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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another Auld Lang Syne

In thinking about the year soon to pass, I can't help think about some famous people who died that had some significance for me, such as Sir Edmund Hillary, who climbed Everest the year I was born, or Suzanne Pleshette, who appeared on a TV show ending screwed up b7y our local affiliate. An inordinate number of them were black musicians who passed in the latter part of the year. Isaac Hayes, who I wrote about in this piece last year; Miriam Makeba, Mother Africa; Odetta; the underappreciated Norman Whitfield, and of course, Levi Stubbs.
For Gordon and Tom the Mayor
Hey, if you have a chance, would you go to Dead or Alive and petition for the inclusion of Norman Whitfield and/or Odetta, please?

Then there were iconic characters such as Paul Newman and George Carlin, Tim Russert and Jim McKay. In an obit for McKay, it indicated that he made even the most "minor" of sports seem as important as the Olympics, and that's why I appreciated him so.

A number of folks died this month I didn't mention, such as Sammy Baugh, the first star quarterback of the NFL; Bettie Page, pin-up extraordinare; Mark Felt, who just didn't look that much like Hal Holbrook who played Deep Throat in All the President's Men; Majel Barrett, Gene Roddenberry's widow, who played nurse Chapel in the original series as well as Deanna Troi's mother in The Next Generation, and the voice of the Star Trek computer throughout the ST universe; Eartha Kitt, who sang rings around Madonna in her performance of Santa Baby, but who had a much more interesting bio than I had been aware of; possibly best known as a Catwoman in the old Batman series; and playwright Harold Pinter, whose death was sort of mentioned in the new movie Synecdoche, New York.

Mike Connell, the I.T. guru who help GWB steal the 2000 and 2004 election who went down in a plane crash.
Find out more about this case go here from December 18, 2008 forward.

A few of folks died too young for my comfort: Hayes (65); Gene Upshaw (63), Hall of Fame football player for the NFL Oakland Raiders and later Executive Director of the NFL Players Association; Bobby Murcer (62), the Oklahoman stuck following Oklahoman Mickey Mantle as Yankee centerfielder; Russert (58); Bernie Mac (50); and, of course, Heath Ledger (28).

I also recall someone you don't know. Tom Siblo was a Socialist Worker's organizer
on the campus of the State University College at New Paltz (NY) during the Vietnam war. Unusually for men at the time, he'd taken his wife's name (as Siblo-Landsman)
and was permanently disabled because of a diabetic-related coronary condition. He was around my age.

I will remember.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

X is for Xmas

A couple things:
1. As this Wikipedia article suggests, the use of the X(or a variant) has long historical precedent, close to a millennium, long before the days of modern advertising. The word "Christ" and its compounds, including "Christmas", have been abbreviated in English for at least the past 1,000 years, long before the modern "Xmas" was commonly used.
"Christ" was often written as "XP" or "Xt"; there are references in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as far back as AD 1021. This X and P arose as the uppercase forms of the Greek letters χ and ρ, used in ancient abbreviations for Χριστος (Greek for "Christ"), and are still widely seen in many Eastern Orthodox icons depicting Jesus Christ. The labarum, an amalgamation of the two Greek letters rendered as ☧, is a symbol often used to represent Christ in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christian Churches.
In ancient Christian art, χ and χρ are abbreviations for Christ's name. In many manuscripts of the New Testament and icons, X is an abbreviation for Christos, as is XC (the first and last letters in Greek, using the lunate sigma); compare IC for Jesus in Greek. The Oxford English Dictionary documents the use of this abbreviation back to 1551, 50 years before the first English colonists arrived in North America and 60 years before the King James Version of the Bible was completed. At the same time, Xian and Xianity were in frequent use as abbreviations of "Christian" and "Christianity"; and nowadays still are sometimes so used, but much less than "Xmas".

So, no, this is not my assault on Christmas; it is my attempt to get to the historical roots.

2. At least in my church calendar, we are in the midst of Christmastide (or Xmastide, if you will), beginning on December 25 and going forward to Epiphany or Three Kings Day, or as my mother still calls it, Russian Christmas. In my hometown, there were lots of Russians and most of them attended the Russian Orthodox Church. THESE are the 12 days of Christmas, which is good because I'm still working on some presents. Before Christmas Eve, I'm not particularly interested in playing Christmas music, but NOW ever more so.

The pleasant surprise this Christmas was that I went out front to get the newspaper on Christmas morning. I discovered a doll for Lydia from an unexpected source - the three neighbor girls a few houses up. I don't even know their names, and they don't know Lydia's (the card referred to her as the "little cutie"). I suspect that the girls, who appear to be between 10 and 14, saw a cute doll while they were shopping, and decided to give it to someone they saw waiting with her mom or dad at the bus stop in front of their house each morning.
December 26: I'm wearing a Santa hat (one I had left at work two days earlier). I had a red coat, and a beard. I'm waiting for a bus when this guy I didn't even see said, "Hey, Santa." I turn around. The guy continues, "Got some change? I don't get any money until the first of the month. " Roger might have turned him down, but Santa could not.

If you lived in the United States at Christmastime, you might remember the Folgers coffee commercial where "Peter" makes a surprise visit home for the holidays; it ran \for over a decade and a half. The story behind the commercial.


Monday, December 29, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: Synecdoche, New York

On Christmas Day, the wife and I left the daughter in the capable hands of the parents-in-law and traversed to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany to see Synecdoche, New York.

There were four basic reasons I wanted to see this film:
4) Roger Ebert gave it a four-star review.
3) I have liked some of the movies Charlie Kauffman has written, such as "Being John Malkovich" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"; "Adaptation", not so much. This was Kauffman's directoral debut.
2) It has a stellar cast, with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton, and Hope Davis.
1) The movie's first setting is in Schenectady, New York, where I lived for 20 months before moving to nearby Albany. (An interesting piece on Schenectady and the title word here.)

Early on, I'm loving this film. It's a dark comedy that pegs Schenectady in the first song, in the architecture. I found a particular imagery of a house on fire hysterically funny. I laughed out loud more than once. It is wonderfully performed. Yet somewhere in the theatrical remaking of the life of Caden (Hoffman), it just unraveled for me, as too long, too unfocused.

Here's a cheat: I'm going to quote from various Rotten Tomatoes reviews, both positive (63%) and negative, that reflect as well as anything how I was feeling.

Charlie Kaufman's latest example of screenplay extrapolation begins with an obscure definitional allusion...and ends in some sort of self-referential apocalypse. - Bill Gibron

It is a portrait of disappointment and melancholy, tickled by bits of wit, that defies logic and resists description. - Duane Dudek

For about two-thirds of its length, this is an extremely funny if extraordinarily dark comedy... But we begin to measure out the time in teaspoons, and the movie becomes banal and morose. - John Beifuss

You could quite possibly be enthralled -- or not. - Pete Hammond

This makes the film interesting in concept but disappointing in execution. And surreal touches added throughout that just do not add up to anything but a film more challenging than rewarding. - Mark R. Leeper

It's all crazy enough to work for a while, but the 124 long minutes don't pass soon enough. - Jeffrey M. Anderson

...a picture that is (a) brilliant, in scattered parts, but also (b) a reminder that virtually every writer needs an editor. - Kurt Loder

For a film that desperately wants us to empathize with its main character's plight, Kaufman's inability to reconcile his overambitious gimmickry with the story's emotional demands is a fatal flaw. - Jurgen Fauth

Watching the film is also wearying, like assembling a puzzle from a box into which a sadist continually pours new pieces. - Lawrence Toppman

More than one critic compared it, unfavorably, to Fellini's "8 1/2".

