My Blog List

People I Know

Eclectic Folks

Media Blogs

Politics, Policy Blogs

Page Rank

Check Page Rank of your Web site pages instantly:

This page rank checking tool is powered by Page Rank Checker service

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Introspection Memes

Your Intrapersonal Intelligence Score: 81%

Your Intrapersonal Intelligence is Very High

You've spent a lot of time introspecting, and it's really paid off.
You are comfortable with who you are, and you have a life philosophy that you are happy to live by.
And you're always re-evaluating what you believe. Because you learn something new about yourself each day!

Your Interpersonal Intelligence Score: 74%

Your Interpersonal Intelligence is High

You are definitely a "people person." You enjoy spending time with others.
You instinctively understand people, and you are both a good counsellor and mediator.
However, there are definitely times when you've had enough. And that's when you cherish being alone.

The last paragraph from each test is most definitely true.
How many Captain Kirks does it take to change a light bulb?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More Light

This Sunday is More Light Sunday in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. So what is "more light"? "Following the risen Christ, and seeking to make the Church a true community of hospitality, the mission of More Light Presbyterians is to work for the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA)." But as it's been the case in other mainline Protestant denominations, there are wide-ranging beliefs within the faith. As one article reads: "Will the religious conflicts about homosexuality be settled by compromise or schism?"

I was, for nearly 20 years, a United Methodist, another denomination having the same internal struggle. The Methodists' Book of Discipline reads: "The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church." Yet there are undoubtedly gay UM clergy. Indeed, on the season finale of the (fictional) Brothers & Sisters on May 20, the senator's brother turns out to be a gay UM minister.

I don't have a problem with gay clergy, or gay members of session or other boards. What I guess is bugging me is the fact that the denominations have rules of prohibition, yet it is well-known, by me, e.g., that the rules are ignored in some parts of the country. I guess I'd be more comfortable if the written rules of the denominations could be changed to become more inclusive, but based on the divisive nature of the issue, I can't imagine that happening any time soon.
I've been fascinated by the fact that my former church, indeed m, my former pastor, has been fighting with the city of Albany over rock concerts in the church basement. Now, the pastor has been suspended by the church hierarchy. While the newspaper says that the suspension is unrelated to the court dispute, a reasonable person could reasonably infer from the story that the suspension really IS about the court case. That inference would be wrong. I've talked to some members of the church; I'm positive that the suspension and the court case are unrelated. But since the church hierarchy can't talk about the situation, based on privacy concerns for the minister, I can't really fault the paper for not getting it quite right.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Office

It occurred to me that our office recently "celebrated" our first anniversary at Corporate Woods.

You may recall that I complained bitterly about the move, but that I have said little about it recently.

Know that I still find it a soulless, inconvenient place. The good news is that they finally put our organization's name on the signs at the 1st and 3rd floor elevators this month.

The phone system is still wretched, even though it was sold to us as a vast improvement over our old system. The power in the whole building went out recently.

And working in a cubicle is still stultifying.

Fortunately, I've taken up some hobbies...

...that keep me busy.

And I've decided... make the best of things...

...and put on a happy face.

And at work, I always write good.
Jenna Fischer, who plays Pam on the TV series "The Office", and incidentally, shares a birthday with me, injured her back after a fall on some marble steps. Best wishes to her on a speedy recovery.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day 2007

Somehow Blogger did in the posts I wrote for the past three days. One was the post I did about Lydia, for which I just posted pictures instead. Yesterday's post on the parenting question I decided to recreate, as it was relatively short. the third, of course, was this one. The problem, which others have experienced as well, is "being worked on.

The gist of the third lost post had to do with the tension of being largely a pacifist and opposing this particular war, for reasons best expressed here, with an appreciation of the sacrifices people in the military and their families endure. I've said it before, but it bears saying again: I don't fault the soldiers for fighting in Iraq. I fault the leadership that put them there, ignoring prewar intelligence.

Someone on one of the Sunday morning shows, a family member of a military man killed in Iraq or Afghanistan referred to Arlington National Cemetery as a "beautiful awful place", beautiful in the neatly arranged gravestones, awful in terms of what those gravestones represent.

Anyway, try to remember that today is not just "the unofficial beginning of summer" or the end of a three-day weekend.
Kimberly Dozier, a CBS News reporter who almost died in Iraq a year ago this week (and two of her colleagues did perish) has a special tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 10 pm EDT called Flashpoint that I will watch.
Charles Nelson Reilly died recently. Johnny B. packaged a video tribute so I didn't have to.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Parenting QUESTION

I was on the bus this week when I saw a woman standing ahead of me. She had just sat down her two children, and someone complimented the children. The mother said, "Do you want 'em? Take 'em! They're 5 and 2." Later, she smacked the older one because he wasn't all the way back on the bus seat. I was trying to compose a positive message to say to this woman. Unfortunately, all I could think of was something along the lines of "What kind of idiot ARE you?" Fortunately, she and her charges got off the bus before I did.

So, on this day smack dab between Mother's Day and Father's Day, it's in that context that I ask you:

1) Under what circumstances would you get involved, from speaking to the person to calling the police, in the actions of a parent dealing with (presumably) their children?

2) When, if ever do you give unsolicited advice to a parent? There's a friend of mine, not a parent, who's always giving her opinion about how relatives are raising their children, in terms of punishment, potty training and bedtime.

3) Have you ever heard this song?

Be kind to your parents
Though they don't deserve it.
Remember that grown ups
Is a difficult stage of life
They're apt to be nervous
And over excited
Confused by their daily storm and strife.
So keep in mind though it seems hard I know.
Parents were children long ago. Incredible!!
So treat them with patience and kind understanding.
Despite of all the foolish things they do.
Some day you might wake up and find you're a parent too.
(Be kind to your parents Composed by: Pete Seeger, Published by: Sanga Music.)

I'd only heard the Seeger version (55 seconds!) recently. But when I was much younger, we had this red vinyl record, a 45, probably on Peter Pan Records, that my sister Leslie and I played SO much that we could, to this day, break out and sing this song.
Sad news.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Lydster, Part 38: Dr. Jeykll, Ms. Hyde

OK. I wrote this story about a rare period of sustained testiness of my otherwise wonderful daughter last Saturday.

But somehow, the entire post disappeared from Blogger, pictures and all.

While I could reload the pics, and have, recreating the text is too much like work, especially since it's suddenly getting warmer in the home office Ah, well.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Our Planet Earth

There's guy named Robert Krulwich, who contributres to ABC News. He does the wackier stories. He also has quite the distinctive voice. He did a piece a while back about What if you dig a hole all the way to China?

He also noted the highest point on earth, i.e., the highest point on the planet in relationship to the moon and the stars. Hint: it's not Mount Everest, because Earth is a oblate spheroid.
In its "take action" section, has a How to Go Green section: How To Green Your Wedding (didn't they do that on Days of Our Life recently?), How To Green Your Electronics, How to Green Your Pet, How to Green Your Sex Life, etc.
Meanwhile, 30 years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, [EDIT: at a neighborhood theater near you], the first (or fourth, if you can follow that) Star Wars movie came out. I saw that initial film at the long-defunct FOX Theater in Colonie, near Albany, some weeks after the release date, and the lines were STILL long. I LOVED that film, and Empire Strikes Back was even better. If Return of the Jedi was slightly less satisfying, it was still a suitable ending to the trilogy. Whereas I saw Episode 1: Phantom Menace, which largely bored me to tears, and never did see the other two films.
Will Lefty Brown turn green?


