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Friday, October 31, 2008

Am I Going Bats Again?

Long-time readers of this page know that our house, the one that we moved into in May 2000, has had a live bat within its walls in 2002. And 2003. And 2004. And 2005. And 2006. And 2007,despite efforts in the last several years to patch the places on the roofline where we suspect the creatures are getting into the living quarters.

Well, it's the end of October, it's cold, and it's already SNOWED in Albany this week, FCOL, so I can say with some degree of confidence: in 2008, we were bat-free! Hurray!

Since it's Halloween, Lydia's going trick-or-treating with some kids from church. (No, I don't worry about these "pagan" rituals threatening my Christian faith or whatnot.) We DO have to make sure we go through what she gets to pick out those candies with nuts or peanuts, since she is allergic to the latter, and the former are often processed in the same place as the latter. This means that her poor mother, my poor wife, will have to eat all the Snickers bars and Reese's Pieces.

Meanwhile, thanks to Noggin, this is Lydia's and my favorite Halloween song this year, based on something Evanier hates, but which I actually like in small quantities; Lydia has never had them.

or here.

Coverville discovered this One-man Thriller A Cappella with a unique twist.

20 Horror Movie Clichés.

Haunted library

Why Orange and Black?


Thursday, October 30, 2008

And the other thing

Last weekend was extremely busy. I went to a library discussion on Saturday afternoon, more about which I'm pretty sure I'll share eventually. That night, Carol and i got a babsitter (yay!), ate dinner at some place called the Pump Station, then went to the Palace Theatre to hear the Albany Symphony Orchestra participate in A Night of Italian Opera, celebrating Puccini's 150th birthday. There were selections by Verdi, Donizetti, Rossini, Puccini, of course, and others (Honoring the Capital Region's Italian-American Community.) The baritone was a last minute replacement for another singer, and he was good, but the other three especially the mezzo-soprano, were quite expressive. It was more fun that it may sound. Thanks to the couple who gave us the tickets.

Sunday after church and our church's stewardship luncheon, I went to a comic book show in Albany (actually Colonie) described by ADD here and here.

Monday, I took off from work so I could catch up on things. I did get to watch Bill Moyers. Instead of his usual recent fare of voter fraud, misleading political ads and of course the economic meltdown, he sat with Mark Johnson, "the producer of a remarkable documentary about the simple but transformative power of music: PLAYING FOR CHANGE: PEACE THROUGH MUSIC. The film brings together musicians from around the world — blues singers in a waterlogged New Orleans, chamber groups in Moscow, a South African choir — to collaborate on songs familiar and new, in the effort to foster a new, greater understanding of our commonality." You may have seen the Stand By Me video on Evanier's page, but there's lots more.
Uncharacteristically, I actually replied to Five For Friday this week.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

ABC Wednesday: O is for Overheard

The conceit of this exercise is that everything I'm writing about I actually overheard in the last 30 days, and that every image (save for the video) is from a government website.

The guest minister preaching at the stewardship (read that money, among other things) service this past week noted that doing that kind of campaign in this economic atmosphere is "counterintuitive". Somehow, I loved that.

I often take the city bus, after dropping off my daughter at day care, in order to get downtown. A couple middle school girls were talking.
GIRL #1: What was English about?
GIRL #2: There were three witches...
at which point GIRL #2 hands over her notebook to GIRL #1. Less than five minutes later, GIRL #1 returns the notebook and says, "At least now I won't fail the quiz."
I wish I could have absorbed Macbeth in five minutes like that.

A couple days ago, a couple of middle school males were talking on the bus:
BOY #1: Hey, did you ever go snowboarding?
BOY #2: Yeah, but when you fall, it can really hurt.
BOY #1: How much can it hurt? You're falling on SNOW! I'm gonna try it this winter.

These middle schoolers are pretty loud; not raucous, but definitely at a higher volume than the general public. This week, when they got off, I said, to no one in particular, "Hey, listen to that." The college student behind me replied, "The rest is silence." She was quoting Hamlet, which may have been a paraphrase of Psalm 115:16-18, "The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the earth he hath given to the children of men. The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the Lord." But I thought she was quoting the Broadway musical "Hair", that verse in The Flesh Failures/Let The Sunshine In in which Claude reprises "Manchester England" and sings, "I believe in God, And I believe that God believes in Claude, That's me, that's me, that's me", while the chorus ends their response with "the rest is silence."

I was in the barbershop getting a trim when one of the barbers was making a comment about one of his previous customers who got a traffic ticket despite a warning from that barber. It was an interesting enough tale, but then a woman, waiting for her boyfriend to get finished with his haircut, exclaimed, "Oh, this is just like the movie 'Barbershop"!" Immediately, the whole barbershop went dead silent. No one likes being caricatured.

I was downtown when this man, a good 15 years older than I, walked over to me and said, "You look just like my grandfather." I'm assuming his now deceased, beloved grandfather. Many years ago.

I was riding my now departed bike when a woman, standing on the corner waiting for the light to change, scolded her daughter for being too close to traffic while she was literally walking circles around her mother a good six feet from the curb. "No one cares about anybody," she said. I thought that was very sad.

I was in the grocery store and heard this great song: OR this. I was even able to remember the original artist, the Main Ingredient. Better than the Aaron Neville cover, which I heard four days later.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: Vicki Cristina Barcelona

A friend of mine met a woman at a party that I threw. They had a torrid, tempestuous relationship that he once described as "like heroin". Couldn't live without her, couldn't live with her.

That description pretty much describes at least one of the relationships in the new Woody Allen movie Vicki Cristina Barcelona, which I saw on Columbus Day by myself - well, OK, with four other people, but without my wife, who kindly stayed home with the daughter. She knows my favorite film is Woody's Annie Hall, that I've seen several Allen films, and was anxious to see this one, especially since the reviews were mostly positive.

Like many good Allen movies, VCB is about sex. Whether it's about a giant condom or a split screen ascertaining whether three times a week is "all the time" or "hardly at all". In this case, it's about whether the two title characters, played by Rebecca Hall as the engaged Vicki and Scarlett Johansson, a Woody Allen regular, as the unsettled Cristina, will succumb to the title vista. That includes Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) as the most forthright Lothario you'll ever meet.

I found the movie to be a quite nice experience when Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz), the ex of Juan Antonio shows up. She is a force of nature, and ramps up the film from a pleasant diversion to one worth seeing.

There's also a mildly interesting subplot involving the Nashes (Kevin Dunn and the always great Patricia Clarkson) that informs the main story. Chris Messina is stuck with that thankless role of Doug, the earnest, somewhat unpleasant finance of Vicki, the archtype which shows up in every other romantic movie, but the twist in this storyline makes that ultimately pay off as well.

I've watched a LOT of Woody Allen films, though none since 1995's Mighty Aphrodite, save for the disappointing The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001). This is Woody Allen back, if not in his 1970s form, at least in his 1980s form, which is good enough to recommend.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Time to Vote!

Oh, not the Presidential election. I can't vote until next week. I'm not in one of those states with "early" voting and long lines; I'm in one of those states with November 4 voting and probably longer lines.

No, I'm talking about the 2008 Podcast Awards. The voting is open until November 6 and you may vote once every 24 hours.

Here's the thing: I just don't listen to that many podcasts: Gordon's Cast THIS, Pal!,Brian Ibbott's Lyrics Undercover, Arthur's AmeriNZ, Rick Bedrosian's movie thing. More to the point, there are only two podcasts that I listen to that are nominated: Brian Ibbott's Coverville in two categories (Best Produced and PodSafe Music) and James Howard Kunstler's KunstlerCast (Cultural/Arts - really?) in one. I'll vote for them.

