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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Scholarfied

"Summertime, the TV viewing is awful.
All my favorite shows are repeats or they're gone.
The stuff they put on now should be declared unlawful.
So, it's time to go out and play in the back lawn."

George and Ira must be rolling over in their graves.

I was flicking through the channels the other morning and came across a televised broadcast of a radio interview of a guy talking about a book (talk about mixed media). The theme of the book was that parents of this generation are more likely to keep their kids inside than ever before (and the kids are more acclimated to the indoors, playing with computers, watching TV, and having play dates) than previous generations. A greater fear of strangers on the part of parents feeds into this as well. The question: how is that group of kids going to respond to needs to protect the (outside) environment when they grow up? The answer: I don't know; as I said, I was just flicking through.

There is actually ONE summer show I should admit that Carol and I started watching a couple weeks ago. It's called "The Scholar," on Mondays at 8 p.m. (EDT) on ABC. The premise is that 10 high school seniors, five males and five females, are competing for a full-ride scholarship to the university of his or her choice. Like "The Apprentice", the groups are divided into two teams who are assigned tasks to do in a limited amount of time. Unlike "The Apprentice", no one gets "fired" or even "voted off the island." The three best at the task are given a topic, such as African geography (from last week), and given three or four hours to study before being tested, spelling-bee style. The winner of that round gets a $50,000 scholarship and the right to compete for the full ride.

I suppose we enjoy it because these teens are so positive in wanting to make a difference in the world (being President, curing cancer). Their task last week involved helping a couple Boys/Girls Club-type centers. Among other criteria, they were judged on how much they engaged the kids they were helping in the process.

This week's show involves putting together a jigsaw map of the U.S. states as the test. Naturally, I've only seen the last week's previews (except for sports and news, my TV watching's almost always on tape because of the child), but I'd have done really well on that test. I spent hours and hours playing with similar puzzles as a child. I recognized that Alabama and Mississippi were mirror images, from the way they both have too short a panhandle for the size of the state (cf. Florida or Oklahoma.) Vermont and New Hampshire, very different states politically, are also mirror images in jigsaw puzzles. The hardest states to place were Colorado and Wyoming, practically the same size (8th and 9th largest states, respectively) and shape.

I'm suddenly feeling very nostalgic. Guess what a little 15-month old I know will be getting in a couple years?

***

Probably NOT the new Bobby Zimmerman CD from Starbucks.

Library plates

As a librarian, I'm obliged to pass along the following press release, in case y'all want to run out and get one...

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles announced the availability of the new "Love Your Library" license plate at a press conference today. The plate features a library-related graphic and the tagline "READ LEARN EXPLORE."

Renato Donato, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the NYS DMV; Carole Huxley, Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Cultural Education; Assemblywoman Sandra Galef; and a representative of Senator Hugh Farley's office. Assemblywoman Galef and Senator Farley sponsored the law creating the Love Your Library license plate.

The Love Your Library (LYL) license plate is available to anyone who has a passenger or commercial vehicle registered in New York State. The International Symbol of Access is available on both types of plates for those who qualify. When issued in the commercial class, the word COMMERCIAL will appear in the tagline. Proceeds from the plate's annual fee will help support the NY State Library's Statewide Summer Reading Program at public libraries across the state.

The NYSL's Statewide Summer Reading Program keeps students Pre-K through 12 reading when school is not in session. Youngsters choose what they read and learn the joys of reading while building literacy skills.

Each year the NYSL works with public libraries and library systems to develop a theme and encourage youngsters to participate. This year's program, "Tune In @Your Library," was coordinated by Crystal Faris, Youth Services Manager, Nassau Library System. More than 1 million youngsters participated in 2004.

The LYL license plate is available from the NYS DMV, their Custom Plates Unit at 518-402-4838, and all Issuing Offices. Individuals may call the Custom Plates number to place an order using MasterCard, Visa, American Express or Discover Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

The order forms can also be accessed on the NYSL's web site or to order online, go here and click on the 'Love Your Library' plate under 'Recently Released Plates.'

The initial fee for a plate with a number assigned by DMV is $43, with a $25 annual renewal fee. The initial fee for a plate personalized with your choice of two to six characters including spaces is $68, with a $50 annual renewal fee. The $25 annual fee will be deposited to the credit of the LYL Fund, which supports the Statewide Summer Reading Program.

For more information on the LYL fund, contact Janet M. Welch, State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries via phone at (518) 474-5930 or e-mail.

For more information on the New York State Library's Statewide Summer Reading Program, go to the website and point to Statewide Summer Reading.

One of the nation's leading research libraries, the New York State Library has served New Yorkers, state government and researchers from throughout the United States for more than 180 years. It is the largest state library in the nation and the only state library to qualify for membership in the Association of Research Libraries. The New York State Library is a program of the State Education Department.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Aht w/ David Brickman

My buddy photographer and critic David Brickman just e-mailed me to tell me that will be doing his second art criticism spot on WAMC (90.3 FM) tomorrow (Thursday) at 10:07 a.m.

The topic will be Michael Oatman's big solo retrospective at the Tang Museum.

By the way, for the out-of-towners it is possible to listen online.

The blogger CD exchange-ROG

Several months before I was involved with the bloggers exchange I mentioned a couple days ago, I was participating on a one-on-one exchange with Fred Hembeck, my old compatriot from the FantaCo comic book days. Most of my earlier works were chronologically based, but as Fred was already doing more thematic pieces, I did likewise.

One of the topics I decided on was to get a song for every state in the country. I missed a few states, but I ended up putting together three discs of an "American travelogue."

Meanwhile, Fred was involved with a bunch of folks, most of them interested in comic books, who did a bloggers’ exchange of mixed CDs, initiated by Chris "Lefty" Brown. As I wasn’t blogging at the time, I couldn’t participate. But now that I am posting fairly regularly, I got to give it a go in the second round with these very diverse folks (May 23).

I decided to use the first of my American Travelogue discs, but I made a few changes.

US: I wanted to start and end with an "American" song. I started with "American Roulette" from Robbie Robertson’s first solo album, which starts off slowly, but really rocks at the end. My old friend Karen has worked for record companies over half her life, and she was trying to promote this album when it came out. She goes to one station trying to explain who Robertson WAS, "You know, The Band? Backing band for Dylan? The Last Waltz?" No hint of recognition from some 23-year old program director who was making decisions about what got played on the air.

NY: "New York, New York" - Ryan Adams was an alt-country darling in 2001. Some critics indicate that he puts out too much mediocre stuff, so his double albums should be single discs. Remind me to look up "alt-country."

NJ: "Atlantic City" - I wanted to NOT do Springsteen here; I half succeeded. It’s a Bruce song by post-Robertson The Band, a little more up tempo than The Boss’s version, with mandolin.

PA: "Allentown" - I expect to be pilloried by some bloggers for putting the very uncool Billy Joel on the disc, but sonically, it just works for me. I had put Elton John’s "Philadelphia Freedom," but it didn’t fit.

MD: "Baltimore" – I’m sure I got Peter Case from Karen. It’s one of those albums that I never remember to play, but the gravelly-voiced singer always satisfies when I do. I considered Vonda Shepherd's "Maryland" here, but I was in a city groove.

DE: Couldn’t find anything in my collection for the First State. Don't think "The White Cliffs of Dover" would count.

DC: "The Bourgeois Blues" – Folkways put out an album of covers of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly tunes. This song was written by the latter, and sung by Taj Mahal. Talks about black people not getting a break in our nation’s capital.

VA: Some relative told me that "I Believe" was the "future of popular music." So, sound unheard, I bought the Blessed Union of Souls album. I wouldn't say it was "the future of popular music," but "Sweet Virginia" works in this disc.

NC: "Take the Train to Charlotte" – There are a number of other NC songs, but this one was obvious for me, since my mom, sister Marcia, and niece Alex live there. From the Roots and Blues 109-song, box set, this tune is by Fiddlin’ John Carson, no relation to the late, late-night talk show host (I don't think so, anyway.) This song is from c. 1930.

SC: "Darlington County" – talk about commercial! From Springsteen’s massive Born in the U.S.A. album. This was the toughest change, because I replaced an obscure John Linnell song "South Carolina", but again the sound was the determining factor.

GA: "Oh, Atlanta." Love the chromatic scale ascent on this Alison Krauss tune. Chromatic scale? Play the scale MI up to DO, including the black keys, on a piano, staccato (short notes), then imagine that on guitar leading to Alison’s sweet voice.

FL: "Gator on the Lawn." At 1:13, the shortest song, also the loudest. It has a really rockabilly feel. From the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ box set.

PR: I DUMPED "America" from West Side Story from this version. I LOVE West Side Story, I ADORE West Side Story, but I didn’t think it worked here.

AL: "Alabamy Home" by the Gotham Stompers, an instrumental from "1930s Jazz- The Small Combos."

MS: "The Jazz Fiddler" by the Mississippi Sheiks, also from "Roots & Blues".

LA: "Down at the Twist & Shout" was performed by Mary Chapin Carpenter at a Super Bowl, and I have the live recording, but this is the studio version.

TX: I love Lyle Lovett. I love his backing vocalists, Sweet Pea Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowens. They really help make "That’s Right (You’re Not from Texas)" swing.

US: This CD ends with a Garth Brooks song "American Honky Tonk Bar Association." It’s a flat out country song for the "hardhat, gunrack, achin'-back, overtaxed, flag-wavin', fun-lovin' crowd." I had, in the previous incarnation, put this song before Lyle.

So, when I see reviews of this album on other blogs and I link to them, you’ll know what the heck they’re talking about. Not so incidentally, look at Lefty's page for June 28 for what other bloggers said about their own and each others' discs.

The Undesirable Demographic

I am pretty OK being over 50. Yes, I am. On the other hand, I don't need constant reminders.

