People I Know

Eclectic Folks

Politics, Policy Blogs

Page Rank

Check Page Rank of your Web site pages instantly:

This page rank checking tool is powered by Page Rank Checker service

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Things I Do for Kelly Brown Meme

By request of the self-described Mrs. Lefty.

IF YOUR LIFE WAS A MOVIE, WHAT WOULD THE SOUNDTRACK BE?
So, here's how it works:
1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie and try to pretend your cool...
7. When you're finished tag some other people to do it!

OK, this is my iTunes thing, heavy on some mixed CDs I tried to make.

Opening credits: Why Did You Leave-the Heptones
Waking up: Loving Dub II-Burning Spear (OK)
First day of school: Elvis Presley Boulevard-Billy Joel
Falling in love: Incense and Peppermints-Strawberry Alarm Clock (this would only work if I had come of age in the 1960s - wait I DID come of age in the 1960s)
First song: Graceland-Willie Nelson
Breaking up: Neutron Dance-Pointer Sisters (must have been a necessary breakup)
Prom: The Twelve Gifts of Christmas-Allan Sherman (!)
Life: The Bells of Christmas-Julie Andrews
Mental Breakdown: Winter Snow-Booker T. and the MGs (this is a lovely song-must have been a gentle breakdown)
Driving: Big Big Love-k.d. lang (this works)
Flashback:'Til I Die-Beach Boys (has a certain dreamy quality)
Getting back together: Where Did You Sleep Last Night-Nirvana (I don't THINK so)
Wedding: What They World Needs Now/Abraham, Martin & John-Tom Clay (yikes!)
Birth of Child: Long Time Gone-CPR (song about the death of RFK - ain't THAT swell)
Final Battle: The Simpsons' End Theme-JFK
Death Scene: 1985-Bowling for Soup
Funeral song: Death is Not the End-Nick Cave
End Credits: Lee Harvey Was A Friend of Mine-Laura Cantrell

Some of these are just BIZARRE (getting back together, wedding, birth of child), while a couple are actually dead on (final battle, funeral song).

Nope, I ain't tagging nobody.
***
Maybe it's my demographic, but I've never known anyone who I know personally who has posted on YouTube. Until now. Read this high-pressured sales pitch:
"I decided to go public with "The Scary Sock" and post it on You Tube. I figured "What the hell!" It's certainly no worse than much of the stuff out there. If you want to see it again (with sound!), one can find it here." (30 seconds)
***
Coolness test.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I'm in a John K. State of Mind

When I was in high school at Binghamton Central, I was president of the student government in 1970. The radio and/or TV station WNBF got the student government heads from around the area to get together maybe six times a year to "rap"; that meant to talk, in those days. The guy from Johnson City HS was this long-haired freak named John. We really hit it off, and from time to time ended up at demonstrations together, at least one antiwar event which involved us running from tear gas. It was...fun, actually.

We lost track, and then I heard that he died a few years later, which was sad. But then I ran into him, which was just plain freaky. Seems that he WAS at death's door, technically dead, but then was revived. Not only that, he was going out with an old girlfriend of mine. They got married; I attended the ceremony. We had some good times, and some not so good times together. Eventually, John and my ex split up. To be reductivist about it, he was largely at fault. He moved out of state - to Florida, I believe - and I lost track of him again.

Then I get an e-mail the other day from my ex-girlfriend, with whom I've maintained a friendship. There was an obit in the local (Binghamton) paper. John K. really was dead. He'd been living in Washington state, had gotten remarried, and was, in the flowery prose of obituaries - "a man of varied interests with a profound zest for life" - happy. He was 54. I don't know what he died from - yes, I'm extremely curious, and more than a bit unsettled.

Actually, I think it's a combination of things:

The depature of John Flynn from the Capital District YMCA, heading for Pennsylvania. I haven't seen him much recently, but when I was on ther local (Albany) board for nine years in thwe late 1980s and early 1990s, I saw him quite a bit. The idea of regionalism is so hard to pull off around here, and John helped pull it off.

The departure of Albany Public Library head Jeff Cannell, heading for a post in the State Department of Education. Since I'm the VP of the Friends of the APL, I got to see Jeff a fair amount. I liked him, a refreshing change after his autocratic predecessor.

Then there was the passing of fellow church member John Scott, and the effect I know that must have on his family - the funeral was last Saturday.

Plus the death of my favorite Celtic, DJ at the age of 52 of cardiac arrest last week, has me in a bit of a mood, shall we say.
***
Bob Woodruff, the former ABC News anchor who was almost killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq last year, has a special on tonight (10 ET on ABC) and also will be on Oprah and Good Morning America today. His wife Lee, who used to attend the church to which I now belong, will also be on all of these programs.
***
Silliness tomorrow.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Lydster, Part 35: Free to Be Me


When I started this blog, and specifically when I started writing about my daughter in this blog, I had planned to write more about how she was affecting me, rather than just about her. I may have fallen away from that. Here's a slight return to form.

One of the things I know is true about me, with her, is that I have, apparently, no inhibitions when it comes to caring for her. We all went to church last Sunday morning - me, Carol, Lydia and her doll, which is named Baby. We all had nametags on, including Baby. Lydia wanted me to hold Baby for a while, as we stood in the communion circle, so I did so. The little girl across the way thought this was mighty funny, apparently; a grown man with a doll with a nametag during communion (no, Baby did not partake).

I remember when Lydia was five or six months old, and she was doing SOMETHING to make me crazy. I was so upset with her that I plopped her in the middle of the living room floor; Daddy needed a timeout. I'm sure she'll make me crazy again, but I find that I'm a lot more patient with her now, even as she does stuff that would have driven me crazy a couple years earlier. She's afraid of the monsters in her room, reportedly a typical childhood phase. Her mother and I just drive them from the room, but the going-to-bed process seems to have lengthened considerably in the last month. (I wonder if this is post-surgical trauma for Lydia.) Anyway, I'm more tired - again, and I had been doing so well - but it doesn't annoy me. Concern, a little bit.

Anyway, she gives me lots of goodies to make it all worthwhile. Happy 2 11/12, Lydia!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Myths, Hoaxes, and Misinformation


So what IS that holiday we just celebrated on the third Monday in February? Presidents Day? Presidents' Day? President's Day? The answer, technically, is none of the above.
***
From an-e-mail, which cites Tom Joyner's Morning Show as the source of information about NUD (Non Urban Dictate), "the acronym for a very subtle and little-known marketing term specifically directed toward people of color. 'Non Urban Dictate' - These three words essentially mean that a company is not interested in the Black consumer. A NUD label means that a company does not want their marketing and advertising materials placed in media that claim an urban audience (black folks) as their main target.

My reply: I doubt it. I could find no mention on Tom Joyner's website and this company has to waste its time refuting its involvement with the claim. This group, breakthechain.org, busts the myth:
"BreakTheChain.or recommends against participating in boycott campaigns organized via e-mail chain letters. As you can see, this letter has failed to keep up with developments in the issue, has acquired incorrect information (and caused a great deal of hardship for the Urban Institute) and is even recommended against by former supporters. Break this chain."
***
From friend Dan:

The "Pharisee Jew Big-Bang Conspiracy". The last line is the best:
"I am convinced that rather than risk teaching a lie, why teach anything?"
***
From friend Don:

Masterpieces Or Fakes? The Joyce Hatto Scandal February 15 2007

"It was already one of the strangest stories the classical music world had witnessed. But the discovery of the late English pianist Joyce Hatto as the greatest instrumentalist almost nobody had heard of, appears to have taken a bizarre, even potentially sinister turn.

It was around a year ago that Gramophone’s critics began to champion this little-known lady, whose discs – miraculous performances, released by her husband William Barrington-Coupe on the tiny label Concert Artist – were notoriously difficult to get hold of. Such was the brilliance of this pianist across Liszt, Schubert, Rachmaninov, Dukas and more in a dizzying range – that it was worth making the effort to seek out Concert Artist to get these discs, and they became much sought-after. By the time she died in June 2006, Joyce Hatto was not only a sudden widespread success, she was a cause célèbre. To love Hatto recordings was to be in the know, a true piano aficionado who didn't need the hype of a major label's marketing spend to recognise a good, a great, thing when they heard it.

See and hear for yourself the incontrovertible evidence of an audacious recording hoax. Here we examine a track from [a CD], released under the name of 'Joyce Hatto', but containing 10 tracks originally released in 1987 and played by Simon Laszlo on a BIS CD.

The fourth Hatto track has been quite subtlely doctored: digitally shrunk in time by 0.02% - just enough to alter overall timings, and with no shift in pitch; re-equalised to alter the piano tone slightly; panned slightly to the left, where the original piano was central.
***
In response to an e-mail I received:

There is no deadline to register cell phones to the Do Not Call List, despite what you might have heard. Here's some info.

You can also register by phone (1-888-382-1222) or online.

