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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

K is for Klezmer

In August, for Itzhak Perlman's birthday, I listened to a live album of KLEZMER music that he performed on. Classical violin virtuoso Perlman gives klezmer a certain cache that the music did not have heretofore.

Here he joins four klezmer groups "for a joyous get-together with unforgettable Klezmer melodies."

But what IS klezmer?

From this source:
Klezmer music originated in the 'shtetl' (villages) and the ghettos of Eastern Europe, where itinerant Jewish troubadours, known as 'klezmorim', performed at joyful events ('simkhes'), particularly weddings...It was inspired with secular melodies, popular dances, 'khazones' (khazanut, Jewish liturgy) as well as with the 'nigunim', the simple and often wordless melodies intended by the 'Hasidim' (orthodox Jews) for approaching God in a kind of ecstatic communion. In (mutual) contact with Slavonic, Greek, Ottoman (Turkish), Arabic, Gypsy and -later- American jazz musicians, the 'klezmorim' acquired, through numerous tempo changes, irregular rhythms, dissonance and a touch of improvisation, the ability to generate a very diversified music, easily recognizable and widely appreciated all around the world.

The Wikipedia definition of klezmer, and another example.


This article notes the decline of klezmer in the 1950s and 1960s. But the music was "revived on US records in the late 1970s. In San Francisco, the Klezmorim released the earliest klezmer revival album I’ve seen — 'East Side Wedding' (1977 on the national Arhoolie label). It’s an eclectic mix of styles from the nearly frantic 'Trello Hasaposerviko (Crazy Dance)' to the melancholy 'Doina'."

I'm fascinated by this because I OWN 'East Side Wedding'! I must have bought it at a folk festival in the late 1970s or early 1980s, maybe at the Old Songs Festival that takes place every June in the Albany, NY area.

It's happy music, yet holds a certain wistfulness. I think that's why I am attracted to it.

A whole bunch more klezmer music.
***
Very seldom do I get to blog about comic books for my work blog. But some legal issues involving the late Jack KIRBY, the artist who created or co-created dozens of famous comic book characters, including Captain America, gave me that rare opportunity. You can read it here.

ROG

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September Ramblin'

I wrote recently about music that made me cry, and I left an important piece out.

When I first joined the Trinity UMC choir in the January 1983, the lead soprano was named Arlene Mahigian. She had an amazingly lovely voice, but more than that, she took a liking to me. Though I was almost 30, she, who had a couple grown sons, decided to become my "choir mom". Among other things, she'd take my robe home when it needed cleaning.

In the winter of 1984-85, she developed cancer. In March 1985, the choir performed the Mozart requiem. Arlene was unable to sing, but she was there in a wheelchair, not only to support the choir, but also her son Peter and her husband Leo as they performed the Adagio by Albinoni (or more likely, Giazotto.) About three weeks later, I visited Arlene in the hospital, her beautiful hair having all fallen out. She looked wan and pale and I don't even think she opened her eyes. I didn't know she even knew I was there until she squeezed my fingers; then I knew. She died the next day, and the Adagio reminds me of her.

I hadn't heard it in quite a long time until it was on public radio one morning in the past 10 days. I heard it, and about 2/3s of the way through, I just wept. Here are three versions; none are as plainspoken as Leo and Peter playing, which I can still hear in my mind's ear.
Version 1
Version 2
Version 3
***
William Safire died, and I'm a bit sad. It's not that I liked his politics; often, in fact, I loathed them. Nut he at least had some intellect to his position. The current crop of the right-wing, Glenn Beck, et al, are better inciting the crowd, but Safire had miles more candlepower.

But I once appeared in his On Language column. I can't believe it was so long ago: December 19, 1982. In a piece called Vox of Pop Sixpack, He talked about "Who speaks for the average man? Out of whose mouth comes the voice of the people? A bit of doggerel in the Presidential campaign of 1920, sung by the supporters of James Cox and Franklin Roosevelt, used the Latin term vox populi, for ''voice of the people'': ''Cox or Harding, Harding or Cox?/ You tell us, populi, you got the vox.'' At that time, the chorus of voices that intoned ''Harding and Coolidge'' went under the name of John Citizen for highbrows, Joe Zilch for lowbrows..." Then he cites my suggestion of Joe Sixpack.

I also wrote to him about my suggestion of the term lunaversary to note the marking of the celebration of a month; e.g., if you were married for a month, you might celebrate your first lunaversary. Far more accurate than "one-month anniversary", anni- referring to year, and far shorter to boot. Safire did not use it in his column, but he did type me a response suggesting that the idea had merit; I still have that blue postcard somewhere in the attic.
***
I find myself agreeing with Mark Evanier over the fate of Roman Polanski. The VICTIM has suffered enough; would it be "justice" if she were forced to testify at a media frenzy of a trial? I find her position paramount. She said six and a half years ago, when Polanski was up for an Oscar: "And, honestly, the publicity surrounding it was so traumatic that what he did to me seemed to pale in comparison."
***
Nova: Darwin's Darkest Hour - Tues., October 6 at 8 p.m. (but check your local listings)

This two-hour scripted drama presents the remarkable story behind the birth of Darwin's radically controversial theory of evolution and reveals his deeply personal crisis of whether to publish his earthshaking ideas or to keep quiet to avoid potential backlash from the church.
***
How to make a grilled cheese sandwich
***
What happens when the world's most popular comic book company is assimilated by the Mouse Factory


ROG

Monday, September 28, 2009

Roger Answers Your Question, Scott

Our next contestant is Scott, husband of Marcia (no, not my sister), father of Nigel and, since September 22 of Ian:

Who's going to win the NL pennant, the AL pennant, and eventually the World Series?

I thought in the beginning of the season the Red Sox would be the AL wild card but would get to the Series. Not feeling it any more. While the Angels COULD beat them, I got to think that the Yankees just seem too solid to lose.

Did you happen to read that cover story about Detroit in Sports Illustrated this week? I REALLY will be rooting for the Tigers, but I'm not seeing it happening. If it did, I'd be happy - shades of 1968. (Off topic: BREAK UP THE LIONS!)

I don't see the NL wild card (probably Colorado, though I'd prefer the Giants) winning the pennant. The Phillies have an unreliable closer and leave too many on base. Certainly can make the case for the Dodgers, but I'll go with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Want to say Cards win the Series - shades of 1964 - but I think the Yankees, shut out of the postseason last year, are ticked off enough to win it all - shades of 1928 and 1943.

Is there an entertainer (singer, musician, actor, all, etc.) that you first couldn't understand why they were even in the business, but now admire their work?

Yeah. Almost any singer-songwriter whose singing voice isn't pretty; the first is Bob Dylan, who I first knew as a singer, long before I heard that he wrote all of those songs that other people performed. Then I thought that he should ONLY be a songwriter. But given the number of Dylan albums in my collection, evidently I've changed my mind.

To a lesser degree, Neil Young: his voice wasn't as harsh as Dylan's so I did not have as far to travel to get to owning well over a dozen Neil albums, just as I own numerous Dylan discs.

Given how the media has access to so much information and gets to see so much of a famous person's life, do you think it's best to always steer clear of them being accepted as role models?

I think young actors and athletes and musicians are ill-served. If there was some sort of mechanism that said that when you reach a certain level of the profession you seek, you need some sort of counseling to make sure your head is on straight. I'm thinking of folks like the Mets' Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, who had too much money too quickly and screwed themselves up.

But everybody is a role model for someone. One can refuse to accept it - was it Charles Barkley who said that he wasn't role model for anyone? - but it doesn't alter the fact that he is. I'm a role model, you're a role model, even if we're unaware. And you don't even know when one's going to become a role model. The Phillies fan who catches a foul ball, hands the ball to his daughter who throws it back, then hugs his daughter; he's a role model. Now if he chewed out his daughter instead, he'd STILL be a role model, albeit not a very good one.

On the other side of this, who that is famous do you think is a good example of a good role model?

