My Blog List

People I Know

Eclectic Folks

Media Blogs

Politics, Policy Blogs

Page Rank

Check Page Rank of your Web site pages instantly:

This page rank checking tool is powered by Page Rank Checker service

Saturday, February 28, 2009

This I Believe QUESTION

In her sermon last Sunday, our co-pastor made reference to This I Believe, an NPR show based on a radio show from the 1950s hosted by Edward R. Murrow.

I listed 10 here and thought I'd list 10 more.

You may list your five or 10 or 100 in the comments section or on your own blog; if the latter, please leave a link in the comments section:

Most people worry way too much about what other people think and do.

Mark Twain was right: It IS better to remain silent and appear ignorant than to speak up and remove any doubt.

Smokers do often feel oppressed in the U.S.; I don't care. (Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in our society.)

JEOPARDY! is not improved by letting people play more than five games in a row.

My life would suck without music.

Television (radio, et al.) is not inherently bad; it's how it's used.

Race may be just a social construct, but still matters in the United States (and I imagine, in other parts of the world).

Italian is beautiful to listen to, even though I don't speak or understand it.

Smart is sexy.

Most people who say "let's move on" are NOT the aggrieved party.

Oh, and one more:
Individuals should not hide behind a corporate shield when wrongdoing occurs; e.g., someone from the Peanut Corporation of America should face manslaughter charges, at least.


Friday, February 27, 2009

February Ramblin'

So much going on, and so little time:

AdAge has a 3-minute daily video. The topic on February 20: Could Kindle put the KABOOM on Comic Books? (February 26 discusses the Tropicana packaging debacle.)
But not all is bad in comic book land. Marvel, bucking economic trends, actually set a revenue record for 2008.

Comic book blogger Mark Evanier linked to a CBS tribute, which I found oddly moving. I think it's because when I grew up in Binghamton, NY, there was only one VHF station, WNBF, Channel 12, so it was the Andy Griffiths and Lucille Balls I'd be watching the most.

Too much snark: Even Gov. Bobby Jindal, whom I suppose I should note was the first Indian-American to give the Republican response to a president's speech, began with an encomium to the first black president. (Wasn't Bobby great in "Slumdog Millionaire"?). As though I needed more proof that this woman (blonde, initials AC) is an idiot.

But this was a weird story: Poll Results: Obama, Jesus and Martin Luther King Top List of America’s “Heroes”. "When The Harris Poll asked a crosssection of adult Americans to say whom they admire enough to call their heroes, President Barack Obama was mentioned most often, followed by Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King. Others in the top ten, in descending order, were Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, John McCain, John F. Kennedy, Chesley Sullenberger and Mother Teresa. These heroes were named spontaneously. Those surveyed were not shown or read a list of people to choose from. The Harris Poll was conducted online among a sample of 2,634 U.S. adults (aged 18 and over) by Harris Interactive between January 12 and 19, 2009." I can't explain why I find this a bit disturbing.

Another story I find puzzling is Will trade: One black Democrat for one Mormon Republican. "Congress appears to be on the verge of granting D.C. actual voting representation in the House. The Senate is expected to pass legislation Thursday or Friday that would expand the House to 437 members, adding one seat for the District and one seat for Utah, where officials say the 2000 Census would have yielded an extra seat if overseas Mormon missionaries had been counted." Problematic for a couple reasons: 1) two more members of Congress (plus staffs)? Actually, there is a delegaste from DC, so it'd be really one more, but still. 2) I find myserlf in the strict constructionist camp, but I think fair representation for DC, long overdue, will require a Constitutional amendment.

I find that performers on the left who spout political opinions are often more criticize than those on the right, such as Chuck Norris and Ted Nugent, in my experience.

Comparing public support for legalizing marijuana to the approval ratings for Rush Limbaugh and various Republican Party leaders, the conservatives lose.
So does this mean we should start legalizing and taxing pot, as some are trying to do in L.A.?

That chimp cartoon debacle probably would have bothered me more if it hadn't been in the New York Post. It is just what I expect from the New York Post. What does unsettle me is not the chimp reference per se as much as the DEAD chimp reference.

Eric Holder: America ‘a Nation of Cowards’ on Racial Matters. Arguably true. But will saying that initiate useful discussion? I have my doubts.


Time magazine did a story about 25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis, which is well and good; they all seem to have taken advice from Ayn Rand - selfishness over altruism. But Joe Queenan in the February 14 Wall Street Journal wonders about the national obsession "over the missteps of public figures like Alex Rodriguez" and Michael Phelps with "the American people [working] themselves into such a sustained, unmediated level of fury at once-revered public figures."

