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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Because I Am A Lemming

I am participating in BlogDay2008:
BlogDay was created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest. On that day Bloggers will recommend other blogs to their blog visitors.
With the goal in mind, on this day every blogger will post a recommendation of 5 new blogs. This way, all blog readers will find themselves leaping around and discovering new, previously unknown blogs.

I must say that I like getting out of my comfort zone now and then. So I did the next blog thing on Blogger. I avoided the ones with fewer than five posts for no particular reason. I found these:

Nicole Jarecz Illustration by Nicole Jarecz, Detroit, MI, United States. A junior at the College for Creative Studies, majoring in illustration.
Unsurprisingly, she does a lot of drawings, many of which I like. Occasionally, she even talks.

VERACRUZ TURISMO DIGITAL. Las Noticias de Turismo del Estado de Veracruz Mexico
It's in Spanish, and I don't really read Spanish, but it seems to be a site about the
culture of Veracruz. Has photos, so it was worth looking at.

Kundalini Splendor.
Poems and Reflections on the Spiritual Journey by Dorothy Walters
She writes: "I invite you to contact me." She has a kindly face. Pictures accompany her photos. I'm not much into poetry, I'm afraid, but the page gave me a soothing feeling, somehow. Clearly, my favorite of the five.

ADESPOTO Halandriou
Σύλλογος φίλων των ζώων Χαλανδρίου
It's all Greek to me. This person from Athens takes photos of animals. I like animals OK, but my Greek is non-existent, so the context is lost on me. Yet that's all right.

吕昕展 臭Baby部落格.
Shinzhan 吕昕展, Mersing, Johor, Malaysia
OK. Not my favorite kind of page; that is, a bunch of pictures of somebody's kid with no context, plus short videos. I don't mind an occasional pic- been known to do it myself, but no narrative, even if I could read Chinese.
Still, I'm fascinated by this page because I put it through the Google translator, and the title of the page reads: "Lu Hsin-Chin foul Baby blog". Really. Does this mean in translated Chinese what it means in English? And in the Chinese title: Are there no characters for "baby" in Chinese?


Saturday, August 30, 2008

QUESTION: Time vs. Quality of Life

A couple weekends ago, we (OK, my wife) bought furniture for our porch. They come in these large cardboard boxes. Once upon a time, these boxes would have ended up in the garbage, but there I was cutting up the boxes, making them ready for the recycling. It took time, over a half hour for all of the boxes. It was a tradeoff between by time and the quality of life I want to maintain.

I'm recalling the local experiment the local paper Times Union did with test riders bus riders. One of the riders said, "I don't know how anyone could subject themselves to that. (I excoriate them here.)

So the question is simple in structure: What do you do that could be done faster but that you feel is important to take on in a slower manner? My wife makes brownies from scratch. Maybe you participate in a gardening project. There's a "slow-cook" movement that you might be part of. Perhaps you sew, knit, crochet. I was going to note that we compost, but I just don't think of the time we spend separating the compostables from the other items as that substantial, though it does reduce the amount of trash we put out weekly.

Miss Wasilla for 1984, Sarah Palin.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Michael Jackson Turns 50

I remember in the mid-1970s, Andy Rooney, the guy on 60 Minutes, used to do these occasional pieces, these "humorous" mini-documentaries about restaurants, or different ways people sing the song "Misty".

One piece was about who is famous. I recall that while Paul McCartney was famous, Michael Jackson, then with the Jackson Five, was not, at least in his mind, Famous meant generally recognized, regardless of generation.

Well, if asked now, I'm sure Andy would consider him famous, or perhaps a bit infamous.

I like quite a bit of Michael's music, particularly the early J5 and the early parts of his solo career. Last year at this time, I noted that I thought his 1979 album, Off the Wall, was better than his massive 1982 album, Thriller. The first cut from the earlier album can be found here. His electrifying performance at Motown 25, which I haven't seen since the mid-1980s, still brings a smile to my face.

And I noted that since I share his disease, I viscerally understood some of his craziness (the surgeries, the mask, not the hanging a baby over a balcony.)

So, on his half century mark, I'm disinclined to go beat up Michael. I'll leave that for others. I'll just wish him well.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mud pie

So I needed a hook, and one was provided to me.

On Monday, July 21, I went to pick up a newspaper called The Capitol, a free monthly newspaper covering what passes for state government in Albany. It was located in one of those blue boxes not unlike those you'd find when one is buying a daily newspaper. Sitting on top of the pile of papers inside the container was an aluminum pan filled with what was meant to look like manure. At least, that's what I hoped, since I didn't bother studying it too closely. I took a copy of The Capitol, wrapped it around the pan, and threw it away in the nearest receptacle. But I needed to wash my hands right away, It was evident that the individual putting the pan in expected someone to reach in lazily and get this substance on his or her hand.

About three days later, I'm telling this story to a white male person of my acquaintance. I added that I wondered if the act was in any way racially motivated. I based it on two facts: 1) the cover story was about Barack Obama, or more correctly, which NY state legislators might become Presidential timber like former Illinois state legislator Obama did; 2) the box was located in front of a black-owned business. He said, "C'mon, that's a stretch", and I dropped it for a time. Later, though, I mentioned it again, and he wondered why. But a couple minutes later, he had an epiphany. "Oh, but why WAS that pan placed there?"

That was primarily what I was really trying to say; the thing was there for SOME reason, and curious librarian minds wanted to know if it was merely a random prank or something more significant.

Bringing up race - or the possibility of racism (or sexism or homophobia) is fraught with danger. Some will suggest that one is/I am looking through a prism of race; quite possibly true. Just mentioning race, some will suggest, IS the problem, a position that I do not ascribe to; the current presidential campaign suggests that does not work, at least not yet. Sometimes you have to talk about it anyway.

As Jay Smooth put it: "Race: the final frontier"

FantaCo Chronicles: Webslinger, si; Freak Brothers, No

FantaCo was the comic book store/publisher/mail order center/convention house where I worked from May 1980 to November 1988. It opened August 28, 1978, 30 years ago today. And it closed on August 28, 1998, 10 years ago today.

The Chronicles were comic-book-sized magazines about various comic book characters. I’ve previously talked about the X-Men Chronicles, how much I liked working with Raoul Vezina, but hated having to retrieve the wet cover from Dave Cockrum. I’ve noted how Jim Shooter screamed at us for using the Jack Kirby interview in the Fantastic Four Chronicles. I’ve mentioned how Marvel appropriated parts of the Daredevil Chronicles for its Daredevil Omnibus; I tend to agree with the criticism that it leaned too heavily on Frank Miller’s period, ignoring Wally Wood and other DD history.

Next up, the Avenger Chronicles, edited by Mitch Cohn. I always thought the George Perez cover was a bit lackluster, but it was a decent enough book. It features a lengthy essay by me about the Avengers/Defenders War, detailed nearly as much as one would have described the Peloponnesian War.