But this means my ballot is...susceptible to your suggestions. Go to the ballot and let me know which shows YOU like, and why, and I'll vote for them. Every day unless two or more of you pick from the same category; then I'll alternate.

I have made some tentative selections in some categories: I've voted for Grammmar Girl, which I HAVE heard, in the Peoples Choice (why isn't this People's Choice?) and Education categories. I voted for Ramble Redhead based solely on the fact that he leaves comments for Arthur's podcast. Under the Mature category, I picked Dan Savage's Savage Love because I read him in our local arts weekly; also because he helped create another definition of the word santorum.

Now you might think this is somehow inappropriate, me voting for things I don't know about. I contend that it's the American way; happens all the time.

So sway me.
Free taco at Taco Bell tomorrow from 2 to 6 pm. Blame it on base stealing.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Lydster, Part 55: Politics and Race

Carol and I have never talked to Lydia about the Presidential campaign. Yet, because she's been exposed to it from TV or her friends or whatnot, she knows that John McCain and Barack Obama are running for President. (She thinks that Hillary Clinton is still running, and I haven't been able to dissuade her of that fact; I KNEW the primary season ran too long.)

Not only does she know this, but she can identify the three of them by sight, although she does sometimes confuse McCain with other gentlemen near his vintage, including Joe Biden.

She doesn't know Sarah Palin, but I've heard her say to her stuffed animals/sisters, "I'm going to be governor of Alaska." I have no idea what THAT'S about.

But there is one big disappointment: she supports McCain. I don't know if it's his avuncular look or what, but she's glommed onto the GOP candidate. Just one more reason not to lower the age of voting to four years old.

I realize that we haven't really talked to her about race. It was important for us to go to a mixed race church and for her to attend a mixed race day care, but we never talked about it overtly. I realized this when she referred to a woman in our church as a lady with "brown hair and brown skin." (Which is why I've always had a difficult time believing that people don't see race; it may not be important to them, but if a four-and-a-half year old picks up on it, as a matter of fact, then I suspect a universality to it.)


Saturday, October 25, 2008

BeckyRebecca is 30

One of the things I came across in my sojourn through old journals was how much I adored my eldest niece, Becky, practically from the moment I saw her. I wrote about her ad nauseum. She was the first person I could just love without the complications that being the child or sibling or lover tend to engender.

Becky was born five days shy of her parents' third anniversary, which was our first linkage since I was born five days shy of MY parents' third anniversary. She and her family were living in NYC and I in the Albany area at the time, so I recall seeing her about a month after she was born and being entranced. I made it to her first and second birthdays before her parents moved south.

But Becky and I always had a bond. I came across pictures of my grandmother's funeral in 1982 and I'm the one tending to her while she's coloring or needing to go for a walk. Other pictures show me always carrying her around. In some way, she helped train me to be a good uncle for four more nieces and maybe even a good dad to Lydia.

Much more recently, she got married on my birthday, as it turns out, to a decent guy named Rico.

Becky is in the center. This is one of a number of the bands she sings with, the one she performed with last December 31. Her birthday's actually tomorrow.

Happy 30th birthday, Rebecca. I love you.

Uncle ROG

Friday, October 24, 2008

QUESTION: Political endorsements

As you probably know, Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for President. In his conversation with Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press, he noted that if he had just wanted to endorse the black candidate he could have endorsed Obama months ago. Powell's a Republican and would have endorsed McCain but for his unfocused and nasty campaign and his choice of Sarah Palin. Naturally, commentators such as Rush Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan suggested that Powell endorsed Obama because they're both black; my favorite resdponse to that.

1. Do political endorsements matter to you? If so, from whom?
It's much more likely to matter to me in a local race where I don't have enough of the facts.
2. Do you think political endorsements matter to the population at large?
I was struck by the number of newspapers that endorsed Bush in 2004 who are endorsing Obama in 2008.
3. Can this election be stolen?
But I'm much less worried by ACORN than I am by polling stations with long lines (as has already happened in early voting in Florida) and/or with machines that don't act as they should. This recent New Yorker column speaks to my concern:
"The idea that Democrats try to win elections by arranging for hordes of nonexistent people with improbable names to vote for them has long been a favorite theme of Rove-era Republicans. Now it's become a desperate obsession."
More cynical people than I believe that bringing up the Bradley effect is a screen for hiding voting machine manipulation and disenfranchisement strategies. Tell people to call their COUNTY board of election and make sure they’re registered and verify the voting location. (My voting location has changed, but it’s not reflected on the STATE Board of Elections site.)
4. Would you like to know more about the health of the four candidates for President and Vice-President on the major party ticket? This article suggests we don't know enough about ANY of them, especially McCain and Biden, but also the status of Obama's cessation of smoking. The mysterious circumstances around the birth of Sarah Palin's last child is pretty much the ONLY info the press has on her health.

[Stolen from the Frog.
STILL undecided?
Oooh, the photo above? That's a shot of a lovely 8 by 10 color glossy that a relative of mine, a Republican but not a McPalin supporter, received from the RNC and gave to me, knowing just how much I would appreciate it. And I do, I really do. I obliterated the name so you can photoshop in the name of your favorite liberal and make him or her nuts.

Wait, what if someone did that [GULP] to ME?! And it must be a different Roger Green...


Thursday, October 23, 2008

October Ramblin'

I have no idea how or why, but someone I do not know wrote to me and asked: "Do you know why Amy Madigan was not cast as Allison French in the 2008 movie Appaloosa. She's married to Ed Harris who co-wrote the screenplay, directed & starred in the movie?" I wrote back, "I have no idea except that Renee Zellweger is younger and more famous."
I did also include a couple quotes:
September 13, 2006
Harris' wife, actress Amy Madigan, informed the [SF] Chronicle that she won't be appearing in the film because there's no role for her in it.

October 16, 2007
Tavis Smiley: How is [Ed], by the way?
Amy Madigan: He's wonderful. He's directing a film right now in New Mexico called "Appaloosa" with - and he's also acting in it - with Viggo Mortensen. He's playing his part in that, and Renee Zellweger and Jeremy Irons, and they're just riding horses, and they have guns, and it's a very cool story, based on a Robert Parker novel, as a matter of fact.
Tavis: After 23 years of marriage...?
Amy: Twenty-four.
Tavis: Twenty-four years - you guys are used to being apart, I guess, for extensive time?
Amy: Yeah, but I still don't like it. We're just revisiting - we're lucky because when we're together we really have all that time, but it's still difficult.
I Am the Walrus
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The song also contains the exclamation goo goo g'joob with "koo koo g'joob heard clearly in the second. Various hypotheses exist regarding the origin and meaning. One is that the phrase was derived from the similar "koo koo ka choo" in Simon and Garfunkel's Mrs. Robinson, written in 1967. However, the film The Graduate, where "Mrs. Robinson" debuted, did not appear until December 1967, a month after "I Am the Walrus", and The Graduate Original Soundtrack (which contained only fragments of the final version of "Mrs Robinson") was not until January 1968.
There's a bill called the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act which will require insurance companies to cover a minimum 48-hour hospital stay for patients undergoing a mastectomy. It's about eliminating the 'drive-through' Mastectomy where patients are forced to go home just a few hours after surgery, against the wishes of their doctor, still groggy from anesthesia and sometimes with drainage tubes still attached.
Lifetime Television has put this bill on their Web page with a petition drive to show support. Last year over half the House signed on. Sign the petition if you feel so moved; you need not give more than your name, state, and zip code.
Possibly not coincidentally, there was a story on ABC News last week about a father and daughter who both had breast cancer. I recall that Ed Brooke, former US Senator (R-MA) had breast cancer. Here are some stats. So while over 99% of people getting v=breast cancer are women, men can get it too.
alan david doane has started a blog to promote his freelance copywriting services. I understand he works in both UPPER and lower case.
An old friend, Elinor Brownstein im very excited that the musical she wrote is being produced: Oy Vay, the Musical
Chicken soup for stressed-out pandas
The Wuhan Zoo in central China has been feeding its two pandas home-cooked chicken soup twice in a month to reduce stress and give them a nutritional boost, a zoo official said Friday.
"A church squabble of ten years' standing at Wallpack Center, NJ has developed a very singular phase. When the church was built, some ten years ago, the church people were divided on the subject of the site. Later, their choir became the center of the quarrel. A part of the congregation wanted the organist and singers of their choice, while others were opposed to them. The past few weeks the feeling has been getting more and more bitter. A few days ago there was to have been a special service, for which another organist was engaged, but on gathering at the church the congregation was amazed to find that someone had entered the building and, after daubing the organ inside and out with tar, had sprinkled on a bountiful supply of
feathers. The whole organ, cover, keyboard, stops, pedals, and all had received the double coat. This is certainly the most ridiculous display of petty vengeance on record". From the News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, October 26, 1883. (Re-printed in The American Organist, October 2008, p. 52.)
Condolences to my friend Mary whose brother Tim died at the age of 46 after spending the last 10 years of his life fighting a battle with adult onset myotonic dystrophy, a form of muscular dystrophy.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ABC Wednesday: N is for Newman

