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Friday, September 30, 2005

IRV


The New York Times had this article about the potential for a runoff in the NYC Democratic primary for mayor. A runoff election is expensive, and generally has an even lower turnout than the first election.

I've been intrigued with the notion of Intstant Runoff Voting for a couple years. Essentially, you pick your first choice, second choice, etc. The candidate with the lowest total is dropped and his/her votes are spread among the remaining candidates, based on those voters' selection of the second-most desirable candidate.

This system, which I've been told has operated in Australia for decades, would allow people to vote for so-called "fringe" candidates, if that's where their hearts were, but have a second-choice that might have a chance to win.

A simple example (and I'm going to ignore other candidate for this): Let's say there was an election among three candidates. Let's call them Bush, Gore and Nader, just for the heck of it. Let's say I really like Nader. I can actually vote for Nader! Then my second choice is...lessee, I'll pick Gore.

At the end of the day, Bush has 40%, Gore has 40%, and Nader has 20%. Nader is eliminated, but his votes are redistributed, based on the second-choice preferences of Nader voters. Let's say that 75% of Nader voters picked Bush as their second choice, and 25% picked Gore. Then Bush would get 40% +(75% of 20% or 15%)=55% Bush wins, as more people found him acceptable. (It's JUST an example.)

I urge you to to read more about IRV, especially those of you (Greg, Gordon) who are planning to run for office someday. It's taking hold all over the country.

Meanwhile, the final report of the Federal Commission on Election Reform is now available. Among other things, it suggests that electronic voting machines should leave a paper trail of ballots cast, a vital issue in my mind in Diebold-land. It also suggests that the government should provide free photo IDs to nondrivers as part of the requirement of having identification becoming a voting requirement. News organizations should "voluntarily refrain from projecting any Presidential election results" in any state until all polls have closed in 48 states, with Alaska and Hawaii excluded. All "legitimate domestic and international election observers" should be granted unrestricted access to the election process, within the rules of the election. I recall that Jimmy Carter, whose Center participated in this process, once noted that the U.S. was in a poor position to go abroad and sanction other countries' elections, given the irregular methodology of our own.

It's hardly a perfect document, but it's a start.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

As lazy as Gordon

My new blogiverse buddy Gordon allowed his readers to ask questions that he promised to answer. In fact, he did it at least twice. And even answered the questions; this is the second batch of replies.

I thought this was such a swell idea that I thought I'd do the same thing. Send me as many questions as you want. I promise to answer each and every one! (Of course, the answer might be, "No comment.") And if I'm as lucky as Gordon, you'll ask a question SO provocative that it will require its own post.

Deadline, Wednesday, October 5 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Answers promised within a week.

I'll probably do this with every change of the season, if it's successful. (And never again, if it's not.)

I Note Dead People

This was going to be part of a post of a couple days ago, but I ran out of time. This has nothing to do with with the music of Grateful Dead, a recent review of which you can find here on September 27:

I still have to note the passing of Robert Wise, even though he died back on September 14, because he was the director and producer of one of my favorite films (with one of my favorite soundtracks), West Side Story, and one of my wife’s, The Sound of Music. Interestingly, one of the bloggers I read who noted his passing HATED both of those movies, yet spoke admiringly of the prolific Wise, because he was the editor for Citizen Kane and another important movie (I THINK it was The Magnificent Ambersons.)

Sid Luft also died on the 14th. He’s best known as Judy Garland’s third husband, but he actually had a career before meeting Ms. Gumm.

I wasn’t always enamored with Simon Wiesenthal, but he did shed light on the Holocaust and attempted to upend those Holocaust deniers who irritate me so. He died on the 20th.

I hope I’m an ornery someday as former NOW President Molly Yard who died on the 21st..

As I first read on the Dead or Alive website, author M. Scott Peck, best known for the book, "The Road Less Traveled", died on the 25th. Everyone I knew at the height of the book’s popularity had a copy on their shelves. Whether anyone actually READ it, I don’t know. I'm sure I STARTED to read it...

I was going to write that Tom DeLay's career is dead, but I realized that that was only wishful thinking. So far.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

School Daze

This being the first month of the new school year got me thinking about when I first went to school, in kindergarten. Binghamton in those days had a very unusual system whereby school started not only in September but in February as well. I've never met anyone outside of the Binghamton area who is familiar with this system.
In September, kids born in April through November started in the "B" section. Then in February, they would pass into the "A" section.
Those born in December through March would have our "B" section in February, and outr "A" section in September. So, when I started that February of 1958, (my birthday's in March,) I was in Kindergarten B, then in September in Kindergarten A, then 1B, 1A, 2B, 2A, and so on.
My kindergarten teacher was Miss Cady for the whole year. But the summer after 1B, that teacher left, so I had a different teacher in 1A. Likewise in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade. I know my 4B teacher had gotten pregnant, because she "showed", but one really didn't talk about such things in those days. It wasn't until fifth grade that I had a teacher for a whole year again. Conversely, my sister Leslie, who started in one September had the same teachers all year for every grade, except 6th and that only because her teacher died during the year.
Of course, we're all impacted bt the seemingly random people we come in contact with. My sisters and I were supposed to attend Oak Street Elementary School. However, my mother "worked outside the home", as we now put it, at McLean's department store downtown. Where would we go at lunchtime? There was no school lunch, no cafeteria, nor anyone to watch us there. My grandmother Gert Williams and great-aunt Deana Yates lived about six blocks away from us, so it was determined that we would go to Daniel S. Dickinson School instead, and go to Gram's for lunch (and also after school when we were younger).
Dickinson wasn't any further from our house than Oak Street School (this was a walking district at the time-no school buses), so this turned out to be a workable solution.
Since I started in February, our classes, chosen from a smaller pool, had fewer students. And while some people came and went, or FAILED, there was a core group that I knew straight on through. In sixth grade, there were nine of us (out of 16) who started kindergarten together: Bill, Carol, David (born in December), Lois, Irene, and Bernie (born in February), Karen and me (March), and Diane, born in April, but whose parents finagled her way to our class. Eight of us (except David, who stayed an extra semester to play basketball) all graduated from high school together. Considering that I haven't seen dsome of those people since high school, and others since 1981, I'm amazed how engrained that information is. I'm in some contact with a couple of them, but none more so than my friend Karen, who I spoke with last month. We have a 47-year old friendship.

There are lots of stories that I think I'll tell over the next several months, being the only black kid in my class for 8 of 10 years there, the neighborhood, other stuff.

I'll close with the school song (from failing memory):

Hail, Daniel Dickinson
Pride of our fair Binghamton
May we 'ere our praises sing
With loyal hearts and true
May all our words and deeds
'ere uphold thy glory
Guide us our whole lives through
Hail, Daniel Dickinson.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

KS 2

The Rolling Stones came to town. They were, by all accounts, very good. the story appeared on the front page of a couple of our local newspapers. Some people complain that it was not worthy, with all of the "serious" issues out there. As Prince once said, "Shut up already!
***
WEEKEND JOURNAL; Collecting: Bang! Pow! Cash!; As Comic Prices Soar, Disputes Flare; Avoiding the Purple Label of Death
Conor Dougherty. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Sep 23, 2005. pg. W.1

This story is better than the title. Anyone wanting a copy e-mailed to them, please let me know.
***
M.Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, died, according to one source. Can someone verify?

Kitchen Sink Blogging

No, this has nothing to do with Denis Kitchen, comic publisher extraordinaire, though I thought he was a swell guy when I met him back in 1988. No, this is all sorts of stuff I meant to write about but somehow didn't, plus some recent stuff. And as some pop singer once sang: "It's Now or Never."

MUSIC

In case you missed it, Brian Wilson, a musician of some note, will CALL you if you make a $100 contribution through his website on behalf of Katrina victims by October 1. You will need a PayPal account. The instructions e-mail I received will be in the comments section of this post at 11 a.m. EDT.

In addition to the Mixed CDs that I've been reviewing for my CONTEST, I've been listening to Emmylou Harris' greatest "hits" (she's a great artist, but a "hitmaker", not so much), two versions of the Who Sell Out- one by Petra Hagen and the other by the original artists, American Idiot by Green Day (they're green- they just have to be good), and a compilation of Beck songs put together for me by an arithmetic function. It's all good.

COMICS/CARTOONS

FREE COMICS! Just go here. OK, they are comics called Kaptain Kelmoore, and they are about financial investment. You can also order by calling toll-free (877) 535-6667.

Mark Evanier became the self-appointed Blondie crossover guru for the strip's 75th anniversary. But he's relinquished the throne. I'm not taking it, but need to note Pearls Before Swine last Tuesday through Saturday. (Yahoo! link will disappear in about a week.)

The Fantastic Four video game by Activision, for Xbox, PS 2, GCube and PC got 1 star from the local newspaper reviewer: "Dull. Looks poor. Moderately challenging." But the Sue Storm is very Jessica Albaesque, FWIW.

In the comics section of our local newspaper, they've started posting a puzzle called sudoku, a grid of 81 boxes, 9 by 9, with some numbers already filled in, into which a player insert a number. The goal is to fill every empty box so that each vertical row, each horizontal row, and each 3 by 3 box contain all of the digits 1 to 9, with no repeats. I've tried it, haven't mastered it, but you may enjoy it.

