My Blog List

People I Know

Eclectic Folks

Media Blogs

Politics, Policy Blogs

Page Rank

Check Page Rank of your Web site pages instantly:

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

Friday, November 30, 2007

MUSICAL REVIEW: The Drowsy Chaperone

When I was away visiting my mother in Charlotte this month, my parents-in-law came up to Albany over the weekend to help paint Lydia's (still unoccupied) bedroom. I came back that Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Then Wednesday, they took Lydia to their house in Oneonta, and Carol and I were able to go to the rapidly-expanding Proctor's Theater in Schenectady to see The Drowsy Chaperone.

One of the reasons I watch the Tonys every year is to see what's on Broadway, because I'd otherwise have little idea. Unless it's a retread from anotheer medium (The Producers, Mamma Mia), it doesn't get that much coverage. Here's the
broadcast segment for TDS, a little scratchy, I'm afraid:

It was entertaining enough for us to want to see it when it came to town.

I agree with most aspects of this local review, except that I would have picked Show Off, the song in the above segment, as the highlight. In fact, unlike some of the songs that wouldn't cut it on their own if it wasn't part of the farcical faux musical, it would stand up on its own in any production.

Still, as the review suggests, the success of the production is largely on the shoulders of the Man in Chair, the narrator of the piece. The role was originated by Bob Martin, and he was replaced by Jonathan Crombie, who played the role in Schenectady. The Broadway role, interrupted by a now-resolved strike, is now being played by Bob Saget - yeah, the guy from Full House and 1 Vs. 100; I'm having difficulty imagining him in the role. Though not entirely comparable, I think of the Man in Chair as pivotal as the Stage Manager in Thorton Wilder's play Our Town.

Another performer reprising her role from Broadway was Georgia Engel, probably best known as Ted Baxter's wife on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. She talks about going on the road here:

I really like the truthiness of this commercial that suggests that we're not likely to be swayed by the testimonials of "real people":

So, when I saw THIS one, I laughed out loud:

I don't know why this winner of five Tonys was was not very successful in its London run; a different sensibility, I suppose. All I know is that The Drowsy Chaperone made me laugh out loud many times. The best recommendation for a musical comedy I can think of.


Thursday, November 29, 2007


The Friends of Cuban Libraries PRESS RELEASE

Laura Bush Meets Cuban Librarians in Video Conference

NEW YORK, Nov. 28, 2007 (Friends of Cuban Libraries) - On November 27 Laura Bush held a video conference with members of Cuba's independent library movement.... [in Havana]
.... According to a White House statement, during the conversation Mrs. Bush "spoke of her admiration for the work of the independent librarians in Cuba who provide a source of uncensored information to their countrymen at great personal risk, and expressed solidarity with them and their cause."

As a professor wrote on a listserv I monitor: "Great, maybe she could follow this meeting up with a meeting with her husband to talk about the overclassification of US gov't information and the FBI monitoring computer records of library users!"


My My, Hey Hey

What female superhero are you???

Jean Grey

You have a tendency to be the interest of many men. You're beautiful, intelligent, extremely powerful, but also extremely caring. The perfect woman!

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

"You have a tendency to be the interest of many men. You're beautiful, intelligent, extremely powerful, but also extremely caring. The perfect woman!" Well, that IS me. And Jean Gray, a superhero I've actually heard of!
You Are 83% Burned Out

You are extremely burned out.
You work too hard, and you're not getting the results you deserve.
It's time for a life change, as soon as you can manage it.
You're giving away most of your energy to something you don't even enjoy.

I'm reminded, of course, of that Neil Young lyric: "It's better to burn out than fade away." (Neil's birthday was earlier this month.)


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Half A Ton

My mother really didn't want anything for her 80th birthday. So we didn't give her anything. Instead we took things away. My sister Leslie flew in from San Diego to Charlotte on Tuesday the 13th and I from Albany on Thursday the 15th. The mission: to get rid of stuff, specifically from the shed, which is the size of a small trailer home, that's in the back yard.

Part of the task was to ascertain just what was there, so there was a lot of sorting of papers. But we were able to put all those canceled checks from 1983 in the "to be shredded" pile, and Avon catalogs for the last decade of the 20th century in the recycle pile, except for the back page stamped with Mom's name and phone number, to the shred pile.

We also had to deal with a nasty little infestation of ants, hundreds of these large black insects eating away at everything in one corner of the structure.

We did keep photos and references to my father's 39 (or more) businesses. And there were things we kept of sentimental value. But lots of stuff went, including, unfortunately, a box of FantaCo publications that had gone to mold.

All told 562 pounds went to the shredder. I've discovered that there are companies that will come to your house and for about $90 for the first 500 pounds, shred the stuff right there. Some of the companies even have cameras inside the vehicles where you can see the shredding take place. We opted to go with a company that was a member of the NAID®, the National Association for Information Destruction. This process beats the heck out of doing it yourself with some $30 shredder from Office Max, since the cuts are more precise, and the time savings is ENORMOUS.

Additionally, 14 Avon boxes of recycling went to the recycling place and 13 contractor bags went to the garbage. My sister Marcia held a garage sale for some other items, and while not much of it sold, not much of it returned either, since Leslie found some medical charity to pick up the unsold items after the event. Marcia also took a few things to Goodwill.

So, I think it is not a reach to think that we got rid of 1000 pounds of stuff before Leslie and I left a week ago Tuesday. And Mom's happier with things going off her property than coming onto it.

If you're tackling such a project, consider latex gloves; we occasionally used hospital masks as well, though not as often as we should have. Also, drink PLENTY of water to wash out whatever toxins you might come in contact with.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November Miscellany

Politics, Race, Comics, Music, Sports, Weather - we do it all

U.S. Thanksgiving Day, we drove from Albany to Oneonta, and saw the temperature rise from 44 and fog to 52 to 68F in a little more than an hour. Then that afternoon, the temperature plummeted, where it's been ever since.
I received this question, as did a number of other bloggers: "I'd be interested in your reaction to this: An effort underway to remove Pelosi as Speaker, and make way for impeachment. Details. What flaws do you see with this plan; and is there a way to block this?"

As I've made abundantly clear, I favor the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. But the idea of impeaching Pelosi for her "high crimes and misdemeanors" of NOT impeaching them in order to impeaching them seems a bit surreal. Actually, it reminds me of a maneuver of my former church whereby the associate pastor was removed in order to make way for removing the senior pastor, except that it took 10 years to actually remove the senior pastor.