"What they did is certainly wrong, but it isn't in any way unprecedented, or for that matter, unexpected. It's not off the charts...No public misdeed is too insignificant to earn our limitless fascination. Actor Joaquin Phoenix caused a stir this week following his appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman." His principal offenses: chewing gum and maintaining a generally unresponsive demeanor throughout what proved to be a very painful, unproductive interview... And thus ensued a heated debate about whether Mr. Phoenix was acting, on drugs or just spaced out. Meanwhile, in a nearby solar system, the stock market dropped another 400 points..."

"In light of the fact that we are facing one of the worst economic environments since the Great Depression, and are still in the throes of a global war against faceless, stateless terrorists, Michael Phelps can probably be forgiven for thinking that he could get away with taking a hit off that bong. And Jessica Simpson can probably be forgiven for scarfing down a few Twinkies."

"What accounts for the shock...? For one, we the public think that we know these people because we see them all the time on TV. Because of this, they root us in the here and now in a way run-of-the-mill white-collar villains do not. They have violated an old-fashioned code of morality that we can all understand in a way we cannot understand a $50 billion Ponzi scheme or the fact that Iceland has put out a 'Closed for Business' sign."

"From the therapeutic perspective, this is vastly superior to ranting about the latest depredations of Wall Street. No matter how much we froth and foam, none of us can lay a glove on imperious figures like John Thain or the haughty fat cats who run the auto industry or the inept regulators who let Mr. Madoff run wild in the first place. These folks all look the same, they all talk the same and the man in the street would have trouble picking any of them out of a police lineup. We don't really know them and we never will."

"It's the human scale of their malfeasance that makes them such inviting targets." (Mentioned in the headline, though not the article, Octomom.) "Ronald Reagan proved a long time ago that while it was impossible to get the public all riled up because the federal government was throwing away billions of dollars on this or that program, you could get them to blow their stacks by recounting a dubious anecdote about some conscienceless welfare queen on the south side of Chicago who was jobbing the public out of a few grand. This was partly because it was possible to put a human face on the welfare cheater, even if the story was vastly exaggerated, whereas the federal bureaucracy would forever remain vague and amorphous. But it was also because a few thousand bucks here and there was a number the average person could wrap his head around. Unlike, say, $700 billion."


Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Lydster, Part 59: Miss Independence

My great joy recently has been the fact that Lydia wants to dress herself lately. She's had the means before but not the inclination, leaving it up to Daddy to put her clothes on. She HAS, for some time, picked out her clothing, and I must say that she generally does a pretty good job coordinating her outfit, a skill she must have learned from her mother, not me. In fact, the only times I've ever vetoed her selection is if it is going to be too warm or, more recently, not warm enough.

I'm also pleased that she hads deigned to pick the top pair of underwear in her drawer rather than rumaging around to find underpants that match her outer outfit. After all, people are not going to SEE her undergarments, are they?

This is not to say that she doesn't need help with some things. When her clothes are washed inside out and remain that way when they go to the drawer, she needs assistance. And some buttons are still tricky.

But for the most part, it's "Daddy, go away! I can dress myself!" And that's fine with me; actually gives me a chance to check my e-0mail in the morning.
She has had a tough week, though. On Monday, she fell on the ice in front of our own house. The snow had melted, and it tends to gravitate to the sidewalk. Then it got cold and the water turned to black ice. She didn't cry, but she was sore.

Then last night, she did cry after falling off the stool she uses to brush her teeth. Coincidentally, I had to use ice to tend to her almost-immediately visible bruise.

Careful, Lydia.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

F is for Fire

As I was growing up, I spent a great deal of time at my grandma's house, as she lived just a half dozen blocks from my house in Binghamton, NY and as close to my elementary school as my own house, so I'd often have lunch there. She had a coal stove and one my jobs was to to go down to the basement and shovel up a couple pails of coal to keep the fires burning.

After my grandmother moved south, and I stayed in her house in the winter of 1975, I realized how inept I was at keeping the fires going on my own. Obviously, I was doing something wrong, and the flames went out. So it's February, it's bitterly cold, I have a mountain of covers on and I'm using a space heater. A quilt comes off the bed and catches fire. Fortunately something woke me up, perhaps the acrid smell, but possibly some psychic connection to my mother who SWEARS she woke up in Charlotte, NC at that very time to warn me; I don't dismiss it out of hand.

When I was about nine, there was a massive fire on my grandma's one-block street, Maple Street. An apartment complex called the Rogers Block, four wooden structures as I recall, all caught fire and were utterly destroyed. I don't believe anyone was hurt, but naturally, many lives were disrupted. It took a while for the area to be razed, and for months, I'd walk by from across the street and smell that very distinct post-fire odor.

Every year, at Midwinter's, there's a bonfire where one can throw pieces of paper representing things to get rid of from the previous year, although one year, we threw in the chair of one of our founding members of the tribe, who had died the year before. Indeed, the fire that represents me on this blog comes from a photo of a Midwinter's wax magick burst.