So, the umpteenth mailing from AARP and its various services gets tiresome. However, while many marketers have abandoned me because I'm no longer in the "desirable" 18-49 range (and given the junk snail- and e-mail I get, that's not all bad), there are some who have figured out that people MY age actually spend money!

So, I am trying to figure out how I feel about a recent e-mail I got.
This is a complimentary issue of Advising Boomer's e-News. You are not subscribed. To become a FREE subscriber and guarantee your continued delivery, send a blank email to: sub-advising_boomers@lists.highlinemedia.com

I'm always suspicious of sources that that say things like, "The Financial and Lifestyle Resource for Trusted Advisors". Indeed, anything with the word "lifestyle" sets my teeth on edge.
The sample articles were about
"A Boomer Look at Marriage": interesting
"Destiny: Americans Save Little For Retirement Health Expenses": stop depressing me
"Bush To Keep Talking About Social Security": MEGO

Well, I guess NOT.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Supreme surprise

One of the things that I think is generally a good thing is getting my assumptions challenged now and then. Well, that's happened to me this past month with regard to the Highest Court of the Land.

Apparently, the term "liberal" and "conservative" are not as meaningful on the Supreme Court as I thought they were, or mean different things than I thought. In the medical marijuana case that I mentioned on June 7Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the opinion, while Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, considered a moderate, penned the dissent, supported by the ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas, part of the conservative wing of the court.

Last week, in the eminent domain case, Justice Stevens, deemed the most liberal on the Court, wrote for the 5-4 majority in favor of the government, while Justice O’Connor again authored the dissenting opinion, saying that the Court abandoned a basic limitation on government power and, in doing so, "washed out any distinction between private and public use of property." O'Connor said economic development is not a constitutionally permissible reason to take people's land.

Further, she wrote: "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result." O'Connor was supported by the conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and again by Rehnquist and Thomas. I can’t remember the last time I agreed with Rehnquist AND Thomas on a non-unanimous decision twice in one month.

The cautious, mixed Ten Commandments ruling this week adhered more to the traditional liberal/conservative split of the Court.

I was disappointed by the marijuana ruling, and generally pleased by the Ten Commandments decision, but I remain deeply troubled by the eminent domain case. It appears that the underlying assumption in the latter case is that government will always work for the benefit of all, rather than just the "connected," and I'm suspicious enough of government - all government, however well-meaning - that that chance of greed and corruption driving a land grab is very high. I predict that in a couple decades, this ruling will be overturned when some egregious activities are uncovered.

My regrets to the folks of New London, CT, who have vowed to stay in their houses until the bulldozers come.

Monday, June 27, 2005

USA is NUTS!

I just read that the USA Network was born 25 years ago as basic cable's first general entertainment channel. It is celebrating its first year as part of the NBC Universal Television Studio (NUTS), which also includes Bravo and Telemundo. I tell you this merely so I could use the above title. This is just one more way I am trying to lose my serious, stuffy image.

Mixed CD-Greg Burgas

For some obscure reason, I was singing "Istanbul (not Constantinople)" in the locker room of the Albany Y a few weeks ago. I noted to one of my compatriots, Phil, that the original came out in 1953, the year I was born, but I didn't know who performed it. (It turned out to be the Four Lads. It entered the charts on 10/17 and went to #10.) Please know that I don't USUALLY go around singing "Istanbul".

I'm involved in this CD exchange among two dozen bloggers, organized by Chris "Lefty" Brown (May 23). The first disc to arrive was on that same day from a guy named Greg Burgas, and what's on it? "Istanbul"! It's the They Might Be Giants version (which I own), but still pretty spooky.

It's a pretty eclectic mix from Delenda Est Carthago, the name of his blog. Some of it I liked a lot. The title cut is a relatively obscure Diana Ross and the Supremes hit, "Forever Came Today," a fine song (though how that defines the theme of the disc, I'm not quite sure yet.) Only two songs I didn't care for, and I attribute that to a generational thing. (A Fred Hembeck lets me know that I'm the second oldest one in the exchange; he has 5 weeks on me.) One was Ugly in the Morning, an apt description of the Faith No More song, and the other some Jane's Addiction song that would have driven me to drugs if I didn't have willpower.

On the other hand, a lot of stuff worked. Alison Krauss' Down to the River to Pray (the second O Brother cut on the disc) oddly segues nicely with the guitar noodling in the beginning of a song by the hard rockin' Cinderella! Who knew? There are other links like that throughout.

But for me, THE find was: "Somewhere between a 1930s Cuban dance orchestra, a classical chamber music ensemble, a Brasilian marching street band and Japanese film noir is the 12-piece Pink Martini. Tasty. I want MORE.

(Oh, and I just figured out WHY Greg was first - his wife just had a baby. Congrats, Greg, but did you think having a baby might interfere with blogging and making mixed CDs? Can't understand THAT.)

OK so I wrote that, but now I have two dozen MORE CDs I should address. Four I haven't heard, and - fortunately - a few I haven't received yet. Don't know that I'll be as verbose in the future. BTW, I expect that, eventually, the song lists of all of these bloggers will show up on Lefty's page. If Chris' list shows up on the page, I'll link to that. MY list will show up on THIS page, also eventually.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Lydster -Part 15: Adventurers in Babysitting

I was reminding someone that I was going to be out of work for a day earlier this month in order to watch Lydia. Someone said, "Oh, you're going to babysit Lydia." Hmm. Can you babysit your own child? I've heard this before, and something about it has never resonated correctly with me, but maybe I'm being overly sensitive.

So, I go to several dictionaries to look up babysitting/babysitter:
  • to take care of someone's baby or child while that person is out, usually by going to their home
  • a person engaged to care for one or more children in the temporary absence of parents or guardians
  • a person who cares for or watches over someone or something that needs attention or guidance

    OK, so there's some wiggle room in the third definition.

    Then I asked Carol: "Has ANYONE EVER said to you, "Oh, you need to babysit Lydia [because she's sick, etc.]? And the answer, as I suspected, was "No." SHE watches, SHE tends to, SHE cares for. And I babysit? Nah, *I* watch, *I* tend to, *I* care for.

    I really believe the linguistic distinction matters. When she's ready to be in a relationship and have children THOUSANDS of years now, I want her to have a partner who is a caregiver, not a babysitter.

    Of course, it was difficult to give Lydia care when she went three or four days this month when she ONLY wanted Mommy, ironically around Father's Day, but that too has passed.

    What hasn't passed is her utter rejection of her high chair in the past 72 hours in favor of a "grown-up" chair that she can pull herself onto. She is now at the table (in the booster seat), just like everyone else.


    And that's what I learned about myself from my daughter THIS month. Happy year and a quarter, Lydia.
  • Saturday, June 25, 2005

    JEOPARDY Part 5

    Continued from Saturday, June 18.

    Why are there over a half dozen Boston media trucks parked in front of the Boston Park Plaza Hotel? It can't be for JEOPARDY!

    Being an information specialist, I figure I'd better find out, and who better to consult than the doorman?

    So, I asked him. He gave me that look that said, "You dummy!", but he answered, "The President's coming!" I was going to ask him the president of what, but then I got it. THE President is coming here? But why?

    As it turned out, President Clinton, Vice-President Gore, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and other dignitaries were going to be at the hotel for a fancy (read: high-priced) fund-raising dinner. The President was in Cincinnati earlier in the day, but was flying in for this evening.

    You need to remember the time frame: this was the Monicagate era. Eventually, I could look down from my upper story room (12th floor?) and see many hundred protesters. It seemed that they were split about 50/50. Half were upset with President Clinton because of his behavior and the effect it had on the country. But the other half was outraged by Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor, for putting all of the lurid details about Bill and Monica on the Internet. "Pornographer" was often used in the anti-Starr signage. (My view at the time was "a pox on both houses.")

    Judy, Max and I went to see an OMNIMAX showing of a movie about Mount Everest, which was most exciting. (Max going to the OMNIMAX - how cool is THAT for a teenager?, I thought). Then we went out to dinner. When we got back, 4 of the 5 building entrances were inaccessible for security reasons. (I heard later in an interview that Alex Trebek also had difficulty getting back in, but I did not see him.)
    There was a large canopy that stretched to the middle of the street. One could not see anyone coming in or out of the event. Cars would drive under the canopy, then out. When we walked back from dinner, we noted that the glass was tinted as well (and bullet-proof, too, I gather.) We also saw security on adjoining rooftops.

    We went into the hotel through the only means of access and went up to my room. Judy's car was in the lot, and she was unlikely to be able to get out very easily. Also, the event downstairs was apparently running late, so we watched the last episode of the Larry Sanders Show on HBO. Judy and Max left around 11:30, when the roads were finally clear, and they stayed at a nearby hotel. I went to bed but slept fitfully.

    The next morning, I went down to get my complementary breakfast, but I really couldn't eat. In fact, I was feeling a little queasy. We were to meet in the hotel lobby with our change of clothes at 11:30 a.m. We rode in a couple vans for the two or three block trip to the Wang Center.

    We went into a room and met Susanne Thurber, talent coordinator, who gave us tips on playing the game. Among other things, she noted that the place was much larger (seating capacity 3200) than the small theater where the show is filmed (250). She noted that a good game involves clearing the board, so we should go right to the next clue as soon as possible, always indicating the category and the amount. We should be upbeat. (She told us a lot of other good stuff which I’ve since forgotten.)

    Boston was really psyched to have JEOPARDY! in town. The show had traveled before, to Stockholm, Washington, DC and Berkeley, but this was a first for this town. I understand that it was chosen because of the extremely high viewership per capita. The Globe, the Herald, and even the Christian Science Monitor were there, interviewing Susanne, Alex Trebek, head writer Gary Johnson, and others.