Regardless, the impeachment of Nancy Pelosi is highly unlikely to happen. And even if it did, impeachment of Bush/Cheney won't happen. The Democrats are too risk averse. And oddly, from everything I've read, impeachment might very well STRENGTHEN the Democrats as it did in 1974, and as it did for the Republicans in 1868.
The current TV Guide lists the current Presidential candidates' favorite television programs. Will Fred Hembeck support Barack Obama, now that Obama's come out in favor of SponngeBob Squarepants? And speaking of Fred, read Hembeck: Court Jester of Comics, an interview by Peter Sanderson in Publishers' Weekly.
A couple things I learned from ADD, one directly, one indirectly:
Tom Spurgeon's Holiday Shopping Guide and
an interview with David Michaelis, biographer of Charles Schulz. Oh, and Gordon says nice things about the book about the creator of the Peanuts comic strip.
I don't really follow college football, and don't like how the polls determine rankings; I'm more of an NFL fan. Still, I prefer the way cthe college game settles ties, with each team getting a chance or two (or three, in the case of Arkansas' upset of LSU last week) to the randomness of the coin toss to determine who'll get the ball first, and quite possibly, score and win.
*** shows video clips of 8 of The 9 Most Racist Disney Characters:
#9. The Merchant from Aladdin
#8. Sebastian from The Little Mermaid
#7. The Crows from Dumbo
#6. King Louie from The Jungle Book
#5. The Siamese Twin Gang from Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers
#4. Sunflower the Centaur from Fantasia
#3. The Indians from Peter Pan
#2. Uncle Remus from Song of the South
#1. Thursday from Mickey Mouse and the Boy Thursday (Book)
The Little Mermaid clip surprised me, but I see its validity on the list.
Even though I feel uncomfortable with Song of the South - I do remember it in re-release c. 1960, I think, the movement to get Song of the South released on video doesn't bother me. Not to say that I'll buy it.
Also from Ridiculous Overseas Rip-Offs of American Films, including a hysterical "Thriller" from India, a cheesy "Star Wars" from Turkey, and this Beatles Indian riff featuring, of all people, Mark Cuban:


Monday, November 26, 2007

The Lydster, Part 44: Mess

In the room where Lydia had been sleeping, there was a large closet that really limited the space a growing girl would need. So, while I was on a business trip, Carol, her father and our contractor had it taken down, which was fine. The trouble is that it left big holes in places that will have to be patched before the room can be reoccupied, mostly to avoid the dust.

This meant that Lydia had been sleeping in the guest room, in a very large bed. While she was comfortable sleeping alone in her Lydia-sided bed, she's loath to do it in the big bed, but "needs" someone to sleep with. This is normally my wife, who I wake up 30 minutes after we they go to bed. But sometimes, I can't wake her, and end up sleeping alone. When Carol has evening meetings, I'm the one who ends up sleeping with the child, and apparently, I cannot be awakened, though I generally wake up on my own and go back to my bed.

Once the room was repaired, then the room was repainted, for the former closet area was totally a different color from the rest of the room. I'm thinking, "I cannot wait. My daughter in her room, in her bed. My wife and I in our bed, all night. I can't wait."

So the room is ready, but the girl is not. As I feared, she got acclimated to the guest room, and finds her nice new room foreign, even with all in there. I hear patience is a virtue; I must be a virtuous soul.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Oscar-Worthy Movies I Have Seen: 1937

I used to do this once a month, but haven't since July; if I'm ever going to get to movies that came out after I was born, I'd better get to it.

THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA, "The Awful Truth", "Captains Courageous", "Dead End", "The Good Earth", "In Old Chicago", "Lost Horizon", "One Hundred Men and a Girl", "Stage Door", "A Star is Born"
SPENCER TRACY in "Captains Courageous", Charles Boyer in "Conquest", Fredric March in "A Star is Born", Robert Montgomery in "Night Must Fall", Paul Muni in "The Life of Emile Zola"
LUISE RAINER in "The Good Earth", Irene Dunne in "The Awful Truth", Greta Garbo in "Camille", Janet Gaynor in "A Star is Born", Barbara Stanwyck in "Stella Dallas"
Supporting Actor:
JOSEPH SCHILDKRAUT in "The Life of Emile Zola", Ralph Bellamy in "The Awful Truth", Thomas Mitchell in "The Hurricane", H. B. Warner in "Lost Horizon", Roland Young in "Topper"
Supporting Actress:
ALICE BRADY in "In Old Chicago", Andrea Leeds in "Stage Door", Anne Shirley in "Stella Dallas", Claire Trevor in "Dead End", May Whitty in "Night Must Fall"
Director: LEO MCCAREY for "The Awful Truth", William Dieterle for "The Life of Emile Zola", Sidney Franklin for "The Good Earth", Gregory La Cava for "Stage Door", William Wellmann for "A Star is Born"

I'm sure I saw, on TV, Captains Courageous and The Good Earth and quite possible Emile Zola and Stella Dallas, but none of them since I used to watch movies on Saturday and Sunday afternoons as a kid, and none of them have stuck, except The Good Earth; I found the struggle to survive on the farm quite moving.
100 Movies, 100 Quotes, 100 Numbers


Saturday, November 24, 2007


Certainly, you're aware of all the problems with plastic. I was recalling some news story some months ago about how even the very efficient recycling system in San Francisco can't deal with plastic bags and end up throwing them away. And, of course, plastics are made of petroleum, adding to the demand for oil which helps raise the price of gasoline.

Bottled water has been banned by several municipalities to try to hector people not to add more plastic bottles. But recently, my wife told me about a story that washing and reusing plastic water bottles carry a risk as well, the solution for which is to buy more bottles of water made of plastic (?!).

So, the question is simple: how do you minimize use of petroleum-based products? It can be anything from carpooling to reusable canvas bags. And do you think sometimes that stores make it difficult to refuse a bag because of their policies?

Recycling cost/benefit.
Getting catalogs that you throw away or recycle without even looking at them?
Sign in at Catalog
Raid your recycling box for all the catalogs you want to stop
Look up the catalog company names on the website
Enter your name the way it appears on the catalog
Enter the customer number
Do this for each catalog and within 10 weeks, they'll stop coming to your door.
Got an e-mail from the Central Administration of SUNY, which read:As you know, the State University follows Executive Order No.142 which requires all state agencies to reduce the amount of waste by separating recoverable materials from regular solid waste. Consistent with this order, blue recycling bins are currently located in all office areas throughout the building to dispose of paper products.
GREAT! So, I called the contact to clarify a point. I discovered that, since we're in a private building, rather than in a state building, the landlord does not have to follow the same rules. Another reason why I hate the place I work.


Friday, November 23, 2007

When Black Friday Comes...

Got this e-mail this week:

This is of utmost important to our communities.

Friday after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year, It is the day that most retailers make enough money put them in the Black for the whole year. We as Black People are consistently getting the bad end of the stick. Our children are being terrorized each and everyday by the police across the country. Nooses are being hung around everywhere. We are being disrespected in all places. Our men and children are being killed by police, stopped and searched, new prisons are being built for our children, there is big business in investing in private prisons and they must keep them filled up. We are terrorized on our jobs with constant threats of being written up and fired, losing our livelihood, our homes and just feeding and taking care of our children. We are treated in a dehumanizing manor on these jobs. So many of our people who have worked for the city for decades are being pushed out with trumped up charges, criminalized, degraded, insulted and threaten and some are even losing their pensions.

Brothers and Sisters we must act! It will visits your door, it is coming! We must stand together to say NO JUSTICE! NO PROFIT! This has got to be the new battle cry of our people. Our elders stood together during the Montgomery bus boycott in order to get some form of justice for our people. We must do it again!

