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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bob & Dick


I've noticed quite often that when someone, say, at church dies, who I might have known for a couple decades, they always have a back story revealed at the funeral I would not have imagined. Whereas the stories of public figures - actors, singers, and the like - are usually well-known to me.

So I was surprised that I was surprised to learn much more about Robert Culp, the actor who died last week at the age of 79. Not only was he a performer but also a writer and sometime director, often of the series on which he was performing at the time.

I knew Culp him best as Kelly Robinson on I Spy, partnering up with Bill Cosby's Alexander Scott. Cosby was a well-regarded young comedian, but known for his stand-up routines, not dramatic performances. Yet Sheldon Leonard gave him the job, Cosby got three Emmys in three years, and Cosby and Culp became good friends.

But what struck me when I get to Gordon's very nice obit of Robert Culp was this book cover of the Whitman novelization Message from Moscow by Brandon Keith (1966). I read this story at least a few times in my early teen years, but oddly I don't remember that much about it, except for one thing: the villain was quite literally "hoist by his own petard."

I Spy: I watched that show religiously for the three years it was on. I venture to say 90% of black Americans watched it, just like most black folk watched Nat King Cole's short-lived variety show a decade earlier. There just weren't that many opportunities to see people of color on the screen - and when you did, they were often in minor, often demeaning roles. I appreciated how both Culp and Cosby demanded that Cosby's race not be a centerpiece of the show. I may have to go to HULU and catch an episode or two to see if it is as good as I remember it.
***
I should mention the passing of Dick Giordano, whose ascension to the position of DC Comics' editor-in-chief corresponded to me starting at the comic book store FantaCo, in 1980. I wasn't a big DC fan, but I did find myself picking up more of their books in the decade or so he was in charge far more than in the period before. I have a vague recollection meeting him once very briefly at the San Diego Comic Con, and he didn't SEEM like a corporate stuffed shirt. I suspect that was because, most of all, he was an artist, specifically a quality inker, so he was inclined to try to undersand and appreciate the artist POV. A much better remembrance here.
***
Oh, and this is coincidentally related. My buddy Steve Bissette has been musing at length about Forgotten Comics Wars of the mid to late 1980s. Subtitled How Angry Freelancers Made It Possible for A New Mainstream Comics Era (Including Vertigo) to Exist, it is a very interesting take on an era when I was actively involved in the retail comics biz. I was going to compile the 12 parts once they were all released, but Mark Evanier, bless him, beat me to it. And ME notes: "That last installment has bittersweet meaning because of the recent passing of Dick Giordano, who was in the midst of the controversy."
ROG

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

K is for Kindergarten


When my wife and I went to kindergarten in the 1950s (me) and 1960s (her), it was designed to acclimate us to going to school, learning how to be away from home, and an attempt to teach rudimentary things such as learning songs and telling time.

I still remember the Roman-numeraled clocks in my classroom, and the yellow rug that I, and a year later, my sister Leslie used to take our naps. In fact, I specifically remember once waking up at 11:45 a.m. and realizing that no one was there. I actually fell asleep at naptime, and Miss Cady let me sleep, knowing I would just get up and go home afterward. (If a teacher did that now, he or she almost certainly would be fired.)

The book pictured in this post above was/is actually a gift to my wife Carol from her family just before she actually went to kindergarten. The lead character in the book is coincidentally also named Carol.

But now my daughter is now in kindergarten, and it is far from the "children's garden" its name suggests. In the United States, it has evolved from that "transition from home to the commencement of more formal schooling" to the "first year of compulsory education." Where once kindergarten was where kids learned skills through creative play and social interaction," in half-day increments, it is now often the full-day entry level to the standard curriculum.


I mean, my daughter has HOMEWORK! Not just learn the numbers and letters, but adding numbers and combining letters to make words. It's far more rigorous than her mother and I experienced in the day.

There is this 87-page PDF from early in this century called Original Purpose and Development of Kindergarten in California, which addresses these issues

...kindergarten, inspired by precursor early childhood education concepts, included children from ages six and seven to as young as two and three. It sought to lead children gently “over the threshold of learning by the seductive charm of music, flowers, games, pictures, and curious objects.” Later, kindergarten was integrated into the first to 12th grade system, gradually and subtly changing its focus to emphasize emergent literacy and early academic skills. An apparent consequence was that the minimum entry age was raised several times to its current level. This philosophical divergence is still not fully resolved.

The daughter got a note home from school at the end of the semester, noting that she missed nine days from school, mostly for illness. We were informed that she won't pass into 1st grade if she misses more than 28 days for the year. Could she "fail" kindergarten? She IS graded on concepts such as "identifies sight words in text", "interprets data from graphs", and "communicates ideas, feelings and elements of design," and is doing well.

This is NOT her parents' kindergarten.

I'd write more, but I have to go help her with her homework now.


ABC Wednesday
ROG

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eight Ten Meme

Sunday Stealing, yet again:

TEN TO START.

1. Are you single?
No, married.

2. Are you happy?
Sometimes. Not as much as I could be.

3. Are you bored?
Almost never. In fact, if I have something to read, I'm never bored, even waiting in line.

4. Are you naked?
Not currently.

5. Are you a blonde?
Actually I was for a very brief time when I was 2 or 3.

6. Are you moody?
Occasionally. OK, maybe more than occasionally. But usually I hide it well.

7. Are you a lover/hater?
Try to be/try not to be; doesn't always work.

8. Are you hot/cold?
I tend to be too cold a lot more than I'm too hot.

9. Are you Irish?
I don't know. Quite possibly.

10. Are you Asian?
Probably not.

TEN FACTS.

1. Name:
Roger Owen Green.

2. Nicknames:
Rog; beyond that, I tend to avoid them, or actively reject them outright.

3. Birth mark:
None that come to mind.

4. Hair color:
Gray.

5. Natural hair color:
Gray; I'm just not that vain about it.

6. Eye color:
Brown. Or bloodshot.

7. Height:
5'11 5/8"

8. Facebook Mood:
Never set it. Don't even know where to set it. Don't care.

9. Favorite color:
Blue. Or green.

10. One Place to Visit:
Paris, France. As opposed to Paris, Texas.

TEN THINGS ABOUT YOUR LOVE LIFE.

1. Do you believe in love at first sight?
No. Lust, yes.

2. Do you believe in soul mates?
You mean the notion that there is just one person out there among the seven billion for you? No.

3. Ah, a missing question, where we get to speculate on what was so personal that the blogger declined to note it.

4. Have you ever been hurt emotionally?
Oh, goodness yes.

5. Have you ever broken someone’s heart?
Undoubtedly. That Neil Young song is running through my mind, only love can break your heart.

6. Have you ever been cheated on?
Yes.

7. Have you ever liked someone and not told them?
More than once.

8. Are you afraid of commitment?
All things considered, I'm better in a committed relationship than not.

9. Who was the last person you hugged?
My daughter.

10. Who was the last person you kissed?
My wife.

TEN THIS OR THAT.

1. Love or lust?
Yes.

2. Ah, another missing question.

3. Cats or dogs?
Cats. My daughter is wary of dogs. Actually she's wary of cats too, but not as much.

4. A few best friends or many regular friends?
A few best friends.

5. Television or internet?
It was TV for SO long, but I find I watch less and less.

6. Chinese Or Indian?
This is in reference to? If it's food, Indian.

7. Wild night out or romantic night in?
Romantic. I just never was that wild.

8. Money or Happiness?
Money won't make you happy. Happiness.

9. Night or day?
Day, about 10:15 a.m. Hey, Joe Jackson's album Night and Day I haven't listened to for a while.

10. MSN or phone?
Phone.

TEN HAVE YOU EVER.