    This is how the Boston Herald's Marisa Guthrie described the set (9/19/98): "The Wang stage was littered with Boston props, from a bigger-than-life sculpture of Paul Revere astride his trusty mare to a scaled-down replica of the Old North Church with the top of the steeple cut off. (It won't show up on camera anyway.)" There was a preponderance of red brick everywhere, from the game board to the players' lecterns.

    In fact, if you go here, and click on "Boston photo album", you'll see the set, including a picture of (ahem) me. If you're in the "Contestants" field, you will also see (er) me. (The interview section is no longer functional; whatever profundities that I said are now lost to the ages.)

    I'm wandering around on stage, when suddenly, I had the sense that I was being followed. Some guy I don’t know says, "Glad to see you, Roger. Good luck!"

    Continued on Saturday, July 2.

    Friday, June 24, 2005

    Memories of Pop

    So I went up to my attic, trying to find some memorabilia for a project I’m working on, about which I will tell you about soon. I didn’t find the memorabilia, but I DID find 10 notebooks I used as diaries between 1979 and 1987, which will also be helpful for that aforementioned mysterious project. But it IS rather painful to read about your immature, self-absorbed thoughts from 25 years ago. (As opposed to my current MATURE, self-absorbed thoughts.)

    One of the things I re-discovered was the death of my grandfather a quarter century ago this week. I knew he had died sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s, but the precise date had fled my memory.

    Pop is what we (my parents, my sisters and I) called my father’s father, McKinley Green. Everyone else called him Mac. My nuclear family lived downstairs in a very small two-family house in Binghamton. Pop and his wife, my Grandma Green, Agatha (and it was A gath’ a, not Ag’ ath a) lived upstairs. This was one of two houses owned my mother’s mother, Grandma (Gertrude) Williams, who lived about six blocks away. (HER death I remember quite well: Super Bowl Sunday, 1982.)

    Pop was a janitor at WNBF-TV and radio; eventually, the TV station was sold, but he maintained his job at the radio station. I’m not quite sure just how old was, but he was well past the age of retirement, yet the station kept him on to work as long as he wanted, and as much as he wanted. He was such an amiable man that people liked him to be around.

    He used to bring home albums (LPs) that had been discarded by the station. Most were "beautiful music" with no artist even listed, or in later years, obscure rock bands that I had never even heard of, but three discs stand out in my mind.
  • "50 Stars, 50 Hits on two great country albums!" That’s the way it was advertised on TV, and I was thrilled when Pop brought a copy home. It featured Buck Owens, George Jones, Minnie Pearl, T. Texas Ruby and many more -46 more, to be precise. In Binghamton in the 1960s, you could get these clear channels (not to be confused with the conglomerate Clear Channel) at night, and I could get stations in New York and Cleveland. I could also reach WWVA in Wheeling, WV, a country station, and I probably listened a couple nights a week for four or five years.
  • Gary Lewis and the Playboys Greatest Hits- Jerry’s son’s band doing The Loser (with a Broken Heart), Where Will the Words Come From, (You Don’t Have to) Paint Me a Picture, My Heart’s Symphony, and my favorite, Jill.
  • The soundtrack to the movie The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968). I saw this movie with my high school friend Carol and HER friend Judy, on whom I had a tremendous crush (though nothing ever came of it.) The film, starring Britt Eklund and Jason Robards, was the film debut of Elliot Gould and served as the final film for Bert Lahr. It started with Rudy Vallee saying: "In 1925, there was this real religious girl. And, quite by accident, she invented the striptease. This real religious girl. In 1925. Thank you." It also featured songs like "Take 10 Terrific Girls, But Only 9 Costumes." For a 15 year old, this was really hot stuff, even though the "striptease" in the movie lasted a nanosecond, so getting the album was quite fine.

    Pop was an avid hunter. He provided the vast majority of the venison I’ve ever eaten in my life. The only time I ever used a firearm was with Pop. We went out to the woods somewhere, and he gave me his rifle. I fired. Naturally, the recoil left me sitting on my butt. Pop also liked to bowl, work on cars, and especially go to the track, particularly in Monticello.

    I used to go upstairs and play gin rummy with him while we watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. In the later years, I’d beat him about 50% of the time. On a bulletin board, he had a faded newspaper clipping of Ed Marinaro, the Cornell running back, who was the son or nephew of a friend of his; Marinaro eventually played Officer Joe Coffey on Hill Street Blues.

    From my 6/26/1980 diary: "Pop was a very dark-skinned man with grey hair, thinning, but more prevalent than mine, combed straight back… I recall a certain twinkle in his eye, though I hadn’t seen him in a year and a half or longer; he was never home when I dropped by. I probably should have written more often, but he never wrote back...I would have called if had [had] a telephone, but he refused… The phone company would have required a deposit in switching service from Grandma Green’s name [she died in the mid-1960s] to his, even tho’ he had been paying the bills, [so he had the phone taken out.] He was stubborn that way."

    I was going to write about Pop’s death, and I will soon. But it was nice to write a little about Pop’s life.
  • Thursday, June 23, 2005

    Poor Lynn Moss

    When I worked at FantaCo back in the 1980s, I would see Lynn Moss occasionally. She was very patient with this guy she was married to. I really appreciated how she tolerated the comic fandom/geekdom she found herself was surrounded with. Also, her husband can be PRETTY obsessive, and he would (probably) agree with the assessment.

    And, since her husband's website has now become the mecca for all things comic book (and Beatles and "24" and their daughter Julie), it can only be worse now. Of course, in this case, she has only herself to blame, since she is the webmistress of said website. Though she has taught him some stuff, like how to do the daily postings, she's still there to troubleshoot.

    I tried to call her husband a couple weeks ago when his web server was (as it turned out) temporarily down, but he was out taking Julie horseback riding. So Lynn and I got to talk for the first time in at least 17 years, I believe. It was great. We talked about humor (something for a future blog, I think), FantaCo, blogging (she had read my then most recent post), and her technologically-impaired spouse.

    I’ve subsequently discovered that Lynn and I have a mutual acquaintance who was living on State Street in Albany at the same time Lynn and her hubby were first visiting FantaCo, a mere two blocks away, but never ran into each other. This is a fact that I gleaned because she saw mention of an old high school chum of hers in one of my blog posts, which pleased me greatly.

    So happy 26th anniversary, Lynn Moss and Fred Hembeck. Maybe Carol, Lydia and I will actually SEE youse guys and Julie one of these days. If you haven't already, read the LOVELY story about the photographer at their wedding here, and see some of those pictures here (June 23).

    Wednesday, June 22, 2005

    The sport of the gods

    I've mentioned only briefly that I try to play racquetball every weekday. (That HAS been tweaked somewhat by the arrival of the child, but it's still the goal.)

    What I've discovered is that racquetball, in some ways, is very much like baseball. BASEBALL? Yes.
  • You have to keep your eye on the ball
  • You must go where the ball is going to be, not where it is
  • Often, you have to back up to get the best defensive angle on the ball
  • Sometimes you hit it well and you're unsuccessful, while other times you hit it poorly and luck out
  • You have to change your pace
  • It's often a "matter of inches"
  • You can be down 14-1 and still come back and win

    I've played with a lot of guys, and a few women, over the years, but my main three competitors all have a FantaCo connection. Don Labriola was a FantaCo customer, as was Norm Nissen, best man in my wedding to Carol. Don had to stop playing (his knees, I think), but Norman & I are still at it nearly 20 years later.

    Tom Yanni has a more indirect FantaCo connection. He was going out with a woman named Debbie who had a roommate who was friends with FantaCo's Mitch Cohn. Tom and I played for about 15 years until he got married and moved to Rhode Island. He has a teenaged daughter and a new son, Sam, just a couple weeks older than Lydia.

    You really get to know people quite well when you play racquetball: how often they call a "hinder" on the shot, how often they hit someone with a shot (someone's almost always going to be hit by the shot, or more rarely, the racquet), how often they argue a call agreed to by the majority, how angry they get with themselves when they muff shots.
    You'll see a side of people others don't often see. One guy who we used to play cursed quite often; he was a minister who has since moved to Maryland. (But another minister we used to play, who has since moved to Pennsylvania, was the same on and off the court.)

    I used to play almost exclusively singles (2 of us) or cutthroat (3 of us), but I've played more partners in the last year or two than ever before, mostly due to circumstance. (The singles people used to come earlier and the doubles people later, but now we all show up at about the same time.)

    I know one guy who has a bad knee but plays when he can. His wife hid his racquet, but he found it, took it to play, then carefully replaced the racquet to its original place. Another guy had a stress test and was told by his doctor not to play until the test was over. Well, the day after the test, but before the results were in, he was back at it. The game has a devotion practically religious in nature. It was Norm who characterized racquetball as the "sport of the gods", and he may be right.

    So thanks, Norm, Mike, Alan, Danny, Stanley, and Sherman. Hope Charlie gets better. Hope the elusive Ted shows up sometime.
  • Tuesday, June 21, 2005

    Play ball!

    Today is the beginning of baseball season.

    WHAT? you proclaim. The Yankees, Mets, Red Sox and the other teams have been playing for nearly two months. Indeed they have, but I wasn't talking about Major League Baseball. I was talking about Minor League Baseball, specifically the Class A New York-Penn (NY-P) League.