Totally coincidentally, this week, my daughter had me read a book called A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams, which is about a family who lost everything in a fire, got some stuff from their neighbors, but who were saving up for a nice plush chair to put into the new apartment. It's a Caldecott winner, and I'd recommend it.

My sister lives in southern California, not in a traditionally fire-prone area, yet a couple years ago, she could see the flames in her neighborhood. She was fortunately spared, but many were not. The photo above I believe she took.

I recall that there was this young woman on JEOPARDY! in the college tournament a few years back who had experienced a fire and was pleased that she was able to start over; Alex Trebek looked at her as though she were crazy, but at some level, I understood her point.

The dichotomy about fire fascinates me: useful tool, destructive force. Even theologically, that comes up, the notion of hellfire

vs. the idea of being "on fire for the Lord". Today is Ash Wednesday and it is with the remnants of fire with which some Christians will be marked.

Anyway, here's one of my favorite fire songs, by the OHIO PLAYERS:


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fat Tuesday

Today is Mardi Gras and that, of course, reminds me of New Orleans and the whole "should Nawlins survive?" conversation.

Specifically, I was thinking about a recent podcast called The KunstlerCast, "a weekly audio program about the tragic comedy of suburban sprawl," featuring James Howard Kunstler, author of The Geography of Nowhere and The Long Emergency, among others. It was the distinguished Alan David Doane, who said such kind things about me recently, who turned me on to Kunstler.

In episode #52, Duncan Crary, the host/producer of the Kunstlercast, was wondering, and this is a broad paraphrase: Isn't New Orleans culturally cool enough to try to save? And I think there's a part of me that shares that viewpoint. Kunstler, for his part, indicated that the city may survive in a smaller form, although, with global warming, who knows?

I suppose the argument that it's under sea level, so it is foolish to save it would resonate more with me if people weren't also rebuilding in fire zones in California, flood zones further up the Mississippi and other places that have been destroyed more than once. A friend got hit by two Florida hurricanes in one year a few seasons back. I'm still convinced that some earthquake is going to carry half of California into the ocean.

But let's fret about that another time:
Mardi Gras 1941 and 1954 and 2006, just after Katrina.
Take Me to the Mardi Gras
jamming with the Meters


Monday, February 23, 2009

the Trilogy Meter

Since I'm still in the movie mode, here is a film trilogy thing from Dan Meth, via SamuraiFrog and Jaquandor:

Star Wars
The original Star Wars is one of my favorite films. Empire Strikes Back is nearly up there. Return of the Jedi is a bit disappointing, mostly because the Ewoks irritated me; Tribbles, but not as cute. As for the prequels, not only did I bhate Jar Jar Binks, but, far worse, I was bored by all of the political yak for good chunks of the movie.; so, I never saw the rest of that trilogy.

Indiana Jones
Raiders of the Lost Ark I loved. Temple of Doom, for whatever reason, never grabbed me the same way, and I thought it was gratutiously gross to boot; it practically created the PG-13 rating. The Last Crusade I liked almost as much as the first film, because of the humor and the great Harrison Ford-Sean Connery riffs, but also because of that whole theological angle of walking out into nothingness bit. adventure movie. Never saw the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The Matrix
I saw the first movie on commercial TV; I was unimpressed, and never saw the others. Probably didn't give it a fair shake. So never saw the others.

Star Trek
I've seldom been as bored with a movie as I was with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I don't know if it was the pacing or what, but these characters, who I liked a lot, were making me restless in my seat. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the best Star Trek film I've seen, and it was probably helped in the minds of the fans by its improvement over its predecessor. The problem with Star Trek III is that even though big stuff happens, it feels transitional, like the middle part of a trilogy; toss out the first, largely unrelated movie, it really is. As for the others, I saw Star Trek IV with my mother; she was quite confused not having seen III, though she enjoyed it well enough. I liked it considerably more, for which I credit my San Francisco obsession. Star Trek V was awful, just awful. I've not seen a Star Trek movie since, though I would.

The original's iconic, yet I've never seen the sequels, except pieces of III on TV.

Jurassic Park
saw the first one well enough, but never cared to see the sequels.

Never saw the first movie. My wife and I were in a hotel in Maryland on New Years' Eve, coming back to Albany from North Carolina when I flipped on the TV and saw most of X2. It wasn't bad, but seemed terribly busy. My wife, who is not a comic book collector, was totally confused.

I liked the first film quite a bit, though it felt flat occasionally. The second film, though, I loved; possibly my favorite superhero movie, though Iron Man was pretty nifty. Haven't seen the third yet.