1. Been caught sneaking out?
No, but I was caught sneaking back in.

2. Been skinny dipping?
Yes. This question seems to show up in these things. A lot.

3. Stolen?
Gum when I was seven.

4. Bungee jumped?
No.

5. Lied to someone you liked?
In all likelihood. Wait - yes.

6. Finished an entire jaw breaker?
Have no idea.

8. Wanted an ex bf/gf back?
Actually have dated exes.

9. Cried because you lost a pet?
Yes. My cat Tiger got run over by a car when I was about 12.

10. Wanted to disappear?
And sometimes did.

TEN PREFERENCES IN A PARTNER.

1. Smile or eyes?
Eyes.

2. Light or dark hair?
Dark.

3. Hugs or kisses?
Hugs. well, if she's a really GOOD kisser...

4. Shorter or taller?
Shorter or the same.

5. Intelligence or attraction?
If not intelligent, not all that attractive.

6. Romantic or spontaneous?
Spontaneously romantic.

7. Funny or serious?
Meh. Both, at the right time.

8. Older or Younger?
Doesn't matter.

9. Outgoing or quiet?
Mix.

10. Sweet or Bad Ass?
Sweet.

TEN HAVE YOU’S.

1. Ever performed in front of a large crowd?
Define perform and large. Maybe 400 singing. About 700 acting. About 3000 when I was on JEOPARDY!

2. Ever done drugs?
Sure. I'm weaning myself from caffeine currently.

3. Ever been pregnant?
I never was one of those guys who said "we're pregnant"; that stuff bugs me. So, no.

5. Ever been on a cheer leading team?
No.

6. Ever Been on a dance team?
No, though I have danced n a performance a couple times.

7. Ever been on a sports team?
No, tried out, didn't make it.

8. Ever been in a drama play/production?
Several in high school, usually in small roles. Only three since then.

9. Ever owned a BMW, Mercedes Benz, Escalade, Hummer or Bentley?
No, and wouldn't own a Hummer.

10. Ever been in a rap video?
What? No.

TEN LASTS.

1. Last phone call you made:
To my wife.

2. Last person you hung out with:
My wife and daughter.

3. Last time a question was dropped.

4. Last time you worked:
Friday.

5. Last person you tackled:
My daughter.

6. Last person you IM’d:
n/a

8. Last person(s) you went to the movies with:
My wife

9. Last thing you missed:
A bus.

10. Last thing you ate:
A banana.


ROG

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Was Jesus Homely?

There was a piece in a Times Union blog written by high school student Allison Moss a few weeks ago, addressing the question "Was Jesus Gay?" This was based on something singer Elton John reportedly said. Well, Jesus Christ Superstar suggests that he (or He) was bisexual. Of course, as much as I adore JCSS, I never considered it theologically authoritative.

It was that question that prompted me to revisit the notion, "Was Jesus homely?" As I understand it, we really have no idea about the physical characteristics of Jesus. He was not depicted in art until decades after walking the earth. 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, which I don't treat as gospel either, but it IS interesting. 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".

In other words, early depictions of Jesus suggested that He was plain-looking, but other religionists stuck their thumbs in their ears, wiggled their fingers, and chimed in a sing-songy voice, "Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah, nyah, nyah, your God is ugly!" So Christians made THEIR manifestation of God look more like OTHER people's manifestation of the gods. 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.

Moreover, He was probably short. How else does he evade the madding crowd that wants to throw him over a cliff?

So eventually, Jesus started looking, more or less, like this guy:


Theologically, it would make more sense to me if Jesus was less than handsome. It is now well documented that tall, handsome people fare better in social interactions than others. What would be the theological point if Jesus were physically appealing? One might ask if people were following Him for shallow reasons based on His countenance rather than for his message.

When images of "black Jesus" became popular four or five decades in some households, people were shocked, SHOCKED. "THAT'S not what Jesus looked like!" Maybe, maybe not. He probably looked more like that than this, given the geography:


I think this Time magazine cover is a fairly accurate representation of what Christ, and indeed Christianity, looks like; it depends on the point of view.

***
Yes, this is a rewrite of a post from six months ago. It just felt like a Holy week piece.


ROG

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Changing the Rules in Sports QUESTION

The NCAA Men's Basketball tournament is thinking about expanding from 65 teams to 96, which I happen to think is a terrible idea. The Wall Street Journal wrote a snarky article, Hey NCAA, No Need to Stop at 96 Possibly Expanding the Tournament by Nearly 50% Is a Cop-Out; Let's Let Everyone in,where they sarcastically suggest inviting "every one of the current 347 NCAA Division I schools. That's right: The Magnificent Three Hundred and Forty Seven. Catchy, right? It just rolls off the tongue...One school will be crowned
the champion, but everyone will be considered a 'winner.' The idea is to replicate the drama, energy and positivity of a third-grade gingerbread-house-making contest."

Meanwhile, the NFL has changed the rules regarding ties in the playoffs, which seems reasonably fair.

So what rule changes in sports would you like to see? How about:

Electronically-called balls and strikes in baseball?
Going back to the 6.0 scale in figure skating?
Actually calling traveling in NBA games?
(I'd say no, no and yes.)

ROG

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Lydster, Part 72: Lydia is Six


Here are some things about the daughter that I think I'll remember forever, but fear that I will forget:

*She's 50 inches tall, weighs at least 65 pounds. I can still lift her, though I prefer the over-the-shoulder method of transportation.
*She's in kindergarten, going to school with the wife.
*I make her lunch four days out of five. She eats a cheese sandwich (sharp cheddar) on whole wheat bread, with the crust cut off. Every day. That's what she wants. She'll get carrot or celery sticks, fruit cup or apple sauce, pretzels or fig bars, and a juice.
*She has developed a bit of sweet tooth, but she'll eat yogurt as often as ice cream, and seem to find them each acceptable.
*Her favorite cereal used to be Cheerios, but when she tried Froot Loops when we visited my mom in Charlotte in June, that was the only cereal she'd eat for about six months. Lately, she's really into Life cereal.

*She was the fastest girl in her class this fall in the Apple Run, by a considerable margin.
*She dances to EVERYTHING - TV theme music, especially the outro. She's taking ballet once a week, and she likes to choreograph her parents.
*Her favorite show is Martha Speaks (PBS), about a talking dog, though she'll watch her Nick Jr. favorites such as the Backyardigans, Ni-hao Kailan, the Fresh Beat Band and the Wonder Pets.
*She hates it when I pretend I don't remember her name, or make a variation on it. Yet she often makes a variation of MY name or title, and THAT'S funny.
*She doesn't seem to have a single favorite book. Carol's reading the Little House on the Prairie books to her, while she prefers that I read the Dr. Seuss books or other texts. She can read Green eggs and Ham herself; we tend to take turns reading it.
*She's somewhat less shy than she was last year.
*She still covers her ears when she sees conflict on a TV show or movie.
*She's lost at least seven teeth; I believe she ahead of schedule. And she's gotten five back, four lower and one upper.
*Usually, I dress her in the morning and put on her pajamas at night, except Thursday night, which is my choir night.
*She's increasingly more helpful, putting away her clean clothes in the drawer. she also has this system to pick out her clothes for the week.
*We bought her trucks and blocks and other gender-neutral items, and she still is more a girly-girl than I would have anticipated. She likes pink and purple. Someone in Salon was fretting about her girly-girl daughter, who to be fair is even moreso than Lydia. Lydia will wear pants.
But I guess I don't fret about it. If she wants a Disney princess tent and sleeping bag for Christmas, I don't object. I may cringe a little on the inside, but she is who she is.

