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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Those Damn Lipton QUESTIONS

Gotta get rady for Mary and Rick's weding at 10 this morning. Lydia was uncharacteristically awake in the middle of the night for a while. And, what the heck; after all, he turned 80 this month. Share, if you will.

James Lipton’s Ten Questions
Since I'm unlikely to appear on the show, here are the ten questions (compiled by Bernard Pivot) that James Lipton asks every guest on Inside the Actors Studio, along with my own responses.

1. What is your favorite word?
"Rendezvous." I'm fond of words of French or Italian origin.

2. What is your least favorite word?
"Blitzkrieg"

3. What turns you on?
Curiosity.

4. What turns you off?
Hard-headed stupidity.

5. What is your favorite curse word?
It starts with an a, it has seven letters, we all have one, and my friend Karen says
it with such passion that it's almost music.

6. What sound or noise do you love?
Actually, I like white noise- fans, certain vacuum cleaners, even. I'm thinking noise vs. music.

7. What sound or noise do you hate?
A jackhammer.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
It took me so long to figure THIS one out. I suppose law.

9. What profession would you not like to attempt?
Oh, so many. Medicine - don't want to kill anyone.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
"So you finally figured it out, eh?"

Friday, September 29, 2006

Hamlet, the Musical

I've been puzzling mightily over two musical choices. The first involves the tracks for Gordon's mixed CD thing. When he announced it, I knew immediately the theme would be murder - it was near 9/11 at the time - but in what form?

My first thought was to show the range of murder from comedy to tragedy, but there simply wasn't enough comedy: Maxwell's Silver Hammer (Beatles), The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun (Julie Brown), Lizzie Borden (some folk duo). Then I thought to do that murder ballad thing I had thought of years ago, with Delia's Gone (Johnny Cash), Pretty Polly (Judy Collins), any number of songs from Nick Cave's Murder Ballads CD, and others. But then I got my disc from Lefty, which contained two of my choices: Down By the River (Neil Young), and Hey Joe (Jimi Hendrix). OK, scratch that.

I'm now working on a new concept, but Gordon himself stole Somebody Got Murdered from me. What to do, what to do? Anyway, I THINK my burning issue is solved, but the discs probably won't go out until the end of next week. Those not involved in the exchange can still get whatever homicidal package I put together.

The other musical topic is the fact that someone (to whom I owe a picture of myself, but I haven't had a chance for my wife to take it; I haven't forgotten) gave me a $25 iTunes card. While I know I could use it on a number of things, I've decided that I want to get songs of artists that are one- or two-hit wonders, for whom I don't need their whole album. So far, I've selected:
But It's All Right (J.J. Jackson), not, as I understand, the late original MTV VJ, but one of the few black artists on Warner/Reprise in the 1960s, along with Bill Cosby.
I Fought the Law (Bobby Fuller Four) in Gordon's honor.
Expressway to Your Heart (Soul Survivors), with that insistent bass line. Maybe my sister owned the single.
And because I suppose every music-loving boomer is supposed to have it:
Incense and Peppermints (Strawberry Alarm Clock)

But what else? Here are some examples:
I Can Help (Billy Swan) - possibly the least well-known #1 of the era (1972), at least until ServiceStar used it in a commercial.
Why Can't We Live Together (Timmy Thomas) - so of its period, and yet still relevant.
The Ballad of the Green Berets (S/Sgt. Barry Sadler) - not that I'd actually buy it.

As I pondered this aloud at work, my boss said, "Why don't you ask the people reading your blog?" What a swell idea! What singles, or for that matter, tracks of albums where the album's not all that hot, but has one killer cut ("killer cut"? - back to the murder theme?), do you think I should own? I have the Nuggets CD, so I have Wild Thing by the Troggs, e.g.

And while I'm thinking about it: iTunes does NOT have the 12" (about six-minute)version of Paul Simon's Boy in the Bubble. Nor does it appear on Simon's box set, much to my annoyance. Anybody out there know where I can find it in a digital form? (I borrowed my friend Rocco's vinyl, and put it on a cassette tape about 20 years ago.)
***
I mentioned Mario Puzo yesterday, and while looking for something completely different, came across this piece about Superman.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Roger Answers Your Question, Scott & Gordon

First up, Nigel's proud father, Scott:

1. I asked you earlier in the baseball season who would be playing in and win the World Series. You answered the Mets would be the Tigers in 6. Do you still stand by this prediction? If not, then who?

I'll stand by the Mets to win it all. The American League winner could be anyone. My father-in-law is a Twins fan. There are lots of people around here who are rooting for the Yankees to win the AL, and then lose to the Mets. But in a short series, anything can happen, including the Tigers winning.

2. If you could dine with one athlete, one politician, and one writer (all either dead or alive) who would they be and why?

I'll pick all dead people on the theory that I could somehow still meet the live ones:
Athlete - Arthur Ashe. He was a pioneer who lived his life with dignity.
Politician- Thomas Jefferson. Maybe he'd give me the real scoop on Sally Hemings.
Writer- Mario Puzo. Just because I happened to see this name on my bookshelf. Also, because I'd be interested in how he researched "The Godfather".

3. (Playing off Lefty's first question) How far do you think we are away from having an African-American President?

It'd have to be someone not perceived either as an old-line liberal (Jesse Jackson) or a sellout (Condi Rice). Someone like Barack Obama. 2016. Maybe.

4. Do you think it's right for the President (whether Dubya or any other after) to put their religious beliefs so in the forefront, considering that we have freedom of religion in this country?

Yes. I'm old enough to remember JFK having to say that he wouldn't take orders from the Pope. That said, as a Christian myself, his brand of Christianity makes me very uncomfortable.

5. Do you know that I was going to do this same segment again on my web site because it was really fun the first time (after stealing your idea) but you beat me to it by a week or so?
No, but if you hum a few bars...
"I was gonna do
The same post as you."
Is that how it goes?
And I see you did yesterday. I hope I found questions to make your life a living heck, at least.

And now, a fellow Piscean, Gordon:

1. Have you seen the remastered STAR TREK? And if so, what do you think?

No. And I think I've grown weary of re-release, remastered, release the original (Star Wars). Now, I'll ask you, should I see the remastered STAR TREK? I know you wrote about the Trekkers' complaints. It doesn't BOTHER me, philosophically, as opposed to my feelings about colorization, e.g., I just think it's a way to squeeze more dimes out of my pocket, and I'll pass, thank you.

2. Does William Shatner really deserve to be a cult figure?

As opposed to whom? Sure, why not? I'm always reminded of the folks on Hollywood Squares, where I no longer knew WHY Charley Weaver was famous in the first place. Shatner's avoided that with his three series plus the Star Trek movies. (Gee, a visual of him doing Rock-et Man suddenly flashed through my brain. Whoa!)

3. Mike Sterling: pro or con?

Well, when he's behaving himself, he's OK. But when he's being a great big cheater pants, to the pits with him!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Roger Answers Your Questions, Eddie and Lefty

Our first contestant is Eddie, who not only asked a couple questions but promoted this Q&A.

1. How many CD's does a person have to own before you, Roger, consider the amount to be excessive?


Well, it depends on the amount you play. Let's say I have 1500 CDs. (OK, let's.) If I play six albums five times a week, that's 30 albums. Multiply that by 50 weeks, and 1500 is just the perfect number to be able to play your whole collection at least once a year. All of the discs get played, and none of them feel lonely and rejected. If one plays more music, one can own more music; if less, then less.

This is the reason, in large part, why I have a system of music playing that I know I've described in this blog, but cannot find. In brief, I play music around artists' birthdays (Springsteen now, Emmylou in April), compilers' birthdays (Motown compilations in November, in honor of Berry Gordy), events (movie soundtracks in February and March, in honor of the Academy Awards), etc. Which reminds me: when's your birthday? I like to play your compilations around then.

This is not to say I'm limited to these times; when I get the new Dylan album for Christmas (someone pleeeeease tell my wife she's getting this for me), I'll get the sense that I'll be playing it a lot in January and February, even if his birthday's not until May.

Of course, you don't HAVE to play them all annually. There are those albums you keep around for a few songs to put on compilation discs. (So why don't I just put them all on mp3s? Because I'd miss the information on the package.)

So my answer, for me, is 3000, and I'm only (a little more than) halfway there.

2. What does a guy have to do to get your summer mix, considering he was theoretically part of the exchange?

Well, theoretically, I wrote you an e-mail on this very topic that said I would send you a copy when I finished the crime CD in Gordon's exchange. But then, I got, curiously, a number of e-mails unsendable from two bloggers: my friend Lori in Florida, one of the few bloggers I actually know, and you. (Did you know I can see stuff such as on your page?)

