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Sunday, December 31, 2006


This guy I wrote about a few months back who was interested in finding out about my grandfather wrote this about that station where Pop used to work. And since it's New Year's Eve:

I am a nostalgia person. I'm always looking up things from my childhood that evoke pleasant memories. WNBF-TV was the first channel that Binghamton had. One of the things I discovered Monday night before I hit your site was a listing of the first commercial TV stations from 1950. WNBF started Dec. 1, 1949. We received our first TV for Christmas 1951. In those days I believe channel 12(WNBF) was located in the Arlington Hotel at the corner of Chenango & Lewis Sts. across from the train station.
My first memories were coming home from school and watching Kate Smith and then "Chuck Wagon Playhouse" from NYC. That was like 4 or 4:30. WNBF started the broadcast day at 3:30, I think, and went to about midnight. This was a few years before Bill Parker started his shows. I remember the Ranch Club, Officer Bill and a couple of others that he had of course. In those days a lot of programs were 15 minutes or a half hour and very short commercials. My favorite night was Thursday when my mother's father(who lived up the street from us) would come down for The Lone Ranger at 7:00 and right after was the Cisco Kid. We had a 17" Admiral TV (B&W naturally) that my brother made a stand for. We were the first in our neighborhood and all my friends would come over to see the westerns and Kukla, Fran and Ollie. I was about 10 or 11 then. As a matter of fact the TV signals use to come by microwave(I think) through Albany and Cherry Valley. Whenever they had signal problems they would flash a sign saying "Trouble with signal from Cherry Valley".

In those days too, WNBF and WKOP Radio had disk jockeys. Bill Parker, Ken Kirkander, Bill Kunkel and several others would ply the time on WNBF. They also filled in on TV since it was the same ownership, Clark Associates, I think. Several years later in the late fifties they moved to the Sheraton Hotel on Front St. which is now a senior housing facility. As far as I remember WNBF was always a CBS affiliate primarily but they carried programs from all the networks (NBC, ABC, DuMont and syndication) until WINR-TV started in 1957. It was owned by Gannett Newspapers and was primarily NBC. By then, I think, DuMont was gone and they split ABC programming.

I don't remember just when channel 34 started 1962 but it was the ABC affiliate.

Sitting watching what was there then something there. I thought Sat, clearly a Sunday (Nov 25, 1962)

Anyway, I just usually go on Google on nights when the Yankees aren't on and type in things that are pleasant for me and see what comes up. That is how I came across McKinley Green by accident and to my great pleasure. The only problem is I have dial-up because I'm too cheap for Roadrunner. I'm also a fan of Jerry Colonna and Jimmy Durante. There is a great site from England... that has Colonna, Durante, Danny Kaye, Eddie Cantor, etc. with songs and radio programs that I go to quite often for a few laughs.

I read that you used to listen to the out of own stations when you were a kid, so did I. In the 50s I'd pick up Boston, Charlotte, Atlanta, St. Louis, Chicago, New Orleans, Minneapolis, DesMoines and even Tulsa. When rock-n-roll was in I used to listen to Dick Biondi on WLS-Chicago every night. When I was going to Broome Tech in 1959-61 it would start coming in at about 9PM very clearly to about midnight. I used to listen while doing my assignments. One of my favorite programs was easy listening music. Holiday Inn and American Airlines used to have a female disk jockey that sounded very sexy. It was syndicated I think and on several clear channel stations that I could pick up. Ah, those were the days.

A couple pieces I found re: this here and here.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

2006 QUESTIONS; I mean, QUESTIONS about 2006

So, looking back on the past year, what were the most important/interesting things did you do/learn?

For me:

Going another year with Lydia without doing her appreciable damage.

Seeing my mother, sister Marcia, and niece Alex this summer; more importantly, my mother seeing, and getting to know, Lydia. Lydia recognizes my mother's picture now.

Went on about 9 dates with my wife this year; not so great, but it's something.

The office move to Corporate Woods: I know I used to complain about it a lot, though not so much lately. I still hate it, especially now that things have started disappearing from people's workstations on the floor. Since no one can get on the floor without badges, it's either other people working on the floor or the cleaning crew. And me without a door.

Listened to a lot of good music, and a little I wasn't so crazy about, largely due to the efforts of Fred, Lefty, Gordon and their compatriots. Merci! I'm devastated, though, to have sunk to #5 on Lefty's musical guru list. Ah, well, the price of fame.
Lost about 20 pounds this fall, then gained about half of it back after the bicycle crash. Eh.

Donated blood six times this year, again, even though I'm peeved by the ban on gay donors.

As a political science major, I'm as turned off as ever by politics. Yet I still vote, every time.

I've pretty much abandoned church committees. Not where I'm at, presently. Still doing the choir thing, though.

Yet I have taken on being Vice-President of the Friends of the Albany Public Library, and I'm trying to create definition for the job whose only actual function is to run the monthly meeting if the president''s away. I've lined up a speaker for National Library Month and started a blog, so far.

I'm sure I'll think - or you'll think - of other things.

Friday, December 29, 2006

"Stir Fry Barbie" and Other Copyright Issues

Sometimes ya gotta cheat. Have a bunch of family stuff, so it'll be next year (i.e., next week) for answering your questions, a book review, a movie review and sundry other ramblings, though I do have something for tomorrow and Sunday. Meanwhile, for my work blog, I wrote this series of pieces on copyright, which I like, especially the third part, which talks about the Air Pirate Funnies and Tom Forsythe's "Food Chain Barbie", an example of the latter which appears above.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Then go over to Greg's blog and read his robust, 77-part saga about his recent trip to Egypt.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gerald Rudolph Ford

The 93-year old Gerald Ford went into the hospital at least four times this year, so the death this week of our longest-living President didn't surprise me. But his career has long interested me greatly. As our first person selected as Vice-President and then President under the 25th Amendment, rather than elected, the House minority leader didn't much have a lot of political leverage.

The whole Ford Memoirs Behind the Nixon Pardon thing led to an interesting, and for Ford's legacy, a rather sad court case. In HARPER & ROW, PUBLISHERS, INC. v. NATION ENTERPRISES, 471 U.S. 539 (1985), Time magazine had an exclusive right to excerpt from Ford's memoirs. Nation magazine wrote a news story of 300-400 words about it. Normally, that wouldn't be an issue (fair use), but since they focused on the Nixon pardon, which was the only thing that anyone really cared about, it led to the resulting lawsuit.

On one hand, I felt sorry for the man. Ford had two offers, from the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions, to play professional football when he graduated from Michigan in 1935... Ford could have gone league. "I wish I could've played one year for either the Lions or the Packers...". If he had, maybe he wouldn't have been so easily painted as a klutz by the press and most notably by Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live. (I read on AOL that Chase is now saying very nice things about Ford.)

On the other hand, he was responsible in large part for the success of two members of the GWB administration, one current and the other recent. He made a rising young administrator in the Nixon cabinet, Donald Rumsfeld, his chief of staff in 1974. In 1975, when Rumsfeld moved to the Pentagon to become the nation’s youngest secretary of defense, Ford appointed a still younger White House staffer, Dick Cheney, to succeed him. Had Gerald Ford been still alive, I might have called this piece, "I blame Gerald Ford". But it's still hard for me to speak ill of the dead.

At least he'll be eligible to be on a coin in 2016.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Godfather of Soul

JamesBrown: I think of his name almost as one word.

When I was growing up, our family always got JET magazine. On the last pages were the black (or R&B) music charts. More often than not, there was a song or two or three from James Brown on the singles charts and and an LP on the album charts. Peculiarly, many of these songs I had never heard of, let alone heard, because there was no black radio stations that I can recall in my hometown. This was particularly true when I was younger, before he had most of his big crossover hits.

So, if you look at some of those Billboard books of the top pop artists, James Brown will appear in the top ten, even though he had a relative dearth of pop hits, compared with his total output. However, he had a MASSIVE total output.

James Brown came to Albany in the mid-1980s, and I didn't go, and this during a period when I was attending concerts. It was largely that his shows - like Bob Dylan at the time, now that I think of it - were considered very inmconsistent. One show, he earned his nickname of "The Heardest Working Man in Show Business", while the next show, he seemed to be mailing it in. For the life of me, I can't remember what category JB's show that year fell into.

What with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the initial grouping and Kennedy Center Honors, among other awards, he was feted vigorously. But I think the greatest complement is to be so well recognized that you'll be well parodied:

Speaking of the Kenedy Center Honors, no Jessica Simpson -alas. But Alison Krauss - my wife's other favorite singer - on two songs!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Lydster, Part 33: "Omigod"

So, I had these brand-new pictures of the daughter, but, to paraphrase the great philosopher Dolby, "I've tidied up, and I can't find anything." I'll blame the stress of the holidays.