The Lord of the Rings
It's just not my genre. I tried, and failed, to read the books. I saw the first movie, thought it was fine, but never saw the latter two parts. Yeah, I know: sacrilege.

Mad Max
Seems that I'd catch one of these on TV, but never knew at the time which one it was. Probably should actually watch.

This came out at a time tin my life that I just wasn't going to see movies that might be gory. I have never seen Jaws, let alone its sequels. I will, someday, see the original, at least.

Back to the Future
I was very fond of the original. The second movie just felt both dark and like the middle part of a trilogy and doesn't stand on its own. I musty admit that the third movie, with the okld West theme, I thought was a hoot, and I'd end up watching big chunks of it when it used to show up on TNT every other day.

Die Hard
Another movie series where I'd catch it on TV but didn't know which episode it was. Looked like fun.

Never saw.

Planet of the Apes
I managed to see all five Apes movies in one day. NOT recommended. The original Planet of the Apes is a great film; I totally bought into it. Beneath was a lesser effort, but I actually enjoyed Escape. Conquest was stupid and Battle was an unrelenting bore.

The Godfather
This was one of the films (along with Catch-22 and A Clockwork Orange) that got me to swear off gory movies from 1973-1980. No doubt, the original was one of the finest films ever made. But I wasn't going to see II or III.

Rocky, which I saw with my mother, is a great film; I think it got slapped down because it won the Oscar against showier fare. I rather liked Rocky II, which comes close to equaling the first one. But III to V, awful to more awful. Never saw Rocky Balboa.

The Terminator
Yet another series I've only seen on commercial TV, and caught by flicking stations. Seemed that I would like at least the first two films, based on what I've seen.

Never saw. Never really wanted to see.

Batman, the first one with Michael Keaton, I liked well enough, though sometimes it felt as though Jack (Nicholson) was doing Jack. Batman Begins, though I know I saw it, for some reason didn't stick to the brain; I do recall that it seemed a bit campy, and I never got back into watching Batman movies - though I WOULD have seen Batman Begins (2005) had I been going to the movies. As for Dark Knight...wait until tomorrow.

The first film was excellent. But didn't need to see the sequels.

The Mr. Frog and Jaquandor suggested other trilogies:

Lethal Weapon, Karate Kid
Other one I saw only on TV and couldn't tell you which episodes I actually saw. Know I saw the end of KK1, and at least parts of three different LWs.

Omen, Scream
Didn't see at all.


Sunday, February 22, 2009


When The Visitor was released in April 2008, I made a mental note to go see it. It was, after all, director "Tom McCarthy’s follow-up to his award winning directorial debut The Station Agent." And I loved The Station Agent. As it turned out, I never did see it in theaters. But recently, I cajoled my friend The Hoffinator to put it in her Netflix queue and then let me see it before it got returned. (I have my own Netflix account, but I had The Dark Knight 12 days unwatched.) I watched it Thursday morning at 5 a.m.

Richard Jenkins, best known for being, if I was told correctly, the first to die in the HBO TV show Six Feet Under, plays Walter, a widower without much going on. A professor at a Connecticut college who's allegedly writing a book, presenting papers for which his contribution is minimal and teaching his one class by rote.

As I thought back on the movie, there's a Paul Simon lyric which seemed to encapsulate Walter's persona:
I've just been fakin' it,
I'm not really makin' it.
This feeling of fakin' it--
I still haven't shaken it.

It is while he's in New York City to present a paper that he visits his seldom-used apartment, only to find that is already occupied. This turns out to be transformative in Walter's life. Frankly, I don't want to tell too much more except that the djembe, an African drum, plays a role. In fact, after I watched the movie, I saw the trailer, and I felt that it gave away too much of the plot elements.

Later, I watched the deleted scenes and totally agree with their excisions. Another extra: info on the djembe.

I still haven't seen Frozen River, The Reader, The Wrestler or Benjamin Button, among others. But of the 2008 films I DID see so far, The Visitor was my favorite.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

OSCAR Questions

Oscar night has been for me a must-watch for decades. This year, I'm actually in better shape seeing movies than I was last year at this time.

The obvious questions about which I'd love for you to opine:
Who will win?
Who do you WANT to win?
* indicates films I've actually seen

*Richard Jenkins-THE VISITOR
*Frank Langella-FROST/NIXON
*Sean Penn-MILK
Mickey Rourke-THE WRESTLER
Will win: Rourke. Oscar loves the comeback. Langella, though, would not be a shock.
Want to win: Jenkins, who nobody knows until they see him. "Oh, THAT guy."

*Josh Brolin-MILK
Robert Downey Jr.-TROPIC THUNDER
*Philip Seymour Hoffman-DOUBT
Will win: Ledger. The fact that DK was not picked for best picture practically assures it.
Want to win: Downey, because he had a good year with Iron Man, which I saw and enjoyed. But I'm not begrudging the late Ledger.

