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Friday, August 31, 2007

Chuck and Di and Teresa

Like many people, I was up early the morning of July 29, 1981 to watch at least part of the royal wedding. I wasn't much of a monarchist, but it was one of those world events I felt I should watch.

On a very cold Saturday, January 16, 1982, my friend Jessica, who was a performance artist, poet, and from England, herded her friends to Emmanuel Baptist Church in Albany to do a mock re-enactment. A number of frigid people played members of the royal family and the Spencers. Jessie played Di, I played the Archbishop of Canterbury. Many pictures were being taken and most of us had no real idea to what end.

A month or two later, at the 8th Step Coffee House, then located in the basement of the church I now attend, Jessie did a slide show of the royal wedding, complete with biting narration. It was amazingly funny! In fact, it was one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen in my life.

Of course, the real royals got very weird, Chuck and Di split and, 10 years ago, Diana and two others died in Paris.

Not only did I watch the funeral, I got my wife the soundtrack to the funeral - she and Diana were very close in age, and she related to her death largely on that basis.

I'm reminded, too, that Mother Teresa, a Friend of Diana, also died 10 years ago this very week. Her death was practically lost in the headlines over the royal funeral controversy so well played out in the movie The Queen, which I enjoyed last year. Teresa made headlines recently when papers that were released revealed her doubts about her faith. Yet, she did her good works anyway.

Two women, seemingly quite disparate, both of whom had enormous impact in their own way, died a decade ago, and I feel the need to note this, surprisingly to me in the case of the younger one, who I helped to mock years earlier.
Richard Jewell died Wednesday, and I was IMMEDIATELY reminded about what one of the, well, accused Duke rapists said: that in HIS obituary, he will be described as "One of the accused Duke rapists".


Thursday, August 30, 2007

MOVIE REVIEW: Spider-Man 2

That's right, the middle movie. I could hardly see the third film without having seen the second. And I saw it in a theater. Sort of.

At our vacation place in the Berkshires, there is a 40-seat theater in one of the buildings, showing some interesting-sounding films. As I mentioned, early in the week, Carol took Lydia to see Charlotte's Web, but Lydia found the darkened theater experience too intense and so they bailed. The first Fantastic Four film was also showing that week, but it seemed that I should pick the movie I most wanted to see. I liked the first Spidey film and own it on VHS (pre-ownership of the DVD player), so on June 28, I head over to the movie theater.

In retrospect, it seemed almost predestined that I see the film on that day. The day before (June 27), it was Tobey Maguire's 32nd birthday, and he appeared on Live with Regis and Kelly. I didn't see that, but I did see the next day's trivia question, which was asking for the name of Spider-Man's alter ego. The contestant on the show muffed it, but anyone who's worked in a comic book store, or has collected the four-color item MUST know Peter Parker. Moreover, the movie was showing on cable that week. TWICE I saw the scene when Mary Jane Watson says to Peter, "Don't disappoint me."

So, I get a tiny bag of free popcorn and sit in the theater with maybe a dozen people. And I'm liking the movie until six older people come into the room. It IS pitch black, except for the light from the screen, and they loudly make it known that it's dark, all through that birthday party scene. I didn't mind it so much when they were seeking their seats -though GETTING THERE ON TIME would have alleviated the problem - but their recapping ("Boy, it sure is dark in here - I had trouble finding my seat" AFTER they were all in place was REALLY annoying. I mean, SHUT. UP. ALREADY. I thought that, didn't say it.

The rest of the film went down easy, with a very credible villain in Alfred Molina's Doc Ock, the right amount of personal tension in Peter Parker's life, especially vis a vis Mary Jane, great action sequences, and the continuing Harry Osborn thread. Great balance, great pacing.

Roger Ebert gave this film four stars. Entertainment Weekly gave the DVD release an A-, and put it on its list of Top 25 action films. Despite the early distraction, a very enjoyable film.

(And there was popcorn left at the end, so I took another tiny bag to go.)


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Underplayed Vinyl: Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson's 1979 album, Off the Wall, is better than Michael Jackson's 1982 album, Thriller.

1. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
2. Rock With You
3. Workin' Day And Night
4. Get On The Floor
5. Off The Wall
6. Girlfriend
7. She's Out Of My Life
8. I Can't Help It
9. It's The Falling In Love
10. Burn This Disco Out

1. Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
2. Baby Be Mine
3. The Girl Is Mine
4. Thriller
5. Beat It
6. Billie Jean
7. Human Nature
8. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)
9. The Lady in My Life

Actually, they are, in some ways, similar albums. Both start with my favorite groove on the album, followed by a more midtempo sound, though I prefer Rock with You. Both have ballads that are OK, though She's Out of My Life is more appealing to me.

Now, Thriller does have Beat It and Billie Jean, both of which appear on some Rolling Stone list of top 500 tunes. But I will contend that the popularity and import of those songs (and of the title song as well) was fueled as much by the videos as the music.

Where the older album has the great Workin' song in the third slot, Thriller has This Girl Is Mine. One can argue about the quality of the song - I don't think much of the dopey dialogue between Paul McCartney and Michael - but listening to it, it just has a whole different feel from what goes on before or after. (The Macca-penned Girlfriend may be the weakest track on Off the Wall.)

And the title tune Thriller is great theater, but is it a great song?

Ultimately, Off the Wall is better because it ends stronger. Instead of the sappy ballad, I'm burning that disco out. There may be better songs on Thriller, but Off the Wall is more consistently solid.

Incidentally, Off the Wall was not a piker of an album commercially, as it sold 7 million copies in the U.S. alone; Thriller was just a monster album, selling 3.5 times as many in this country.

Today is MJ's 49th birthday.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Chronicles of the Fantastic Four Chronicles

(This conversation will be limited to the Chronicles series. FantaCo had also put out Splatter Movies and Hembeck 6, among other items, in this period.)

The X-Men Chronicles was a hit for FantaCo Enterprises in 1981. We had printed 50,000 copies and had presold at least 35.000 to the distributors. And not only did it also sell as an individual item in the store and in the mail order, we were able to trade some for Marvel, DC and other companies' product, particularly underground comics from Last Gasp, a company our comics distributor, Seagate, wasn't dealing with.
So what do we do as a follow-up? We decided to do two books, the Daredevil Chronicles, which Mitch Cohn would edit, and the Fantastic Four Chronicles, which would be my baby. I'm not going to talk much more about the former, except that I thought it was terribly Frank Miller-heavy. One of the Mullaney brothers from Eclipse Comics, Jan or Dean, apparently agreed; he wrote to say he read the book and threw it in the trash. (The letter, I think, appeared in the Spider-Man Chronicles, or maybe the Avengers Chronicles.)

The stuff below in italics is directly from my journal:

September 2, 1981: I call John Byrne, who agreed to write an article and do a centerspread, in addition to the front cover. And I called Jack Kirby, who agreed to fill out a questionnaire about the FF. "What a coup!" I wrote.
October 16: George Perez agrees to do the back cover for the FF book.
October 22: Receive Byrne front cover, centerspread and article.
November 5: Call Jay Zilber re: Wein/Wolfman interview. Then called Jack Kirby re: Q&A - he said he couldn't answer questions re: FF, Marvel, only re: new projects. I panicked and got upset and angry. By that point, we probably had sent out info on the book to the comic distributors, indicating its content.Mitch calmed me down & said "Why don't you do interview on Kirby now with a caveat. He [Kirby] agreed to that & also said I could use the rather nasty stuff re: FF 236 & his lack of prior knowledge that it would be used. Typed up new questions.
November 18: Michael Hobson of Marvel called to OK licensing on the FF and DD books, and that the company had "no problem" with the non-licensed X-Men Chronicles.
November 23: Get Kirby response.
December 17: I was going to do some editing (e.g., Joe Fludd's lengthy piece, Jay Zilber's just-arrived article), but instead spent most of the day looking unsuccessfully for a letter from Mike Hobson of Marvel giving us permission for licensing, which Tom needs for another bank loan.
O.K., I lied. I AM going to talk a little about Splatter Movies. This was a book written by an author named John McCarty that was really Tom's baby; Mitch, Raoul and I were all a bit disturbed by it, although I did end up up proofreading it. And it turned out to be the most profitable thing FantaCo published in my tenure there. But at $8.95, it was initially a slow road selling to our distributors, who, after all, were comic book folks. This created a cash flow problem, for which the loan was to address.