Ultimately, the line that described it best for me is this technically positive review by Philip Martin: "An impossible, bewildering and brave failure of a movie ..."

I would not say, "Don't see it." You may enjoy it, "get" it more than I did. Or not.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Roger Answers Your Questions, Uthaclena

Uthaclena, who is one of the few people reading this blog I know personally:

Asking Anything?

Okay, it's Sunday, and the header of your blog refers to "pondering... God."

Do you believe in "God" as a supernatural Personality actively creating, shaping, judging, intervening, with whom one can have a "relationship?" And, as a follow-up question, do you believe in personal survival after bodily death? Some awareness that will recognize I am/was "Roger?"

OK, U., interesting questions. And I waited until Sunday to answer them.

I don't think God made the world then went away. I believe that God is an active entity. I believe in the power of prayer. But I don't believe that prayer is like some sort of cosmic Santa Claus where you get to pray for a pony and ZING!, a pony arrives. Intercessionary prayer I believe in. And sometimes the answer is no. Three examples immediately come to mind.

There was a woman I knew named Rus who had a rare, incurable disease. About 20 years ago, while she was dying in a Boston hospital, a bunch of her friends, including me, were in the chapel of Trinity United Methodist Church in Albany, praying for Rus. And she was cured. There is no other logical explanation for it.

People were praying for my father in 2000 and my brother-in-law John in 2002, too, but they both died. And in each case, someone who was praying probably the hardest for them got pretty damn angry with God.

God may talk to people through earthly tools, such as movies. I found this website that discusses the theological ramification of movies. Theological ramifications of "Natural Born Killers"? The site also has a thematic directory where topics from alienation to trust are referenced to specific movies.

I think that often God sends a sign. I am reminded of the joke here (Dumb Faith) that suggests that sometimes the message is given but we are just not hearing it.

As for the second question, I believe in an afterlife. Whether it'll contain my Rogerness, I simply don't know. People often talk about the deceased watching over them from heaven; I don't know if it's true or not, though I suspect it's true for them, and that may be enough.
Meanwhile someone suggested that I become "friends" with Stan Lee on his Facebook page. So I did, and he accepted on Friday, as he did with Laurence Fishburne and doubtless thousands of others. Probably not worth mentioning, except that it's Stan Lee's 86th birthday today.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Roger Answers Your Question, Arthur

Arthur @ AmeriNZ, that blogger and podcaster from New Zealand via Illinois asked:

Oddly enough, recently I bought "This is the Moody Blues" on iTunes (to replace the vinyl copy I had), and this was one of the songs. I still love it.

A question? Well, by way of preface, there's an Australian talk show host called Rove McManus (the show is called "Rove Live") who ends every celebrity interview with the same question: "Who would you turn gay for?" The current Prime Minster of New Zealand answered Brad Pitt, though he as asked by some one not quite the stature of Rove.

So, in my best imitation Australian accent, I ask, who would Roger turn gay for?

When I was in high school, I had this conversation among some of my male friends. I suggested one of the guys from our high school swim team. Interestingly, at least three of that group of friends turned out to be gay, though they were in the closet at the time, at least to me.

I suppose if you had asked me 25 years ago, I might have said Tom Selleck. This in spite of the fact that I almost never actually watched Magnum, P.I. In fact, the only time I specifically remember watching the show is when it had a crossover with Murder, She Wrote, a show I'll admit to watching fairly religiously. Cabot Cove, Maine: highest per capita murder rate in the WORLD. But Selleck's politics, I've discovered are rather right-wing, so not him.

I suppose George Clooney. He's rich, handsome, talented, and his politics don't suck. Incidentally, it was never Brad Pitt for me, even in his Thelma and Louise days.
No one asked me, but I do have rooting interests on this last weekend of the regular season of the NFL:

The New York (New Jersey) Jets: I'd like them to beat Miami, which COULD go from being the #3 seed to out of the playoffs. So, I'm also rooting for Buffalo to get to 8-8 and beat New England. For good measure I think I want Jacksonville to beat Baltimore, but it ain't gonna happen.

The Philadelphia Eagles: this for Greg. Not only must the Eagles beat the Cowboys (I ALWAYS root against the Cowboys), but Oakland should beat Tampa Bay AND Houston must beat Chicago. Yeesh.

The Carolina Panthers: my mom, one sister, one niece live in Charlotte. They'll probably still be in the playoffs, but it'd do them well to beat the Saints.

The San Diego Chargers: the other sister and one niece live in the San Diego area. So if the Chargers beat the Broncos, they'll be in the playoffs! At 8-8. Yuck.


Friday, December 26, 2008

The Lydster, Part 57: He Sees You When You're Sleeping

This is the very first Christmas Lydia has spent in her own home. In prior years, we'd be at her grandparents' house. But this is the first year she really has waiting on Christmas.

Her parents have told her relatively little about the whole Christmas tradition compared what she's picked up from her friends. She knows, for instance, a whole bunch of Christmas songs that she learned at day care, some of which the kids sang at a local hospital's geriatric unit. ("Going to see the grandmas and grandpas" is how it's put.)

One of the songs she knows is "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." She may have known about it before from a "dancing snowman" one of my in-laws cursed us with a year or two ago. In any case, she's taken the words to heart.

So much so that one day, the day after a night when Lydia was slow to get to bed, Lydia started crying uncontrollably for no obvious reason. After the paternal investigation, it came to light that she thought she wasn't being very good the night before, that Santa could "see" that she was being "bad" and she would get no gifts for Christmas! I had to reassure her that she in fact was a good child and that Santa would not "stiff" her.

One of my pastors preached on his disdain for that particular song. It might have been based somewhat on that omniscient thing.

Still, a parent can be tempted, when a child is slow to wash her hands before supper or hasn't picked up her toys to ask her, "Do you think Santa would think you are being good?" I've declined that option. This year.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Some Christmas limericks from The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form

Christmas by Bob Dvorak (Bob Dvorak)

Though merchants may tally its worth,

Our reflections should turn to His birth:

Christmas celebrates when

God appeared among men

With a message of peace for the earth.

Christmas by Richard Stehr (Richard Stehr)

If I missed out on Christmas, perhaps

It's because I was one of those chaps

Who had chances to be

Perched upon Santa's knee

But, unfortunately, let them lapse.

Christmas by Charles Silliman (Charles Silliman)

By a star, the three wise men were led.

But they found, as they stood at His bed,

That the one brightest light

On that first Christmas night

Was the glow from the Son of God's head.

Christmas by Dottie (Anne Clements)

There's a brightly lit tree in the hall,

Lots of cards, all displayed on the wall.

Gifts are wrapped, shopping's done,

Now it's time for the fun—

Happy Christmas, dear friends, one and all!

Christmas by stella

May your Christmas be filled with delight;

May your tinsel be sparkly and bright;

May your crackers go pop!