So, for your trouble, my next package to you will contain the summer mix, the crime mix, and a mix that's totally randomly selected from a pile I put together when I was only exchanging with Hemby. And not so incidentally, I received your package on Friday. Boy, I hope Lydia doesn't turn out like the Lydia in that song.

Great groveling to Lefty, BTW.

And speaking of the southpaw:

1. Would you vote for a African-American Presidential candidate if they were conservative?

I suppose conservative in what way? Prior to 2003, I would have considered Colin Powell. He seemed to be a man of integrity. And truth is, maybe he bought that bill of goods about Iraq he spoke about at the UN in February 2003. Certainly, I appreciate his position on opposing torture.

Whereas his successor as Secretary of State, Condi Rice, I would NEVER vote for. At least Alan Keyes seems to have a consistent moral position, even if I oppose most of it.

2. Will we ever see a non-Christian presidential candidate?

Sure, he'll be Jewish (and it'll be a he) in 2016. Or 2020.

3. Can you remember that last time you heard a piece of music that made you nearly weep (for joy or sorrow)?

Sure, happens all the time.
Joy: the vocalization at the end of Surf's Up by the Beach Boys
Sorrow: there's a suspension at the end of a dramatic crescendo about 6 minutes into an 8 minute version of Barber's Adagio that almost never fails to get to me. (Anyone want to explain this better than I just did, please feel free.)

BTW, re: your question about going blind or deaf, sometimes I can recreate in my own mind a piece of music. If I would still have that, that'd be great.

4. What was the worst vacation you ever went on?

Undoubtedly it was some damn camping trip my father foisted on us. One place, north of Binghamton on the way to Syracuse actually had laundry facilities, but it was so fly-infested that I ended up killing dozens, including - and this is true - seven with one blow.

5. What website could you not live without?

At work, I use the Census Bureau page a LOT at work.
Personally, right now, it's my own page, or links thereon. What great insight has Gay Prof provided for us? What pop culture wisdom will Tom the Dog share? How's Nigel?

6. What did you think of my Circle of Friends mix?

I liked it, especially that middle section with Duran Duran and the Hall & Oates cover and that song that swipes, among other things, the Miracles' "Tears of a Clown".

7. So is Bush dumb, ill-informed, greedy, crafty, or evil?

I DON'T KNOW. Maybe all of them. Surely, he's crafty enough to have surrounded himself with people who could make him President. Early on in his administration, he was clearly ill-informed; you'll recall during the 2000 campaign how little he knew of world affairs. I don't care how many books he reads, but some of his comments in this area - I'm too lazy to look 'em up - sounded just dumb.

Evil. A serious word, that. But some of his non-response to the issue of torture as disingenuous at best. Did you see him interviewed by Matt Lauer this month? Something very disturbing about that, at least.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Lydster, Part 30: Two and a Half


I had all of these grandiose ideas about a panoply of pictures of Lydia over the past 2.5 years, but I was having trouble with Blogger, which put the kibosh on that. The picture above, with my mother and Carol's, was supposed to be used for Grandparents' Day, but I forgot. And I did manage to get a couple old pics to post.

You know the physicians' creed to do no harm. I'm pleased to note that Lydia has made it to 2 1/2 in one piece, because of the parenting skills of her mother, and in spite of the parenting skills of me, or so she'll tell her therapist in 20 years.

O.K., that was unnecessarily self-effacing. I do have some skills. I can get her to squueze her medicine thingy into her nose, usually. I can get her to stop crying by doing something extraordinarily silly. (Don't ask.)

I've been taking my bike on the bus when I take her to day care. What pleases (and frankly surprises) me, and the people in the bus, is that I'll say to her, "Stay on the sidewalk until I put the bike on the bus" and she does, saying "Bike on bus and then get me". Then I carry her onto the bus. Then I take her off the bus, ask her to stay on the sidewalk until the bike comes off, and she complies again.

Good news: Lydia has ONLY a peanut allergy. That's good, because I pretty much knew that anyway, and that she DOESN'T have an allergy to anything else, according to the blood test, such as tree nuts, grasses, milk, cats, dogs, or any number of other things that might have affected her.

Lydia only a month ago used to say she was two, but now says she's two and a half, something neither her mother or I taught her. I blame her day care.

I love her a lot. When I get home from work, she'll quit what she's doing (eating, playing) to greet me. She is a good hugger.

Well, enough of this saccharine stuff. More cynicism soon.

***
Lydia, Carol, and I are mentioned in this story in the Capitaland Quartly section of this past Sunday's Times Union. The paper was going to get a picture, but the photographer's schedule changed and we were unable to wait around.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Dad would have been 80 Tomorrow


This is what I know. Les Green graduated from high school, barely, it seems, in 1944. He spent time in the military (in Texas and in Europe), came back to Binghamton, his hometown, and married Trudy in 1950.

He worked at a florist - arranging flowers for events, drove a truck, worked nights at IBM for six years, worked for a social service agency called Opportunities for Broome, then Associated Building Contractors, and finally J.A. Jones Construction.

He taught himself to play guitar around 1959, and billed himself as the "Lonesome & Lonely Traveller", which was his theme song, even when joined by his son (me) and daughter (Leslie).

Now this is what else I know. You may not be able to read the document above, so I'll share. It's my father's birth certificate.
[Name] Leslie H. Green
Male. Single birth [as opposed to twin, etc.] Sept 26 [19]26 1:30 a.m.
[County] Broome [City] Binghamton
[Mother's maiden name] Agatha Walker [Age] 24 [State of birth] PA
[Residence: state] N.Y. [City] Binghamton [Street and number] 18 East St.
[Father] McKinley M. Green [Age] 47 [State of birth] Pa.
[Local filing date] 9 30 26 [Date] 9 13 44

One thing I've long known, and my sisters have long known, from my mother was the fact that McKinley was not my father's biological father. I also know that McKinley wasn't 47 when my father was born, that he was probably 47 in 1944, when this certificate was re-issued.

I went to the 1930 Census. I needed help from Alan and others at the New York State Library.

Listed
Samuel E. Walker-Head-56-Age at first marriage:25-Born in VA, father born in VA, mother born in VA. Janitor in public building.
Eugeni [sic] M.-Wife-52-Born in PA, father born in PA, mother born in PA.
Agatha H.-Daughter-27-Born in PA, father born in PA, mother born in PA. Housekeeper for a private family.
Earl S.-Son-25-Born in PA, father born in PA, mother born in PA. Caterer for hotels.
Stanley E.-Son-20-Born in PA, father born in PA, mother born in PA.
Vera C.-Daughter-17-Born in PA, father born in US, mother born in PA.
Melissa C.-Daughter-15-Born in NY, father born in VA, mother born in PA.
Jessie G.-Daughter-13-Born in NY, father born in VA, mother born in PA.
Morris S.-Son-11-Born in NY, father born in VA, mother born in PA.
Wesley H.-Son-3 6/12-Born in NY, father born in VA, mother born in PA.

Samuel was the patriarch I knew as a little kid. He was a stern old man, and Agatha (my grandmother), Earl, Stanley, Vera, and Jessie all seemed to fear him, especially the older ones, who would have been in their fifties at the time. (Melissa was not around.) And Wesley? He would have been born in September 1926. So, Samuel and Eugenia feigned that Wesley was their son. But my father's name was Wesley when he was born? Or was this a clerical error on the part of the Census taker?

Another curiosity: Agatha, Earl, Stanley and Vera all had a father born in PA, so since Samuel was born in VA, he's not their biological father. So who was? Or is this another error?

When did McKinley Green marry Agatha Walker and adopt Wesley H. Walker? When did Wesley's name change to Leslie H. Green? From research my sisters did, the Walkers were all in the same house on Court Street in 1936, while McKinley was elsewhere. So, it would seem that McKinley adopted Wesley/Leslie sometime between 1936 and 1944. But then I hear from one of my father's younger cousins - all of my father's cousins were younger than he - that McKinley and Agatha had a rough go early on, so it's possible that McKinley adopted my father after 1930, was married to Agatha and cared for my father for a time, but not in 1936.

And, of course, the prime question I want to know: who was Leslie Green/Wesley Walker's biological father? The apocryphal story is that it was some minister from the AME or AME Zion Church, and that it was a great scandal in the Scrantonian, a newspaper, now defunct, that served the Scranton, PA area, about a hour south of Binghamton. Or maybe it was a Baptist church in Binghamton.

My next task was going to be to get microfilm of the Scrantonian, which is located at the University of Scranton, Penn State University, and at the State Library in Harrisburg to see if I can find any mention of this tale of a rogue pastor, but my father's cousin has already done this, with no success.

