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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Snyder, Bergman Pass; Ebert Returns

I read that Tom Snyder was a television pioneer, spending a hour with a single guest. I guess he was sort of the spiritual godfather to Charlie Rose, Ted Koppel, Tavis Smiley and a host of others who seem to value the power of the long form. All I know is that I watched him often in his first incarnation (1972-1982), "Tomorrow with Tom Snyder", pretty much until Rona Barrett showed up as a co-host near the end. I'm sure I watched the John Lennon and Charles Manson pieces. People who only know him from Dan Ackroyd's wicked parody on Saturday Night Live missed how well he could seem very laid back and yet was probing without necessarily feeling confrontational. He was replaced by some guy named David Letterman, who later got Snyder to follow HIS show on CBS. So I guess I'll "fire up a colortini, sit back, relax and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the air."
Tom Snyder's Greatest Hits:

Also, see ADD's personal recollections and Fred Hembeck's July 30 post.
I've only seen a handful of Ingmar Bergman films that I recall: Fanny and Alexander (1982); A Little Night Music (1978); The Magic Flute (1975); The Virgin Spring (1960); and Wild Strawberries (1957); the latter two I saw in a museum theater when I was in high school. I think Strawberries, in particular, was important to me personally at that time; the message was that I needed to fight against what one reviewer described as "how life can become atrophied and sterile".

But my favorite Bergman film, not so caught up in life and death and sex, was The Magic Flute, which put me THERE inside the gorgeous performance. Here's a blog that has compiled some of Bergman's best scenes.
I was really excited to see on Ebert & Roeper that starting Thursday, August 2, there will be 20 years and over 4,000 video reviews from Siskel & Ebert and Ebert & Roeper, searchable by title, actor and director, including special segments, at the At The Movies site. Moreover, Roger Ebert will introduce the archive and hold a live online chat about the site and "whatever other questions you want to ask" that evening at 8 pm Eastern (7 pm Central, 5 pm Pacific). I expect that it'll be a very busy, and I may not participate, but the database is very exciting. Roeper and guest host Michael Phillips thought the fashion statements alone would be worth checking out.


Monday, July 30, 2007

I Have Been Tosyed AND Coshed

"Here you are Roger," said Tosy and Cosh. Questions carefully crafted for my consumption.

1. Which of your daughter's innumerable wondrous traits and abilities makes you smile the most?

Her desire to be helpful. It'll serve her well in life for her to be outwardly thinking. That picture of her bringing the newspaper from last week - she does that all the time, even the heavy Sunday version; this week, she helped with the garbage.

2. Where stand you on the question of libraries filtering the Internet on their public computers, to protect kids?

I prefer actual people doing it. So many of those software programs filter useful information: BREAST cancer, SEX education, ASS (as in donkey)...well, you get the idea. (Hey, if I put those words in my labels, what bizarro traffic will I get?)

3. You must (not can, but are forced to) eliminate one musical genre from the face of the earth. Which is it?

I don't really hate it, but I heard way too much of it growing up in Binghamton, NY. So, reluctantly, it'd have to be polka music.

4. Who is the most underrated actor working today?

I never know how to answer that question, because its definition is so sketchy.
The first person who came to mind was Tobey Maguire, who had a good, varied career, but will probably be best best known as a human arachnid.
But I guess I'll say Jeffrey Wright on the theory that anyone who's primarily a stage actor will be largely overlooked by the general public. I've liked him in everything I've seen him in: "Basquiat", "Broken Flowers", "The Manchurian Candidate" remake, and the TV version of "Angels in America".

5. What job do you wish you had?

I heard about a job just this week in the MPAA library that I'd love. Of course, that would mean moving across the country. I'd like to write questions for JEOPARDY!, but that's on the other coast as well. More likely, working at the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, if Gladys Knight needs another Pip, I'm there.

Oh, and I'm supposed to offer to do questions for your blogs again.
When Jaquandor was busy dissing Albany, more or less at my request, he did say nice things about the band Hair of the Dog. In this Times Union article, Rick Bedrosian, the founding bassist of Hair of the Dog, "the popular Irish band that has been packing houses around the Capital Region and beyond for 15 years" is asked five questions. He is leading a Magical Mystery Tour of Beatles' historical sites November 10-16; it costs around $2K. He also has a movie podcast that I think is worth listening to, and I discovered he used to go out with the ubiquitous Rachael Ray, and still thinks of her fondly.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Oscar-Worthy Films I've Seen: 1936

The Nominees:

Picture: "MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY", "Alice Adams", "The Broadway Melody of 1936", "Captain Blood", "David Copperfield", "The Informer", "Lives of a Bengal Lancer", "A Midsummer Night's Dream", "Les Miserables", "Naughty Marietta", "Ruggles of Red Gap", "Top Hat"

Actor:VICTOR MCLAGLEN in "The Informer", Clark Gable in "Mutiny on the Bounty", Charles Laughton in "Mutiny on the Bounty", Franchot Tone in "Mutiny on the Bounty"

Actress:BETTE DAVIS in "Dangerous", Elisabeth Bergner in "Escape Me Never", Claudette Colbert in "Private Worlds", Katharine Hepburn in "Alice Adams", Miriam Hopkins in "Becky Sharp", Merle Oberon in "The Dark Angel"

Director:JOHN FORD for "The Informer", Michael Curtiz for "Captain Blood", Henry Hathaway for "Lives of a Bengal Lancer", Frank Lloyd for "Mutiny on the Bounty"

The one I did see was Munity on the Bounty, albeit on commercial TV many years ago, which, I suspect, did not do it justice. I'm guessing that perhaps three actors vying for the Actor Oscar from Munity helped McLaglen win, though it won for Director as well.

As far as the omissions: the Marx Brothers were slighted for A Night At The Opera, which I've seen on TV; Alfred Hitchcock's The Thirty-Nine Steps, which I haven't. I've seen scenes from
Top Hat, which was nominated for Best Picture, neglected its performers and its directors. You may have seen the great dance finale of "Lullaby of Broadway" or "The Words Are in My Heart", with 56 grand pianos coming to life.
AFI 100 greatest movie quotes (montage)

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Presidential QUESTIONS

ADD notes a "website that lists all the major candidates and their stands on the issues; at least, the issues as designated by whoever created the site."

1. Based solely on the issues, not silly things such as "electability", which candidate best represents your positions on the issues? For me, wide-eyed liberal that I am, it's Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who I voted for in the 2004 Democratic primary. Second is former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska.

2. Yet I'm disinclined to vote for Kucinich, or for that matter, Gravel, because they are unelectable the way the system is set up. Call that a self-fulfilling prophecy, but there it is. Then who? Let's do this by process of elimination. Not all issues are the same in my mind. Gun background check (in favor), the death penalty (against), the war in Iraq (against), torture (against), and the same-sex constitutional ban (against) provides a pretty good litmus test. By that standard, I disagree at least thrice with Brownback, Cox, Giuliani, Huckabee, Hunter (a perfect 5 for 5), McCain, Romney and Tancredo. Thompson doesn't have enough known positions, surprise, surprise. Who's on your "no way, no how" list?

3. So who am I leaning towards? The person who just might have enough money to actually win whose position is closest to mine turns out to be Obama, who I still wonder about, experience-wise. How about you?
One of those bizarre political stories involves former Congressman John Sweeney, who represented the Congressional district adjacent to Albany. He was one of those Republican thugs who helped get the 2000 recount in Florida stopped. His 2006 re-election bid was stopped, in no small part, by allegations of domestic violence against his second wife Gayle (or Gaia) in December 2005. The Sweeneys denied it, claiming it was a smear campaign by his opponent, Kirsten Gillibrand. Now, he's saying that there WAS domestic violence, but that HE was the victim, and that he's even gotten a judge to give him an order of protection. Gayle, who said in television commercials last fall that there was no violence, now claims she was coerced to say so, and that she was the victim. Now John's first wife has entered the fray, stating that he was never physically violent towards her.
* John getting a restraining order against Gayle doesn't prove that Gayle was the aggressor. He's been a very powerful man, politically.
* Wife #1's claim that she never experienced domestic violence from John doesn't mean that wife #2, who was considerably younger and, in her own words, "in awe of him" in the beginning, wasn't experiencing abuse.
* In most iterations of this story, there's a lot of alcohol mentioned.
As I said, very bizarre
Meanwhile, the new member of Congress, Ms. Gillibrand, had a press conference this week announcing a bill to increase the tax deduction on day care costs. She had it in an Albany daycare that is not even in her district. But then I remember that her district, that runs from Washington County to Delaware County (note to non-New Yorkers: a big chunk of territory) without including any of the cities (Albany, Schenectady, Troy); it was gerrymandered to be a safe Republican district, mostly rural. I'm sure it's easier to get the Capital District press to come to Albany than the countryside.


