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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Gorillas in the Midst

First, I want to note that Lydia had her surgery yesterday. It went fine, technically. Obviously, more on this soon. Thank you very much for your support. It does cut into blogging time, though, so I'll be brief.

An important holiday. But then you knew that, didn't you?
***
You may have noticed some slight changes in this blog. That's because I've finally switched to the new Blogger, powered by that gorilla of search, Google. It allows for an easier way to indicate labels. It also allows me to edit every post I've ever done (some 800), rather than the last 300. I probably won't spend a lot of time on retrospective stuff, but each day I post, I may add tags on an old post or two, so that in a couple years, I'll have tagged the whole thing. Or not.
I knew that the way I did the transition would throw out the categories of bloggers I visit, because I had done the same transition on the Friends of the Albany Public Library site. (BTW, if you're in Albany, vote Yes on the school and library issues, Tuesday, February 6, from noon until 9 pm.)
However, since the links needed to be revisited anyway - add some, delete some - I'm OK with the chaos, for the short term. Think of the blog as having one of those annoying Man at Work signs on it. Some guy in overalls from Buffalo is musing about his move to the new Blogger.
***
Philip Glass, the big magilla of minimalist music, turns 70 today. I had a girlfriend who HATED his music, and when we broke up, I went on a Philip Glass marathon - not recommended. My favorite Glass recording is this one.
***
Former guerrila (!) leader Fidel Castro's dying and Miami's throwing a party. Seems unseemly, somehow.
***
Governor Spitzer, the big gorilla politically around here, releases the budget today. Let's see if he keeps those high approval ratings.
Sheldon Silver, the powerful Speaker of the state Assembly, has been like a petulant child, because none of the three finalists to become Comptroller (replacing Alan Hevesi, who resigned because of the "Driving Mrs. Hevesi" scandal) is an Assembly member. A committee interviewed 18 candidates, including five Assembly members. Frankly, picking a legislator would have been business as usual, and "business as usual" in Albany has been dysfunctional as long as I can remember. Let it go, Shelly.
***
Get that tobacco monkey off your back. NYS specific, but with some useful data for all.
***
Baseball player Tony Suck, who played as though he were wearing a gorilla suit, based on the stats from his brief career.
***
Finally, Dennis the Menace - "Gorilla Warfare"

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fred G. Hembeck - the G stands for Great


The second annual summer meeting with my family and Fred's led to all sorts of cool things: our Rashamon take on an obscure 1960s song by Tom Clay, which somehow segued into me writing about Snoopy vs. Osama, and getting a response from the Royal Guardsmen.

But even when we don't see each other, we're in contact. He's turned me on to Nellie McKay and SpongeBob.

I now realize that I've known Fred half of our lives. I met him in February 1980, when he was doing a signing for the FantaCo publication Hembeck 1980, when he was 27, and today he turns...lessee 27 times 2 is..this higher math is tough... Of course, there was a big gap in there, but I'm glad he started doing his blog, and that our mutual friend Rocco told me about said blog. (Peculiar that I find out more about Rocco, who lives in Albany from Fred, who lives over an hour from here, than I do from Rocco.)


Another thing you should know about Fred: he's a proud NGSD supporter.

Last point: this is my favorite time in my relationship with Fred Hembeck, where (for five weeks) he's older than I am. Utterly petty, but I enjoy it anyway.

Happy birthday, effendi!
***
And speaking of FantaCo and long time ago, check out this link about something called the Daredevil Omnibus that Fred sent me. There are five pages taken from the Daredevil Chronicles, originally published by FantaCo, three pages of an interview, featuring a nifty Hembeck illo, and the two page Miller/Janson spread . I didn't edit that particular issue, Mitch Cohn did; I was working on as similar 'zine about the Fantastic Four at the time. But I'm sure I proofread that issue, as Mitch proofed the FF. Really took me back.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Arts Meme

I no longer know who I stole this meme from!

Name a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies:

It's such a cliche: The Prophet by Gibran. It was a Christmas present I gave again this year. Also, The World Almanac. Beyond that, there are some expensive music reference books from Joel Whitburn about the Billboard charts. I never throw away the old copy when I buy the new copy, I just pass it on.

Name a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music:

Besides "Quintet" from West Side Story, which I've previously mentioned - "The Jets are gonna have their way tonight" against, "Tonight, tonight won't be just any night"? Or the Huntley-Brinkley theme, which I discovered was Beethoven's 9th Symphony, 2nd movement, thus making classical music accessible? It'd have to be "In the Mood" by Henhouse Five Plus Two, which has led me to the revelation that almost all music can be done as through chickens were squawking. Or maybe the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows", which is technically all one chord.

Name a film you can watch again and again without fatigue:

There are several. But to name a few; "Field of Dreams", "Annie Hall", the first "Back to the Future" movie, the original (Episode 4) "Star Wars". I saw "Annie Hall" four times in the theater, which is tied for the record.

Name a performer for whom you suspend all disbelief:

Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, Hilary Swank, Donald Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones, Ellen Burstyn. I'm sure there are others.

Name a work of art you’d like to live with:

The Scream. There are several copies, and they seem to get stolen a lot, so that could be interesting.

Name a work of fiction which has penetrated your real life:

Don't read that much fiction, but I'll pick The Handmaid's Tale; it felt very real.

Name a punch line that always makes you laugh:

Not so much a punchline, as that whole riff in "The Life of Brian" about the ever-lengthening list of what the Romans had done for the Jews, found here:
REG:
They've taken everything we had, and not just from us, from our fathers, and from our fathers' fathers.
LORETTA:
And from our fathers' fathers' fathers.
REG:
Yeah.
LORETTA:
And from our fathers' fathers' fathers' fathers.
REG:
Yeah. All right, Stan. Don't labour the point. And what have they ever given us in return?!
XERXES:
The aqueduct?
REG:
What?
XERXES:
The aqueduct.
REG:
Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. Uh, that's true. Yeah.
COMMANDO #3:
And the sanitation.
LORETTA:
Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like?
REG:
Yeah. All right. I'll grant you the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done.
MATTHIAS:
And the roads.
REG:
Well, yeah. Obviously the roads. I mean, the roads go without saying, don't they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads--
COMMANDO:
Irrigation.
XERXES:
Medicine.
COMMANDOS:
Huh? Heh? Huh...
COMMANDO #2:
Education.
COMMANDOS:
Ohh...
REG:
Yeah, yeah. All right. Fair enough.
COMMANDO #1:
And the wine.
COMMANDOS:
Oh, yes. Yeah...
FRANCIS:
Yeah. Yeah, that's something we'd really miss, Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.
COMMANDO:
Public baths.
LORETTA:
And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.
FRANCIS:
Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let's face it. They're the only ones who could in a place like this.
COMMANDOS:
Hehh, heh. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.
REG:
All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
XERXES:
Brought peace.
REG:
Oh. Peace? Shut up!

Tagging:

Not into tagging. Go tag yourself, if you'd like.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

BOOK: Kill Your Idols

I'm only adding this banner because I hate to read about Mark Evanier crying.


Anyway, some guy, pretty much out of the blue, sent me a copy of the book Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics, edited by Jim DeRogatis and Carmel Carillo. (Thank you.) I ended up reading it over two or three days on the road to Charlotte aand back.

I don't think I'll be reviewing the book per se, except to say that the essays by some three dozen writers are wildly different. A few discuss how they became critics; I don't care. But some are pretty much on point.

Here's a list of the chapters.

Forward: Canon? We Don't Need No Steekin' Canon by Jim DeRogatis. The premise is lovely: "each writer addresses an allegedly 'great' album that he or she despises." He manages to dis baby boomers as being "prone to safeguarding works whose values they adopted as articles of faith in their youth, even though said youth is now several decades behind them. The writer challenges the inconsistency of the "best album: lists, notoriously generated by Rolling Stone magazine. It's a good start.