There are lots of athletes and performers who work for their various charities, sometimes with limited publicity nationally. That said, I've always been impressed with Bill Russell (Boston Celtics) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Milwaukee Bucks, LA Lakers) for the way they carry themselves. Kareem is also a JEOPARDY! winner - actually the week before I won - so that's also a plus. BTW, he's going to be on JEOPARDY! this season in a million-dollar celebrity invitational; someone's favorite charity will receive one million dollars at the end of the season.

What is your favorite show that is not shown on one of the big four networks (and Jeopardy!, though syndicated, counts as a big network show, since it's always found on one of their local affiliates)?

Scott, with that caveat, you know me too well. Actually, don't mind watching some of the daughter's shows such as Jack's Big Music Show (Noggin). But I suppose I'll pick The Closer on TNT; once you realize it's not a whodunit, but rather how the team discerns it, it's much more interesting. There were a couple particularly moving episodes this summer.

That said, there are SO many shows out there that I might be interested in watching, I pretty much say "no" more often than "yes" lately. Even in this new season, I've taped only three new network shows (Glee; The Good Wife - strong cast; and Modern Family) and I haven't watched ANY of them yet. My wife started watching Glee with Lydia - she mistakenly thought it was child-friendly.

You might have posted this already and I missed it, but had Lydia been a boy, what were your choices for a name?

Had to ask the wife. She claims we agreed on Micah, but I'm not convinced. Sounds too much like the ever-popular Michael. In all likelihood, the child would still be called Male Child Green.


ROG

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Roger Answers Your Questions, Jaquandor and Rebecca

Jaquandor of Byzantium Shores, the finest blogger in western New York AND a fashionista ahead of the curve, asks these questions:

Does David Paterson know what he's doing?

More often than he's given credit for, I think. On his Day 1, he's all funny and charming. On Day 2, he admits that both he and his wife were unfaithful, a brilliant move designed to make sure the state was not suddenly surprised by another sex scandal after Eliot Spitzer's downfall. It was a calculated risk that worked.

He was right to note the fiscal disaster the state was going to be suffering after the Wall Street collapse, as it affected our state disproportionally; not only was the state heavily invested, but a lot of New Yorkers lost their jobs on Wall Street in the market meltdown. Of course, the state, unlike the federal government, cannot operate in a deficit, so cutbacks and layoffs were inevitable. Part of Paterson's problem is that he was bearer of bad news.

He was also stifled by the second most dysfunctional state legislature in the country - I'm convinced California's is worse - and threw a Hail Mary by picking his own lieutenant governor in order to break the state Senate deadlock. I found and read the state constitution and decided that the lower court was right; that picking his own replacement, essentially, was beyond the scope of the emergency powers he was citing. I thought they would be used in cases where the legislature was wiped out by war or disaster that the state couldn't be allowed to flounder. Apparently, the Court of Appeals (which, for you non-New Yorkers, is the state's highest court) decided that the gridlock that took place for a month beginning June 8 WAS enough of an emergency that picking his own lt gov WAS kosher. So kudos to him.

Now, he royally messed up the appointment of Hillary Clinton's replacement for the US Senate. Don't know what that whole Caroline Kennedy dance was. But while Kirsten Gillibrand was not a popular choice downstate at the time, notice how her primary opposition has melted away.

This is not to say that I've agreed with all of his decisions. His unilateral decision NOT to tax the rich more, lest they leave the state, seemed tone deaf to me.

So his abysmally low poll numbers surprise me a bit. There is a local public radio force named Alan Chartock of WAMC who believes part of his problem is him being characterized as a bumbler on Saturday Night Live a few times, much the same way that Chevy Chase's portrayal of Gerald Ford established the President as clumsy. There was a poll a while back (Siena or Marist College ran it) that said that 7% of the population felt negative towards Paterson because of how SNL portrayed him. Wow, didn't think that SNL still had that much pull, outside of Tina Fey's Sarah Palin last year.

I'll be curious how he does on Meet the Press today, rerun on other NBC networks during the week. You KNOW that David Gregory has to ask him about the report that the Obama people didn't want him running for governor in 2010, which would not come from legitimate channels right before the President visited the Capital District on Monday.

Photo by John Hebert

To what degree is the eBook the way of the future? (I assume we all grant that there will be eBooks, but how much will they take over?)

Actually, I'll ask you this, since you read and watch science fiction: do you EVER see people reading books or newspapers in the futuristic portrayals? I don't recall any.

I think more the question is how much will paper products stick around? There were a couple pieces in Entertainment Weekly recently - pretty sure Stephen King was one of them - that discussed the visceral pleasure of the book - how it feels in the hand, how it smells, how it is laid out, how you can fan the pages to create a breeze (I'm doing this from memory and may have made up that last one) - that the electronic equivalent can NEVER replicate.

There's a private high school in New England that in 2009 got rid of all of its books, replaced by eBooks. The headmistress said that the students were thriving. If experiences like that "take", then the books will become like vinyl records; they'll still be around, but marginalized. Conversely, if there is a pushback from educators who say our kids NEED the actual manipulation of pages - and, IMO, they do - then the flow will be stemmed, though not stopped.

Of course, eBooks might be replaced by something else - remember how ubiquitous the VCR used to be? - are replaced by some sort of computer chip that goes directly into our brains.

There are, by my rough estimation, about fifty thousand books about the Beatles. Can you recommend a couple, to help narrow it all down?

You are a relative newbie to the Fabs, so I'd start with The Beatles by Hunter Davies, one of the first. It's pretty thorough without overwhelming (e.g., the Beatles Anthology), though ends before the end of the group, if I remember correctly. Beyond that, it would depend on what you're really interested in: their songwriting, the recording techniques, their lives, Beatlemania. Many dismiss Philip Norman book Shout! as anti-Paul, but few doubt his thoroughness and it's a good read; he has a newer book I haven't read that seems to be better received. Peter Brown's The Love You Make is "an insider's story", and is interesting at that level. There's a relatively recent book Can't Buy Me Love that has reviewed really well, but I haven't actually read.

My personal favorite, actually, is The Beatles: An Illustrated Record by Roy Carr & Tony Tyler. It was about the recordings, and it was at the point where I (thought I ) knew everything about them, but I was basing my knowledge on the US LPs I bought; this book totally upended my understanding. But now the CDs are out in the "British" order, so it wouldn't have the same effect, I imagine.

I'd love to hear the opinions of sages such as Fred Hembeck and Johnny Bacardi on this topic.


Rebecca from 40 Forever, who is intelligent, attractive and personable - naturally she's a librarian - asks:

How many guitars are in Rochester's famous House of Guitars?

37,326.

Actually, the website says "it's home to an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 guitars and 4 million albums, CDs and tapes."


Meant to get to Scott's questions, but I still feel not great and I may be the healthiest of the three of us. Certainly feeling better than the wife, who took a three-hour nap yesterday. Anyway, Scott, before the end of the month. as the J5 title goes, "Maybe tomorrow."

ROG

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Lydster, Part 66: Dead Rock Stars

(I didn't have a blog in Lydia's first year; so here are photos from the summer of 2004. Today Lydia is five and a HALF, so here she is a little more than five years ago.)





I try really hard not to indoctrinate my daughter with my music. I want her to find her own way, and then pick and chose which of mine she's comfortable with.

But when Michael Jackson died, he was on TV ALL OF THE TIME. She inevitably heard some of his songs. ABC by the Jackson Five is immediately infectious for a child. We went on a car trip during July and I played the first disc from the J5 box set in the car. It's quite danceable, and now she knows who Michael Jackson is - well, usually; sometimes his morphed appearance confused her. She loves to dance in the house and the solo hits such as Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, Rock With You and Beat It will make her want to move her feet.

A fact that will shock you: I'm a big Beatles fan. I was watching lots of Beatles-related items such as some old videos around 09/09/09. Lydia wanted to know all about them. I said, "That's a group that was very popular when Daddy was growing up." Her next question: "Are they still alive?" Well, the drummer is still alive; his name is Ringo. And the guy...THERE...his name is Paul." Since both John (d. 1980) and George (d. 2001) passed away before she was born (2004), it's all ancient history to her. She asked over and over about their state of mortality - "Is that one dead?"

