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Friday, February 29, 2008

This Is NOT Sadie Hawkins Day

Sadie Hawkins Day is in November. Somehow, the 20th century Dogpatch invention of Al Capp's Li'l Abner has gotten blended with a much earlier tradition. It is, however, Superman's birthday. (Which begs the question, "What do you get for someone who can change the course of mighty rivers?"
From Len Wein's blog: George Lucas in Love

My favorite Amazon pitch of late:
Dear Customer,
We've noticed that customers who have purchased or rated Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange (1971 Film) have also purchased Semi-Pro. For this reason, you might like to know that Semi-Pro is now available. You can order yours for just $13.99 by following the link below.
Product Description
Will Ferrell stars in this outrageous comedy, set in 1976, as Jackie Moon, a one-hit wonder who used the profits from his chart-topping song "Love Me Sexy" to achieve his dream of owning a basketball team, which becomes the worst in the ABA league (NBA rival) and in danger of folding. If they want to survive, they have to do the seemingly impossible - win. Co-stars Woody Harrelson, Andre Benjamin (Outkast), and Will Arnett. The soundtrack features classic funk hits from the 70s from Sly & The Family Stone, Ohio Players, War, Curtis Mayfield, and more, as well as Will Ferrell performing his funkadelic version of "Love Me Sexy".
1. Love Me Sexy - Jackie Moon (Will Ferrell)
2. Get The Funk Out Ma' Face - (Brothers Johnson)
3. Lady Marmalade - (LaBelle)
4. The World Is A Ghetto - (War)
5. Tell Me Something Good - (Ronnie Laws)
6. Mr. Big Stuff - (Jean Knight)
7. Give Me Just A Little More Time - (Chairman Of The Board)
8. Why Can't We Be Friends - (War)
9. Walking In Rhythm - (The Blackbyrds)
10. Dance To The Music - (Sly & the Family Stone)
11. Love Rollercoaster - (Ohio Players)
12. Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) - (Sly & the Family Stone)
13. Move On Up - (Curtis Mayfield)
14. Shining Star - (Elijah Kelley)
So because I bought the Moog-driven soundtrack of a 1971 movie , I would also be interested in a 2008 movie set in the 1970s with a funk soundtrack?! (Truth is that would be if I didn't already own tracks 3, 4, 6-8, 10, 11, 13 and possibly 9, plus other versions of 5, 12, and 14, I MIGHT be.)
From Coverville: Hey Jude by the cars

Assuming you have $125 to spend ($75 for students):

You are invited to Splat! A Graphic Novel Symposium
Saturday, March 15, 2008
We welcome new readers, writers, artists, publishers, agents, and long-standing comics fans alike to learn more about the fastest growing movement in publishing – and meet some of the best creators working in the medium today!
The SPLAT! Symposium will also supply prospective creators with a unique opportunity to learn what it takes to be a graphic novelist. There will be three different tracks of panels, seminars, and workshops, followed by the SPLAT! Reception with Scott McCloud.
The panels will be led by a number of key writers, editors and artists from the graphic novel world including: Jim Killen, buyer Barnes & Noble; David Saylor, Editor Scholastic; Raina Telgemeier, artist, The Baby-Sitters Club; Ted Rall, creator, Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists; CB Cebulski, writer/editor, Marvel Comics; Bob Mecoy, Founder, Bob Mecoy Literary Agency; R. Sikoryak, creator, The Seduction of Mike; Brian Wood, creator, Demo, DMZ and Local; Nick Bertozzi, creator, The Salon; and Charles Brownstein, executive director, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
Please visit to register for this unique event.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Rest of the Story

Last week, I wrote a story on the Times Union blog about reconciliation. I mentioned listening to a podcast operated by a US expat living in New Zealand. But I didn't just happen upon it. Nik from the Spatula Forum, a blog I read regularly, was being interviewed by his fellow expat, Arthur. At the end of the interview, Arthur indicated that his next podcast would be about reconciliation in Australia, so, of course, I listened. Not so incidentally, at the end of that podcast, he reads listener/reader comments, including a couple from, of all people, me.
For the Albany Public Library blog, I noted Green Eggs and Ham, admittedly my favorite Dr. Seuss book, had won some library award. So, I thought it would be fun to add some YouTube videos, and I did. One was a straight reading, one was a seven-minute cartoon, and the third was the same cartoon, altered and sped up. I was going to also use the famous Jesse Jackson reading of Green Eggs and Ham from Saturday Night Live; the picture quality is marginal, but the sound is good. What prevented me, ultimately, was a series of racist remarks in the Comments and Response section.
Someone named Gail, a "dorm mom" from Texas, asked me about the group that sang the Brian Wilson song Love and Mercy at the Kennedy Center Honors back in December. The group is named Libera, and they have a new album called New Dawn coming out in March. Gail says that Love and Mercy will be on that album. Here's the video from the TV program via YouTube:

Rose is having a thing called What the hell is blogging - Blog Contest where one has to define blogging. Off the top of my head - I was on a 15-minute computer at the library before a meeting - I came up with "Blogging is the organization of the important and the ephemeral in the life of a person or organization, ideally in an appealing manner." If I had had more time, I'm not sure WHAT I'd have come up with.
I'll have to write something more substantial about William F. Buckley's passing. I was a devotee a LONG time ago.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008


The end of the orgy of Washington's Birthday weekend cinema was Atonement, seen, as usual, at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany. I've seen the previews. YOU'VE probably seen the previews. If you did, you pretty well know how the first third of the movie turns out, with Briony Tallis, aged 13 (Oscar nominated (?!) Saoirse Ronan) does something that keeps Robbie Turner (James McAvoy) away from Briony's sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley). Robbie goes to war, Briony (now played by Romola Garai) becomes a nurse. And at the end, Briony (Vanessa Redgrave) tells the whole story, and everyone lives happily ever after. Well, sort of.

I can't tell you why, but much of this storytelling, after the twee British opening, save for one typed word (recently in the news) that we get to see more than once, complete with dramatic music, was very much at arm's length. There was enough storyline substance that one should really care about the losses that Cecelia and especially Robbie went through. And in spite of the horrors of war, which was sufficiently gritty and grimy - an audible audience gasp at the treatment of animals, interestingly - I was largely uninvolved.

Finally, my wife, who liked it more than I, hit on the reason: it's stagy. She could imagine our local Equity theater company doing an abridged version of it in a couple years. Lots of the post-English manor stuff FELT as though it were on a soundstage. It lacked...warmth.

If you WERE involved in the film, you will find the ending either heartbreaking or a very big cheat, not a real atonement at all. Since I wasn't, it didn't matter so much. This does explain why people initially praised this film to the hilt, then upon sober reflection seemed to have decided that it's not so hot. Also, this film featured a lot of cigarette smoking to no particular end, save to say, "it's the 1930s and 1940s and lots of people smoked." Tobacco may have been in the novel, but in the film, it felt like an affectation.

I did enjoy Brenda Blethyn in the small role as Robbie's mother, Grace. On the whole, though, eh.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Lydster, Part 47: "Hey, Guys!"

One of the things we've learned as parents is that there are lots of tricks of the trade, but that sometimes, they don't work.

For instance, some kind parents suggested that, in order to save precious time in the morning, we pick out Lydia's clothes the night before. That only works when she doesn't change her mind in the morning. But thanks anyway.

But it's not just the suggestions that are at issue; it's how they are presented. For example, Lydia needed to take an oral medicine that she did not like for an infection.
Good way to give advice: Have you tried putting it in yogurt or ice cream?
Bad way to give advice: Why don't you just put it in yogurt or ice cream?
The second way is bad because it suggests, more in the accompanying tone than in the content, that hadn't even thought of it, and that we're totally incompetent parental rubes. (I may be, but I certainly don't need you to TELL me so.)

As a matter of fact, we HAVE tried to put the medicine in food. She can taste it. (As can I.) But she STILL has to take the antibiotic.

This means, unfortunately, me holding her while her mother administers the medicine. Even before a single drop touches her lips, she struggles and says, "Hey, guys! Hey, gu-u-u-ys!" This is NOT how she usually refers to us. We find it very funny phraseology and have to stifle laughing as we give her the unwanted liquid. She pouts for about two minutes, then seems to forget all about it as she seeks out hugs. Very interesting, this parental trip.


Monday, February 25, 2008

The Diversity of (Man In Black) Thought

I was reading this website called Racialious, "a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture" late last year when I came across this post about a black country singer, who I admit I've never heard of. But like the writer, I am happy that a black artist can go into whatever niche of music he or she chooses. I remember all too well what grief artists as diverse as Dionne Warwick (pop), Jimi Hendrix (rock), Charley Pride (country) and Leontyne Price (opera) got, from black people as well as white people, about not performing the "right music".

