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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Raoul by Tom Skulan

Tom Skulan was owner of FantaCo Enterprises

When I arrived at New Paltz as a fledgling art student in 1972, Raoul Vezina was already a local legend.
His art graced several bars and dozens of flyers posted in places like the Ariel bookstore.
He was in a band and had already published his own comic book (with Gilbert).

The first time I encountered Raoul I never really met him. He was in the back of one of my art classes before the class had started. He was passing around copies of New Paltz Comix and had a large group of students around him talking to him and asking him questions. He seemed like a super hero.

The first time I actually met Raoul was in Peter Maresca’s Crystal Cave comic shop on Main Street in New Paltz. Peter’s shop, one of only 100 such comic shops in the United States at the time was a big draw for me and for other comic fans. I had landed a part time job there and Raoul was a customer. He later would become an employee when the shop moved for the third and last time. He painted the Crystal Cave window sign as well as various small signs inside the shop- just as he would at FantaCo years later.

My first impressions of Raoul pretty much remained the same as long as I knew him. He was very independent, had a great and unusual sense of humor, loved to doodle often brilliant cartoons, usually late to work, had more friends than anyone I had ever met, kept very late hours and was prone to spending the stray night in jail.

After graduating from New Paltz and being hired directly into a teaching position I still wanted to be involved in a comic store.
So in August of 1978 I rented 21 Central Avenue in Albany and started to repaint and renovate the interior for a September opening.
I usually worked late into the night and left the front door open for some fresh air from the paint fumes. Occasionally someone would wander in and ask what the store was going to be. After telling them most people told me it would never work, including several advertising reps.
One of the earliest people who stopped in was Hank Jansen. Hank would become one of the most loyal, responsible and important of all of the FantaCo employees.

It seemed natural to use friends from New Paltz to help. Kevin Cahill and Veronica Cahill were from New Paltz and had just moved to Albany so that Kevin could attend law school. They were a huge help as was Louisa Lombardo and her sister Julie.
I enlisted Raoul to paint the window and store signs and hired him on immediately since he knew the operations of Peter’s store inside and out. Later I would also enlist 2 other New Paltz acquaintances- Roger Green and Mitch Cohn.

The first day, a Saturday, was a blow out. The store was packed and we did great. Raoul’s signs were a huge hit and responsible for much of the success. All of us had stayed up all night preparing the store and there are some great pictures of all of us collapsing after the doors were closed that day.

We planned a “grand opening” for 2 weeks later. I asked Raoul to do a flyer with a “rat in a space suit”, which he did. We posted the flyers everywhere and also used the character in a full page ad in the Overstreet Price Guide. Later that character, sans space suit, would become Smilin’ Ed- as named by Raoul.

During Raoul’s years at FantaCo he did hundreds of small store signs, several full page ads for the Overstreet Price Guide, dozens of flyers as well as writing and performing well over 100 radio commercials with me. The earliest commercials also featured Kevin, Veronica and Julie. We did the commercials at the WQBK studios and recorded them to tape. As far as I know we one of the first comic shops to advertise on radio. They were a blast to do and Raoul and I would spend hours at his apartment writing scripts and practicing them.

Penciled by Raoul Vezina. Inked/scanned/cleaned up/colored by Bill Anderson in 2008.

Of course there was also Smilin’ Ed the comic version. Raoul and I would spend many hours thinking up stories and writing dialog. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th issue of that comic took far longer to create than anyone might think. The first issue was rushed, late, and had to be driven up directly to the printing plant to be printed on schedule.

That Monday morning in November I received a call at 8:30 AM from Raoul’s girlfriend Dee.
I answered the phone and all I heard was “Tom, Raoul is dead”. I thought it was a pretty sick joke. After all Raoul had just started his vacation on Saturday and I thought he would be miles away spending his time with one of his friends in another state.
"This is a bad joke, Dee", I answered. She then gave me details and assured me it was real.
Raoul had died at his apartment.

It was surreal as it was the first time I had encountered a friend dying. I informed my girlfriend Mary and headed into the store. I put up a sign indicating the store would be closed Thursday and stayed in my office answering the phone.
The days that week are still a blur to me. I partially remember attending the funeral, being a pallbearer and breaking down.
What I do remember is hundreds of people, from all over, attending the funeral.
It was the most people I had ever seen at a funeral.

So that was it. A life was over far too soon.
Raoul, through his good humor, art and music had touched the lives of thousands of people.
His great cartooning, writing and performing skills were a very important part of the early FantaCo.
I still often think about Raoul. I miss having someone to create with.
As time goes by I do not think I will ever have that again.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

QUESTIONS about Shopping

It's oft quoted that consumer spending is the lifeblood of the American economy, comprising of 2/3s or 70%, depending on who you ask, of the economy. It's also well established that the Christmas season time of the year when retailers and services historically expect to make it into the black.

Will you spend more, less, or just as much on Christmas as you did last year?

Has your shopping been affected by social concerns such as trying to buy locally or buying fair trade items, such as the toys at Green Living?

Do you worry about buying gift cards that will be worthless if the company folds?

Are you concerned about too much stuff?

My answers: less, yes, yes and yes.
If you're interested in equine-related stuff, you might want to check out Silver Horse Studios; not only is it local to me (Catskill, NY), it's the business of Eileen and Mario Bruni. Mario was the eweell-done but ultimately ill-fated Mars attacks mini comics that FantaCo put out in the late 1980s.

The niece's next gig - niece on the right.


Friday, November 28, 2008

It's the Stupid, Economy

About three months ago, my wife got a letter from one of her credit card companies LOWERING her available credit. Understand that she always pays on time. This is so contrary to what had been happening for the past decade or more, where they kept upping her available credit to absurdist levels; i.e., greater than her gross annual salary.

Now, last week, I got a letter from one of my credit card companies. They noted that I had not used the card in 24 months, which was true. In the olden days, i.e., last year, they would have sent me checks to write against the account. Instead, though, they CANCELLED the card. This is NOT a complaint, BTW, just an observation, since I too have more available credit than income.

Meanwhile, gas is going down, but not at the same rates. While the Mobil station nearest my house has that traditional dime's difference between the various levels (on Monday, $2.199, $2.299, $2.399), a couple other Mobil stations in Albany were $2.199, $2.659, $2.699. I don't begin to understand pricing for this stuff, but I am fascinated that it could be so different within the same city limits.
or here.
The State University of New York is raising tuition, largely as a result of the state budget crisis; apparently, the state government can't print money to spend its way out of its crisis as the feds can. Since two of my alma maters were SUNY schools (New Paltz and Albany), I'm interested in noting that the result of this is an INCREASE in the number of people who want to attend college. Do they figure they might as well go to school in hopes that things will be better when they get out?


Thursday, November 27, 2008

What are YOU doing on Thanksgiving?

From the BLS: What activities do you have planned for this Thanksgiving? Perhaps cooking and enjoying a meal with family or friends, playing sports or watching sports on television, doing volunteer work, or shopping? Here’s a look at some BLS data behind those Thanksgiving scenes.

For me:
Cooking? Perhaps a little, but I'm at my in-laws, so it'll mostly be table setting and clean up.
Meal - yes, most definitely. I don't know why I don't have turkey at other times of the year. I LIKE turkey.
Watching sports - maybe; if my father-in-law is, then I am.
Doing volunteer work - actually I had planned on having done that already by helping move furniture around the church on Monday for the EQUINOX Thanksgiving dinner in Albany, but then my daughter got sick with pink eye, the scourge of day care centers everywhere, and that plan went out the window.
Shopping - not if I can help it. Shopping on Thanksgiving Day should be limited to buying forgotten cranberry sauce. And NO ONE loathes shopping on Black Friday more than I do. Though online shopping is not out of the question.