One of the things I just didn't realize that I just did not see that many of Paul Newman's films. I never saw either of the billiards pictures, The Hustler or The Color of Money, I managed to miss Hud. Though I swear I had seen Cool Hand Luke, when I was watching some PBS special about Warner Brothers pictures, WHICH SHOWED THE ENDING, I realize that I'd just seen several clips and not the whole thing.

I did absolutely see some of his films, though:
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969 - especially loved the knife fight
The Sting 1973 another film I enjoyed greatly
The Towering Inferno 1974 this not so much, but I went to see both shake (Earthquake) and bake (TI) in the day
The Verdict 1982 - possibly my favorite movie of his
Blaze 1989 - Paul as Huey Long
Nobody's Fool 1994 - filmed in upstate New York; an underrated film, I think
Message in a Bottle 1999 - it was OK, but loved the scenes with Paul
It must be the presence he had in the films that I DID see that gave me the sense that I had see more of them than I had.

I read lots of things about Paul Newman after his death on September 26, 2008. Some were in obvious places such as People and Entertainment Weekly, and even Sports Illustrated. But my favorite piece actually appeared in Advertising Age, talking about the secret to marketing the Newman's Own products. He realized that people might buy the product once because his name was on the bottle, and perhaps twice because the proceeds were going to charity. But if he wanted an ongoing relationship with his customers, he had to make sure the product was actually GOOD. A simple, perhaps obvious point, but one that many celebrity-owned businesses and other entrepreneurial ventures failed to realize.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Yet another conversation about politics

I was commenting on Anthony's thoughtful, as usual, essay, Are Americans Suspicious of Intellectuals?. My answer was a resounding "Yes." The conversation went back and forth, somewhat heated at times, and I chimed in: "Ultimately, my primary reason NOT to vote for Palin/McCain can be summed up by the frenzy of hate they and their supporters have stirred up. My favorite example. Seems somehow antithetical to what the country needs right now."

Someone named Kevin Benson responded: "Roger - Wow! Do you really feel that there is less hate on the left than on the right? If so, you have been doing some very selective listening. Unfortunately, ignorance, hatred, and prejudice are too prevalent across the political spectrum. If you are going to vote based on the 'frenzy of hate', you really should not vote for anyone."

Anthony jumps in, and says, in part: "Kevin - I agree with you that there is equal disinformation and hateful rhetoric on both sides of the political divide, but I have seen more appeals to 'not one of us' rhetoric coming from the McCain/Palin camp during this election season. What I mean is that Palin particularly, and some of those at the McCain/Palin rallies have directly and indirectly presented Obama as 'not a genuine American,' a man who has other than American interests at heart. And, maybe it is just me, but among all the negative campaigning on both sides, this particularly gets to me."

I respond: "Kevin - What Anthony said. Sure there have been attacks on McCain as old, out of touch, plus some legitimate health concerns. Even HE jokes about his ill temper. Palin is portrayed as not very with it, though not until her conversations with Gibson and Couric suggested that. Biden is a loose cannon who doesn’t always know when to shut up, he might acknowledge.
"But Obama’s been called a traitor, doesn’t love his country, an Arab (not that there’s anything wrong with that except it was used to evoke post 9/11 feelings and it’s not true), a Muslim (ditto), etc. I mean, what does “Who is Barack Obama REALLY?” supposed to suggest? Not Repudiated: Hate Talk Express-McCain/Palin Hate Every Day!".

Apropos of that, the picture Colin Powell alluded to on Meet the Press during his endorsement of Barack Obama :

Painfully, some of the smearing works. A Democratic committeeperson in Albany County asked me just yesterday, "But what about Obama being sworn in on a Koran?" I could have screamed, but gently, rationally noted that the information was NOT true and that she ought to go to Snopes.

Oh, I hear LOTS of frenzied stuff on both sides, to frankly a tiresome degree. But some independent entity determined that while virtually all of McCain's ads during a recent period were attack ads, only 1/3 of Obama's were. And I dare say, most of those were responses to the McCain ads, such as one noting that the McCain ads were "not true", lest he be swiftboated.

No, Kevin, I totally disagree that the "frenzy of hate" is caused equally by both sides. The "otherness" attack which may be code for race-baiting, and race is still the subtext, is hardly the equivalent to suggestions that Palin could be an extra in the movie "Fargo". And heck, the abandonment by folks from the political right of the spectrum is certainly fueled at least in part by the realization that the McCain-Palin rhetoric is fundamentally flawed.

And while I'm noting things from other blogs, Nik wrote: "Obama has proven to be pretty masterful at projecting a cool, collected vibe, even if it sometimes is a bit stiff. But McCain has been all over the bloody show at all three debates, by turns hyperactive, frazzled, arrogant and insecure." To which I wrote: "I'm convinced the "stiff"-ness you perceive (probably correctly) in Obama is his self-training in not being the 'angry black man'."

Amazingly, it was only then that the obvious parallel came to mind: Jackie Robinson. Jackie was a proud (and occasionally angry) black black man, who Branch Rickey told to suck it up, take the insults, and break baseball's color line. I think that Barack may have learned to be preternaturally calm because he's had to learn to straddle the color line virtually all his life.

The person sent me the picture above wrote, "What must it feel like? To carry the hopes and dreams of an entire race of people on your shoulders?" And I suppose that's become true. Though less than a year ago, it was Hillary, not Barack , who was the choice of most black Americans. And most blacks would probably have voted for whatever candidate the Democrats put up, though I think Obama's candidacy will spur a greater turnout.

Finally, Arthur and Jason had their post-debate podcast, and there was a discussion about polling. It's my contention that polling will be "off" significantly, not just because the pollsters miss all of those mostly younger voters without landline phones, but also because many states allow for early voting without cause. (In New York, I would have to be out of town or in the hospital. Oooh, I'm not feeling so well. May I vote now? PLEASE?)
How Muslims become racialized
Ballotpedia wiki provides information concerning ballot initiatives in each state.
Ted Nugent (yes, that Ted Nugent) on McCain-Palin "closing the deal".