May you eat till you drop;

And may you and your in-laws not fight.

The Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, MANY Faces of Santa Claus! by Fred Hembeck
Kringus Offerings by Samurai Frog

The arithmetic of Christmas: This person's been talking about Christmas only since April. While it's been less than 2% of my lifetime since last Christmas, it's been over 20% of hers.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Favorite Christmases: 1996

I'm running out of memorable positive Christmases after noting Christmases past here and here and here It's not that all the rest were awful, just undifferentiated in my mind. The one in 1990 WAS awful, though, when the tenor soloist at my church, Sandy Cohen, died on Christmas Eve, shortly before we were supposed to sing. Sing we did, and by any objective measure, we were terrible. But it wasn't just his voice we missed; it was his spirit.

Last year, or church did a service a couple weeks before Christmas for people who have a difficult time with the holiday season for one reason or another. It was ill-attended and the service wasn't repeated this year, but I do "get" the feeling.

What to pick, then? I'll go with 1996. It was the first time I'd spent Christmas with my birth/growing up family in years. In my years at FantaCo, e.g., I never went to North Carolina for Christmas because that was the height of the retail season. In fact, often we didn't celebrate Christmas until MLK day, after the annual inventory was finished. Other years involved going to the home of a friend or a girlfriend. The last several we've spent at my in-laws'.

The two things that were cool about 1996: my niece Alexandra was about to turn six; her birthday, unfortunately for her, is five days after Christmas. It's rather nice to be in the presence of a child that age who's so looking forward to Christmas.

The other thing was my gift to Alex, which was some reversible print clothing outfit of some sort that I had purchased at a clothing fair a few days earlier. I was loath to buy clothing for people I don't see often, but this ensemble spoke to me. Not only did she like it, her mother, my sister Marcia, liked it as well. They (my mother, sister and niece) raved about it for the two years she was able to wear it in various combinations so that it looked fresh, and even after Alex outgrew it. Uncle Roger had done well.

Earthrise, December 24, 1968 from Apollo 8
Gee, I need to get a more current seasonal picture of my family:

A great review of It's a Wonderful Life by Steve Bissette and how it's even more applicable in 2008.
He’s not just a man in a Santa suit. Roger Green takes his role of Santa Claus very seriously and even has documents to attest to his alter ego. No, it's not me, but how could I resist the link?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

W is for Waiting

Tom Petty, or as my late friend Tom used to call him, Tommy Pett, was right: The Waiting IS the hardest part.

Whether it is something leading to road rage or throwing something at computer that is downloading files too slowly, we just can't wait. We're in a hurry. Gotta multitask or you'll miss something. Be in touch 24/7 with a variety of gadgetry.

One of my major pet peeves are people who park in crosswalks or incline planes where people with wheelchairs or carts should be able to operate, and all because the driver is "in a hurry" to stop and get a bagel that will take "just a minute", instead of waiting to park in a spot three car lengths away. One time, in my neighborhood, that very scenario took place, when a blind man walked into a car parked in a crosswalk. The man was confused and disoriented, but I was too far away to assist him. Grrr!

Waiting in line or being on hold on a telephone can be the banes of my existence. Or not. I get to choose whether I use that time to observe/to think/to relax or to let it get me down. My choice. Reading material, though, DOES help.

I get the impression that there a lot of people out there waiting for love and romance.

In fact, there seems to be plenty of reasons to wait. You don't REALLY want to go swimming right after a big meal, do you? Or hit the SEND TO ALL button when you really wanted to eviscerate only one person? Sometimes counting to 10 (or 100) will keep one from saying just that particularly wrongheaded thing that is hard to take back.

Even the good things one has difficulty waiting. We are in the season of Advent in the Christian calendar, and it's all about waiting, with those hymns in minor keys. Some just can't wait for Christmas. (Is that why the local CVS drug store started playing Christmas music BEFORE VETERANS DAY? And doesn't that just make the wait seem even longer starting music earlier?) We now have the U.S. Air Defense Command offering new high-tech ways to track Santa.

(BTW, for the song above, I was really looking for the Ollabelle version. I guess I'll have to WAIT for it to pop up on YouTube. But I DO like this version as well.)

Wait. You'd be surprised what you might find.


Monday, December 22, 2008

"Things you've done" quiz

Jacquandor - he's back! - augmented by an e-mail from friend Lori

Gone on a blind date. - No. There was a period where a friend of mine was trying to set me up with a woman in her office I didn't know, but nothing ever came of it.

Skipped school. Senior year to go to an antiwar protest.

Watched someone die. No. At least on two occasions (my great uncle Ed, my father), got there moments later.

Been to Canada. Yes. first time was to Niagara Falls, Ontario when I was about 10.

Been to Mexico. Yes, down the coast south of San Diego in 1987.

Been to Florida - at least twice. In Orlando -OK. Miami - muggy and oppressive.

Been to Africa - no.

Been on a plane - last time was my trip to Chicago. I do it infrequently enough that I forget the rules about the shoes, etc.

Been lost - when I as 4, my parents THOUGHT I was lost. In fact, i knew exactly how to get back. they just didn't know where I as.

Been on the opposite side the country - yes, California.

Gone to Washington, DC - went there LOTS of times, the first several at antiwar demonstrations, the last time n 1998 when I tried out for JEOPARDY!

Swam in the ocean - the Atlantic for sure; don't remember swimming in the Pacific.

Broken a bone - a rib in June 2008

Been in a traffic accident - several, actually. The first serious one was when I was 19, spent only a day and a half in the hospital, but six weeks of physical therapy to strengthen my right shoulder.

Cried yourself to sleep - oh, yeah.

Been on TV - my grandfather was a janitor for a local TV station in Binghamton, and I ended up on a kids' show at least thrice. My church choir used to sing on telethons every year. I was at some taping of some CNN talk show and asked some question. Oh, yeah, and JEOPARDY!

Stole traffic signs - no, actually.

Played cops and robbers - undoubtedly.

Recently colored with crayons - I have a four-year old. Yes.

Paid for a meal with coins only - yes, but it was mostly quarters and it was for under $10.

Done something you told yourself you wouldn't - are you KIDDING me? A lot, though not so much of late.

Made prank phone calls - no. It never seemed like fun. I have called people I know, though, using funny accents, but that was years ago.

Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose & elsewhere. Yes, in the high school cafeteria.

Caught a snowflake on your tongue - of course.

Danced in the rain - yes.

Written a letter to Santa Claus - and got a reply.

Been kissed under the mistletoe - more than once. The first time, I was 13. Her name was Mary.

Watched the sunrise with someone - yes, but not in a while. More likely to do it while traveling to different timezones. I specifically recall doing so on a pier in Galveston, TX in the mid-1990s.

Blown bubbles - I have, in my desk at work, a bottler of bubbles which I blow if I get upset. It's really difficult to be upset while you're blowing bubbles.

Gone ice-skating - I sucked at it as a child. Did it once 11 years ago to woo my now-wife; still sucked at it.

Been skinny dipping outdoors - yes.

Gone to the movies - more often in the past than currently.

Have a nickname - none I respond to.

Body piercings - nope.