Angelina Jolie-CHANGELING
*Meryl Streep-DOUBT
Kate Winslet-THE READER
Will win: I can make the case for Hathaway, who's expanded from the Princess Diaries/Devil Wears Prada mode; yeah, she did in Brokeback Mountain, too, but didn't get the recognition. Or for Streep, who's won twice, but not in a quarter century. Guess I'll pick Winslet, because she's never won, though oft nominated, and she had a good year with Revolutionary Road and this. (Although, when I went to see Slumdog, my wife was asking about Revolutionary Road and the couple in front of us told us it was three hours of whining, a complaint I'd heard before.)
Want to win: Leo, who was on one of my favorite TV shows, Homicide, and who lives in upstate New York. Yes, I can be parochial.

*Amy Adams- DOUBT
*Viola Davis-DOUBT
Will win: Henson. The movie has the most nominations and it needs a win. Also, Oscar wants to honor a black or foreign performer (England and Australia evidently are not foreign enough) - could be Cruz, but Davis' part was too short (Judi Densch in Shakespeare in Love notwithstanding). Finally, Oscar always wants to pluck someone out of obscurity, and if you look at supporting actress winners over the years, it's littered with "Who's she?"
Want to win: Cruz, who lit up the screen.

Best Animated Feature
Oh, please. I'm just annoyed that something like Waltzing with Bashir wasn't also nominated to give the most deserving Wall-E some semblance of a challenge.

Best Director
Will win: Slumdog Millionaire
"Oh, Danny Boyle,
The Oscar trophy's call-all-lin'"
Want to win: Gus van Sant's Milk, though Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon would be OK, too.
I'm SO relieved the directing and best picture nominees lined up so I don't have to hear about the best picture nominee sans director, "What, did it direct itself?" again.

Will win: It's SLUMDOG-mania!
Want to win: Frost/Nixon, though Milk wouldn't displease me.

Adapted Screenplay:
Will win: Slumdog Millionaire. I had a faint inkling for an upset, but it has passed.
Want to win: Frost/Nixon

Original Screenplay:
Will win: Milk. The only best picture nominee on the list, which will get shut out of other major categories.
Want to win: Frozen River, which my wife DID see, but I didn't, when I got sick on the back end of a botched separated movie date.


Friday, February 20, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW: Slumdog Millionaire

In keeping with my Washington's Birthday tradition, I went with my wife to see a movie. I chose Slumdog Millionaire to watch with her because I knew in advance that it would more...intense than she might have thought. As I was discussing on Twitter this week, it was rated R for a reason.

How on earth does a poor young man fare so well on India's version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"? He must be cheating! But how? The police use "extraordinary" means to find out, only to discover that there's an explanation for it all, based on an extremely difficult childhood.

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly said: "Slumdog Millionaire is nothing if not an enjoyably far-fetched piece of rags-to-riches wish fulfillment. It's like the Bollywood version of a Capra fable sprayed with colorful drops of dark-side-of-the-Third-World squalor." Well, maybe. I know the producers didn't bill it as such, but as a friend of mine put it, "it took a long time for this 'feel good' movie to feel good."

I think part of the problem was that it took three actors each to play the three main characters and I didn't always buy the transition from one to the next. One either buys into the sheer level of coincidence or one does not. I guess I never fully engaged enough to buy in. So the "happy ending" seemed less joyous than it should have been; I didn't feel the payoff. Whether this is a function of the low-key acting styles, especially of Dev Patel, the last lead male, or what, I'm not sure.

This is not that I did not enjoy elements of it. The outhouse scene was memorable. Having had to go to the bathroom while taping a television quiz show, albeit in the United States, I was intrigued by another particular scene. Frankly, I was a bit of a sucker for that original run of Millionaire hosted by Regis Philbin, so I enjoyed the game section on that level. The smelling of a $100 bill will stay with me. The stuff at the Taj Mahal, though, I swear I've seen before in some movie or TV show.

My friend David savaged the movie, noting that it was not even the best film made in India last year. He may very well be right, but for the Hollywood community, it's irrelevant. Hollywood is not savvy to Bollywood cinema.

Ultimately, when I see a movie, I'm ready and willing to suspend my belief that it's just cimnema and surrender to it; just didn't happen for me. I didn't hate the film, and I'm not unhappy that I saw it, but I can't imagine wanting to see it again.
Remembering Gene Siskel by Roger Ebert. Recommended highly.


Thursday, February 19, 2009


Because Richard Nixon was the first President for whom I could have voted for - I didn't - he has long held a special role in my life and my heart. In the day, it was nothing but anger and revulsion; since then, a more nuanced view. At the time, I thought he was destined to be one of the United States' worst Presidents; in hindsight, merely one that was fatally flawed.