Monday, October 20, 2008

11 Random Thoughts

Apparently, Wayne John couldn't come up with an actual post. I'm so cool with that that I stole the idea.

1. At dinner last week, my wife and I actually had as conversation about The Three Bears. To wit, if all of them went for a walk because the porridge was too hot, then why was the porridge in Mama Bear's medium-sized bowl too cold, but Baby Bear's small bowl "just right"? Was it that Mama Bear was on a diet and took only a small portion? Or was the construction of their individual bowls so different that they had such radically different cooling times?

2. Does anyone know which DVD of the Simpsons includes The Raven? My wife needs it for educational purposes. Really.

3. I'm obsessed with branches that have broken off from trees but that have not yet landed on the ground. I worry that a stiff wind will tumble those branches onto someone. Last week, I dislodged one by flinging my backpack over my head.

4. I think if Obama wins, it'll be because people got their third quarter 401(k) reports and blanched. Mine went down 12% so far this year, with half of that just in the last quarter. So did my wife's. And my daughter also has a little account that tanked.

5, Conversely, McCain may have lost when he had to explain to some audience member that Obama was not an Arab. BTW, are there ANY Arab-Americans out there supporting McCain? Or any American Muslims, for that matter? If so, they remind me of Log Cabin Republicans.

6. I got out of painting the front porch last week by taking three children to the playground for an hour and a half. I'm not sure I got the best end of the deal.

7. The are people who have signed up for my Twitter feeds and I have no idea how they got there. I don't tweet enough; I do so hope I don't disappoint.

8. Every time my daughter's sick, I'm the one who takes the first day off from work. This means that I only have about 139 sick days left.

9. My wife has an unusual item on her Christmas list: to hire someone to evaluate our home for a possible design redo.

10. I wish more sites I read had RSS feeds.

11. I've had a book called Play Bridge in Four Hours for years. It's on my reading list. For 2016.
Every year, writer-editor Andy Mangels stages the Wonder Woman Day event to support women's charities. Wonder Woman Day includes an auction of donated drawings from a wide assortment of artists. Every year, Wonder Woman Day gets bigger and raises more money, and from the looks of it, the 2008 event will be no exception. This year's festivities will be held on October 26. If you'd like to see the selection of artwork that's going up for sale and learn more about Wonder Woman Day, please go here.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

My latest bicycle adventure

I've been riding my bicycle all summer without using a decent bike lock, just a padlock connecting a spoke to the chain. So I stopped at the local bike shop earlier this month and got as bike light - those rides home are getting closer and closer to dusk - and a combination lock/ The next day, I ride the bike to the Y. when I'm leaving the Y, I find I can't get the lock to unlock, so I leave it there, take the bus trto work. When I hget back to the Y, the bike is gone. Stolen.

Interestingly, I wasn't all that upset. Sure I wish I hadn't sunk over $100 in it this summer after the accident. But it was more profound sense of disappointment with human nature, along with a bit of surprise that anyone would actually take the heavy, clunky black 18-wheeler. This bike was stolen before, back when Carol owned it, but was recovered. Still, I'm not holding my breath.

I was also annoyed with myself for having failed to take it to the police station weeks ago, despite several invitations from those changeable road signs that reside in Washington Park.

So I guess I'll buy new wheels in the spring. I'm just not emotionally, or financially, ready to deal with it just now.
Apparently, a bill was signed, passed and enacted by the President recently and guarantees everyone $20/ month to cover expenses related to bicycle commuting for employment. How exactly will this work?
Finding the worst of cycling images


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Celebrity endorsement QUESTION

I was watching a Boniva ad featuring Sally Field when I realized, "If I were a woman with osteoporosis, I think I'D be taking Boniva because Sally seems so sincere."
I also recall, many years ago, Andy Griffith's popular ads for Ritz crackers, which didn't get me to try the product, but did get me to go around saying, "Mm-MMM. G-o-o-d cracker."
William Talman, who played DA Hamilton Burger to Raymond Burr's Perry Mason, appeared in a number of anti-smoking ads, such as this one; as an avid watcher of Perry Mason, this definitely enhanced my anti-smoking position, especially with my father, who smoked a pack or more of Winstons at the time.
The Jerry Seinfeld AmEx ads, such as this one were clever enough, but had no effect on getting the card in my wallet.

My questions for you fine folks:

1. Any celebrity endorsements actually lead you to purchase an item or at least supported your position to do so? Any celebrity endorsements turn you off from a product?

And, unrelated to the topic:

2. Will Sarah Palin's appearance on Saturday Night Live help her, hurt her or make no difference? I say it helps slightly. She comes off as engaging when reading cue cards.

3. What is your favorite Four Tops song? The great Levi Stubbs, the lead singer, died yesterday. For some reason, 7 Rooms of Gloom came immediately to mind, but appropriately, I suppose it's I'm in a Different World..
Just say no!


Friday, October 17, 2008


Arthur, an expat American living in New Zealand, on one of his recent podcasts, maybe #116 or #117 (I'm too lazy to check) was talking about different ways to vote in different counties. One of the methodologies sound a awful lot like what's being called around here instant runoff voting. Though I've never had the opportunity to vote by this method, I'm inclined to support it. You can read about it in the link I provided, but let me try to explain by example.

Let's say there were five people running for President. Just for fun, we'll call them Barr, McCain, McKinney, Nader and Obama. IRV allows one to vote for the candidate one most desires without worrying about "throwing away" a vote on a minor party candidate. So one could vote for 1. McKinney 2. Nader 3. Obama 4. Barr. If someone gets a majority of the vote, then the race is settled. But let's say that the vote is 34% each for McCain and Obama, 14% for Barr, 10% for McKinney and 8% for Nader. In turn, the Nader votes would be distributed to Nader voters' second choice. Since a majority still would not be reached, McKinney's and then, if necessary, Barr's votes would be distributed. It may still come down to "lesser of two evils", but one could vote for a third party candidate without concern that the candidate would be a spoiler.

This would be most important in those jurisdictions, such as Louisiana, that REQUIRE a majority vote. Those runoffs, unless they are held on the day of the general election, almost invariably involves an even smaller number of voters than the first round. add to that, an extra round of voting is expensive. Instant runoff voting would eliminate the need for those costly redoes.

Of course, the problem with the system is that there is a real possibly that people might actually ELECT a third party candidate if they're not discouraged by the notion of a wasted vote. The machinery of the Democrats and Republicans alike will see in in their best interest to oppose it. Yet it has made headway in a number of cities and towns across the country.

Anyone who's actually an expert on IRV and wants to dispute any of this, feel free.

Oh, here's a new flash animation on a variation of instant runoff voting used in elections for more than one seat - making it a system of proportional representation.
The Racialicious podcast on Why you shouldn't listen to polls, an interview with David W. Moore. A main point: Americans weren't as rah in favor of the Iraq war as the polls suggested, based on the formulation of the question. Last month, a Wall Street Journal review of Moore's book, the Opinionmakers, criticizes this specific point, noting (correctly) that more people were leaning towards supporting the war. But the leaners, who were forced to come down on one side or another on the issue, might have answered differently had the question been phrased differently, or if "no opinion" was a real option.


Thursday, October 16, 2008


On August 7, 1974, Phillipe Petit spent 45 minutes walking, dancing and lying on a cable that connected the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center. How he does it is the story of Man on Wire.

That the outcome is known makes the fact that James Marsh's documentary, enhanced greatly by home movies that were made by those planning the caper, works so well as a suspense film. The best comparison I can think of is the movie Apollo 13, when I waited impatiently to see if we'd hear the astronauts' voices again, EVEN THOUGH I KNEW THE OUTCOME! It's that kind of story.