I love the girl.

ROG

Thursday, March 25, 2010

March Ramblin'


Anyone out there on Posterous? I had never heard of it until very recently. I posted something the other day via e-mail, because I could. One can also post a variety of other ways. I'm not seeing the need, but then again, I didn't get Twitter or Facebook initially either.
***
It's not coming out until May 25, but I'm looking forward to Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook by Bettye LaVette. This great singer who was in the Albany area recently - no, didn't get a chance to see her - is covering a bunch of songs, many that I know well. It has a definite Beatles tinge.
1. The Word (Beatles)
2. No Time To Live (Traffic)
3. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood (Animals)
4. All My Love (Led Zeppelin)
5. Isn't It A Pity (George Harrison)
6. Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
7. It Don't Come Easy (Ringo Starr)
8. Maybe I'm Amazed (Paul McCartney)
9. Salt Of The Earth (Rolling Stones)
10. Nights In White Satin (Moody Blues)
11. Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad (Derek & the Dominoes)
12. Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Elton John)
13. Love Reign O'er Me (The Who - live from the Kennedy Center Honors)

That last song, sung to Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry, seemed to have them in tears, especially Townsend.

Check out Bettye's website for her performances with Paul & Ringo, with Jon Bon Jovi, and her stellar Who cover.
***
SamuraiFrog informs me that there is a Soul Train YouTube channel, which is very cool.
***
I was listening to Les Brown this week. He had a big hit in the 1940s with Bizet Has His Day, an adaptation of Farandole from L'Arl├ęsienne.
***
Ever get a song stuck in your head, but you CAN'T REMEMBER the title? This happened to me the other day. I called up a librarian friend who wasn't working that day. Then I called a violinist friend of mine; she knew the song I hummed, but couldn't remember what it was either. She called her sister, and she identified it as In The Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt, music by Edvard Grieg. Don't think you know this piece? I'll bet you do, especially if you play any of the three dozen versions from Duke Ellington, Erasure and ELO to Rick Wakeman and the Who. I'm rather partial to the ska version. Somehow, I have it in my mind that this music also inspired the Sugar Crisp commercial theme.
***
As a reaction to the Tea Baggers, there is now a Coffee Party. I'm only slightly conflicted in that I really like tea and really don't like coffee.
***
Have I mentioned lately that I really love Betty White? I'll even record Saturday Night Live on May 8, and I only watched it in 2008 for "Sarah Palin".
***
The greatest 9,331 movies of all time.
***
Is my cellphone frying my brain?
***
Don't know why I do that March Madness thing. This year's results have been worse than ever, thanks to the upsets. Yet I can still win.

For the games today and tomorrow:
I picked: Kansas over Michigan State.
Who's actually playing: Northern Iowa and Michigan State.
I'm rooting for: Northern Iowa. Their colors are purple and gold, just like my graduate school alma mater. What the heck; I hope they get to the Final Four. Go Panthers!

I picked: Georgetown over Ohio State.
Who's actually playing: Tennessee and Ohio State.
I'm rooting for: Tennessee. The leader in our group picked Ohio State to win the whole thing.

I picked: Syracuse over UTEP
Who's actually playing: Syracuse and Butler.
I'm rooting for: Syracuse, who I have going to the Final Four.

I picked: Pittsburgh over Kansas State.
Who's actually playing: Xavier and Kansas State.
I'm rooting for: Xavier.

I picked: Baylor over Villanova.
Who's actually playing: Baylor and St. Mary's.
I'm rooting for: Baylor, who I have in the Final Four.

I picked Louisville over Siena.
Who's actually playing: Duke and Purdue (yikes).
I'm rooting for: Purdue. Actually, I'm rooting against Duke every round.

I picked: West Virginia over New Mexico
Who's actually playing: West Virginia and Washington.
I'm rooting for: West Virginia, who I have winning the tournament over (oops) Kansas.

I picked: Kentucky over Cornell.
Who's actually playing: Kentucky and Cornell!
I'm rooting for: Kentucky on my sheet, the upstate New York team in my heart.

ROG

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

VIDEO REVIEW: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs


Here's an interesting experiment; go with your spouse and child to an elementary school gym, along with four dozen other elementary school kids and their parents to see a 2-D version of a 3-D movie based on a 30-page book. That's what we did a couple Friday nights ago as we viewed Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

I had no preconceived notions about this film. I hadn't read the book, first published in 1978, written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett. In fact I never even heard of it until the film was being promoted.

This iteration tells the story of Flint Lockwood, science nerd, whose mother (Lauren Graham) believes he'll be someone special; she dies early on, and his monosyllabic, unibrow fisherman-father (James Caan) believes in more practical efforts, wanting his son (Bill Hader) to work at the sardine store with him. Everyone on the island of Swallow Falls eats sardines.

Flint is tortured by an annoying character, Baby Brent (Andy Samburg), who was famous as the Gerber baby, and keeps milking his fame. (Independently, my wife and I thought he was very much like the character in the Back to the Future movies who kept harassing Marty McFly's father.)

Flint, undeterred from his dream, manages to invent a machine that converts water into food. Needing to hide his creativity from the local policeman (Mr. T), he accidentally launches it into the atmosphere. Instead of rain, food of every sort starts falling from the sky. This phenomenon inspires a television station to send a weather reporter trainee (Anna Faris) to cover the phenomenon.

I laughed out loud several times in the first half of the movie at lines that probably went right over the heads of the purported target audience. At least once, I swear I was the ONLY person laughing.

At some point, the movie becomes some illustrated cross between the movies Twister (which I saw) and 2012 (which I did not). This part was less interesting to me, though not without its charms, and frightened the daughter some to boot.

Still, I enjoyed the intelligently-made film overall, and it reviewed well enough. Within the film of writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were none-too-subtle digs at the food industry (processed foods with no connection to the source, a la Fast Food Nation), gluttony (see also: the latter part of WALL-E), environmental destruction, and sexism in the entertainment industry.

I finally got around to reading the book this week, and while there were nods to the source material (food as rafts, yellow Jell-O, and of course a spaghetti storm), the movie is a whole 'nother animal altogether. Friends of friends of mine who are devotees of the book often HATE the movie because it's not the book; I think the movie should be appreciated on the merits of what's on the screen, NOT based on how it is or is not true to the source material.
***
The movie trailer.

ROG

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

J is for JEOPARDY!


For reasons I will explain later, this is my favorite Final JEOPARDY! answer- the category is SISTER CITIES: San Francisco, California is a sister city to this one in Italy.

I started watching the game show JEOPARDY! fairly early on. It started in 1964 as a noontime show on NBC-TV. Art Fleming was the host; you can see some of his 1970s work here. I would stop at the home of my maternal grandmother and great aunt Deana; Deana and I would watch the show while we ate lunch, which grandma Williams usually prepared, and then I would return to school. The show lasted for 11 years, and I probably watched it for the first four regularly, until I went to high school, and again as often as possible once I got to college in 1971.

It is the Fleming version of the show that shows up in the film Airplane 2 (about the only original bit in that movie sequel), and in the "Weird Al" Yankovic video I Lost on Jeopardy.

Then, after a short-lived version in 1978, JEOPARDY! returned in syndicated (non-network) television in 1984 with Alex Trebek as host. I recognized Trebek from a game called High Rollers, which involved answering a couple questions then using these oversized pair of dice.

