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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Should old acquaintance

There are lots of ideas that I come up with for this blog but eventually abandon. Things like, my favorite albums of the aughts or my favorite TV shows of the aughts. I just can't wrap my head around the beginning and end points, I'd likely just forget a bunch of choices, and it'd be unsatisfactory for all involved. Especially me.

(Not to be confused with the things I start but haven't finished yet. Sssh, we won't mention THEM just yet.)

In fact, I don't even note the significant deaths of the year, because everyone else has already done so. I do want to note some deaths I had not mentioned here, most of which did NOT make it into those annual lists in the magazines, because the magazines came out in the FIRST WEEK IN DECEMBER. No one dies in December, it would seem; ask James Brown.

Edward Woodward (11/16, age 79) - there was this show I enjoyed in the mid-1980s called The Equalizer on CBS that I enjoyed immensely. it was about a secret agent for the US government (Woodward) who quit and helped individuals in dire straits. Unfortunately, it was head-to-head, Wednesday at 10 p.m. with St. Elsewhere on NBC, one of my favorite shows, for most of 1985-1988. So I only saw it when the hospital show was in reruns, until The Equalizer's last season, when St. Elsewhere had gone off the air.

Gene Barry (12/9, age 90) - the western Bat Masterson (1958-1961) was a little before my time, but Burke's Law (1963-1965) was not. It about a millionaire L.A. chief of detectives (Barry, pictured above with Jaye P. morgan in 1984), who'd get driven in his limousine to the latest celebrity murder; he was always surrounded by beautiful young women. A great theme song. LOTS of guest stars in these shows. I loved it, yet didn't follow Barry when the show segued into Amos Burke - Secret Agent in the 1965-1966 season.

Oral Roberts (12/15, age 91). When I was 12, his theology was right up my alley. By a decade later, it had become anathema to me. That clip that ABC News showed with Roberts proclaiming need for more money for the ministry, lest the Lord take him away, is one of the most vile pieces of "theology" I've seen.

Connie Hines (12/18, age 78). It must have be difficult for a working actress to be best known as the "mom" of TV horse Mr. Ed (1961-1966), especially since her character Carol didn't even know the equine talked; only her husband Wilbur (Alan Young) did. An insidious theme song, which unfortunately I've known by heart for decades. She seemed to have left acting in 1971.

Brittany Murphy (12/20, age 32!) I saw her in the movies Clueless and Girl, Interrupted. But I enjoyed her most as the voice of Luanne in the cartoon series King of the Hill, the extended theme by the Refreshments which can be found here.

Arnold Stang (12/20, age 91) the voice of a lot of nerdy cartoon characters, plus one of my favorite cartoon characters, the cool and unflappable Top Cat. He also did some onscreen performances. Evanier has a piece or two. I remember THAT theme too, and in case you don't, here's a singalong version.
The passing of the Spatula Forum blog, mentioned here only yesterday. I am sad but I understand. Sort of. There's been a number of blogs that I followed that bit the dust this year: Delenda Est Carthago by Greg Burgas, though he still has the Daughter Chronicles; Tom the Dog; Tosy and Cosh. The latter two are on Twitter, but it just ain't the same.
So because it pleases me, A Charlie Brown Hey Ya Christmas. Hey, it's only the seventh day of Christmas.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Forsooth! A final week of 2009 meme!

I was not looking for a meme, but I did think I needed to write a post or two about end-of-year stuff. As it turns out, I found one from that American expat in New Zealand, Nik at spatulaforum, that met my needs. Oddly, Nik has written about spatulas only once.

Not incidentally, Nik's meme was stolen for this week's Sunday Stealing, which I usually purloin. Like a circle in a circle.

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?

Go to a bunch of kindergarten events, such as the "Apple Run"; the daughter is fast! Go on a vacation with the wife, without the daughter, for our 10th anniversary; it was surely the highlight of the year, though we were only 30 miles from home. Saw Bruce Springsteen live. Flew on an airplane with the daughter, her first flights.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don't make the things. Less grief.

3. How will you be spending New Year's Eve?

Watching my wife valiantly trying to stay awake but likely failing.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, though the husband of a fellow choir member did.

5. What countries did you visit?

None, including the US. In fact, the longest trip was the aforementioned flight to Charlotte.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

More sleep. More democracy. Less war. Steve Bissette wrote What I Won’t Miss About 2009, and I really can't argue with any of it; re: the year, this video Steve found will do nicely.

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 3, the massacre in Binghamton, NY. May 14, Springsteen.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting through my wife's two weeks away at college, taking care of the daughter while trying to maintain a semblance of a work schedule.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Controlling the temper, especially during the aforementioned trip to Charlotte.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

The usual minor aches and pains. My neck is a little stiff. I have a cut on the heel of my left foot which makes walking without at least slippers, and preferably thick-soled sneakers, painful. And I suffered with some sort of head congestion/lung congestion/coughing up phlegm thing for two weeks in December which seems FINALLY to be over.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

The Top Pop Singles book. Fun! Actually, I liked buying Wonder Pets DVDs for the daughter; she enjoyed them.

12. Where did most of your money go?

The mortgage, of course. Also house renovation; the attic is being insulated this very week to take advantage of a tax credit.

13. What song will always remind you of 2009?

Tennessee Jed by Levon Helm, from his new Electric Dirt album, one of the very few albums I actually got in 2009.
I also bought A Very Special Christmas 7, and it had a bunch of newer artists that don't cut it; Kellie Pickler doing Santa Baby is unconvincing. A Christmas Song by Charice was the best tune, though Gloriana's Silent Night I liked as well. Still, it's for a good cause, the Special Olympics, and I'll probably buy the next one when it comes out in 3 or 5 years.

14. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Playing racquetball. Also wish I had bought my bicycle earlier than June. I saw no live baseball - bummer.

15. What do you wish you'd done less of?


16. What was your favourite TV program?

"Glee", for sure. It's a show I get to watch with my wife, which doesn't happen that often. People say it's not realistic, as though it were a docudrama. No, the cheerleaders wouldn't wear the outfits ALL the time. Sheesh. I bought the wife both soundtracks for Christmas. Al;so been watching The Good Wife, which is a show I watch sans wife.
Whereas The Office has lost something, and I can't put my finger on it - Jim & Pam being married? The co-managing thing?

17. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Well, not hate. What's interesting is when there is someone everyone in a certain circle seems to love. But you're just not that enamored, and it seems to be mutual.

18. What was the best book you read?

The Jack Kirby book by Evanier. Or was that last year?

19. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Well, there's this British band called the Beatles that I seem to be newly into. Also, to a much lesser degree, Queen. About as little NEW music as I've ever experienced.

20. What was your favorite film of this year?

2008 movie I saw in 2009: The Visitor.
2009 movie: Up or Amreeka or maybe District 9. Though if I just got the Julia part of Julie and Julia, it'd be that. But there are a LOT of films I haven't seen.

21. What did you do on your birthday?

Played (hearts) cards.

22. What kept you sane?

This assumes that I am sane. There's no evidence I've seen.

23. Who did you miss?

Nobody, really. I mean I wish I saw some people more often, but that would be a shopping list. And because of the magic of electronics, I feel I DO keep up with them and/or know they keep up with me. Without that, it'd be pretty tough.

24. Who was the best new person you met?

There are some new folks in church I'm rather fond of, but I won't name names.

25. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:

Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot...

Actually, it is the wisdom of Satchel Paige:
"Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it don't matter."
"Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."
"Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines."
"Not to be cheered by praise, not to be grieved by blame, but to know thoroughly one's own virtues or powers are the characteristics of an excellent man."
"Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching."


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

X is for X-Men

X-Men is a very popular comic book published by Marvel Comics. Actually, the idea of X-Men now means a series of comic book titles with an interlocking directory of characters. It's so popular that it has help create three movies* with name stars such as Patrick Stewart (Professor Xavier) and Halle Berry (Storm) [pictured above] and Ian McKellen (Magneto) [pictured below]. These are shots from the premiere of the first film.