Subsequently, EVERY group she heard me play was the Beatles. Sometimes, it WAS the Beatles, but more often it was not. I was slow on the uptake as to why she was so honed in on the Fab Four. It was because of the animated program The Wonder Pets.

From the Amazon description: "The Wonder Pets! get groovy in the newest release, 'Save the Beetles!' Yes, the Wonder Pets are called up on the ol' telly with a request for help from four members of a famous rock band, the Beetles, whose yellow submarine has gotten tangled up in kelp. As they journey to rescue them, they'll dive straight into Beatlemania pop-culture (and reference numerous Beatles song titles and lyrics along the way!)" She saw this episode at least twice on TV - and I watched it myself at least once. THIS was the real jumping off point.

Mary Travers just died, and on ABC World News, what does the daughter here but "Puff, the Magic Dragon"? I'm singing along, and Lydia asks, "How do YOU know that song? I learned it in day care." Well, dear, long before you heard it at school, I heard it on the radio.


ROG

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Walkers


My father's first cousin Ruth was going through some old pictures at her mom Jessie's house and I received this old picture from before I was born, even before my parents were married, circa 1948. She sent the pic to one of my sisters, and she forwarded it to me.

The men in the picture are Ruth's father Earl Walker, my father's eldest uncle; Morris Walker, uncle to both Ruth and my father; their aunt Jessie's "friend", Dick Wallace; and my father, Les Green.

Earl's wife Jessie was called "Earl's Jessie", to distinguish her from Earl's (and Morris' and my grandmother Agatha's) sister Jessie. I remember Earl quite well and Morris a fair amount, but Dick died before I was born.

From my sister Marcia's collection:

My father (center) with his mother, Agatha (right). She was my first Sunday school teacher, and she taught me how to play canasta. She died when I was about 10. I have no idea who the others are, though the boy surely looks like a Walker.

This is the day before the date my father would have turned 83, and really, that's all I've got.


ROG

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bleah

Tegan had a blogpost, the title and the sole content of which was "Bleah". I can relate.

The daughter and I both are suffering our seasonal allergies. The ragweed count has been low, but the grass has been moderate, and three days ago, was high. More than anything, this affects the sleep. I might spend nine hours in bed, but the first hour I spend coughing. Then when I DO get up in the morning, I'm logy. Everything aches and the legs feel as though they weigh 1000 pounds apiece.

The wife was so concerned about the daughter that she took her to the doctor, who confirmed that it was allergies, not a cold, that she has been suffering from.

My work computer I've had to shut down at least once every single workday for the past week and a half. And Ctrl-Alt-Del doesn't work; I have to hard boot it. Seems to have something to do with Adobe.

At home, every time I go back to the computer, there is an "unresponsive script", even when I'm looking at something not very graphical, such as my Gmail. I seem to have downloaded an unauthorized version of Windows somehow; "You may be a victim of software counterfeiting," I'm told by my computer. I got a replacement printer, but it isn't recognized by the computer.

And I put air in the bike tire on Thursday, but by Sunday, it was flat; now I need to take it to the shop, because I don't know what's wrong.

The good thing about feeling lousy is that I get more work done in the office. I have to concentrate really hard on what I'm doing, lest I lose track, and the bottom line is that I'm more efficient because I'm necessarily more focused.

I'll miss choir rehearsal tonight, so I can attend this, but that's not all bad, since my throat's so scratchy, I can't sing a thing right now anyway.

So, bleah. Regular blogging will return tomorrow. Guaranteed, actually, since it's already done. Then Saturday's done in my head. Sunday, I answer questions.

This too shall pass.

ROG

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

That Equinox Tradition! Ask Roger Anything!

Ask Roger Anything comes at a really opportune time. Answering your questions really revs up the batteries. Leave your questions in the comment section, or if you're really shy, e-mail them to me.

I don't know about other bloggers, but I need the relationship that blogging can provide. Often, and this is both counter-intuitive and slightly nerve wracking, I'll go look at other blogs when I "should" be working on my own. This is not so I can steal from them, though a meme or six has come that way, but because I need the electronic esprit de corps.

A little bit ago, I noted that I don't really write this blog and that I often have the content of a piece go in a different direction than I had initially planned. Likewise, I learn a lot from commenting elsewhere, including about me.

From Gordon's noting the passing of a friend, I learned how much I regretted dropping - 20 years ago! -a methodology that I used to use to keep up with friends. From ADD's piece on creator rights, I realized that there is a parallel between those who want to protect the status quo ("they signed the damn contract; it's their own fault") and some forms of Christianity, which I will call fundamentalism (not a great word, really, but understood - or misunderstood well enough for this purpose). Whereas trying to create a more equitable distribution of wealth fits into (my) loosey-goosey "liberal" theology that suggests that getting to the right end is more important than the literal reading of "the law".

So back to the issue at hand, just about anything goes. I do not recall a question yet that I did not answer, and answer with the truth; the whole truth and nothing but the truth will cost extra.
***
Brian at Coverville played my John Hiatt-Elvis Costello request, the lowest rated song on the show, alas!
***
Also Musical: Jaquandor's ten film scores, or filmscores.
ROG

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

J is for Jesus

I suppose a couple caveats in order: I am a Christian, but I have no desire to proselytize. Conversely, I have no desire to mock the faith. Surely one or more people will think I'm doing one or the other.

I thought this Time magazine cover(#) was a fairly accurate representation of what Christianity looks like; it depends on the point of view.

Take, for instance, the physical characteristics of Jesus. He was not depicted in art until decades after walking the earth. What did Jesus look like? Looking in the Bible, there appears to be no description whatsoever, except an interpretation of Isaiah 53:2, which says, "He has no form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him". If this is in fact referring to Jesus, and the subsequent verses of the chapter are used in Messiah (Handel) as Jesus verses, then this Jesus fellow was rather plain-looking.

There's a lengthy Wikipedia description about the depictions of Jesus. My favorite section is on this point: "But when the pagan Celsus ridiculed the Christian religion for having an ugly God in about 180, Origen (d. 248) cited Psalm 45:3: 'Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, mighty one, with thy beauty and fairness.' Later the emphasis of leading Christian thinkers changed; Jerome (d.420) and Augustine of Hippo (d. 430) argued that Jesus must have been ideally beautiful in face and body. For Augustine he was 'beautiful as a child, beautiful on earth, beautiful in heaven'." So humans, using their own sensibilities, created the appearance of Jesus in their own image of what he (or He) must have looked like. The beard and long hair was copped, ironically, from the image of competing "gods".

So, the "standard" look of Jesus is understood to look something like this:


But of course, there are blond Jesus portraits:


In many homes, in the 1960s United States, there were pictures of Jesus that looked more like this montage:

Some folks saw the depiction of a black Jesus as a source of pride, while others called it blasphemy. Given the Biblical directive way back in Genesis that God made humans in God's image, it seems as though people feel compelled to return the favor.

I was going to continue on a slippery slope of the differing philosophies of various Christian denominations, and the various depictions of Jesus as everything from a Pascal (sacrificial) lamb to a guy who turned over tables in righteous anger, but instead I'll just leave you with this delineation of church memberships in the United States.

Oh, and this story: back in 1995, when I was still a Methodist, I was in a class called Disciple, where we poured through the whole Bible in 34 weeks. Among other things, one week's exercise was to go to a faith community different from your own; getting out of one's comfort zone is something I am in favor of.

As it turned out, there was a Coptic church in Albany at the time. The Coptic church is the Egyptian Orthodox church. The service, mostly in Arabic, but some in English, lasted over three hours! After the service, I had a conversation with a knowledgeable member. Everyone who participated in communion drank from the same cup; they did not worry about communicable diseases because the Lord would not let that happen in the Sacrament. As a non-Orthodox, I was not invited to partake of communion, although a Roman Catholic, who believe in transubstantiation, could have. In fact, the gentleman, in the nicest possible manner, assured me that I was going to hell for my Protestant beliefs. It was all VERY interesting how different the teachings of Jesus can be interpreted.