The other thing that was different from the original game, is that the values of clues had increased tenfold, from $10-$50 in JEOPARDY! (and twice that in Double JEOPARDY!) to $100-$500 in JEOPARDY! (The values doubled in the beginning of Season 19, in the fall of 2002, to $200-$1000 in JEOPARDY!) Not incidentally, in the current game, "the minimum wager on a Daily Double is $5, which was half the smallest clue value on the original version of Jeopardy! that premiered in 1964 with Art Fleming as host."

I always love the story about the creation of JEOPARDY! After the game show scandals of the 1950s, where certain players were leaked the answers, rigging the results, the late entertainer Merv Griffin was having a meal with his then-wife. He was musing about how he could put together a show in that atmosphere of distrust. She suggested giving the contestants the answers. He said something equivalent to "Are you crazy? That's been the problem!" She responded, "5280"; he said, "What is the number of feet in a mile?" The ah-ha moment arrived.


Merv Griffin also wrote the Think Music that plays for thirty seconds while the contestants are writing down their Final JEOPARDY! responses.

***
Oh, that question at the top: What I loved about it is that, obviously, the JEOPARDY! folks wouldn't expect you to KNOW San Francisco's Italian sister city. So there must be some linkage between SF and one city in Italy. And I figured it out. Any guesses?
***

One of the things people occasionally ask me when they try out for the game show JEOPARDY! is what sources they should use. Sure, there's the official JEOPARDY! site. But THE most valuable tool, I think, is the JEOPARDY! archive, specifically the help function.

Some intrepid JEOPARDY! fans have gotten together to archive almost every show in the past 13 years, and have captured some earlier episodes as well. If one can't watch the show, then reading the answers and questions will help prepare you for playing. There is also information about wagering, a LOT of info I think, other than general knowledge, waging is the most important aspect in the game. The site even describes the episode on the TV show Cheers when postman Cliff Clavin was on JEOPARDY!, had an insurmountable lead and still managed to lose.

Karl Coryat, a two-day champion back in 1996, has some good tips for what to study: "...there are a few things you absolutely must know. These are, in order of importance: State and world capitals; U.S. presidents (order, years of office, and general biographies); state nicknames; and Shakespeare's plays, including basic plot lines and major characters." I might have put Presidents first, but I don't disagree with his general premise.

"Prior to a rule change that went into effect at the beginning of the 20th Season [2003-2004], a champion could win a maximum of 5 games, whereupon he/she would retire and later return for the next Tournament of Champions." It was the rule change that allowed Ken Jennings to win 74 games in a row. It was great for Jennings, but I'm still not convinced it was great for JEOPARDY! The Tournament that year, instead of having a bunch of 5-time champions, and maybe one or two 4-timers, actually had a 3-day champ, diluting the process.

One variation on JEOPARDY! you may or may not remember was called Rock & Roll Jeopardy. It ran from 1998 to 2001 on VH-1 and was hosted by Jeff Probst, who would later host a reality show called Survivor. I thought it was a lesser program, in large part because, for most of its run, one played for "points" rather than dollars, with the person with the most points getting $5,000.

You can read about my JEOPARDY appearances here; the Boston shows in 1998 were the first non-tournament games ever played outside the Los Angeles-area studio. I only discovered recently that I had the second highest one-game dollar amount in the 1998-1999 season.

***
The question: What is Assisi? San Francisco is named for Saint Francis of Assisi.


ABC Wednesday


ROG

Monday, March 22, 2010

Judd's Merged Meme

Sunday Stealing again

1. What were doing 10 years ago?

In the process of buying the home we now live in; the closing was May 8.

2. Five snacks that you enjoy in a perfect, non weight-gaining world

Banana splits
Oatmeal-raisin cookies
Strawberry milk shakes, the real kind, not the McDonald's kind
Carrot cake
Apple pie with vanilla ice cream

3. Five things you would do if you were a billionaire:

Pay off the mortgages for my mother, sister and brothers-in-law. Oh yeah, and ours.
Buy a building for the local food pantry.
Keep open the local YMCA that's closing on March 31.
Give $1000 each, maybe to a whole bunch of arts/music related entities.
I suppose I'd buy a house with an in-house theater, although renting out the local theater from time to time seems just so much more fun!

4. Three of your habits:

Overanalyzing
Avoiding talks about money; they tend to give me a headache
Blogging

5. Five jobs that you've have had:

Janitor (twice)
Bookkeeper/operator of an Artisans arcade
Manager of a comic book store
Customer service representative for an evil health insurance company
Ticket seller for college concerts

6. Five places that you've lived:

Binghamton, NY
Kingston, NY
New Paltz, NY
Jamaica (Queens), NY
Charlotte, NC

7. Five things that you did yesterday:

Went to church
Worked on my blog
Watched taped television news
Worked on the daughter's homework
Made the daughter's lunch for today

8. Five people you would want to get to know more about:

Bill Moyers
Joel Whitburn
Miriam Makeba
Peter Gomes
Jesus - especially that 18-year gap between hanging out at the temple when he was 12 and the beginning of his ministry

9. Abortion: for or against it?

I seriously doubt that most people are FOR abortion. I believe it was one of the Clintons who said "safe, legal and rare."

10. Do you think the world would fail with a female president?

Do you think the world isn't failing already? The number of female heads of state in other countries makes the dearth in the United States all the more embarrassing.

11. Do you believe in the death penalty?

No. Besides the inequity of its application by race and class, and the very real probability that innocent people have been executed in this country, there's another reason. It's Biblical interpretation that my Jehovah's Witness buddy talks about. There's a commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." How is the state killing, and on my behalf, no less, acceptable?

12. Do you wish marijuana would be legalized already?

Taxed and regulated, yes.

13. Are you for or against premarital sex?

I'm in favor of consenting adults doing what they want.

14. Do you think same sex marriage should be legalized?

Yes. I may have mentioned this recently.

15. Do you think it's wrong that so many Hispanics are illegally moving to the USA?

I think it's more wrong that over the centuries, the US immigration policy has been so arbitrary, discriminating against certain ethnic groups. Besides, depending on the version of history you read, who are the real illegals?

16. Should the alcohol age be lowered to eighteen?

Probably. I mean, I drank when I was 18. The prohibition doesn't work, a number of college presidents suggest. In college, you have two different classes of people, and it's darn easy for a senior to buy a sophomore illegal booze. Better to have supervised settings.

17. Should the war in Iraq be called off?

The U.S. participation in the war in Iraq, at this point, will end sooner rather than later.

18. Assisted suicide is illegal: do you agree?

No, I don't. It happens anyway, you know. Doctors giving massive doses of morphine for "pain management." I'd rather it be above board and open, in a medical context.

19. Do you believe in spanking your children?

My father spanked us. My sisters and I have had a number of conversations about what it was we did to warrant it; we have no idea. (Except once.) It made us fearful, but it didn't make us better. So, generally not.

20. Do you worry that others will judge you from reading some of your answers?

That assumes 1) anyone actually reads what I say and 2) anyone cares. If so, no I don't worry. To quote the great philosopher Popeye: "I yam what I yam."

ROG

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Springtime for Roger and Albany

On a quarterly basis, I get REALLY lazy. I make my readers do all the heavy lifting in a little thing I like to call ask Roger Anything. Anything at all.

OK, don't ask me if there are any words that have the vowels A, E, I, O, U, and Y in order, he said facetiously.

But other than that, anything goes. And I have to answer, or you get double your money back.