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bobby Dylan's 10th Studio Album

The very first Bob Dylan song I ever owned was I Want You on a Columbia compilation album called Best of '66. In fact, I found the song list:
Help! - The Brothers Four
Hey Joe - The Byrds
Homeward Bound - Chad & Jeremy
Cloudy - The Cyrkle
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me - John Davidson
I Want You - Bob Dylan
These Boots Are Made for Walkin' - The New Christy Minstrels
You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling - Pozo-Seco Singers
Just Like Me - Paul Revere and the Raiders
Down In The Boondocks - Billy Joe Royal
Simon & Garfunkel - You've Got a Groovy Thing

Dylan following John Davidson?

Anyway, the first Dylan album I ever purchased was actually not for me but for my high school girlfriend. She was a big Dylan fan, and so for her birthday or Christmas, I bought her the new release. It was a double album, so it, for the time and my budget, was rather expensive. It was Self Portrait. She was really glad to get it. But as she and I listened to it, it became evident on her face, even though she tried to hide it, that she was, to say the least, disappointed with the music. And why not? As Amazon put it: "Self Portrait stands as a truly perverse collection. Released in 1970...Bob Dylan...delivered a pop-inflected collection largely made up of rather indifferently performed covers."

I seem to recall specifically a truly horrific version of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer", which some, including me, thought was done in retaliation for S&G's A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara'd Into Submission, the bit at the end where Simon says, "I dropped my harmonica, Albert," Albert being Albert Grossman, Dylan's manager at the time.

Subsequently, I've purchased about 20 Dylan LPs and CDs. One of them is NOT Self-Portrait. Dylan's 66 today.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Oscar-Worthy Movies I Have Seen: 1934

"IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT", "The Barretts of Wimpole Street", "Cleopatra", "Flirtation Walk", "The Gay Divorcee", "Here Comes the Navy", "The House of Rothschild", "Imitation of Life", "One Night of Love", "The Thin Man", "Viva Villa!", "The White Parade"
Seen NONE of these, or Frank Morgan (the Wizard in "The Wizard of Oz") in "Affairs of Cellini". Of course, I've seen various clips of "It Happened One Night"; must see that film.
From a discussion the Buffalo guy noted about copyright comes this YouTube video about fair use, featuring your favorite Disney characters; also available on the Stanford University site.
The Silver Surfer quarter to promote the new Fantastic Four film.

Oscar-Worthy Movies I Have Seen: 1932-1933

"CAVALCADE", "A Farewell to Arms", "42nd Street", "I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang", "Lady for a Day", "Little Women", "The Private Life of Henry VIII", "She Done Him Wrong", "Smilin' Through", "State Fair".
Don't think I've seen any of these, though I did see a later version of "State Fair". Heck, I still remember the title song: "Our state fair is a great state fair. Don't miss it; don't even be late."

This, BTW, was the last year of the midyear to midyear awards. The eligibility period for these films was August 1932-December 1933, and awarded in March 1934. From this point forward, the award covered the calendar year.

What? No nominations of the Mummy or the Invisible Man? None for King Kong?! I've seen all of these on TV at some point in my childhood.
So, what did I spend my yesterday doing instead of finding exciting bloggable material for you? Mowing the lawn - does WD-40 fix gas leaks? apparently; challenging a nearly 100% increase in our property assessment since 2003; and getting a haircut. Then my wife was out during the evening, so the child and I negotiated the from-dinner-to-bed routine.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

JEOPARDY! advice

A friend of mine wrote to me. Actually, a very good friend, one of my oldest, who was present at the tapings of my JEOPARDY! appearances.

Her nephew, who has a major in International Relations and Political Science, is trying out for the show! So, she sought my advice:

1) Watch JEOPARDY! A lot. Know how to play the game. (There were some who tested who obviously didn't.) If it’s on in reruns somewhere, watch it twice a day. Not only do you get a rhythm for the game, you’ll find certain questions are often repeated in one way or another. (The painting Blue Boy by Gainsborough - seen above, or the opera Hansel and Gretel by Englebert Humperdink, e.g.) If he wants to study just the questions go here. Know what Before and After and Stupid Answers mean.

2) Read stuff. The newspaper, especially. Also, be aware of current events, both hard newsworthy stuff and the Entertainment Weekly type of stuff. (I actually started watching – ugh! – Entertainment Tonight for the cause.) It may not help with the test, but it may in the actual game.

3) He's not gonna know everything, so he should concentrate on boning up on stuff he may already know. Based on his majors: World and State Capitals, US Presidents (the years are VERY useful), significant heads of state. Knowing roughly the times of British and French rulers (royalty and democratically elected) wouldn't hurt. Second wave, if he has time, US Vice-Presidents (I don't know how many times Hannibal Hamlin, Lincoln's first VP has shown up, and is often missed;, FDR’s VPs are often popular), states where the Presidents/VPs were from, First Ladies, members of the Cabinet (esp. Sec’y of State, Attorney General), US Supreme Court, esp. Chief Justices; UN Secretaries General (home country and years served). They’re not going to ask any of these questions straight out. It'll be more like. U Thant was S-G of the UN during these three US Presidencies. (Who were JFK, LBJ, RMN?)

4) When he takes the test, answer all of the questions. If he has one on the tip of his brain, mark it on the sheet – maybe it’ll come. If he passes the written test, they’ll give him a screen test, a simulated game. Keep clicking until they call on someone – think playing with a ballpoint pen. Be upbeat without being phony. They'll ask for an anecdote – have one.

I didn't mention, I realize, that at least a perfunctory knowledge of award-winning films, books of the Bible, and the order in which the 50 states entered the Union wouldn't hurt, but just trying to memorize stuff will probably just stress him out. He should go with what he knows. I'm wishing him good luck this week.
So I wrote all that in an e-mail, then I discovered this on Ken Jennings' blog for May 10, 2007:
From Becky, a Tuesday Trivia fan:

I’m preparing for an audition on Jeopardy! Do you have any study recommendations? Thank you!

I always hear the same recommendations when I ask this question of Jeopardy! veterans (I almost said Jeopardy! vets, but that sounds like the people that give Alex Trebek’s Chow his heartworm medicine). And I concur with their expert advice:

Don't try to master the Jeopardy! subjects that intimidate you because you know nothing about them (opera, baseball, whatever). Forget those. Instead, look at Jeopardy! standbys you know but might be a little rusty on (world capitals, presidents, kings of England, etc.) and get them fresh in your mind.
Spend some quality time with The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, which has pithy, what-you-need-to-know capsules on thousands of Jeopardy! subjects. Mike Dupee's How to Get on Jeopardy! . . . and Win! is also full of great lists and quizzes, but it's sadly out of print.

So Ken and I agree: don't try to cram in stuff you don't already know.
According to the Language Log, overaggressive spellchecking in Word has been dubbed The Cupertino Effect.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Would Have Been A Meme, If I Hadn't Overthought It

So Kelly Brown had a meme about 10 things to accomplish. Should be an easy post, right? Not for me.

One one hand, at one of my recent conferences, I saw this futurist named Ed Barlow, who made me think that I ought to be be doing all sorts of technological things that I've had zero internal interest in, from podcasting to using an XBox, from learning Mandarin Chinese to reading more (specific) books. 10 things? How about 100? 1000?

On the other hand, I was struck by this story about how the consumption of cereal and toast have gone down, not for reasons of carb counting or the like, but because they TAKE TOO LONG. A bowl of cold cereal takes too long, and it's (presumably) faster to get an Egg McMuffin from the drive-through. This hurts my head.