Then one commenter wrote:
worth Netflixing when available: Johnny Cash openly championed bucking the Nashville crowd and his (thankfully) just released on-DVD 1970s tv show featured more black performers from the jazz, pop, soul/r&b arena as well as emerging rock/pop acts who were unable to get air time in the South during Nixon/Vietnam for politics/appearances/cultural "issues" (long hair, pot, etc.). He purposefully counter-programmed what "Hee Haw" had on and made a point to play with the artists, promoting them as well, driving the suits nuts, but boosting his show’s popularity. The artists were his friends and he knew talent when he saw it. Open your eyes to some sizzling performances with great audio (just forgive the fashion sense).

And I thought that was nice. Then this comment:
Just want to back up Hy on the “Johnny Cash Show” DVD. The costumes and pompadours are giggle-worthy, but the music is AWESOME. I got the DVD set as a gift for my mom (not that I don’t go over to her place and watch it, oh noooooo).

And this:
I too have enjoyed the "Johnny Cash Show" DVD but agree it needs a "wide lapel" warning. I skipped to the obvious treats right away, including an amazing early Stevie Wonder cut of "Heaven Help Us All" and Ray Charles doing "Ring Of Fire".
I wasn’t sure what to expect with the other items, and didn’t think I would like it, but the history lesson was worth it! The show only ran two years (1969-1971) and there’s no way it could ever run on the networks today.
It basically took top artists from the counter-culture folk arena, artists written off as past their prime who influenced Cash, anti-establishment country stable, and anti-corporate rock and soul wing (despite their star power) in a "down home" environment.
It’s weird to think of Dylan and Cash playing live together on TV one moment and Cash and Louis Armstrong performing "Blue Yodel #9" then just...hanging out with "traditional" country folks like the Statler Brothers(?)… then shifting to all the "long haired hippies" (Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Neil Young) that show up with the "old guard" of rock (Carl Perkins, Everly Brothers) all viewed during Vietnam and Nixon.
It may not have solved much, but it was a pretty bold statement to make on a lot of levels. I highly second it as a viewing recommendation as well.
Still humming a few of those tunes too, damn...

Three recommendations for the The Johnny Cash Show: The Best of Johnny Cash 1969-1971 from what I would have considered a most unlikely place. Not so incidentally, John R. Cash would have been 76 tomorrow.
And George Harrison would have been 65 yesterday, though for most of his life, he thought his birthday was today, and many sources still cite February 25. I was listening yesterday to a CD a friend made for me of George's Beatles songs, including those on the Anthologies.
I was talking to a fellow about the expected death of someone, and even though I knew knew that person was going to die, it still hit me, albeit differently than when someone you admire dies quickly via accident or violence. Sometimes that slow and inevitable death doesn't catch you right away as you rationalize that he or she's been sick for a long time, and somehow it's "for the best". And then - after the rationalizations have all worn away - then you grieve.


Sunday, February 24, 2008


We talk movies a lot in our office. One person was wondering whether a non-American was likely to win Oscars. As we pursued the question further, it became clear that "non-American" has really come to mean having English as their native language. People from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and especially Canada (unless they are French-Canadians) are considered "Americans" by the movie-going public, we suggested. This year's nominees:

Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney in “Michael Clayton” - US
Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” - England
Johnny Depp in “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” - US
Tommy Lee Jones in “In the Valley of Elah” - US
Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises” - US
The English guy will win.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” - US
Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men” - Spain
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War” - US
Hal Holbrook in “Into the Wild” - US
Tom Wilkinson in “Michael Clayton” - England
This is even more interesting; the guy who was born in the Canary Islands will win.

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” - Australia
Julie Christie in “Away from Her” - England (born in India)
Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose” - France
Laura Linney in “The Savages” - US
Ellen Page in “Juno” - Canada
Only one American in the field, and she's unlikely to win; the Englishwoman or the Frenchwoman.

Cate Blanchett in “I’m Not There” - Australia
Ruby Dee in “American Gangster” - US
Saoirse Ronan in “Atonement” - US
Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone” - US
Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton” - England
Could be the only American to win an acting Oscar tonight, unless the Australian takes it and shuts out the US completely. (Entertainment Weekly suggests it'll be the Englishwoman.)

Let's look at the awards for the previous 7 years, just the winners:

2001 (74th)
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE* Denzel Washington -- Training Day - US
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Jim Broadbent -- Iris - England
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE* Halle Berry -- Monster's Ball - US
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Jennifer Connelly -- A Beautiful Mind - US

2002 (75th)
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE* Adrien Brody -- The Pianist - US
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Chris Cooper -- Adaptation - US
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE* Nicole Kidman -- The Hours - Australia (born in Hawaii)
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Catherine Zeta-Jones -- Chicago - Wales

2003 (76th)
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE* Sean Penn -- Mystic River - US
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Tim Robbins -- Mystic River - US
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE* Charlize Theron -- Monster - South Africa
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Renée Zellweger -- Cold Mountain - US

2004 (77th)
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Morgan Freeman -- Million Dollar Baby - US
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE* Hilary Swank -- Million Dollar Baby - US
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Cate Blanchett -- The Aviator - Australia

2005 (78th)
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE* Philip Seymour Hoffman -- Capote - US
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* George Clooney -- Syriana - US
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE* Reese Witherspoon -- Walk the Line - US
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Rachel Weisz -- The Constant Gardener - England

2006 (79th)
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE* Forest Whitaker -- The Last King of Scotland - US
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Alan Arkin -- Little Miss Sunshine - US
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE* Helen Mirren -- The Queen - England
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE* Jennifer Hudson -- Dreamgirls - US

Every year, a non-American has won, albeit one whose native language was likely English.
I'm not going to change my picks from three weeks ago, though, in fact, I picked Julie Christie rather than Marion Cotillard in a contest. I would not be shocked, though, if the heavyweight vote splits between No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, movies filmed so close to each other that I read in Entertainment Weekly that an oil rig fire filmed for Blood interfered with a shot for No Country. This would allow Juno, the movie that, at midweek, had twice the box office of No Country, its nearest Oscar competitor, to win. Not saying it'll happen; I'm just saying that it wouldn't be the upset that Atonement or Michael Clayton winning would be.

And since the Academy will have all the glitz, in honor of my friend Uthaclena's 55th birthday, I'll be watching. Probably not tonight, though; that's what timeshifting's all about. I don't watch the Oscars to see who wins; I watch them to see HOW they win.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Movie Quote Meme

In as much as it's Oscar weekend, I thought I'd cop this from Gordon. However, I didn't looked at his responses before writing this because I didn't want to be influenced by my near-twin's choices:

1. Pick 10 of your favorite movies.
2. Go to IMDb and find a quote from each movie.
3. Post them here for everyone to guess.
4. Fill in the film title once it's guessed.
5. NO Googling/using IMDb search functions.
(Feel free to stick your guesses in the comments section)
I THINK half of them may be easy, the other half not so much, but none of these films are obscure.

1. There's an old joke - um... two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions."
"Annie Hall" = Tom the Dog

2. It's got a long rock wall with a big oak tree at the north end. It's like something out of a Robert Frost poem. It's where I asked my wife to marry me. We went there for a picnic and made love under that oak and I asked and she said yes.
"Shawshank Redemption" - Scott

3. You're a sucker for French poetry and rhinestones. You're very generous. You're kind to strangers and children, and when you stand in the snow you look like an angel.
"Groundhog Day" - Tom the Dog

4. If I don't get a little law and order around here, I get busted down to a traffic corner. And your friend don't like traffic corners.
"West Side Story" - Gordon

5. We've become bored with watching actors give us phony emotions. We are tired of pyrotechnics and special effects.
The Truman Show

6. They have to paint me red before they chop me. It's a different religion from ours. I think.
"Help!" - Gordon!

7. Uh, well, if anyone from the, uh, from the IRS is watching, I... forgot to file my, my, my 1040 return. Um, I meant to do it today, but, uh...
"Apollo 13" -Jaquandor

8. My story begins in London, not so very long ago. And yet so much has happened since then, that it seems more like an eternity.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians

9. I want them to stop looking to me for answers, begging me to speak again, write again, be a leader. I want them to start thinking for themselves. I want my privacy.
"Field of Dreams" - Scott

10. Do you have a special grudge against me? Do you feel a particularly strong resentment? Is there something I've said that's caused this contempt, or is it just things I stand for that you despise?
The Graduate
For Gordon and Lefty, other Doctor Who fans, and linguists: Darleks vs Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre


Friday, February 22, 2008


Sunday evening, after I had finished watching The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, I started watching this film. On the surface, they have some comparables. Both in French with subtitles, both with Oscar nominations, this one, deservedly, for actress Marion Cotillard, who I last saw in the previews for - but the actual film - A Good Year with Russell Crowe. Both also touch on going to a physical location of great spiritual significance, though while Diving Bell's Bauby tends to dismiss it, it's a more recurring theme here.