Friday, July 27, 2007

50 Things I Love About the Simpsons

OK, Tosy did this 100 Things I Love About the Simpsons last month. Then Jaquandor did the same, but said it wasn't a meme. Now, in honor of the opening of the only summer movie I'm really interested in seeing, I'm doing it, too, but it's only 50 things. So, is it a meme yet?

1. Mayor Quimby: Now wait just a minute! We're twice as smart as the people of Shelbyville! Just tell us your idea and we'll vote for it! (It's "monorail!")
2. The evolution of the drawing style from the Tracy Ullman Show.
3. Phil Hartman 's many voices.
4. Homer: It takes two to lie, Marge. One to lie and one to listen.
5. Homer: Oh, so they have Internet on computers now!
6. Homer catching Apu "lying in song"; he HATES that.
7. Homer: Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.
8. Homer discussing with his brain how $20 can buy LOTS of peanuts. Actually, any debate with Homer and his brain.
9. McCartney, Harrison, and Starr all showing up, separately.
10. "Baby On Board", with Barney not getting the "Let It Be" reference.
11. Marge: This is the worst thing you've ever done.
Homer: You say that so often that it's lost its meaning.
12. Teen Marge with her hair down.
13. "Hello. I'm Leonard Nimoy. The following tale of alien encounters is true. And by true, I mean false. It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies. And in the end, isn't that the real truth? The answer is: No."
14. Mrs. Krabappel and Principal Skinner.
15. Homer: Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!
16. Bart as "The Raven".
17. Maude Flanders' absurd death at a sporting event.
18. Sideshow Bob: Because you need me, Springfield. Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Democratic, but deep down inside you secretly long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king. That's why I did this: to protect you from yourselves. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a city to run.
19. Homer to Billy Corgan (of the Smashing Pumpkins): Thanks to your gloomy, depressing music, my children no longer hope for the future I can not afford to give them.
Corgan: Yeah, we try to make a difference.
20. Grandpa: I'm an old man, no one listens to me.
Lisa: I'm a young girl, no one listens to me.
Homer: I'm a white male aged 18 to 49, everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are.
21. Lisa: Why are you dedicating your life to blasphemy?
Homer: Don't worry, sweetheart. If I'm wrong, I'll recant on my deathbed.
22. Proctor: All right, here's your last question. What was the cause of the Civil War?
Apu: Actually, there were numerous causes. Aside from the obvious schism between the abolitionists and the anti-abolitionists, there were economic factors, both domestic and inter--
Proctor: Wait, wait... just say slavery.
Apu: Slavery it is, sir.
23. The classic A Streetcar Named Desire musical.
24. The Itchy and Scratchy theme song.
25. Homer: To start, press any key. Where's the ANY key?
26. "Everything's coming up Milhouse."
27. "Mmmmmmm..." Whatever, donuts, initially, but just about anything that's unhealthy, unsafe or ill-advised.
28. The various end theme variations
29. The three-eyed fish.
30. Homer: I love these lazy Saturdays!
Marge: But Homey, it's Wednesday.
31. Bart: I never thought it was humanly possible, but this both sucks and blows.
32. Homer: I was working on a flat tax proposal and I accidentally proved there's no God!
33. The opening credits when they all rush to the couch in so many different ways.
34. Kent Brockman's Eye on Springfield montage.
35. Lisa's wedding.
36. Lisa's birthday - Bart DOES love his sister.
37. Tony Bennett's Capital City song.
38. Homer: It's wonderful, Marge. I've never felt so accepted in all my life. These people looked deep within my soul and assigned me a number based on the order in which I joined.
39. Jerry Ford inviting Homer over for beer and nachos.
40. Apu: An all-syrup Super Squishy? Such a thing has not been done!
41. Bart gets a nice photo of himself made for his mom for Christmas; indeed, any time Bart's dressed up.
42. "Who keeps the metric system down? We do! We do!"
43. The Krusty Comeback Special.
44. Homer: Marge, I'm not gonna lie to you. Well, goodbye!
45. Marge's flirtation with her bowling instructor.
46. Maggie's first word, unheard by anyone else.
47. Homer: And how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive?
48. Homer: I'm normally not a praying man, but if you're up there, please save me, Superman.
49: Ralph: Me fail English? That's unpossible.
50. Bart: Your half-assed underparenting is a lot more fun than your half-assed overparenting.
Tosy returns with his Top 10 episodes. Gordon is looking forward to the movie, too.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Lydster, Part 40: She Don't Need No Education

This may be obvious to those of you who have had children, or who have worked with kids, but that wasn't me. Even with five nieces, I didn't see them nearly every day, so I'd failed to pick up the subtleties in their changing language skills.
For instance, in the last few months, Lydia has picked up the notion of the past tense. My wife, the English teacher, explained to me that, just by listening, they pick up the general rules, in this case, the -ed suffix. Then later, they, at least native speakers with people around them who give them examples of standard English, will pick up on the nuances in the language. So, I needn't necessarily correct Lydia when she says throwed when she means threw, except to reply with the proper form. And I've noticed that this is working with growed and grew already. An interesting scientific laboratory in the home.
Meanwhile, she's doing her numbers, though she seems to skip 14, for some reason. And she prints her name. The L she's got down pat. The Y looks like an I with a little arrow quiver on the top. The D resembles a paramecium. The I is good. The A is fine, too, but then she augments it with little dots; maybe it's an artistic statement.
As they say, Reading Is Fundamental. And we do read to her a lot. They are often the same stories, so that memorization often takes place. My favorite book to share with her is Madeline:
"In an old yellow house in old Paree"
"Paris!", I'm corrected.
And later, I read "again" to rhyme with "rain", and I'm corrected, well, again. One of these days, I'll get it right. Or maybe not.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Michael Jackson's Disease

This is a post I've been avoiding.

And it's not as though I have some fatal disease, or even suffer any real physical ill effects at all. Every summer, when it first gets hot, I've been getting a little heat rash on my forearms for the last decade and a half, which usually goes away when my body acclimates to the heat. But for about the last 18 months, instead of going away, it just blanched out. I know my primary care doctor noticed it last July.

As it spread to my neck, legs and trunk, I got a referral to a dermatologist. But, of course, actually getting to a dermatologist usually takes a while. Meanwhile, it became very noticeable, to me, on the back of my hands. And this was the worst, for one sees the back of one's hands a LOT. The cliche became untrue: I no longer KNEW the back of my hands.

Anyway, a couple days before my last birthday in March, the dermatologist confirmed what I had long suspected: I have vitiligo. It is an ailment of the autoimmune system. It's not contagious. Though there is some correlation with some certain ailments of the liver, it's not causal, and in any case, I took a blood test to eliminate that possibility.

The dermatologist said if I were an 18-year-old girl, then there may be some aggressive topical treatments to suggest, but since I'm "mature", this would not be the game plan. He said I was mature? Oh, he's talking about my AGE, not my disposition.

And it's spread to my face, which I'd been really worrying about. But it's been more even there, with an almost complete lightening, except for some dark patches under my eyes, which are partially obscured by my glasses.