Read more about this.
***
Mark Evanier disputes whether Wile E. Coyote's middle name is Ethelbert, even though it was the Final JEOPARDY! question last month.
***
Even the Wall Street Journal needs to comment on Anna Nicole Smith (by Tunku Varadarajan. Feb 13, 2007. pg. A.24)

"Anna Nicole Smith was also a lowbrow (or really, a narcissistic) version of the American dream -- the American dream of only bravado and guile, bereft of character or principles or talent. She was proof that the dream applies even to people with nothing to offer but themselves. If she is a tragic and cautionary tale to Americans, evidence that the American Dream requires substance and character, she may be evidence of the opposite to outsiders who see only the magic of wealth and fame won through the mere presentation of self. She inflates the reputation of American possibility abroad, making it seem like anything is possible in America -- even reward without merit."

Ouch.
***
Finally, this bugs me, too.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Posthumous Still Have It

A couple months ago, I noticed the Rolling Stone lunchtime poll for Best Posthumous Album. What was interesting is that the two albums that seemed to dominate, among those who actually knew what "posthumous" meant, or weren't into fossilizing the Rolling Stones, picked Johnny Cash’s American V: A Hundred Highways (a Rolling Stone pick) and Brainwashed by George Harrison, both artists were born around this time of the month.
***
There seems to be three major topics among American Beatles fans these days:
1)Whether that Cirque du Soleil songtrack, LOVE, is any good
2)Whether Heather Mills McCartney is Satan or merely the spawn of Satan
3)What's going to be in the next box set of American LPs. The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1, included Meet the Beatles, The Beatles Second Album, Something New, and Beatles '65. Vol. 2 contained The Early Beatles, Beatles VI, the Help! soundtrack, and the U.S. version of Rubber Soul, all of which were released in 1965. There won't be boxes of albums where the US and the UK versions are exactly the same (Sgt. Pepper, the White Album, Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road, Let It Be). Magical Mystery Tour is off the table, because it was an American album that the Brits adopted. So what does that leave?
A Hard Day's Night soundtrack- Originally on United Artists Records. It does have three Beatles songs, including the title cut, plus four soundtrack tunes not on Something New. But there are the five that overlap.
Revolver-the 11-song version instead of the 14. Do they really want to draw attention to this treachery?
Beatles Again/Hey Jude-The late Capitol/early Apple singles. But two of the HDN soundtrack songs are here as well.
The only album everyone agrees on is Yesterday...and Today. Why did I buy this at the Rexall store for $2.99, rather than waiting to get it from the Capitol Record Club? Maybe I was impatient. Why do I remember it cost $2.99?
Anyway, this is an odd album, oftentimes documented:
Side A
1. Drive My Car-Lennon/McCartney (Rubber Soul UK)
2. I'm Only Sleeping-Lennon/McCartney (Revolver UK)
3. Nowhere Man-Lennon/McCartney (Rubber Soul UK)
4. Doctor Robert-Lennon/McCartney (Revolver UK)
5. Yesterday-Lennon/McCartney (Help UK)
6. Act Naturally-Morrison/Russell (Help UK)
Side B
1. And Your Bird Can Sing-Lennon/McCartney (Revolver UK)
2. If I Needed Someone-Harrison (Rubber Soul UK)
3. We Can Work It Out-Lennon/McCartney (single)
4. What Goes On-Lennon/McCartney/Starkey (Rubber Soul UK)
5. Day Tripper-Lennon/McCartney (single)
My thoughts then: I love(d) Drive My Car. The album was good, but TWO Ringo songs? Also, What Goes On is in the same key as Day Tripper; I wouldn't have put them next to each other.
My thoughts now: If you're gonna butcher the UK albums, the pulling of four tracks from Rubber Soul, essentially one by each Beatle, was pretty deft. I know a number of folks who still think I've Just Seen a Face (from the UK Help album) is the better starting song for the Americanized Rubber Soul. Conversely, the three Lennon songs pulled from Revolver made the US version of THAT album lopsided, with 1 Ringo, 3 George, 5 Paul but only 2 John songs.
Oh, yeah, my copy of Yesterday...and Today got stolen in the Great LP Theft of 1972, so I'll never know if I owned the butcher cover or not. It's just as well.
Consider this my Underplayed Vinyl for the month.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Oscar 2006/2007 QUESTIONS

There was this recent newspaper story about famous local author Bill Kennedy
Oscar? He's an old friend of this author
, in which "Kennedy uses his love of movies to help choose Academy Award nominees and vote for winner". It occurred to me - again - that the process of voting is not directly related to the quality of the film, but many other factors. So, I'm going to make picks, based not on who I want to win, or who OUGHT to win (given the holes in what I've seen, I really can't do that), but who I think will win.

* indicates the sparse number of performances I actually saw - all in the movie theater, BTW, as opposed to on DVD or video, which I contend changes the viewing experience

BEST ACTOR
Leonardo DiCaprio-Blood Diamond. If he'd been nominated for The Departed, i think he'd have had a better chance.
Ryan Gosling-Half Nelson. Well-received. No one saw it.
Peter O'Toole-Venus. The man's been up, what seven, eight times before. Where's the love?
*Will Smith-The Pursuit Of Happyness. Good, but isn't going to win.
Forest Whitaker-The Last King Of Scotland. Not only as an actor, but as a producer and director. You know how Hollywood loves the hypenates: Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, pre-meltdown. He wins.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jackie Earle Haley-Little Children. Won some of the minor awards; wouldn't totally shock me.
Djimon Hounsou-Blood Diamond. Wish I'd seen this. In the commercials, he seems to be in a constant state of rage. Anyway, I'm not hearing the buzz from the early awards.
*Eddie Murphy-Dreamgirls. The odds-on favorite, won lots of the early awards. But Norbit ads are not helping the cause. And he isn't Hollywood friendly.
Mark Wahlberg-The Departed. Ptractically every pre-Oscar prognosticator had Jack in this slot, so I think it mitigates against Wahlberg.
*Alan Arkin-Little Miss Sunshine. Been around, likable film. I'm going against the wave and picking the salty grandad. (If I pick all the obvious choices, what's the fun in that?)
BEST ACTRESS
*Penélope Cruz-Volver. It's in Spanish, with subtitles. No.
*Judi Dench-Notes On A Scandal. She's better than the film. Probably my second pick, and if there's an upset in the category, she'll win.
*Meryl Streep-The Devil Wears Prada. She's already gotten her Oscar gold.
Kate Winslet-Little Children. Someday this woman, who's been nominated more than anyone else at her age, will get one. Not this year.
*Helen Mirren-The Queen. Who I am to argue with EVERY major award-giving organization?
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Adriana Barraza-Babel. Might win, but will be cancelled out by Rinko Kikuchi.
*Cate Blanchett-Notes On A Scandal. Won two years ago.
*Abigail Breslin-Little Miss Sunshine. Anna Paquin notwithstanding, they ain't gonna give it to a kid.
Rinko Kikuchi-Babel. Might win, but will be cancelled out by Adriana Barraza.
*Jennifer Hudson-Dreamgirls. People applauded in the theater when Ms. 7th Place on American Idol sang. The "slight" that Dreamgirls not getting Best Picture may actually enhance her Hudson's chances. My one concern is whether Dreamgirls plays as well on DVD as it does in the theater.
BEST DIRECTOR:
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-Babel. Heard it was a bit of a mess.
Clint Eastwood-Letters from Iwo Jima. With two well-regarded films, and that hyphenate thing going, Eastwood should have a chance. But the film is in Japanese, and I don't see the older voters actually watching it. Moreover, he's won recently; are people sick of him winning?
*Stephen Frears-The Queen. Nice little film, which I saw. Don't think it'll win.
Paul Greengrass-United 93. By all accounts, a respectful retelling. I'm guessing that some of those screening DVDs will stay in the shrink wrap. (Do screening DVDs COME in shrink wrap?)
Martin Scorsese-The Departed. Finally. When the speculation came up with him on his last two nominated films, it felt forced. But this movie was well-reviewed. It's time.
BEST PICTURE:
I could make a case for any of them.
Babel-For those who like the convoluted style of Traffic or Crash.
The Departed-For those who want to show Marty and the cast the love.
Letters from Iwo Jima-Since it's ineligible for Best Foreign Language Film by the Academy, let's show our love for Clint here, without slighting Marty.
*The Queen-All the other films split the vote, and the monarch reigns.
*Little Miss Sunshine-The Screen Actors Guild Best Assemble film is dark enough that a comedy finally wins for Best Picture. Maybe it's the fact that I REALLY LIKED THIS FILM, but I'm going to pick Sunshine. Or Babel. Or The Departed. Maybe Iwo Jima. The Queen? OK, Sunshine, even though it wasn't even nominated for Best Director. (But if it doesn't, it'll probably win the Screenplay award.)

So, who do you think will win, and why? If you have a blog/web page and have already commented on this, please leave your link.

If I were to run out tomorrow night to see one more film before Oscar night, I would tend to look for the one that will give me the most major nominees for the buck, such as Babel or Little Children, but don't know if I'll have time.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

MOVIE REVIEWS: Volver; Notes on a Scandal


On Washington's Birthday weekend 1998, I saw five movies, four of them nominated for Academy Awards: L.A. Confidential and Mrs. Brown on Saturday. Afterglow (starring Julie Christie) and some strange French film on Sunday. Don't remember which Oscar-nominated film on Monday, maybe The Apostle or The Sweet Hereafter. In any case, by Oscar night, I'd seen every film in the six major categories, (movie, director, 2 actor, 2 actress categories) except Ulee's Gold with Peter Fonda.