Not unrelated, there is this guy who is releasing a chapter per week of his book on the Internet, for free in order to try to stimulate sales of the book. While somewhat successful, a recent article notes that he's "receiving some complaints from readers who felt they were being 'teased' by the incremental release of the book". Oh, please. Wasn't Dickens originally released that way?

So I'm trying to find that balance.

What DO I want to learn, right now? Just how to operate the technologies I already have to their fullest extent. I believe there is programability on our phone; I've never used it, but then we've only had it for three years. There is a way to record the DVR to VHS tape; can't do it yet, and don't even know what kind of cable I need. You know, stuff like that. That'll keep ME plenty busy.
A friend writes:
"I'd thought it was the best idea since sliced bread:
(1) No backaches from overloaded backpacks
(2) no more "I left my book in school and can't do my homework"

Well, I guess not. Not yet, anyway.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Shared Sorrow, Shared Joy QUESTION

A very good (white male) person I know wrote me this:
The civil rights struggle in United States. Equality of all race, gender, creed, and sexual orientation is a very good thing, and something we as Americans can have pride in as "we" march towards progress. However, personally, I feel like I'm not allowed to take ownership (perhaps a poor choice of words, I'm looking for something closing to 'being a party to') in the achievements of accomplishments of black leaders because of my own skin color. I want to celebrate and claim this men and women as a part of me, because while we may not share the same shade or skin, we share a common humanity. However I feel uncomfortable that it may not be welcomed by some, or I don't want to offend folks that feel that is an experience or achievements that are special to a certain segment of humanity.

And I wrote back quickly, somewhat in a hurry, before heading off to ANOTHER conference:

It immediately occurred to me that your question re: race could be an interesting conversation on the blog [isn't that typical of me?], not mentioning you by name. But, my short answer is, Life's unfair. You don't get to celebrate as much with the victories because you didn't get to share in the pain and the humiliation. That's not meant mean-spiritedly, I hope you recognize.

That may have been a bit glib. But I was recently reminded of this quote:
"Oh, it is sad, very sad, that once more, for the umpteenth time, the old truth is confirmed: 'What one Christian does is his own responsibility, what one Jew does is thrown back at all Jews.'" That was from Anne Frank's diary in the spring of 1944. I was reminded of that again when I read about the specific grief by many people in South Korea over the killings at Virginia Tech. Why was that? Certainly, if the killer had been white, would all white people cringe with embarrassment? I suspect not. So if this is true, the specific joys can be shared only so much.

And I'm not even going to get into the ongoing stuff that still go on, such as allegations about higher auto loan rates for blacks and Hispanics, even accounting for differences in income.

Incidentally, someone sent me this link explaining a "psychological disorder". Anyway, I don't know that I have a question per se, or even a coherent thought, but I am soliciting your comments anyway.

You might also comment on this: I've long been of two minds about hate crime legislation. On one hand, there are people who do target folks because of their race or religion, and sexual orientation. As Rep. John Conyers put it, "These crimes constitute an assault not only on the victim but against our communities."

On the other hand, I'm not insensitive to the notion that the law should be "blind to the personal traits of the victims", even if it hasn't always been so in the past, to the detriment of minorities.

Still, I'm leaning towards the former position because of a story I saw on ABC News regarding the growth of one particular hate group: the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan, which by most accounts, was fading in the 1990s, has had a resurgence by targeting Hispanics, seemingly assuming that their victims are all here illegally, which was 1) untrue and 2) irrelevant when it comes to assault. There was a story of an American teenager of Mexican descent beaten. So I'm hoping that hate crime legislation can be used especially against groups that practice such vulgarities.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Getting Old

The Coolwalkingsmoothtalkingstraightsmokingfirestoking Pete Townsend turns 62 today, by some measures, a senior citizen, so this seems somehow appropriate.


It's not that easy to smash a guitar, I guess.

Learn from the master.
The Tulip Queen And Joan Jett
I haven't purchased The SABR Baseball List & Record Book: Baseball's Most Fascinating Records and Unusual Statistics - yet, but I'm seriously intrigued/sorely tempted:

"...over 700 stat-driven lists, most of them quirky and engaging enough to keep the average fan submerged in a geeked-out stupor for hours. A random sampling:
• Most Career RBI without Ever Leading League: How is it possible that Willie Mays never finished a single season atop the NL's RBI rankings?
• Players Who Retired with Fewer Than 200 Career Home Runs but Hit 40 in a Season: You might know that Davey Johnson smacked a career-high 43 dingers in 1973. But did you know that he only hit 93 more during the rest of his career?
• Most Wins, by Pitcher's Age, in a Season: Bob Feller holds the record for most wins by a 17-, 18-, 20-, and 21-year-old. At the other end of the spectrum, Phil Niekro is the standard-bearer for 40-, 43-, 45-, 46-, 47-, and 48-year-olds.
• Triple Crown Near-Misses: On three separate occasions, Babe Ruth led the league in two of the three triple crown categories and finished second in the remaining one. (Arguably even better: The triple crown losers list, which documents the sorry souls who managed to finish last in all three categories.)
• Pitchers Who Stole Home: Forty-six pitchers have done this since 1900 (including Fred Hutchinson and Don Newcombe, who both did it after hitting a triple!)
• Most RBI in a Season While Playing for Multiple Teams: Would you believe Goose Goslin was traded in the middle of a 138-RBI season?"
And speaking of baseball books, Mr. Burgas' take on Babe Ruth's 104-HR season.
Kool-Aid Pickles.
Keeping Our Borders Safe.
All you mean people who spoke ill of poor, dead Jerry Falwell, go here.
Yesterday, I had more hits on the blog than I've ever experienced. It is a direct result of this post by Mike Sterling. Thanks, Mike! Maybe I won't call you a cheater pants any more. OK, I will, but I'll say it with affection.


Friday, May 18, 2007

A Most Peculiar Day

I've now been to two conferences this month, which I'll have to tell you about sometime, both within NYS, but sufficiently out of town to change the schedule. For instance, last Wednesday to Friday, I was at conference #2. Grandpa picks up Lydia, takes her to the grandparents' house. Carol meets me in Hamilton, NY, then the next day, we're off to Oneonta, where we go shopping and to the National Soccer Hall of Fame (more about that anon) before we see our daughter. Sunday, church, Mother's day dinner about an hour away, then home. Spent more time on NY Route 23 than I thought was possible.

