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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

TV Cable a la carte

You probably saw the article earlier this month noting the Federal Communications Commission's reversal about a la carte cable programming, or in the words of Ray Davies, "Give the people what they want."

First off, I'm puzzled.

The story is clear that Congressional legislation is likely needed to effect the change, so it wasn't as though the change came with the report, only the Commission's position on cable programming. So the play it got confounded me.

Also, I'm suspicious.

I certainly don't know if it would be cheaper or not to configure individual homes, this one with channels 1-25 and that one with channels 11-35, although it is counterintuitive to think that if they charge $50 for 100 channels, the companies will now start charging $25 for 50 channels. There are some fixed costs, I would imagine.

What I'm suspicious of is promises. The 1996 Telecommunications Act was supposed to create greater competition, and therefore lower prices for cable television. This simply has not happened.

Some analysts suggest that there will be fewer new cable cable stations, because without being bundled, people will be less likely to choose a not yet aired network.
Finally, I'm concerned.

I'm hoping that whatever is ultimately worked out makes some sort of provision for "must-carry" stations. It is local programming, generally news, that distinguishes watching TV in Detroit from Denver or Dallas. The homogenization of TV (and OK, malls and lots of aspects of American life) worries me. Maybe it's windmill-tilting, but I like being able to turn on a TV in a hotel and actually have some idea where the heck I am, besides seeing the "On the 8s" graphic on The Weather Channel.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Oscar Poll; Dennis Weaver

The Internet Movie Database is taking an unscientific poll, asking for people's "dark horse" pick for the Oscar:
Jake Gyllenhaal for Best Supporting Actor 1881 (18.0%)
George Clooney for Best Director 1145 (11.0%)
Matt Dillon for Best Supporting Actor 998 (9.6%)
Keira Knightley for Best Actress 858 (8.2%)
Munich for Best Picture 797 (7.6%)
Good Night, and Good Luck for Best Picture 694 (6.6%)
Terrence Howard for Best Actor 631 (6.0%)
Capote for Best Picture 585 (5.6%)
Amy Adams for Best Supporting Actress 572 (5.5%)
David Strathairn for Best Actor 518 (5.0%)
Other 451 (4.3%)
Steven Spielberg for Best Director 422 (4.0%)
William Hurt for Best Supporting Actor 327 (3.1%)
Judi Dench for Best Actress 225 (2.2%)
Charlize Theron for Best Actress 161 (1.5%)
Frances McDormand for Best Supporting Actress 143 (1.4%)
Bennett Miller for Best Director 34 (0.3%)
A total of 10442 votes were collected.
(as of 3 pm today)
I voted for Knightley, even though I never saw the movie Pride and Prejudice, because my wife liked her performance so much.

When my sister Leslie and I were little, we'd limp around the house, saying "Comin', Mr. Dillon." Somehow, this was terribly funny when we were 7 or 8. We were watching Dennis Weaver as Chester Goode, the limping deputy to James Arness' rugged Marshall Matt Dillon, a role he played during the first half of the long run of "Gunsmoke".

Later, I watched the fish-out-of-water "McCloud", who was promoted to sheriff. He seemed to always get the bad guy, despite the doubts of New York City's finest. McCloud was a 60-minute, 90-minute and 2-hour show on NBC in the early 1970s, often in rotation with shows such as "Columbo" and "McMillan and Wife".

As a fine working actor, he took on many other parts, including on the the Simpsons, but I can't help but to identify him by these two pivotal roles. He died on Friday, but I only heard today.

Sunday Funnies: The Black Comic Book, Pt. 7

The last piece on The Colored Negro Black Comic Book by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon. Yes, I know it's Monday, but if Kelly Brown can do Weird Thoughts Monday on Tuesday, and her husband Lefty can do Friday Three Questions on Saturday, who am I to be a purist?

Note: in the comic strip tradition all the words in the strip are in capitals, but for readability, I've deigned to write in standard English. Also the words that are in bold in the strip are in red in this text.

"B.S.", a 4-page reply to "B.C."

Page 1:
White caveman (sharpening spear): What are you doing?

Page 2, Panel 1:
Black caveman (holding arrow): I am inventing something called the wheel…
Page 2, Panel 2:
Black caveman: What are you doing?

Page 3:

Page 4:
Both cavemen dead, one from spear, one from arrow.
Cave boy: What did they do?
Father: They just invented brotherhood!

All they were saying was, "Give peace a chance." There were a lot of songs about getting along at the time, notably "Friendship Train" by Gladys Knight and the Pips: "Unrest between races must come to an end." That song was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, who wrote a number of "message" songs for the Temptations.


"Brother Blackberry", a 1 page parody of "Brother Juniper", not in Toonopedia, but in my local newspapers when I was a kid.

Well, if God did make us in His/Her/Their image... There are lots of pictures of black Jesuses in black people’s homes I visited, even to this day.


"Likriss Sikniss", a 1-page reflection of "Dennis the Menace"

Some things that one wants to avoid have no race.


"Believe It or Watts!", a 2-page riff on "Ripley's Believe It or Not"

Page 1:

Page 2 (left side)
Nude man sitting in steamy area:
Narrative: This black man has slept in a hot coal bed for fifteen years!! (Before that, he was an idiot albino from Kalamazoo!)

Page 2 (right side):
Tree carved with word “black”.
Markings found on a white birch in Caucasia, Pa. The tree is owned by Mrs. Fiona Black, whose son carved his name into it.

(In arrow): Look what can be done with Sidney Poitier’s name:
which involved the words Hi, Doris Day (from the D and O in his name), plus Rosh Hashona, apple, Ship, parsley, Altoona, Nipsey, CORE, and NAACP in crossword form

The first page was a pretty OK piece, but the second generated a Huh? from me.

And that’s it, except for these final thoughts:

Thanks to the anonymous correspondent who identified the Little King as the antecedent for "King Coal" a couple weeks ago. It has been rectified in the original posting.

The book publisher, Price/Stern/Sloan, also put out other books at the time, including You Were Born on a Rotten Day, The Power of Positive Pessimism and my favorite, the Wit and Wisdom of Spiro T. Agnew, which was a title page, followed by a bunch of blank pages.

It was great to find something that the comic book fans, which I (marginally) still am, would appreciate.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Lydster, Part 23: B.L., L.S.

Lydia's doing OK, getting over an ear infection and a persistent cough, talking more, growing. She walked down the stairs by herself yesterday, not using the railing, but leaning on the wall, for the first time; I didn't help her at all, but I was two steps below her, you'd better believe. Since her birthday is next month, I thought I'd write about life before Lydia.

Ever since the beginning of this millennium, we've been - how do you Americans put it? - "trying". For whatever reason, it wasn't happening. So we were "tested", me first because it's "easier". So when it finally happened that Carol was pregnant, we were excited, but also stunned. I had all but given up hope, and I was OK with that. So now, we have to rearrange our focus.

One of the things I thought I would do when Carol was pregnant, then after Lydia was born, was to keep a journal for her to read when she got older. Well, the journal was used before the birth, but not at all after the fact. Indeed, this blog was created, at least in part, so that I could note Lydia's development at least once a month.

In some ways, the best part of the early part of the pregnancy was that period of about a month between when we found out and when we told our parents. It was our little secret, wonderfully conspiratorial.

Naturally, we needed to go on vacation - who knows when we'll be able to do THAT again? - and we picked an inn in Poland Springs, ME, (yes, near where they bottle the water), a quirky place that was quite reasonable. If they say dinner is from 5 to 6:30, you'd best be there at that time, for at 7, the room is transformed into the entertainment center. One of the particular rules is that there be no children, so we know we're not likely to be there again anytime soon.

Carol's friend Alison started referring to the expected baby as Little Soul, which we adopted. It beat saying "him/her".
8/7/03 - Ultrasound. LS is 6 mm long
10/15/03- Ultrasound, LS heart beating strongly. we opt against the amniocentesis.
10/17/03- The news goes "wide" about LS.
11/7/03-Lots of people are being very generous to us, giving us clothes, toys, equipment.
11/12/03- Went to a specialist and saw a "Level 2" ultrasound. LS's body has the right amount of fluid, the brain is the right proportion. weight: 11 ounces. Due date 3/31/04. But LS was positioned so we could not determine the gender, which was OK.