The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Capitol, 1967, by Jim DeRogatis.
The writer's point: that the album is an archive of the '60, a "bloated and baroque failed concept albums that takes a generation...back to the best shindig of their lives," old-fashioned. He eviscerates most of the songs individually, with the notable exception of "A Day In the Life."
My take: I think the writer is too harsh about With a Little Help, Lucy, and especially Getting Better, but largely agree with his disdain for Within You Without You and especially She's Leaving Home, which IS "saccharine, strings-drenched melodrama." DeRogatis' point that some of these songs are lesser efforts than the songs on songs from earlier albums, especially Revolver, is arguably true.
Sidebar: Gordon asked, a while ago: Here's a tough question:
Which Beatle album, in your opinion, is stronger and has held up over the course of time: Revolver or Sgt. Pepper?
Easy question, actually: Revolver, by quite a bit. Taxman rocks more than anything on Pepper, Love You To is less annoying (and much shorter) than Within You, For No One is gorgeous, Got To Get You Into My Life IS rubber soul, and the Tomorrow Never Knows is so strong that the backing track works to make the interminable Within You more palatable on the new LOVE album. (A group called the Fab Four, a Beatles cover band, used the Tomorrow Never Knows music to great effect as backing for Jingle Bells. Really. And I like it.)

The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds. Capitol, 1966 by Jeff Nordstedt.
The writer's point: Aside from the "unassailable" hits, Wouldn't It Be Nice and God Only Knows, there is an "emotional gap between the [happy] music...and the [depressing] lyrics". Overproduced, and your parents won't hate it. And that overproduction "was partially responsible for the invention of the synthesizers", which lead to the "evil development" of disco.
My take: Maybe it's not a "rock 'n' roll" album, but so what? It's one of my favorites. The disco argument is just silly; if there was no Pet Sounds, some other album would have inspired synthesizers. And not all "disco sucks".

The Beach Boys: Smile. Unreleased, 1967, by Dawn Eden.
The writer's point: It's mostly inaccessible, and will never be as good as the hype, Good Vibrations and Heroes and Villains notwithstanding.
My take: Nothing can ever match the hype. The Brian Wilson album SMiLE, released after the essay, is an intriguing piece of music, but may or may not have changed the course of music 37 years earlier.

The Who: Tommy. MCA, 1969. By Steve Knopper.
The writer's point: It suffers from "glaring conceptual weaknesses, tin-can production, and timeless inability to rock." Bland, repetitive; the filler songs are terrible. Only Pinball Wizard, I'm Free, Cousin Kevin, and Fiddle About are any good, and the latter is tainted by Pete Townsend's arrest, even though the charges were dropped. But the greatest sin is that they (especially Townsend) couldn't leave it alone but had it done again and again.
My take: The filler songs and repeated musical themes never bothered me - Townsend's working in a largely unfamiliar medium of "rock opera". Not only did I like the songs cited by Knopper, but also Christmas and Underture. But those other versions with the London Symphony Orchestra, and the movie soundtrack, are NOT improvements.

The MC5: Kick Out the Jams. Elektra, 1969. By Andy Wang
The writer's point: full of john Sinclair's nonsensical White Panther Party rubbish, and not very good.
My take: Don't own; haven't heard in too long to comment.

The Byrds: Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Columbia, 1968. By Steven Stolder.
The writer's point: It was no more the pioneer country-rock album than the Beau Brummel's Bradley's Barn. The "notion of country rock as defined by the Byrds...seems unnecessary.
My take: Doing a comparison with an album I've never heard of, let alone heard, makes it difficult to comment. On the other hand, country rock always seemed like an artifice to me.

Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band: Trout Mask Replica. Straight, 1969. By Jason Gross.
The writer's point: Gives him a throbbing headache.
My take: Never heard.

Led Zeppelin: (Untitled, IV, Runes, or Zoso), Atlantic, 1971. By Adrian Brijbassi.
The writer's point: Seems to be largely about his sex life, though he does also talk about Zeppelin musical theft on this and other albums.
My take: I like it well enough, though I've ODed on Stairway to Heaven decades ago.

Neil Young: Harvest, Reprise, 1972. By Fred Mills.
The writer's point: "The music world is overrun by simpering singer-songwriters obsessed with the D chord and first-person pronouns", thanks to its success.
My take: Well, maybe so. Actually, while I like the songs - though Alabama IS a lesser version of Southern Man from the previous album - I never fully bought it as musically coherent statement. I'll be curious to hear the next Neil album, which the late producer David Briggs tried to convince Neil should have been the logical successor to After the Goldrush.

Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street, Rolling Stones, 1972. By Keith Moerer.
The writer's point: Lots of great songs, with an "awful lot of genre filler (and worse)..." Not a fan of Sweet Black Angel.
My point: I agree.

The Eagles: Desperado, Asylum, 1973. By Bobby Reed.
The writer's point: Not the cohesive story it feigns to be. (Spends too much time telling about himself.)
My take: Though I probably own this album, somewhere, I must have got it so late in the vinyl game that I don't really know what it sounds like well enough to judge.
Lynyrd Skynyrd: Pronounced Len-nerd Skin-nerd, MCA, 1973. By Leanne Potts.
The writer's point: Southern-fried hokum.
My point: Don't have, though I've never been a particular fan of Freebird or Sweet Home Alabama.

Graham Parsons: GP/Grievous Angel, Warner Brothers, 1990. (Original releases 1973, 1974). By Chrissie Dickinson.
The writer's point: a "critically-correct cult god" who couldn't sing.
My point: Don't have. Makes me want to check it out.

The Doors: Best of the Doors, Elektra, 1985. By Lorraine Ali (with Jim DeRogatis).
The writer's point: Lyrically pretentious, musically lame.
My point: I have another greatest hits, but I have to agree that "Light My Fire" is pretty lame; the single's much more tolerable than the album cut, because it doesn't have that cheesy organ solo. But I always live for the "stronger than dirt" part of the creepy "Touch Me".

Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon, Capitol/EMI, 1973. By Burl Gilyard.
The writer's point: It's "moody, ponderous, torpid and humorless."
My point: Well, maybe it is, but I like it atmospherically anyway.

Bob Dylan: Blood on the Tracks, Columbia, 1975. By Chris Martiniano.
The writer's point: It's a "cliched, dull, and at times, a tragically sloppy album."
My point: Given that this is one of my favorite Dylan albums, I'm not feeling this complaint.


Well, THAT was fun. But time consuming. I'll do it again for the rest of the book. Later, probably next month, when I'm stuck for a topic. I can't wait, because I used to know one of the upcoming reviewers.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sports and Race QUESTIONS

Unrelated forward-
Note to Tom the Dog: Now that you are a game show maven, perhaps you can be a source of pithy quotes on other cultural matters. For instance, an Albany-area woman made it onto the next round of American Idol - a show I'm not currently watching, BTW - but had to keep it a secret for a few months, until the program aired this week. Hey, let's find other folks who've had similar experiences, like that guy who was on JEOPARDY! eight years ago! Voila!
***
1. Here's an excerpt from Boss Talk: 'Welcome to My World'; NBA Commissioner Stern Gets Kudos for Expansion But Has Share of Problems
Russell Adams and Adam Thompson. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Jan 17, 2007. pg. B.1
WSJ: It's often been said that when brawls break out on the court in the NBA, everybody makes a big deal out of it, even though other sports frequently have fights among players. Why?

Mr. Stern: My own take is the burden of the fans being so close to the stands. Because of the spectacular view of our game from courtside -- which is the closest to the action of any game, and it's replicated by a camera, and increasingly by high-def, the prospect of players, in any shape or form, crossing the barrier between them and the fans -- that's a problem that we have and no one else has.

WSJ: Do you believe it also might have something to do with racial attitudes in this country, that the NBA is judged more harshly for that reason?

Mr. Stern: Well, I choose not to dwell on it, but you may be on to something. We were the first sport to be identified as black. And, despite the fact that the starters in other sports like football could be equally, percentage-wise, black, our guys are [visible] out there. We can see them, they don't come encumbered by hat, helmet, long sleeves and pants. You just touched on the global conversation, which is the role of race, and certainly, I would not be fully honest if I didn't say it's always there, in some shape or form.