But when I'm home during the school week, it's most regular. Wednesday was a bit of a variation on the theme.
*Take bus #1 - the child to day care. Check.
*Take bus #2 to downtown (that was so late, at some point, it stopped picking up passengers and only dropped some off, saying to bewildered patrons: "Another bus is right behind me"). Check.
*Play racquetball. Check.
*Wait for bus #3 that apparently came early, and there isn't another for over two hours. Nuts.
*See my friend Bill Anderson, who tells me the Albany Public Library main branch is without power. Oh, and there are people there I need to talk with.
* Run back to the Y, hitch a ride with one of my rball competitors.
* Eat breakfast. Check.
* Work. Check.
* Go to lunch. I often eat with a couple folks, but one had left early, because a woman in her department had suddenly died at age 50, and their group all went to the service. There are maybe 200 people on our floor, and I had no idea who this person was, but felt badly anyway.
* I was working on a lengthy e-mail, answering a reference question, when at about 3:45 pm, the power in my whole building goes out. I mean, there were emergency tracking lights, but everything else was down, including, thankfully, that damn constant white noise that's supposed to make working in cubicles more "soundproof". (Note: it doesn't, just adds to the din.) After about 15 minutes, it was evident that the power wasn't coming back any time soon. It's amazing what you can't accomplish without a phone, e-mail, Internet connection, printer, copier... (Fortunately, the e-mail was saved, mostly intact when I got to work yesterday.)
* Catch a ride. Usually, I'd have taken a bus, but they're only every 30 minutes. Get to the bridge I would normally take, but there's a car on the side of the road, a police car and an ambulance, blocking one lane, and a bus, what would have been MY bus, stuck behind it.
* Change course, and go over to the library; the power's STILL out. Go home.
* Carol arrives home with Lydia, who had her first visit to the dentist. After the appointment, she had gone over to my building, ironically, to finally see our offices - it's been a year now - only to be asked by the security guard, "Are you sure he's still there?" They called my number (fast busy signal), and the main number (ditto), then went home.
I suppose the dreariness of the day, plus a couple more ambulances I saw gave the day a very odd cast.
NBC has teases of their Fall Preview programs. I've watched them all, might check out a few in September, though don't imagine watching any long-term. Didn't find such info from the other networks, at least as of Wednesday. Nothing in the description of the CBS shows interested me especially, but I was intrigued by a couple descriptions of some ABC shows. I'll admit I like the GEICO cavemen in 30-second bites, but to make a 22-minute (plus commercials!), 24-episode season of "sophisticated cave dudes living in modern-day Atlanta (who) will continually find themselves at odds with contemporary society and thus comment on today’s race relations" - how will that play? Then there's that Grey's Anatomy spinoff, which will get a short leash from me. Dirty Sexy Money is my "Studio 60" pick; that is, it looks the most interesting on paper. It features William Baldwin, Jill Clayburgh, Donald Sutherland and Peter Krause.

Oh, and speaking of NBC's most disappointing show of 2006-07, this cheeky piece from AdAge, May 14, 2007, "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the TV Upfront ...but Were Afraid (or Too Busy Watching YouTube Videos of Nora, the Piano-Playing Cat) to Ask" by By Simon Dumenco: "It's worth noting that NBC chief Jeff Zucker has so far declined to apologize for the dramatic catastrophe, though he's gone on the record saying: "If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have green-lit 'Studio 60.' All the available intelligence at the time suggested Aaron Sorkin was a brilliant TV auteur, but of course it turns out he's a solipsistic schmuck." Because formal cancellation of the show would involve an admission of an error in judgment, Zucker is said to instead be considering "de-authorizing" its green light.

Truth is, I'm looking forward to the end of THIS season because I have mucho shows gone unwatched. Scrubs, going back to April 5, The Office and My Name Is Earl from April 12, so I really DON'T what Michael did on The Office that should have gotten him fired, yet. Three Gilmore Girls, a couple each of Brothers & Sisters, Boston Legal, Grey's Anatomys, several JEOPARDY! and news programs, and special about Ahmet Ertegun and (laugh if you want) Bob Barker. Except for The Closer, JEOPARDY and some news programs, nothing to be added after Sunday, when I tape (probably to watch in June) The Simpsons' 400th episode and a show I have actually never seen before, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which is focused on an Albany County family.
Alan David Doane on the future of Comic Book Galaxy, which mentions, ahem, me.
I heard some folks complain that Paul Wolfowitz was driven out of his job heading the World Bank, not because he got his girlfriend a $60K raise, but because he was an architect of the war in Iraq. That's quite possibly true, and somehow I'm OK with that. Next to go will be AG Alberto Gonzalez, who quite surprisingly, has me longing for the days of John Ashcroft?
Happy birthday, sister Marcia!


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cerebus 1, the Counterfeit

When I first started the blog, someone offered me the opportunity to write a weekly or biweekly column in some electronic publication about the history of FantaCo, the comic book store/mail order house/publisher/convention operator where I worked from May 1980 to November 1988 (actually longer, but that's another story). I believed I could, because I had come across some old diaries that covered the period. But it proved to be harder than I thought. I still want to do it someday, but at least I want to address one of his specific questions from a year and a half ago, which was, how much did we pay for those counterfeit Cerebus #1s we sold?

For those of you not in the know, Cerebus the Aardvark was a black-and-white comic book by Dave Sim. Interestingly, when Dave Sim and his then-wife Deni came to FantaCon as guests on Saturday and Sunday, September 19 and 20, 1981, we didn't even carry Cerebus because our distributor, Phil Seuling's Seagate Distribution, didn't/couldn't carry Cerebus; I don't know why. But this was a problem when Deni, who I didn't know by sight, came to the FantaCo table on Saturday and demanded to know why we didn't have any Cerebus. I told her we'd try to get some from somewhere. On Sunday, and this is a direct quote from my journal, "Deni Sim harassed the people at my [FantaCo's] table re: not having Cerebus there, as tho' the conversation I had w/ her had not taken place. Tom [Skulan, owner of FantaCo] later got her a ride to the airport, rightly fearing that she'd otherwise make a scene..."

Anyway, we subsequently started carrying Cerebus in the store. Then on Friday, April 23, 1982, Tom bought 54 VF/NM (very fine to near mint) copies of what was purported to be Cerebus #1 from a guy allegedly from Binghamton, my hometown, for $770, $700 from money Tom borrowed from Steve at our neighboring business, World's Records, and $70 from the drawer. That's about $14.25 each; I don't know what a real Cerebus 1 was going for at the time, but I expect it was at least thrice that. I bought one copy for my girlfriend at the time, who was a fan of the book - I never was, for some reason.

On Sunday, Mitch Cohn from FantaCo called me. The Cerebus 1s we got were apparently counterfeit, since the ones Sparkle City had gotten that weekend were deemed so by an underground comics expert.

Monday, Tom, Mitch and I made a number of calls to comic distributors, the South Jersey FBI [I don't remember why them in particular], and the Comics Journal. We bought our 54, Sparkle City 62, Longhorn Distribution 10, hundreds in the Bay Area, and who knows how many more, all between Friday and Sunday? Jay from Sparkle City believed the culprits were from a syndicate from Detroit. They were selling to Pacific Comics on this day, and somebody got the license plate numbers.

Wednesday, we believed we would be able to get our money back. Here are notes right from the journal: "the guy who sold them [to us] (who says he got 'em from Big Rapids) didn't know they were frauds. Somehow, Silver Snail has something to do with this as well as one of Glenwood's employees." (Those companies were comic stores and/or distributors.)

Now that's the last journal mention of the incident. In all likelihood, we discovered we wouldn't get our money back - I have a vague recollection that the FBI wasn't all that concerned over phony funny books - and we decided to sell the counterfeit Cerebus #1s as counterfeits for $20 or $25. I seem to recall that we eventually sold out of them.

Recently, I came across this discussion over the ethics of selling a counterfeit comic. Sure, we had over $700 invested in the product, but I never had any moral discomfort about selling them since we were very clear that they were fakes. Anyway, here's a piece that describes how to tell the real one from the fake. ADD, that's pretty much all I know on this topic.

Oh, not coincidentally, today is Dave Sim's 51st birthday.