Tattoos? no

Other Questions:

1. Favorite drink?

Alcoholic? Well, Long Island iced tea, but I don't actually drink it any more. Rum and coke. Almost any drink with rum, or tequila. Actually, I don't drink much of ANYTHING any more. I had one amaretto and eggnog this month.

Non-alcoholic? Mix of orange juice and cranberry juice

2. How much do you love your job?

The thing about my job is that it's seldom boring. Occasionally quite challenging, but there's fun in that.

3. Birthplace?

Binghamton, NY.

4. Favorite vacation spot?

Our honeymoon in Barbados. Got to swim in the Caribbean.

5. Ever eaten just cookies for dinner?

No, but I did eat graham crackers.

6. Favorite pie?

Apple with ice cream. Cherry, blueberry, also with ice cream. Key lime. Oh and here's an article in defense of pie that I'm totally down with.

Favorite dessert? Cheesecake

Favorite number? 37

7. Favorite holiday? Maundy Thursday/Good Friday. Good melancholy music.

Favorite day of the week? Sunday

8. Favorite food?

Chicken, cooked any number of ways.

9 Favorite smell?

Sausage, bacon, which actually smell better than they taste.

10. How do you relax? Optimally, a massage. Failing that, using my rain stick, rocking it back and forth.

11. How do you see yourself in 10 years?

The mortgage will be paid off. I expect to travel more.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Knocking at the door

Why do we never get an answer
When we're knocking at the door
With a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war?
- The Moody Blues (written by Justin Hayward)

So the old winter or summer solstice has arrived, depending on where you live. It's once again time to Ask Roger Anything. Anything at all, and I'm honor-bound to answer it honestly. It has to be the truth. It does not have to be the WHOLE truth; to the surprise of some, I do have my limits.

One person I do not know asked:
"Surfing around looking for old copies of 'keynotes', the Capitol Record Club catalog, I came upon your references.
Any chance you have old issues with which you'd part?"
Why, no, I don't. I was a member of the Capitol Record Club in 1965 for a couple years, which is where I originally got all my pre-Sgt. Pepper albums, save for Yesterday...and Today, which I bought from the Rexall for $2.99. I also got Daydream-Lovin' Spoonful; the Best of Herman's Hermits; and most notably, Pet Sounds-Beach Boys. Most of the albums I still have, except for the LPs that were stolen in the Great LP Theft of 1972. But anything like Capitol catalogs? Long gone.
(Hey, anyone out there have 'keynotes' you're willing to part with, e-mail me and I'll hook you up with the collector.)

I've had people ask about the Barack Obama/Rick Warren thing. Well, I wouldn't have done it. A gay friend of mine felt "hurt" by it.
Still, this little piece from Steve Bissette's blog gave me some perspective.
...while liberals are howling over President-Elect Obama’s decision to include homophobic pastor Richard D. "Rick" Warren (founder and senior pastor of the evangelical Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California) in his upcoming inauguration ceremony [and conservatives are howling that Warren accepted],, the far more damning news that "alone among major Western nations, the United States has refused to sign a declaration presented Thursday at the United Nations calling for worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality" is being ignored..

So, questions, please.
"Inspired by Christ is an apparel company formed to convey the Good News of Jesus Christ while providing the world with an alternative in today's popular fashions. Inspired by Christ's goal is to propagate the Word of God via style and stimulated discussions brought about through our Christ inspired designs." WWJW?
Artificial Virginity Hymen. WTF?

In the old days, it was not called the 'Holiday Season'; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah' or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall.' - Dave Barry


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Beyond the Sea

Back in my college days at New Paltz, I (VERY OCCASIONALLY) would be at a particular bar when it was closing time, which was 4 a.m. And to let people know it was about time to clear out, the bartender would put on a this song.

Here's a JEOPARDY! clue: 1/18/60 (went to) #6 - intro by Benny Goodman in 1948, from the 1945 French song La Mer. If you read the title of this piece, you know the title of that song.

I wasn't a huge fan of Bobby Darin, but I do like that song, possibly more than his overplayed big hit, Mack the Knife; interesting how both songs were remakes of earlier 20th century European tunes. I do have Darin's greatest hits album, which is just the LP version digitized, including some corny monologue. Never saw that Kevin Spacey film.

Anyway, Bobby Darin, who was born on 14 May 1936, died thirty-five years ago today. This means he's been dead almost as long as he was alive.


Friday, December 19, 2008

The Kennedy Center Honors

"I'm a sucker for the Kennedy Center Honors. As I get older, I notice the honorees are, more often than not, quite familiar to me." I wrote that a couple years ago<, and it's no less true today. The awards were given out on Sunday, December 7, 2008. The event will be broadcast on CBS Tuesday, December 30 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT). I'll be watching, as usual; well, OK, recording to watch at a future date.

Morgan Freeman: Since I first saw him as Easy Reader on the Electric Company, a gig that literally drove him to drink, I've seen him in a number of performances, including God in Bruce Almighty (2003) God and the President in Deep Impact (1998), plus Amistad (1997); The Shawshank Redemption (1994), one of my favorite movies; Unforgiven (1992), one of my favorite Westerns; Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991); Glory (1989); Driving Miss Daisy (1989); Lean on Me (1989); Clean and Sober (1988); Street Smart (1987); probably TV performances before I knew he was MORGAN FREEMAN, such as Resting Place (1986); The Atlanta Child Murders (1985); and The Marva Collins Story (1981). Plus his distinctive voice has been used to narrate March of the Penguins, the TV adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun, and that American Masters segment featuring previous Kennedy Center inductee Clint Eastwood.

George Jones: I'll admit I own no GJ save for a cut on the album "50 Stars, 50 Hits" "on two great country albums" that my grandfather brought me as a kid. But I was certainly aware of George from my period listening to WWVA in Wheeling, WV, a clear channel radio station I used to listen to at night in the 1960s. A Girl I Used to Know, Ain't it Funny What Love Will Do, Your Heart Turned Left (And I Was on the Right), and especially She Thinks I Still Care. Of course, he was also noted for his marriage and d-i-v-o-r-c-e from Tammy Wynette.

Barbra Streisand: who is this person with the big nose and the bigger voice, I wondered when I saw this singer on any number of shows in the 1960s hosted by Dinah Shore or Mike Douglas or Ed Sullivan. Then she got a couple specials in her own name. She continues to show up on things like a Tony Bennett special I saw a couple years back. Barbra the singer I've been aware of for a long time, though in fact I own only one double-disc CD of her music. On film, I've also managed to see her a fair amount: The Prince of Tides (1991); Yentl (1983); Funny Lady (1975); The Way We Were (1973) - filmed partly in Schenectady, NY - I'm just saying; Up the Sandbox (1972); Hello, Dolly! (1969) and of course, her breakout role in Funny Girl (1968).

I came to Twyla Tharp via the Talking Heads' David Byrne, when they collaborated on The Catherine Wheel. I've managed to see that piece and some of her other works including her legendary Sue's Leg either on TV or when I was dragged up to the Saratoga Performing arts Center. I've also seen her work in films such as Hair (1978), Amadeus (1984), and White Nights (1985). This year, I saw at Proctor's Theatre in Schenectady Tharp's take on the songs of Billy Joel in Movin' Out, which I wrote about here.