    When I was growing up in Binghamton, my father or grandfather (but seldom both) would take me to see the Triplets. They were team in the Eastern League from 1923 to 1963 and again in 1967 and 1968. They were called the Triplets because they represented the Triple Cities in New York State's Southern Tier: Binghamton, Johnson City, and Endicott (the fact that only Binghamton was a city and the other two were villages is not germane to the discussion). The out-of-town papers referred to the team as Binghamton. They were an affiliate of the New York Yankees from 1932 to 1961, so I was a fan of the Bronx Bombers as a kid.
    I saw Al Downing pitch there. He eventually became a Yankee starter. (He was best known, though, for being the Dodgers pitcher when Atlanta Braves' star Hank Aaron hit home run #715 in 1973, breaking Babe Ruth's record.)
    The Triplets were a Kansas City Athletics affiliate in 1962 and 1963. The team spent three years (1964-66) in the lower level NY-P League, linked with the Milwaukee Braves the first year, and the Yankees subsequently before their brief return to the Eastern League, still affiliated with the Yanks. Then nothing, as Johnson Field was torn down after the 1968 season so that a newer Route 17 could be built west of Binghamton.

    That Yankee Class A NY-P team that was in Binghamton in 1965 & 1966 ended up in Oneonta for over 30 years before moving again. Oneonta is now a Tiger affiliate in the NY-P.

    Albany has had trouble fielding a team. For a time, they had an Eastern League team in Heritage Park in Colonie (near Albany) that was affiliated with the Oakland A's (1983-84), then the New York Yankees (1985-94.) I saw Bernie Williams play there. But those arrangements eventually collapsed.
    Then there were the Diamond Dogs (alas, no David Bowie) in an independent league not affiliated with major league baseball. I went to a few of those games and they were quite a bit of fun, though not always the highest caliber of play.
    Now, the Capital District has a new team, the Tri-Cities Valley Cats (the Tri-Cities in this case being Albany, Schenectady and Troy -- all CITIES) in the NY-P League.
    The out-of-town papers referred to the team as Troy. Today's opener is against the Oneonta Tigers at the Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, nicknamed "The Joe". (The running joke at the time: "It's a good thing his name wasn't John.") Joe Bruno is the Majority Leader in the New York Senate.

    One of the cool games this season will be on July 30, when the same two teams meet in Cooperstown at Doubleday Field. The Oneonta team has, for many years, gotten a "home" game there, and I understand that it's quite a thrill for the players. Since my father-in-law has had season tickets to the Oneonta Yankees -he saw Ricky Ledee play for them- and now the Oneonta Tigers, I've seen a couple games there myself.

    It's a bit surprising that a market the size of Albany/Schenectady/Troy has a Class A team, especially since Binghamton, which is about the size of Troy and half the size of Albany, once again has a team in the Class AA Eastern League, with a higher caliber of player.
    Last year, for the first time, I went to the stadium in downtown Binghamton where the Binghamton Mets have played for a few years, after a nearly three-decade gap for baseball in Binghamton. The program had third baseman David Wright on the cover; he'd already been promoted to the New York Mets, but that's baseball. It's a lovely stadium, but I have to think that foul balls must hit the cars driving by on Henry Street.

    In any case, if you like baseball, but have gotten cynical over Major League Baseball because of the salaries, or whatever, check out Minor League Baseball.

    Monday, June 20, 2005

    The twins

    "In the 1960's, there were two groups on Capitol Records - one American, the other British - whose name began with the letters 'B-E-A-.' Each of these groups featured a bass playing songwriter born in June of 1942, and each group made records that have withstood the test of time to become classics of popular culture."

    I started delivering the Press, the Binghamton evening and Sunday morning newspaper, back in the days when there were actually evening newspapers, in 1964 or early 1965. (The M-Sa morning paper was the Sun-Bulletin; the two papers subsequently merged into a seven-morning Press & Sun-Bulletin.)

    So, I had money of my own. Naturally, because I wanted to get all of the Beatles albums (I had some singles), I joined the Capitol Record club in 1965. My first album was Beatles VI, and I worked backward and forward from there, including this weird mostly talk album called The Beatles Story. I got Something New relatively early in the process. I distinctly remember getting Meet the Beatles in STEREO, which was a problem, because I only had a MONO player! There were directives about not playing a stereo record with a mono needle, lest you wreck the album. I didn't play Meet the Beatles for weeks, then I did, and it SEEMED OK...

    I also got Daydream by the Lovin' Spoonful, Herman's Hermits' Greatest Hits, the Hollyridge Strings performing Beatles tunes, some instrumentalist named Billy Strange, and, of course, BIG HITS FROM ENGLAND AND USA. One side had two songs each from BEATLES (England), BEACH BOYS (USA), and PETER & GORDON (England), the "kids" side; the Peter & Gordon cuts, not so incidentally, were by Lennon & McCartney. The other side contained 2 tunes by NAT KING COLE(USA) and CILLA BLACK (England), plus "Tears and Roses" by AL MARTINO (USA), the "adults" side. I probably still have it upstairs in the attic.

    Thus, my very first album I owned that featured the Beach Boys was on an album that also featured the Beatles. "I Get Around" was a great song that I had heard on the radio. But it was the other song, "Don't Worry Baby", a lovely ballad with exquisite harmonies that I don't think I had been familiar with, which really intrigued me. I'd heard many of the beach/girls/cars songs on the radio, but this was something special.

    So when it became available, I bought the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. As Paul McCartney noted, "Pet Sounds was my inspiration for making Sgt. Pepper's...the big influence. That was the big thing for me (in 1966). I just thought, 'Oh, dear me. This is the album of all-time. What are we going to do?'" Eventually, Paul gave a copy of Pet Sounds to all of his children. At the end of 1966, a year-end poll in one of England's music papers found The Beach Boys topping The Beatles as the #1 vocal group in the world.

    And, of course, the Beatles' Rubber Soul, one of my next record club purchases, inspired the Beach Boys' would-be legendary SMiLE, the album with a 37-year gestation period, finally released last year by the primary songwriter.

    So, here's to Paul McCartney, whose 63rd birthday was two days ago, and Brian Wilson, whose 63rd natal day celebration is today. Twins separated only by 48 hours and 6000 miles.

    ***
    And speaking of vintage music, the 25th Annual Old Songs Festival is this weekend at the Altamont Fairgrounds near Albany. There was a stretch when I used to go every year, but that pattern has been altered. We PLAN to attend this year, and I hope to meet up with a friend (SKA) I haven’t seen in about three years.

    Of course, yesterday, for Father’s Day, we PLANNED to go out miniature golfing, but then Lydia fell asleep on her mother’s lap for two hours, then she was hungry, then she needed changing, etc., etc. Was it Bobby Burns who said something about plans and rodents and people?

    Sunday, June 19, 2005

    Let's Get Physical

    I went to the doctor last week for my annual physical. The results: HEIGHT: 5’11 13/16” – strange, I’ve GROWN 3/16” in the past 32 years? WEIGHT: Too Much, but 5 pounds less than last year at this time.

    I really like my doctor. She really listens. She also rants about the same things I do, like pagers.

    One of the things on her checklist is to make sure I have a current Health Care Proxy, and I do, most recently updated in 2003. My wife has a copy, my geographically nearer sister has a copy and my doctor has a copy. If the Terry Schiavo case (a real lose-lose situation) showed anything, it is that people ought not want their spouse, parents, siblings and/or adult children fighting in court over who gets to decide end-of-life issues. Most of us don’t like to think of death, but barring Armageddon, it is inevitable. So I feel it is a kindness to have at least this issue under control.

    Yet there are some people, including people to whom I am related, who do not have a Health Care Proxy (the linked form is for NYS). Let this be yet ANOTHER subtle reminder.

    Juneteenth

    I was really good at American history. I knew (still know) the U.S. Presidents in order. Of course, I knew about the end of the Civil War at Appomattox.

    My (now late) friend Donna George was helping to plan the annual meeting of the Albany United Methodist Society, an entity that has food and clothing programs, a few years back. Donna was very excited that the event was planned for "Juneteenth". I nodded.
    I had NO idea what she was talking about.

    The Civil War may have ended in April 1865, but the WORD took a while to reach the whole country. And in Texas, it wasn't until June 19 until the news came down that the war was over and that the slaves were free.

    Why did I not know this until my forties? What else did I miss out on?

    Somehow, this reminded me of something I remember reading in library school, probably in the 601 (introductory) course. Daniel Boorstin, the former Librarian of Congress, who died a couple years ago, was a very prolific writer. One of the things he said, and this is HEAVILY paraphrased, is that information disappears in a number of ways. One is by war and conquest, when to the victor belongs not only the spoils, but the chance to write (and rewrite) history.

    Another is by changing technology. Think of some great album (LP) you owned that's NOT on CD, or an old movie that's NOT on DVD or even video. Remember the information on reel-to-reel tapes, which would be very difficult to access; or all the microfiche for which readers are harder and harder to come by.

    So, here's to the preservationists:
    Those archaeologists who are going to find out about those folks recently disinterred during construction in Menands.
    Those folks in Save the Pine Bush and similar groups that believe in biodiversity.
    Those folks in Hollywood and DC saving our literally deteriorating film history.

    A special thanks to my friends Paul and Mary Liz Stewart, who are preserving the history of the Underground Railroad in Albany through a series of tours each summer. Future tours will take place this year on June 26, July 24, August 21, September 18, and October 9, starting at 2:00 from the Albany Area Heritage Visitor's Center at Quackenbush Square.
    They have also purchased a building that was pivotal in the UGRR movement in Albany and are in the midst of restoring it.

    Finally, on this 140th anniversary, thanks to the Juneteenth descendants who have kept this piece of history alive.
    .

    Saturday, June 18, 2005

    JEOPARDY! Part 4

    Continued from Saturday, June 11.

    It was five weeks from the time I was notified that I would appear on JEOPARDY! until the taping of the show.

    One week later, our office received some devastating news: the contract that all but one of the librarians was working under for the last six years was going elsewhere, meaning the very real possibly that most of us were going to be out of a job! This was VERY disappointing because, by all accounts, we had been doing very good work; we were apparently underbid. So much for relaxing.