I mention all of this now, with the permission of my sisters Leslie and Marcia, and my mother, in an attempt to find the truth of the matter. It was a topic my sisters and I never broached with my father, because we knew it was painful for him.

The only time it was even noted in passing is when McKinley died in 1980. My father stepped up to take care of things. McKinley's brother sneered, "Oh, yeah, he (Mac) DID adopt that bastard, didn't he?" Never before or after that moment did we see my father so wounded.

If you have any information - if you knew my father or his family, if you have some ideas how to proceed further - please let me know. At some point in his youth, my father also lived on Tudor Street in Binghamton.

Thank you.


***
My father liked to watch football. He loved New Orleans. He would be watching the 2-0 Saints play the 2-0 Atlanta Falcons tonight in the first game of the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina. He'd probably even be watching the collaboration between U2 and Green Day during the pregame.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Everybody Wants to Have Something

Britannica wants Web sites and blogs to link to full texts of their encyclopedia articles, and it offers free samples online.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing magazine wants to know if pet washes and car washes are a good mix.

Contingency Planning wants you know the answer to this question: Of those people who refused to evacuate their homes during Hurricane Katrina, what did 44% of respondents give as the reason?
Answer: 44% of people who did not evacuate their homes during Hurricane Katrina said they stayed behind because they did not want to leave their pets.

My boss wants you to have fun with geography with this.

About.com wants you to know about the Psychology of Color, especially green, and The Meaning of Color, especially green.

The TV show JEOPARDY! is looking for better ratings. Of the top 10 syndicated shows -it's #2 - it took the biggest drop in ratings from 2004-05 to 2005-06, 13.3%. That's going from 10.9 million to 9.4 million daily viewers.
1. Wheel of Fortune down 5.9%
3. Oprah down 5.9%
4. Entertainment Tonight UP 1.8%
5. Dr. Phil down 0.1%
6. Judge Judy down 4.4%
7. Inside Edition UP 3.5%
8. Millionaire down 4.9%
9. Regis & Kelly down 2.6%
10. Judge Joe Brown down 7.6%

My colleague Lenny from the SDC wants people know about the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA)'s recently created online feature called QuickStats. "Drawing on a select group of nationally representative surveys, QuickStats provides easy-to-read tables and graphs with a single click on the topic of interest... The topics include religious affiliation, beliefs, behaviors, attitudes, and experiences, and will continue to increase as more of the ARDA's holdings are integrated into the new program."

A pastor on a listserv I monitor wants people go here and take action to condemn torture. He writes: "We have two Christian commands to follow here: 'Do unto others...' and 'Love your enemies'. Either we stand up for Christ or we don't. Our choice. To do nothing means to condone torture in our name."

A librarian on another listserv commented on my tagline, "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning, but without understanding."- Justice Louis Brandeis, 1928
He wrote: "Don't think in today's world your tag line is for the X generation?" Can someone explain to me what the heck that means?

Jeanine Pirro, Republican candidate for NYS Attorney General, wants this story to go away.

The Times Union, the local paper, reported on the victim of the pedestrian accident in Saratoga on Sept. 14 who had not been identified. The paper wanted their readers to tell them if they thought it was OK to publish a photo of the man. The paper wanted to know if the newspaper should publish the images to help authorities identify the victim of an accident? (I didn't think the photos were too graphic.) They did print one, and other media also showed one or both of the photos, and as a result, the man was identified the next day.

My sister Leslie wants you to know about the jury duty scam. It's not new to me, but it IS true, and is another method of identity theft.

Speaking of preventing ID theft, Fred Cole of Schaap Records Management & Certified Shredding e-mailed me to ask me to publicize the company's Free Shredding Day. It’s happening again (for the 6th time) Saturday, Oct. 7. from 9 am to 2 pm on Brown Street, near Railroad Avenue, in Colonie. Up to 200 pounds of paper for each individual and not-for-profit organization can be brought.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

God/Concept/Pain QUESTIONS

I must tell you that I found out something just this week that really surprised me. I'm finding it distracting. Monday, you'll know what it is.

Meanwhile, some of the dialogue about Pope Benedict remarks which inflamed a number of Muslims has been addressed in one of the blogs that the local paper has posted, Perspectives on Islam for September 18. I find myself largely agreeing it, but also sympathetic to one of the replies:

Although it is true that Mohammad did conquer the Arab world by the sword, (as did the Catholic Church I might add - - they took religion seriously in the old days), I don't see the relevance in using this quote by Benedict. Wasn't he trying to "open a dialogue" between Christians and Muslims?

Actually, I believe was trying to do just that. But it seemed injudicious to assume that people are going to recognize the nuance he seemed to be attempting to achieve, and naive to think that the inflammatory language wouldn't be the lead story, rather than the speech as a whole.

Also, his "apology" referred to being sorry for the "reaction" to his quote, not using the quote itself!

And why did it take four days to even respond at all?

So what do you think? More importantly, how can we achieve greater communication among peoples of various religions and faiths? I've always been a fan of ecumenical and interfaith services and activities, but those heal the world only a little at a time, while an event such as the Pope's speech, even if it has been exploited by certain parties, only widens the gap.
***
I suppose I want to ask you if you think George W. Bush IS the devil, as Hugo Chavez said at the UN, but not even I believe that. I don't THINK I do. The event did generate one of those classic New York Daily News headlines" "Zip It!"

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ask Me Anything, September Equinox Version 2006

Since today or tomorrow is the first day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere depending on the time zone, and the first day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere:

Once again, it's time for that exciting opportunity to ASK ROGER ANYTHING. This does two things: it gives you the opportunity to make my life miserable by forcing me to respond to queries, whether they be mundane or profound. And I learn something new about you.


I expect that certain people will retaliate, or rather respond, because, when they've asked the question, I try to ask them whatever happens to be on my mind.
A couple people, for instance, were asked, "Why is there air?" I happened to have been thinking about a Bill Cosby album of the same name, in which Cos' brilliant college girlfriend went around asking questions such as that. Bill's response: "To blow up volleyballs, to blow up basketballs. Every phys ed teacher knows why there's air!"

It's funnier in the delivery.

Last time he posed it, I discovered that Tosy and I share a pet peeve: "People who think they are more important than others. Line cutters. People who are too good for certain tables at restaurants. People whose e-mails are ALWAYS flagged as 'important.' Those people." Yeah, I often fantasize about those people in untoward ways.

Sample question #1: On your way home from work, you bump into God and get to ask one question or make one statement. What do ya do?

Sample answer #1: I had this good friend for about a decade, then suddenly we don't talk. What the heck happened?

Sample question #2: Toilet paper: over or under?
Sample answer #2: I really don't care.

Well, you get the idea. You may pose the questions in the comment section of this here blog or e-mail me, if you're the shy type.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

You CAN Fight City Hall

Last month, on a Thursday night, Carol and I went to downtown Albany for our monthly dinner together, alone, a restaurant in a local hotel. We wanted to take advantage of the $16.09 deal, whereby several downtown restaurants all put out a special menu of an all-inclusive dinner (appetizer, main course, dessert) for $16.09. (1609 was the year Henry Hudson became the first European to reach what is now Albany.)

We had a lovely dinner, and came out to our car, parked on North Pearl Street, at a location where there is a parking meter operational from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Since we got there shortly before 7 p.m., and were coming back about 8:25 p.m. , we were surprised - and not a little distressed - to have received a ticket for parking in a No Parking zone, at 8:18 p.m., a mere seven minutes before our unrushed return. Then we noticed all the cars in front and in back of us also got tickets. Only three weeks earlier, the city had posted signs - three or four car lengths from us - indicating that this part of North Pearl was now a taxi stand on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

The $50 ticket far outstripped whatever we saved on dinner, and it left the evening with a bit of a sour taste in our mouths - no pun intended.

The next day, I called the Downtown Business Improvement (BID) office. I told some young man my plight, and the plight of the other folks. Knowing we're technically in the wrong, it nevertheless seemed as though this was no way to attract people downtown. He agreed and said he'd see what he could do, though he thought the police were supposed to be putting out only warning tickets.

A couple days later, he called back to note that all of the tickets issued on North Pearl Street before 10 p.m. during the $16.09 week would be canceled. Based on just the ones we saw, that was more than a few dozen citations.

So, thanks to the Downtown BID, who has gotten us to want to come downtown yet again. But this time, we'll check the signs more carefully.
***
He LIKED it, he LIKED it! Lefty liked my Summer Mix. And you can have a copy, too. Just let me know.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

In the Words of Toby Keith, "Let's Talk About Me"

I discovered that in the past week or two, I've been mentioned in blogs by Greg (fearing my chastisement over his affection for Led Zeppelin - I don't dislike them, I just got aggravated by their uncredited ripoffs of old blues artists), Chris Black (making insignia - his looks better than mine), Chris Brown - no relation (citing my blood donation piece AND dissing my musical taste in the same post), and Jaquandor (quoting from my September 11 piece). Also, I make Eddie happy - that's just the kind of guy I am - even as I confound him. And let me say here what I posted on Greg's blog: "Album is a perfectly fine word for a group of things under one cover (photo album, e.g.) The CD, the LP, the cassette is the format; the collection is the album. Or so I say. Again."