One of my real musical regrets is that, maybe a dozen years ago, I did not go see The Who at the Knickerbocker/Pepsi/Times Union Arena in Albany, three blocks from where I was working at the time. I'm sure it was a matter of money, but still. The surviving members of the group are being honored. Roger Daltrey is a March Piscean named Roger; what's not to like? My collection of Who albums is very long, from The Who Sell Out (1967) to Endless Wire (2006), of course including Tommy and Who's Next. But I always had a particular affection for an early Who compilation, Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy when Daltrey's vocals were particularly fresh.

In addition to his work with the Who, I own a number of solo Pete Townsend albums. Among them: the pivotal Empty Glass (1980), All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (1982), Scoop (1983), White City (1985), Deep End Live! (1986), Another Scoop (1987), The Iron Man (1989), and the 1996 compilation COOLWALKINGSMOOTHTALKINGSTRAIGHTSMOKINGFIRESTOKING.

Pic of Pete &Roger from; Twyla's pic from her website; other pics from govt sites.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's a Story Virus

Until I was recently infected, I was blissfully ignorant odf the story virus. To wit:

Here's what I would like to do. I want to create a story that branches out in a variety of different, unexpected ways. I don't know how realistic it is, but that's what I'm aiming for. Hopefully, at least one thread of the story can make a decent number of hops before it dies out.

If you are one of the carriers of this story virus (i.e. you have been tagged and choose to contribute to it), you will have one responsibility, in addition to contributing your own piece of the story: you will have to tag at least one person that continues your story thread. So, say you tag five people. If four people decide to not participate, it's okay, as long as the fifth one does. And if all five participate, well that's five interesting threads the story spins off into.

Not a requirement, but something your readers would appreciate: to help people trace your own particular thread of the narrative, it will be helpful if you include links to the chapters preceding yours.

The bus was more crowded than usual. It was bitterly cold outside, and I hadn't prepared for it. I noticed that a fair number of the riders were dressed curiously. As I glanced around, I stretched my feet and kicked up against a large, heavy cardboard box laying under the seat in front of me. (Splotchy)

Its owner, a fat shifty-looking hillbilly, slouched uncomfortably under the weight of his Bulgarian army surplus wool coat and cap. I could tell he wasn't cut out for this weather. He jerked around, almost spastic, when he felt the box tap against his feet. He gulped and stared at me bug-eyed, one obscene rivulet of sweat running down his temple, down along his jaw, finally disappearing somewhere between his second chin and the fake fur collar of his coat.

Right away, and for no good reason, he pissed me off. Bubs)

He would not stop staring at me. I could hear his wheezing breath. I could smell every stinking minute of his sputtering life. My muscles tensed.

We were a little isolated from the rest of the riders. I looked around. Apart from a couple greasy-looking hippies stealing glances in my direction, everyone was in their own dazed world. Another rivulet of sweat began the long journey down the hillbilly's fat face. He licked his lips.

Enough was enough. I shot my arm up and popped him right between the eyes, snapping his head back. He slumped forward. I felt my anger slowly recede. I reached over him, took the cap off his head and placed it on my own. It smelled like a slaughterhouse, but it would keep me warm.

In the corner of my eye, I noticed the hippies making their way over to me. The man, wearing a dirty poncho and sporting a handlebar mustache, sat down in my seat. I reflexively scooted over to not have him in my lap. The girl, a smallish brunette wearing heavy black eyeliner and a shapeless green coat, sat behind me.

"You see, Snow?" the man said. "I knew he was the one. Did you see that jab?"

"Whatever," Snow said.

"That was great, man. Snow thought the guy in front of you was the one."

He must have spotted confusion in my eyes. "We saw the box, but we didn't know if it was yours." The man smiled broadly. "I'm Rain. You're Leaf, right?"

I looked at him more closely. He was wearing a shoulder holster under his poncho. He had deep green eyes that were sharp and serious. The smile left his face as abruptly as it had appeared. "You better get the box ready." ( Splotchy)

I looked him deep in the eyes. There was something familiar there. Something from...

It hit me.

"Dad?" SamuraiFrog.

"What you talkin' about, punk?"

"You' Dad. I've seen the pictures."

"The pictures. WHAT pictures?"

"the pictures of you and my Mom, Sally Swinton."

"Sally! I remember Sally. She was a good one, she was. Whatever happened with her?"

Now, here's where I'm supposed to make other people's lives miserable by tagging them. I'll take no offense if you opt out, but I'm thinking:
Kelly who did one of those November novels
Uthaclena who likes to write
Splotchy who essentially got me into this mess
Jacquandor who's written a lot of stuff
If anyone else feels like it, PLEASE do it.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

V is for Vitiligo

Since the last time I wrote about having vitiligo, I've gotten perhaps marginally less bothered by it. This is probably a good, even necessary thing, because, earlier this year, this woman I met at some library function said to me, "Oh, you have vitiligo, don't you?" very matter-of-factly. Six months earlier, I probably would have cringed, but I tried to respond in the spirit in which the question was asked.

Still, it bothers me somewhat. There was a picture taken of an event during Black History Month that I was leading. It was a black and white photo that ended up in my church's April 2008 newsletter. I recognized everyone in the picture except one person. That of course, was me.

It's still also damn inconvenient. Those of you in the colder climes will appreciate wanting to be out in the sun after several gray, morose days. Inevitably, though, I get burned, on any exposed skin, especially the top of my head and the back of my neck. I've become, quite literally, a redneck. Ironically, it's easier to protect myself in summer because the cues (the heat, the bright sun) triggers the use of the sunscreen, hat, and other accouterments.

One of the people who talked to me after the first time I wrote about my vitiligo said that she'd love me anyway, regardless of how I looked. But recently, she saw me and asked if my skin were getting gray. No, I replied patiently, it's the vitiligo. OH, she said.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December Ramblin'

I must say that these Bush midnight regulations have made me so annoyed I want to throw a shoe. Wait, it's already been done. Some pundit is suggesting sending shoes to the White House, the smellier the better. I would never suggest that; 20500; no, not me.
100 Web Tools to Plan the Party of the Year From Your Cube
Specialized’s Christmas card
You may have seen this video last Christmastime:or LINK.
About 8 million people saw it on YouTube and as this ABC News story shows, brought forth a reunion of Straight No Chaser.
AdFlip bills itself as "The worlds largest archive of classic print ads." the fact that it doesn't know how to use an apostrophe does not negate the fact that it's a fun site. Some stuff is free, but a lot more can be accessed for a fee.
The Third Annual Orgasm for Peace Sunday, December 21, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Greenwich Mean Time.
"The theory is that if enough people can experience orgasm in the same time frame while projecting a conscious intention for peace and harmony on the planet, a surge of physical and spiritual positivity will infuse the Earth's energy field."
That would be 6-8 a.m. Eastern Standard Time
12 midnight to 2 am on December 22 in New Zealand, if I'm calculating this correctly.
I'm reminded of my old antiwar days:
"What Do We Want?"
"When Do We Want It?"
"December 21, around noon, GMT!"