Which brings us to the Spider-Man Chronicles. This is my favorite book in the series. I loved the varied layout that I instituted, which I though gave it a clean, modern look. I felt that I had finally developed a good line of contributors I could count on, and I felt for the first time that I really knew what I was doing. My favorite feature might have been humor cartoonist Fred Hembeck interviewing Spidey scribe Roger Stern, complete with illos.

The mag was almost hassle free. Well, except for two little things. One, of course, was the cover; it's always the cover. I had, or more likely Mitch had contacted Frank Miller about drawing it, as he had done for the Daredevil Chronicles, and he had agreed, but at the last moment, he had to beg off, leaving me very much in the lurch.

I couldn’t use the back cover done by Joe Staton, because it wouldn’t have worked design-wise. Let me mention here Joe was possibly the sweetest man I’ve known in the comic book industry and who I would see from time to time in the store.

So, what to do, what to do. Pretty much in desperation, I called John Byrne, who had done the Fantastic Four cover. He whipped it out so quickly that it did not negatively affect the production schedule we had set with the printer. Say what you will about John Byrne, who apparently has been known to say some controversial things, but he saved my bacon -- twice. I will never say anything bad about John Byrne.

The other problem was a drawing that Raoul Vezina had done of Spider-Man upon which he had put on the lyrics of the Spider-Man cartoon show. Rather like this:

We had contacted the copyright holder, seeking their permission to use those lyrics, and waited. And waited. And waited. We were even willing to pay them a reasonable amount of money for the rights. But ultimately, their response at the 11th hour was that we couldn't use the lyrics at all. Ultimately, Raoul changed the words so it merely said "Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man," which we believed to be a copyright fair-use solution.

After having dealt with Marvel, sometimes with some great difficulty, FantaCo decided to go in a different direction with the series. We put out the Chronicles Annual, an overly broad history of what else was being published at the time, which Mitch and I edited. Then we decided to look to the "independent publishers" and put out Chronicles based on their characters. The first one we were going to do was the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Chronicles, which Mitch was going to edit. It was announced in our monthly newsletter, Fantaco Nooz, and Mitch reminded me that we even had a Gilbert Shelton cover, which looked a lot like this, obviously later used instead for a Freak Brothers anthology: But for reasons that now escape me, that book never saw the light of day. After that, I was supposed to edit the Kitchen Sink Chronicles, and there was even passing conversation about getting a Will Eisner cover. That too never got off the ground.

Well, *I* forgot the reason those magazines didn't come out. Fortunately, an THE authority on FantaCo publications remembered. That would be Tom Skulan, founder/owner/big kahuna of FantaCo, who I've been in touch with for only a couple weeks after a nine- or ten-year hiatus. He noted that the Freak Brothers was never done because FantaCo did not receive enough material for a full issue; I guess some potential contributors were, like, too laid back. The Kitchen Sink Chronicles was never done because the initial feedback FantaCo got about it indicated that, unfortunately, it would be a very small print run, which broke my heart. Thus, as a magazine series, the Chronicles came to a bittersweet end, though one much later FantaCo BOOK was always thought of as a continuation of the series.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

ADD writes:

Andrew Wheeler posted this challenge on the Very Good Taste are the rules:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten. (I've opted to italicize; my blog, my rules.)
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.

Alan's American Variant: I asterisked (*) any items that are unknown to me. Most of the starred items, I have heard of, but I don't know what they are. Pathetic, I know.

(Oh, Johnny B. hates tomatoes, it seems.)

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho*
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi*
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses*
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes - specifically apple
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper*
27. Dulce de leche*
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda*
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (I've had each, but not together; would certainly eat it if offered)
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly*
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal*
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu*
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi*
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle*
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine*
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin*
64. Currywurst*
65. Durian*
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost*
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu*
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong*
80. Bellini*
81. Tom yum*
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate*
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa*
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano*
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I should note that I didn't cross off anything, because I'd try it in theory. Faced with a whole insect, who knows?
Also, many of the thinks I checked on the list, I tried only once, and didn't particularly enjoy.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Lydster, Part 53: Room of Many Colors

Lydia is susceptible to allergies, not just peanuts, but also including dust mites. So it is incumbent upon us to scrub her walls thoroughly periodically. Last year, during the process, Carol and her father painted Lydia’s room a peach color that Lydia didn’t like for reasons of design that were lost on me. So this year, when she was asked what colors she would like on her walls, Lydia told them, and Carol and her father complied. The room is now pink. And blue. And purple. And yellow. And green. With a floor that’s a color called Rose Balcony. And now Lydia is very happy with a room that she can call her own. They also painted a white chair pink to match her bedding. Joseph, the 11th son of Israel, would be pleased.
Other sources of allergies, which I share with her, are grasses and ragweed, which we monitor. Saturday, while I was cutting the grass, Lydia came outside to pick some wildflowers. That afternoon, she had shortness of breath, and that night she coughed for three hours; cough medicine is of no use, but the drugs in the nebulizer eventually did the trick.
I don't often say things like, "Boy, is my girl smart!" OK, maybe I do. But it seemed like only a few weeks ago, she insisted that twenty-nine was followed by twenty-ten, my insistence to the contrary notwithstanding. But now she can count to one hundred and beyond. Shades of Toy Story.

Picture #1 courtesy, of Earthworld Comics, May 2008.
Picture #2 courtesy of Uthaclena, August 2008.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Julie Hembeck Turns 18

One of the great pleasures I’ve had as a result of reigniting my friendship with Fred Hembeck and his wife Lynn Moss was getting to know their daughter Julie. From an awkward 15-year-old teenager to a beautiful 18-year-old young lady, she has blossomed in her confidence as well as her artistic eye. She will be going to college next month in New York State, but about four hours from home, compared with a couple colleges she looked at right in the Mid-Hudson that were only about an hour's drive. So Fred and Lynn have to cope with being empty-nesters.

In fact, Leonard Bernstein, who would have been 90 today, discusses and plays the Ode for Joy, just for Julie:

And speaking of the Hembecks, Carol, Lydia and I made our annual trek to their chateau earlier this month. As usual, Fred and I blathered about what we’ve later described as unincapsulable. I know we talked about FantaCo, Regis Philbin, and Fred's new book. But the conversation tended to flit from subject to subject.

He, our wives and I also had a philosophical conversation about blogging. My wife chastised me for me saying that she should look at my blog, rather than me having to explain what I had written. I noted that it isn’t just the information in the blog that I was trying to convey but the style and manner in which I said it. So to give a Cliff’s Notes version of it wouldn’t do it justice.