The American Farm Bureau Federation tells us that the Classic Thanksgiving Dinner is Still Affordable. For those of us lucky enough to still have jobs, I suppose. For which I AM thankful.
The presidential cookie poll.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Lydster, Part 56: Too Shy

There are times when my daughter is bold and fearless. In her classroom, for instance, her teachers rave about how well she helps the newer students get acclimated. Other times, she just wants to retreat behind one of her parents.

Her favorite TV show - pretty much her ONLY TV show she watches on a regular basis, as we're TRYING to limit her consumption - is something called Little Bear. It is based on some 1950s books by Maurice Sendak, for which, quite coincidentally, we received a three-in-volume volume of the book. Little Bear lives in the forest with his parents and has friends with Owl, Duck, Hen and Cat. The TV series was filmed in the 1990s in Canada.

Most of these stories she enjoys, but a few of them made her quite frightened: one with Father Bear arguing with the personified North Wind, a couple featuring goblins, which look more like Santa's elves.

But the episodes cycle through and repeat after a number of weeks, and Lydia's discovered that there's nothing to fear from the wind or the goblins.

I was reminded that, last Christmastime, we were at a party. The kids went upstairs with an adult to play. As it turned out, they were watching Little Nemo. I went to check up on her, and I noticed my child, in ithe midst of a bunch of happy children, looking terrified. She ran to me, and I watched the remaining part of the movie with her, including the scary dentist scene, during which she buried her head under my arm.

It occurred to me while reading Tosy, who has two girls about Lydia's age, that before we venture on showing Lydia the movie The Wizard of Oz, perhaps I ought to READ the story to her first. Interestingly, my wife has a friend whose daughter had seen the Wizard of Oz a half dozen times, or more, by the time she was THREE, and wasn't afraid at all. I remember being still afraid of it at age seven; on the other hand, in a pre-video age, I saw it but once a year.

Ah, the power of repetition.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

S is for San Francisco

Long before I ever went there, I loved San Francisco. From the Golden Gate Bridge to the cable cars, I adored the place.

It may have started in 1962, when I was nine. The San Francisco Giants, my favorite team in the National League was playing the New York Yankees, my favorite team in the American League; we're talking Major League Baseball here, BTW. While my support for the Yankees was regional (I'd been to Yankee Stadium, e.g.), my love for the Giants was more emotional. I loved Orlando Cepeda at 1B - I love the way Danny Kaye sang "Or-lan-do Ce-pe-da" in a baseball song. I loved the Alou brothers, Matty and Felipe, who would one day be joined by brother Jesus; at least once, a few years later, all three patrolled the outfield at the same time. I loved Willie "Stretch" McCovey, who would eventually become the Hall of Fame 1B. P Juan Marchical! But most of all I loved CF Willie Mays, one of the three or four best players EVER, whose statue I had purchased at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY around that time, only to have a foot chomped off by our dog.

Then there was JEOPARDY!, the daytime quiz show hosted by Art Fleming, which I used to watch with my aunt at lunchtime almost every day. One sponsor was Rice-A-Roni, "the San Francisco treat". I LIKED Rice-A-Roni when I was 11.

I listened to Bill Cosby a lot in those days, and this riff made me want to go there and see Lombard Street:
or here.

A few years later, it was Haight-Asbury. The Summer of Love may have ultimately been a failed social experiment, but to a 14-year old, it was just cool. From it came the music of the Jefferson Airplane, Rolling Stone magazine and other wondrous inventions.

So, I felt as though SF was my second hometown, even though I had never been west of the Mississippi until considerably later.

Therefore, the events of November 1978 felt terrible to me, as though it had happened in my own hometown of Binghamton, NY. First I saw the raw footage of Congressman Leo Ryan and his associates being attacked in Guyana. I remember an ashen Mayor George Moscone announce Rep. Ryan's death. A couple days later, we learned of the Jonestown Massacre with Jim Jones leading the drinking of the Kool-Aid; most of the folks were from the Bay Area. Not two weeks later, I watched acting mayor Diane Feinstein weep as she announced the murders of Moscone and city council member Harvey Milk, almost certainly the most prominent gay politician of that time. Subsequently, I followed the trial of Dan White and his infamous "Twinkie defense". Some feel the two events - Jonestown and the Moscone/Milk murders - were connected. In any case, it's all created ambivalence about whether I want to go see the upcoming movie Milk with Sean Penn.

I finally got to actually go to San Francisco in 1987. I flew to San Diego, and then my sister, who lives there, and I flew to the Bay area. We went to the fish market, rode the cable cars, saw the Bridge, and yes, we found Lombard Street, which is as beautiful and curvy as Cosby described. Unfortunately, the San Francisco Giants were out of town, but we did see the Oakland A's play.

San Francisco was everything I knew it would be.

ABC Wednesday.


Monday, November 24, 2008

What kind of blog is this?

For the several blogs in which I participate, I'm the primary contributor for all but one, that one being my work blog. Yet the Typealyzer scores for most of them differ.

The NYS Small Business development Center blog shows this.
The NYS Data Center Affiliates blog shows this.
The Friends of the Albany Public Library blog shows this.

But for this blog (and also my Times Union blog), the answer is this:

ESTP - The Doers
The active and play-ful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.
This show what parts of the brain that were dominant during writing.
(Click on image to enlarge.)

What's really scary is how dead on at least the last two sentences are. Whereas the other ones, not so much. Perhaps it's a function of me writing for myself rather than for a different audience.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

November Ramblin'

After careful consideration, listening to all sides of the issue ad naseum, I've decided that I support the bailout of the US automobile industry. There are just too many jobs down the line that depend on those companies. So, Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, et al: pony up. If those auto companies fail, you'll have only those more fuel efficient foreign cars to fill, and your prices will keep dropping like a stone. Oh, you didn't think I was coming out in favor of the GOVERNMENT bailout, did you? BTW, the idea's not original with me - read it somewhere - but it does seem to operate on a win-win basis. Maybe the car makers will actually come up with a PLAN for what they'll do with the money; at the rate they're losing cash now, $25 billion will be gone by April Fools' Day, appropriately.
The axe has fallen on three shows on ABC-TV prime time schedule, and wouldn't you know it: two of them are shows I like to watch. I loved both Pushing Daisies and Dirty Sexy Money. Daisies was whimsical with an undercurrent of melancholy. DSM was soap opera trash, and I mean that in a good way; Nick George (Peter Krause), the main protagonist, is being sucked more palpably into the dark side. I never saw Eli Stone, mostly as a matter of time, but based on the previews, I think I might have liked it. What is unwatchable is the one show that apparently survived on ABC Wednesday, the Grey’s Anatomy spinoff Private Practice.

But to be fair, all three of the shows would likely have been canceled last season if not for the writer’s strike, based on ratings.

The only thing I have to look forward to on ABC now are Life on Mars, which IS interesting, even if it’s a Brit retread, Grey's Anatomy, Brothers & Sisters, and, eventually, the last season of Scrubs.
Reasons to hate the interregnum. Interregnum: great word, that.
A scary video that a female friend sent me called Instructional Film for Women:
or here.
A young woman I "met" through ABC Wednesday named earthlingorgeous, who is 30 but looks 20, is having a blog anniversary giveaway at her site, Earthly Explorations. I've never gotten swag from the Philippines before, so by mentioning her contest (and having previously registered), I get "points" towards chances of winning prizes. Or something like that.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Questions about Death

This is, as most Americans of a certain age - what a quaint phrase - the 45th anniversary of the assassination of the 35th President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I remember it well, I think. Or, as I have surmised in the past, I may have shared the story with acquaintances so often that now I recall the retelling rather than the actual event. No matter.