Monday, December 15, 2008

Yet another purloined meme

SamauraiFrog strikes again:

1. Started my own blog
Hmm. I started about five of them.

2. Slept under the stars
A lot as a kid. We used to go camping. I never much liked camping because of the bugs, but being under the stars was nice.
Actually, my favorite "under the stars" story involves my father driving us, just the two of us, from Binghamton, NY to Lake George. We hit a wrong turn and ended up out of gas near a place called Speculator. My father went to someone's house and got us enough gas to get to the next town. But before we drove off, we just sat on the car looking at the stars, which seemed HUGE in this rural area.

3. Played in a band
Technically yes, but only once or twice in junior high. I was playing percussion. I haven't the patience for it. You wait 72 measures then hit the gong or the triangle.

4. Visited Hawaii
No, and it's probably a contributing factor to my breakup with my now wife in the mid 1990s. She'd gotten some important insurance designation and it was going to be awarded in Hawaii. She wanted me to go. I wanted to go. But I had a boss that wasn't even going to let me go to the ASBDC (work) conference in New Orleans at the very same time because there'd be too many of us (3 of 7) out of the office. At the very last moment, boss let me go to N.O., mostly so I could help schlep the equipment for boss's presentation. Girlfriend thinks that if I had petitioned to go to Hawaii, I would have been as successful; I knew boss well enough to know that was not the case.

5. Watched a meteor shower

6. Given more than I can afford to charity

7. Been to Disneyland/world
No, and I've been to Orlando.

8. Climbed a mountain
1994, in Utah, on the spur of the moment, unprepared. Got to the top, literally almost died. Came down, tore the meniscus in my left knee about halfway down. Practically crawled back to the hotel.

9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sung a solo
Often as a child. I sang "I Love You Truly" at more than one wedding at the church I grew up in. But I'd prefer singing harmony - singing harmony by oneself seems to make some people uncomfortable.

11. Bungee jumped
Not gonna happen.

12. Visited Paris
I'd like to.

13. Watched lightning at sea
I was on the shore in Galveston, TX but yes.

14. Taught myself an art from scratch
Almost certainly not

15. Adopted a child
No, though when we were "trying" and it wasn't happening, we talked seriously about it, and in fact even went to some event. I STILL get their e-mails.

16. Had food poisoning
Oh, yeah.

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
Never been there, though I've been by it on the Staten Island Ferry.

18. Grown my own vegetables
Yes, mostly tomatoes, though not recently. I used to help my grandparents with their extensive garden.

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
Only online.

20. Slept on an overnight train
I've been on a train that gets to Charlotte, NC about 4:30 a.m. I slept, but not in a sleeping car. I love trains.

21. Had a pillow fight
With the daughter.

22. Hitchhiked
It was my primary form of transportation from 1971 to 1978. The stories I could tell...

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
Well, I have 139 sick days available. So, evidently not too often, or not often enough. I have taken off a day when I wasn't ill, but was just dragged out, but not so I could go play instead.

24. Built a snow fort
Must have

25. Held a lamb
Think so

26. Gone skinny dipping
Yeah and almost got arrested once.

27. Run a Marathon
No, just a 5K.

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
Never been to Venice.

29. Seen a total eclipse
Of the moon, yes.

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
Often. The one benefit of my current office is if there is a visible sunset (as opposed to just gray clouds), i see it.

31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
Yes, more than once, the first time with my parents and sisters. then we went to see this floral clock.

34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
If by my ancestors, you mean my great-great-grandmother, then yes. My grandmother lived in that house when I was growing up in Binghamton, NY.

35. Seen an Amish community
Yes, mostly in Pennsylvania.

36. Taught myself a new language
My high school French is awful.

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
The question presupposes that money is the root of satisfaction. I'm not as poor as I was, when I had no health insurance, so, sure.

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
In pictures, yes.

41. Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
Only on video.

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
Well, pizza and sandwiches, yes.

44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance
Yes, when I was 19.

47. Had my portrait painted
No, but a caricaturist has drawn me.

48. Gone deep sea fishing

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
Only in my dreams.

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
Snorkeling once, in Barbados, on our honeymoon.

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud
As a kid.

54. Gone to a drive-in theater
A LOT as a kid.

55. Been in a movie
Not the kind you see in the theater.

56. Visited the Great Wall of China
Only by watching TV.

57. Started a business
Well, technically, yes. I sold my comics but never really did anything else and dissolved it.

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia
No, but my wife's been to Ukraine.

60. Served at a soup kitchen
Yes, years ago.

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
Yes, got suckered by some niece or girlfriend's daughter.

62. Gone whale watching
Yes, and saw a whale.

63. Got flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
Yes, I've had my blood drawn so many times now (16-gallon pin last month) that I've actually developed scar tissue. I do it for the need. I never watch, though. And I do it despite the bigotry that bans gay men from donated, as I discussed at length a couple years ago.

65. Gone sky diving
It never made sense to me to jump out of a perfectly working airplane.

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

67. Bounced a check
Yes, not intentionally, and not lately. I keep too much in my checking account as a paranoid response to this.

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
Yes, more than once. More impressive in person than I imagined.

71. Eaten Caviar
Yes. Don't like it.

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square
I lived in NYC for four months in 1977, so yes.

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone
2008- rib on the middle of my left side.

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
No. A slow motorcycle, yes.

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book
I worked for a company (FantaCo) that published several books.

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car
No, but Carol's last car (not the current one) was new; she bought it from the company after she left her job.

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had my picture in the newspaper
When I was 5 or 6, I was singing "O Come All Ye Faithful". When I was 8, I was marginally involved in some worthy case. More recently, the Times Union sometimes excerpts my blog in the print paper and that comes with a picture.

85. Read the entire Bible
In 1977, 1980-something, 1996. I'm overdue to do it again.

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

88. Had chickenpox

89. Saved someone’s life
Performed a Heimlich on a woman choking on some meat. Ran out into traffic, scooped up some toddler and ran back. So maybe.

90. Sat on a jury
No, I went down to the courthouse but didn't make the cut.

91. Met someone famous
Earl Warren, Rod Serling, Anita Baker. Briefly: Nelson Rockefeller, Randy Newman. Probably others. Been in the same room as Mike Tyson and Jack Nicholson at the same time. Is Alex Trebek famous?

92. Joined a book club
For a time, but I'm lousy with negative option (they send you the book/record unless you say no), so not anymore.

93. Lost a loved one
More than a few of them.

94. Had a baby
By "having a baby", does this mean that I actually bore the child, then no. But I did see my daughter being born.

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
No, but I have been to Salt Lake City.

97. Been involved in a law suit
Only those cool class action things. Once got a check for $4.

98. Owned a cell phone
Yes. But I don't use it. I don't give out the number. I don't even KNOW the number without looking it up. It's for emergencies or to tell the wife or work I'll be late.

99. Been stung by a bee
More than once, and on one occasion, multiple times as a kid.

100. Ridden an elephant
No, but I would.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

The power is off, on, off

The fact is that I often write a little bit here and there on my blog. Without any computer, though, that becomes tricky. If I don't get to your site as usual, I will, I will, if/when the problem's solved.

Yes, the lousy weather came. I decided to write the events of the last couple days in Twitter-sized bits; don't know why.

I have stuff for tomorrow, but future postings may be disrupted by lack o' access.

Th 6pm - Bible study xed by forecast, Indian food @ Shalimar. To corner; next walk so slick, need to grab lamppost to not slide into rd.