I saw the Oliver Stone-directed movie Nixon (1995), starring Anthony Hopkins and Joan Allen, when it came out, with its warts and all. I enjoyed it well enough, but its quirky narrative style sometimes got in the way.

So last weekend, the wife and I did one of those "split date" things, with me going to the movies on Saturday and her on Sunday to see the more "conventional" filmmaker Ron Howard's take on an event that took place after the Nixon Presidency, but which was necessarily all about it, Frost/Nixon.

I've found that a great number of people no longer remember David Frost, the "British satirist, writer, journalist and television presenter" who interviewed Nixon in 1977. There's no current comparison who fully encapsulates it, but it'd be like Jay Leno or Larry King doing a hard-hitting interview of George W. Bush.

Most people who disliked Nixon wanted the interviews to be the mea culpa that Nixon never gave after the resignation, but felt that Frost was a lightweight who was was not up to the task. So it was that each participant had something to prove. Frost/Nixon turns out to be an intriguing film, not just the one-on-one, but the whole backstory leading up to the main event, including the need to secure the $600,000 for the interview, the slams of "checkbook journalism" and the desire to get the interview right.

Frost/Nixon is another play that was made into a movie. But unlike Doubt, it didn't feel as stagy. One would not expect a historically-based movie about two guys talking to be so tense and yet so revealing of both men. Frank Langella, who is rightly nominated for best actor, "does" Nixon without being a caricature. In fact, the most revealing scene has Langella saying nothing. But look at his eyes! They spoke volumes about what was going on in Nixon's mind. But the movie would collapse if Michael Sheen as Frost was not up to the task. Sheen, who played Tony Blair in 2006's The Queen, ends up being as worthy an acting partner for Langella as Frost was an adversary for Nixon.

Some critics inevitably kvetched about historic inaccuracies here and there, which almost always happens. I wondered if the last scene - which is REALLY funny - actually happened; it matters not. I was entertaned and I learned a few things.


Frost, who has interviewed the last seven U.S. Presidents and six British Prime Ministers (excluding, so far, the current ones) now works for Al Jazeera English.

See part of the Frost/Nixon interviews here (97 minutes) and here (10 minutes).


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

E is for Eggs

When I was growing up, the first things I learned to cook were eggs, specifically omelets. I'd get a bowl and break one egg for each person plus "one for the pan"; pour in some milk and then go to the spice rack to season. We used butter or margarine in a heavy black skillet - no stick-free pans back then - over our gas stove; to this day, I dislike electric stoves, for it's harder to regulate the temperature.

Part of the art of cooking the omelet was to figure out which spices worked and in what amounts, and I was given pretty much free reign. There was a lot of trial and error in the process. Cinnamon, e.g., just didn't work for me. Generally, I ended up using pepper, garlic salt, onion flakes, a touch of dried mustard. Also a little Worcestershire sauce and occasionally, a touch of Tabasco. Sometimes, grated cheese, usually sharp cheddar. Eventually, I learned the wonders of sauteed mushrooms and onions.

As a single adult, when I had to bring food to parties, for years it was deviled eggs. First thing, one needed to know how to crack open the egg so that the albumen wasn't carried off on the shell. While running cold water on the egg, crack both ends of the egg, flatter end first. Last time I tried this, it worked almost every time. Then figuring out the right amount of mayo (never that Miracle Whip stuff), mustard and pepper. Always paprika for color.

When my wife was pregnant with our daughter, we were using something called the Bradley method, which involved exercise, diet and a way of empowering parents before the event. One tenet in the diet for the prospective mom: "Every day of the week you and your baby should have two eggs (hard boiled, in french toast, or added to other foods)." Initially my wife found this incredibly onerous, because she glommed onto the two eggs part without noting the parenthetical aside. I'm not saying it was the eggs, but she had a near-perfect delivery of Lydia.

I'll eat eggs almost any way they're cooked. They are complementary with so many foods: pancakes and waffles, sausage and bacon, toast and English muffins, cottage cheese. Yes, I'm the one who likes the cottage cheese. Though raw eggs? No, thank you.

But I am otherwise a fan of the
Incredible Edible Egg

Eggs and cholesterol.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

20 Men I Admire

Here's a meme that I found on Mr. Frog's site and then I was tagged by Jaquandor. You're supposed to name 20 men you admire. So, here I go. But first a couple of things for the participants:

A. Link back to the blog that tagged you.
B. Link back to the originator of this meme, which is The Dino Lounge.
C. Create your own list of 20 men that you admire and post them on your blog.
D. Tag 5 other people to participate in this meme.
E. If you like, please let The Dino Lounge know that you've participated in this meme so he can check out your posting and comment on it.