12/3/03- Putting together a CD for LS (finished 12/23). LS is "making it difficult for her mother to sleep, which is making it hard for ME to sleep."
12/29/03- Gave Carol CD for LS's 0th Christmas. "It is my desire that you develop an eclectic taste in music (not necessarily mine, though some overlap would be nice.)"
1/2/04- "Lots of people ask, Do we want a boy or a girl and what type of person (shy, showy, etc.) we want. Don't care. You'll probably be smart (it's in the genes), but I hope you'll really appreciate music. Doesn't have to be the music I like, but I'm thinking you'll come around eventually."

I was reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears to Lydia yesterday. It was a version that our babysitter Anne gave to her. It's illustrated by Gill Guile (love that name) and published by Brimax of Newcastle, England, copyright 1995.
I thought I knew the story until I got to the last page, which reads:
"Now the three bears always make sure that the cottage door is locked when they go for a walk in the forest. They do not want anyone else eating their porridge, breaking their chairs or sleeping in their beds."
I missed that part in the version I grew up with.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Don Knotts, R.I.P.

Someone asked about black and white vs. color movies recently, and one could make a case for each. But Don Knotts, who died yesterday, was the perfect character inside that TV set in the mostly black and white film Pleasantville.
Of course, he's best known as Barney Fife on Andy Griffith Show, a five-time Emmy winner. The show suffered greatly after his departure. I watched religiously for the well-meaning, but inept deputy to mangle something that Sheriff Taylor would put aright. But Barney always had a good heart, right under the pocket where he usually kept that one bullet for his gun.

I even watched an episode of Matlock, just to see Andy and Don back at work.
He almost was enough to make me watch Three's Company, but not quite.
Johnny B. notes the death of "Kolchak: the Night Stalker" star Darren McGavin.

John R. Cash

I appreciated Johnny Cash well enough when I was growing up. I watched his 1969-1971 TV show, mostly because he had great guests such as Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young. I enjoyed his music on the radio, but didn't buy any of his albums until Class of '55, his 1986 collaboration with Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Carl Perkins.

Then, someone gave me that first American Recording, produced by Rick Rubin, that came out in 1994. And I was hooked. I figured the second disc, with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as his backup band, would be a big hit in 1996. It was well-received, but only got to #170 on the charts. By the time I bought the third album in 2000, which features Nick Cave's "The Mercy Seat", I had started picking up some of Johnny's earlier work as well, Folsom Prison and San Quentin.

I was slackjawed when I saw the "Hurt" video from the fourth album, and cried when I saw it again after Johnny died in 2003.

Subsequently, I picked up the American Recordings box set. Fans of Johnny might want to pick up his daughter Rosanne's new album, "Black Cadillac". The video that comes with the disc, and which can also be found on her website really enhances the listening experience.

In my office, we refer to the man as "John R.", because the title of this piece is the name in which the songs he wrote were copyrighted.

Never did see the movie "Walk the Line", and I REALLY wanted to, but it's available Tuesday on DVD.

Rock meme:
Artist/Band: Johnny Cash (b. 2/26/1932, d. 9/12/2003)
Are you male or female: Boy Named Sue; Man in Black
Describe yourself: I Walk the Line
How do some people feel about you: Come In Stranger
How do you feel about yourself: I Won't Back Down
Describe what you want to be: Everybody Loves a Nut
Describe how you live: Against the Wind
Describe how you love: I Love You Because
Share a few words of wisdom: One Place at a Time
Today, some time after 5 pm EST, there will be 6.5 billion people on this planet, according to the Census population clock.

Friday, February 24, 2006

George Harrison

Today would have been George Harrison's 63rd birthday. Or maybe tomorrow; even George was confused about it. For years he thought he was born early on the 25th, but in his forties came to believe he was born late on the 24th.

Regardless, I've been listening to a lot of Harrison music, including an album friend Fred put together of George's songs with the Beatles. See if you can identify them. They are in chronological order, and I'm thinking the running times might help. (To reveal the answers, just block over the white space.)

Notes: These are the songs written and sung by George that appeared on the Beatles CDs. So no "Cry for a Shadow", the early Harrison/Lennon instrumental. No Carl Perkins covers, such as "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby" or Lennon/McCartney songs, such as "I'm Happy Just To Dance with You".
The list does include the songs on the Anthology albums, at the point they would have appeared on a Beatles album, had they been releaseded at the time. It contains only one version of the song; thus, no Anthology "Taxman", only Revolver "Taxman".. It includes songs from Anthology 3 that George ultimately performed on his solo albums.

1. Don't Bother Me 2:31
2. You Know What To Do 2:00
3. I Need You 2:33
4. You Like Too Much 2:40
5. Think For Yourself 2:20
6. If I Needed Someone 2:25
7. Taxman 2:41
8. Love You To 3:00
9. I Want to Tell You 2:31
10. Within You Without You 5:07
11. Blue Jay Way 3:58
12. The Inner Light 2:38
13. While My Guitar Gently Weeps 4:47
14. Piggies 2:06
15. Long, Long, Long 3:06
16. Savoy Truffle 2:56
17. Not Guilty 3:24
18. Only A Northern Song 3:26
19. It's All Too Much 6:27
20. Old Brown Shoe 3:20
21. Something 3:05
22. Here Comes the Sun 3:07
23. For You Blue 2:34
24. I Me Mine 2:27
25. All Things Must Pass 3:06
David Bromberg was in town recently. (Unfortunately, I didn't see him.) A review alluded to him writing a song with George. I assume the writer was referring to The Holdup, which I have on vinyl from over 30 years ago. The line about taxes sounded very Harrison, but it seemed incongruous for the peaceful guy to come up with "I'll put a bullet right through your best liver." I found clips of the song all over the Internet, the same 29-second snippet, which leaves off one of my favorite lines in all of pop music: "Wealth is disease, and I am the cure."
Rock Meme:
Artist/Band: George Harrison (b. 2/24/1943, d. 11/29/2001)
Are you male or female: Far East Man
Describe yourself: Under the Mersey Wall
How do some people feel about you: Mystical One
How do you feel about yourself: Run of the Mill
Describe what you want to be: Breath Away from Heaven
Describe how you live: Living in the Material World
Describe how you love: Love Comes to Everyone
Share a few words of wisdom: All Things Must Pass; Answer's at the End

Thursday, February 23, 2006

(No) Opinion

Sometimes, I just don't care. That is, I really don't have an opinion. One example is when my wife wants to know if we should paint the walls eggshell white or ecru. Don't care. Really. I cede my opinion, and I won't complain later. I promise.

Because I'm a blogger, people sometime say to me, "You ought to write about X." Usually, except on those occasions four times a year (your chance is coming next month) when I allow readers of this blog to boss me around, I usually decline. Sometimes, it's because the topic doesn't interest me.

More likely, though, I DO care about the topic. (I'm very opinionated.) I just don't have very much to say, or much to add to the existing discussion.

For instance:

How do I feel about the controversial Tom Toles cartoon? The Washington Post was right to publish it.

What do I think of the publication of the Danish cartoon depicting Islam in a bad light? They had the right to publish, although from what I've read and seen, the Danish papers were rather paternalistic in telling the 2% of the population Danish Muslims, "This is the way we do things here." I thought some of the other papers publishing was unnecessarily incendiary.

What do I think of the violence from that? I'm against it. (Duh.)

What do I think of Google defying a Dept. of Justice subpoena? I'm in favor, and shame on Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft.

What do I think of Google censoring its search services in China? I find it troubling.

Are you worried about mad cow or anthrax? Not especially.

How about the avian flu? I feel as though I should be worried about it, but I know our government will protect us.