The core of the saga, of course, is Petit himself, who, at 5'8" and 135 pounds, was as small as his surname suggests. That he dreamed of doing the crossing before the buildings were even constructed was just one glimpse into the mind of a man who could inspire others to do his bidding by the sheer force of his outsize personality. We get to see Petit and many of his co-conspirators as they have what are essentially dry runs in Australia and France.

The heart of the tale was getting teams up each building to set up the proper equipment to keep Petit from falling 110 stories to his death. The film does not touch on 9/11, though seeing the construction site of the WTC looks eerily like the hole after the cleanup. There is one shot of Petit on the cable as a plane flies by that's momentarily jarring. Petit himself has said that he doesn't want to talk about 9/11 because he has his own memories of the Towers.

If you had forgotten, or never knew this story, it's probably because it took place only two days before Richard Nixon resigned as President - only obliquely referred to in the film - and that DC news took over the news cycle for several days.

This movie, as of October 11, 2008, had a score of 100% on the Tomatometer. Carol and I saw the movie last Sunday at our favorite cinema, the Spectrum 8, and while we both liked the film very much, we didn't love it, though I'm definitely recommending it.

This movie was rated R at my theater (though PG-13 on IMDB and in most references) largely because of one scene near the very end of the film and for drug references.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The “War on Poverty”: Not Won

I was surprised to learn that when the FOCUS Churches of Albany started a food pantry 40 years ago, the thinking was that it would be a temporary measure. Certainly, once the Viet Nam war was over, the government could spend more money on "butter" issues. Or fairer, more equitable distribution of wealth would take place.

Instead, the food pantry has become an ever-larger commitment for FOCUS, and no doubt other food providers all over the country. Even before this recent economic downturn, the need had never been greater.

I've long been puzzled by the notion of poverty in a wealthy country such as the United States, as opposed to other parts of the world. The business news touted how much more wealth the nation as a whole was creating. American workers were increasingly more efficient. Still, there were more and more people coming to the food pantry doors.

Now Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor statistics note that the national poverty rate has increased from 11.3 percent in 2000 (a record low) to 12.5 percent in 2007, an increase of 5.8 million Americans living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, the nation’s unemployment rate has risen from 4 percent in 2000 to 6.1 percent currently.

One of the great fears of most organizations that deal with the poor and near-poor, I'm sure, is that given the current economic uncertainty, contributions will dry up. Indeed, I saw a number of stories on the news pointing to half-empty shelves. Yet, I have read long ago that, proportionally, people with relatively little give far more than those who are well off.

Please contribute to and/or volunteer for a food pantry near you.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

ABC Wednesday: M is for Montalban and Music

Sure I remember Ricardo Montalban from Star Trek and Fantasy Island and the "soft Corinthian leather" car commercials.

Some time ago, I came across the picture above, but I don't recall where anymore.

Ricardo was a founding member of Nosotros, designed to "strategically change the stereotypical image portrayed by Latino actors." There is a theater named after him and affiliated with the organization at 1615 Vine Street in Hollywood.

But perhaps his greatest legacy I learned about from my friend Deborah, who found this:
or here.

Ricardo Montalban sings for Esther Williams the song that has become a classic, "Baby It's Cold Outside" in the 1949 movie "Neptune's Daughter"; the film co-starred Red Skelton. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" won an Oscar that year for Best Original Song. Unless the Oscar rules have changed, this is likely the first performance of the perennial tune.

Ricardo is still around at the age of 88, doing occasional voice work.


Monday, October 13, 2008

An autumnal meme

Happy Columbus Day! Happy Thanksgiving, Canadian colleagues!

Via Mr. Frog:

Have you ever been apple picking?
Why yes, though not recently.

Is there a dish you make/eat only during this time of the year?
Pumpkin pie. It's not nearly my favorite pie, but if tradition demands, tradition demands.

Will you attend a tail gate party this season?
Have I EVER gone to a tailgate party? Maybe inadvertently - someone was tailgating and invited me to join, but I'd say no.

When do you turn on the heat?
The heat comes on automatically when my fingers turn blue while I'm inside the house. Actually, the heat turns on automatically when the house temp goes below some threshold; it's been on at least one night already.

How many sweaters do you own?
Probably four, but I'm never sure. My wife put them away last spring and I have no idea where they are.

Are you fond of Nouveau Beaujolais wine?
Je ne comprends pas.

Do you get excited about Halloween?
I did even into my twenties, then not so much. I do now because my daughter is trick-or-treating, and since she's allergic to peanuts, my wife and I can swipe her Sanheim swag.

How about Thanksgiving?
I feel real ambivalence about Thanksgiving. On the one hand I am thankful for what I have. On the other hand, it often feels like a real hassle, either going to the in-laws or, on a couple occasions, hosting my in-laws. No offense to my in-laws, many of whom live less than an hour and a quarter away, but it's one of those times when my tiny birth family's distance really bugs me. Also, I've had some really crummy Thanksgivings in the past, probably none worse than being invited to someone's house, then having the invitation withdrawn - for reasons that were unclear - the day before; I sulked on takeout Chinese that year.

Is there an activity you do only in the autumn?
Well, rake leaves, which I add to the compost pile. I usually wait until Veterans Day.

Have you ever burned leaves?
Years ago.

Do you own any ‘scarecrow’ decorations?
I don't believe so.

Do you plant bulbs?
A few years ago, we planted tulips on an extremely mild December 1. I think Carol still does, but I've lost my gardening mojo.

Your fondest autumn memory?
It was a party in 1987...well, that's all you get.

When does fall begin for you?
When I need a warmer jacket. Sometimes it's September 15, other years it's more like November. It's definitely fall now; I need gloves to ride my bike.

What is your favorite aspect of fall?
I love playoff baseball, football starting around Thanksgiving.

What do you like to drink in the fall?
Hot chocolate.

What is fall weather like where you live?
It seems so variable. It usually gets gradually, or occasionally suddenly cooler. Often, there is a temperature recovery for a few days, before it gets colder and windy I associate November with a dance of the dead leaves.

What color is fall?

Do you have a favorite fall chore?
I believe "favorite" and "chore" don't belong in the same sentence.

What is your least favorite thing about fall?
That impending feeling of death. One fall about four years ago, a friend of mine, the husband of another friend of mine, and the mother of still another friend of mine all died, and I ended up at all of those funerals. And there were others for which I did not attend the service because of distance.

What is your favorite fall holiday?
It used to be Columbus Day because Lydia's day care was open, Carol and I had it off from work, and we could go on a date (lunch and/or movie), but her day care's closed this year. So, I pick Veterans Day: the notion of a war to end all wars is so appealing, if ultimately unreachable.

What’s your favorite kind of pie?
Almost any fruit pie: strawberry-rhubarb, apple, blueberry, cherry.

Do you have a favorite fall book?
No. Winter, yes, spring, yes.
What I'm recording tonight:
Koppel: The Last Lynching
TV-14 (LV)
Ted Koppel speaks with three Democratic delegates whose journeys to nominate Barack Obama took them through thornier moments in American racial history.
Discovery Channel, 10 pm, EDT (also early tomorrow morning at 2 am EDT).


Sunday, October 12, 2008

A scary thought

I'm loath to bring this up, but others have done so before: should he win the election, I'm very worried about an assassination attempt on Barack Obama.

What prompted, or more correctly, re-prompted this thinking, was a piece Evanier linked to by "Frank Schaeffer, a longtime supporter of John McCain and vice-versa, [who] thinks McCain-Palin rallies are starting to resemble lynch mobs." Schaeffer writes:
John McCain: If your campaign does not stop equating Sen. Barack Obama with terrorism, questioning his patriotism and portraying Mr. Obama as "not one of us," I accuse you of deliberately feeding the most unhinged elements of our society the red meat of hate, and therefore of potentially instigating violence.