This is a more conventional biopic about chaunteuse Edith Piaf, starting off with her terrible childhood of illness and abandonment until she is literally pushed by her father to perform. Then we see the grown-up Edith move from street corner busker to the highest levels of stardom, only to be brought down by her addictions to alcohol and drugs, so that when (hardly a SPOILER ALERT) she dies at age 47, she looks about 20 years older.

The film is good, but it's long. I started it Sunday night (saw 90 minutes) and finished it Monday morning (another 45 minutes), which is not a fair way to see it. The other problem I had is that Piaf, at times, reminded me of Judy Garland in the early 1960s, another child singer who had reached great fame but also great tragedy because of her addictions. In fact, Cotillard looks and acts at times remarkably like Judy Davis in the 2001 TV movie Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows. I know this is MY hangup, but there it is.

See it for yourself and let me know what you think.

One last thing. The DVD EXTRAS involved all of less than eight minutes of Cotillard and writer/director Olivier Dahan talking about the process of getting the Piaf character; trés disappointing.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Dizzyingly claustrophobic. We'll get back to that in a bit.

Every year for the past several, our real estate agent has sent out a card to allow his patrons to watch a free movie at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany on a weekend near Valentine's Day. That opportunity came up this past Sunday, and we took advantage, inviting a couple from church to the movies; he allows for up to six free passes to be used, plus $3 off per person at the concession stand on a $5 purchase. Unfortunately, one of our church friends, who we'd seen only an hour earlier, fell ill, so I called one of my work friends, and she called one of our former workmates, Maureen, and we all rendezvoused at the cinema. We had a babysitter for Lydia.

I was looking forward to seeing director Julian Schnabel's Le scaphandre et le papillon, a French film with English subtitles, for a couple reasons. One was that many said that Jean-Dominique Bauby's novel based on his real-life experience of living in an almost totally paralyzed body, save for his left eye, was unfilmable, so I was curious what kind of screenplay Ronald Harwood could come up with. Mostly I was wondering how Schnabel, whose previous films Before Night Falls (2000) and Basquiat (1996) I had enjoyed, would tackle the story.

The first 10 minutes (15? 20? I wasn't looking at a watch) was from inside Bauby's left eye. It was blurry and narrow in scope, dizzyingly claustrophobic, as I said. If people got vertigo from seeing Cloverfield (which I have not seen), I can imagine they might also get the feeling here. Yet, as the perspective changes, as Bauby's sense about his captivity changes, one starts feeling for the people around him, including his family, and even for Bauby himself, the Elle magazine editor who was a bit of of a lothario. I laughed out loud when he realized how beautiful his therapists were and how he was totally incapable of hitting on them, for instance.

As Bauby decides to write his book, using only that left eye, I was reminded of a comment in Salon magazine that said, in essence, that the movie has turned writer's block into a very lousy excuse. One suggestion, however; don't use your rudimentary high school French to try to figure out the words Bauby is trying to say, since the performers are spelling out the words in French, while the screen is spelling them out in English. Just go with the flow of the film.

Schnabel's directing Oscar nomination is well deserved. Recommended.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I believe I've been quite clear in my long-standing opposition to the war in Iraq. Yet, I also believed that if we were to go to war, we ought not have gone understaffed, based on everything I had read at the time. This documentary written and directed by Charles Ferguson, and narrated by Campbell Scott, lays out the case that the failure of the United States military policy after the fall of Baghdad in the spring of 2003, far from being unforeseen, was utterly predictable. And there were high-ranking officials, many with military experience, telling the Bush administration that they were doing the occupation all wrong. These people included former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador to Iraq Barbara Bodine, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, and, most notably, General Jay Garner, who was in charge of occupation of Iraq through May 2003.

No End In Sight, which I watched on DVD last week, lays out in painful detail the three main problems that took place. One was the failure by the US to provide security because they were understaffed when the looting of museums and other national treasures took place. The de-Ba'athification of Iraq showed serious loss of of the professional class, most of whom joined the Ba'ath party pretty much for the same reason managers joined the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, because that's how to get and keep a job, not out of any ideological affinity. But perhaps the greatest blunder was to dismiss the Iraqi army; when the invading US Armed Forces told the army to go home, it did, but the entity, which predates the creation of the country of Iraq, was waiting for requests from the Americans to help rebuild Iraq, a call that failed to come. Thus, one created a situation with bunch of unemployed, angry people with guns that helped fuel the insurgency.

You may seethe to hear Donald Rumsfeld's various pronouncements, one of which, early on, was that there WAS no insurgency. Many of these inept decisions were carried out by Paul Bremer, but it is not clear whether they were his initiatives, or that he was merely carrying out the wishes of chickenhawks such as Rummy, Dick Cheney, Paul Wofowitz and Doug Feith.

Ferguson filmed over 200 hours, and many of the extended interviews show up in the DVD extras, probably longer than the actual film.

However you feel about the Iraq war, its justification, or how it needs to be handled now, there's little doubt that when you see this film, you'll wonder how such early blunders were made, leading to many unnecessary Iraqi civilian and US military deaths.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mondo meme

The groupings or levels are practically random. Jaquandor did it, but dropped some questions. I went back to Samauri Frog's post and took all the questions, masochist that I am.

Level 1
(x) Smoked a cigarette.
() Smoked a cigar.
(x) Kissed a member of the same sex.
(x) Drank alcohol.

I've probably smoked 25 cigarettes in my life, a plurality of them in the early part of 1977 when I was living in Charlotte, NC with my parents for four months. They used to sell stuff (costume jewelry, knickknacks) with others at these craft fairs. I didn't really fit in. I was an effete snob from the North who used words of more than two syllables. I tried smoking, which most of them did, to try to fit in; didn't work. (I'll say that Charlotte is much better now.)

I was in a production of Boys in the Band in May 1975 in Binghamton, which involved greeting someone at a party with a kiss.

Level 2
(x) Are/been in love.
(x) Been dumped.
(x) Shoplifted.
() Been fired.
(x) Been in a fist fight.

Most recently (late 1990s) dumped by e-mail.
Shoplifted gum when I was eight or nine; got caught; mortification.
I've been in about five fist fights, but it was almost always brought to me.

Level 3
(x) Had a crush on an older person.
(x) Skipped school.
(x) Slept with a classmate.
(x) Seen someone/something die.

Heck, went out with a couple of older persons.
I had perfect attendance from 3rd to 11th grade. Senioritis then struck.

Level 4
() Had/have a crush on one of your friends who is now on Facebook.
() Been to Paris.
() Been to Spain.
(x) Been on a plane.
(x) Thrown up from drinking.

At a party drinking Polish vodka, feeling very lucid. Ran out, switch to some Johnny Walker something, got drunk and sick in about two minutes. Lesson: don't mix alcohol.

Level 5
(x) Eaten sushi.
() Been snowboarding.
() Met someone BECAUSE of Facebook.
() Been in a mosh pit.

Don't really LIKE sushi. My wife does.

Level 6
(x) Been in an abusive relationship.
(x) Taken pain killers.
(x) Love/loved someone who you can’t have.
(x) Laid on your back and watched cloud shapes go by.
(x) Made a snow angel.

In high school, I had this father confessor role, where people, mostly female, would tell me their problems. One young woman told me about her boyfriend problems; I had a massive crush on her, but never let that show.

Level 7
(x) Had a tea party.
(x) Flown a kite.
(x) Built a sand castle.
() Gone mudding (offroading).
(x) Played dress up.

I had two sisters; of course, I played dress up.

Level 8
(x) Jumped into a pile of leaves.
() Gone sledging.
() Cheated while playing a game.
(x) Been lonely.
(x) Fallen asleep at work/school.

I don't recall cheating in a game, unless you mean throwing it to a three-year old.

Level 9
(x) Watched the sun set.
(x) Felt an earthquake.
() Killed a snake.

There have been at least two earthquakes that one could feel in upstate NY. The last time, I thought a huge, overweight truck must be rumbling down the street.

Level 10
(x) Been tickled.
(x) Been robbed/vandalized.
(x) Been cheated on.
(x) Been misunderstood.

I've lost baseball cards, LPs, my coin collection, a boom box, a half dozen bicycles. And that's without really thinking about it.

Level 11
(x) Won a contest.
() Been suspended from school.
(x) Had detention.
(x) Been in a car/motorcycle accident.

I won a racquetball tournament in 1989.