And that's it. Nothing pithy. No attempts (however poor) to be funny or clever, or except in the last example, snarky. Snarky - a word I never used before 2005.

Conversely, I am interested in all sorts of things, such as:

Wolfgang's Vault: Bill Graham and his concert promotion company produced more than 35,000 concerts all over the world. His first venue, the legendary Fillmore Auditorium, was home to many of rock's greatest performers - Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Prince - and the list goes on and on.

"Graham taped thousands of live performances and stored the tapes in the basement of the BGP headquarters.

"These tapes and the concerts they captured lay dormant until the Bill Graham archive was acquired by Wolfgang's Vault (Bill Graham's given first name was Wolfgang) in 2003."
Opinion: access to this music is very exciting. There's also a bunch of stuff for sale - Graham was a pack rat - such as vintage posters, t-shirts and tickets. is low-resolution source of re-edited movie trailers and other video items. From a wire story: "Brokeback Team America" - This clip marries the audio from Brokeback Mountain trailer to scenes from Matt Parker and Trey Stone's puppets-only flick." Other titles listed: Sleepless in Seattle (stalker movie), Shining ("Jerry Maguire-ish candygram), Brokeback to the Future (Marty and Doc Brown's tale re-edited). I found a performance of Let It Be from the movie of the same name. 6700 uploaded videos.
Opinion: Could be lots of people's favorite waste of time, such as Mike.

I love word play.

I was inclined to follow Mark Evanier's thinking on Dubai, but I was mystified. Why is THIS where W threatens his VERY FIRST veto EVER, when the war in Iraq and at least the trial balloons re: our policy towards Palestine under Hamas are more likely to inflame Arab sentiment?
Then I saw this: White House Has Ties to Dubai Firm Taking Over Ports. Then all was made clear.

In the Olympics, I'm glad that Belbin and Agosto won the silver in ice dancing, as I thought they might a couple months ago and I know that schaudenfraude has taken over when I say I'm really glad Bode Miller is 0 for 4 in his medal search.

But my favorite part of the Olympics are the commercials. I haven't seen the one for "The Office", but my wife liked it. I saw a piece for "Scrubs", where J.D. is getting bad marks from the judge from Janitoria. My favorite, though, has Campbell Brown doing a mock promo: "This is Olympic Ice on NBC." When told it was really the USA Network, she storms off the set and says, "I don't DO cable." Guess you had to be there. As E. B. White said, "Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Old Black Joe

When I went to school, I was the only black kid in my class for 6.5 of the first 7 years. My neighborhood was primary Slavic- Russian, Czech, Polish, Ukrainian. I had halupki long before I ever had grits or collards.

At school, we had music class every day with Mrs. Joseph, starting in 4th grade. We used what I knew then was an ancient music book. The songs included A Capital Ship, La Paloma, Rule Britannia, and Columbia, The Gem of the Ocean. I did not know we sang so many seaworthy tunes.

There was also Hail Columbia, Kookaburra, Goober Peas, and The Yellow Rose of Texas, among others.

Then there was Shortnin' Bread. I HATED Shortnin' Bread, not so much for what it was, as much as the need for certain people in the class - not my friends, but some others- to sing it TO me, leaning in my direction. (I could be paranoid, but not for the five years we sang this song.) But I sucked it up, and got through it.

One day, when I was in 5th grade, Mrs. Joseph announced that we could sing anything we wanted. One kid asked for an unfamiliar page. I turned to it, and, of course, it was that Stephen Foster classic, Old Black Joe. I had no idea the piece was in the book! What would Mrs. Joseph do? What would I do? Quickly I decided that if we sang the song, I would walk out of the room. (To where, I had no idea.)
Mrs. Joseph gets to the page, and she says, "Hmm, let's sing something else." Walkout averted.

But in retrospect, I wish there had been a conversation about WHY we weren't singing it. And I wish I could find a copy of that book; I really liked most of the songs.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Here's something I've never admitted to: I have a Seinfeldian interest in breakfast cereals.

I'm pretty sure it started by reading the sides of the packages when I was a kid.
Riboflavin, I discovered, was Vitamin B-2! Niacin, Vitamin B-3!

So, I was quite excited to find out that Sunday was the 100th anniversary of breakfast cereal. On February 19, 1906, William Keith Kellogg incorporated the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company. He and his older brother, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, while working at a Battle Creek sanitarium, accidentally invented the process for making cereal flakes. W.K.'s company, of course, became Kellogg's.

Personally, I like to mix my non-presweeted cereals. They must differ by grain and by shape. Cereal generally comes in
and is shaped like a
square (or rectangle)

So, among popular cereals:
Cb- Kix
Cf- corn flakes
Cs- Corn Chex
Oo- Cheerios
Rp- Rice Krispies
Rs- Rice Chex
Wf- Wheaties, raisin bran
Ws- shredded wheat, Wheat Chex

So, if I start with a Ws, say Spoon-Sized Shredded Wheat, I can add an Rp, an Oo, and/or a Cf, e.g., but not a Wf (because it'd be two wheat cereals) or Rs, because it
would be two squares.

I don't mix pre-sweetened cereals, as I recall Rory and her friends did on Gilmore Girls. Some of the sweetened cereals of my youth have changed their names. Sugar Smacks are Honey Smacks. Sugar Pops are now Corn Pops.

Happy anniversary to the breakfast cereal. It is another reflection of the effectiveness, of the power of advertising, especially in the television era - "K-E-double L-O-double Good, Kellogg's best to you."

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Announcer of Everything

Baseball, football, basketball, the Olympics - Curt Gowdy announced them all, and announced them well. He's in the Baseball Hall of Fame as an announcer. A park in Wyoming is even named for him. Gowdy, who died of leukemia at age 86 today, spent many hours in my home over the years, and I appreciated his level-headed professionalism and knowledge.

Presidents' Day

If you should ever go on the television show JEOPARDY!, one of the areas you should try to learn involve the Presidents: the years they were elected, the years they served (with the exception of Washington's first term, always the following year), their state of residence (and if different, of birth) and their rank order.

1. Washington- 2 terms, they love references to his first Lady, the widow Martha Custiss
2. J. Adams- 1 term, first in the White House (1800)
3. Jefferson-2 terms, Washington's Secretary of State, Louisiana Purchase
4. Madison-2 terms, Jefferson's Secretary of State
5. Monroe-2 terms, Madison's Secretary of State
6. J.Q. Adams-1 term, race settled by the House of Representatives, Monroe's Secretary of State, returned to serve in the House and died there
7. Jackson-2 terms, his mansion was the Hermitage, near Nashville
8. Van Buren-1 term, Jackson's Secretary of State
9. W.H. Harrison-1 month, "Old Tippecanoe", longest inaugural address, 1st to die in office.
Well, you get the idea.

So, it's WH Harrison (one month), Tyler (completed term), Polk (one term), Taylor (about two years), Fillmore (completed term), Pierce (one term), and Buchanan (one term) between 1841 and 1861 - and this from...memory! When I learned the presidents, this was the hardest stretch. Did you know there were four Whig Presidents, and they served a total of 8 years? (Harrison/Tyler/Taylor/Fillmore).

As I heard ad nauseum after the JFK assassination, Lincoln and JFK were elected in '60, died in office, had VPs named Johnson who succeeded them.

There was a Final JEOPARDY! question once about the three Presidents in 1881: Hayes, Garfield, Arthur. 1841 and 1881 were the only two years with three Presidents.

I wrote this segment of a movie/play in my head once where a person was captured by the bad guys and was interrogated. He was asked who was the President, and his predecessor, etc. This guy was able to list them all the way back to Washington. The bad guys then shot him: "Must be a spy. NOBODY knows that stuff." Turns out our victim was a teacher of American history. Oops.

I'm guessing there will be a question soon about that expensive painting by Peale, GW at Princeton.

If you want other like things to study, learn the First Ladies, the Vice-Presidents (FDR had three). And if you should get chosen to be on the show, let me know if you would like some other pointers.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sunday Funnies: The Black Comic Book, Pt. 6

More on The Colored Negro Black Comic Book by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon.