Fred ragged on me when he discovered that I had watched on the Internet the last 10 minutes of "There Shall Be Blood." About every 10 minutes he would find some parallel slapdown to give me, ending with "Oh I suppose you listened to/read/watched/ saw the last 10 minutes of THAT," no matter what it was. He even got my beloved wife to join in the fun. I had a good time anyway, with Lynn’s vegetarian dinner a highlight of the day.
Another satisfied Fred Hembeck customer.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


After my accident lost me six weeks of riding time, I got on the bicycle, but it just didn't feel right. So I decided I ought to take my bike to the shop to make sure it's OK. Between the time it took the shop to get to my bike in the queue, them actually fixing it and me getting to it, a total of ten weeks of prime riding time was killed, alas!

So I am on my bike, functionally for the first time in two and a half months. It feels foreign, strange. The seat had replaced as were the pedals. The seat needed adjusting - it was too high; as did my helmet - it was too tight. So I decided to ride on the sidewalk the three blocks from the bike shop to the church so I could get back to the church picnic I had left to get the vehicle in the first place and do my adjustments then.

I pass a woman on the sidewalk, not a half a block from the shop, passing her four feet wide of her, going quite slowly. And what does she say? "You're not supposed to ride on the sidewalk!" Of course, she was right, but I was rather hoping for some cosmic grace. But explaining all of this would have taken too much time, so I just said, "Not without getting killed," which was true enough; I didn't feel in control of my vehicle. Then she said something I didn't hear, and I rode back, sighing.

Back at church, I then made the appropriate adjustments so that I could ride on the street.
"The cyclist is a man half made of flesh and half of steel that only our century of science and iron could have spawned."
- (19th-century author) Louis Baudry de Saunier
"My family car is an SUB and I love it. On my new 'sport utility bicycle' I can cart groceries, take my kids shopping, haul a barbecue grill and make a margarita," by Mark Benjamin. Complete with video.
More bikes as transportation.
Brilliant Bike Locking:

The Bike to Work book.
"When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking." - Arthur Conan Doyle.
How high are those gas prices?
A Borgman cartoon.
"A seat and handlebars have a magical way of bringing out a childish enthusiasm
that is too often thrown by the wayside as we grow up.
It's always there. Waiting to be revived.
And when you find it again, it's fun and strangely familiar.
Just like riding a bike."
- Mary Buckheit
Actual sign: "Burn Fat Not Oil." True that.
Bicycle service and parts.
Someone e-mailed this; don't know the original source -

Green Machine

What's your carbon footprint? And I don't mean your cycling-shoe size.
No, I'm talking about the color of the moment: green.
"Puh-leeze," you say, "I ride a bike. I'm greener than a hung-over Carnival Cruise passenger in a hurricane."
Is that so? Then you won't mind taking this climate-change quiz designed just for cyclists:
I commute by bike . . .
(a) every day
(b) couple times a week, if it's not raining and the alarm goes off
(c) I no longer commute since getting fired for making fun of the boss's Prius
My frame is made of . . .
(a) steel, aluminum, carbon or titanium
(b) bamboo, hemp or old Clorox bottles
(c) spent nuclear fuel rods, covered in baby seal fur
I only eat energy bars made from . . .
(a) endangered white-rhino meat
(b) locally grown, fair-trade, organic ingredients
(c) ethanol waste products
I clean my chain with . . .
(a) jet fuel
(b) citrus-based degreaser
(c) nothing, thus allowing it to exist freely in its natural state
After cleaning my chain, I . . .
(a) hose the drippings into the nearest storm drain, which empties into the local orphanage's playground
(b) take the gunk-filled degreaser to the recycling center
(c) like I said, I don't clean it, you fascist chain murderer you
When my water bottle gets moldy, I . . .
(a) chuck it in a roadside ditch
(b) cut off the top and recycle it as a planter
(c) use it to plug the exhaust pipe of Hummers
If I can't ride my bike someplace, I . . .
(a) drive my SUV there as fast as possible, with my tires under-inflated and the AC blasting out my open windows
(b) walk, car-pool or take bio-diesel-powered public transportation
(c) ride the indoor trainer while watching my Al Gore videos
Why Bike? Top 5 Reasons to Ride


Saturday, August 23, 2008

QUESTION: Looking forward, looking back

There was major flooding in the city of Rensselaer, just across the river from Albany, a couple weeks ago, and the mayor blamed it on some controversial development taking place a few miles away. I was practically struck dumb (yeah, hard to believe, I know) by the comment of someone I know: "Now the blame game begins." It didn't feel like a "blame game" at all. It was historic flooding that closed the train station from Rensselaer to the next stop to the south, Hudson. SOMETHING happened. We should talk about it, don't you think?

There seems to be a certain mindset - I don't know of it's an American process or not - that says, "A bad thing has happened. Let's not dwell in the past, but let's move on," even before one can grieve or understand the loss.

But wait. Your house in California burned. Again. You're going to build a THIRD time. I saw at least one home owner say that on the news this fire season. But it's not just YOUR decision. Building in a know fire zone means resources are put in place to contain the next fire. Can we talk about this first?

Likewise, building in a flood zone. I think I mentioned in this blog about a town that after the historic 1993 floods on the Mississippi moved the whole town to higher ground and was spared the devastation that its neighboring towns experienced AGAIN in 2008.

I am fascinated by Greensburg, KS. Devastated by a tornado in 2007, it is rebuilding as a 'green' city.

Certainly, there are implications of this thought process dealing with interpersonal relationships, where someone who is wronged is told to "get over it!", usually too quickly for my taste.

So, my overly broad question: when do you look forward, and when do you reflect on what happened to see if maybe, just maybe, this needs to be rethought?
Because it's been hanging out, an orphan

And just because:


Friday, August 22, 2008


ADD will relate.
One of the things that’s been keeping me busy lately is helping my wife prepare for the jaw surgery she had this past Monday. Evidently the lower part of her mouth is not large enough to accommodate for the teeth there. So her jaw was cut and brought forward a few millimeters. The surgery usually involves a three-to six-week recovery period, depending on the track of the procedure. If all goes according to plan, the cuts to her jaw will be clean and the shorter time will be required. If on the other hand, a piece of the jaw breaks, then it'll be the longer scenario. Unfortunately, while one side went as desired, the other did not. Three little pins on one side, a titanium plate and one screw on the other. For probably the whole month and a half, she will have her mouth wired shut.

We’ve gotten some pretty peculiar responses to the news of her impending surgery. One person, when told that Carol needed to be eating strained foods for the next couple of weeks, shrieked "OOOOHHH, I HATE strained foods!" Not particularly helpful.

Then there are the people who think that my wife's mouth not being big enough is a sort of punchline for something out of The Honeymooners. Guys in particular seem squeal with delight that my wife will be somehow struck dumb by the contraption that is located in her mouth. It is as though they’re thinking "to keep the old lady quiet for a while" is my desire; I find this more than slightly disturbing, not to mention insulting to my wife. Actually, she will be able to speak, albeit with clenched teeth. We have been warned that she will sound a bit angry ,even though she is not.