EDIT: Since the above link to the article that describes the difference between the real one and the fake one has occasionally overloaded that website from time to time, I have appropriated the piece and copied it here.
And now I see Cerebus has purchased Chrysler. No, wait, that's Cerberus. Never mind.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Good Deed

Sunday, April 29: I''m riding home on my bicycle from church. Lying in the street is a checkbook. It's face down, but I can still tell what it is. It's located at what I call the "change line". Quite often, I find loose change lying on the street about a car width from the curb, which I suspect has fallen out of drivers' pockets.
If the address on the checkbook were in my neighborhood, I would have dropped it off at the address, but it's not, so I ride home. Call the number on the checkbook, which is a person in Watervliet, the next town over.
R: May I speak to [X]?
X: This is [X].
R: I found your checkbook.
X: What?
R: I found your checkbook.
X: I don't know.
R: It's an HSBC checkbook.
X: Oh, that's mine. I'll call you back in 15 minutes.
R: O.K. [I figure he needs to get a ride.]
[15 minutes later]
X: Hi, this is [X]. O.K., I'm coming over. What is your address?
[I give it to him.]
[10 minutes later, while we're eating lunch before I get picked up to go to my conference in Utica an hour later, the doorbell rings, and I go to the door.]
R [to person at the door]: Here you are.
[In my peripheral vision, I see two Albany policemen.]
P1 [in his best "talking to a perp" voice]: What's going on here?
R [stepping onto the porch, trying to stifle a sigh]: I found his checkbook on the ground.
P1: When was that?
R: Right before I called him. It took me five minutes to ride home, oh about 30, 35 minutes ago.
[At this point, the second policeman takes X, who seems to be jumping up and down as though he's helped in the bust of the century, onto the sidewalk.]
P1: Where did you find it?
R: On the street, on Western Avenue, about two car lengths beyond Ontario Street.
[By this point, my wife and daughter have come to the door. P1's tone lightens.]
P1: Usually, in 90% of these cases, there's some kind of shakedown.
Then they leave.

As it turns out, X had been robbed of his wallet and checkbook, I inferred; this was never stated to me outright.
O.K., what could/should I have done?
1) Leave the checkbook there on the ground - unacceptable. If I had lost mine, I would have wanted someone to do something.
2) Mail it back anonymously - not optimal. I thought he was missing it, and would want it back right away.
3) Drop it off at the police station; there's one on the way home - what I probably should have done, an idea I had dismissed at the time because I was trying to save time to get ready for the trip, and didn't want to have to go through the bureaucracy of filing a police report.

Being a Good Samaritan has become such a hassle.

BTW, and I didn't know this until I was retelling this story to some friends, my wife and daughter coming to the doorway was not a happenstance. The wife heard the policeman's first utterance and decided to make herself and our child known to him. "See, he's a family man," the message would be. Smart wife.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Eight years of wedded bliss

I think when I was lavishing praise on my wife at some point on this blog, indicating that her only real flaw is that she's sometimes (OK, often) late,usually trying to squeeze one more thing in, someone scoffed mightily. Well, it is about the only one that I notice now. Well, that and her need to tell me more about Dancing with the Stars than I need to know (which is to say, nothing). Or that innate ability to talk to me about something important just after I've turned off the lights. But this is all minimal stuff.

The more substantial problems we had in the past - the reason we broke up for a time (1996-1998) before we got back together - has to do with, for her, me being too judgmental (if this is wrong, she can clarify it in her OWN blog, if/when she starts one), and for me, her operating on assumptions not in evidence. I can think one specific example of this. She was visiting my apartment and she and/or I were cooking. She put the hot pan or pot on the counter, assuming that it would be heat-resistant; it was not, and the paint began to melt. One does not like to leave visible damage like that in a rented apartment. It made me crazy, not that she scorched the surface, but that she assumed.

Oh, and the other thing was that she didn't keep up with current events. At all. I'd make comments about something that had been in the news for a month, and she didn't understand what I was talking about. She's much more on top of things, especially about politics and government, just by listening to five minutes of NPR news in the morning. I was listening to former CIA head George Tenet on one news program, and she rightly noted that it was pretty much the same as the stuff he said on another, even though she wasn't even in the room either time. She even delves into other areas: when she told me (SHE told ME) Roger Clemens was re-signing with the Yankees, she knew he had been with the Houston Astros during the previous season; the 1994 version of Carol would neither have read/heard that nor would have been interested enough to retain that.

So, I'm less of a pill, and she's more engaged, and we have a great kid together. It's all good. Happy anniversary, honey.
Most New Yorkers vote today on the school budgets; some vote on school boards, though Albany do not. Albany does vote today on the library trustees, 17 candidates for four slots. A good friend is high on Dennis Gaffney, but at this second, I haven't decided fully on the other three. Polls open 7 a.m.-9 p.m.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Underplayed Vinyl: The Talking Heads

While I liked the Talking Heads well enough on the radio in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I'm not sure I reached that critical point necessary to actually buy one of their albums until I saw the group at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, August 3, 1983, still one of my two favorite concerts ever. After that, I HAD to buy some of their music, and ended up with most of, if not all of their output. I started with the then current selection, Speaking In Tongues, released in June of '83.

Here's the playlist:

A1 Burning Down the House 4:00
A2 Making Flippy Floppy 4:36
A3 Girlfriend Is Better 4:25
A4 Slippery People 3:30
A5 I Get Wild / Wild Gravity 4:06
B1 Swamp 5:09
B2 Moon Rocks 5:04
B3 Pull Up the Roots 5:08
B4 This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) 4:56

I LOVED this album. I practically played the grooves off. "House", of course, was supported by that strange video. I don't know which of the next two songs is my favorite. "Slippery People" has a beat that evokes Tom Tom Club. The Progressive Ruin feeling of "Swamp". The vulnerability of the vocals in "This Must Be The Place".

Eventually, I had to replace the LP with a CD, at some point after 1987. I was playing it, but only half listening, since I was so familiar with it from repeated play. Yet it sounded...different.
Burning Down the House 4:00
Making Flippy Floppy 5:50
Girlfriend Is Better 5:41
Slippery People 5:02
I Get Wild/Wild Gravity 5:15
Swamp 5:09
Moon Rocks 5:40
Pull Up the Roots 5:08
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) 4:56

It WAS different. Cuts 2-5 and 7 were longer, sometimes substantially. "Flippy- Floppy" even has an extra verse.

When CDs were introduced in the early 1980s, the record companies were trying to induce buyers to purchase this shiny new technology. Synchroncity, the Police album that also came out in June '83, had an extra song, "Murder By Numbers". Other albums did likewise.

The longer versions, to my ear, have now become the standard. Now I listen to the TH LP and the songs sound truncated, incomplete. I wouldn't be surprised if one can buy yet a different package with both versions, but I'm not purchasing it yet another time.

Oh, not so incidentally, David Byrne turns 55 today.
Shoulda known Fred would remember Rocco's birthday.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

M is for the many things she gave me

I'm happy to note that my mom is alive and well in North Carolina. She's turning the big EIGHT-OH this year.

It's quite convenient, my in-law's birthdays and my parents'. My mother is a decade older than my mother-in-law, and if my father were still alive, he would be a decade older than my father-in-law.

Carol, her brothers, and their spouses planned a surprise birthday party for my mother-in-law last month. It was a surprise because it was almost a month after her actual birthday. We used the birthday of one of her sons, Dan, whose birthday was April 1, as the ruse to get her to Brooks Bar-B-Q, where her siblings, other family members and friends were all gathered. It was great fun, especially when her husband read this poorly constructed letter from an insurance company indicating that she (rather than her policy) would be terminated. (You had to be there, I suppose.)

My sisters noted Father's Day when I first became a dad, so I think it's only fitting that I give kudos to Leslie and Marcia.

Then there's my wife, but since I'll be talking about her soon, we'll keep that in abeyance.
Best wishes and prayers to these folk.
Will Gay Prof lose his gravitas now that his mom is visiting?
And aprops of Stevie Wonder's 57th birthday, I was listening to some of his tunes, and what significant lyric gets stuck in my head? "Do you want some can-day? Do you want some hon-ey-suck-le?"


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Carbon tradeoff QUESTION

There's been a lot of debate about this plan to allow industrial nations to "sell" their carbon emission quotas under international agreements to developing countries. The upside to the developing countries is that they get money, and the upside to the developed countries is that they recognize the real cost of polluting. Similar plans are available to individuals as well.