Chris Brown, a/k/a Lefty, (like the Hall & Oates cover, guy, and especially the song after that) also was inspired by me. Speaking of inspirational, I'm enjoying summer songs from Mrs. Lefty.
***
I had a letter to the editor published on Saturday. It's here, and if that becomes inaccessible, it's been copied here. My racquetball mates got annoyed that I didn't mention it to them.
***
If you're a blogger, please consider adding this guy. Although Hurricane Dymowski is named for him, he's generally a sensitive fellow. A Pisces, I believe.
***
I'm mildly pleased that the Mets finally clinched the NL East pennant, as is Fred (Sept. 19).
***
Oh, and the Toby Keith reference came from watching CBS Sunday Morning on September 10, where he revealed, among other things, that he's a Democrat. I actually own one Keith album that I got for free at a conference in Nashville a few years ago, and it includes the song "Let's Talk About Me".

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Talk Like a Pirate Day


It's TODAY, and I almost missed it, but didn't, thanks to Lefty.

"Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth."

"I am convinced that God wanted me to be a baseball player. I was born to play baseball."

"I am more valuable to my team hitting .330 than swinging for home runs."

"I dedicated the hit (his 3,000th) to the Pittsburgh fans and to the people in Puerto Rico and to one man (Roberto Marin) in particular. The one man who carried me around for weeks looking for a scout to sign me."

"I felt kind of bashful (when the fans went crazy). I'm a very quiet, shy person, although you writers might not believe because I shout sometimes."

"If I could sleep. I could hit .400."

"I tell you, (Steve) Blass, you pitch me inside, they never, never find that ball."

"I want to be remembered as a ballplayer who gave all he had to give."

"I will hit .450 if you give me Ralph Garr's legs, Johnny Bench's age and cut the travel schedule."

"Nobody does anything better than me in baseball (said before the 1971 World Series)."

"There's no difference between me and you (Manny Sanguillen). You need something, a glove, a place to live, you let me know."

"When I put on my uniform, I feel I am the proudest man on earth."

"Why does everyone talk about the past? All that counts is tomorrow's game."


RC

The New TV Season

Tosy claims the new season officially started yesterday. Couldn't tell by me. It's not just because my TV Guide subscription lapsed months ago. It's that Prison Break and any number of other shows started in August, a few started last week, some won't start until October.

Guess I should figure out what to watch.

Mondays
10-11
Studio 60
The single most hyped new series. The Ad Age critics, who have a pretty good track record, are mixed about the success of this show. I liked Sports Night, liked West Wing until Sorkin left, then I came back for the last season. (Studio 60 aired on Sunday in Toronto. And I recorded it last night but have not watched it; I was in BED by 10 pm.

Tuesdays
8-9
Gilmore Girls
How WILL they handle last year's stunning season-ender? I have no idea.
10-11
Boston Legal. It's trash. I like it anyway.

Wednesdays
8-8:30
30 Rock. The OTHER SNL-inspired show.
10-11
I've avoided Lost, not because it's not good, but because I have only a limited tolerance for such convoluted fare. The Nine looks a little like Lost to me (ABC must have paired them for a reason), yet the commercials have compelled me to at least give it a try.

Thursday
8-9
Earl and Office. Tosy said, "The most solid comedy hour in a long while." Agreed.
9-10
I'm a latecomer to Grey's Anatomy. Saw quite a bit of it during summer reruns, enough to at least try it again.

Friday
9-10
Saw the first Men in Trees. Very Northern Exposure, with Alaska, a bar, and a pilot. I happened to have watched Anne Heche on Another World and liked her. I'll try it again.
10-11
Once upon a time, I used to actually watch Law & Order, but not since Jerry Orbach left. If I'm absolutely desperate...

Saturday
There really is nothing on network TV on Saturday if you don't like football.

Sunday
7-8 (probably more like 7:30-8:30)
60 Minutes. Katie Couric's first piece on the damaged lungs after 9/11 was strong, more interesting, actually, than her daily broadcast.
8-8:30
The Simpsons.
10-11
Brothers and Sisters. (No, Tosy, I didn't remember that Skerritt and Fields played matriarch and patriarch of a family in Steel Magnolias, and I actually saw the movie.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

September '06 Ramblin'

The front page story in Saturday's local newspaper was "E. coli threat grows in area". The subhead notes that "stores, eateries remove spinach." Guess what I had for lunch on Friday? A spinach salad. I gather I'm OK, but it is a bit disconcerting, to say the least.
***
My wife got a video called The Wheels on the Bus for Lydia to watch. It's a live action plus puppetry production. It was OK for that type of thing. My favorite song was when the dragon bus driver sang "Fill It Up", a bluesy/R&B-type tune. I happen to catch the credits and diascovered that while the dragon was operated by an actor, the voice of the dragon was provided by Roger Daltry, the lead singer for the Who. He even appears on the "making of" segment. BTW, the Who - is it still a band with two members? - will have a new album out next month, their first in 23 years.
***
I went to Larkfest on Saturday. Sorry, now that it's celebrating its 25th year, it's now LARKfest. So, THAT'S what Everclear sounds like. I'd heard them before, but must admit that I wouldn't have been able to pick out one of their songs. At the event, I saw a girl of about 10 point out to her father some buttons that she wanted to buy. He seemed inclined until he realized they were (GAY) PRIDE buttons. He hemmed and hawed, but I don't know howe the story ended. A real Harold Pinter moment.
***
I was reading GP as usual last week. He wrote about national leaders and others who might need some lovin'. Somehow, when I read "Lucy van Pelt", I practically did a spit take, mostly because it's SO true. Go read it.
***
As a regular viewer of Gilmore Girls, I was interested to see if Luke Danes' predictition of a much poorer season for outfielder Johnny Damon, when he went from being a hirsute Red Sox to a clean-shaven Yankee, because he'd lose the fear factor. Well, he's hitting for about 20 points less, but is showing far more power, with 22 HRs to date vs. 10 last season, so I think it's a wash.
***
Only 13% of the registered Democrats voted in the primary that re-nominated Hillary Clinton to run for U.S. Senate, but only 5.5% of all Republicans voted in the primary to pick the Republican, an all-time low for a major party primary in NYS. Add to that the fact that the winner, John Spencer, the former mayor of Yonkers, had had an affair with his secretary, and this compelled Jay Leno to note that this is the first time a Clinton is the "family-values candidate."
***
Isn't it peculiar that the big issue in the second term of the Clinton administration was "What is sex?", whereas with the second term of the current administration, the issue is "What is torture?" I'm inclined to believe Colin Powell, et al. on this one. An interesting thing Sam Donalson said on ABC's This Week was that National Security Asdvisor Stephen Hadley, who was on the show yesterday, made a rational-sounding argument for the administration's position, but that the President, in attacking Powell and others, seemed a bit crazed. Now that he mentions it, yes, the President did seem a little out of control.
***
Did anyone out there actually watch that controversial ABC-TV movie, "The Path to 9/11"? I've recorded it. My favorite riff on it comes from here.
***
The Manchurian Candidate, the 1962 original version of the movie with Frank Sinatra, is on TCM Saturday night. I will have to record this to watch later. I saw the remake a couple years ago with Denzel Washington, but every critic I've read said it does hold a candle to the older film.
***
I had a "Eureka!" moment about my wife and me this weekend. When she said to me, "Did I tell you I have a workshop Tuuesday and Wednesday from 3:30 to 5:30?" , I thought that I was annoyed because I would have to take off precious vacation time to pick up Lydia. (I generally drop Lydia off during the school year, and Carol picks her up.) In fact, that was only a minor part of it. It was that she never actually said, or preferably led with, "I need you to pick up Lydia," but instead spoke with indirectness. She MEANS, "I can't pick up Lydia. You need to pick up Lydia," but did not actually SAY that. I told her I would prefer, "I need you to pick up Lydia Tuesday and Wednesday, because I have a workshop those days from 3:30 until 5:30." If she's making the request, I don't want to do the heavy lifting of discerning what the request is. On the other hand, I DO like to pick up Lydia every once in a while, because she gets so excited to see me.
I note this so that, in the future, you'll know that I like the direct message a LOT more than the "What dioes he/she mean by that?" message.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I Do the Math

I like math - well, arithmetic, geometry, algebra. Calculus I didn't quite get. I was reading about the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), specifically, the average mathematics scale scores of eighth-grade students, by country: 2003, where U.S. kids finished 15th of about 44 nations. This has led to a new found popularity of something called Singapore Math; Singapore was one of those countries that whipped our butts in this category. Don't pretend that I fully understand it any better than the way I learned it.