January 3, 1982: Type the FF checklist at home while I watch football (Cincinnati beat the Bills, the 49ers beat the Giants; I doubt I was happy about that.)
January 7: I assume we found the Hobson letter eventually because Tom was able to secure $25,000 note from the bank so we'll be able to pay $8700 printing bill for Splatter Movies.
January: Get various articles and artwork, not including Perez back cover. At some point, I call John Byrne, who allows us to use the front cover as the back cover as well, for free. Byrne was not universally loved, but I always had very good dealings with him; the FFC was not the last time. After the covers go to the printer, Perez cover FINALLY shows up, and I end up replacing content from one of the inside covers. (I'm thinking it was a Joe Fludd piece, because it seemed ironic that such a Perez devotee would be bumped by Perez himself.)
January 26: Tom called accounts (Bud Plant, NMI, Pacific). We now have fewer than 100 out of 50,000 X-Men Chronicles, and anticipate print runs of 70,000 each for FF and DD (the latter, eventually set at 80,000).
March 1: Start shipping out FFC, DDC orders, which takes a week, between the wholesale and retail orders.
March 5: Tom had made up 100 copies each of FFC and DDC in white paper stock, rather than newsprint. Gave 25 each to Mitch and me, 2 each to Rocco and Raoul. Somewhere I still have some of these.
March 15: Returning artwork, paying contributors, sending out review copies.
March 22: For Spider-Man Chronicles, got a Fred Hembeck to interview Roger Stern.
March 26: Mitch called Jim Shooter, who told Mitch in no uncertain terms ("What the f*** were you guys thinking about?") that they at Marvel were unhappy with the Chronicles series, that there can be no licensing in the future, and that we'd "better be careful" in the future...No [more] Chronicles would be disastrous because another loan was contingent on publishing them...Tom called a patent attorney.
Oddly, a couple months later, there WAS further conversation with Mike Hobson about licensing, but nothing ever came to fruition, and the Avengers and Spider-Man Chronicles came out license-free, with no hassle from Marvel. We DID have another legal tussle, however, but that's for another day.

In retrospect - let's hear it for retrospect - I should have either 1) called Marvel about the content of the Kirby interview or 2) pulled the Kirby interview. The former just didn't cross my mind. The latter did, but I was resistant because it would have meant resoliciting the FFC to the distributors and a costly delay.

I wrote this today for two reasons. One: FantaCo's birthday was August 28, 1978; the store survived 20 years. The other is that Jack Kirby's birthday was August 28, 1917, which means he would have been 90 today; he passed on February 6, 1994. Here's a picture of Jack from the 1982 San Diego comic con, taken by Alan Light.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Zimmerman and MacManus

I just heard this weekend that Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello are performing together in Albany on October 6. My wife seems not only disinclined to go, but unimpressed with the teaming, even though she actually bought me Costello's North, mostly, I think, because it was, in part, a love letter to one of her favorite singers, Diana Krall.

So, I want to go, but I don't particularly want to go alone. If you're in the area (or you want to travel to Albany to see them, please e-mail me.

Internet Interview

I was invited to do one of those Internet surveys to introduce my blog to a wider audience, though, at this point, I don't know how. And so I did, typo and all. And I'm supposed to solicit you all in voting for me. I guess I'll never be a politician, because I haven't campaigned for myself since 11th grade.

The toughest question in the survey was picking some blogs that I read. I was supposed to list at least three, and picked 10; I could have easily picked 10 more, except that I had to rush out of the house to get to work. So, I thought they'd include my list; no, they just wanted to invite them to be interviewed as well. Gordon, you may have gotten invited that way.

That list included the usual suspects, if you've read this blog a while. Although I did deliberately pass on Mike's Progressive Ruin, not only because a gazillion people are reading him already, and because many of the sites I listed also are linked to him, but also because, and this is only an allegation, that Mike Sterling Is A Big Cheater Pants. Here, Mikey, look at some cute animals.
Why don't you just assume anything I've stolen recently came from Jaquandor unless I say otherwise?

You are The Wheel of Fortune

Good fortune and happiness but sometimes a species of
intoxication with success

The Wheel of Fortune is all about big things, luck, change, fortune. Almost always good fortune. You are lucky in all things that you do and happy with the things that come to you. Be careful that success does not go to your head however. Sometimes luck can change.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Kelly interviews Lefty. Even better than Lefty interviewing himself.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Lydster, Part 41: A Pain in the Butt

A couple days before we went on our trip to the Berkshires in June, Lydia somehow got a thorn or something similar through her bathing suit into her posterior. She didn't tell the people she was with at the time, but only complained later. Carol and I couldn't get it out, so Carol called our pediatrician.

Carol claims, and I believe her, that she heard tones of snickering and even mild mocking in the response by the receptionist when she made the appointment on the Friday before the trip. You mean these pathetic parental units couldn't get a little sliver out of their child? I think we took some mild emotional satisfaction, mixed with medical concern, when Lydia's doctor couldn't get it out, either. He recommended heat and other salves to try to draw out the foreign object. If it's not out by the end of the weekend, he recommend that Lydia see a surgeon. A surgeon for a sliver!

Well, we left for the Berkshires on Sunday, but first thing Monday morning, Carol called the surgeon's office, and made an appointment for the next morning. We drove back to Albany on what may have been the hottest day of the year; I remember distinctly leaving a fitted sheet over Lydia's car seat, so that the seat and the metal wouldn't be too hot when we return.

Carol, the nurse and Lydia were in the room when I heard Lydia screaming. I assumed this was the shot to numb the area. No, it was the numbing cream used in anticipation of the shot. The actual shot went relatively easily.

The surgeon was called away on an emergency for a time. Finally, when the actual removal took place, it involved the surgeon removing the object, and the nurse and two parents holding the child.

We had lunch and soft ice cream after that, then returned to our vacation locale.

(This will be one of those posts where, years from now, she will undoubtedly chastise me.)

These are her favorite colors.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Couple Interrogatives

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal this week that I found quite disturbing, but true. Here's the abstract:

Moving On: Are We Teaching Our Kids To Be Fearful of Men?
Jeffrey Zaslow. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Aug 23, 2007. pg. D.1

When children get lost in a mall, they're supposed to find a "low- risk adult" to help them. Guidelines issued by police departments and child-safety groups often encourage them to look for "a pregnant woman," "a mother pushing a stroller" or "a grandmother."

People assume that all men "have the potential for violence and sexual aggressiveness," says Peter Stearns, a George Mason University professor who studies fear and anxiety. Kids end up viewing every male stranger "as a potential evildoer," he says, and as a byproduct, "there's an overconfidence in female virtues."