    Meanwhile, I run into a woman who works in my building. She and her sister are about to appear on Wheel of Fortune. There's a nice story about them in the August 17 Times Union. I talked with her a few times. (If memory serves me, they won, but they got lots of prizes instead of cash, and had to sell a car they got so that they could pay their taxes.)

    One of the semi-cool things about the show being taped in Boston is that there are certain things JEOPARDY! will pay for that they would not otherwise. When the show is in Los Angeles, you pay to get there and back (which is why there are so many Southern California contestants), and you pay to stay there and eat there. (Tournament play, though, has different rules, I've been told.) In Boston, I had to get there and back on my own, but it’s easier and cheaper to get to from Albany, of course. However, JEOPARDY! was putting up the contestants for this special "thirteen colonies week" in the Boston Park Plaza Hotel for two nights, September 17 & 18 - sweet! And while dinner was on our own, the show did provide two breakfast vouchers for September 18 and 19. This is because the SHOW is "on the road." This makes no real sense to me, but I am not complaining!

    I went out with my friend Lori and bought a suit and a pair of shoes to wear on the show. (I seldom wear shoes unless they’re required, and at the time, it was Chuck Taylors of various colors that was the footwear of choice.)

    I get a Federal Express package on September 4 with further instructions that include:
    Wardrobe : Bring with you two changes of clothes for a total of three outfits.
    Men : Dressy casual, suit, sport coat, sweater. Any of the above looks are fine. If possible, bring an additional sports coat or sweater (with tie) to see what looks best on camera...
    Please no jeans or sneakers (men and women.)...no black/whiteprints, no busy prints.
    WE ALSO NEED TO REMIND YOU THAT THERE IS NO GUARANTEE OF AN APPEARANCE ON THE SHOW. SULLIVAN COMPLIANCES HAS THE FINAL SAY IN THIS MATTER.
    All in CAPS. (Of course most of the sheet was in caps.) But this jumped out at me- one more way I WON'T make it on the show? Paranoia strikes deep in the heartland.

    Around this same time, I developed what can only be described as the worst toothache in the world. I went to the dentist three times in a week and a half. He prescribed pain medications, but I still felt lousy. Worse, I felt logy and dopey and in no condition or mood to study. Whatever last-minute cramming I might have done - I used to be good at last minute cramming – went out the window.

    I went to work that Monday and Tuesday before the taping, but on Tuesday, I asked to take off the next day, Wednesday, September 16, so that I could pack and rest, and perhaps even study. My boss, the Hoffinator, was usually pretty good about these requests, but on this particular day, she became slightly blanched. "OK", she said, "but you have to come in at 3 p.m." 3 p.m.? Then I figured it out.
    I came in at the appointed hour, and there was a "surprise" send-off party for me, complete with cake with wording like: A: "The next Jeopardy champion." Q: "Who is Roger Green?" Someone made me a sheet that said "ROGER GREEN, JEOPARDY! wants YOU!", with Alex Trebek’s visage on it.

    The next day, my friend Judy Doyle and her son Max picked me up. I knew Judy from college in New Paltz (c. 1977), and she briefly worked at the SBDC with me some 20 years later. She was then living in Corning with her son Max. She drove from Corning to Albany, some 210 miles, and picked me up with my requisite three suits (including the new one), five ties, two shirts, and my new shoes. After a brief respite, we traversed another 175 miles to the Massachusetts state capital. ("State capitals:" a popular JEOPARDY! category.) Even before I got in the car, I pulled out my World Almanac, hoping to read something that might come up, assuming that it would stick to my brain. For some reason, I focused on the levels of the atmosphere: stratosphere, ionosphere, and so on.

    We get to the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, a very nice hotel. It was oddly shaped to fit the space that was available, I gather. (The alternative is that it was already oddly-shaped and they built the streets around it!)

    There are several television trucks from different stations in front of the building. Since JEOPARDY! is only on one station in this market, something else important must be happening. What the heck is going on?

    Continued on Saturday, June 25.

    Friday, June 17, 2005

    Father's Day

    The first Father's Day without my father, in 2001, was the hardest time I had since he died in August 2000. Harder than his funeral (when I went on autopilot), Christmas, or my parents' anniversary or even his birthday (which came only a month and a half after his death, so perhaps I hadn't fully absorbed it.)
    That first Father's Day, the world seemed to prattle on, like verbal bullies on the playground, "We have a father, and you--- don't."

    Father's Day 2002 and 2003 were somewhat better, though I found myself occasionally jealous of people with fathers.

    Father's Day 2004 was definitely a mixed bag. It was the first year I was a father and I got a lot of affirmation, especially from my mother, my sisters, my fellow church members, my friends.
    Still, I was missing my father in a whole new way. I wondered, "What kind of advice would he have given me?" and "Would I have accepted it?" I felt that whatever he might have said to my sisters when they were raising their daughters wouldn't necessarily apply to me. It was a "guy thing", but I don't know how that would manifest itself in this situation. And, of course, I wish that my father had been able to see my daughter. (A belief in an afterlife assuages this only marginally.)

    As another Father's Day approaches, I hope that Lydia will give me socks, like I gave my dad. I think that this year, I'll be able to concentrate on the joy instead of the sorrow. Indeed, I know that I'm feeling easier now about being a father. It's not that I know much more; it's that I'm not so concerned about not knowing what I'm doing like I did last year. (This may be a function of the fact that I have had somewhat more sleep in June 2005 than in June 2004.)

    And I hope that if someone reading this has a living father with whom he or she is estranged, reconciliation may be found. Despite our occasional turmoil, my father and I ended up in a pretty good place with each other. For that, I do feel very fortunate.

    Thursday, June 16, 2005

    Non-matriculating

    I have never seen "The Graduate."

    I've never seen lots of movies in my time, but "The Graduate" was supposed to be one of THE movies of MY generation.

    In the summer of '68, I was at a Christian summer camp. I was at a theological crossroads that I will explain some other time. In any case, the folks at this particular facility considered themselves more enlightened than some other Christian folks. So, while other church groups forbade ever seeing ANY movie (except, I'd guess, "The Ten Commandments" and "The Robe"), this body was "liberal" enough to permit the viewing of some movies. Disney movies, which, at the time, was synonymous with "family movies."

    I wondered aloud about what the meaning of the line "Jesus loves you more than you will know," in the Simon & Garfunkel song Mrs. Robinson, which was featured in the movie. "Ooh, no, you don't want to see THAT," one of the adults proclaimed. So, I didn't. My views on the world evolved, and I later decided that it would be all right to see "The Graduate."

    I have The Graduate soundtrack, an odd item that, with all those somewhat schlocky Dave Grusin instrumentals, and at least three variations on Mrs. Robinson. And I love the extended version of Scarbourough Fair/(Canticle). That album (9 weeks at #1) and Bookends (7 weeks at #1, also featuring Mrs. Robinson) both dominated the charts in the spring of 1968.

    I have seen movie clips such as "Plastics" and "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me, aren't you?", the latter delivered by Dustin Hoffman to Anne Bancroft. I probably saw them on the Oscars or one of those American Film Institute shows. Not so incidentally, there's another AFI program, on Movie Quotes, Tuesday, June 21 on CBS at 8 p.m. EDT. Both quotes are on the list of the 400 nominated quotes, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if one or both appear on the final list of 100. Yet, somehow, in nearly 40 years,I've never actually seen The Graduate, though I've watched the last scene, on the bus.

    The movie has been on TV, available on video, and for the last year, on DVD. Anne Bancroft, who died June 6 of uterine cancer, expressed surprise that The Graduate is the movie by which she was most remembered, rather than The Miracle Worker (1962), which I also haven't seen. But I have seen her in The Turning Point (1977), Agnes of God (1985), How to Make an American Quilt (1995), G.I. Jane (1997), and probably others, plus I heard her in Antz (1998).

    Mel Brooks once said in a 60 Minutes interview that God gave him one great gift and that was Anne Bancroft. My condolences to Mel. So here's to you, Anne Bancroft: I'll go out and see The Graduate AND The Miracle Worker this summer.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2005

    Don't care

    If he were found guilty, you would have gotten, "We always knew that." And since he was found not guilty, you'll get, "The D.A. put on a poor case" or "His expensive lawyer got him off."

    But if YOU care, go here-June 14. You'll also find a link to yesterday's blog on THIS page. In other words, you'll go 'round in circles, get dizzy and fall down.

    Lunaversary TM

    lunaversary (loon' a ver' sah ree) - the monthly recurrence of a notable event. At the half-year point in their relationship, Roger chimed, "This is our sixth lunaversary!"

    "Six month anniversary." Something is just linguistically WRONG about that. Anni- refers to year. Now semi-anniversary, or some variation, maybe.

    You may have read about the recent study about the "swooning magic of head-over-heels love." Researchers "found high amounts of activity in a 'reward' part of the brain when the smitten subjects were shown photos of their honeys. That part of the brain has previously been linked to the desire for cocaine, chocolate and money. 'It shows us exactly why love looks so crazy. It's activating these circuits that are associated with very intense desire,' said SUNY Stony Brook psychologist Arthur Aron, who [helped lead] the study."

    Well, luna- is the prefix, not just for moon-based objects, from which the word "month" comes, but for "lunatics" and "lunacy," all the things "early-stage intense romantic love" is.

    I sent this word to William Safire's "On Language" column in the New York Times about a dozen years ago. Safire thought it was interesting construction, and wrote that he considered using it in his column, but never did. (But a question I had about "Joe Sixpack" did appear in a Safire column.)

    Use at will. Tell them when they say "fifth month anniversary" that the PREFERRED term is "fifth lunaversary."

    You never heard of lunaversary before? That's because I created it. Impress your friends, and confound those who aren't.