Level 12
() Had/have braces.
(x) Eaten a whole pint of ice cream in one night.
(x) Danced in the moonlight.

The ice cream was undoubtedly related to affairs of the heart.

Level 13
(x) Hated the way you look.
(x) Witnessed a crime.
() Pole danced.
(x) Questioned your heart.
() Been obsessed with post-it-notes.

Called the police on some jerk hitting a woman.

Level 14
(x) Squished barefoot through the mud.
(x) Been lost.
() Been to the opposite side of the world.
(x) Swam in the ocean.
(x) Felt like you were dying.

I liked swimming at Jones Beach on Long Island when i was a kid, and in the Caribbean when Carol and I went to Barbados in 1999.

I thought I'd die on a mountain in Utah in 1994.

Level 15
(x) Cried yourself to sleep.
(X) Played cops and robbers.
(X) Recently colored with crayons/colored pencils/markers.
() Sang karaoke.
(x) Paid for a meal with only coins.

Broke in Schenectady, 1978 - talking about nickel and diming someone. And I paid the tip with a check, because I didn't have enough change.

Level 16
(x) Done something you told yourself you wouldn’t.
() Made prank phone calls.
() Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose.
(x) Kissed in the rain.

Done something...more than once.

Level 17
(x) Written a letter to Santa Claus.
(x) Watched the sun set/sun rise with someone you care/cared about.
(x) Blown bubbles.
(x) Made a bonfire on the beach or anywhere.

I love blowing bubbles. I find it to be a great stress reliever.

Level 18
() Crashed a party.
() Have traveled more than 5 days with a car full of people.
(x) Gone rollerskating/blading.
(X) Had a wish come true.
() Slept with a member of the same sex.

Never was very good at rollerskating, or ice skating, for that matter.

Level 19
(X) Worn pearls.
() Jumped off a bridge.
() Screamed "penis" or "vagina".
() Swam with dolphins.

When I was a kid, used to wear my mother's. They probably weren't real pearls.

Level 20
() Got your tongue stuck to a pole/freezer/ice cube.
() Kissed a fish.
(x) Worn the opposite sex’s clothes.
(x) Sat on a roof top.

Halloween, 1978.

Level 21
(x) Screamed at the top of your lungs.
() Done/attempted a one-handed cartwheel.
(x) Talked on the phone for more than six hours (in one day).
(x) Recently stayed up for a while talking to someone you care about.

Talking on the phone with my sisters.

Level 22
(x) Picked and ate an apple right off the tree.
(x) Climbed a tree.
(x) Had/been in a tree house.
(x) Been scared to watch scary movies alone.

I always wished I had had a treehouse.

Level 23
(x) Believed in ghosts.
(x) Have had more than thirty pairs of shoes (not necessarily all at once).
(x) Gone streaking.
(x) Visited jail.

Well, if you count sneakers...

Not only did I visit a jail (friend Alice in May 1972), I WORKED in a jail as a janitor (summer 1975) and visited Greenhaven prison in the early 1970s.

Level 24
(x) Played chicken.
() Been pushed into a pool with all your clothes on.
() Been told you’re hot by a complete stranger.
() Broken a bone.
(x) Been easily amused.

I can still be easily amused by things no one else gets.

Level 25
() Caught a fish then ate it later.
() Made a porn video.
(x) Caught a Butterfly.
(x) Laughed so hard you cried.
(x) Cried so hard you laughed.

Laughing and crying - always reminds me of the actors' muses.

Level 26
() Mooned/flashed someone.
(x) Had someone moon/flash you.
(x) Cheated on a test.
(x) Forgotten someone’s name.
(x) French braided someone’s hair.
(x) Gone skinny dipping.
(x) Been kicked out of your house.
() Tried to hurt yourself.

Cheated on a bio test in 9th grade. Didn't work for me.

Level 27
(x) Rode a roller coaster.
(x) Went scuba-diving/snorkeling.
(x) Had a cavity.
() Blackmailed someone.
() Been blackmailed.

When I was a kid, we loved rollercoasters. I'd ride with my sister Leslie, my father would ride with my sister Marcia. My mom would hold our glasses; the great fear was that they'd somehow fly off.

Level 28
(x) Been used.
(x) Fell going up the stairs.
() Licked a cat.
(x) Bitten someone.
(x) Licked someone - not in private places.

Haven't we all been used at some point?

Level 29
() Been shot at/or at gunpoint.
() Had sex in the rain.
() Flattened someone’s tires.
(x) Rode your car/truck until the gas light came on.
(x) Got five dollars or less worth of gas.

But I've seen someone else flatten someone's tires because the driver was taking up two parking spaces. This was a matter of "justice".


Monday, February 18, 2008

President's Day, sort of

It's Presidents' Day, or as I noted last year, Washington's Birthday. Don't know why, but I know all of the Presidents, their political parties, and their years in office; very useful in Trivial Pursuit or on certain game shows.

Among the useless pieces of info in my mind:

Washington's first secretary of State was Jefferson.
Jefferson's only Secretary of State was Madison.
One of Madison's secretaries of State was Monroe.
Monroe picked JQ Adams for his Secretary of State.
Jackson picked Van Buren as his first Secretary of State.
So, all of the early Presidents, save for the Adamses, picked as the head of the State Department someone who would succeed them as President. Oddly, except for Polk's pick of Buchanan, no other Secretary ascended to the White House after that.

Many of you know that the President elected in the years ending in zero from 1840 to 1960 died in office. I always wondered what it was like for the country to have its leaders assassinated so close together in the latter stages of the 20th Century (Lincoln-1865, Garfield-1881, McKinley-1901 - OK, not the 19th Century, but close enough.) The 1881 assassination created a unique situation: three Presidents in one year: Hayes, finishing his term; Garfield; and his successor, Arthur; that had happened only 40 years earlier, with Van Buren, WH Harrison, and Tyler.
But can you name the only President who died in office that WASN'T elected in a year ending in zero? Here's a clue: he was a Whig, one of four Whig Presidents we had, who served only a total of eight years.

That would be Zach Taylor, who was elected in 1848 and died in 1850, succeeded by Millard Fillmore. When I was memorizing the Presidents, I had the greatest difficulty with the late 1840s and early 1850s, mostly because I somehow morphed Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce into Mildred Pierce.

My question to you: what is your favorite mundane piece of trivial President information that you use to impress your friends and stun your enemies?
This recent Harris poll of top Presidents left me shaking my head, with the current occupant coming in at number 10. Then I saw the AOL poll that asked where W fit in the pantheon of Presidents. As of 9 pm EST last night:
Among the bottom third 62% 269,198
Among the top third 25% 108,585
Among the middle third 13% 57,379
Well, all righty, then.
Democrats Target Kucinich for Defeat.
McCain wrong on the one issue I'd previously given him credit for.


Sunday, February 17, 2008


It seems as though every ten years, I need to see an Oscar-worthy picture starting with the letter A starring Julie Christie. On Washington Birthday weekend 1998, it was Afterglow, with Nick Nolte at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany. A couple weeks ago, it was Away from Her on a DVD at home.

This is a story of a loving couple, Fiona and Grant, who both notice that she is forgetting more and more details about her life, and even where the frying pan goes. Ultimately, she goes to a facility, where her husband comes nearly every day trying to find his wife again. Unfortunately, not unlike the real-life situation of Sandra Day O'Connor's husband, Fiona grows an attachment with another man. How he deals with it, and why, plus the glimpses of their 40 years of marriage, are the real driving forces of this film.

Julie Christie's Oscar nomination is well-deserved. Gordon Pinsent, a character actor who I've seen (Shipping News, e.g.), but don't specifically remember, does a lot of the heavy lifting in this picture, and is also excellent.

I listened to just a little of the EXTRAS tracking, but Julie Christie indicated that she got involved with this film because of the wonderful dialogue of actress Sarah Polley, and because of the friendship they had developed working on a previous film. Still, Julie wasn't sure of Sarah's directing abilities until they got on the set, where Christie realized how confident first-time director Polley was.

There were a couple distractions. One is the use of a Neil Young song that has a very personal, other context for me. (The movie also uses k.d. lang's version of Young's Helpless; the movie was shot in Canada.)
The other was that, before even the previews, were a bunch of stars, including movie co-star Olympia Dukakis, charging the audience to become more aware of Alzheimer's disease. Dick van Dyke, for instance, mentioned that he had a 50-year-old friend with the ailment. It was very sincere, but put me in the mindset that this was going to be a made-for-TV overwrought drama, rather than the fine film it turned out to be.