If you look at The Marvel Encyclopedia, updated and expanded foe 2009, which I just happened to take out of the library last week, you'll find no fewer than 110 references to X-Men in the index; that does not count the seven pages, in the 400-page book, describing the X-Men directly.

But it's not its successful nature per se that interests me. Rather, it's...well, let me explain.

The X-Men were introduced to the world in 1963, the same year as the supergroup known as the Avengers. The premise of the creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby was that the characters had certain extraordinary (X-tra ordinary) powers at birth, though they weren't always manifested immediately. They were mutants, outcasts from society. Yet the group, founded by Charles XAVIER, a/k/a Professor X, was sworn to protect those who feared and hated them, trying to bring peaceful coexistence between "ordinary" humans and mutants.

However, the book, by the same creative team that had created the Fantastic Four, the Hulk and many, many others, was a bit of a bust. Definitely second-tier in the pantheon of comic book characters. Perhaps the theme of minorities persecuted by a majority was a little bit too "on the nose" for comic book fans of the time.

In fact, for about five years the book was essentially canceled, though reprints were released as X-Men 67-93.

Then a new group was developed in 1975 that was more international in scope, and they didn't all have those boring yellow and blue jump suits. Others can talk about the particulars of the great success of the revised entity. I want to tell you that, as a comic book fan, I was shocked by both how well the re-envisioning worked and how well it caught on with the public.

Think of the movie Rocky. Better still, think of singer Susan Boyle, from which nothing was expected, yet the judges were gobsmacked by her voice. If that weren't enough, her debut album sold 700,000 units in the first week in the United States alone and another 500,000 the following week. Such was the success of the X-Men.

So much so that when I worked at a comic book store called FantaCo in the 1980s, and we decided to to a magazine about a comic book group, naturally we picked X-Men. I really wanted to edited it, not just because of my affection for the then-current incarnation, but because I loved the rags-to-riches nature of the title. I write about this at length here, with a little bit of follow-up here.

But as Nik from SpatulaForum writes: "Unfortunately, the 'X-Men brand' has been so utterly diluted in the years since by endless spin-offs, impossibly complicated continuity and everything from movies to action figures to beach towels that it's hard to forget how simple and revolutionary they once seemed." It's interesting that the teen artists of Kids of Survival chose to use the X-Men, a run of 1968 episodes of the comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, totally unaltered beyond being placed as the canvas, as their choice, rather than the more up-to-date versions, in their artistic expression.

Here is a picture of my good friend Fred Hembeck's rendition of the X-Men. You can find more of his work here.

*Yes, I know there's also a Wolverine film. Len Wein, who helped created Wolverine in Hulk #181, talks about the character here and here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Roger Answers Your Questions, Scott and Jaquandor

Queries from veteran Roger queriers,

First up is the noble Scott:

Is there a team you are rooting for to win the Super Bowl?

Besides the Giants, who just don't deserve it this year (41-9 loss to Carolina yesterday?), gotta be the Saints. Partly it a parochial hope that a Super Bowl appearance will once again point out the aftermath of Katrina and how much is yet undone in the recovery. Also, can't help but think it would give the city a real boost; they've already postponed some Mardi Gras events in anticipation of getting to the big game. And yes, I thought losing to the Cowboys was probably a good thing; get the loss out of their system. (So naturally they lose to Tampa Bay yesterday.) The perfect season was a curse for the Patriots a couple seasons back, so the loss to the Jets - who are still in playoff contention - theoretically will help the Colts. Or not.

What is your favorite Christmas family tradition?

I'm still grasping at any kind of tradition. We had a tree the last three years, but not the previous two. What we eat varies; this year it was lasagna! And while I sing on Christmas Eve, it's hardly a FAMILY tradition, since my wife and daughter weren't there. In fact, I didn't see my daughter at all on Christmas Eve, though I did talk with her twice on the phone. The tree decorations I used to have seem to have disappeared. So it's not so much tradition; it's jazz improv, and it's all good.

Do you do a lot of decorating inside and outside your house for the holidays?

Outside, not at all. Inside, the Christmas cards - and we got a LOT of Christmas cards this year, more than ever - go around the entryway to our living room. In fact we had so many, we put a few on the other side, the entryway back into the hallway. There's the tree. There's red garland on the railing heading upstairs. We do have a creche.

The daughter constructed a snowman from paper, which we hung up. She also made some drawings that got put around the house.

What Christmas gift made the most lasting impression on you?

That would be the Beatles in Mono box set that I got in...2009. It wasn't just that I got the music; it was something I wanted and Santa delivered that singular package that was more than Santa is inclined to spend on a one item.

What was the best Christmas gift you received as a child?

Seriously, a Johnny Seven OMA (One Man Army); I played with that forever and STILL turned out as a pacifist. Tom Hanks got one as a kid, he once told Leno.

Although the family getting a color TV in 1969, when I was 16, was huge, too; we literally saw the world in a different way. Watching the Wizard of Oz the next year, in particular, was a revelation; a "horse of a different color", indeed.

Merry Christmas to you and your family, Roger!

You too, Scott.

The best of the west, western NYS, that is, Jaquandor asks:

Do you cook? If so, what? Do you have a favorite ethnic cuisine? If so, what?

I did cook. And I was functional, not inspirational, at things like chicken. But I don't particularly enjoy it, Carol's better at it, and I get home close to 6:30 pm. I tend to make eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, grilled cheese sandwiches, those kinds of things on the weekends.

My favorite ethnic cuisine is lasagna, which I used to make in the winter, though the recent Christmas meal in fact was made by the wife and mother-in-law; I shredded the mozzarella. I also used to bake, but likewise Carol's more ept and I, rather inept. Damn, I just remember a time I confused baking powder with baking soda in a pancake recipe; it was AWFUL.

And do you have a strong opinion one way or the other on Governor Paterson?

Notice that David Paterson's positives have gone from the low 20s to the mid 30s. Still not great, and still losing to Andrew Cuomo by 40 points, should the attorney general run in a primary against him. But perhaps there is a recognition that he's at least TRYING to balance the budget, whereas the state legislature is unable/unwilling to. I wonder if those television ads, like this one are having an effect.

I have a question for you; do you think those Saturday Night Live parodies hurt him with the electorate? I've been under the impression that the NYS voters and SNL watchers are not that linked, but I could be wrong.

I can/do argue with some of his choices; his cuts to education and libraries seem particularly short-sighted. But I haven't written him off politically, especially if Rick Lazio, who ran a TERRIBLE campaign against Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate race in 2000, turns out to be the GOP nominee, rather than Rudy Giuliani.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Roger Answers Your Questions, Sherry, Jay, Autumn Belle, magiceye

Answers, we got 'em for our contestants, all newbies:

Sherry asked:
I must know, "What will you do in 2010? Will you still play in the ABC Meme. Is there life on Mars?"
Maybe a nice glass of Eggnog will help you get into the spirit of the season and a cookie.

What I'll do in 2010? I never know what tomorrow will bring. That said, if the ABC Wednesday meme continues, I'll still participate; already have an A, B and V(!) in mind. Do you know if it'll stick around?
Of course there's life on Mars. I'm a David Bowie fan.
While trimming the tree on December 23 had eggnog with Amaretto. Thanks for the suggestion.

Jay got excited:
Hmmm. Ask you anything? *Rubs hands together* Well then...


OK, why do I think you're an ordained minister?

Well, I think it's because when I was about 11 or 12, I thought I would be an ordained minister. Just about everyone at church thought I'd be an ordained minister. I had my "saved" experience when I was nine, watching Billy Graham on television. I was very pious; I say that without irony. I went to Bible study every Friday night (except in the summer) for about seven years.