On Washington's Birthday weekend 2007, I saw two movies, both nominated for Academy Awards. By Oscar night, I will have missed several performances in the major categories. Ah well.

Grandma and Grandpa were up watching Lydia, so that Carol and I could see the Sunday film, Volver (To return), starring Penelope Cruz. I don't recall having seen her in anything except Pedro Almodovar's Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother), in which, if I'm remembering correctly, she played a pregnant nun. Almodovar's Volver is the more conventional film. The returnee is the Cruz character's dead mother. I enjoyed the unraveling of the mystery; Carol really enjoyed it. Almodovar tends to luxuriate over certain parts of the female body on occasion, such as their rears, and there's what's probably an extraneous shot of Cruz washing dishes, shot from above. Ms. Cruz has been criticized for her lightweight acting, but in this film, in her native tongue, the Madrid-born actress is wonderfully caustic, funny and passionate.

The Monday film featured Judi Dench, who I had seen nine years earlier in Mrs. Brown, and Cate Blanchette. Just from the previews, I knew that Dame Dench would be chewing the scenery, and she does, eventually, but so does Ms. Blanchette. My wife said she felt as though she needed a shower afterwards, and I understood what she meant. The Philip Glass score was too much - too loud, and occasionally too obvious and obtrusive. The performances are better than the movie, but I'm not sure that I can explain why.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

It's All About Me, You, Us

Happy Ash Wednesday! Wait a minute, it's Lent...somber and reflective Ash Wednesday. (Or is that just a function of post-Mardi Gras hangovers?)
Where are my Requiems? I need to play Requiems during Lent - Faure. Rutter. The German by Bach. Of course, Mozart. Gets me in the mood.
At least in the tradition in our church, we usually end the service with Allelujah, Amen, but during Lent, just the Amen until Easter.
***
Snow removal in Albany-ha! I'm not talking aboout the street snow, for which the city has justifiably been criticized, but the sidewalks, which after nearly a week of warming temperatures are still often impassable. Yeah, the city can fine people, but I'm talking about the social contract. I've been out at least thrice since the snow stopped to continually widen the path in front of our house. Meanwhile, there are people who seem to believe that the spelling of snow removal is s-p-r-i-n-g. We're Northeasterners, people, we should know how to do this.
***
In re: this comment: "Two hours of television a week for me, dude! The Net is where it's at!" - what's the diff? User-Generated Content on TV (see Doritos' Super Bowl ads). TV on the web (see the vast majority of newtork programming. It's the message, not the medium.
***
And speaking of television, I find myself, disturbingly, agreeing in part, with former Reagan special assistant Peggy Noonan. She has a weekly column in the weekend Wall Street Journal called Declarations. This past weekend, she wrote a piece called They Sold Their Soul for a Pot of Message about the early Presidential race; the title reference is a play on words re: Esau in the Book of Genesis selling "his soul for a mess of pottage."

The most dismaying thing I've noticed the past 10 years on television is that ordinary people who are guests on morning news shows -- the man who witnessed the murder, the housewife who ran from the flames -- speak, now, in perfect sound bites. They also cry on cue. They used to ramble, like unsophisticated folk, and try to keep their emotions to themselves. Anchors had to take them in hand. "But what happened then?" Now the witness knows what's needed, and how to do it. "And when she didn't come home, Matt, I knew: this is not like her. And I immediately called the authorities."

Why does this dismay? Because it's another stepping away from the real. Artifice detaches us even from ourselves.

***
Primary Research Group has published a new edition of The Survey of College Marketing Programs. The 170-page study presents more than 650 tables of data relating to college marketing efforts, exploring trends in television, radio,newspaper and magazine advertising, direct mail, college viewbook and magazine publishing, and use of web ads, blogs, search engine placement enhancement, and other internet related marketing. The report also looks closely at spending by colleges on marketing consultancies, market research firms, and advertising and public relations agencies.

The data in the report is broken out by enrollment size, type of college, public/private status, and even by the extent to which colleges draw their applicants from the local area. Fifty-five colleges completed an exhaustive questionnaire. A list of participants is available at our website.

Just a few of the study’s many findings appear below:

• 17.65% of the colleges in the sample make payments to search engines for higher search engine placement in searches. More than a quarter of private colleges make such payments, but only a bit more than 10% of public colleges do so.

• 15.69% of the colleges in the sample have used podcasts as a way to market the college. Podcasts were used most by the research universities in the sample.

• Close to 86% of the colleges in the sample publish a viewbook; all of the private colleges in the sample and three quarters of the public colleges in the sample publish viewbooks.
The mean number of (traditional print) viewbooks distributed by the colleges in the sample in 2006 was 12,954.

• 29.41% of the colleges in the sample offered a PDF version of the viewbook.

• A shade more than 23% say that they are printing fewer and fewer viewbooks each year

• More than twice as many colleges in the sample said that their volume of direct mail for marketing the college had increased over the past two years than said that it had decreased in this same period.

• About 61% of the colleges in the sample include a virtual tour of the college campus on the college website. Larger colleges were somewhat more likely than smaller colleges to have a virtual tour of the campus on the college website. Only 20% of the community colleges in the sample had a virtual tour of the campus on the college website.

• The colleges in the sample received a mean of 53.5% of their applications through the college website, and this figure ranged from 0 to 100%.

• 20.45% of the colleges in the sample have an employee on the college enrollment, marketing, public relations or admissions staffs who is assigned the role of responding to comments about the college or otherwise providing information about the college to bloggers.

• 13.7% of the colleges in the sample use any form of paid advertising service from Google

• Mean annual spending on advertising agencies was $28,800 with median spending of $5,000.

• More than 75% of the colleges in the sample published their own magazines about the college.

• Close to 80% of the colleges in the sample have advertised on the radio; both public and private colleges use radio advertising and college size is not a major determinant of radio advertising use.

• 26.42% of the colleges in the sample have advertised on cable television within the past two years.
***
In the same vein as TIME Magazine naming me, I mean YOU, as the person of the year last year, Ad Age named The Consumer as Ad Agency of the Year. So this book review I came across interested me:

Let the Seller Beware by Frank Rose. Wall Street Journal. December 20, 2006, p. D.10

"Citizen Marketers" [By Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba; Kaplan Publishing, 223 pages, $25] offers a solid, sometimes insightful explanation of how the Internet has armed the consumer -- which is to say, everyone -- against the mindless blather of corporate messaging attempts. The stories it tells are not all negative by any means: For every vengeful YouTube posting there are countless blogs that celebrate products as diverse (and unlikely) as Chicken McNuggets, Barq's root beer and HBO's "Deadwood." The author of a blog called Slave to Target confesses that the thought of shopping at Target stores makes her "simply feel orgasmic." The point is that in the current era of blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds, mashups, Flickr, YouTube, MySpace and whatever is coming next week, corporate decision-makers are losing even the illusion of control. It's a buyer's world. Caveat venditor, as [the authors] note: Let the seller beware.

Last March, the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that 48 million Americans -- roughly one-sixth of the population -- were posting something or other to the Web. Given that this is a nation of consumers, much of what they're posting involves some form of comment on consumer products, none of it authorized by the product maker. As the authors note, business people will find this "either astoundingly cool or somewhat alarming."

The real story of "Citizen Marketers" is the rise of the activist amateur -- "amateur" meaning not only a nonprofessional but also, in the original sense, one who loves. We're seeing a fusion -- a mashup, if you will -- of two formerly distinct spheres, the private and the public. Privately held brands are being defined not by their owners but by unpaid, and often unwanted, public guardians. In an age when most discussion of the public weal can be filed under "commons, tragedy of," this is a remarkable development.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Oscar Winning Films I Have Seen

Oh, why not?