Seriously, there has never been a question I was asked that I didn't, in some substantial way, answer. Sports, politics, religion - we take it all on.

Hmm. Do you know what I'm thinking about? The word "invalid", and how with the emphasis on the first syllable, it's a noun that means someone incapacitated by chronic illness or injury. But with the emphasis on the second syllable, it's an adjective meaning falsely based. They shatre a common root suggesting "npot strong", but I hate the notion that people are invaldated because of their physical condition.

Oh, and the death of Fess Parker, who played Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. Re: the former role, probably every other household in America with a child in it owned at least one coonskin cap.

Assuming I GET any questions, I'll start answering later in the week.



From the movie The Producers (1968). That slackjawed look at 2:35 is still one of my favorite moments in all of cinema.

ROG

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Peevish QUESTION

I wrote a little piece about pet peeves a little while ago. But I'm interested in asking you folks if there are things that really bug you, especially if you have not much to do with it. Maybe it's the political discourse that's distasteful.

I was at work helping someone with a question, and I rediscovered that there are a couple issues that really have been bugging me, and really are, in the end, none of my business. Though I will make a case for the idea that, at least the former issue is a public health issue and therefore everyone's concern.

Issue #1 is the huge number of Cesarean section births in the United States. From this document, the CDC notes that the C-section rate went up for the 11th straight year in 2006 up to 31.8%, the highest ever reported in the country. Lowering the rate was a governmental objective for the last quarter century. The mission actually seemed to be working for a while - the rate went from 22.8% in 1989 to 20.7% in 1996, but it's been going up ever since. The optimal rate is between 5% and 10%. The whys are varied, but it concerns me regardless. And it worries some in the medical community as well.

The other issue involves pregnant women smoking. I know that tobacco is addictive, but when I see it, it makes me crazy anyway. Low birth-weight babies are often the result.

So what issues that really don't affect you directly nevertheless gets on your nerves?

ROG

Friday, March 19, 2010

Putting the Rube in Boob Tube

I am periodically reminded about why I hate reality television. This includes many of the so-called talk shows.

Someone I know very well was actually on a talk show some years ago on a panel, speaking about an important topic. Yet when the promos came out for the show, which was NOT Jerry Springer, but rather a JS-lite host, it was all about whatever elements made the topic controversial. As it was, my acquaintance hardly got in a word edgewise because other participants were far more aggressive. I had actually forgotten this, though I have the show on a VCR tape.

Then I got this e-mail this week from a group called Vitiligo Friends:

We are looking for 2 people---we are taping this March 25th in the morning:

1. A woman in her 30s to 40s who was either recently diagnosed or has had Vitiligo for years and has affected their lives. We are looking for someone who's face is pretty extreme and it has affected their lives in a negative way. They can't work because their Vitiligo has affected them, or they have issues dating and forming relationships. Is it holding them back? We need someone who has a severe enough case where makeup cannot be used. Please email XXX@yyy.com along with your name, age, location and photos.

2. A woman in her 30s to 40s who is a success story. We want someone who has tried either UV light therapy or topical creams and it has worked for them to be a success and inspiration story for others. This person should have an interesting back story as well and turned to these treatments to gain confidence.

Please email XXX@yyy.com along with your name, age, location and photos, including a before and after photo if possible.


This, BTW, is for the Dr. Oz show, the physician who Oprah has promoted.

Now why would anyone want to be person #1, subjecting himself or herself to be, essentially, the BEFORE picture in a BEFORE and AFTER photo? On national syndicated TV, no less.

Now there WAS a follow-up e-mail from the Dr. Oz folks, probably in reaction to the initial message: "We are looking to help someone with a more severe case of vitiligo--we have a specialist available who has a new cosmetic procedure out that could work for various people. We would love a woman in her 30s-40s who has tried some treatments and they haven't worked and now worries that her vitiligo will and is effecting her life in a negative way. We want this to be positive and to have a positive outcome for our guest."

Well, thank you for THAT. Positive outcome, you say.

These demi-stars end up having their lives parsed in a 24-hour media blitz, which needs to report on which Real Housewife of East Podunk is having a smackdown with another Real Housewife. Or whether someone appearing on The Bachelor once poised for sex magazines. Or whatever.

Whatever visceral pleasure one might get from watching this stuff - and I don't - I REALLY don't understand anyone who actually wants to APPEAR on most of these programs these days. And while I suppose I understand the appeal of 15 minutes of fame, I think that my overexposure to these folks that pop from one reality show to another, even in passing, makes the watching of same beyond my comprehension.

Even people who are arguably stars have difficulties with "reality", as SamuraiFrog notes, parsing Jessica Simpson's new show. Maybe it's the term "reality" in these unreal settings that's the biggest irritant of all.

ROG

Thursday, March 18, 2010

the Experiment

Usually, I try to write something comprehensive (and ideally, comprehensible) to post the next morning. I have maybe a half dozen things in draft form, not quite ready to go. So as a one-off experience, I have gotten up at 5:03 a.m., slightly foggy, and will write for 20 minutes, and post whatever at 5:30.
**
Doing the March Madness thing. For those not familiar, it's college basketball. I think the idea that, theoretically, ANY ONE of the 65 teams (well, 64 now), can win lends a sense of democracy to the proceedings. I have our local team, Siena, winning their first game, over Purdue, just as they won their first first game the last two years as an underdog. Still haven't finished my picks, though, tentatively, I have Kansas over Syracuse, west Virginia over Baylor, and because I believe WV got jobbed out of being a #12 seed, WV over Kansas. Anyone who actually FOLLOWS basketball with insights, please comment. SOON.
***
Gave blood on Tuesday, BP was uncharacteristically high for me. It's usually 100 to 120; that day, it was 138. What changed has been a habituation to caffeinated cola; I mean one a day, not multiples, but I've just stopped. Yesterday about 4:30 pm, I went to the bathroom and threw cold water on my face.
***
Anyone out there use that free wifi searcher from Makayama? I downloaded it, put it on my thumb drive, but couldn't get it to work on my laptop at home.
***
I was checking Dead or Alive this morning.
Knew Peter Graves died. He started on the second season of the show Mission: Impossible, and those two or three seasons with him, Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, were among the best in television. He was also in my top three favorite comedy, Airplane!
Merlin Olson died. I never saw a single fill episode of Little House on the Prairie. I knew him as a football player for the LA Rams, back in the days that Los Angeles actually had a pro football team. I mean besides UCLA and USC.
Caroline McWilliams died last month, which I never noted here. I used to love her in Soap and Benson.
Corey Haim died, and I don't know that I ever saw him in anything.
***
Ah, nuts. Time's up
***
EDIT:
Roger Ebert on Glenn Beck and Beck's "I beg you, look for the words social justice or economic justice on your church web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can."
***
Bummer: Alex Chilton died at the age of 59.

ROG

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

No Salt

New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has recently introduced a bill that would ban the use of salt in the preparation of restaurant food. I appreciate the import of a low-sodium diet, I must agree with virtually all of the comments that this is one of the dumbest, most overreaching pieces of legislation to come down the pike. Unenforceable, too. Chef secretly throws some substance in the pot - what was THAT?

Besides, it says here: Larousse Gastronomique insists that "seasoning includes a large or small amount of salt being added to a preparation. Salt may be used to draw out water, or to magnify a natural flavor of a food making it richer or more delicate, depending on the dish. This type of procedure is akin to curing." I can imagine that some foods would end up so unsatisfying that the customer might well use too much NaCl from the shaker.