Th 8:30pm - short choir rehearsal. Friend Deb gives ride to store-rock salt- & home, inc. sleet. Take out trash. Read, sing to daughter.

F 3am - power out, then on. Wife up to reset clock. 2 min. later - power out, then on. Up c 5:30-computer won't turn on, tho' monitor is.

F 5:45am - can't get school closings: computer, cable-attached TV whacked out. Use 7" set. Most closed, not ALB, day care, wife's school.

F 6am- ALB, day care closed, wife's school not. I'll stay w/Lydia. 6:20-wife's school finally closed. She'll stay with Lydia. To Y, work.

F 7:30am- no rball players @Y. Lock missing frm locker, buy new. Paged - wife calls. No power @ work, no one authorized to close office.

F 8:15am-call lib dir from Y @ his cell -no power means no phones. Call 9:15 on MY cell, it died, then pay phone. ALB lib open @ 11. Home.

F 1:15 pm- Go to ALB lib in midst of windstorm. W/ melting, brought down chunks of ice onto cars & people. Write this.
Well, that was going to have to be the post, but I went home, tried to figure out the computer again, and realized I could get it to work if I didn't run it through the surge protector, but rather plugged it into the power strip directly. Good news - computer operates. Bad news - no less protection, which might fry the computer sometime.

The wife and daughter had taken a nap, but the wife got up. This would have been just the perfect time for us to watch together those programs we planned to watch together (Earl, Office, 30 Rock), except for one little thing: the cable was in this minimalist mode. We had no DVR service and had but five channels to watch : community access, some advertising channel, NASA, TV Guide Channel and, fortunately, the PBS affiliate. so I read and Carol did Christmas stuff.

This also meant I watched the news and JEOPARDY! in a way I'm unaccustomed - in real time, on the 7" set. Did I mention it was in black & white? I prefer the time shifting.

All in all, a good day.

Could have been worse. Over 200,000 homes in the area were without power in my area, but we weren't one of them - well, except for an hour around 6 p.m. last night, which seems to have fried (temporarily? permanently?) the DVR.


Saturday, December 13, 2008


I've tried, really tried not to talk much about Barack Obama lately. Part of it is a deep abiding irritation that there's been so much blather about how he hasn't solved the economic crisis yet. The obvious point, of course, is that HE'S NOT PRESIDENT YET. I find that I'm even more annoyed with the incumbent, who, rather than trying to burnish his image in his last days, seems to have abdicated the position.

Then there's all the talk, mostly from the left, about the formation of his cabinet. I identify as left of center politically, and I'm fine with his Cabinet choices. I must admit that I practically giggled when he chose Eric Shinseki as his secretary for the VA, a bit of in-your-face towards the Bush administration. Beyond that, nothing shocking. It seems as though some people were expecting Obama to create a Secretary of Peace and pick Dennis Kucinich to run it.

Some are making a big deal out of some recent Republican victories since November 4, suggesting that Obama's lost his touch. Saxby Chambliss won reelection in the runoff for his U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, but he was leading before. John Fleming kept the seat of retiring Rep. Jim McCrery in Louisiana. Then, Republican newcomer Anh "Joseph" Cao beat a corrupt incumbent, William Jefferson, in a heavily Democratic Louisiana congressional district; he'll be the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress and the first Republican to hold that seat since 1891, a seat held by both of ABC News' Cokie Roberts' parents, BTW. What all this really has to do with Obama is lost on me.

Headline from the Evans-Novak Political Report: Blagojevich arrest causes headache for Obama. well, not so much. The Illinois governor's foul-mouth tirade after learning he'd get nothing for the Senate seat he wanted to hold hostage most observers found exculpatory re: the Obama camp.

I've found the whole "native-born American"/birth certificate issue both quite irritating and fascinating. The birth certificate issue I believe is dead, but the constitutional eligibility issue - his father, as a Kenyan, was a British subject - remains live. It's discussed ad nauseum here, especially the comments, but I think the law will settle the issue favorbly.

Not incidentally, if Obama WERE declared ineligible to serve, what the heck would happen then? I've been looking at the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, but it offers no guidance.

There are those who believe that Obama Should Prosecute Bush Officials Who Designed Torture Policy. I'm good with that.

So, my question is in the title. How do you think Obama's doing, given the fact that...well, I think I already mentioned that.

There's no one as Irish as Barack OBama- Corrigan Brothers


Friday, December 12, 2008

Everybody's Talkin' 'Bout the Weather

I've been having a difficult time getting my daughter dressed in the morning, and it's not really her fault.
On Sunday, it was 28-30 (all temperatures Fahrenheit) for most of the morning. But then the temperature went into a free fall. My wife came back from grocery shopping at 4 pm; not only was it down to 23 degrees, but the wind was blowing at 29 mph, gusting to 37 mph. By midnight, the temperature was a balmy 12.
Monday at 6am, the temperature was 6. It only got up to 19 degrees (3 pm), and went back to 13 by midnight.
Yet Tuesday at 6 am, it was 25 degrees and kept going up even after sunset, so it was 49 at midnight.
Wednesday at 6 am it was 53 degrees. It was 55 at 11am but 48 at noon and got colder during the afternoon.
Thursday started out slick and 27 degrees, but ended up with sleet and freezing rain and eventually snow.

Graphic captured at 5:30 p.m., 11 Dec 2008

So when I suggest apparel for the daughter, based on ever changing conditions, it's tricky. I must convince her of the efficacy of snow pants and boots one day, and a jacket and sneakers a couple days later.

All the data, BTW, came from, a really useful site for historical weather data. Most references on the site are to 51 minutes after the hour, but I rounded to the next hour. Most temperatures are in tenths of a degree, and I rounded up (.5-.9) or down (.1-.4), the way they taught me in grade school.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Librarian chic

A friend of a friend of mine asked:

Please tell me what life is like for a research librarian. I'm IT support for several different libraries. I work closely with the librarians on a daily basis. Many of them are my age or older and not at all worried about age discrimination as they cross into their 60s and b beyond. The say that this type of problem is just not that important for librarians. I cannot say the same for the IT business. They tell me that it is a very good industry to?look at if I'm thinking about changing careers as I get older. Can you give me some idea of what your level of job satisfaction is? Thank you in advance.

Librarians have been told for years that they will become extinct as more and more information is made available on the Internet. We have not found this to be so. For one thing, someone has to be the gatekeeper as to what is good and what is crap. For another, there will always be specialized databases that you'll need someone to access and search.

I think there is a librarian ethos of cooperation with each other. I don't think it's sexist to say that it may be a more collegial business at least in part because it tends to be a female-dominated business.

When I was in grad school in public administration in 1979-80, it was very competitive, with students actually hiding resources from each other. In library school in 1990-92, students were more helpful to each other.

There can also be a teaching component. We're trying to get our folks to use blogs, to use Twitter and other newer technologies. This means WE need to know what that stuff and Facebook and other services mean, whether they make sense for us and for our customers, who are business advisors and by extension, the small businesses they serve. Occasionally the learning curve, plus doing what we're hired to do (reference) is hard to fit in, but we usually manage.