The worse part of this was the tremendous pain my wife was in on day one. Even with "the good stuff", her pain threshold only went from 9 to 8. this is a woman who did childbirth without meds before and only extra strength Tylenol afterwards. I made it very clear to the hospital staff that my wife does not complain idly about pain; if she says she's in pain, she's in PAIN. By the next day, the pain had alleviated somewhat, but she still has a modicum of discomfort.

Ironically, the surgery is considered successful. The lower teeth ARE lined up properly with the upper teeth; the goal was met, It was merely the methodology that was problematic.

One of the good things that’s come out of this is that Carol’s finally gotten a health care proxy, which I’ve been nagging her to do for about nine years. She thought it was more complicated or required more verbiage. But when she saw my version, which I had done 15 years ago and have altered twice since, she realized it was pretty easy to take care of.

She’s recovering well and sleeping a lot.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Songs That Move Me: #1

1. God Only Knows - Beach Boys.
Ultimately, a song I know a lot about, from Brian and Carl Wilson praying before the recording to Brian's obsessive orchestration. It's Beach Boys and it's beautiful.

I'll tell you how strong it is. Its use as the ending of the movie Love Actually probably raised the movie's enjoyment from a B-minus to a B-plus.

There are two things that really seal the deal for me picking this particular song. One was when I went to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in May of 1998 and came across the tribute to Carl Wilson, who had died a few months earlier. Coincidentally, there was also a tribute to another Carl who had recently died, Carl Perkins. Quite moving.

The other factor was listening to the Beach Boys’ 5-CD boxed set, which has a 9-minute version of "God Only Knows," the first 6 of which is rehearsal, but the last 3 of which is a phenomenally beautiful rendition, ending in classic Beach Boys vocalese, which I hope sees the light of day as a separate release someday.
There are all sorts of artists whose music I enjoy, from James Brown to Led Zeppelin, the Police to the Talking Heads, who I enjoy immensely, yet somehow didn't make this particular list. If I do it again - don't hold your breath on that! - I will make a point of seeking other artists.
The Royal Guardsmen are finally going to England "After our hopes were dashed more than forty years ago, one of our desires has come to fruition." Readers of this blog may recall a spirited but friendly debate I had with the Guardsmen's drummer over the release of their song Snoopy Vs. Osama, which had a far more serious tone than the Snoopy vs. the Red Baron songs of the 1960s. Even though we disagreed, I've been wishing John Burdett and the group well, and even subsequently got hold of an RG greatest hits collection. Maybe it's because the group and I have the same initials.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rock Meme: Robert Plant

Here's an old meme I found, which I'll use to celebrate Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant's 60th birthday.
Artist/Band: Robert Plant (b. 8/20/1948)
Are you male or female: Poor Tom
Describe yourself: Dazed and Confused
How do some people feel about you: Your Time Is Gonna Come
How do you feel about yourself: Fool in the Rain
Describe what you want to be: Ten Years Gone
Describe how you live: Trampled Under Foot
Describe how you love: Babe I'm Gonna Leave You
Share a few words of wisdom: Hey Hey What Can I Do
I was going to use songs from the Honeydrippers or solo Plant, if I had to, but Zeppelin titles filled the bill.

One of my favorite LZ songs, Communication Breakdown

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss doing another song about communications breakdown, Please Read The Letter, from my favorite album of 2007

Tosy found this Yahoo! list of the 20 greatest albums ever based on sales, staying power, and acclaim; FOUR are by Led Zeppelin, three of which I own.

A happy birthday to Robert Plant.
John Hiatt turns 56 today. Little ambiguity about what He's communicating:

Isaac Hayes' birthday would also have been today, but he died 10 days shy of his 66th birthday. Since SamuraiFrog posted Walk On By recently, I thought I'd pick another song from the album Hot Buttered Soul, Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic.

I was sad to hear of the passing of Jerry Wexler. His participation at Atlantic Records helped create the sound of Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Sam and Dave and many others. He worked with artists as varied as Bob Dylan, Dusty Springfield, Dire Straits, and Santana.
Photo: Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation at the Green Man Festival - 18.08.2007. [Source= Robert Plant by Ella Mullins on] |Date=August 18, 2007], used per Creative Commons

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Freddie and Me

I wasn’t a big fan of the rock group Queen. I do own their Greatest Hits album on vinyl, but that’s it. But Mike Dawson was a HUGE fan. In his comic book autobiography, Freddie and Me: A Coming of Age (Bohemian) Rhapsody, Dawson talks about how his upbringing in England and eventually in the United States was heavily integrated with the music and the lives of Freddie Mercury and his band. This wasn’t just the background music in his life a la the movie The Big Chill; these tunes were core elements that affected the decisions he made throughout his early years.

The book is funny, and occasionally sad; it’s specifically personal, yet has a universal sense as well. For instance, when he notes how much he hated those Queen fans-come-lately who only knew "Bohemian Rhapsody" as the result of the movie "Wayne’s World", it sounds like any number of comic book, art and music fans I’ve encountered over the years.(I think this speaks to Tosy’s feelings about the overplayed title tune of this book. If you’re a big fan of the group Queen or, oddly, George Michael, you’ll almost certainly love this book. If you’re a big fan of any musician or artist, you will certainly relate to the passion upon which Dawson draws.
Coincidentally, Freddie and me is one of several items for sale at ADD’s graphic novel sale.
Go to this episode of Coverville and hear the rare Michael Jackson/Freddie Mercury demo to the Jacksons’ hit "State of Shock" that ultimately featured Mick Jagger on guest vocal.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Understanding the Bible QUIZ

About six months ago, Anthony posted about taking The Hermeneutics Quiz, originally posted on the webpage of noted author and biblical scholar Scot McKnight; don't worry, Anthony actually has a link explaining what hermeneutics means, but briefly, it refers to the study of the interpretation of religious texts.

With a score of 65, Anthony was "a little surprised by the results, which on a spectrum from conservative to moderate to progressive" put him "right on the threshold between moderate and progressive."

I, on the other hand, scored a 77; a score between 66 and 100, means I'm a progressive on The Hermeneutics Scale; no surprise there. It wasn't as high as the score for Lefty Brown, who got an 85, since he is a proponent of the seamless garment, which I appreciate but have not yet fully embraced.

If you would, please take the test, let me know how you did and whether you think that is a fair representation of where you are in your faith journey.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bissette Tackles the FantaCo Legacy

Steve Bissette, who did work for FantaCo going back to 1981, has been as bothered by the misappropriation of the FantaCo legacy in sources such as the Wikipedia and the Comics Database as I have.

He's working on stuff, I'm working on stuff to clear the record.

Please, please read the record so far.