Yes, the NBA is 80% black. But the NFL is about 70% black. Is race a factor in perceptions of NBA players, or is it the proximity to the stands, the fact that, unlike football players, they don't wear helmets, and that changes the dynamic?

2. Much has been written about the two head coaches in the Super Bowl being black. What's your reaction? This is my take on firsts in everything: Firsts are important when they get us to the point where it doesn't matter anymore. Doug Williams, the first black Super Bowl quarterback was important, but I couldn't tell you the second or third. Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby were important, but one doesn't make note of every black baseball player, as Ebony magazine did in the 1950s and 1960s; interestingly, black baseball players at the major league level is declining.

Once upon a time, I could tell you the name of every female U.S. Senator, but now there are 16, and I can't; it's not enough, but it's a start. However, I can name all of the black members of the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction, since there have been only three: Brooke, Moseley-Braun, and Obama.

Progress is measured when you stop having to measure.

***
Unrelated postlude;

From May 4, 2004 WSJ

A Better PDB?

Jessica Mintz writes in the Wall Street Journal:

"The presidential daily brief titled 'Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US' triggered a political firestorm. But for Greg Storey, what was most striking about the document was its lack of style.
"'Why is it that the president puts up with these horribly written and laid out documents to assess the threat against our nation?' wondered Mr. Storey, a 33-year old Web designer.
"So he set out to do something about it."

Here's Storey's blog item explaining what he did and why.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Lydster, Part 34: The Curse of the Purple Dinosaur

I think my in-laws hate me.

First, one set of them bought this singing rabbit and chick for Lydia's last birthday (singing "Easter Goodies" to the tune of Rockin' Robin"), then the spinning, singing snowman doing the Springsteenesque "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", which Lydia played over and over and over...
...and over and over and over...
but now another set of them has provided the Barney DVD, which Lydia is fully entranced by. I don't remember the name of the disc, and I'm too lazy to check it, but it's a game between those smaller characters, Baby Bop and BJ. BJ wants to be a rock 'n' roll star, Miss Muffet only PRETENDS to fear the spider, and blah, blah, blah. Lydia is enthralled, and I am appalled.

Actually, my Barney emnity really predates Lydia. My niece Alex, when she was 3-5, was Barney crazy. I asked my folks what to get her for Christmas, and they said, "Something with Barney". But Alex had Barney bedding, Barney lights, Barney EVERYTHING. What could I get her that she didn't already have? So I declined, and felt some disappointment, not from Alex, but from my parents. Feh.

Anyway, the irony is that Lydia's disc is not tracking correctly, and I may have to get her a replacement copy. Instant karma IS gonna get you.

Lydia's going to have her adenoidectomy in the next week. She's passed her pre-surgery physical. We've gotten her books about the hospital, a doctor's kit that has a stethoscope, thermometer, and whatnot, to try to prepare her. Wish us all the best.

Happy 2 5/6, Lydia! Love from daddy.
***
Oh, I went here and realized I needed another title. Since Lydia has had earaches, this one seems to fit.
My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
The Very Reverend Roger the Free of Lardle St. Earache
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Favorite Albums 2006

I'm going to forgo the notion of BEST and give you a list of my fifteen favorite albums of 2006, the albums that gave me the most pleasure. I'm convinced that there's a strong correlation between expectation and what one likes.

15. Paul Simon-Surprise. I discussed this before, as did Tosy. I still like the first and last songs best, though just this week, I was chair dancing to one of the other tunes, to the delight of my daughter.

14. Johnny Cash-American V: A Hundred Highways. My assessment pretty well matched Nik's. Not as strong as the first 4 American albums, which I love, or even material from the posthumous box set.

13. Jerry Lee Lewis-Last Man Standing. I had low expectations on this one, so it was a pleasant surprise. 22 guest stars, but many of them are used well.

12. Dixie Chicks-Taking the Long Way. Yes, I'm glad they're "not ready to make nice," but I liked this musically as well.

11. Neil Young: Living with War. Will this album age well, Lefty wonders. I don't know, but I enjoy it for what it does in 2006/2007 in the midst of the current situation.

10. Ronstadt/Savoy-Adieu False Heart.
My initial assessment was that I LOVED most of the Annie Savoy Cajun stuff, while Linda's stuff was only OK, but the latter's grown on me.

9. Knopfler/Harris: All the Roadrunning.
The musical chemistry is good.

8. Beatles-Love. Nik wasn't crazy about it, and even Beatles uberfan Fred gave it a lukewarm reception, but I fully expected to, well, LOVE this album, based on the initial cut I heard, Within You, Without You, with the instrumentation of Tomorrow Never Knows. The problem with this, and I now understand Paul and Ringo's point on this, is that it didn't do MORE of this. A lot of it sounded like slight variations on the Beatles' catalog, which I already own. More backwards Sun King! More segued cuts, even if it treads close to "Stars on Forty-Fab" territory. I'm not offended by the remixing, I only wanted it weirder.

7. Costello/Toussaint: The River in Reverse. I thought the last album I have by Elvis, North, was a bit of a bland disappointment, so I was pleased to hear this one. I think the album's latter tracks are generally better than the earlier ones, and the album as a whole improves with every play.

6. Black Cadillac-Rosanne Cash.
Weird, I suppose, that the album about JRC's death should rate higher with me than JRC's album. In any case, it's not just about her father's death, but her mother's and her stepmother's, all in a couple-year period. Bit I didn't find it to be a depressing album at all.

5. Tom Petty-Highway Companion.
Somebody please tell me why the Tom Petty albums are, in general, more enjoyable than the Heartbreakers albums over the same period? This is a recent acquisition and may go higher with repeated listening.

4. Ray Davies-Other People's Lives.
Given its long gestation period, an amazingly coherent album. Recent acquisition, may go up.
Sidebar: The album is on V2 Records. A very good friend of mine writes:
"V2 Records North America is no longer. This ten year old company has sadly bitten the dust as a functioning label.
My 9+ years here have run the gamut. There's been the satisfaction of witnessing a small bird taking flight and the brutal crush of a boulder rolling down a mountain."

3. Bob Dylan-Modern Times.
That I didn't love it quite as much as Love and Theft - but I may, with time - doesn't negate the enjoyment I've received.

2. Bruce Springsteen-We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.
As I said before, this album came pre-loved.

AND, my #1 favorite album of 2006:

Spongebob Squarepants: The Best Day Ever.

Maybe it's because I came in with such low expectations, despite Fred's affection for it; I mean, the man has SpongeBob underwear! And while I've watched the cartoon in the past, I'm not a regular viewer.

But I bought into the concept of the album as a radio broadcast, more fully realized than The Who Sell Out; the Who ran out of time, or interest, in completing the theme. My favorite song: "Barnacles", a word you use when you stub your toe and don't want to say something inappropriate.

What was your favorite album of 2006?
The Beatles- LOVE
Johnny Cash- American V
Black Cadillac-Rosanne Cash
Ray Davies-Other People's Lives
Dixie Chicks-Taking the Long Way
Bob Dylan-Modern Times
Jerry Lee Lewis-Last Man Standing
Nellie McKay-Pretty Little Head
Tom Petty-Highway Companion
Corrine Bailey Rae
Paul Simon-Surprise
SpongeBob Squarepants- Best Day Ever
Bruce Springsteen-The Seeger Sessions
Neil Young-Living With War
Something else
pollcode.com free polls


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Underplayed Vinyl: The Neville Brothers


It's the 66th birthday of Aaron Neville, who had a hit single in the 1960s with Tell It Like It Is as a solo artist. I discovered him and his brothers, with their second album, Fiyo on the Bayou. Let me tell you about my copy.