TELEVISION

How to fund the Katrina clean up? How about eliminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? It appears that the plan of some Republicans in Congress.

Mark Evanier notes the passing yesterday of Don Adams, a/k/a Agent 86 of Get Smart fame. The show ran from 1965-1970. It was one of the first shows that I remembered that changed networks during its run, 4 years on Saturday nights on NBC, and the last season on Fridays on CBS. (I don't count the seven episodes that appeared on FOX in 1995.) Of course, Don Adams was more than Maxwell Smart; he was also the voice of Tennessee Tuxedo, one of my favorite cartoons on one of my favorite cartoon shows, Underdog. I watched both shows fairly religiously, even when Get Smart went from silly to not so good (Max and 99's wedding, the twins). I BELIEVE that I should thank him for the entertainment.

There are days when I have nothing to watch. Then there are days when I have a logjam. Tonight at 9 p.m., I have a real logistical issue. I am going to record both The Office/My Name is Earl on NBC, and the second half of the Scorcese thing on Dylan on PBS. Meanwhile, I have this 7-inch TV that I bought as part of the YMCA's Reach Out for Youth campaign lasat year, and I'll watch the premiere of Commander in Chief on ABC on that. Oh, and re: The Office, Steve Carrell is the first host of SNL next month.

O.K., it was probably a terible show, but how can they cancel Head Cases, starring Chris (boy wonder) O'Donnell after only two episodes? I never got a chance to hate it.

60 Minutes changed their opening. It now starts with Ed Bradley, Steve Kroft and Lesley Stahl and ends with Mike Wallace introducing Andy Rooney. Apparently, the other positions will rotate among Morley Safer and Dan Rather (who were on this week), Bob Simon, Scott Pelley and others. And speaking of Rooney, at least three paragraphs of his weekly newspaper column was cribbed on Sunday night's piece about Peter Jennings' memorial service, which he attended last week, including the one that suggested that broadcast news would have been obliterated if a terror attack had hit Carnegie Hall that day. The print story indicated that his daughter was fired by Jennings, but the TV story did not. Another Jennings story.

I had planned to write an extensive piece on the Emmys, but that was complicated by the fact that I didn't get around to actually WATCHING the Emmys until a couple days ago. And others have opined sufficiently. So my only comments:
  • Because I am a newsie, I was really touched by the tribute to the former network anchors, Brokaw, Rather, and the late Jennings
  • Having watched Law & Order enough times, I found it wonderfully funny that the usually unflappable Lt. Van Buren is played by the very flappable S. Epatha Merkerson
  • I HATED the silly Emmy Idols bit, but would have voted for Shatner and the mezzo over the horrific Trump
  • Ellen DeGeneres was wasted in those silly skits
  • Desparate Housewives is TOO a comedy, despite what Tom the Dog says. Or at least a dramedy, like Ally McBeal. Especially because the people submitting the show to the Emmy Academy SAY it is. I suspect it was a ploy to avoid competing against Lost. I can almost guarantee that it won't lose to Raymond again NEXT year.

    I tried to watch Arrested Development once last year, didn't "get" it, let it go. But after that pathetic plea during the Emmys by the A.D. writer for people to watch, I did, and I liked it. I tuned in yesterday and enjoyed it, but felt as though I had somehow missed an episode. Whot hoppened?

    SPORTS

    Yankees/Red Sox tied with seven games left, three at the end of the season in Fenway Park. Just the way it ought to be. Yanks won last night, Sox rained out.

    My pick for the AL wild card: Chicago White Sox will slip behind Cleveland this week. Or the White Sox might not make the post season at all.

    In the AL West, it looks like the Angels, and in the NL West, who cares? It could be a team with a losing record.

    They don't know what they're talking about, but read Johnny Bacardi's and Greg Burgas' fearless football predictions anyway, because they're entertaining and good guys (Burgas is MOST of the time.)
  • Monday, September 26, 2005

    The Lydster Part 18: Freedom


    One of the joys of parenthood is that the child becomes more self-sufficient. One of the last times Carol & I went to the movies, we expected to get back around 9:15, about a half hour before her bedtime at that point, and figured we needed to do the evening ritual. Instead, Lydia pointed to the stairs and essentially put herself to bed! I mean, she needed to be carried into the crib, but she initiated the activity. Moreover, she slept all night. She doesn't do this not for US, of course, but she's aware enough to handle bedtime.

    Aware: that would describe her. Carol changes something in the house, such as the location of a picture or a floor fan, and she'll point at it, as though it were out of place. In fact, to be honest, she's more likely to notice than I.

    Orderly: she was making a Play-Dough-like product. The teachers expected that she'd pour in the ingredients from the edge of the bowl, but she insisted on pouring the substance into the middle of the bowl, to avoid spilling.

    Of course, this does not apply to her eating, when we wish we had hired a dog for after-meal clean-up.

    Now that I take Lydia to day care, that's become "our" time. I walk her to the bus stop, which is only a couple houses away. We ride on the bus, with me usually feeding her a banana. She manages to devour it in a 10-minute ride. Then we walk to the center. He even lets me hold her hand, something she used to actively avoid (and something, I'm told, she'll actively avoid in the future.)

    Meanwhile, happy year and a half, Lydia. I love you.

    Sunday, September 25, 2005

    Wash Your Hands

    You may recall a survey conducted in 1996 indicating that 1/3 of us don't wash our hands after going to the bathroom. Well, they've replicated the survey this year and researchers have discovered that the "dirty hands" crew is down to 1/6; interestingly, 1/4 of the men decline, while only 1/10 of the women.

    This is creepy for a couple of reasons:
    1) Hidden cameras in bathrooms (I wonder what ELSE they discovered, inadvertently?)
    2) All of those dirty hands shaking other hands, touching doors
    Eeew!

    The Centers for Disease Control actually has recommendations for HOW TO WASH YOUR HANDS. Among them: wash your hands for 20 seconds. 20 seconds is probably longer than you think. 20 seconds is singing the Alphabet
    Song through, or singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat twice through without rushing it.

    Singing aloud is not required, and if you sing poorly, is actually discouraged. In truth, the CDC takes no position on singing in the bathroom. Of course singing in a public bathroom may bring its own set of interesting responses. Thing is, singing in public bathrooms is fun because the acoustics are so good. At least that's what I've heard.

    Dad would have been 79

    My father would have been 79 tomorrow. I've talked about how he died, but only touched on how he lived.

    After he passed away five years ago, the Charlotte (NC) Observer wrote one of those appreciation pieces, not strictly an obit, written by staff writer Gerry Hostetler, from which I will quote liberally.

    (Have you EVER been in a news story and NOT find an error, in fact or tone or emphasis? This story said I was the YOUNGER brother of my sister Leslie when I'm the oldest of the kids.)
    ***
    "Life is not worth much unless you can share," he once said. That's what life's about...and sharing is beautiful!" Leslie H."Les" Green, also known as the folk singer Lonesome and Lonely Traveler, died Aug. 10...

    Sharng is what Les did best. He shared his singing, painting, floral designing, poetry, and ministries in church and in prisons. And he shared his love.

    [Paragraph about breakfast ministry, which he did for four years.]

    When he visited prisons, he took along a bag of marbles. "The marbles were a symbol of 'be smooth in your pursuits'," said daughter Leslie, who shares her father's name. "Prisoners wrote him, 'I kept the marble; I'd be back in prison if not for you. You really helped get my life on track'," his daughter said.

    As vice-president of J.A. Jones[actually A VP of the construction firm], he visited schools about job interviews. Wearing a disheveled wig, he admonished students, "Don't go in there like this - look the part to get the job." Singing was one of his favorite things, and one shared with the family. He taught daughter Leslie to play guitar when she was 12, and joined by brother Roger, the trio appeared as the Green Family Singers at churches and functions in their native Binghamton, N.Y. "He did it for love, not the money, "Leslie said. "Fifty dollars a month was a big night." The Greens came to Charlotte in 1974. "It was the best move we ever made, said his wife, Trudy. Trudy and youngest daughter Marcia were the cheering section of their audience.

    They sang again when Les went into the hospitalized in July and August. His big, beautiful baritone voice, accompanied by Leslie's and Roger's, overflowed his sixth-floor room at Carolina' Medical Center. When he was transferred to the third floor, the nurses from the sixth came down to check on him and, just maybe, to listen to his powerful voice as it wrapped around the words of joyous hyms or cushioned a soulful folk song.
    ***
    Well, OK. A little saccharine, and a few other facts were wrong. I never sang with my father in the hospital. He had already had a stroke. I probably sang with my sister, and with others.

    I guess, I'll have to write muy OWN appreciation, warts and all. Check back same time, next year, for what would have been my father's 80th birthday. Maybe by then I will have digitized a picture of him to share with you.

    Saturday, September 24, 2005

    Seduction of the Innocent

    Stolen from Gordon, not the last time I steal from him this month.
    Your Seduction Style: Au Natural

    You rank up there with your seduction skills, though you might not know it.
    That's because you're a natural at seduction. You don't realize your power!
    The root of your natural seduction power: your innocence and optimism.