If we stand together and sacrifice one day Friday November 23, 2007 and DO NOT SHOP! DON"T BUY ANYTHING ON THAT DAY! We will send out a message. Things will have to change. Let this country feel what it feels like to not have our dollars. If you buy something, buy from your own people. Please pass this message to everyone on you e-mail list. No Justice! No Profit! If you do not know what I am talking about remember:
Noose Epidemic
Racist Mob Attacks
14 yr old stripped and left in swamp by police
5 yr old hand cuffed
Va. woman kidnapped, stabbed, raped, made to eat vomit, blood, feces
35 students arrested for attending funeral of classmate, who had parents permission
6 month pregnant Principal stopped by police and made to lie face down on ground in front of her small children
Jena 6
Police Terrorism
Michael & Evelyn Warren attorneys assaulted by terrorist cops
Sonny Carson Avenue
Viola Plummer
Sean Bell
Health Care Crisis
Land Grab of the Black Community
The list goes on and on and on


My reaction: Eh. I don't know how this particular boycott - and I'm in favor of strategic boycotts - has any effect on the issues mentioned.

Last year, I got e-mails that led me to Buy Nothing Day, A 24 hour moratorium on consumer spending - participate by not participating.

Here's the real deal: I'm not buying anything today, not because of some political agenda - I happen to think, if anything, that people should be out supporting SMALL businesses today, and every day. I'm not shopping today because I HATE shopping today.

One year this century, I got talked into doing the 5 a.m. thing. At the end of the three hours, I was exhausted, not from getting up early, but from that crush of humanity. In fact, the only time I ever enjoyed shopping on Black Friday, it was at a department store in a little town called Delhi, NY, probably the size of two Wal-Mart departments; it was warm and friendly and not crowded at all.

Oh, I heard on NPR this morning two things. One was that the shopping season will be "soft:", so that time for other bargains will likely pop up. The second is that one should avoid SUI, shopping under the influence; otherwise, you might bring home that dancing Santa you REALLY don't need.
The lyrics to some Steely Dan song.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Food Quiz

I like Thanksgiving; it's ecumenical. I don't have to worry about it as I do next month, where hopes for either "Merry Christmas: or "Happy Holidays" is likely to tick off SOMEONE.

I was going to give a litany of everyone (friends, family, people of courage) and everything (music, writing, learning new stuff), but instead I swiped this quiz from Jaquandor. He did it on Canadian Thanksgiving, Buffalo being pritnear Canada. So I thought I'd post it on the U.S. variety. It's about food!

1. How do you like your eggs? I like eggs almost any way possible: poached, fried, boiled, scrambled. In scrambled eggs, I tend to put pepper, Worcestershire sauce and a little mustard, plus whatever leftover meat and/or vegetables are in the fridge.

2. How do you take your coffee/tea? Coffee - not at all. Tea - varies with my mood. Sometimes with nothing, most often with lemon, or lemon and honey, or milk and sugar. Rarely lemon and sugar.

3. Favorite breakfast food? Favorite would be pancakes with fresh fruit, real maple syrup, with sausage. Unfortunately, it's usually Cheerios and/or Shredded Wheat. Or oatmeal, which I do like quite a bit.

4. Peanut butter - actually hate the taste of peanut butter; the smell sometimes makes me nauseous. Since I ate it in great quantities until I was five or six, I theorize that I must have gotten sick from eating too much of it, though I have no specific recollection. Since my daughter is allergic to peanuts, we don't have it around anyway.

5. What kind of dressing on your salad? Usually Russian, though when I'm out, it's often ranch for some reason.

6. Coke or Pepsi? Usually Pepsi, but I like Coke too.

7. You’re feeling lazy, what do you make? Chopped apple and cottage cheese, with a touch of mayo.

8. You’re feeling really lazy. What kind of pizza do you order? Mushroom and sausage, or mushroom and onion, or onion and sausage, or plain.

9. You feel like cooking. What do you make? Lasagna.

10. Do any foods bring back good memories? Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup. Macaroni and cheese. Meatloaf. Mashed potatoes with gravy.

11. Do any foods bring back bad memories? Spaghetti-Os. Campbell's Tomato soup. Waxed beans (canned). Beets (canned). Almost any vegetable (canned). Instant potatoes. Bologna sandwiches on white bread with Miracle Whip.

12. Do any foods remind you of someone? Anything with tomato sauce reminds me of my father; he'd cook the sauce for hours. Waffles - also my father, who had a ritual discussion of how he could tell the doneness.

13. Is there a food you refuse to eat? Sauerkraut - hate it. Most melons.

14. What was your favorite food as a child? Spinach. Seriously, Popeye had brainwashed me. Also corn on the cob, still a favorite.

15. Is there a food that you hated as a child but now like? Broccoli, tomatoes, many vegetables (fresh or frozen).

16. Is there a food that you liked as a child but now hate? Not hate, per se, but off-brand ice cream is generally not worth the calories.

17. Favorite fruit and vegetable: Pineapple, spinach.

18. Favorite junk food: ice cream.

19. Favorite between meal snack: Yogurt, with banana cut into it. Or the aforementioned apple and cottage cheese.

20. Do you have any weird food habits? I've been known to eat cottage cheese with almost anything, e.g., apple sauce.

21. You’re on a diet. What food(s) do you fill up on? Water, actually.

22. You’re off your diet. Now what would you like? The same.

23. How spicy do you order Indian/Thai? On a scale of 1-10, about 7.

24. Can I get you a drink? Sure, anything with vodka, rum, whiskey, tequila (but not gin or Scotch).

25. Red wine or white? White. Red gives me a serious headache.

26. Favorite dessert? Ice cream. Or cake. Or both.

27. The perfect nightcap? Tea with honey.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I've been blogging 2.5 years and yet I haven't had a formal comments policy. Noticing that Jaquandor (yes, him again) wrote one up some time ago, I thought it'd be a good idea to do likewise.

1. I encourage comments about the topic at hand. In fact, I would enjoy receiving more. Indeed, I've left it so you don't have to do word verification when commenting. You don't have to even have a Blogger account, since you can just click on the anonymous button. (And if you DO want to identify yourself, just sign it.)

2. As we all are, I'm imperfect. If I've made an error of fact, or have a link that doesn't work, please let mer know ASAP, in the comments section or via e-mail, posted in the sidebar.

3. I expect that, from time to time, readers will have a strong negative reaction to something I've written in this blog. I'm good with that. Leave a comment to that effect.

4. But there's a certain level of social decorum that I expect. I would refer to it as as "common sense" except that it isn't as common as I would have thought.

a. No flamewars. If you start attacking others, or me, in a way that I feel is inappropriate, I will delete the post. Except for spam, and one incredibly racist comment, I've never done it before. I don't like doing so. But I will.

b. If you want to attack me and tell me that I'm stupid and only an idiot would believe that GWB should be impeached, fine, but such comments will require a name and an e-mail address. Anonymous attack comments will be deleted as soon as I learn of their existence.

c. Every comment left here is also forwarded to my Gmail address, so don't think that leaving a nasty comment on a post that's buried deep in my archives will escape my notice. Since many people seem to come to this blog via search engines, that happens quite often.

d. Any other comments that I deem inappropriate - and I have VERY liberal standards - will be deleted. Also spam, unless it's REALLY entertaining.