1928 - Wings: no
1928 - Sunrise: no (read the Wikipedia explanation on this)
1929 - The Broadway Melody: no
1930 - All Quiet on the Western Front: Seems that I've seen parts of it on TV, not enough to say yes
1931 - Cimarron: ditto
1932 - Grand Hotel: no
1933 - Cavalcade: no
1934 - It Happened One Night: No, and given its pedigree(Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay), I feel that I ought to. I've seen that famous clip with Claudette Colbert showing Clark Gable how to stop a car dozens of times.
1935 - Mutiny on the Bounty: Saw this on TV years ago, but wasn't the movie experience I need to really appreciate the film. This isn't knocking the film, just the environment in which I saw it.
1936 - The Great Ziegfeld: Don't think so.
1937 - The Life of Emile Zola: no
1938 - You Can't Take It With You: Seems that I started watching this on broadcast TV.
1939 - Gone With the Wind: Started to maybe three times. Can't, or deep down, really don't want to. Seems I've seen the burning of Atlanta scene a number of times though, including the first time it aired on network TV a couple decades back.
1940 - Rebecca: no.
1941 - How Green Was My Valley: no
1942 - Mrs. Miniver: no
1943 - Casablanca: Now this is a film I've seen, and more than once. It may not have been the first time, but I recall seeing this film outdoor near Rochester with my now-lost friend Debi. I did enjoy this tremendously.
1944 - Going My Way: Saw this on video. It's OK. Don't remember it that well, to tell the truth.
1945 - The Lost Weekend: No, but I really want to.
1946 - The Best Years of Our Lives: I did see this, on TV. Didn't know anything about it except the title. Found it moving, but left me a tad melancholy.
1947 - Gentleman's Agreement: No, or did I?
1948 - Hamlet: I recorded it at some point. Still haven't watched it.
1949 - All the King's Men: Don't think so.
1950 - All About Eve: I started to, on broadcast TV, but never finished it.
1951 - An American in Paris: Seems that I've seen it on PBS or something, years ago. The musical numbers were great and still vivid in my mind, but the rest felt somehow lacking.
1952 - The Greatest Show on Earth: I'm sure I saw it on TV as a kid, but don't remember enough to comment.
1953 - From Here to Eternity: I'm afraid not yet.
1954 - On the Waterfront: Saw this sometime this century on TV. Quite good. Always liked Lee J. Cobb.
1955 - Marty: not yet
1956 - Around the World in 80 Days: Feels like more TV fare from my childhood.
1957 - The Bridge on the River Kwai: I don't know that I've ever sat from beginning to end, but I've seen great chunks of it, enough to appreciate its greatness.
1958 - Gigi: On TV as a kid.
1959 - Ben-Hur: ditto, should probably see again.
1960 - The Apartment: parts, on broadcast TV.
1961 - West Side Story - OK, a movie I saw in the movie theater at the time it came out! Sure it's a bit dated, but I LOVE this movie. I've probably mentioned it on this blog about a dozen times. I'm heavily versed how the musical differs from the movie (the strategic switch of Cool and Gee, Officer Krupke), the dubbing by Marni Nixon. The ending still gets to me. Did I mention that I'm rather fond of this film? Own on VHS and DVD. Have both the Broadway and movie albums.
1962 - Lawrence of Arabia: On TV at some point, but probably didn't do it justice.
1963 - Tom Jones: no
1964 - My Fair Lady: On TV, enjoyed it well enough.
1965 - The Sound of Music: This movie I saw fairly recently. Much more substantial storyline than I had recalled. And I LOVE the music, even if it encourages Gwen Stefani.
1966 - A Man For All Seasons: Saw years ago, don't remember much at all.
1967 - In the Heat of the Night: Oh, my. I'm not sure it's a great film, but it spoke about race in a way that hadn't seen seen much in American cinema. The slaps in the face were jaw-dropping at the time. Here's a review that pretty well reflects my opinion.
1968 - Oliver!: Seen bits and pieces.
1969 - Midnight Cowboy: I saw this film four times the first year it came out. Has my favorite line that I use to this day, "I'm WALKING here!" Don't know if it would still stand up for me, but seeing the clips has a visceral feeling of awe.
1970 - Patton: broadcast TV, didn't see enough of it.
1971 - The French Connection: Did I see this in Poughkeepsie? (Sorry, line from the movie.) Saw it in the movie theater. Don't know that it was a great film, but I got caught up in it anyway, especially the chase scene.
1972 - The Godfather: Seems that I was in Binghamton, but that my friends Carol & Jon, and my then-girlfriend Nona drove to Syracuse to see this film. Undoubtedly a masterful work, but along with seeing Catch-22 and A Clockwork Orange, got me off most movies rated R for violence for nearly a decade. It was the horse, the dance that Jimmy Caan does when he's character's killed, the keyhole. Haven't seen the movie since, and I still have too vivid recollections.
1973 - The Sting: In the theater. It was a fun film (with one disturbing scene, I think), the camaraderie was great, the music was great.
1974 - The Godfather Part II: No, still haven't seen it. I'm sure it's great.
1975 - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: Saw it in a theater years after its release. Great movie.
1976 - Rocky: Saw this movie in Charlotte, NC with my mother. I think it was a bit violent for her, but she liked it. I liked it. A bit cornball, but it worked.
1977 - Annie Hall: Warrants its own post. Saw it four times in the theater. My touchstone movie.
1978 - The Deer Hunter: Was still avoiding the R-rated violence. Never saw.
1979 - Kramer vs. Kramer: I saw Dustin Hoffman on that Actor's Studio show and he explained that the dialogue at the end was ad libbed. His performance and Meryl Streep's kept this from soap opera. I felt the sense of frustration the Hoffman character felt. Saw in the theater.
1980 - Ordinary People: I remember liking it at the time, when I saw in the theater, as much for Mary Tyler Moore playing against type as anything. Depressing, though.
1981 - Chariots of Fire: I saw this in the theater the week after the movie won for Best Picture, with my girlfriend at the time, and her son, and we all felt "Is that all there is?" Pretty vistas weren't enough. Here's a case where high expectations probably ruined the film for me. I should probably watch it again.
1982 - Gandhi: Epic, moving, I thought at the time when I saw it in the theater, but I haven't seen it since, and don't specifically REMEMBER scenes, just feelings.
1983 - Terms of Endearment: Or as I am wont to call it, "Tears of Internment". Actually, I probably liked the first half, when I saw it in the theater, but after that, pretty much hated it.
1984 - Amadeus: I liked it a lot at the time I saw it in the theater; didn't care about the historical inaccuracies.
1985 - Out of Africa: Saw in the movie theater, thought it looked nice, but it never engaged me.
1986 - Platoon: Never saw, although I feel that I have.
1987 - The Last Emperor: Saw this in the movie theater and fell asleep. Maybe I was just tired.
1988 - Rain Man: I liked it when I saw it in the theater, thought that Tom Cruise was actually pretty good in it. Got into great debates about whether his character could change so much in a six-day car ride; I contended that it was plausible. Have the soundtrack; the first half includes great tunes I love, the second half standard soundtrack fare.
1989 - Driving Miss Daisy: Had real ambivalence about seeing Morgan Freeman's "wise old black man" character as someone put it. It was good, but felt very stagy. Saw in a theater.
1990 - Dances With Wolves: I liked it in parts, but it was too long by about 30 minutes. In theater.
1991 - The Silence of the Lambs: Was visiting my parents and was watching HBO, started watching it, bailed.
1992 - Unforgiven: Ambivalent about seeing a western, but ended up liking this movie quite a bit. In the theater.
1993 - Schindler's List -Oh, yeah. I did see this film in the theater. It's a very good film. I will NEVER see this film again. I spent more time dissecting this film with the two people I saw it with than the film's ample running time.
1994 - Forrest Gump: Talked about this here. Some of the others too, I see. The other thing about this movie is the soundtrack picked such the cliches (For What It's Worth, Get Together) That said, I do own it - bought it used - for the songs that I didn't own on CD.
1995 - Braveheart: Saw this on a huge screen at Proctor's Theater in Schenectady, the place you'd want to see a film like this. Ultimately, though, there was at least one too many battle scenes. And that tortured messianic scene at the end - yuck. Made me know that I wouldn't be seeing his films about Christ or the Amazon people, thank you.
1996 - The English Patient: My goodness, I forgot this won. I was bored to tears by this movie in the theater.
1997 - Titanic: A very schizo movie, part romance, part disaster film. Don't know that I LIKED it when I saw it in the theater so much as admired the chutzpah of gambling big and pulling it off. Actually liked some of the incidental music, but I don't expect to see this film again. Ever.
1998 - Shakespeare in Love: I liked it when I saw in the theater. Best picture? Maybe not.
1999 - American Beauty: I liked this one a lot at the time, when I saw it in the theater, but I'm not remembering why.
2000 - Gladiator: Didn't see, wasn't interested in seeing.
2001 - A Beautiful Mind: Liked it well enough when I saw it in the theater, but don't imagine watching again soon.
2002 - Chicago: I was rather fond of it when I saw it in the theater. Occasionally very funny, and occasionally (as with the only woman probably innocent of the crime), somewhat poignant.
2003 - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Saw the first LotR movie, thought it was fine, didn't feel compelled to get through the other two. But then, I couldn't get through 50 pages when I read The Hobbit, which I know to be grand treachery, but there it is.
2004 - Million Dollar Baby: This was the year Lydia was born. Really wanted to see this, but it just didn't happen.
2005 - Crash: Lots of people HATE this movie, just HATE it. One of my office mates was going on about it recently, citing that it was just condescendingly telling us what we already know. Others hated it for the contrivance of the interlocking stories. For the former, I found that it rang true in my own life, the sibling thing, particularly - maybe Joe Biden should go see it - and for the latter, I was willing to accept the premise. Saw in the theater BEFORE the buzz.
And here's my theory why Brokeback Mountain lost to Crash, which I, BTW, predicted: most Oscar voters saw it on DVD, where all that Western vista stuff might have been boring. To be honest, I was a little bored myself in the theater; the story didn't really grab me until they got off the mountain, and Academy voters, with tons of films to view in a short time, might well have just given up on it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Presidents' Day