    You're the type of person who happily plays around and creates a unique little world.
    Little do you know that your personal paradise is so appealing that it sucks people in.
    You find joy in everything - so is it any surprise that people find joy in you?

    You bring back the inner child in everyone you meet with your sincere and spontaneous ways.
    Your childlike (but not childish) behavior also inspires others to care for you.
    As a result, those who you befriend and date tend to be incredibly loyal to you.

    Mixed Bag CD Blog-end notes & contest


    So you've seen reviews of all of the Mixes that *I* received. Again, if you sent one and I didn't get it, please send it again.

    Now, there was a conversation once upon a time about putting together a Best of Mixed Bag 2. I'd be willing to do that. The problem is that I'm not comfortable with putting together the playlist, based on SUCH diverse styles.

    Given the fact that I feel really blessed in the vblogisphere, and I've even won stuff, I need to have a CONTEST of my own. Anyone submitting song suggestions (at least three cuts, but feel free to offer more) for a Best of Mixed Bag 2 is eligible. Kindly describe by compiler and by title and/or artist. Suggestions such as "ALL of Joe's" will be ignored. Also, if you have suggestions as to what part of the disc ("great lead-off cut", e.g.), feel free to say that. (Of course, if I get 10 lead-off cuts, 90% of you will be disappointed.)

    Up to 30 people will get a Mixed CD. (All of you Mixed CD folks who participate will almost certainly get one. Think the NBA draft, rigged.)
    And one person, picked at random, will get a Mixed Blogger CD, another compilation disc or two of my choosing, plus their choice of a half dozen FantaCo publications. I know I have some duplicates of some Chronicles, some Hembecks, and certainly others. Maybe something else.

    In case you don't have the discs - or even if you do- my reviews (and links to other reviews) appeared on August 3, 9, 13, 17, 20, 24, 27, 31, September 3, 8, 17, and 21.

    But I also wanted to give people who weren't involved in the Mixed CD thing an extra chance, since they haven't heard the music. So, you can also come up with a usable meme for me. Want examples? Something like this, or this, or this, a piece so compelling that EVERYONE will want to do it. It doesn't have to be original (but you should cite the source); originality will probably get extra points, not as many as cleverness.

    The deadline for submitting will be Saturday, October 15 at 11:59 p.m., EDT. Please send your responses, along with your name and address (and blog, if you have one and weren't one of the Mixed Bag participants) here. No member of Arro Verti Enterprises is eligible. The winners will be announced sometime before Halloween. Since I've never DONE a contest before, I'm sure SOMEONE will write, "What about...?" (and I have a pretty good idea who.) I'll address it as it comes.

    Friday, September 23, 2005

    Name that hurricane


    This is really about how my cursed librarian mind works.

    Tegan writes some innocuous thing: "I suspect Katrina will be retired soon" [from the Atlantic hurricane name list.] So, now I need to know: "How DOES the retiring of a name happen?" I find that here.

    Then I need to know what hurricane names HAVE been retired. This site from NOAA is good, but dated (2002)

    The FEMA for kids site is fairly limited. Do they think that kids aren't very bright?

    The USA Today article is much better, as it answers my next question, "What hurricane is the last to be retired, alphabetically speaking?" The answer, Roxanne, which hit the Yucatan peninsula in 1995. (Will Rita join its ranks?)

    But, I’m the librarian, and I keep looking. The BEST site I found is here, the ONLY site which indicates that both Dennis and Emily were retired this year. Not even the World Meteorological Organization is showing that yet, because their reports tend to be annual in nature.

    As usual, I found things I really wasn't looking for, but have some entertainment value, such as this article about naming storms.
    Or annoying things, like an article about how, according to e-Week, Hurricane Rita is heading onshore, and Internet criminals around the globe are already rigging up fake charity sites. However, several teams of security watchdogs are readying countermeasures to ward off the "cyber-looters."

    If I'm doing research for someone, and if I think the person might appreciate it, I might throw in some really tangential stuff, such as the lyrics to a song.

    3 Affirmative Questions

    I'd really like your answer on this one. Mine will be forthcoming, of course.

    I was reading an old (August 5) Entertainment Weekly book review of Yes Man by Danny Wallace. "The book's premise is simple: He said yes. To everything. For a year."

    Feel free to substitute Who or Where for What in the following questions I would like you to answer, if you please.

    1. What have you said yes to that you wished you had said no to?

    2. What have you said no to that you wished you had said yes to?

    3. What will you say yes to, eventually?

    BONUS QUESTION: If you've read the book, please tell me if you liked it.

    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    Buy gas NOW

    If Rita sticks to its projected path, it could affect 24 refineries along the Texas Gulf coast. Those refineries are already in the process of shutting down and shutting down will stop production, and ultimately drive up gas prices once again.

    Not Jerry Rivers!

    According to TV Week's Michele Greppi "A Current Affair" has been canceled.

    Sources say that Twentieth Television's "A Current Affair" is over, six months after it was resurrected, and will be replaced on Fox-owned stations that carried it by a show hosted by Fox News Channel's Geraldo Rivera from New York.

    Twentieth Television President and CEO Bob Cook reportedly delivered the news of the cancellation, which will not come as a surprise to the syndication community, late Wednesday afternoon.

    Twentieth Television was not immediately available to comment on the report.

    Details of Mr. Rivera's new show and when "Affair" will leave the air were not immediately available.


    Now I could care less about "A Current Affair". Geraldo Rivera, him I care about.

    When I first started going to college in New Paltz, I could get the news from both Albany and New York City. Most of the time, I ended up tuning to WABC-TV, Channel 7, in NYC with Roger Grimsby and Bill Beutel. The show featured an aggressive, impressive young reporter named Geraldo Rivera, who helped break a scandal involving deplorable conditions in nursing homes.

    This is before Geraldo (who has briefly Anglicized his name to Jerry Rivers) was finding nothing in tombs, and turned into the hot dog he is now. Trust me on this: once upon a time, Geraldo was GOOD. That he's turned into this bellicose, self-serving twit makes him harder to watch than the other bellicose self-serving twits because he had such potential.

    The Homeowner Gene

    I rented my dwelling place for all but the last six years of my life. My parents rented (from my maternal grandmother) until I went to college. Yet, I thought I would automatically develop a homeowner gene. I developed a parent gene, after all, and I've been a parent for even less time than I've been a homeowner.

    Allow me to elaborate on this devasting affliction:

    The homeowner knows how to fix stuff. i don't know how to fix hardly anything. Can I change a light bulb? Well, sometimes. But there are two fixtures in the hallway, and on one, I turn the bulb. The whole fixture turns with the bulb, but the bulb never comes out.

    The homeowner keeps the lawn neat and trim. I mow the lawn infrequently, and only because I don't want to hear from the neighbors. If it were up to me, I'd let it go wild. Or maybe rent a goat.

    There is a point where if I am to cut the grass, I MUST cut the grass, based on the height of the lawn. This is because I have a push mower. I don't mean gas-powered push mower, I mean Roger-powered push mower. Last year, we actually bought a gas-operated machine, but returned it three days later when it kept stalling out.

    Wthe grass in the front of the house grows mostly slowly, because it was dug up in to fix a broken sewage pipe that was backing into our basement. The attempts to regrow grass has been slow, despite mighty, enthusiastic efforts on the part of my wife and my mother-in-law, and less than enthusiastic schlepping on the part of their husbands. My vertict: Yeah! Less to mow.

    I've noticed, and this is also true at work, that maschines just don't like me much. There is a schedule to replace all the computers in my office every few years, and I always screw up the rotation, because my computer has died first with some mysterious disease that even our fine techies cannot explain. I think my body emits some sort of field that slowly devastes electronic equipment.

    The homeowner is clever. The first month we lived in this house (May 2000), I was clearing out the timber that was in the back yard. I stepped into the pile when I discovered a nail. Or rather, the nail discovered my foot, right through my Chuck Taylor sneaker. I pulled the nail out, then hobbled to the front of the house (because I didn't want to bleed all through the house). I hopped up to the front door and yelled, "Carol! Come here!" She said, "I'm upstairs!" I KNEW she was upstairs; surpringly, I didn't really care at that moment. She took me to an urgent care placewhere the doctor removed pieces of sneaker from my foot and gave me a tetanus shot.