As I've mentioned, I loved one radio station in the late 1970s and early 1980s, an eclectic station known as Q-104. What I don't think I mentioned is that at different times, and briefly at the same time, I lived with a couple of weekend/fill-in DJs from the station at 264 Western Avenue in Albany, which, once upon a time was a Jewish fraternity house. One was Mark, who also briefly employed at the comic book store FantaCo, where I worked, and the other was John; no Matthew or Luke, though. One of them gave, or sold to me cheaply, the station's copy of the Neville Brothers' Fiyo on the Bayou.
Side A
1. Hey Pocky Way
2. Sweet Honey Dripper
3. Fire On The Bayou
4. The Ten Commandments Of Love
Side B
1. Sitting In Limbo
2. Brother John/Iko Iko
3. Mona Lisa (Dedicated To Bette Midler)
4. Run Joe
I no longer remember why the station was getting rid of the LP, which they acquired on June 29, 1981 - perhaps they changed music format, or maybe they just got the CD - but the LP has a big card on the cover - covering up the large reptile - describing the DJs' comments.
"Beat me! Oh God I'm sold on this!!"
"A1, A2, A3, B1, B2"
"One of the year's best!"
"Agree"
"Agree"
"A2 + A3"
"David Fathead Newman on tenor sax. Funky horn section and New Orleans Soul make a great record. B1, a Jimmy Cliff song. A1 A2 and B1 especially. You're gonna love it. Allen Touissaint-Little Feat sound or maybe that's L. Feat-A. Touissaint have a Neville Bros. Sound."
"Rolling Stones have done Neville Bros. songs. Meters have covered a lot too - Top drawer funky stuff. Put this in red. this is Q104, remember?"
"Give me a week and you got it (only kidding)."
"Anybody remember the Wild Tchopitoulas(spelling?). The Album Network called this stuff reggae, believe it or not!"
"Sure wish we had some Meters!"
"We do, and there's some in my LPs.".
(Just for the historical record, the Meters were a band in the 1960s and 1970s featuring Art Neville, signed by Allen Touissaint's label.)
Anyway I literally played the first three cuts over and over for weeks. I also played the fourth cut, a real change-up, featuring Aaron on vocal on that 1958 Moonglows tune. I listened to the second side much less, though the first two cuts are quite good, Mona Lisa ("dedicated to Bette Midler") is a standard Aaron take on the Nat Cole classic fare, and I can never remember the last cut without playing it again.
Still, I saw it on Amazon for $7, and it's worth getting. It was paired with their 1989 Yellow Moon album, and that's DEFINITELY worth the $18 bucks.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Watching the President Tonight

It's the State of the Union tonight. I feel, as a patriotic American who wants to be an informed citizen, as though I ought to watch. Yet listening to George Bush Jr. makes me verklempt, not just with the content but the delivery as well. So I need your help. I need to come up with a drinking game. For instance, every time he says "war on terror" or "homefront", I can have a shot of something. Likewise if he announces an aggressive environmental program which will never get funded. (Has anything happened with the switchgrass initiative he mentioned in last year's speech?)

I also need to set up a pool to figure out at what minute and second he will first evoke 9/11; no cheating by looking at the press copy of the speech.

OK, so I'm being cheeky, and I won't REALLY watch the speech inebriated. Will I?

Why is this man jumping for joy? Because he's looking better all the time by comparison.
***
As for the 2008 race, the GOP attack dogs are in full force: Hillary's Kerryoake On Iraq. I'm not even likely to vote for her, but yeesh...
***
U.S. Bars Lab From Testing Electronic Voting
By CHRISTOPHER DREW

A laboratory that has tested most of the nation's electronic voting systems has been temporarily barred from approving new machines after federal officials found that it was not following its quality-control procedures and could not document that it was conducting all the required tests.
The company, Ciber Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo., has also come under fire from analysts hired by New York State over its plans to test new voting machines for the state. New York could eventually spend $200 million to replace its aging lever devices.
Experts on voting systems say the Ciber problems underscore longstanding worries about lax inspections in the secretive world of voting-machine testing. The action by the federal Election Assistance Commission seems certain to fan growing concerns about the reliability and security of the devices.

Monday, January 22, 2007

97 random questions

Go, Indianapolis Colts! I almost gave up on you yesterday. I was going to do a joke about everybody rooting for the team with the black head coach, except that not everyone would know that BOTH teams, the Colts and the Bears, have black head coaches.

101 RANDOM QUESTIONS, cut down for some reason:

0) The Junior Senator from Illinois, who's black, announced he's running for President last week. The Junior Senator from New York, who's female, announced that "I'm in. I'm in to win." The Governor of New Mexico, who's Hispanic, throws in his hat today. What's the chances that none of them will be on the national ticket in November 2008? Pretty poor, though I thought over a year ago that Richardson should be VP, a position he says he does not want.
1) Do you have a crush on somebody?: Thousands, all the time
2) Do you hate more than 3 people?: No
3) How many houses have you lived in?: greater than 20
4) Favorite candy bar?: Mounds
6) Have you ever tripped someone?: Not intentionally, except in play.
7) Least favorite school subject?: calculus
8) How many pairs of shoes do you own?: 4
9)Do you own a Britney Spears CD? No
10) Have you ever thrown up in public?: yeah, a long time ago
11) Name one thing that is always on your mind: music
12) Favorite genre of music?: 1960s Motown
13) What's your sign?: Pisces
14) What time were you born?: 3:15 pm EST
15) Do you like beer?: no
16) Have you ever made a prank phone call?: no
18) Are you sarcastic?: occasionally
19) What are your favorite colors?: blue, green
20) How many watches do you own?: one, which I got from my parents' house in Charlotte in late December
21) Summer or winter? Summer
22) Is anyone in love with you?: hope so
23) Favorite color to wear?: wine
24) Pepsi or Sprite?: Pepsi
25) What color is your cell phone?: none
26) Where is your second home?: work
27) Have you ever slapped someone?: no
28) Have you ever had a cavity? More than one
29) How many lamps are in your bedroom?: 2
30) How many video games do you own?: one
31) What was your first pet?: Peter the cat
32) Ever had braces?: nope, never
33) Do looks matter?: more to others than to me
34) Do you use chapstick?: rarely
35) Name 3 teachers from high school: Helen Foley, Joe Maughan, Mrs. Greene
36) American Eagle or Abercrombie?: neither
37) Are you too forgiving?: can one be?
38) How many children do you want?: 1
39) Do you own something from Hot Topic?: apparently not
40) Favorite breakfast meal: a mix of Cheerios and spoon-sized shredded wheat
41) Do you own a gun?: no
42) Ever thought you were in love?: more than once
43) When was the last time you cried?: this week
44) What did you do 3 nights ago?: choir
45) Olive Garden?: very rarely
46) Have you ever called your teacher mommy?: no
47) Have you ever been in a castle?: no
48) Nicknames?: not really
49) Do you know anyone named Bertha?: yes
50) Ever been to Kentucky?: yes, in 1993
51) Do you own something from Banana Republic?: no
52) Are you thinking about somebody right now? Define
53) Ever called somebody Boo?: no
54) Do you smoke?:no way
55) Do you own a diamond ring?: no
56) Are you happy with your life right now?: some days
57) Do you dye your hair?: obviously not
58) Does anyone have a crush on you?: maybe
59) Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts? Probably DD
60) What were you doing in May of 1994?: probably having a big fight with my estranged wife
62) McDonald's or Wendy's?: Wendy's, definitely
63) Do you like yourself?: most days
64) Are you closer to your mother or father?: even when my father was alive, I'd say my mother
65) Favorite physical feature of the preferred sex?: the mind
66) Are you afraid of the dark?: depends
67) Have you ever eaten paste?: don't think so
68) Do you own a webcam?: no
69) Have you ever stripped?: not in that way
70) Ever broke a bone?: no
71) Are you religious?: "being religious" has such a bad connotation of "religiosity" - I'm a person of faith
72) Do you chat on AIM often?: never
73) Pringles or Lays?: neither
74) Have you ever broken someone's heart?: undoubtedly
75) Rugrats or Doug?: neither
76) Full House or The Brady Bunch?: neither
77) Do you like your high school guidance counselor?: he's deceased, but yeah, he was OK
78) Has anyone ever called you fat?: yeah
79) Do you have a birth mark? No
80) Do you own a car?: well, if my wife's car counts
81) Can you cook?: minimally
82) 5 things that annoy you: 1.) drivers who ignore emergency vehicles and keep on coming through the intersection 2.) drivers that park their cars so that one can't access sidewalk cutouts and other accessibility locations 3.) lying politicians 4.) people who never stop talking 5.) litter
83) Do you text message often?: no
84) Money or love?: peace
85) Do you have any scars?: yes, from two bicycle accidents
86) What do you want more than anything right now?: sleep
87) Do you enjoy scary movies?: not so much
88) Relationships or one night stands?: relationships
90) Do you enjoy greasy food?: much less than I used to
91) Have you seen all the Rocky movies?: no, 1, 2 and I think 4
92) Do you own a box of crayons?:yes!
93) Who was the last person that said they loved you?: possibly my daughter
94) Who was the last person that made you cry?: probably my daughter
95) Who was the last person that made you laugh?: probably my daughter
96) Who was the last person that instant messaged you?: it's been months, but Carla in Oregon
97) Who was the last person that called you? My wife.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Go Where You Wanna Go?