Way back on May 13, Carol and I got the grandparents to babysit so that we could see a production of the traveling show of the Broadway musical, Movin’ Out, featuring the music of Billy Joel, and choreography by Twila Tharp. We saw the production at the historic Proctor’s Theater in downtown Schenectady. Prior to the show, our real estate agent, who had secured us discounted tickets, also provided his coterie of associates with a complimentary pre-performance buffet featuring a musician who sang pop songs that I knew well.

The trick about Movin’ Out is that it helps a lot if you read the program, particularly the plot synopsis. I did; my wife did not. On paper, the plot seemed, well, paper-thin. My wife, conversely, was quite confused about whether there was actually a plot to this story. Is this merely a dance revue? It felt like that since the dancers would dance to the song, and then people would applaud, at least for the first 3-4 tunes. But as the plot thickened as the threat of war, specifically the Vietnam war, came over the story, there was a much more discernable story arc. So for me, it was much more enjoyable in that second part of the first act and the segued 4-song cycle that began the second act, ending with "Big Man on Mulberry Street," a song I remember fondly from an episode of the television show Moonlighting.

I must say the musicians and singers were outstanding and the dancers were very good, although the choreography among the males early on seemed a little repetitive, and the songs, though familiar, took on a new energy. So I loved the parts, but I wasn’t always sure then, or even now, how I felt about the whole.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

QUESTION: Bring It Back

The local newsweekly/arts publication Metroland had a civer story last week called Bring It Back, things "vaudeville to roller disco and trolleys to pterodactyls" that the writers want to see return. I'll tell you my three, and you tell me yours. You are not limited to three, BTW.

1. Single-screen movie theaters. Generally, they were not only much larger screens, but the place was more ornate as well. Love to see films at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, not that far from Albany, NY. Even if the movie's not good, the experience is still worthwhile.

2. The Ed Sullivan Show. Yes, I know Ed's dead. I'm talking about something as eclectic as the Sullivan program, where you wade through the guy spinning plates to see the singer you really want to see, and realize that you sorta LIKED the guy spinning plates, either genuinely or as kitsch.

3. Public civility. Yes, I'm old-fashioned, but I really HATE it when people on the bus/on the street curse in front of my four-year old daughter. Yeah, yeah, "she'll learn it eventually", and "everybody curses" (not true, BTW) and "it's just words" (true in a George Carlinesque way, but still), blah, blah, blah. It still bugs me. My aversion in that situation should be differentiated from language in music, books, movies, blogs, etc., where one generally can choose to be, or not.
Sidebar: I've said this before, but the overuse of cursing minimizes the power of the words. If/when I say "F*** you!" to you, you'll know that I'm royally p.o.ed.
From, this Madonna quote: "I always thought I should be treated like a star." Shouldn't we all feel that way, really? Madonna turns 5-0 today.


Friday, August 15, 2008

FantaCo redux

How do you leave the past behind
When it keeps finding ways to get to your heart
- From the musical Rent.

As some of you know, I worked at FantaCo Enterprises, a comic book store that was involved with conventions, mail order and publishing from May 1980 to November 1988. After I left, I figured, "OK, that was THAT chapter in my life," and I would just move on.

Well, no.

In part because of the nudging of a certain party, I wrote a piece or two about the place I spent 8.5 years working, with another piece coming later this month. Then I discovered that some people had warm recollections of FantaCo, the store, the conventions and the various, and eclectic, line of publications.

What brought this to mind were TWO e-mails I got in the past week. One wanted to get hold of FantaCo owner Tom Skulan concerning a publication about magazines such as EERIE and CREEPY, and he wanted to include the FantaCo publications of the genre.

(Truth is, I have a three-year-old e-mail of Tom's and don't know if it's any good.)

The other e-mail was from a guy who wrote:
One question I have is about the Fantaco/Tundra imprint. According to many sources, right around 1990, FantaCo proper disappeared, and instead comics with a Fantaco/Tundra imprint appeared. Kevin Eastman, publisher of the short-lived Tundra Publishing, seems to have been involved (as a book of his, "No Guts No Glory" was published by Fantaco/Tundra). In my Wikipedia entry, I deduced that Eastman bought out or absorbed Fantaco around this time. Am I correct in assuming that? If not, do you know the real history? (I know you left the company around 1988, but I thought you might have kept up with their story.)

I have no idea. The idea of Tom allowing anyone to "absorb" FantaCo seems out of character, but as the writer notes, I wasn't there. (Hey, anyone out there know?)

This latter writer, not so incidentally, has put together the FantaCo Wikipedia post. It is incomplete, as it does not even mention the book publications, such as Splatter Movies, Video Screams, The Amazing Herschell Gordon Lewis, a couple HGL screenplays, Midnight Marquee #33 (I think), and two books about Famous Monsters. I was tickled, though, to see the list of references, including Steve Bissette, who I knew in the day, and have been reacquainted with as a result of the Internet; and, well, me. I'm also cited, BTW, in the Fred Hembeck Wikipedia post.

Somehow, I have, much to my surprise, started to feel some responsibility towards the history of the FantaCo flame, even the stuff that happened after I left. It must be the librarian in me. Steve Bissette has already tackled some of this in his four-part series on Gore Shriek Steve's contributions to Henderson State University also addresses the topic. Others who have noted it include Fred Hembeck, of course, and Dennis Dread.

So, at SOME point, I'll have to deal with the incomplete legacy of FantaCo. I'll probably start with the Mile High listing. But, for all sorts of reasons, which will be revealed sooner or later, not for a few weeks. Meanwhile, if you all have some solid information re: FantaCo, especially FantaCo publications, and the FantaCo/Tundra relationship, please let me know. My thanks. The information gods will truly thank you.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Oscar-Worthy Movies I've Seen: 1938

Man, I was going to do this once a month, but haven't done it since November and last July before that:

"YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU", "The Adventures of Robin Hood", "Alexander's Ragtime Band", "Boys Town", "The Citadel", "Four Daughters", "Grand Illusion", "Jezebel", "Pygmalion", "Test Pilot"
SPENCER TRACY in "Boys Town", Charles Boyer in "Algiers", James Cagney in "Angels With Dirty Faces", Robert Donat in "The Citadel", Leslie Howard in "Pygmalion"
BETTE DAVIS in "Jezebel", Fay Bainter in "White Banners", Wendy Hiller in "Pygmalion", Norma Shearer in "Marie Antoinette", Margaret Sullavan in "Three Comrades"
Supporting Actor:
WALTER BRENNAN in "Kentucky", John Garfield in "Four Daughters", Gene Lockhart in "Algiers", Robert Morley in "Marie Antoinette", Basil Rathbone in "If I Were King"
Supporting Actress:
FAY BAINTER in "Jezebel", Beulah Bondi in "Of Human Hearts", Billie Burke in "Merrily We Live", Spring Byington in "You Can't Take it With You", Miliza Korjus in "The Great Waltz"
FRANK CAPRA for "You Can't Take It With You", Michael Curtiz for "Angels With Dirty Faces", Michael Curtiz for "Four Daughters", Norman Taurog for "Boys Town", King Vidor for "The Citadel"

I know I've seen Boys Town, fairly sure I saw Angels with Dirty Faces, and may have seen You Can't Take It with You. Either don't remember or not loving any of them that much. The Adventures of Robin Hood, though, I recall liking and it was generally thought that Errol Flynn should have gotten nominated.