    There are other examples, but one does want to embarass oneself only so much publicly at one time.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2005

    Last day of summer short takes


    "Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment." "Libraries are the cornerstones of our democracy. Libraries are for everyone, everywhere. Because libraries provide free access to a world of information, they bring opportunity to all people." - American Library Association, Library Bill of Rights. All of this to note that this Saturday marks the beginning of Banned Book Week. Participate, and find out about current attempts in our society to restrict the flow of information to legitimate users.
    ***
    And speaking of books: I had ordered a couple CDs from Amazon recently, and was shocked to get a package from Amazon today, given the fact that i received the confirmation of the CD order only yesterday. But it was the book Tales from Fish Camp: A City Girl's Experience Working in an Alaskan Fishing Village by Danielle Henderson. I won this in a contest run by Greg Burgas. Thanks, Greg! I read the (short) first chapter, and think I'll be liking this.
    ***
    So, I go to Greg's page to thank him. I can't remember when this contest was exactly, so I figure I'll go to his page, search the word "contest" on the Search This Blog feature. But no, I get a bunch of references to contests from all of the blogs. (As Greg might say, "Stupid Blogger!") So I look anyway. Here you can draw a lion and win a cash prize, reportedly.
    ***
    My friend Don wrote a a review of a new book about the Beatles.
    ***
    My bud David Brickman will be doing his next art criticism spot on WAMC (90.3 fm) tomorrow (Thursday) at 9:48 a.m. The topic will be two shows of paintings, one at Skidmore, one at Sage. By the way, for the out-of-towners it is possible to listen online at wamc.org (live only - not archived).
    ***
    If you're going to the DC rally this weekend, you might check out this page.
    ***
    Hurricane Rita picked up strength Wednesday as it churned toward the Texas Gulf Coast and was upgraded to a Category 4 storm with winds topping 135 mph.
    ***
    And on the issue of hurricanes, it appears that Former FEMA Chief Brown Bought Votes in Florida. "Michael Brown, the embattled former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, approved payments in excess of $31 million in taxpayer money to thousands of Florida residents who were unaffected by Hurricane Frances and three other hurricanes last year in an effort to help President Bush win a majority of votes in that state during his reelection campaign, according to published reports."
    ***
    I was reading the Wall Street Journal from last Tuesday (it's an occupational hazard), when I came across this headline: "Wage Winners and Losers". The average worker LOST 0.4% from July 2003 to July 2004, adjusted for inflation. Somewhere on the linked page is the National Compensation Survey.

    In last Thursday's WSJ, this piece: "After Katrina, Republicans Back a Sea of Conservative Ideas". It suggested that on the "list of Katrina initiatives backed by Republicans" will be:
  • Temporary exemptions from environmental laws
  • Suspension of Davis-Bacon prevailing wage laws
  • Streamlined approval process for oil refineries
  • School vouchers for displaced students, even those who had been going to public school
    Sure enough, I get a couple e-mails this week:
    Bush Suspends Affirmative Action for Gulf Contractors. The announcement by the Labor Department came the day after President Bush announced the suspension of a law that requires employers to pay the locally prevailing wage to construction workers on federally financed projects.
    Bush Proposes Private School Vouchers for All Displaced Students. Under President Bush's plan to cover most of the cost of educating students displaced by Hurricane Katrina, parents could enroll their children in a private or religious school this year at federal expense, even if they had gone to public schools back home, administration officials said yesterday.
    Outpouring of Relief Cash Raises Fear of Corruption and Cronyism.
    It should be no surprise that the people who brought you the USA PATRIOT Act and the Iraq war in response to 9/11 should bring in some "add-ons" in light of Katrina.
    ***
    Fortunately, Robert B. Reich has written Bush Administration Paradox Explained. "The White House's strategy to make John Roberts the next chief justice has been the very model of meticulous planning, by contrast to its utter clueless-ness in dealing with Katrina. Robert Reich states that no White House in modern history has been as adept at politics and as ham-fisted at governing. Why?"
  • Mixed Bag CD Blog-Roger


    Do you think I’m actually going to review my own CD? Nah, it’s here for completeness sake.
    NAME: Roger Green
    BLOG NAME: Ramblin' with Roger
    NAME OF CD: Travelogue USA #1: New York-Texas
    NUMBER OF CUTS: 16
    RUNNING TIME: 61:38
    COVER ART: Standardized computer fare
    SONG LIST: Here
    ALREADY REVIEWED BY: Nat on July 8; Gordon on July 21; Eddie on August 6
    GENERAL THOUGHTS: TREMENDOUS! STUPENDOUS! MAGNIFICANT! (I kid.) Actually, I like it. I actually play it from time to time. It’s grown on me.
    THINGS I PARTICULARLY LOVED: That Petty is almost unrecognizable.
    ON THE OTHER HAND: I agonized over changing the last track from Garth to the Harshed Mallows’ version of U.S. Blues. BTW, both songs make reference to flag-waving, but they have very different sentiments.
    OFFICE FRIENDLY: Yes
    ONLY VAGUELY RELATED: I’ve been in every state represented in this collection except Mississippi; my Alabama visit was VERY short.

    Tuesday, September 20, 2005

    Marketing

    I'm SO tired.

    Sunday night, Lydia woke at midnight and we were up until 3 a.m.; I don't know if it's stomach distress, teething, the mysterious "something else" or a combination. It's a good thing she's so wonderful.

    Monday, I get up at 6:15, get dressed. Lydia and I take the 7:02 bus to her day care. I take the 7:25 bus (running late) to the Y, play two games of racquetball (poorly), go to work and have a bowl of cereal.

    Do some work, mostly in preparation of a market research class. Ate lunch, did some research. Take the 4:25 bus to Schenectady, which takes over an hour - the value of reading material cannot be overstated.

    Teach the class from 6-9 (with 15 minute break). Take the 9:20 bus back to Albany (which is 10 minutes or more late), but is less traveled, so I get home about 10:20.

    And I'm so wired that, instead of going to bed, I'm e-mailing Fred Hembeck after reading his column, commending him on his unique angle on Talk Like a Pirate Day.

    Lydia wakes up around 11:20. I don't want her to get up, so after I give her something to hold, I stand perfectly still for 10 minutes until she goes to sleep, trying to avoid the previous night's event. You know how the contestants can stand for hours on a small platform on "Survivor"? I'd be the first one to give up.

    Then I go downstairs and see all of Washington's scoring, as they beat Dallas 14-13. Watch the news, and get to bed sometime after 1.

    Today, I'm up at 6:25, and still catch the 7:02, play lousy rball, and get to work exhausted.

    So, three things:

    SOME RULES FOR RIDING THE BUS

    1. Let people get off the bus before getting on the bus. More room for you.
    2. Consider allowing the elderly, the infirm and those overloaded with packages a chance to sit down.
    3. Notice that the bus is filling up and stop sitting on the inside seat when the outside seat is empty. This is not a private vehicle, it's public transportation.
    4. Realize that not everyone on the bus wants to hear your face-to-face or cell phone conversation.
    5. Recognize that on a very full bus with a dozen people standing, the chance of you finding a seat is fairly slim, so don't bother try ing to bulldoze your way to the back on this vain effort.
    6. Conversely, when the bus has standees and there are a half dozen people sardined near the front line, back up and make room.
    7. When you need to get off the bus, consider starting to move towards an exit before reaching the stop.

    Another thing: if you have some obscure reason for wanting to see my PowerPoint presentation on marketing (which isn't nearly as good without my sparkling personality, but what can you do?), please e-mail me. It is geared for this area in particular and New York State in general, but you might find it of some broad use.

    Finally, here's an article I received yesterday about why people blog. These may change for me from day to day, but the primary purpose of THIS blog posting is catharsis. Thank you for your therapeutic indulgence.

    Monday, September 19, 2005

    Am I an Insect or Am I a Human?


    Here's a meme I stole from Tosy and Cosh:

    First, list writer Robert Heinlein's examples of the accomplishments that distinguish a [generalist] human from a [specialist] insect. Then identify the ones he has actually done.

    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
    I have taken the list and written explanatory notes.

    Change a diaper (Actually a few times B.L. - before Lydia - but a lot more now.)
    Plan an invasion (Actually it was a counterinvasion of a house I rented against the mice that tried to take over. I took over a dozen casualties and the rodents retreated.)
    Butcher a hog (Well, no.)
    Conn a ship (I've rowed a canoe, badly.)
    Design a building (Only with LEGOs.)
    Write a sonnet (Yes. It was terrible.)
    Balance accounts (Yes, for student government in college, and for the Schenectady Arts Council.)
    Build a wall (LEGOs don't count, do they?)
    Set a bone (I was directed to do a splint, once.)
    Comfort the dying (I hope so - my friends Steber and Nancy, and my father.)
    Take orders (In the corporate hierarchy.)
    Give orders (Committee chair.)
    Cooperate (I do play well with others, don't I?)
    Act alone (Does blogging count?)
    Solve equations (I was GREAT in algebra and trig, but got lost when I got to calculus.).
    Analyze a new problem (Being a reference librarian, happens almost daily. Every time I moved, finding where everything will go.)
    Pitch manure (I've cleaned cat litter boxes.)
    Program a computer (Well, I've installed software.)
    Cook a tasty meal (Actually, yes - I've cooked lasagna, and chicken a number of times, with vegetables or salad. Some other stuff, too.)
    Fight efficiently (Yes, once. But generally, I flail around.)
    Die gallantly (Sounds like Man of La Mancha- I'll get back to you on that.)

    Oh, yeah, I said I wouldn't pick on others to do these exercises. I lied. Eddie (who hasn't posted in two and a half weeks), Nat (who hasn't posted in one and a half months), and Logan (who has already posted TODAY, but who I wish to confound), come on down!