Saturday, February 16, 2008


Siena College, which is very near Albany, did a Sports Fanship Poll, which claims that 73% of All New Yorkers (i.e., people from NYS, not just NYC) are Sports Fans: 89% of Men, 58% of Women. SRI reports that 18% of folks are "Avid" fans, 31% are "Involved" fans, 24% are "Casual" fans and 27% are "Non-fans."

There was certainly a time when I was an avid baseball and football fan, and briefly, an avid tennis fan. I was at least an involved basketball fan. But now, I'd put my interest level at least one level down. I don't participate in fantasy leagues or listen to sports radio, though I've been known to comment on a sports blog or two.

It also revealed that people think athletes are poor choices for role models, though Derek Jeter and Tiger Woods are a couple exception. For me, it usually has to really stand the test of time. I've been fond of Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a JEOPARDY! champion). Muhammad Ali standing up to the US government forever affected me.

The survey said that people believe that kids learn teamwork, discipline from sports, but that the coaches need to lighten up. I think some of the parents need to lighten up as well.

I'm interested in how you see yourself.

1) Are you an avid fan, involved fan, casual fan or non-sports fans?

2) Who, if anyone, would you consider a sportsperson who is a good role model?

3) What are the positive and negative aspects of sports?

4) Stolen question: what is your favorite times of the sports year? Mine is early September: the NFL season starts, the baseball races heat up, and the U.S. Open (tennis) is in its second week.

5) If you have a subscription to Sports Illustrated, do you receive the swimsuit issue or do you opt out? If you do receive it, do you have an annual conversation with your significant other about it?
I went out and bought one of those instant publications after the Giants' Super Bowl win. On page 1, the editorial mentioned the fear that the team wouldn't even get a "playoff birth", rather than "playoff berth". Having read Evanier musing about typos, this definitely made me chuckle. It wasn't the ONLY typo I found so far, but I've been looking.


Friday, February 15, 2008

February Ramblin'

Lots of things that interested me recently, many of them dealing with music.

This website is quite interesting and has several fascinating SOUND CLIPS from Aerosmith to Pavarotti including Joan Sutherland and harmonics singing. Even if you don't read the whole article, it is fun to listen to the singers clips and read the short info about their sounds. The sound clips and "infographics" of the vocal instrument are located in a box on page one of the article entitled "ALSO IN THIS ARTICLE".
There's a film called The Singing Revolution which was shown in L.A., opened in NYC recently, and has been shown in a few other places in the U.S. It is a full-length documentary about the relationship between singing (much of it choral singing) and the struggle for Estonia's independence from the Soviet Union.
You can see and hear film clips and request that the film be shown in your community
by going to the film's website.
Ever see Now Play it, a YouTube variation? It contains tutorials that explain how to play specific popular songs -- many posted by the recording artists themselves. This page, for example, lets you download a 27-minute video tutorial of Paul McCartney explaining how he played the parts on a single from his last album. Other entries: Iggy Pop ("Lust for Life"); David Bowie (several, including "Heroes" & "Space Oddity"), Radiohead, others. The downside: The site bills for downloads. Let's see how long THAT lasts.
I know they're over, but I still enjoy Ask Vulture: Should You Watch Sunday Night's Grammy Awards?
Not an inalienable right, it turns out.
There have been dissenters of Brahms' work since the nineteenth century, some of them heavyweights, e.g., Tchaikovsky and Britten. The blasphemy continues in this piece from the Washington Post by Anne Midgette.
HEMA is a Dutch department store. The first store opened on November 4, 1926, in Amsterdam. Now there are 150 stores all over the Netherlands. HEMA also has stores in Belgium, Luxemburg, and Germany. In June of this year, HEMA was sold to British investment company Lion Capital.
Take a look at HEMA's product page. You can't order anything and it's in Dutch, but just wait a couple of seconds and watch what happens.
Why I'm supporting John McCain:

A recent event that I missed, unfortunately. Compleat with Waxmagik and even More Wax.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Power Outage

Our electricity was out for three hours and eight minutes last night due to an ice storm that undoubtedly knocked down branches on some transformer somewhere. So I hasn't a post for you today. (It'd probably be maudlin anyway, it being Valentine's day and all.)

Instead, I will direct you to another blog I've contributed to recently. And if you ask me why, I'll say it's so I can hear this guy say, "You've sold out to the evil Hearst Corporation!"

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Major Taylor

On a library listserv a couple months ago, someone was looking for specific information about a French journalist and sports promoter by the name of Robert Coquelle. "Coquelle," she wrote, "is known for having brought the African American cyclist, Major Taylor, to Europe to race." Now I'm intrigued, not only by Coquelle, who interviewed the Wright Brothers early on, but mostly Who is Major Taylor?

Marshall Walter "Major" Taylor was a champion cyclist in a period of American history when cycling was very big. Major, who got the nickname from wearing a uniform in his early teens has a society named for him and has a pretty decent write-up in (shudder) Wikipedia. There's a guy in Rochester who has put together an extensive timeline including his burial in a pauper's grave in the early 1930s, despite making some serious money, arranged by Coquelle and others.

But it's this story that most intrigued me. It suggests that Major Taylor was trying to be white, not as in passing for white - he was too dark for that - but rather hoping for a raceless society, recognizing that his blackness was a hindrance. Here's a poem from this piece by Taylor:
As white as you are, and black as I be
Still it was nature's Decree
For black as I be, and white as you are
I can be white though blacker than tar (Taylor 418) Apparently, he had hoped his "inner whiteness" would save him from Jim Crow segregation; it did not.

Whatever his racial ambivalence, he is now considered a African-American hero, and, I believe, rightly so. I encourage you to read more about him at the links I've provided, but also here and in Google books.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Steve Gerber

Back on May 19, 2005, I wrote:

Steve Gerber, writer of fine comic books such as Man-Thing and Howard the Duck (but don't blame the movie on him!), wrote in his inaugural blog on April 4, 2005:

"I make my living as a writer. There is only one characteristic that distinguishes writers from non-writers: writers write. (That’s why there’s no such thing as an "aspiring writer." A writer can aspire to sell or publish, but only non-writers aspire to write.) Anyway, writing for a living requires writing every day. Writing every day requires discipline. Discipline requires enforcement.
"I’ve lost the habit of writing every day. I need discipline. I need enforcement. You’re looking at it.
"I intend to post something on this blog every day. If I fail to do so, that failure will be very public, and I’ll be embarrassed by it. I don’t enjoy being embarrassed. So maybe, just maybe, making this obligation will help transform me into a habitual writer again."

Of course, he was not able to hold to this schedule because of various ailments. Still he continued to inspire me. From July 18, 2007 re: Bill Moyers' piece on the impeachment of George W. Bush:

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

I never met the man. I never knew the man, except through his words. I followed his blog regularly, but didn't write to him often.

I'm sure you know where this is going, if you haven't heard already: Steve Gerber died late the day before yesterday. I'll remember seeking out those first three Howard the Duck issues that my local comic book store didn't get because the distributor thought it was a "funny book" that the store didn't want. I'll remember how my old employer, FantaCo, spomsored the premiere of the HTD movie, which seemed to have departed from Gerber's vision.

But mostly, I'll remember Steve as this smart, occasionally acerbic guy, whose example affected me far more than he could have ever known.

The aforementioned Mark Evanier is keeping Steve's blog alive for a while.

Goodbye, Steve, and thanks.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Another Monday meme or three

In all likelihood, from some guy in Buffalo who wants you to Ask Him Anything.

Quiz the First
List your favorite product(s) for each of the following categories. You can also expand on why you like them, how long you've used them, etc.

1) Laundry detergent: Tide. That's what my wife buys. A lot when it's on sale. When I was single: whatever was cheapest that week.
2) Fabric softener: Febreze, I think.
3) Floor cleaner: Pine-sol or something like it, but most of them time, just sweeping, vacuuming, and Swiffers.
4) Carpet cleaner: Vacuum.
5) Glass cleaner: The store brand.
6) Dish detergent: Dawn, or some other name brand on sale. The sore brands don't cut it for my wife. She may be right.
7) Bathroom cleaner: Whatever's on sale.
8) Bath soap: SoftSoap shower gels.
9) Shampoo: Suave.
10) Conditioner: Same.
11) Styling products: None for me.
12) Deodorant: My mother used to sell Avon, and I have a stockpile of whatever their roll-on is.
13) Toothpaste: Crest or Colgate, on sale.
14) Mouthwash: Store brand that looks looks like Scope.
15) Face cleanser: None; use soap.
16) Moisturizer: Nope.
17) Treatment: I don't even know what "Treatment" is!
18) Lip balm: Rarely.
19) Nail polish: None.
20) Make up: No.

Do you have a dishwasher?

Is your living room carpeted or does it have hardwood floors?
Every room is carpeted except the kitchen and bathrooms.