The problem I developed in my mid teens were twofold: 1) the notion that everyone who didn't follow Jesus, such as a pious Hindu in India, was going to hell conflicted with my belief in a just God; and 2) sex. OK, that's an oversimplification, but not incorrect.

So, I fell away from church and Christianity for over a decade, though I would dabble in all sorts of things from the Unitarians to the Moonies. Finally, in 1982, my grandmother died. I sang in the choir at her funeral, and it moved me, slowly and cautiously, back to church and Christianity, in that order.

So now I am actively involved with Bible study. The certainty of my youth has been replaced by, I hope, a more broad understanding of my faith. And I am always looking at other faith traditions to see what seems consistent with my evolving beliefs. You may have read that Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life study that said that nearly six in 10 Americans blend their faith with New Age beliefs. This is unsurprising to me. The one good thing I got from the Unitarians is the idea that we create our own religion. Whether it's American Catholics who ignore the Pope on birth control or my rejection of the "literal" interpretation of Genesis 1 (the "six days" creation), I recognize that God has given us reason for a purpose. asked:
Did you have a White Christmas?

Yes. we got a dusting a couple days before Christmas, and it stuck around, to clean the extant stuff.

magiceye wants to know: why the stress during holidays meant for destressing? it is distressing!

Well, I can't speak globally, but for me, this year in particular was tricky. Days I was going to take off to do Roger things I ended up watching the sick daughter, who was ill three separate times. As a result, I violated my own tradition, which was to take off from work a weekday 7 to 10 days before Christmas and do all my hands-on shopping. I deluded myself into thinking that since I did so much purchasing online, I didn't need the carve-out time; false. I needed it even to go to the library and shop online - my home computer is increasingly as cranky as I was becoming. So next year, I'm taking off Thursday, December 16 to shop; someone hold me to that.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Lydster, Part 69: LS's Oth Christmas

Three months before Lydia was born, I made a mixed CD for the child. We didn't know whether we were having a boy or girl, so she was called Little Soul. Or more accurately, my wife's friend Alison, who was in our wedding, dubbed her as such.

Anyway, the playlist is this, and for most of them I was able to find something on YouTube:

1. Mr. Sandman - the Chorettes. A song from the 1950s I always liked that I have on some compilation.
2. Lullabye (Good Night, My Angel) - Billy Joel. From his last proper pop album, River of Dreams. One of my favorite songs, even though, or maybe because, it has a certain melancholy.
3. Dreamland - Mary Chapin Carpenter, from her greatest hits album, Party Doll.
4. Good Night - the Beatles. From the white album, a Lennon tune sung by Ringo. I often sing it to Lydia before she goes to bed.
5. Lullaby for Sophia - the Beverwyck String Band. A lovely tune by our friend, violinist/vocalist Britney and a couple of her friends.
6. Alright for Now - Tom Petty. From my favorite Petty album, Full Moon Fever.
7. Sweet and Low - Bette Midler.(Starting at at 2:03)
8. All Through the Night - Shawn Colvin. The last two songs from some benefit album for the rain forest called Carnival, which also features Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals.
9. Common Threads - Bobby McFerrin. A song without words, a transition to the instrumental portion of the album.

Songs above are by the artist on the recording; below are not.

10. Brandenburg Concerto #5 Affectuoso - Bach.
11. Pachebel Canon. The last two by Neville Chamberlain & the English Chamber Music Orchestra.
12. Four Seasons: Autumn, adagio - Vivaldi.
13. Four Seasons: Winter, largo - Vivaldi.
14. Moonlight Sonata - Beethoven. Dubourg.
15. Fur Elise -Beethoven.

Now that she has her own boom box to go to sleep to, it's in her pile of music to play. Not that she plays it as often as I had hoped, but I'm glad that she doesn't seem to hate it.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Meme, Part 2

Grade/Rate Holiday Movies A – F

91. A Christmas Story. B+

92. How The Grinch Stole Christmas? A+ if we're talking Chuck Jones. Never saw Ron Howard's.

93. The Santa Clause? Have I ever seen any of these all the way through?

94. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer? B

95. Frosty The Snowman? B-

96. Home Alone? B-

97. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? D-

98. Elf? Didn't see

99. Miracle on 34th Street? A

100. A Charlie Brown Christmas? A+

Christmas At My House…(one or the other)

111. Tree is fake/real?

Real, optimally. Though in fact we had no tree when Lydia was nine months old because we were too tired to bother. We didn't have one when she was 21 months because we feared she'd pull it down.

112. Tree is under/above 4′?

About 5' most years, though this years is 7'.

113. Open presents Christmas Eve/Day?

Christmas Day. Though there may be stockings opened on Christmas Eve.

114. House/entire yard is decorated?

We don't decorate the outside.

115. Amount of presents under the tree?

Very few before Christmas Eve.

116. Snowman is a male/female?

Lydia made one Sunday. Male.

117. Go for Santa/Jesus?

I'm not sure what that means.

118. Homemade/delivered/takeout Christmas dinner?

Usually homemade if I'm not making it; otherwise, takeout.

119. Bedtime is before/after midnight?

10 pm most nights.

120. Wake-up is before/after 7am?

Probably 5:30 now. When I was a kid, Dad pushed the wakeup time for the household later and later, from 7 when I was 7 to 9 when I was 16.

121. Go/don’t go to church on Christmas?

Don't, generally, though I did once or twice recently. Christmas Eve, I go to, usually sing at. Even in my non-church-going phase, I'd go to Christmas Eve, usually a Catholic service. And I've never been Catholic.

122. Pray & sing Happy Birthday/do nothing before bed?

I sometimes pray. But "Happy Birthday, Jesus" is hysterical! Jesus almost certainly was a Pisces; seriously.

123. Do shopping before/after Thanksgiving?

If I'm inspired, I shop before Thanksgiving. I was shopping this Sunday past, so that should tell you something.

124. Low-key/over the top decorations (inside and out)?


Have You Ever?

125. Built a snowman?
Of course.

126. Heard Santa’s sleigh?
Yes. Must have been a recording. Wasn't it?

127. Seen Santa & Rudolph in the sky?
Well, no, except in my dreams.

128. Sat on Santa’s lap?
I know I have. There's even a picture somewhere. But I don't really have any memories of it.

129. Shoveled the driveway/sidewalk?
Ugh, yes.

130. Made snow angels?

131. Built a fort/igloo?

132. Wrote a Christmas list?

133. Wrote a letter to Santa?

134. Left cookies/milk for Santa & reindeer?
Yes, ever since we had a child. But remember doing so when I was a child.

135. Caught a snowflake on your tongue?
Of course.

136. Went caroling?
Used to do it every year for about a decade and a half.

137. Got hurt during the winter season?
Just the frostbite.

138. Gone ice skating/sledding?
I'm lousy at skating. Sledding I did regularly as a kid.

139. Kissed under a mistletoe?

140. Experienced/saw a miracle happen?

141. Get everything you wanted for Christmas?
Yes, but my needs are limited.

142. Cooked/baked?
There was a period that I did both, mostly when I was single.

True Or False

181. You prefer to stay inside where it’s warm?
Truer words were never spoken.

182. You’ve given something (or $) to charity?
Very True.

183. You spent more than what people spent on you?
Almost always true.

184. You like to take your time opening presents?
True, and try to apply the brakes to the child.

185. The thing you want most this year costs $100+?
True, but that's MOST unusual.

186. You expect to get more than 10 presents this year?

187. You’re a Scrooge/Grinch?
I don't think so.

188. Christmas = snow?
True, lightly on Christmas Eve.

189. You know the lyrics to more than 25 Christmas songs?
Oh, indeed true. I love Christmas music. I have three or four BOOKS.