    Sunday, September 18, 2005

    Culcha


    Some things I've seen in the popular culture world that caught my attention recently:

    Paul McCartney has a new album, which got 3 stars out of 4 at USA Today, and an A from the guy at Knight Ridder. A good sign is that Sir Paul had creative tension from Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich; I think he does better working with people like Steve Miller, Elvis Costello, Denny Laine or that Lennon fellow. The review I'm most looking forward to is the one from Beatleologist with a Maccasian flair Fred Hembeck. And he promises it by the end of the week. (Pressure is on, buddy!)
    ***
    And speaking of my old friend, Fred did a piece on Joey Dee and the Starliters (of "Peppermint Twist" fame) and David Brigati (brother of Young Rascals singer Eddie) back on September 8. It reminded me, and I verified this with my trusty Joel Whitburn Billboard book, that Eddie and his fellow Rascals Felix Cavaliere and Gene Cornish were once part of the Starliters. David Brigati, who was in an earlier incrnation of thr Starliters, actually got to sing at least one lead on a Rascals album, the title track to the album "Once Upon a Dream", the album after "Groovin'".
    ***
    I'm going to watch a lot of PBS next week, September 26-29. (Broadcast times may differ where you live.) Monday and Tuesday, 9-11 p.m., American Masters is presenting "No Direction Home: Bob Dylan", directed by Martin Scorsese. Wednesday 8-9 p.m., "Best of the Beatles", tales from Pete Best about Liverpool and Hamburg. Wednesday 9-11 p.m., "Get Up, Stand Up" The Story of Pop and Protest", "from Joe Hill to Bob Geldof." Finally, Thursday, 9-11 p.m., "The Sixties: The Years That Shaped a Generation," if only for the music of Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, CSN, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, the Chambers Brothers, the Doors, the Rolling Stones...and Elvis Costello?
    ***
    You may have heard that some Marvel characters will be made into movies. But some of the articles have been, to borrow a word, snarky. For instance, "Avengers-a super-sized version of the Fantastic Four"; I wonder if the writer had even HEARD of the FF before the movie?
    ***
    I took the Batman test on Gordon's site, and this is my results, the same as 148 of the other 338 people taking the test. Classic
    You're Classic Batman. You're the old school,
    iconic Batman that everyone knows. Your
    sidekick is Dick Grayson, the original Robin,
    and you also team up with Batgirl alot. You're
    the World's Greatest Detective, and also one of
    the best fighters on the planet. You're against
    guns and lethal force. Right now, you're pretty
    much in the prime of your career, before you
    become haunted by Dead Sidekicks and loved
    ones.


    What kind of Batman are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla
    ***
    And speaking of Batman, there was a category on JEOPARDY last week called "Also a Batman villian":
    $400 An extra playing card in as deck often used as a wild card
    $800 Neurotoxic crawler who's hard on her mates
    $1200 Antarctic krill-eater
    $1600 Itchy cashew relative
    $2000 His mask is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo
    Answers at the end.
    ***
    The Napoleon Dynamite talking doll is now available. I've never seen the film (should I?), but I'm aware of its "cult classic" status. You can get the doll in lots of places, but I picked this place because it also has other N.D. stuff, PLUS the George Bush farting doll.
    ***
    Advertising geeks should check out Ad Rag. There are lots of free articles; it'll cost 2 Euros per month to view the ads.
    ***
    Johnny Bacardi wrote on Thursday:
    There's a quiz/meme going around over in the LJ community that goes something like this:
    1. Pick 16 of your favorite movies and choose one still from each movie
    2. Post those stills in your journal
    3. Have your friends guess which movie goes along with each screen still.
    Well, I actually contemplated this exercise, but got stuck 1) narrowing the choice of picking 16 films and 2) finding stills obscure enough to make it interesting. But check out the links, and you may be entertained, as I was.
    ***
    "Apprentice: Martha" will open with the tune of Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by the Eurythmics. Ad Age notes that Annie Lennox stalking around portraying a dominatrix (as she does on the album cover) may seem somehow highly appropriate or inappropriate, depending on your view of Ms. Stewart. Talk about snarky! (A word I actually never used before today.)
    ***
    I thought the Where Is Andy's Mojo American Express Campaign was dopey in concept, but it became more so when he lost the first round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament to the 68th seeded player. Does anyone know how much Ogilvy & Mather got for that dud? Don't know, but AmEx spent $7 million to $10 million on the campaign
    ***
    Ad Age is pondering, and it got me to wonder, which of these sports stars, if any, will become the next Michael Jordan in terms of commercial appeal from among:
    Danica Patrick, 23, car racing
    Michelle Wie, 15, golf
    Tony Stewart, 34, car racing
    Natalie Gulbis, 22, golf
    Sidney Crosby, 18, ice hockey
    Freddy Adu, 16, soccer
    Albert Pujols, 23, baseball
    Eli Manning, 24, football
    Shaun White, 18, skateboarding
    Chris Moneymaker, 28, poker

    Any thoughts, oh opinionated ones?

    BTW, the current leaders in endorsement in the sporting world are, in millions of dollars (approx.):
    Tiger Woods, 80
    Andre Agassi, 44
    LeBron James, 27
    Phil Mickelson, 21
    Dale Earnhardt, Jr., 20
    Serena Williams, 20
    Lance Armstrong, 17.5
    Jeff Gordon, 15
    Shaquille O'Neal, 14
    Peyton Manning, 11
    Only Shaq (23) and Peyton (18) make more in their ACTUAL jobs than they make in their endorsements.
    ***
    J answers: The Joker, Black Widow, the Penguin, Poison Ivy, King Tut. I missed one in the time alloted.

    Saturday, September 17, 2005

    Mixed Bag CD Blog-Greg

    Don't worry, Mary, these are almost over.

    NAME: Greg Burgas
    BLOG NAME: Delenda Est Carthago
    NAME OF CD: At Last! At Last! My Forever Came Today!
    NUMBER OF CUTS: 24
    RUNNING TIME: 79:29
    COVER ART: Color
    SONG LIST:
    1. I Look Funny (talk)
    2. Monday A.M. First Thing-Think Tree
    3. Pass It Along-Chumbawamba
    4. Paper Doll-P.M. Dawn
    5. Closed session (talk)
    6. Therapy-Infectious Grooves
    7. Donde Estas, Yolanda?-Pink Martini
    8. Junkie-James
    9. In the Jailhouse Now-the Soggy Bottom Boys
    10. K Street-Fastbacks
    11. Down to the River to Pray-Alison Krauss
    12. The Last Mile-Cinderella
    13. Excursions-A Tribe Called Qwest
    14. Turn Your Head (talk)
    15. Ugly in the Morning-Faith No More
    16. No Man’s Woman-Sinead O’Connor
    17. Reservation Blues-Jim Boyd
    18. Ocean Size-Jane’s Addiction
    19. Istanbul (Not Constantinople)-They Might Be Giants
    20. Forever Came Today-Supremes
    21. Just Like Fred Astaire-James
    22. Last Call-the Popes
    23. Crown of Thorns-Mother Love Bone
    24. Thanx But No Thanx (talk)
    ALREADY REVIEWED BY: Me on June 27
    GENERAL THOUGHTS: See my review. I suggested that Greg got his CD out so early because he was anticipating the birth of his second child. He corrected me and indicated that he had a bunch of songs lying around from the previous mix. MY version made him look MUCH better.
    THINGS I PARTICULARLY LOVED: See my review. But it does play even better the fourth time through.
    ON THE OTHER HAND: More than the songs I mentioned in my review, the dialogue breaks the flow.
    OFFICE FRIENDLY: As far as I can tell. Some of the lyrics are so garbled – the word "ugly" in the title of #15 sounded like a curse, but it was just his pronunciation.
    ONLY VAGUELY RELATED: The Jackson 5 did a cover of the title track; Diana, Mary and Cindy do it so much better.

    Mixed Bag CD Blog-Nat

    NAME: Nat Pike
    BLOG NAME: Nat Pike's Wired For Sound
    NAME OF CD: We Don’t Need No Stinking Lyrics
    NUMBER OF CUTS: 15
    RUNNING TIME: 50:23 (only the second disc shorter than mine)
    COVER ART: Nicely typed
    SONG LIST: His post of June 10
    ALREADY REVIEWED BY:
    GENERAL THOUGHTS: I think the instrumental compilation is the trickiest. In songs with lyrics, you have another aspect that might grab you. But these are all or nothing. Not that there aren’t vocals on here – you’ll find whistling, vocoder, ahs. This is a very diverse set, and I enjoyed much of it.
    THINGS I PARTICULARLY LOVED: the accordion in Madagascar; whistling and banjo in Air; Dan K guitar and running bass; Wall of Voodoo; and especially, the jazz banjo feel of the Spidey theme. A suitable ending. Too bad ELP song was co-opted by Beef, because it’s a great piece of American music.
    ON THE OTHER HAND: There were periods when it became background music. Pleasant background music; it wasn’t an individual cut, but the flow. Sticking Wadsworth or Van Halen, or indeed anything from cuts 8-14 within cuts 4-7 might have changed it up a little sonically.
    OFFICE FRIENDLY: Well, no dirty words.
    ONLY VAGUELY RELATED: I've been told that the Tomita piece is the theme to the show Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer, a very brief (5 minute), very quirky show that airs on our PBS station just before sign off.
    Geologically, Madagascar could be defined as a continent.

    Friday, September 16, 2005

    The blog in Mid-September

    I added a couple links: Johnny Bacardi (belatedly) and Tegan's Bloggity-Blog-Blog, both in the Comic Book section of this here electronic communicator.

