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Monday, October 31, 2005

Costume party

I thought I had outgrown Halloween by the time I was 25, but discovered that I had not.

My (not so old) friend Susan had a bunch of friends that I knew, primarily from a poetry workshop she helped organize. One of the group was going to have a Halloween costume party. I'm not sure that I had any costume ideas, but Susan did, and when she suggested, I embraced it. (Or so I remember.)

I had a beard and a mustache at the time, so I shaved them. Then Susan and a couple of her friends made me up. We found a dress in a second hand store, a wig and shoes from somewhere, and we went to the party, she as "Sid", and me as "Shirley".

I affected a high pitched voice, but frankly, I figured that people would know it was me. After all, I was still a six-foot black person. Much to my shock and amazement, no one recognized me! Well, not until later in the evening, when my "five o'clock shadow" starred to appear.

The Halloween of 1978 inspired me to dress up for several years thereafter, though never again in drag.

Happy Halloween to everyone, especially to "Sid", who I've finally gotten in contact with again after several years, and to FGH for scanning the picture.

Or put another way, in my friend Mark's Sanheim greeting: "This Time, the Dark Night, the New Year, the Thinned Veil; remember your ancestry, Turn to face the Dawn. It Goes, then comes again.
Blessings Be."

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Bats in the belfry

The first time we saw a bat in the house (I’m talking the mammal variety, not the sports variety) was in June 2002. I woke up about 3 a.m. for no particular reason. It must have been a moonlit night, because, although there were no lights on in the house, I could just make out something in the corner of the room.
"Carol!" I whispered insistently. "There’s a bat in the room!" I pointed to the general direction of the critter’s location. She replied, "OK." O.K.? "Leave it alone and it’ll leave us alone." Carol grew up in a very small, nearly rural, area, and that was the credo: leave animals alone and it will generally reciprocate.
Well, swell, but how do I sleep now, knowing that there’s a beast only a few yards away?
About ten minutes later, the bat suddenly swooped down towards us. We put the covers over our heads, ran out of the room, and closed the door behind us.
I went onto the computer and came to the site of the Monroe County Health Department in Rochester. The site says: "If it is certain the bat did not have contact with a person or pet, the bat can be allowed to leave through an open window."
Well, we weren’t exposed, so that’s good.
We went to sleep in the guest room, with the door closed, after thorough examination of the corners.
The next morning (oh, two hours later), I ran into our bedroom, opened the window, ran out, and closed the door. A while later, I opened the door and didn’t see the bat. But my wife wanted to be sure, so she called a bat removal guy. He came over in a few hours, checked around, and didn’t find a bat. But he was obliged to contact the Albany County Health Department and tell them about possible rabies exposure. Since we were asleep when the bat arrived, there was no way to KNOW that we were not exposed, and since the bat had escaped, the creature couldn’t be tested. Two people in Albany County died of rabies from bats in the previous 5 or 6 years. That meant one thing:
Carol was planning to go to Ukraine for a week of teaching within the week. The bat guy said, "Oh, you’re not going ANYWHERE," which was greatly disappointing to her.
The good news about rabies shots is that they no longer shoot long needles into your stomach.
The bad news about rabies shots is that they still use long needles, and they leave them in until all of the serum is out. Worse, the heavier you are, the more needles you get.
So, we go to the county health department to get these shots. I got four of them. First, two nurses gave me simultaneous shots in the front of of my thighs. Involuntarily, I started humming as the needles s-l-o-w-l-y discharged the serum. Then, two shots in the back of my thighs. Pain. Humming.
Then, we needed booster shots the 3rd, 7th, 14th, and 28th days after. These are traditional shots in the arm. The head of the Health Department wrote a letter explaining to whomever that Carol would be carrying serum halfway across the world. Would the airlines be OK with Carol carrying a needle in her carry-on luggage?
Her flights were from Albany to Toronto, then Toronto to Vienna on Air Canada, then Vienna to Dnipropetrovs'k on the Austrian line. (Yes, she had to fly west to go east.) We called Air Canada to tell them the situation, but we never got the assurances we were really seeking.
On the third day, we had arranged to have our then-neighbor, who was a doctor coming home from Albany Medical Center’s night shift, to give Carol her first booster shot. Her second dosage was in a bag filled with dry ice in her carry-on bag.
No problems in Canada or Austria.
When she gets to Ukraine, the Customs personnel want to know EVERYTHING she’s carrying in, including her wedding ring, and its value. Apparently, they don’t want a lot of wealth entering and not leaving the country, or for much wealth to leave the country. When Carol declared about her medicine, though, the guy said, "Never mind," because it would be too much of a hassle to deal with, and he failed to write it down.
So, the tour people arranged for a Ukrainian doctor to get her shot on the 7th day, and she was home for the last two boosters. Of course, I got all of my boosters at the Health department in Albany.
I was telling this story to a friend of mine, about thinking I was not exposed when health officials would determine that I might have been, when I was interrupted. "Oh, yeah, my sister went through the Same Thing." Boy, I wish I had known that before!

In June of 2003, I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. On the first floor of our house, the chimney is in the center, adjacent to the living room and dining room. I look down and see a bat flying round and round our chimney. I go back to bed, with the door closed. Carol is awake, and I tell her what I saw. I don’t know if either of us went back to sleep.
In the morning, we called the bat removal guy, who looked for the animal, and FOUND it in the window on the landing between the first and second floor. He took it to be tested, and it was negative for rabies.

In June of 2004, Carol was coming downstairs from the first floor to the basement with a load of laundry in her arms when a bat decided to fly up the stairs. She nearly was face to face with the creature. I don’t know that we ever found that beast.

Next month, batproofing is supposed to begin, patching very small holes under the roof where bats can squeeze in. One can’t do it TOO early, lest the bats get stuck in the house all winter, and we get to see them again next spring.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

3 Halloween ?S

Three questions I wish for you to answer, if you would be so kind. My response will be in reply section.

1. What was the BEST costume you ever wore? The worst? The most embarassing? The one that got you into the most trouble?

2. Do you still have the Halloween spirit? If not, what age did you lose it? Or did it go and come back? (Having children could do that to one, e.g.)

3. Lydia's daycare is having a "Fall Festival" this week. Is this: 1) a sensitive response to people's various belief systems about Halloween or 2) too damn Politically Correct?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Halloween Mixed Bag

Chris Brown, a/k/a Lefty announced another Mixed Bag CD, this one in honor of the season. He actually said: "This is a Halloween themed mix, but I'm leaving it wide open to however you want to interpret that and how far you ghouls wants to take it." But I had started thinking about it after he started hinting about it, so I decided that I'd try to do the October 31 theme.

But ya know, I'm not one of those All Hallows Eve folks. As an adult, I can remember only a few times that I dressed up, (but one of those times, I looked fabulous, just FABULOUS!) I don't really collect, or even gravitate to, Halloween tunes, so it would be a difficult exercise. So why do it? Because it would be a difficult exercise.

I used to belong to a book club at my former church. 10 months a year, we'd get together and read a book, any book in a category agreed to by the group: nature, humor, love, whatever. Sometimes I'd find a book on my shelf that I had been planning to read that fit the category, but sometimes I had to read something that I would not otherwise have attempted. I decided that the exercise was worthwhile; it's how I ended up reading Margaret Atwood, among others.

So, I've decided that this is a good thing. But I might not do it NEXT year.

Oh, and one more thing. I AGNONIZED over what it would the tunes, and especially the order. Must have recorded it FIVE times, and if I didn't let it go, I'd STILL be fussing with it. The one thing that was on a couple versions that didn't make the final cut is Night on the Bare Mountain, not the Rimsky-Korsikov adaptation, but the 12-minute original Mussorsky. Maybe next year. Maybe not.

Most of these songs have deep, resonating vocals. Here's what I came up with:

1. Evil-Howlin' Wolf: love that rumbling voice! A blues classic.

2. Title Music from A Clockwork Orange: as I think I've said before, you ought to see this movie ONCE. This is moody moog music from Walter/Wendy Carlos

3. Halloween-Duplex Planet: occasionally, I join record clubs. Not your traditional record clubs, but quirky record clubs. Hello Records put out a bunch of oddball artists, along with obscure stuff from people like Andy Partridge (XTC), Frank Black, and They Might Be Giants. This is one of them. Most of the albums are 15-20 minutes long. One of the few cuts specifically on target.

4. Celtic Rock-Donovan: my friend Mark and I were big fans of the Open Road album that came out in the early 1970s. Sounds Lord of the Ringian, I think.

5. Intruder-Peter Gabriel: first song from his third album, generally called "Melt". I think someone is in the house.

6. Lovely Creature-Nick Cave: from his Murder Ballads album. One that isn't as gruesome as some of the other tunes, and not filled with curses like a couple of the tracks, but still very moody/scary, even with the leavening of the female vocal. I have a friend who worked for a record company and sent me discs from time to time; this was one.

7. Your Long White Fingers-Gothic Archies: another Hello disc. The songs on this album are all very short; this one is 1:29.