"Hey, Roger, don't you believe in the First Amendment?" Indeed, I do. I support your right to start your own blog and have your own rules.

e. Please limit comments to the topic of the post at hand. If there's something else you really want to call to my attention, e-mail me. I check it often.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bike Stuff

I'm still riding my bike. My rules are that there must be a wind chill of 20 degrees F or more, that it be dry, and if it has snowed, that the road be thoroughly plowed. Actually, I like when it snows six inches or more on Albany, because alternate side parking goes into effect, and the city actually plows the roads to the curb, more or less. Whereas a three-inch snow can turn to snow and slush on the right side of the road, where I try to ride.

When I wrote my last bike post, I neglected one important thing one should do: have a bell. I think I forgot it because I no longer have one; it seems to have "walked". In lieu of a bell, I find that it is important to be able to yell with some volume and intensity. What you yell is important. I used to yell, "hey!", but I don't think the long A carries as well as I would like. So I've opted for "yo!", a term I use almost at no other time, but seems to have the effect of stopping moving cars, even with their windows up. Probably better than my bell, I think. This might get drivers' attention as well.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Lloyd Price Ain't got Nothin' On Me

Your Brain is Yellow

Of all the brain types, yours is the most intellectual.
You crave mental stimulation, and your thoughts tend to very complex.
Your thoughts tend to be innovative and cutting edge, though many people don't understand them.

You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about science, architecture, and communication.

You Are Rain

You can be warm and sexy. Or cold and unwelcoming.
Either way, you slowly bring out the beauty around you.

You are best known for: your touch

Your dominant state: changing

You Have A Type B+ Personality

You're a pro at going with the flow
You love to kick back and take in everything life has to offer
A total joy to be around, people crave your stability.

While you're totally laid back, you can have bouts of hyperactivity.
Get into a project you love, and you won't stop until it's done
You're passionate - just selective about your passions

10 Worst Pennant Race Collapses: The Mets weren't #1

Hyphenated Words: A Guide

You've probably heard that, starting a week from today, the writers and management are going to start talking about ending the writers' strike. Here's hoping for a quick resolution. Meanwhile, check United Hollywood for some entertaining and sometimes thought-proviking videos and discussions.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Real Forrest Gump

I've been always been rather so-so about the movie Forrest Gump. It was a technological marvel, yet it often felt at arm's length away emotionally. I guess I never bought Sally Field as his mother either, especially after having seen her and Tom Hanks as contemporaries in the movie about comedy, Punchline.

I don't know what I was looking up when I discovered that there was a guy named Sammy L. Davis, no relationship to the late entertainer, and that his military heroism that took place 40 years ago today was, in part, the inspiration for the movie character.

He doesn't look at all liker Tom Hanks.
This was on Evanier's page a while ago, but I do so love this video about waterboarding with a Beach Boys beat.
I've decided that Nancy Grace's very existence is a test of my Christian faith. I hate Nancy Grace. OK, I don't hate her exactly, but her brand of "journalismm" where she pronounces people guilty before all the facts are in offends my sensibilities; she's often parodied for a reason. She also has an annoying voice.

So when she, at the age of 48, gave birth to twins this month prematurely, and developed blood clots in the lungs, I had to fight, with all my strength, getting a feeling of schadenfreude. So, I (choke) wish Nancy Grace well so she can go annoy me again.
CNN distorting a story big time:


Saturday, November 17, 2007

"The Place That God Forgot"

That's the pet name that one of my best friends has for our old hometown of Binghamton, NY. I think it's a bit harsh, but I do know where she's coming from.

My sister Leslie flew from San Diego to Albany on August 10, and my mother from Charlotte, NC to Albany on August 12. One doesn't fly into Binghamton from hardly anywhere; it cheaper to fly into Albany or Syracuse or New York City, then rent a car or take a bus.

Leslie, my mom and I drove down to Binghamton that weekend for my sister's XXth high school reunion; my mom and I saw friends. I was hanging out with another one of my friends from grade school when three very drunk people approached us about going somewhere on foot at 7 pm; there just isn't very much to do in downtown Binghamton most evenings, though there are pockets of improvements.

Binghamton is an odd place. Where I grew up in the 1960s, in the First Ward, the housing stock is much the same, and therefore deteriorating or vacant, mixed with these incongruous pockets of yuppie houses with Beemers in front.

But it's my hometown. More specifically, it's my mom's hometown, and she gets joy visiting our old church, her old friends. We've done that trip three or four years n a row now. Binghamton's only 150 miles from Albany, but it feels like a half a lifetime away; for my mom's sake, it's worth the trip.

Happy 80th birthday, Mom.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Golden Compass QUESTIONS

I was having a conversation online with someone about an upcoming movie, suggesting a backlash against it. I'd just received this e-mail:

THE GOLDEN COMPASS, a new movie targeted at children, will be released December 7, 2007.
This movie is based on the first book of a trilogy by atheist Philip Pullman. In the final book a boy and girl kill God so they can do as they please. Pullman left little doubt about his intentions when he said in a 2003 interview that "My books are about
killing God."
The movie is a watered down version of the first book and is designed to be very attractive in the hope unsuspecting parents will take their children to see the the movie and that the children will want the books for Christmas.
The movie has a well known cast, including Nicole Kidman, Kevin Bacon, and Sam Elliott. It will probably be advertised extensively, so it is crucial that we get the word out to warn parents to avoid this movie.
You can research this for yourself. Start with this article on, then go to Google.

This letter went on to distinguish it from the Harry Potter books, which were derscribed as having a Christian subtext(!).

I was vaguely familiar with the Golden Compass books, but haven't read them, so I'm trying to find out:

1. Whether you think the books are anti-God/anti-religion, and if so, how did that affect your enjoyment of the books?

2. Do you plan to see the film? Does a potential boycott make you want to see the movie more or less? Given the limited number of films I see these days, I wasn't planning to see it at all - it's just not my kind of flick - yet a boycott somehow makes it somehow more intriguing.


Thursday, November 15, 2007


There was this front page story, below the fold, a couple months ago After tobacco ban, where there's smoke there's ire; As hospitals prohibit smoking, employees begin puffing away off-campus, irritating neighbors. I was thrilled to see this piece, because I experienced the same thing. I even wrote a letter to the editor in response, which didn't get published. But I DO have a blog:

I walk past the cigarette-smoke gauntlet that is St. Peter's Hospital regularly. Ironically, the best place to walk to avoid the poisoned stench is through the St. Peter's New Scotland Avenue parking lot, right past the area where the smokers used to be able to congregate. Of course, I have to negotiate past the moving cars, but that beats walking out onto the busy street.

At least one St. Peter's employee regularly uses the bus kiosk at the corner of New Scotland and South Allen Street as his personal smoking emporium. I've also seen Albany Med employees smoking in the bus kiosk across from the hospital, at New Scotland and Holland.

I appreciate the hospitals wanting to make their campuses smoke-free, but personally, I'd rather let them go back to the designated locations.

I discovered subsequently that St. Peter's has torn down a building that was behind the hospital where people used to smoke. Alas.

I have my bona fides as almost virulently anti-smoking. Yet why is it, when someone comes up to me and asks if he or she can "borrow" a cigarette, almost inevitably I say something along the lines of "Sorry, I don't smoke" or "I'm afraid I don't smoke"? I'm NOT sorry that I don't smoke; moreover, I'm HAPPY that I don't have the means to shorten someone else's life. So, why do I often sound so damn apologetic? Maybe it's some Piscean need to please.