The facts were these: I was in my fifth grade class at Daniel S. Dickinson school in Binghamton, NY when our teacher, Miss (Marie) Oberlik was called into the hall by someone. She came back into the class to announce that the President had been killed. then she left. Immediately our 10-year old minds were reeling. What happened? And what does this mean for the country. I'm fairly sure that we were not versed in the rulkes of Presidential succession and I doubt that I even knew who Lyndon Johnson was. Suddenly, Miss Oberlik returns to the class screaming, "Everyone else in the school is being quiet in respect fior the President!" Well, yeah, but I bet their teachers didn't drop a bombshell on them and then LEAVE.

BTW, I also saw Lee Harvey Oswald get shot on live TV that weekend.

My questions, which I request that you answer:
1. Who was the first tragedy (death or other traumatic event) you know that was NOT personally involving your sphere of family and friends. For me it was JFK's death; for my wife, who is younger than I am, it was Richard Nixon's resignation, probabl;y for the reason I felt about JFK - what now? (Wheras I was rather pleased by Nixon's departure.)

2. Who was the first person you knew personally to die?
For me, it was all in one short stretch of my great-grandfather (my paternal grandmother's father), my paternal grandmother, and my great aunt (my maternal grandmother's sister). They may have been a year or two apart, but they all feel now as though it were the same gloomy stretch.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Abecedarian movies

I saw this at SamuraiFrog. You name one movie for every letter of the alphabet.

Here are the rules:

1. Pick one film to represent each letter of the alphabet.

2. The letter "A" and the word "The" do not count as the beginning of a film's title, unless the film is simply titled A or The, and I don't know of any films with those titles.

3. [Lengthy rules about Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, LOTR, Chronicles of Narnia series...]

4. Films that start with a number are filed under the first letter of their number's word. 12 Monkeys would be filed under "T."

5. Link back to Blog Cabins in your post.

6. If you're selected, you have to then select 5 more people.

The original Blog Cabins rules suggest that one picks their FAVORITE film under that letter, which not explicit in the various iterations I've seen such as the one by Tom the Dog, who had a lovely twist on the concept. Johnny B. also did it.

My blog, my (additional) rules. These are films I have seen and that I like. Maybe not THE favorite (A would be Annie Hall, e.g.), but one of my favorites. Some were tough to find anything (X), while some had a plethora of possibilities (T). I've tended to lean towards those I first saw in an actual movie theater rather than on video. In fact, I think I saw all my main choices that way except E, H and X

Amadeus - a rockingly good time with Mozart. He died making perhaps my favorite music ever, his Requiem.

Being There - I spent a lot of time defending this film from people who thought it was "boring", that "nothing happens".

Cabaret- picked over the obvious Casablanca only because I saw the latter on TV first.

Dumbo - I decided that I needed some animation, and while The Incredibles and Toy Story 2, to name two, would rank higher, this story of the outsider always resonated with me, despite the crows.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - my wife and I saw this on video, were too tired to finish, watch the rest in the morning. I still LOVED it. As someone said, "A very, very sweet movie masquerading as something else." But I've recently discovered that my wife likes it much less than I thought she did. TThis was one of the two Charlie Kaufman films I considered, but since I had a perfectly good B choice, Being John Malkovich, alas, was cast to the side.

Field of Dreams = STILL makes me cry.

Groundhog Day - own this on VHS to see annually.

Hairspray - somehow missed this John waters film in the theater. But saw it recently enough to review in this blog. I'm talking the original here, not the remake.

In the Name of the Father - my Daniel Day-Lewis pick. Not even my favorite of his films, but still solid.

Jules et Jim - saw this at a museum in Binghamton when I was in high school. If you insist on something in English, Jesus Christ Superstar.

Kissing Jessica Stein - had trouble picking ANY K movie.

Lonestar - my John Sayles pick. Sayles is from Schenectady, near Albany, and I've seen a LOT of his films, but this is my favorite.

Malcolm X - this covers Denzel Washington and Spike Lee. Actually, my favorite Spike joint would be Do The Right Thing, but I like this one as well.

The Night They Raided Minsky's - I do believe I'm obsessed with this film, based on the number of times that I've mentioned it in this blog. I actually was talking to someone this week who thought it'd be a fine Broadway musical.

On the Waterfront - I actually saw this in television inonly in the past five years. Quite powerful.

Planet of the Apes - a great story co-written by Rod Serling.

The Queen - a recent view; a thin group of choices.

Rear Window - saw this Hitchcock film in a theater when it was re-released in mid-1980s. Indeed, I think I've only seen two Hitch films in an actual movie theater, this and the Birds, though I've watched a number on TV.

sex, lies and videotape - just edging out The Sound of Music and the Shawshank Redemption.

The Truman Show - tough category with Toy Story 2, 12 Angry Men, To Kill a Mockingbird. But this is a GOOD Jim Carrey film.

Unforgiven - one of Tom's selection, the directing of Clint Eastwood needed a spot. So did the western, now that I think of it.

Volver - a relatively recent movie that came to mind with Penelope Cruz.

West Side Story - though Wizard of Oz is the better movie, I do so LOVE the music of WSS. AND I saw it in the movies as a kid.

X2 - this may be the ONLY X movie I've seen and remember. I saw this with my wife in a hotel in Maryland or West Virginia on New Year's Eve a few years ago, before Lydia, stopping midway in our return trip from North Carolina to NYS

Young Frankenstein - oh, yes, another Tom pick. Literally fell out of my chair laughing when I saw it in the theater; good thing I had an aisle seat.

Z - haven't seen this since it first came out, but I remember being riveted by it.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Post for Gordon

Gordon offered to answer questions on his podcast but only if the questions were NOT e-mailed to him. One of the acceptable methods was to post something on one's blog. So here it is:

Seeing how it's the Great American SmokeOut as I post this, does your long-standing (and righteous) antipathy against smoking cigarettes come from your public policy background that shows the economic devastation of families having to deal with the results of lung cancer and the like? Or is it a function of fairness, that people ought not to deal with second-hand smoke? Or do you have personal experiences (friends, family, even yourself) that has informed your crusade against the "coffin nails"? And don't you think it's rather interesting that, long before the Surgeon General's warning in the 12960s, the term "coffin nails" was in regular use?

Hmm. I remember, as a kid, going to O'Leary's corner store and buying packs of cigarettes (Winstons) for my father. Later, it was cartons. I used to steal his cigarettes, not to smoke myself, but in hopes that the cost (35 to 50 cents a pack!) would serve as a deterrent; it did not. Eventually, he developed emphysema and did quit, but when his symptoms abated, his smoking returned. I was...unsubtle in my frustration with him over that. But then a few years later, he stopped smoking for good. He said he never said he quit; he just didn't have another one, and he was smoke-free for the last 25 years of his life.
Fewer U.S. adults smoke, but cigarette smoking continues to impose substantial health and financial costs on society, according to new data from CDC.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

R is for Rock and/or Roll

I was reading my Beatlefan magazine this month and there was a discussion of the album "The Beatles" that had a stark white cover, in contrast with the elaborately colorful predecessor Sgt. Pepper. Beatles' producer George Martin opined that it would have made a great single album, and maybe it it would have. Though Paul McCartney famously replied, "It's great. It sold. It's the bloody Beatles' White Album. Shut up." . But what to cut?

Then Internet friend Scott actually made a pared-down list, and that has has forced me to TRY to do the same.