Not often, but occasionally, and only recently, Lydia has been saying, "Omigod!" It's not a word/phrase than generally crosses the lips of her mother and me, so I asked one of her day care teachers about it. She thinks it's another student who Lydia is mimicking.

The thing is that she says it when surprised, like a veteran user would. Of course, what surprises her may differ from what surprises others. Carol sometimes keeps her earrings under her pillow - no, I don't know why - and Lydia discovered them, and came up with the retort.

It's our inclination to discourage her, we get over the fact that, for some unknown reason, I find myself stifling laughter when she does it. Bad daddy!

We want her to be sure she knows the given names of her mother and me, which she does, without actually calling us by our given names. She's only tested that idea once. Interestingly (to me), she stopped when I started calling her "daughter" instead of her name.

This is Lydia's first Christmas where she is starting to understand this Santa Claus and presents gig. Her mother and I are trying to limit the amount of things she gets, buy she's got grandparents and aunts and uncles. Even before the big day, she's been receiving lots of STUFF, so we're busy trying to regulate the volume she has at any one time, lest her toy box explode. At the same time, we appreciate the kindness and wisdom of these folks who had children before we did, so it's a balancing act.

Happy 2 3/4, Lydia. Love, "Daddy" (not "Roger")
Peanut-sniffing dog.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas; Boxing Day Manana

Some Christmas links:
History Channel
How Stuff Works
Yahoo! links
I actually still own the treasury-sized comic book, Superman VS Muhammad Ali

Tomorrow is also The Feast of Stephen, commemorating the first Christian martyr.
Good King Wenceslaus went out
On the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Some Favorite Christmas Moments

This is a card that we sent out, obvious at Christmastime 1982, the last time that we all - Tom, Mitch, me, Raoul, and Rocco (L-R) - worked at FantaCo. Yes, we were TRYING to look mysterious/strange/sinister.

So here's a lovely Christmas tale from 1991 involving my ex. You all right with that?

Z and I were poor graduate school students. I don't think we actively decided not to get a tree as much as we failed to get one until it was the week before Christmas, then decided it was pretty much not cost-effective to buy a tree that late.
We took the bus to do some last-minute shopping at Sears when we noticed the retailer was GIVING away trees. OK, for NOTHING, maybe we'll get one. But how to get it home? Z asked if we should ask the bus driver. I said, "Heck, no. If we ask, he could say 'no'." The bus arrives, fortunately with only about six people at 6 p.m. The driver looks askance, but says nothing as I take the tree on the bus. We get off the bus, carry it the three blocks home and had a lovely tree that we decorated that night.

Merry Christmas to all.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Roger's Quarterly Attempt to Make YOU Do All The Work

OK, pilgrims. Now that it's the first or second full day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, I just KNOW there are questions you want me to answer.

For instance, some guy I know wrote: "One leftover query--you can't videotape? Huh? Splain (in your blog, if you prefer--consider it a request!)"

O.K., Lucy, maybe I miswrote. I CAN use a VCR, though I hardly ever do anymore. What I CAN'T do is take a program that I recorded on the DVR and record THAT to videotape. I need a couple of wire connections, but not sure what; I've been told, "It's EASY!" They have no idea how difficult "EASY" technological things can be for me. This is not a complaint, merely an observation. The result is that I must keep the number of programs on the DVR at a certain limit, lest I run out of room. I'm saying here that running out of room is a GOOD thing, because it limits my TV consumption.

dwvr writes:
"Hey Roger-
Will they still let you be a Christian Blogger if you link to raw PANDA PORN?
Since there were no standards in the first place, other than acknowledging my Christian faith, probably yes. But you never know. If I were to write about, say, manatees, I'd probably be in trouble.

"Do you own any overalls?"
No, but I'm not constitutionally opposed to it.

"Why haven't you stolen Lefty's Top Ten List? You've stolen several of his other ideas."
I'd write what Mr. Tosy (I think) said about stealing except I can't find it, something along the line of "If I'm eating a hamburger, and you come along and want to eat a hamburger, it's not as though you stole the idea of eating a hamburger, you just wanted a hamburger." I'm sure I've done him (or someone) a grave injustice, but you get the idea.

So, please e-mail me, or leave me queries in the comments section, and I promise to answer all of your thousands of queries. Eventually.
ADD reminded me of the late Tom Natell's musings on winter.

Friday, December 22, 2006

You Better Watch Out

One of my pastor indicated this week how much he dislikes the lyrics to Santa Claus Is Coming to Town; it's that "sees you when you're sleeping" stuff and he got into what type of God we envision. It was with that thought in mind that I listened to an album put together by some obsessive-compulsive sort (not me) of 24 versions of that very same song! When I played it last year, I discovered that it was surprisingly listenable, not at all monotonous. Actually, this year, I put it in on random play with an equally exhaustive collection of "Little Drummer Boy" renditions. As a straight listen, one can be "pa-rum-rummed" out by LDB, but in the alternating play, it's not so bad. I'll tell you what version of "Santa Claus", though, I HAVE tired of. It's the one done by the dancing, singing plush toy snowman that one of my in-laws gave to Lydia last month. It's not a terrible version, as stuffed toys go - it seems to be trying to do Springsteen - but Lydia can play it over and over (and over...)

Generally, though, I didn't play much Christmas music at home or at work, mostly because my wife CONSTANTLY has the radio tuned at night to some local radio station playing nothing but the seasonal tunes - unless Dominic the Donkey comes on; then she'll shut it off for three minutes. In fact, I've played Christmas music on only a couple occasions so far this season, one being when I received a couple discs in the mail recently - both very good, BTW.

Another occasion was this Sunday past. I had gone to church at the early service to light the Advent candle with Carol and Lydia, then stayed through the second service so that I could sing in the choir - I was churchified. By the time I got home, there was a bunch of my in-laws in the house. Carol said, "Why don't you play some Christmas music?" So I grabbed the first five CDs in the Christmas section of the collection, put them into the player, and hit random play. The first song to come up was "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer". My father-in-law said, "Are you trying to send a message?" Oy.

Actually, I bought the single of "Grandma" when it first came out - who knew it'd become a perennial? - and the version is different from the one on the CD. When, in the original, Elmo asks "Should we open up her gifts, or send them back?" There's no "Send them back!!" response. The "Rudolph" coda doesn't exist in the original, either.

I find that's true with a number of songs. The Harry Simone Chorale's version of "Little Drummer Boy" has a last verse which is not so nearly as slow as the now-common recording.

There is this absolutely beautiful song called "The Bells of Christmas" by Julie Andrews, which I still have on a Firestone Christmas LP. I looked for it on iTunes, found it, bought it. I was disappointed, though, that they grafted on almost a full minute of extra instrumentation (from 1:08 to 2:02), which throws off the balance of the song. It's longer (3:54 vs. about three minutes), but not better. Still, it will appear on the mixed CD I made for my colleagues.

I have a lot of tolerance for Christmas music - I think it's a function of my parents having the single of the Chipmunks Christmas, which I used to do a fairly great rendition of - but some things do bug me.
* In search of the lost T: It's Silent Night, not Silen Nigh. And Jesus Christ, not Jesus Cries. (Or maybe He does.)
* EE-yuk. I have this recording of Charlie Pride doing "O, Little Town of Bethlehem", and he says, Beth-LEE-Hem, rather than a more modulated Beth-leh-hem. Others do it, too, but his is most egregious. Ironically, he also says "tha everlasting light", instead of "thee everlasting light".

Oh, and why were my in-laws in town on Sunday? After dinner, we all went to see the Melodies of Christmas at the beautiful Proctor's Theatre in Schenectady. This is the 27th annual benefit for the Child Cancer Program at Albany Medical Center, sponsored by WRGB-TV, Price Chopper grocery stores, and the folks that make Freihoffer cookies. The program featured Empire State Youth Orchestra and Youth Chorale. Also participating, Professor "Louie" & The Crowmatix, a Woodstock-based band who got those primarily suburban kids to - almost- swing. I must say that, having seen it on TV a number of times, it's better live. Still we'll watch it Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We'll probably still see the "honey shots" of the high school co-eds that the Channel 6 cameramen seem to concentrate on each year.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


I have long had an interest - OK, fascination- with songs with the same title. I'm not talking about cover versions of the same song, but different songs that share the same title. Back in the early 1980s, my favorite radio station (the late Q104)had this feature called the Breakfast Fourplay, in which listeners were asked to contribute four songs with a common theme. One time, I picked four songs all titled "I Need You", by the Beatles, the Who, America and Joan Armatrading, all of which I owned except the Who. I left off the Paul Carrack song of the same name, which I also own/owned. Ellen, the DJ, seemed to like the choices. Subsequently, I got versions by Eurthymics and Paula Abdul. (I also have the L. Ronstadt/A. Neville song, but that's a cover of the Carrack song.)