Note: in the comic strip tradition all the words in the strip are in capitals, but for readability, I've deigned to write in standard English. Also the words that are in bold in the strip are in red in this text.

"Blackman and Crow", a 4-page rendition of "Batman and Robin"

Page 1:

Page 2, Panel 1:
Minstrel: ‘Member? [Sings]Wayy down ‘pon the Swa-nee Ri-buh-
Crow: Let’s take him, Blackman!
Blackman: [hums] Hm-mm
Page 2, Panel 2:
Minstrel: ‘Member – [Sings] -in mah ol’ Kin-tucky hooome
Blackman (smiling, singing): La-de
Robin scowls.

Page 3, Panel 1:
Blackman and Minstrel [singing]: Oool’ Black Joooe-
Page 3, Panel 2:
Crow’s hand firing a gun
Gun noise: Crack! Ack! Tack! Lack

Page 4:
Blackman, Minstrel dead on the floor, four bullet holes in the back wall, which has a framed photo, signed Love, Stepin.
Crow: This damn generation gap is something else!!
A diminutive Pogo (looking at deceased): My!

This story seemed to be addressing the struggle in the civil rights movement at the time, between the NAACP/Urban League old-line organizations, and the Black Panthers and other more militant groups. The old-timers were still following the model of the late Martin Luther King, while the younger folks believed, "By any means necessary."

For me, this was one of the most fully realized takes, possibly because of my deep awareness of the Batman mythos.

The reference of Stepin was to Stepin Fetchit, a controversial black actor known for his stereotypical portrayals of a black minstrel.


"Boll Weevil Barley", a 4-page take on "Beetle Bailey":

Page 1:
Boll Weevil (to no one in particular, though black versions of Zero and Killer are around): This is a mighty weird comic strip.

Page 2:

Page 3:
Killer-type (turns head): Oop! You had to open your big fat mouth!
Boll Weevil (thinking): ?

Page 4:
Boll Weevil and Killer-type are saluting white Sarge, while black cook looks on.

This again addresses the large percentage of blacks in the armed forces in Vietnam, usually at the lowest levels, as "grunts" rather than officers.


"Darkie", a 4-page variation on "Archie".

Page 1:
Jughead: Gee, it’s groovy having a new kid in town, Darkie-
Darkie: thanks- it’s groovy being here!

Page 2

Page 3, Panel 1:
Guys in silhouette.
Jughead: Where do you live, Darkie?
Page 3, Panel 2:
Darky: Just down the block, too.

Page 4:
Darky: -Mine’s the one with the white pickets!
Jughead (jaw dropping): !
Pickets holding signs that say:
Out! Out! Out!
Keep Out!
Live with your own kind
Leave white to white
Don’t let them besmirch our town

The use of the name "Darkie" must have been rather controversial at the time, for it was a term used as an insult to black people.

That said, I laughed out loud at this one, perhaps because of the linguistic parallel construction "White picket fence"/"White pickets". I also love the word "besmirch" in this context, since it was the pickets who were doing the besmirching. Also, Darkie is quite matter-of-fact about the protest, unlike his new friend.

Compare and contrast, as my old English teacher used to say, Fred's review of Little Archie.
We had Chinese take-out last night. My fortune cookie message was some standard fare. My wife's: "Do or do not. There is no try."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

What Shall I See? My One Question for You

My dear wife gave me tickets to any show coming to The Egg as my Valentine's Day present.

So my question: what shall I see, and why? I'll admit that I was leaning toward Emmylou, until her performance was postponed from March 12 until October. (I'm a more immediate gratification kind of guy.) I'd REALLY appreciate your feedback.

Ballet NY February 24
Simon Shaheen and the Near Eastern Music Ensemble February 25
Rosanne Cash March 3
James Carter: Gardenias for Lady Day March 5
Peru Negro March 10
Queen of Mean – Lisa Lampanelli March 11
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Little Cloud, and the Mixed Up Chameleon March 12
Dan Zanes and Friends March 18
Al Kooper, Sonny Landreth March 18
North Carolina Dance Theatre March 24
The Ivey Divey Trio featuring Don Byron, Jack DeJohnette and Jason Moran March 24
Jim Gaffigan: Beyond the Pale March 25
L'Ensemble: You Heard It At the Movies, Maybe March 26
Kris Kristofferson March 30
Medeski, Martin & Wood April 5
Patty Griffin April 8
The Toy Castle April 9
Robert Earl Keen April 12
Hugh Masekela April 13
Peter Rowan & Tony Rice Quartet April 14
Mark Morris Dance Group April 15
Bela Fleck and The Flecktones April 18
Solas April 21
L’Ensemble: World Premiere April 30
The Roches May 5
Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company May 6
Uncle Earl May 11
Nego Gato May 12
New Riders of the Purple Sage May 20
Loudon Wainwright III May 21
Limon Dance Company June 9
Emmylou Harris October 17
And apropos of absolutely nothing, I know this came out last week, but I still love this story: Sports broadcaster traded for animated rabbit. Not so much for the Disney empire, but for the historical completeness.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Time Changes Things

Today's theme: NOT same as it ever was.

Recently, the last telegram was sent by Western Union.

My wife's a big Michelle Kwan fan, so was quite irritated when I said that the winner of 9 US championships, 5 world championships, and silver and bronze at the last two Winter Olympics ought not to have been on this year's Olympic team. Seems I was right, but don't tell my wife.

Headline in AdAge magazine: "P&G may kill Crest outside U.S." Most of sales for Oral-B - acquired by Proctor and Gamble when it bought Gillette in October - are outside the U.S., while most of P&G mainstay Crest's sales are domestic.

They're now going to count DVR ratings. Not all advertisers are happy, though.

Yet another color-coded warning system.

I woke up one morning to hear that Cheney was shooting Quayle. Then I got the real story, that the veep who couldn't shoot straight WASN'T shooting the veep who couldn't spell well. In any case, body armor IS available.

US and Israelis Are Said to Talk of Hamas Ouster. Seems like seems like only last year that the U.S. was touting the democratic process in the Middle East.

(Poster from 1946)

Finally: I've known Kevin's parents for years. Kevin's mother writes:

We are all proud of our children - and through the trials and tribulations of parenthood we all hope that sooner or later our children will find what they are really good at and really excel at it.

Well, some of us have to wait longer than others, but I am pleased to report that Kevin recently discovered his particular niche to excel at - and won a national contest!

I hope you don't mind that, as his proud parent, I wanted to share this with you.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Rant about the Beatle Butchers...

...but not the traditional one.

I will allow the conceit that the American repackagers of Beatle tunes on albums were permitted to do what they did. But did they have to leave so many songs off?

First off, I'm specifically talking the Capitol albums, because they were the primary purveyor of their music in the U.S.

So, I'll OK the choices on Meet The Beatles! ('64), (although why the only non-Lennon/McCartney or Harrison song was Till There Was You, when there were five great R&B songs on the source album With The Beatles ('63) always troubled me.)

The Beatles Second Album ('64) with the remaining With The Beatles cuts, features she Loves You. For contractual reasons, there may not yet have been additional product, but since they put out "Long Tall Sally" and "I Call Your Name" from the LTS EP, why not "Slow Down" or "Matchbox", putting 12 cuts on the album? Oh, yeah, right, money.

Speaking of contractual agreements, look at the deal that allowed for A Hard Day's Night ('64) and Something New ('64) to come out pretty much at the same time with several common songs. Capitol COULD have chosen to put fewer of the HDN songs. In any case, since they picked Kom, Gib Der Meine Hand, why not its German-language mate, Sie Liebt Dich?

The Beatles' Story ('64) is an odd conversation-laden piece, off the topic.

Would it have killed them to put a 12th song, probably from Beatles For Sale ('64) to put on Beatles '65 ('64)?