What I DO favor, whenever possible, is for restaurants to indicate the nutritional breakdown. We have gone to both Friendly's, the Massachusetts restaurant chain, and McDonald's this month, and it was startling. The menu at Friendly's now indicates the calorie count on all its foods, much to the dismay of our waitress, who has noticed people deciding that the 1400-calorie banana split may just not be worth it. On the McDonald's food wrapper, not only are calories listed, but like any food you'd find on the grocery shelf or in a vending machine, it ALSO has information on protein, fat and sodium. And there seems to be a LOT of sodium.

Cutting back on salt wouldn't be such a bad thing. One can, for some items, season without salt. There are only two items that I actually add salt to: popcorn and chicken giblets. I should make sure I don't consume them at the same meal.
***
The Meatrix.


ROG

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I is for Irish Migration


One of the cliches one hears in the United States this week is that "Everyone's Irish!" People who couldn't find Ireland on a map of the British Isles will be doing the Wearing of the Green, to the delight or irritation of many.

So how many Americans ARE Irish? According to the 2000 Census, of the 281.4 million people in the country, 30.5 million, or 10.8% self-identify as Irish. In a more recent calculation, 36.3 million U.S. residents claimed "Irish ancestry in 2008. This number was more than eight times the population of Ireland itself (4.4 million). Irish was the nation’s second most frequently reported ancestry, trailing only German."

Most people are familiar with the potato famine of the 1840s which generated much of the emigration from Ireland to the US. But in fact, the trend started earlier than that.

"Between 1820 and 1860, the Irish constituted over one third of all immigrants to the United States. In the 1840s, they comprised nearly half of all immigrants to this nation. Interestingly, pre-famine immigrants from Ireland were predominately male, while in the famine years and their aftermath, entire families left the country. In later years, the majority of Irish immigrants were women."

The Irish-Americans suffered some definite hostility. For instance: "In the Questions for Admittance to the American Party (1854), inductees committed to '...elect to all offices of Honor, Profit, or Trust, no one but native born citizens of America, of this Country to the exclusion of all Foreigners, and to all Roman Catholics, whether they be of native or Foreign Birth, regardless of all party predilections whatever'." There were also racial pressures: "...the Irish and Blacks had reason to feel they were treated unfairly in the workforce, and often at one another's expense."

Eventually, though the "Irish influence resulted in increased power for the Democratic Party as well as the Catholic Church. William R. Grace became New York City’s first Irish-Catholic mayor in 1880. Four years later, Hugh O’Brien won the same position in Boston.

"Irish-American political clout led to increased opportunities for the Irish-American. Looking out for their own, the political machines made it possible for the Irish to get jobs, to deal with naturalization issues, even to get food or heating fuel in emergencies. The political machines also rewarded their own through political appointments."

I happen to think that there are actually more Irish in America than have been reported. The mixing of the races has probably made tracking lineage difficult in some cases. A prime example is delineated in the book The Sweeter The Juice about an Irish woman and a mulatto man marrying after the Civil War. Many of the descendants, especially those living as black, have holes in their family trees.

Where are the Irish-American enclaves in the US? According to the ePodunk site, the concentration is in the Northeast, plus in and around the state of Illinois. Interestingly, Albany, NY is NOT on the list; given the partying that goes on after every St. Patrick's Day parade, such as the one from Saturday past, maybe it's the faux green wearers who are the most vigorous celebrants.


(A not so subtle reminder for Americans to fill out the Census forms they received this week.)

ABC Wednesday

ROG

Monday, March 15, 2010

I AM Happy, Damn It!

Since I still feel like I just went through the spin cycle in my clothes washer, and since Jaquandor wouldn't mind seeing this meme spread out through Blogistan, I thought I would list ten things that make me happy (minus the obvious mentions of The Wife, The Daughter, and music). Even stole his title; shameful.

1. Being touched - I don't mean that in any sordid way. I mean hugs, hand holding, massage. (There was some recent studies that showed that when people are touched, they have a better perception of the event.)
2. White noise to go to sleep by - fan, my daughter's air filter, even a vacuum cleaner if it's far enough away. (There was at least one night in the Daughter's first two months that the vacuum got HER to go to sleep.)
3. The fact that when I write, it takes me to often unexpected places.
4. Learning new things almost daily.
5. Being able to pull out some obscure piece of information, whether it be at work or helping someone on the bus figure out the best route or watching JEOPARDY!
6. Racquetball - nothing like beating up a helpless piece of rubber.
7. The English language - its amalgamation of such diverse sources, from Latin and Greek to Tagalog and Arabic.
8. Black and white photographs; they seem to have such character.
9. Baseball. It's not just watching it. It's the history, the obsessive use of statistics (batting average against left-handers in night games, e.g.)
10. Card games - hearts, pinochle, bid whist, spades. It's the social aspect of games I like the most; playing on the computer is just not the same.
***
Time to drink some English tea.


ROG

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The 50th Anniversary Celebration

I can only blame it on the fact that I was feeling lousy - still feeling lousy, actually - that I forgot until Friday night that Friday was ten years since my parents' 50th anniversary. It would be their last one.

My sisters and I decided to surprise them for the event. We called their church, trying to arrange for a room. There was only one problem; someone else wanted the room for the same day. This was months before the date; couldn't the other party change the date? This is our parents' 50TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY! Well, no, because the other party, it turned out, was our father, wanted to have a surprise gig for our mom himself. So we decided to join forces.

I came down with my wife and my parents-in-law, who had met my parents at Carol's and my wedding only the May before, when my father did all the decorations and floral arranging. We all wanted to help, and did somewhat, but he had a vision, and it was difficult for us mortals to fulfill it in the way he had in mind. So he did most of the church hall decoration himself, with my sister Leslie's help since she had worked with him on these types of things decades earlier. The rest of us did some of the heavy lifting. The difference between this event and the wedding ten months earlier was that my father had to rest occasionally, maybe more than occasionally.

Sunday, March 12, 2000, we all went to church, diverting our mother from the building's assembly hall. We attended the church service, during which a peculiar thing happened: my parents were invited to renew their vows. I don't know if my father knew about this, but my mother, my sisters and I certainly did not. I think my sisters and I gulped a bit. Would she actually say yes? My father could be...well, let's say, five decades of marriage always has its complications. There was what seemed to be an interminable pause before she replied in the affirmative.

Afterward, we had the party. There was singing and tributes from various folks. My sisters and I had put together one of those video montages of photos that ran throughout the event.

The next day, the wife, the in-laws and I went home. Well not quite home. We left Charlotte at 6 a.m.. got to the in-laws' house in Oneonta, NY, 715 miles away, at 9 p.m. and just crashed.

What had been a family tradition was to get a family photo every time the Greens got together if it had been a while. The last one we sat for was on their anniversary in 1995, but for some obscure reason - probably the contentiousness of that day (but that's another story) - we didn't in 2000. Since my father died that August 10 from prostate cancer, the lack of the family photo became one of those "coulda, shoulda" things in the family lore.


ROG

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Daylight Saving Time QUESTIONS

Daylight Saving Time (note: NOT "Savings") starts on Sunday, March 14 in most of the US. Does it really save energy? Some studies suggest it does.

Will it give me a heart attack? It's more that disruptions in sleep make one more vulnerable to heart attacks generally.

I swear I saw this report before the earlier DST was instituted a few years ago that there would be a review after two years to see if it is working. Is it saving energy, or are people using more light on those mid-March mornings when they weren't necessary the week before? More daylight when the air conditioners are on, perhaps. But I've seen no study, and now it seems to be codified.

