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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Roger Answers Your Questions, Scott and Gordini

The blogger Scott, husband of Marcia and father of Nigel, one of those people who still cares about the NHL, was kind enough to ask:

1. What do you think are the chances of us seeing another "Subway Series" this October?

You must have me mistaken with someone who has any idea. I had the St. Louis Cardinals losing every round they played (and won) last year.

That said, highly unlikely. In fact, much to my surprise, I think the Yankees have a better chance of getting there than the Mets, much to my disappointment. I’m rooting for the wild card to come out of the NL West (and for the Mets to win their division) because I think THEY think they can’t beat the Phillies in a second round matchup, whereas the Yankees could beat Boston, if they get past the first round. Though the Yanks have had a difficult time with the Angels this season, so if the Angels beat the Red Sox, the Yankees may be in trouble. Incidentally, yesterday was the centennial of the birth of original Angels' owner, Gene Autry.

(When you asked a few days ago, the Mets were up by 2 games. Now they're tied with a game to go, with no guarantee that they'll even get IN the playoffs.)

2. What do you consider your favorite TV Drama of all-time?

Quite possibly St. Elsewhere, although Hill Street Blues and Homicide are up there. My favorite show as a kid, though was the Defenders, a lawyer show with E.G. Marshall and a pre-Brady Bunch Robert Reed. I was also fond of East Side/West Side with George C. Scott. There was an anthology show called The Bold Ones, and The Senator segment with Hal Holbrook was great, got Emmy love, but it lasted but a season. Was Twilight Zone a drama? That gets its own special mention.

3. What do you consider your favorite TV sit-com of all-time?

The Dick van Dyke Show. The perfect balance of home life and work life. Great physical comedy by DVD. MTM's capri pants. And Richard Deacon from Binghamton, NY. Lasted five years - not too short, not long enough to wear out its welcome, which I'm afraid M*A*S*H, arguably a better show in its prime, did for me.

Though I must give some consideration to the Mary Tyler Moore Show, with a magnificent evolving cast, also did home and work well, as did, now that I think of it, the Bob Newhart Show, the one where he plays the shrink.

A comedy that evolved into a good show was Barney Miller, which scrapped any real pretense of a home life after the first season (Barbara Barrie played Barney's wife), and found its voice.

4. What scares you the most about Lydia growing up?

I suppose I'm dreading that inevitable teenage period when she thinks I'm an irrelevant, archaic druid. But I have to say that the great thing about having no idea what you're doing as a parent - in that most of my preconceived notions about fatherhood could be tossed into the Dumpster - is that I don't think too much about her Growing Up; I'm trying to take care of her Now.

I am reminded, again, about racism and racialism. I had never heard the latter term until I watched some Nelson Mandela speech right after he was released from prison. Some people use the terms interchangeably, but I feel a distinction. To me, racism is blatant inequity under the law or in society; e.g., the Jena 6 charged more harshly for their crimes than the white students who had assaulted black kids. Whereas, racialism is more the "damn fool" things people say and do, such as Bill O'Reilly.
I just started reading Anti-Racist Parent. By "just", I mean yesterday; interesting stuff.

Back to TV: Lydia decided just this week that she wanted to put on her right sock, then her right shoe, left sock and left shoe. This reminded me of a conversation that Mike Stivic had with Archie Bunker (a sock, sock, shoe, shoe guy) on All in the Family; that was a good show, too.
Meanwhile, blogger Gordon, newly re-minted Chicagoan, podcaster, and most importantly, March Piscean, writes: "OK, well, here's a question that I think you can answer: do you ever have a moment where you think 'I'm so full of hot gas?'"

Immediately, I started writing this rambling epic indicating how there are several areas where I have no opinions at all, that the opinions I do have are often based on reason and experience, and that I don't love the sound of my own voice as much as many do. I noted how, in keeping with a conversation he and I had privately, that I read other viewpoints; in fact, I spent some time this week listening to some of the speeches on the White Nationalist News Network, which I found by clicking Next Blog.

I addressed how an old girlfriend accused me of Male Answer Syndrome, which I rejected, not because it wasn't possibly true, but because the thing I was answering (about alpacas being more pleasant than llamas) I actually DID know from research in my job. (And not so incidentally, claims that I have MAS has dropped SIGNIFICANTLY since I appeared on that game show. And there was other stuff about my good listening and observing skills.

But, sure, OK, don't we all feel like we're fakin' it sometimes? Don't at least many of us feel as though we're about 11 and are pretending to wear grown-up clothes periodically?

So, Gordon, I could have just said "Yes." But somehow, I thought you wanted a little more than that.
Oh, and another one of my favorite reads, Tom the Dog, who has been on one more game show than I have, says nice things about me. Right back at you.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Candidates QUESTIONS

This is an audience participation thing, or as Frank Zappa once put it, "enforced recreation."

1. Go to and answer the questions, but leave your intensity about the issues at Medium.

2. Cut/paste and send me the results (or post on your blog, and let me know in the comments section.)

3. Re-vote, but this time, indicate the intensity of your position.

4. Cut/paste and send me THOSE results (or post on your blog, and let me know in the comments section.)

Before revealing my picks, you'll note that there is something called the Composite Candidate: "The calculator compiles the most popular responses from all voters to create a composite candidate, a candidate whose views match most with the average responses of users."

Composite Candidate
* Delaware Senator Joseph Biden (D) - 43.48%
* Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D) - 41.30%
* Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson (R) - 41.30%
* Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd (D) - 36.96%
* Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards (D) - 36.96%
* New York Senator Hillary Clinton (D) - 34.78%
* Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) - 34.78%
* New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D) - 34.78%
* Businessman John Cox (R) - 32.61%
* Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (D) - 30.43%
* Arizona Senator John McCain (R) - 28.26%
* Texas Representative Ron Paul (R) - 28.26%
* Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) - 28.26%
* Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson (R) - 28.26%
* Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R) - 26.09%
* Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich (D) - 23.91%
* Kansas Senator Sam Brownback (R) - 21.74%
* Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo (R) - 21.74%

Also, there's a list of Most Top-Matched Candidates
* Gravel - 14.20%
* Tommy Thompson - 12.42%
* Romney - 10.95%
* Giuliani - 10.93%
* Kucinich - 10.52%
* Biden - 6.40%
* Clinton - 4.68%
* Cox - 4.47%
* Obama - 4.19%
* Hunter - 3.64%
* Dodd - 3.63%
* Fred Thompson - 2.66%
* Tancredo - 2.51%
* Paul - 2.16%
* Huckabee - 2.06%
* Richardson - 1.82%
* Edwards - 1.32%
* Brownback - 1.02%
* McCain - 0.42%

Now, here are my top selections, with no regard to intensity:
Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (D) 100.00% match
Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich (D) - 94.74%
Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D) - 84.21%
Delaware Senator Joseph Biden (D) - 78.95%
Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd (D) - 78.95%
Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards (D) - 78.95%
New York Senator Hillary Clinton (D) - 73.68%
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D) - 73.68%
Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson (R) - 57.89%
Businessman John Cox (R) - 47.37%
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) - 42.11%
Texas Representative Ron Paul (R) - 36.84%
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R) - 31.58%
Arizona Senator John McCain (R) - 26.32%
Kansas Senator Sam Brownback (R) - 21.05%
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) - 21.05%
Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo (R) - 15.79%
Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson (R) - 15.79%

Whereas, when I add my intensity factors:
Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich (D) 96.88% match
Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (D) - 81.25%
New York Senator Hillary Clinton (D) - 71.88%
Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards (D) - 68.75%
Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd (D) - 65.63%
Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D) - 65.63%
Delaware Senator Joseph Biden (D) - 59.38%
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D) - 56.25%
Texas Representative Ron Paul (R) - 37.50%
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) - 28.13%
Businessman John Cox (R) - 25.00%
Arizona Senator John McCain (R) - 25.00%
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) - 12.50%
Kansas Senator Sam Brownback (R) - 9.38%
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R) - 9.38%
Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson (R) - 9.38%
California Representative Duncan Hunter (R) - 6.25%
Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo (R) - 6.25%

Strange: Kucinich and Gravel, the two guys left off some recent Iowa debate, switch for the top spot, Clinton (who I've never voted for) moves from 7th to 3rd, and Obama falls from 3rd to 6th, but the Top 7 are still the Top 7, with Richardson 8th in both scenarios. One thing is for sure: I won't be voting for Tom Tancredo. Or for Sam Brownback, though I'd probably enjoy hanging out with him, based on his appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows.