Anyway, today is the Great American Smokeout, where people are supposed to quit smoking. I hope they do, but failing that, please keep that cigarette away from my family and me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What Hast Moss Wrought

Lynn Moss, the wife of Fred Hembeck, has posted pictures of the second FantaCon back in 1980, before she WAS the wife of Fred Hembeck, if I'm remembering correctly. (EDIT: I wasn't remembering correctly: they were married the year before.) The convention was put on by FantaCo Enterprises, the comic book store I worked at from 1980 to 1988. The pictures feature Fred, Lynn, Bill Anderson, Joe Staton, Wendy and Richard Pini, Dave Simons, and John Caldwell, plus FantaCo artist/front man Raoul Vezina, FantaCo employee Mitch Cohn and FantaCo owner Tom Skulan. The pictures also feature the "art jam" drawing done by Fred, Raoul, Wendy Pini, Berni Wrightson, Jeff Jones, Simons, Caldwell, and Staton, a drawing Fred described on November 28, 2003.

BTW, 21 Central Avenue, Albany, which was FantaCo's location for its 20 years, has been several things in the years since it closed in 1998. Currently it's a bazzar (their spelling), a convenience store that sells halal meats and other items.
R: You really ought to plug Fred's upcoming book again.
R: Well, I have all of those FantaCo publications in the Smilin' Ed and Hembeck series. In fact, just came across them in the attic this weekend.
R: Yeah, but there's over 600 MORE pages, some of which you've never seen.
R: Really?
R: Yeah, and all for about $25.
R: WOW! But I need a new angle.
R: How's that?
R: I need a new way to plug the book again.
R: How about the cover, with the color scheme they chose NOT to use?

R: That'd work.
A bunch of Jack Kirby stories that have allegedly never been reprinted. (Thanks, Dan.)
Fred and Rose talk about commerce, of a sort.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Happy Odd Couple Day

Here's a tease for the movie version showing on TCM

And here's the original TV intro; the voiceover part was dropped in later seasons:

I'm recalling a Mark Evanier post of six months ago, addressing that TV opening:
"On November 13th, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. That request came from his wife. Deep down, he knew she was right, but he also knew that someday he would return to her. With nowhere else to go, he appeared at the home of his childhood friend, Oscar Madison. Sometime earlier, Madison's wife had thrown him out, requesting that he never return. Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?"
Specifically, the part about Felix returning to his wife: was that inserted because of fear that Felix and Oscar might be perceived to be...(horrors) gay by the American television viewing audience? Yet that concern apparently DIDN'T exist in the movie version or the play that was produced, of course, in an earlier time.

If his observation is accurate, and I believe it is, why was that done? I suspect it's because the producers' thinking was that people go to to the theater and the movies, but TV comes into one's house, and delicate sensibilities needed to be protected from such "untoward inferences".


Monday, November 12, 2007

Dead Russian Composers and Kevin Bacon

From Johnny B:

If I were a Dead Russian Composer, I would be Dmitri Shostakovich!

I am a shy, nervous, unassuming, fidgety, and stuttery little person who began composing the same year I started music lessons of any sort. I wrote the first of my fifteen symphonies at age 18, and my second opera, "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District," when I was only 26. Unfortunately, Stalin hated the opera, and put me on the Enemy Of The People List for life. I nevertheless kept composing the works I wanted to write in private; some of my vocal cycles and 15 string quartets mock the Soviet System in notes. And I somehow was NOT killed in the process! And Harry Potter(c) stole my glasses and broke them!

Who would you be? Dead Russian Composer Personality Test

I was sort of pulling for Sergei Prokofiev, who died two days before I was born.
Meanwhile, I was trying to ascertain how I would get to do Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon after reading Lefty's note about his wife, and I realized that my friend Sara Lee in the music business would be a link to a number of people, from Robbie Robertson to Tom Petty.
So, Kevin Bacon was in A Few Good Men with Jack Nicholson
Nicholson worked with Cher in The Witches of Eastwick
Cher worked with my friend Sara Lee on a tour
Sort of speaking of which, on this PBS website, you can play Six Degrees of American Masters. For instance, getting from Hank Williams to Tennessee Williams:

Hank Williams is connected to Willie Nelson because Willie Nelson appeared in the 1992 story of Hank Williams, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive.

Willie Nelson is connected to Joni Mitchell because Willie Nelson covered Joni Mitchell's song, Both Sides Now.

Joni Mitchell is connected to Quincy Jones because Joni Mitchell performed on Quincy Jones' 1986 book/recording, Children First.

Quincy Jones is connected to Truman Capote because Quincy Jones composed the music for the film of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (1967).

Truman Capote is connected to Gore Vidal because Gore Vidal and Truman Capote were literary rivals.

Gore Vidal is connected to Tennessee Williams because Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal were friends.

Some are more tenuous than that, especially when events (World War II) are included, but it's a bit of fun.
Blog link add: The sister of a good friend of mine, Annika Pfluger, recently started her own business making artisan chocolates. Check out her site, and you'll see that she makes all of her chocolates by hand including the hand painting. Her ingredients are fair trade/organic/local where possible.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

War to End All Wars

Since I understood its meaning, I always liked Veterans Day. When I was a child, I loved the parades.

Now, I appreciate the perhaps the foolhardy optimism of a war to end all wars, which is what they called The Great War; it ended on November 11, 1918, which became Armistice Day. Of course, the Great War became World War I when we fought World War II. Armistice Day became Veterans Day, and we've had a couple wars since then.

Even as we honor those who fight the wars the politicians send them to, the foolhardy dream remains:
I ain't gonna study war no more,
I ain't gonna study war no more,

Ain't Gonna Study War No More.
United Methodist bishops call for US withdrawal from Iraq.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Writers Guild Strike QUESTIONS

Much to my surprise, I have found myself utterly fascinated by the WGA strike. I freely admit my sympathy for the writers, who are getting ripped off on DVD sales and streaming video broadcasts. I've watched the WGA videos on YouTube; while The Office Is Closed is the most entertaining, Why We Fight is the most useful in understanding the situation. Oh, and here's info about an episode of The Office you may not see for a while, scheduled for only a couple weeks out.

I've added to my webroll the United Hollywood website, where I found out about an online petition, which I signed (#1018); I never know the efficacy of online petitions, but what the heck. I've been also following Writers Strike, Ken Levine and Mark Evanier's posts. In fact, Mark answered my strike-related questions; how did he know I was specifically interested in JEOPARDY!?

1. What do you think of the strike? Do you side with the writers, with management, a pox on both of their houses, or you just don't care? (Gordon cares.)

2. Has the strike already affected your viewing? (Maybe Lefty can finally catch up with The Daily Show and Colbert.)

3. If it is a prolonged strike, what will the networks use to fill up the time? Reality shows and repeats, sure. Old movies? Unaired episodes of Viva Laughlin?

4. What will you do with all that found time? (After I catch up with MY backlog of programs, I'll read more.)


Friday, November 09, 2007

Don't Send That Card

As a librarian I get questions like this ALL of the time:

What do you know about this?
A Great Idea!!!
When you are making out your Christmas card list this year, please include the following:
A Recovering American soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington,D.C. 20307-5001

I'm also running it past my favorite fact-guru in the SBDC Research Network Library, to see if he's got any info on this one, right off the top of his head.
(That would be me.) If it does turn out to be okay, then I'm gonna fax this to both the elementary and middle schools in my district, as well!
(This might also be a good project for Sunday School!)
Let's wait and see! [Even though, to be totally honest, I don't see how it could do any harm....EXCEPT as being a scam to enlarge some company's mailing list by gathering return addresses....I'm awfully paranoid and mistrustful, aren't I?