Without looking, I'd guess there would be a number of songs called Gloria. It used to bug me that the songwriters were so unimaginative; now, I've reframed and can note how universal it is that certain themes come up.

How would I put together such a list of songs in my collection? Tosy compiled such a list by going to his iPod. But:
1) I don't own an iPod and
2) I wouldn't want to miss my LP cuts
Then I thought to use the Billboard book Album Cuts. It's a pretty useful tool that lists the name of every cut of every album that charted on the Billboard charts from 1955 to 2001. However, for this task, it would have been maddening, for while it would list every song named Angel, it would not indicate which are different songs and which are cover versions. Besides which, it's 750 pages of six-point type.

Ultimately, I used the index to Top Pop Singles. It's only 150 pages of much larger type AND it distinguishes between cover versions and differently named songs. This list is hardly complete - undoubtedly, there are album cuts I've forgotten.

The / indicates a cover version, NOT that they performed it together.

America-Frank Sinatra; Simon & Garfunkel/Paul Simon/Yes; at least four different West Side Story versions
Angel-Aerosmith; Sarah McLaughlin; Madonna; Jon Secada; Aretha Franklin; Rod Stewart
Another Day-Paul McCartney; Sting
Breakaway- Art Garfunkel; Beach Boys
Call Me-Aretha Franklin; Blondie
Candy Man-Sammy Davis; Roy Orbison
Cherish-Association; Madonna
Chicago-Graham Nash; Frank Sinatra
Crazy-Seal; Patsy Cline [and others]; Aerosmith
Crossroads-Cream [and undoubtedly others]; Tracy Chapman
Dance, Dance, Dance-Beach Boys; Chic
Dance with Me-Orleans; Peter Brown; Drifters
Day by Day-Godspell; Hooters
Do It Again-Beach Boys; Steely Dan
Don't Be Cruel-Elvis Presley; Bobby Brown
Dreams-Fleetwood Mac; Cranberries
Drive-Cars; R.E.M.
Everlasting Love-Carl Carlton/Gloria Estefan; Howard Jones
Fallen-Elvis Costello; k.d. lang
Fire-Ohio Players; Arthur Brown; Pointer Sisters/Bruce Springsteen; Jimi Hendrix
Friends-Elton John; Bette Midler; Beach Boys
A Girl Like You-Young Rascals; Edwyn Collins
Gloria-Them/Doors; Patti Smith; Laura Branigan; U2. And this doesn't count classical pieces titled Gloria, of which, undoubtedly, I own a few.
Good Times-Chic; Edie Brickell
Hold On-En Vogue; Santana; Kansas; Rascals; Herman's Hermits
Holiday-BeeGees; Madonna; Kool & the Gang
Home-Sheryl Crow; Roger Miller
Hot! Hot! Hot!-Buster Poindexter; Cure
How Long-Ace; Pointer Sisters [with parenthetical extra title]
I Love You-Frank Sinatra; Zombies; Sarah McLachlan
I Threw It All Away-Bob Dylan; Elvis Costello
I'm a Man-Spencer Davis Group/Chicago; Yardbirds
I want You-Marvin Gaye; Beatles [with parenthetical extra title]
Jump-Van Halen; Pointer Sisters
Love and Happiness-Al Green; Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris
Lucille-Kenny Rogers; Little Richard/Everly Brothers/Beatles
Magic-Olivia Newton-John; Cars
Memphis-Chuck Berry/Johnny Rivers/Beatles; Joe Jackson
Money-Pink Floyd; Beatles/Barrett Strong
My Baby-Temptations; Pretenders
My Love-Petula Clark; Paul McCartney
One-Three Dog Night; U2/Johnny Cash
Rag Doll-Four Seasons; Aerosmith
Real Love-Doobie Brothers; Beatles
Runaway-Janet Jackson; Corrs; Bonnie Raitt/Del Shannon; Jefferson Starship
Shout-Tears for Fears; Beatles [and a number of others]
Sign Of The Times-Petula Clark; Prince [OK, the Minnesota guy used 'O' instead of Of]
Silver and Gold-Neil Young; U2
Stand-R.E.M.; Sly & the Family Stone [with !]
Surrender-Elvis Presley; U2
Temptation-Diana Krall; Elvis Costello
Thank You-Led Zeppelin; Boyz II Men; Sly & the Family Stone [parenthetical addition]
Time-Hootie & the Blowfish; Pozo-Seco Singers
Tunnel of Love-Dire Straits; Bruce Springsteen
Wait-White Lion; Beatles
Why-Annie Lennox; Beatles with Tony Sheridan; Tracy Chapman [with a ?]
Without You-Nilsson; Doobie Brothers; Dixie Chicks; David Bowie
Wild Horses-Rolling Stones; Garth Brooks
Woman-John Lennon; Peter & Gordon
Words-Monkees; BeeGees
You-George Harrison; Marvin Gaye; Bonnie Raitt

This probably WOULD have been easier with an iPod.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Who ARE these people?

Or maybe, as friend Dan might say, What were they thinking? Check out the comments.

Picture taken from here.
TV Guide managed to take an unnecessary pot shot at my city. In the December 25 cover story about the ubiquitous Rachael Ray: "She began offering a series of classes that promised to teach 30-minute Mediterranean meals. In Albany, where a trip to the mall passes for excitement, the tutorials were a hit." I could spend time talking about the virtues of Albany, or note that I LOATHE the mall and why, but I'll just note that it was a cheap shot for no good reason. Feh.
The 2000 year old calculator.

Carl Sagan, 1934-1996

I never read a Carl Sagan book, yet I feel blessed to have known him through his vociferous writing in PARADE magazine - you know, the Sunday newspaper supplement - for which he was a contributing editor, as well as the star of the PBS program Cosmos. This article notes: "Sagan is remembered by most people as one of the great popularizers of science. His newspaper articles, magazine pieces..., books, and television broadcasts reached millions, and made science accessible to mass audiences." Though undoubtedly one of the smartest people around, he made the information interesting with either confounding or talking down to his audience.

I did see the movie Contact, based one one of his books, which I mostly enjoyed. With all he had accomplished, I had forgotten how young he was when he died, 10 years ago today.
Frustrated "smart person" story, to which I can definitely relate: a librarian I know was picked for some trivia contest, touted as the "brain" and was then knocked out in the first round by a question about a TV event that took place five years before he or she was born: What cigarette brand did the Flintstones smoke in a series of commercials? Thing is, I somehow knew this, possibly because I saw it in the early 1960s and/or because it was my father's cigarette brand. But more likely because I read about it here.
The ad below is different from the one I linked to above.

Which, of course, is the segue to noting the passing of Joe Barbera. Mark Evanier has been doing a series of pieces about him, starting on December 17. Evanier and I share our first favorite cartoon character, Huckleberry Hound. Barbera and his late partner, William Hanna, put out a lot of shows I watched over a seven-year period: Secret Squirrel, Tom and Jerry, Jonny Quest, Peter Potamus, Yogi Bear, Magilla Gorilla, The Jetsons, Wally Gator, the aforementioned Flintstones and Huck, and another favorite, Top Cat, the theme of which is STILL running through my head. Quick Draw McGraw appeared on one or more of those shows - KABONG! What a wasted youth. Thanks, Joe.
My grade school friend Carol turns 54 today; our friend Bill did three days ago. This makes them older than I am for the next two and a half months. So there.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Kennedy Center Honors

I'm a sucker for the Kennedy Center Honors. As I get older, I notice the honorees are, more often than not, quite familiar to me.

This year's honorees, awarded on Sunday, December 3rd 2006, were as follows:

"Musical theater composer and producer Andrew Lloyd Webber". If only for Jesus Christ, Superstar, I'd find Lloyd Webber to be a large part of my growing up. The raging theological debate that the musical generated among my friends and the religious folks I knew at the time was incredibly intense. Its revival was also the last musical I saw on Broadway, 3 or 4 years ago. I also own, also on vinyl, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, plus I have his Requiem Mass on cassette, and I saw the film version of the musical Evita.

"Conductor Zubin Mehta. Saw him on Live at Lincoln Center. I'm sure he shows up in my music collection, but it's arranged by classical composer, not orchestra or conductor. But he's in there somewhere.