TV shows, including the Dateline NBC series "To Catch a Predator," hype stories about male abusers. Now social-service agencies are also using controversial tactics to spread the word about abuse. This summer, Virginia's Department of Health mounted an ad campaign for its sex-abuse hotline. Billboards featured photos of a man holding a child's hand. The caption: "It doesn't feel right when I see them together."

So, as the article notes: The implied message: Men, even dads pushing strollers, are "high-risk." "Very sad" doesn't begin to cover it. What are your thoughts? Anyone wanting the whole article, please let me know.
On a much lighter note, Jaquandor tagged me with 7 Things, but added a twist; one of these is false. Which one?

1. I had a nosebleed so bad that I was hospitalized.

2. I enjoy sushi.

3. I've talked with a Supreme Court justice.

4. I was terrible as a percussionist in my junior high school orchestra.

5. One of my favorite books is "Growing Up" by Russell Baker.

6. I'm cited in two books.

7. I've never read, never even started, the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

My Fortune Cookie told me:
You will risk becoming eternally dependent upon misguided bishops.
Get a cookie from Miss Fortune

Amazon has on sale a Mel Brooks box set. It features one of my favorite films of all time, Young Frankenstein, and one of my least favorite movies of all time, History of the World, Part 1.
I own only about a half dozen Lyle Lovett albums. He has a new one, which he describes here.
I thought there were only eight candidates running for the Democratic nomination for President. I was wrong.
Oh, yeah: according to my previous poll question, 13 of you have already seen the Simpsons movie, 3 will in theaters, 3 will on DVD.
Albanians: listen to WMHT-FM (89.7) tomorrow, Sunday, Aug. 26 at 6:00 p.m. -- they are broadcasting Albany Pro Musica's 's March 2007 concert, "From Holocaust to Hope."


Friday, August 24, 2007

Of Doubles and Saves

I love baseball, so I'm always hapy to learn something new. I just discovered that what I, and every sports announcer I've ever heard, have always called a ground-rule double really isn't. The batted ball hits the field then bounces over the fence is an AUTOMATIC double. But there ARE ground rule doubles, such as when the ball gets stuck in the ivy at the Chicago Cubs' Wrigley Field or in the roof of the Minnesota Twins' Metrodome.

The ball bouncing over the fence used to be a home run prior to 1930. This begs the question: Did Babe Ruth hit any home runs that bounced over the fence before the 1930 double rule came into effect? The answer, from every source I checked is NO. In fact, if the fair/foul rules that are in effect now were in effect then, he might have had 10% MORE homers.
You might have heard about that 30-3 Texas Rangers win over the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday. The 30 runs is the most by one team since 1897. There were several intriguing aspects of that game. One is the running time of the game, which was 3 hours, 21 minutes; not a short game, but the 2-1 Tampa Bay win over the Boston Red Sox that night was 3 hours, 6 minutes; 23 players were left on base. And the 11-8 Cleveland win over Detroit that day was 3:38.

The other thing I had forgotten about is the pitchers' "save" rule. Usually, a pitcher gets a save when the game is on the line, but in that game, a Texas pitcher got a save with an 11-run lead. How so?

The save rule:
(1) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club; AND
(2) He is not the winning pitcher; AND
(3) He qualifies under one of the following conditions:
(a) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; OR
(b) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat, or on deck (that is, the potential tying run is either already on base or is one of the first two batsmen he faces); OR
(c) He pitches effectively for at least three innings.

Situation 3c applied here, as the pitcher threw three shutout innings.
Riding the bike is relatively safe.
Coming next week, several long pieces I hope I finish in time.


Thursday, August 23, 2007


I loved Hairspray. I loved the antiestablishment panache that colors the film. I love the music. I love the acting energy of Ricki Lake, Jerry Stiller and Divine, especially those cameos by Pia Zadora and Ric Ocasek.

Oh, wait: you think I'm talking about that NEW Hairspray? Haven't seen it yet; I will, I will. But it's only been a couple months since I borrowed someone's VHS tape - how 20th century - and watched the original 1988 film one Sunday afternoon.

Somehow, I had missed it when it appeared in theaters, which surprised me, because I had seen other John Waters films, such as the bizarre Pink Flamingos (1972) and the comparatively sedate Polyester (1981), complete with an Odorama card; that smell-o-vision card that the My Name Is Earl folks put in that week's TV Guide was an homage to Polyester. In fact, I went to a Polyester party after the movie, where everyone wore non-breathable fabric and ate non-foods such as Cheese Wiz and Marshmallow Fluff.

I'm a touchy wary that the new Hairspray won't bring me the unbridled joy of the original, based on some reviews like this one. The personality of Baltimore was so much a part of Waters' movies; when I saw the story about Waters cited here, the interview took place in locales that I recognized from the 1988 film, especially the record shop. Will the "musical" (and the original Hairspray had a lot of music) be able to keep that flavor?

My biggest concern is John Travolta. In the previews, his eyes seem tiny, beady, disproportionate to the rest of his face and fat-suited body. My wife, in fact, HAS seen the new movie (but not the original), and points to Travolta's faux woman's voice as a weakness, but loved the movie lead.

In any case, go rent Hairspray. THEN see Hairspray. As my old English teacher used to say: compare and contrast, and please let me know what you think of them. (Or either of them,, if you've only seen one.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Another Wednesday Meme

Who did I steal this one from? Oh, yeah, the geographically flexible GayProf -Texas to Boston to Midwestern Funky Town.

1. What Do You Say Most When You’re Trying Not To Swear?

2. Do You Own An iPod?
What's an iPod?

3. Which Person(s) In Your Top Friends Do You Talk To The Most?
Is this a reference to MySpace? Then none. But if we're talking real live people, then my friend Norman at racquetball.

4. What Time Is Your Alarm Clock Set To?
Depends on what my wife sets it to. Usually 5:30a.m. on weekdays, off on the weekends. But she has set it to 5 a.m. - that lost half hour is brutal.

5. Do You Want To Fall In Love?
I am in love.

6. Do You Wear Flip-Flops When It’s Cold?
Don't wear flip-flops at all presently, since I don't own any.

7. Would You Rather Take The Picture Or Be In The Picture?

Take the picture, for sure.

8. What Was The Last Movie You Watched?
The Simpsons Movie.

9. Do Any Of Your Friends Have Children?

10. Has Anyone Ever Called You Lazy?
At some level I am, but no one seems to notice except my wife.

11. Do You Ever Take Medication To Help You Fall Asleep?
Yes. My father once gave me something that really worked, but I took it only that once, because it felt too good. I've had a prescription for Ambien, but don't like taking it.

12. What CD Is Currently In Your CD Player?
I have a 5-CD changer: John Hiatt, the Mamas & the Papas, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, and one of Lydia's.

13. Do You Prefer Regular Or Chocolate Milk?
Chocolate. Strawberry, actually.

14. Has Anyone Told You A Secret This Week?

15. When Was The Last Time You Had Starbucks?
That's a coffee shop, yes? Then, no - I don't drink coffee.

16. Can You Whistle?
Yes, but not that "put your thumb and index finger" loud, commanding whistle that some folks can do.

17. Do You Have A Trampoline In Your Back Yard?
Not yet.

18. Do You Think People Talk About You Behind Your Back?
hope so.

19. Did You Watch Cartoons As A Child?
Scads of them. Everything from Mighty Mouse to Bugs Bunny to the Beatles.

20. What Movie Do You Know Every Line To?
Possibly none.

21. What Is The Last Thing You Purchased?

22. Is There Anything Wrong With Girls Kissing Girls?
No. Why do you ask?

23. Do You Own Any Band T-Shirts?
Yes - two Beatles shirts - but I didn't buy them; they were gifts from my family.

24. What Is Your Favorite Salad Dressing?
Soviet, er, Russian.

25. Is anyone in love with you?
Thousands, undoubtedly.

26. Do You Do Your Own Dishes?
Usually the ones that don't go in the dishwasher, I do, or the ones that don't get clean from the dishwasher.