(#) First three images from LIFE, for personal non-commercial use only
ROG

Monday, September 21, 2009

One Long Meme (Part One)

Sunday Stealing again. Some of these questions assume that I would be eligible to date, which I am not, biut I'm answering them anyway in the spirit of the meme.

1. The phone rings. Who will it to be?

Lately, it's been a prerecorded message urging me to vote for one candidate or another. Thank Allah the primary was last Tuesday. Also, I love caller ID.

2. When shopping at the grocery store, do you return your cart?

Generally. There are a couple waystations in the parking lot that I might use instead. In fact, when I see a shopping cart out in the street a few blocks away, and I'm heading to, or even near the grocery store, I'll walk it back.

3. In a social setting, are you more of a talker or a listener?

Depends. Mostly a listener unless I'm asked or if I have something significant to say.

4. Do you take compliments well?

Depends. If it's something over which I have no real control over, such as my looks, then no; seems somehow superficial. If it's something I accomplished, then usually yes, but just don't overdo it.

5. Do you play Sudoku?

No. I sussed it out and decided that either I would find it too frustrating or too boring.

6. If abandoned alone in the wilderness, would you survive?

Probably not. Likely would eat some lethal berry and die.

7. Did you ever go to camp as a kid?

Yes, and I did not enjoy it.

8. What was your favorite game as a kid?

I loved all sorts of card games: canasta (with my grandmother and great-aunt), 500 rummy, pinochle (with my parents), gin rummy (with my grandfather), bid whist (with my parents); that's pretty much chronologically how I learned. Also played Scrabble a lot.

9. If a sexy person was pursuing you, but you knew she was married, would you?

Too complicated. Not worth it.

10. Could you date someone with different religious beliefs than you?

Well, yeah, but it would break down in due course.

11. Do you like to pursue or be pursued?

Be pursued. I'm lousy at reading signals.

12. Use three words to describe yourself?

Curious, introspective, aural.

13. Do any songs make you cry?

Lots of songs make me cry. There are church hymns. The Barber adagio (about 6 minutes in an 8 minute version). Some old songs bring me back to a great moment. I had a whole coterie of songs that I would play when I had a romantic break up, including First Night Alone without You by Jane Olivor and Stay With Me by Lorraine Ellison.

14. Are you continuing your education?

Every day is an education.

15. Do you know how to shoot a gun?

I've only fired a shotgun once.

16. Have you ever taken pictures in a photo booth?

Used to do at the Woolworth's all the time, when there WAS a Woolworth's.

17. How often do you read books?

I start and stop. Read for days at a time then not for a couple weeks.

18. Do you think more about the past, present or future?

Present. I remember the past well enough, and the future's just not knowable.

19. What is your favorite children’s book?

Bartholemew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss. Speaking truth to power. And oobleck is green.

20.What color are your eyes?

Bloodshot. Er, I mean Brown.

21. How tall are you?

5"11 5/8" when I got measured by my draft board.

22. Where is your dream house located?

I was kind of waiting for Bernie Madoff to give me one of his. Actually, I have no idea how to answer that. There are characteristics I'd like (movie viewing room for one), but I don't dream about houses. I think I'm a renter at heart, though we've owned our current house for nine years.

23. If your house was on fire, what would be the first thing you grabbed?

Probably a folder with a bunch of CD-ROMs containing photos.

24. When was the last time you were at Olive Garden?

This summer. Someone gave us a gift certificate. Before that, before we were married and that's a decade.

25. Where was the furthest place you traveled today?

To work via the Y.

26. Do you like mustard?

I love mustard. I use it on every sandwich meat except poultry. It goes into deviled eggs. Here's something revolting: when I was a kid, and I had to eat canned beets, I would put mustard on beets. It's not that I liked mustard that much; it's that I HATED canned beets, and at least the mustard would mask the beet taste.


ROG

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Guilding Light's Out


The end of the 72-year run of the soap opera Guiding Light, started in 1937 on the radio, and since 1952 on television, probably got more play on CBS recently than the show has garnered in years. Stories on both 60 Minutes (along with Barack Obama and Teddy Kennedy, FCOL,) and CBS Sunday Morning showed that the institution was finally getting its due, even if it was to sound its death knell.

When I was a kid, my grandmother and my great aunt used to watch their "stories" almost every day. Binghamton, in the early 1960s, only had two TV stations, Channels 12 (CBS) and 40 (NBC), and only one was a VHS station that did not require rabbit ears, and that was the former, WNBF.

So they would watch Edge of Night and Secret Storm, which were on, if I remember correctly, at 3:30 and 4 pm, respectively. I saw them often enough that I was reasonably familiar with the story lines and characters. But the other CBS shows they watched, The Guiding Light and Search for Tomorrow, were on while I was at school. This bout of soap watching ended when I was old enough to go to my own home after school rather than to my grandma's, at some point between fifth and seventh grade.

I did watch many of the soaps in February 1975, but I was depressed.

When I was a Census enumerator in 1990, after I had made my initial daytime passes to the homes, I had to concentrate on nights and weekends. So I was home a lot during the day. I caught on NBC a soap called Generations, followed by Days of our Lives and Another World. Generations got canceled in 1991, and Days had some plot line so ridiculous, even by soap opera standards, that I dumped it in 1992 or so. Another World I watched until a week before it ended in 1999, when Carol and I went to Barbados on our honeymoon. I could have taped them on the VCR, but there was only six hours of capacity, and I opted for prime time, season-ending fare. I keep hoping that the Soap Opera channel someday shows that last week of AW.

So, for some obscure reason, I watched the last episode of Guiding Light. It looks a LOT different than it used to. It's mostly outside, for one thing, and they don't appear to be using the same type of filming techniques.

There was a LOT of hugging in this episode, so much that if I had made it a drinking game, I would have had to have been rushed to the hospital with alcohol poisoning. To the degree I can tell, the lesbian couple are now happy because one member of the couple has made peace with her ex-husband, naming the baby she's carrying after him; one of the actress used to be on Days. The black couple finally gets married on its fourth attempt; good thing, too, because SHE'S pregnant as well. Some time before this, the black couple walks in on the interracial couple in the midst of them about to have sex. One young woman going away to college in California is suddenly joined by a second young woman, because her mother made a phone call to get her instantly admitted; while it's never stated where Springfield is, obviously it is far from California.

The only people in this show I know at all are the "supercouple", Reva and Joshua, who have each been married nine times, three times to each other. Will they get back together for good? That gets resolved in a One Year Later motif.

Was it worthwhile watching? Maybe not; tying up all those loose ends seemed terribly convenient. But there's something to be said for acknowledging a passing.
ROG

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Pirate Life QUESTIONS


Well, it's another Talk Like A Pirate Day. Frankly, I always thought I had an "in" in this pirate game. After all, my original name is Jolly Roger, though I have taken on the pirate name of Cap'n Jim Poopdeck for the nonce.

So, matey, I've got me some questions for you lubbers:

1. How many of the pirate laws do you follow? To be honest, I only got about one-fifth of them, but one of them is definitely #65.

2. Who are your favorite pirates? Here are some suggestions. If none of these are suitable, you may consider Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and I suppose, Oakland Raiders (but no L.A. Raiders; that was just WRONG). I've always been fond of Jean Laffite, Roberto Clemente, Willie "Pops" Stargell and Daryle Lamonica. In fact, the last two times I ever wagered on a baseball game involved Pirates; 1979, "pop's team. Down 3-1 in the World Series to Baltimore, I picked them to win, in turn, Games 5 and 6. but I wasn't brave enough to pick them for game 7, which they also won. Arrrr!