Two films that were shut out altogether by Oscar: Bringing Up Baby (Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant), which I saw so long ago that I can't recall it much; and Alfred Hitchock's the Lady Vanishes, which I don't believe I've seen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Songs That Move Me, 10-2

10. Neil Young - Harvest Moon
A beautiful song, with specific recollections of a romance that burned brightly, then ended.
Feeling: autumnal.

9. Crying- Roy Orbison And k.d lang.
As good as Roy's original is, this one is better. It's the harmonica. And when lang gets to sing, by herself, the chorus, it is stunning.
Feeling: there's something in my eye.

8. Biko - Peter Gabriel.
The story of the slain South African is penetrating, but the vocals, the rhythm, and that ending!
Feeling: ticked off.

7. John Hiatt - Have a Little Faith in Me
How does this rate so high? It's just a guy on the piano. Well, it's the quality of both. Hiatt remade this song with more orchestration for a greatest hits album; it was not improved, and in fact was somehow diminished. Not so incidentally, a key song on a mixed tape I made for my now-wife.

6. When Love Comes To Town - U2/B.B. King.
From the opening drumming to King's guitar lines, to King's and Bono's vocals, I almost always platy this song twice.
Feeling: struggling with the power.

chops off 1st notes and then too soon.

5. Billy Joel-Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)
As beautiful as it is, the piano on the bridge just lifts it higher. I heard an a cappella version of this, which was lovely.
Feeling: melancholy.

4. Roberta Flack - Gone Away.
I was watching the Grammys in the last couple years and discovered someone has sampled this. This song, part of the group of songs I used to play when love went south, really builds after the 1:30 mark, with instruments (a painful guitar line, and is that a tuba?) plus mournful vocals that feature the late Donny Hathaway.
Feeling: brokenhearted.

3. I Only Have Eyes For You - the Flamingoes.
I hear those first three or four chords and I am always surprised how it leads to such a lush tune. My first favorite song, probably for 30 years.
Feeling: loving.

2. Let's Go Crazy - Prince.
Unfortunate that the video overlays the preach part with the musical beginning, for it's both elements that I love. The danceability, plus my favorite guitar solo possibly ever. I have a 7-minute version that's even more fun.
Feeling: let's get nuts!

So, here are
the rules.

Anyone want to venture a guess as to #1?

(Confidential to T&C, who started before I did, but somehow will finish after: it's from my top 10 with which one or more of your Top 40 will converge, I'm guessing.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Obama is No MLK" and other pieces of GOP thought

One of the things I find that I need to do, as a citizen as well as a librarian, is to get summaries of differing points of view politically, delivered by e-mail because I'm not likely to remember to go to the sites. On the left, it's Common Dreams which I find less strident, and less likely to get into internecine battles than, say, the Huffington Report, which, at this point I seldom read. On the right, it's Human Events, which features some political heavyweights such as Newt Gingrich and Pat Buchanan; the latter is so iconoclastic that he sometimes gets criticized by people on the right end of the spectrum.

Now and then - OK, often - Human Events will offer up an ad, such as from the McCain camp. One recent one, from the National Black Republican Association is currently trying to get a lot of mileage out of the assertion by a niece of Martin Luther King, Jr, that MLK was a Republican. I don't doubt it for a minute; my parents were Republicans, the party of Lincoln. Particularly in the South in the 1960s and before, the Democratic Party was the party of segregation; think George Wallace, Lester Maddox, and Strom Thurmond before he switched; lots of blacks in the South were Republicans. What's bothering me is the implication that the GOP of 1968 is the GOP of 2008, and therefore, of MLK were still alive, he would still be a Republican. This, of course, is utterly unknowable.

Meanwhile, a Human Events contributor, whose initials are the same as Alternating Current, has been beating the drum on this John Edwards story for weeks that the National Enquirer "broke". She has submitted that the story did not make it into the MainStream Media because of its liberal bias. One could make the case that it didn't make it into the MSM because the original source was the National Enquirer. The Washington Post may have just felt uncomfortable trusting it enough to quote the Enquirer as the source of its stories. Also, the Enquirer story is still suggesting that Edwards is the father of his former lover's child, something Edwards is still denying, even as he admitted to the affair.

Suddenly, all those stories about John Edwards' $400 haircuts can be/will be spun into a symbol of his general narcissism. I'm just happy, in retrospect, that his candidacy never really caught on, though John McCain (and Newt Gingrich for that matter) have been accused of the same thing; having sex with someone not his spouse, while the wife suffered from various ailments.

This political season is getting really...interesting, and it's not even Labor Day yet.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Woman to Woman

Two from Johnny B..

"I Kissed a Girl" by Jill Sobule

"Graceland” by Willie Nelson

"Meadowlands" by Nancy Jacobs and Sisters

"It" by Prince

"Tell It Like It Is" by Aaron Neville & the Neville Brothers

"In the Bleak Midwinter" by James Taylor

"Hey Diddle" by Paul McCartney

"Detention" from Cry Freedom

"Long May You Run" by Neil Young

10.WHAT IS 2 + 2?
"Torn & Frayed" by the Rolling Stones

"Dreaming" by Cream

"Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel

"Fire" by the Pointer Sisters

"Is this Love" by Bob Marley & the Wailers

"Live Good" by Burning Spear

"Oh, Me" by Nirvana

"Whenever You’re Ready" by James Taylor

"I Don’t Wanna Talk About It" by Indigo Girls

"Friday Dance Promenade" by k.d. lang

"Hey Joe" by the Yardbirds

1. Put your iTunes, Windows Media Player, iPod etc. on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
Now press Next one more time and use it as your title.

The title tune is by Shirley Brown, a Stax hit. Some of the answers work well (#18 in particular), while I wish #11 and #12 were switched.

You are the Sense of Sight

You are a very observant, detail oriented person.

You are able to take in a lot of information at once.

You often see things that other people never notice.

You have a good eye for design and aesthetics.

You love to be surrounded by beauty - natural or not.

When you imagine how something should look, you see it clearly in your mind.

Isaac Hayes, whose Theme from Shaft ended up on my Top 20 Songs That Move Me, died this past weekend. I don't have much more to say about the singer/keyboardist/songwriter other than what I wrote last year on his 65th birthday.
Fred Hembeck on Bernie Mac (August 10).