I was going to wait to do the neat photo montage that Mr. Frog and Jaquandor did, but I find that I was too impatient to learn how.

Initially, I was intimidated by the project because I thought it had to be the 20 men I'd admired MOST. How would I winnow THAT?

I also decided to limit the list to Americans of the last 200 years (except Lennon, because it's my list). Otherwise, we're talking daVinci, Copernicus...

I've actually met four people on this list: Seeger, Serling, Speigelman and Warren.

Muhammad Ali - a big admirer of Jack Johnson, Ali actually won his court case, ultimately.
Bill Cosby - listened to him forever on records; can quote without prompting.

Frederick Douglass (pictured) - among other things, an early feminist
W.E.B. duBois
Thomas Edison - for the phonograph alone, I'm thankful
Benjamin Franklin - I'm an almanac guy
Woody Guthrie - spoke of America in a most telling way
Thomas Jefferson - wonderfully conflicted guy
Martin Luther King Jr. - the strength of his Gandhian methodology. His April 1967 sermon against the Vietnam war was one off the most pivotal documents in my life.
John Lennon - when we played the Beatles, I WAS John
Willie Mays - the greatest living baseball player
Bill Moyers - opening the dialogue without being disagreeable
Carl Reiner - performer, writer, producer of a lot of entertainment I enjoyed
Paul Robeson - could pick him just on the voice alone

Jackie Robinson - just because
Pete Seeger - his ability to transform music from many cultures is phenomenal
Rod Serling - telling preachy stories about wrong and right without always being preachy
Dr. Seuss - I always especially loved the books where his characters spoke truth to power, such as Bartholemew and the Oobleck, and Yertle the Turtle
Art Speigelman - I loved his RAW magazine; then he created an even more amazing work
Earl Warren - liberties we take for granted, such as right to counsel and Miranda warnings we can credit (or blame, if you're of that inclination) the Warren Court

I'm not feeling the need to tag, although if Gordon, Rebecca, Uthaclena, Kelly or anyone else wants to, fine.


Monday, February 16, 2009

The Missing Presidents

I know an astonishing amount of information about the 43 men who've served as the 44 Presidents of the United States: party affiliation, terms of office, even, for many, major Cabinet officers.

But I know almost nothing about these fellows:
* Samuel Huntington (March 1, 1781– July 9, 1781)
* Thomas McKean (July 10, 1781–November 4, 1781)
* John Hanson (pictured) (November 5, 1781– November 3, 1782)
* Elias Boudinot (November 4, 1782– November 2, 1783)
* Thomas Mifflin (November 3, 1783– October 31, 1784)
* Richard Henry Lee (November 30, 1784– November 6, 1785)
* John Hancock (November 23, 1785– May 29, 1786)
* Nathaniel Gorham (June 6, 1786– November 5, 1786)
* Arthur St. Clair (February 2, 1787– November 4, 1787)
* Cyrus Griffin (January 22, 1788– November 2, 1788)
Hanson became the first President of Congress to be elected for an annual term as specified in the Articles of Confederation, although Huntington and McKean had served in that office after the ratification of the Articles. There's even a website seling coins of The Forgotten Founders.

I fully recognize that the powers of the Presidency were far different (i/e., weaker) under the Articles of Confederation than under the Constitution. still, I don't think they should be totally forgotten.
The 44 Presidents

12 Things You Don't Know About the White House. Actually, I knew four.
Barack Obama's historic victory probably ended any chance that someone born during the 1930s will become president. This makes it the only decade from the 1730s to the 1940s that failed to produce either a president or vice president.
The 1940s already have given us two presidents — Bill Clinton and George W.Bush — and four vice presidents — Dan Quayle, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, and Joe Biden...Presidential contenders from the 1930s included John McCain, Michael Dukakis, Ted Kennedy, Ross Perot and Gary Hart.
U.S. Grant obit from the New York Times
During the frenzy over whether Barack Obama was a "natural born citizen, I came across this, FWIW: Chester Arthur was a British subject at the time of his birth.
Presidents of the United States: Resource Guides
Debunking the Presidents


Sunday, February 15, 2009


I really needed to see the new Pixar film WALL*E because the first two people I know who saw it really disliked it. Given its otherwise high critical praise, this was a real motivator. I also decided to see if I could, for the first time, have my daughter watch a full-length movie; we've failed with Enchanted, Stuart Little and a couple others.

So, for that first 20 minutes, I was a bit distracted. I was taken in by the charms of the cleaning and collecting robot but would the child be like-minded? Actually, she was OK until EVE came and started blasting all over the place. And when she started blowing things up in the vicinity of our hero, that was the end of that. For her.