Here's the thing: when I started losing my hair, I wasn't that vain about it. Going gray didn't bother me. In fact, a few months ago, I got a bread trim and a hair cut, and more than one person said I looked 10 years younger. Interestingly, I didn't care, certainly not enough to change my behavior. That I weigh more than I did is largely under my own control.

This event, though, has gotten to me. It's mostly because it isn't a change that I was anticipating. Also, because of the patchiness, especially on the aforementioned back of my hands, I feel more than a little bit like a leper.

If you read the hyperlink above, you'll notice "How Can People Cope With the Emotional and Psychological Aspects of Vitiligo". This is relevant, because, for a while, and even now from time to time, it has really messed with my head. In part, it's because this ailment has become associated with some wacko pop star. In part, it's because I LIKE my brown skin, and it's been part of my identity for so long.

There are ways to hide the effects with makeup, but, bottom line, some days, it's really made me rather melancholy.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I AM the Iron Lady

Dennis, are you at the gin again?
Which Annoying B-list Celebrity Are You?
Brought to you by Rum and Monkey.

It's the librarian in me. Cartoonist Doug Marlette died recently, but he's not showing up in Dead or Alive. The Pulitzer Prize winner was as least as significant as Kerwin Mathews, who "starred in the movie 'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad' and "had other swashbuckling film roles in the 1950s and 1960s", who died on July 5; or Claudia Cohen, the "high-profile gossip reporter often seen on 'Live with Regis & Kelly'", who passed away on June 15. So, I've submitted Marlette's name, so far unsuccessfully. Maybe if enough folks do it, they'll change their minds. They've done it before with singer Ruth Brown, who they initially ignored.
In this worrisome article, an argument against the (mere) censure of the President suggested by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) is made, whereas this piece says that censure is an appropriate "senatorial compliment to the burgeoning movement for impeachment." I would support the censure.
But the main thrust of the former article is that there will be some self-generated trigger to send a population already primed for an attack on the "homeland" to war: Chertoff's "gut feeling", followed by a more stark "national intelligence estimate" (NIE) of the situation, compared with 15 months ago, to show that the intelligence community was "correct". So, say, San Francisco is secretly attacked by our own government and this will justify an attack on, e.g., Iran? Very paranoid, I hope.
In any case, Mark Evanier, who linked to this article nailed it: "If [the new NIE is] right, we're in for more terrorist attacks. Isn't it comforting to know that either that's true or the entire U.S. intelligence community doesn't know what they're talking about?"
A YouTube video called Led Zeppelin - Rip-off Artists. I like LZ, yet this, admittedly, is a hardly exhaustive examination of the appropriation of songs by the band.
ADD linked to a wonderful reminiscence of the glory days of local TV news in Albany by former anchor Ed Dague (the best news anchor Albany, New York ever had). This is almost certainly true. He justified the link in his mostly comic-related blog because I have a comment.

Scott answers my questions about God and baseball.

I provided 5 questions to a bunch of folks. Here are the replies from ADD and Greg and Johnny B and the person who gave me questions in the first place, Jaq.

Also, I did a meme, and at my request, Mrs. Lefty and Edwin and Gordon responded to it.

Those relationships I get, people I mostly don't know, but I've read their stuff, and they mine. But I was looking at my Technorati thingy, and found that I got picked up by a couple aggregators, including this one. The Internet continues to fascinate and confound me.

Oh, speaking of Gordon, something I did a while ago and forgot about:









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Monday, July 23, 2007

A Whuppin'

When I was growing up, we had an upright piano. I'm not sure why, because no one really knew how to play. (I took lessons when I was eight for about a year, but I was never particularly proficient.)

And, for reasons I no longer remember, it was painted some beige/tan/eggshell color. Maybe it was to cover up the discoloration or marks in the wood.

One day, when I was five, the piano was marked up with crayons. My father asked my sister Leslie, who was four, who had done it, and she said that I did. So, I got spanked. I kept denying my guilt, which angered my father, and I got spanked some more. Now this wasn't by hand, but with this leather strap I guess was used for sharping razors, or whatnot. Eventually, through these denials, my father decided that either 1) I was stupid or 2) I really DIDN'T mark up the piano. So, he went back to Leslie, asked her again, and she finally confessed. Then she got got it, not only for marking the piano but for lying. But I got the worst whupping of my life for something I did not do.

Happy birthday, Leslie. Believe me, I understood and I forgave you long ago.



Sunday, July 22, 2007

Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 2

Here's the second part of that rambling roster of songs that I end up playing more than once at a time. This list is hardly exhaustive, as I probably played some singles to death in my youth. Or later (Ian Dury and the Blockheads' Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick comes to mind in the "later" category.) Also, I should note that there are some albums I almost never parsed, because they are of a piece: What's Going On by Marvin Gaye immediately comes to mind. Also, I've been picking one per artist, though this doesn't prevent me from picking a group and a solo artist from that group.

Drinkin' Wine Spodee-O-Dee-Stick McGhee. Atlantic Rhythm and Blues: 1947-1974 was a seven double-LP set. This song is from 1949. (Incidentally, the box set is now eight CDs.)

White Lines (Don't Do It)-Melle Mel and Grandmaster Flash. I still have that 12" from 1983. Love the vocal, love the horns.

Words-the Monkees. When I got a greatest hits album from someone, I had forgotten about this tune with an insistent rhythm.

Cars-Gary Numan. One of the last 45s I ever bought. It's that wowowowowowo synth before the drum.

For the Love of Money-the O'Jays. Long before Donald Trump co-opted it, I loved this tune. On greatest hits CD.

Love in Them There Hills-the Pointer Sisters. The last song on the eclectic That's A-Plenty LP, it's Philly soul. Used to listen to it in the dark.

Do What You Want To-Billy Preston. Starts off a bit slowly but builds up speed. From the That's the Way God Planned It LP, produced by George Harrison, first song on the album. This does exist digitally, but, unfortunately, not in my collection.

Let's Go Crazy-Prince. Sometimes, it's the first song on the Purple Rain LP, other times it's the seven-minute EP, but from the preaching in the beginning to the guitar solo near the end, one of my favorite songs ever.

A Salty Dog-Procol Harum. The vocal, the sparse instrumentation in the beginning, the drums. From a greatest hits LP.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love-Queen. Rockabilly Queen? From the greatest hits LP.

It's the End of the World As We Know It-R.E.M. And I feel fine. From the Document CD.

Kicks-Paul Revere & the Raiders. The first anti-drug song. From a greatest hits LP.

I Am Waiting-the Rolling Stones. From the Aftermath LP, near the end. Beautiful chorus, rocking bridge. I like how they change up the vocal near the end.

Anyone Who Had A Heart-Linda Ronstadt. Written by Bacharach and David, and originally done by Dionne Warwick, I think it's just quite beautiful. From the Winter Light CD.

Jerks on the Loose-the Roches. The last song on the Robert Fripp-produced Keep On Doing LP, it contains a message I repeat when a car tries to beat an ambulance through an intersection, or I witness some other foolishness: "Be on your guard; jerks on the loose."

At the Zoo-Simon & Garfunkel. The last song on Bookends, another song that I know all the lyrics to. I have a friend in Austin, TX named Carol, who I've know most of my life, as we met in kindergarten. I specifically recall that in high school, she HATED this song. Also, Strawberry Fields Forever. (The things the mind recalls.)

Boy In the Bubble-Paul Simon. The first song on the Graceland album. There is also a six-minute version of this that starts with nothing but percussion that I've heard, but have never seen in digitized form that I covet.

Rubberband Man-Spinners. OK, a silly song, and even sillier at seven minutes, which I have on some LP, but I like it anyway.

I've Got a Line On You-Spirit. Rockin', doubled guitar, first song on some LP.

East St. Louis Toodle-O-Steely Dan. From some LP, it's Duke Ellington. As some comics guy put it, 'nuff said.

The Ostrich-Steppenwolf. Talked about this here.

Hot Fun In the Summertime-Sly & the Family Stone. With all the uptempo songs Sly did, it's this stroll that I kept coming back to. From the Greatest Hits LP.