    And I also, reluctantly, added the word verification feature to the comments part of the page. I started to believe all the nice things those spam bloggers were saying about the blog. What I discovered almost immediately is that my per day "hit" average went down by 5, but I'm OK with that.

    3 TV ?s


    In honor of the Emmys this weekend, I decided some time ago on the topic of television. Then Lefty beat me to it, but I'm going to use it any. Of course, I'll ask some different stuff:

    1. What show that went off the air in the past year will you miss the most? (The fact that it may now be in syndication or on DVD notwithstanding.)

    2. What show did you use to like but keep watching out of habit, or in the vain hope that it'll get better?

    3. What is your favorite show from your childhood (or now) that you would be embarrassed to acknowledge? (No one will see it here, so feel free to unburden yourself to ol' Ramblin'.)

    Thursday, September 15, 2005

    Toxic building

    This is what School 16 in Albany, just across the street from the Ellenbogan house and visible wheen I leave the house each morning, looked like at the end of June:



    But because it's 99 years old, difficult to make accessible, etc., etc., it started looking like:



    and



    and



    Now it's gone, save for the rubble.
    It's good that Lydia will be going to a new school. The district is rebuilding and expect to be done by January 2007.

    The problem I 've been having lately, ever since the first part of the demolition, is that I can TASTE it. I know they did asbestos remediation in mid-June, before the deconstruction. But the dust or mold or whatever that's been released was so bad that we have ceased taking Lydia for a walk.

    I know progress is messy, but does it have to burn my throat? And my nose?

    Neighbors

    Good neighbors are sometimes difficult to find. We had two great neighbors, one right next door, and another that was a half dozen houses down that we lost this calendar year.

    Harry was of Greek heritage. Even though he was in the United States since at least 1958, he never lost his heavy-duty accent. Sometimes he'd speak, and you would just nod if you had an inkling of what you thought he was talking about. Harry was a big time flirt, in that non-threatening, non-creepy way. He flirted with my wife, my mother-in-law, my sister, almost any visiting woman. I'm still not convinced that he knew MY name, but my spouse's, he knew.

    He was very active in his church, which runs a very dynamic Greek festival each year. If we couldn't make it, he'd be sure to pick up some baklava and other taste treats. He also was an avid gardener, and he supplied us with more vegetables in the summer than we could eat; we froze some. And he grew some nice flowers, that he presented to my wife on a regular basis. Truth is, she got more flowers fronm Harry than she did from me in the past four years. Unfortunately, Harry became ill and died in February at the age of 82.

    Mrs. Ellenbogen was an elegent lady of 85. (Her name was Mary, but WE never called her that.) She was a master gardener and the front of her house was meticulous. She was spry, walking all over the neighborhood. Her husband Bernard, a retired lawyer over a decade her senior was understandably lame. They'd both head for the corner, she'd get there then go back and walk the rest of the way with him. She was very vital and very devoted to her spouse. She was very interested in our daughter's well-being, and would talk with her when we met on the street.

    The Ellenbogans wintered in Florida for about half the year. One day in April, Mr. Ellenbogan fell into their pool down in the Sunshine State; she jumped in after him, and they both drowned. Unlike Harry, who had shown signs of decline over the last year, her death was a particular shock to us and to the neighborhood.

    I found out just this month that Harry's daughter Cookie (her name is Maria, but we never call her that) is buying the Ellenbogan house. Harry, she and her brother Dino had all been living on separate floors in Harry's house. Dino will stay in Harry's old house, and rent the upstairs.

    We miss Harry and Mrs. Ellenbogan very much, but I think that they'd be pleased that their houses will remain in good and loving hands.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2005

    It's All About ME

    (I fret too much that this will be taken with the affected vainglorious tone.)

    As Mr. Hembeck so acutely observed today, I find myself in the middle of the blogiverse. It even extends beyond the comic book folks.

    I was looking at Steve Gerber's blog the other day when there was noticed by ME something called Technorati. (Gordon's page has it too, but I did not notice it before.) It shows blogs that are linked to his blog, such as MINE. Naturally, I checked to see who was linked to ME, and I found a bunch of these comic bloggers I've only met electronically, all of whom are in the Comic Blog section of MY blog, plus MY friend Lori.

    But I also came across a Chris Black, a "Liberal Democrat Councillor" from Rayleigh, Essex, United Kingdom, who linked to something I wrote a couple weeks ago. I think he's Lefty's long-lost cousin across the pond (both named Chris, both with last names that are colors, both liberal). I think we should all write to him and say "Hi."

    Last Tuesday, I discovered that it was ME (or I, but let's not get fussy here) who had won Logan's contest. I don't even know what the criteria were, but no matter.
    But then Logan caused ME all sorts of distress by asking ME, who's only recently re-entered the comic book word, and tentatively at that, to pick out what he should read from his enormous pile of unread items; and, lo, he actually took some of MY advice!

    On Friday, Greg announced that one of the three winners of his contest was ME.

    On Saturday, I went to Fred's page and saw that he filled out the Five for Friday poll of the Comic Reporter, so I thought I'd fill out MY choices, which were:
    1. Fred Hembeck (the cartoon, not the guy - the guy is WAY too serious)
    2. Daffy Duck
    3. Smilin' Ed Smiley
    4. Superchicken
    5. the main character in the Groening "Hell" strips
    Poultry, in general, are funny.
    But then then, I realized the responses were attributted to Carol Green, because I was using her e-mail. But the responses were from ME.

    Today, Lefty (finally) noted that the winner of his contest was...Greg. But Greg was congratulated by ME.

    Anyway, I'm glad I got THAT out of my system. More entertainment next time.

    MOVIE REVIEW: Broken Flowers


    Carol and I got to go to a movie again! Even when the movie is not so good, this is an enjoyasble time.

    Let others make you wait to tell you what they thought of the thing they are reviewing; Broken Flowers is a wonderful movie. Poor Jim Jim Jarmusch seems practically traumatized that he has written and directed a "commercial" movie, after working on films such as Ghost Dog, and Coffee and Cigarettes.

    This is a picture of reluctant discovery. Much has been made of Bill Murray's expressive face, and it's true that he conveys much in a haggard sigh. The film doesn't work without his pained perseverence.
    But the biggest surprise for me was Jeffrey Wright - he was ocasionally laugh-out-loud FUNNY. I always associated him with heavier fare such as Angel in America (the play and the HBO production), Lackawanna Blues, and the remake of The Manchurian Candidate.
    The women, Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton, and other supporting characters were all fine as well. And the ending!!

    At some level, I may have enjoyed this film for three reasons that others may not share. Murray has a line about being a "stalker in a Taurus"; we have a Taurus. Murray was supposed to traveling all around the country, but the architecture and the roads suggest a more limited sojourn, much of which I revcognized as from south of Albany and north of New York City. And a young woman had a neighing hoorse on a plane; that was Paco, and I have a Paco myself.

    My friend Mary also saw the film, "liked it, but didn't love it." She said, "I could relate to Bill's (fine) portrayal of depression and paralysis, but who needs it?" well, if he just stayed there, I'd agree, but there did seem to be some development in the character, in spite of himself. There was something else in the movie that she thought was "a bit much." (If you see the film, I THINK you'll figure out what she means.) I thought the point was that the character was in competition with another, and that she was taught to use whatever was at her disposal; it was so surprising that it worked for me.

    Now, I must confess something: I didn't much like Lost in Translation, the award-winning film of 2003, which also starred Murray. Perhaps, it was built up in my mind too much, with all of the very positive reviews, but it just left me cold. So, I was wary of reviews that suggested that Murray was as good in Broken Flowers as he was in Lost in Tanslation. For whatever reasons, the newer film resonated more.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    Gatemouth


    There's this site linked to my page called Dead or Alive, which is a pretty good source of...well, who's dead and who's alive. For instance, there's a mention of the recent passing of Chris Schenkel, the sports announcer I feel I watched all my life.

    But there's no mention of the death of legendary bluesman Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown, who seems to appear on practically every blues compilation I own, and who I've seen at a bluesfest in Albany in recent years. So, if you have a mind, write to Dead or Alive, and follow the instructions to have him included.

    For that matter, ask them to add Vassar Clements, who I wrote about last month. These are core purveyors of American music and ought not be forgotten.
    ***
    And on a TOTALLY unrelated note, new Gilmore Girls tonight! Amazon is trying to entice me to buy the 4th season on DVD, but we haven't even gotten through Season 1, which I bought for Carol last year.

    My Darth Tater contest selection

    OK, I'll admit it: when Lefty first suggested this contest, I figured, "OK, what the heck, I'll look at some CD I'd previously put together and copy that." But then I looked at the rules again (see Lefty's page on August 3 for all of them)... The relevant ones for my purposes are these:

    Create the Greatest 60's, 70's, 80's, or 90's Music Compilation Ever Created. All tracks must be from one decade only. Bonus points for keeping away from tracks that always seem to make it on those decades collection (i.e. do we really need another 80s hits mix that has A-Ha's "Take on Me" on it).

    Ah, that last part made it a little trickier.