Here's a link to all of the Presidential Libraries. It, and the holiday, got me thinking about how I would rank the Presidents. Thing is, though, while I REMEMBER all the Presidents, and their years in office (very useful if you ever go on a game show), I don't always recall just what they DID. I could look it up, but why do that when I have you to fill in the holes?
Washington- the Kelly Clarkson or Richard Hatch of Presidents. It's tough being first. He could have turned the office into a quasi-monarchy. That he didn't serves us well. He also came up with that two-term idea.
J. Adams- The fact is that I'm not recalling much other than the Alien & Sedition Act
Jefferson-I think he gets a lot of points for his pre-Presidential stuff, like that Declaration thing. It's so fortunate that Napoleon was so hung up on holding on to Haiti that he'd sell Louisiana to us for a relative pittance.
Madison- Of all the wars the US ever fought, the one I probably understand the least is the War of 1812.
Monroe-He had some doctrine that said, "Europe, stay out of the Americas! It's our turf now!" And, over the years, we've acted accordingly.
J.Q. Adams- Strange. I remember his controversial 1824 election, and his subsequent service (and death) in the House, but his Presidency doesn't register.
Jackson- The guy who appears on the $20 bill wasn't that fond of the national bank. He also believed in the spoils system.
Van Buren-the Herbert Hoovers of his half century, with the downturn in 1837, probably not his fault.
W.H. Harrison-Gave a killer of an inaugural speech.
Tyler-As the first person to become President after not being elected President, don't think he had much leverage. (But his post-Presidential career really weirded out some guy in Buffalo.)
Polk-I read recently someone comparing his adventurism in Mexico to GW Bush's actions in Iraq.
Taylor-Was he poisoned?
Fillmore-The last of the Whig Presidents (4 guys, 8 years). Don't remember if the Fugitive Slave Laws were passed under his tenure or his predecessor's. The guy pictured, as though you didn't know.
Pierce-Another one of those ineffectual antebellum Presidents. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, allowing new states whether they'll be slave or free, didn't help the situation.
Buchanan-The "bachelor" President. Way out of his league in stopping the war, or maybe it was inevitable.
Lincoln-On the one hand, he saved the Union. On the other hand, he used tactics suspending liberties that the current occupant seems to have purloined.
A. Johnson-From a different party from Lincoln. Impeached and almost convicted. Grant-Was he sober by then?
Hayes-One of my least favorite Presidents. Not only did the 1876 election vs. Tilden make Florida in 2000 seem like due process at its finest, but the end of Reconstruction was disastrous for freed blacks, as the rise of the KKK and other groups took place.
Garfield-Lived a while after being shot, which probably ground the government to a halt.
Arthur-Seemed like a competent public servant.
Cleveland-Definitely need to read up on this - I remember labor and currency issues abounded in the 1880s and 1890s -
B. Harrison-But I'm not remembering...
Cleveland-...the major issues of these administrations.
McKinley-Definitely the hard money, backed by gold, issue. Also the Spanish-American War.
T. Roosevelt-Environmental stuff, didn't shoot a baby bear, won the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering the Russo-Japanese War. One of my faves.
Taft-Even though he was TR's VP, TR was so ticked off by him that he ran as a third party, giving the election to the Democrats.
Wilson-Kept us out of war, for his first term. Got us into war in his second. Was too ill to really push the League of Nations.
Harding-The first President elected after women's suffrage, and I recall some historian saying "See? See? They should have had the vote," as though they voted for him because he was (arguably) good looking. Teapot Dome.
Coolidge-Don't know. They called him Silent Cal.
Hoover-Depression. If he never became President, he would have remembered much more kindly by history.
F.D. Roosevelt-Term 1: great programs to try to get folks out of the Depression. Term 2: the great overreach, with the Supreme Court packing plan. Term 3: TERM 3? WWII, of course. Term 4: TERM 4?! Died early on.
Truman-Dropped the A-bomb (yuck), instituted the Marshall Plan for post-war Europe (yay), was declared politically dead in '48 (but wasn't), fired MacArthur over Korea.
Eisenhower-selected Earl Warren to head the Supreme Court (apparently to his later chagrin). Sent troops into Little Rock, which is probably the first event I remember separate from things immediately in my life.
Kennedy-On one hand, Bay of Pigs; on the other, the successful (and ultimately peaceful) 13 days in October. On one hand, VietNam; on the other, coming around on civil rights, especially after the August '63 March on Washington.
L.B. Johnson- Great Society (Medicare/Medicaid), civil rights, VietNam. But guns and butter didn't work. In some ways, nearly as tragic as Nixon.
Nixon-EPA, China on the one hand; VietNam and Watergate on the other. He's better than I thought at the time, or maybe his successors are worse than I could have imagined.
Ford-Revisionists now praise him for his courage in pardoning Nixon. I'm not convinced yet.
Carter-I thought he was saying a lot of the right things about conservation. Perhaps he didn't communicate them well enough: his Moral Equivalent Of War became dubbed as MEOW. Then the 11/4/79 capture of the hostages in Iran sealed his fate.
Reagan-At the time, I thought he ought to have been king. He was a great cheerleader for America. His greatest accomplishment was surviving the assassination attempt in good spirits, for it generated the political capital to propel his budget-busting tax cuts in that first year that the election alone would not have provided. 200+ dead in Lebanon? Invade Grenada! After VietNam and Watergate, he discerned America needed a win! Even if it was some place most of them never heard of. Reagan was also helped, oddly, by the Carter-directed boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, for when the Soviet bloc retaliated at the 1984 Olympics in L.A., the US really cleaned up. Born in the U.S.A. indeed.
The fact that I disliked Reagan more than any President in my lifetime, over Star Wars, Iran-Contra, his positions on race, doesn't negate the fact that, in large part, that people seem to have bought his message.
G.H.W. Bush-The ex-head of the CIA made me nervous going in. "100 points of light" SOUNDED good, but I'm sure that it really translated into policy. History, though, will be kinder to him, though, because while he did engage in war with Iraq, he didn't invade Baghdad, which would show the geopolitical wisdom the next Republican President would seem to lack.
Clinton-"The first black President" - don't know where that came from, but it annoyed the crap out me. Oh, where was I? Oh yeah, Clinton's Presidency. First two years - a disaster over health care and "Don't ask, don't tell." His successes in balancing the budget, albeit it with a Repub Congress will stand out. Monicagate, and the fact that THAT was the source of his IMPEACHMENT (as opposed to, say, a successor's twisting of the truth to go to war) should make historians chuckle. I remember very specifically, during that mess, when he tried, and failed, to get Osama bin Ladin, and the general consensus was that it was a ploy to distract us from the importance of the stained blue dress.
G.W. Bush- After 9/11, with the world united behind the United States, this President had the opportunity to be a great President. And he blew it. Won't even get into his dismal environmental record, which is actually mildly surprising, given his reasonably positive record - I hear - as Texas governor. Or his suspension of liberties, for which the Repub Congress in his first six years must share the blame.

O.K. - so the best Presidents, just based on their terms in office, not before or after- it's hard not to put Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and the Roosevelts in some order. The worst? Aside from those who died too quickly (W.H. Harrison, Garfield), it's difficult not to put those Presidents immediately before and after the Civil War, and of course, Harding. I'd pick Pierce, Buchanan, A. Johnson, Hayes, and old Warren G., in some order. Since his term isn't over, I won't muse about the current occupant as Rolling Stone did, but, absent a miracle in the next two years, bottom five land seems certain. Lucky Franklin Pierce.
***
Here's what historians think, and more importantly, what Gay Prof thinks.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Walk Under Ladders


FEBRUARY 14, 2007, 9:15 a.m. - I had riding the stationary bike at the Y, rather than playing racquetball, because none of my cohorts bothered to show up. was it because we were under a winter storm warning, that virtually every school in the area, including the always-reluctant-to-close Albany School District, were closed? It wasn't THAT bad out. The #27 Corporate Woods bus shows up, only about 15 minutes late - I was about to give up on it - and the bus driver transported his two passengers to the office.
9:30 a.m. - I was only one of 5 people present, out of 13 scheduled, and 15 total. My office has a great view of I-90, which looks perfectly clear...where did it go? The highway alternated from being fairly visible to being impossible to see from the snow and wind.
9:45 a.m. - I call my wife to let her know that the there's rumors that CDTA will be pulling their businesses. That can't be right. Their website is touting its availability in the midst of the storm:
When the rest of the world is standing still, CDTA is…Your Reason To Ride!

When severe weather hits, keep your car off the slippery streets and ride with us.


11:45 a.m. - We're told that the main office for the Research Foundation downtown would be closing downtown at 1:30, and that we could do the same, if we chose. I choose.

12:30 p.m.- Call one of my sister. She works for a drug store chain, and as it turned out, I had a related reference question, and therefore a legit excuse to call her in California. I'm lucky.

1:45 p.m. - The last of my hardy colleagues leave.

1:55 p.m. - I'm thinking the bus comes at 2:05, but I check the website, just to make sure. IT COMES AT 2:00! I shut off my computer and run downstairs.

2:09 p.m. - The bus was late. I'M LUCKY. The normal pattern is that it comes by our building, makes a turn at a circle down the road, and then it comes back and the passengers from my building get on. For some reason, though, the other passengers and I went out to meet the bus. Since the circle wasn't plowed , the bus didn't turn around. I would have missed it had I waited. I'M LUCKY, because I'm not sure another bus came out to Corporate Woods that day; they were pulling their buses off the road, except for the core routes, because they kept getting stuck.

2:25 p.m. - I'm waiting at the corner of Washington and L;ark for the #10 bus to come home. There was a supervisor vehicle at the stop. I asked him when the next #10 was coming. He said I had to go down another block (to Central and Henry Johnson) to catch it. I'M LUCKY I asked.

