book. The one call that has always stuck in my mind was an answering machine message from WCBS (radio or TV, I forget) in New York City, asking me to call back to comment on the death of Yusef Hawkins. I’d been at work all day , so at that moment, I had no idea who Yusef Hawkins was. The next day, I did.

    Anyway, I’m THIS Roger Green. Yeah, I appeared on JEOPARDY! once or twice back in 1998, something I mention now only because an unnamed blogger mentioned it in his May 6 column . And he’s put this blog in list of links. Of course, I bribed him heavily...

    Speaking of JEOPARDY!, I’ve decided that I will be sharing about my experience on this blog. I had written it in my mind – several times- for years, and I need some mind decluttering. But how to approach it? I didn’t want to write that much about that one topic, all the time, all at once. I’m not that disciplined, and I’d bore myself, and probably you.

    Then it came to me: the Saturday serial matinee! In days even before mine, there would be movies shown in parts over several weeks. Each section ends with a cliffhanger.

    So, that’s what I’m going to do: each Saturday starting May 21, I’m going to write a piece of the story. Can’t promise you a cliffhanger every time, but I’ll give it a shot.

    Sunday, May 08, 2005

    Sweet, Sweet Baby

    My daughter is very beautiful. I will show you sometime, when I figure out the photo aspect of this blog.

    (PLEASE don't tell me it's "easy." I'm a Luddite at heart- nothing mechanical or technological is "easy" for me.)

    Anyway, this is not idle parental boasting. The trip to Washington Park just yesterday or a visit to the shopping center seem to confirm this. A woman I know once said that Lydia is the most beautiful baby she's ever seen--- including her own baby! This was, of course, in direct violation of the Law That One's Own Baby Is ALWAYS the Most Beautiful, passed sometime during the The Peloponnesian Wars.

    Of course, I want the best for my daughter, but I also want her be viewed by her intellect (she's also very smart) and, as someone once said, "The content of her character."

    We've all read how tall, attractive people seem to be treated better, get better jobs, more pay, etc. In that vein (or “vain”, if you prefer), I give you a scary little something forwarded to me recently:
    “Are ugly children less loved?
    "Do parents take care of their cute children better than ugly ones? Most parents would deny it, but Canadian researchers have found that physical attractiveness makes a big difference in how children are treated, according to a newspaper report.

    And on that happy note, Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. (And thanks to sister Marcia and niece Alex for taking care of her down in Charlotte, NC.) Also, happy Mother's Day to Mom Powell, and all the mothers I know. Lydia, who doesn’t have her own blog yet, wants to wish her mommy and grandmas the same.

    Saturday, May 07, 2005

    Out the In Door

    Last week, my daughter Lydia had gastroenteritis. I didn't know what gastroenteritis was, but apparently it's been "going around." I DID know that seeing my 13-month old daughter throw up 11 times in about 10 hours (followed the next day by similar exports from the other end of the digestive tract) was one of the more painful things Carol and I have gone through.

    We took her to the doctors twice and the ER once. The best thing about going to the ER was that the pediatric resident said that Carol and I were doing a good job with her, that we were right on top of things regarding her symptoms. This was especially gratifying, because as first time parents, we feel that we’re making it up as we go along.

    She's better now, climbing on EVERYTHING, verbalizing, taking steps. It was the lack of those activities, which made us continue to be concerned, even after the other manifestations were finished. Now we’re back to, "No, Lydia, that plant is not for eating."

    As they say on baby.com, “Having a baby changes everything.” Oops, Johnson & Johnson TRADEMARKED that? Hasn’t every adult who has kids said to people who are expecting kids, “Having a baby changes everything” for the last few millennia?

    “Having a baby changes everything.” TM, (Johnson & Johnson).
    “And blah, blah, blah” © Paul Simon

    Friday, May 06, 2005

    Funny books

    Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day. I’ll probably go over to Earthworld Comics in Albany and pick up SOMETHING. For me, going into a comic book store is often like going to see an old girlfriend. Will I remember why we fell in love? Will I be reminded why we broke up? Or will it be more like, “I’m happy for you in your new life. I’ll see you in another decade or two”?

    I fell in love with comics fairly later in the game. In 1971, my new best friend in college, Mark Klonfas, was into comic books. I wondered why an adult would be into "funny books." (I won’t say he was a grown-up; he used to perch on the end of his desk like Peanuts’ Snoopy, feigning to be a vulture.)

    But get into comics I did, first with Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1, then Sub-Mariner #50. Luke Cage (Nicholas Cage's namesake, REALLY) appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #122. Then I noticed that Cage appeared in shadow at the end of #121, and I picked THAT up. That happened to be “The Death of Gwen Stacy.” I got particularly hooked on the web-slinger, and much of the Marvel Universe. (Curse you, Klonfas!)

    Eventually, I worked at FantaCo and for a brief time at Midnight Comics in Albany. This is where the romance soured. There were all of these #0s, and silver and gold "special" editions. I’d be asked, "Is ___ any good?" but it wasn’t about the artwork or the story, it was about whether it would increase in value. Bollocks! When I left Midnight to take my current job in 1992, I quit comics cold turkey.

    I always read in the entertainment press to see how comics are doing, seeing them get reviewed regularly in Entertainment Weekly and the like. And I’m very happy for the industry. But I can’t afford to get into it like I used to, so I view the trip to the store warily, fearing the siren will suck me back in…

    Thursday, May 05, 2005

    Synchronicity 5 (of 12) or 9 (of 24)

    I woke up just before 5 a.m. and waited until the clock read 5:05. 5:05 on 05/05/05-this made me smile. Then I rolled over and went back to sleep. I have a 13-month old baby, and sleep is precious.