3. You've no doubt heard about how Kayne West pirated the VMAs from Taylor Swift and how President Obama called him a jackass. There was a Twitter poll and 90% thought Obama was justified. The question: who are the other 10%?
a. people who don't think Obama should use the word "jackass"
b. people who don't think Obama should comment on popular culture issues
c. people who don't think Obama should talk at all
d. people who support the actions of Kayne West

4. I think the Muppet folks pirated Janice Muppet's name from Janis Joplin, but pirated the look from Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary, who died this week. Anyone else see the resemblance?





Jaquandor posted some PPM music videos though not including the one I REALLY wanted and in fact can't find anywhere, Big Blue Frog. Ironically, I CAN find that song being performed by...you guessed it, the Muppets.
I saw the trio numerous times on TV, probably including this one, plus live at a number of rallies for one cause or another.
***
Mark Evanier had a nice obit of Henry Gibson, who also died this week. His last Twitter post was an R.I.P. for Larry Gelbart. My favorite of his roles may have been one of his last ones, as the most peculiar judge, Clark Brown, on Boston Legal, where he'd purloin the scene from the other actors.

Friday, September 18, 2009

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: The Breakthrough by Gwen Ifill


Annoyed that I've started so many books without actually finishing them, when I saw Gwen Ifill's book The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama in audio form at the library, read by the author, I decided that this would be a more productive way to read a book. Then I got a whole bunch of new CDs and didn't listen to it at all for the first four weeks and had to renew it.

In her introduction, she addressed "the controversy" over her moderating the debate between Vice-Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. As you may recall, there was a considerable amount of flak suggesting that she should disqualify herself as moderator because writing this book would have made her biased towards the Democrat, Biden. As it turned out, she did moderate the debate; I thought her effectiveness in cutting off the rambling and non-answers to her questions - Palin famously said she was not going to answer question A but would instead answer with stump speech response B - was compromised. Ifill in the book and also on Meet the Press expressed her discomfort of being the subject, rather than the reporter, of the story.

It's almost too bad she couldn't have shared her notes of the book, because this is no love story about Obama. It's about how the various factors, not the least of which is race, played in the campaign. And the campaign's outcome, whether he won or he lost, was largely irrelevant; if he had lost, she might have to change some conclusions but little else.

The early chapters served as a rehash, an instant history of the campaign, with issues of, e.g., how some black female politicians were split as to which "first" they should be supporting, a first black president or a first woman President. Likewise, black men supporting Clinton or white women supporting Obama were seen in some circles as traitors to their race or gender, an issue white men did not have to deal with.

But the bulk of this book is not about Barack Obama at all, or only peripherally. It's covering an array of young black leaders who came to the fore in this century. Some are sons of black leaders, such as Harold Ford and Jesse Jackson, Jr. Others are mayors or other local politicians. Whole chapters are dedicated to Corey Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ; Artur Davis, congressman from Alabama who wants to be governor; and Deval Patrick, who became Massachusetts governor, as Ifill points out, not even having been elected dogcatcher in the state.

The common thread for almost all these politicians is this: they are relatively young, they are impatient and don't feel they have to "wait their turn". They respect the old guard civil rights leaders but aren't beholden to them. And their strategy of getting elected generally involves appealing to white voters and hoping black voters will understand and eventually follow.

This happened with Barack Obama. Despite a revisionist culture that suggested that the black population was always going to go with the black candidate, polls in South Carolina in December 2007 had Obama losing the South Carolina black vote by two to one, in large part because the Clintons had paid their dues to the black community nationally and Barack had not. It was not until the Iowa primary, when Obama won a 98% white state, "transformative" as Ifill quotes Obama aide David Axelrod, that black people flocked to Obama in SC, and he won the primary handily. The reason Bill Clinton's remark about Jesse Jackson winning the state twenty years earlier was seen as racially insensitive, Ifill suggests, is that something very different took place. Jackson may have won because he was black; Obama won, almost in spite of that fact.

For Obama's campaign, quite consciously avoided talking about race, which may comforted whites ("post-racial!") but became a concern in some blacks that he didn't address their specific concerns during his campaign. In fact, if it weren't for the Jeremiah Wright controversy, Ifill notes, he probably would not have talked about race at all.

The chapter that most resonated with me was the one on Deval Patrick. He attended the Milton Academy in Massachusetts, and when he was home back in Illinois on a break, his sister taunted him with "you talk like a white boy!" Ifill reports how, decades later, that really stung him, and maybe still does a little. (All I'll say on this point is: boy, can I relate.)

I should note that she reads her own prose well, although one can sometimes tell when the recording breaks occur because the new text is slightly louder or softer. And I don't know if this is intentional, but occasionally, when quoting certain speakers, she seems to be taking on their vocal patterns and accents as well.

I'm glad I "read" this book. While the early chapters retold what this political junkie already knew but might have forgotten, the non-Obama chapters, particularly the ones on Booker, Davis and Patrick, were especially interesting. An Amazon review the last chapter as reading "a little like a baseball scouting report from the minor leagues, listing the hottest young prospects for future seasons"; I agree with that assessment.
***
From Salon: What role does race play in who likes the president? His BLACK support is higher now than on Inauguration Day. The Blackening of the president by Joan Walsh.
***
Barack Obama's coming to Troy, NY on Monday.

ROG

Thursday, September 17, 2009

You say you'll change the constitution


I happened to be flicking through the channels this past weekend. C-SPAN 3 was showing a 1958 interview of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas for the ABC show Mike Wallace Interviews. Wallace asked Douglas, who was very strong on First Amendment rights, where he stood on the classic case of a man yelling fire in a crowded theater. Douglas didn't take the interviewer's bait. He stated that it would be an incitement to riot, that it was illegal and should be illegal. That example is one often used to show that there are restrictions, even on things as fundamental to the American experience as the Bill of Rights.

As a recipient of a lot of right-wing material, you would think that the Second Amendment was imperiled. This is just a taste:

Dear Concerned American,

The great pay-back has begun, and it's going to be ugly.

Liberals in Congress are paying back the anti-gun extremists who put them in office, and Barack Obama's H.R. 45 is the first step...

...and it's a big step....

I'm sure I don't have to tell you that gun registration is the first step on the road toward totalitarian confiscation of all firearms by a federal power.

In fact, the most brutal dictators of the last century were famous for their gun registration and confiscation schemes.

It was easy work for Hitler's brown-shirt Gestapo to confiscate the firearms of German citizens because years earlier, well-meaning liberals had forced all guns to be registered with the government ... all in the name of safety.

When Hitler came to take their guns, he had a list of who owned every gun and where they lived!


Ah, the Hitler comparison. Again.

If a two-day waiting period, a written exam and a gun tax aren't infringing our rights, I don't know what is!

This harangue despite a major victory in the Supreme Court last session.

Here's the thing: the Second Amendment rights aren't without limits either. We restrict guns to minors, to convicted felons (boy, I wish that actually worked better) and certain other groups of people.

Which brings me to those folks who somehow believe that packing heat when the President comes to town should be protected. Here's, of all people, "Morning Joe" Scarborough on the August 23, 2009 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

And, and it seems to me that leaders on both parties, Democrats and Republicans alike, have a--have an affirmative responsibility to step forward and speak out against this hate speech and speak out against people carrying guns to rallies...As a guy with a 100 percent lifetime rating with the NRA, I can tell you that not only hurts those of us who believe in Second Amendment rights, it makes the job of the Secret Service so much harder and our law enforcement personnel so much harder.

Joe is, of course, right. I think it's insane for antagonistic people to be packing heat around the President. Think of the history of this country: four Presidents assassinated, all by the gun; at least five attempts on Presidents using firearms. Not to mention two prominent candidates in my lifetime shot four years apart: Bobby Kennedy in 1968 (assassinated) and George Wallace in 1972 (paralyzed).

My great fear ids that either the President will get shot at (or worse), or the Secret Service will end up shooting a guy with a gun when he makes what they perceive to be a threatening move; the brouhaha after THAT debacle would make the summer town meetings look like a picnic.