Grab Bag

190. Three best things about Christmas?
The music, the decorations, the possibilities.

191. Worst Christmas song?
I especially hate "Dominick the Donkey".

192. If you were a Christmas character, who would you be?
Bob Cratchit.

193. What type of decoration should stop being made?
Any that are poisoning the environment.

194. Tastiest holiday treat?
Sugar cookies.

195. Favorite pop culture Christmas icon?
I like Charlie Brown and his little tree.

196. Know how to make cookies/brownies/cake from scratch?
I did; haven't done it in so long, though.

197. Ever cut your mouth on a candy cane/candy?
Yes, as a kid.

198. What other culture would you like to experience Christmas with?
Interested to do so in the Southern Hemisphere.

199. What kind of pattern/pictures do you like on your wrapping paper?
Wrapping paper is a real sore point. I used to think that it was dumb. I would just as soon use the funnies from the Sunday newspaper, but was mocked for it. Now it's rather ahead of the curve environmentally. So I REALLY don't care.

200. Will you make a Christmas picture for your blog/website/profile?
Nah, I'm a lazy bum.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Meme, Part 1

There is this meme that SamuraiFrog did. Then Jaquandor found some more. But neither of them are as long as this one. So I'm splitting it; half today, half tomorrow. OK, with the skips, it's not really half. And I'm not renumbering this puppy.

Favorite Christmas...

01. Non-Jesus-related song?
"Good King Wenceslas".

02. Jesus-related song?
The Coventry Carol; it's on A Very Special Christmas #1. But then there are all the songs that I sing in choir. The first part of Handel Messiah. Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child. Almost anything in another language, from Adeste Fideles to Stille Nacht. And the Shepherd's Farewell by Berlioz awes me every verse.

03. Santa-related song?
"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", the Jackson Five version.

04. Fictional character?
Ebeneezer Scrooge.

05. Dinner’s main course?
Variable. Can be turkey, ham or something else altogether.

06. Dinner’s dessert?
Also no tradition here.

07. Scent (pine, gingerbread, candles…)?

08. Animated movie?
I can't think of a Christmas-related animated movie I need to see every year. I did see A Charlie Brown Christmas. Oh, BTW, just came across the mashup of A Charlie Brown Christmas with Hey Ya by Outkast; it'll be a while before I get tired of it.

09. Non-animated movie?
I've seen It's A Wonderful Life. Not required (e.g., probably won't see it this year.)

10. Personal memory?
So many, which I've mentioned before.

11. Story/Fairy Tale?
A Christmas Carol.

This or That

12. Candy cane or peppermint patties?
Probably the only time I eat candy canes. I prefer peppermint patties but don't associate them with Christmas.

13. Sugar or gingerbread cookies?

14. Tinsel or beaded strands?
Grew up with tinsel. Now, neither.

15. Multi-colored or same-colored lights?
White. Grew up with multicolored.

16. Flashing or still lights?
Still. Grew up with flashing.

17. Wreaths or mistletoe/holly?
Wreaths, but that's my wife.

18. Rudolph or Frosty?
Rudolph, because I relate to his oppression. Besides my daughter has a Frosty book and I find it creepy.

19. Sledding or snowball fights?
Incresingly, neither. I liked sledding as a kid, but since I got frostbite on my feet when I was 16, I just don't play much outdoors.

20. Snow or ice/icicles?
Light snow.

21. Snow hat or earmuffs?

22. Getting or giving?
I've lost (mostly) my getting vibe. Getting for Lydia is fun; the rest, not so much.

23. Snow days or plow trucks?
Plows. My wife and daughter have snow days and I'm jealous as hell.

24. Stockings or presents?

25. Cookies & milk or letter to Santa?

26. Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?
Christmas Eve for certain.

27. Log Burning Channel or real thing?
The real thing, though I currently don't have the capacity.

28. Cards or emails?
Cards, though in fact this is is the first since Lydia was born that we've sent any (and only nine thus far.)

29. Shoveling or cleaning off the car?
I prefer shoveling. It's a consistent motion. I went years without access to a car, so the hassle bothers me more. I live in the city so I don't NEED a car.

30. The Inn’s manger or the animals?
Animals, a function of a Lydia book about the Christmas owl.

31. Mary & Joseph or The Wise Men?
I always played one of the Wise Men, so there's that. Sang a Magnificat (Mary story) this past week, though, so it's a tossup.

32. Hot cocoa or eggnog?
Eggnog, because I don't associate hot cocoa with the season especially.

33. Jack Frost or Little Drummer Boy?
I used to sing Little Drummer Boy.

"Yay!" or "Ugh":

34. Holiday shopping?
Ugh! (Though online has made it tolerable. Barely.)

35. Icy roads?

36. Limited driving visibility?
Well, ugh.

37. Christmas carolers.
Yay! (I've been one.)

38. Mall Santas?
Depends on the quality of the Santa.

39. Salvation Army Santas?
Yay! Love this improv bit!

40. Blizzards?
If I'm at work, Ugh. If I'm at home and I don't have to go anywhere, Yay!

41. 24/7 Holiday radio?
Ugh! They play the same damn songs every other day. I'll play my own, thank you. My wife is a Yay om this, BTW.

42. Freezing cold?

43. Setting up the tree?

44. Wrapping presents?
Ugh. I stink at it.

45. Visiting/seeing family?
Feh. Doesn't happen.

46. Ad-Lib on “Rudolph (like Monopoly!)
Does that bit have a more formal name? I find that it exists in lots of songs of that period, including Over the Rainbow and Try a Little Tenderness. Yay.

47. Free mint red/white candy?

48. Belief in Santa Claus?

49. Chocolate advent calender?
Did this one year. It was really inferior chocolate. Ugh.

50. Peeking at your gifts (or by accident)?

51. Making out with Santa under the mistletoe?
Depends on the Santa.

52. Decorated houses?

53. Extreme decorated houses?
Ugh! Big ugh!

54. White Christmas morning?

55. Searching for ornaments in the attic?
Meh. Actually we have a ridiculously organized place for them, so no searching involved.

56. Santa knowing when you’re sleeping and awake?
Very Large Ugh! I actually heard a sermon on this topic.

First Thought That Comes To Mind When You Hear…

67. Snowflake!
Crazy. It's the flake thing.

68. Pinecones!

69. Elves!
Hound Dog. OH, ELVES; I thought you said ELVIS. Santa.

70. Sleigh!
Jingle bells.

71. Presents!

72. Cookies!

73. Misletoe!
A girl named Mary.

74. Rudolph!
Some Nazi war criminal.

75. Blizzard!
March 1888. Biggest snow storm in Albany history, also affecting NYC. Killed a bunch of people.

76. School’s Canceled!
Lucky them, but I gprobably have to go to work anyway.

77. Ice Skating!
Trying it once to woo Carol. It worked; haven't done it since.

78. Santa’s Lap!

79. Black Friday!
To avoid at all costs.

80. God’s Son!
We're all God's children.

81. Melting Snow!

82. Lumps of Coal!
My grandmother heated with coal.

83. Nutcracker!

84. Ho Ho Ho!
Santa Claus

85. North Pole!
Global warming and starving polar bears.

What’s a Winter Activity YOU Do…

86. …In the snow by yourself?
I try not to go out in the snow by myself. I try to stay indoors as much as possible.

87. …Inside by yourself?
Play Christmas songs.

88. …In a public place (with/alone)?
Go to the movies.

89. …With friends/family in the snow at home?
Look, I'm not going out in the snow.

90. …With friends/family inside at home?
Watch TV. Christmas episodes.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Solstice Tradition: ASK ROGER ANYTHING!

I'm trying, really trying, to get into the spirit of the season. I've been checking out Polite Scott's Advent Calendar Comic Book Cover Countdowns and Jaquandor's Daily Dose of Christmas and Tegan's LEGO Advent Calendar, the Tournament of Carols (Bing will definitely win) and most of all, Fred Hembeck's The Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, MANY Faces of Santa Claus!