8. Gnomus (Pictures at an Exhibition): a section from the Mussorsky classic. Change of pace.

9. Greed-Duplex Planet. Less than 30 seconds.

10. The Dead Only Quickly-Gothic Archies. Just over a minute.

11. Paint It, Black-the Rolling Stones. When I was growing up, I had (and still have) the Aftermath LP. Then in the 1980s, Tom Skulan of FantaCo brought me the Aftermath CD from England. I decided on this song, and then I realized that I DID NOT OWN Paint It, Black. I had forgotten that the American version had the song:
1. Paint It Black
2. Stupid Girl
3. Lady Jane
4. Under My Thumb
5. Doncha Bother Me
6. Think
7. Flight 505
8. High and Dry
9. It's Not Easy
10. I Am Waiting
11. Going Home
but that the British version did NOT:
1. Mother's Little Helper
2. Stupid Girl
3. Lady Jane
4. Under My Thumb
5. Doncha Bother Me
6. Goin' Home
7. Flight 505
8. High And Dry
9. Out Of Time
10. It's Not Easy
11. I Am Waiting
12. Take It Or Leave It
13. Think
14. What To Do
It's like the Beatles' Rubber Soul; an American album with the same name and some common tunes, but not all. And of course, the American version is always shorter. (This music butchering also explains why "Ruby Tuesday" shows up on two U.S. LPs in a row.) NOW I have all the Rolling Stones albums through Goat's Head Soup, at least the non-live, non-Greatest Hits discs.

12. Voodoo-the Neville Brothers: New Orleans funk from the Yellow Moon album (the second time I've referenced that album this week, the first being when Rosa Parks died). It probably belongs on my Top 50 or so list.

13. I Put a Spell on You-Creedence Clearwater Revival: logical follow up as both talk about casting a spell.

14. Zombie Jamboree-Rockapella: this wasn't on the first couple versions because I FORGOT. Harry Belafonte did a version of this song that I received from Zombie Tom. From the Spike & Co. a cappella album, Spike being Mr. Lee, who was in Albany this month (didn't see him).

15. Catacombs (Pictures at an Exhibition) - starts with an abrupt octave change.

16: Thriller rap-Vincent Price and Michael Jackson: on the extended Thriller CD, you can hear the second verse of Price's priceless pontification.

17. Black Cat-Janet Jackson. This was on, then off, then on again. I couldn't resist putting Michael and his baby sister together.

18. Wastepaper Basket Fire-Brian Dewan: another Hello disc. Just because. Very dramatic reading of a dramatic event.

Thanks to Al, Brian, Darrin, and Mark (who will get a copy of this disc when he comes up to fix my computer!) for some sources of the tunes and/or suggestions.

Lefty has reviewed my disc on October 25.

Others have sent me their musical masterpieces and I won't review them per se, if only because I haven't heard them enough.

Logan did a cover version piece. Thing about cover versions is that you really appreciate them, or hate them best, when you can compare them with the originals. I liked all of the covers for which I recognized the originals. For those I didn't, primarily the rap stuff, it was more of a mixed bag. Played twice.

Gordon picked songs that evoked the mood, many of them familiar to me. And it ticked me off. Why didn't I think of that track from the Specials? Actually, I liked the collection quite a bit. Played once.

(Note: Roger's Rule is that one cannot fully judge a piece of music until it has been played thrice.)

I just got discs from a guy named Gilbert (a "bad song" mix, featuring the Williams Shatner and Hung) and Greg Burgas, which I haven't heard yet.

Lefty's mix, described in his blog of October 27, I haven't received yet. I assume I'll get his wife Kelly's at the same time. I know what I'll be listening to on Monday.

Harriet’s Gone, and so is Scooter

I am SO sad that Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination for Supreme Court justice. Really, I am. I loved seeing her in all of those pictures with Bionic Dick Cheney and I. Lewis "Child’s Vehicle" Libby when the news broadcasters talked about the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson situation.

Not only that, but a week's worth of Doonesbury strips are n.g. and next week's strips will be reruns.

And now, Libby's been indicted, for perjury and obstruction, and has resigned. Another bummer, because:
  • It seems like the President has decided to consolidate all of his bad news in one week.
  • The indictments came down on a Friday, which means it will be in the Saturday newspapers, traditionally the one least read.
  • Turd Blossom wasn't indicted with Libby
    Well, one takes what one can.
  • Curses foiled again

    Belated congratulations to the Chicago White Sox for winning the 2005 World Series. I picked against them, but rooted for them. Yesterday morning, Phil Bayly, the morning anchor on the local NBC affiliate in Albany, was playing the White Sox fight song. I didn't know they even HAD one. I'm happy for you, JB.

    Who woulda thunk that the year after the BoSox defeated the Curse of the Bambino (1918-2004) that the ChiSox would end the Curse of the Black Sox that started the year before (1917-2005)? Arithmetically speaking, bet the house on the Chicago Cubs, who last won a World Series nine years earlier than the White Sox, in 1908, to oust whatever Curse is holding them, in a 4-game 2014.

    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    Why murder?

    Kelly Brown often confounds me with her simple yet profound questions. Why do people murder?, she asked on August 4. Only one person answered her, I suspect, because, of course, it's complicated.

    On one hand, I would think (having no direct knowledge) that it would be easier for someone to kill another person when one can objectify the victim as "the other": different race (lynchings in the South, and elswehere come to mind) different religion (Iraq and Ireland), different ethnicity (Yugoslavia), different gang. On the other hand, that theory doesn't explain why one kills those closest to a person: murder/suicide (usually the man kills the wife, then himself), infantcide (Andrea Yates). Then there's greed and power and jealousy but they've been with us always (Abel, Julius Caesar).

    Incidentally, the FBI statistics suggest that the murder rate went down from 2003 to 2004 by 3.6%, after rising slighty the previous three years. What caused THAT, I wonder? I've read about every theory from the use of death penalty to the greater incarceration rate to a greater comradery after 9/11/01. I'm not sure that any of them is correct; perhaps it's a statistical anomoly.

    This got me to thinking about conversations I've had with my mother about how to live one's life. She said, "Just follow the Ten Commandments." Ah yes, but how does one interpret them? What ARE graven images in this society anyway?

    Take "Thou shalt not kill." I know reasonable people will disagree what that means when talking about suicide, "dying with dignity," self-defense, first-trimester abortion, late-term abortion, the morning after pill, stem cell research, war, the death penalty, even vegetarianism.

    On October 5, in response to a question of mine, Kelly's husband Lefty described his belief in the "seamless robe" concept, which is a model that states that all life is sacred. This is based on Jesus' indivisible tunic. So one would oppose abortion, war, the death penalty, poverty that leads to death, etc., in a consistent philosophy. (Lefty, do you have a good website that explains this further?)

    I recognize that my theology on this is more cafeteria style.
    Abortion: in the words of the junior senator from New York (who I've never voted for, BTW), "Safe, legal and rare." I've been around before Roe v. Wade, when women of means were going to Sweden or elsewhere for the procedure, and poorer women were using coat hangers.
    War: generally, I'm against it. I did not protest the war in Afghanistan, though it made me sad (are we still IN Afghanistan?), but I vigorously opposed the build-up to war in Iraq.
    Death penalty: I'm against it. Here's an interesting fact. More non-Hispanic white people are arrrested for crimes than blacks and Hispanics, yet the prisons are dominated by people of color. Am I suggesting that the criminal justice system MAY not be just? I am. Do I think people who were innocent of capital crimes have been executed because they didn't have decent legal representation? I do.
    My thoughts on this are also informed by a father of a young woman killed in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 who spoke in Albany last year. He had anger, naturally, but he came to realize that killing Timothy McVeigh wouldn't bring his daughter back, and therefore he opposed McVeigh's execution. When McVeigh WAS executed, he saw a lot of "I thought this would make me feel better, but it didn't" from the other victims' families. (I opposed McVeigh's execution, in part, because I don't think the whole story was told: remember the search for John Doe #2?)

    Well, I could go on, but I recognize that:
    1) I'm just rambling on with no particular resolution, and
    2) I've probably ticked off enough of you for one day

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    The Lydster Part 19: Give Me a Head with Hair

    A few months back, my wife Carol says to me, "What should we do about Lydia’s hair?" I, being a new age, sensitive guy, said, "Huh?" I mean, it’s "girl’s hair." I was never a girl. How would I know?

    What I DID know was that my sisters used to have their hair straightened when they were little with a hot comb. Judging by their howls, this was an...uncomfortable thing to go through. And it smelled, some gag-inducing stench. Then, styles (most fortunately) changed and they each ended up with a natural ‘do.

    So, I’m thinking, I liked the modified ‘fro Lydia seems to have developed.

    I figure she'd grow it until it hit Angela Davis proportions:

    Then one day, at her new daycare, the girls were having ponytails done. Not wanting Lydia to feel left out, one of her caretakers did Lydia’s hair, so that it looked like this:

    Then, soon after, like this:

    And yes, we told her not to sit that way. Right after the picture was taken. Looks kinda Princess Leia to me.

    So the process continues, as it were. I suppose we could solve the problem this way:

    Happy 19 months, Lydia. I love you.

    Sploggers suck

    I HATE SPLOGGERS! My wife HATES the word "suck" in this context. Please don't tell her I used it.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2005

    2000 Dead in Iraq

    There will be vigils tomorrow (Wednesday) across the country noting the 2000th American serviceperson killed in Iraq. These demonstrations have been organized by the American Friends Service Committee and

    You can check here or here for an event near you.