The Logical Song-Supertramp-Starts with a good bottom, then has great lyrics: "radical, liberal, fanatical, criminal". The sax puts it over the top. Second song on the LP. The song that actually inspired the posts.

Love Is Like An Itchin' in My Heart-the Supremes. Like many Motown tunes, lives on the bottom. A greatest hits CD I own has an extra 20 glorious seconds.

Take Me To the River-Talking Heads. I can't sing like my cousin, Al Green. But if I ever did karaoke, and I never plan to, it would likely be this version I'd try to emulate.

Shower the People-James Taylor. It was the bass vocal harmonization in the latter stages of the song I liked to sing along with. First on some Warner Brothers Loss Leaders LP.

I Can't Get Next to You-the Temptations. Producer Barrett Strong swiped this multi-lead vocal model from Sly Stone (so did Prince, on 1999, e.g.), and it's never better than on this.

It's For You-Three Dog Night. This cover of a song Lennon & McCartney gave away (to Cilla Black, I think). It starts a cappella, then has an instrumental bridge, then back to vocals only. When the instruments return, one can tell that the vocals are ever so slightly flat. I kept playing it, hoping somehow that I could will the pitch up. From their first, and best, LP.

Wilbury Twist-Traveling Wilburys. I've almost hurt myself following the detailed instructions. The shared vocals give it a particularly goofy flavor.

When Love Comes To Town-U2. I've hit the replay button so often, I can tell it's the 12th track on Rattle and Hum AND on the best of album, 1980-1990. Start with that insistent drum start, B.B. King's guitar playing. And while Bono's vocals are fine, it's B.B.'s that nail this song for me.

As-Stevie Wonder. The penultimate tune on Songs In the Key of Life, I was particularly taken by the totally different vocal on the "preach" section: "We all know sometimes life's hates and troubles..."

When You Dance, I Can Really Love-Neil Young. Unofficially, a theme song for a college romance. From the After the Gold Rush LP, second side somewhere.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Left-handed QUESTIONS

Communist, 'cause I'm left-handed.
That's the hand I use, well, never mind!
-Paul Simon.

Anyway, my wife is left-handed, my sister Leslie, whose birthday is next week, is left-handed, and it may be surprising to find out that Lefty Brown, whose birthday is today, is not only political left-of-center and from the left coast of the US, but also left-handed, as well. Since it's the middle of summer, and since he's stolen questions from me, I thought I'd return the favor:

1. (From March 10, 2006): What was your favorite fast food happy meal or movie tie-in product growing up? Bonus points if you still have the product. Extra bonus points if you didn't purchase said product on eBay.

2. (From April 7, 2006): Who are your top five favorite dead rock stars/icons?

3. (From April 21, 2006): If there is intelligent life on other planets, do you think they would have similar social structures (i.e. governments, houses of worship, entertainment)? As a follow-up what do you think a popular alien name would be?

BONUS QUESTION: Apparently, something significant is happening today in Harry Potter land. Were you staked out at the bookstore at midnight or do you say, Hairy who? From "Seriously, I read an article yesterday about this couple that will be leaving their wedding reception and going straight to the bookstore to get their copy of Harry Potter. Now, I'm no expert or anything, but I'm pretty sure that this is not what you're supposed to be doing on your wedding night."

Which reminds me: last Saturday, these two young women, probably of South Asian ancestry (based on looks, dress, and language) were walking down my street. One had a T-shirt on with a man making a clay pot. The shirt read - and I swear to Rudy this is true - Hari Potter.
Bush colonoscopy leaves Cheney in charge for a couple hours today. Anything I could add would be too obvious.
If Barry Bonds hits his record-setting* homers this week, it'd be interesting if he hit #755 in Milwaukee this weekend, where Hank Aaron started (with the Braves) and ended (with the Brewers) his career, then hit #756 sometime between Monday and Thursday in San Francisco against the Atlanta Braves, Aaron's team when he hit #715, breaking Babe Ruth's record. Incidentally, Hank Aaron hit #755 and last on July 20, 1975.

Can Transformers do THIS?


Friday, July 20, 2007

Underplayed Vinyl: Santana

Although, like many folks , I first became aware of Santana from their stirring performance of their debut-album closer "Soul Sacrifice" at Woodstock, (a movie, BTW, I sat through twice in the movie theater)

(note: brief nudity)

it was the second album, Abraxas that really sold me on the group.
1. Singing Winds, Crying Beasts
2. Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen

3. Oye Como Va

4. Incident At Neshabur
5. Se A Cabo
6. Mother's Daughter
7. Samba Pa Ti

8. Hope You're Feeling Better
9. El Nicoya

I've picked up about a dozen albums by Santana, including Santana III, Caravanserai and Love Devotion Surrender in the 1970s, Zebop! and Havana Moon in the 1980s, and a couple during his commercial resurgence. But none have brought me the unbridled joy of this album.

A couple notes: there are several Santana greatest hits compilations. Do NOT get the 1974 Greatest Hits album, which contains Black Magic Woman WITHOUT the segued Gypsy Queen. It's like playing the Beatles' Abbey Road and stopping before "The End".

While I don't love the more recent music as I did the earlier stuff, I get the feeling that Carlos Santana, the man, is not only a talented musician but a really decent man, as this interview suggests.

If you happen to be in Austin, TX, tonight, there's a tribute concert to note Carlos Santana's 60th birthday.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Giving Credit Where Credit Isn't Due

I canceled a credit card with a $25,000 line of credit this week. It was a card I didn't use much anyway for which I failed to make a $11.25 payment on time, missing it by a couple days. I was charged a $15 late fee, which is actually LESS than some of the usurious charges on some cards: $25, $29, $35, even $39. The customer service rep was very helpful, but, surprisingly, she did not ask why I was canceling, trying to keep me as a customer, which is usually the case.

Now, my available credit on my cards is only twice my gross income, which is still absurd. (This does not count any credit cards involving my wife.)

I started collecting credit cards in the 1980s. For a while after college, I had none. Then I got one from Sears (first purchase: a clock-radio), which at the time was considered easy to get. Then I'd get any and every card they'd give me, as long as I didn't have to pay an annual fee. It became a game. More than once, I'd get a card free for six months, then cancel it; as often as not, when I called, they agreed to waive the fee for another year; you can often negotiate with these folks.

But now that I care about things such as credit scores (my most current one was 751, whatever that means), I've taken the advice of pieces like this and this and this.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

July Ramblin'

O.K., I'm finally convinced. I listened to a lengthy (50+ minute) segment of Bill Moyers' Journal from July 13, with "Constitutional scholar Bruce Fein, who wrote the first article of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, and THE NATION’s John Nichols, author of THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT." The conservative and the liberal were practically tripping over each other making the case for impeachment of both President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. But it wasn't to be punitive; it was so that whoever is President on January 20, 2009 won't feel they have the "monarchist" authority this administration has. They chastise both Congress (the current one as well as the ones since 2001) and the press for not playing their proper roles in the balance of power. The thing that was most helpful for me was their counterpoint to the argument that the country can't afford another impeachment proceeding after the Clinton one; it appears that the country cannot afford not to.

Interestingly, I read about it first, not in the Huffington Post or even the knowledgeable Mark Evanier. Rather, I saw it first in Steve Gerber's blog. Gerber is a comic book writer of some note, probably best known by the general public for Howard the Duck, and he wrote the second blog I ever read, after Fred Hembeck's, and was the final inspiration for me starting my blog less than a month after he started his.