27. Ever Cry In Public?
Maybe at a funeral.

28. Do You Like Anyone?
I love EVERYBODY. Especially you.

29. Are You Currently Wanting Any Piercings Or Tattoo?

30. Who Was The Last Person To Make You Mad?
Probably an automobile driver.

31. Would You Ever Date Anyone Covered In Tattoos?
Well, my wife might object if I dated ANYONE. That said, don't know.

32. What Did You Do Before This?

33. When Was The Last Time You Slept On The Floor?
At some point in Lydia's first year, next to her.

34. How Many Hours Of Sleep Do You Need To Function?

5. Do You Eat Breakfast Daily?
Almost always.

36. Are Your Days Full And Fast Paced?
Full, yes. Fast-paced, depends.

37. What are you doing right now?
Noting that this thing already has 37 QUESTIONS?

38. Do you use sarcasm?
Why on EARTH would I EVER use sarcasm?

39. Have You Ever Been In A Fight?
Yes, but usually not of my making. In fact, the ONLY fight I ever got into intentionally was in fifth grade, when this kid Robert was beating up my friend David and I entered the fray.

40. Are You Picky About Spelling And Grammar?
I've worked on trying not to be. There are people who I enjoy reading, good writers, who simply cannot figure out the correct use of the apostrophe, especially it's and its. I've tried to stop fussing about it in my head.

41. Have You Ever Been To Six Flags?

42. Have You Ever Gotten Beat Up?
Yes, but not too badly.

43. Do You Get Along Better With The Same Sex Or The Opposite?
Opposite. And have since at least fifth grade.

44. Do you like mustard?
Yes -Dijon.

45. Do You Sleep On Your Side, Stomach, Or Back?

46. Do You Watch The News?
Too often.

47. How Did You Get Three Of Your Scars?
Two from accidents on a bicycle on my arms, one on my right knee. I assume you meant physical scars, rather than emotional ones.
Talk Like A Pirate Contest as Christian outreach?


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

News About News

I was watching the Democratic Iowa "debate" Sunday on ABC-TV. I qualify the term because 1) the questions were designed intentionally to provoke - the "some say Obama's not ready to lead; what do YOU think, Hillary?" or "some say Clinton can't win the general election; what do YOU think, Barack?"; and 2) the so-called minor candidates were given short shrift. So I was surprised to see the results of an unscientific survey - I was stunned to see this as of 4 pm yesterday:

Who do you think won the Democratic debate?

Dennis Kucinich 11,821
Barack Obama 8,721
Hillary Clinton 5,546
Joe Biden 3,338
John Edwards 3,150
Nobody won. I'm voting Republican. 1,639
Nobody won. I'm waiting for Al Gore to get in the race. 1,145
Bill Richardson 1,109
Mike Gravel 1,044
Chris Dodd 201
Total Vote: 37,714

Dennis Kucinich, whose first chance to comment was about 30 minutes in. Kucinich, who had 2% of the vote in the polls in Iowa going in (Clinton, Edwards and Obama all have about 23% each). Kucinich, who provided my favorite moment in the event. When each candidate was asked about God and prayer. Dennis Kucinich said, "I've been praying to God for the last 45 minutes that you would call on me!" In spite of the flawed process, some things that the Ohio Congressman said hit a nerve. I'm not quite sure what, because my local ABC News affiliate cut off the 90-minute event after an hour in favor of its scheduled program, Teen News.
I'm feeling sorry for poor Bill Plante, not about the row over the CBS News White House correspondent's remark at that Bush bye-bye for Karl Rove ("If you're so smart, why did you lose Congress?", he yelled), for which he's been labeled a rude liberal and adversarial, among the nicer terms - here are Plante's thoughts on that controversy. Rather, because he's ALSO been cast as another brainless MSM TOUTING Rove here. And what praise did Plante bestow on the outgoing official? "He’s not only the mastermind behind everything - he’s the president’s senior advisor..." But he WAS considered the mastermind, or as Bush put it in 2004, "the Architect". He HAS been a Bush advisor for decades. I think Plante was just stating fact, not fawning over power.

And speaking of Rove, I heard him on Meet the Press on Sunday. As Chris Matthews was recently criticized for saying, he DOES talk really fast. I think he's very good at manipulating information to his political advantage, but judge for yourself.


Monday, August 20, 2007

STAX Obsession

I got me a major league Stax Records jones lately, and it's all based on some sort of cosmic convergence.

Fifty years ago, in 1957, Satellite Records the predecessor to Stax Records, was opened, ushering in an era of soul. The label changed its name when the founders discovered another company called Satellite Records.

I've been listening to Stax music heavily since at least July 29, which is the birthday of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Jim Stewart, who co-started the label with his sister Estelle Axton; STewart-AXton. I played The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968, the nine-disc box set that came out in 1991, and The Complete Stax-Volt Soul Singles, Vol. 2: 1968-1971, the nine-CD 1993 followup. I haven't bought The Complete Stax-Volt Soul Singles, Vol. 3: 1972-1975, the TEN-disc completion, but after reading the Amazon reviews and listening to 100+ minutes of 30-second snippets on Amazon, I may.

Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Luther Ingram, Albert King, the Bar-Kays, Booker T. & the MG's, Johnnie Taylor, Rufus and Carla Thomas, and dozens of other artists whose influence remains vital in the music of today. On its many and varied labels, Stax Records also recorded such legends as Big Star, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Bill Cosby, Moms Mabley, and the Grammy-winning comedic genius Richard Pryor.

I've also been reading Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story Of Stax Records by Rob Bowman, which came out in 1997 during the 40th anniversary of the label; the book was 12 years in the making. It is stunningly detailed, with footnotes indicating, among other things, differing memories of the participants. It also makes me wonder why Estelle Axton isn't in the Rock Hall, for it was her Satellite Record Shop where the sound of early Stax was developed.

On PBS this month, I got to watch Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story, which, not so incidentally, will be available on DVD on October 2, 2007; I believe it's available through PBS now. Let me put it this way: if you claim to care about American popular music, you should either read the Bowman book or watch the video. Preferably both, although the last third of each, showing the final decline, is a bit tough.

You'll find out about a problematic deal with Atlantic Records that, along with the deaths of Otis Redding (on a plane in the Midwest) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (assassinated in Memphis), nearly killed the label by 1968, but you'll also learn about how Stax managed to have a racially integrated house band that rivaled Motown's The Funk Brothers in segregated Memphis, including Steve Cropper and "Duck" Dunn, names you might recognize from the Blues Brothers band.

Thanks to the hard work of Al Bell, the record producer who had become president of Stax, the label not only survived but thrived. According to the Wikipedia piece: "On August 20, 1972, the Stax label presented a major concert, Wattstax, featured performances by Stax recording artists and humor from rising young comedian Richard Pryor. Known as the "Black Woodstock," Wattstax was hosted by Reverend Jesse Jackson and drew a crowd of over 100,000 attendees, most of them African-American. Wattstax was filmed by motion picture director Mel Stuart (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory), and a concert film of the event was released to theaters by Columbia Pictures in February 1973." Thus, today is the 35th anniversary of that seminal event.