Anyway, Lefty asked recently when was the last time we used algebra. On Wednesday, I was eating my Cheerios with bran flakes, which meets my cereal blending criteria, and I was looking at my 2% milk. (Normally, I use 1%, but all of it at the store had short expiration dates.) On the container, it read "38% less milkfat than whole milk". So, it got me to wondering: how much milkfat does whole milk have? And can I figure it out algebraically?
So my ratios are 62 (100-38) is to 100 as 2 is to what? 62/100=2/x. 62x=200. x=3.226. Then, I had to check it here, where I found out that the milkfat content of whole milk must be a minimum of 3.25%. 3.226, 3.25. Pretty close, yes.

Math is fun. Seriously fun. Keeps the mind sharp.

Oh, and I was listening to the soundtrack of the musical Rent recently, where I first discovered that there are 525,600 minutes in a year. But what about leap years? Well, that's 527,040 minutes, but I expect the scantion of that lyric wouldn't really fly.
***
On Friday, gas was $2.839 at the Mobil station I pass daily. Two years ago, people would have screamed the lines from another musical I was listening to recently, Oklahoma: It's a scandal! It's a outrage! Now, it's just a relief.
***
Right now there's a vote to determine what design we'll get for our Christmas card at work. As of yesterday, the vote was 4 for design A, 4 for design B, and 1 (me) for design C, with at least 4 more to vote. If it remains tied, then choice C will be thrown out, and I'll get to decide. Yet another (if imperfect) example of Instant-runoff voting (IRV).
***
The population clock at the Census Bureau website will hit 300,000,000 Americans next month.
***
Speaking of numbers, both Brooklyn Dodger great Duke Snider and James Lipton, my favorite sycophant from Inside the Actors Studio, both turn 80 tomorrow, coincidentally the age my father would have turned later this month. Hall of Famer Snider was immortalized in the Terry Cashman song, Talkin' Baseball, well, at least a few versions thereof. Recently, I saw Lipton's interview with Dustin Hoffman, which reminded me why I used to actually watch that show before Lipton started picking people such as J Lo: an actor talking passionately about the craft of acting.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tommy Lee and Oliver W. QUESTIONS

It turns out that both Tommy Lee Jones and Oliver Stone both turned 60 yesterday. Jones has has appeared in two of Stone's films, JFK (which our group of friends at the time called jif-ka) and Natural Born Killers. So what I'd like to know is what films have you seen of theirs and what you felt about them, which ones do you still want to see, and which ones will you never see. (This is not a complete list.)

For me:

JONES
A Prairie Home Companion (2006) want to see
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005) want to see
Space Cowboys (2000) saw, OK entertainment
Men in Black (1997) saw, OK, didn't need to zee the sequel
Batman Forever (1995) saw, but have only vague recollection of
Cobb (1994) want to see
Natural Born Killers (1994) will not see
The Client (1994) OK entertainment
The Fugitive (1993) liked quite a bit, yet had no need to see the sequel, U.S. Marshals
JFK (1991) sure it's a paranoid's delight, but I enjoyed it
"Lonesome Dove" (1989) (mini) TV Series feel like I OUGHT to see this
The Executioner's Song (1982) (TV) he played Gary Mark Gilmore, and I must have seen it, but I'm not remembering
Coal Miner's Daughter (1980) want to see

STONE
World Trade Center (2006) probably will see at some point, but not any time soon
Alexander (2004) no interest
Nixon (1995) made me feel sorry for Thelma Ryan
Natural Born Killers (1994) nah
The Joy Luck Club (1993) (executive producer) recall enjoying it, and strangely, relating to it
JFK (1991) yes
The Doors (1991) I should rent this
Reversal of Fortune (1990) (producer) I recall this as a good, if chilling, film
Born on the Fourth of July (1989) I enjoyed most of it
Wall Street (1987) I MUST SEE THIS MOVIE
Platoon (1986) DITTO
Scarface (1983) (screenplay) I've actually tried to watch this, but Pacino's SO over the top
Conan the Barbarian (1982) (screenplay) nah
Midnight Express (1978) (screenplay) scary

Friday, September 15, 2006

Conflicting Principles: It's NOT the Cookies

This is why I like blogging: I never know where it will take me. I write some heartfelt piece and get no response. Then I find some junk e-mail, post it, and get a half dozen responses.

Similarly, I wrote my 9/11 piece and expected that SOMEONE would complain about my plan to remove bin Laden from the FBI 10 Most Wanted list; no response. The point that became most a point of conversation was about donating blood.

When GayProf noted that, correctly, that gay men cannot donate, (well, only the ones who've been sexually active since 1977 can't), it was an irritating surprise to some readers. It was a surprise to my wife, when I mentioned it to her. If you are a man who has donated blood regularly since 1985, when the prohibition took hold, and the vast majority of the 116 pints I've donated have been since then, you'd be quite familiar with the ever-changing donor deferral questions, which include, "Have you had sex even once with a man since 1977?", an affirmative answer to which means permanent deferral.

But, why?

Should gay men be allowed to donate blood? And, Is the ban on using gay men's blood homophobic? After reading lots of material, I believe the answer is yes.

Look at any Red Cross literature about donating, and you'll find that only about 5% of the eligible population donates regularly. Some people are too busy, too queasy, too ill, or weigh under 110 pounds. Others don't because of various restrictions involved with living overseas for extended periods; these include Sub-Saharan Africa (concern about AIDS), and Europe, especially Great Britain (mad cow). An avowed vegetarian who has spent five years in Europe since 1980 is permanently banned, which I think is just silly. So, the need is great, but some people, including gay men, aren't allowed, even when they want to, even when they may have a rare blood type that could save a life.

I had thought the ban on using the blood of gay men was just based on a consensus of the scientific community. I was wrong. (It happens twice a year; this was the other time.) When the FDA met in September 2000 to decide whether to continue a ban on gay men donating blood that it imposed in 1985, the vote was 7 to 6, with 5 absent. I was struck by this article, which includes: "Dr. F. Blaine Hollinger, Chair of the FDA Blood Products Advisory Committee said, however: "Personally, I'm very open to a change. It's discriminatory. We have to see all the data first. If it can be done without changing the safety of the blood supply, it ought to be done."

More recently, several newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times on June 15, 2006 have editorialized in favor of letting gay men donate blood.

So what to do? Sign an online petition? I'm not much on the efficacy of online petitions. There are some examples, including this one suggesting that gay men just lie about their sexual orientation, though not about their HIV/AIDS status. I'm not hot on lying, though I truly understand the mindset.

Maybe somehow put pressure on the FDA? Even if we could, and "even if FDA decided to modify its policy, the [American Red Cross] can always undercut it by maintaining its own, stricter policy."

If gay men were allowed to donate, one of the unfortunate side effects, I'm afraid, would be the increase in autologous blood transfusions. Attitudes change slowly.

So, what to do? Not donating doesn't seem to be the right thing, as it does save lives. Besides which, I donate, at least in part, for a purely selfish reason: I have been long convinced that donating blood is a healthy habit for me. Why do women outlive men? Is it because they menstruate? Why is there such a spike in cardio-vascular incidents in post-menopausal women? I'm convinced that donating blood will keep me alive longer, so I'm disinclined to give it up.

But how DO I address something that I've become convinced is an inequity? (I mean, besides blogging about it?)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Getting It Right in the Media

Almost everyone I know has said, when they've been in the newspaper, some detail is just wrong. To the degree I can, I try to correct things I read that are factually wrong, on the theory that the misinformation will be repeated. A newspaper columnist, about five years ago, suggested that the term "dramedy" came into being with Ally McBeal, circa 1997. I showed him several articles that proved that the term was in use at least a decade earlier in reference to shows such as Frank's Place, Hooperman, and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. Yet he never corrected it in his column, then made the SAME mistake, probably quoting himself, a couple years later. Of course, I corrected him yet again, he acknowledged it yet again, but did not print a correction.

When I was visiting my in-laws on Labor Day weekend, I saw a story about Bob Dylan playing in Cooperstown. The sentence that jumped out at me was this: "With virtuosity that showed her classical and jazz roots, this fiddler who changed her name from Elana Fremerman to James last year showed why she is the first woman star ever to tour with Dylan." First woman star ever to tour with Dylan? Where did THAT come from? I found a couple articles indicating that Elena James was the first woman instrumentalist to play with Dylan in 30 years, but that Joan Baez had "starred" with Dylan. I received this reply: "Thank you for the information about women instrumentalists who have toured with Bob Dylan. The newspaper will correct its original story." I assume they did, but the ONLINE story remains unchanged. Sigh.