I'd rather the Secret Service restrict the use of firearms around POTUS rather than have him risk his life trying to prove that he isn't going to take away their guns; they already believe he's stripping them of their weapons regardless.

ROG

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I is for Instant Runoff Voting


Elections in most of the United States are dominated by one of, or if one is lucky, by the two major political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. People often complain about the Tweedledee/Tweedledum nature of voting, having to select the "lesser of two evils", or, as is almost as likely as not, decline from voting at all.

Ever since I heard about Instant Runoff Voting would be a solution to a multitude of problems in the American system. Here's how IRV works:

Voters rank candidates in order of choice: 1, 2, 3 and so on. It takes a majority to win. If a majority of voters rank a candidate first, that candidate is elected. If not, the last place candidate is defeated, just as in a runoff election, and all ballots are counted again, but this time each ballot cast for the defeated candidate counts for the next ranked candidate listed on the ballot. The process of eliminating the last place candidate and recounting the ballots continues until one candidate receives a majority of the vote. With modern voting equipment, all of the counting and recounting takes place rapidly and automatically.

IRV acts like a series of runoff elections in which one candidate is eliminated each election. Each time a candidate is eliminated, all voters get to choose among the remaining candidates. This continues until one candidate receives a majority of the vote.


In most places in the US, a candidate is awarded a seat and wins the most votes in an electoral area; a majority vote is not required to win. Thus the winner in a race with more than two candidates may not represent the majority of the people.

Let's take three mythical candidates and call them, Bush, Gore and Nader. Say that a goodly number of voters are inclined to vote for Nader but see in the polls that he's trailing the other two. His supporters might well reluctantly vote for one of the other two, or not bother voting. Nader ends up with say 6% of the vote, with Bush and Gore each with 47% each; which ever one ekes out a victory will not be supported by a majority of the voters.

But let's say IRV were in place. Perhaps Bush and Gore garner 40% each and Nader 20%, most likely of a higher number of actual voters, because the citizens are not afraid that their initial vote has been "wasted". The Nader vote will be distributed among those who picked Bush or Gore as their second pick. If 11% picked Bush and 9% picked Gore, then Bush would win.

This also addresses the issue of those places, such as the state of Louisiana, that require a runoff election when neither candidate reaches the majority threshold. A runoff is expensive, and ironically usually brings out a smaller number of voters. IRV will eliminate the need of having a second go-round at all.

There are places in the US that already use IRV or some variation, but it appears more popular elsewhere in the world.

One element proponents here seem to make a point of NOT stressing is the possibility that the system is more likely to generate a third-party winner. Using the old example, lets say it's Bush 35%, Nader 35% and Gore 30%; it would then be Gore's votes that would be split between the remaining two candidates. I think proponents don't want to scare the guardians of the status quo.

Something that excites me as an Oscar buff is the fact that in the past month the Motion Picture Academy has adopted Instant Runoff Voting for the Best Picture balloting. It was used "by the Academy in Best Picture voting before 1945, which was the last time ten pictures were nominated...The nominee with the fewest votes is eliminated, and ballots cast for that film are moved to voter's next choice among the remaining films. The process continues until one film has more than half the votes and is declared Best Picture of the Year...

"Earlier this year, the Academy announced that it would expand the Best Picture category from five to 10 nominees. Given that the nomination threshold will now be about a tenth of the vote, keeping the 'first-past-the-post' voting system where voters can indicate a preference for just one choice would theoretically allow a film to take home the Oscar despite being potentially disliked by 89%. With IRV in place, the Best Picture winner is sure to be preferred by a large share of Academy members."

Let's say that Oscar voters, confusing box office success with quality, nominate Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen for best picture. Under the old system, 11% of the voters could determine that it was the finest film of 2009, even if 89% thought it was dreck. With IRV in place, more of a consensus will be reached within the Academy.

ROG

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Vote for Your Favorite Advertising Icon and Slogan

USA Today and Advertising Age are sponsoring this year's Advertising week Walk of Fame. In the inaugural year of 2004, five icons five slogans were selected; in subsequent years, it's been two and two. Last year's icons were the Geico Caveman - disappointing to me, given the more established choices available - and the Serta (mattress) Sheep. the slogans were "We deliver for you" (US Postal Service) and, in an interesting pairing, UPS' "What can brown do for you?"

Here are this year's icon nominees (with year first used, if noted):

AOL Running Man (2003) - seems unlikely; a now-marginal player
Big Boy (restaurants) (1936) - now that's an icon, though I always thought of it as a regional chain
Budweiser Clydesdales - I only see them in Super Bowl ads; doesn't quite seem right
Burger King (2004) - not only do I find that plastic "the King" character creepy, it makes me LESS likely to buy the product. Whereas the nominated slogan, "Have it your way", is quite appealing.
California Raisins (1986) - seems like a short-lived fad
Captain Morgan (rum) (1944) - I'd consider this one
Crash Test Dummies (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) (1985) - would have thought Vince and Larry had been around longer
Doublemint Twins (Wrigley gum)(1939) - seems more like a concept than actual icon with a specific look
Fruit of the Loom Guys (underwear) (1975) - maybe some day
Jolly Green Giant (1928) - actually was my second choice; after all, he is, you know, GREEN
Keebler Elves (1968) - another one that needs to wait its turn
Little Debbie (snack cakes) (1960) - someday
Maytag Repaiirman (1967) - I think I have a bias against humans as icons
McGruff the Crime Dog (1979). AND the National Crime Prevention Council's "Take a bite out of crime" is up for best slogan; I think I'd be more inclined to vote for the slogan. Maybe someday.
Michelin Man (1898) - should win on seniority alone
Mr. Clean (1958) - iconic; my third choice.
Mr. Mucus (Mucinex) (2005) - WAY too new, and I didn't even know 1) that he had a name or 2) the name of the product, though I've seen the commercial dozens of times
MSN Butterfly (2002) - I happen to think it's boring and unmemorable
Roaming Gnome (Travelocity) (2004) - too new, and mildly irritating
Ronald McDonald (some restaurant chain) (1963) - if I were to pick a human, this is who I'd pick. Wouldn't pick the slogan "I'm lovin' it," though; never liked it.
Smokey Bear (U.S. Forest Service) (1944) - another Top 5 choice; too bad I can only vote once. And the slogan, "Only you can prevent forest fires", is also top five.
Subway Jared (sandwiches) - if picking a human like the Maytag guy was problematic for me, picking an actual person like Jared just won't fly with me. But the slogan, "Eat fresh", I'd consider.
Test Man (Verizon Wireless) (2002) - "Can you hear me now?" Yes, practically in my sleep. Too new, too human.
Toucan Sam (Froot Loops cereal) (1963) - I actually have a stuffed Toucan Sam. But there are characters more identified with their specific product.
Vlasic Stork (pickles) (1974) - they really used the real Groucho Marx in the early commercials! I did not know that. Top 10 choice.

But my pick is:

Snap, Crackle, Pop (Rice Krispies Cereal) (1941) - not only are these readily identifiable with their brand, they come with a nifty song (LOVE that counterpoint) with interesting lyrics.

Besides, I'm a cereal eater and I consumed a lot of Rice Krispies over the years, although almost none since I discovered that it is pretty much nutritionally void.

I'm not going to go through all the slogans, but I will give you my top three:
3. "Priceless" - MasterCard and 2. "Got milk?" - California Milk Processor Board; both of these have been so widely parodied as to become almost generic. But I'm picking the newspaper I've often read, "All the news that's fit to print" from the maybe-not-as-venerable-as-it-used-to-be New York Times, a motto that's also been spoofed ("All the news that fits," e.g.).

I do feel slightly guilty, though. As a business librarian, I probably should have voted for "I Love New York", if only to keep the award from going to "Virginia is for lovers" or Las Vegas' "What happens here, stays here". Here's one downstate ad, plus a whole slew of commercials linked here.

Also at the site: the WOF game

Voting ends at 6 p.m., Eastern Time, Friday, September 18. Only one vote per computer.