Do you keep your kitchen knives on the counter or in a drawer?
We have a set in a knife block.

House, apartment, duplex or trailer?

How many bedrooms is it?
The assessment says three (or four). One's very small. One's the office.

Gas stove or electric?
Gas. Electric, which I have had in the past, is uncivilized.

Do you have a yard?

What size TV is in the living room?
Nineteen inches. Bought in 1987. No V-chip, no SAP, no stereo. We'll keep it until it dies.

Are your plates in the same cupboard as your cups?

Is there a coffee maker sitting on your kitchen counter?
No. Neither my wife or I drink coffee much. We DO have a coffeemaker, for guests.

What room is your computer in?
The office, one of the "bedrooms".

Are there pictures hanging in your living room?

Yes: a bucolic scene. A history of the British empire from 973 to 1973 that lists all of the houses and all the kings and queens in that house.

Are there any themes found in your home?
Yes. the books are in the office. The CDs are in 4 CD holders. Not a theme? I really don't know what that means.

Do you have any curtains in your home?
We used to. The ones we had originally were custom fitted to those windows. Now we have blinds.

What color is your fridge?
That off-white "appliance" color. The freezer door is off kilter, and sometimes you have to lift it up to make sure it's closed. This happened when I was in the refrigerator and someone opened the freezer door above me, a visiting sister, I think. I stood up and practically took the door off with my shoulders and back. The fridge is only four or five years old, and was less than one year old when this happened.

Is your house clean?

My house is clean on Saturday. Isn't always tidy during the week, though.

What room is the most neglected?

Now that my wife has cleaned the office, mostly of her school clutter, I'd say our bedroom.

Are the dishes in your sink/dishwasher clean or dirty?
Generally clean.

How long have you lived in your home?
Since May 2000.

Where did you live before?
In the first floor of the two-family apartment Carol bought in 1992. we were there for a year, and it was way too crowded. More to the point, it was HER house, as much as she tried to make it ours. This was actually good advice my former pastor gave us before we were married; get a place that was "ours".

Do you have one of those fluffy toilet lid covers on your toilet?
No. Never saw the point of those.

Do you have a scale anywhere in your house?
Yes, under our bed.

How many mirrors are in your house?
Two vanity mirrors in the bathroom, one other upstairs, one downstairs. Four.

Look up. What do you see?
A light fixture.

Do you have a garage?
No. We have street parking, with alternate-side parking twice a week, and a city that'll plow you into your parking space.

Quiz the Second

1. How old will you turn in 2008?
55, double nickel.

2. Do you think you'll be married by then?
If she's keep me.

3. What do you look forward to most in the next 3 months?
More sleep.

4. Do you like to say "I told you so?"
No. I prefer people recognizing the rightness of my position without me saying a word.

5. Who was the last person to call you?
My wife.

6. Do you prefer call or text?
I don't text.

7. Do you have any pets?
A stuffed cat.

8. What were you doing at 1:30 am?
Thinking about tomorrow.

9. What were you doing at 3:00 am?
Writing this.

10. When is the last time you saw your mom?
November, when I went to Charlotte, NC for her 80th birthday.

11. What is your mood?

12. How many houses have you lived in?
I lost count. More than 30.

13. How many city/towns have you lived in?
Binghamton, Kingston, New Paltz, Jamaica (Queens), Schenectady, and Albany, NY. Charlotte, NC.

14. Do you prefer shoes, socks or bare feet?
Slippers. Or sandals.

15. Are you a social person?

16. What was the last thing you ate?
Graham crackers.

17. What's your favorite color?

18. What are you doing for your next birthday?
Taking the day off.

19. What is your favorite TV show?
It depends on the last thing I saw. There was a great Aliens in America Christmas show. That said, The Office. Or Scrubs.

20. What kind of jelly do you like on your PB & J sandwich?
I don't like peanut butter. when I was 3 or 4, I ate it a LOT, apparently, and now the smell/taste makes me slightly nauseous. In any case, the daughter is allergic to it, so there's none in the house. My wife, BTW, LOVES peanut butter. Oh, jelly? Strawberry jam.

21. Do you like coffee?
No. I know this disappoints GayProf greatly, but what can you do?

22. What are you listening to?
The computer.

23. Do you have an iPod?
Yes, but don't use it much.

24. How do you feel about the last person you kissed?
This is a family blog.

25. Do you sleep on a certain side of the bed?
On the left, as you're reclining on the bed with the headboard at your head.

26. Do you know how to play poker?
Yes, but I play so infrequently always need a cheat card to emind me whether a straight beats a flush or vice versa.

27. What are you thinking about right now?

28. Any plans for this weekend?
Reading, writing.

29. Have you cut your hair this week?
No. A couple weeks ago.

30. Last picture you took?
Probably of the daughter.

31. Are you a tease?
Used to be.

32. Have you ever been in an ambulance?
Once, after a car accident in Endicott, NY when I was 19.

33. Do you prefer an ocean or pool?
To swim in? A pool. To walk beside? An ocean.

34. Do you smile often?
I guess so.

35. What color are your bed sheets?
Without looking, i couldn't tell you. Blue? Yellow? White? The red ones?

36. What is your favorite thing to spend money on?

37. Do you wear any jewelry 24/7?
Wedding ring.

38. Have you heard a rumor about yourself this week?
Only the ones I've started.

39. Who is the funniest person you know?
Probably one of the racquetball guys.

41. Where do you want to go to college?
SUNY New Paltz (B/A.), UAlbany (M.L.S.)

42. Who was the last person to make you cry?
Probably my daughter.

43. Do you shut off the water while you brush your teeth?

44. Do you wish you were with someone right now?
I'm good.

45. Are you mad about anything?
The "debates" that seem to seek out the salacious rather than inform, and gave more time to the top-tier candidates. NYS arcane election laws, making it harder to vote than elsewhere, spineless Democrats in Congress. And I won't even get into the administration in DC.

Quiz the third

1. Have you ever had mono?

2. The last place you were (besides now)?

3. The last gift you received?
Music of some sort.

4. How many times a day do you drop your mobile phone?
I've never dropped it yet. Forget it, yes.

5. The top three things you spend the most money on?
Well, since so much of it is automatically allocated to things such as the mortgage and paying bills, it's hard to say. Of the things I actually pay by cash, check or charge: utilities, food, drugspharmaceuticals.

6. Last food you ate?

7. First thing you notice about the opposite sex?
Close up: eyes. From a distance: general contour.

9. The school you attend?
See above: I finished college over fifteen years ago.

10. Your mobile phone provider?

11. Favorite store that's usually in a mall?
Dick's Sporting Goods. That said, I tend to avoid the mall like The Plague.

12. Whats the longest job you have ever had?
The current one: since October 19, 1992.

13. What do you smell like?
I don't know.

14. The biggest lie you've ever heard?
I'm sure it has to do with the Iraq war, but there were so many...

15. The last time you cried was because why?

16. In your opinion, do long distance relationships work?
Not for me.

17. Do you drink coffee?

18. What do you wanna say to your most recent ex?
"I did love you, you know."

19. Do you believe in God?
Yes, and is She pissed!

20. Favorite color(s)?
I've changed my mind since above. Tangerine trees and marmalade skies.

21. The last person on your missed calls list on your mobile phone?
I don't give out my number to my mobile phone I use it to call people. I don't miss calls.

23. How many pillows do you usually sleep with?
One, maybe two if they're thin.

24. What are you wearing now?
Gray sweatshirt, dark gray sweatpants. I sleep in them.

25. How many pets do you own?
Well, if you count ALL the stuffed animals...

26. What are you doing tomorrow?
Praying for peace.

27. Can you play ping pong?
Yes, but not particularly well.

28. Favorite gender?
Women. The vast majority of my friends have been female since I was about 10.

29. Do you like maps?
I LOVE maps. My grandfather used to give me the maps from his National Geographic, and I probably still have them in a suitcase in the attic, at least some of them.

31. Have you ever attended a themed party?
Yes. A polyester party, after seeing the John Waters film. All the food was marshmallow fluff and the like.

32. Have you ever thrown a party?
I've thrown LOTS of parties None recently, though.

33. When did you wake up this morning?
About three a.m.

34. The best thing about winter?
Going to the movies.

35. Last time you were in trouble with the cops?
Well, there was that time in '72...

38. What are your plans for this weekend?
Catching up on newspapers, taped programming.

39. How many days is it until your birthday?

40. What do you want to be when you "grow up"?
A raconteur.

41. Are you on a laptop?

42. Are you smiling?
No. I'm cold. And tired.

43. Do you miss someone right now?
Sometimes, I miss me.

44. Are you happy?
I'll be happier next month.

45. Have you ever been in the hospital for an emergency?
Besides the car accident in 1972, there was the time I had an allergic reaction to naprocyn, slept for 24 hours, got dragged to the ER, was dehydrated, and was on an IV for nine hours.