    This would be Carol's and my 73rd lunaversary, except that it isn't really the way I envisioned using the term. We have a more stable, MATURE love. But we do try to go out to a dinner date once a month around the 15th (sometimes two days early or three days late.) Maybe we CAN still use lunaversary...

    Tuesday, June 14, 2005

    Ragged Old Flag

    My family was not one that flew the flag on major patriotic holidays (Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, etc.) I don't know why, and I never asked. One could theorize, and my May 30 post may provide some insight, but it would be just an educated guess. They may not have even owned one.
    So I was a bit surprised when I went down to visit my family in North Carolina in 2002 that there was this flag motif in the front yard. Of course, my father was deceased by then, but it got me thinking that there's one thing 9/11 definitely DID change.

    (There's an interesting debate about flag pins in the Letters to the Editor section of a webpage I came across.)

    After 9/11, and the beginnings of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there have been lots of flags put up, not just in front of homes, but from vehicles, at highway overpasses, in store windows, and the like.

    Though I still don't own a flag myself, I've found that I have been bothered by the well-meaning displays of the colors, but not for the reasons you might guess. It bugs me because too many of them look TERRIBLE- flags that are frayed, torn, soiled, faded.

    There are rules for displaying the flag in the U.S. Code, the codification of laws in the United States, and one section deals specifically with treatment of the colors.

    You don't make a scarf for a dog in the Memorial Day parade out of a small flag (as I saw in Oneonta this year.)

    When a flag is worn out, you take it and ceremonially burn it. Yes, burn it. There was a real to-do about creating an anti-flag burning amendment to the Constitution a few years back. I always wondered how it would have been worded so that the legitimate disposal of the flag could be achieved.

    So, if you have a flag, or have put a flag in a public place, check it out. If it looks worn out, take it down, and dispose of it properly. If the idea of burning the flag bothers you, bring it to the local VFW. It's very likely that they will do it for you.

    If you want, get a new flag to replace the old. Do it now, in this prime flag flying period that ends on Independence Day. If you're going to do it, do it right.

    I know that Johnny Cash performed a song called Ragged Old Flag, but it was ragged because it had been through battle, not through the car wash once too often.

    Monday, June 13, 2005

    TW3 Contest Winner

    TW3 refers to That Was The Week That Was, a show I watched back in 1964-65, which (don't hold me to this, as it was 40 years ago) was an antecedent of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart blended with the political satire of Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update, mixed with the old Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

    And the winner of yesterday's contest is (oh, no, not him again!): Fred "Too Much Useless Information in His Brain" Hembeck!

    Note to MR: you were the first to guess, but you got the first word incorrect.

    THE RULES, Part 2 (of 37) Finding the Tunes

    A friend of mine started reading my blog a few days ago and said, "Heavy stuff!" Hmm, this about a blog that has revealed that the creator makes bird noises? OK, something REALLY frivolous, then:
    I arrange my CDs (and used to arrange my LPs, before they got moved around so often that they have no particular order) in this way:
  • Classical, by composer (and chronologically within the composer range)
  • Classical compilations, alphabetically by title
  • Pop, by artist (and chronologically within the artist range)
  • Pop compilation, by title

    Of course, these are RULES, so it's never that simple.
  • Classical means that the composer is more prominent than the performer: Beethoven, Gershwin, Scott Joplin- all classical
  • Pop is defined as "everything else". I know some folks put their music in categories: folk, jazz, heavy metal, whatever. My problem is that I don't think the labels really MEAN anything. Recently, I was in a conversation about "punk". Were the Ramones punk? Was the Clash, or were they too competent? I've read the definition of "emo", e.g., and STILL don't know what it is.
    Moreover:
    Bruce Springsteen won a Grammy for contemporary folk. Am I to put that album in one category and, say, "Born in the U.S.A." in another?
    A more striking example is k.d. lang, who started off as a country artist and became a chanteuse. It's much easier just to look under "L".

    Besides, an alphabetical list generates a more interesting shelf read: Bill Miller (Native American/popular), Glenn Miller (big band), Roger Miller (country), Steve Miller (rock). "Shelf read": a librarian must have written that.

    In the pop compilation category, I violate my own rules (but they're MY rules, so I can do that), in the placement of tribute albums, mostly because I'm having an increasingly difficult time REMEMBERING what they're called. So I've moved:
  • Common Threads from C to E (for Eagles)
  • Complete Stax/Volt Singles from C to S
  • Come Together (both of them, one country, one Motown) from C to B (for Beatles)
  • Enconium to from E to L (for Led Zeppelin)
  • For the Love of Harry from F to N (for Nilsson)
  • Till the Night is Gone from T to P (for Doc Pomus)
  • "Tribute to..." albums from T to the respective artists (M for Curtis Mayfield, V for Stevie Ray Vaughn, e.g.)
  • All the albums starting with "Concert for" under the next significant word (Bangladesh, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

    You may think this is anal. *I* think this may be anal. But I can FIND items in my collection, which is all a librarian can really want.
  • Sunday, June 12, 2005

    TW3: 5-11 June 2005

    Did you know that Nevada was the fastest growing state between 1990 and 2000? And it continues its meteoric growth into the 21st Century. There are two vital technologies that have allowed this to happen, one of which is millennia old, the other only a century: irrigation and air conditioning.

    Ah, central air conditioning, something I've suddenly started to covet. The fans aren't cutting it. We talked to our contractor this week about insulating the attic, which should not only make it warmer in the winter, but cooler in the summer. But he'd have to start early on a day like the ones we've had recently, lest he passes out from heat prostration.

    We’ve been talking to our neighbors about building a new fence. Carol and I have been in this house only five years, but the deterioration of it in that time has been astonishing. With small children on both sides, it's time to take action.

    Speaking of small children, I missed a day and a half of work this week. Our childcare provider was chaperoning a gathering that included her teenaged daughter on Monday, and she had a doctor's appointment on Friday morning. I mentioned to a co-worker that 3.5 days is harder than 5, and he agreed. There are only two kinds of jobs, I reckon, one where the work gets done whether you're there or not: bank teller (which I did for a month), store clerk. Then there are the other ones, where the work will still be there, like the reference questions I do at SBDC or the mail order I used to do at FantaCo. *I* can take the day off, but the WORK doesn't take a day off.

    And on that day and a half, I watch Lydia go up and down the stairs, using the railing rather than the crawling she's done for months. It's great until she gets to the 10th step and turns around, HANDS FREE, as though she were saying, "Hey, look at me!" THEN I get nervous. Because I was watching Lydia, I got to racquetball only 3 days out of 5. But I got enough exercise yesterday.

    There have been a number of fires in Albany recently, some of them by arson. A church friend of mine had her apartment building engulfed in a (non-arson) major fire last week. Though her apartment wasn't set aflame, it suffered considerable smoke and water damage. A bunch of us went over to her place yesterday to gather up whatever is salvageable. We wanted to go over at 8 a.m., but the building manager wasn't available until 10:30, by which time the day has warmed up considerably. Some of us working on the place had a lengthy conversation about the value of renter's insurance (which my friend had) and of maintaining an inventory of items in another place (at work, e.g.)

    Another friend of mine lost her job this week because of administrative ineptitude, and I talked with her about it. Her husband was feeling a bit melancholy about the political situation in this country, and we spoke at length about maintaining hope.

    The elementary school Lydia is likely to attend in Albany is Public School No. 16. Last weekend there was an open house for the 99-year old building, which is scheduled for demolition next month, to be rebuilt in the next year or so. Lots of people made the trek, even from out of state, as evidenced by the fact that we had to park a couple blocks away from our house at the time of the event.

    Yesterday, there was a school dance at P.S. No. 16. We were surprised to see a couple we knew (who live in the 'burbs of Albany) in front of our house, on the way to the school. They have a new foster son attending the dance. (Note to IH: if you actually print your blog, I WILL link to it.)

    First person who correctly identifies the reference in the title gets my never-ending respect. (You expected a PRIZE, maybe?)

    Saturday, June 11, 2005

    JEOPARDY! Part 3

    Continued from Saturday, June 4.

    So, all that effort to get on could come to naught, even though I passed the test?

    I thought to keep a journal of my JEOPARDY! experience at the time, but, as it turned out, I made only one entry. Rob Owen was the TV/radio columnist for the (Albany) Times Union:

    5-22-98: Read Rob Owen's column about the successful Boston JEOPARDY! tryout contestants. On one hand, I was pleased that the Capital District fared so well. On the other hand, I regret not having made the T-U web page list. [Apparently, the people who passed the test in Boston were listed on the Times Union web page.] Also, the greater number of contestants (50) from the area minimizes my chances of getting on. (How generous of spirit, eh?) I believe the 50 contestants who passed were out of 150, rather than 75, as listed in the original ad, but it didn't change the math.

    After I got through the DC test, I tried to keep a good thought. I called my office, and told the folks that I had passed.

    That was a mistake.

    Nearly every weekday in the rest of the month, someone (and there was one person in particular) asked me whether I had heard anything from JEOPARDY! I had not. The same thing went on for all of June.

    Meanwhile, WTEN did a story on a couple people who tried out at Crossgates Mall, went to Boston and passed the audition. The station went to their respective places of employment and surprised one man and one woman with the news that they would be on JEOPARDY! (Unfortunately, I do not remember their names or their JEOPARDY! fates.) I get through July and I hear NOTHING.

    Thursday, August 13, I'm sitting at my desk, when our secretary Jeanette buzzes my phone. "It's JEOPARDY!" The next thing I hear is: "Roger Green? " "Yes?" "I'm Grant Loud from JEOPARDY! This is the call!"

    "This is the call." What an interesting choice of words. It was almost like he considered it a metaphysical calling. And maybe it was.