A curious glitch: Duncan Hunter isn't on the first list (or on the composite candidate roster), while Fred Thompson's missing from the second.
"In his new book, The Evangelical President, Bill Sammon paints a riveting portrait of a president who is as committed to worldwide democracy as he is to his faith—and guided by legitimate principles that his critics aren't willing to understand. In this far-reaching book, Sammon details:
Why Bush believes the Republicans will hold the White House in 2008"

Interesting. Haven't read the book, probably won't read the book, but I'm beginning to come to the same conclusion.
Let the most popular candidate win: Instant runoff voting is simple and effective.
By John B. Anderson (1980 Presidential candidate)
I wish we could get as 72-25 vote, condemning Blackwater, something actually under Congressional budgetary control. Anyway, MoveOn has moved from Petraeus - Leave Petraeus alone! to a much more appealing target, Rudy Giuliani:

Pat Buchanan (!) on the hysteria that greeted the request of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to lay a wreath at Ground Zero.
If Bill O'Reilly Was a Rapper.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Lucy and Craig's Wedding

Carol and I received an invitation to the wedding of one of her sorority sisters in college this spring. The RSVP date was terribly early for a July 28 wedding, but whatever.

The wedding was held in Providence, RI, at the Brown University campus. I love the Brown University campus, because it is of the city, in the city, with no real demarcation. (Like the College of St. Rose in Albany, only MUCH bigger.)

After the Grandparents arrived to watch Lydia, we drove to the Rhode Island capital. We experienced severe rain (almost enough to pull over), beautiful sunshine, fog, more driving rain, then more beautiful weather. We stayed at a bed and breakfast on the fifth and sixth floor of one of the university buildings, then walked to get something to eat.

We walked by a woman wearing an overly long T-shirt that said "Frankie Said 'Relax'." What decade am I in, anyway?

The restaurant was nice, though there was a slow leak over where Carol was sitting. The most noticeable thing, though, is that all the women of the waitstaff looked alike. Quite attractive, slightly buxom, in their short black dresses. Most were dark haired, though some were blonde. One was black, one was Asian, but they had a uniform look, as though they were in some Robert Palmer video. Say, maybe Providence IS in the 1980s!

We got dressed for the wedding, walked to the chapel on the university grounds. Carol ran into a bunch of her sorority sisters, and some of the spouses were doing that "Oh, no!" eyeroll, but this actually didn't last too long.

The wedding was nice. One of the touches was that there was a very professionally-done color insert explaining the relationship of the wedding participants to the couple. Since both sets of parents were deceased, her godmother and his daughter lit the unity candle. Her godmother and her late husband had double-dated with Lucy's parents in the day.

Then the reception at a faculty club nearby. Great hors d'oeuvres and an open bar. The dinner was great, the music was fine. But the fascinating touch here was that at EVERY SINGLE PLACE SETTING of over 100 people, there was a picture of that person, in a frame! This included me, who neither the bride or groom had ever met. They found this picture from my blog or probably my MySpace page

and framed it. The manager in charge of the facility came to our table at one point and sighed in (mock?) indignation that the bride had shown up with 27 boxes of photographs the night before that had to be placed at specific locations.

Did I mention that the open bar lasted through dinner? I had a surprisingly good time. We each got a card so we could order pictures, if we want, but the first picture would be free - another nice touch.

We received their thank you note for our gift, postmarked within a month of the wedding, with a tri-fold brochure they made of their honeymoon in France - somehow appropriate, given that the French flag is "drapeau tricolore". Happy second lunaversary, Lucy and Craig.


Thursday, September 27, 2007


So, I check my e-mail yesterday, and I get this thing, time/date stamped 9/26 at 12:50 a.m.

Dear Roger Green,
Thousands of bloggers from around the world are joining together this Thursday, September 27th with a single message: Stop Abuse!

BlogCatalog would love for you to be one of them!

On Thursday, September 27th, post about any abuse topic you care about - child abuse, domestic abuse, animal abuse, drug abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, political abuse - and let the world know you stand united with thousands of bloggers as part of the Bloggers Unite "Blog Against Abuse" campaign. Depending on your topic, you can even link to local, regional, national, or international organizations that you care about or support. Every post will count!

Badges & Banners
We have dozens of badges you can add to your post (or make your own):

Well, that's swell. I wish i had heard about it earlier. If I had had more time, I might have come up with something more cogent, but given the time limitation:

OK, I feel better.

Well, there is one thing:

It seems as though when Americans complain about abuse taking place in the United States, they're told, essentially, to shut up. "It's worse in Country X and Country Y." Perhaps true; indeed undoubtedly true. But this point is largely irrelevant to me, for the difference between abuse perpetrated in a foreign land and abuse produced by an entity of the government of the United States is that the latter is DONE IN MY NAME, so it particularly ticks me off.

By abuse, I mean everything from the waterboarding we're apparently not doing (any more) to excessive force by certain police departments to attempts to execute people without exhausting available DNA evidence. (Yeah, I oppose the death penalty generally, but these particular cases really raise my hackles.) So as our President Calls on the United Nations to Enforce Human Rights, here's hoping we make sure we clean up our own house as well.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Lydster, Part 42: Out of Town

In August, my wife went down to Charlotte to visit my mother, dropping off Lydia at Carol's parents' house on the way. Lydia's cousins were there for much of that time. This meant that Carol didn't see Lydia for eight days, and I didn't for nine. We did try to call her every day.

I thought early on that this would be a chance to catch up on my stuff: my reading, my TV watching, some blog stuff. But I seem to have frittered much of it away as I came to realize that I was missing having them around. I mean, I knew I'd miss them, but I didn't know the missing would become a distraction.

Interestingly, as the period went on, Lydia, who could be taciturn on the phone, became downright verbose. It became clear to me that she really missed us, perhaps even feared that we were abandoning her. I say that because she's been much more affectionate, physically and verbally, than she was before the trip.

It's rather nice, but we've regularly reminded her of our support for her.

Happy three and a half, Lydia.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Elgee Arts

Somehow, it's become MY job to listen to a bunch of cassette tapes that were in my late father's possession. Mostly, they are pitches by people you've never heard of, recommending that folks get involved with one multilevel marketing plan or another, something that my father was susceptible of buying into. But there's also How To Be An Auctioneer (Dad was the first black auctioneer in the state of North Carolina), a 1983 episode of something called P.M. Magazine (Eddie Murphy's language offends! John Lennon biopic to be made!) There may be a tape or two in there of his music or writings. Naturally, most of them are unlabeled, or labeled so cryptically as to be meaningless. More than seven years after his death, the day before what would have been his 81st birthday...

Tomorrow, Lydia will be three and a half. So, my father's birthday is Lydia's half-birthday, and vice versa. In the Lydia-naming consideration process, which I detailed way back here, it had never occurred to me that my father, Les Green, and my daughter, Lydia Green, had the same first and last initials until Carol started labeling Lydia's things that she takes to day care LG.

For many of my father's enterprises, involving music, painting and flowers (in other words, NOT the MLM stuff), he referred to the business as Elgee Arts - LG. So, in one more way, I have this connection between my father and my daughter, even though they never had a chance to meet.

And since I'm taking about him, let me re-request any information about my father's - Leslie Harold Green - military service from May 1945 to December 1946 in a segregated unit in the European theater, as I described here.
There's this 46-year-old Carnegie Mellon professor who is dying. He seems to have a rather good attitude about it, probably better than what mine would be.


The Results of the Blue Jar Contest

My picks for the "How-To" Group Writing Project:

Eating Crow by Susan Wingate, the only "sure thing" based on the first read. She references murder and crows without going for the obvious "murder of crows" (a murder of crows is a collection of crows, cf. flock of sheep).
Contains Zero Trans Fat - Truth or Creative Advertising? by JoLynn Braley. Some of the info I knew, but there was enough that I didn't to make it worthwhile.
Testing Lessons by Debasis Pradhan. I could care less about testing software, yet I was entertained enough.