46. Last time you ate chicken?
I eat chicken often. Last night, actually.

47. What jewelry are you wearing?
Besides the ring, nothing.

48. What are you going to do after this survey?
Something else. Get dressed for work.

49. Song you're listening to?
45 Men in a Telephone Booth.

50. The car you were in last?

52. What color shirt are you wearing?
It's still light gray. What is it with recurring questions in the same blog-quiz, anyway?

53. How long is your hair?
What hair?

54. What's on your mind right now?
I need to take off some vacation days.

55. Last show you watched?
ABC News.

56. Last thing you drank?

57. Who was hotter, Ginger or Maryanne?
Mary Ann, who got rooked in the series' first theme.

No tagging. Anybody crazy enough to do one of these, or all three, is welcome to do so.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Weird but True

And all happening this past week:

Monday or Tuesday night, my wife was having trouble with my home computer, so I checked it out. When she typed in a URL, it would come in backwards. So would show up as moc.loa.www - and, BTW, it didn't work. I rebooted - the universal solution to all computer problems - and ended up with no Internet connection at all, so I had to call Time Warner, who do the voodoo they do and fixed it remotely.
My work fax is tied to my work e-mail, but I don't receive very many faxes. Generally, those I do get are junk faxes. But Wednesday morning, I got this letter from the NYS DMV explaining why a woman's driver's license was suspended for medical reasons. Below that, I see the woman's rebuttal as to why the suspension was not medically necessary. Clearly, this fax has been sent to the wrong number - mine - so I looked up her number and left a message explaining what happened. She called me back late that afternoon and thanked me for letting her know that her letter had been waylaid.
Ash Wednesday was a cold and rainy-turning-to-icy night. Carol, Lydia and I went to church, then I took Lydia home on the bus, since Carol had a church meeting. We left the light on the front porch. About 8:45 p.m., the doorbell rang. I assumed it was Carol who left her meeting early and didn't want to fumble with her keys. Instead, it was this woman I did not know, who appeared drunk and/or stoned, who wanted me to call her a cab. Apparently the cell phone in her hand wasn't working. So I closed the door, got our portable phone, opened the door and started calling taxi companies for her, first from the numbers as she recalled them, then from the Yellow Pages. I let them each ring over 10 times and got no answer - this was six or seven different companies, a couple I called twice. Finally, I got one who said a cab would be there in 45 minutes. The woman on the porch asked, "It's coming, right?" And I said yes, but I didn't give her a time frame. I felt sorry for her, since it was cold and wet out, but I was disinclined to let her in since 1) she appeared wrecked, 2) I had my daughter in the house and 3) the woman was smoking a cigarette, with a very long ash that had somehow stayed intact. About 20 minutes later, I looked on the porch, but the woman wasn't there. Twenty minutes after that, my wife got home; the woman was still gone. Thirty minutes after THAT, or over an hour after I had called the taxi company, I heard beeping in front of our house, which I assumed was the cab; whether the woman ever got on it, I'll never know.
Wednesday night into Thursday, I sneezed in my sleep and bit the left side of my tongue. Boy, that hurt!
I was on the bus Tuesday night, Primary Night in New York and elsewhere, heading to the polls. This woman I know only from riding the bus was telling this story - not just to me, but anyone within earshot - about a dream she had had the night before: There was a terrorist attack on Washington in early November 2008. President Bush declared martial law and postponed the elections. It was later discovered that the Bush administration had planned and executed the bombing itself.
The woman telling the story then explains how she woke up screaming and her upstairs neighbor ran downstairs to see if she was all right. He was about to call 911.
I won't even get into talking about my WORK computer, which died - as in as though someone pulled the plug - a week ago Friday thrice, Monday thrice, and Tuesday once, went to another computer, which did the same thing once on Wednesday.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Who'll Be the Veep QUESTION

My friend Deborah in France turned me on to this website where one can subtitle one's own Bollywood movie, and then send it on to friends. Her fine example can be found here, while my attempt is located here:

My piece, which I did on Wednesday or Thursday, after Super Tuesday, but before Mitt Romney suspended his campaign, is based on the fact that, barring a meteor crash, we in the United States will be electing as president the first person to move directly from the U.S. Senate to the White House since JFK.

So, who then, will be the Vice-Presidential candidate for:
Two parts: who SHOULD they pick? Who WILL they pick?
My thoughts:
They all need to pick a governor, or former governor. Doesn't mean it'll happen.
Clinton: It’ll have to be a man; I don't think that's a sexist observation, but a political one. The geography: someone from the South or the West. Too bad the governor of Montana doesn't have more electoral votes to offer. I suppose it could be Senator Obama.
Obama: It should be someone with foreign policy experience.
In each case, former candidate, and current governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson keeps popping up on my list. The governor of Kansas who is a woman, and who gave the response to the State of the Union, is an Obama supporter, but two Midwesterners doesn't seem to balance the ticket. In any case, I seriously doubt it'll be Obama-Clinton.
McCain: I have a dollar and two case quarters that it won’t be Mike Huckabee. If the Democrats don't put a woman on the ticket, maybe the Republicans will. And if McCain gives up trying to appease the "true conservatives" (whatever that means) who seem to hate his guts, maybe he could pick a moderate such as Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Here's a PDF of all the current governors. I'd be surprised if one of them is not on the national ticket, probably one whose term DOESN'T end in 2009.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Iron-Poor Blood

I thought it was winter malaise. But when I went to donate blood last week, I was rejected for not having enough red cells. Actually, the correct terminology is deferred, since if the situation changes, I can try again.)
Specifically, my blood count would have been acceptable if I had had a hemoglobin at or above 12.5 g/dL, and mine was 12.3. They used to use this solution to see if my blood would sink, and then more recently some sort of centrifuge to make sure I had a hematocrit at or above 38%, which I always did.

Still, the nice Red Cross lady, my neighbor Shirley, gave me juice and cookies anyway. Then I went to the barber shop and then home to bed.

This is slightly peculiar to me, for this is the first time in over 10 years that I've been deferred for this reason, during which I've probably donated 50 of my 120 times.

Here's something I didn't know: generally speaking, they test a man's blood pressure first then test the iron content. For women, it's the other way around. It's because men tend to have more high blood pressure referrals (over 180/100) than women, and women tend towards anemia more than men. Naturally, being a contrarian, my BP was 116/74.

My plot now is to consume lots of liver and spinach. Here's a list. I see haggis is on the roster; I think I'll pass. I'll stick with lean red meats, seafood, beans, iron-fortified whole grains, and greens (naturally). I'm fascinated by the fact that the can of apricots I have shows no appreciable iron noted on the label, yet dried fruits, such as raisins, prunes, dates and, yes, apricots, are on the list.

Do they still make Geritol?


Thursday, February 07, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: Ratatouille

In the mid 1980s, I lived in this apartment in Albany where there was a big field in the back. I suffered the most virulent mouse invasion I've ever experienced. It wasn't just mice in the low cabinets and along the floor boards. It was beasties in the upper cabinets. I remember putting a box of elbow macaroni on top of the refrigerator and discovered that a live mouse was still in it. Ultimately I set traps, usually four each night for about three weeks before the mouse hotline alerted its fellow travelers that this was not a safe house to be in.

The very premise of a movie about a rodent, a RAT, no less, preparing food was, to say the least, unappealing to me. Still, I went to the parlor of my church a couple Tuesdays ago, and saw Ratatouille with eight other adults, and no children. In fact, I may have been the youngest one there. I was totally captivated by this film. Among other things, there are scenes that are laugh-out-loud hysterical.

Establishing Remy as a sympathetic iconoclast foodie allows the rest of the story to flow, from Remy finding the once-famed Gusteau's restaurant in Paris to saving the young man Linguini from culinary disaster to what follows. There is a frantic wonder in that early kitchen scene that was breathtaking. If the movie isn't quite up to that level throughout, it's still high on my list of favorite films for the year.

This is yet another PIXAR success. In addition to the wonderful writing and direction of Brad Bird, and luscious artwork, I loved the voice actors, including Patton Oswalt as Remy and Lou Romano as Linguini, plus Ian Holm, Brian Dennehy, Peter Sohn, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo, Will Arnett, and Peter O'Toole as the food critic Anton Ego.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Keeping Your Cool in the Least Hospitable Environment on Earth

I was going to write about this much earlier, but now that I've actually read the book, now's probably even a better time.