I don't know. Somehow, it feels like selling indulgences, which did (or did not) happen in the Catholic Church. In fact, that's exactly what this article suggests.

In this country, you may remember when gas was first $3 per gallon, after Hurricane Katrina, and there was a great hue and cry. I do recall, though, that some people decided to change their lifestyles and start walking or taking the bike or public transportation. Then the prices went down, and most, though not all, heaved a "problem over" sigh. Now gas is back around $3, and what do I hear? Lots of people saying, "When gas gets to $4, we may have to make some changes." Arrgh!!

Yet, some argue, carbon offsets are better than doing nothing.

Would you folks kindly explain your thoughts on this?
I'm also wondering, those of you in the Bay Area (San Francisco/Oakland), whether you think the large fire that wrecked some highways there recently will get more people on the BART, perhaps permanently, which will lessen the demand for gas and perhaps drive down the price of gas, if only a little?


Friday, May 11, 2007

It's the Law

This is National Bicycle Month. Dan over at Albany Weblog has been rightly nagging about the need for bike lanes in this town.

Also, the Bicycle Commuter Act (H.R.807, S.2635) is before the U.S. Congress right now. If passed, the bill would provide a tax benefit to employers who offer cash reimbursements to employees to defray costs of riding to work. All it requires is an amendment to the Transportation Fringe Benefit of the tax code to extend the definition of "transportation" to include bicycles. Employers are given the flexibility to set their level of benefit payments, and the bike commuter can use the money to pay for a bicycle, accessories, safety equipment, insurance, and locker or shower fees. Click here for more information.

And there's a new magazine out there dealing with practical cycling, with a free subscription. From the website: "It's bicycling for transportation, be it on the daily commute, the run to Costco, or a trip around the world. . . We're convinced it was a mistake to relegate the most efficient means of transportation devised by man to the aisles of recreation and sport alone."

But that's not (exactly) what I'm going to write about.

I came across a while back the Municipal Codes on the Internet for 20 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. OK, that may be overstating it a bit. For Illinois, there's just the city of Crystal Lake; in Nebraska, Papillion; North Carolina, Henderson County; Tennessee, the city of Memphis; Wyoming, the city of Evanston.

Anyway, the city of Albany is there, and I was interested to see what laws apply to bicycles. Some are fine; some, ?

Chapter 246: NEWSRACKS
A newsrack placed in accordance with this chapter shall not be installed or maintained:
J. Near any bicycle rack if such placement interferes with the use of such bicycle rack
Hear, hear!
§ 251-5. Rules and regulations. [Amended 12-19-1983; 3-3-1986]
4) All persons are forbidden to drive over the paths devoted to pedestrians; to ride bicycles or tricycles on the paths or walkway; or to trundle barrows or obstruct the paths in any manner; or to ride, drive, propel or operate any wagon, vehicle or motor vehicle on any of the driveways of such parks, boulevards and avenues at a rate faster than fifteen (15) miles an hour.
Though, in fact, many of the paths are dual use, for people and pedalers.
§ 255-25. Public places.
It shall be unlawful for any person to ring any hand bell, beat or strike any pan, pail or other like article or sound any gong or blow any whistle or horn or other than musical instruments when used as part of a band of music except to give necessary signals upon a street car, motor vehicle, motorcycle, bicycle or similar vehicle or to hawk, cry or call out the sale of goods at auction or otherwise or to gain passengers for any cab, hack, taxi or other vehicle or to make, aid, continue, encourage or assist in making any other or unusual noise upon any street or other public place or in close proximity thereto so as to be distinctly and loudly audible upon any such street or place in the City of Albany.
I love the specificity of this.
ARTICLE I Bicycles and All Motor Vehicles [Amended 8-7-1995 by L.L. No. 6-1995]
§ 359-1. Alarm bells for bicycles.
All persons riding or propelling with the feet a bicycle, tricycle, velocipede or other vehicle of propulsion on the public streets or avenues or in the parks of this City shall attach to and carry on such vehicle an alarm bell, which said bell the persons shall ring or sound on approaching and within 30 feet of the intersection of any street or avenue proposed to be crossed.
A velocipede?
§ 359-2. Speed limit for bicycles.
No person using a bicycle, tricycle, velocipede or other vehicle of propulsion on the public streets or avenues or parks of this City shall propel such vehicle at a rate of speed greater than eight miles an hour, and all such persons shall observe the law of the road.
Eight miles an hour? Downhill?
§ 359-3. Number abreast limited.
No greater number of persons than two abreast shall parade or ride in the streets or avenues or parks of this City at any time on such bicycles, tricycles, velocipedes or other vehicles of propulsion.
§ 359-4. Riding on sidewalks prohibited; exceptions.
No person shall ride any bicycle, tricycle, velocipede or other vehicle of propulsion on or over any footpath in any of the parks, or on or over any of the sidewalks of any of the streets or avenues in this City, except if it is to go into a yard, lot or building; provided, however, that the foregoing provision of this section shall not apply to children under 10 years of age; and provided further that this section shall not be so construed as to prohibit the riding of any bicycle, tricycle or similar vehicle upon or over the unpaved portion of the sidewalk of any such street or streets outside of the thickly settled part of the City as shall be designated in writing by the Mayor. Every designation so made as aforesaid shall be filed with the Chief of Police and may be revoked by the Mayor at any time in his discretion.
I avoid riding on the sidewalk except when feeling imperiled. The aforementioned bike lanes would help.
This also shows the awesome power of our mayor.

Then, there's this lengthy section 359-5. Operation of vehicles generally.
A. It is required that all vehicles operated within the City of Albany be in good and safe operating condition, and each shall be operated only:
(1) While having a valid New York State Certificate of Inspection affixed on the vehicle in the proper location.
This suggests, at least, that I need to get a sticker.

I love the law.
I don't believe this (exactly), but it is interesting:

When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments.
Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man.
And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became.
Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it,
and of no harm or irritation to others.
Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle.

~Elizabeth West, Hovel in the Hills


Thursday, May 10, 2007

U2 in Albany

A buddy at the Y told me Monday about some book - he didn't mention the title - that conveyed this story: A young woman went to J.B. Scott's in Albany, NY and saw U2. The next time, the young woman brought her mother, who decided she wanted to marry Bono. That reminded me that, in fact U2 played in Albany four times in 1981, once at the SUNY Albanyfest on May 7, twice during the "Boy" tour (March 5, May 23) at J.B. Scott's, and the opening of the North American part of the "October" tour, also at J.B. Scott's, on November 13. Here's the set list for the latter show:

Gloria, Another Time, Another Place, I Threw A Brick Through A Window, An Cat Dubh, Into The Heart, Rejoice, The Cry, The Electric Co. / Send In The Clowns (snippet), I Fall Down, October, Stories For Boys, I Will Follow, Twilight, Out Of Control
encores: Fire, 11 O'Clock Tick Tock, The Ocean

The link here pretty well describes J.B. Scott's as a dingy place, but with great acts.