"Country singer and songwriter Dolly Parton. She wrote "I Will Always Love You" about her long-time partner Porter Waggoner, but it became a huge hit for someone else. I have both Trio albums with Ronstadt and Harris, and saw her in the movie "Nine to Five", but it is her many TV appearances for which I know her best. Dan Rather interviewed her in the past three years and was evidently smitten. I wonder if Jessica Simpson flub of "9 to 5" will appear on the air.

"Singer, songwriter and producer Smokey Robinson. The amazing thing about his writing for Motown is that he created for both the male and female artists' points of view: My Guy for Mary Wells, My Girl for the Temptations. He wrote for and/or produced most of the classic Motown artists; his "Who's Lovin' You" appears on the debut albums of both the Supremes and the Jackson Five, e.g.
Possibly my favorite song he wrote was "No More Tear-Stained Makeup" for Martha and the Vandellas.
"No sponge has quite the power
To absorb the constant shower
Of the tears pancake and powder could never cover
Like a storm more tears have rained
Since your shirt was lipstick stained
And the stains that it contained
Were not my colour."
And I haven't even mentioned his hits with the Miracles, from the first big Motown hit (Shop Around) to a song covered by the Beatles (You've Really Got a Hold on Me) to the Tears songs (Tracks of My Tears, Tears of a Clown), plus his work as a solo artist.

"Film director and producer Steven Spielberg."
I might have seen a few things he worked on:
Catch Me If You Can (2002) (producer, director)
Shrek (2001) (executive producer, uncredited)
Deep Impact (1998) (executive producer)
Amistad (1997) (producer, director)
Men in Black (1997) (executive producer)
Twister (1996) (executive producer)
Survivors of the Holocaust (1996) (TV) (executive producer)
"Pinky and the Brain" (1995) TV Series (executive producer)
"ER" (1994) TV Series (executive producer, some episodes)
Schindler's List (1993) (producer, director)
Jurassic Park (1993) (director)
"Animaniacs" (1993) TV Series (executive producer)
Cape Fear (1991) (executive producer, uncredited)
Back to the Future Part III (1990) (executive producer)
Back to the Future Part II (1989) (executive producer)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) (director)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) (executive producer)
Empire of the Sun (1987) (producer, director)
An American Tail (1986) (executive producer)
The Money Pit (1986) (executive producer)
The Color Purple (1985) (producer, director)
Back to the Future (1985) (executive producer)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) (director)
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) (producer, director of segment 2)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) (producer, director)
Continental Divide (1981) (executive producer)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (director)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) (director, writer)
The Sugarland Express (1974) (director, story)
Plus a number of cartoons he wrote, TV shows he directed, and "The Making of" shows in which he has appeared.

The 2006 Kennedy Center Honors will be broadcast on CBS, next Tuesday, December 26, 2006 at 9 pm, ET (which stands for Eastern Time, not Extra-Terrestrial.)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Underplayed Vinyl: The Rolling Stones

Back in the 1980s, I bought a Keith Richards bio. I'm surprised as anyone that he's reportedly still alive and turning 63 today.

Even at the time, I recognized Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass as a good choice as my first Rolling Stones album.
1. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
2. The Last Time
3. As Tears Go By
4. Time Is on My Side
5. It's All over Now
6. Tell Me
7. 19th Nervous Breakdown
8. Heart of Stone
9. Get off of My Cloud
10. Not Fade Away
11. Good Times Bad Times
12. Play With Fire
However, I always thought Tell Me was out of tune, and that some of the songs sounded muddy. Unlike with the Beatles, I didn't go out and buy every album. I've subsequently heard those early albums from which these songs were drawn, and they seem to hold a lot of filler, so I've never coveted them.

Conversely, I loved Through The Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2) instantly, even though I had a larger percentage of albums from which the songs were culled. The U.S. version:
1. Paint It, Black
2. Ruby Tuesday
3. She's a Rainbow
4. Jumpin' Jack Flash
5. Mother's Little Helper
6. Let's Spend the Night Together
7. Honky Tonk Women
8. Dandelion
9. 2000 Light Years from Home
10. Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby Standing in the Shadow?
11. Street Fighting Man
For a few cuts, such as Jumpin' Jack Flash, Honky Tonk Women, and Dandelion, this was their initial appearance on album, making this purchase even more urgent at the time. The Stones' catalog in the US was even more confusing than the Beatles' in that certain songs appeared on more than one album from the same label (both Ruby Tuesday and Let's Spend The Night Together on Between the Buttons AND Flowers, both London releases), so that the greatest hits collection was a better choice. Besides which, it had that octagonal cover!

Of course, these collections have been superseded by such albums as Hot Rocks (reviewed by Gordon this fall), but I've never purchased it, instead owning these two pieces of vinyl.
I have a link to Dead or Alive, and I think it's a culturally interesting site. Still, sometimes they just miss people I think are obvious, such as Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records, who signed a number of blues, jazz and rock artists (Ray Charles, who was languishing on a minor label; Led Zeppelin), including the Rolling Stones to their own label. He added the Y to CSN. He wrote a number of R&B hits, including Ray Charles' "Mess Around" under his pseudonym A. Nugetre. He helped found the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the main section is now named after him. He went into a coma after a fall when he was backstage with the Rolling Stones, who were playing for Bill Clinton's 60th birthday. Please go nag Dead or Alive to add Ahmet Ertegun to its list; I already have.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Weird Thoughts, Repentance Edition

There is on the road leading from my office, a sign, probably twice the length, and twice the height of a #10 envelope. All that is written is the word REPENT. I wonder what the person putting up that sign would think would happen when people see the sign? And I wonder what reaction - other than indifference - the sign has generated? If someone were moved to repent as a result of this little sign, to whom and what would they repent?

I just read where Charles Dickens was in Albany, NY in March of 1868, where he read "A Christmas Carol" to a packed house. I was intrigued that one of our pastors last week compared John the Baptist, the forerunner to Jesus, with Jacob Marley, who warned Ebenezer Scrooge of the visitors to come. Scrooge did repent of his penurious ways.

So I wonder: is the most familiar Scrooge, portrayed by everyone from Mr. Magoo to Patrick Stewart, what repentance looks like in the minds of whoever posted that sign, and dozens like them?
Last Sunday's Advent service went well. I heard a recording on Friday. What's missing from the CD, though, is the Amen. There are two amens and an introductory sentence that all start off with the same notes. While some of us sang the "Amen", others, inexplicably, started singing "I was glad when they said unto me." Train wreck on the EASY piece after getting down the much harder one.
See Fred Hembeck's post of December 14, where he shows his very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very obsessive-compulsive relationship with Santa Claus.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Things I want to know: language edition QUESTIONS

I really want to know, if you know, or even if you have a theory.

1. When did the term "drop" replace the word "release" when describing the sale date of an album? "My album will be dropping on January 2." And why drop? My wife has a theory about this; one's album is like one's baby, and in birthing a child, the baby drops down the birth canal. Plausible, but is it correct?

2. When did the term swag add the definition of "promotional items, especially when given for free, considered as a group," and by extension, free stuff? As opposed to window treatment?

3. When did kumbaya become a term of scorn? "We didn’t hold hands and sing kumbyah." "This is the sort of mushy, 'kumbaya' leftist pablum that is deserving of derision." Just this week, I saw Rosie O'Donnell on "The View" - I was flipping through channels, really! - get her colleagues to hold hands and say, sarcastically, "Let's all sing Kumbaya!"

I'm especially interested in the latter, because, in the late 1960s, my father, sister and I used to sing it. But NOT with those banal campfire lyrics: someone's doing this, someone's that. As my father would introduce it: "Kumbaya is a lullabye." And we treated it as such:
The wind is whisperin', Lord
The trees are swayin', Lord
The cradle's rockin' Lord
The baby's sleepin', Lord
I was watching JEOPARDY! last week (of a show that ran a week or two before), and Lynne (who became a one-day champion on that show) is a features editor for the Akron newpaper who said she was the one who caught this "Simpsons"/Dear Abby hoax involving Marge and a bowling instructor.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Musical Meme

Purloined from Tosy, who stole it from someone else.