There were others that interested me
Top 5 ways to romance your blog by Phil Van Treuren. Corny.
How To Nail That Job Interview In The First Thirty Seconds by Martin Stoddart, which was more about how not to blow the interview, but useful.
How to Have a Great Movie Experience by Em Dy, which was probably fourth.
What the hell is a column inch: How to advertise in a local newspaper by Angela, which I knew about, but was still utilitarian.
How to Sleep on a Plane by Sheila, much of which I knew, but still helpful. And one of the ones, I predict, will win something.
How to Become a Human Calendar by Luciano Passuell, mostly because of its earnestness about the ease of the process, which I didn't find simple at all.

I also must say that I really dislike blogs where the ads show up before any of the content, but maybe that's just me.


Monday, September 24, 2007

"Great" Television

Today, the fall television season really begins. Oh, a couple shows debuted last week, but most of the ones I'll be watching are still forthcoming. So, Time magazine had their list of Top 100 shows. Really? We'll see about that. Thanks to Tosy and Mary; this was also tackled by Jaquandor.

Watched religiously the first season. First 13 shows created as great arc, then it floundered. First episode of the second season really turned me off, but I followed it sporadically. Now, I just read about it, rather than watching it, though I did see part of the great 5th season finale. I discovered recently that the very first monthly post about Lydia, back on May 26, 2005, was about not watching 24.

60 Minutes
Have watched religiously for most of its nearly 40 years(!) Now always recorded, and always have to "tape" the show after it in the fall when CBS has a "4 pm" NFL game, which never starts at 4, and certainly never ends at 7; I also have to be aware of the US Open tennis, or the Masters golf tournament for similar reasons. I don't know why I seldom watched 60 Minutes II, which got folded into the mothership a couple years ago.

The Abbott and Costello Show
Saw occasionally in reruns as a kid; would probably appreciate more now.

ABC's Wide World of Sports
Used to watch in its early years.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
This was in reruns when I saw it, but Hitch, even more than the stories, scared me to death.

All in the Family
A great show, though it went downhill when the Stivic kid was born, and became largely irrelevant after Mike and Gloria moved to California.
Favorite moment: Archie begin kissed by Sammy Davis, Jr.

An American Family
Watched it at the time - devastating. Wonder how it'd play now.

American Idol
Season 1: saw last 4 weeks.
Season 2: saw whole season.
Season 3: saw whole season.
Season 4: watched after they got to the final 12.
I've given it up. What season are they on now, anyway? The "bad" auditions are unwatchable, because, of the thousands of people who try out, only a relative handful are chosen by the screeners, I think, to humiliate; it's so manipulated. Even if I go back to watching the talent portion some day, I'll pass on the early weeks.

Arrested Development
I tried to watch the first season, which people swore by, couldn't get into it. I tried again for the second season and it clicked. I watched it to the end; maybe I should try the first season DVD.

Battlestar Galactica
I assume this is the current series; have never seen.

The Beavis and Butt-Head Show
I tried to watch, failed.

The Bob Newhart Show
I was going to say the best scene was the end, but then I realized it was from Newhart's NEXT show.

Brideshead Revisited
Tried to watch, failed.

Buffalo Bill
As I recall, loved.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Watched very rarely; saw some of the special episodes. Seemed pretty good.

The Carol Burnett Show
Favorite scene: Gone with the Wind curtain dress.

The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite
I tended to watch Huntley-Brinkley a bit more, but when they split in 1970, it was Uncle Walter until he retired nearly a decade later.

A Charlie Brown Christmas
Yeah, though I'd argue with it even being on the list, I do watch it.

This show not only survived the loss of one of its early stars (Coach), but thrived. I watched a little less when Rebecca replaced Diane and Robin Colcord was around, but yes, a classic.
Favorite moment: Sam is despairing that everything he does, he does to please the ladies. Then he's reminded that he likes the Three Stooges, even though "women hate the Stooges." He does that for himself; he's NOT shallow!

The Cosby Show
Tosy said: "Funnier in the early seasons than you may remember." About right.
Favorite moment: Rudy lipscynching to a Ray Charles song.

The Daily Show
I like it when I watch it, but I seldom watch it.

I saw two episodes: "Who Shot J.R." and the resolution, for which I correctly picked the shooter. That was enough.

The Day After
Recall that it was powerful in 1983, or whenever; haven't seen since.

On pay cable. Have never seen.

The Dick Van Dyke Show
Classic. Quite possibly my favorite television show.
Favorite moment: Rob's convinced he and Laura got the wrong child at the hospital.

Really? I've seen at least two iterations of this. The early version was bland, the second, with Harry Morgan, was so corny, it was schtick.

The Ed Sullivan Show
Sure. Saw that Italian mouse WAY too often, though.

The Ernie Kovacs Show
Saw an episode or two as a kid; guess you would have had to have been there.

Saw a handful of episodes, pre-haircut, not enough to remember.

Freaks and Geeks
Found this show a quarter of the way through and became a religious convert. I'm not one to say a show went on for too short a time - to everything, there is a season, and all that - but if I were to pick one show that suffered a premature death, it'd be My So-Called Life. Or maybe this.

The French Chef
The Ackroyd parody worked because it was so spot-on. It'd be on at 2 pm on Saturday afternoons, and I found it surreal.

Watched it for some seasons, gave up on it for a season, get sucked back in, get turned off. I was there at the end.

General Hospital
Never seen.

The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
I saw this in reruns as a kid. Actually, as I recall, quite funny, in a corny way.

Gilmore Girls
Loved the core relationship: Rory-Lorelai-Emily. Loved the townspeople. especially loved Mrs. Kim, when she developed as a character. Sure, the show would get off track - Rory's refrain with Dean, e.g. I never believed. But I watched all seven seasons, and we even have Season 1 on DVD, albeit unwatched. The subject of one of my earliest posts, and undoubtedly others.

This show was on 20 years, and I probably saw half of them, from Dennis Weaver's Chester, to Burt Reynolds' Quint to Ken Curtis' Festus. Doc was always the same. Matt Dillon (James Arness, the brother of Peter Graves from Mission: Impossible) was larger than life. And what WAS his relationship with Miss Kitty? This was better than Bonanza, that's for certain.

Hill Street Blues
Probably lost it a bit near the end, but out of the gate, a great show.
Favorite moment: the off-screen death of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus.

Homicide: Life on the Street
Great show. Occasionally tough to take, such as the Vincent D'Onofrio episode.

The Honeymooners
I recognize its greatness, yet don't particularly appreciate it.

I, Claudius
Tried; failed.

I Love Lucy
I've seen any number of episodes. (Tosy, this has been in reruns for 50 YEARS and you haven't seen it?) It's of its time, so some of it is still hysterically funny, while other bits are dated. But Lucy WAS a great physical actor.

King of the Hill
Tosy: "I like King of the Hill and yet never, ever watch it (seriously, I think I've seen maybe five episodes). Not sure why that is." I've seen more like 20 episodes, but, no I don't watch it, yet I've appreciated what I've seen.

The Larry Sanders Show
When I had HBO, I watched it and liked it, then I didn't, and I didn't, except for the last episode, which I saw on rerun the night before I was to tape my JEOPARDY! episodes.

Late Night with David Letterman (NBC)
VERY occasional. Don't record it, don't stay up for it. (Though I did see the episode with Oprah, after his surgery, after 9/11...)

Leave It to Beaver
Watched in reruns as a kid. Never engaged me.

Have never seen, except bits and pieces. Yet follow avidly the storyline in TV Guide, etc.

Married... With Children
I watched one episode, hated it, never saw it again.

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
Thought it was very funny, yet wonder if it would age well.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Classic, from "I hate spunk" to the group retrieval of the Kleenex box.

A great show for six or seven years. Should have ended with Radar going home, early in season 8 (I think).
Favorite episode, rerun recently: a documentary being filmed.

The Monkees
Watched, liked well enough, didn't love.

Monty Python's Flying Circus
Watched occasionally. When it comes to comedy, I may be a Britophobe.

The arc of this show has been well-documented; early was great, later was awful. I went to Jump the Shark and fully 2/3s of the voters picked when David and Maddie "did it" that did in the show.