Conversely, a nice story about some folks who keep score at the Oneonta Tigers games, including this guy Walt, who I've seen at the games, and my father-in-law, from that same week as the Dylan story, is not in the archives at all. Sigh again.

My friend ASP (that's her acronym, not a reference to her character) sent me a link about Beatles Album Covers Made Into Stamps. Here's the entire AP piece:

LONDON (AP) - The Royal Mail is saluting the Beatles in January by releasing six commemorative stamps illustrated with memorable album covers.

The set includes ran image of "With the Beatles," released in 1963, which was the group's second album. In the United States, it was the first Beatles album to be released and was titled "Meet the Beatles."

Others in the series include "Help!" (1965), "Revolver" (1966), "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1967), "Abbey Road" (1969) and "Let It Be" (1970).


There are two factual errors in the middle paragraph. "Meet the Beatles" was NOT the first Beatles album released in the United States, "Introducing the Beatles", on Vee-Jay Records was. "Meet the Beatles" was the first Capitol Records album, and it was the album that helped propel them to stardom in the U.S.
Also, the tracks on "Meet the Beatles" are NOT the same as "With the Beatles". While they share the same cover photo, and nine songs, "Meet the Beatles" contains the single "I Want to Hold Your Hand", its U.S. B-side "This Boy" and its U.K. B-side, "I Saw Her Standing There", also found on the British album "Please Please Me"; none are on "With the Beatles". Conversely, "With the Beatles" contains five non-Lennon/McCartney songs that end up appearing on "The Beatles' Second Album" in the U.S.

I wrote that info to them, but then I discovered I had to register, and was too lazy to pursue it further, except that the local paper, the Times Union, picked up the story verbatim; I let them know about the errors.

Some stories you wonder about in terms of tone. The local story, Spirited couple set sights on church revival, had a picture so poor, especially as printed in the paper, that I didn't recognize that this story was about MY CHURCH and our new co-pastors. Moreover, the headline, more than the story itself, suggests that the church has been in a sorry state; or maybe, that's just my inference. Since that was just a matter of tone, and I actually liked the article, I made no comment.


Now, here's some information that my colleagues who have visited China swear is true, and they had the hangovers to prove it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cinnamon Carter

My father would have turned 80 this month. As it turns out, two of his favorite shows debuted 40 years ago this month.

On September 8, 1966, the original Star Trek series debuted on NBC. I must admit that I didn't "get it" at the time, but my father did. He was hardly a "trekkie" or "trekker", but he appreciated the fact that the stories were (quoting Brooks and Marsh) "dealing with current social issues thinly disguised in extraterrestrial settings." BTW, Walter Koenig, who played Ensign Pavel Chekov, will turn 70 tomorrow.

But Dad's favorite show when I was growing up was probably the original Mission: Impossible series, which debuted on September 17, 1966 on CBS. There was Daniel Briggs, played by Steven Hill (later to play D.A. Adam Schiff on the original Law and Order series); he was replaced by Peter Graves as James Phelps after the first season. Each was the leader of the Impossible Missions Force; in fact, Graves, as Phelps, was also the leader in the 1989-90 TV series. Barney Collier was the technogeek, played by Greg Morris; Greg's son, Phil, played Barney's son Grant in the later series. Peter Lupus portrayed strongman Willy Armitage.

Then there was the power couple. Martin Landau was Rollin Hand, master of disguise. And the sultry Cinnamon Carter was played by Landau's wife at the time, Barbara Bain, who MAY have been an additional enticement for my father's viewing.

After Landau and Bain left in 1969 in a contract dispute, Landau was replaced by Leonard Nimoy, who had just finished doing Star Trek. A year later, the female role was taken over by Lesley Ann Warren. But the show, save for that great Lalo Schifrin theme was never the same after Rollin and Cinnamon's departure. Landau and Bain perform together again in the mid-1970s series Space: 1999.

Not so incidentally, Barbara Bain turns 75 today.
***
The late Greg Morris appeared in one of my absolute favorite episodes of the Dick van Dyke Show, That's My Boy???
***
Marketing executive Arthur Schiff died late last month at the age of 66. You may never have heard of Arthur Schiff. I had never heard of Arthur Schiff. But if you've ever heard, or said:
But wait, there's more!
Isn't that amazing?
Now how much would you pay?
Act now and you'll also receive . . .
You've heard the work of Arthur Schiff.
***
And since I'm in a milestone mood, I'll note that Jean Smart, who went from the naive Charlene on Designing Women, to the crazy like a fox First Lady on 24, turns 55 today.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Three MOVIE REVIEWS

Little Miss Sunshine (actually seen in a theater!)

As you might have heard, or seen in the previews, Little Miss Sunshine is a road movie. In the subgenre that includes movies from Rain Man (oddly not noted in this extensive list or indeed other rosters I've checked) to last year's Transamerica, a bunch of disparate people come together and learn something about each other at the end. The fact that these folks are actually related to each other does not preclude the initial mutual alienation from each other.

Little Miss Sunshine is such a film. Whether it works or not depends on the acting and script, and for this movie, both are quite good. Some of the analyses of the movie I've read is that it's a bunch of "quirky" characters, which I did not find at all. Greg Kinnear, who plays the father, is a guy who thinks he knows all the answers, but doesn't have a clue, just like a former relative of mine. Toni Collette, who plays the mom, is denial about her bad habit. Paul Dano plays the teenager who won't talk; I can relate. I've known salty old men like the grandfather, played by Alan Arkin. Certainly, the desire to fit in of Olive, played by young Abigail Breslin, is a universal theme. Finally, don't we all know a gay, suicidal Proust scholar after a failed romance, such as Olive's uncle, played by Steve Carell? You don't? Yet, he too rang true.

Moreover, this movie is intelligently FUNNY. Sometimes, laugh-out-loud FUNNY, especially in the second half, yet touching without being preachy or saccharine.

I must admit that when the family makes it to the contest, I was slightly weirded out. All the contestants, save for Olive, reminded me of slightly older JonBenet Ramseys.

Still, this critically acclaimed film is a must-see.
***
The Conversation (on TV)

There were two very good Francis Ford Coppola films in 1974. One was The Godfather, Part 2, which was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, and won 6, including 3 for Coppola (best picture, directing and writing: screenplay adapted from other material, with Mario Puzo). The other was The Conversation, which was merely nominated for best picture and writing: original screenplay (both Coppola), as well as sound (Walter Murch, Arthur Rochester).

I'd heard about this movie for decades, but never saw it in the movies or on tape or DVD. So when TCM was showing films by independent movie directors back in July, I made a point to record it. but I didn't get a chance to actually watch it until a couple weeks ago.

This movie, I thought, started off slowly, with me trying to decipher just what the heck is going on beyond Gene Hackman's character following around a young couple; the young woman was played by Cindy Williams, then recently seen in American Graffiti, pre-Laverne & Shirley. Another American Graffiti alum, Harrison Ford, comes in and plays a pivotal role. I think this review gets it right: "slowly-gripping, bleak study of electronic surveillance and threat of new technologies that is examined through the private, internalized life of a lonely and detached expert 'bugger.' " The movie becomes more compelling by the second half, as the pieces comes together. Also, one can certainly discuss the film in terms of the current (lack of) privacy conversation.
***
Invincible (another in the theaters)

We had babysitting grandparents, so we went to see ANOTHER movie with Greg Kinnear, the Rocky meets The Rookie football film with Mark Wahlberg. If I say it was "pleasant", "inoffensive", "competent" or even "enjoyable", it seems to damn the movie with faint praise. It's a true story, I knew how it was going to end, one plot line was WAY too transparent, and there was TOO MUCH '70's music to no particular end. But you know what? I bought into the story anyway. It's a movie I could take my mother and my niece to, even though neither of them are particularly football fans. Not a must-see, but worthy of a rental.
***
From e-week:

There they go again. Ulanoff and Dvorak are fighting it out on the web, over - can you believe it - Snakes on a Plane.
Lance Ulanoff thinks that the over-blogged SOAP, which bombed at the box office, is a perfect example of why the blogosphere is over hyped and can't even deliver a movie audience. Dvorak is incredulous. He accuses Lance of all sorts of things, mainly centering around his clueless misunderstanding of blogs, and how they actually worked in this case. The gloves are off. You've got to read this back and forth, it's hilarious. Start with Lance's column on blogs and SOAP, and then move on to Dvorak's stinging rebuttal. Now that's entertainment!