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Grave Reference

One of the things I realized just this year, perhaps from a post from Rose which I'm too lazy to find, is that, in the main, it was quite fortunate how my father died in 2000. He went to the hospital on July 29, had a stroke August 4, went essentially into a coma on August 8 and died on August 10. If we had had to deal with end of life issues as a family...let's put it this way, planning the funeral took over five hours; having to decide to "pull the plug" likely would have been unresolvable.

As a librarian, I'm always looking for new sources of information, preferably free. At some point I read about, where you can find the location of the final resting place of folks who are famous, and not so much. So I tried my grandparents without success, and my friends Nancy, Raoul, and Donna were likewise not found. In fact, the only "non-famous" deceased person I could find was my father:

Birth: Sep. 26, 1926
Death: Aug. 10, 2000
Inscription: US Army WW II
Burial: Salisbury National Cemetery Annex
Salisbury, Rowan County
North Carolina, USA
Plot: VA Section 8, grave 358

Record added: Oct 11 2001
By: Havis McDonald

So, thanks to Havis McDonald, whoever you are.


Saturday, August 09, 2008


I am fascinated by those people who can meet a roomful of people and recite every one of their names; that's not me. At all. This article, by contrast, is very much me.

1. What is your earliest memory? Mine seems to be me at the late, lamented Catskill Game Farm inside a metal pumpkin when I was about three. Although now that I think of it, do I actually remember it, or do I remember the picture of it? Same with those "frozen in time" memories: do I remember the JFK assassination, or am I now remembering my own retelling of the event?

2. What are you good at remembering? Names, dates, places? I find that if it has a numeric hook, I'm more likely to recall it: some credit card numbers, our license plate number, certain dates. I remember the date in 1974 that I saw Joni Mitchell (August 22); on the other hand, I was waiting all summer for that concert, and it turned out to be pretty much of a disaster.
Other dates I can remember if I can hook it to another date or at least period. Carol and I often refer to things as B.L. and A.L. - before and after Lydia, as a point of reference. When did we see some play? (Probably B.L.) Having the blog helps in this regard.
Whereas names commonly escape me. Let's say I see a bank teller every day for two years, and refer to her by name; she leaves the bank, I see her six months later, I remember HER, but her NAME has escaped me. Oddly, the facts about her (where she lives, what she likes, the pets she owns) stays with me. It's only the actual name that fades, not the person's identity.

3a. Do you worry about losing your memory? I do, when certain words don't come immediately to me, usually specific terms that I learned later in life, such as that big piece of furniture in my bedroom that holds my clothes for the last four years. What IS that? Oh yes, armoire. I was a dresser and closet guy and "armoire" does not come immediately to mind; the fact that I don't really LIKE the armoire certainly has nothing to do with remembering its name, does it?
3b. Did you ever have a false memory? I SWEAR I saw Jose Canseco get his 40th stolen base in Oakland, to join the 40/40 club in 1988. But looking at the Baseball Almanac, it appears that he got his 40th HR on September 18 in Oakland, where I've been, but didn't get his 40th steal until 5 days later in Milwaukee, where I've never been. I definitely saw the 40th SOMETHING, but I seem to have dreamed the rest. Did that ever happen to you?

Friday, August 08, 2008

REVIEW: Menopause the Musical

My wife and I used to go to the movies, go to the theater, attend concerts. The last four years, we've done it far less. I have seen far fewer movies, hardly any concerts, and virtually no theatrical shows. The season tickets to Capital Rep, the Equity theater in Albany, right now are a thing of the past.

But a confluence of events allowed me to go see Menopause: the Musical last month. My wife was away at college for a couple weeks. During the first week, I took our daughter to day care and picked her up at a friend's house, well, except for one day when I decided to pick her up.

That first weekend, I took the daughter to Grandma and Grandpa's house a little over an hour away, where she stayed during the second week of my wife's educational sojourn.

Since my wife had suggested that she wasn't interested in seeing Menopause: the Musical, I decided to go myself. One of my co-workers had gone, once in Boston and again at Cap Rep last summer. She had to go twice because everyone was laughing so hard, she was missing some of the dialogue.

I opted to go Wednesday night, July 9, which turned out to be opening night for this run. I had been "warned" by my colleague that there wouldn't be many men there. Au contraire! There were eight, maybe nine guys in the audience, a couple guys together, a handful who appeared to be with their wives or girlfriends, and me. This does not count the two "Mr. Wonderful" gentlemen who accompanied Maggie, the chief wrangler for the theater, and another Cap Rep rep on stage to introduce the production.

In short, I enjoyed it tremendously. The conceit of this program is that these four very disparate women, meeting in Bloomingdale's, bond over "the change". It is made uproarious by the writer Jeanie Linders taking the tunes of popular songs, every single one of which I knew, and changing the lyrics. "Puff, the Magic Dragon" becomes "Puff, My God, I'm Draggin'". "My Guy" becomes "My Thighs".

I bought the soundtrack from the production in Chicago, but I found the cast in this production even more appealing. Only one of the four, Satori Shakoor (Professional Woman), was in last year's Cap Rep production, but she and her colleagues, Ellen Kingston (Soap Star), Stephanie Pascaris (Earth Mother), and Liz Hyde (Iowa Housewife) worked together as though it were mid-run, not the premiere.

There were a couple things, though. A young woman sitting next to me was texting during parts of the performance, which I found not only distracting, but silly; watch the performance! Also, afterwards, several women gave me this LOOK, which I perceived to mean "Are you shocked by all this? Are you OK?" Yes, I am fine, thank you, and well entertained.

Menopoause is currently playing in Louisville and Las Vegas, in addition to Albany, and will be come coming to a theater (more or less) near you in the coming weeks.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Walk-Off Balk

There's this fun website Win Expectancy Finder that determines the likelihood that a baseball team with a lead of X in the Y inning is likely to win the game.

I discovered it in a conversation in salon about one game in which a team with a five-run lead in the sixth inning stole a base. The losing team seemed to think that this was somehow unsporting and (allegedly) threw at a subsequent batter. The WEF shows that a team with a one-run lead in the eighth inning was statistically more likely to win the game than the team in the first scenario, yet no one would chastise a team up 3-2 to try to pad its lead.
I have a Google alert for Roger Green. What I get a lot of is the Brett Favre drama, with NFL commissioner ROGER Goodell arbitrating between Favre and the GREEN Bay Packers.
I understand why teams play preseason football games. What I don't know is why anyone WATCHES them, let alone thinks they're significant. It's August; football weather requires at least a sweater. At least when they play hockey in June - another anomaly in my mind - it means something.
Synchronized librarians.
I haven't tried it yet, but I'm intrigued by this guy who you call up and he writes your life story. On a postcard. Any of you done this?
We had an intern this summer, and she said that this website "captures the essence of Roger". I think that's good thing.
It pains me, it really does, for tI used to ban the very mention of her name from this blog: I've begun to see Paris Hilton in a more positive light.
Local artists make good. Including one I know.
The Psychology of Color.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Songs That Move Me, 20-11

20. Strawberry Letter #23 - Brothers Johnson
Starts off with circus music, then kicks a groove. That swirling sound at the bridge is extraordinary.
Feeling: loving.