Yet, I'm still felling the seasonal stress. Sunday, in particular, made me very...grumpy. Sunday, I was Christmas shopping. There IS a correlation, though shopping wasn't the only frustration that day. The neck is sore, for some reason. And my left heel has a cut on it, probably from chafing while wearing some boots when it snowed a couple weeks ago. (But NOT this past weekend, as it turns out.) The one thing that did make me laugh was an e-mail from some cruise line that had the heading, " There's Still Time to Give the Gift of Cruising!"

So, to cheer me up, it is your opportunity to Ask Roger Anything. Anything at all; nothing is off limits. These are the exciting rules:
1. You can ask Roger anything.
2. He must answer.
3. He must stop referring to himself in the third person.
4. My answers must be true. Now it can be the truth without being the WHOLE truth, but the discerning questioner will pick up on this.

And starting on Sunday, I will answer your questions. If you want me to answer a question or three, you can leave a comment - I love comments - or you can find my e-mail on the sidebar and you can e-mail it to me.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

W is for Weather

Anyone who spent time in Albany, NY in June or July 2009 would have thought it was Seattle, Washington, because it rained. A lot. And the rain was often accompanied by severe weather - lightning, thunder and/or high winds. (Incidentally, the weather in Seattle at that time was uncharacteristically HOT, cracking 100F or 38C several times.)

One day in June, I was going to ride home, but I bailed. Severe weather - torrential winds, and some of the scariest lightning and thunder I'd ever experienced - meant that I put the bike on the bus and got home. But in that 10 minute-trip, the weather subsided. I took the bike off the bus and rode the last two blocks home. Generally, I cut through a bank parking lot, and past the elementary school, when I came across - well the pictures you're now seeing tell the story. The red brick building is the school, the more orange building, the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library.)

I called the library - the tree was on its property initially, though where it ell was all school property. But I think it was the school who had cleaned up the mess - at least on their side of the fence, by morning.

I can't help but think: the weather is SO peculiar these days. Greenland and the Maldives Are Far Apart on the Map But Connected by Rapidly Melting Glaciers and Rising Sea Levels. If you go to and type in Bolivia, you'll find a story about the disappearing slopes in the Andes, where glaciers are melting at such a rate they can longer be skied in Bolivia. A recent study says a two-degree temperature rise could flood wide areas of the planet.

Yet a kerfuffle over some e-mails - did these people even READ the content? - have led certain people to the irrational conclusion that there is no global warming. Meanwhile, I was hoping for substantive breakthrough, but the climate conference in Copenhagen has generated voluntary, unenforceable goals. I think I'll keep worrying.

My favorite weather site.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Kennedy Center Honors

As I've mentioned in the past, I am a sucker for the Kennedy Center Honors. This is the 32nd year, and I've been following them since practically the beginning. The difference is that in the early days, the performers were sometimes names I knew, though often not, and even the people I recognized, I had not really sampled their works.

This year, as last four out of the five awardees are rather familiar to me.

Writer, composer, actor, director, and producer Mel Brooks

I have always HEARD of Mel Brooks, from the early days of television, from Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, which started before I was born, to creating the series Get Smart in the mid-1960s and the Robin Hood spoof When Things Were Rotten in the mid-1970s.

But it is his writing/producing/directing movies for which I know him.
The Producers (1968) -long before the musical, or the movie of the musical, there was the movie about making money by seemingly losing money. One of the funniest things I ever saw is when the audience is slackjawed after hearing "Springtime for Hitler", which Brooks not only wrote but sang. There was a 2001 interview on 60 Minutes, which I saw at the time, where he describes his feelings about Hitler:
Hitler was part of this incredible idea that you could put Jews in concentration camps and kill them. And how do you get even? How do you get even with the man? How do you get even with him? There's only one way to get even. You have to bring him down with ridicule. Because if you stand on a soapbox and you match him with rhetoric, you're just as bad as he is. But if you can make people laugh at him, then you're one up on him. And it's been one of my lifelong jobs has been to make the
world laugh at Adolf Hitler.

That he succeeded is a great understatement.
Blazing Saddles (1974): it's pretty funny, though it has no suitable ending.
Young Frankenstein (1974): one of the funniest films ever made. I literally fell out of my seat when I saw this in the movie theater; good thing I had an aisle seat.
Silent Movie (1976); High Anxiety (1977) - both funnier in concept than in execution
History of the World: Part I (1981) - few movies I've enjoyed less than this. The chief redeeming quality, and it comes near the end: Hitler on ice skates.
Other items of his I saw: My Favorite Year (1982), which he executive produced, and the TV show Mad About You in the late 1990s, where he played Uncle Phil.
Sommeday, I'll see The Producers on stage.

Pianist and composer Dave Brubeck.

The only CD I own is Time Out (1960), but I have some Brubeck on vinyl. I know I have Time Further Out (1961), which has music in just about every time signature imaginable. I have My Favorite Things (1966). I've given out his greatest hits album to people who don't know him, saying, "You need to know this guy."
He turned 89 this month and is STILL playing on tour. I was playing Time Out earlier this month and someone visiting my house said, "What's the name of that song?" It was Take Five. Coincidentally, my buddy Steve Bissette linked to it this month.

Opera singer Grace Bumbry

OK, here's the hole in my wisdom. I'd heard the name, but I just don't know opera.

Actor, director, and producer Robert De Niro

I need to go back and see some of his performances from the 1970s; actually a whole bunch of his films, now that I look at the list. But these I definitely did see:
Raging Bull (1980)
The King of Comedy (1982)
Goodfellas (1990)
Stanley & Iris (1990)
Awakenings (1990)
Cape Fear (1991)
Wag the Dog (1997)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Analyze This (1999)
Meet the Parents (2000)
But it's his work with the Tribeca Film Festival which may be his lasting legacy.
The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff in a response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the consequent loss of vitality in the TriBeCa neighborhood in Manhattan.

The mission of the film festival is "to enable the international film community and the general public to experience the power of film by redefining the film festival experience." The Tribeca Film Festival was founded to celebrate New York City as a major filmmaking center and to contribute to the long-term recovery of lower Manhattan.

Singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen.

I had this office mate around whom one was not allowed to play Bruce Springsteen music; apparently, it had to do with a broken relationship. Conversely, I had an old girlfriend who was pretty much obsessed with "the Boss." Which reminds me of that joke on Saturday Night Live a couple weeks ago, about Obama being the President, but
Springsteen being the Boss; so Springsteen ordered all the troops home from Afghanistan.

I noted here my Springsteen discography. Add the 2009 Working On A Dream CD to that and the er, unauthorized recordings someone sent me.

Plus he shows up as songwriter/producer for many other artists' music I own such as Gary "U.S." Bonds and Southside Johnny & the Asbury Dukes, not to mention his rendition of Merry Christmas Baby on the very first A Very Special Christmas.

Oh, and I got to see him this year, for the very first time.

The Kennedy Center Honors medallions [were] presented on Saturday, December 5, the night before the gala, at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton...The Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on the CBS Network for the 32nd consecutive year as a two-hour primetime special on Tuesday, December 29 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT).


Sunday, December 20, 2009

December Rambling

I've become fascinated with the fascination over Joe Lieberman re: the health care debate. This example from a New York Times colummnist is a perfectly good example: Let us contemplate the badness of Joe Lieberman.

Who would have thought that this holiday season we’d be obsessed with the senator from Connecticut?

I guess it's the fact that people seem surprised by his intransigence, that it is he, rather than 40 Republicans in the Senate holding bill hostage. I am reminded that he is a DINO (Democrat In Name Only). He got all "mavericky" by supported his "good friend" John McCain over the Democratic nominee last year. In 2006, Connecticut Democrats realized that he was no Democrat and booted him from the ticket when he was running for re-election. He ran and won as a Liebermanist.

Oh, and re: those from the GOP: Republicans, religion and the triumph of unreason: How do they train themselves to be so impervious to reality? This came out in August, but is no less true today for that.