    Inspired by Tosy, one of the other contestants in Lefty's contest, I thought I'd share my (il)logic in picking the songs, especially now that Lefty has reviwed my picks (on September 12).

    In the period between discovering Fred Hembeck's webpage and starting my blog, I put together a series of CDs that I sent to him (and he to me). Some were chronological, some were thematic (love, dance). The trick was to NOT send cuts that he had sent me, and for the most part, I was successful.

    For Lefty's disc (which I may refer to as Tater disc), I wanted to concentrate on groups that most everyone had heard of who was familiar with the music of the era, but not necessarily the obvious tracks.

    1. The Who "Tommy's Holiday Camp"
    I had put together a Mix with songs with Hello or Welcome in the title or prominent in the lyric. I decided to start Tater with a song that ends with the word "welcome". Definitely NOT a hit, though off a hit album.

    2. Cream "Doing That Scrapyard Thing"
    In my 1969 Mix, I had a live version of "I'm So Glad" to end the disc. Well, I love that song, but it's too long for the second slot on the Tater disc. So, I went to the same album, "Goodbye Cream", which has only three studio cuts: Badge (a hit), What a Bringdown and my selection. This song has the same circusy feel as the previous cut. Of course, this cut features former Yardbird guitarist Eric Clapton.

    3. Led Zeppelin "Communications Breakdown"
    The first cut on my 1969 disc, featuring former Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page.

    4. Donovan "Barabajagel"
    The second cut on my 1969 disc, featuring former Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck. Fred & I agree that these last two songs play GREAT together.

    5. Traffic "Medicated Goo"
    This is here to continue the Goo theme from the previous track, and because I love this song. Also from the 1969 disc.

    6. Lovin' Spoonful "Six O'Clock"
    This song is in this slot because it's the sixth cut. From the 1967-68 disc. I like the staccato feel.

    7. QoS "Ain't Nobody"
    Well, we need some soul music. The song from my 67-68 disc was "Since You've Been Gone", not "Respect", but not exactly obscure either. Then I looked at the other possibilities and the NEXT selection capped it.

    8. Three Dog Night "Nobody"
    "Ain't Nobody" followed by this song from the first Three Dog Night album. I LIKED the first 3DN album, just like I liked the first Chicago album, and the first Blood, Sweat and Tears album - no apologies. From the 69 disc, I think.

    9. Stevie Wonder "You Met Your Match"
    Given the fact that I LOVE Stevie, it's surprising that he didn't make any of my compilation discs until his 1970s output. A minor hit, so it fit the criteria.

    10. Steppenwolf "Move Over"
    Hembeck doesn't like Steppenwolf except for the two hits, Lefty not at all. But, in addition to the guitar, check out the lyrics. From the 69 mix.

    11. Monkees "Words"
    I had a Monkees Greatest Hits vinyl LP, given to me by my old FantaCo buddy, Mitch Cohn. Then a few years ago, I got a GH CD from my friend Mark. The former did not have "Words", and I frankly had forgotten about it until I heard it again on the latter. I fell back in love with the tune. From the 67-68 mix.

    12. Chicago "I'm A Man"
    As I said, I liked the Chicago Transit Authority. From the 69 mix.

    13. Neil Young "The Loner"
    I had "Cinnamon Girl" on a mix, but too much of a hit. (It only got to #55, but for Neil, that was pretty good.) 3DN did a cover of this song on their first LP, so I picked the original.

    14. The Band "King Harvest"
    I felt these two songs by Canadians (primarily) felt like they were in the same groove. The second Band LP was my favorite, and one of my all-time favorite albums.

    15. The Rascals "It's Wonderful"
    When my sister Leslie and I played this at home, we used to jog around the living room. I found it infectious. (Lefty did not.) From 67-68 mix.

    16. The Mamas & Papas "Free Advice"
    I guess I liked this song because it's quirky. Had forgotten about it until I started listening to the group in honor of John Phillips' birthday recently.

    17. The Supremes "Some Things You Never Get Used To"
    This was another new addition. Love the early post-Florence Ballard stuff (Reflections, Love Child albums), before they declined into parody.

    18. Frank Zappa "Peaches en Regalia"
    I don't always "get" Zappa, either, but I love this tune. From the 69 mix.

    19. Reggie Milner "Habit-Forming Love"
    I needed one "out there" selection. This is it. I was remined of it when I was playing BOTH of my Stax-Volt box sets of 9 discs each, averaging 70 minutes per disc, last month.

    20. Vanilla Fudge "She's Not There"
    I prefer the Zombies' version, too, but that wouldn't have met the criteria. It was a moody intro to the next cut.

    21. The Beatles "Inner Light"
    I didn't put any Beatles on the chronological discs (except "Cry for a Shadow" I think), since Fred the Beatleologist was going to be the recipient. But this Tater disc needed one, I thought. What song by the world-famous BEATLES is obscure? Well, there was "You Know Ny Name" (b-side to "Let It Be"), but I opted for the b-side to "Lady Madonna". It went well, thematically, with the final song. And pairing former Capitol Records labelmates together at the end added to the concept.

    22. Beach Boys "Transcendental Meditation"
    I really like this song. It sounds uncharacteristically off-key (or maybe it's just the harmonic structure), it rocks, and it's short. From the 67-68 disc.

    OK, so I bring the disc to work, so I can take it to the P.O. to mail to Lefty, and it SKIPPED from track 12 on. The deadline was approaching, and Tater disc had to go cross country, so I stayed up that night and laid it down again. No skips, and he got it in time.

    One of these decades, Chris is going to tell us who won. He SAID he'd announce last Friday. He's really dragging it out. Where'd he get the idea to do THAT? From his friend Ed and from ME! O.K., I'll be (somewhat) patient.

    Primary Day 2005

    Today is Primary Day in New York state. In NYC, the polls are open from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m., but upstate, the polls are only open from noon until 9 p.m. I HATE that. I like to vote before I go to work so that the campaigns can check the list and see that I've already voted so that they DONT call me to get out to vote.

    Of course, the 12-year incumbant mayor, Jerry "Well Tanned" Jennings is a lock for renomination by the Democratic Party (not to be confused with a democratic party). And the Democratic nomination is all one really needs to get elected in the city of Albany. Jennings' opponent is Archie Goodbee, a black man who was all but invisible from the moment he declared until fairly recently, and is outmanaged, outfunded, and generally, out of luck.

    An incumbant candidate always brings negatives, and I suspect Goodbee expected the support of the progressive wing of the Democratic party just because Archie is not Jerry. The progressives got black ADA David Soares to beat the incumbant district attorney, Paul Clyne last year, but Soares and his people did the groundwork that Goodbee did not, and the progressives pretty much opted out of that race altogether, or supported the mayor.

    Monday, September 12, 2005

    Cindy Sheehan's Coming to Town

    I'm very happy that Camp Casey has pricked the conscience of a lot of folks this summer. I'm happy that Cindy Sheehan will be in Albany on Wednesday, and I expect I'll see her at some point.

    And yet - I still get the feeling that it won't matter. Colin Powell was interviewed on 20/20 last Friday, admitted that he was suckered into believing the WMD info, acknowledged that it was a stain on his career that will be with him the rest of his life. Yet, he still believes in "staying the course."

    Someone: please give me some encouraging words that will help me believe that this war will end sooner rather than later.

    Thhe schedule, for those who might care:
    10 a.m.- set up Camp Casey on the Capitol Park West
    12 noon-rally in front of the Capitol
    7 p.m.- forum in Chancellor's Hall, State Education Bldg., Washington Avenue



    This is Constitution week. Friday and Saturday are Constitution Days. I would have totally missed this except that my wife asked me to find material so that she can prepare a lesson plan dealing with the Bill of Rights on Friday.

    I do think the irony is palpable that this President, who signed the so-called USA PATRIOT Act, has put his signature on a law plugging the Constitution.
    Meanwhile, this conversation is taking place in the Letters to the Editor in the local newspapers, and other papers, I gather; the "logic" is this: the soldiers are in Iraq "protecting American freedom and our way of life" ; one of those freedoms is the right to dissent; but that we ought not to use that right because we'll undermine the troops and provide succor to the enemy. I'm sure that the opposition to the American occupation, or the Iraqi liberation, depending on how you view these things, is sitting around waiting for Cindy Sheehan to plot her next vigil so that they can strike.

    My JEOPARDY! desire


    I believe the new season of the aforementioned game show's new season starts today.

    When Merv Griffin, inspired by his wife, came up with the concept of JEOPARDY! four decades ago, it was a stroke of genius. Three players who thought they knew a thing or two get to compete in a game where they give you the answer and you have to come up with the question. If you win five games, you go away, but you come back for the Tournament of Champions.

    After a champion has retired, through the luck of the draw, there would be three new players; one of them would be able to go back to their hometown and say that he or she was a JEOPARDY! Champion.

    What the rule change a couple seasons ago has meant has been the creation of scarcity. Under the old rules, Ken Jennings would have been gone after day five; under the new rules, and Ken’s 74th victory, about 15 people won’t even make it onto the show. The Tournament of Champions of 2004, in order to fill the fifteen slots allotted, needed to go to more four-time and even three-time champions.