***
And speaking of voting:
Corey Ellis, a local coordinator for Barack Obama last year, is running for mayor of Albany, among many races here and across the state; the primary in New York State is today from noon to 9 pm upstate and from 6 am to 9 pm in New York City. Here's a Metroland story about Corey Ellis. Also, the Times Union endorsement of Jerry Jennings while noting that Mr. Ellis is right on many of the issues; most curious.
***
And speaking of curious:
Kayne West. Oy!
***
I'm sorry that Patrick Swayze died - somehow I ended up seeing this Barbara Walters special, with him and his wife talking about fighting his cancer - but actually I've managed to miss every movie that he made, even the ones I had planned to see such as To Woo Fong and Dirty Dancing. Well, except Ghost, which is feeling just a bit too on the nose right now.

ROG

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Random Dozen Meme

I'm Sunday Stealing again:

1. When you go to Wowmart, what one thing do you get every single time, besides a funky-wheeled squeaking cart full of frustration?

The heebie-jeebies. Since I never go there on my own, only with other people, usually those with whom I am related, I find that it's almost like suffocating.

2. What is something that people are currently “into” that you just don’t get or appreciate?

Probably a reality show that I haven't even heard of. I mean I never knew about Jon and Kate until their marriage went south, and now I hear about them ALL OF THE TIME. Oh, I know something else: Twilight. All I know about it is what I read in other people's blogs, none of it complimentary.

3. What is something that really hoists your sail that other people might feel “ho-hum” about?

Racquetball, the sport of kings. And I actually like to watch tennis tournaments such as the U.S. open and Wimbledon.

4. Favorite song to sing in the shower or car?

Oh, there's no singular favorite. It's often affected by my mood or what I've been listening to. On the bike, though, it's as often as not, "Keeping On Running" by the Spencer Davis Group; GREAT bass line.

5. A really great salad must have this ingredient:

Lettuce other than iceberg.

6. What advice in a nutshell would you give to new bloggers?

Write three days worth of stuff before you post your first item; otherwise, you'll have tabula rasa every day.

7. What was the alternate name that your parents almost named you? Do you wish they had chosen it instead of the one they gave you?

Actually, I was always going to be Roger, and my sister Leslie was going to be Leslie. I think my mom was pushing for Margaret for the baby sister, but Marcia was the compromise.

8. What in your life are you waiting for?

Very little. I find that waiting for even the weekend tends to diminish the time I'm in presently in. If it'd Wednesday and I want it to be Friday would mean Wednesday and Thursday are not being honored.

9. You get a package in the mail. What is it, and who is it from?

From my sister Marcia. Something she's passed on from my 18-year-old niece to my 5 year old daughter.

10. Today–what song represents you?

I'm So Tired by the Beatles.

11. What is one thing that blogging has taught you about yourself?

That I'm even more opinionated than I thought I was, and more disciplined.

12. How are you going to (or how did you) choose the clothes you’re wearing today?
What do they say about you in general or specifically how you’re feeling today?

Are they clean? Are they wrinkled? Do they vaguely match? Are they torn? If the answers are Yes, No, Yes, and Depends On Where And How Much, respectively, we're good to go. It means that clothes have never been that important to me.
***
I should note the passing of Larry Gelbart, writer of the TV show M*A*S*H (which I watched religiously), co-creator of the Broadway musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (hilarious, even in a local production I saw), and co-writer of Tootsie (a film I enjoyed), among many other credits, going back to working with Sid Caesar. But I'll just recommend this piece by Mark Evanier and also this one, which rightly points to this piece by Ken Levine.

ROG

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Let's Talk About Race. Again?

A few things I've seen have brought me back to the topic of race, not the least of which is Greg Burgas' declaration that he is not racist. A bold statement, that. Certainly, I don't recall anything he's written - I only "know" him electronically - that would suggest that he is. I wouldn't be bold enough, though, to say that I am without prejudice. I WOULD say that I work very hard to know what my biases are in order to counteract them.

I think the problem with race and racism generally is that we get caught up in these simplistic myths. Though the Civil War supposedly ended slavery in 1865 - as I noted in the talk I plugged here - there were vestiges of neo-slavery in the US that lasted up until World War II.

Or the notion that South was terribly racist, which it was, but that the North was just the epitome of racial tolerance. I'm thinking of Phil Ochs' songs such as Here's to the State of Mississippi or Neil Young's Alabama or Southern Man. By pointing out the sins of the South, it seems to have given the rest of the country a self-congratulatory free pass. Yet, it is the South, which has had to face its racism more directly, that now has more black mayors, black city council members than the rest of the country.

And the source of that attention to the South was not limited to the US. Mark Evanier posted this episode of Great Britain's That Was The Week That Was, a satirical review that ran in the early sixties, hosted by David Frost. Check out the piece starting about five-and-a-half minutes in that runs for three minutes or so; a warning - liberal use of blackface and the N-word.

The conclusion that a threshold has been met really never comes when the first person gets there. When Obama was elected, people - lots of people - seem to think that "We HAVE Overcome." It's NEVER that simple.

Jackie Robinson is the classic example; when he joined the Dodgers in 1947, did racism disappear from baseball? Of course not. It took a decade before every team had at least one player; if memory serves, the Yankees and the Red Sox were the last, a full decade after Jackie had broken the barrier, and indeed after Jackie had retired.

There are a lot of folks including Howard Stern, in his occasionally salty language, that believe that racism is what's at the bottom of the rampant hatred for President Obama. Probably, but I'm thinking about how prejudice has tread in the past eight years. After 9/11, there were lots of bigotry and even attacks on Arabs and Muslims, and people who some yahoos THOUGHT were Arabs or Muslims. Some black comedian said, in a widely-understood comment, "Now black people AREN'T the most hated people in America!"

Then we have Obama who is black, but it would be politically incorrect to attack him on that. So they can attack him on being Muslim! They're still fair game, aren't they? Throw in that he's a socialist, communist AND a Nazi - he REALLY needs to hone in on one philosophy and stick with it - and all vestiges that it's his race that is the problem are washed away. Except that, when you strip away all of the lies, the only truth left is his race.

I'm going to revisit this soon in the context of a book review.


ROG

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Autumnal aspirations QUESTIONS


What are you looking forward to this fall?

For me:
TELEVISION: the usual TV shows (JEOPARDY!, The Office, 30 Rock, news programs). The only new program I've recorded is Glee, and that only because Jane Lynch, who I liked in movies such as The 40 Year Old Virgin and Best in Show is in it. I haven't even read the TV Guide with all the new shows yet; anything else I should be watching?I'm already passing on Cougartown; the whole woman as "cougar" thing is bothersome to me.
Then there's sports. I'll probably watch more baseball in October than I did from April through September. Football, probably from Thanksgiving on, unless I get lucky.
CHURCH: Choir began last Thursday. Homecoming Sunday is tomorrow. And there's a wedding, but since the bride hasn't announced it yet, I shan't.
EVENTS: Definitely attending a talk by Douglas Blackmon, author of Slavery By Another Name on September 24 at the Albany Public Library. Really want to see the The Civil Rights Struggle, African-American GIs, and Germany photo exhibit at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY sometime in October.
Also want to go apple picking and leaf gazing, the latter preerably in Vermont.
***
Learn more about picture above here.

ROG

Friday, September 11, 2009

Well, it's 1-2-3, what are we fighting for?

Like most Americans, I remember September 11 exceedingly, and painfully, well. And when the United States invaded Afghanistan, as much as I dislike war, I did not protest. I understand the notion of self-defense; I even understand the notion of vengeance.
And I was no fan of the Taliban even before 9/11. I recalled that the Taliban wrecked this ancient (3rd century AD) Buddhist statue, the tallest Buddha figure in the world, and I recalled that it really ticked me off. So I figured that if these are the "bad guys", then our government, heck the world should root them out. And the world, including France, not so incidentally, responded.