19. Eleanore - the Turtles.
The story goes that their record company wanted another "Happy Together", so the group gave them one. It has the same minor to major transition, very similar - though lovely - harmonies, and the like. So why is this song, rather than "Happy Together" on the list? Two reasons, really. One: HT was really overplayed. Two: the line "you're my pride and joy, et cet'ra," a throwaway line if ever I heard one. (It rhymes with "better" or more correctly, "betta".) Love singing along.
Feeling: swell.

18. Drive My Car - Beatles.
I read once the intricacy of the chord structure. It's the minor key feel of the verse and major chord feel of the chorus that grabbed me from first hearing. First song that Paul McCartney played in some 23008 concerts.
Feeling: ironic.

17. Isaac Hayes - Shaft
Even before the great vocal comes up, an orchestral delight, as the melody shifts from section to section.
Feeling: damn right.

16. Can We Still Be Friends - Todd Rundgren
The changing meter in the bridge makes it.
feeling: You know the answer is no.

15. Sly & The Family Stone - Hot Fun In The Summertime
Harmonies, shared vocals and an "ooo-Lord" worth waiting for.
Feeling: sweaty.

14. Jerks on the Loose - the Roches.
The album Keep On Doing was produced by Robert Fripp, so there are odd sonic twists and turns throughout. this song has one of my favorite (and used) couplets:
"You work too ard to take this abuse
Be on your guard jerks on the loose.
This 30-second taste (Track 11) hardly gives the full sense of how great this song is.
Feeling: on my guard.

13. (Just Like) Starting Over - John Lennon.
In the fall of 1980, when the single was released, there was a lot of anticipation about it and the forthcoming Double Fantasy album. I didn't think it was a great song, but it was sort of fun, with that faux Elvis vocal in the beginning of the verse. Then John died, and the irony of the title - we waited five years and THAT had to happen? - made me tear up for months, if not years.
Feeling: still makes me very sad.

12. River - Joni Mitchell.
There's a lot of Joni I could have picked, but this one, based on Jingle Bells, is just so beautiful. The piano variations at the end seal the deal.
Feeling: longing.

11. In My Room - the Beach Boys.
I liked being in my room when I was a kid. I could entertain myself for hours, reading, looking at my baseball cards and listening to the radio. Yet I was somehow supposed to feel guilty for doing so. Anyway, lives on the vocals, in this case - single voice, then two-part harmony, then full harmony; very effective.
Feeling: cloistered.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Johnny Cash: The Man His World, His Music

An edited version TONIGHT (Tuesday) on P.O.V. on PBS. Website has interviews,etc.

VIDEO REVIEW: Who Killed the Electric Car?

Back in March, I watched the video of the movie Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006) and have neglected to write about it because I found it so amazingly depressing and infuriating simultaneously. The film, narrated by The West Wing’s Martin Sheen, documented how the Ford Motor Company developed a viable electric vehicle in the mid-1990s, the EV1, that had a small but fervent fan base and was in the process of developing a significant infrastructure to fuel these cars, and then took it away. You’ll see how actors such as Tom Hanks, Ed Begley Jr., and especially Peter Horton of "thirtysomething" were huge advocates for the car, which required minimal maintenance.

Yet, for reasons that are still not clear to me, the car was removed from the marketplace. The people who wanted to keep the cars were unable to do so because the cars were leased to them, and if they didn’t return them to the company, they were threatened with arrest for grand theft auto. Not only were they unable to keep them, they had to stand by helplessly as Ford had these perfectly good cars destroyed. I’m not even a car guy, and I found it utterly painful.

The movie's director Chris Paine suggests that the blame for the failure of electric cars lies with the car company, the petroleum industry, and the government, among others. He also blame the consumers, and I will take issue with this. For the "sales job" that Ford did on this vehicle was to point out all its deficiencies such as its limited range of miles traveled before refueling, rather than emphasizing the economic and ecological benefits. He gave a pass on the battery, which did have a 40- or 50-mile limit, because it was improved to double that; this information never got to the consumer.

I was watching the news for the past several weeks, and there’s conversation about a new viable electric car, but it seems that the industry wasted the last decade in continuing to be dependent on foreign oil. The argument in the 1990s was that everyone charging their cars wouldn't work because it'd blow the energy grid. But if people were charging overnight, when demand is less, this argument doesn't hold water (or gasoline). In any case, a tragedy.


Monday, August 04, 2008

EW's Best 100 books/last 25 years

I almost said, "Why bother?" since I just don't read that many novels. I read mostly non-fiction - way too much Bob Woodward, and quite a bit of religious material - and older stuff and this list is mostly fiction. But what the heck.

*I read it

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000) - my wife started reading Harry Potter just this year. My 17-year-old niece devours them in a day or two. I haven't read a single page. (I did see the first movie.)
*3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987) - quite moving.
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997) - I've read Roth, but not this.
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001) - didn't see the movie, either.
*7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991) - transcendent.
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996) - I've read some of this.
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997) - no and didn't see the movie either, though I have the soundtrack.
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997) - my wife owns this; have read some.
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
*13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87) - quite good.
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992). Have read Oates, but not this.
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
*16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986) - I belonged to a book club in the 1980s and early 1990s. Read 10 books a year in different categories. That's the only reason I got to read this, which I found quite engrossing, in a depressing ay.
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990). Read Updike, not this.
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998) - saw the movie.
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000). Actually have never read Stephen King (except various columns, such as the one in EW.)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985) - saw the miniseries. Read something of his.
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989) - my wife owns the book; saw the movie.
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
*36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996) - AND saw the movie. Bleak.
*37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003) - will see the movie.
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
*46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996) - well, at least big chunks of it.
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985) - read Ragtime, but not this.
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998) - started this.
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992) - read excerpts of it; saw the movie.
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000) - borrowed this book THREE years ago, started, got busy, never got back to it.
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987) - I start LOTS of books.
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001) - had meant to read.
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994) - this I should read.
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003) - my wife saw the movie.
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989) - saw the movie.
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000) - read some of this
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002) - saw the movie
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998) - saw the movie.
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987) - read chunks of this.
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995) - saw the movie.
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999) - read some of this.
*90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001) - only because my wife was reading.
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987) - saw the movie
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991) - started this.
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001) - started this.
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003) and didn't see the movie, either.
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004) - own this, have read parts of it.

So what ought I read first from this list?