Some bank dealings, plus an unfortunate arrangement with CBS Records, helped lead to the label's unfortunate first ending in 1975, although it's been recently revived.

The final piece is that today is the 65th birthday of "Black Moses", Isaac Hayes. Long before he started recording as a featured performer, he was a session musician. He also wrote a number of songs, many for Sam (Moore) and Dave (Prater); his songwriting partner was often David Porter. Then he became a star, putting out an 18-minute version of Jim Webb's "By the Time I Get To Phoenix" on "Hot Buttered Soul"; a 6:45 single was also released. Of course, he is probably best known, at least in my generation, as the writer/performer of the Oscar-winning theme for the movie Shaft. "That man Shaft is a bad mother---." "Shut your mouth."

Here's a section from the Bowman book: the time Hayes was eighteen months old his mother had passed away in a mental institution; because his father had disappeared sometime before her death, Isaac was raised by his [sharecropper] grandparents...After his grandfather died, when he was eleven, Isaac, his sister and grandmother, together and separately, lived all over North Memphis...When they were cut off from welfare...they used the wood from their outhouse to burn for heat...The next year, the family ran out of food and Isaac's grandmother and sister got sick from hunger.
Yet, Hayes survived, and once he discovered music, thrived.

So read about Stax. More importantly, Respect Yourself and LISTEN to some Stax.
Steve Gerber Knows His Stax. Gordon's July's Record You Should Own is a Stax album. Julie Hembeck, for your birthday, listen to some Stax.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Timeshare

When Carol, Lydia and I prepared for going to the timeshare in the Berkshires (Hancock, MA) in late June, it was exhausting. We really didn't know much to expect. We had visited other venues, and the accommodations varied widely. So we packed so much that I had to slam the trunk closed a few times. You may have heard of the preparations for D-Day, June 6, 1944; Ike was a piker compared with my wife.

I got the Mapquest directions which read, after getting on I-90, to:
Merge onto TROY RD / US-4 S via EXIT 9 toward EAST GREENBUSH. 0.6 miles
Turn LEFT onto LUTHER RD / NY-151. Continue to follow NY-151. 5.0 miles
Turn LEFT onto NY-150. 1.8 miles
Turn RIGHT onto BIITTIG RD. 1.1 miles
BIITTIG RD becomes SHEER RD / CR-52. 0.8 miles
Turn SLIGHT RIGHT onto FIRST DYKE RD. 0.9 miles
Turn RIGHT onto NY-43 / NY-66. Continue to follow NY-43.
before we even got to Massachusetts. (It was only later that we figure we could just take Route 43 from I-90 all the way.)

Anyway, we get to this place near Jiminy Peak that looks like:

Of course, this being a timeshare, you don't just check in, as you might in a hotel. You need to get an in-service about their amenities and make an appointment for later in the week to see if we might want to buy a place ourselves. Oh, boy, can't wait until Wednesday.

The place had a full kitchen, a little washer-drier, a TV in both bedrooms, and a TV with a DVD player in the living room.

There wasn't a lot of kid-friendly stuff, especially 3-year-old kid-friendly, actually at the place. There were kids' movies every night at 6 pm. Monday night, Carol took Lydia to see Charlotte's Web. Lydia had never been to the movies, and the room was VERY dark when the lights were out, so they left in 10 minutes. There was an inside/outside swimming pool that Carol and Lydia used almost daily. There WAS a playground a couple miles away, but it was fairly barren.

(Which one is our car? I really don't know, but it's not one of the SUVs.)

Wednesday morning, the saleslady shows up, bringing us gifts (an oatmeal-scented candle, a magnet, a deck of cards, and most interesting to me, a hat that actually fit my head). She asked how we got there, and we explained that we were offered the space by my parents-in-law 18 to 30 months previous, that we had only now taken advantage of it, and that we hadn't been on a real vacation since 2003. We were so pathetic that she didn't even TRY to sell us.

Later that morning, I did go to one of those free demonstrations of facial, hand and other products. It was me and nine women; see, I DO have a sensitive side.

In the evening, we could see that a massive thunderstorm was hitting Albany. In fact, the timeshare was close enough that we could watch Albany stations. On Western Avenue, not far from our house, I could see there was localized flooding; our home, I learned only the next day, was fine. Still, I was glad that I watched that Paul Simon: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song thing, because the storm had knocked out our DVD recordings for the remainder of the week.

On Saturday, Carol expressed frustration that she hadn't gotten to do a lot of things on her own (like my facial, and a movie I saw - to be described), so she went off to Williams College and saw art while Lydia and I hung out. Later, Carol and I, in turn, used the hot tub, finally. Sunday, we went home. Lydia said Saturday, that she was tired of "vacation", and wanted to be around her own stuff; I was with her. I think when she's older, it'll be a better experience for all of us.

I mean, it WAS a lovely place to be, especially in the morning, when I would go for a walk and play license plate tag. I found 31 states, and 4 Canadian provinces. I took a picture of this one with GayProf, who loves Texas, in mind. Imagine: a Texas liberal - you can't see it in the picture, but the vehicle had as bunch of environmental and open-government stickers.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Second Chapter QUESTION

As you've probably heard, Phil Rizzuto died this week. The Yankee shortstop had seven World Series rings, then became a colorful broadcaster for the team. But those of you outside the New York metro area probably didn't know about his years as pitchman for The Money Store. In fact, if you didn't follow sports, you may have known him ONLY as a spokesman.

Which got me to thinking: who can I (and I'm hoping YOU) name where the person had considerable success in one field, but a new generation would know that person only as a performer in another field?

I'm thinking of Rizzuto's teammate, Joe DiMaggio, who was a great centerfielder. But all I really know about him in my direct awareness, besides him being the ex of Marilyn Monroe, was Joltin' Joe as the Mr. Coffee spokesman. (Oh, yeah, and that Simon & Garfunkel reference.)

George Foreman went from angry young heavyweight boxer to jovial grillmeister.

Jim Bunning went from Hall of Fame pitcher to U.S. Senator.

My favorite example may be Orson Welles. The movie writer/director/producer/actor who scared America with his War of the Worlds radio broadcast was this behemoth of a man in those late 1970s TV ads for Paul Masson wines: "We will sell no wine before its time".

What are your favorite examples?
Someone testing my knowledge of trivia - a regular happenstance - asked me this question: what was the only white artist to have a Number One record on Motown Records? I gave some guesses: Rare Earth, Bobby Darin, Chris Clark, Soupy Sales. The answer I was given: Captain & Tenille! This didn't sound right at all. So I got out my trusty Billboard books and discovered that the duo had hits on A&M and on Casablanca Records. No Motown.

BUT, according to the Wikipedia post: "In 2004, the name [Casablanca Records] was revived for a joint venture between Universal Music Group and Tommy Mottola. In a Billboard article, Mottola said that he chose the name as an homage to the original label, but that there was no direct connection between the old and new labels. Casablanca is now a part of Universal Motown Records Group." My guess is that my inquisitor, who was working off partial info - he couldn't even name the hit song - was attributing "Do That to Me One More Time" that was on the original Casablanca Records to the new Universal Motown-related label. Or so I surmise.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Steamboat Bobby

Today is the 200th anniversary of the first successful commercial steamboat use. In 1807, the North River Steamboat, built by Robert Fulton, began a regular passenger boat service between New York City and Albany, 150 miles away.

Here's a somewhat bizarre 3-minute history lesson:
Of course, Fulton, like many others was mocked, notes Ysabella in this 1937 classic tune:
Here's faux steamboat launch:

A music video by a band called Steamboat; the song is called Curtains Tale.