At a Sarah Palin rally, someone called out, "Kill him!" At one of your rallies, someone called out, "Terrorist!" Neither was answered or denounced by you or your running mate, as the crowd laughed and cheered....

John McCain, you are no fool, and you understand the depths of hatred that surround the issue of race in this country. You also know that, post-9/11, to call someone a friend of a terrorist is a very serious matter...

John McCain and Sarah Palin, you are playing with fire, and you know it. You are unleashing the monster of American hatred and prejudice, to the peril of all of us...

...stop stirring up the lunatic fringe of haters, or risk suffering the judgment of history and the loathing of the American people - forever.

We will hold you responsible.

I'm going to assume the fact that Rensselaer County, NY printed 300 of its 4000 absentee ballots with the name of the Democrat listed as 'Barack Osama' as a mistake, rather than deliberate sabotage, but I'm guessing that the constant barrage of smears may have an subconscious effect on whoever made the error.

Add to this, Sarah Palin's relationship to the Alaskan Independence Party , a group with a distinct neo-Confederacy stance. As former AIP head Mark Chryson put it, "Yes. The War of Northern Aggression, or the Civil War, or the War Between the States — however you want to refer to it — was not about slavery, it was about states’ rights." He added that the South should have been able to secede.

Now to be fair, I also worried about Ted Kennedy in 1980, but that was based more on actuarial tables (all three of his brothers dying violent deaths - Joe in WWII; the 20-year Presidential curse that ran from 1840 to 1960) than any perceived threat.

I don't think we live in a post-racial America yet - whatever that means - and Obama's recent rise in the polls makes me both hopeful and fearful.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Follow the lead QUESTIONS

One of the things I learned as a librarian and as a citizen is that, much as it pains me, I can't know everything. So it's good to know people who you know and trust to vet things for you.

For instance, if I were suddenly to develop an interest in Doctor Who and wanted to know what book to read first, I wouldn't bother researching it,; I'd just ask Gordon.

So it is with local politics. There's coterie of people whose opinion I trust who I can usually count on for selecting candidates to support. In the last Democratic primary, most of them were supporting one particular candidate. But then another person, who is also a guidepost, not only backed another candidate, but noted some rather uncomplimentary things about the candidate my other friends backed.

Well, I've come to the same conundrum regarding some federal legislation concerning the copyright of "orphan works". On one side of the issue is Paul Rapp, an intellectual property lawyer around here, who supports the idea of the bill. In fact, I wrote about it, and Paul, a/k/a F. Lee Harvey Blotto, drummer of the legendary band Blotto, here. I've known Paul since the early 1980s and trust his judgment. Also on this side is the Special Libraries association, of which I am a member, which supported these modifications to the original legislation.

But on the other side is Steve Bissette, artist extraordinaire, who has a much more negative view, to say the least, as noted here and here. I knew Steve from the mid-1980s, when he produced work that was published by my publisher, FantaCo. We have re-bonded recently in our attempt to get the FantaCo Wikipedia spost corrected. He fears the artists being ripped off.

The topic came up at work when one client of the SBDC had a piece of artwork produced by a street artist and wanted to use the art as part of a logo for her new store. Whole the art belonged to the entrepreneur, the image was copyrighted by the creator. But who is he? Where is he? Is he still alive? Based on precedent established in the library community, our librarian recommended that the business make a "good faith effort" to find the copyright holder, through paid ads in the newspaper and art newsweekly in the city where the artist had been working, describing in detail the situation.

I looked at the material Steve provided, and while I understand that the creative community fears that the legislation will create a license to steal and that people will just pretend to look for an owner before using the image, it seems to me is that this is how it's currently working without legislation.

The bill appears to be dead this year - apparently some economic bailout seems to have been more important - but the issue will come up again.

So, my questions:

1. What topics, if any, do you tend to look to others to help inform you? Who are these information leaders?

2. What is your understanding of orphan works copyright legislation?

I'm so confused...


Friday, October 10, 2008

Of Condoms and Cough Drops

There's a CVS drugstore just three blocks from our house, where we do much of our non-food shopping, such as for detergent, greeting cards and of course, drugs. By "drugs", I mean that in the pharmaceutical way. You can get one of those little plastic cards that will mean savings coupons are generated at the register when you hit certain thresholds on certain products.

Yhen recently, we got in the mail another CVS card, this one co-branded by our health insurance company. The thing is that one can't use the coupons generated by the old card for purchases made using the new card. But one does get a discount on items eligible for flex spending on the new card. So at least on one occasion, I had to split the purchase, buying some items using a coupon with the old card and others with the new card.

So what IS eligible for flex spending, besides medical payments? Obviously, over the counter medicines. Also my wife's contact lens solution. Among other things, I discovered that condoms and cough drops are also included. Here's the complete list.
The English Will Purge Their Language unless... well, read the piece. the words are:
Abstergent: Cleansing
Agrestic: Rural
Apodeictic: Unquestionably true by virtue of demonstration
Caducity: Perishableness
Caliginosity: Dimness
Compossible: Possible in coexistence with something else
Embrangle: To confuse
Exuviate: To shed
Fatidical: Prophetic
Fubsy: Squat
Griseous: Somewhat grey
Malison: A curse
Mansuetude: Gentleness
Muliebrity: The condition of being a woman
Niddering: Cowardly
Nitid: Bright
Olid: Foul-smelling
Oppugnant: Combative
Periapt: An amulet
Recrement: Refuse
Roborant: Tending to fortify
Skirr: A whirring sound, as of the wings of birds in flight
Vaticinate: Prophesy
Vilipend: To treat with contempt

Lessee, I vilpend the niddering, olid and oppugnant malison to exuviate the CED.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Oscar-Worthy Movies I've Seen: 1939