    Locally, there will be vigils at 5:30pm on Wolf Road and Central Ave. in Colonie, at 7pm in front of the Post Office in Saratoga Springs and other locations. At 3:30pm, there will be a demonstration in front of Congressman Sweeney's Office in Clifton Park. For more local information, check here.

    Sci-Fi Movies

    Tosy directed me to writer John Scalzi's page. Scalzi has written The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies, now officially available for purchase in the US.

    The book is arranged in several interesting-sounding chapters, including The Science: the science (or lack thereof) in science fiction films.

    He predicts that "the part of the book that's going to get most people's attention -- and raise hackles -- is The Canon, which features the 50 science fiction films I have deemed to be the most significant in the history of film. Note that 'most significant' does not mean 'best' or 'most popular' or even 'most influential.' Some of the films may be all three of these, but not all of them are -- indeed, some films in The Canon aren't objectively very good, weren't blockbusters and may not have influenced other filmmakers to any significant degree. Be that as it may, I think they matter -- in one way or another, they are uniquely representative of some aspect of the science fiction film experience."

    So, what films are in The Canon? Here, in alphabetical order, are "the 50 science fiction films you have to see before you die":
    (The ones I''ve seen are in italics:

    The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!
    Back to the Future- in fact all three of them
    Blade Runner-is my omission a cardinal sin? (Cardinal Sin- didn't he used to be the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines?)
    Brazil- had fully intended to one day, and it didn't happen
    Bride of Frankenstein
    Brother From Another Planet- but I've seen a LOT of John Sayles movies
    A Clockwork Orange- but I don't plan to watch it AGAIN
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind- I think I've seen both versions
    The Damned
    Destination Moon
    The Day The Earth Stood Still
    Escape From New York
    ET: The Extraterrestrial
    Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (serial)
    The Fly (1985 version)
    Forbidden Planet
    Ghost in the Shell
    The Incredibles- so there, Hemby!
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 version) - I saw the later version, too
    Jurassic Park
    Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior
    The Matrix
    On the Beach
    Planet of the Apes (1968 version)- I saw all 5 Apes movies at a drive-in in one night! Brutal.
    Sleeper- but then, I saw all of the Woody Allen pictures of that era
    Solaris (1972 version)
    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan- saw the first five films, none since
    Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
    Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
    - I also saw VI, and I
    The Stepford Wives- I HAVE to assume he means the original film, not the recent remake
    Terminator 2: Judgement Day
    The Thing From Another World
    Things to Come
    12 Monkeys
    28 Days Later
    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
    2001: A Space Odyssey

    La Voyage Dans la Lune
    War of the Worlds (1953 version)

    Well, I've seen exactly half. So if I live to be 104, I'll be sure to see the other 25.

    Sister Rosa

    Much of what I've heard about Rosa Parks’ courageous act was contradictory.
    Even when I heard it from Rosa Parks.

    Rosa Parks sat down in the white section of that Montgomery bus because she was tired from working all day.
    The only thing Rosa Parks was tired of was sitting in the back of the bus.

    Rosa Parks was a simple seamstress who didn’t know that she would be arrested.
    Rosa Parks was a secretary with the local NAACP and had a pretty good idea that she would be arrested.

    Whatever the particulars, they do not alter the fact that Rosa Parks’ action, followed by the 13-month Montgomery bus boycott, altered the country for the better.
    When I heard Rosa Parks died, I pulled out my Neville Brothers’ album, Yellow Moon, and played the track "Sister Rosa":

    Thank you Miss Rosa, you are the spark,
    You started our freedom movement.
    Thank you, Sister Rosa Parks.

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    Even Odds and Split Ends

    Random stuff I've received, mostly by e-mail, in the past week or so.


    For those of you too broke or too cheap to buy your own pumpkin.


    Pete Townsend of the Who has a blog, on which he is publishing a story called 'The Boy Who Heard Music'. I saw this on a wire story, but it gave the URL as or Lazy journalism, that.

    A lot of interesting-looking articles and reviews about books (Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke), music (Sigur Rós, Anoushka Shankar Charlie Sexton), film in both DVD (Batman: The 1943 Serial Collection) and in theaters (David Cronenberg's History of Violence) and TV DVDs (Arrested Development, Veronica Mars)in a magazine called Paste.

    Unfortunately, I couldn't find online the one story I most wanted to read, about Sir Paul McCartney, which may have been the point. The Elizabethtown cover is a watercolor by Joni Mitchell, her first watercolor piece since the So Far album cover for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

    Stevie Wonder's much-delayed album, "A Time to Love", which I said was coming out in May, and then in June, was FINALLY released on October 18. My wife promised to get it for me for our anniversary, which was in May.

    Here is a review of an album that I've never heard by an artist I never heard of. It gives me hope for the future of the Republic.


    An old pic of a bridge only a few hundred yards from my workplace. Familiar landmarks should be obvious to the locals, especially the building to the right of the closest footing...

    Oh and click on the "picture" of me for my not-so-secret message.


    The Bill of Rights Defense Committee's e-mail newsletter
    September 2005, Vol. 4, No. 7
    Dissent Is Patriotic

    Beyond Reason
    "This extremely powerful 89 minute film presents comprehensive documentation from United States Government archives of a massive cover-up, including military and civilian experimentation, dating back over 60 years."

    Go to this site if you wish to pledge to only support candidates who:
    Acknowledge that the U.S. was misled into the war in Iraq
    Advocate for a responsible exit plan with a timeline
    Support our troops both at home and abroad

    A better way to vote.

    DeLay’s Lawyer Lies About MoveOn. Unless he just repeated a lie told by his client. Or he was just mistaken. And the lie has been perpetuated by the mainstream media.
    Naturally, my pal Dan is outraged:
    Dear Associated Press:
    I have become aware that you people have happily and enthusiastically repeated the lie spread by the lawyer for the criminal corporatist Tom DeLay, that the patriotic organization MoveOn is printing t- shirts with DeLay's mug shot.
    Because you are a virtual monopoly, you have an obligation to print the truth. You people need to immediately provide a retraction, and recommend to the corporate media outlets for which you provide content to print the retraction.
    I realize that such an act of integrity runs counter to the corporate political agenda which it is your mission to promote. However, each lie that you amplify, each bit of truth that you suppress, each line of disinformation that you spread undercuts the perceived integrity of the corporate media outlets that you people provide for.
    As more and more of the public becomes aware of the unreliability of corporate media outlets, the more of the corporate print outlets go out of business because of lack of readership. Each outlet that goes under brings the Associated Press closer to bankruptcy and dissolution.
    Rest assured that I am working every day to cause your demise. It's easy. All I have to do is point out to the people around me the lies that you people spread, and eventually they understand.
    So I ask you to tell the truth. But, since I live in a reality based mode of existence, I understand that you people can no more tell the truth than flap your arms and fly. Thus, all I can say is, if you want to lie, then go ahead. Bring 'em on.

    VERY disrespectful.


    This is a great resource for those of you who want to study the history and impact of communications technologies on society.

    A new blog with a collection of information policy articles

    Soil And Health Library
    "Health begins in the soil; Healing begins with hygiene; Liberty begins with freedom. This is a specialist library about holistic agriculture, holistic health and self-sufficient homestead living. Most of the titles in this library are out of print. Many are quite hard to find.
    "This is a free public library. No membership payment is required to get full access to its contents. However, donations are solicited.
    "The Soil and Health Library has four major sections:
    "Radical Agriculture. The nutritional qualities of food and consequently the health of the animals and humans eating that food are determined by soil fertility. This section's interest is far wider than organic gardening and farming; other health-determined approaches to food-raising are also included.
    "The Restoration and Maintenance of Health. Nutritional medicine heals disease, builds and maintains health with diet—and sometimes heals with fasting or other forms of dietary restriction. There are many approaches represented in this collection. There is also a collection concerning longevity and nutritional anthropology.
    "Achieving Personal Sovereignty. Physical, mental, and spiritual health are linked to one's lifestyle. This collection focuses on liberating activities, especially homesteading and the skills it takes to do that—small-scale entrepreneuring, financial independence, frugality, and voluntary simplicity. There is also a collection of social criticism, especially from a back-to-the-land point of view.
    "Achieving Spiritual Freedom. There are many seemingly-different self-betterment roads. The books in this collection seek to empower a person to effect their own development in an independent manner."

    Making the Case for "Amos 'n' Andy"

    I asked some questions on Saturday. Here are my answers.

    Should Amos 'n' Andy be aired?

    Absolutely Yes. It occurred to me, during the discussions of Banned Books Week recently, that there is a great deal of fear of things (books, movies) that people haven't even seen or read. Recall, for instance, the protests before the movies Passion of the Christ or Farenheit 9/11 were even released.

    I've never seen Amos 'n' Andy. Even *I* am too young. The only part of I've ever viewed was a short segment during some TV Land documentary about blacks on television a couple seasons ago. Maybe I SHOULD see it, maybe we ALL should see it, to find out what the controversy is all about, first hand. We'll have a national discussion about it.

    In what manner? With caveats? Only late at night? Only on cable? Only available on video and/or DVD?