So how do you feel about DST? I hate it because it takes the better part of a week for the daughter to get acclimated, especially the spring winter forward part. How much time is used by people changing clocks, which always are off on Monday morning after the change? Worse, countries around the world change their clocks in different weeks, or not at all. I have to figure what time it is in Europe for two weeks until Europe makes the switch.

Your thoughts?

Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?



ROG

Friday, March 12, 2010

Online/offline life

I attended this blogger conference last week at the College of Saint Rose. If you go to the link, you'll see what people, including me, thought of the event. The video, which I kvetched about in the article, is also available at the site.

One of the running observations in those comments is that the participants feared that the event would turn out to be a snarkfest, based on some of the online comments that some of these same people had made online to each other. Instead it was, if not a love fest, then at least quite civil. And I got to see my buddy David Brickman, pictured, and not just his head.

I find it all very odd, because, lately, I'm finding people online to be, for the most part, much more civil than in person. There was an incident last month at church - which I won't get into much except to say this: when someone wants to convince me of the efficacy of a point of view, it's really important that the topic sentence not be patently, demonstrably false. That transaction, combined with some other circumstances, made going there, especially to choir, a little less of a safe place to be than it had been heretofore. Not occasionally, some of my racquetball partners can be - let's say unnecessarily irritating lately. Our neighbors, who we are fond of, lost their house for back taxes; verdict is out on the buyer, but early signs are, let's say, less than encouraging. And the Albany Y is closing at the end of the month; I've only been a member since December 1982, so I have no emotional investment.

Meanwhile, online life is pretty darn great. Part of that, admittedly, is the fact that it was my birthday Sunday and I got probably two dozen Facebook well wishers, plus four e-cards, a number of e-mails, a few comments on the blog, and a mention from Gordon. Since I am admittedly LOUSY at Facebook - it just isn't something I find the time to do regularly - I found the FB responses in particular really gratifying.

But it's other stuff. My blog was featured on the Times Union page when I happened to be sitting at the library next to a guy looking for a job; I could just give him the link to the Census information. "Hey, is that you?" pictured on top? Why yes, it is.

The mighty comic blogger ADD cited a conversation we had a while back in a recent post. Jaquandor (the guy at Byzantium Shores) and Scott answered my questions; yes, some of them are the same questions. I get good comments from the ABC Wednesday folks.

Sunday Stealing stole my meme (that's a good thing); and yes, I had admittedly stolen it myself.

Speaking of stealing, I was pleased that the NYS senator Kirsten Gillibrand came out for gay men being able to donate blood. I wanted to write something but didn't have time, so of course, I stole it. I feel only slightly guilty, because I stole it from me. Repositioning, as I recall ADD and I decided.

Someone joked at the Times Union gig that "almost no one" showed up in pajamas. Sometimes, the folks that I could "talk" with in my PJs are just easier to deal with. Well, except for Glenn Beck attacking me.
***
I'm not much of a believer in astrology, but my friend of 52 years, born two days after I, sent me our chart. I found it oddly soothing:
"This aspect is all about breaking the bonds that held you down in the past." [Sounds right.] You are about to become liberated from some sort of situation that contained or limited you...Earlier in the month we have an excellent day that you may want to circle on your calendar - March 7...will help you hone your powers of communication. The written and spoken word will become very important to your progress at this time, and if you are born on March 7, or within five days of this date, this will be true for your whole year to come because this is happening on your "solar return" or return of the Sun to your time of birth. (The closer your birthday falls to March 7, the more dramatically you will see this trend.) Travel taken near March 7 should go really well, and all news, including news about home and family, could make you want to sing!"
Since my birthday was March 7 - which turned out to be a pretty good day...

ROG

Thursday, March 11, 2010

the Odd Couple: Olson and Boies

I received this warm and fuzzzy e-mail about gay marriage coming to DC. I'm happy about the outcome. My problem is that the "aw shucks" POV is unlikely to convince anyone who is not already inclined to agree with the position.

What I believe will be more compelling is for people to watch the broadcast and/or read the transcript of Bill Moyers Journal for February 26, 2010. The legal adversaries in 2000's Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case — Theodore Olson and David Boies, "one conservative and one liberal — have teamed up to make the constitutional case for same-sex marriage." And the point that is made repeatedly is that their support is based on the rule of law.

The two lawyers are mounting "a well-financed legal challenge to Proposition 8, California's 2008 ballot initiative that put an end to same-sex marriage in that state. The case could make it as far as the Supreme Court and define the debate on same-sex marriage for years to come."

"The case they've brought, Perry et al v. Schwarzenegger et al, has created a major stir, with some advocates of same-sex marriage worried that they are bringing the case too soon, that a loss at the Supreme Court could set back the movement for same-sex marriage by years. Olson argues that waiting for civil rights is not an option:

In the first place, someone was going to challenge Proposition 8 in California. Some lawyer, representing two people, was going to bring this challenge. We felt that if a challenge was going to be brought, it should be brought with a well-financed, capable effort, by people who knew what they were doing in the courts. Secondly, when people said, 'Maybe you should be waiting. Maybe you should wait until there's more popular support.' Our answer to that was, 'Well, when is that going to happen? How long do you want people to wait? How long do you want people to be deprived of their Constitutional rights in California?'

Earlier, to this basic point:
TED OLSON:... People told Martin Luther King, "Don't do it. The people aren't ready." And Martin Luther King responded, "I can't wait. I'm not going to make people wait." And when people told Martin Luther King, "You may lose." He said, "The battles for civil rights are won ultimately by people fighting for civil rights."

And one more thing. When the Supreme Court had made the decision in Loving versus Virginia in 1967, striking down the laws of 17 states that prohibited interracial marriage, now it's only what? 40 years later? 40 years later we think that's inconceivable that Virginia or some other state could prohibit interracial marriage. It's inconceivable. Public sometimes follows the opinions of the Supreme Court, reads the opinion and says, "My gosh, thank goodness for the Supreme Court. We realize how wrong that was."

(I've written about Loving vs. Virginia, which I too find analogous to the gay marriage issue.)

Perhaps it is my liberal bias, but I found the statements of the conservative Olson the most compelling:

TED OLSON: We're not advocating any recognition of a new right. The right to marry is in the Constitution. The Supreme Court's recognized that over and over again. We're talking about whether two individuals who will be -- should be treated equally, under the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The same thing that the Supreme Court did in 1967, which recognized the Constitutional rights of people of different races to marry.

At that point, in 1967, 17 states prohibited persons from a different race of marrying one another. The Supreme Court, at that point, unanimously didn't create a new right, the right was the right to marry; the Supreme Court said the discrimination on the basis of race in that instance was unconstitutional.

Or this exchange:

BILL MOYERS: So, you're both comfortable invalidating seven million votes in California [who voted for Prop 8]?

TED OLSON: Well, this happens when the voters decide to violate someone's constitutional rights. David mentioned that we have a Constitution and we have an independent judiciary for the very protection of minorities. Majorities don't need protection from the courts.

I was particularly fond of this:

BILL MOYERS: But you're going up not only against the voters of California, the majority, but you're going up against the Congress of the United States. In the 1990s, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which actually defined marriage as quote, "a legal union between one man and one woman." And even declared that states need not recognize the marriages, the same sex marriages of another state. The President signed this. President Bill Clinton signed this. And you want to overturn not only the voters of California, but the Congress and the President of the United States.
...