So who's in charge of those instant, unscientific polls AOL does? After Denny Doherty of the Mamas & the Papas died a couple days ago at the age of 66, AOL asked for the group's favorite song among these choices:
* California Dreamin' - their first big hit, going to #4, and showing up in so many '60s compilation albums that I'd grown tired of it, but an obvious choice
* Monday, Monday - #1 for three weeks, features Denny's lead vocal
* Creeque Alley - this is the song that features "Zal, Denny and Sebastian sat, and after every number they passed the hat", referring to Doherty and a couple of future members of the Lovin' Spoonful. "And no one's getting fat except Mama Cass." Top 5 song. I wonder whether voters associated the title with the song?
* Go Where You Wanna Go. Huh?

I mean I know the song. I have five or six M&P LPs. But this was never a hit for them, although it WAS a hit, the first hit, actually, for the 5th Dimension. There were better choice for the Mamas & Papas poll: Words of Love (#5), a cover of the Shirelles' Dedicated to the One I Love (#2 for three weeks), or the one I would have chosen, I Saw Her Again, another Top Five song.

Not surprisingly, Dreamin' was winnin', last I checked, followed by Monday, with Go and Creeque trailing badly.

It's not, however, that I have anything against Go Where You Wanna Go. In fact, when my father, sister Leslie and I used to sing in public in the late 1960s/early 1970s, the song was part of our repetoire. When Leslie showed up at my 50th birthday party, we sang it again that night.

Coincidentally, for Christmas, Leslie gave me a 2001 album by John Phillips called Phillips 66, so named because John would have been 66 had he lived to see the album released. It features a recast version of California Dreamin'. My favorite song on the disc, though is Me and My Uncle, quite possibly because of the story behind it. When Judy Collins recorded the song, John started getting royalties. John thought a mistake had been made, since he didn't write the song. Turns out that, in a tequila-fueled frenzy, he DID write the song, Collins tape-recorded it and got it published. John didn't remember it at all.

Anyway, with Cass Elliot dead over three decades, that leaves Michelle Phillips, probably better known to some from Knots Landing and Beverly Hills, 90210 - but not by me - as the remaining member of group whose sound I enjoyed immensely.
***
Get to watch football today, I hope. My rooting interests from here out are, in order, the Saints, the Colts, the Bears. This means I root for New Orleans in the Super Bowl, if they beat Chicago. I know it's become cliche, but the Saints ARE America's Team - take THAT, Cowboys! Conversely, if the Patriots are in the Super Bowl, I'm pulling for whichever NFC team wins.
***
Cap Rep is showing Take Me Out, the baseball play about a mixed race player who comes out of the closet. The writer of the story in the local paper makes sure you know that some of the players will be au natural. And they say nothing ever happens in Albany.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Oscar QUESTIONS

The number of 2006 movies I've seen this year its pitiful. So, I'm curious to find out:

1. What movies and performers are going to get nominated? I don't mean the obvious ones, the Dame Dench, Leo DeCaprio (who I will guess right now will win for Best Actor (in "The Departed" over Forest Whitaker, based on the old "body of work" tradition), and the Golden Globe winners. I mean, Abigail Breslin for "Little Miss Sunshine"? (She was as much a supporting role in that film as Jennifer Hudson in "Dreamgirls", which is to say, Not really. What "omigod" nomination will make it on the ballot?

2. Who would you like to see nominated who won't make it? My pick, Will Ferrell in "Stranger Than Fiction" which maybe was too cerebral for traditional Will Ferrell fans. I didn't see "Sherrybaby", but since I liked Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Stranger", I'll root for her to get nominated. That IS how the Academy works, isn't it? Have siblings been nominated in successive years, such as Warren Beatty and Shirley
MacLaine?

On another topic:
January 18, 2007 (FinancialWire) Despite rampant speculation that satellite radio companies Sirius (NASDAQ: SIRI) and XM (NASDAQ: XM) may be contemplating a merger, comments by Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin may indicate that the move would violate antitrust regulations. Martin said that a merger between the two, who are the only major satellite radio companies, would be against restrictions built into both Sirius and XM licenses.
3. Do you listen to satellite radio? I never have. If so, what do you listen to? How do you think a merger would affect the companies, and the listeners?
***
I watched 1 Vs. 100 last night. Tom the Dog missed an easy question and was eliminated, but won $6,100. I know this because he told me, NOT because I watched the show. I have NO idea (until he undoubtedly recaps today) what question he missed, or even THAT he was eliminated, until the end of the show, when the camera finally panned to square #81. This is why I think it's a flawed game show:
The contestant can get big money, but the surviving mob members get bupkis. Seems that one should get SOMETHING for getting a right answer, even if it's $10 per question.
I don't know who in the mob is left. Maybe they need to make the numbers larger or something, or have a tote board on the side or superimposed or this: when each mob member is eliminasted, gave him/her their .15 second of fame and put their face and number on the screen. SOMETHING.
Tom SHOULD try out for JEOPARDY!
I really want to know what he missed. I got all the questions right, but the QWERTY keyboard question was a guess (all the letters of gas ARE on the same line).

Friday, January 19, 2007

My Periodic Need for a Non-Thematic Post, January 2007 Edition

DEAD PEOPLE

I've seen saxophonist Michael Brecker playing somewhere. Maybe it was backing Joni Mitchell in Philadelphia in 1981, or maybe on one of his solo jazz excursions. He appears in that "Hot Tub" segment of Saturday Night Live I linked to when James Brown died last month. In any case, you've almost certainly have HEARD Michael Brecker, who played with Paul Simon (Still Crazy, among others), Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run), Frank Zappa, and zillions more, including the aforementioned James Brown, and who died of leukemia this week at the age of 57.
***
Art Buchwald, whose wonderfully acerbic column I used to read, was probably best known for not dying when everyone, including himself, thought he would. That and the lawsuit over the Eddie Murphy movie Coming to America.
***
I would have said something about the passing of film producer Carlo Ponti, except that I might have accidentally revealed my grand crush in high school (and later) of his wife, and it seemed unseemly, so I won't.

MYTHS
...DEBUNKED

HIV/AIDS attacks

AND NOT A MYTH: (A LITTLE) TAX BREAK

A SPECIAL ONE TIME TAX CREDIT ON YOUR 2006 TAX RETURN

When it comes time to prepare and file your 2006 tax return, make sure you don't overlook the "federal excise tax refund credit." You claim the credit on line 71 of your form 1040. A similar line will be available if you file the short form 1040A.