    On PBS, educational TV. It seems to me that it fits in with that promise to "enrich the lives of all Americans." Let's face it: there are other outlets that take address issues that were once pretty much the sole provence of public television (History Channel, Biography, and a number of networks geared towards kids.) PBS' other advantage is that it is a broadcast outlet that reeaches most homes without cable. Of COURSE, with caveats, discussion of the historical context, etc.

    Of course, it will NEVER happen, since PBS stations, understandably, are worried about their fundraising abilities.

    "Have you personally ever felt that you were being discriminated against because of your race?"

    Oh, God, yes.

    "How close do you think we are to eliminating discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities in America once and for all? Are we very close, fairly close, not too close, or not close at all?"

    Not too close. That overt "separate water fountain" stuff that one associated with the American Souith is largely gone, replaced by that more subtle form that existed in the North even in the 1960s, when Northerners were so good at tsk tsking the folks in the South. Now, that more subtle form is by and large the universal form. One of these days, I'll write more on this.

    If you are a-mind to, please indicate your race.

    Black. And I promised some months ago, to say why I prefer that to "African-American". Well, partly, it is that it's too limiting. There are lots of folks who are black Africans, or from the Caribbean or elsewhere, perhaps originally from Africa, but removed from it.
    When I see the code A on some forms, I automatically think Asian.
    Also, I've lived through colored, Negro, Black, Afro-American, Black again, then African-American. Black is plain simpler, six syllables less, and life is just too short.

    Oh, and while I think of it, I think the idea of dressing up and the ban on bling for NBA players is a good thing. Some players disagree and suggest that it's racist. Certainly, it's race conscious, banning a gangsta look, but I see it as a way to keep fannies in the seats and watching on TV. Other professional sports players dress in suits on the road. I DO sympathize wit the playerr who has trouble finding a suit in his size; I guess each signing bonus herafter will include a clothing allowance.

    Sunday, October 23, 2005

    Noble Pinter

    Harold Pinter has been awarded a Nobel Prize in literature. I realize that I need to note that fact because, in some peculiar way, his observational tactic (or my reductivist understanding of same) has informed how I look at the world. I hear an intriguing piece of dialogue on in an elevator, then the door closes, and I'm thinking "that was very Pinteresque." Of course, the playright imbued the seemingly mundane with magical meaning.

    Beyond that, I also appreciate the fact that he wrote many plays and screenplays, most notably for me, the screenplay for the movie The French Lieutenant's Woman. And his fight against political oppression, as well as his scathing criticism of W's invasion of Iraq, warmed my heart as well.

    The links will show you far more. For me, this award is, as I like to say, a BFD.

    Saturday, October 22, 2005

    3 ?s on Race in America

    PLEASE feel free to answer any and all.

    1. In an article titled "TV Themes' Swan Song" I read in TV Week, noted television critic Tom Shales writes:

    Among the most curious juxtapositions of the early years was the heavenly a cappella chorus that opened and closed every episode of "Amos 'n Andy," now the least-seen classic in TV history. The show did traffic in African American stereotypes-most offensively with the characters of crooked lawyer Algonquin J. Calhoun and a lazy handyman named Lightnin'-but in fact, blacks from many social strata were featured on the program.

    In one episode, the Kingfish is visited by two FBI men, and both of them are the same color as the Kingfish. Andy was Kingfish's clueless stooge, but Amos the cab driver was an upright solid citizen. Whatever-it was that strangely unlikely theme song, wordlessly sung by a choir while graphics showed the New York skyline at night, that gave the show instant mythic stature, the aura of American fable.

    To the best of my knowledge-admittedly inadequate-the theme dates at least as far back as D.W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation" and, under the title "The Perfect Song," was used to accompany many other "silent" films.

    Bill Cosby is among the prominent African Americans who have said that "Amos 'n Andy" can and should be shown now that its stereotypes are offset by the masterful intensity of its performances. But CBS keeps it under lock and lock, and yet another lock, and who even knows where the key is?

    So, the first question: should Amos 'n' Andy be aired? In what manner? With caveats? Only late at night? Only on cable? Only available on video and/or DVD?

    2. This I stole from an ABC News poll in June 2005:
    "Have you personally ever felt that you were being discriminated against because of your race?"

    3. From an AP poll from March 2003:
    "How close do you think we are to eliminating discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities in America once and for all? Are we very close, fairly close, not too close, or not close at all?"

    If you are a-mind to, please indicate your race.

    I think I'll post my answers on Monday. I don't want to color your responses.

    Little Things on TV I wondered about

    1. Was the idea of Earl (My Name is Earl) and Joey (guess what?) both in classes of English as a Second Language as a major part of the plots this week just a coincidence, or was it plotted?

    2. The former Secretary of State on the upcoming Gilmore Girls? How DID that happen? (I love it!)

    3. How can people mess up identifying Beatle lyrics (A Day in the Life, Taxman, I Am the Walrus - all missed) so badly on JEOPARDY!

    Friday, October 21, 2005

    Why is everyone in such a damn hurry?

    Once upon a time, blogger Kelly Brown asked the question, "Why is everybody in such a damn hurry?" She probably didn’t say "damn." I can't find the citation just now, and I'm in too much of a hurry to find out.

    My theory? It's technology, or rather the technological revolution gone amok.

    (It's not that I'm a Luddite. A technology such as the refrigerator is better than the old icebox, because it's better at preventing spoilage.)

    I remember reading a number of forecasts for the future, when I was growing up in the 1960s. They all sounded like this:
    "Americans will be working fewer hours, giving us more time for leisure with our families. We’ll become so efficient that the 30- (or 25-) workweek will become commonplace."
    What happened instead is that the technology that made us more efficient meant that we could do more and more, so even more and more was expected. That may have been a business model that drove this trend once upon a time, but it appears that too many of us have bought into it, internalized it.

    For instance, what is road rage but the manifestation that "I don’t have TIME for this!" Last month we were on the Interstate spur I-787 heading from Albany to Troy, when three lanes became one. The merge was in a half-mile, and it was working surprisingly well until some yahoos decided that their time was More Valuable than others and started passing everyone on the right, expecting to be able to get back into the line further up the road. This was in direct violation of one of Roger’s Rules: Respect the queue. Apparently, it was in other people’s rules, too, as the cars in the queue started moving farther and farther to the right, just DARING the people to pass them. Of course, when the merge happened, the yahoos did get back in, but not without a struggle that frankly left me white-knuckled. I was sure there was going to be an accident.

    Vacation. It means to vacate. "Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream," some guy once wrote. So how do you do that when you just HAVE to check your e-mails from wherever you are, be accessible by cell phone, pager and all sorts of technological harnesses? The technology that is supposed to be liberating has become a trap. When I used to have a cell phone, nobody except my wife knew the number. I wanted it in case of emergency or courtesy ("Honey, I’m stuck in traffic.") I will admit to accessing my work e-mail from home on the last day or two of vacation, just so I am not inundated with 499 e-mails when I get back, 150 of them junk.

    How did we get as a society where a town in New Jersey had to declare a family day? NO soccer practice, NO anything except staying home with the family, getting reacquainted by playing Scrabble.

    Why ARE we in such a hurry? Where are we going? Are we afraid that we have to "fit in all in" so they’ll still talk about us when we’re gone? Kelly asked the question before. I’d value your observations, because I’d like to know, too.

    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    Rock Meme-Tommy Pett et al.

    That's what a friend of mine calls him, just because.

    Artist/Band: Tom Petty (b. 1953)
    Are you male or female: American Girl; Mystery Man (obviously, having an identity crisis)
    Describe yourself: Self-Made Man; Mystery Man
    How do some people feel about you: A**hole; Refugee
    How do you feel about yourself: You Tell Me; Hard on Me
    Describe what you want to be: So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star
    Describe how you live: It'll All Work Out; To Find a Friend
    Describe how you love: You and I Will Meet Again; Built to Last
    Share a few words of wisdom: It's Good to Be King

    My oldest friend, Karen, has a WONDERFUL way of saying a**hole. "He SUCH an a**hole." The "a" sound is somewhat nasal. It's wonderfully cutting. It is my favorite curse word, usually in reference to operators of motor vehicles.

    And the song, written by Beck, is a wonderful juxtaposition between melodic tune and cutting lyric:
    "She'll do anything to make you feel like an a**hole." Then Petty sings it again, in HARMONY.
    The only other song I can think of that has such a wonderful disconnect from lyric to music is "Dealer" by Traffic. That music reminds me of an exotic market in Marrakesh. The lyric: "And spinning 'round he'll cut your throat" or "Leave your wife a weeping widow on the shore" Yow.
    The publication Variety is 100 years old. The Beatles and others are iconic.
    Still without a home computer. As they say in France, quelle drag.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    Island Records, Part 2

    Ya know, if I didn't have the need to ANNOTATE these, I could have been done with this list DAYS ago.

    Joni Mitchell-Court & Spark (1974). I saw Joni in August of 1974 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Someday, you'll read about the discussion of that day. (Note: it wasn't pleasant.) "Help me, I thinking I'm falling in love again."

    Van Morrison-His Band and the Street Choir (1970). Played in my dorm incessantly, and not just for the hits "Domino" and "Blue Money".