"Steamboat G'wine 'Round the Bend", a 'visual' music piece written by John Fahey, played by Josh Lane.

And finally, probably the obvious choice, Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie. I wonder if this 1928 piece is in the public domain yet. By the laws that were in effect at the time, or even a change or two later, it should be:


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Elvis Is Dead

My father hated Elvis. He resented this white artist stealing/exploiting/ profiting from performing black music. (But then half of the musicians in the '50s and '60s from Pat Boone to Led Zeppelin "borrowed" from black music). So I never owned any Elvis music as a child or teenager.

Still, I did like some of his songs (Jailhouse Rock, Little Sister). So I watched the '68 "comeback special" and became grudgingly, a mild fan.

When Elvis died, I thought, "Oh, that's too bad." The Elvis cult that's developed since 1977 I view with fascination and utter bemusement.

I swiped the above from REMEMBERING ELVIS RECOLLECTIONS OF THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF THE KING ARE SWEETENED THROUGH THE AGES FOR LOYAL FANS by Mark McGuire, Times Union, The (Albany, NY), August 16, 1997. But since I was stealing what I wrote at the time, I guess it's OK. I'm sure I wrote more, but it was edited down. I probably wrote about feeling as though I were sneaking behind my father's back listening to the music, and how I never actually owned any Elvis until Elvis died.

I remember being on a city bus a year or two ago listening to some kids dissing Elvis as old news. I wanted to cut in and tell them that Elvis made $37 million the year before, but chose not to. In 2006, Elvis was only the Second to the Top-Earning Dead Celebrity with $42 million, after being #1 for 2001 through 2005. He was supplanted at the top by Kurt Cobain with $50 million.

Anyway, here are the lyrics to the appropriate Living Colour song and the video.
Passing last month, Allan Pottasch, the creative guru of this:

Also passing last month, the jinglemeister in this video, Jerry Ringlien:


Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I don't recall any recent movie that was as critically acclaimed as Once. Last I checked, it had a 97% positive rating on the movie site Rotten Tomatoes. It's been billed, correctly, I think, as a musical for those who like music but hate musicals. I mean, there's no Ewan McGregor from Moulin Rouge, merry murderers from Chicago or even Jennifer Hudson from Dreamgirls, all of which I've seen, by the way, breaking into song to advance the plot. All the music comes from their "real" situations, and works, perhaps, because musicians who could act were cast, rather than actors who could sing.

Carol and I got a babysitter and went to see Once last month at the Spectrum in Albany, when it was down to two shows a day, as it turns out the week before it closed. It's the story of a Guy (Glen Hansard) in Ireland who is a busker with a guitar, an aspiring singer/songwriter and vacuum cleaner repairman who meets a Girl (Marketa Irglova), who's also a singer/songwriter as well as a pianist. They end up making beautiful music together in an "organic" way. But it doesn't play out exactly how you might think.

Incidentally, I capitalized Guy and Girl, because that's how the characters are billed; likewise Guy's Dad (Bill Hodnett) and Girl's Mother (Danuse Ktrestova).

I really don't know how to describe this any further without giving out key plot points, except to say that we too were charmed and captivated by Once. It has a running time of 85 minutes, and it's rated R, almost certainly for the substantial use of the F-word. In fact, much of the scene before the credits even pop up is laced with that word; it lessens considerably after that, but you may want to watch this with other adults.
Gay Prof says something snarky about the impeding departure of Karl Rove so I don't have to.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Moving Is Easy, Unless It's Your Stuff

A couple months ago, I helped someone move a harpsichord, a secretary (the furniture variety), and a couple other pieces. No big whoop; I've helped, conservatively, in over 100 moves, excluding the 30 or so moves of mine. But he was so appreciative that he sent me a card thanking me.

Let's deal with mine first. "You say 30 moves, really?" Surely, I exaggerate; I do not. And all but one was since I was 18. But I'm getting more settled: 7 years in my current place. Before that 1 year in the house Carol had bought before we met, 4.5 years in an apartment. Before that, mucho moves for all sorts of reasons. Like this guy.

And like many folks, I hate moving my own stuff, for all sorts of psychological reasons.

Moving other people's stuff, however, I love. I love it for a number of reasons:
1) It's good exercise
2) It becomes an interesting anthropological study
3) People are grateful that you're moving their stuff
4) It's not MY stuff

I've helped one guy move six times, so often that my accomplices, Allie and Tom, and I called ourselves RAT Moving (or ART Moving, or TAR Moving). I've helped people I've known two weeks.

But I have rules for moving other people's stuff, having done so at least 80 times:
1) Pick a time. Stick to the time. I want to get there, do it, and leave.
2) The movee (or his/her designee) must be in charge of the move, especially the unloading. I don't care if the movee picks up a single thing as long as that person can say: what goes and what stays when we're in the old place; and where the things go when we're in the new place. One good friend of mine was so distraught about her move, it fell upon a committee of the movers to decide what to do. Yuck.
3) Have extra boxes. Inevitably, the movee thinks he/she is done packing, but forgot the stuff behind a piece of furniture or in a closet or in the refrigerator. Seldom have I been in a situation with too many boxes.
4) Don't pack your books, records and other dense items in large boxes. I may be, as one friend calls her roving moving crew, of "strong backs and small minds", but we're not looking to end up on the disabled list while doing one a favor.
5) Highly recommended: extra packing tape, and markers for labeling boxes (oh, PLEASE, label your boxes so that we don't have to open the boxes and decide what's in them). Bungee ropes can be useful. Once, I helped carry a sofa down a flight of stairs. It turned out to be a sleeper sofa, and the sleeper sofa came out. I kicked the sleeper part back into position, on my back, on the stairwell, and tied the sleeper part with my belt.
6) If possible, contact the authorities about blocking off the moving spaces so we can load and unload at the actual addresses rather than from a half a block away.

(Art from


Monday, August 13, 2007

Monday pontificating

Via Jaquandor:

1. If there were no blogs, what would you be doing right now?

I found this question utterly fascinating, maybe because it hit a nerve. Before I was blogging, I was kvetching about the fact that I wasn't writing or expressing my opinions and that I was missing out on recording stuff about Lydia, which, I knew, I would someday forget. So, if I weren't blogging, I would be kvetching about the fact that I wasn't writing or expressing my opinions...
On the other hand, I might be caught up on watching TV taped programs, and I'd certainly be more up-to-date with my weekly periodicals reading.

Incidentally, I cleaned up my blogroll this weekend, moving some links to my work blog, deleting a couple, and adding a couple, such as Anthony Velez's The Dark Glass, mostly because I was tired of having to go there via Lefty. I've put a few folks under the uninterestingly-titled Other Interesting Folks. If you have suggestions for adds, or if you want to be added, moved, or deleted from the blogroll, you know where to find me.

2. If you had to spend one year living alone in a remote cabin, what would you spend your time doing?

OK, this depends heavily on what technologies are available. Will I have a computer? Internet connectivity? Assuming that, I would be catching up on reading those aforementioned magazines, then tackle the books. Alternating with writing two books, one a roman a clef about churches, choirs and ministers; choir people can be really strange folks. The other would be a history of the first 10 years of FantaCo.

Of course, listening to music and watching movies and stuff on DVD.

Now, if we're talking really rustic, with no electricity, still doing the reading, maybe writing by hand. And slowly going: Stark. Raving. Bonkers.

3. If you could go back in time, what one piece advice would you give yourself?

Depends on the time frame:
Me at 16: you're working in a library. You LIKE working in a library. Consider this as a career. You're not cut out to be a lawyer.
Me at 24: no, you won't be celibate forever.
There are plenty of others.