Understand that I heard this album in late November or early December 1968, 40 years ago, when it was brand new. I was in the basement of the Unitarian church in Binghamton in upstate New York, hanging out with Steve, who was a member of the church's LRY (Liberal Religious Youth) group plus other friends of ours. And we listened to the whole thing sitting around in a circle. We were gobsmacked by the experience. I received the album for Christmas that year, but had to return it because the intro to Birthday skipped; this was, as I recall, a problem for a number of people, not just me.

Side one
# Title Length
1. "Back in the U.S.S.R." 2:43
2. "Dear Prudence" 3:56
3. "Glass Onion" 2:17
4. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" 3:08
5. "Wild Honey Pie" 0:52
6. "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" 3:14
7. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (George Harrison) 4:45
8. "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" 2:43
Side two
# Title Length
1. "Martha My Dear" 2:28
2. "I'm So Tired" 2:03
3. "Blackbird" 2:18
4. "Piggies" (Harrison) 2:04
5. "Rocky Raccoon" 3:32
6. "Don't Pass Me By" (Starkey) 3:50
7. "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" 1:41
8. "I Will" 1:46
9. "Julia" 2:54
Side three
# Title Length
1. "Birthday" 2:42
2. "Yer Blues" 4:01
3. "Mother Nature's Son" 2:48
4. "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" 2:24
5. "Sexy Sadie" 3:15
6. "Helter Skelter" 4:29
7. "Long, Long, Long" (Harrison) 3:04
Side four
# Title Length
1. "Revolution 1" 4:15
2. "Honey Pie" 2:41
3. "Savoy Truffle" (Harrison) 2:54
4. "Cry Baby Cry" 3:01
5. "Revolution 9" 8:22
6. "Good Night" 3:11

Strategically, I suppose what to keep is of some import. One has to have one Ringo vocal. The drummer left the band during the making of the album and had to be wooed back. While selecting the song he wrote years earlier, Don't Pass Me By, might have been more pleasing to him, Lennon's Good Night is a more pleasant tune. Likewise one needs two Harrison songs; Guitar and Savoy Truffle are the strongest. I need to keep some, but not all of Paul's dance hall tunes. If we keep Obladi, the reference to it in Savoy makes more sense. I suppose we'll dump the "obvious" Revolution 9 and Wild Honey Pie. I'm also dumping Revolution 1 only because Revolution became a single.

In fact, if it had been cut down to a single LP, wouldn't there have been another single instead? Other than the songs chosen for inclusion, I'm thinking that Glass Onion might have stood alone, with all those insider Beatles' references, backed with one of McCartney's pretty ballads - I'll pick Mother Nature's Son.
Which leaves:
Side 1
1. "Back in the U.S.S.R." 2:43
2. "Dear Prudence" 3:56
3. "Blackbird" 2:18
4. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (Harrison) 4:45
5. "Julia" 2:54
6. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" 3:08
7. "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" 2:43
Side 2
1. "I'm So Tired" 2:03
2. "Birthday" 2:42
3. "Yer Blues" 4:01
4. "Savoy Truffle" (Harrison) 2:54
5. "Sexy Sadie" 3:15
6. "Helter Skelter" 4:29
7. "Good Night" 3:11
I'm trying to think as they might have. "Julia", about John's mother, wouldn't be cut. Most of the other songs, notably "I Will", would have shown up in other albums, either by the Beatles or solo. "Rocky Raccoon" is the cut I least enjoyed making.
Alternately, "Ob-la-di" is the single, b/w "Savoy Truffle". but that involves perhaps a different song selection altogether.

What sayest thou?

ABC Wednesday


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Times They Are A Changin'

You may have seen this cover of a fake New York Times that was being distributed last week. If you want a PDF of the whole thing, it's here. We're not at that point in the headlines, of course, but I'm pleased with the transition website. I like that openness. Naturally, he's still being coy about his Cabinet. (Wanna guess and win a prize?) The speculation that Hillary Clinton might be named Secretary of State has this town all a-buzz, mostly concerning who might succeed her in the Senate.

Speaking of the New York Times, the REAL paper had a great article earlier this month about the imperial Presidency of George W. Bush. (Free login required.) The Dan Rather fights back piece intrigues me. There was also another article that caught my attention, "Can Obama Help Kill Baggy Pants Look?"
"P. Rubinstein, a sociology professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, agreed. 'It's very clear that what a president wears has an impact on the population,' she said. Not everyone believes that words alone are enough. One doubter is Alan Flusser, a designer of men's wear in Manhattan who has written several books on fashion. When it comes to Mr. Obama and the brotherhood of the sagging pants, 'I don't think his commenting on it one way or another is going to influence anybody,' Mr. Flusser said."

And I've finally discovered Rachel Maddow, who laid out in six minutes why the Dems should strip Joe Lieberman of his chair of the Homeland Security Committee. It's not about 60 "Democratic" senators - would you trust this man to be the 60th person in a cloture vote? - or revenge over Joe supporting Johnny Mac, but about competence (or lack thereof) in the job he has had:
or here.

But there were a couple stories that made me remember that the country's still a scary place. A member of a group linked to the Ku Klux Klan has been charged with murder following the death of an Oklahoma woman who was recruited via the internet to Louisiana, but subsequently tried to leave an initiation ceremony. The KKK. In 2008. Ain't that ducky?

Much closer to home is this hate crime apparently part of a pattern of violence which was stirred up in part by the rhetoric of a local politician. After I wrote this, I discovered that Greg also touched on this topic, proving the "great minds" theorem; and Common Dreams likewise had a story.

So lest we get all warm and fuzzy about "change", know that "change" is a process, not just a flick of a switch. Or even a voting lever.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Mom's birthday

My mother turns 81 today. Happy birthday, mom.

We've established that she doesn't want any more "stuff" for her birthday, or, for that matter, for Christmas. In fact, our present for her 80th birthday was the removal of a half ton of trash. Being four or five states away, that's not always an option.

Generally, gifts now are consumable (food, postage stamps) or disposable (flowers, e.g.).

So this is what I wish for my mom: clarity. She seems...stuck. Without getting into it too much, she often talks, thinks and worries about people, places and things that she has NO control over. People who disappointed her from many years ago, in large part. I wish she could just let it go, maybe write letters to these deceased folk to rant at them.

Lest you ask, I don't think this is a function of Alzheimer's. She was checked for hat last year. The pattern of behavior long predates that.

One of my sisters, who lives with her, is at her wit's end as to what to do. That I would talk about it this much expresses my own sense of helplessness in the situation. I'm open to suggestions. Perhaps it is that the children should just let it be.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Joe Fludd's Raoul Vezina Recollection

Raoul Vezina was part of a very special experience in my youth. You have to understand what it was like back then, when I was in high school. Star Wars Episode IV had just been released, and the phenomenon of that film was so new that no one yet realized that it was in fact the fourth episode in a saga. The whole culture around science fiction, comics, and imaginative gaming that we have today was just a seed barely sprouted. I envy the outlets for these kinds of things that kids have today. When I was that age, I was a devotee--someone who took comic books and science fiction completely to heart and made it what my life was about--surrounded by dabblers who had more time for things like girls, soccer, cars, and computers (and in time, alcohol and drugs) than for the things that were important to me. (I wasn't even out to myself as gay yet.) I had visited only one comic-book specialty store in my life, the one in the Pike's Place Public Market in Seattle, and I'd only had a chance to linger there briefly while visiting relatives. When FantaCo Enterprises opened in Albany when I was a Junior in high school, it felt as if it had opened up just for me. It was a place where I was in my own element. And there was Raoul.