    Pointer Sisters-That's a Plenty(1974). Jazz, soul, country, funk- no wonder no one knew where to put this album in the racks. Have only on vinyl.

    Pretenders-Learning to Crawl (1984). I was very fond of the first two Pretenders albums. then two members died and figured that was that. But Chrissie Hynde and Martin Chambers found some guys to record "Back on the Chain Gang" and my favorite Pretenders song, "My City Was Gone". And about a year later, with still other folks, the album came out.

    Prince-Purple Rain (1984). O.K., so the film wasn't great cinema. I listened to this album incessantly, fueled by MTV videos. I even got a 12" of "Let's Go Crazy," and I did.

    Bonnie Raitt-Give It Up (1972). I heard about this singer in 1971 from my HS buddy Steve. He was right. The use of the tuba as bass never fails to get me rolling.

    Rascals-Groovin' (1967). Features "A Girl Like You", "How Can I Be Sure", the it-should-have-been-on-the-previous-album "You Better Run" and the title track. But the best song is the last: "It's Love", featuring the flute of Hubert Laws. Sonically, a foretelling of the band when it left Atlantic for Columbia in 1971.

    R.E.M.-Green (1988). O.K., what album by the group did you EXPECT me to pick. But why is the cover ORANGE?

    The Rolling Stones-Let It Bleed (1969). From Merry Clayton on "Gimme Shelter" to "Country Honk" to one of my life themes, "You Can't Always Get What You Want", I love the songs on this album. When I saw the movie The Big Chill, I started laughing during the funeral scene, much to the puzzlement of most. I had already picked up on the joke that the keyboardist was playing the last song on this album.

    Linda Ronstadt-Hasten Down the Wind (1976). Karla Bonoff and other great songwriters on a bunch of mostly depressing songs.

    Santana-Abraxas (1972). Just can't listen to the single version of "Black Magic Woman" or much else on this album. It requires the designed flow.

    Simon & Garfunkel-Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970). Like the Pretenders album, a big gap between the single ("The Boxer"/"Baby Driver") and the album, this time due to personality clashes. Also, one song reminds me of an old girlfriend.

    Paul Simon-Still Crazy After All These Years (1975). A breakup album, and I'm not talking "50 Ways". Speaking of that song, though, someone had once suggested that
    "Slip out the back, Jack" referred to Jack Kirby
    "Make a new plan, Stan" referred to Stan Lee
    "Don't need to be coy, Roy" refereed to Roy Thomas, and
    "Drop off the key, Lee" also referred to the former Stanley Leiber
    Don't know who Gus was on "hop on the bus, Gus"

    Bruce Springsteen-Born to Run (1975): Mr. Cover-of-Time-AND-Newsweek-in-the-same-week. I never got tired of this album, which I can't say about the Born in the U.S.A., for instance.

    Ringo Starr-Ringo (1973). With participation by John, Paul, and especially George. The same held true for the follow-up, Goodnight Vienna, which I read described as an "ersatz Beatles album."

    Steely Dan-Royal Scam (1976). Always liked the way they sing "ro-YAL scam".

    Steppenwolf-Steppenwolf (1968). Mr. Hembeck only likes the first two hits by the group, and Lefty doesn't seem to be a fan, either. I contend the first Steppenwolf album was great. It included the Hoyt Axton "the Pusher" and the still-relevant "The Ostrich".

    Rod Stewart-Every Picture Tells A Story (1971). Rod used to be SO good. A dorm staple.

    Sly and the Family Stone's Greatest Hits (1971). The exception to the rule that banned greatest hits albums. After all this was the first appearance on album of "everybody is a Star", "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)", and the religious experience that is "Hot Fun in the Summertime". Probably on my top 12.

    The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland (1967). A bit of a misnomer, since most of their songs and virtually all of their hits up to that point were written and produced by Brian, Lamont and Eddie. Features "Remove This Doubt", later covered by Elvis Costello.

    Talking Heads-Speaking in Tongues (1983). I liked the group when I first heard them, probably in 1978. But after seeing them live at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in 1983 in support of this album, I LOVED them. One oddity about this collection: some of the songs on the CD are longer than they are on the LP, a way to get you to buy both or a way to show the wonderfulness of this new-fangled compact disc.

    James Taylor-Sweet Baby James (1970). Almost a cliché in its ubiquitousness. I knew no one my age who didn't own it at the time.

    Temptations-Puzzle People (1969). After Dennis Edwards replaced David Ruffin, Norman Whitfield became the primary producer of the group, and he and Barrett Strong (the singer of the first Motown hit, "Money") wrote the songs. This is the second one of those, after Cloud Nine, excluding those concert and TV albums (Live at the Copa, e.g.). It features the Sly Stone-inspired vocal sharing on "I Can't Get Next to You", "Don't Let the Joneses Get You Down", "Message from a Black Man", and a great cover of "It's Your Thing".

    Traffic-John Barleycorn (1970). After the acrimonious breakup of Traffic, Steve Winwood fled to Blind Faith, but that wasn't the solution either. So he ended up putting together a solo album. He needed some help from his former mates (save for Dave Mason), and suddenly it was a re-formed Traffic.

    U2-Joshua Tree (1987). In 1988,, I told someone in 1988 that this was one of my island records. He said, "You can't pick a one-year old album to be on your island list! They need time to develop in your heart." NOW may I put it on the list?

    The Who-Who's Next (1971). This album only went to #4? The very definition of the soundtrack to my college life.

    Stevie Wonder-Innervisions (1973). I could have picked any of four albums that came out between 1972 and 1976, 3 of which were Album of the Year, including this one. One recollection of this album was hearing it in the house of one of my professors, which elevated him greatly in my mind at the time.

    Neil Young-After the Gold Rush (1970). "When You Dance, I Can Really Love" starts off at one pace and gets faster; it was a song that defined a particular relationship of that time.

    Other albums could have easily been on the list, depending on how recently I happen to have given them a listen. American Idiot by Green Day may make it next time I compile this list. You'll note (if you're that way) that there are actually 53 albums. Well, I was born in '53, so it seems to have some cosmic resonance.
    And on the music theme, I recommend the Music Genome Project, which picks songs it thinks you'll like.
    I started (naturally) with the Beatles. It played "Girl", then to Jim Croce's "Operator".
    I started again with the Beatles, and this time, it played "Why Don't We Do It In the Road", followed by "Tower of Babel" by Elton John, "Badge" by Cream, "Set Me Free" by the Kinks, "Are You Happy Now" by Richard Shindell (an artist I did not know), "Father and Son" by Cat Stevens, "Cat Black" by T. Rex, "Morning Glory" by Tim Buckley, "Let It Be" by the Beatles, and "New Age" by the Velvet Underground. That list is neither here nor there. What was REALLY fun was reading WHY they picked the next song. They all share "mild rhythmic syncopation, a vocal-centric aesthetic, mixed acoustic and electric instruments, dynamic male vocals, and other similarities identified by the Music Genome Project." Whatta hoot. And if you don't like a song, you can choose to go in another direction. Knowing some of the people reading this, this could turn out to be a great time-waster.
    And on a different front, someone I knew (and didn't like) was indicted recently. Please help me if you can. What movie has dialogue that goes something like, "He's guilty, I say. Guilty, guilty, guilty!" Not sure of the first part, but the repeated "guilty" is in it for sure.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    Island Records

    Gordon asked Lefty for his island albums, but no one asked me. (Sob.) That doesn't stop me from posting them anyway, of course. These are albums I'd listen to a lot. They may not be the best album the artist ever did, but that isn't the question.
    I'll start with 50 or so, and italicize my Top Ten (of the moment, subject to change or whim.)
    The self-imposed rule is that I couldn't pick greatest hits albums; unfortunate, because it leaves out artists that I like such as Aretha, George Harrison, and Blondie (to pick three off the top of my head.) There is one exception. Also, I can pick only one album per artist; otherwise, we'd have a lot of Beatles. Finally, I didn't pick any compilation albums, such as "The Big Easy" soundtrack (a GREAT soundtrack of a movie I wasn't so hot on).
    The list is alphabetical by artist.

    Joan Armatrading-Walk Under Ladders (1981)- I love her deep voice, and she really rocks on this album. One of my two favorite albums of that year.

    The Band-the Band (1969). This is the second album (the "brown album") with "Rag Mama Rag" and other pieces of Americana, pretty cool for a group with four of its five members from Canada. In our high school yearbook, there was a section for the HS band, but one of the pictures was of this group. Played this album OFTEN in college as well.

    The Beach Boys-Pet Sounds (1966). I know this is the quintessential BB album, but I came thisclose to picking Surf's Up ("Feel Flow", "Until I Die", "Long Promised Road", and the title track.)

    The Beatles-Revolver(1966). For me, it's always between this album and Rubber Soul. Think of the songs individually. The same group did "Yellow Sub", "Eleanor Rigby", and "Taxman"? Astonishing. When my parents weren't home, I used to crank up the volume during "Got to Get You Into My Life" during the later horn section ("I was alone, I took a ride"). Then "Tomorrow Never Knows" came on and that was SO incredible.

    David Bowie-Ziggy Stardust (1972). I played a mean air bass guitar to "Star". Heard in the dorms incessantly.