4. "If you really knew me you would know that..."

You should run away as quickly as possible.
You Are 24% Weirdo

You're a little weird, but you'd be even weirder if you didn't have a few quirks.
You are just strange enough to know it, but nobody else seems to notice your weirdness.
That's because, deep down, everyone is a little freaky!

Merv Griffin died yesterday of prostate cancer, the disease that, as it happened, killed my father. Not only was Merv a popular talk show host, but he created both Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY! Most importantly, he wrote the JEOPARDY! theme:

ADD's dreams, one of which features, of all people, me. BTW, the Daredevil Chronicles had the greater print run, but that'll all become clear later this month.


Sunday, August 12, 2007


We try to keep it a nice wholesome, family-orientated blog here at Ramblin'. But occasionally we fail. I've rediscovered that the words "roger" and "rogered" have an interesting, if scatological, slang definition. Thanks, Dorian for bringing this up. (I think.)

Long ago, I found the meaning of ROGER to mean Famous spear; English and French name of Germanic origin, composed of the elements hrod "fame" and gar/ger "spear", thus "famous spear" and/or derived from Hroth-gar, meaning "spear-bearer".

There was a black character in the M*A*S*H book, movie, and the first season of the television series called Spearchucker Jones. Spearchucker was considered a racial slur when I was growing up, tied to the notion of the "African savage", and I suspect it's more the reason the character got dropped than the fact there were actually no black doctors in Korea; the spear Jones used to chuck in college, BTW, was a javelin.

But I was surprised to find that Spearchucker actually HAD a name: Oliver Wendell Jones. I was going to posit the idea that his given name was Roger, based on the word's entomology. Another theory shot to heck.
Probably TMI: The husband of an ex-girlfriend of mine asked me this recently: "[His wife] once told me a story about taking you to visit her father. Your suitcase snapped open unexpectedly and your condom collection spilled on the ground. True story?"
Answer: Seriously, I have no recollection of such an occurrence. This is not to say that it didn't happen and I had sensibly blocked it from my mind.
Since we're in the field of what some might consider inappropriate language, a headstone for a dog.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Domestic Bliss QUESTIONS

Dear Ramblin':
We've had this invasion of ants in our kitchen. How do we get rid of them without using chemicals?

Dear Bugged:
Our family has had some success with leaving the peelings from the skins of cucumbers in front of the back entrance. It does leave little ant corpses, though, and you need to replace the peels daily, lest they dry up and become ineffective. Oh, and when you're picking up those deceased insects, you should sing that segment from the William Tell Overture best known as the Lone Ranger Theme, "dead ant, dead ant, dead ant ant ant."
Dear Ramblin':
Our toilet is clogged up. What should I use that isn't some dangerous chemical.
Not Going Down the Hole

Amazingly effective: a half cup of baking soda. Slowly pour in the cheapest white vinegar you can find until it stops bubbling.
Dear Ramblin':
Remember than Seinfeld commercial for American Express in which Jerry walks into a grocery store? His plastic bag comes right open, even as some schmo struggles. I'm like the schmo. Any ideas?

Dear Frustrated:
Water on your fingertips. My store is continually - excessively - washing the produce that I'm going to wash at home anyway. Steal a couple drops. Or, if necessary, lick your fingertips. Also helpful for those plastic garbage bags.
Dear Ramblin':
I hard-boiled eggs, and sometimes the shell sticks to the egg, requiring excessive time, AND I lose a lot of the egg white as a result. Any suggestions?

Dear Eggsasperated:
While running cold water on the egg, crack both ends of the egg. Last time I tried this, it worked 10 out of 11 times - the 12th was one I tried to peel the old way.
Dear Ramblin':
Occasionally, I drop a can or bottle of soda. Naturally, I'm afraid that I'll take a bath when I open the container. Any suggestions?
Not Looking For A Soda Bath

Don't know about the bottles, other than opening really slowly. But for cans, I've found tapping the top of the container with my index a dozen times is often effective.
Dear Ramblin':
When I make lasagna, my noodles end up sticking together, making putting on those layers of pasta a real chore. Should I just go out and buy that "no cook" lasagna, or is there another way?

Dear Stuck:
Long before I ever heard of that "no cook" product, I used regular uncooked lasagna noodles, increasing the quantity sauce by about 20% and making sure the noodles are covered by sauce on both sides. The lasagna noodles get cooked with the lasagna and tastes great.

Have some helpful household hints? Pleaser leave them in the comments section or e-mail them to: Ramblin's Household Hints
As an Albany blogger, I guess I ought to note my fair city's latest claim to fame.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Another Day

This would have been my Grandma Williams' 110th birthday, I think. I mean the day is right, it's the year that's a little fuzzy. She had always told us - my mother (her daughter), my father, my sisters, me, even her siblings (she was the oldest of five) - that she born in 1898. But when we took her to finally register to vote, in the early 1960s, she told the voter registar that she was born in 1897. What? I suspect that she was OK fibbing to thee rest of us, but didn't want to swear to a lie.

I spent a lot of time at my grandma's house. Because both my parents worked outside of the home -my mother at an office in McLean's department store in Binghamton - my sisters and I went to her house, which she shared with her youngest sibling, my Aunt Deana, every day at lunchtime, and early on, after school. In fact, it was their availability that determined that I would go to elementary school at Daniel S. Dickinson rather than Oak Street, which was the school where people living at my address were supposed to go. This means, if it weren't for her willingness to do this, I wouldn't have know Carol, Karen, Lois, Bill, Bernie, Irene, and Diane from K-12, the first five of whom I saw at my HS reunion last year, and the first of which I'll see this weekend.

On the other hand, my grandma tended to tell stories of boogeymen, and bad people lurking everywhere. My sister Leslie and I were susceptible to her tales, though baby sister Marcia, to her credit, saw right through them.

Anyway, Bill Walsh, the coach of the San Francisco 49ers died last month, and I remembered my grandma. See, I got a call that she had died in Charlotte, NC during the third period of Super Bowl XVI, when Walsh and the team won their first championship against Cincinnati. They're somehow forever linked in my mind.
Today is also the seventh anniversary of the death of my father. I don't know what more I can say that I haven't already said here and here and here and especially here. He was gregarious and moody, forthright and secretive, talented and limited. I was talking with my sister Leslie about him this week. He had wanted me to find a way for him to make money on the Internet, but he had so many ideas, many of them unfocused, that I didn't quite know how to do that. And I felt that he was a bit disappointed in me for that. Whatcha gonna do?


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Playing The Whole Album?

Interesting stuff in this past Friday's Weekend Journal of the Wall Street Journal, even if Murdock IS buying it.

One piece was Hollywood Report: Up Next -- Your Favorite Album; In Concerts, Bands Play CDs, First Track to Last; Battling the iPod Effect by Ethan Smith. WSJ. Aug 3, 2007. pg. W.1

Abstract (Summary)
The impetus behind the current wave of live album concerts comes from England, and in particular from Barry Hogan, the 35-year-old London-based founder and director of an influential music festival called All Tomorrow's Parties. "When you see a band you love, how often are you sitting there thinking, 'Why are they doing this new stuff?'" Mr. Hogan asks. And after having asked himself that question one too many times, he decided to do something about it. In 2005 he launched a concert series, related to All Tomorrow's Parties, called Don't Look Back. That series has presented around two dozen alt-rock artists playing beloved albums in their entirety -- from Iggy Pop's Stooges playing 1970's "Fun House" to the Cowboy Junkies doing 1990's "The Trinity Session."