MTV 1981-1992
Eh, this isn't a "show". Yeah, I watched videos a lot for much of that time.

My So-Called Life
Sob. I really liked this show, and it really felt like it was really finding its voice when it was cut off.

Mystery Science Theater 3000
Did people actually WATCH this? I'd flip through the channels, hit upon this for three minutes, laugh (or more often, not), and move on.

The Odd Couple
Favorite episode: Password.

The Office [American]
Watch religiously. How has Michael not been fired, I'll never know.

The Office [British]
Haven't seen; I will, I will. I do recall, though, that there was a lot of badmouthing of the U.S. series before it even aired, which have largely gone away.

The Oprah Winfrey Show
I saw Oprah when she had Paul McCartney on, or when the Little Rock black kids who integrated the schools in 1957 and the white kids who taunted them reconciled. That is to say, rarely.

Pee Wee's Playhouse
Watched this. It was weird. Sorta liked it.

Playhouse 90
I probably saw this as a wee kid, but don't remember.

The Price Is Right
There was probably a year or two in college when I watched it more than I should have.

Prime Suspect
Saw at least a couple full seasons of this, but not lately. It was excellent.

The Prisoner
Watched religiously. Gordon, are you familiar with this show?

The Real World
Watched maybe three seasons of, I'm afraid to say, before I bailed. Season 3 was he infamous Pedro vs. Puck, with Judd referring.

Rocky and His Friends
Well, yeah! Mr. Peabody,and Sherman, and Fractured Fairy Tales.

Watched all eight episodes. Appointment TV, good, though occasionally tough to take.

Watched it early on, but it lost me somewhere along the way.

Sanford and Son
I watched it, but I was never sure why.

Saturday Night Live
I happen to think that Phil Hartman was the greatest performer ever on the show, and I was watching it from the beginning. Watch it far less now.

Second City Television
Saw it often after SNL. I liked the characters and actors more than the actual skits ofttimes.

See It Now
Saw, mostly in clips in TV obits.

Watched for a few years regularly, always recorded -Thursday night is choir night. Pretty much gave up on it after Susan (George's finacee) died, though I'd catch a show here and there. Saw the last few episodes; was not impressed.

Sesame Street
I was in high school when this started. I watched this almost religiously for a couple years while I was in college, along with Electric Company and Zoom.
In fact, I have the 10th Anniversary Album, complete with "12 autographed photos suitable for framing", which I bought only because an earlier album went in the great Album Theft of 1972. Both albums had my theme song. Unfortunately, the early album had, and the latter doesn't have:

Sex and the City
Never saw it on HBO, only on the TNT version. Occasionally too precious, but I got enough enjoyment out of it.

The Shield
Watched big chunks of this the first and second seasons, not so much now. It was great show.

The Simpsons
Watched religious for nine years, off and on for the next nine.

The Singing Detective
Never saw.

Six Feet Under
Never saw. Based on the cast, probably would have liked.

I was watching the Tonys recently - yes, I know they aired in June - and Jay Johnson, who was on Soap, won a Tony for The Two and Only. A surreal series where Billy Crystal was actually funny. Lost its way at the end, certainly after the character of Benson left, but had a couple good years.

The Sopranos
Never seen, unless you count the last three minutes that I saw on YouTube.

South Park
I watched it three or four times, wanting to like it, but never really did.

SpongeBob SquarePants
Don't know why I don't watch; I like it on the rare times I see it.

I could watch SportsCenter at least daily, preferably on tape immediately after it ends, so I can miss the lengthy teases and especially dopey segments such as "Who Is More Now?" - who commands the bigger buzz. But I don't, though I've been known to watch a half hour early Monday morning.

Star Trek
My father loved this show. I didn't get it until I started watching it in reruns.

St. Elsewhere
At least at the time I was watching it, my favorite dramatic television show. Have the first season DVD, of which I've seen two episodes that still look good. People are always surprised when I tell them Denzel Washington was on the show for its entire six-year run. One of the great series enders.

The Super Bowl (and the Ads)
Another odd choice - I've seen at least XXXVII of them.

Watched the first season, which I rather liked. Saw the second season, which bored me. Saw part of the third season, gave up. May have seen the first and/or last episodes of a couple other seasons, but it's off my radar.

Classic. Particularly loved the Reverend Jim.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Saw now and then. Did see the last two episodes.

The Twilight Zone
I'm from Binghamton. I've met Rod Serling. I'm constitutionally required to not only watch Twilight Zone, but to like it.

Twin Peaks
I started watching it, but it got too weird.

The West Wing
I watched first three or four seasons, then lost interest. But did watch the last season, which was a suitable ending.

What's My Line?
Watched it a lot given the fact that I think it was on 10:30 on Sunday nights, as I recall. It was a great game show in its simplicity, so much so that a live version, not on TV, exists.

WKRP in Cincinnati
"Oh, the humanity!"

The Wire
HBO show. Never seen.

Did see at least some of it. Very good show, as I recall.

The X-Files
Saw maybe a half dozen episodes, which I liked and didn't in equal number.

Your Show of Shows
Even I'm not that old.
Alice Ghostley and Marcel Marceau both died recently. From her Internet Movie database page, I realize that I'd seen Ms. Ghostley in a LOT of stuff, not just Bewitched, Designing Women and Evening Shade, probably from at least one episode of half the television shows listed. Mr. Marceau I saw mostly in TV variety shows such as Ed Sullivan; sure, he was the "greatest mime ever", but name two others.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

You Ask Me; I Ask You

It's time once again for Ask Roger Anything, this time with a twist. You get to ask me whatever, i.e., anything you want, and I have to answer. But I also am offering to pose questions to you to post on YOUR blog.

Here's one I got actually a month ago:

Thought of you as the only person with whom I could have a discussion about this -- it seems that more and more musicians are "selling out" and allowing their recognizable tunes to be attached to some product or other. In this week alone, I've heard REM selling something I don't remember, which doesn't seem to fit with everything I've read about Michael Stipe. But it really came home to me last evening when I heard the Corrs' "At Your Side" (from "In Blue," which admittedly is a little on the poppy side and not nearly as Irish as I would like) hawking the AARP!!!!

Just had to bring this to your attention, if it hasn't been already.
What's your opinion?

I replied: The evil facts are that it's increasingly difficult to be in the traditional marketplace. Thus, Moby sells most of the songs on his Play album, Macca is sold by a coffee company, JT is sold by a greeting card company, your man Bruuuuce was out there hawking some of his last albums on the Today show. [The Rising in 2002, and Magic this coming Friday.]
The thing specifically about the Corrs is that I don't know exactly how much control they have over their product. If they did "sell out", it'd be a good group to sell out to, since it's those 45-64 year olds who are still actually buying CDs in good numbers.

I found this article in Metroland that also responds to the point:
There's no such thing as selling out, says Duff McKagan of rock supergroup Velvet Revolver. "It gets harder and harder and harder for a rock group to make a living."
...McKagan points out, "Nobody is selling records like they used to. Even [Velvet Revolver's 2004 debut] Contraband sold only 3 million albums. [In the early '90s Guns ['N' Roses] and [Stone Temple Pilots] and Nirvana and Pearl Jam [were selling 8, 9, 10 million. Three million would have been only OK...
the newfound attitude towards "selling out", particularly among rock acts, is the product of this music-industry sea change. He cites licensing opportunities like commercials, movies and ringtones as alternative methods to make money off of tunes..."Since Iggy Pop did it, it's all OK, cause he's the dude," says Kagan. "God bless him, cause he hadn't made any money...

Now, here's the contract: if you give me questions, I promise to answer them within a fortnight, and to let you know that I did. If I give YOU questions, you promise to answer them in a fortnight, and to let me know that you did.

So, ASK me, OK?
Snakes on a plane.
Fred Hembeck linked to this story, which really got to me.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

The New Television Season QUESTIONS

1. What new shows are you most looking forward to checking out?

For me, it's that nighttime soapy-looking Dirty Sexy Money on Wednesday nights on ABC, not because of the premise, but because of the cast: Peter Krause, Donald Sutherland, and Jill Clayburgh.

The show with the most buzz: Pushing Daisies, also on Wednesdays on ABC. Of course, "buzz" doesn't always equal quality.