    Johnny Cash-Unchained (1996). This is a tough choice, because there are songs I like from all four of those American recordings from the last decade of his life. This is the second one. With Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers as the backing band, I thought it would become a bigger pop hit; it got all the way up to #170.

    Judy Collins-Who Knows Where The Time Goes (1968). I received this album for my 16th birthday from my friend Lois, who said, "I hope you like it. It's kinda country." Well, yes, there's some pedal steel, but also lovely tunes, including the murder ballad "Pretty Polly", with Steve Stills on guitar. I JUST bought it on CD this summer.

    Elvis Costello-Spike (1989). An island album, for me, can show lots of sides of an artist. He plays with Macca and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. He has rockers and lilting ballads. It may not be his best album, but its diversity will wear better on the beach.

    Cream-Disraeli Gears (1967). It has "Sunshine of Your Love", but a whole lot more. Probably wore the grooves off.

    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young-Deja Vu (1970). Played a LOT in my college dorm. Always liked the democratic nature of the album: 2 Crosby tunes, 2 Stills, 2 Nash, 2 Young, 1 Stills/Young, and 1 Joni Mitchell.

    Donovan-Open Road (1970). Another dorm album, now hard to find cheaply. Vastly unrated disc.

    The Doors-Waiting for the Sun (1968). The third album, it DOESN'T have the song "Waiting for the Sun" on it (that's on Morrison Hotel), but does have a lot of great songs, the least of which is the hit "Hello, I Love You".

    Bob Dylan-Blood on the Tracks (1975). I came to Dylan late as a performer. I appreciated his songs, of course, when sung by others. I bought my girlfriend at the time Self Portrait, and even she had a hard time with it. But by 1975, I learned to appreciate the guy, and subsequently started collecting Dylan in both directions, forward and back.

    Eurhythmics-Be Yourself Tonight (1985). I loved the "Would I Lie To You" video on MTV. A lot. But this album has other great songs, including "Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves," featuring QoS. (QoS means Queen of Soul.)

    Roberta Flack-Chapter Two (1970). It has a song about a preacher and sex ("Rev. Lee"), THE breakup song ("Gone Away"), and a scathing indictment of war ("Business Goes On as Usual"). The rest are good jazz covers of popular songs.

    Peter Gabriel -Peter Gabriel (1980). (This is the third album, sometimes referred to as "Melt".) I think Q-104, the late, great radio station in the Albany area played almost every track. One cut appears on a Halloween CD I just mixed. This album contains "Games without Frontiers" and the important anti-apartheid song "Biko". I have this album on vinyl, in German; anyone know where I can get it on CD for a reasonable price?

    Joe Jackson-Night and Day (1982) This is another Q-104 album, featuring "Steppin' Out."

    Michael Jackson-Off the Wall (1979). I will contend that this album is better than Thriller. This is Michael, just turning 21, before the strangeness really begins. Includes "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough".

    Elton John-Tumbleweed Connection (1971). Truth is, I could have picked the eponymous album, Madman Across the Water or Honky Chateau. I could even have picked an album I picked up at McDonald's in 1994 which contains: "Take Me To The Pilot", "Burn Down the Mission", "friends", "Saturday Night's Alright", "Madman", "Tiny Dancer", "Honky Cat", "Croc Rock", "Mona Lisas", and "Levon". But no, I couldn't pick an album I bought for $3 with the purchase of a fish fillet, could I? In any case, Tumbleweed won out because the 1995 CD features an early version of "Madman".

    Janis Joplin-Pearl (1971). The first posthumously-released album I ever bought. "Buried Alive in the Blues" is an instrumental because Janis didn't live to record the vocals. In 1972, I was working in a factory singing "Mercedes Benz", and someone asked me if that was a Temptations song. For some reason, I bit my lip rather than laughing aloud.

    Carole King-Tapestry (1971). I bought this and Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones (my second choice among Stones' albums) at the same time; why I remember that, I have NO idea. Her version of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" I always hear in my mind's ear as an a cappella doo wop.

    King Crimson-Discipline (1981). Another Q-104 album. "I repeat myself when under stress. I repeat myself when under stress. I repeat..."

    Led Zeppelin-III (1970). The worst selling of the first six albums. "Immigrant Song" notwithstanding, I liked the softer side of Zep, including Leadbelly's "Gallows Pole"; I have a Leadbelly version.

    John Lennon-Imagine (1971). Plastic Ono Band is too angst ridden. This one's bitter enough, with "How Do You Sleep", the wicked evisceration of his former writing partner.

    Curtis Mayfield-Superfly (1972). The 25th anniversary recording has alternative takes of several songs, a discussion of the music by Curtis, and ads by Curtis, telling us to stay away from the "Pusherman". "Remember, 'Freddy's Dead'." But it's the solid tunes, and maybe it was just the right time, that captivated me. I've never seen the movie, BTW.

    Paul McCartney-Band on the Run (1973). Sometimes, in addition to the music, I just love the backstory: Paul calls the band together to record, he's abandoned by everyone except Denny Laine and the lovely Linda, they get mugged in Lagos, and they put out a great album, commercially and critically.

    Well, will I still do this tomorrow?

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    Communications Breakdown

    First the data loss last week, and now my home computer has been seized by some virus or something. This means that I didn't have a chance to work on anything for you this weekend.

    This was an aggrevating weekend, in part because I spent four phone calls and well over an hour trying to get an AOL charge off my credit card that doesn't even show up on the AOL customer service reps' computers. Finally, I had to cancel a credit card and get a new one.

    Also, it rained in Albany every day for about a week and a half. Sales of "Ark Builders' Digest" have really spiked this week in this part of the country. Yesterday, 50 mph winds came howling through.

    On the other hand, we sang really well in choir yesterday, and then most of us went out to lunch at a nice restaurant (in the Gideon Putnam, for you locals).

    Lydia has been a bit under the weather, and she stayed home today from day care. Her maternal grandparents are visiting, so they'll watch her, as they did yesterday when Carol and I went out to eat. Otherwise, I would have had to stay home from work on a day that a number folks will be out at a meeting.

    Our building is going to have a fire drill this week. I am the floor marshal for the 7th floor.

    I've been hoping for a Chicago White Sox win, and I'm glad they've gotten into the World Series for the first time since 1959, but I've been picking against them because of their history. So, I'll still pick the NL team (the Astros, barring a real collapse, a team that has never won the WS), which should assure the men with the pale hose the team's first World Series win since 1917. But with that pitching on both sides, will anyone actually SCORE?

    I love getting free stuff. I got comics and tunes today from football prognosticator Logan, and a CD and DVD from...well, I'll explain that in due course.

    Finally, I just went here to vote for the best DVDs released this past year. To find more about TV shows on DVD go to TV Shows on DVD.

    Sunday, October 16, 2005

    Plastic in the Microwave

    At work on Friday, I got an e-mail from a colleague that went:

    CANCER News From John Hopkins Medical Center

    JUST A REMINDER.......

    No plastic containers in microwave
    No plastic water bottles in freezer
    No plastic wrap in microwave

    Johns Hopkins has recently sent this out in their newsletter -- it's definitely worth noting. This information is being circulated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

    Dioxin Carcinogens cause cancer, especially breast cancer.

    Don't freeze your plastic water bottles with water as this releases dioxins in the plastic.

    Dr. Edward Fujimoto from Castle Hospital was on a TV program explaining this health hazard. (He is the manager of the Wellness Program at the hospital.) He was talking about dioxins and how bad they are for us. He said that we should not be heating our food in the microwave using plastic containers. This applies to foods that contain fat. He said that the combination of fat, high heat and plastics releases dioxins into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body.

    Dioxins are carcinogens and highly toxic to the cells of our bodies.

    Instead, he recommends using glass, Corning Ware or ceramic containers for heating food. You get the same results, without the dioxins.

    And it goes on from there.

    Great, I thought. Carol had heard something about this, and wondered how this would affect Lydia. But something about this piece didn't sit right. Notably, the article didn't cite where Castle Hospital was located, so I found this piece, which indicated that the article was "Unproven! & Fiction!" for reasons you can read yourselves.

    HOWEVER, deep in the rebuttal piece, there is this paragraph:

    The Food and Safety Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has published guidelines for safe cooking in microwave ovens and warns against using materials that are not regarded as microwave safe.
    CLICK HERE for those guidelines.
    You'll note that one of the guidelines is to avoid letting plastic wraps touch food!
    That is another issue, however, and not related to dioxins or high heat in microwaves.

    So, as a librarian, I appreciated this more nuanced response to the issue than the one that yet another colleague found at the mythbreaker Snopes.

    Yet another response:

    I don't believe there is full agreement on whether plastics are safe connected with food prep. There are other chemicals besides dioxins released that offer a good enough reason to avoid plastic in the microwave. See note below from Columbia University.
    Even the site confirms that plastics release other harmful chemicals when heated and cooled, that appears further along in the article 'dispelling' the rumor.

    Many products are given the safe go-ahead until they are recalled when people become ill.
    I think it's really a personal choice.

    Totally coincidentally, I get THIS link in an e-mail.

    All of this contradictory advice should leave you TOTALLY confused.

    This is the reason nothing gets done in offices in America on Friday afternoons.

    Saturday, October 15, 2005

    Three Office Questions

    Since les Browns Chris and Kelly already have their Friday questions, I figure I'll do mine on Saturdays now.