So this begs the question: Why didn't I see U2 when they were at J.B. Scott's? I used to go to that venue. I liked the band, based on what I heard on the Q-104 radio station. I was single and unencumbered. Ah well.
I watched the American Idol's Idol Gives Back this weekend; yes, it aired a couple weeks ago. I hadn't seen Idol all season, so I had managed to miss the Sanjaya sensation, though he was in the audience. In any case, I wanted to see Bono, who shows up in the last five minutes of the two-hour results show. I was reminded why I avoid watching the results show - they drag out who's going home, and then decide to send no one home, after putting the contestants, especially the last ones declared "safe", through the emotional wringer.
Oh, yeah, Bono's 47th birtday is today.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"Sing us a song tonight"

Chamber Music Magazine: The Piano Man gives back (June, 2007)

"Composer Laura Kaminsky was looking for scholarship money. She has started in 2004 as dean of the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College, part of the State University of New York, and soon identified some specialized area that needed funds that could not come out of a state budget. Chief among them: a graduate string quartet-in-residence. Help was on its way. "Out of the blue, we got a phone call," Kaminsky reports. "The man told us he was representing a distinguished person in the entertainment field who had selected a number of musical institutions for grants of approximately a quarter-million each. The net result: This fall, the young iO quartet came to Purchase as its first Billy Joel String Quartet in Residence."

Billy Joel, who is not motivated to write pop songs, despite his current single, performed around here recently, giving his fans what they came for; the preview story is here.

What brought this to mind is a book somebody gave me some years ago - it has a 1991 copyright - about the worst songs, the worst albums, and the worst rock and roll performers. At #1, worse than Paul McCartney, who was a runner-up, was Billy Joel.

I don't buy it.

I saw Billy Joel back in 1973 or 1974, in the gym at my college, SUNY New Paltz. The band got lost somewhere between Long Island and our upstate town right on the Thruway and the concert started over two hours late. He was stiff and was practically glued to his piano stool. But somewhere along the line, he became, well, "The Entertainer", putting lots of personality into his performances. I have a handful of Joel albums, including one of the first CDs I ever bought, his greatest hits volumes 1 & 2.

Oh, BTW, Billy Joel is 58 today.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

She'll Need Schoolin'

For me, one of the motivating factors of urban life is my long-standing belief that if the middle class leaves the city, the city will die and the 'burbs around it will as well.

Anyway, I was having this discussion about wanting Lydia to go to school in the city, if at all possible. There was a story last month in the paper about the 38% graduation rate at Albany High School. (A later story noted a reporting error on the part of the school, so that the number was really a still dismal 53%.) Her elementary school is brand new. The middle school is problematic, though I don't know how it'll be seven years from now, and I indicated that, by the time she's ready for that level, perhaps we'd put her in private school, or even home school her, but that abandoning the city was not my desire. To which someone noted, "Do you want to sacrifice your daughter for an ideal?"

You have no idea how much this ticked me off.

I never criticize those people who move out of the city to do what they think is best. But I don't want to be criticized for staying and trying to make things better. I noted that suburban schools are not bereft of problems; note the location of many of the mass school shootings.

Anyway, this article, which eventually be at a different address in the Metroland archives, best expresses my love for the city.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Me Me

People Envy Your Generosity

You're a giving soul, and you'd do almost anything for those you love. And they'd do anything for you!
People may envy how giving you are, but more than anything, they envy those you open your heart to.

This is terrible. It'll ruin my image as a hard-boiled, brooding hermit.
Barbara Waters used to be mocked for asking, in several of her interviews, "What kind of tree would you be?" Well, apparently I'm a weeping willow.
Rumor has it that the movie Spider-Man 3 has come out recently. It cost about a third of a gazillion dollars, but will probably make a full gazillion, so it'll still turn a profit. I saw the first movie, even own it on VHS, but haven't seen the second one yet. I will, I will. Here's a review or two or three, all somewhat more favorable than the lukewarm consensus so far.
I've seen this a couple places recently. It dovetails well with a Bill Moyers special on selling the war, and the press buying it, which I watched recently that I hope you watched - excellent.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Right Outcome

Schadenfreude doesn't begin to cover it. I am SO happy that the primary person mentioned here and here is going to jail that I'm seriously thinking about being present at his sentencing. The former barber and, incredibly, assistant Secretary of State, was not only greedy, but arrogant, rude and surprisingly...I'm looking for a less harsh word for stupid. If you were on the phone, he'd want to talk with you - NOW - and would have a hissy fit if he didn't get his way. Someday, they'll be LOTS more to say on this. Knowing him, though, he'll probably end up in a place like this. Still, just know that the news has made me giddy all week.
Oh, and one of his patrons came up with the damndest reasons for opposing Governor Spitzer's gay marriage proposal, reports Uthaclena here: "This governor has his priorities wrong... given the fatal shooting of a state trooper this week, Spitzer should be worried more about bringing back the death penalty for those who kill police officers."


OK, so I do oppose the death penalty; I'm not convinced of its efficacy, among other things, and there are too many errors by the criminal justice system. And I do support gay marriage, and it's enhanced, interestingly, by my interpretation of my reading of this week's lectionary passage from Acts 11:1-18. But what precludes the NYS legislature from, e.g., introducing BOTH a death penalty bill AND a gay marriage bill? It's not that they are somehow overworked. Moreover, the stated motivation for the death penalty for cop killers legislation NOW is that recent death of a New York State trooper by accidental friendly fire. To be fair, right after this recent shooting of a state trooper - six dead in 13 months - the state senator was concentrating on the death penalty instead of campaign finance reform.
I'm at my annual work conference last week, and two people come up to me to settle a dispute - being both a librarian and a JEOPARDY! champ, this happens a lot. The question: did Mork and Mindy start off as a spinoff of Happy Days? Why, yes it did, though only Mork appeared. (And in the "not that you asked" category, Happy Days was initiated from a segment of Love, American Style.) Anyway, Mork & Mindy reminded me of Tom Poston, who appeared on that show, three different Bob Newhart shows, and To Tell the Truth, all of which I watched regularly. I had forgotten that he was married to Suzanne Pleshette, who played Newhart's wife on The Bob Newhart Show. Anyway, the actor, who also guested on many a series I watched, died recently, alas.
Art in less than 10 minutes.
Locally, here's how to celebrate 50 years since the opening of West Side Story on Broadway!


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Stress Busters QUESTION

I'm pretty sure that my wife gave me a gift certificate for a massage. not a massage from her, but from a professional outfit. (Not that I mind getting one from her.) It's been two months, I just came from a conference, I need to go to another soon, and have I gotten this massage? I have not.

That recent report suggesting that boomers may be less healthy indicated that stress, along with weight, long commutes and the like, as one of the factors.

So, what I want to know is simple in concept, and perhaps difficult to achieve. How do you relax? Yoga, meditation, alcohol, drugs, television, turn off the TV, game night? We here at Ramblin' will not judge you on this; we just want to know.
Another way to relax is to laugh well. Some news report, in anticipation of the Republican Presidential debate this past week, indicated that it would be moderated by "Christ Matthews". I wrote a comment indicating that Matthews had a big enough ego without having a Christ complex. Curiously, they didn't print my reply; they did, however, fix the post to "Chris".
Is this a real story? George Bush Receives Purple Heart Award.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Talking with myself

It occurred to me that perhaps the best way to celebrate (milk) the blogiversary is to answer some of the questions I asked Scott as couple months back.

What posting(s) have generated the most interest, either in terms of comments and/or referrals to your piece in Google?

Well, in addition to what I mentioned the other day, Lydia is usually good for a few mentions. There are certain people who really like it when I venture into the comic book realm. The very few times I mention the radio station my grandfather worked at, WNBF in Binghamton, invariably gets some traffic. In fact, that last sentence will almost certainly bring some old radio/TV fan to this post.

Who comes to your blog, if you have a way of tracking that? What exotic locales have sent you comments?

There are certain friends, Internet and otherwise, who let me know they're reading; some of them even comment.