    This really isn’t about Ken Jennings, though I admit that I had tired of him in the same way some people root for anybody except the Yankees; it’s about the game. This is the designated hitter in baseball, the shot clock in basketball. And while those changes in other sports have produced MORE offense for SEVERAL, the new JEOPARDY! rule change has been beneficial for only a few, and as detrimental to the game as Astroturf is on the knees of a football running back.

    I wish they would change the rule, if not to five appearances, then certainly 10. I want MORE JEOPARDY! champions, not fewer. But with the spike in ratings during Jennings' run, I don't anticipate any change. Sigh.

    (Oh, yeah, for those joining me recently, I was on the show. I discussed it at length in this blog for 11 Saturdays starting May 28.)
    **
    I was flicking through the channels Saturday afternoon, and I saw Alex Trebek on one of those celebrity poker matches. Usually tight-fisted, according to the announcer, he won about $10K on a bluff (6 and 7 of hearts, I believe, with no pair). Tom the Dog can tell you more about celebrity poker in this column than I choose to know. And if you want to see the episode in question, I believe it's airing again on Bravo this Thursday at 7 p.m., just before a new episode.

    Sunday, September 11, 2005

    11 Sept 01 plus 4


    I am on this listserv of Methodist clergy and laity. (I'm not a Methodist anymore, but what the hey.) They discussed weeks ago the fact that September 11 was going to be on a Sunday this year for the first time since the attacks. "What are you going to preach on?" "How are you going to deal with it during the service?" A potpourri of responses, but I saw no one who wasn't going to acknowledge it in some significant way.

    I've got a lot of thought about what's gone on in the country over the past four years, how I don't feel safer but rather the opposite, that our response to an emergency fills me with dread rather than confidence, how certain parties (think the 23rd letter) will attempt to exploit this day for political gain (again), and justify the Iraqi invasion (again). But I'm not going to get into it right now.

    Maybe it's because I'm a little under the weather. Maybe it's Katrina Fatigue. (Am I even ALLOWED to admit to that?) I haven't even finished the series of Katrina-related stories in this week's Metroland, but I do recommend the "Cracks in the Spin" links.

    I'm not even going to share my own recollections of the day four years ago - maybe next year, on the fifth anniversary. Today, I'm just going to share tales of a couple friends of mine:


    An Albany friend of mine took a train to NYC that morning. She had an appointment in one of the outer boroughs. But when she heard about the attacks, she didn't even bother to try to call the client; she probably wouldn't have gotten through, in any case. Instead, she took the very next train back to Albany at 9:30, just before the authorities decided to stop rail transportation out of the city. That proved to be a very sage decision, since it was likely the LAST train to leave the city for several days.
    ***
    Subject: Where is your office?
    Are you OK?
    ROG

    Hi. It's Thursday morning. I was about to board a Jet Blue plane at JFK when I called my friend. Her father had died Monday night after a long hospiitalization and while we were on the phone at 8:45 she saw the hit on tv and conveyed it to me. I informed the people around me what she was telling me. They had us board the plane and another person informed us of the 2nd hit as we were boarding. After 5 minutes on the plane they cancelled our flight and asked us to disembark. I got out of the airport as quickly as possible at about 9:30 expecting to stand in an impossibly long taxi line. I remarkably was only 5th in line and got a cab right away. We took choked local streets back to my house in Brooklyn, saw the horror of the towers in flames, watched the first one go down and heard on the radio that the Pentagon was also hit and that #2 WTC went down. Once we entered my neighborhood at about 10:45AM, the once clear blue sky turned to a white and grey cloud of falling ash. It looked like a snowy winter day for a couple of hours as the debris descended and again later in the day when #7 WTC fell. The toxic acrid smell in the air is undescribable. I hesitate to think that the ash that fell from the sky could have been cremated human remains and the odor in the air like that of a crematorium. My building is directly south of Governor's Island, one block from Pier 7 and as the crow flies, probably a mile from what was the WTC. I used to be able to see the top of the WTC that had the tv antennas on it from my apartment windows. Needless to say I was relieved and grateful to be home and that I hadn't been enroute to my office in Manhattan when usually at 9:15-9:30AM, I would have been on a subway that goes underneath WTC. It was difficult getting out word of my safety to my family because of the choked phone lines. I haven't slept well (nothing new there) and in my walks through Brooklyn yesterday and on 9/11, I witness skittish people.
    They just closed the subways south of 42nd because of the damage potential of the rumbling vibrations to the crash site. I guess I'll be staying put again today. I've been purposefully trying not to get on-line or on the phone becasue the phone infracture is clogged enough and needs to be free for critical communication. Thanks for checking in.

    Saturday, September 10, 2005

    Grandpa Green



    I remember the first time it happened. It was a woman visiting my church. I was a bit perturbed but tried not to show it.

    The telephone repair guy was the second one. I was defiant. Nope, "Mine," I pointed.

    The third time, my attitude was pretty matter-of-fact, as I caught a supposedly tethered baby unleashed while we were sitting at a concert in Washington Park. The guy said, "Thanks, gramps." He assumed, as the others did, that my child was my grandchild. It is, if I'm being rational about it, understandable. I was 51 when I had Lydia. My father was 52 when my sister Leslie had her daughter Becky.

    Of course, the point of mentioning this is not to protect my fragile ego - I'm all right now, thanks - but to note that one should avoid jumping to conclusions about these things without the facts.
    ***
    This conversation, strangely, reminds me of something the wedding planner asked at Carol's and my wedding in 1999. "Are your parents alive and still married to each other?"
    "Yes."
    "Are any of your grandparents still alive?"
    "No, all deceased."
    "Good."
    I knew she wasn't saying that it was good that our grandparents were all dead, merely that it was one less logistical issue to consider. It was too funny a comment to really offend us. But it was a dopey thing to say, and I hope she never said that to someone more easily offended.

    3 Grand ?s

    National Grandparents Day is coming up tomorrow. (And here I thought it was invented by Hallmark.) Thus, the source of my queries, which, if you would kindly respond to, I'd appeciate it:

    1. Are your grandparents still on this plane of existence? If not, when did the last one pass away?

    2. Who was/is your favorite, and why?

    3. What side of the family did you spend the most time with as a kid (visits, reunions)?

    Friday, September 09, 2005

    The Streets of Albany Were Designed by Sadists


    I was walking my daughter on Manning Boulevard recently, when a couple pulled over and asked for an address on North Manning Boulevard. I had to laugh out loud. "OK, go a couple more blocks north (as they were going), then suddenly the street will head east for a few blocks, then curve back north. When you cross Central Avenue, then you'll be on North Manning, with a whole new numbering scheme."

    Another time I was walking along State Street near Washington Park. This man was walking to an address on State Street, but he was very confused because State Street seemed to end. "Go over to Western Avenue, go two blocks, turn right a block, and you'll find State Street starts again."

    Wha?

    Albany is an old city. Its roots run back to a voyage by Henry Hudson in 1609. It was incorporated in 1686. Thus, a lot of the streets are not exactly parallel.
    For instance, start at the bottom of the hill at State Street and Broadway. Get to the top of the hill, pass to the right of the Capitol (where the traffic pattern suggests) and suddenly, you're on Washington Avenue. Where did State Street go? To the left of the Capitol on a one-way street, going the way opposite the numbering.

    OK. Get to Lark Street. The bulk of the traffic seems to be going at 1 o'clock, and that continues to be Route 5. But that's not Washington Avenue, that's Central Avenue. No, stay straight in one of the worst-designed intersections in any city. Go about three blocks to the firehouse. Go straight and you're suddenly on Western Avenue. Where did Washington Avenue go? You should have veered right.

    In the opposite direction, Western and Madison Avenue do a divergence, with Route 20 suddenly moving from the former to the latter. New Scotland Avenue is an interesting street that is perpendicular to Madison Avenue at one point, and parallel a few blocks later.

    The situation is made worse by development over the years. The creation of the Empire State Plaza, Washington Park, Albany High School at its current location, and the UAlbany uptown campus mean that there are MANY streets that start and stop and start again. An example: Hudson Avenue. It starts at Broadway and ends with the Empire State Plaza, built in the 1960s. It starts again on the other side of the plaza and ends at the park. There's another segment between the high school and Allen Street. Thee are lots of examples of that. One would think this must be a police/fire department nightmare.

    And the highways are no better. A peculiarity of the New York State Thruway, which is a toll road, is that it is on I-87 going north from NYC to Albany, then I-90, heading west to Buffalo. But there are also free segments of each interstate, not part of the Thruway. There's a sign on I-787 that says . What if one wants to go to Saratoga or Schenectady? Go towards Buffalo. If Saratoga's the goal, then you hop up I-87, the FREE portion known as the Northway, towards Montreal. According to a newspaper story, some folks coming from the New York City area to go to the casino on Exit 30 of the Thruway come up I-87, the Thruway, end up staying on I-87, the Northway, way up in the Adirondacks. What they SHOULD have done is stay on the Thruway, which becomes I-90, and take THAT Exit 30. And because of our arcane roads, New York State is not likely to get exits tied to the miles to/from the border, which is how they do things in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and Virginia, for three examples. Maybe that's why the Monday road section of the local paper is one of its most popular features. Even people who live here are still trying to figure out the best way to get from here to there.