Despite sellout crowds, Mr. [Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick] acknowledges that in some ways, the concerts were "goofy." For one thing, the order in which songs appear on an album might not make sense in concert. "If the producer didn't think there were 10 or 12 killer songs, he'd top load the sequence" with potential hits, Mr. Carlos says. That means that in concert, a band might end up closing with the weakest material of the night. Another problem: There were some songs on the albums that the band had never played live, and they struggled with them. A few were rearranged as acoustic numbers, to give themselves a breather. "We were young men when we did 'em originally," Mr. Carlos says.

Other artists have taken a more maximalist approach. For the just-completed European tour during which he played his 1973 album "Berlin," [Lou Reed] was backed by a 30-piece orchestra. Mr. Reed played a brief series of "Berlin" concerts in New York last year, but his manager, Tom Sarig, says he is unsure whether the rocker will perform the album elsewhere in the U.S.

Besides Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and Cheap Trick, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters has played live versions of "Dark Side of the Moon", and Sonic Youth hit the road to play "Daydream Nation".

This fall, Lucinda Williams will play a week in NYC and LA with each night featuring a complete performance of one of her five most prominent albums, such as 1998's "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road." But during a second set, she'll play selections from her 2007 release "West."

Interesting. I've know of other artists, notably Phish, playing a whole album, but not the actual artist, except once in 1989 in Albany when I saw Joe Jackson play the entire first half of Blaze of Glory, then some other tunes, then the entire second half; the audience was unfamiliar, and therefore not very happy, as some folks walked around the Palace Theater, somewhat bored.

Another piece, on sports: By the Numbers: The Best at Keeping Batters Off Base
Allen St. John. WSJ: Aug 3, 2007. pg. W.3

Abstract (Summary)
In the American League, the BABE list also is topped by two young pitchers, each of whom were crucial pieces in big trades. Dan Haren of the Oakland A's, acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals for Mark Mulder, has posted a .378 BABE. (Underscoring Billy Beane's acumen in identifying promising young pitchers is the fact that A's draft pick Joe Blanton is third in the AL with a .393 BABE.) Behind Mr. Haren is Josh Beckett of the Boston Red Sox, who's rewarding the faith that General Manager Theo Epstein displayed when he traded two prized prospects to the Florida Marlins for the hard-throwing righty.

One thing that the BABE list shows us is how volatile the pitching side of the game is. The BOP list of top hitters tends to be quite consistent from season-to-season, with such players as Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez keeping their places at the top alongside sleepers such as Carlos Guillen of the Detroit Tigers. But many of the league's top pitchers are pretty far down on the BABE list this season. Last year's National League BABE champ, Brandon Webb of the Arizona Diamonsbacks, is 14th on this season's list with a .406 mark, two slots behind John Maine of the New York Mets (.402). Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays, the 2003 AL Cy Young winner and last year's AL runner up in BABE, is 18th on this year's list -- behind journeyman Ted Lilly of the Chicago Cubs. And Oliver Perez of the Mets (.421, 23rd), who a year ago was demoted to the minors by the pitching-starved Pittsburgh Pirates, ranks ahead of two-time Cy Young winner, and defending AL BABE leader, Johan Santana (.423, 25th).

The writer talks about BABE, or bases per batter. BABE starts with a pitcher's total bases allowed (the sum of his hits allowed plus one extra point for each double, two extra for each triple and three extra for each homer). When you add in walks issued and batters hit by a pitch, the sum is Grand Total Bases. Divide GTB by the number of batters a pitcher has faced, and the result is BABE. The lower that number, the better a pitcher has been at minimizing the number of bases issued to opposing batters.

There's a third article in that edition, about a Indie Film festival in New Zealand. Also, in the Saturday edition, there's this: "New Labor Moves: Belly Dancing Hits Delivery Room; Connection to Childbirth May Have Ancient Origins", which I sent to our Bradley instructor, our doula, and the only belly dancer I know personally; the former, at least LOVED the piece. If you're interested in the full text of any of these pieces and can't access them, e-mail me.
It's sports Hall of Fame season. First the baseball event with a record 75,000 in Cooperstown, then football in Canton and horse racing in Saratoga. Jaquandor provided not only the football story about a guy who played for the only team in NYS, but directed me to a story about Barry Bonds, which pretty much covers my position. The Buffalo guy also notes: "As for people who suggest that his record carry an asterisk in the record books, wouldn't any batting title from the steroid era also require an asterisk?...Hell, if as many players took steroids as are commonly supposed, shouldn't the entire yearly standings of Major League Baseball carry an asterisk in that period?" But I know mine's a minority opinion; in some AOL instant "poll", 65% were shocked, shocked I tell you, that Barry Bonds should get any kudos at all.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

You Ever Have One of Those Days...

...where none of the individual things would bug you, but the cumulative effect sort of wears you down? I had one last week.

My dear sweet wife has been taking Lydia to day care in the summer, as I do it during the regular school year. The goal is to get them on the 7 a.m. bus, but it was clear they were going to miss it, requiring Carol to drive Lydia - no big deal. But then dear wife says, "Well, since we have some extra time, do you want to do Lydia's hair?" I explained that *I* don't have extra time, that I've been postponing my stuff (brushing my teeth, picking out my music, etc.) so that THEY can get out of the house. SHE may have extra time, but I don't. But no big deal.

Then I'm out waiting for my 7:20 bus, with my bike that has its second flat in as many weeks. The 7:20 is late, so late (7:25) that the 7:30 is practically behind it. Does the 7:20 stop and pick us up? It does not, because it's too "crowded" - though it didn't look bad to me, and we got on the 7:30, which, of course, just sat there until 7:30. Five or 10 minutes in the morning can make a lot of difference in how much I can work out.

So, on the 7:30 bus, on the front of which I place my bike, there's a guy sitting across from me. He says, "How old are you? 55?" I'm 54, so I nod yes. He then says, "Can you believe I'M 55?" I reply, "Yes." He looks slightly crestfallen. I think I was SUPPOSED to comment on how young and vibrant he looked. He then rambled on about something, but I wasn't really listening.

After my abbreviated workout at the Y, I left my bike there and walked across the Henry Johnson land bridge. I wasn't quite sure what time it was, so I was periodically looking back to make sure I caught the next bus. On one of these checks, as young woman whizzed by me on the sidewalk on her bike. I didn't hear her at all. She could have hit me as I turned around. Worse, I came literally two inches from bumping her, which could have knocked her down, possibly into oncoming traffic. I'm sure she was oblivious.

I take a bus home after work, get my bike, and walk it through the park to the bike shop. I explain to the guy there - who I've seen several times before, though not last week - that I'd gotten a second flat in a week. He said, "I'll take your word for it," but in that way that suggested he didn't really believe me.

My wife wanted me to pick up pizza on the way home. So I rode to the pizza place, figuring I'd make the order, drop off my bike, then walk and get the pie. I stood at the counter while two guys stood there working on an order. No "I see you" head nod; nothing, for over five minutes. Finally, a third guy comes over and says, "So, are you all set?" "NO, I'm not ALL SET" - I tried to ratchet back my annoyance, which was not really with him but his colleagues. He took my order and said it'd be ready in 15 minutes. I took the bike home, waited 20 minutes, walked to the pizzeria and was told it'll be another 5 to 7 minutes, which turned out to be more like 10. Pizza shops are very hot places in the summer.

None of these on their own I'd probably even mention, but, as it says in one of my daughter's book, "I think I'll move to Australia."