    I watched the TV show "The Office" this week (as usual, in the recorded mode, not in real time). I enjoy it quite a bit. They played Island this and that, so I figured, What the heck?

    1. What are your five island movies? And why?

    Mine are:
    a) Annie Hall. Fair amount of this movie has happened in my life, so if you don't like the choice, la dee dah, la dee dah.
    b) Groundhog Day. Not only is it an intelligent comedy with a JEOPARDY segment, its premise that every day is like the next is eventually broken will give me hope on the island.
    c) West Side Story. Another island story: "I like the isle of Manhattan."
    Those three were in my profile. Hmm.
    d) Being There: If Peter Sellers' Chance the gardener can become an advisor to the President and please Shirley McLaine's character just by watching television, there's hope for us on this wretched island.
    e) Toy Story 2: That conflict between past and present is wonderful.

    2. What are your three island books? And why?

    Mine are:
    a) The Bible, probably the Revised Standard Version, and not only because it's long.
    b) The World Almanac, because I can read about the facts and figures of the rest of the world, trying to keep my mind sharp on this desolate isle.
    c) Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Albums 1955-2001, because I find it endlessly fascinating. If I don't have music on the island, perhaps I can recreate it in my head.

    3. What is your favorite waste of time at work?

    Taking those "urgent" e-mails that people send me and try to find out if they are true. In fact, I think I'll write about one tomorrow.

    BONUS QWESTION: There was a third question on "The Office", which you can answer, if you'd like. I won't ask it, and I won't answer it, though.

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    Squirrels on Crack

    I KNEW it would happen eventually. And I knew it'd be on a Friday.
    The piece I was working on for today got lost on my computer Wednesday night! Arrgh!
    Last night, I was up past 11 talking with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Mark; he was the one who turned me on to comic books. 11 p.m. may not be late to you, but 5:20 a.m. comes awfully early several days in a row. Never have I looked forward to the weekend as much as when I've been taking Lydia to day care the past six weeks.
    Work today will be busy, because 2 of the 4 are out of the office.
    Point is:: what I had in mind for today ain't ready yet.
    And given the fact that we're going out tonight, won't be ready tonight.
    (I mean, I PLAN this stuff? Generally, yes, I have a broad idea, and except for the obits, I might work on pieces in advance in anticipation of crunch times.)

    So go read why Evanier pities W. (It explains a LOT about this White House.)

    After this:

    This is one of those bizarre stories I'd have given to Burgas if he weren't away this weekend. Go sign his blog, and make the future dictator happy.

    My strange friend Dan initially sent out this article, with this commentary:

    In these days of corporate propaganda disguised as information, it's nice to see some good old fashioned yellow journalism made up from thin air. I don't think that there's a single sentence in this article that's true, except, perhaps, the last one. From some rag called The South London Press (England).

    Which engendered this rebuttal:

    Dan, I’m surprised that you, of all people, aren’t aware of the growing squirrel crack addiction problem right here in Albany’s First Ward. It’s so common that people are now referring to the poor little beasts as scrackers.

    and this:

    I believe it. How do you know it's not true?

    Forcing Dan to recant:

    OK, you've got me there. I didn't bother to check the story because it is so obviously absurd. So I put the keywords "squirrels" and "cocaine" into Google and found that the story appears to have originated with several English tabloids that ran almost identical stories on the same day. However, the story has subsequently taken on a life of its own. The story has caused enough uproar to induce The Guardian to look into it.

    I particularly enjoyed this eyewitness description of a squirrel on crack:

    "I locked eyes with it and it stared back at me really confidently. It was scavenging and it looked scrawny."

    Funny how this squirrel on crack looks and behaves exactly like a normal squirrel.

    In my neighborhood the squirrels huff solvents and fall out of the trees.

    Thursday, October 13, 2005

    Rock Meme-Paul Simon

    This guy's 64th birthday is today, born in 1941. I've limited these to solo Paul Simon. He's done some S&G songs on his solo discs, and they were in play, but not used.

    Artist/Band: Paul Simon
    Are you male or female: Boy in the Bubble
    Describe yourself: Think Too Much
    How do some people feel about you: Still Crazy After All These Years
    How do you feel about yourself: Something So Right
    Describe what you want to be: Spirit Voices
    Describe how you live: Some Folks Lives Roll Easy
    Describe how you love: How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns
    Share a few words of wisdom: One Man's Ceiling is Another Man's Floor

    Credit card companies are evil


    I have this credit card that I never use, but I must have authorized an automatic expenditure for a magazine once upon a time and it hits again for $24. I don't notice the bill so I don't pay the bill, get a $39 late fee, which is usury. Make a payment for what I THINK will cover the next payment, but find that was $8 short. So, on October 13, they're going to charge ne $39 AGAIN for a bill that is $8 short of the minimum payment. So at 10 pm on October 12, I ask to pay from my checking account (it's a $15 charge, but it's not $39), and they tell me it won't be credited until October 13, thus incurring the $39 charge I'm trying to avoid. She says, "There's nothing I can do." So, I said, "Never mind. I want to cancel my card." She says, "You'll have to call back." I said, "I don't WANT to call back, I want to cancel my card!" She talked with her supervisor and discovered, "Why, yes, we CAN post that payment on today's date."

    I may have mentioned this before, but when you do one of those check transfers that offer you a great rate, credit card companies have been known to change (i.e., hike) the rate on your credit card because of late payments on your mortgage, loans or other credit cards.
    Did I mention that credit card companies are evil?

    As the credit card company protection bills get passed, including the tougher bankruptcy laws that kick in soon, I gotta wonder: Are they TRYING to put Americans in eternal debt? The notion that all of the indebtedness is merely a function of personal irresponsibility just doesn't wash with me.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    Bush reforms

    In response to criticism about his cronyism, W has changed his hiring policies. BTW, check out W's resume.

    Picture above stolen from Topple

    I swear

    Since I've been answering a lot of questions recently, I'm going to respond to a query someone didn't exactly pose.

    One of the blogger who I've linked to, but I'm not remembering who (I've narrowed it to four) indicated once that he was afraid that his use of "foul language" might offend my sensibilities. The answer is: context is everything.

    When I stepped on a nail 5 years ago, boy did I curse! When I play racquetball and I'm bettered on a shot, I might occasionally say, "You SOB," but use the actual words those letters represent. (One of my regular opponents is VERY hard on himself, calling himself "You M*****F***ing C***S***ing A******!") But when he knew kids were around, it was HE who suggested toning down the language.

    As a matter of course, I don't use actual curse words on this blog because I just don't feel the need. I'm not in the heat of the moment when I type, generally speaking. (And I have a strong edit mode.)

    I think my REAL problem with cursing is that it's done so often that it fails to MEAN anything. I read a few years ago that there was some sociologist who suggested that the culture NEEDS those verbal outlets. But if cursing becomes common everyday language, what the heck do you use when you're REALLY TICKED OFF?

    Many years ago, I was at my house with my then-girlfriend and a number of people from my church choir after rehearsal. I wasn't feeling all that well, so I was hanging back. One of the choir members told this joke that I found extremely offensive (it made reference to the size of a black man's penis), but I said nothing, at first. But about an hour later, it was still bugging me, so I told the joke-teller that I was offended by the "humor." She, to her credit, apologized. But another woman in the group said, "Oh, you just don't have a sense of humor." I yelled, "F*** YOU!" And I meant it. I meant the full fury of the curse, however one interprets it. How DARE she demean my feelings like that! So, casual cursing just minimizes the effect of a real good, emotionally-generated invective.
    (I'm not suggesting that this was the appropriate response to the situation, or that I would respond similarly now.)

    Now, I avoid swearing in front of my daughter, and our next door neighbors, who would embarrass sailors with their verbiage, attempt to tone it down when Lydia is around.

    An incident in the bus just this past week: A guy was in the first row on the bus, on a cellphone. I was halfway back. I hear:
    "For one thing, there ain't no 'us'.
    "You have to work that s*** out with your husband."
    I now knew more about this man in two sentences than I really wanted to absorb.
    But he kept saying the S word, in every sentence. Yes, it bothered me, because it showed a lack of intelligence, integrity, whatever. However, if my daughter had been on the bus, I'd have asked him to ratchet it down.

    So, cursing per se doesn't bother me. But I believe, as in so many other contexts, less is more.
    And telling this story reminded me of something that W said about his Supreme Court nominee that I found disturbing, if I thought it was true, and just foolish, because I don't think it is true. About Harriet Miers he said, "I'm interested in finding somebody who shares my philosophy today and will have that same philosophy 20 years from now." He may be lockstep stuck in his philosophy of 20 years ago (which would explain a lot about his poor governing style), but even HE has changed from 30 years ago. I think my philosophy of life has changed over the last 20 years, and will certainly evolve over the next 20. If Harriet Miers is incapable of change, then I don't want her on the Supreme Court.
    In the church, we read the same scripture every three or four years. It's called a lectionary. Now why read the same text perhaps 20 times in one's lifetime? Because, as one evolves, one reads it with new eyes. Or is supposed to, anyway.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    I Have Seen the Future, and It Is Ugly

    I watched parts of five episodes of a show on MTV called My SUPER Sweet Sixteen this weekend. I'm used to seeing bad behavior on "reality" shows like the network's The Real World, but this was literally nauseating. I was actually lying on the floor, writhing in pain after two and a half hours of this wretched excess. You know that headache one gets when eating something too cold and/or too sweet too fast? Well, consider that effect and you don't even LIKE that flavor of ice cream.