What else is on Wednesdays on ABC, anyway? Oh, yeah, the Grey's Anatomy spinoff, Private Practice, which has a buzz too, but not such a good one. I'll have to watch it at least once, because of the luminescent Audra McDonald, pictured, before I bail; I'll probably end up watching Bionic Woman on NBC, if anything.

There's a show on Mondays on the CW (The CW?!) called Aliens in America, about a Pakistani Muslim exchange student, which will either be very good or very bad, but which I'll at least try. It has reviewed surprisingly well, so far, and it's got to be better than a show about the Geico Cavemen.

Finally, there's Back to You,b Wednesday on FOX. It actually started last week, and Ken Levine liked it, though Tom the Dog did not. I'll have to at least watch the premiere episode

There are probably others - better check my TV listings for the time and channel in my area.

2. What returning shows are you looking forward to seeing?

NBC Thursday night comedies: Earl, Scrubs, The Office. I'll probably even give 30 Rock another go. Last year I wrote: Watching Tracy Morgan on the second or third episode of 30 Rock doing some jivin' riff, I said, "I don't need this," shut it off in mid-episode, deleted it, deleted the next yet unwatched episode, and removed it from the DVR recording schedule. But I also noted that lots of people whose opinion I respect like it. And it did get some Emmy love.

Oh, and that dysfunctional family - I relate to dysfunctional families - on ABC's Brothers and Sisters Sunday nights. I'm not saying Sally Field deserved the Emmy more than, say, Edie Falco from The Sopranos, but I like her, I really like her in this show.
Upright Citizens Brigade on DVD, "The Return of America's Best Sketch Comedy Group".
Mr. Brown posed his own three TV questions, one of which hit on one of mine: What show will be canceled first? Entertainment Weekly picked Viva Laughlin, a "musical-dramedy", and I'm thinking it'll go early, but it's not even premiering until October 21, by which time that show with the Geico cavemen, I'm hoping, will have bitten the dust.


Friday, September 21, 2007

"The Trouble with Islam Today"

I love librarians. They have such interesting people at their conferences. I was flicking through the channels a couple months ago and hit upon the American Libraries Association conference held in late June airing on one of the C-SPAN networks.

Specifically, I was watching a dynamic woman named Irshad Manji who seems to have created a firestorm with her speeches and books, including The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith. It was interesting to see a strong Muslim woman staying within the faith, yet noting its shortcomings.

Rather than trying to recreate her points, I'll link to a blog report here from a "conservative" librarian, and this post, to give you a flavor of the talk.

At the end, she gave this five-minute recitation, from memory, of a poem from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Oompah Loompahs declaring the evils of television, a short excerpt of which you can see here and/or here.

One of the things I found on Ms. Manji's MySpace page is the notion of ijtihad.

What is ijtihad?

Ijtihad (pronounced "ij-tee-had") is Islam’s lost tradition of independent thinking. In the early centuries of Islam, thanks to the spirit of ijtihad, 135 schools of thought thrived. Inspired by ijtihad, Muslims gave the world inventions from the astrolabe to the university. So much of we consider "western" pop culture came from Muslims: the guitar, mocha coffee, even the ultra-Spanish expression "Ole!" (which has its root in the Arabic word for God, "Allah").

What happened to ijtihad?

Toward the end of the 11th century, the "gates of ijtihad" were closed for entirely political reasons. During this time, the Muslim empire from Iraq in the east to Spain in the west was going through a series of internal upheavals. Dissident denominations were popping up and declaring their own runaway governments, which posed a threat to the main Muslim leader -- the caliph. Based in Baghdad, the caliph cracked down and closed ranks. Remember those 135 schools of thought mentioned above? They were deliberately reduced to four pretty conservative schools of thought. This led to a rigid reading of the Koran as well as to a series of legal opinions -- fatwas -- that scholars could no longer overturn or even question, but could now only imitate. To this very day, imitation of medieval norms has trumped innovation in Islam. It’s time to revive ijtihad to update Islam for the 21st century. That’s why we’ve created Project Ijtihad.

A couple thoughts came to mind when reading that:
* Yes, Islam is more diverse than some people have been telling us
* There are some forms of Christianity that seems to have been captured by politics that could do with some "ijtihad"

I haven't read Irshad Manji's book yet, but if it is as dynamic as she is as a speaker, it should be fascinating.
Conversely, Ann Colter has made me an offer I can refuse:
Here is how to tick off a liberal...just subscribe to Human Events today! (And you'll receive a FREE copy of The Truth About Muhammad - a $27.95 value.)


Thursday, September 20, 2007

The ABCs of Music

Tom the Dog made this abecedarian list; actually, he's made at least three recently, and I haven't done one since Thanksgiving 2005, I don't believe.

So, these are songs I like. I think they're a bit goofy, not necessarily in a Weird Al or Dr. Demento sort of way (though one of the artists does appear on a Demento album I own). Some are actually good songs, though a couple are terrible.

ABBA- Waterloo. Yeah, I know, they rule, a top 10 group for Mr. Hembeck. But they're still a guilty pleasure for me.
Bee Gees-Jive Talkin’. Released before Saturday Night Fever, but included on the soundtrack, I find myself walkin' down the street like Tony Manero when I hear it, which really hurts.
Costello, Elvis-Chewing Gum. Elvis' birthday was last month and I was listening to Spike, my favorite EC album (and apparently no one else's). I said to one of my co-workers, "Get that chewing gum out of your ears!" She said, "Why DID you say that to me?" It was this song featuring the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
Doors-Touch Me. I'm not a big Jim Morrison fan; I went out with a woman (briefly) who was. Yet, I'm always waiting around for the "stronger than dirt" line.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer-Nut Rocker. At the end of the excess that was ELP doing Pictures at an Exhibition, the coda on the album was a variation on the Nutcracker Suite; a version is shown here. The song was originally done in 1962 by B. Bumble and the Stingers .
Focus-Hocus Pocus. This is a dopey, yodel-driven song by some Dutch band that was an unlikely hit. I bought the album. Check out a live version here.
Gore, Lesley- Judy's Turn to Cry. Lesley sang, "It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to." This is the vengeful follow-up. HA, Judy!
Herman's Hermits-Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter. When I joined the Capitol Records Club when I was 12, I needed to buy 12 albums. Since the Beatles had only a half dozen albums out at the time, one of my selections was The Best of Herman's Hermits. I used to do a fairly good Peter Noone impression.
Ives, Burl-Funny Way of Laughin'. I don't know why, but I've always been fond of those songs in which the protagonist pretends not to be crying, or doesn't want to be seen crying (the Temptations' I Wish it Would Rain comes to mind.)
Jackson Five-Maybe Tomorrow. An overwrought power ballad. I once requested this on a radio station and the DJ took it off before its peak overwroughtness.
Kinks-Skin and Bone. A swing tune about the dangers of dieting. From possibly my favorite Kinks album, Muswell Hillbillies.
Tom Lehrer-the Vatican Rag. This is the artist on a Demento album, the 1950s novelty song Poisoning Pigeons in the Park. But this song is from the great mid-1960s album That Was The Year That Was, which I own on CD. Bizarrely, someone posted on You Tube someone playing the LP on his record player, placing the tonearm on the first track for Part 1, continuing Side 1 and onto Side 2 on Part 2, more of Side 2 on Parts 3 and 4, and finishing up with the theologically incorrect Vatican Rag.
Marcels-Blue Moon. A big doowop hit in 1961.
Napoleon XIV: !Aaah-aH yawA eM ekaT oT gnimoC er'yehT. The backwards B-side version of the annoying They're Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haaa!, is also an unlisted final track on the CD Second Coming.
Ohio Express-Yummy Yummy Yummy. Is there a lyric so vapid as "Yummy, yummy, yummy, yummy, I've got love in my tummy"? Maybe their hit Chewy, Chewy, which has been used on TV commercials. I often confuse this group with the 1910 Fruitgum Company, their bandmates on Buddha, who had hits such as Simon Says; 1, 2, 3, Red Light; and Special Delivery.
Presley, Elvis-Hey Jude. A truly awful, out-of-tune version on a mixed CD that someone gave me. Listening to a train wreck.
Queen-Somebody to Love. It's that dramatic, harmonic beginning that I love.
Rascals-More. Talk about overwrought. From the Groovin' album.
Sinatra-The Lady Is a Tramp. Sometimes, Sinatra is cool (That's Life), and then there are times when Sinatra thinks he's cool; this is the latter.
Thomas, Rufus-Do the Funky Chicken. After doing at least four Dog songs, he moved on from canines to poultry. People will jump fences to do the Funky Chicken.
Utopia-Everything Is Going Wrong. Todd Rundgren's group did this great Beatles parody, Deface the Music; this is the last track, designed in the Strawberry Fields/I Am the Walrus mode.
Van Halen-Happy Trails. The last song on the only Van Halen album I've ever owned, this Dale Evans classic is performed goofily.
Who-Boris the Spider. I just like to say "Boris the spider" in the scariest voice I could muster.
XTC-Your Dictionary. This is not a goofy song, this is a nasty song I first heard on a mixed CD.
Young, Neil-Mr. Soul. Neil must have really liked this song. He first recorded it with Buffalo Springfield. Then a live version is the springboard for Springfield's Broken Arrow. The version I have in mind is the vocoder version on the much-maligned Reactor, which I love.
Zappa, Frank-Cosmic Debris. There are lots of Zappa songs that might have qualified, but this one has the great lyric, "Is that a real poncho or is that a Sears poncho?"
Teen death songs will never die.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