But the mission got sidetracked by more Mesopotamian interests. And while there's a (legitimate?) government in place in Aghanistan, there seems to be no exit strategy after nearly eight years. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen said on NBC's Meet the Press last month, "From a military perspective, I believe we’ve got to start to turn this thing around from a security standpoint in the next 12 to 18 months." When asked what success looks like in Afghanistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said, "We’ll know it when we see it," a truly pornographic response, as more than one critic has noted.

But even George Will, for cryin' out loud, referred to our policy in Afganistan as Operation Sisyphus. There may be a legitimate reason for staying in Afghanistan, but like increasing number of Americans, I'm just not seeing it.

I've noticed that the National Day of Service and Remembrance is getting some flak. I don't object to it per se, but it's not really resonating with me.

My sentiment on this day in more in line with International Unity Day, proclaimed for today by the International Institute For Human Empowerment. Its unity pledge:
We welcome the advent of the new Millennium. We will meet its challenge by first acknowledging that our planet is rich with diversity, but one in humanity. Together we pledge that we will support only the programs and legislation that elevate all people toward equality. We desire to live in peace with our brothers and sisters internationally, and will work toward equity of opportunity in every area of our lives. We celebrate our commitment to improving international relations by living peacefully while sharing active concern for those less fortunate. Together we unite in our desire to end oppression, hunger, and poverty by seeking educational opportunities, including access to technology, for all.

Maybe it's a little soft and fuzzy mission, but that's how I feel on this day.


ROG

Thursday, September 10, 2009

School, Beatles, and other things

Yesterday was Lydia's first day of kindergarten. To say she did not want to go would be an understatement. She wouldn't get up, she wouldn't eat when asked (then suddenly when it was time to go, was ravenous) and mostly, she lost the ability to talk - all she could do was grunt and it was up to her parents to decipher the guttural sounds. The obligatory pictures all having her looking forlorn when she actually faced the camera. But when I got home last night, she was all smiles. I think she was afraid she wouldn't fit in, despite our best efforts to reassure her.

Not so incidentally, she's not attending the neighborhood school this fall, contrary to plans my wife Carol and I had made, but rather the school where Carol teaches. Carol had called the school a couple weeks ago and had left a message to this effect on the answering machine. She also called the district office but was directed back to the school. We never got a call from the local school until someone who sounded like a truant officer called, noting Lydia's absence.

We are disappointed that Lydia will not be able to attend the neighborhood school. The problem was that the school's relatively late opening time, 8:45 a.m., made it it impossible to drop her off and get to work at anything approaching on time. If a pre-school program had been available, it is quite likely that our school choice for Lydia would have been the neighborhood school.
***
I can't believe how sucked into the Beatles stuff I've gotten this week. I've taped every program and watched quite a few, although not yet the movies A Hard Day's Night or Help! or six hours of the Anthology series yet. I did watch this Beatles video collection which I loved. Penny Lane wasn't as good as I remembered it from when I was 13, but the version of Revolution (loud but with the do-be-do-wahs of Revolution 1) was great.

Some of these are being repeated through this weekend, if you want to tape them (times are Eastern, I assume, or maybe it's accurate for multiple time zones) on VH1 Classic.
Beatles Video Retrospective - Th 9/10, 4pm; Su 9/13, 3 pm
A Hard Day's Night - F 9/11, 7 pm; Sa 9/12, 2 pm;
Help! - F 9/11, 9 pm; Sa 9/12, 4 pm; Su 9/13, 1 pm
The Beatles Anthology Part 1 - Su 9/13, 5 pm
The Beatles Anthology Part 2 - Su 9/13, 7 pm
The Beatles Anthology Part 3 - Su 9/13, 9 pm

One segment that's NOT being repeated, as far as I can see, is this 2005 special about the Bangladesh concert, which I watched. It featured the late Billy Preston, who died 6/6/06; my, he did not look well. BTW, his birthday was widely reported as 9/9, but according to Billy's official website and some court papers, his birthday was 9/2, 1946.
***
The Ellie Greenwich Coverville cover story, which another fellow and I had requested.
***
Dateline:@#$!: Fred Hembeck Interviews Wonder Woman (Sept 8), featuring gratuitous mentions of the songs of a Motown legend. As Fred put it, "Take a look, should you be so inclined--it's WAY shorter than 'Watchmen' and just as likely to be ignored by Alan Moore!!"

ROG

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Number Nine Scheme


I'm always in favor of anything that gets the Beatles on the front cover of Entertainment Weekly, the Collectors' Choice Music catalog and undoubtedly other publications. But today's a mixed bag for me.

Since I'm not a gamer, the Beatles on Rock Band is an interesting sidelight. But what of the remastered box sets? As I've undoubtedly mentioned before, it's tough to pull the trigger on buying the same songs for at least the fourth time (US LP, UK LP, CD). Some of those early US LP as I had to buy twice because they were stolen in 1972. And some songs show up on more than one album (Vee Jay's Introducing the Beatles/Capitol's The Early Beatles; UA's A Hard Day's Night/Capitol's Something New) or on compilations (Rock 'N' Roll).

Yet, I had come to the conclusion that while I don't NEED one (or both) of these box sets, I would WANT to have them, particularly the mono box. Checking out the description of the mono set, it does NOT include the Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road and Let It Be albums, "as they were originally recorded in stereo", according to Amazon. But, if I understand correctly, the "double-CD set of mono singles, EPs and rare tracks... exactly mirrors the stereo 'Past Masters' collection, except it includes 'Only a Northern Song; All Together Now; Hey Bulldog', and 'It's All Too Much' [the four 'new' songs from Yellow Submarine] and excludes 'The Ballad of John and Yoko; Old Brown Shoe', and 'Let It Be'."

Which means if I DID get the mono set, I'd need to keep (or replace) those three albums (YS for the instrumentals) plus Past Masters 2. The calculations are hurting my head.

Ultimately, the reason I MIGHT take the plunge - when it's back in stock, as it's sold out until October - is this lost recollection. I got the first four Beatles CDs for free in 1987. My friend Broome bought them for me shortly after they came out. At the time I was resisting getting caught up in this new-fangled technology called the compact disc player until I was sure it would stick. Hey, I NEVER bought an 8-track!

Having four discs with NOTHING on which to play them he knew would drive me crazy, and it did. Ultimately, I got a CD player, and bought a half dozen other CDs (one couldn't have a CD player with just four CDs, could one?) including greatest hits of Elton John and Billy Joel plus Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms.

So those early discs in particular I can ALMOST justify replacing. Wait a minute...honey, Christmas is coming and the ONLY thing I want is...
***

Being a Beatles fan is a curse as much as a blessing. Someone at work came up to me just last week to ask me on which US and UK albums Doctor Robert appears. It's one of those things someone could easily Google, but it's apparently more fun to Just Ask Roger. Oh, it was Yesterday...and Today, and Revolver, respectively. I remember it so well because I thought it strange when it came out that the US version of Revolver had only two songs sung by Lennon, She Said She Said and Tomorrow Never Knows; Harrison had THREE songs. Doctor Robert, I'm Only Sleeping and And Your Bird Can Sing were stripped from the US Revolver and put on the US-only release, Y&T.

Then I was on Amazon, drooling over the mono box when I came across someone confused by early Beatles chronology. Some helpful bloke replied, "Meet the Beatles was the first Capitol Album in the US. It took some cuts from the Please Please Me album and their single I Want To Hold Your Hand." Unfortunately, that wasn't entirely correct and as a librarian, I just had to reply:
"Meet the Beatles was comprised of 9 songs from With the Beatles, plus the single, US B-side I Saw Her Standing There (from Please Please Me) and the UK B-side, This Boy. With the Beatles and Meet the Beatles both have the classic black and white photo.
"There WAS an album on Vee-Jay Records called Introducing the Beatles, which came out BEFORE the Beatles were big in the US, and the Please Please Me album was the source of THOSE songs, as well as a Capitol album called The Early Beatles, which came out as their fourth or fifth Capitol album."

It's a curse, I tell you.


ROG