1. Movie score. Last Exit from Brooklyn by Mark Knopfler. I assume this means not the soundtrack, where I would pick "The Harder They Come" or "West Side Story".
2. TV theme. Hill Street Blues. In fact, I have a whole album of Mike Post TV theme songs (Rockford Files, L.A. Law) on vinyl, and except for "The Greatest American Hero", I like 'em all.
3. Melody. There's an old country song called "Beautiful Brown Eyes"; "Gethsemene (I Only Want to Say)" from Jesus Christ, Superstar; "Cryin' ", though I prefer the k.d. lang/Roy Orbison version to the Orbison original.
4. Harmonic language. Beach Boys "God Only Knows" or "Our Prayer""
5. Rhythmic feel. "Moby Dick" - Led Zeppelin. I think the bass, even more than the drums, create the rhythm. "Expressway to Your Heart" - Soul Survivors. Pretty much any uptempo Motown song of the 1960s; "Love Is Like An Itchin' In My Heart" is running through my head presently.
6. Hip-hop track. Not my area of expertise. "White Lines (Don't Do It)" - Grandmaster Flash.
7. Classical piece. The Samuel Barber Adagio. Beethoven's 7th Symphony.
8. Smash hit. Oh, like I could narrow it. "I Only Have Eyes for You" - the Flamingoes; "Since You've Been Gone" - Aretha Franklin, which is perfect song because, after one note, it goes right to the tune, not allowing disc jockeys to talk over the opening; "The Boxer"- Simon & Garfunkel.
9. Jazz album. I've recently recommended Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck. I'm thinking some compilation album that hits on some varied vocalists. If pushed, one of the songbooks that Ella did.
10. Non-American folkloric group. Afro Celt
11. Book on music. Most of my books are list books: Top Pop Singles, Top Pop Albums" Forced to pick a narrative form, "Blues People" by LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka.
An attempt at humor, sent to me:

A woman goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Chanukah cards.
She says to the clerk, "May I have 50 Chanukah stamps?"
The clerk says, "What denomination?"
"Oh my God," the woman says, "Has it come to this? Give me 6 Orthodox, 12 Conservative, and 32 Reform."

Happy Hanukkah!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Peter Boyle and Pinochet

When I was 17, I confused an actor with his role. Peter Boyle, before Carroll O'Connor played Archie Bunker, played a bigot, but he wasn't "lovable" as some found Archie to be. As it turned out, though, Boyle was nothing like the character he played in the movie Joe.

The only time I ever literally fell out of my seat laughing was when I saw the movie Young Frankenstein in the scene when the monster, played by Boyle, was having...difficulties with a blind man, played by Gene Hackman. I thought this was so terribly funny, that I fell into the aisle of the movie theater, convulsing. YF is my favorite Brooks film.

Conversely, I didn't LOVE Raymond, so I never saw the TV show, except for one episode, for which he - reportedly - should have won an Emmy.

If you didn't know the best man at Peter Boyle's wedding was this British expat named John Lennon, I'm sure it'll be in every obit.
When I was in college, Salvatore Allende was the democratically elected President of Chile. He was also a Socialist. This made the United States government, and President Nixon, so unhappy that they meddled in the affairs of Chile. This action, in concert with what was happening internally within Chile, led to a bloody coup that led to the ascension of Augusto Pinochet and a terrible period of oppression of the Chilean people, not to mention the loss of democracy. It wasn't the first time I was really ticked off with my government for meddling in the affairs of another country, and unfortunately, not the last.

But to those people who are angry with Pinochet's recent death, because they won't be able get their vengeance, I hope that they can find the peace within their hearts to let go of something they simply cannot change.
My wife is a huge fan of Diana Krall. We must have at least 8 of her albums, many of which I gave her (and the new one's on the Christmas list). We've seen her live, albeit separately. She's also happy that Krall, like she, is an older mother. However, she's "not loving" the names that the 42-year-old singer, and her husband, some 52-year-old guy named Elvis Costello, bestowed on the twin boys: Dexter Henry Lorcan and Frank Harlan James. Frank James - wasn't that Jesse's brother?
The Metropolitan Performing Arts Center (the Met) in downtown Spokane, Washington changed its name to the Bing Crosby Theater last Friday, for all you Der Bingle fans.
The American Dialect Society voted truthiness as the word of the year for 2005, and now it's Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year 2006. For some obscure reason, this brought to mind Julia Ward Howe. If she were writing The Battle Hymn of the Republic today, would the line read, "His truthiness is marching on"?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"Christmas" Carols

My wife went out and bought James Taylor at Christmas and then asked me if we already had it. I told her we have a JT album from Hallmark that I received from my sister a couple years ago. Come to discover - as the discussion in the Amazon post describes, they are largely - though not exactly - THE SAME ALBUM. Carol returned the disc.

As for the album: if you like James Taylor, you'll probably like the disc. What does one want from a Christmas album? A couple of unexpected cuts - he sings In the Bleak Midwinter, which I seldom here on "secular" albums. A twist on the familiar - "Jingle Bells" reminds me of a slowed-up version of the Bing Crosby/Andrews Sisters version, for some reason.

As I noted the other day, Lefty asks LOTS of questions. One from this post last week got me thinking about "Christmas" songs, and why some of them actually are considered as such. Moreover, why one couldn't play some of them, say, in January? Or February? Three of them are on all versions of the James Taylor album: Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells, and the somewhat randy Baby, It's Cold Outside. Let It Snow also qualifies. And as I've described here, we're not even IN Christmastime, we're in Advent, so some of those Christ-Mass songs don't even make sense until December 25 or later - the Three Kings may have taken their time getting to the manger.

So, I resolve:
1. to keep playing Christmas music until January 6, Three Kings Day, and
2. in honor of the biggest Christmas geek I know, to play some winter songs on January 30
Probably doing other things on January 30, which will be discussed in due course.

You might have heard about the so-called "War on Christmas from these articles:
Mo Rocca Wants His Christmas Big
'Christmas' makes a comeback in public spaces
W.Va. City's Xmas Scene Has No Jesus
Critics Aren't Keeping Quiet Over 'Silent Night' Lyrics Change
But no one can declare a war on Christmas like this person.

Studio 60 is rebroadcasting its Christmas show, last broadcast on Monday, December 4, on Monday, December 18. The last six minutes or so are rather affecting.

Oh, the pictures are of the Christmas caroling Carol and I did this past weekend. I'm in one of the photos.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Sick Day Theorem

My theorem about sick days is this; there are basically two kinds.
One is when you have a scratchy throat and don't want to infect the office. This one also applies to injuries. You can't make it to work, but you're well enough to catch up on reading the paper or watching TV, or even blogging.
The other is when you feel so miserable that you do nothing much but sleep.
I thought yesterday was going to be from column one (fatigue, light headache). I dropped off Lydia, when the bus heading back to my house showed up. (I had forgotten my work ID - again; obviously I have issues with those badges.) By the time I got home, the mild headache turned into a raging migrane, probably caused by dehydration and insomnia, the solution to which, for me, is sleep.

So, no insights on BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters, a 45-MINUTE You Tube video link e-mailed to me on "how to successfully refuse unwarranted police searches and seizures by exercising your constitutional rights", also available on DVD from No review (yet) of the St. Elsewhere Season 1 DVD I got in the mail Friday. Don't have the brain cells to ascertain if the middle name of Barack Obama will prove to be a political liability. But do go see A Charlie Brown Christmas, As Performed by the Cast of Scrubs, recommended by some guy in Buffalo.

Actual content tomorrow, probably.

Happy birthday, GC!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Contrary To Popular Opinion, Lefty Brown Is Actually From New Jersey

I know this because he sure asks a lot of questions. (Yeah, I know it's a distortion of the punchline. Don't care.) And not just of me, but other poor suckers. Here are my answers.

What is the best concert or festival you've been to in your lifetime?

Answered here about a year ago, and nothing has changed in the intervening period. Not even seeing the Turtles. What I didn't note was that the T Heads were on the tour that brought forth the Stop Making Sense movie, which I have never seen, although I have the soundtrack.

What music does your daughter enjoy that you are tickled pink that she likes?

She likes anything that's danceable. I got a kick out of her dancing to London Calling. But she has definite dislikes, though I'm not remembering specifically, except that it was a song that came from the Gordon-sponsored Mixed CD collection; she thought it was noise, and I probably agreed with her.

I'm formulating my Top Ten Music, what are some ones that might have slipped my eagle-eye gaze?