You Be The Judge

I entered this "How To" Writing Contest recently. I'm supposed to pick the three - I assume not including my own - that I like the best by next Tuesday. So, what I'm requesting is for you to tell me what YOU think is best; I'll compare it with the five I've winnowed it down to. Please let me know what you think by Monday, September 24 at 9 pm Eastern Time. There's only one "lock" in my mind - do you want to guess which one? - so feel free to try to persuade me.


Talk Like a Pirate Day '07

Ahoy, ye mateys! Jolly Roger Green here with another Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Here ye find some Pirate quotes. Yo ho ho.

Some Willie Stargell quotes. (He be the pirate pictured.)

Pirates of the Atlantic game. Drink a bottle of rum, for I have not tried it meself.

And here's the account of the great pirate Roberto Clemente and his 3000th flogging:

If ye be looking for more Roberto Clemente quotes, I hoisted those last year. And I see that I never mentioned Clemente by name, yet that Scott sussed it out anyway, that scurvy dog.
Which brings me to my new favorite project: retrospectively labeling my posts. It's a tedious process, and I figure it'll take weeks or months, betwixt and between. But then I'll be able - and YOU'LL be able - to find articles on topics more easily than by search. At this writing, I've only labeled the pieces from from May 2 to July 12, 2005 and from January 18, 2007 forward; my goal is to be finished by my birthday in March.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pigskin musings

I try not to follow football until the baseball season's over. There are pennant races to follow - boy, I hope the Phillies aren't the wild card and end up playing the Mets in the playoffs, because they seem to have the Mets' number - and milestones to reach - last night, Jim Thome is the third person THIS SEASON, after Alex Rodriguez and Frank Thomas, to reach 500 career home runs.

Still, I can't help but notice that, after two weeks, the three NY/NJ NFL teams are a combined 0-6, losing by an average of double digits, while the former dregs of the league, the Detroit Lions and the Houston Oilers, I mean, Texans, are each 2-0. Even the lowly Arizona Cardinals have managed to win a game. It's gonna be a LOOOONG season.

But there were three stories that caught my attention, all involving teams in the AFC East, sorta. One was the New England coach Bill Belichick spying story. I think I was more annoyed by the "It’s over, and we’re moving on" comment than the actual cheating. "Moving on", without acknowledging responsibility, is hollow. The one silly thing that came from this is this video that someone found called Leave Belichick Alone. It's based on Leave Britney Alone. (And if you haven't seen THAT classic, or its many imitators, go to YouTube and search Leave Britney Alone (or Leave Brittany Alone - spelling doesn't seem to matter.)

The second is the continuing saga of former Buffalo Bills running back Orenthal James Simpson, accused of stealing sports memorabilia that may or may not have been his. Someone commented, "You know, if he's convicted, it'll be a first offense." That boggled my mind, but as far as I know, the only judgments against him so far are of the civil, not criminal, variety.

The final story is that ultimately heartwarming story of current Bills running back Kevin Everett, who suffered a potentially life-threatening spine fracture in a game last week. But thanks to innovative treatment involving the cooling of the body temperature, Everett, doctors are encouraged that, instead of being a paraplegic, he may actually actually walk again. Damn, I love this story.
The New York Times will stop charging for access to parts of its Web site, effective at midnight tonight.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Going for a Constitutional

Today is Constitution Day. Monday, September 17, 1787, 220 years ago, was the last day of the Constitutional Convention. Ben Franklin, by proxy, gave this speech about the flaws of the Constitution. yet, his address fit into the "let not the perfect be the enemy of the good" theorem.

I double-checked the Constitution, and yes, I remembered correctly: the legislature is discussed in Article I and the executive branch in Article II, suggesting that Congress should have important role in the governance of the country. Guess some folks have forgot.

Here's something that totally slipped my mind - There are TWO ways to amend the U.S. Constitution:
1. Both houses of Congress approve by a two-thirds vote a resolution calling for the amendment; this does NOT require the president's signature. To become effective, the proposed amendment then must then be "ratified" or approved by the legislatures of three-fourths (currently 38) of the states . Usually, but not always, Congress places a time limit of seven years for ratification by the states.
2. The legislatures of two-thirds of the states (currently 34) vote to call for a convention at which constitutional amendments can be proposed. Amendments proposed by the convention would again require ratification by three-fourths of the states.
I'd forgotten about the second way because the Constitution has never been amended by that method, though there has been conversation about such an event, e.g. for a balanced budget amendment. The Constitution has been amended 27 times; the Bill of Rights are the first ten, and the 18th and 21st, concerning prohibition, canceled each other out.

Of course, the interpretation of the Constitution falls to the judiciary, established fairly early on. The notions of "legislating from the bench" or "strict constructionist" have been so mangled in this politicized era as to be rendered nearly meaningless.

Still, I hold a (cautious) hope that the rights long established, fought and died for - including the right of dissent - will survive the current attacks, cockeyed optimist that I am. Here's another view.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

How To Ride a Bicycle in the City

I ride my bicycle in the city of Albany, New York at least seven months out of the year. I tend to ride when the ground is free of ice and snow. I've developed some rules for riding, based on my experiences.

1. Wear a helmet.
If you're over 14, you may (edit: WILL) be mocked - "What, do you think you're riding a motorcycle or something?" My advice: wear a helmet anyway.

2. Signal.
I get amazing amount of yielding by cars because they actually know my intentions. Or maybe it's just the shock of seeing a bicyclist actually following the motor vehicle rules. Do this in spite of the fact that:
* Other bikes don't signal.
* Cars often don't signal, especially when they are turning right.

3. Keep right. Go WITH the traffic.
I've actually had debates about this from drivers and bicyclists, who think I should go against traffic like a pedestrian on a country road. Read the manual.
What I've learned from trial and error, though, is that when you're riding to the right when there are no parked cars, and parked cars are coming up ahead, you need to be out from the curb at a suitable distance as though a parked car WERE there, moving out at least a car length before reaching the parked car. Otherwise, you may appear to be lurching into traffic.
One of my favorite moments is when I'm riding, and a bike, obviously NOT keeping right, is heading toward me. My solution: keep right. But be prepared to stop. (Not so incidentally, this is also the rule when two people are walking towards each other - keep right - unless you are in England.)

4. Use lights, front and back, not only when it's dark, but at dusk, dawn and when it's foggy. Reflective clothes and other items are a good idea as well.
If a large percentage of cars have their lights on, that's usually a good signal to do likewise.
Since most lights are only useful to be seen, rather than for seeing, I've opted that if I only have one light available, to put it on the back if possible.
I also suggest that you get a removable front light. Not only does that keep it from "disappearing", but you can use it as a flashlight if you're walking from a dark garage to a building.

5. Follow the rules of the road, but not at your peril.
I stay on the road, as opposed to the sidewalk, except in those places where the road is too narrow to feel safe. If I do ride on the sidewalk, I yield to the pedestrian.