This is about the federal excise tax that's been charged for long-distance calls on phone bill for years, based on the distance and length of the calls. When phone companies began to offer flat fee phone service, challenges to the excise tax ended up in federal courts. The IRS has now conceded this argument. Phone companies were given notice to stop assessing the federal excise tax as of August 30, 2006.
But the challengers of the old law also demanded restitution. So the IRS has announced that a one-time credit will be available when you file 2006 tax returns. However, the IRS also established limits on how BIG a credit you can get.
If you file your return as a single person with just you as a dependent, you get to claim a $30 credit on line 71 of your 1040.
If you file with a child or a parent as your dependent, you claim $40.
If you file your return as a married couple with no children, you claim $40.
If you file as married with children, you claim $50 if one child, $60 if two or more children.
In all cases, the most you get to claim is $60 - UNLESS you have all your phone bills starting AFTER Feb 28, 2003 through July 31, 2006 - which I certainly don't - then you can add up the ACTUAL TAX AS IT APPEARS ON YOUR BILLS AND CLAIM THAT FOR A CREDIT. If you do that, you'll have to file a special form number 8913 and attach it to your tax return. Individuals using the form 1040EZ will have to attach this form 8913 also.

One final point - this credit is a refundable credit. That means you get this money, no matter how your tax return works out. If you would end up owing the IRS a balance, the refund will reduce that balance you owe. If you end up getting a refund, the credit will be added and you get a bigger refund by that $30 to $60, depending on how many dependents are on your return.

WAR AND PEACE

January 27-29 gathering in Washington, DC, "to remind the new Congress that we elected them to end the war in Iraq and to bring the troops home now."

LIBRARIAN HUMOR, NOT AN OXYMORON

Conan the Librarian
A REAL library's take on Madonna's Ray of Light
***
A Biblical Understanding of Marriage
***
Finally, watch Tom the Dog on 1 Vs. 100 (square 81) AGAIN tonight on NBC, at 8 EST.
Carlo Ponti,

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I'm Cold

It was 71 degrees less than two weeks ago; yesterday morning it was 3. By mid-January, I've usually gotten used to the cold, but I think my blood's too thin with all of this mild weather.

Sunday past, we had black ice. I started out for church, almost wiped out four times before I got to the third house, and I returned home. I fared better than my good friend Janna, who stepped onto a curb and somehow broke her foot. Monday at 8 a.m., it was fine, but by 9:30, when I'm coming back from the Y, and Carol's taking Lydia to day care, freezing rain made sidewalks feel as though they'd been Zambonied.

This weather always reminds me of a song I wrote when I was in college. Yeah, I know the rhyme's a little imprecise. There's a third verse, but it's filthy; it ends with the same couplet as verse two. Let your imaginations go wild.

Inspired by Billy the Kid by Aaron Copland. Or was it Billy Joel?

I'M COLD

CHORUS
I'm cold, I'm cold, I'm cold (X2).

VERSE 1
I was ridin' down the Owen Trail.
My horse had an accident; lost its tail.
A dangerous criminal I'm s'posed to find.
It was 30 below; I changed my mind.

CHORUS

VERSE 2
Next day, sheriff caught the fella.
He said, "What's wrong? You turnin' yella?"
I said, "It's not that I lack gumption,
But when it's cold, I just can't function."

CHORUS 2
I'm cold, I'm cold, I'm cold (X2).
If there is a hell below,
It won't be too hot, it'll be too cold.
I'm cold, I'm cold, I'm cold (X2).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"The Greatest" is 65


When I was growing up, it seemed that everyone knew who Miss America and the heavyweight champion were; I couldn't tell you either/any of the current ones at this moment. As a kid, I became mildly obsessed with memorizing the heavyweights, starting with John L. Sullivan. In my lifetime, Rocky Marciano was the first (and retired undefeated) heavyweight champ, but I don't remember him directly, followed by Floyd Patterson. I vaguely recall Patterson losing to Ingemar Johansson in 1959, but recall with clarity Patterson defeating Johansson in the 1960 rematch. A couple years later, it was a bear of a man named Sonny Liston who had the crown.

In late 1963/early 1964, I kept seeing this guy, nicknamed by the press The Mouth or the Louisville Lip, named Cassius Clay, who would be taking on Liston for the title. I don't think that anyone took him too seriously as a contender, even though he'd won a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics in Rome as a light heavyweight. But he beat Liston and became the heavyweight champion.

Then he changed his name to Muhammad Ali. This seemed peculiar, foreign to most Americans, black and white. Indeed, many fighters, including Liston and Patterson, as I recall, kept referring to him as Clay, as much as a taunt as anything. (I always gave props to the late ABC Sports commentator Howard Cosell, for during their sometimes contentious relationship, he always referred to the boxer by the new name he had chosen.)

I was intrigued by this new champion, who hung out with the Beatles:

although John Lennon indicated that he preferred Liston.

What REALLY caught my attention, though, was when, after being reclassified 1-A, Ali, for religious and personal reasons, refused military induction. As a result, he was unable to box in the United States, and was stripped of his title for three years, starting in 1967. This seemed to me at the time hugely unfair of the boxing commission. But it was him daring to challenge the US government (and ultimately winning), thus challenging the conventional wisdom of naturally going to fight in an American war, that radically changed my whole mindset about war, and led to my pacifist leanings. I was also affected by Martin Luther King's eloquent opposition to the Vietnam war in 1967, that famous "betrayal" of Lyndon Johnson.

Ali would regain the title against George Foreman in 1974, but by 1978, boxing had become an alphabet soup of competing boxing commissions, and I stopped paying that much attention. Still, I was thrilled, and startled, to see Ali light the flame at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and I truly enjoyed the piece the late Ed Bradley did on him for "60 Minutes", when Ali feigned narcolepsy, during which he jabbed at the reporter. When the joke was revealed, Bradley laughed heartedly, and Ali had an infectious grin.

Happy birthday, Muhammad Ali.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

You Don't Call It Christmas Swag, Do You?

It occurred to me that I got a lot of stuff for Christmas, much of which I asked for. Seeing it piled up on a chair behind me, for the purpose of this post, leaves me feeling a bit guilty, actually.
CLOTHES:
mostly pants and T-shirts
FOOD:
various stuff
MUSIC:
LOVE-the Beatles
Phillips 66-John Phillips
Songs from the Labyrinth-Sting
When Carol returns that James Taylor Christmas album, I get to pick the replacement
plus some mixes from KY and elsewhere
BOOKS:
Library: An Uneasy History by Matthew Battles, which I have started reading
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
Television without Pity by Ariano and Bunting
The All Music Book of Rock, which I use as part of my weight training
And of course, the 2007 World Almanac. Since it's really a book about the events from mid-October 2005 to mid-October 2006, except for the November elections, it always misses those end of the year bombshells, such as the deaths of JB, Prez Ford and Saddam.
For some reason, I always look up the weather from two years ago: The high temperature in Albany for 2005 was 94F on June 26, lowest for that year was -16F on January 28. One of the local meteorologists said last week that there were no days in 2006 when the temperature went below zero.

And yet, with all of that, I almost always end up buying for myself the CDs I didn't get. There was only one I REALLY wanted, and that was Highway Companion by Tom Petty, recommended by both Lefty and Nik. However, I SO hate paying postage on Amazon packages, so I also ordered Corinne Bailey Rae's debut album, based on a couple co-workers' recommendations, and Other People's Lives by the Kinks' Ray Davies, based entirely on Lefty's recommendation. If/when I get to Borders with that JT return, I'll get whatever strikes my fancy at the moment. I've listened to Petty and Rae once each, and at work, not always the most conducive venue, and Davies will shed the shrink wrap today.

Not so incidentally, I was more than mildly disturbed by the Wikipedia write-up on Rae (linked above), because of the racial taunting she had to endure when she was younger. I suspect she'll show up in my blog in June.

Monday, January 15, 2007

"January Is Black History Month"

I'm reading this educational newsletter that my wife subscribes to, and there, on page seven, along with drawings of Ida B. Wells-Barnett and George Washington Carver and a teacher pointing to a portrait of an unidentifiable man to a couple students is "January is Black History Month." And maybe it is. Maybe it starts on MLK Day and runs through February 28 (or 29). Six and a half weeks trying to talk about race and racism and power and prejudice in a way were everybody feels all right.