This is a tough question. I mean, I know that Gordon turned you on to stuff that I figured you might already have hit upon, but apparently had not. With that caveat:

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue. It is on that ALL-Time list for a reason. Get it. In fact, why don't you find the ALL-Time list or one of those thousands of Rolling Stone Best Of lists and tell us what you have, so your musical gurus can endlessly taunt you about what you're missing?
Dave Brubeck. Don't have a specific album in mind. There's a Greatest Hits which I don't have, and The Essential DB, which I've given as gifts, but you can't go wrong with Time Out, which, last I checked, cost $7.99 on Amazon. All sorts of funky meters, not just 5/4.
Elvis Costello - Spike. No, I say again: EC is NOT just a singles artist. The nature of my fondness for this album is based on some of the same reasons I like The Beatles' Revolver, which is that it's musically all over the place. From the Amazon review: "you could call Spike the beginning of Elvis Costello's super-eclectic period. The 1989 disc...offered everything from the bed rock New Orleans sounds of Allen Toussaint and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band to clanging rockabilly, Paul McCartney collaborations (including the sparkling pop hit "Veronica"), and a jazz-ballad standard in the making ("Baby Plays Around" )."
Paul McCartney - Tug of War. I almost picked Flowers in the Dirt, which was recorded around the same time as Costello's Spike (Elvis sings on a couple tunes, and reportedly gave Macca the push to actually allow the "My Brave Face" bass line to sound like Beatle Paul.) But I opted for the earlier disc. Paul's solo/Wings output was always uneven, but this one is pretty solid. It has a fun duet with Stevie Wonder - and I DON'T mean Ebony and Ivory - plus a duet with Carl Perkins.
And speaking of Stevie Wonder - you might as well get his whole late 1972 to 1980 output (Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness' First Finale, Songs in the Key of Life, Hotter than July), EXCEPT Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.
Finally, I'm a big fan of the Johnny Cash American albums. While the third (Solitary Man) and fourth (The Man Comes Around) albums have great songs, and the first one (American Recordings) is a wonderful solo effort, I'm thinking that the second one, Unchained, might be a good choice if you don't have it. It's more "commercial" - don't mean that pejoratively - in that he's backed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I thought it'd be a big crossover hit, but it did more poorly than 1, 3 or 4. Actually, what you REALLY need is the fifth disc from the JRC box set, a greatest hits set from the four, but I haven't seen it for sale separately.
If you asked me next month, it might be a whole 'nother list.

You have any music that your wife won't let you play when she's around?

It's not that she won't LET me play, it that I choose not to. I tend towards playing the stuff I think she'll like. When she's not around, I'm more likely to play Hendrix, Cream, the Who, Zeppelin, Green Day, or the like. I also tend to play whatever I'm listening to LOUDLY, a lot more so than she can stand. If she comes back from shopping, she says, "Don't you think that's loud?" Well, yeah, I do.
The other thing I tend to play out of her hearing are some of the mixed CDs I've gotten. There seems to be a song or three on almost all of them I KNOW she wouldn't like.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

December Ramblin'

My Words, My Voice is a site for women to write a brief memoir and also for peer-to-peer communication to encourage women from around the globe to talk with each other. The goal is for 10,000 memoirs by 2010.

That said, I think I'll be signing up my mom for the Remembering Site for Christmas. I doubt that she'd initiate preserving her memories on her own, but I'm betting she'd do it with me, or so I hope.


Remains of St. Paul may have been found - Yahoo!

Our church is getting involved with The Laptop Project.


Mixed reaction to Cheney's daughter's pregnancy, says CNN - fair enough. But Mary Cheney's pregnancy affects us all? So says Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D., Senior Fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the "think tank for Concerned Women for America... a recognized authority on domestic issues, the United Nations, cultural and women's concerns." Feh. It affects Mary and her partner and their families. "The vice president and Mrs. Cheney are looking forward with eager anticipation" to the arrival of their sixth grandchild." Good answer. Read it if only for the snarky comments on both sides of the issue. Haven't seen such silliness since Dan Quayle went after Murphy Brown.

A Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives

Inside Higher Ed: Rethinking racial classifications
An Education Department plan to change the way colleges collect and report data on their students' racial and ethnic backgrounds is attracting growing criticism. Opposition is coming from a group that represents some of the most elite private colleges in the country - as well as from officials of large, diverse public universities.


Report: Students struggle with information literacy.
"Many students know how to use technology, but fewer know how to apply it to find what they're looking for" by Justin Appel.

You might think the 2010 Census is far away; you would be incorrect, as this website will attest.

How To Conduct a Background Check

The World Almanac has a blog, now about a month old. This probably means more to me than most, since I've been reading the book since I was about 10. I may have told this story: my co-workers had a shower for Carol and me, during which they asked us to identify characteristics of the other. I was supposed to name her favorite book - which I failed to do (100 Years of Solitude), but she got mine (The World Almanac). Thing is, when she made her pick, before I revealed my answer, no one thought she was correct, which I thought was terribly funny.

The Small Business Economy: 2006,which, of course, covers the small business economy in 2005. It used to come out the April or May after the prior year; now it comes out in December.

Snopes confirms a gift card scam.

An alpaca pregnancy calculator from the Alpaca Journal.


Maybe it's strange that there is a website or two dedicated to people opening boxes, but a front page story about it in the Wall Street Journal about the "unboxing movement" cracked me up.

Last month, Nik, in response to an August post of mine, wrote: Ah, Fantaco! Their "Chronicles" series helped really turn me into a fanboy for the first time. Picked up the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man volumes and that was it, hooked for life. Oh, dear. I edited both of those magazines! I've corrupted youth! Sorry, Nik.


One of my favorite sites is Dead or Alive. I was disappointed, though, that the late Ruth Brown hadn't made it onto the page. So, I wrote to them to that effect, and now she has.

Bank of America sings U2's One. Described recently by Ad Age's Jonah Bloom as "more toe-curlingly cringe-worthy than anything David Berent did on 'The Office.'" So popular that it has been parodied as David Cross and Johnny Marr cover Bank of America guy covers U2.

"Amahl and the Night Visitors"/A one act Christmas opera by Gian Carlo Menotti
Saturday, December 16, 2006 at 7:30 pm, Union Presbyterian Church, Schenectady - 1068 Park Ave off Union between Wendell & Park
Sunday, December 17, 2006 at 7:30 pm, First Presbyterian Church, Albany - 362 State Street at Willett on Washington Park
Presented by Union Presbyterian Church Choir with The Opera Excelsior Orchestra and Soloists; Conducted by Victor Klimash
Handicap Access. Free and open to the public

Oh, yeah, and I'm singing Mozart TONIGHT at First Pres.


One of my colleagues got really excited by this "John Lennon" Clip from The Cavern, until he discovered it was from the Cavern Beatles; a decent simulation.

Johnny Bacardi turned me onto a website about the REAL Beatles called What Goes On. It collects Beatle (and Beach Boys) news from all over. It's where I found this story about UK rejecting music copyright extension, which would, presumably, put the Beatles' catalog in the public domain there during the next decade. Practically, with the US law with a much longer term, what will this mean? I'm hoping this guy, who is an intellectual property lawyer, as well as a rock and roll drummer, might answer this. He just wrote this interesting Apple vs. Apple piece.

The Fab Fred fawns over the Beatles' LOVE album.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Pill To Forget? QUESTIONS

60 Minutes, a couple weeks ago, did a story called The Memory Pill. It really should have been called what the online version calls it, A Pill To Forget? Can A Medication Suppress Traumatic Memories?

If there were something you could take after experiencing a painful or traumatic event that would permanently weaken your memory of what had just happened, would you take it? As correspondent Lesley Stahl reports, it's an idea that may not be so far off, and that has some critics alarmed, and some trauma victims filled with hope.

When some traumatic event, such as a man jumping in front of a conductor's train to commit suicide, or a girl being raped by a doctor at the age of 12, doctors who have studied and treated patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have enrolled some patients in experimental studies of a drug called propranolol, a medication commonly used for high blood pressure ... and unofficially, for stage fright."

The story begins with some surprising discoveries about memory. It turns out our memories are sort of like Jello - they take time to solidify in our brains. And while they're setting, it's possible to make them stronger or weaker. It all depends on the stress hormone adrenaline... that's why we remember important and emotional events in our lives more than regular day-to-day experiences.

"Propranolol sits on that nerve cell and blocks it, so that, think of this as being a key, and this is a lock, the hole in the lock is blocked because of propranolol sitting there. So adrenaline can be present, but it can't do its job," Professor James McGaugh explains.
"But then [in response to funding for further studies, after the initial successes]the President's Council on Bioethics condemned the study in a report that said our memories make us who we are and that 're-writing' memories pharmacologically... risks "undermining our true identity."
David Magnus, director of Stanford University's Center for Biomedical Ethics, says he worries that it won't be just trauma victims trying to dull painful memories.

"From the point of view of a pharmaceutical industry, they're going to have every interest in having as many people as possible diagnosed with this condition and have it used as broadly as possible. That's the reality of how drugs get introduced and utilized," Magnus argues.