    The premise is that some young girl, about to turn a significant age, is throwing a party that just everybody will want to attend. The important thing in most of the episodes I saw, was that air of ex-clu-SIV-ity, where some people don't get in because they're not popular or they're not cool or or because they're UG-ly, emphasis on the "ugh."

    And these parties aren't cake and ice cream affairs. The budget for one of these events was $125,000, many times the cost of our wedding. And that was the one teenager who didn't say, "The sky's the limit." Just the dresses of the young women made all but the most lavish wedding gowns look cheap. The term affluenza was made for these people. The point, if there is one, is that this is the ONE DAY in these girls' lives that it's all about THEM. Ha! EVERY DAY, it seems like it's all about them; their fancy blouses literally state this in a couple examples.

    So, why was I even watching not one, but multiple episodes? I blame my wife. Or actually my wife's students. She teaches English as a Second Language, and some of her students were talking about seeing a quinceanera, on the show. In cultures such as Cuba and Mexico (both represented on the shows), the big coming-of-age party takes place at the age of 15. Carol was hoping to work one of these episodes into a lesson plan for school; if she ends up doing so, it will be for limited moments, for she doesn't want to encourage such bad behavior.

    The first episode involved triplets who wanted to outdo each other; they consult with the party planner (each episode has one, of course) who is charged with keeping the "surprise" a secret from the other two sisters. The second show was the Staten Island girl with the "limited" budget of $125,000. The third was a quinceanera for a Cuban-American girl who was ordering around her mother as though she were a serf. I am a firm believer in non-violent resolution to issues. But when I saw how this girl treated her mother, I wanted to do her serious harm. In the quinceanera, there are 15 couples who are part of her court (think "wedding party") who she screams at like the worst Bridezilla you could imagine. (Whatever religious significance of the event, if it took place at all, was lost on the editing room floor.)

    The fourth story had an interesting angle. Young girl grows up poor in Erie, PA, gets adopted as a young teen, now lives the good life. But she wasn't humbled by her background; rather, it semed to fuel her avarice. My wife, who doesn't swear, said during this particular broadcast, "That girl's a B!" And the topper is that, at the party, the girl, who fails getting her driver's permit, because she studied "like for a minute", nevertheless gets a new BMW from Mommy and Daddy. Even though the parents are lavishing material things on her, both Carol & I thought that they seemed curiously detatched.

    I'm only learning how tough parenting can be. But the parents in most of these situations would have their licenses revoked, if parenting required one.

    Nye unto us

    Funnyman (and funny man) Louis Nye, probably best known from his work with Steve Allen, died recently. As usual, Mark Evanier and Fred Hembeck (October 10, 2nd post) are on it.

    MLB-the next round

    I said the Yankeees would lose to the Angels.
    I said the Padres didn't have a prayer.

    That's the good news.

    To my credit, I DID say Houston-Atlanta would be the trickiest of the four.
    Boston's loss didn't surprise me, but the sweep did. I think I gave the BoSox extra credit as defending champs, instead of chumps.

    I guess I'll stick with the Angels, although their travel from NYC to LA to CHI worries me greatly.
    St. Louis was always my #2 seed, so I see them overcoming Houston in a tough series.

    Regardless, the winner of the World Series will come out of the National League.

    I realize that that unless the Cardinals take it, the World Series will be won by either a team that has NEVER been in the Fall Classic or by a team that hasn't been in since the other two teams were created. The Red Sox broke their "curse" last year, so statistically speaking, we have a 75% chance of SOMEBODY breaking their streak of futility.

    Monday, October 10, 2005

    Rock Meme-Jackson Browne

    This guy's birthday was yesterday:

    Artist/Band: Jackson Browne
    Are you male or female: I Thought I was a Child
    Describe yourself: I am a Patriot
    How do some people feel about you: The Pretender
    How do you feel about yourself: Running on Empty
    Describe what you want to be: Somebody's Baby; Soldier of Plenty
    Describe how you live: Take It Easy
    Describe how you love: Tender is the Night; In the Shape of a Heart
    Share a few words of wisdom: Anything Can Happen; Call It a Loan

    Walk Under Ladders

    (Reference to my Joan Armatrading song, the function title song of which is I'm Lucky.

    Sunday at about 3 a.m., a drunk driver roared down my residential street, smashed into one car and did considerable damage, hit an SUV and totalled it, then spun around and ended up about six inches behind our car.

    I left for church but just missed the bus. There's not nother one on a Sunday for a half hour. Fortunately, a choir member was also running late and gave me a ride.

    A couple from my church rang the doorbell early in the afternoon,. They had discovered my Discover card lying on the ground in front of the church, and they were delivering it to me.

    "I don't need a bracelet
    No salt
    For my shoulder
    I don't own a rabbit
    No clover
    No heather
    No wonder
    I'm lucky"
    And spealing of "functional title song", can you help me with a list I used to own, but lost? A "functional title song" has the title of the album in the song. Examples:
    Shawn Colvin's "A Few Small Repairs" has that line appear in "Sunny Came Home".
    Paul Simon's "Negotiations and Love Songs" greatest hits collection has that line appear in "Train in the Distance".
    Nivana's "Nevermind" has that word appear in "Smells Like Teen Spirit".
    I KNOW there are a lot more. Thanks.

    Sunday, October 09, 2005

    Rock Meme-JL

    Today being JL's birthday, it was obvious who I'd pick for this game I picked up from Mr. Lefty.

    Here's how you play: Pick a musical artist or band. Now fill out this questionnaire using only song titles. (I limited this to songs performed by John as opposed to the Beatles. You'll note that I couldn't stop with one choice.)

    Artist/Band: John Lennon
    Are you male or female: Jealous Guy; Beautiful Boy
    Describe yourself: Working Class Hero; We're All Water
    How do some people feel about you: Crippled Inside; God
    How do you feel about yourself: Just Like Starting Over; Hard Times Are Over
    Describe what you want to be: I Don't Want to Be a Soldier; Sweet Little Sixteen
    Describe how you live: Watching the Wheels; Slippin' and Slidin'
    Describe how you love: Oh Yoko; Dear Yoko; Two Virgins
    Share a few words of wisdom: Power to the People; Give Peace a Chance

    I'd love especially for you non-bloggers (MR with the Beatles, MAK with whomever, this means YOU) to take a shot and post in my response area for other artists. (Or MAK, you could actually START that blog...)

    And I liked this exercise so much I may do it again. Be forewarned.

    Oprah got it wrong

    Recent JEOPARDY! clue, paraphrased because I failed to write it down: "Photographer of a naked John Lennon and a fully-clothed Yoko Ono."

    I was John.

    My sister Leslie was Paul. Paul is left-handed. And he was CUTE. (Say that last word with four syllables.)

    Our neighbor Mary Jane was Ringo because he LOVED Ringo (three sylables on LOVED.)

    Baby sister Marcia was George, because, frankly we needed someone to be George. Leslie and I pretty much told her she would be George. She wasn't happy because George didn't have many lead vocals.

    And I was John, because he was the leader, the smart one, the clever one.

    Now that I think of it, our relationship with Marcia in this context was not unlike John and Paul's with George. And MJ was like Ringo in that she was the final piece, and she pretty much stayed out of the squabbling.

    We got our broomsticks and MJ got a Quaker oatmeal box. We charged the neighbor kids two or five cents each to watch us lip-synch to Beatles VI, the playlist of which is here. You'll see that George got only one lead vocal, thus the source of Marcia's contentiousness. Being lead guitarist didn't seem quite as impressive to her.

    We did this gig two or three times, at least.

    So when Paul McCartney was on Oprah's show promoting "Flaming Pie" back in 1997, and Oprah proclaimed that she was the Beatles' biggest black fan when she was a child, she did not have any idea what she was talking about.

    Did Oprah perform Beatles' songs in public? Did Ms. Harpo commit to memory the songwriter credits for all of the Beatles' albums and singles? Did she know the catalog numbers of the albums?

    I think NOT.

    So, move over, lady, 'cause I'm claiming the throne.

    Of course, I'm doing all of this Beatle musing because it's Sean Ono Lennon's 30th birthday today. Does THAT make me feel old! I remember when he was born.

    And, yes, it would have been John Lennon's 65th birthday today as well.

    I have pictures of my family on my desk, but the only photo on the wall of my office is of John Lennon, circa 1972. It was given to me some years ago by my old FantaCo compatriot, Beatleologist and FOH (Friend of Hembeck), Rocco Nigro. Still one of my favorite presents, ever.

    IMAGINE if we really did GIVE PEACE A CHANCE.
    The answer: Who was Annie Leibovitz? BTW, I've seen people get that answer wrong by saying LEE-BO-WITZ, rather than LEE-BO-VITZ. The photo in question is here.
    Finally, my heart reaches out to those affected by disasters: a 7.6 earthquake in South Asia, and Hurricane Stan, which is pelting Central America.