As it turns out, a comic book artist I've known named Steve Bissette wrote on this very subject recently.

Since this recent email circulating among the Bissette clan -- remember, I do come from a military family -- may also be passing among others of you out there, the followup below is timely. I mention Trudeau, too, because his CCS visit involved discussion of Garry's ongoing work with our military (which I'll get into later this week) and support of various veterans support groups, hospices, systems and charities.

See, there's a hitch (pun intended): the American Legion Auxiliary sent cards last Christmas to vets at Walter Reed, and the cards were returned as "undeliverable."

The following information from Walter Reed Army Medical Center should clarify matters, and offer those of you who care a few viable alternatives:

Mail to Wounded and Recovering Soldiers

Walter Reed Army Medical Center officials want to remind those individuals who want to show their appreciation through mail to include packages and letters, addressed to "Any Wounded Soldier" that Walter Reed will not be accepting these packages in support of the decision by then Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Transportation Policy in 2001. This decision was made to ensure the safety and well being of patients and staff at medical centers throughout the Department of Defense.

In addition, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer accepting "Any Service Member" or "Any Wounded Service Member" letters or packages. Mail to "Any Service Member" that is deposited into a collection box will not be delivered.

Instead of sending an "Any Wounded Soldier" letter or package to Walter Reed, please consider making a donation to one of the more than 300 nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping our troops and their families listed on
the America Supports You website.
Other organizations that offer means of showing your support for our troops or assist wounded service members and their families include:
USO Cares,
To Our Soldiers,
and the Red Cross.
For individuals without computer access, your local military installation, the local National Guard or military reserve unit in your area may offer the best alternative to show your support to our returning troops and their families. Walter Reed Army Medical Center will continue to receive process and deliver all mail that is addressed to a specific individual.

As Walter Reed continues to enhance the medical care and processes for our returning service members, it must also keep our patients and staff members safe while following Department of Defense policy. The outpouring of encouragement from the general public, corporate America and civic groups throughout the past year has been incredible. Our Warriors in Transition are amazed at the thanks and support they receive from their countrymen.

So, the "harm" would be to mobilize a whole lot of people to work on a project, the end result of which would be a bunch of letters returned to sender.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

TV Observations

Being sick has allowed me to slowly catch up with the backlog of TV shows I've been recording but not watching. The DVR's gone from 80% full Thursday night to 40% full after last night's JEOPARDY!
I've watched The Sunday morning news programs. Meet the Press (or was it the Today show?) showed a dapper Brian Williams in James Bondian mode, probably a segment from Saturday Night Live, which I didn't see, but now wish I did.
That recent 60 Minutes (CBS) segment about French President Nicolas Sarkozy I'd seen before, on one of those 90-minute 60 Minutes shows earlier in the season - strange.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS: Yes, it's a soap opera, but a good one. This Sunday's show, featuring the confrontation of Justin's post-Iraq drug addictions, has gotten kudos already from TV Guide.
Carol and I are loving Aliens in America (CW). She is an ESL teacher with many Pakistani students, but I'm liking it on its recognizably painful humor built on adolescence.
Samantha Who? (ABC) is funny in parts. I like Jean Smart, e.g. as the mom, but it's just not holding together for me.
Boston Legal (ABC), a bad habit.
Whatever that sitcom is with Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton on FOX; oh, yeah, Back to You. Subsequent shows were better than the pilot, but not good enough to keep watching.
Pushing Daisies (ABC) I like it, but I swear I've seen Ned and Chuck graze each other. Right on the edge of too quirky and cloying, but hasn't crossed it yet.
Private Practice (ABC): the side plots, involving the medical issues are OK, even compelling at times, but the stories surrounding the characters' personal lives are AWFUL, just awful.
Dirty Sexy Money (ABC): I was afraid it was going to go all Dynasty on me, but the murder mystery is engaging enough. I really enjoy Peter Krause and Donald Sutherland working together.
My Name Is Earl (NBC) - the prison stories are surprisingly effective.
The Office (NBC) - good, but those hour-long stories were overloaded. Also, I'm now seeing those Bee Movie promos many people ODed on. There was one, actually the first one I saw, that I actually enjoyed, because I had the exact same conversation with my wife about Super Chicken. It seems that the only people who remember SC are me, Seinfeld, and the writers of JEOPARDY! who have posed the question at least twice in recent years with no one even GUESSING at the question:
April 6, 2001 LET'S PLAY CHICKEN, $500 Created by Jay Ward & Bill Scott, his secret identity was Henry Cabot Henhaus III
December 11, 1998 TV THEME SONGS, $500: "When it looks like you will take a lickin'....just callllll for" him.
Scrubs (NBC)- I said was catching up, not that I'm caught up.
FRIDAY: nothing.
SATURDAY: nothing.

I'm actually glad the Country Music Awards were on last night so I can forgo the ABC shows in favor of trying to catch up on the backlog.
Ken Levine picks the worst TV shows ever. He's right about Life with Lucy. But my #1 worst show, because it had such a fine lineage, is AfterMASH, the spinoff of M*A*S*H, that was boring as all get out. At least Cop Rock tried to be interesting.
I missed recording the Carol Burnett American Masters on my local PBS station (WMHT) this week but it's being rebroadcast on WMHT2 (cable) Saturday at 9 pm. The Charles Schulz episode - which I enjoyed - is rebroadcasting thrice more on the WMHT HD. So check here to see if either is being rebroadcast in your area.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Left Behind

Every once in a while, a news story will irritate me so much that I feel the need to respond somehow. Such is the case in last week's Metroland:

Doing the Lord’s Legal Work

Bloggers and journalists find themselves threatened with lawsuits after criticizing a video game

Evangelical Christian post-apocalyptic video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces, based on the book series of the same name, was introduced last year to a storm of controversy. Now, with an expansion on the horizon, the maker of the game, Left Behind Games Inc., apparently have launched a legal campaign to silence its critics.

The game has been condemned by both secular and Christian blogs and publications that have criticized that the game at best excuses and at worst encourages religious-based violence against gays, Jews, Muslims, and other non-Christians. Critics also have expressed disapproval of gender roles within the game, where women are limited to the professions of nurses or singers. Apparently, the game play wasn’t that great, either.

Beginning in early October, various blogs and Web sites that had posted negative reviews of the game, such as Talk to Action, Public Theologian, and the Daily Kos, received identical, nonspecific legal notices from an attorney representing Left Behind Games Inc. demanding that they take down their content regarding the game, which the company alleged was "false and misleading."

Delmar resident Glenn Weiser, who owns and maintains, was among the recipients of the letter due to his article "Let God Sort ’em Out," which he first wrote for the June 29, 2006, Metroland, and which he also hosted on his site.

Weiser was unable to comment on the case due to the fact that LBG hadn’t specified complaints. Weiser has contributed dozens of articles to Metroland and was recently quoted in The Village Voice.