Finally to 1939. THE first great year in cinema, it is widely agreed.
"GONE WITH THE WIND", "Dark Victory", "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", "Love Affair", "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", "Ninotchka", "Of Mice and Men", "Stagecoach", "The Wizard of Oz", "Wuthering Heights"
At least three different times I said, "I really MUST watch "Gone with the Wind", the first time when it was on broadcast TV and was in the top dozen shows ever broadcast on prime time TV. But I got bored the then, and have yet to sit through the whole thing. (Yet I found the Carol Burnett parody inspiring.) It was the longest feature film released up to that point, and I'm not holding my breath to see if I'll finally carve out nearly four hours to watch it, even though it won 8 awards out of 13 nominations, including Best Screenplay, Best Color Cinematography, Best Interior Decoration, and Best Film Editing, plus two special citations.
I definitely saw Mr. Smith, Stagecoach. I probably saw Mr. Chips, Of Mice and Men and Wuthering Heights. I almost certainly did not see Dark Victory, Love Affair (though I did see the remake, An Affair to Remember) or Ninotchka.
Then there's The Wizard of Oz. When I was growing up in the 1960s, I watched it every year. I must have seen it seven or eight times on our BLACK AND WHITE TV. Scariest part? The damn trees. THEN we got a color TV for Christmas 1969 or 1970, and when I saw it again, it was like seeing it for the first time! What a treat! And I finally got the "horse of as different color" joke; in b&w, the horse is just different shades of gray. It got six nominations but only two wins - Best Song (Over the Rainbow - almost cut from the film!) and Best Original Score (including my favorite, music for Miss Gulch on her bicycle, which, as a bicyclist I've been tortured with. None of the actors got a standard Oscar, though Judy Garland received a special juvenile Oscar.
ROBERT DONAT in "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", Clark Gable in "Gone With The Wind", Laurence Olivier in "Wuthering Heights", Mickey Rooney in "Babes in Arms", James Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"
A category where GWTW did NOT win. Donat probably won as much for earlier roles, such as in Hitchcock's 39 Steps, as for this one. I don't recall seeing Babes in Arms.
VIVIEN LEIGH in "Gone With The Wind", Bette Davis in "Dark Victory", Irene Dunne in "Love Affair", Greta Garbo in "Ninotchka", Greer Garson in "Goodbye, Mr. Chips"
For the first time, both lead acting awards went to British performers.
Supporting Actor:
THOMAS MITCHELL in "Stagecoach", Brian Aherne in "Juarez", Harry Carey in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", Brian Donlevy in "Beau Geste", Claude Rains in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"
Mitchell's sole Oscar came in a year he also played Scarlett O'Hara's father Gerald in Gone With The Wind, a grounded flyer Kid Dabb in Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings and newspaperman Diz Moore in Mr. Smith, among other roles.
Supporting Actress:
HATTIE MCDANIEL in "Gone With The Wind", Olivia de Havilland in "Gone With The Wind", Geraldine Fitzgerald in "Wuthering Heights", Edna May Oliver in "Drums Along the Mohawk", Maria Ouspenskaya in "Love Affair"
I suppose I should see the first African-American performer to be nominated and win. Shouldn't I?
VICTOR FLEMING for "Gone With The Wind", Frank Capra for "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", John Ford for "Stagecoach", Sam Wood for "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", William Wyler for "Wuthering Heights"
A change Academy rules meant that directors could be nominated for only one film in a single year. Fleming also directed The Wizard of Oz, thus solidifying his already huge chances.

That year, the first Oscar for Visual Effects was given, not to Gone With the Wind and its burning of Atlanta sequence, or to the Wizard of Oz with the cyclone sequence or the flying monkeys, but to something called The Rains Came, which I'd never heard of. Disney won eighth consecutive Short Subject: Cartoon Oscar for The Ugly Duckling

Other 1939 films
The Hunchback of Notre Dame - believe I saw years ago
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex - no
Golden Boy - no
Intermezzo: A Love Story - no
Young Mr. Lincoln - yes
Midnight - no
Only Angels Have Wings - no
Destry Rides Again - don't think so
The Women (being remade in 2008) - no
The Hound of the Baskervilles - I might have
Gunga Din - almost certainly I did


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

ABC Wednesday: L is for Little Roger and the Goosebumps & Led Zeppelin

As is my wont, I was listening to the Coverville podcast a couple weeks ago. Brian Ibbott decided to play several covers of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven, some straightforward, some silly. I was disappointed, though, that he didn't play my favorite cover by Little Roger and the Goosebumps, Stairway to Gilligan's Island. As it turns out, Brian had played it on this April 2007 episode.

I discovered that the song, recorded in March 1978, and released it as a single in May 1978, inspired Led Zeppelin's lawyers to threaten to sue for copyright infringement and demanded that remaining copies of the recording be destroyed. This is highly ironic, given the fact that Stairway seems to be heavily copped from the 1968 song Taurus by the group Spirit, the first song on that recent Coverville episode, a snippet of which can also be found here. In fact, this website addresses many of Led Zeppelin's "influences".

At least I own a collector's item.

October 9 birthdays in the category: Lennon, Sean, who I saw perform last year, and his late father John, who is represeented here:
or here.



Tuesday, October 07, 2008

American Stupidity

I've indicated that I'll be voting for Barack Obama for President. No, I don't think he's the best thing since sliced bread or anything, but his views are more in line with mine than John McCain's are.

But then, stuff happens that tend to solidify my support for Obama, in this case two e-mails from the same person who works in my building Friday afternoon. One was titled "American Stupidity?" and starts off:

A lot of Americans have become so insulated from reality that they imagine that America can suffer defeat without any inconvenience to themselves.
Pause a moment, reflect back.
These events are actual events from history.
They really happened!!!
Do you remember?
1. 1968 Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by a Muslim male extremist.

It continues on noting events from the Munich Olympics killings to the death of Daniel Pearl, all done guessed it, "Muslim male extremists."
Then there's a pro-profiling rant, followed by:

According to The Book of Revelations (sic):
The Anti-Christ will be a man, in his 40's, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal....the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, he will destroy everything.

As Snopes notes, such a description is false on at least two levels. The Book of Revelation (singular) has no such description, and it could not be describing a Muslim man since The Book was written more than 400 YEARS BEFORE ISLAM!

And Now:
For the award winning Act of Stupidity Of all times the People of America want to elect, to the most Powerful position on the face of the Planet -- The Presidency of the United states of America .. A Male of Muslim descent who is the most extremely liberal Senator in Congress (in other words an extremist) and in his 40's.

Have the American People completely lost their Minds, or just their Power of Reason ???
I'm sorry but I refuse to take a chance on the 'unknown' candidate Obama...
As the writer of the award winning story 'Forest Gump' so aptly put it,'Stupid Is As Stupid Does'

This combination of xenophobic fear-mongering, mixed with a bastardization of my Christian faith, really infuriated me. I became desperately desirous to provide a list of a dozen non-Muslims (James Earl Ray, Ted Bundy, the Columbine kids, Timothy McVeigh, et al) who either killed a major figure or committed multiple slayings in the last four decades, but I resisted. Instead, I wrote back: "Obama is not a Muslim". Then I quickly get a SECOND e-mail:

This one had the usual blather "proving" Obama was a Muslim (disputed by Snopes here, and "ALSO, keep in mind that when he was sworn into office he DID NOT use the Holy Bible, but instead the Koran. (Snopes addresses that here.)

I suppose the worse thing about this is the fact that the e-mailer considers herself a Christian. Her reason for voting for W. and for now supporting Sarah Palin has to do with their "Christian values". Well, in my lectionary for this past week, one reading was from Exodus 20, the Ten Commandments. Verse 16: "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." In an electronic age, one's neighbor is just about everyone.

Now, add to the mix the shocking revelation (chortle) that race actually matters to the American voter, and it's all mads me a little bit cranky, but also even more likely to vote for Obama than I was before.

So thanks, LJ. Your e-mails have brought me much clarity, but possibly not the conclusion you sought. Oh, and please stop spreading lies.


Monday, October 06, 2008

C'est moi

Your result for How geeky are you?...

Cool Introvert

46% Geeky, 80% Cranial and 57% Introverted!

You scored 46% Geeky, 80% Cranial and 57% Introverted! Brilliant! This is so very exciting because you have managed to maintain your intelligence yet steer clear of the path to geekiness. You are the rarest of the rare, not many people score in this category. I don't know if you realize the delicate balance between smarts and geekiness, yet you have overcome!!

You most likely have a strong passion for reading or some other hobby you can cultivate on your own, and this can be a wonderful creative outlet. Make sure you take the time to develop strong interpersonal relationships as they may not come as easily to you, though they are vital for a fulfilling life. It takes much effort to mantain them at times, but their benefits far outweight their draw backs.

I truly hope you enjoyed the test as much as I enjoyed making it! I always welcome email comments/suggestions! Thanks for taking it!

Take How geeky are you? at HelloQuizzy


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Why I Blog

Someone asked me to give him an example of a piece I wrote that I thought kept me sane. I replied:
It's not that I have a particular piece I'm talking about. It's the exercise of writing something every day. Sometimes, it's just an Internet meme, but even that allows me to put my personal stamp on it. Moreover, I must have been doing something right on my blog [here], because the local paper invited me to write on THEIR blog.
Moreover, I've become such an "expert" on it that giving some advice to a business blogger, and I attended a conference in Chicago, where a colleague and I talked about Starting Your SBDC Blog (based on our experience doing THIS blog.