Not so incidentally, Steve's been having some medical issues; I wish him well.
Jay Kinney unearths a 1952 T-Man comic that explains the Bush-Cheney policy in the Middle East. (Thanks, Dan.)
You know how there are people around you, and you don't even know their names, then they're gone. Someone on the floor in which I worked died last week. I didn't recognize the name of Jane Neale, but when I saw the pictures, I said, "Oh, her!" She was always quite pleasant to me. My condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.
How racism hurts -- literally. This was a story in the July 15, 2007 Boston Globe by Madeline Drexler that the Wall Street Journal found important enough to excerpt this week. Essentially, the premise is that dealing with discrimination makes one physically sick.
Evanier wanted to know whether it was worth saving an L.A.-based Felix the Cat. I say yes; it could become iconic, like Albany's RCA dog, Nipper.
Bill Geist is getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next year. I found that very funny because, back in January, he did a story for CBS Sunday Morning exploring what it would take to get on the Walk. He'll be joining such pikers as actress Angela Bassett, Hemby's friend Stan Lee[Dec. 28], and the late George Harrison.
Just How Long Does the Average Baseball Career Last?
I'm a movie star!
OK, I'm not.
Every month in which there is a staff birthday, our group has a little party, and this week, we had strawberry shortcake. This led to a conversation about a product called Dream Whip Whipped Topping Mix. Long before Cool Whip, or that stuff in the aerosol can, there was this powdery stuff to which you added milk and whipped. I hadn't seen it in a while and wondered if it was still being made, and it is, at least in Canada. But what I don't understand is why it's available on Amazon (5.2-Ounce Boxes-Pack of 6), "Better Together" with the Pixar movie Cars (Widescreen Edition) DVD.
I also opined that, even as a kid, SpaghettiOs were vile, and this led to a discussion of people defending them. Maybe they've changed the formulas, but when I was (trying not to be) eating them, the sauce tasted like watery tomato soup.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Play It Again

In my decades listening to music, there have been songs that I've purchased on singles where I just had to play it again. Or album cuts where I had to pick up the tone arm and find the track I just played. Or hit the song repeat button on the CD player. Here are some of them; they wouldn't necessarily be on my list NOW, but there was a time when they most definitely were.

I do need to tell you first, though, why I'm afraid of Kelly Brown. Not only does she have weird thoughts she thinks I'll know the answers to, while I compiling this list she posted a piece on songs she likes to play repeatedly. SHE'S READING MY MIND! (Or I'm reading hers.)

King Harvest-the Band. From "the brown album", the second album, it's the last song on the LP. It's the vocals and the lyrics: "My horse Jethro, well he went mad."

Sail On Sailor-the Beach Boys. The first song on the Holland LP. This was released twice as a single, somebody believed so much in it, but it was never more than a moderate hit.

Got to Get You into My Life-the Beatles. I'd play the (US) Revolver album once through this song, then, if my parents weren't home, play the song again very loudly. This made Tomorrow Never Knows particularly noisy.

Rock Lobster-the B-52's. The "hook" is in the very beginning. I even like the Yokoesque segment.

I'm Shakin'-the Blasters. Great rockabilly. Only have on vinyl.

Golden Years-David Bowie. Thin White Duke becomes Soul Train worthy. From an LP.

Cannonball-the Breeders. It was loud and infectious. On a 4-song CD.

The Mercy Seat-Johnny Cash. This is a song about an upcoming execution of the protagonist, for a crime he did not commit (maybe). It is the Benmont Tench keyboards on this song, like his keyboards on Johnny's version of Hurt, that really stand out for me. From the third American Recordings CD.

Love Gone Bad-Chris Clark. I have these Motown CDs of "hard-to-find" hits, and one was this one by a white female artist I had never heard of, certainly one of the earliest ones on the label.

Mustapha Dance-the Clash. Probably from an EP, this is Rock the Casbah with limited vocals.

A Ballata Of Francesco Landini-Judy Collins. Some Italian ballad from about eight centuries ago. Beautiful last song on the first side of the Wildflowers LP.

(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding?-Elvis Costello. I STILL hear this both as the driving anthem it is and as an a cappella doowop. From a greatest hits CD.

The '68 Nixon-Denver, Boise and Johnson. A song from a Warner Brothers Loss Leader LP about how the candidate had changed his positions since last time he ran. "He's more than a candidate; he's a crowd." The Denver in this "paid political denouncement" is John Denver; yes, THAT John Denver.

Tell the Truth-Derek and the Dominoes. NOT the version from the Layla album, but the more frenetic version that's on the Eric Clapton box set.

Celtic Rock-Donovan. The druids are coming. Last song, first side of the Open Road LP.

Takin' It To the Streets-the Doobie Brothers. The first song I heard with the Michael McDonald vocal. It became a more predictable sound eventually, but when I first heard it, it sounded fresh. From the first greatest hits LP.

Lucky Man-Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Last song on the first album. I used to do a credible simulation of the synth at the end.

I'm In A Different World-the Four Tops. Has a minor chord feel in the verse, major chord in the second half of the chorus. From an LP.

Cuba-the Gibson Brothers. A salsa from a Warner Brothers Loss Leaders LP.

Lonely Avenue -Ian Gillian & Roger Glover. From the Rain Man soundtrack. I put it on a mixed CD for Lefty Brown, who found it "plodding"; obviously, I disagree.

Private Eyes-Hall & Oates. I'm a sucker for hand claps; the Supremes' Where Did Our Love Go and Neil Young's Cinnamon Girl could be on this list as well. "Private eyes" (clap) "are wanting you" (clap clap). A guilty pleasure.

Something In 4/4 Time-Daryl Hall. Robert Fripp produced an album called Sacred Songs in 1977, but the label didn't release it until 1980, fearing that it was "uncommercial." 4/4 Time is the great hit single that wasn't. Though the verse and chorus were in regular rhythm, the bridge had interesting triplets an odd time signatures. I wish I had it in digital form.

The Love You Save-the Jackson 5ive. Largely because every vocal, save for Michael's, was well in my range. It's mostly Jermaine on the shared vocals, BTW.

Cancer-Joe Jackson. The juxtaposition of the topic "there's no cure, there's no answer" with the jaunty, piano-driven tune fascinated me. From side 2 of the LP Night and Day.

Lullabye-Billy Joel. Sad songs say so much. From the River of Dreams CD.

Indiscipline-King Crimson. "I repeat myself when under stress, I repeat myself when under stress..." Tom, my boss at FantaCo, described this song as his description of the store. Last song on the first side of the Discipline LP.

Season Of Hollow Soul-k.d. lang. Very sad, very autumnal song from her pop breakthrough album, Ingenue.

Immigrant Song-Led Zeppelin. I think I liked the third Led Zeppelin LP more than most people. It's quieter and more reflective. The exception is the first tune, which I'd play once on its own, then again to start the album.

Church-Lyle Lovett. I feel like I've BEEN to church after this. The second song from the CD named after the sixth, seventh, and eighth books of the Bible, Joshua Judges Ruth.

No More Tear-Stained Makeup-Martha and the Vandellas. I wish I could find the lyrics to this Smokey Robinson-penned tune on the Internet, because the second verse has a line that's really a mouthful. On the Watchout LP.

Maybe I'm Amazed-Paul McCartney. A song on the first solo LP as good as anything his old group did.

Well, that's enough for now. More some other time.


Monday, July 16, 2007

From Buffalo to Albany

Mr. Byzantium's Shores, the guy in the overalls from Buffalo, was generous enough to give, not only me, but a bunch o' folks five questions. Here they are. I did consider answering with two or three words, but since he seemed to work so hard... Still, in the ALT sections, I'll give the terse answer.

1. So what's it like living in Albany and reading other bloggers like myself who gripe about "the folks in Albany"?

See, "Albany" is two things, really: the dysfunctional state government, and the dysfunctional local government. Those of you not from NYS might not be aware of the tiff between Gov. Spitzer and State Senate Majority Leader Bruno; o, that I were one of them. However we've come to this place where we've long had a difficult time passing a budget on time (though the last one was, shockingly, only a half day late), where the Democratic Assembly and the Republican Senate can pass all the one-house bills they want, because they are inconsequential. The only stuff that DOES get passed is "feel good" stuff.

Now, the city of Albany is a somewhat different animal. For decades, this town was run by a Democratic machine that the original Mayor Daley of Chicago would have envied. We had one mayor, Erastus Corning, for 41 years, until his death in 1983. The progressives have slogged against the empire, even as the current mayor, Jerry Jennings, who ran as a reformer back in 1993, has become more autocratic, with a weak (and by that, I mean structurally) city council. There was a move for reforming the charter that had popular support, yet, through what I can only call chicanery, failed to make it to the ballot.