But as Paul Krugman said: A message to progressives: By all means, hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy. Declare that you’re disappointed in and/or disgusted with President Obama. Demand a change in Senate rules that, combined with the Republican strategy of total obstructionism, are in the process of making America ungovernable. Butut in his defense of the bill on the table, he says:

Bear in mind also the lessons of history: social insurance programs tend to start out highly imperfect and incomplete, but get better and more comprehensive as the years go by. Thus Social Security originally had huge gaps in coverage — and a majority of African-Americans, in particular, fell through those gaps. But it was improved over time, and it’s now the bedrock of retirement stability for the vast majority of Americans.

Look, I understand the anger here: supporting this weakened bill feels like giving in to blackmail — because it is. Or to use an even more accurate metaphor suggested by Ezra Klein of The Washington Post, we’re paying a ransom to hostage-takers. Some of us, including a majority of senators, really, really want to cover the uninsured; but to make that happen we need the votes of a handful of senators who see failure of reform as an acceptable outcome, and demand a steep price for their support.

At the same time, I was surprised by the attack by Mike Madden on Keith Olbermann's announced intent of civil disobedience: Wrong, Keith: Olbermann's prescription for protesting the insurance mandate -- don't buy insurance -- is nuts. I think these fights are almost always taken on at multiple levels. So if a bill is passed, and a number of people REFUSE on conscience, to abide by said law, sometimes - sometimes - the laws get changed.
And speaking of laws DC Council Passes Gay Marriage Bill; On to Mayor for Signature. Interesting that Congress - yes, the U.S. Congress - gets final say in this matter. I keep forgetting that the District of Columbia is a protectorate of the United States. But, from the tone of this and other stories I've read, it appears that the Democrats in Congress have enough political muscle to pass this; I'll wait until the actual vote, thank you.
The 10 Best Web Sites of the Decade
For those who follow movies, Box Office Mojo has production cost, foreign & domestic box office, and DVD sales in the initial period.
The resurrection of Josie and the Pussycats?

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I came across a podcast that addressed the question about what makes a good apology and what does not. Can't find it at the moment, but what's interesting to me is that I tend to remember the negatives:
DON'T use the word BUT. An example would be, "I'm sorry, BUT you started it."
DON'T use the word IF. My least favorite apology: "I'm sorry IF you're offended." The clear implication is that you really SHOULDN'T be offended, but I better say it anyway.
The one DO I recall: Do say the word. "I apologize" or "I'm sorry."

I was at a wedding once, and all the family members on my side, even people less close to the bride than I was, were included in the program. except me. This, I believe, was an honest mistake. The person who put it together spent about five minutes apologizing without apologizing, saying, finally, "I just don't apologize," as if that were some soerrt of badge of honor.

And the idea of the public apology, which we seem to have seen lots of, utterly fascinates me. Mark Sanford. David Letterman. Kobe Bryant. Eliot Spitzer. Tiger Woods, sort of; I mean the apology was "sort of". It's such a cliche they've made a TV drama about it: the Good Wife on CBS.

Of course, there are instances where one may be afraid to say I'm sorry for legal reasons. Canada has bandied about having legislation allowing people to say “I’m sorry” without assuming legal responsibility for their actions.

In other words, saying you’re sorry can’t be used against you later as evidence in civil court. “The goal of the legislation is to encourage sincere apologies,” said the Ontario Attorney General. “Saying sorry for a mistake or wrongdoing is the right thing to do.”

Proponents of the law say the ability to make an apology without legal consequences will help ease hard feelings, resolve disputes, and reduce the number of lengthy, costly lawsuits.

The Apology Act is partly based on the actions of more than 30 states across the U.S. where apology laws have been enacted specifically to make it easier for doctors to say “I’m sorry” instead of “See you in court.” Under those laws, an apology for a medical mistake is inadmissible in court.

My questions:

1. What are we the public, not the wronged party in their marriage, due from celebrity screw-ups? Is there some formula that I can plug in, tallying their level of fame, whether they are government officials, the number of times they appear on the cover of national magazines, the frequency and length of the indiscretion. Whether the guy - it's usually a guy - refers to the "other woman" as his "soul mate".

2. Should we have laws allowing for apologies for, say medical malpractice, without that apology be admissible in court?

3. How are you at apologizing to your smaller, more private flaws? I THINK I'm pretty good, but I could be mistaken, oblivious to some opportunities to say "I'm sorry" more often.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Rod Serling Holiday

Near twin Gordon has decreed, and I have capitulated, to try to make both Bogie Day and Serling Day the holidays of choice in the blogosphere. Why? "Because both men were born on December 25th, and both encapsulate the ultimate in pop culture coolness."

But I just don't have enough to say about Humphrey Bogart, though I did see The African Queen, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and one of my favorite films in the whole world, Casablanca. One of the times I saw Casablanca was in Rochester, NY outdoors in a park with my old neighbor from New Paltz, Debi. How I came to even be in Rochester involves lost brain cells. Oh, yeah, and I have a recording where expounds on the value of baseball.

As for Rod Serling, what more can I say that I didn't already say here or here, where I discuss meeting him or any number of other posts about episodes and whatnot.

It occurred to me, though, that I may never have mentioned the fact that I attended the world premiere(!) of Twilight Zone: The Movie, 13 days before it officially opened. The event took place, naturally, in Binghamton, NY, my hometown, on June 11, 1983 at the Crest Theater on Main Street, which had a seating capacity of approximately 800. I saw lots of movies at the Crest growing up. Hmm, I wonder if Serling saw any movies there growing up? It was a walkable, certainly a bikeable distance from his house on Bennett Avenue.

Some of the details have faded to memory, such as how I got tickets. I DO recall that it was very hot outside, waiting there for the dignitaries to come in. Of course, Rod was not one of them, having died eight years earlier from smoking cigarettes.

And I DO recall that this was a Very Big Deal for this small city where Rod Serling's family moved to from Syracuse before he turned two. One of the dignitaries was Helen Foley, Serling's beloved high school English teacher. Another was Richard Deacon (pictured below with Betty White, circa 1983) who was on Leave It To Beaver, but was best known as the put-upon producer Mel Cooley on The Dick van Dyke Show. Deacon, who died in 1984, was born in Philadelphia in 1921 but also grew up in Binghamton.

As for the movie itself, well, I'd have to see it again. I did think the first segment, a vague remake of A Quality of Mercy (Season 3, episode 80), was almost unrecognizable from the original. The filming of that segment led to the accidental deaths of actor Vic Morrow and two child actors. Whereas the remake of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (Season 5, episode 123) felt pretty much like the William Shatner version, at least in my memory.

The movie segment It's a Good Life, featured a character named Helen Foley (played by Kathleen Quinlan), which got a big laugh from the audience; oddly, "Helen Foley" was not the name of a character in the original episode, but rather in the Nightmare as a Child television version.

*An episode guide of the television series can be found here.*

Pictures of Rod Serling c. 1955; all photos from

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Hitchcockian Evening

It was a not-that-dark, clear and cool night two and a half weeks ago, before the first snow. I was riding my bicycle home past the NEW! IMPROVED! Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library.

Then I noticed a presence. Well, it wasn't a singular presence. Rather, I could sense a whole bunch of creatures seemingly peering at me. I noticed that the trees were filled with black birds, crows or ravens. It was eerily like that Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds, which I saw decades ago and which terrified me, except that film used a flock of seagulls, if I recall correctly.

Suddenly, the birds were on the move! Were they going to attack?! Well, no. But in traveling from tree to tree, they were going to poop. I heard the plop, plop of bird droppings all around me as I rode feverishly the last few hundred yards to my house. Fortunately, I made it home without pelted. I called my wife to see the hundreds of loud, cawing birds in our tree and the trees of our neighbors.

The next morning, they were gone. All that remained were their "gifts" all over the sidewalk, the road, and notably, all over the cars on the street, including ours.

I will remember the evening that I was almost murdered by crows, figuratively.