All I know is that, before the blog, I wanted to write and didn't because I lacked discipline to write something that, likely, no one would see; the public nature of the blog forces me to post to it (or actually them) regularly.
When they recalibrated SiteMeter, they said I'd get more page views. While the number of hits has remained about the same, the number of average views per visit jumped from about 1.4 to about 2.4. Every once in a while, I look to see what articles are bringing folks to the blog. This piece on the October 4, 1987 snowstorm - 21 years ago this week - has been big the past month. My rant about the Beatles butchers has also been popular recently.
I went to some SEO - search engine optimization - site recently, put in my URL, and this is what it recommended:
Keyword Suggestion
Searches / month
sarah palin 668,160
sarah palin nude 35,340
sarah palin pictures 23,370
sarah palin photos 22,440
sarah palin pics 15,540
sarah palin bikini 15,390
sarah palin naked 9,540
sarah palin speech 8,670
sarah palin children 6,330
sarah palin legs 6,910
sarah palin vogue 5,760
sarah palin swimsuit 4,500
pictures of sarah palin 4,440
sarah palin bio 4,410
sarah palin miss alaska 4,320

Now, while it's true that I've talked about Sarah Palin, even before she was picked as Vice-Presidential candidate, and showed pictures of her, albeit not in a bikini, I never talked about Sarah Palin being naked. And I wrote about so many topics OTHER than Sarah Palin. I do wish I knew exactly how SEO worked.


Saturday, October 04, 2008

QUESTION: Political paraphrenalia

Today's question is pretty straightforward. Do you you display bumper stickers, lawn signs or buttons touting the candidates you support?

Bumper stickers: no, my wife doesn't like them, and I do see her point. Those Kerry/Edwards stickers that I STILL see on the backs of vehicles are quaint, and perhaps even gives the driver the sense of some political cover, but we just don't do that.

Lawn signs: our neighbors who are politically involved locally always have lawn signs. Though they too are Democrats, they are usually NOT for the candidates I support. The only time I know I displayed one is when my friend Judy, who I've known at least since 1974, ran for the school board. BTW, she won.

Buttons: I like to collect political buttons. I might wear one for a day here and there, when I'm likely to be in a non-hostile crowd, but not generally. there was a button, though, that I wore almost daily for about a year. It was green and white and all it said was Choose Peace. I wore it from September 2002 to about September 2003, then sporadically thereafter. I got both a lot of compliments (mostly peace signs and smiles) and a lot of complaints (something about "supporting our troops", if memory serves). I'll have to dig it out and wear it again.


Friday, October 03, 2008

Roger Answers Your Questions, Spryglet

Our next contestant I know personally:
Hey Roger!

I've been thinking about something for a couple of days now, and I thought you might be a good person to bounce this musing off of (perhaps you've already addressed the topic on your blog and a simple re-direct will do the trick!).

Recently, I've been mulling over the question of blogging vs letter writing. Naturally, they are not mutually exclusive activities and there is no reason one can't do both. That said, there are only so many hours in the day.

Now, you are an amazingly consistent blogger. But I was wondering, how are you in the letter writing department? Has that changed a lot since you began blogging?

As you know, Socks and I started a modest blog to highlight some of our adventures as we relocated from NYC to Las Vegas. Recently, the blog has sort of morphed into "Las Vegas sites and curiosities" (as seen through our eyes). When we write the blog, we definitely have our friends back east in mind as the intended audience. (And as an aside, I keep a personal hand written journal in which I try to record the day's events, even if only in list form. That's for personal use). But I find that my letter writing has decreased significantly. And now, I am slowly realizing that I miss it. True, I would often find myself cutting and pasting portions of one letter to another. But I always tried to make sure that it was personalized.

Anyway, I was wondering your thoughts on the topic.

That aside, I also miss seeing you if only at the holidays (MidWinter, MidSummer, etc.). And I do miss being back east. Being in Nevada is strange. However I think this will be one of the first elections in which my vote in the presidential elections will actually mean something. Although there have been exceptions, New York has rarely gone Republican. Nevada is up for grabs.

Anyway, I just wanted to seize the moment and say HI!

I hope that all is well with you, Carol & Lydia.

Stay well.



Back in the 1970s and 1980s, I was a prolific letter writer. Influenced undoubtedly by some author's letters, I even copied, using something called carbon paper, some of the letters I wrote. During the same period, I started keeping journals. Many got destroyed in the flooded basement of the apartment building I lived in a decade ago, but a few survived, which has allowed me to write some of that specific FantaCo stuff, as well as relive painful affairs of the heart.

My letter writing started to diminish a little in the 1990s, especially when I first got e-mail, and shrank even further upon the birth of my child. In fact, it is the blogs where most of my non-work writing takes place. But it hasn't supplanted letter-writing, because my letter-writing was already on the wane.

I should also note that I'm jealous as hell of you. New York is a mortal lock for Obama. Frankly, I'm disturbed by the fact that polling has determined whether candidates even bother in some locations. McCain, though, has been running ads nationally on ABC's World News.

My best to Socks.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Cornucopia of Stuff

The good news here is that after six weeks of having her teeth wired shut, my wife Carol can now open her mouth. This doesn't mean she can have steak, but she can have soft foods such as scrambled eggs. After a month and a half of not using one's jaw, one must relearn to use it.
One problem is that she cannot yet open her mouth sufficiently to use her toothbrush, something she was REALLY looking forward to. Fortunately, her clever husband, quite possibly inspired by this workshop, suggested that Carol use a smaller toothbrush, and as it turned out, we had a couple replacement brushes for Lydia that Carol could use.
One of my sisters works for Wachovia bank - well, she did until there WAS no Wachovia. Like just about everyone dealing with a bank, she didn't originally work for the former giant, but rather First Union out of Charlotte, NC, where my mother also used to work. But First Union got taken over up by Wachovia and now Wachovia is owned by Citicorp. It reminds me of fish in the food chain being swallowing up ever larger creatures. In any case, she still has a job, for now.
While my retiring Democratic Congressman, Mike McNulty , voted for the bailout, the frosh Congresswoman from the area, Kirsten Gillibrand , voted no. So did Maurice Hinchey, a liberal Dem from my old district, whose state Assembly campaign I supported in 1974. And of course, Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who's been marginalized a lot this year, but is often correct. Someone sent me this alternative proposal; we'll see if THAT passes.
Seriously, they'll be some sort of deal soon, if only because there is no credit available for businesses large or small.
The Veep debate is tonight, and it ought to generate real interest, mostly to see if Sarah Palin will self-destruct. Based on her performances in the Alaska gubernatorial debates, excerpts of which can be found here, she may fare better than most people think. On the other hand, check out this link. After the 50 seconds of the Today show description of Tina Fey channeling Palin, you will watch a side-by-side comparison of Palin and Fey. As SamuraiFrog asked: "You know what the difference is between Tina Fey and a pit bull with lipstick? Tina Fey didn't have to keep looking down at her notes."
Bill Moyers' interview with Andrew J. Bacevich on his book "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism", which is "one in a series called the 'American Empire Project.' Several noted scholars and writers are examine American aspirations at home and abroad, looking for ways to foster democracy without succumbing to imperial ambitions."
Because you need to know: an Internet Memes timeline.
That's all I've got, but I'd be curious to get your reaction to my piece Is getting people interested in politics REALLY a good idea?