He's concerned it will be used for trivial reasons. "If I embarrass myself at a party Friday night and instead of feeling bad about it I could take a pill then I [won't] have to avoid making a fool of myself at parties," Magnus says.

"So you think that that embarrassment and all of that is teaching us?" Stahl asks.

"Absolutely," Magnus says. "Our breakups, our relationships, as painful as they are, we learn from some of those painful experiences. They make us better people."
But while the ethicists debate the issue, the science is moving forward. Researchers have shown in rat studies that propranolol can also blunt old memories.
And now the U.S. military has taken note: Pitman recently heard from the Army that he will be receiving funding starting next summer to try the same propranolol experiment to treat American soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

So, the questions:

1. Under what circumstances, if any, should a memory-blocking pill be taken?

2. Is the peace that comes with the end of a bad memory worth the life lessons that pain brings?

3. Would you ever take such a pill?

For me, I would hope such a day never came, and I feel that I've learned - well, mostly learned - from the bad things that have happened in my life, but I wouldn't categorically suggest that I would NEVER take such a pill.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Even before hearing about Yoko Ono's request, expressed in a New York Times ad recently, to "make December 8th the day to ask for forgiveness from those who suffered the insufferable", I've been thinking about the notion of letting go.

Yoko writes: "This year, though, on December 8th, while we remember John, I would also like us to focus on sending the following messages to the millions of people suffering around the world:

We pray for the wounds to heal."

Two seemingly disparate articles I read this past week in the local weekly rag, Metroland, jumped out at me.

One was Reaching Out by Cathy Resmer. It describes Linda White, whose daughter was raped and murdered in Texas 20 years ago by a couple 15-year-olds. "In 2001, White and her granddaughter Ami traveled to a prison in Wichita Falls, Texas, where they met with [one of the murderers, Gary] Brown and a trained facilitator. The meeting, known as a 'victim-offender mediation' — or, more accurately, a 'victim-offender dialogue' — lasted eight hours."

Conversely, a recent Wall Street Journal piece by Dorothy Rabinowitz really annoyed me. It read: "Most Americans, other than some fortunate few, have by now heard about the forgiveness movement, something of an industry whereby bereaved families seek out murderers of their ...loved ones to deliver forgiveness." She was describing a recent television program, Beyond Conviction - which I did not see - as a variation on the theme "where a woman at the age of 20 was raped by her older brother, now serving a 20-year prison sentence." She seems to trivialize the notion of forgiveness.

Yet, I'm struck by a subtext of Yoko's message, even as I read these words from her:
"As the widow of one who was killed by an act of violence, I don't know if I am ready yet to forgive the one who pulled the trigger. I am sure all victims of violence crimes feel as I do. But healing is what is urgently needed now in the world.

Let's heal the wounds together."

I'm hoping that Yoko finds the healing she craves for others.

Oddly, the other Metroland article that hit me, seemingly more trivial, was "Giving Up 'I Suck'" by Miriam Axel-Lute, which is here presently, and will eventually be here. Noting that she has burned the apple sauce she was making, she writes:
"I suck!" "I am so dumb." "What a frigging idiot."

I didn't actually mean these things. I mean, I had done a dumb thing, but I didn't actually believe it was any particular reflection on my inherent nature. I have my neuroses and insecurities like everyone else, but generalized lack of self-esteem has blessedly never been one of them.

But it certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve said such things. I pretty much only do it when I'm annoyed or frustrated at something specific I've done, especially something that's mostly affecting me. I can generally manage a more adult and productive response to being constructively criticized or when circumstances call for an apology to someone else.

But sometimes these habitual self-deprecations are just like a pressure valve, like shaking my fist at a noninteractive God. Although my near and dear ones will sometimes chime in with "No you're not" or "No you don't," I tended to react with mild exasperation. I didn’t actually need reassurance. It was just a way of letting off steam. It didn’t really worry me much.

But this time I paused and realized my baby daughter was sleeping in the next room. And I had to give it a little more thought.

My basic feeling is that there enough people OUT THERE who'll tell you you're an idiot; you needn't be one of them, especially publicly. I'm hoping certain people will expunge it from their vocabularies.

Forgive others. Forgive yourself.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Premiere's Top 20 Overrated Films

Stealing from Jaquandor, again.

Here's the list:

20. American Beauty. Not sure. I saw it, I liked it well enough, I wasn't surprised by the critical buzz, though I wondered if it wasn't a bit of some guys fixated on young Mena Suvari. This falls in the category of, if you see it BEFORE the buzz really begins, it may be more entertaining.

19. Chicago. The musical had just about died, Moulin Rouge notwithstanding. I thought this was very entertaining, occasionally very funny - the Richard Gere/ Christine Baranski back-and-forth was fun, Queen Latifah was a force. And the leads were good. If the editing was sloppy, as some suggest, it didn't detract from the (a)morality play.

18. Clerks. Horrors, I've STILL never seen this.

17. Fantasia. Oh, please. For 1940, this movie was AMAZING. Yeah, it could have done with some editing between the numbers. And I've always seen this movie (once in the theater, a few times at home) under the influence of nothing.

16. Field of Dreams. Every time I'm flicking through the channels and I see this is on, I end up watching it again. And it always gets me, Doc's choices, the James Earl Jones' character's soliloquy, the Costner character playing catch with his dad...excuse me, I need a hanky.

15. Chariots of Fire. This movie suffers for me because I saw it (with my girlfriend at the time and her son) a week AFTER it had won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Looked pretty, but we said, "Is that all there is?" I dare say, if I had seen it four months sooner, I might have had a different reaction. Haven't seen it since.
14. Good Will Hunting. I enjoyed it. Even enjoyed Robin Williams, which isn't always the case.

13. Forrest Gump. I liked it in parts, such as the football game, ping pong matches, Lt. Dan's missing legs, and the meetings with the Presidents. The running section, which used three different songs (only one or two which made it to the soundtrack) went on too long - yeah, it was SUPPOSED to go on and on, but still. (I seem to recall that the running, bearded Hanks was actually played by his brother. Or am I just misremembering?)
I get annoyed that Jenny, the antiwar character, is, as Weird Al Yankovic describes in the great parody of "Lump" by The Presidents Of The United States Of America called Gump, a "bit of a slut". Forrest's creation of the Smiley face seemed forced. Generally, I watched the film with a real detachment. Maybe it's because I could never buy Sally Field, who was Hanks' stand-up comedy competition in the movie Punchline six years earlier, as his mother. Yet I'm always touched by the big reveal near the end with Haley Joel Osment.

12. Jules and Jim. I saw it a LONG time ago, 35-40 years ago, remember being awed by it, but probably should see again.

11. A Beautiful Mind. I think the backlash comes from the fact that it took liberties with the facts. I enjoyed it for what was actually on the screen. Russell Crowe showed again - I'd seen him in L.A. Confidential and The Outsider - that he was a fine actor, before his persona came to the fore.

10. Monster's Ball. My sense is that Halle Berry was playing against type and revealed aside not suspected. At that level, it worked, though it was an unpleasant film to watch.

9. Moonstruck. Obviously the reviewer needs to snap out of it.

8. Mystic River. Really wanted to see this. Or not. It came out when Carol was pregnant, and the storyline just didn't appeal to me at that moment. Maybe I'll see it now.

7. Nashville. Tried to watch this on video recently, unsuccessfully. Will try again.

6. The Wizard of Oz. The transformation from the b&w Kansas to the technicolor Oz as NOT necessarily where Dorothy wanted to be is an endlessly fascinating philosophical conversation. I love how many actors had two or more roles, especially Frank Morgan: Professor Marvel plus the Emerald City doorman, the Wiz himself and more is a hoot. Know what really scared me? The talking trees - yeesh!
The movie's cultural impact based on quotes alone, is huge. They've made new plays, books, etc. based on the (eventual) success of this movie. Overrated? Not in this country.

5. An American in Paris. Only seen clips on TV.

4. Easy Rider. Sure it's of its period, but the ending blew me away when I first saw it in the theater. And for good and for bad, it propelled Jack Nicholson's career.

3. The Red Shoes. Haven't seen.

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Haven't seen since it first came out in 1968. I said, "What the heck" a lot, but I liked it. Probably should see again.

1. Gone with the Wind. I have never seen this film in its entirety. It's the length, the subject matter. It so peculiar, too, because I remember when it first aired on TV over two nights. It's STILL one of the most watched programs ever. It provided the opportunity for the first black person ever to win an Oscar. But seriously, all I REALLY know about this movie, I've seen in Carol Burnett sketches.