All of that said, I like Albany. It's the right-sized town for me. It has some decent mass transport - could be better, but I've experienced worse; it has an educated population, due in part to the colleges here and nearby; and it has so much potential to be a lot more.

ALT- It sucks.

2. What made you choose librarianship as a career?

Nothing better to do. This is largely true. I had quit my job at Blue Cross, which I HATED, HATED, HATED, and my friends Jendy, Judy, and Broome, two librarians and a lawyer, all nagged me to go to school. Actually I wrote about this in my second post ever in this blog. It does fit me.

ALT- Boredom.

3. To what extent do you want to slap people upside the head when they suggest that in the day and age of the Internet, public libraries are dispensable luxuries?

I'm a pacifist in action, but I drop 1500-pound boulders on people's heads mentally when I hear that. In fact, Albany had a vote on funding libraries in February, and some ying-yang said essentially that. I didn't bother to find his letter, but here's one response of many; BTW, the budget passed.

ALT- Big time.

4. What's the strangest request you've ever had to field from a library patron (to the extent that you can write about it)?

You know, we get this question all the time, and we never have a ready response. Back in 1993, it was emu and alpaca ranches, but after a few of them, well, maybe they're not so strange. I suppose what *I* find weird are those requests where somebody doesn't have a clue what they want, but just want to make lots of money. I find these peculiar, because if you're going to work 60, 80 hours a week on something, you damn well better love it.

ALT- They're ALL weird.

5. You're offered a paid vacation that is to last as long as it takes you to read five books that you've always wanted to read but never had the time. What are the books?

I'm going to pick books on the shelves I can see right now; otherwise, I'll agonize over this.
The Bible, the New Revised Standard Version - I've read the King James and the RSV once each.
Personal History by Katherine Graham. She's interested me at least since Watergate.
Mayor Corning: Albany Icon, Albany Enigma by Paul Grondahl. I've read parts of it, but not all the way through. There's a scene in the book I heard Paul read that I was present at.
The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language by John McWhorter
The Black New Yorkers: the Schomburg Illustrated History

ALT- YOU choose.

Now, per the social contract, here's where YOU come in. If you hast a blog, I am supposed to come up with five tailor-made questions for you. If you want me to delve into your heart and soul, let me know by leaving your request in the comments box.
Jaq, am I to assume that you want five questions from me?


Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Ant and the Grasshopper

There was this article in the Washington Post, alluded to here, that talked about a couple ordering a film on Netflix, then, for some reason, one member of the couple is unable to commit to the film in a timely fashion. What are the ethics involved? I note this only to say that I STILL haven't seen the May episodes of My Name Is Earl, The Office, Scrubs, the last episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition featuring a family from Albany County, or the Tony Awards. It's not that I couldn't see them - I sleep less than Carol - but that the implied contract of seeing them together seems to have superseded my need to see them anything like a timely fashion. It's the shared viewing that adds to the joy of watching them.

Meanwhile, in all likelihood, you've heard of the Aesop fable The Ant and the Grasshopper. In very general terms, Carol is the Ant and I am the Grasshopper. This Grasshopper has done better economically by following the example of The Ant. Still, The Grasshopper does seem to try to bring some of his more laid-back values to the table; it's an interesting balancing act.

This is definitely learned behavior, for the first time the Grasshopper and the Ant dated, it was only for about 17 months. The Ant's ways made the Grasshopper crazy, and vice versa. The Grasshopper remembers the time frame only because he celebrated but one of the Ant's birthdays as part of a couple that first go-round. The Grasshopper remembers that day: July 15, 1995, the date of the window-shaking, tree-felling Albany derecho, which caused considerable damage to the Adirondacks. Once it passed, the Grasshopper and the Ant had a lovely lunch together.

The Grasshopper would like to wish the Ant a very happy birthday. The Grasshopper loves the Ant.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

The QUESTION of Culcha

This is, mais oui, Bastille Day. Even though I was really bad at it, I liked taking French in high school, because I loved the sound of the language. Even words that have entered the English language please me just hearing them. Rendezvous. Reconnaissance. Boulevard. Chandelier.

I'm not a snob about it, but I tend to like French wine, French bread. I'm inclined to see the current movie La Vie En Rose because it features French chanteuse Edith Piaf.

I guess I never understood the antipathy towards France in the lead-up to the Iraq war. After all, the country was supportive of us going into Afghanistan. On 9/12/2001, the front page of Le Monde was "We are all Americans".

Usually, the argument was that the US "saved their bacon" in WWII. But there might not have been a US if it weren't for the French support during the American Revolution, a friendship once so rich that they gave us a nice little statue in New York harbor. And the antipathy was far greater towards France than towards Germany or Canada. It wasn't just the right wing radio pushing for "freedom fries", it was the right-wing members of Congress. I went to a conference in the fall of 2003 and actually found myself defending the French position on the war at a time that it was not so popular to do.

Oh, and here's something else I never understood. If one says, red, white and blue, the assumption is that we're talking about the US flag. But the French flag, and the British, and the Norwegian flag, for that matter, are all that same set of colors, so why is it assumed that we're talking about the American flag?

Anyway, please let me know:
Are there cultures, languages, cuisine, art that you just LOVE? And why? How is this manifested? If you had the means, would you want to travel to that country? (Yes, I would like to go to France.) Conversely, are there cultures that irritate the heck out of you, and why?
And speaking of culture, today is the birthday of one Lynn Moss. I know it's a cliche to say "his better half", but I've MET Fred Hembeck. (Just funning with you, effendi!)


Friday, July 13, 2007


I'd like to address a karmic imbalance. Much has been made of the significance of 07/07/07 as a lucky day, so lucky that the number of marriages registered on was triple the usual number of July weddings. But that date happens once every century. Meanwhile, we have a Friday the 13th at least once a year, usually twice, occasionally more. This means there are more unlucky days than lucky ones, by a ratio of about 200:1. Even if you choose to embrace 07/07/77, or the Chinese lucky number 8 in 08/08/08, there's still a wide disparity.

And I can't find any reference to 7/7/1977 being a day that lots of people were particularly embracing. Maybe, it's the three 7s, not unlike the slot machines. (Though I did find President Jimmy Carter's daily log for 7/7/1977).
There's a 30 second video on YouTube: Al Jazeera English - What do you think?, There were, as of last night, nearly 70 response, most of them far longer than the 30 seconds requested (one was 10 minutes!), and most of them reasoned responses, though at least one is not. A couple are very funny. I have no response about Al Jazeera English, because I'm unlucky enough that my cable company, like most in the country, does not show it, even though they don't charge cable companies for it. It IS available online, however, and I'll have to make a point of checking it out.
New Mexico governor and Presidential candidate Bill Richardson has apologized for using an anti-gay slur. Generally, I like him, though I thought his May 27, 2007 Meet the Press appearance showed up real inconsistencies over the past couple years. I think he still has a good chance of being the Democratic nominee - he's doing OK in the money race - if the Democrats decide that Barack is too inexperienced and that Hillary is too...Hillary. I think it would be problematic for the party faithful if the Dems fail to nominate either a woman or a black, the folks raising the most money, and they end up with a non-Hispanic white male AGAIN. That said, I really enjoyed watching Ron Paul and Mike Gravel on ABC This Week this past Sunday. Neither has a prayer of winning, but both insist that they'll be in the White House come January 2009. And if I were a voter in the Republican primary, I would certainly be voting for Ron Paul, who ran as the Libertarian 20 years ago.
Boots Randolph died last week. He's most famous for a song called "Yakkity Sax", which most people know better as the theme from "Benny Hill", a show my father loved and I hated. I like the song, though:

That youngster Charles Lane died this week. Mark Evanier is all over it. And if you don't know who Charles Lane was, well, you WILL recognize the face.
Can Credit Cards Make You Fat?
Sprint drops needy customers.
Is Merrin Dungey unlucky that's she's been booted off that Grey's Anatomy spinoff, or will Audra McDonald feel unlucky that she's gotten the recast part?
Bad trip, indeed.
ADD found a reference to a report suggesting that copyright should be 14 years. I don't know about that, but I do feel that Jefferson, Franklin and other Founding Fathers/inventors would feel that the country has been ill-served by the constant lengthening of the copyright period.
Someone, I really don't remember who, suggested that tennis legend Bjorn Borg

is starting to look more like Ed Begley, Jr.