Blogs Fail Snakes On A Plane
Dvorak Thinks Lance is Clueless.
Or, if they don't work, go here.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Elephant in the room

Four and a half years or so. That seems to be the answer to the question, "When will it be time to talk about 9/11?"

Not that there haven't been earlier responses, from Macca's well-meaning but insipid tune "Freedom" to some Michael Moore film and other conspiracy theorists. But in the last few weeks, there have been two major motion pictures and seemingly dozens of TV movies, documentaries and "specials".

So, what I am thinking about five years on? (And how many people will be ticked off by same?)

1. Well, let's start with an analogy. I felt really badly when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. It wasn't because I liked him , but because I didn't. I didn't trust him as Attorney General, and wasn't convinced of his transformation as a populist. So when he was killed, I felt a sense of awkwardness.
But nothing like I felt in 9/11. When the Twin Towers were built in the 1970s, I thought they were awful. Ugly. Ostentatious. Did NOT enhance the classic New York City skyline. So when they collapsed, I felt just a little...guilty. And even more so, when in coming days, I learned they were targeted precisely because of their prominence. Actually, I felt AWFUL, as though, in some small way, it was somehow my fault.

2. I believe Usama bin Laden does not belong on the FBI Top Ten list. You may or may not know that he's on there for "MURDER OF U.S. NATIONALS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES" (I assume this refers to the two 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa; "CONSPIRACY TO MURDER U.S. NATIONALS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES" (ditto); "ATTACK ON A FEDERAL FACILITY RESULTING IN DEATH" (I guess the 2000 attack on the USS Cole.)
He is NOT on the list for 9/11, because, by the definition established by the FBI, the 10 Most Wanted list "is designed to publicize particularly dangerous fugitives who might not otherwise merit nationwide attention." People such as Bucky Phillips, who allegedly shot three state troopers, killing one, and was fortunately caught on Friday. Now, one may not have known the name bin Laden after the African bombings or after a hole was blown in the Cole, but certainly no one has forgotten him now. Or have we?

3. The near deification of police departments all across America has made me somewhat...uncomfortable. I mean no disrespect to officers who died trying to save others, but the notion that, suddenly, police officers everywhere were exempt from criticism just didn't/doesn't sit right with me. (Apparently, other people have their Forbidden thoughts about 9/11.

4. I can't help but to remember that most of the headlines in the New York Post in August 2001 about Rudy Giuliani were about his messy divorce.

5. Lots of people were collecting LOTS of money - over $1 billion by some estimates - after the event. Some people, including me, were made to feel somehow "unpatriotic" for not contributing. Some of these groups I had never heard of, and I was reasonably (I thought) suspicious.

6. Patriotism is NOT defined by American flag lapel pins, bumper stickers, or ratty-looking flags on their cars (which ought to be destroyed, respectfully), but by being an informed citizen, writing letters to the editor, writing letters to one's representatives, and especially, voting. Which reminds me:

7. September 11, 2001 was Primary Day in New York State, ultimately postponed. As the law stands now, it will be Primary Day (for all races except the Presidency) on average every seven years. Some people think it ought to be changed to a week later, in order to "Honor the dead". I don't. September 11 is a GREAT day to exercise one's freedom. Besides, I think the state primary is too late anyway. At some point in my adult life, all the primaries in New York were in June, but as they moved the Presidential primary earlier, they found the need to move the other primaries later, which tends to advantage the incumbents and/or the candidates with the most money.

8. After the towers were hit, there was a call from the American Red Cross for blood, anticipating that there would be large numbers of non-fatal casualties, when in fact there were maybe a couple dozen. Then the lines were out the doors of the blood centers, and there were complaints that they weren't "more prepared" for an unprecedented outpouring. Some of the blood ended up being tossed, which created even more outrage. In fact, I'm a regular blood donor, scheduled weeks before to come in on September 19, and I was asked NOT to come in that day, but to wait a couple weeks. They thought (correctly) that I'd come back, and that most of these folks would not. So, if you donated after 9/11, and not since, go donate again; I promise you the need is great. This is not to say that the Red Cross didn't make mistakes at that time, such as putting money people wanted to donate to 9/11 victims to the general fund. But go donate anyway.

9. I had some real difficulty with the 9/11 fund that parced out based on the likely income potential, so the three-piece suit families fared far better than the restaurant worker families. And I wonder what the plan will be for the next disaster.

10. I don't care how he spins it now: GWB and his administration repeatedly mislead the American public into thinking there was a link between 9/11 and Iraq. But still: In a February 2005 Harris poll, 44% of Americans thought that there were Iraqis as pilots on the 9/11 planes, up from 37% in the previous poll. (I haven't seen a subsequent survey.) This is not Iraq/9/11 terror link opinion, some alleged (though unlikely) secret meeting between Saddam and bin Laden. This is an issue of FACT. Reading that really hurt my head.

Well, that's enough of THAT. We'll see if anyone comes back tomorrow.
***
Moby turns 40 today, so of course he turned 35 five years ago. Must be strange.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Primarily confused


In NYS, we're having a our primary on Tuesday, and I'm not sure who to vote for:

Attorney General: the frontrunner is Andrew Cuomo, son of former governor Mario. He was HUD Secretary under Clinton. Ran for governor four years ago against Carl McCall, a bruising fight he finally quit only a week before the primary, which left McCall in a weakened position against the incumbent Pataki. Not inclined to vote for him.

Mark Green (great last name!) was a former NYC public advocate. He was endorsed by the NY Times. He's a possibility.

Sean Patrick Maloney: I was previously inclined for him. I've been getting e-mails for his campaign. And let me tell you my bias; Sean is gay, and I am generally inclined, all other things being equal, to support the gay (or black, or woman candidate). But I found him less impressive in a five-way discussion that Time-Warner Cable arranged last month.

Conversely, Charlie King, who I really didn't know at all - he was a former leader of Manhattan's Democratic Party - fared much better with me, and not because he is black- in those discussions.

So, if I were to vote my gut, I'd probably vote King. If we had IRV, I'd vote for King as #1, Green as #2, Leonard as #3. But King (and Maloney) are trailing badly in the polls, and, in fact, King has dropped out of the race this week and endorsed Cuomo, as did Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. This means I'll probably end up voting for Green. Stll, I'll vote for ANY of the Democratic candidates for AG against the Republican, Jeanine Pirro, who wanted to run against Hillary Clinton for the U.S. Senate, but was "persuaded" by the Republican party bosses to run for A.G.

The primary and subsequent election for governor appears to be actually a coronation of current Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi never gained any traction, and his Republican opponent, John Faso, I think is too conservative to win. Still, there is one issue on which I agree with Suozzi and disagree with Spitzer, and it is not inconsequential to me: the death penalty. Suozzi's against it, as am I, and Spitzer's for it in certain circumstances. What gives me SOME comfort is that Spitzer's hand-picked Lieutenant Governor candidate, David Patterson (black AND legally blind, BTW), is also openly against the death penalty, so maybe that'll soften Spitzer's stance.

We had a Congressman around here forever named Sam Stratton. When Stratton suddenly retired in 1988, the Republicans had already picked their sacrificial lamb (a guy I played volleyball with at the time, it turned out), and the Democratic machine was able, without the need for an untidy primary, to annoit Michael McNulty as the nominee. The Republicans certainly would have picked a more formidable candidate if they knew they weren't running against Stratton, and there were several Democrats who might have sought the job. So, I've NEVER voted for McNulty in the primary or general election. But I might now - even though, as anincumbentt, he probably doesn't need my support: his primary challenger really bugs me. His great complaint about McNulty is that he has steered Homeland Security money to...helping local fire departments? Horrors! More importantly, McNulty, an early and ardentsupporterr of the war in Iraq has had a major change of heart in recent months - one of the several pieces of mail I've received from his campaign is solely on his "out of Iraq now" position - and I find the need to reward that.

So much for the secret ballot.

Note: The polls are only open from 12 noon to 9 pm in most places, including here, though 6 am to 9 pm in NYC. I love voting first thing in the morning, which means I don't get yet one more call from the campaigns AND I don't have to stand in line at dinner time or later to vote.
***
Tom DeLay is urging people to support his "good friend" Sara Evans, not Tucker Carlson when Evans, Carlson, DeLay nemesis and "liberal" talk show host Jerry Springer, and others appear on ABC-TV's Dancing with the Stars, starting this week. Carlson, the conservative MSNBC commentator, on ABC News' Nightline last Friday, noted that "Tom DeLay lives in an irony-free zone." He also said that he's enlisted the support of Al Sharpton in his quest for the dancing crown; I THINK he was kidding.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Do College Sports Really Strengthen Character?