Jaquandor also offers his own list of overrated films which, of the films I've seen, include The Usual Suspects (I don't think so, but it did begin a series of movies with a twist which were more bad than good), Dead Poets' Society (well, maybe), and Alien (isn't really my cuppa, but don't know that it was done badly).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Gay Marriage Issue: STILL Don't Get It

Here's a story I found here that was excerpted here, which I came via The Voices of Byzantium: Master Blogroll:

Many progressives have never quite understood why the most vehement religious opponents of homosexuality view it as such a threat. [I would count myself in that number.] I myself have always assumed that it is because religious opponents are devoted to the preservation of traditional gender roles, which sustain a male/female hierarchy. But the Ted Haggard story suggests a different reason-- at least for that segment of religious opponents who, like a significant proportion of the population generally, share same-sex or bisexual orientations and desires. Viewed from Ted Haggard's perspective-- a man who, despite his shame and guilt, is attracted to other men-- gay marriage and the gay lifestyle really are a threat to heterosexual relationships and heterosexual marriage. That is because they are a threat to his heterosexual identity and his heterosexual marriage. He knows the Devil is always tracking him, waiting for him to slip up. That is because he conceptualizes his sexual desires as sin and as alienation from God, and not as the expressions of something that might actually become valuable to him if accepted them as part of himself.

That can't be it, can it? I mean, some people can be tempted to stray regardless of sexual orientation. But it would seem to naive ol' me that someone in a committed gay relationship, or straight relationship, might be just a tad less tempting than someone not in such a relationship. What am I missing here?

I am not saying that people don't stray, even when married; that's why the 10 Commandments have been around for SO long. I'm saying that I'd think that gay marriage, an equal legal commitment in the society, would theoretically STRENGTHEN marriage of straight couples, not threaten them. Here's a Brief History of Marriage Meddling in the United States.

I was at a party just this past Sunday when this topic came up. What was humorous about it for me is that I was all proud of my church congregation's position as a More Light congregation, and the woman I was talking with, if anything, thought that being More Light did not go far ENOUGH in the process of including gays, lesbians and transgendered people. She, who's been a Presbyterian far longer and more actively than I, believe the church's position on ordination, for instance, is equivalent to the military's "don't ask, don't tell." Since 1978 it has been the policy of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) not to ordain "self-affirming, practicing homosexuals." The key here is "self-affirming".

I was very nervous that the New Jersey Court decision about gay marriage just before the last election would "mobilize the conservative base," and maybe it did, since 7 of 8 states voted for restrictions on gay marriage this month. Since the election, NJ conservatives are pushing proposal that would grant the rights of marriage - but not the title - to gays, siblings (!) and others involved in domestic partnerships. So, it it the TITLE of marriage that's so scary?

But maybe Anna Quindlen is right. Writing in the November 27 Newsweek, and comparing it with the popular view of "full participation of women" 30 or 50 years ago, she states: "The reason anti-gay-marriage amendments in seven states were approved may have less to do with passionate homophobia than with a profound sense of cultural whiplash: too much, too soon. Which will someday, I'm certain, seem quaint to our children. What a difference a couple of decades can make in terms of what's considered fair and normative!"
Bummer. My candidate, Russ Feingold, is pulling out of the race for President. Yes, he would been a long shot, but that wouldn't be the first time I supported someone unlikely to win the nomination.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

That John Burdett of the Royal Guardsmen Turns Out to be a Pretty Nice Guy

(This is a follow-up to this post.)

Sun, 19 Nov 2006 11:25 PM

Hi Roger,

I have responded to your Blog that refers to Snoopy vs. Osama.

I am the academic computing administrator and web analyst for Lake Superior State University. I help the students. What's in a title? My department is under the dean of the library. How ironic.

I just wanted to thank you for making conversation about The Royal Guardsmen. I enjoyed it.

Thanks again,
John Burdett (Drums)
I wrote back:

Hey, John-

Could I use this letter you sent for my blog? I think it shows a different side of you than the response you posted, a tad less intense.

Also, is the name of the song Wednesday or Any Wednesday? I've seen it listed both ways. I know I mentioned that I REALLY liked that song.
Tue, 21 Nov 2006 1:02 PM

Hi Roger,

Absolutely, you can use my e-mail on your Blog.

I see that my explanation of what we were trying to accomplish, was taken as though we were tying to change the old Snoopy character to a new one. I suppose I should have gone to greater parameters.

Where the change takes place is in the new song. The new tune is about that character being growing up and taking on responsibilities that an older Snoopy would, as if he had matured. Of course, we know the real Snoopy can't get old and I wouldn't go there outside of the song. However the song is what it is. Some may like it and some may not, but it is controversial. We aren't hijacking Snoopy. It's just this song with today's military agenda.

I think if you re-read my response to the Blog, you will find I agree with what was said, it is nasty. War is nasty. The only thing I disagreed with was the point of controversy, but I respect everyone's opinion.

Regarding your response; yes, we have a lot of time on our hands. We don't hold a candle to the artists that you mentioned. So I agree with you totally. [Actually, that was someone else's response, but I tended to agree with the sentiment.]

This is about the new song. If it were about how I think and feel, well, we just don't have, butI enjoyed every bit of the rhetoric we put forward. It was a lot of fun and if ever you want to mince again, it would be an honor to do so with you.

Your new friend,
John Burdett

PS. Any Wednesday
Merry Snoopy's Christmas! (The original Snoopy)
Tue, 21 Nov 2006 5:36 PM
Hi Roger,

I forgot to ask. Would like me to mail you a promo copy of Snoopy vs. Osama?

John B.
I replied in the grateful affirmative.

The next week, I received it. I played it several times, after reading the copious notes John included:

Hi, Roger,


The song is mastered for radio, so for the best listening experience, use headphones moderately loud and flat on the EQ.
This is the dissection of our efforts put into this song. Some of the things we put in the song are obvious and some more more subtle.

Some people don't see the shadow of the Bradley behind the dog house. [Count me as one of them.] The tassels on the scarves have been removed to give it a more modern feel [ditto] and Snoopy is in charge while we are hanging out in the past with our old uniforms. The Snoopy vs. Osama title is surrounded by the blood red of war [noted] and the states represented by the stars are not in focus, as the states are not in focus about policies [I missed that]. However, the red and white stripes take to the foreground representing the clarity of the wounded and dead. [I did see that, but didn't realize its significance.]

The call to prayer was selected by our Islamic students at LSSU. It says, "Let there be hope through prayer and what comes to be the will." [It's very affecting, actually.] As the eastern singer hits his last note, it is a fifth to the root chord, which would makie it Gregorian. Just a little twist! [Way too subtle for me!]

The marching has a wounded cadence to it. The tempo of the bridge was given the feel of dragging its heel, a kind of stuck in the sand, thud tempo, portraying the respolitics poltics affecting the effort. [I noted that it had a deeper "feel" than the original, but never could have deconstructed it so precisely.] The bass drum rhythm beating heart of war that contrasts the thud tempo.

The verse and chorus pick up the tempo with determination as in representing ther individual soldier's attitude and ability not to falter in the face of adversity. [I heard the change of tempo, but didn't recognize its intentionality.]

We used close mike techniques to get the warm vocal and the John Lennon spit in the microphone

Using a bugle rather than a trumpet at the end gave it a patriotic but haunting sound. [Haunting indeed.]

There is absence of a lead guitar, in reverence to our departed Tom Richards in 1979. [Oh, THAT'S why it sounds different.]

The overall sound we were trying for is that warmth of a vinyl recording and to portray many aspects of the war through the feel and sound as well the lyrics.

Listeners may not hear or care about any of this; I just thought you might find how we built interesting. Hope you enjoy the song.

WHEW! Yes, it is interesting and, as I've noted, not that obvious to me.

So, what do I think of the song?

I like the song for what it is. It isn't as "chirpy" as the songs of the '60s, it has a more somber tone, starting with the eastern chant, and as noted, the bugle is haunting. It is a well-crafted song, and obviously made with a lot of care, a lot of love.

Yet I still wonder about the use of the iconic Snoopy character, who, as John noted, doesn't grow up as we do, but is frozen in time, to kill bin Ladin. I suppose I could go on and note that I don't think killing bin Ladin at this point would solve many of our problems in the region, or the world, but that's another issue.

Regardless, I appreciate John Burdett's conversation about a four-minute pop song. Thanks, John. And thanks for the extra copy, which will find a home with somebody soon.
Oh, and while I'm on the Royal Guardsmen track: I've just gotten a copy of The Best of the Royal Guardsmen. I'm wondering why 7 of the 20 songs have no writing credits.