The Early Beatles ('65): Obviously, by this point, the Vee-Jay licensing expired and Capitol reasonably put out their own version of Introducing. But with 11 songs, it leaves off "Misery" and "There's a Place".
Never owned either Misery or There's a Place until I FINALLY bought Introducing the Beatles shortly before the group broke up. They always sounded out of tune when I'd hear them on the Beatles cartoon.

Beatles VI ('65) was a mix of the Beatles For Sale and the second side of the British Help! album. Two songs, Yesterday and Act Naturally, were held back, but could have shown up here, especially the latter, since most albums have a Ringo song. (Holding it back meant that "Yesterday"... and Today had TWO Ringo songs.

I'll concede the nature of Help! ('65) as a soundtrack album.

Rubber Soul ('65) actually had 12 songs, and showed that Capitol may be thinking about trying to keep semblance of the album the Beatles intended.

Which brings me to "Yesterday"... And Today ('66), a peculiar package derived from the British Help! (2 songs), Rubber Soul (4 songs), and the required single (Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out). But why did they have to pillage the not-yet released Revolver for three Lennon songs, when they had three other perfectly good choices: I'm Down (b-side of the Help single), Paperback Writer and Rain? Revolver ('66), as released in the US, had only two Lennon songs, and always seemed unbalanced.

Finally, Capitol leaves an album alone with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band ('67). Except for the two seconds on the inner groove.

Magical Mystery Tour ('67) actually became the standard for the Beatles in Britain. The six songs on the double EP, plus the singles. A peculiar good choice by Capitol.

The Beatles [White Album] ('68) is unchanged, as is Yellow Submarine ('69) and Abbey Road ('69).

Hey Jude ('70) is a peculiar album that FINALLY put out two of the three songs from a Hard Day's Night (but not the title track). The other songs mentioned but not on albums would have been welcomed here. Of course, Get Back was held for Let It Be ('70).

Assuming the albums from Meet to Revolver came out as they did, my preference would have been, in that period between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper, for Capitol to have put out an album like A Collection Of Beatles' Oldies ('66), where they collected the singles and disparate other cuts.

It could have contained
1. Love Me Do (single version)
2. There's a Place
3. Misery
4. From Me To You
5. Sie Liebt Dich
6. Can't Buy Me Love
7. Hard Day's Night
8. I Should Have Known Better
9. I'm Down
10. Paperback Writer
11. Rain
Or, instead of the last two songs, they could have added a song or two to the oldies with the variations, such as the extra verse on "I'll Cry Insead" that appears on the UA Hard Day's Night soundtrack.
Song 4 showed up on the Red album (1973), as did 7, though the latter had been on the UA album.
Song 9 appeared first on the Rock 'N' Roll album (1976)
Songs 1, 2, 3, and 5 above ended up in the curious Rarities album in 1980.

Of course, the album described above would have wrecked what would become the Hey Jude album, which should have had The Inner Light, and perhaps one of those songs kicking around but not released, such as "What's the New Mary Jane". Also a possibility, "Penny Lane" with the trumpet ending, available in Canada at the time. (They had Yellow Submarine and All You Need Is Love on two albums, after all.)

Anyway, that's my rant.
My apologies: the links were SUPPOSED to go to the specific albums, but they seem not to.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Myron Waldman

I was watching ABC News' This Week (on Monday, as usual), when I came across this note during the "In Memorium" section:

Myron Waldman, 97 — Animator who drew Betty Boop, Casper, Popeye and the original Superman cartoon series.

And I almost missed it.

I have one batch of those original Superman cartoons on DVD, Popeye was my first hero, and I'm sure I've seen some of Waldman's other work as well.

Myron Waldman: one of those people I'll miss, even though I didn't know his name.

Lois Lane is a Negress

Mike noted late last year that writing about that issue of "Lois Lane" where she is turned black was mined to death. And probably it was, but I still find it endlessly fascinating anyway, probably because it came out while I was collecting comics, yet I was totally unaware of its existence.I was a Marvel zombie at the time, reading Luke Cage, Sub-Mariner, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and the like, rather than Superman, Batman or (sorry, Gay Prof), Wonder Woman.

For those unfamiliar with the story, in brief: Superman helps Lois Lane turn black, so she can "see how the other half live." It has a "Black Like Me" quality to it. It reminds me of my single favorite piece EVER on Saturday Night Live, a filmed segment in which Eddie Murphy, in whiteface, gets on a city bus. When there are black and white people present, everything is as expected. But when there are ONLY white people, then the party starts and no one has to pay the fare.

Googling about, I found a lot of conversation about whether Beyonce Knowles might be cast as Lois Lane in some Superman movie. There was an interesting range of responses, from "Why not?" to "Why are they trying to be political correct? Lois Lane is WHITE!" One declared: "Lois Lane should not be played by a negress."

A negress?

Seldom have I heard that term, but the jury seems to be out on whether the term is offensive or not. The American Heritage Dictionary lists it s offensive, in the same league as Jewess. It IS arcane, that's for sure.

I've been thinking about when does/how can one recast a part that had been traditionally played by a white person. Certainly, with the historical discrimination in the movie business, one can make the case for more color-blind casting. But is Lois Lane so iconic that a black actress simply will not do?

I read that there were complaints in some circles about Jessica Alba being cast as Sue Storm in last summer's Fantastic Four movie, not over her acting ability, or lack thereof, but over her skin color, darker than the comic book character.

Daredevil fans know that the Kingpin is white in the comic book, but played by a black actor, Michael Clark Duncan, in the movie. I noted little resistance, but then I don't read all of the comic blogs, so if there was controversy, I'm sure someone will let me know.

Occasionally, one of my blogging colleagues suggests a movie recast, usually of an older movie for which all the major players were white. Almost invariably, I'm the one who's most likely to suggest "non-traditional" casting.

To the original point of this piece: I think it's always a good idea for us to put ourselves in situations where we are not the majority, situations that make us a little uncomfortable. However hackneyed the comic story might have been, I think its heart was surely in the right place.
It occurred to me, especially after this Sunday's sermon on forgiveness, that talking about race seems to mean being angry about it in the minds of some people. Certainly stuff happens, and certainly some of it is hurtful. But for me to hold on to the anger of all of these tales would be too debilitating for me. So, I let go, I forgive whatever the slight, or perceived slight, may have been. However, as you may have noticed, I seldom forget.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


I was working on the word LOVE in terms of its letters' rank, and I discovered:

L is the 12th letter (15th from the end)
O is the 15th letter (12th from the end)
V is the 22nd letter (5th from the end)
E is the 5th letter (22nd from the end)
There are 10 spots forward from one consonant (L) to the other (V)
There are 10 spots backwards from one vowel (O) to the other (E)

What is the significance of all of this? Is there some sort of numerological synchronicity to the very word LOVE?

I dunno.

And why do I even KNOW this stuff? Well, I was going to put together a compilation album for some blogger exchange last year and thought I'd disguise the subject matter by putting in the same rank letter from the other direction, but what I ended up with was OLEV, pretty obvious what it was supposed to be.

(Whereas ROGER, e.g., becomes ILTVI, not quite so obvious, but actually pronounceable.)

To paraphrase Holland, Dozier, and Holland, love makes me write foolish things.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Oh, the title: LOVE BY THE NUMBERS.

(And you thought I was going to write something mushy about how much I love my wife and daughter and mother and sisters and nieces and friends...)
Given this analysis of the day and this hot trend, and despite these lovely cards, it is this song that is my favorite on this day.
According to today's New York Times, "The Kiss of Life" by Joshua Foer: The Germans are also said to have coined the inexplicable phrase "A kiss without a beard is like an egg without salt."
Happy birthday, Anne!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Monday Meme: Older/Younger

Haven't done this in a while. Kelly has stolen from me, more than once, so I hought I'd steal from her this time. You wanna play? Go here. It doesn't always generate the same list, BTW.