    Grant explained that this would be a special series of programs filmed in Boston. They were taking only people who resided in the original 13 colonies for this week of programs. Would I be available on September 17 and 18? Yes! Would I be available for October 2 and 3 in Los Angeles? (If I had won the Friday game, I would need to continue in LA. I had to check. I was scheduled to be in a conference in San Diego sometime around then.) "Call me back in five minutes."
    OK, the conference was on October 6. I could fly to LA and have time to get to San Diego. OK, call me back, Grant.

    And I waited. OK, it was only 22 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity before he called again. Grant and I talked about the logistics, how I would need to get myself to Boston on the 18th.

    OK. I'm going to be on Jeopardy! I'M GOING TO BE ON JEOPARDY! I sat my desk, wanting just to savor the moment, absorb it, perhaps wallow in it a bit. This wallowing lasted perhaps four seconds.

    "Well? Well?" hollers my colleague Anne, almost before she got to my office door. Undoubtedly, Jeanette had told her about the two calls. I told her the news. Rejoicing ensued.

    Soon, I got in the mail a thick contact. (I'm sure I made a copy, but I can no longer find it.) It said stuff like they can use my likeness in their promotions, I can't market the fact that I was on the show before it aired. I gave it to my friend Janna, who is a lawyer. She said it was standard release language.

    I receive tickets for the show tapings. (I think I asked for three; I could have gotten six.)

    I also got the JEOPARDY! Information Sheet that asked for five items that they would use for their "chat cards". I wrote:
    1. I own 1200 LPs, 1000 CDs, a few hundred cassettes, (but zero 8-tracks.) I had a 33 1/3 birthday party.
    2. I introduced Rod Serling -almost. I met Earl Warren.
    3. In our office, we used the JEOPARDY! calendar for team building. [I figured they might glom onto this one. They LOVE JEOPARDY!-related stories.]
    4. I need to avoid mountains - I tore out my knee on one mountain and almost got blown off another.
    5. The Heimlich maneuver works.

    I return the form.

    And now, I figure, I'll just relax, study and wait.

    But the next week, something happens quite distressing, which made relaxing nearly impossible.

    Continued on Saturday, June 18.

    Friday, June 10, 2005

    Hello, It's NOT Me

    I have a CitiBank credit card. Naturally, I was thrilled to hear this week that information on nearly four million CitiGroup customers was lost. Lost by UPS. Lost in transit to one of the credit reporting bureaus. Oops! I don't know that this particular boo boo will affect me personally, but it does create a certain dis-ease.

    There have been several companies, including large banks and retailers, who have announced that information about customers or employees, including credit-card information, had been compromised. As I understand it, this does not necessarily reflect an increase in these types of events, but is rather in response to a California law requiring notification to customers of a security breach that could potentially allow for identity theft.

    If you're not from California, you might say, "So what?"

    So this: with about a sixth of the country's population residing in the Golden State, it was easier for Bank of America to admit last February that it lost computer backup tapes containing personal information publicly, rather than parcing out which of the 1.2 million charge cards that were potentially compromised had a California connection.

    But what to do about the larger problem of identity theft?

    One thing everyone should do is get a FREE copy of your credit report from each of the credit reporting companies once every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a brochure, Your Access to Free Credit Reports, explaining your rights and how to order a free annual credit report.

    Now, I haven't taken advantage of this because the free reports have been phased in during a nine-month period, starting on the West Coast last December 1, to the Midwest on March 1, to the South on June 1. It won't be until September 1 that free reports will be accessible to everybody, including those in CT, DE, ME, MD, MA, NH, N J, NY!, NC, PA, RI, VT, VA, WV, DC, PR, and all U.S. territories.

    There's a toll-free number to order the report: 877-322-8228, or by completing the request form on the FTC site and mailing it. The instructions read like this:
    "When you order, you need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. To verify your identity, you may need to provide some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment." In other words, the FTC doesn't want a tool designed to prevent ID theft to become a tool to PERPETRATE ID theft; clever bureaucrats they are.

    I did a presentation on identity theft a couple years ago at a conference. I don't think it went as well as it should have, partly because, frankly, a lot of the participants knew as much as I did. But, FWIW, here are some recommended other tools if you think your credit has been compromised:

  • Putting a fraud alert on your credit reports (companies should call you to verify your identity whenever they check your credit report with the intention of opening an account in your name or making any changes to an existing one.), at all three credit bureaus -- Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian (888-397-3742) and TransUnion (800-680-7289). And do so every 90 days.
  • Consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. I utilize this myself.
  • Tell your beneficiaries, since the Social Security numbers of the beneficiaries on your 401(k) account or life insurance policy might be compromised as well.
  • Change your bank account numbers.
  • Insist on identifiers other than your Social Security number. I've had testy conversations with health care providers who insist on my Social Security number when is not my health ID number. My insurance company allowed for non-SS ID numbers a couple years ago, and I was one of a relatively few who took advantage, but as of this year, all the ID numbers are bizarre alphanumerics, which suits me fine.
  • Opt out of pre-approved credit offers by calling the Automated Credit Reporting Industry (888-567-8688).
    There are some others, but you get the picture.

    It seems to me that this type of white-collar crime is finally getting its due share of contempt.
  • Thursday, June 09, 2005

    Bus Rider (w/ apologies to the Guess Who)

    I like the bus, I really do. I wish more people would take it, making issues of downtown parking in Albany (and undoubtedly elsewhere) less of a problem . I wish that urban sprawl would not make it so difficult to facilitate usable bus routes, because all of those single-passenger cars are helping to create a lot more air pollution.

    And I've had some very good bus experiences. There's a guy from my choir, Bruce, who I chat with about the world. There's Shirley, the Red Cross cookie lady, who always asks about my family. Just last week, I ran into a woman with a daughter Lydia's age -- and another child who is 25! And there are other interesting folks.

    Having said that, I had a couple bus experiences this year that weren't so great. But these are exceptions, the EXCEPTIONS. I like the bus.

    One day, I took the #10 Western Avenue bus so I could get to an event. We'd gone about three blocks when a woman in a wheelchair got on the bus. I think it's great how the bus creates a ramp to let in those physically challenged. The bus driver pushes up a couple seats which expose the base from which the wheelchair can be secured. Well, the driver thought it was secured, but the woman in the wheelchair did NOT. The driver fussed with it for five minutes, but the rider was not satisfied. The bus driver was obviously getting very frustrated. Finally, the passenger said it was OK to go.
    We go four more blocks when another woman getting on the bus fell. This would involve calling the dispatcher and making a report, so I got off that bus, walked a block, then caught the next bus. Fortunately, the event was later than I thought and all ended well.

    Another day, I took the #63 bus. It's a bus that starts downtown Albany, makes a couple turns in the city, and ends up fairly close to the #10 bus route for a while, eventually ending up in Schenectady. It started about 5 minutes late. It is the last bus on this route for the night.
    A woman was chatting away about some TV show (I believe it was "Desperate Housewives") in a quite loud voice with a level of detail that suggested that she thought they were real people. And apparently, she didn't find it necessary to breathe, but was seemingly enamored of her own voice. Right before the bus makes the right turn from Lark Street onto Madison Avenue, she announces that she's going to look left on Madison to see if a particular person was coming. We make the turn, and she yells to the bus driver, "STOP THE BUS! SHE'S COMING!" The bus driver, who was black (not so incidentally), was somewhat confused/startled, but complied, then the woman got out to get the would-be passenger (WBP). "Don't leave without me! I've got my things in there!" she proclaimed. He yells to the woman as she, none-too-quickly, goes back to WBP, "Hurry up, lady! I've got a route to complete!"
    Passenger gets back to the bus WITHOUT WBP; because WBP figured the bus had already passed (remember it had started late), WBP had called her boyfriend for a ride. Now, the passenger is arguing about this with the driver WHILE SHE IS STANDING OUTSIDE OF THE BUS. "Get in!" the other passengers, including me, scream. She does, but orates that she would want someone to do the same for her. She then opines that "you blacks live in the city, you can take another bus, but it was her [WBP's]last opportunity." She went on in this vein for a couple minutes. Now, it was true that I could have taken the #10 20 minutes later and gotten to nearly the same place. It was also true that WBP's options were limited. But her (unnecessary) racial characterization was bizarre; there were as many white people as black people on the bus, and there were undoubtedly some black people on that bus for which that vehicle was their last option as well. As I got off the bus, I told her that I didn't appreciate her "racist crap." The incident put me in a bit of a sour mood until I got home and saw Lydia.

    But I really like the bus. REALLY. It's a good thing, the bus. Ride the bus. Mass transit rules.

    Wednesday, June 08, 2005

    Antoinette

    I watch the Oscars because, B.L. (Before Lydia), I would have seen at least 70% of the award nominees in the major categories (movie, director, 2 actor, 2 actress, and 2 screenplay categories.) I root for my favorite shows on the Emmys. I like to watch the Grammys to hear the artists I’ve read about in magazines but never actually heard, usually in the minor categories.

    ("I like to watch." I sound like Chauncey Gardiner (Peter Sellers) in Being There, a 1979 movie that is one of my favorites.)

    But I watch the Tony Awards because it is generally all I know of the shows on Broadway. I mean, there usually ONE show I’ve heard of (this year’s winning musical Spamalot, The Producers from a couple seasons ago), but that’s it, except for the revivals.

    I like to discover that a number of actors better known from other venues are on the boards. In the "featured actor (play)" category, Alan Alda (West Wing), Gordon Clapp (N.Y.P.D. Blue) and winner in his Broadway debut Liev Schrieber (the remake of the movie The Manchurian Candidate) all were in a revival of Glengarry Glen Ross. The "actress (play)" category was filled with women best known for film (Laura Linney, Mary-Louise Parker, Kathleen Turner) and television (Phylicia Rashad), though most (or all) have been on Broadway before. Rashad won last year for A Raisin in the Sun; Cherry Jones (winner a decade ago for The Heiress) won this year for Doubt.