6. Focus.
I don't recommend headphones, because I think you need to hear what's going around you. Suffice to say, I don't suggest cellphone use, either.

7. Maintain your bike.
Put air in the tires. I'm not mechanically inclined, so I take it to the bike shop at least once a year to be checked out, especially my brakes.
My personal experience is that I like the bikes with the wider tires. They're not as fast, but they are less likely to blow out from broken glass and other debris than the bikes with thin tires.

8. People are unpredictable.
I now expect people to walk in front of my bike at an intersection where I have the right of way, and for cars coming out of driveways to pull right in front of me, where I also have the right of way. I still need to be vigilant about:
* people coming from between parked cars
* drivers opening car doors
* people chatting on the driver's side of the car
* people and cars turning around in the middle of the street and coming back from whence they came

9. You probably can't outrace a dog.
Even back in high school, I'd ride down some dead-end street, seeing no canines, and yet, seconds later, they'd be about a half dozen, barking at my tires. I've found stopping, then walking the bike to be a useful response.
Some people recommend squirting dogs with water or pepper spray. I have used neither, so I cannot speak to this point. I HAVE heard stories, though, about people using pepper spray and have the wind shift, so that they become the victim of the spray.

10. Some people are just hostile to bicyclists.
At least twice a year, some yahoo in a car, usually in the passenger seat, will make some untoward comment. You have two options: ignore it, or be prepared with some pithy retort; they're driving away, so make it short.
On at least two occasions, I've received the insult, and they've driven off, only to catch the traffic light, allowing me to pull along side of the truant. "Ha, ha, only kidding!", they always reply, nervously.
Still my favorite insult was from someone sitting on his front porch, who yelled out as I was riding by, apparently without irony, "Get a car!"

(Graphic from here.)
"Let me tell you what I think of bicycling.
I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.
It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.
I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood."
-- Susan B. Anthony


Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Theological Implications of Doris Day QUESTION

My racquetball buddies and I were in the locker room, and someone said, innocently, "Que sera, sera." Somehow, this led to some great theological/philosophical debate. One person suggested that the line of "whatever will be, will be" was a position of those Christians who believe that "everything is fixed, and you can't change it", while another opined that it was antithetical to the Christian tradition, because God is an active God. The fatalism of Nietzsche was invoked in the conversation, as were the impersonal gods of the ancient Greeks.

So, a simple question, and a more complex one. Please respond to either, or both:

1. What other purely popular songs suggest theological or philosophical meanings to you, and in what way?
Example: "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin may evoke the "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin" of Matthew 6:28.
Example: "The Word" by the Beatles. John 1:1, "the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Lennon/McCartney, "Now I've got it, the word is good." The song also notes "That the word is just the way"; John 14:6, Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life." Note also, John 1:1 and the first verse in the song start, "in the beginning."

2. To what theology/philosophy do you think Que Sera, Sera belong? Does it belong to yours?
Anyone else, when they hear his name, sing "Dave Petraeus, Dave Petraus" to the tune of "Doctor Zaius" from the Simpsons? I thought not.
"The general came to shed some light
On why we needed to keep the fight."
Of course, you can color the couplet to your personal political preferences.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Insurance Blues

A couple weeks ago, I was telling someone about the movie Sicko, and I'm relating it to my tenure in 1989-1990 as a customer service representative for an insurance company. I get animated, and, apparently, loud, so much so that I was asked whether I have high blood pressure. (No, my bp, when it was checked five weeks ago was 124/78, thank you very much.)

What it does mean, though, is, to paraphrase Paul Simon, that I am Still Ticked Off After All These Years. And it wasn't until this recent iteration of the story that I realized that it wasn't just that I felt I (and others) who worked there were treated badly; I recognized, more fully than ever before, just how poorly their customers were treated as well.

This was the job I took after FantaCo. There were perhaps 16 of us in the training class, learning about medical prefixes and suffixes for eight weeks, which was actually cool. Then we got on the floor, already diminished by four, but adding to the five people already on the job. Soon, the 12 became eight as the tedium and/or the low pay - I was making $5000 less than I did at FantaCo - wore on people.

Yes, it was 1989, but how could it be that EVERY single claim for the use of an MRI was initially rejected as "medically unnecessary?

There is a condition called TMJ disorder, which involves the jaw. Routinely, people with medical coverage were rejected, saying it was a dental issue. People with dental coverage were rejected, saying it was a medical issue. EVENTUALLY, people with both coverages would get their claims paid, but it was, I realize now, a stall tactic.

When I started, we had what seemed to be a perfectly good dental claims customer service interface on our computers. It was changed during my tenure to some illogical, incomprehensible product, which, as it turned out, was ordered because someone's brother or cousin developed it. Grrrr.

There were huge layoffs right before Christmas. The organization WAS middle-management heavy, and several of those folks went. But so did the clerks, who were runners to find files for the customer service reps on the phones. Never have I been more disappointed than when I WASN'T laid off.

What they say: You are now empowered to take care of these problems.
What they mean: We have systemic problems, and when they inevitably happen, you'll be the fall guy.

The single most egregiously stupid decision made by this insurance company was the timing of the changeover from one medical claims billing processing system to another. The actual change in product was fine, but the time frame was ridiculous. The old system went down around Christmas. The new system was supposed to be up in two weeks; it took six.

If it were up to the customer service representatives, the switch would have taken place after the third or fourth week in January. People really cared about their 1989 claims for income tax purposes; less so about their 1990 claims. They could/should have announced that the 1989 claims were received by date certain in early 1990 would be processed on the old system and all others on the new. But no.

During this period in early 1990, some people wanted to know, not when the claims would be paid, but if it had even been received. Since the new system was batch processing, nothing was being entered at all. While I wasn't supposed to tell the customers, we were told there were 40,000 claims in the basement, so I literally couldn't find out the answer to their question. The official answer to the query, "Should I just send it in again?", was "no." But I'm told some at least a couple of the more irate customers "all right; if it's duplicate, the system will kick it out." This was true. But you know how some phone calls "may be monitored for quality assurance"? Got raked over the coals a couple times over that.

FINALLY, the new system was up. Claims were being processed, and far more quickly than before. But wait! Many of the policies had deductibles. The AMOUNT of the deductibles (e.g., $50 before a claim would be paid) were programmed into the new system, but the amount of the deductible ALREADY MET so far for those 1989 claims was not. So, customers who had met their deductible were getting letters saying "The claim was applied to your deductible."

These people were now FURIOUS. And rightly so. The insurance company had a policy that the third call on the same claim would be a supervisor callback. By this point, EVERY OTHER CALL was a supervisor call. And here's the source of my 2007 rage; for years, I had attributed this situation to an incompetent management of ignorant rubes. I now firmly believe, after seeing the movie Sicko, that not putting in the 1989 deductibles that were met into the new computer system was a deliberate attempt by the company to save money, hoping that the customers didn't notice. And I'm sure that there were customers who DIDN'T notice, especially those who had separate deductibles for each member of the family. I'm now convinced the company put profits in front of the well-being of their customers and their beleaguered employees.

The last straw: we were scheduled to move into a new building in Corporate Woods. Two weeks before the move, I notice an ambulance at the new building. Then another. Then another. Then a school bus. It turned out that thirteen people went to the hospital because of something in the air ducts, a problem which, we were assured, was "rectified". A fortnight later, we moved in, and at the end of that week, I gave my two-week notice.

I didn't have another job. I didn't have any savings. Since my last day was March 1, 1990, I did have health insurance through April 30; if I had left the day before, it would have run out on March 31. I just didn't want to be working there on my birthday. Looking around, of the 16 people in that training class, after I left, only three of them were left, one in a different location. Interestingly, the five customer service reps who were there when I started were STILL there; hearty folks.

After that, I worked on the census for five months, then, having nothing better to do, went to library school; that seems to have worked out.

Oh, the pictures of the turkeys: taken a couple days ago from the third floor on a cellphone, looking at just outside my building, which, like the insurance company, is in Corporate Woods. Representative of the turkeys I used to work for.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Underplayed Vinyl: Chicago

I had to buy a record player, and it's all Fred Hembeck's fault. O.K., not really. But he was the inspiration.