You said your birthday is 3 / 7 / 1953
which means you are 52 years old and about:
36 years 4 months younger than Walter Cronkite, age 89
31 years 8 months younger than Nancy Reagan, age 84
28 years 9 months younger than George Herbert Bush, age 81
21 years 5 months younger than Barbara Walters, age 74
19 years 4 months younger than Larry King, age 72
13 years 1 month younger than Ted Koppel, age 65
9 years 8 months younger than Geraldo Rivera, age 62
6 years 8 months younger than George W. Bush, age 59
1 year 8 months younger than Jesse Ventura, age 54
2 years 8 months older than Bill Gates, age 50
7 years 6 months older than Cal Ripken Jr., age 45
13 years 4 months older than Mike Tyson, age 39
17 years 5 months older than Jennifer Lopez, age 35
22 years 10 months older than Tiger Woods, age 30
29 years 3 months older than Prince William, age 23

and that you were:
48 years old at the time of the 9-11 attack on America
46 years old on the first day of Y2K
44 years old when Princess Diana was killed in a car crash
42 years old at the time of Oklahoma City bombing
41 years old when O. J. Simpson was charged with murder
39 years old at the time of the 93 bombing of the World Trade Center
37 years old when Operation Desert Storm began
36 years old during the fall of the Berlin Wall
32 years old when the space shuttle Challenger exploded
30 years old when Apple introduced the Macintosh
30 years old during Sally Ride's travel in space
28 years old when Pres. Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr.
26 years old at the time the Iran hostage crisis began
23 years old on the U.S.'s bicentennial Fourth of July
21 years old when President Nixon left office
19 years old when Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace was shot
16 years old at the time the first man stepped on the moon
15 years old when Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated
12 years old during the Watts riot
10 years old at the time President Kennedy was assassinated
6 years old when Hawaii was admitted as 50th of the United States
4 years old when the Soviet satellite Sputnik 1 was launched
not yet 1 year old at the end of the Korean War
And all of the things that happened on this list since I was 10 I remember in bizarre detail, except for the introduction of the Mac. All sorts of uplifting stuff on that roster.

FWIW, Joe Stalin died two days before I was born, as did Prokofiev.

I was 6 years old when the events that triggered the Truman Capote book "In Cold Blood" took place. My wife was not yet born, so she was really unfamiliar with the subject matter of the movie "Capote", which we saw yesterday FOR FREE, thanks to the generosity of a local realtor. (We could have seen anything playing at the Spectrum theater.) Carol said that it was a very good film, but disturbing, and she's not sure she's glad see saw it. I was more familiar with the subject matter, so I anticipated certain of the more graphic scenes. Not only was Catherine Keener, and especially Philip Seymour Hoffman deserving of their Oscar nominations, but the screenplay was gripping.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sunday Funnies: The Black Comic Book, Pt. 5

More on The Colored Negro Black Comic Book by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon.

Note: in the comic strip tradition all the words in the strip are in capitals, but for readability, I've deigned to write in standard English. Also the words that are in bold in the strip are in red in this text.

"Mother Eartha", a 4 page response to "Mary Worth"

Page 1:

Page 2, Panel 1:
Young woman: Oh, Aunt Mother Eartha, my husband has been out of work for months – with no job in sight…
Page 2, Panel 2:
(Shot of the coffee pot, young woman’s hand pouring java into Eartha’s cup)
Young woman: - our unemployment checks stopped coming, the welfare payments are low, our bills keep climbing-

Page 3, Panel 1:
Young woman: -my son’s lost heart and is fighting the system – taking dope rioting….
Page 3, Panel 2:
Young woman (on sofa, in background): - my daughter’s pregnant again and her husband lost his job- oh – oh –ooh

Page 4 IS MISSING FROM THE BOOK! How does this end? I wish I knew! Anyone near the library at Michigan State University want to tell me how this concludes?


Dark Racey, a 4-page take on "Dick Tracy".

There is no table of contents, or for that matter, pagination, the only reason I know the name of the next story is from the citation at MSU. Of course, page 1 of this story is missing as well.

Page 2:

Page 3, Panel 1:
Racy: -Perhaps you suspect someone on your own police force?
Sheriff: This boy’s seen too many movies?
Page 3, Panel 2
(Sheriff firing gun: Bam Wam Fam Jam

Page 4:
(Racy on the ground in a pool of blood, three holes in head and shoulder, word "holes" with arrows pointing to them. Another cop stands at attention.)
Sheriff: See that the murderer gets to the morgue…

This is obvious a take on "In the Heat of the Night", yet another Sidney Poitier movie, but with a…different outcome. Disturbing, believable, but not particularly funny.


"King Coal", a 4-page retort to what I believe was called "King Cole", a strip not in the Toonopedia, though I do vaguely remember it.

EDIT: The strip was called The Little King, and it IS in the Toonopedia.

Page 1

Page 2, Panel 1
The crowd: Long live the King of Liberalia!
The photographer (in foreground talking to a man in a hat): How magnificent! A black king!
Page 2, Panel 2:
Man in hat: That’s because Liberarians are a grerat liberal people!

Page 3, Panel 1:
Photographer: Where is the king of Liberalia’s castle?
Man in hat: Over yonder kill.
Page 3, Panel 2:
Photographer sweats up the hill.
Page 3, Panel 2:
Photographer: !

Page 4:
King entering decrepit castle with clotheslines running from crooked turrets to adjoining building and a couple with a baby in clothes with patches.

If you thought taking shots at liberals was a recent activity, think again. A real "gotcha" strip, which I liked all right.

"Charcoal Chin", a 4 page reply to "Charlie Chan". Was this ever a strip, or just a series of movies?

Page 1:

Page 2, Panel 1:
Charcoal (to son)" - And, as it is added in the great proverbs - "We are all blacks..."
Page 2, Panel 2:
Charcoal (looking at bullet):...we are all Orientals, we are all Eskimos...

Page 3, Panel 1:
Charcoal (to son):...we are all Parisians...we are all New Yorkers-
Page 3, Panel 2:
Page 3, Panel 2:
Son: -And, I suppose, Pop – we are all whites?
Charcoal: Taxi!

Page 4
Taxi driver gives Chins the raspberry. Logo- Bigot & Redneck Taxi Corp. Rates .45 ½ mile.
Charcoal: - To every rule, my son – there is an exception – and, like Confucius say, boy, have you found it!

As I recall, there was a feeling in 1970 that people of color were in the same boat. Don’t think that perception is nearly so true today.
The person cited in the first panel was JFK, of course. A number of comic book (and other) people nearly deified the martyred President, maybe not over who he was, but over who he might have become.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Three Beatles/JFK Questions

I've pondering these questions for more than a while . Your responses are encouraged.

1. If you're old enough, what do you remember about the Beatles on Sullivan? If you've seen it on video or DVD, what's your impression of it now?

2. Why were the Beatles such a big deal? Talent? Luck? Timing? Many historians peg the JFK assassination and a national need for something "frivolous" as part of the reason. Do you agree?

3. The JFK funeral, the Beatles on Sullivan were American community events. As more media outlets become available, there's been a lack of that "American community", except probably 9/11. Is this a good or bad thing, and why? Or does it not matter?

The picture is of the Beatles at JFK, BTW.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Friday Links

No stuff about politics, oh, except that picture above and the last piece below, but some things about the electoral process. Sharing our collective memories. Friend Sarah's little passion project.


An Okie I knew sent a link to a video of PURE DC doing a little guerilla belly dancing at NCOR. "Like one of our drummers said, we anarched the anarchists!!! I'm in there , way in the back of the line in the processional and pretty visible in the circle." Source of the "funniest videos."


National Grid Surcharge: Don't want my utility company to suffer because January was so warm. (9 degrees F above normal in Albany.)

The great "Grampa" Al Lewis age controversy here and here (Feb 8).


How Invisibility Cloaks Work

If you're tired of dealing with IVR (interactive voice recognition) systems rather than humans when what you need is actual customer service, check this out.