Crow in birdhouse at the Bronx Zoo.
Location: New York, NY, US
Date taken: 1942
Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt
For personal non-commercial use only from

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Social Insecurity

My favorite time of the year is when I get that statement from the Social Security Administration telling me how much money I have made each year. I'm less interested in how much I made last year as I am years ago.
1969 - $529: seven months as a page at the Binghamton Public Library
1970 - $102: I have no idea
1971 - $3,371: six months working at IBM before I went to college. This would be the most money I would make until 1978. I made enough to pay for my college expenses and to lend my parents $1500 for the down payment on a house. Tuition was cheap, and I had a Regents scholarship to SUNY New Paltz.
I worked odd jobs during college, making as much as $2,661 in 1975 and $50 - $50? in 1976.
1978 - $7,434: I was a teller for the Albany Savings Bank for one month, where I was making $6,000 a year, less than what I had in my drawer on state paydays, before I quit to work for the Schenectady Arts Council, at $8,400/year. Unfortunately, that CETA job ended early in 1979.
Then from 1980-1988, I could see my pay progress at FantaCo in Albany, only to drop back in 1989, when I worked for Empire Blue Cross. I mention this specifically because there were some people at the time who thought I was crazy to work at a "funny book" store, but I was making more money there than the "respectable" insurance company, thank you.
I've been working my current job since 1992, and the thing particularly of interest is how much putting aside money for health costs alters the bottom line.

Oh, the other interesting thing on this SSA form is my estimated benefits if I retire at 62, 66 or 70. Especially heartening is this little caveat: "The law governing benefit amounts may change because, by 2037, the payroll taxes will be enough to pay only about 76 percent of scheduled benefits." Of course, I have a five-year old; I'll NEVER retire.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

V is for Values

When I was pondering the notion of "value", this came unbidden into my head:
When the values go up, up, up
And the prices go down, down, down.
Robert Hall this season
Will show you the reason
High quality! Economy!

music by Leon Mitchell; words by Charles A. Gaston; original version (c) 1946

When I was growing up in Binghamton, NY in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Robert Hall was THE place to go for back-to-school clothing. The clothing was inexpensive but solidly made, the kind of place a working-class family wanted to shop for their children's apparel.

The secret of the stores' success was told in this 1949 TIME magazine article. But what sold me were the nifty ads, sometimes with the lyrics slightly altered, which you may be able to hear here and/or here.

But the more pervasive meaning of the word "values" involves the "set of emotional rules people follow to help make the right decisions in life." Or the wrong ones, I suppose. In a large country such as the Unites States, not to mention a vast planet, one hopes for commonality in values, but certainly cannot expect unanimity.

Yet some groups have successfully seemed to have hijacked the term "values". There is a group of "values voters", for instance, who are in the right wing of American politics. Based on their recent summit, they are concerned about the "silenced" Christians, the evil of "Obamacare" (health care), "defending marriage", and in general, the "vast left wing conspiracy."

While I support differing points of view, I'm troubled by the notion that only those people of a particular political persuasion are the only ones with "values". It's similar to the notion that "Christian" only represents a certain political POV.

As a "liberal" and a Christian, my values are just as legitimate. Oh, and I vote, too.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Child of (Too Much) TV

A television meme (with various comments throughout), via SamuraiFrog. I realized that the programs of my childhood I was pretty indiscriminate. Only had two or three choices at the time.

My Rules:
- Star (*) all of the following TV shows which you’ve ever seen 3 or more episodes of in your lifetime.
- Italicize a show if you’re positive you’ve seen every episode of it.

I watched the whole first season. Then the second season's premiere episode was quite shocking, but still watched good parts of it. But by Season 3, I'd given up on it, largely for political reasons. I can't help but think that some of those Blackwater-type thugs justified their moral code based on Jack Bauer.

7th Heaven
Maybe saw five minutes.

Never saw except in passing; looked stupid, but I could be wrong.

Watched the whole first season, then found out about some time shift thing between seasons. Saw the first episode of the next season, said what the... and bailed.

American Gothic

America’s Next Top Model

May have seen one episode. It was all right.

*Arrested Development
I tried to watch the first season, just couldn't get into it. Then, nagged by others, notably Gordon, watched the premiere of the second season and was hooked and watched until the end. STILL haven't seen much of the first season, though...

Babylon 5

Batman: The Animated Series
It looks good, but haven't found the time.

*Battlestar Galactica (the old one)
It was goofy.

Battlestar Galactica (the new one)
I haven't seen the new one at all. I figure it's far better than the original but I'm not really that invested.

Never a full episode.

Beverly Hills 90210 (original)
I was in a laundromat once and actually saw an entire episode of this and Melrose Place. I survived.

Probably saw all the Dick York episodes, certainly all the ones in black and white. I loved this show early on, but somewhere it lost me. Don't know know if it was the introduction of Tabitha, the introduction of color, or the introduction of Dick Sargeant as Darrin that made it lose its lustre.

My sister had a HUGE crush on Michael Landon. We often went to the neighbor next door to my grandmother to watch it, because they had color TV in 1962, while we didn't get one until 1969. Probably watched for a half dozen seasons.


*Bosom Buddies
People I knew really liked it, but it never caught on with me.

*Boston Legal
I was a big fan of The Practice. In a cost-cutting move, the show canned half the cast in the last season, which essentially became an extended pilot for Boston Legal, as it introduced Denny Crane (William Shatner) and Alan Shore (James Spader). As a result, I didn't bother with Boston Legal. Yet I caught it either late in the first or early in the second season, and pretty much watched it from that point until the end. Will have to catch that first season on DVD someday.

*Boy Meets World
This is a really bad show, but somehow I got stuck watching it; don't remember why.

*Brothers And Sisters
I got hooked because of Sally Field.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Think I caught a Very Special Episode with music or something. It was OK.


Chappelle’s Show

*Charlie’s Angels
I was living in Charlotte, NC with my parents at the time of the first season. It was on. Dopey.


One of my favorite shows ever, though it took me forever to warm up to Rebecca.


Clarissa Explains it All

Watched this a LOT. It was in some weird rotation on NBC. Don't know if I saw every episode, but it doesn't matter, because they were all pretty much the same.

*Commander in Chief
This show started off really strong the first half dozen episodes. Got a new show runner and never really regained its footing until very near the end.

*Crossing Jordan
I watched it for most of the first season, but lost interest.

Wrote about my one and only time watching this here.

CSI: Miami


Curb Your Enthusiasm
I'd probably watch this if I had HBO.

Dark Angel

Dark Skies

DaVinci’s Inquest
I don't even know what this is.

Dawson’s Creek
I saw the last episode.

Dead Like Me


Degrassi: The Next Generation

*Designing Women
It was on Monday nights on CBS between something I watched (Newhart) and something else I watched (Cagney & Lacey). It was harmless.

Desperate Housewives
Surprised that I've never seen this even for 10 minutes.


*Dharma & Greg
I can't believe how dumb this show got after a while. And I think I was invested early because of this.

*Different Strokes
Usually when someone else turned on the TV; I never turned on the set to watch it.

*Doctor Who
Mostly the guy with the long scarf.

Both the 1950s version, which I saw as a kid, and the late 1960s version with Harry Morgan which I thought was high camp. Probably saw most, if not all of the latter series.

*Due South
Liked the first season, but lost interest.

I watched it for probably seven seasons but slowly started giving up on it, somewhere between the point when Dr. Romano lost his arm to a helicopter and the point that the helicopter fell on him. Watched the last episode.


Everybody Loves Raymond
I saw one episode. It was OK.

*Facts of Life
Like Different Strokes, when someone else controlled the remote.

*Family Guy
Don't love it.


*Fawlty Towers



Very fond, though there was an arc when Frasier was unemployed that just never worked.

*Freaks & Geeks
Found this show a quarter of the way through and became a religious convert. May have seen all the episodes eventually, but not sure.