While I felt isolated as a young person, at least people respected the things I could do as an artist and a writer. Everyone thought I was good--my classmates, my teachers--and I was accustomed to being able to attract a crowd in school just by opening my sketchbook. But with Raoul at FantaCo, it was different. He, too, was an artist, though he had about ten years or so on me. He was out of school, working at a comic book shop, and wanted to establish himself in his profession. Our professional interests were a bit different; he was more of a humor cartoonist and I was a strict super-hero guy. But Raoul was someone who "got" me in a way that most other people didn't. His friendship and approval were special to me. The acceptance and encouragement I got from Raoul were acceptance and encouragement from "within the tribe". I remember one Sunday evening when Raoul and store owner Tom Skulan were guests on a radio talk show on what was then our "album rock" station, WQBK-FM, and I made a point of calling in and helping them keep the conversation about comics, and imaginative things in general, interesting. (As if they needed it.) It was a little taste of being part of something that mattered to me.

Raoul was one of those people who made you believe there was room for one more under his wing. He always had time to look at what I was doing, or chat up the latest developments in The Fantastic Four or The X-Men or whatever I was reading. When I talked about something that interested me, Raoul actually knew what I was talking about and could discuss it intelligently. He knew the artists I liked and understood the kinds of things I wanted to accomplish. FantaCo was a place where I didn't feel isolated, and Raoul was an important part of the reason why. He introduced me to visiting artists. I remember Raoul was there the first time anyone asked me to sign anything. I was talking to comic artist Joe Staton, who was visiting the store. He did a sketch for me and looked at some of my stuff. A little boy shopping at the store watched us, and when Joe was done with me, the little boy asked for MY autograph. I couldn't believe it. I mean, I gave him an autograph, but I couldn't believe anyone would ask me such a thing. Raoul, bless him, wasn't the least bit surprised. He was just that kind of guy.

When FantaCo would have its conventions at The Egg in Albany's Empire State Plaza, Raoul would let me come behind the artist's table in the last hours of Sunday's activities and sit with the pros and draw and sign things for fans. These are among my most precious memories of my student days. They made me feel as if the things I imagined for myself were actually possible. It was Raoul who gave me that experience, which I'll always treasure. After the FantaCon, he'd invite me to have dinner out with him and the other guest artists as if I were one of them. Sometimes, in the summer, when I went in to the store to get my weekly stash, Raoul would come out to lunch with me at a little cafe next to the store. There we'd be, two artists, two friends, two members of the comic-book community, having a bite and enjoying each other's company. That meant the world to me.

Raoul and I would have our respective Moms come to the FantaCon as well. Raoul's mother was a gentle, soft-spoken, old-world-type lady. I thought she was adorable. Raoul liked my Mom too. One day after the Con, Raoul remarked to me, "We're just a couple of mother lovers." It was such a "Raoul" thing to say.

When I went into the store one afternoon to get my comics and found Raoul's obituary posted on the bulletin board, I thought it was a joke. He was 35 years old; how could he have died? It was just unreal. It still seemed unreal--surreal, even--when I went to the funeral in Troy. At the burial, I met and spoke to his sister, and it finally hit me that he was actually gone; that I would never see or speak to him again, that we would never again do any of the things we did together. I collapsed in tears, openly weeping in my friend Walter's arms. We all went out to brunch afterwards, and I began to let go of everything but the memories. Those, I'll always keep.

I don't know if it's possible for me or anyone else, really, to do justice to the memory of someone like Raoul Vezina. He was just too special. But Raoul's friendship was one that occupied an extra special place in my young life. I think he set a good example of how to be in the world, and how to treat people. There were so many things he could have done and so many things he could have accomplished, had his life not been cut so short. But the friendships he made, including mine, are, I think, an achievement in themselves.

J.A. (Joe) Fludd, a native of Albany, was a contributing writer to The FantaCo Chronicles series. He was also a contributing artist to Gay Comics, for which he drew the super-hero feature Sentinel (later Pride). He was a regularly featured writer at the Fantastic Four Website, FF Plaza (, whose articles have been archived there for perusal. Joe spent six weeks at Paramount Pictures serving a Screenwriting Internship with the TV series Star Trek Voyager after submitting an unproduced script for The Outer Limits as a writing sample. J.A. Fludd's art is showcased at The Quantum Male Art Blog ( and on Comicspace (, which house many of the works he has done for auction on eBay and for private commission. J.A. Fludd also donates original art to the annual Wonder Woman Day charity auction event (

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Feeling crummy

I've been feeling lousy pretty much since Election Day. (Not feeling lousy BECAUSE of Election day; much to the contrary.) But I've had a sore throat and insomnia for about a week and a half. So I'm going to take a nap.

Meanwhile, you can read what I wrote here about racism, sexism and homophobia.

I'm also going to suggest reading this article by conservative columnist Kathleen Parker. While I don't know that I subscribe to the conclusion suggested in the title, "Relief from weight of our racial burden", I found the story touching.
RIP, Miriam Makeba. My father was a big fan, and he infused that appreciation into me.
or here.
Pic from the Star Trek pic next summer.
Urban Dictionary : New Entry
An applicant lacking even basic job skills
Someone supremely un-self-aware or lacking any relative sense of what he/she does or doesn't know.
HR sent me another Palin for the marketing manager job.
Palin v.
to abandon one's principles for short term gain
Tom, a devout vegan, palined when he consumed a happy meal solely to obtain the collectible toy it contained.
Palin n.
Pejorative term that refers to an incompetent, impractical, irrelevant or incapable person who has been appointed to a position of great importance.
A person who holds authority disproportionate to his or her requisite ethics and qualifications. Derived from John McCain's controversial 2008 Vice Presidential pick, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
John was recently made principal, but everybody thinks he's a Palin who can't do the job.
My new boss is such a Palin - he took my deserved place because the CEO is his personal friend.
Finally, I thought this post by Mr. Frog was terribly snarky. And terribly funny.


Friday, November 14, 2008

The TV Season

I must admit that it was my intention not to add any new shows to my list of programs to record on my DVR and (presumably) eventually watch. From a DVR at 0% on Labor Day, the machine got filled up to about 77% on Halloween weekend, and currently is is the mid 50% range.

As always, we have shows that are hers, hers, theirs, mine and ours.

HERS (the wife):
Skating. Unfortunately, the ISU series, save for Skate America, is not airing on any TV network, broadcast or cable. Apparently, this is a particularly big deal since we're leading into an Olympic year and it'll be easier to handicap the skaters once you've seen them on the Grand Prix circuit.
Also one of those home improvement shows on HGTV.

HERS (the daughter):
Little Bear. A nice show on Noggin co-created by Maurice Sendak.

Dancing with the Stars. Even I know that 82-year-old Cloris Leachman stuck around longer than her talent would suggest based on her bawdy charm.

This Week/Meet the Press/ABC World News - current.
Everything else is at least a week behind, including JEOPARDY!, CBS Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes. Also watching:
Boston Legal: yes, I know, but it's the last season. There was actually a pretty good episode, one lacking with most of the supporting cast, in which Kyle Secor (Homicide) played the accused murderer and husband of Alan Shore's former loves.
Pushing Daisies: frankly, I thought this show was too whimsical last season to survive, but ABC brought back virtually everything except Men in Trees. I expect it to get canceled THIS season. BTW, some kind person sent me this link to video content they had received directly from ABC, a new “Inside with the Stars” of Pushing Daisies
or here.
Dirty Sexy Money: my unapologetic soap opera trash, and I liked Peter Krause from Sports Night and Donald Sutherland from so many things, most recently, Commander in Chief.
Grey's Anatomy: more tolerable since Grey and McDreamy have decided to actually have their damn relationship.
Life on Mars: One of the adds to the list. Jason O'Mara has intrigued me going back to a short-lived show called In Justice in 2006. Since then he was a love interest in Men in Trees and an arsonist on The Closer. Additionally, I lived in NYC albeit in 1977, not 1973, but it feels right. Interestingly, this is a short-lived British show that moved to a Los Angeles setting with the cast above to a disastrous result. It now has the cast pictured here and a different venue.
Brothers and Sisters: if you've ever had siblings...