    Today is, of course, Cinco de Mayo, which is an important holiday, not just an excuse to get drunk on tequila or kahlua. Did I mention
    tequila?

    This weekend in Albany, NY is also the the Tulip Festival in Washington Park, featuring the Funk Brothers and the Family Stone Experience (featuring founding members of Sly and the Family Stone -"oooh-lawd!") on Saturday and Little Anthony and the Imperials on Sunday.

    You don't know the Funk Brothers? They've played on more hit songs than anyone as the sensational backing band for Motown's biggest stars. Even if you don't live around Albany, find out more by renting or buying "Standing in the Shadows of Motown". I saw it in the theaters, enjoyed it tremendously, and learned a great deal about the music I love.

    Wednesday, May 04, 2005

    Teacher, Teacher

    I just noticed in my daily e-mail from About.com that this week is Teacher Appreciation Week. (You’d think I would have figured that out from the chalkboard and apple at Google.) If you’re looking for ways to celebrate, go here.

    I’d like to thank Miss Cady (K), Miss Marie Oberlik (5th grade, for the Russian lessons), Mr. Paul Peca (6th grade), Mr. Stone (history), Mr. Carl Young, Miss Helen Foley, and my 9th and 12th grade gym teachers, who were not the p***ks that the other ones were.

    Also, in college and graduate school: Professors Deborah Andersen, Thomas Galvin, Glenn McNitt, and Alan Chartock. Yeah, ol’ lightning rod Alan. I had him PLS 216, American Government and Politics in the Fall of 1971, when he was a young whippersnapper.

    Additionally, anyone who taught me anything useful about music, including my school and church choir directors and fellow choir members, but also Hemby, the SBDCers (especially my former office mates, DC and the Hoffinator), Tom Skulan and the FantaCo folks, Q104 Albany (c. 1978-1983), Mark Klonfas, Karen Durkot, my sister Leslie, and especially my dad, Les Green.

    And there are, undoubtedly, others, who left me some wisdom that I’ve absorbed without necessarily realizing it.

    Finally, thanks to a teacher, who taught for a couple years, left to work in the insurance industry for a dozen years, then returned to school to train to teach English as a Second Language, and is now a traveling ESL teacher in two or three districts. That would be my wife, Carol, from whom I learn something new every day.
    *****
    And speaking of education, what have we learned 35 years after Kent State? The country is still polarized over Vietnam, 30 years after the fall of Saigon, it appears, based on the last general election Bush bails! (Probably true, but still...)Kerry wasn’t THAT wounded! (Oh, brother!) Jane Fonda’s new autobiography, and the attendant promotion of same, becomes the new flash points in the debate. Kinda sad.

    Tuesday, May 03, 2005

    Ich bin ein…LIBRARIAN!

    In my self-introduction yesterday, I failed to say what I do. Well, now you know, of sorts. Actually, the way I see it, being a librarian isn’t merely what I do. It’s what I AM.

    When I was a kid, I was always reading the Encyclopedia Americana and the World Almanac. The latter I have received for about 38 out of the past 40 years. (Some day, I’ll tell you my father’s reaction to that.)

    But, I was self-misdiagnosed. For a while, I thought (and others thought even more so) that I’d be an A.M.E. ZION preacher. Later, I thought I’d be a lawyer.

    My first job, other than delivering newspapers, was working as a page (i.e., gofer) at the main branch of the Binghamton Public Library . I was under the tutelage of one Mrs. Fawcett, an elegant lady from my church.

    But, no, I stayed with the idea of being a lawyer, until I FAILED an undergraduate law course. Then I didn’t know WHAT I was to do. After graduation from the State University College at New Paltz, I drifted about. (A story in its own right.)

    I decided to go to the University at Albany and major in Public Administration. What a mistake! The students were cut-throat. Ultimately, I dropped out, worked for FantaCo Enterprises, a comic book and film book emporium for 8.5 years. Then I had a dreadful year at Empire Blue Cross. (Can't wait to talk about THAT!)

    While I was working as a Census enumerator in 1990, three of my friends, Jendy and Judy, who were new librarians, and Broome, who was a …lawyer, convinced (OK, NAGGED) me into applying to the UAlbany library school. Frankly, I didn’t think they’d take me after my previous disaster at the graduate level.

    But they did. And I found it was a very cooperative experience, due in no small part to the fact that most of the students were women. Also, I didn’t feel out of place as a returning student. That year, I was 37. The average age of students in the department was…37.

    I got a job that I’ve had for over a dozen years, and it’s clear that this is what I ought to have been doing all along. I LOVE librarians.

    Monday, May 02, 2005

    I can't believe it's not butter

    I was one of those people who thought that blogs were self-indulgent ramblings of people with too much time on their hands. So, WHAT AM I DOING HERE?

    Well, I have little time on my hands, but I recognize that, in the midst of the life I have, I need a chance for some self-indulgent ramblings.

    Moreover, I've discovered that perhaps these ramblings can be interesting, insightful, even, occasionally, important. I've specifically enjoyed the musings of one Fred G. Hembeck - so, I thought I'd give it a shot.

    I am:
    *a Black American (or African-American if you prefer; I don't)
    *a blood donor over 100 times (I'm B positive, a good motto, I think)
    *a Christian (a Methodist for most of the last century, a Presbyterian for most of this one, and a member of Session)
    *a registered Democrat (but in Albany, NY, most people are)
    *a non-driver (I take the bus, the bike)
    *a first-time father at the age of 51 (is he crazy? You be the judge)
    *married for the last time
    *a lover of music, both a collector of recordings and a singer in my church choir
    *a political science major who's rather cynical about politics (but I ALWAYS vote)
    Pretty reductivist, but that's where I'm coming from. This should be interesting for me. Hope it is for you.