This show I always had a like/hate thing. Couldn't tell Chandler and Joey apart the first season. Hated the monkey stories. But then I'd see something I liked. Probably saw about 30% of the shows.


Saw this once or twice. Thought it was fine but never pursued it further.

*Get Smart
Funny until Max and 99 got hitched.

Gilligan’s Island
When I was a kid, thought it was greatly entertaining, what can I say? Still has a solid theme song. Oh, Mary Ann.

Gilmore Girls
Found this late in the first season, then caught the reruns. Loved the core relationship: Rory-Lorelai-Emily. Loved the townspeople. especially loved Mrs. Kim, when she developed as a character. Sure, the show would get off track - Rory's refrain with Dean, e.g. I never believed. But I watched all seven seasons, and we even have Season 1 on DVD, albeit unwatched. The subject of one of my earliest posts, and undoubtedly others.

Gossip Girl

*Grey’s Anatomy
Sometimes I don't know why, but there is always a character or two to root for.

Grange Hill
Don't know what this is.

Growing Pains
Not once.

This was on from 1955-1975. When it was on Saturday night and ran for an hour (1961-1967), probably watched every week if I were home, but when it moved to Monday, probably only a dozen or so episodes.

*Happy Days
I discovered this pretty much post-Chuck. Watched it until it jumped the shark, which really made the Fonz a bit of a pussycat.

Hercules: the Legendary Journeys

Was mildly tempted, but never succumbed. Now I'm glad.

*Home Improvement
Never of my own volition.

Homicide: Life on the Street
I loved this show.

Maybe one episode. Found it irritating.

*I Dream of Jeannie
This was the epitome of sex when I was 12. Again, ruined by the engagement and marriage to Major Nelson. Always liked Bill Daily here,; he played ROGER Healey.

*I Love Lucy
It was on ALL OF THE TIME. I MUST have seen every episode.

Invader Zim


Hell’s Kitchen



Waited for it to get good; never happened.

Kim Possible

*Knight Rider
In passing the TV.

Knight Rider: 2008

*Kung Fu
Quite fond.

Kung Fu: The Legend Continues

La Femme Nikita
Saw the movie, but never felt compelled.

LA Law

*Laverne and Shirley
Usually, but not always, after watching Happy Days.

*Law and Order
Pretty much from when Lenny Briscoe started, or maybe an episode or two earlier, until when he left.

*Law and Order: SVU
Sordid little show I end up seeing when I'm in a hotel away from home. It seems to be ALWAYS on.

*Law and Order: CI
Probably three episodes.


Little House on the Prairie
Never saw a full episode ever.

Lizzie McGuire

Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Watched, and liked the first season, but it started grating on me; probably gave up on it.

Seen five minutes. It's less Lost per se and more the fear of commitment.

Lost in Space
High camp.

Watched the first eight seasons TWICE, but the last three only once. Should have ended when Radar went home and they started repeating. (And we won't mention the messy chronology at all.)

Did I ever see a full episode of this?

*Malcolm in the Middle
Wasn't watching much on Sunday night by this point.

Married...With Children
Saw once all the way through. Hated.

McLeod's Daughters
Don't know.

Melrose Place
One ep in the laundromat.

*Miami Vice
Watched probably a couple seasons of it before I lost interest.

*Mission: Impossible
watched the first ramping up season with Steven Hill as the leader, the excellent next couple seasons with the perfect set of Peter Graves, Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, then the latter, lesser years, with Leonard Nimoy and Lesley Ann Warren replacing Landau and Bain. Maybe it was the acting too, but the writing definitely suffered in those later years.

*Mod Squad
What can I say?


*Mork & Mindy
LOVED the first season, but by the time Jonathan Winters was hatched, I'd already long given up.

Murphy Brown
I used to love this show.

My Life As A Dog

*My Three Sons
It was on forever.

*My Two Dads



Ned Bigby’s Declassified School Survival Guide



One Tree Hill

I will probably see this someday.

*Perry Mason
Watched it for years at every opportunity; made me want to be a lawyer, until I got to college and found that I didn't have much of a capacity for law. One of the best theme songs, ever, and the extended end theme is even better.

Power Rangers

Press Gang

Prison Break

*Private Practice
The cast deserves better.



Project Runway


*Pushing Daisies
Lamented loss.

Quantum Leap

Queer As Folk (US)

Queer as Folk (UK)


*Remington Steele
Have little recollection of this show, actually.

Rescue Me

Road Rules


Watched it from the beginning until near the end, when I had to bail.



*Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?

A very inconsistent show which seemed to finally finally find its footing in the seventh and final NBC season, only to actually improve with its first season on ABC. But I fear the new show will be like AfterMASH.

Seaquest DSV

Loved this show in the very beginning, really started being annoyed by it by Susan's death, and by the last season, had all but abandoned it. Did see the disappointing last episode.

*Sex and the City
Never saw it at all on HBO, but watched the entire (edited) series on TBS. Liked it. Didn't love it, but enjoyed it on its own terms.

Six Feet Under
Another HBO show I'll have to see someday.

Slings and Arrows

Don't know why I never actually watched this.

So Weird

South of Nowhere

*South Park
Not my thing, though occasionally funny.

*Spongebob Squarepants
Watched maybe a season religiously before the child was born. Go figure.

St. Elsewhere
Possibly my favorite all-time show. I loved the first season when I got a review copy of the DVDs.

Star Trek
But not in the first run.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Felt compelled to watch, maybe to make up for muffing watching the original series.

*Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Star Trek: Voyager

Star Trek: Enterprise

Stargate Atlantis

Stargate SG-1

*Starsky & Hutch

Watch countless episodes with George Reeves.



Watched the whole first season, which was interesting. The second season was dull. I started watching just the first and last shows for about six seasons, but now not even that.

Loved Taxi.

Teen Titans

*That 70’s Show

That’s So Raven

The 4400

*The Addams Family
Probably in first run.

The Amazing Race

*The Andy Griffith Show
Watched it for years.

The A-Team

*The Avengers

*The Beverly Hillbillies
Watched it far longer than I should have. Did you know that about a half dozen of the regular season shows of this program are in the Top 50 all-time most watched programs?

The Big Bang Theory

*The Brady Bunch
Never saw it in first run, though came across a few episodes subsequently.

*The Cosby Show
Loved how the theme changed in most seasons. I think when Raven showed up is when I left.

*The Daily Show
Never saw it until Jon Stewart was hosting. See more online than on TV.

The Dead Zone

*The Dick Van Dyke Show
Probably my all time favorite comedy.

*The Flintstones

*The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Wow, did this show get grating, or what?

*The Golden Girls

*The Honeymooners

*The Jeffersons

*The Jetsons

The L Word

*The Love Boat

The Magnificent Seven

*The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Must see TV.

*The Monkees

*The Munsters

*The Office (US)

The Powerpuff Girls

The Pretender

*The Real World
I watched the first three or four seasons.

*The Shield

*The Simpsons
Watched nine full seasons, have watched only a handful of shows since.

*The Six Million Dollar Man

The Sopranos
The last five minutes.

The Suite Life of Zack and Cody

*The Twilight Zone
I'm referring to the original, not the 1980s version, which I also saw some segments.
I was constitutionally required.

*The Waltons
In the spring of 1975, I watched this every week; I was depressed.

*The West Wing
Watched first few seasons. then it got too unfocused and I quit it. But I DID watch the campaign between the Alda and Smitts candidates.

*The Wonder Years
Probably until the last year or so.

The X-Files
Watched one two-part episode.

Third Watch
Saw parts of an episode or two.

*Three’s Company
Usually someone else had it on.

*Twin Peaks
Tried to watch, but bailed about halfway through the first season.

Twitch City


Ugly Betty

Veronica Mars


*Whose Line is it Anyway? (US)

Whose Line is it Anyway? (UK)

*Will and Grace
Very irregularly. Gene Wilder was on a couple of them, and I watched them specifically for that reason.


Xena: Warrior Princess