Top 10 Net Hoaxes / Urban Legends of 2005

On voting: truly the best up-to-the-minute coverage on electronic voting another excellent site that provides insight into electronic voting a non-profit organization also focused on electronic voting irregularities
Article about Ranked voting: Less money, more turnout

Periodically, Mark Evanier posts something called "There's No Such Website!" He lists five preposterous-sounding websites, four of which are actually legit. Usually, I find the bogus one on the third pick, but this week, for the first time, I got the fake one on the first pick! Check back through his site for other examples of this game.

Friend Daniel writes: "Let me know if this works, OK? And be sure to hold that cell phone real close to your head...."

Is your internet connection slower than a snail? These guys actually tested to find out.

Cyberpal Chris "Lefty" Brown used to have his blog here on Blogger, but it somehow got taken over by other forces (and not very interesting ones at that). So now he's here on Blogger until he can be at his own site here. All of which got me wondering if I should get MY own URL. Ponder. Ponder.
Oh, and the term "cyberpal": don't know what else to call the man. I've never met him, never heard his voice. I read what he writes (and apparently, vice versa), we e-mail back and forth, and I've participated in his music exchanges. I care for his well-being (and that of his wife Kelly, who's recovering from surgery to - it is hoped - relieves her chronic pain). So what DO you call someone who fits that description?

Lefty may relate to this one: Effects of Domain Hijacking Can Linger


Lefty may also appreciate this:

Jesus Radicals aspires to be a resource for those who believe that the Christian Gospel is primarily a message of love and peace, and that militarism, capitalism and the state are idols that stand in stark contrast to the rejection of power by Jesus in favor of a personalist way. If you are questioning the church’s involvement in these idols and wonder if there is a better way to follow Jesus:

You are not alone.

American evangelical Christians tackle global warming


I've discovered this website: - it's a good collection of data about a place. I'll particularly use the link to religious adherents by county, greatest concentration of ancestries, and some of their surveys indicating the places that are most liberal, best home town (stability in population), most Starbucks-addicted place, most friendly town when you're gay and 50, and much more.
Changing Census Rules in Prison Towns: currently, prisoners are counted in the prison towns. What would changing that formula mean?

Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-Born Population (#81) and others

2004 State Government Finances - Alaska traditionally leads the country in per capita revenue and expenditure. Whether that trend continues can be found in this latest report for the 50 state governments. Detailed data is revealed on revenue by type and source, such as taxes, charges and federal aid; expenditures by function (e.g., police, fire and education); and cash and security holdings.
The U.S. Government Printing Office last month introduced a new database called the Registry of U.S. Government Publication Digitization Projects at its GPO Access Web site. The database "will serve as a locator tool for identifying federal document
collections that are being digitized."


Another item sent to me by a former comic book artist:

The 23rd Qualm

Bush is my shepherd; I dwell in want.
He maketh logs to be cut in national forests.
He leadeth trucks into the still wilderness.
He restoreth my fears.
He leadeth me in the paths of international disgrace for his ego's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of pollution and war,
I will find no exit, for thou art in office.
Thy tax cuts for the rich and thy media control, they discomfort me.
Thou preparest an agenda of deception in the presence of thy religion.
Thou anointest my head with foreign oil.
My health insurance runneth out.
Surely megalomania and false patriotism shall follow me all the days of thy term,
And my jobless child shall dwell in my basement forever.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Fab Four + 42

I know exactly where I was 42 years ago tonight, watching the Ed Sullivan show at 8 pm, watching the Beatles. But I wasn't an instant fan. For some reason, my psyche when I was almost 11 precluded liking this group that the girls in my class loved so much. I did not buy their albums or singles. I did not go see the Hard Days Night movie. But ultimately, actually within a couple months, the enthusiasm of my classmates and my sister Leslie, not to mention the quality and ubiquitousness of the music, won me over. (Though not everyone.)

I didn't have the Vee Jay album Introducing The Beatles ('63) or
or the A Hard Day's Night ('64) on United Artists album quite possibly until 1969.

It's obvious (as I think back on it) why I didn't have them earlier: I belonged to the Capitol record club! With the money from my paper route, I entered the world of the LP. My first album was Beatles VI, and I worked backwards and forwards, including The Beatles Story. So I had Something New relatively early and the similar HDN relatively late. I remember getting Meet the Beatles in STEREO, which was a problem, because I only had a mono player! (I didn't play it for weeks, then I did, and it SEEMED to play OK...) I also got Daydream-Lovin' Spoonful, Pet Sounds-Beach Boys, Herman's Hermits' Greatest Hits, and, of course, BIG HITS FROM ENGLAND AND USA: one side two songs each from BEATLES, BEACH BOYS, and PETER & GORDON, the other side, 2 songs by NAT KING COLE and CILLA BLACK, plus "Tears and Roses" by AL MARTINO. I probably still have it upstairs in the attic.

My father did go out and buy us an album in 1964. Unfortunately, it was this one:

My sister Leslie and I tried to hide our disappointment, but in fact were horrified that he had made such an obvious error. Later, I learned that lots of parents in America made the same mistake.

The first LP I ever bought not from the club was "Yesterday"...and Today for $2.99 at the Rexall. Probably the second album I bought at a store was Sgt. Pepper, for the outrageous cost of $3.67, at W.T. Grant. (Why do I remember these amounts? I don't know.)

Thrice a year, I play all of my Beatles CDs, in February, June and October, which, not coincidentally are the birth months of Messrs. Harrison, McCartney and Lennon, respectively. I also play the solo artists in their respective months. But what of poor Ringo, you ask? Well, his birthday is in July, terribly close to Macca's, so during that month, in addition to solo Starr, I listen to Beatles cover albums. I love Beatles cover albums. I have quite a few.

Friend Fred noted a source of some downloads recently. For the record (as it were), I have owned Bill Cosby doing the title song from Sgt. Pepper for decades on vinyl; it appears on the Hooray for the Salvation Army Band album. It also includes Funky North Philly and other parodies, and I believe is scheduled for rerelease on CD this year.
Don't know how long this 1968 LA Times article about the Beatles getting cheated at the Grammys will stay up.
Johnny B. has news about the health of Beatles sideman Billy Preston.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Uncle Tom's Cabin

I've never read the book Uncle Tom's Cabin, or as far as I can remember, the Classics Illustrated adaptation. But I had was enough intrinsic knowledge of Uncle Tom that, for instance, one just did NOT eat at Sambo's restaurant.

Then, for Fred Hembeck's tribute to Black History Month last year, he did an extensive and interesting piece on the the comic book adaptation. I learned a great deal from it. Read it now - go down to February 25. I'll wait.

But the reading created more questions. Specifically, I was even more confused about one aspect - why is the term "Uncle Tom" pejorative? For it was really Sambo and Quimbo who were what would later be called "Uncle Toms". So, why is Uncle Tom such a derisive term? Seeking to shed a little light on the subject, I found a National Geographic article that I hoped would shed some light. Quoting it:

Meanwhile, the public persona of Uncle Tom was undergoing a dramatic change. Instead of the symbol of a strong, spiritual man, whose disobedience to his master caused his death, Uncle Tom became a metaphor for a submissive, weak black person who wanted to be white.
By 1919 prominent African-American leaders began using "Uncle Tom" as a pejorative term to stigmatize blacks who betrayed the cause of their race, said Stephen Railton, an English professor at the University of Virginia. Railton maintains an exhaustive online archive dedicated to the book's role in U.S. culture.

By the time the civil rights movement was marching along, the term Uncle Tom easily overshadowed the reality of the book.
But this still doesn't explain WHY. It's VERY interesting how the meaning of terms change over time, but this metamorphasis I found most peculiar.

My theory, and it's only that, is that it has to do with Josiah Henson, the model Harriet Beecher Stowe used for her 1852 book. Henson was born in 1789. He and his mother were sold to Isaac Riley about five years later. According to an Associated Press story, "In his 1849 autobiography, Henson recalls how his mother pleaded with Riley to purchase both her and her child, and was beaten by Riley as she clutched to his legs."