That was the title of an article in the August 31 Wall Street Journal (p. D-8). The piece suggested otherwise: "It is a truism to say that it would be easy to run a daily rap sheet on college players."

To that end, many colleges utilize something called The Hahm-Beller Values Choice Inventory, which is "designed to evaluate moral reasoning in the sport milieu. Participants read twenty-one short common sport scenarios and evaluate each situation based on a five point Likert Scale from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. The HBVCI is the only inventory specifically focused on sport and developed using moral theory as a guide."

The following questions describe incidents that have occurred in sport settings. Each question addresses moral issues. Because there are no right or wrong answers, please circle the answer that best describes your feelings. SA = Strongly agree; A = Agree; N=Neutral; D=Disagree; SD = Strongly Disagree.

1. Two rival basketball teams in a well-known conference played a basketball game on Team A's court. During the game, Team B's star player was consistently heckled whenever she missed a basket, pass, or rebound. In the return game on Team B's home court, the home crowd took revenge by heckling Team A's players. such action is fair because both crowds have equal opportunity to heckle players.

2. During a volleyball game, player A hit the ball over the net. The ball barely grazed off player B's fingers and landed out of bounds. However the referee did not see player B touch the ball. because the referee is responsible for calling rule violations, player b is not obligated to report the violation.

3. Certain basketball teams are coached to run plays that cause the opponents to foul. Players and coaches believe this is clever strategy because the opponents may foul out of the game, giving their team an advantage. Because the coach orders this type of play, the players should follow his directions.

4. During a youth sport football game, an ineligible pass receiver catches a long touchdown pass and scores. The officials fail to determine that the player was ineligible. Because it is the referee's job to detect the ineligible receiver, the player or the coach does not have to declare an ineligible receiver.


So, the questions are these:

Do college (high school, professional) sports strengthen character? If so, how? (Building camaraderie, e.g.) If not, why not? (Pressure to compete, leads to violence, e.g.)

Something that wasn't part of the vocabulary when I was growing up: non-competitive sports, where "everybody is a winner". Is this a good idea? Or do you believe, "it's a competitive world out there", and kids might as well learn early?

Oh, and what are your answers to the four sample questions above?
***
Near-twin Gordon is doing a mixed CD exchange on the topic of law and order. Go and participate. But if you're not so inclined, but have some suggestions for me of "songs that describe law, order, and righteousness, or... that deal with criminals, crime, lowlifes, or even cheater pants," please e-mail me ASAP. You'll see Gordon's caveats of choices, and I can't use the Clash's Police On My Back, a song I LOVE, because Lefty just used in his most recent mix, which I received this month.
***
Billy Preston would have been 60 today. RIP, Billy.

Friday, September 08, 2006

I'm Not Lovin' It


Here's my first attempt at a logo from the Official Seal Generator, which near-twin Gordon tipped me off about. I'm not crazy about it, and if you're inclined to give it a try and e-mail your creation to me, I'll send you some stuff.

Meanwhile, my late summer allergies to whatever grasses I react to, which usually settle in in mid-August, were postponed until this week. I have laryngitis (which some people say is a blessing), a sore throat, and I feel achy. Our new co-pastors, Miriam and Glenn Leupold, are being installed on Sunday, and I'd love to sing for the event, but if I feel - and more importantly, SOUND - like I do now, no way.

So, go send some love to Lefty and his wife, mock Johnny B's NFL picks, and go tell Eddie hi. I'm going back to bed.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I'm 53 1/2


53 1/2? Adults don't count half birthdays.

Anyway, I was e-mailed something from http://www.paulsadowski.com/NameData.asp, and surprisingly - no, ASTONISHINGLY - I found it about 93 1/2% (or more) accurate:

You entered: roger owen green

There are 14 letters in your name.
Those 14 letters total to 88
There are 6 vowels and 8 consonants in your name.

Your number is: 7

The characteristics of #7 are: Analysis, understanding, knowledge, awareness, studious, meditating.

The expression or destiny for #7:
Thought, analysis, introspection, and seclusiveness are all characteristics of the expression number 7. The hallmark of the number 7 is a good mind, and especially good at searching out and finding the truth. You are so very capable of analyzing, judging and discriminating, that very little ever escapes your observation and deep understanding. You are the type of person that can really get involved in a search for wisdom or hidden truths, often becoming an authority on whatever it is your are focusing on. This can easily be of a technical or scientific nature, or it may be religious or occult, it matters very little, you pursue knowledge with the same sort of vigor. You can make a very fine teacher, or because of a natural inclination toward the spiritual, you may become deeply emerged in religious affairs or even psychic explorations. You tend to operate on a rather different wavelength, and many of your friends may not really know you very well. The positive aspects of the 7 expression are that you can be a true perfectionist in a very positive sense of the word. You are very logical, and usually employ a quite rational approach to most things you do. You can be so rational at times that you almost seem to lack emotion, and when you are faced with an emotional situation, you may have a bit of a problem coping with it. You have excellent capabilities to study and learn really deep and difficult subjects, and to search for hidden fundamentals. At full maturity you are likely to be a very peaceful and poised individual.

If there is an over supply of the number 7 in your makeup, the negative aspects of the number may be apparent. The chief negative of 7 relates to the limited degree of trust that you may have in people. A tendency to be highly introverted can make you a bit on the self-centered side, certainly very much self-contained . Because of this, you are not very adaptable, and you may tend to be overly critical and intolerant. You really like to work alone, at your own pace and in your own way. You neither show or understand emotions very well.

Your Soul Urge number is: 5

A Soul Urge number of 5 means: The 5 soul urge or motivation would like to follow a life of freedom, excitement, adventure and unexpected happening. The idea of travel and freedom to roam intrigues you. You are very much the adventurer at heart. Not particularly concerned about your future or about getting ahead, you can seem superficial and unmotivated.

In a positive sense, the energies of the number 5 make you very adaptable and versatile. You have a natural resourcefulness and enthusiasm that may mark you as a progressive with a good mind and active imagination. You seem to have a natural inclination to be a pace-setter. You are attracted to the unusual and the fast paced.

You may be overly restless and impatient at times. You may dislike the routine work that you are engaged in, and tend to jump from activity to activity, without ever finishing anything. You may have difficulty with responsibility. You don't want to be tied down to a relationship, and it may be hard to commit to one person.

Your Inner Dream number is: 11

An Inner Dream number of 11 means: You dream of casting the light of illumination; of being the true idealist. You secretly believe there is more to life than we can know or prove, and you would like to be provider of the 'word' from on high.
***
Fans of Boing Boing may have already read about the "track-for-track mash-up of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds with the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band", two of my favorite albums. Let's put it this way - they don't describe it as noise for nothing. Or am I just showing my age?

Conversely, there are some very entertainly odd items at the main Clayton Counts site, including Leonard Nimoy, David Hasselhoff (interesting picture, that), and Annette Funicello singing the Johnny Carson Tonight Show theme BEFORE it was the Tonight theme.
***
Happy birthday, Chrissie Hynde, who's 55, and belated birthday wishes to Shazrak and Cecily.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Condi vs. Hillary


I sincerely believe that the United States ought to have a woman President. In recent months, Chile, Germany, and Liberia have selected female heads of state. Here's a list of other current women heading their governments, excluding queens and other ceremonial heads of state. And here's a list of women heads of state in the 20th century.

Yet, the idea of either Condoleeza Rice or Hillary Clinton running for President fills me with deep disappointment, because I would be loath to vote for either them.

Condi is easy to dismiss as a candidate, assuming she's even interested: architect of our failed foreign policy, especially in Iraq. Yet, it saddens me. Not only a woman, but a black woman, and I've had to write her right off.

Hillary is more problematic. A few weeks ago, Molly Ivans wrote a story about her which captures my ambivalence, at best, about her. She is running in the primary next week to maintain her seat, and unlike Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, has no chance of losing her party's nomination*. Still, I will vote against her on September 12. Given the situation, with perhaps the political balance of the Congress at stake, I haven't decided (yet) to vote against her in the November general election. I believe the word I'm looking for is conundrum.
***
A nonsensical rationale for not covering certain candidates. The ersie comment is mine.

Greg on American imperialism, which just happens to mention Ms. Rice. At least one person has a comment.

*"The MoveOn poll results, (Jonathan) Tasini 44% to Clinton 56%, reveal just how close this race really is among the Democratic activist base," according to e-mail I received yesterday.
***
"Capital Cardiology Associates are holding the 2nd Annual Brooks BBQ to benefit the American Heart Association at 7 Corporate Woods on Southwoods Boulevard [today] from 3:30 to 6:00."
I've eaten Brooks Barbeque. I LIKE Brooks BBQ. But a sale to help the Heart Assn? Sounds oxymoronic.