Don't want to talk about slavery. "My people never owned slaves; they came to this country after the Civil War. How is that relevant? Besides, slavery is so 1865."

Don't want to talk about white skin privilege; that makes too many people uncomfortable, as one debates whether it even exists.

Don't want to talk about prejudice. "The Civil Rights Movement took care of that. Besides, that was mostly in the South anyway, wasn't it?"

Don't want to talk about obscure black people "nobody ever heard of before. If they were REALLY important, they'd be in the REAL history books."

Sure the heck don't want to talk about reparations.

I know: we'll do something with music and dance and food, which will make everyone feel good.

I recall reading recently someone suggesting that we have a REAL dialogue about Iraq in this country, as though we haven't (and our leaders ignore us anyway, but that's another matter.) Yet I don't know what a real dialogue about race would look like in the 21st century.

If I sound a little peevish, in a Morgan Freemanesque sort of way, well, maybe I am. But I'm not of the "I am going to stop calling you a white man and I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man" school of thought. Race matters, still.

My wife and I were watching ABC's World News a couple weeks ago, and we saw how a young filmmaker named Kiri Davis had replicated Dr. Kenneth Clark's black doll/white doll experiment of a more than a half century before in a movie called A Girl Like Me; also, here. It was Clark's study that helped bring about Brown vs. Board of education. When we saw the ABC piece, we both wept.

So, as we start the 45-day "month" of Black History, think about how people of different ethnicities can get real without rancor. And please let me know what that looks like.

Happy Martin King, Jr.'s Birthday. Oh, and see if you can find OTHER writings/speeches of the good doctor BESIDES "the "I Have a Dream" speech. Coincidentally, I'll be talking about another one this very week.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Mystery of Cecil Travis

I went to the Baseball Hall of Fame web page recently, not to read about the newly selected inductees, Cal Ripkin, Jr. and Tony Gwynn, who were locks to get in on their first ballots, but to see how the others fared. The people for whom I would have voted finished 1-8, 10, and 19. Jim Rice, who I thought would FINALLY get in, finished fourth, with a lower percentage (63.5%) than the year before (64.8%), while the ones I had hoped would get in, Goose Gossage and Andre Dawson, did get over 50%, but not the required 75%. I skipped McGwire (#9) and selected Albert Belle, who failed to get even 5% and won't be on the ballot next year. Neither will Orel Hershiser, which the local paper indicated, correctly before the vote was announced, that he might be one of the best pitchers to get on the ballot only once. All the people I was sure would not make it to a second vote got zero votes, and the folks that I thought were likely not to get a second shot got 2 to 4 votes; but I missed Jay Buhner, who got only 1.

However, there is, as lawyers are wont to say, another bite of the apple: the Veterans' Committee. Currently comprised of living Hall of Fame members, and award-winning writers and broadcasters, the committee votes every two years. The vote in 2003 selected no one; Gil Hodges, the manager of the 1969 World Series champion New York Mets, and umpire Doug Harvey came the closest to the 75% threshold. The vote in 2005 also selected no one, with Hodges and long-time Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo each coming up short.
(The person in third place in 2005, Tony Oliva of the Minnesota Twins, was one of my favorite players in the day, an eight-time All Star, who led the league five times in hits, four times in doubles, thrice in batting average, once in slugging percentage. He and Willie Mays both batted .211 in their last seasons according to one source; I’m not saying he’s Willie Mays - who is my favorite player - just noting it.)

Here's the 2007 Veterans Committee ballot. A lot of familiar names from my childhood. Here are some stats on the players, and mini-bios on the non-players.

The one name I had never heard: Cecil Travis. "His career batting average of .314 is a record for AL shortstops, and ranks third among all shortstops behind Honus Wagner (.327) and Arky Vaughan (.318)." Cecil Travis, who played 12 years for the lowly Washington Senators, 10 before World War II, then after suffering frostbite at the Battle of the Bulge, two unremarkable post-war seasons.

Here's the weird thing, though: on the HoF web page, it appears that you can look up every player who was voted upon by the BBWAA - we'll call it the traditional way. Even those folks with zero votes show up. But there's nothing indicating voting for Cecil Travis.

What's a librarian to do but to contact the Hall of Fame directly.
I looked back at the voting rules and did not see anything that would have kept him off a ballot. If you go back to the voting results of the late 1940's, there is no player listed that received zero votes. If he would have received one vote, he would be listed.

If you have further questions, let us know. Thank you for contacting the Baseball Hall of Fame Library.


Late 1940s? Shouldn't it be the early 1950s, after the five year wait? I wrote back and asked.

The five-year waiting rule did not come into effect until 1954. No specific guidelines were set as to who was eligible for consideration nor to which committee would consider whom. The 75% majority was necessary for election by either committee, which continues today. A one-year wait had been in effect from 1946-1953 and no wait was specified before then due to WWII.

So, Cecil Travis' name presumably came up in the late 1940s and he received no votes? As a guy I know wrote me: "They were still catching up to all the old-timers. Not surprised he didn't get votes." Yeah, but ZERO votes?

Cecil Travis died on December 16, 2006. But for the war, he would probably have been a Hall of Famer. Expect that he'll get a lot of votes next month, maybe not enough to win, but a goodly number.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Meet the New Tactic, Same As the Old Tactic QUESTIONS

My good friend Mark sent me this a couple days ago:

General: Now, Field Marshal Hague has formulated a brilliant new tactical plan to ensure final victory in the field.

Captain Blackadder: Ah, would this brilliant plan involve us climbing out of our trenches and walking very slowly towards the enemy, sir?

Captain Darling: How could you possibly know that Blackadder? It's classified information!

Captain Blackadder: It's the same plan that we used last time, and the seventeen times before that.

General: Exactly! And that is what is so brilliant about it! It will catch the watchful Hun totally off guard. Doing precisely what we've done eighteen times before is exactly the last thing they'll expect us to do this time! There is, however, one small problem...

Captain Blackadder: That everyone always gets slaughtered in the first ten seconds?

General: That's right. And Field Marshal Hague is worried that this may be depressing the men a tad. So, he's looking to find a way to cheer them up.

Captain Blackadder: Well, his resignation and suicide would seem the obvious.


I didn't know the source, though I've subsequently figured out - I am a librarian, after all - that it's a bit from the fourth series of the popular BBC sitcom Blackadder, with Captain Blackadder played by Rowan Atkinson.

There was no ambiguity WHY he sent it, however.
So, my questions:

1) Did you happen to catch George, Jr. on TV Wednesday night? Recorded it, haven't watched.
2) If we're now in Iraq "to win", or whatever rhetoric he used, what were we doing before?
3) I've read this in the Washington Post, and even reprinted in the Huffingtonn Post:
"When President Bush goes before the American people tonight to outline his new strategy for Iraq, he will be doing something he has avoided since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003: ordering his top military brass to take action they initially resisted and advised against."
WHAT? Weren't there generals who wanted a much larger forcee before the war began, and who were instead replaced by those who agreed to a smaller force? Now, we have a group of generals who don't want a buildup, some of whom (conincidentally) are being replaced by more compliant military heads.
4) So how does this play out? Does the war escalate, with imbedded U.S. troops? Do the Democrats freeze funding at the current level? What will be the political fallout? At this point, I haven't a clue.

Friday, January 12, 2007

People, People Who Read People

I used to read People magazine. When it first came out, I thought it was interesting. Even had a subscription to it for a couple years. But eventually, I got over it.

The downside is that I simply cannot tell you the names of Brad and Angelina's kids, or who Lindsey Lohan's feuding with now. The good news is that I don't know the names of Brad and Angelina's kids... The other good thing is when I'm in the doctor's or dentist's office, I always go for the People magazine, just to find out how culturally out of touch I am.