2:55 p.m. - The masses huddled at the kiosk were trying to get more info from CDTA from their cell phones. Only one could not reach CDTA by phone; I had tried twice when I was still in the office. I'M LUCKY that I lived near two of the core routes. Took the #12 Washington Avenue bus, which got stuck for about five minutes, trying to make a right turn onto Washington Avenue. Some doofy guy was laying on his horn, AS THOUGHT IT WOULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE. (Doofy, BTW, is a portmanteau from goofy and doofus.) I'M LUCKY we did finally get around the corner.
This bus meant a three-block walk. It's technically illegal to walk in the street, and I scowl when people do it when we've had an inch or two of snow, but with a foot of the powdery stuff impossible to walk through, I was road-bound as well.
3:25 p.m.- Trudge home, drink hot chocolate. Carol and I watch an old Gilmore Girls.
4:50 p.m. - I'M LUCKY that I waited. My neighbor Dino plowed a path on our sidewalk and up to the steps. I still had plenty of shoveling to do, but it was made infinitely easier.

February 15

7 a.m. When i read on the CDTA website that only the core routes are guaranteed to operate, I decided to stay home.
8:30 a.m. Start a half hour outside, half hour inside regimen to dig out the car.
9:30 a.m. I'M LUCKY that my neighbors helped me with the digging.
11 a.m. Read the Times Union online: "Capital District Transportation Authority buses clogged the intersection of Central Avenue and Henry Johnson Boulevard, making it impossible for cars to get by." That's my route to work. I'M LUCKY I stayed home.

I'm lucky
I'm lucky
I don't need a bracelet
No salt
For my shoulder
I don't own a rabbit
No clover
No heather
No wonder
I'm lucky

***
Picture from Thursday's newspaper. Check here for a Nightline segment with the Albany mayor.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Jury QUESTIONS


I just had to know, so this week, I called the ADA in the case I might have served on. Guilty on two counts of robbery. One count involved the use of a weapon, the second, the use of an accomplice. "Young Dewey", as the defense asttorney kept referring to the defendant, hasn't been sentenced yet, but he faces 15 years in prison.

Jury duty has informed my questions. Your answers to any or all questions in the appropriate location is appreciated:

What's your job, your spouse's/significant other's job (if retired, what the jobs were)?
I'm a business librarian. My wife's a teacher of English as a Second Language.

What's the age of your children?
One child, almost three.

What are your hobbies?
Blogging, racquetball.

What are your memberships?
Vice-President of the Friends of the Albany Public Library; member of my church choir.

Have you been a victim of a crime?
Why, yes. I've had four bicycles stolen in Albany over a 25-year period. One in front of the Unitarian Church, one in front of the YMCA, one hidden behind the YMCA (that one was unlocked), and one in the vestibule of my apartment. I had a boom box stolen. I was assaulted when I was 16. (Sidebar to GP: If memory serves - it was a LONG time ago, and I'm no lawyer - the Marine probably COULD have gotten as much as a year in jail, but might also have gotten a suspended sentence.) Someone stole a bunch of my LPs and all of my baseball cards that were stored at my grandmother's house. And when I was a kid, someone stole my coin collection; I was pretty sure I knew who the perp was, but couldn't prove it.

Do you know anyone in the local police department?
There was a guy from my former church, but I'm not in contact with him presently. The name of one of the arresting officers in the case sounded familiar, though. I think he took my statement in the boom box case.

Do you know the local district attorney, or anyone in his/her office?
I worked on the campaign of the current DA, and met him once, briefly.

Also: have you served on a jury? Would you want to? Why or why not?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Jury Duty


A couple months ago, both Carol and I received a juror qualification questionnaire from Albany County, which we had to fill out and verify our address and criminal status (or, in our case, lack thereof). So it was not at all surprising to discover that, a couple weeks ago, I received a notification that I had to call to see if I needed to report for jury duty.

The possibility of jury duty has happened to me thrice before. In the fall of 1977, I lived in Jamaica, Queens (NY), voting as I was leaving town for Schenectady; a couple months later, Queens sent me a jury notice. I wrote back that I didn't live there anymore. In 1991, I received notice to appear as a juror in federal court. I wrote back that I was in the middle of grad school; could I postpone for two months? Apparently yes, but they never followed up. Then about six years ago, I had to make calls every evening, but my number, which was in the 250s, never came up.

This time, however, when I called, I received this lengthy message. One group was to go to one place at 9 a.m., another group to another location, also at 9 a.m., and the group consisting of 243 to 411 ended up having to show up at 9:45 at the Albany County Judicial Center, a building built just a year ago, just behind the county office building; my number was 357. The woman giving instructions was very pleasant, but knew she needed to project to the large crowd in a big room, so her voice was at a constant near yell. (One of my fellow attendees thought it was a monotone.) She swore us all in.

We got the scoop on jury duty. For instance, the law requires the employers of 10 or more employees to pay us at least $40/day. The only folks who will get specifically paid for service by the state are those who are unemployed, retired, not scheduled to work the particular days, or the self-employed. (This is all explained here.) She noted how the law had changed so that there are far fewer automatic exemptions because of one's profession, a good thing, I think, since a juror class of retirees and the unemployed is not really, a jury of one's peers. A large part of the discussion was about parking; the Crown Plaza Hotel allows jurors to park for $6/day, rather than $14. We had been encouraged to take the CDTA bus down, but obviously many did not, for at the first break, lots of people went to move their vehicles.

Eventually, we went to the courtroom. After a few more instructions, Judge Herrick came in. He explained that while the jury trial was an important part of the system, he knows it's inconvenient, so he appreciated our service. He asked if any of us had a problem with serving each day until 5 or maybe a little after this week. At first, only a trickle was in line, but the queue didn't seem to get any shorter. I got in line myself, not because I didn't want to serve, but because I had to pick up Lydia before 5:30 that day. No one else who was authorized to get her was in town, as Carol and her parents were all in Harpursville, near Binghamton, at Carol's aunt Vera's funeral. I stood off to the side as the judge, DA and defense attorney conferred. The judge waved me back to the bench and said that he didn't expect that today's session, involving jury selection - known as voir dire - would last past 4:30. Of all the people who came forward, I was the first to return to his/her seat, as opposed to out the door, only one of three total in that situation. So the pool of over 160 jurors was down to around 120; no wonder they call so many people.

The clerk empaneled the first group of 21, using a cage like one of those BINGO caller devices. The 21st person was Shawn Morris, president of the common council, Albany's city council. By mutual agreement among the judge, DA and defense attorney, she was sent home, though she had made no effort to get off the trial.

The facts of the case were read. The defendant was charged with two counts of robbery, i.e., he was accused of robbing two named alleged victims at a specific address on South Pearl Street on a date last August, arrested by two named police officers.

The judge used to have jurors do a juror survey, but since he found that keeping them around might violate one's privacy, he decided on the oral recitation by each juror of the:
Name, City, Job, Spouse/Significant Other's Job (if retired, what the jobs were), Age of Children, Hobbies, Memberships
People forgot to mention all of these points a lot, especially their city.
The judge asked the jurors about the race of the accused - he was black - and whether that fact would influence their decision-making. No one said "yes".
He also asked a series of questions such as:
Have you been a victim of a crime?
Do you know anyone in the Albany police department? (One woman was engaged to an Albany city cop.) Do you know the arresting officers?
Do you know the accused?
Do you know either attorney? Do you know the district attorney, David Soares?
What was interesting about the assistant DA in his presentation was that he made the point, over and over again, that if he didn't make his case, that the accused should be acquitted. Both lawyers and the judge all emphasized that it was unnecessary for the accused's to speak in his defense, and that one ought not to draw inferences from that, if he does not.
The defense attorney seemed to be trying the case when he asked if it would mitigate the circumstances if it were shown that the accused signed something (a confession, I'm guessing), but that the accused was shown to be incapable of reading.

The first panel of 21 started before lunch, wasn't finished until after lunch, when 11 of the 14 needed jurors were selected. This required empaneling 21 more people, and I was afraid that picking up Lydia would become problematic. But all parties were more terse, assuming we all were listening. The 21st juror in this panel, when asked if he had been a victim of a crime, said that his girlfriend had been raped, and that he would be unable to render a fair verdict. Why he didn't go to the bench and tell the judge this - that was an option if there were embarrassing issues - I don't know. Anyway, he was excused, and another person was chosen. From that group, only three needed to be chosen, and that happened quickly. They had a juror of 12, plus two alternates. It was 3:30, and I was done for the day.

My feeling at the end of this long, tedious process, during which I got through five magazines, was that it made me more confident in the legal system, much to my surprise. So, I'm glad to have served, if even for one day. I was surprised, though, that at least one woman was having trouble with the notion of "beyond a reasonable doubt". Didn't she watch, as I did, any of these shows?
Perry Mason
The Defenders
Judd for the Defense
The Bold Ones - the lawyer segment
Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law
LA Law
Law & Order (regular, not extra crispy)
The Practice/Boston Legal

But as the trial progressed, if she had been chosen - I don't think she was - the judge would have made that notion clear.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Name Game


There are 15 people in my office. Two of them had already planned to take yesterday off. Two called in sick, six called in to take vacation, and five showed up. I was in the latter category. A dedicated follower of dedication, or foolishness...
***
I was reading one of those trends in baby names articles, so I went to Social Security Popular Baby Names section and generated these charts.