Weiser removed the story from his Web site on the advice of his lawyer and has posted a statement denying "knowingly and maliciously posting anything false or misleading about the game or LBG."

The article remains online in the Metroland archives.

Metroland has not yet been contacted by LBG or its legal representation, according to Stephen Leon, Metroland’s editor and publisher.

"It’s an attempt to squash free speech, but it’s a clumsy one," said Leon. "It’s very nonspecific. That’s a meaningless, empty threat right now. If they ever confront me with anything more specific, I’ll deal with that. If I got that letter I would just chuckle and put it in a folder and put it in my file drawer."

Metroland will not remove the article from its site even if receives a similar threat from LBG.

The threat has all the makings of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation or SLAPP suit, a tactic that has been gaining popularity with corporations and other entities that is meant to halt discussion of issues through legal intimidation. Regardless of the threat’s validity, the tactic usually serves to warn others against further debate lest they face legal action themselves, according to the California Anti-SLAPP Project’s Web site.

Legal fees can total tens of thousands of dollars if a lawsuit progresses; a daunting amount for a private citizen or small business to scare up. To date, only smaller Web sites and blogs have received notices, while larger publications, such as PC Gamer and Metroland, remain unthreatened.

So far, the SLAPP suit seems to have backfired, as many of the blogs have decided to defy and deride the notice rather than comply with it.

—Jason Chura

It bugs me for a number of reasons. As a librarian who believes in free expression, I don't like LBG's bullying tactics. As a Christian, I don't like LBG's theology.

So, in protest, I decide to re-post Glenn Weiser's article myself. Let me make it clear that I do this without Glenn Weiser's knowledge or permission - I don't believe I even know Glenn Weiser - and will take it down only if he or METROLAND request that I do so.
Impeachment TV.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Theorems of the Sick Child and/or The Sick Parent

At least for me:
If I am well, and the child is well, well, that's fine.
If I am well, and the child is sick, I can deal with that.
If I am sick and the child is sick, I can muddle through.
If I am sick, but the child is well, but doesn't want to go to day care because some boy said that she was a boy (probably because of her short haircut), information about which I torturously had to pry out her over a three-hour period, then this is not good, because she wants to do stuff, and all I want to do is SLEEP, which I failed to do yesterday.

So, after I go vote, that's what I'm going to do today, thank you very much. And re: voting, I'll probably vote for at least one Republican, which, in Democratic-machine Albany, is no big whoop. Also, there's a little-mentioned Constitutional amendment for New Yorkers to vote on. From the Adirondack Club:
Since 1930, the Raquette Lake Reservoir has supplied the community with drinking water, but for the past five years, Raquette Lake has been under a "boil water" order from the state Department of Health. To address the water contamination problem, the town needs wells on state Forest Preserve land adjacent to the hamlet.
The "Forever Wild" clause of the New York Constitution permits reservoirs on the Forest Preserve, but makes no provision for drinking-water wells, so a constitutional amendment is needed so the town can legally move forward with this much-needed project. The amendment was twice approved unanimously by the state Legislature, and it is now up to voters statewide to OK it.

As one e-mail from a generally reliable source puts it, "Constitutional amendments make people nervous, and that’s probably a good thing. I believe that these drinking water wells do not signal a danger for environmental groups and are not antagonistic to the original intent of protecting the Adirondack Forest."

Lots more to blog about, but no energy to describe things such as the Albany Symphony Orchestra concert last month featuring erhu player Betti Xiang, which Carol and I saw with our friends Bruce and Cenzi. Wonderful concert, wonderful time, but no pithy observations, except to note that the two-stringed instrument could, surprisingly, be more lyrically expressive than a four-string violin.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Scary meme

Yeah, I know Halloween is over; I don't care. From Jaquandor via Tosy.

1. What is your favorite work of horror fiction?

I have no idea. I've never read any horror novels, though I've seen movie adaptations of some of Stephen King's work.
I was talking just recently to someone about Rolf Stark. He was an artist published for a time by FantaCo. His work, some of which was more like horror fact than fiction, was quite disturbing.

2. Who is your favorite monster?

The monster of Frankenstein. Or Grover.

3. What horror movie gives you the most chills?

I still don't remember the title. I was nine or ten at the time. The story involved this woman who was old and/or homely but became lovely through this potion. Men found her irresistible, but if they kissed her, she'd revert to her former self. She had to kill them, using some ring to the jugular, and blow some powder to return to her beautiful self. I was about 10 or 11, so this movie came out before 1964. The thing gave me nightmares for MONTHS. It was, quite literally, a pain in the neck.

4. Freddy versus Jason?

I ODed on Freddy. FantaCo sold Freddy gloves, Freddy masks. That said, Jason seemed like a doofus in a hockey mask. Probably Freddy, barely.

5. Ghosts or goblins?

Friendly ghosts like Casper.

6. What is your scariest encounter with the paranormal?

I don't know that it was "paranormal" but I spoke in tongues once.

7. Do you believe in ghosts?

I consider the thought that people from beyond watching over me undisturbing.

8. Favorite Halloween costume?

This one.

9. If you had an unlimited budget, what would your fantasy costume be for this Halloween?

Chuck Berry.

10. When was the last time you went trick or treating?

Seventh or eighth grade.

11. What's your favorite Halloween candy?

Mark Evanier is convinced that nobody likes candy corn, and even posted a Lewis Black video from YouTube (alas, no longer available) to prove his point. He's wrong, though this season I probably only had about a half dozen.

12. Tell us about a scary nightmare you had.

I had a recurring nightmare of being in the back of a large automobile, it crashing through the railings of a bridge, crashing into the river, and sinking to the bottom. The level of intensity depended on how open the windows were; it was usually a slow leak into the vehicle.

13. What is your supernatural fear?

I don't have any.

14. What is your creepy-crawlie fear?

Snakes. don't matter that there are probably none of the venomous variety around here. Oh, and rats.

15. Would you ever stay in a real haunted house overnight?

Sure, why not?

16. Are you a traditionalist (just a face) Jack O'Lantern carver, or do you get really creative with your pumpkins?

Well, this year' pumpkin, carved by my wife, had two faces - a smiling face and a scary face.

17. How much do you decorate your home for Halloween?

Not at all.

18. Do you think Halloween is too commercial these days?

No, but I don't want to think about it in August.
More scary things:
The New England Patriots are now 9-0, after their 24-20 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
The Writers' Guild strike is underway. Or is it Writers' Guilds, since there's a WGA East and a WGA West. Most of what I know about this comes from Evanier, but it seems reasonable that writers should benefit from the newer technologies such as DVD and video streaming.


Sunday, November 04, 2007


My hair, and especially my beard, was becoming a scruffy mess. In the past, my father, my sister, or significant others have cut my hair, but not Carol. So I have to find time to squeeze in a visit to the barber shop between all the busyness.

On Monday past, I had to go to the eye doctor - boy, I'm looking forward to new glasses, since my most recent pair broke in July, and I've been using a pair I got in 1999. And I had a Friends of the Library meeting at the end of the day. In between, I got a haircut, and not just a trim, but a shave-it-all-off thing. It wasn't in solidarity with National Breast Cancer Month or anything; it was just a whim when the barber asked what I wanted.