With the exception of one Earl and one Office, we've watched NOTHING on this list- My Name Is Earl, The Office, and at the suggestion of my wife, an add, 30 Rock.

So I never complain about TV shows being pre-empted. There's always something in the queue. Frankly, I looked forward to November 12, when the CMA Music Awards scuttled the entire ABC lineup for Wednesday.

And no, I'm not adding anything else. I'm sure there are perfectly good shows out there, like How I Met Your Mother (saw once) or Eli Stone or those geeky guys on that CBS Monday sitcom. I'm not going to get invested in Lost or Heroes or Desperate Housewives at this point. Hey, I added 30 Rock.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

His Name is Raoul

This is Part 3. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

Monday morning, November 14, 1983, Tom Skulan calls me at FantaCo and asks me whether Dee had called me. I thought this was a peculiar question. Dee, who was Raoul’s ex-girlfriend but still friend, had never called me to that point. Tom told me Raoul had died the day before, and I said, "Okay" and went back to work. About 10 minutes later I decided I should call my ex-girlfriend Susan and tell her. After letting her know, I realized, "Oh my God, Raoul died," and I never mentioned it again that day. You would think that would be difficult, given the fact that I was going to be working the front of the store that day, but Raoul was working a Tuesday to Saturday schedule, and most people would not have expected him on Monday. They didn’t ask; I didn’t bring it up.

The next day we were faced with how to let people know that Raoul was deceased. While he was actually on vacation, most people would figure he was scheduled to work. Fortunately, his obituary had appeared in that morning’s newspaper. So as I sat at the front counter and people invariably asked me where Raoul was, I could point to the obit which I had taped to a piece of black construction paper and had hung on the wall opposite the counter.

Invariably, the first thing that came out of almost every person’s mouth was "You’re kidding!" Naturally, they didn’t mean that literally, but I heard that phrase a whole lot that day. It was so much easier just to point than to have to say the words again. But I attempted to comfort the customers who needed to process this awful news. Later that day, Raoul’s mother Betty and Raoul’s sister Maria came into the store along with Maria’s boyfriend. Maria hugged me for about four minutes, which felt like a LONG time. She and her mother asked Tom and me to be pallbearers at the funeral.

Raoul's Nostromo Cap poster, recently discovered by Bill Anderson
Thursday evening was the wake. Fantaco employees Broome Spiro, Bill Anderson, and a number of others went over to the funeral home in Troy. Open casket. Damn. Eventually I made a quick pass at the lifeless body, but mostly talked to people as far away as I could from that part of the room.

Friday, the store was closed, of course, as we attended the funeral. The priest gave a homily that, while pleasant enough, didn’t seem to have anything to do with the Raoul we knew. He talked about Raoul drawing pictures of Christ and other fiction. But worse, he kept getting his name wrong. He repeatedly referred to him as Ralph. Ralph did this, Ralph did that. We all grimaced. Finally someone, and I didn't even know then who it was, yelled, "HIS NAME IS RAOUL!" The priest continued, but at least he got the name right. After the ceremony, I went with a number of people from the band Blotto to a restaurant in Troy and we swapped tales about our friend Raoul.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Q is for Quadricentennial

Q turned out to be one of the easier letters for me, for 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of a trip taken by Henry Hudson which directly led to the founding of Albany, NY, where I've lived for the past 29 years. In 1609, Hudson was looking for an easterly passage to Asia, commissioned by the Dutch East India Company.

After crossing the Atlantic Ocean, his vessel, the Halve Maen (Half Moon), after first sailing down to the Chesapeake Bay with a sister ship, eventually traveled into New York Harbor and proceeded up what is today called the Hudson River. It made it about 150 miles, as far as what is now Albany before he was forced to turn around by waters that were too shallow. He realized that the river that would come to eventually bear his name was not a westerly passage to Asia.

Eventually, on the western shore, a settlement was established in what became the cqapital of New York State.

But this is not just a celebration of one city but of an entire region. Check out this site, or better still, this one for a list of events during the upcoming quadricentennial year. Also, check out this video, which will explain things somewhat.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fallen soldiers, fallen leaves

I associate the raking of falling leaves with Veterans Day. Some of this is at the mundane level. One November 10, I raked the leaves so well, and then the next day, more dropped so that it appeared that I had made no effort at all. It seems that the leaves all fall almost at once. I can tell it was last Thursday in the front of my house, with leaves covering up half of the windshield of the car.

The linkage, however, is also more subtle. One rakes the leaves early on, and one feels a sense of accomplishment. In that second and third pass over the same terrain, though, the law of diminishing returns kicks in. Is it REALLY worth the effort to go over that ground again?

War must feel like that. In the beginning, everyone, at least everyone who's in charge of executing the war, must have a sense of the rightness of their duty. As the war drags on, though, do doubts settle in?

I always wondered about extremely long wars. In year 37 of the 100 Years' War, do the leaders remember what the point was. By year 73, all the leaders are most certainly dead, and all there is to hold onto is an abstraction. "For England!" or whatnot.

I came across this video about World War I, the end of which we are celebrating its 90th anniversary today. It's not all gunfire, as the first minute or two might suggest, but has music of the period.

As you may know, WWI was so awful that it was thought that it must certainly be the "war to end all wars." The League of Nations was formed and the world lived peacefully ever after, or so the script read. Here's a list of wars most of them since 1918, with casualties when available.

I guess we'll keep on trying for peace, regardless of our inability to achieve it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The JEOPARDY Anniversary

It's been 10 years this week since the episodes of JEOPARDY! on which I appeared aired. I'm not going to do a play-by-play of that time, which you can find here, but to make some observations about what it's meant to me. Oh, and give my Alex Trebek rant.

I should note that I wasn't the first JEOPARDY! winner from the Capital District, or even the first champion in 1998. That honor goes to Linda Zusman, an Albany teacher.

Nor was I the most successful JEOPARDY! player, even in my own neighborhood. That honor goes to Paul Glaser, who won five games and made it to the Tournament of Champions in 2007. (Say, wasn't that his wife Amanda who as on in October 2008?)

I did, however, have one advantage that added to my local notoriety, and it's that old real estate credo: location, location, location. My shows were taped in September in Boston, rather than in southern California. This meant that WTEN-TV, Channel 10 in Albany, sent a reporter and crew to interview me. Some of the piece was shown in September, the rest in November when the JEOPARDY! show actually aired. The reporter, by the way, was Bianca de la Garza, who, perhaps not coincidentally, is a reporter in Boston.

After I was interviewed by Bianca before I taped my episodes, I figured I was done. But no, Sharman Saccetti of Channel 18 in Elmira also wanted to talk with me. That station showed JEOPARDY! in Binghamton, my hometown. Sharman, who played a mock game of JEOPARDY! with Bianca and another reporter and appeared to be winning, subsequently had a stint at WTEN in Albany as well. I ALSO spoke to a reporter from Plattsburgh.

JEOPARDY! in Boston was also a big deal for both the program and Boston. The program set up a special area on its webpage, now partially defunct. Meanwhile, the Boston papers, including the Christian Science Monitor, all did stories. The September 19, 1998 Boston Globe story by M. R. Montgomery, "A Chance At Fame For $100, Alex: N.H. Woman Finds It's Not Easy Being In 'jeopardy!'" noted that 3,200 citizens roared for the new "Jeopardy!" set, for the assistant producer". It also featured two photographs of me, one with two of my competitors, including the New Hampshire woman, Amy Roeder, and one with Amy, me and a JEOPARDY! staffer.