Popularity in 1880
Rank/Male name/Percent of total males/Female name/Percent of total females
1 John 8.1525% Mary 7.2389%
2 William 8.0512% Anna 2.6677%
3 James 5.0052% Emma 2.0520%
Meaning that almost one in six of all male babies born that year were these two names. In fact, there were 14 boys named Wm, which I assume was just an abbreviation for William.
Popularity in 1900
1 John 6.0608% Mary 5.2562%
2 William 5.2889% Helen 1.9948%
3 James 4.4684% Anna 1.9237%
John was #1 from 1880 to 1923, and still in the Top 10 until 1986. It's now 18th.
William is now #11.
Popularity in 1950
1 James 4.7319% Linda 4.5717%
2 Robert 4.5926% Mary 3.7216%
3 John 4.3649% Patricia 2.7247%
Mary, which was #1 until 1946, #2 from 1947 to 1952, and #1 again from 1953 to 1961, fell out of the top 10 in 1971, and was 73rd in 2005.
Popularity in 2005
1 Jacob 1.2145% Emily 1.1818%
2 Michael 1.1175% Emma 1.0027%
3 Joshua 1.0912% Madison 0.9658%
Even though certain names are MOST popular these days - Madison is STILL there? The movie Splash was two DECADES ago! - none dominate like John, William and Mary did 125 years ago.

I decided to look at some timelines for particular monikers, names picked TOTALLY at random:

Popularity of the male name Roger
Year of birth Rank
2005 417
2004 414
2003 396
2002 389
2001 371
2000 373
1999 358
1998 347
1997 329
1996 285
1995 278
1994 264
1993 253
1992 214
1991 231
1990 209
1989 196
1988 180
1987 176
1986 167
1985 159
1984 157
1983 145
1982 127
1981 120
1980 134
1979 132
1978 120
1977 115
1976 103
1975 97
1974 93
1973 84
1972 78
1971 71
1970 61
1969 59
1968 55
1967 53
1966 51
1965 49
1964 49
1963 53
1962 48
1961 47
1960 47
1959 47
1958 47
1957 42
1956 41
1955 37
1954 34
1953 31 (0.6581%, 13,144)
1952 30
1951 29
1950 27
1949 25
1948 24
1947 25
1946 23
1945 22
1944 23
1943 24
1942 25
1941 25
1940 26
1939 28
1938 31
1937 36
1936 35
1935 36
1934 39
1933 48
1932 50
1931 53
1930 57
1929 64
1928 71
1927 84
1926 89
1925 90
1924 93
1923 95
1922 96
1921 99
1920 103
1919 124
1918 116
1917 120
1916 129
1915 124
1914 126
1913 139
1912 138
1911 139
1910 171
1909 180
1908 187
1907 169
1906 194
1905 226
1904 194
1903 189
1902 210
1901 227
1900 219
1899 199
1898 202
1897 232
1896 215
1895 207
1894 225
1893 254
1892 241
1891 217
1890 229
1889 232
1888 259
1887 259
1886 308
1885 324
1884 277
1883 346
1882 304
1881 305
1880 349
I wonder if its popularity in the years before and after WWII had to do with Roger, Over and Out?

Popularity of the female name Carol
2005 753
2004 844
2003 881
2002 851
2001 834
2000 726
1999 742
1998 658
1997 607
1996 565
1995 525
1994 493
1993 496
1992 411
1991 384
1990 350
1989 339
1988 331
1987 319
1986 310
1985 292
1984 267
1983 253
1982 262
1981 238
1980 232
1979 224
1978 203
1977 198
1976 171
1975 149
1974 137
1973 120
1972 109
1971 92
1970 71
1969 55
1968 48
1967 47
1966 48
1965 42
1964 36
1963 33
1962 28
1961 24
1960 23
1959 22
1958 20
1957 18
1956 16
1955 15
1954 15
1953 16
1952 12
1951 11
1950 9
1949 8
1948 8
1947 6
1946 5
1945 5
1944 5
1943 5
1942 5
1941 4
1940 6
1939 6
1938 6
1937 6
1936 10
1935 11
1934 14
1933 20
1932 32
1931 46
1930 54
1929 63
1928 77
1927 106
1926 113
1925 119
1924 132
1923 139
1922 159
1921 166
1920 182
1919 200
1918 196
1917 215
1916 215
1915 243
1914 250
1913 254
1912 246
1911 291
1910 285
1909 302
1908 294
1907 328
1906 338
1905 349
1904 330
1903 389
1902 357
1901 378
1900 392
1899 361
1898 391
1897 455
1896 480
1895 404
1894 519
1893 503
1892 504
1891 526
1890 510
1889 443
1888 561
1887 590
1886 610
1885 661
1884 800
1883 a
1882 827
1881 513
1880 685
a Not in top 1,000 names for indicated year of birth
A top 10 name for 15 years around WWII. Can't help but wonder if it has something to do with the Christmas carol. In the year of Carol's birth, there were 16,651 other Carols, which meant 0.8027% of the female names.

Popularity of the female name Lydia
2005 119
2004 126 (0.1295%, 2,598)
2003 127
2002 137
2001 140
2000 149
1999 149
1998 153
1997 160
1996 175
1995 173
1994 188
1993 206
1992 205
1991 214
1990 206
1989 219
1988 229
1987 224
1986 233
1985 212
1984 217
1983 239
1982 240
1981 267
1980 287
1979 296
1978 327
1977 312
1976 310
1975 333
1974 317
1973 329
1972 319
1971 315
1970 307
1969 320
1968 301
1967 288
1966 270
1965 263
1964 258
1963 246
1962 227
1961 214
1960 205
1959 210
1958 207
1957 206
1956 205
1955 200
1954 198
1953 201
1952 213
1951 225
1950 223
1949 214
1948 209
1947 230
1946 239
1945 223
1944 233
1943 227
1942 226
1941 248
1940 234
1939 237
1938 244
1937 239
1936 237
1935 242
1934 249
1933 237
1932 246
1931 236
1930 233
1929 223
1928 219
1927 217
1926 222
1925 206
1924 217
1923 204
1922 199
1921 197
1920 184
1919 186
1918 180
1917 170
1916 168
1915 169
1914 168
1913 154
1912 152
1911 142
1910 152
1909 142
1908 140
1907 130
1906 132
1905 123
1904 112
1903 116
1902 112
1901 103
1900 104
1899 97
1898 88
1897 83
1896 91
1895 85
1894 85
1893 81
1892 93
1891 86
1890 78
1889 83
1888 85
1887 76
1886 87
1885 77
1884 80
1883 75
1882 76
1881 77
1880 77
Lydia as a name is becoming as popular, percentagewise, in the early 21st century as it was in the beginning of the LAST century.

"Note: Rank 1 is the most popular, rank 2 is the next most popular, and so forth. Name data are from Social Security card applications for births that occurred in the United States."

Another site for this type of stuff, with rather nifty Java-enhanced graphics, is here, with its related blog, here.
***
Oh, the picture above is Comet Hale-Bopp Images - May 1997, taken by Lydia Green, probably no relation.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Does Valentine's Day Make The Month Feel LONGER?


I've discovered that most people fall into two groups: those who love Valentine's Day and those who hate it. Interestingly, it does not seem to be determined by whether is in a relationship or not, sexual orientation, or race.

I'm mildly indifferent to it. This not to say that I didn't get my wife something, only that I couldn't tell you, if you gave me bills in large denominations, what I gave her LAST year. Or what she got me.

My favorite Valentine's Day song is this one. I recommend the album.

Valentine's Day/ Artist: Steve Earle
Album: I Feel Alright

I come to you with empty hands
I guess I just forgot again
I only got my love to send
On Valentine's Day

I ain't got a card to sign
Roses have been hard to find
I only hope that you'll be mine
On Valentine's Day
I know that I swore that I wouldn't forget
I wrote it all down: I lost it I guess
There's so much I want to say
But all the words just slip away
The way you love me every day
Is Valentine's Day

If I could I would deliver to you
Diamonds and gold; it's the least I can do
So if you'll take my IOU
I could make it up to you
Until then I hope my heart will do
For Valentine's Day
***
Then again, there is a specific recollection of Valentine's Day five years ago. Five years ago, on Lincoln's Birthday, my eldest brother-in-law, John Powell, died of colon cancer at the age of 41. He was a technogeek, in the best sense of the word, generous in spirit and in fact, and the biggest cheerleader of Carol and me getting back together when we were apart in 1996-1998. Yes, the funeral was February 14, 2002. Good thoughts to his family, especially his widow Cindy.
***
I just heard that John Scott, a member of my church's congregation, died recently. He was a very dear man, I was quite fond of him, and I will miss him.
***
180 miles WNW of here, in Oswego, NY, they had 100 inches of snow in less than a week. For the whole winter, Albany has had less than 7 (Nov-trace, Dec-0.3, Jan-3.9, Feb-2.3). That will change today, when the forecast says we'll get 12 to 24 inches, or more, between 11 pm last night through 6 am tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Boom Box Bust


I got this message in my work e-mail on 12/19/2006:
Please remind your respective staff members as appropriate that personal items and belongings and/or items of a valuable or sentimental nature should be properly secured if they choose to bring them into the workplace or simply left a home. Unlike many of our previous office locations, we have an open floor plan setting at this location with several of our programs merged onto one floor. Our swipe card system simply limits the number of people who have access to our area but does not limit access once inside the secured zone.
Please let me know if you have any questions.