We had our office Christmas holiday party in our office area this past year. I reckon it was a direct result of the previous year's gathering at some amazingly crowded restaurant where the people from the next area could bump into us with astonishing regularity. That said, I was quite disappointed with the decision. Getting out of the office was nice when we worked downtown, but now that I'm in suburban cubicleland, it seemed essential. And it was a potluck, always a pain when you take three buses to work.

Still, it wasn't awful, and in fact, we took over the "training room", a large meeting room, and it was all right. What was striking, though, was the gift exchange. Of the 12 gifts traded, fully four of them had a cubicle theme. In 2006, when we first moved in, we didn't see such gifts, but in 2007, it was as though it's finally sinking in. One person got a weather cube, another a Dilbert calendar, a third an actual miniature cubicle with a "person" at his computer that the real person can control.

I got a book, a 2007 paperback called The Cubicle Survival Guide by James F. Thompson. Its subtitle is the title of this piece. Of course, some of this is common sense, except that, as many of us have realized, "common sense" is not all that common.
Introduction: Railing against the term "cubicle farm"
Chapter 1: Perspective. "They're not real walls."
Chapter 2: Decoration. Postcards, family photos, small plants, yes. Religious and political icons, no, unless that's the norm.
Chapter 3: On the Phone. How to speak in code, because whispering or even speaking in another language might not cut it. Also, how to deal with "speakerphone divas."
Chapter 4: Illness, Bodily Functions and Injuries. Frequent trips to the bathroom, using discretion, and detours to treat that hangover.
Chapter 5: Eating, Drinking and Digesting. Fish is at the top of the stink pyramid. Consideration when using the toaster oven and the microwave creates peace.
Chapter 6: Hygiene. Don't trim your fingernails. Wear your shoes. Limit the perfume.
Chapter 7: Entertaining Guests and Unannounced Visitors. Use defensive body-language techniques to get rid of the office lamprey.
Chapter 8: Anti-Spy Methods and Counterespionage Equipment. Ctrl-W, alliances with colleagues, small fonts, rearview mirror.
Chapter 9: Exercising, Blood Circulation and Posture. Some good, specific exercises. Take a break, have a life.
Chapter 10: Protecting Yourself and Your Cubicle. No passwords on your computers, use yellow police tape. I think the latter's a joke, but I'm not sure.
This book may be more useful to point out to others their shortcomings than for you, who would never eat a stinky cheese in a cubicle. Would you?

At said party, my favorite thing to eat was this. They're not "heavy", as you might assume they are.

Sausage Balls
(from the Lady and Sons Cookbook - a Savannah, GA restaurant)

3 cups Bisques or baking mix
1 pound of sausage (I use the roll of Jimmy Dean sausage) – not cooked
2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
2 beaten eggs

Put the first three ingredients in a big mixing bowl and stir together.
It forms stiff dough that loosens up when you add the beaten eggs. Mix well.
Form 1” balls (like a medium sized meatball) and place about 2” apart on a baking sheet.
Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees. The color will change only slightly during the baking.
These are best served warm. The recipe makes nearly 2 dozen balls, depending on the size.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Note to self

Vote. Polls open upstate NYS noon-9 pm.


MOVIE REVIEW: Eastern Promises

A friend of mine has a Netflix account, and before she returned the film, she let me watch Eastern Promises a week ago Sunday, while Carol and Lydia went ice skating. I must admit, despite it being out for a while, I wasn't sure what the movie was about. As it turns out, it's the story of the Russian mafia in London, and this guy Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen) working his way up the system. It's also about this young woman who died in childbirth, nurse Anna (Naomi Watts) trying to find the family of the baby, and how these two story lines intersect.

Mortensen is excellent, and deserving of his Oscar nomination. I had seen him only in lighter fare, such as the first Lord of the Rings film. He embodies and possesses this hardened character. Watts is also good, as is Armin Mueller-Stahl as the mob boss. I was also captivated by the storytelling prowess of tattoos.

All that said, I can't say I enjoyed the film. There are ultragraphic touches throughout. In fact, after the scene that took place at 75 minutes in, I did something I absolutely hate to do; I put the video on pause to catch my breath, which one could not do in a movie theater. It does not surprise me that the director was David Cronenberg, who broke into films making violent fare; his last film, which I did not see, was A History of Violence.

More problematic, though, is the storyline itself. Maybe it was because of the language barrier, but occasionally I didn't understand what was going on, why a certain person was killed, and worst of all, the ending. Also, there's about a five-minute initiation seen, done entirely in languages I did not comprehend - no subtitles - which was interesting for a couple minutes, but which then became frustrating.

You know when you read the SPOILER ALERT synopsis and both you and your friend say, "Oh, is THAT what happened?", a certain storytelling disconnect has occurred.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Book Meme

Before I get there: I'm not sure I'm happier about the Giants winning the Super Bowl, 17-14, or the Patriots going 18 and ONE.

I generally gauge a Super Bowl commercial by whether I can remember it he next morning, without notes, without notes. I remember hot air balloons fighting for Cokes, the annual "awww" commercial from Bud of dog training horse, a talking baby throwing up on e-Trade, that GoDaddy commercial tease to see Danica Patrick on their website, and those pandas in Chinese "dialect" for some career builder site which I expect to engender some warranted controversy (after it aired, I said, WT...). Oh, yeah, the first Victoria's Secret ad since 1999, but I had read about that in AdAge; it was tame for VS.
I'm fairly sure I've done this before, but since Nik tagged me, not only will I answer it, I will endeavor to give answers different from the ones I gave last time. Whenever that was. If I can remember the answers I gave last time.

1. One book that changed your life?

The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology by Barry Commoner. It came out in the 1970s, and I ended up voting for Barry Commoner for President in 1980.

2. One book you have read more than once?

The Fate of the Earth by Jonathan Schell. Despite the dire predictions, it's also such a hopeful book that a segment was used at a wedding I was at.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

Oddly enough, Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles text. It will allow me to recreate some of the songs in my mind.

4. One book that made you laugh?

Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton. I swear this children's story was inspired by rap music.

5. One book that made you cry?

This is so hokey and cliched - Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.

6. One book you wish had been written?

The Bible. I'd leave in the good stuff.

7. One book you wish had never had been written?

I like Nik's answer: "Well, the whole genre of right-wing Let Me Tell You Why Liberals Suck books by O'Reilly, Coulter, Limbaugh, et al I guess. I find them bankrupt as literature and usually preaching to the converted anyway."

8. One book you are currently reading?

A book about cubicles that I hope to review soon.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?

I have shelves of them. If I pick one at random: Wired by Bob Woodward.

10. Now tag five people.

Well, I have to pick Eddie, who broke the pledge that Nik had been holding to;
Kelly Brown, because of her mysterious mind;
Deborah, in the hope that the meme will travel through Europe;
Uthalena, who hasn't posted since early September;
Fred, because it's been a long time since I've asked him to.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: Charlie Wilson's War

Back on ML King Day, Carol and I went to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany. One must always take advantage of those times when the child is in day care and the parents both have the day off.
The goal in Roger's Oscar roulette is to see as many Oscar-nominated films before the actual awards (this year: February 24), whether it's a gala affair or Golden Globes press conference, part 2.

Charlie Wilson's War is a Hollywood movie. I mean that in all the good and bad sense of that term. To the good, the production values are more than adequate; to the bad, it's rather bland.

An early scene involves a number of naked women. Is this titillating? It is not. It was, surprisingly flat and boring. In fact, the film felt that way pretty much until Philip Seymour Hoffman's character shows up. It's comedic and has a certain energy; his Oscar nomination is deserved, for this and other roles this past year.

Tom Hanks is Tom Hanks. I don't know what else to say.

Julia Roberts has taken a lot of heat, not just for this role, but somehow for her whole acting career. I thought she was fine in Erin Brockovich, playing a real person, (though Ellen Burstyn should have won for Requiem for a Dream that year, rather than Julia). And her hair looks A LOT like the real woman she is portraying. But here, her performance is rather flat, and I don't know why.

If you don't know, this movie is based on a real Texas congressman who found a way to fund the Afghans fighting the Russians. Much has been made of the ending, with some suggesting a more specific conclusion, telling the audience that the money shelled out for Charlie's war helped in the development of the Taliban. I tend to disagree; the oblique dialogue between Charlie and the CIA man Gust (Hoffman) is enough, without it either 1) being preachy and/or 2) having to resort to that clumsy overlay technique of text at the end of the film telling you what happens next, used in films based on fiction as well as reality.

The story was written by the late CBS News producer George Crile, and the real Charlie Wilson appeared on 60 Minutes seven years ago. The average grade in Entertainment Weekly for this movie is a B. That's just about right. It was by no means a terrible movie-going experience, but it wasn't extraordinary, either. Maybe its lack of honesty and bite (except for Hoffman's character) hurts it as a film as well.