Judge for yourself. (Born is in the middle, between the Wimbledon men's finalists, winner Roger Federer and runner-up Rafael Nadal.)

And speaking of Wimbledon, Venus Williams makes the Christian Science Monitor. Not unlucky.
It would be most unlucky if we lost Eyes on the Prize:


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Cos 70

Final JEOPARDY! for June 11, 2007:
Answer: He won 3 straight Emmys for dramatic acting & a record 6 straight Grammys for comedy albums.
No, not William Shatner or Jackie Gleason, or even Bob Newhart.

I think I've given it away.

Yes, it was Bill Cosby. It's hard to write about him, not because I can't think of things to say, but because I could write forever about him.

I can't recall whether it was in the TV show "I Spy" or listening to one of his comedy albums when I first became aware of him. It was a Big Deal when I Spy was on. Here was a black man on TV, a star of the show, not playing a servant or a buffoon. Every black person I knew was watching.

Then there were the albums. I own three of his Grammy-winning LPs, I Started Out As A Child, Why Is There Air? and Wonderfulness, awardees in 1964-1966. They were funny, but as the liner notes on one of them explained, it wasn't just the content, it was the delivery that became so noteworthy that it was imitated by everyone from Richard Pryor to Jamie Foxx.

Beyond the humor, though, is that I learned a lot. That's where I found out about Lombard Street, the curvy road in San Francisco, where they put flowers to note where "they bury the people who've killed themselves" traversing down it; it was funny the way he said it. I've had four wisdom teeth removed, so I know he was right that "Novocaine doesn't deaden pain, it postpones it. Allows the little pain buddies to get together. 'We're going to hit that hole at five o'clock.'" He could make a line like: "And the pain...was tremendous" hysterically funny. "All the ice cream you can eat!" "900 cop cars." "Smearing Jell-O all over the floor" so that the chicken heart on the radio wouldn't get him. (I wonder if that routine led to him later being the spokesman for Jell-O pudding.)

The most important lesson, though was about The American Way of Death. Long before I had read Jessica Mitford, I heard Bill Cosby say, about people looking at people in open caskets, "He looks so natural," to which Cosby retorted, "He looks dead." He then suggested that a tape recorder could be hooked up. That way the deceased could "reply" to people as they went by. "Don’t I look like myself? It’s good to see you." And for an additional fee, it could be personalized: "Hello, Bob. How's the wife and kids? Don't I look like myself?" This has had a profound impact on how I view burials, which is, at least on this mortal coil, once you're dead, you're dead.

I also have a couple of Cosby's "music" albums. The first, "Silver Throat", even had a #4 hit in 1967, "Little Old Man," a musical swipe of Stevie Wonder's "Uptight."
And I have a double album on Tetragrammation Records, 8:15/12:15, where he does the same comedy routine twice, with the latter a bit "bluer". It's a lesser album, but it DID address the issue of taking the Lord's name in vain, which Cos said you shouldn't do because He's busy "stopping war and things, trying to make it not look like a miracle." He notes, "I have a friend named Rudy. He ain't doin' nothin'. Call on him." So when you're hammering, you might hit your "Rudy-damned thumb."

I watched that show when Cosby played a gym teacher. I watched both the Electric Company and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, though I was in college at the time. And, of course, I watched The Cosby Show, religiously for at least the first six seasons of its eight seasons. I related to those parents. I KNEW those parents; not so much mine, as parents of friends. And the infusion of the music, art and other aspects of black culture in a matter-of-fact way was phenomenal. Also, I loved how, in the first several seasons, that there were variations on the opening theme song. And yes, I probably owned one or two Cosby sweaters.

I felt awful when his son Ennis was murdered 10 years ago. I struggled to understand what he was saying about poor urban youth. No, I didn't eat JELLO pudding pops. But Bill Cosby is a figure that has been huge in my life.

Happy three score and ten, Cos.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007


This is sad. I've realized that I had, again, forgotten the art of the vacation. As I've suggested, this has happened before.

First off, I need to define vacation. Generally speaking, visiting the relatives, as much as I love them, does NOT qualify as vacation. One exception: I went to visit my sister Leslie in the late 1980s in San Diego, and we went together to San Francisco.

When I was working at FantaCo, I didn't go on vacation much, especially in the early years. I didn't think I could afford to, either monetarily or workload-wise. I distinctly recall Tom pretty much insisting I take some time off, so I took five Wednesdays in a row, and went to a movie matinee almost each week.

I did make it up to Montreal in 1992, but that was a business trip. (Also, in 1991, but that's another story.) Indeed, I HAVE gotten to go lots of places for work and had time to play.

In my current job, the first real vacation I took was in 1998. I took off two weeks, which I seriously doubt I've ever done before or since, again excluding family trips. The first week, I went to Detroit to visit a friend, and saw a Tigers game, Motown and Henry Ford mementos, etc. I had intended to spend the second week at home, catching up on my clutter, but ended up going to DC to try out for a game show.

In 1999, Carol and I did the honeymoon in Barbados, but then my wife was a poor college student, so I can't recall going anywhere until our 2002 trip to Concord, NH, followed by our 2003 trip to Maine. Nothing since, though, which seems to have correlated with the addition to the household.

So, it was Christmas 2005 or was it Christmas 2004?- when when my parents-in-law offered us, and their other children as well, to make use of their timeshares, which are all over the country. But one has to book these things well in advance. My wife must have booked ours late last year for the last week in June. If she told me the dates, it must not have stuck in my mind, for in the beginning of the year, I scheduled my annual physical for the same week, which I subsequently had to postpone.

I think it's because the description of the place sounded OK, but the notion of the vacation seemed rather fuzzy. "It'll be a chance to get away." Away from what? Work? I can take off days from work without going anywhere. It was a week when my wife was off from school before starting to work on summer school. I suppose if the literature for the place wasn't filled with things such as "close to" all these other places, I might have been more excited. What inherent enjoyment will we find at the place, I was wanting to know? And lacking that, I was not very enthused about the trip.

This was going to go on, but:
Big storm in Albany on Monday evening - electricity in our house for over 11 hours (6:40 pm-6 am) + the hottest night in the year - electricity at Lydia's day care on Tuesday + Roger watching Lydia = Story To Be Continued
And speaking of sad, cartoonist Doug Marlette died in a car crash. He drew a great Reagan.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

“Life Changing” gadgets

Last month, USA TODAY recently came out with their top 25 "Life Changing" gadgets, services, and inventions since 1982. Here is their list in their order of importance, and my opinion of same.