In the last couple weeks, one of the folks in my section had an iPod stolen from his desk. And not just the device itself, but the base, that was plugged in under his desk. The powers that be on our floor were notified, and they sent out this message on 2/6/2007:

Please remind your respective staff members as appropriate that personal items and belongings and/or items of a valuable or sentimental nature...

Yes, the very same message, including the phrase "simply left a home", rather than the intended "simply left at home". This means that the thieves work on the floor and/or are from the cleaning crew. In any case, I thought the response was inadequate, and told the powers that be of that fact.

In part at my urging, the victim of the iPod theft had called the Town of Colonie Police. What was striking is that the officer said that the department hadn't gotten any complaints from our building before the iPod, which of course was a bit discouraging to the victim.

I recommended to the powers that be that they should encourage people to report the thefts. And I told them why, which leads to a story also recollected as a result of my recent jury duty.

It was March 14, 2001. (Why do I remember the date? It was a week after my birthday.) I was supposed to meet Carol somewhere, so I left my office on State Street in downtown Albany at 5 pm. Carol and I must have gotten our wires crossed, because she wasn't where I expected her. I returned to my office to call her at 5:30, when I discovered the boom box that had been on my desk had disappeared. Initially, I thought one of my co-workers who were there - there were at least two - might have borrowed it. Alas, that was not the case. Immediately, I called the police and reported the theft. I had no illusions of getting my box back, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

What surprised me is that a few months later, they caught a guy who had stolen a number of pieces of personal property from offices all up and down State Street and adjoining streets. Eventually, I had to testify in front of a grand jury - that was surprisingly intimidating - that the boom box pawned by the accused was not given to him by me.

The real surprise, though, was when I received a check for about $70 from some victims' compensation fund; the particulars I'm not clear on, but the fact that I got back about 88% of what I had paid for the machine was a really pleasant, unexpected outcome.

So, I'm waiting, waiting, waiting for the powers that be to actually follow through on his pledge to encourage police reports to be filed. But holding my breath, I'm not. And in case, you're wondering why I don't just tell people myself, I have, informally, but a mass distribution from the powers that be would be much more effective.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Deadly sins (again)

Did you ever wonder why Andy Rooney, of all people, seems to be depicted as the authoritative figure on about a third of the junk e-mails in the United States? O.K., I made that up, but I did get another one of those "agree or delete" things, wanting me to verify my Christian faith. Without going into great detail, the thing is filled with a combination of half-truths. For instance, the Supreme Court DOES have the 10 Commandments on the building, but it also has other representations of law givers. So it’s not the Commandments per se that was the problem, it was the status as the singular law which that Alabama judge was trying to suggest that was problematic.

In any case, I've seen Andy Rooney enough times to doubt that he was actually the source of the info attributed to him. Intellectually lazy, the creators of these spam e-mails are. And speaking of lazy:






Which Seven Deadly Sin are you?




Sloth- You don't do anything too difficult in your life. You take the easy way out and sleep way too much.While sleeping, you will be burned alive in a house fire.
Take this quiz!







Quizilla
Join

Make A Quiz More Quizzes Grab Code




"Sloth- You don't do anything too difficult in your life. You take the easy way out and sleep way too much.While sleeping, you will be burned alive in a house fire."

Still sloth. Oh, barnacles!
***
Paired deadly sins! As dwvr put it, "This is one of those 'how come I didn't think of that?' concepts HERE.

I was trying to come up with others, and all I got was the same sloth/lust combination one of the respondents came up with. I do agree that it'd be more informative if, e.g., the chart replaces "the A-G letter labels with meaningful letters. Use the first letter of each sin (with Greed replaced by Avarice, for uniqueness). Then it will be possible look at WE = Cattiness and see immediately that it refers to Wrath and Envy."

The page in general is fun with ersatz math.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Walking Home, Minding My Own Business

I found the experience of being called for jury duty last week to be extremely affecting on me, despite the fact that I never even got to actually sit in the box. It forced me to think about a number of things. By the end of the week, all will be made clear. Maybe.

Part of it involves this story about my childhood, which I could have sworn I had told before. Maybe it's that I THOUGHT about telling it more than once.

Anyway, so I don't have to keep mentioning it throughout the story, all of the players in this tale, except for my father and me, are white.

As I've described previously, I lived in a predominately Slavic neighborhood in Binghamton, upstate New York, and there were only a handful of black kids in my school. Often, I would walk my friends home before going home myself. Often it included my friend Carol (not to be confused with my wife Carol).

One day, though, when I was 16, my classmates weren't around for some reason, and I ended walking a girl named Peggy, who lived across the street from Carol, home. We weren't great friends, but we went to the same elementary school, which was small, so we were friendly.

Just as I get to Peggy's house, this guy from next door to Peggy's house started yelling racial slurs at me, and quite possibly at us. He was under the mistaken impression that she and I were dating. Having been trained in the method,of Martin Luther King, Jr., I ignored him. I said nothing, and I did not look at him.

Suddenly, the guy, who has been getting closer and closer, attacks me. I'm not sure that I saw him coming. He was, it turned out, a 23-year-old Marine from Florida who was visiting his father. Don't remember much except that my glasses flew off. I found them, and retreated to Peggy's porch. By this time, Peggy's mother, who must have heard the commotion, was on the porch in a shouting match with the Marine and his family.

Someone had called the police. I explained to the officer what happened; I presume the Marine gave his version, too. The policeman said that I could press charges if I wanted to.

I went home, talked with my folks, and decided to go downtown the next day. The judge, whose name I've forgotten, took my paperwork, but made it clear that he thought my actions were silly. He believed - perhaps from the police report - that it was just "some spat over a girl."

I went home and I was livid. LIVID. I could use a half dozen exclamation marks to express my near rage at being dismissed in that way. So I wrote a letter, a long, angry, nasty letter to the judge, commenting on his lack of listening skills. It wasn't "some spat over a girl"; this jerk attacked me, and him making light of it was not helpful. Having composed it, I did not feel compelled to mail it. And I didn't.

Instead, my father hand-delivered my letter to the judge. Obviously, I didn't ASK him to do it, and now I've a bit peeved with him, too.

The judge then called and asked to see me. I complied, and he apologized to me.

There was a trial, with that same judge on the bench. I testified, Peggy and, I think, her mother testified. I'm not sure because I didn't hear it. They kept me out of the room, to see if our testimonies jibed; my father, who was in the courtroom, assured me that they did.

Then the Marine, his father, and I think his mother and/or his wife or girlfriend testified. This testimony I did hear, and the details were wildly inconsistent.

Anyway, I suppose you'd like to know the results of the trial. So would I. I never got word from the judge or his office as to the outcome. Since I don't remember the name of the Marine, perhaps I never will. To this day, I appreciate the actions of Peggy and her mother, neither of whom I've seen in decades.

First time I ever voted, in 1971, the judge was up for re-election on my absentee ballot. I didn't vote for him, though; I wrote in my father.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Actors from Other Shows QUESTIONS


The woman pictured above is Marisol Nichols, a socially aware young woman who I remember from a short-lived show from last year called In Justice. She played Sonya Quintano, an idealistic Latina trying to help get people falsely imprisoned out of jail. Now she's Nadia 'Natalie' Yassir, of Middle Eastern heritage, on "24". Her boss on "In Justice" was Charles Conti, played by Jason O'Mara, who's now the publisher Stuart Maxson on Men In Trees, and will play Philip Marlowe in an ABC-TV pilot.

Now, I happened to have enjoyed In Justice, in part because it had a different POV; that law enforcement sometimes gets it very wrong, and we need to be mindful of that, something that fuels, in part, my opposition to capital punishment, BTW.

Here's the first question: what obscure, not all that popular show or shows do you remember that have been a launching ground for performers? Two that come to mind were both Norman Lear productions. 704 Hauser, a 1994 show about the folks who moved in after Archie and Edith Bunker were gone. Don't remember much about it, except that it featured Maura Tierney, who now appears in E/R. The other is The Powers That Be, a 1992-93 show starring John Forsythe as Sen. William Franklin Powers, Holland Taylor, later of The Practice and Two and a Half Men, as his wife Margaret, Peter MacNicol (Ally McBeal, Numb3rs) as an aide, Valerie Mahaffey as the Powers' daughter Caitlyn Van Horne, David Hyde Pierce (Frasier) as her husband, the philandering Congressman Theodore Van Horne, Elizabeth Berridge (The John Larroquette Show) as Charlotte, the maid with whom Theodore was dallying, Robin Bartlett (Mad About You) as another aide, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Third Rock from the Sun) as Pierce Van Horne.
You can't name St. Elsewhere - not obscure enough.

Likewise, what movie seemed to spawn future stars, excluding American Graffiti, Taps, and movies directed by John Hughes?

One could take this in a literary way: a magazine or short story anthology that generated some big name writers.