Eventually, Josiah Henson became manager of Riley's farm. When Riley fell into debt, he had Henson lead a group of slaves to his brother's Kentucky farm, passing through the free state of Ohio, but Henson decided against running away to keep his word to Riley. Stowe cited this action not to flee as some of her fodder for the dutiful slave Uncle Tom.

However, when Riley reneged on HIS promise to free Henson, Henson and his family escaped to Ontario, Canada in 1830 through the Underground Railroad.

Recently, Uncle Tom's cabin, or more specifically, Josiah Henson's, was for sale, and was purchased by Montgomery County, Maryland, lest it become a dentist's office.

In any case, check out the National Geographic article link, for it describes the decline the book's sales. Thus, I was fascinated that Julie Hembeck's class was reading the book last year. Surprised, and oddly pleased. Information, rather than supposition, is a good thing. Guess that means I have to go out and read the book...

Anyway, a very interesting edition of Fred Sez.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

State of the Union

First, I must note the passing of "Grandpa Munster" Al Lewis. Friend Fred had a piece on him dated February 5. Don't have much to add to that account, except that when he ran for NYS Governor in 1998, I DID vote for Al Lewis! Why? Because NYS has arcane election laws that require a party's candidate for governor to receive a certain threshold (50,000) of votes for it to be a "legitimate" political party into which someone could register, just as one can register as a Democrat or Republican. He was running as the Green Party candidate, and the ploy make them a legit party worked! At least for the four years until the next gubernatorial election in 2002, but that's another story.
Nice to see that President Bush has the flags at half-staff in honor of the death of Betty Friedan. Oh, I just heard it was on behalf of Coretta Scott King. And he and Laura are going to the funeral. I'm sure someone out there can make some snarky reference to Kayne West's Katrina speech here.
So, what DID I think of the address last week? Sorry, haven't watched it yet. I've TAPED it, but have a bit (OK, a great deal) of the jitters about actually seeing it.

Yes, I know it's silly. I've watched pretty much every State of the Union for decades. I did decide to pass on last year's festivities, however, fearing that it would upset my delicate sense of propriety. (Translated: I thought I would start swearing at the TV screen.) Then my wife says to me how I have a "responsibility to be an informed citizen." Where did she GET such nonsense? Oh. From me, the old poli sci major. Hoist by my own petard. So, I didn't watch, but the TV was on, and I got the gist, and was therefore suitably irritated.

I've watched the ad the Democrats ran that night. And I read the news accounts with the Democrats' standing O re: Social Security, the headline about our jones for oil. I've read what Chianca had to say. I've seen Lefty's comments, which make me feel that maybe it won't be so bad. No one has encapsulated my frustration about what the man says (vs. what he actually does) better than Mark Evanier. Meanwhile, Eddie's response is to post a picture that I also received, but chose not to post, for reasons of taste. Obviously, I'm not adverse to linking to it.

Speaking of snarky, someone sent me this:


This year, Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address
fall very close together.

Consider this irony: One involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication.
The other involves a groundhog.
But my FAVORITE Presidential response appears on the pages of friend Fred (February 1). I think it's OK to let that birthday thing go to your head a little. (Wait until next month for MY wretched excess.)

Picture from the Daily Bulletin

Note: Chris "Lefty" Brown now at - I'm sure he'll explain why.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Day After Day

(Unintended Badfinger reference.)

One national celebration is over, where my heart team beat my head team, they picked the correct MVP, and the ad I remember best, heaven help me, involved Burger king's women as condiment- as bizarre as the old plastic face king himself. The most pleasantly surprising commercial for me was the Dove Self-Esteem Fund ad; not the usual Super Bowl fare.

Not only is Super Bowl Sunday deemed a national holiday, I just discovered that TODAY is a holiday as well. The National Association of Persons (NAP) has launched a website to publicize the notion of the "Day After Day".

From the site:

No more frantically searching through your list of tired old excuses to explain your absence from work. For an entire day off to recover from whatever ails you, just sign our online petition.

And they have some really good excuses.

Quoting AdAge:
Sure it's a cheap publicity gimmick by White Castle, but a good cause is a good cause. Call your representative in Congress and tell them to quit it with the earmarks and get on some legislation that really matters.

I'm recovering not only from the Super Bowl, but a party for my five-year-old twin nieces, featuring 20 of their screaming friends, and a MidWinter's party and beast slaying I've been attending for probably 17 out of the last 20 years. A Hoka-Hey to the Tribe.

Today is also Bob Marley's birthday, coincidentally the day good friend Mark, a member of the tribe, is heading to Jamaica. A message to Mark and to you all here.

So, if your head happens to hit your desk at work, congrats! You've hit upon the need for this important new holiday, DADay.

(Image purloined from - librarians are wonderful people.)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Sunday Funnies: The Black Comic Book Pt. 4

More on The Colored Negro Black Comic Book by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon.

Note: in the comic strip tradition all the words in the strip are in capitals, but for readability, I've deigned to write in standard English. Also the words that are in bold in the strip are in red in this text.

"Raisins", a 4-page takeoff on "Peanuts"

Page l:
(A kid who looks like Charlie Brown makes one-handed catch off batter. Another kid and Snoopy in background. Ball hits glove: Boff!

Page 2, Panel 1:
(Kid catches sinking liner.) Ball hits glove: Biff!
Page 2, Panel 2:
(Kid leaves his feet to make another grab.) Ball hits glove: Waff!

Page 3, Panel 1:
Lucy in catcher’s gear walks to kid.
Kid: ?
Page 3, Panel 2:
Lucy (gear to the side) starts pulling off mask.
Kid: !

Page 4:

I tried not to show the punch lines in these tales, but this one pretty much required it.

Of course, this tackles the old (but ongoing) conversation about the supposed superior talents of black athletes. I think it’s funny because of Charlie Brown’s reputation as a less than stellar player, thus the juxtaposition is even sharper.


"Black Jack", a 4 page response to "Prince Valiant"

Page 1

Page 2, Panel 1
Scene: Busy- with people on horses, wounded on the ground.
Narrative: The crows watcheth in perspirement as the Black Jack destroyeth 7 of the greatest swordsmen, 125 of the greatest lancers and 4 of the greatest stick-ball players on the block.
Page 2, Panel 2
Scene: Men in shock, or stabbed, or clubbed. Sweetpea (from "Popeye") looking on in disbelief.
Narrative: Like one, the women throw flowers, their veils and lo, their very selves at the feet of the conquering hero - one, in fact, throweth her husband.

Page 3:
Scene: Montage of folks. Below that, graffiti: BJ +KA (within a heart); EC SJ; Gawain wears panty-hose
Narrative: "Sh!: sayeth a mighty count - "'Tis the Black Jack!" A gasp graspeth the crowd, the word hitteth them like a blackjack!

Page 4:
Scene: About a dozen attractive women, and a drooling Olive Oyl(?!) from "Popeye" surround the hero. In the left of the picture, a man in a turban, with an N on it.
Narrative: As the most noble and beauteous women in the land carry the Black Jack off on their shoulders, the men feel crushedeth by the utter humiliation - It taketh the wise and noble, Noble the Wise to sayeth: "At least he isn't Jewith."
Next week, =Sammy Davith - the one-eyed Jack!"

What can I say? Dopey schtick "comedy" that probably wasn't funny then.


"Big Eboner", a 4 page response to "Li'l Abner"

Page 1:
Enober runs past two dull-looking yokels, with Daisy in hot pursuit.
Daisy: Ya-hoo!!

Page 2:

Page 3:
(You see the feet of the yokels, obviously knocked over by Daisy)
Daisy: Out o’ mah way! Yo’ is mahn, mahn, mahn!

Page 4:
With Daisy and Eboner in silhoutte in the background, she’s chasing with hearts over her head; yokels are sitting in a creek.
One yokel: Yo’ notice how them black @*O#*!# run after the blondest, most-beautifullest, white-skinned female they can find!!

Clearly, the issue of racial intermixing has been highly charged in this country for generations. If it is modestly less charged in the past three and a half decades, it still is an issue for people, black and white, believe me.