JEOPARDY! out of the house was so much a big deal that I discovered shells of Internet Movie Database posts about it in English and Italian.

After the shows aired - I'll say this: I started a round thrice in my two games - I got mentioned in the paper along with Linda Zusman. then I got mention AGAIN as a run of Capital District residents succeed at the game. I even called a few of them.

Then I got quoted in the local paper a couple times. Once was during the Ken Jennings run. I said it at the time, and I haven't changed my mind - the abolition of the five-day rule, while great for Ken Jennings and a few others, had a deleterious effect on the game. The season Jennings won most of this games, there was a three-game winner in the Tournament of Champions, and that was just WRONG. I also got quoted in a story about American Idol when a local contestant had to keep a secret about the results for over a month; I LOVED keeping the secret for seven weeks. But I wish that they had doubled the values of the clues a few seasons earlier.

Anyway, I'll never say the word "charisma" ever again. Oh, yes: I work for the New York State Small Business Development Center. I've taken 10 years of grief for not mentioning THAT on the show.

My Trebek complaint: most contestants have pictures of themselves with Alex Trebek; my pic is a solo. And the reason is this; for reasons known only to him, he did the rabbit-ears thing with his fingers behind me! I know his only because I caught us in a monitor. I think it annoys me more now than it did then.

One of the perks is that people now think that I know stuff, whereas when I was merely a librarian with a Masters in Library Science, not so much. I wish future contestants well, especially a couple from the Albany area I know who have tried out; you know who you are.

Photo of the Wang theater in Boston used with permission of Brian C. Dominy.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Chaos Never Dies Day

This is Chaos Never Dies Day

But What is Chaos?
Chaos is a tricky thing to define.
I had read that the term at sixes and sevens referred to chaos.
Chaos is a quarterly journal devoted to increasing the understanding of nonlinear phenomena and describing the manifestations.
Here's a trailer for the movie Chaos Theory.
Jefferson Airplane › We Can Be Together
We are forces of chaos and anarchy
Everything they say we are we are
And we are very
Proud of ourselves


Saturday, November 08, 2008

What did you REALLY think? QUESTIONS

Regardless of who you WANTED to win on Tuesday, what did you REALLY think would happen? Go ahead, admit it You thought there'd be another Florida 2000. My guess for that was Missouri, which IS very close for McCain...NOT THAT IT MATTERS.

I thought:
Obama would win, initially with 364 electoral votes, as noted here. But I got nervous and changed to 311. He's at 365, including one in Nebraska with Missouri still in doubt, so I should have stayed with my first instinct. Incidentally, I favor the Maine/Nebraska model of allocating electoral votes by Congressional district, with only the two votes going to the statewide winner. If only we could do something about the gerrymandering that tends to make certain districts heavily leaning towards one party or another.
Hey, does anyone know someone who could look at the last several Presidential elections to ascertain what the Electoral College vote would have been had the Maine/Nebraska model been in place NATIONALLY?

I knew Sen. Liddy Dole was going down in NC, and deservedly so.

I thought Sen. Ted Stevens would lose in AK; if he wins, I think the Senate will boot him, and the governor of Alaska (who is the governor of Alaska, I wonder) will pick someone, perhaps herself.

I was disappointed that the anti-gay marriage proposals went down, but was surprised only in CA.

I'm sorry Chris Shays, the last Republican in the House from New England, will be gone.

I guessed a pickup of 7 Senate seats and 29 House seats for the Democrats; so far, 5 Senate seats and at least two dozen House seats.

I was hoping Linda Hall would win in the race for Onondaga County Clerk, if only because we went to church together when we were kids. Onondaga County includes Syracuse, NY.

I'm not surprised that Rahm Emanuel's heading Obamas's staff. I saw him on Meet the Press with MN Gov. Tom Pawlenty and had him for lunch.

I was surprised by the margin (61-39) of victory for Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, in
the Congressional district adjacent to mine, a Democrat running in a GOP district who won last time largely because of domestic violence allegation against the imncumbent. Her opponent this time, Sandy Treadwell, is rich and spent lots of money. In fact, this may have been the most expensive House race in the country. Part of Gillibrand's district is Rensselaer County, where Obama did less well against McCain than Kerry did against Bush.
Someone I know well says he'll have me defenestrated if I don't show up to this:

Monday, 4:30 PM Albany Law School. "Maggie Thompson on the big screen, free Buffy comics, and hot food after. What more could you ask for?" More hours in the day. Say, does anyone know what "defenestrated" means? thanks to high school French, I guessed correctly.
Samhain Wax Magic by people I know.
Remembering John Leonard, who I particularly loved for over a decade and a half on CBS Sunday Morning. He was unapologetical erudite in a world where "dumbing down" seemed more popular.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Dear President-Elect Obama

Congratulations on your historic win. Not only am I glad that you were victorious, I'm happy that it wasn't decided by the interpretation of a few hundred hanging chads somewhere. You ran, for the most part, an excellent campaign. You gave a very moving acceptance speech, embracing those who did not support you. I'm betting even Condi Rice shed a tear or two of happiness. Not only black people, but white people, Asians, Hispanics and not insignificantly, those who identify as mixed race, were inspired that your election could happen in the United States of America.

Before I get too far into this, my condolences to you and your sister on the passing of your beloved grandmother. Her death, practically on the eve of the election, gave you no time to grieve properly.

Wow. I'm so used to voting for people who run for President and lose. I'm now 2 for 10.

One of the things I saw on the news that hadn't occurred to me was a story in a barbershop, the barbershop of Steve Osumsami of ABC News. One man noted that young black men can't going around saying they can't achieve because they didn't have a father around. He said he'd point out Barack Obama and note that a fatherless black child can become President.

I know you know what a big job you have. Moreover, you doubtless know how much you've already been undercut, perhaps less by your race and more by a bunch of pernicious lies that may have been a cover for race or a different form of "otherness". Some of it was particularly venal.

One of the effects of this particular poisoning of the well is that you will need to show that you're not part of some wacko conspiracy to undermine the country. One of the ways for you to do that is to do less.

Please follow me here. One of the most egregious things done by your soon-to-be-predecessor is his unprecedented grab of Presidential authority. Signing documents, secret dealings and other tools in the toolkit that made the last eight years far from the balance of power I believe the Founders intended. in fact, the reason I favored the impeachment of George W. Bush was not to punish him but to set limits on the authority of the executive branch.

Failing that, I think you can build confidence of the American people, both those who supported you, and perhaps even more, those who did not, by relinquishing, or at least not utilizing some of the more venal methodologies used by Bush 43. Transparency, rather than secrecy, needs to be the watchword. You have given a lot of people tremendous hope in our future, in spite of the bleak economic forecast. They will follow you a long way as long as they know what they are following.

To that end, i think your website , which will be the "source for the latest news, events, and announcements so that you can follow the setting up of the Obama Administration" is a wonderful idea.

I do hope you can do something about health care, as you've indicated. I've found your story about your mother fighting insurance companies while fighting cancer deeply moving and I know will motivate you to have America do better.

Beyond that, I'll just wish you well. But I do have this thought: I realize that voting is a function of the states. Is there something you might champion that would champion some sort of nationwide early voting? Also, it 1polls open 12 hours for a Presidential election seems severely short when it means long lines, perhaps in inclement weather; it IS November, after all.