If you have the sense of curiosity necessary to be a good librarian, you'll do well. If you want something stagnant, probably not so much.
"Librarians are the secret masters of the universe. They control the knowledge. Don't piss them off."

- Spider Robinson, science fiction author, from The Callahan Touch


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

U is for the United States

visited 30 states (60%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or try another Douwe Osinga project

As you can see from the map above, I've been to 30 of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.

The pictures interspersed in this piece are from my trip to my 30th state by some measure, Illinois, specifically Chicago, different shots from my piece on Chicago here. By other measurements, though, I'd already been there, since I'd been through Chicago's O'Hare Airport 20 years ago. In any case, the descriptions below do not include airline layovers, and there now no states for which being at the airport is the only connection.

I started thinking: what were the circumstances of the first trip to each state I visited?

Born: New York

Day trip to adjacent state: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont.
When I was growing up, my friend Carol's family had a cottage south of Binghamton, just inside the PA border.

State visited en route to another place: Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia.
I feel guilty actually counting Delaware, since it was on a trip to DC. But I did eat there; the rest of them I've actually slept in.

Vacation: Georgia, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island
Is visiting your family actually a "vacation"?

Work-related, FantaCo: California, Wisconsin
California was a twofer. FantaCo flew me out to San Diego in 1987 for the Comic Con and I stayed with my sister, who had moved there a year or two earlier.

Work-related, SBDC: Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah
In fact the ONLY time (or in the case of FL, times) I've been to those states.

Finally, in 1969 or 1970, a bunch of us from high school traveled to Tennessee to help the folks in a very poor rural county. At some point, we were out wandering around without our adult supervision when we came to a sign: Now entering Mississippi. We walked about a half mile before we thought better of the idea of a bunch of northern high school kids of mixed races wandering around in rural Mississippi and returned back to the Tennessee farm we were visiting.

Pictures (C) 2008, Mary Hoffman. Used by permission.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Horror films? Not for me

One of the overriding problems I had in my later years at FantaCo in the late 1980s was that we were putting out product that I was selling that I did not enjoy. It wasn't just the Freddy Kruger masks and the Freddy Kruger gloves (plastic, not real) and the Jason Voorhis masks that bothered me. It was all the Herschell Gordon Lewis related material that ewe published that I didn't read and yet from which I was actually beginning to make a reasonably decent wage that ultimately caused me to quit. It's not that I had a moral objection to them; it was that I just didn't enjoy a lot of gruesomeness. I've never seen a Sam Peckinpah film, for example. And after seeing A Clockwork Orange, The Godfather and Catch-22 in a short time period, I pretty much swore off movies rated R for violence for nearly a decade. So it's a miracle that I've seen ANY of the movies of the top horror movies. A number of people did this, but I first saw it at Tom the Dog's.

1.The Exorcist. William Friedkin (1973) - certainly I've seen large chunks of this movie at home on TV. Oy.
2.The Shining. Stanley Kubrick (1980) - this movie I actually saw in the movies. And I HATED it, NOT because it was gruesome but because Jack Nicholson's character seemed to be going crazy when he and Shelly Duval are having their first meeting with Barry Nelson. So I believe NONE of what follows from Nicholson, especially the cutesy "Here's Johnny!" It felt like Jack doing Jack and I disliked it on that point. Actually thought the excessive amount of blood was laughable, not scary or gory.
3.Alien. Ridley Scott (1979) - saw this in the theater and LIKED it
4.The Silence of the Lambs. Jonathan Demme (1991) - was at my parents' house and one or both of my sisters was watching it on HBO; I bailed fairly early
5.Saw. James Wan (2004) - now here's a movie I just will never see
6.Halloween. John Carpenter (1978) - did see large parts of this on TV
7.A Nightmare on Elm Street. Wes Craven (1984) - only small parts of this
8.Ring (Ringu). Hideo Nakata (1998) - neither version
9.The Wicker Man. Robin Hardy (1973) -no
10.The Omen. Richard Donner (1976) -no, still in my no R rated period

11.The Birds. Alfred Hitchcock (1963) - this I saw at some revival theater, and it STILL scares me
12.The Thing. John Carpenter (1982) - no
13.Lost Boys. Joel Schumacher (1987) - don't think I avoided it, just didn't see
14.Dawn of the Dead. George A Romero (1978) - always intended to see this, actually
15.The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Tobe Hooper (1974) - oddly enough, this as well. Someday.
16.Jaws. Steven Spielberg (1975) - no, and I feel culturally deprived.
17.The Blair Witch Project. Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez (1999) - no. might.
18.An American Werewolf in London. John Landis (1981) - no, but still might.
19.Se7en. David Fincher (1995) - probably won't.
20.Poltergeist. Tobe Hooper (1982) - may someday.
21.The Amityville Horror. Stuart Rosenberg (1979) - probably won't.
22.Candyman. Bernard Rose (1992) no
23.Scream. Wes Craven (1996) no
24.Carrie. Brian De Palma (1976) probably will someday.
25.Friday the 13th. Sean S Cunningham (1980) certainly I've seen parts of it.
26.Final Destination. James Wong (2000) - nope
27.The Evil Dead. Sam Raimi (1981) - probably not
28.Hellraiser. Clive Barker (1987) - nope
29.Hostel. Eli Roth (2005) - heck, no, any more than I'd see Saw I to infinity. This played three blocks from my house and I had zero interest.
30.Salem's Lot. Mikael Salomon (2004) - maybe some day.
31.The Descent. Neil Marshall (2005) - don't know this
32.The Hills Have Eyes. Wes Craven (1977) - maybe some day.
33.Wolf Creek. Greg McLean (2005) - don't know this. Tom got bored.
34.Misery. Rob Reiner (1991) - this movie I actually saw in the movie theater and liked, because it feels so normal on the surface. Around this time, someone told me that they were my biggest fan, not having seen the movie or read the book, and it freaked me out!
35.Rosemary's Baby. Roman Polanski (1968) - saw this in New Paltz, NY in 1971. Happy memories. Oh, it was the date I was on.
36.Child's Play. Tom Holland (1989) - don't know
37.The Orphanage. Juan Antonio Bayona (2008) -don't know, but I'm guessing not.
38.The Entity. Sidney J Furie (1981) - no, but I might
39.Nosferatu. FW Murnau (1922) - seen segments, not the whole thing
40.Night of the Living Dead. George A. Romero (1968) - feel as though I SHOULD see it
41.House on Haunted Hill. William Malone (2000) - don't know
42.The Haunting. Robert Wise (1963) - no, but not of any real avoidance.
43.It. Tommy Lee Wallace (1990) - no, and it just didn't look that good in the previews.
44.Audition. Takashi Miike (1999) - don't know.
45.The Changeling. Peter Medak (1980) -heard of, but don't really know
46.The Mist. Frank Darabont (2008) - probably won't
47.Suspiria. Dario Argento (1977) - probably won't
48.The Vanishing. George Sluizer (1993) - probably won't
49.Shutter. Masayuki Ochiai (2008) - don't know
50.Planet Terror. Robert Rodriguez (2007) - now this I did actually avoid when it was part of Grindhouse

So, I'd say I REALLY saw four, all with one word titles, excluding articles: Shining, Birds, Alien, Misery. I should probably add Exorcist. Five out of 50. Probably will double someday.