Oh, and BTW, those of you who are confounded by commenting because Blogger wants signed postings to have a Google account; you CAN sign as Anonymous, and put your name in the body of the post. Also, I've found moderating the posts, for me, to be the most preferable way to avoid the spam postings; I started doing that the same time I went to new Blogger a few months back. As a user, I find it easier than typing in the alphabetic gobbledygook some sites require, including some sites I visit regularly.

And I've actually left some "spam" on. There was a piece I did on the Supremes a couple months ago, and someone wrote selling a book about Florence Ballard; I left it. At least it was targeted spam.

Here's something that didn't happen at all the previous year; my wife occasionally reads my blog.

I've had people visit from many lands, from half of the countries in the Western Hemisphere, all over Europe and Asia, some from Africa, some tiny Pacific islands. The comment I got that was from the farthest point was a young woman from Singapore, I believe.

Ultimately, why are you blogging? Do you ever write something, hoping you’ll get some sort of reaction and then … nothing?

The initial motivation was curiosity about why anyone would blog. Then, and I think Scott was experiencing the same thing, it was to impart my VAST wisdom on the universe. Then, it was to rant. Now, it's because it seems to be, for the time being anyway, What I Do.

Yeah, I gave a link to the Bible done in LEGOS once; thought people would think it was funny, or would be outraged. Nothing. Generally, the less likely I think a piece will generate comments, the more likely it will, and vice versa.
Happy birthday, Janna and Annika.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Free For All

So, here's an important question: on Saturday, will America survive the convergence of Free Comic Book Day, when stores all over the country will be handing out some comics that are free, free, FREE...

...and Cinco de Mayo, the third of that holy trinity of secular celebrations (New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day being the others), in which the primary goal seems to be maximum inebriation. This is definitely true here in Albany, where the Cuervo truck has been/is making appearances not just this weekend (starting tonight) at multiple locations, but last weekend as well.

Speaking of comic books, Mark Evanier recently noted this show with someone called Smilin' Ed McConnell here. I had never heard of him until about 1980, when the now-late Raoul Vezina told me that McConnell's name was the inspiration for the FantaCo symbol and eventual comic book character, Smilin' Ed Smiley. Fred Hembeck describes Ed (and Fred's involvement in same) here.
I think I'd have to be inebriated to eat this. Actually, my initial thought was, to quote that classic Life cereal commercial, "I'm not gonna try it, YOU try it."
Thanks once again to my covert poster, who put up my last three postings while I was away and computer inaccessible.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Ramblin' with Roger Turns Two

Happy blogiversary to me! Two years since I first put keyboard to pixel, or whatever happens here, and started whatever this thing is.

One of the really useful things I've learned is that people find out about when you write about them. Case in point, the Royal Guardsmen, whose Snoopy vs. Osama single I had dissed, without hearing it, though I had read the lyrics. Or when I noted the obsessive JEOPARDY! fans who have been archiving shows, including the two I appeared on.

I'm fascinated by how people come here. If I were REALLY curious, I'd buy the Sitemeter Gold software, but since I'm only mildly curious, I have to rely occasional scans of the last 100 people to the site at any given time. Not entirely scientific, since I don't do it regularly, but still I've noticed what seemed to draw people to the blog:
Bianca de la Garza - the former Channel 10 TV anchor who interviewed me for JEOPARDY! whose now a "hot babe" on FOX 25 in Boston
Non-urban initiative - my chastisement of this urban myth
JEOPARDY! probably enhanced by the Archive

There are also links of other bloggers that have brought people here. Not surprisingly, Fred Hembeck's probably #1, but it appears Scott from Scooter Chronicles is #2, Jaquandor from Byzantium Shores is #3 and the inestimable Chris 'Lefty' Brown is #4. Again, not scientific, but based on random observations.

My favorite posts have been the back-and-forth I had with Mr. Hembeck. I write about Tom Clay. HE writes about Tom Clay and other things, which leads me to write about the Royal Guardsmen.

If I were to have guessed, I would have thought I had posted once a day, except once extra for Lesley Ann Warren's 60th birthday, and three extra times for Oscar-worthy films of the '20 and '30s. This is what the numbers tell me:

Once a day, every month, except for 1 extra time in August, September and December 2006 and April 2007, 3 extra times in March 2007.

I'm averaging about 105 visits per day this year, though there's been a recent uptick. I should probably add a fraction for that day and a half in the winter when I switched from Old Blogger to New Blogger and I didn't notice that I had no working counter. Don't recall my lowest count, around 50, but my highest count was on April Fools Day, when, inexplicably, I cracked 300. In fact, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to these things.

(Picture of the month taken 1:25 pm, April 29, 2007; the picture up top, from April 2006 to April 2007, about 5 minutes earlier.)

It seems that about 65% of my visitors are from the United States. I always have a goodly number from Canada and especially Great Britain, but I also seem to get hits from lots of countries all over the word. Also, increasing, Unknown Country. That doesn't mean I don't know the country; this means Sitemeter does not know the country via the numeric equivalent of the URL.

So what do I want to do in the coming year? More or less the same. But there is one thing I've decided: no more nasty things about unelected arbiters of taste. This list includes Ann Coulter, Pat Robertson, Nancy Grace, people like that. (So, not to bother with Rush Limbaugh's Barack, the Magic Negro video.) This isn't an attempt to be "nice"; this is an acknowledgement that these people so often irritate me that I'm probably incapable of thinking of some fresh way to express my displeasure. This doesn't mean I won't on occasion find a link that well represents my position about them, but I won't bother using my own brain cells to bother venting at them. I'm inspired by this line: "These are minor, but important changes...Never get angry at the stupid people" (Piano Song by Erasure).

Now, elected or appointed figures are fair game. This means Paul Wolfowitz, Alberto Gonzales, Dick Cheney are fair game. Yet, I won't spend a lot of time on them either, but only because life's too short, and I generally have better things to talk about.

Ultimately, the blog may be about something Anna Quinlen wrote about the heroine of the movie Freedom Writers (Newsweek, 1/22/07): "Ms. G....embraced a concept that has been lost in modern life: writing can make the pain tolerable, confusion clearer and the self stronger."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I didn't go to church on Easter Sunday. I felt pretty crummy. Carol had gone to her parents' house with Lydia. So, the day before, I went to the library and borrowed Raging Bull, which, inexplicably, I had never seen.

OK, that's not entirely true. I had recorded it on my DVR some months ago, and started watching it at a point when I was running out of room on the machine. I got really impatient and zapped it shortly after the first scene.

So, this time, I had an unusual block of time to see it. Initially, I found the boxing sequences more compelling than the other scenes, but as the movie progressed, I found myself engrossed in both aspects of Jake LaMotta's life. This is such a highly regarded film that I shan't bother with the (pardon the expression) blow-by-blow. I do think that, even though the fight scenes were sometimes rough, the black-and-white film made the scenes, if not palatable, then at least bearable.

I AM going to suggest that, on the second disc of this two-disc DVD, I found the making of the film to be the most compelling extras I've ever viewed. The whole making of the film, how Robert de Niro had found a book that he didn't think was all that well-written, yet told an interesting story. How director Martin Scorcese initially balked at doing the film at all because he's not a sports guy, but that he ultimately understood boxing as a life struggle. How the script was written, and re-written. Specifically, how the boxing scenes were all shot first, with different cinematic palates, which made me want to watch them all again. How all the other boxers were played by real boxers. How the filmmakers found Joe Pesci, who was all but retired from acting, and how he directed them to Cathy Moriarity and others in the cast.

If you've never seen the movie, see the movie, then see the extras. If you love the movie, or hate the movie, watch the extras; it'll make you want to see the movie again.