    And I don’t watch ANY of these shows to find out who won. In fact, I've seen only the first hour of the show Sunday night, but I already know the results. I like to see HOW they won, how the people react, so I’ll watch the tape at my leisure.

    I STOPPED watching the Tonys on Sunday because it was Lydia’s bedtime, and the quietness of the house seems to maximize the possibly that she’ll actually go to sleep and stay that way. By the time she was in bed, I flicked through the channels and ended up watching the Mets beat the Giants. (Incidentally, the musical The Light in the Piazza apparently has nothing to do with Mets catcher Mike Piazza.)

    My buddy Fred Hembeck has been extolling the wonderfulness of one Mark Evanier for some time, and Mark has a lot to say about the Tonys that I found interesting on June 5 and 6, and even on June 4, when he predicted most of the winners correctly. He also writes about medical marijuana (6/6) and Deep Throat (6/3), topics covered recently in this page, and how the rich get richer and the myth of the “death tax” (6/6), which I would have written about had I had something cogent to say.

    While I’m plugging other pages, let me mention the upcoming reintroduction of the NEW Comic Book Galaxy by long-time FantaCo customer (and big booster of this page) Alan David Doane, starting Monday, June 13. I’ll be honest: I don’t know WHAT to expect, but ADD has a lot of heart, so if you’re into the comic medium, it should be good. (And now the pressure is on, Alan.)

    Tuesday, June 07, 2005

    Going from pot

    I’ve purchased marijuana exactly one time in my life. It was some years ago (note to law enforcement officials: the statute of limitations applies) that a friend of mine, who I knew to be fairly staunchly opposed to ever smoking pot himself, asked me if I knew where to buy some. His uncle had glaucoma, and the scientific research of the time suggested that marijuana could relieve the uncle’s extreme discomfort. He also had some other ailments, and the nephew had hoped that the pot would stir his meager appetite.
    So I asked the one person I knew would likely know where to find some marijuana. He sold it to me, I passed it on to my friend (at the same price), and I heard later that the uncle did seem to respond well to the "treatment."

    The interesting thing about Supreme Court rulings (well, interesting to a political science major, which I was) is that their rulings are not phrased as about the issue that gets played in the press ("Court Knocks Pot") but about more arcane matters. So, in the case decided by the Court on Monday, it’s not so much about medical marijuana, it’s a states’ rights issue, whether Congress had exceeded its authority vis a vis the states regarding medical marijuana.

    The old poli sci major finds the federal government’s argument to be strong: state law is generally subservient to federal law, "even as applied to the troubling facts of this case," as Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, put it. But I find the position stated in Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s dissenting opinion that a state has a right to take care of its citizens even more compelling. If you’ve seen the videos of Angel McClary Raich before treatment, when she could barely move, and after treatment, when she appeared as a normally functioning person, you’d find her, at bare minimum, a sympathetic respondent. And I do believe there is sufficient science to suggest that there are real medical benefits of marijuana.

    Which begs the question: if I had it to do over again, would I purchase marijuana for someone in medical need? Let’s put it this way: Montel Williams indicated that he’ll still be using marijuana for his multiple sclerosis, but knows that by saying so, he makes himself a target for prosecution. I wouldn’t SAY that I’d buy it, but...

    End hunger

    One of the other things I do (beside family, library, church and blog), is serve as web person for the FOCUS Churches of the Capital District. The FOCUS community minister, Deb Jameson, sent me an electronic package of material this week about legislation designed to END HUNGER BY 2015. I'm a bit too much of a cynic to necessarily believe that will succeed, but I DO believe that NOT taking action will have its own (negative) consequences. So, if you want, check out the "End Hunger Legislation-June 2005" button at the left column of the FOCUS page. Some of the information is specific to the Albany area, but unless there's no hunger in YOUR neighborhood, some of it could be modified to meet your community's needs.

    Another thing you might do is check out the article and website below:

    Hunger Basics from Bread for the World

    More than 800 million people in the world go hungry.
    In developing countries, 6 million children die each year, mostly from hunger-related causes.
    In the United States, 13 million children live in households where people have to skip meals or eat less to make ends meet. That means one in ten households in the U.S. are living with hunger or are at risk of hunger.
    But we CAN end hunger.
    We have the means. The financial costs to end hunger are relatively slight. The United Nations Development Program estimates that the basic health and nutrition needs of the world's poorest people could be met for an additional $13 billion a year. Animal lovers in the United States and Europe spend more than that on pet food each year.
    What makes the difference between millions of hungry people and a world where all are fed?
    Only a change in priorities. Only the will to end hunger.
    Want to learn more? Bread for the World Institute collects facts on domestic and global hunger. It also generates answers to frequently asked questions about hunger. Or you can learn about what issues Bread for the World members are working on right now to bring an end to hunger in the U.S. and around the world. You can also get involved or write a letter to your member of Congress.

    Monday, June 06, 2005

    Boys in the Band

    I had dropped out of the State University College at New Paltz and was working as a janitor in Binghamton City Hall in the spring of 1975 while my sister Leslie was performing in "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum" for the Binghamton Civic Theater. After the short run ended, Charlie, who was the lead in "Forum", decided to direct a play called Boys in the Band, which had played on Broadway in 1968, and was made into a movie in 1970. If you've looked at either hyperlink, you'd know that this was a play featuring seven (or eight?) gay men at a dinner party.
    Charlie had a casting call, and given my need for greater mental stimulation, I decided to try out. As it turns out there was a specifically black character in the play, and that I was the only black person to try out. (Though Charlie said that I would have been cast regardless.)
    We started rehearsals. Some of the cast (at least five) were in fact gay, but at least two of us (a guy named Bill, who played the lead, and myself) were not. So Charlie thought that we all ought to go to a gay bar, as some sort of bonding experience. I did not know there WAS a gay bar in Binghamton, but there it be, a couple blocks from my old high school. It was an interesting experience having a guy (or two) hit on me.
    We also went to at least one party at either Charlie's or cast member Jeffrey's house, and it was a fascinating mix of the banal (pretty normal conversations about weather and whatnot) with the stereotypical (music by Barbra and Judy).
    Bill used to give me a ride home after rehearsals and we'd talk about the experience of working on the play, what surprised us, what preconceived notions we might have had and how they had been challenged.
    One of the things that the script required was for me to kiss my "lover" - it was a peck on the lips- played by a guy named Mickey. It was difficult for about 3/4s of the rehearsal time, but finally, I decided, "I am an actor, I can do this." (Though, in fact, I hadn't been in a play since 1970, when I was in high school.) In any case, in the last week of rehearsal, I finally managed to do the kiss.
    Near the end of the play, Bill had a lengthy monologue which he was having a hard time learning. Charlie got impatient with him during the later rehearsals. My character is "passed out" on the floor for about 10 minutes during this time, and I found that I was learning Bill's lines. So during the rehearsals (but not during the actual performance), I'd whisper lines to him, which I believe helped.
    The play was performed for a couple weekends. Another of the things the script called for was for Jeffrey's character to take a shower. So, he took off his clothes and feigned taking a shower. I never saw the scene until the play opened (my character had not yet arrived at the party), but it garnered audible gasps each time. (I thought it was a bit gratuitous.)
    The review in the newspaper never even reviewed the performances, but instead noted the play as a "statement" of some sort.
    My high school friend Carol (not to be confused with my-now wife Carol) later tells me about this dialogue with our mutual HS friend.
    Lois: It's too bad about Roger.
    Carol: What ABOUT Roger?
    Lois: That he's gay.
    Carol: He's not gay!
    And apparently, the pastor at a church I used to attend thought so, too, as he gave me definite vibes.

    That was the first time that I was aware that some people thought I was gay. It was definitely a learning experience in being "the other" from a different perspective.

    I remember there were some (presumably) straight actors in that same period who were stereotyped for their orientation in a movie or play. So other performers were wary of taking on such roles. Someone from Martin Sheen's high school recently told me that Sheen came back some years later, and the faculty adviser said that Sheen could be asked about almost anything...except about that highly rated mid-1970s TV movie called, "That Certain Summer," in which he played a gay man. I often wonder just how much progress we've made since then.
    ...
    And, coincidentally: For all you baseball fans, watch Carson, Jai, Kyan, Ted, and Thom kick off the start of a fabulous new season of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, when the Fab Five visit the World Champion Boston Red Sox. Tuesday (tomorrow) at 10 p.m. on Bravo.

    Sunday, June 05, 2005

    Blogspot, we have a problem

    I was working on my blog at home a few nights ago when I tried to get to my Blogger Dashboard. (That is the place from which one can post documents and change settings on the Blogger.com site.) Somehow, I got to somebody else’s Dashboard! And not only once, but two or three times, to the same Dashboard that was NOT mine! This was upsetting for a couple reasons: I didn’t want to mess up his site, and if I could get to his, theoretically, someone could get to mine.

    This particular person had about a dozen different commercial sites. I COULD have written material on the sites, added links, or even deleted all of his work. One of his sites was not yet published, so I did write a note in a post – but did not publish it – letting him know that I inadvertently (and inexplicably) breached his security. He WILL see it next time he goes there. I let him know I was not a hacker; I don’t know HOW to be a hacker. I suggested that he makes sure that he has backed up everything he posts.

    And then, I went and did the same.

    While I was at it, I made a few other changes. I re-spell-checked everything from May (and also yesterday and today) and found some egregious errors that I have fixed - sorry about that. I decided that I wanted 10 days of posts to be immediately visible, rather than 7. Also, since I had trouble reading my blog at home (though not at work), I put the last 10 days of posts in BOLD and will do likewise for future posts; the retrospective stuff will come eventually.

    All of this is being to enhance YOUR reading pleasure and to maintain MY sanity.