Finally, and I know it's a quirk, but you say, when answering questions, "Look" as a stalling tactic way too often. Watch the Fred Armisen parodies on Saturday Night Live. Hey maybe you can appear on SNL - all your opponents (Clinton, McCain, Palin) have. Maybe it'll be a sock it to me?" moment.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Raoul Vezina, Part 1

Raoul Vezina was born in January 1948, I believe in Troy, NY. As far as I can tell, he was always been a very generous and very talented soul.

Here’s a picture that he drew back when he was in high school, which he gave to his friend, Jim Strickland dated 12/13/65.

He was also a musician, playing keyboards and harmonica; these are photos of RV from 69/70 around Lemoyne College, also provided by Jim.

Eventually, he found his way to New Paltz, NY, a small college town about halfway between Albany and New York City. Michael T. Gilbert recalled that he played some kind of "electronic piano gizmo with a band that gigged at St. Blaise bar/restaurant" in town.

Michael and Raoul often collaborated on stories. Here are a couple of nice pieces that appeared in 1973 in the first issue of Michael's New Paltz Comix underground.

Michael noted that he and Raoul "either met at the local drugstore (fighting over the latest comics!) or at the school newspaper office, where we both contributed cartoons. We hit it off and decided to collaborate on a page for the first issue of New Paltz Comix, which was originally to be published by the school paper. When they dropped the ball, I took over and printed it myself. I later published three more issues, and Raoul and I collaborated on a neat sci-fi story, "Rubber Soul", for the second issue. Raoul's work appeared in all four issues, and he was my favorite contributor to those comics."

I first met Raoul in 1973 or 1974. When I first started collecting comics a couple of years earlier, my friend Mark and I used to have to hop into his car and drive five miles to a newsstand trying to find a copy of our letter four-color fix that wasn’t totally wrinkled from being jammed into the spinner rack. Then a guy named Peter Maresca opened a comic book store right in downtown New Paltz called the Crystal Cave. Oddly, Peter wasn’t all that interested in comic books. He was much more interested in comic strips and would diligently clip strips from the Sunday paper and put in protective coverings. This is, by the way, the same Peter Maresca who’s involved in publishing Little Nemo in Slumberland and other comic strip books.

So it fell to the guy running the front of the store, Raoul Vezina, to create an atmosphere of welcoming and information about the comic book scene. And he did. As a customer, I always felt welcomed and understood at the Crystal Cave, and that was largely Raoul's doing.

And when I left New Paltz for the Capital District, I would find myself again the the Raoul's orbit.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

P is for Popular Mechanics

I suppose I could have done a piece on politics or Presidents. I'm still processing (a good P word) on that concept of President-elect Obama, which makes this only the second time I've voted for a Presidential candidate who actually won. Maybe next time through the alphabet I'll expound on that.

Meanwhile, there was this list in Popular Mechanics magazine back in September about 100 Skills Every Man Should Know: 2008's Ultimate DIY List, which noted that "Brains and charm are fine, but a real guy needs to know how to do real stuff."

There were lots of comments about should and should not have been on the list, but I won't go there except that it tended to be carrist, i.e., automobile-oriented. This quiz does push some buttons for me, though, in that I am not what people would consider "handy". What they used to call Shop in 7th and 8th grades, dealing with wood and ceramics was a disaster for me.


1. Handle a blowout - I suppose no
2. Drive in snow - no
3. Check trouble codes - what does this mean? Look at the gauges? That I can do.
4. Replace fan belt - no
5. Wax a car - this I've done, but not in a long time
6. Conquer an off-road obstacle - I don't even know what that means, but I'll say no
7. Use a stick welder - if I knew what a stick welder was, that would help
8. Hitch up a trailer - have done, though not lately
9. Jump start a car - have done this, but not lately

Handling Emergencies

10. Perform the Heimlich - I've actually successfully done this
11. Reverse hypothermia - I could do that
12. Perform hands-only CPR - I've actually trained to do that
13. Escape a sinking car - I had a recurring dream as a child about a sinking car; I think I could

14. Carve a turkey - have done it
15. Use a sewing machine - not well
16. Put out a fire - yes, actually
17. Home brew beer - disinclined
18. Remove bloodstains from fabric - seems as though I've done this
19. Move heavy stuff - I've helped on over 100 moves, including a piano
20. Grow food - done this a few years ago
21. Read an electric meter - actually one thing I used to do all the time as a kid

22. Shovel the right way - I don't know what that means. But I do have an ergonomically correct shovel, so I'll say yes.
23. Solder wire - have done it
24. Tape drywall - have done it, did not enjoy
25. Split firewood - have done a while back
26. Replace a faucet washer - did this a while ago
27. Mix concrete - for some reason, did this, though not lately
28. Paint a straight line - not really, unless I'm using a straight edge
29. Use a French knife - don't know
30. Prune bushes and small trees - actually think I'm good at this; did it this summer
31. Iron a shirt - I can, but I don't enjoy it; that's why God created permanent press
32. Fix a toilet tank flapper - one of those things I was curious about as a kid and actually figured out
33. Change a single-pole switch - no
34. Fell a tree - never have even tried
35. Replace a broken windowpane - never tried
36. Set up a ladder, safely - I assume so
37. Fix a faucet cartridge - I'll say no
38. Sweat copper tubing - have done
39. Change a diaper - this I absolutely have accomplished
40. Grill with charcoal -yeah, but not lately
41. Sew a button on a shirt - I'll say no. I've actually done it, but it always takes me so long doing and redoing that I feel peevish.
42. Fold a flag - I'd need the manual, but I used to do it in Cub Scouts

Medical Myths

43. Treat frostbite - yes
44. Treat a burn -yes
45. Help a seizure victim - yes, on a city bus in Albany
46. Treat a snakebite - I've read how
47. Remove a tick - yes

Military Know-How
48. Shine shoes - I was actually good at this at one point
49. Make a drum-tight bed - absolutely not
50. Drop and give the perfect pushup - define "perfect"

51. Run rapids in a canoe - no
52. Hang food in the wild - ? let's just say no
53. Skipper a boat - no
54. Shoot straight - no
55. Tackle steep drops on a mountain bike - no thank you
56. Escape a rip current - I did this once, but I don't know how

Primitive Skills
57. Build a fire in the wilderness - probably not
58. Build a shelter - maybe
59. Find potable water - possibly

Surviving Extremes

60. Floods - haven't yet
61. Tornadoes - ditto
62. Cold - yes
63. Heat - yes
64. Lightning - hasn't been an issue

Teach Your Kids

65. Cast a line - no
66. Lend a hand - I try
67. Change a tire - she's not even five
68. Throw a spiral - ditto
69. Fly a stunt kite - what's "stunt kite"?
70. Drive a stick shift - no way
71. Parallel park - no
72. Tie a bowline - ?
73. Tie a necktie - maybe someday
74. Whittle - I don't whittle
75. Ride a bike - eventually; she has a trike

76. Install a graphics card - I don't do
77. Take the perfect portrait - trial and error
78. Calibrate HDTV settings - not yet applicable
79. Shoot a home movie - no
80. Ditch your hard drive - no

Master Key Workshop Tools
81. Drill driver - no
82. Grease gun - no
83. Coolant hydrometer - ? no
84. Socket wrench - possibly
85. Test light - ?
86. Brick trowel - no
87. Framing hammer - ?
88. Wood chisel - we have one
89. Spade bit - ?
90. Circular saw - we don't have one
91. Sledge hammer - have used one
92. Hacksaw - had one
93. Torque wrench - have used
94. Air wrench - ?
95. Infrared thermometer - no
96. Sand blaster - no
97. Crosscut saw - have used one
98. Hand plane - used one and ruined perfectly good items in shop
99. Multimeter - ?
100. Feeler gauges ?

Obviously, my very manhood is threatened.