I was visiting Fred Hembeck's MySpace page. This is actually fairly unusual in that I generally spend my time at his Fred Sez page instead. I must have wanted to leave a comment wishing his daughter a happy birthday, so I went to the that day's post. The other thing the MySpace page has that FredSez doesn't is an indication of Fred's mood and his current musical excursion. For that particular day, the selection was Chicago, the second album of the group formerly known as the Chicago Transit Authority. I hadn't listened to that album in ages!

So, at the next opportunity, I pulled out my double album, put the first LP on the turntable, and...NOTHING. It had been cranky of late, with me having to start it up manually before it would take hold, but this time - nothing at all. The turntable was probably fixable, but for how much?

Then I remembered one of my former interns at work had purchased a record player at Target for $70 or $80 this past summer. I attempted to see if it was still available at the local store; the website said it was, but the person at the store assured me that it was not. Then I went to Amazon and found a Memorex® Nostalgia Turntable and Stereo, for $39.97, plus $8 shipping, provided by one of their vendors, Bargain Outfitters. I ordered it, and it came within a week.

The assembly was minimal, and so I finally got to play that Chicago album that I received for Christmas in 1970; I don't remember this, I had marked the album 12-25-70 ROG, as was my wont at the time.

So what did I think?

Well, much of it lyrically is a bit earnest, especially It Better End Soon, which dominates Side 4 (oh, I miss the notion of Side 4). But I really enjoyed the album all over again. I recognized some really interesting musicality. Fancy Colours, which starts Side 3, starts off in a very slow 4/4, then switches to a fast 3/4 (or 6/8), and ends with those discordant horns that made me think originally, and again recently, that the record was skipping.

Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon, which takes up much of Side 2, to be punny, made me smile. Even Colour My World, which I've disliked since it was the the theme song for my high school girlfriend's prom, I seem to have lost my loathing for.

I have no rational thought about this Chicago album, except that this one and its predecessor were as good as this group ever got musically, though greater commercial success came later (Chicago V through IX each went to #1.) And i am really enjoying my record player.

One annoyance about Columbia Records at the time; they never had a copyright date, either on the LP or on the package; maddening.

Today is former Chicago singer Peter Cetera's 63rd birthday. Coincidentally, David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat and Tears, another horn-based rock band on Columbia, is celebrating his 66th birthday today.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I like Michael Moore. He was kind enough to put my name on his first film, the flinty Roger and Me, which I enjoyed, except for the bunny scene. I also watched his television show, TV Nation and even own a video of it. The cartoon sequence in Bowling for Columbine I thought showed a fascinating breakdown about race in America. And, of course, there was Fahrenheit 9/11, which people particularly loved or hated.

When Carol and I were about to see his latest film, Sicko in late July, I mentioned this to a lunch buddy of mine, who is considerably more right-of-center than I (she voted for GWB twice more than I did, because "he's a Christian"). She replied, "HE (Moore) is a sicko!" I was reminded yet again what a polarizing character Michael Moore is for some people.

Yet, if she gave it a try, I think she might find the new movie Sicko compelling, in spite of herself. Certainly, I think Moore made a deft move by concentrating on the 250 million people who (allegedly) have health coverage, rather than the 50 million that don't. You'll laugh at the absurdity of the system we've been saddled with - one more thing to blame on Richard Nixon, I discovered. You'll cry with the insurance company official whose decision not to treat lead to a man's death (yes, I saw it in the previews, and it still got to me). You'll get more than a little ticked off. This is propaganda, of course, but persuasive propaganda.

Certainly, my view of the upcoming (ongoing) Presidential race has been colored by seeing this film. I want to see what solutions the candidates have to address a system that, it seems, can't be easily fixed by more money being poured into the pockets of the insurance industry.

I worked as a customer service rep for an insurance company back in the late 1980s, so I believe these horror stories. I will write on this soon.
Lefty Brown's podcast on Sicko and our political process. And Gordon's podcast on Sicko.
At the Variety screening of the docu "Sicko," director Michael Moore chats about bringing Americans together to fight a common enemy: the nation's declining health care system. (And if that link doesn't work, try this one).

More videos at

When Jane Wyatt died last year, a surprising number of people said to me, "I heard Ronald Reagan's first wife died." And I had to correct them.

NOW, Jane WYMAN, Ronald Reagan's first wife has died.

Incidentally, the location I found the picture indicated that it is in the public domain.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Wrong Way

When I first voted in an election primary, back in 1972, the New York State primary day was in June. There was one primary date for President, and for other offices. This was about the right length for the campaign.

Because of the nature of Presidential politics, though, the Presidential primary was moved to April, while the other primaries moved to September, creating, not so incidentally, greater expense. In subsequent years, the Presidential primary moved back into March, and in 2008, will move to February 5, where it will be on Supa Dupa Lollapalooza Tuesday. Meanwhile, the September primary has been moved this year from September 11 to September 18, out of "respect" for 9/11. You may recall, especially if you lived in New York State at the time, that 9/11 was Primary Day in the state six years ago. The primary was postponed at the time for a couple weeks.

The early Presidential primary bothers me because we could have a protracted, undoubtedly nasty, nine-month race for the White House, which will almost certainly generate a situation in which most voters will say, "A pox on both houses."

The later non-Presidential primary bothers me too, because usually there is an incumbent in the race. Running against two or more challengers who aren't winnowed out until eight weeks before the general election, gives even more advantage to the current officeholder. Moving the Primary from September 11 to the 18th just worsens that.

More to the point, I think voting on September 11 honors the victims of 9/11. Democracy is not postponed; the terrorists haven't won, or whatever.

Expect this never to happen.
Shock Doctrine, a short (less than seven minutes) film by Alfonso Cuarón and Naomi Klein, directed by Jonás Cuarón, on Klein's book.
While working on a reference question last week, I discovered, to my surprise, that most Arab-Americans identify as Christians.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Eight things

It was undoubtedly Lefty who semi-tagged me to write eight (more) things about myself.

1. I have gone out with two different women who had lost children in car accidents, before I met them. I think - check that, I'm certain - that I didn't understand their deep-seated devastation at the time.

2. I recently finished listening to a disc that someone compiled of the 500 best songs. Of the 500, I downloaded 128. Of the 128, the vast majority I already own on vinyl - six by Chuck Berry, four by Little Richard, three each by Queen and Buddy Holly; I also grabbed Buddy Holly by Weezer, which I had never owned before.

3. I worked as a bank teller for less than a month in 1978. My first day solo, I was off by five cents, and I was required to spend an hour looking for it; not worth it.

4. I've received Hess trucks for Christmas the last seven years. I actually play with them on those rare occasions when neither my wife or daughter are home.

5. The sound of a power lawn mower, vacuum cleaner, or washing machine could put me to sleep, given the opportunity.

6. I've shaken Nelson Rockefeller's hand twice.

7. I used to be in a volleyball league. I served well.

8. I never took the SATs.
What Is Art?


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Wind Energy

The last post about our vacation week in June. Although, if I find that picture of my wife in Shaker garb that she dressed up in at Hancock Shaker Village on the Friday of that week, I'll have to show you. As a family outing, it was probably the most successful, for Lydia could look at the animals, and there was a kid's exploration building, where they could draw, milk a faux cow, as well as see real bees making honey.

Meanwhile, the big deal at the timeshare was that much of the parking would be blocked off the accommodate a wind turbine passing through on the way to the top of the mountain. It came in by ship to the Port of Albany, it was announced on the news, and I knew it by the description that it couldn't come where we were via either of the routes we took. Route 43 has a nasty turn which would not accommodate sections that long. I was right; they came a more circuitous, but straighter path (on Route 20).

I'm sure I was more interested in these things because I had just done a reference question about wind farms. It seemed like an easy alternative to other forms of energy, and it may be. But the people opposing then complain about a constant low hum, the destruction of birds and bats that run into them, and the evolutionary nature of the technology whereby 30 windmills five years from now may generate as much power as 60 windmills today, as well as the aesthetic considerations. One also needs to look at wind maps to maximize the effectiveness of the items.

Still, I'm extremely curious about them.
I was going to write about this disturbing, and somewhat bizarre racial story in Jena, LA, but Thom beat me to it. The nooses in the story disturbed me viscerally, just reading about it; "strange fruit", indeed. Read more here.