First thing I noticed: it's cold out. Even the minimal covering of my receding hairline was providing some warmth, so the hat's the thing. Second, most people claim to like it; wonder how it'll look with the new specs.

Anyway, I'm a little under the weather (I was home sick on Friday). I can't blame it on the short cut, though, because my daughter was ALSO home sick on Friday and my wife came home early, not feeling particularly well.

So, we're gonna stop here and save our energy.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

VOTING Questions

Election Day is Tuesday, and you'll be sure to discover on Wednesday that fewer people vote in off-year/non-Presidential years than will vote next year, as shown here (PDF), here and here. It's ironic, I think, because one has a much greater voice in municipal elections than in the Presidential race. Even next November, more people will vote at the top of the ticket, and ignore the "lesser" races.

I've been involved in "get-out-the-vote" pitches before. My last strategy, sort of a reverse psychology thing, was "don't vote - mote power for me". So:

1. Are you voting on Tuesday? Why or why not/ I am, just so I can kvetch about the results.
2. What would it take to get more people to vote? (Electronic voting, instant runoff voting, bribery - somewhere in the Southwest, they offered a random voter a cash prize for voting, which turned out to be of dubious legality.) I think IRV's a good idea in multi-candidate (3 or more) elections, but it won't solve the ennui problem.
Pulse Poll of the Democratic candidates for President, with videos delineating a couple of their positions.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Follow Up

Since today is my fifth semianniversary (or is demi, or maybe hemi?), but in any case, 2.5 years, I thought I'd write a little about things I've written about in the (usually recent) past.
If you listen to Gordon's podcast where he answers questions, you'll hear me asking him some irreverent question about Raymond Burr, inspired, no doubt by a picture of Burr as Ironside on Gordon's blog a couple weeks back. It made sense at the time.
The scariest Halloween costume I saw was this woman dressed up as a baby, all in pink, smoking a cigarette. Truly frightening.

Ken Levine wrote: "We had a dentist who gave out toothbrushes [for Halloween]. Thank goodness he wasn't a proctologist."
In the Supreme Court stay of execution this week, the lawyers for the defendant said, "It is clear that irreparable harm will result if no stay is granted." Well, yeah. If a lawyer says it, it's legalese; if anyone else had said it, it'd be d'oh-worthy.
I've mentioned more than once about why I left the Methodist church I had been attending for over 17 years, of which I was a member for most of that time. Now, it's come out that the pastor, who was at least in the center of my departure, has retired, and not willingly; here's a letter from an apologist of his. My wife and I had to at least briefly think about what this meant to us. We're happy where we are, but we do miss some of the folks at the old place. What made it easy for me, though, was hearing about some internecine fight over whether someone who opposed the pastor should now chair the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee. And I realize that I don't miss the grief.
My sister Leslie wrote to me: "San Diego has been hit hard, thousands of homes lost, I could see the fire from outside my front door, so we were packed up and ready to go in the event of an evacuation, but thank God, we were spared."

Yeah, I'm happy that the Red Sox won; I picked them to win in six. The TV grid for the FOX network said the game was in a three-hour slot, but the games didn't even start until 8:30 Eastern Time, and they all ran more than 3 hours. I'm thrilled by the sweep, because it means more sleep. I'd watch the game as long as I could stay alert, then record on the DVR programing up through 1:30 a.m., then wake up and watch in the morning. The key to watching the playback is to make sure that when I turn off the TV, to set it first to some non-sports station that does not have morning news; I recommend the Home & Garden Network.
I'm still in shock that Boston College beat Virginia Tech last week; I tuned in with five minutes to go, and BC was losing 0-10, so I figured the curse of the 2nd place BCS team was holding. I couldn't believe it when the FOX baseball announcer said that they had won 14-10.
But my Boston rooting does not extend to the NFL Patriots, though I can't explain why; it predates the Bellicheck cheating incident. I'm rooting for the 7-0 Colts to beat the 8-0 Pats this weekend. Can we have a 16-0 team and a 0-16 team (Miami) in the same season?

Confirmation of my feelings about the Cleveland Indians mascot.
Yes, I know that an Albany guy appeared on Jeopardy! last week; I haven't seen it, I haven't read about it, so please don't tell me about it.
Smashing pumpkins on the ground
Makes bicycling difficult, I've found.

All of the US State Laws Concerning Bicycling.

Info about Critical Mass bike rides in Tucson (several posts) and here in Albany (October 29).

Cranksgiving! Race start: 9pm, Nov 17; registration/sign-up starts 8:30pm
A charity race where ALL the $$ goes to direct action. The Homeless Action Committee is on the streets doing work night after night. You WILL NEED a lock and a bag for this one. Ride any uni or bike or trike you like; as long as it's got wheels and pedals and is you-powered, it's all good. You will not be turned away for excess spandex or your lack of white belts.
Pre-registration via email to is encouraged for planning purposes.
Re: me feeling autumnal - The Stress Pig - Open the link, turn on the sound (but not too high) then, JUST CLICK ON HER NOSE. She may come in handy when you are having one of those days.
My prayers/good wishes go out to ADD and to Gordon's mom.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Lyle turns 50

I have a very specific recollection of the first time I became aware of Lyle Lovett. I was watching the Today Show one morning in 1989, and Lyle and His Large Band performed "The Blues Walk" and "Here I Am", the first two songs from Lyle's third album. Afterwards, Bryant said something like, "That's country music?" Soon, I got Large Band, which I loved, the swing-infused side one, contrasted with the more countrified Side 2. I especially enjoyed his cover of "Stand By Your Man", which would be used to great effect in the movie The Crying Game.

From then on, I was Lyle-obsessed. I got the first two albums. The first album features God Will, which was later covered by country artist Patty Loveless - the albums are adjoining in my collection. Pontiac is a good album, but a bit melancholy. Joshua Judges Ruth supplanted Large Band as my favorite, with the great song Church. I Love Everybody was a slightly lesser effort which came out during his Julia Roberts period, but features Record Lady. The Road to Ensenada, which is still my favorite Lyle album, features That's Right(You're Not from Texas).

It was a long time from Ensenada (1998) to what I felt was the next "real" Lyle album, My Baby Don't Tolerate (2003). In between, there was a double album of covers, a live disc, a greatest hits album, and a collection of songs for which he contributed to soundtracks. Tolerate had some good tunes, especially the title track.

I'm very fond of the new album, It's Not Big, It's Large. I can''t say where it'll end up fitting in my Lyle pantheon, but it's already top 4. I think it's enhanced by the DVD that came with the album which gave me a greater understanding of the songs.

I've also seen him as the closing act at the Newport Folk Festival in Saratoga Springs at some point in the last decade with Nanci Griffith, Joan Baez, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Alison Krauss, Bruce Cockburn, Marc Cohn, and Lucinda Williams. Great show! And I've seen him as a non-singing performer in movies such as The Player and TV shows such as Dharma and Greg.

He's even name-checked in a couple songs, such as Mary Chapin Carpenter's I'm Lucky.

Happy birthday, Lyle. You've brought me much enjoyment.

Robert Goulet died recently. I actually have two Goulet songs in my collection: Sunrise, Sunset from some Columbia compilation LP and You've Got a Friend in Me from the Toy Story 2 soundtrack. Actually, I like them both, FWIW.