TED OLSON:...it often happens that the measures that are passed almost unanimously in Congress, because Congress gets carried away, are overturned by the Supreme Court. And you go back to Members of Congress and you say, "What happened there?" And they'll say, "Well, we knew it was unconstitutional. We expected the courts to take care of that. We wanted to get reelected. The courts are the ones that come back and help us."

One of the fascinating aspects of the trial, which began in January, is that one could not watch the proceedings, unless one were in the federal courthouse in San Francisco. "(T)wo filmmakers in Los Angeles came up with an ingenious alternative. Using the trial transcripts and other reporting, plus a cast of professional actors, they turned the case into a TV courtroom drama. Every day of the proceedings has been reenacted on their website, Marriagetrial.com.

So watch/read this piece. You may be convinced, despite your conservative leanings, theological objections, or other issues that, as a matter of long-standing American law and jurisprudence, marriage is a fundamental right, and therefore must include gay marriage as well.

ROG

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Pretentious Blogging Meme 2

More navel-gazing via Sunday stealing.

12. How many drafts of potential blog posts do you have right now?

102. Some of them are for dates past. Will they become blogposts? Dunno. Some will, in all likelihood.

13. In what medium do you draft your posts?

In the Blogger thingy. It has an autosave feature, but I hit the save button frequently anyway. Occasionally, Blogger won't save, and I end up copying and pasting the post in an e-mail to myself. Even my WordPress blog I do in Blogger, mostly because I never figured out how to size pictures in WP.

14. How often do you completely scratch or delete drafts or blog post ideas?

Maybe three or four times a year. What a pain, mostly because blogging time is so finite.

15. If you had to leave your blog in your will to another blogger, who would you choose?

There's a woman in my office who used to blog. Her.

16. Are there other blogs that you feel are similar to yours in content, style, or voice?

Well, yes, no, maybe. Obviously I think my voice is unique, but that's true of everyone. I think that there are elements of my blogging style in a number of blogs. I tend to think many other blogs are more singularly focused than mine. Maybe I should have five blogs or something, but I'd find it irritatingly compartmentalizing.
I pretty much hate most categories. The only categories I have for the bulk of my CDs are classical and pop. Classical is anything where the composer is above the title, whether that be Beethoven, Gershwin or Scott Joplin. Pop is everything else.

17. Has anything surprised you since you started blogging?

Yes, that I'm still doing it every day. That anyone reads it. That occasionally people are moved by what I write, often unexpectedly. That I have found it not just enjoyable but occasionally useful.

18. What are your goals or plans for your blog going forward?

Blog less. Or absent that, cloning.

19. Do you make any money from your blog? (optional) about how much a month?

No, though I've gotten some swag.

20. What blogging system do you use?

Does this mean Blogger? Or does mean chaos? Actually one of my blogs is in WordPress.

21. How did you come up your blog name?

From a radio guy called Rambling with Gambling. Oh, and my first name; I liked the partial alliteration.

22. How many blogs do you have? What was your peak?

Seven. Seven. Fortunately three are shared. Oddly, the most difficult one is the one for which I write once a month; more pressure, I think.

23. Are you having as much fun as when you started?

It ebbs and flows. Surely more than when I FIRST started when I had no idea what I was going to write the next day, or what my credo of blogging was. (I have a credo of blogging?)

24. Where do you find other bloggers like you?

Blog friends of blog friends.

25. What’s your one wish when it comes to blogging?

Steve Martin answered this long time ago here.

ROG

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

H is for Haiti

A couple weeks ago, during my church's Black History Month celebration, we had a speaker talk about Haiti. He was a scholar on the topic and spoke for nearly 40 minutes, so I can't bring you all that he shared. But I thought these points were particularly interesting.

Haitians fought in the American Revolutionary War on the side of the colonies. This became a source of great pride among the Haitian people. And the success of the the American example, and that of France c. 1789, was pivotal in the Haitians' successful revolution (1791-1804).

Yet the United States was cool to the revolt on the island of Hispanola. "Could it be that...the specter of a revolution of slaves against white masters a revolution led by a former slave, Toussaint Louverture, who claimed for the former slaves a universal human right to freedom and citizenship made Americans cool to revolution?

"Thomas Jefferson, who readily accepted violence as the price of freedom in France, was not so relaxed about the black revolutionaries in Saint-Domingue as Haiti was called until its formal independence in 1804.

"Timothy Pickering, the irascible Federalist who served in the cabinets of both George Washington and John Adams...demanded of Jefferson, could he praise the French Revolution and refuse support for the rebels on Saint-Domingue because they were 'guilty' of having a 'skin not colored like our own'?"

And fear of slave uprisings in the United States being inspired by the Haitian revolution was not entirely unfounded.

But it was the Haitian revolution which made Jefferson's purchase of the Louisiana purchase in 1803 possible. The United States, who were only looking for access to the port of New Orleans got to nearly double its land. The French, who'd only reacquired the territory from the Spanish a few years earlier, got needed money and got to tweak Spain at the same time.

So why has Haiti been so poor for so long. Certainly a pair of reasons happened early on: boycott and reparations.

In 1806, fearful that the Haitian Revolution might inspire enslaved Africans in other parts of the Western hemisphere to rebel, the U.S. Congress banned trade with Haiti, joining French, Spanish and Portuguese boycotts. Global shipping originating in or by Haiti was banned from trading with or entering American and European ports of trade. This coordinated embargo effectively crippled Haiti’s export-driven economy and its development as a once prosperous Caribbean port... The embargo was accompanied by a threat of re-colonization and re-enslavement by the American-European alliance if Haiti failed to compensate France for losses incurred when French plantation owners, as a result of the Haitian Revolution, lost Haiti’s lucrative sugar, coffee and tobacco fortunes supported by slave labor.... Haiti spent the next 111 years, until 1922, paying 70% of its national revenues in reparations to France – a ransom enforced by the American-European trade alliance as the price for Haiti’s independence.

Many of these same points are discussed in this recent Daily Kos story.

I'm inclined to believe that rebuilding Haiti is not a moral imperative, it is economic justice that, if done correctly, could pay dividends for all concerned.


ABC Wednesday
ROG

Monday, March 08, 2010

Claudette Colvin


Claudette gave all of us moral courage. If she had not done what she did, I am not sure that we would have been able to mount the support for Mrs. Parks.

--Fred Gray, Alabama civil rights attorney

When I attended the Underground Railroad Conference at Russell Sage College in Troy, NY on February 27, the participants were treated to a performance by the group the Matie Masie Ensemble, who blended spoken word and song with African and jazz music. This particular series of story-songs included a narrative about a 15-year-old young black woman named Claudette Colin, who, nine months before Rosa Parks' act of defiance, "refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus the same and was arrested for violating segregation law, disorderly conduct, and assault."

So, as the Matie Masie narrative asks, Why does Rosa Parks get all the credit? What about Claudette?

She wasn't considered the right symbol. She was young, impulsive, occasionally loud, wore her hair in cornrows rather than straightening it. It didn't help that she subsequently got pregnant from "what she said was a non-consensual relationship."

Rosa Parks, by contrast, was a good middle-class woman of a certain bearing with the right hair and the right look who would be a much better symbol for the Montgomery bus boycott.

However Claudette is part of legal history. It was four women... — Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, Claudette Colvin and Mary Louise Smith — who served as plaintiffs in the legal action challenging Montgomery's segregated public transportation system.

In their case — Browder v. Gayle — a district court and, eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down segregation on buses.

There's a 2009 book on Claudette Colvin by Philip Hoose which tells this underreported part of the story.
***
Civil Rights in America: Racial Desegregation of Public Accommodations

ROG