The one I last caught was the People Extra, 30 Exclusive Celebrity Excerpts from December 2006, with Teri Hatcher, Anderson Cooper (yes, GP!), Vanessa Williams, and the ubiquitous Rachael Ray on the cover. Some of it was actually rather interesting: Cooper on his brother's suicide, Bob Newhart on becoming a dad, Larry David on "My Seinfeld Life".

Then I read "The Son We Lost" by Elizabeth Edwards. She's the wife of 2008 Presidential candidate John Edwards, and was writing about Wade, their 16-year-old, who was killed when the Jeep he was driving flipped off a highway in North Carolina on April 4, 1996. I knew it would be painful, but then I read this:
The grocery store was hard. How many times could I pass his favorite food, his choice of soda? Once he came crashing in on me, and I was thrown to the floor. I sat in the soda aisle and cried. Although the store was crowded, no one walked down the aisle in which I sat, flattened by Cherry Coke.
It was that paragraph that really got to me.

On a lighter note, there were those pieces such as "My Father, My President", a book Doro Bush wrote about Bush 41 and the family. What we got were the family Christmas cards over the years, and how Bush 43 was referred to as George, Jr. I expect answering a JEOPARDY question as GB Jr. wouldn't fly.
***
Speaking of JEOPARDY!, it is my self-appointed responsibility as a former champion to alert you to the fact that the show is offering its online test January 23, 24, and 25, but you must pre-register at jeopardy.com.
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And speaking of game shows, Tom the Dog is on 1 Vs. 100 again tonight on NBC, as Mob member #81, at least $4,421.05 richer. Don't forget to pay the estimated tax, Tom!
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Lydia was home with a strep throat Wednesday. You know when something is going to be terrible and you watch it anyway? Such was the case with
Don't Worry, We'll Think of a Title
, correctly described by Mark Evanier as "one of the crummiest but fun obscure movies ever made. It was produced and co-written by its co-star, Morey Amsterdam and it also stars Rose Marie, Richard Deacon", all alums of The Dick van Dyke show, and a bunch of guest stars he described, plus Irene Ryan dressed as Granny, and driving the Beverly Hillbillies' vehicle. I should have counted the number of time Rose rolled her eyes at some comment that Morey made; had to be in the high teens, at least.
***
100 Years of Pictures to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire". It's NOT very good, but is a video that's SO earnest...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Where One Votes

There is a tradition in New York State that the governor grant Christmas clemencies for state prison inmates. But outgoing Governor George Pataki declined to do so for the third time in his 12 years as the chief executive. Usually, the recipients of his largesse have been low-level drug offenders who were serving draconian sentences under the Rockefeller Drug Laws, although, in 2003, he pardoned comedian Lenny Bruce, who was convicted of an obscenity charge in 1964. Yes, the Lenny Bruce who died in 1966.

The person I was rooting for was a guy named John O'Hara. He was convicted in 1997 of felony voter fraud for voting using his girlfriend's address, which he claimed (unsuccessfully) was his primary address. He was running against the Democratic machine candidates, most recently against Assemblyman James Brennan in a 1996 primary.

Those of you from New York State are likely aware of the selective persecution, I mean prosecution, that was going on. O'Hara lost his law license, was fined $20,000, and served 1500 hours of community service.

Recently, I was reading an article about how fuzzy the concept of "primary residence" is, with what was the "summer home" or "winter home" now as equipped as the traditional primary residence.

I relate to this situation because I've been there. I went to college in New Paltz, NY in 1971, but continued to vote from my hometown of Binghamton, NY. However, when my family moved to Charlotte, NC in 1974, I decided that I'd register in New Paltz. There were two county registrars, a Democrat and a Republican. The latter, fearing a horde of students taking over the town, wanted me to register where my parents lived. (The state law at that time had a clause that one could "neither gain nor lose residency by being a student", but I didn't HAVE another residence. I argued that I hadn't, at that point, even BEEN to Charlotte, and that I would be ill-equipped to be conversant with the issues. The Rep ultimately relented.

So, did John O'Hara move his residence 14 blocks fraudulently? I don't know, but the arcane registration laws in this state, which technically require one to re-register if one moves from one apartment to another in the same building, makes me sympathetic to his cause. I know folks who've moved and voted from their old address because they had not had a chance to re-register. (Note: I did not turn them in.)

In fact, let me admit my own culpability. I moved from Jackson Heights, Queens, NY to sleeping on my friend's sofa in New Paltz, NY in September 1977. I remember this clearly because NYC was having a Democratic mayoral primary between Ed Koch (who won) and Mario Cuomo on the second Tuesday of that month. Where was my residence? Well, technically, I didn't have one, but I was registered in Queens. My options were to be disenfranchised - I didn't have anything that would show I lived in New Paltz - or vote in Queens; I voted in Queens. (Incidentally, Koch and Cuomo had a rematch in the 1982 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Who won? Ever heard of Governor Koch? I didn't think so.)

In any case, the punishment in the O'Hara case far outweighed the crime. Maybe he'll have better luck with Governor Spitzer NEXT Christmas. Ho ho ho.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

(I Know) He's Losing Me

I only have a couple Rod Stewart albums. One is probably one you could guess, the classic "Every Picture Tells a Story" LP. I also have the preceding LP, "Gasoline Alley", and a 1976 greatest hits CD. I didn't pay that much attention to his subsequent career, though one couldn't help hearing "Tonight's The Night" on the radio. His various phases neither interested me or particularly irritated me: discoish "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy"; his more middle of the road stuff, and so on.

Recently, I received Still the Same...Great Rock Classics Of Our Time. Here's the songlist.
1. Have You Ever Seen The Rain
2. Fooled Around And Fell In Love
3. I'll Stand By You
4. Still The Same
5. It's A Heartache
6. Day After Day
7. Missing You
8. Father & Son
9. The Best Of My Love
10. If Not For You
11. Love Hurts
12. Everything I Own
13. Crazy Love

These songs are 20, 30, 40 years newer than the tunes of his popular The Great American Songbook series, none of which I own, of course. The tunes came out primarily in the 1970s at a point when Rod Stewart's greatest music was produced.

For the most part, I like the SONGS on the album, and on most of them, he did (just) OK, but it would have been just as well - or better - if someone put together a compilation album of those songs by the original artists - I'm sure someone has, somewhere.

As a friend put it: "It was almost like he was doing karaoke - all fine and good, but adding little to the originals. And this was the guy who, early on, did dynamite versions, reworking Street Fighting Man, Country Comforts, Reason To Believe, I'm Losing You, Twisting the Night Away, and Pinball Wizard, making them his own. This just sounded like he came in, they gave him some lyric sheets, and he sang what was there--no real passion to put his stamp on it."

So, I don't fault him for the dance stuff, or his "Forever Young" period or his "It Had To Be You" stretch. I DO fault him for putting out a rather boring album of music from a time period in which he should have excelled that he never made his own. I suppose it's a bit unsporting to beat on the bloke on his 62nd birthday, but there it is. At least, the Queen appreciates him...and Hugh Laurie.
***
Based on the answer to one of my many questions to Lefty, he doesn't have any recent Rod Stewart, either.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

7 Deadly Sins Meme

I saw a rainbow on Saturday, which I generally don't see in January. It was 71 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, which broke the record on that date in Albany by eleven degrees. Rainbow must be a sign of something...

From Chris Black, who, astonishingly, is even more lazy than I.
Greed:Very Low
Gluttony:Low
Wrath:Low
Sloth:Medium
Envy:Very Low
Lust:Very Low
Pride:Low


Discover Your Sins - Click Here
I'm strongest in sloth - interesting. I figured it'd be gluttony or lust. Speaking of sloth, my new favorite waste of time is internet backgammon. Unlike Free Cell, which I play sometimes (and so does my mother, to keep her mind sharp), backgammon is a community game, even if I don't know who I'm playing with. I learned to play the board game in college, but, save for a couple opportunities, I haven't had anyone with whom to play. (That's the same reason I play computer hearts.) I win and lose at about equal number, and it doesn't seem to matter what level (beginner, intermediate, expert) I play at. But I hate it when they just quit in mid-game without saying goodbye.