1. Cellphones - OK, it's life-changing, but is it a good thing to be available 24/7?
2. Laptops - I now actually covet one.
3. Blackberrys - this is a technology that has entirely passed me by.
4. Debit cards - much of the protection one has purchasing on a credit card, such as challenging a charge, is lost on a debit card. I have one, which I use at the ATM.
5. Caller ID - I LOVE CALLER ID. Sometimes, I'm watching TV and the caller ID will show up on the screen; I can, and do, decide whether or not to answer. (Hint: if the ID says "unavailable", I'm not.)
6. DVDs - I have some, and a player. It WAS one of the fastest accepted technologies.
7. Lithium rechargeable batteries - I have a few, but is this as wide-spread as some of the others?
8. IPods - don't have one, but recognize they're ubiquitous, even without me.
9. Pay at the pump - I'm surprised that there are ANY gas stations that don't require some sort of pre-payment, given the propensity of some to "pump and run". Use this one a lot.
10. Lettuce in a bag - I suppose this is a category that also covers spinach in a bag, pre-shredded cheese, and all of those things that offer "convenience" at a price.
11. Digital cameras - should get one someday, as I do recognize their value.
12. Doppler radar - it does make for pretty pictures during a storm.
13. Flat-panel TVs - maybe next time. My current TV I bought in 1987. Doesn't have SAP or the V-chip.
14. Electronic tolls - NYS has E-Z Pass on the Thruway which is also accepted in Massachusetts and some neighboring states. It's convenient, it saves gas, but it feels a little Big Brother to me.
15. PowerPoint - the 20th anniversary of PowerPoint was earlier this year. I've sat through innumerable PP presentations. I've DONE PP presentations.
16. Microwave popcorn - the popcorn manufacturers are right; sometimes, it's two and a half minutes in one machine, four minutes in another.
17. High tech footwear - my daughter has shoes that light up when she walks. She LOVES this.
18. Online stock trading - making stock traders even more crazy.
19. Big Bertha golf clubs - couldn't say.
20. Disposable contact lenses - my wife uses.
21. StairMaster - I find this amazingly boring to do.
22. Tivo - I LOVE the DVR, which isn't Tivo, but close enough. Time-shifting my TV watching, I like. What I DON'T like is that I record more than I have time to watch.
23. Purell - do hand sanitizers really work? My wife uses them, and if she offers, I use them too, but I'm not convinced of their efficacy.
24. Home satellite TV - still have cable.
25. Karaoke - I've never done karaoke, but acknowledge that maybe one or two others have.

There are things that do seem to be missing from the list: Google, which is the way many people think they can find all the information they need; YouTube, which is not only an entertainment vehicle, but has had an impact on Presidential politics already; GPS, which provides us more sophisticated ways to get lost; Viagra/Cialis and all of the other drugs we need, or think we do; DNA testing, which has been HUGE in freeing people wrongly accused; e-mail, which maybe they've taken for granted; and of course, blogs. I think if I were doing the list, some or all of the above would make it, and golf clubs and Stairmasters, for sure, would be off.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Dancin' with Myself

After going through a week-long computer withdrawal, I'm finally catching up on perusing some of the blogs I generally read and discover my name a few times. Gordon apologizes to me for being a little snarky to me on his podcast. Of course, I read the apology BEFORE hearing said podcast.
It turns out that I mentioned Fred Hembeck and Lynn Moss' anniversary on my blog before Fred did on his, for good reason, which you can on the June 25 posting.
Then, I discovered that I got tagged by Tosy & Cosh with THE most convoluted initial instructions I've ever seen:

INSTRUCTIONS: Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot, like so.

1. No Smoking in the Skull Cave
2. Electronic Cerebrectomy
3. Byzantium's Shores
4. Tosy and Cosh
5. Ramblin' with Roger

Next, select five people to tag.

Oh, I'm not much on tagging, but...

1. The Life of a Wife and Teacher
2. Renaissance Geek
3. Blog To Self
4. Hydrogen Jukebox
5. Blog THIS, Pal!

"And, after what felt like unduly preliminaries," quoting Tosy, the questions:

What were you doing ten years ago?
I had the same job. I was living in an apartment in Albany, not in a serious relationship, seeing LOTS of movies. Probably saw more 1997 movies than any other year.

What were you doing one year ago?
Going to the Olin family reunion again, as we did, in fact, this past weekend.

Five snacks you enjoy.
1. Oatmeal raisin cookies - must be soft - with milk
2. Apple with cottage cheese and a touch of mayo
3. That dip made with spinach and sour cream, with good bread
4. Strawberry ice cream
5. Wheat Thins

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics.
I was at the Y last week , and one of my racquetball partners started singing "(There's a) Hole in the Bucket". I asked him where he'd heard that song. It was from a Harry Belafonte album. My sister and I learned it from my father, and used to perform it in public when we were teenagers. That song I definitely know. Also:
1. "Beep Beep" by the Playmates
2. "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel, but not that dumb, tacked-on verse: "After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same." Or however it goes.
3. "Do-Re-Mi" from The Sound of Music, not just the obvious part, but from "Let's start at the very beginning..." Wish I could sing harmony with myself.
4. "Go Where You Wanna Go" by the Mamas & the Papas, and also the Fifth Dimension. My sister Leslie and I sang this at my 50th birthday party; another song from the repertoire.
5. "The Word" by the Beatles.
By the way, I would never go on that show The Singing Bee, which debuts this week. I've heard enough renditions of Beatles' songs this week, where the artists, including the Beatles themselves, change the lyric, that I'm as likely to muff a word as they are.

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire.
1. Write more.
2. Travel (a lot more).
3. See more theater, movies.
4. Give more away.
5. Get one or two extravagances. Probably #1 is a laptop.

Five bad habits.
1. Misplacing things.
2. Procrastination.
3. General messiness.
4. Rushing through tasks.
5. A certain melancholy.

Five things you like doing.
1. Playing racquetball, as much for the camaraderie as the exercise.
2. Going out for ice cream. So much better than eating it at home, no?
3. Riding my bike on a country road.
4. Going to the movies.
5. Going out to a nice dinner.

Five things you would never wear again.
I actually owned two leisure suits in the mid 1970s, one brown, one lime green. Seriously, can't think of anything else.


Sunday, July 08, 2007


Here's something very weird. My bud Lefty does a Friday Three Questions almost every week. One week, he asked, among other things:
Do you have a nickname people call you? If so, what is it? Is there a story behind it you'd like to share?

I warned him I was going to steal that question, so here it is.

I always liked the name Roger. It doesn't easily lend itself to nicknames, as do names such as William (Bill, Billy, Willy, Will) or Robert (Bob, Bobby, Rob, Robby). I think that was part of my father's motivation in naming me. I mean people call me Rog, and that's fine, but other people have tried to inflict nicknames on me, and often, I have actively rejected them.

Just last week, my mother said that people used to call me Mr. Encyclopedia when I was a kid, because, over a number of years, I pretty much read the entire Encyclopedia Americana, PLUS the yearbooks, that were in our house. People asked me questions, and either I had the answer or would seek it out. (And yet it took me until I was 37 before I decided to go to library school; what was up with THAT?)

My grandmother used to call me Roggie, and I refused to answer that, because it sounded so juvenile. Yet later, when one of my co-workers called me Raji, it didn't bother me so much, maybe because it sounded slightly Asian Indian, and therefore exotic.

Or maybe it was because it reminded me of the bookish Raj on "What's Happening". I RELATED to Raj. The eldest, responsible, bookish, glasses, the eldest child, pesky little sister (actually I had two - love you both).

When I was in junior high, we were really into using our middle names as our monikers. I was Owen, Baby, dubbed by Sid, which was not his middle name, but a truncation of his last name, but that was a short-lived period.

The summer of 1975, when I worked in Binghamton City Hall as a janitor, I cleaned the cells, picked up the trash in the detectives' offices, washed windows, and buffed the floor. (Note: if you ever turn on a 1975 vintage buffer, be sure to start it in the middle of the floor, lest you poke a hole in the baseboard. I know this because...I heard about it?)
Well, I worked with two guys who were impressed that I could finish my work in five or six hours in an eight-hour day. Generally, I ended up either speaking to the police captain, who was a great guy (unlike some of his subordinates), or go hide somewhere and read a book. These two guys started calling me Flash, because they thought I was so fast. I wasn't that fast; it was that they had the wonderful ability of taking a six-hour job and stretching into eight. I patently rejected this nickname, and act as though I had not even heard them if they called me by that name. (One of these guys was more "flashy" - the first man I ever met with two children by two different women, neither of whom he was married to.)

Oh, there have been other nicknames in matters of the heart, but I'll pass on those here, thank you.

So here's the weird part; Lefty's piece was July 7, 2006. I must have started working on it, saved it with a 2007 date somehow, and only discovered it recently. Or I did publish it before, but can't find it, which would make it a summer rerun.
And here's a year-old cryptic Note to Lefty: Don't succumb. Do what Mr. T would do: pity the fool. And hope for the best.