For me, it's when it really started getting interesting. Sure it has those somewhat heavy-handed apocalyptic imagery. Ultimately, though it was a story of heroism, changing from a state of inertia to a state of action. And of course, it was a love story.

In this economic climate, the fact that we ARE producing so much garbage, and that we should think about consuming and producing less of it, is a timely lesson that I got without feeling as though I'd been ho=it over the head with it.

I "get" the less than enthusiastic early reviewers, though. Perhaps too intense for some younger kids, though other kids really like it. On the other hand, animation is not just for kids, and perhaps never was.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day QUESTIONS

About a month ago, I stopped at the florist shop and got my wife some flowers, for no reason at all except that she likes flowers, I hadn't gotten her any recently, and I happened to be walking by the shop (Saturday buses take a while in Albany). I the same way I was inspired to celebrate her last month, I'm rather disinclined to do much about "Valentine's Day" this month.

I think it's what Frank Zappa said in a different context, "enforced recreation." And while I'm cooll with Thanksgiving being set aside for thanks, I'm less inclined to want to set aside a day to romance. Maybe it's because there's been enough years where February 14 was merely a reminder of relationships past.

In any case, all my wife wants for Valentine's Day are some Lindt's chocolates and for me to organize my armoire so that all of the doors actually close. She actually finds orderliness to be romantic.

This is not to say that we won't have our monthly date. The child's daycare is open on Washington's Birthday, and we both have the day off, so we're going out to lunch and a movie - together!

1. What, if anything, are you doing for Valentine's Day?

2. What do you consider romantic? What does your partner (or previous partner) think?
How You Can Be Romantic Every Day from
For the cynical only: Unverified factoids, stolen from who knows where

Valentine's Day is the busiest day of the year for private investigators, it seems that 80% of external ‘affairs’ spend at least a portion of the day with the other person, making this a great day to get caught.
The unofficial ‘record’ for multiple secret “long-term relationships” at the same time is believed to be 6 by a traveling salesman and 3 by a woman. Just thinking about that probably scares most of us and proves that men are the larger idiots! (Although women seem to be catching up!)
Contrary to popular belief, Valentines Day and selecting February as the romantic month was a man’s selection, something about if we must have a romantic month, it should be after the Super Bowl, before March Madness and definitely the shortest month of the year.

So, if you haven’t been wished a Happy Valentines Day, allow me. If you have been, consider yourself lucky, and if you received several cards, gifts or candies, enjoy the month and don’t get caught!


Friday, February 13, 2009

Is it bad luck?

I have long been fascinated with all things related to the calendar. Last February, I received three biweekly paychecks, a phenomenon that's possible only once in about every 56 years.

This year, we're having two Friday the 13ths in a row, in February and March. This only happen when February 1 is on a Sunday AND February is NOT a leap year, or about thrice every 28 years. (I say "about" because the non-leap year century marks such as 1900 and 2100 throw off the calculation.)

I was born in 1953, which was one of those years. Subsequent paired Friday the 13th years were in 1959, 1970, 1981, 1987, and 1998. The next ones will be in 2015, 2026, 2037, 2043, and 2054, when I'd be 101.

This means my birthday will be on a Saturday, same as my birth day. (Hey, hearts players, game at my house on that day.) This would be more special had I not made the decision years ago to take off my birthday from work anyway. So this year, I'll take off the day before my birthday and get a massage.

The one downside is that I was unable to go to the annual MidWinter's party in the MidHudson of New York State, about an hour and a half south of Albany. Usually, the first Saturday of February is followed by the first Sunday of the month, and I can blow off that one church service. However, this year, the first Saturday is followed by the SECOND Sunday, which begins our church's Black History Month celebration.

In fact, I was leading the conversation in the Adult Education class this past Sunday, using that NAACP timeline as a starting point. Conversations about whether to show the D.W. Griffith movie "Birth of a Nation" or how public education has become resegregated in the decades after Brown vs. Board of Education ensued.

All in all, I'm feeling pretty lucky today, all things considered.
I'm Lucky by Joan Armatrading, from the Walk Under Ladders album

I'm lucky
I'm lucky
I don't need a bracelet
No salt
For my shoulder
I don't own a rabbit
No clover
No heather
No wonder
I'm lucky

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The NAACP and Abraham Lincoln

Today marks the centennial of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The linkage to Lincoln was more than coincidental. Mary White Ovington, one of the founders, wrote in 1914: "In the summer of 1908, the country was shocked by the account of the race riots at Springfield, Illinois. Here, in the home of Abraham Lincoln, a mob containing many of the town's 'best citizens,' raged for two days, killed and wounded scores of Negroes, and drove thousands from the city. Articles on the subject appeared in newspapers and magazines. Among them was one in the Independent of September 3rd, by William English Walling, entitled "Race War in the North." She and others heard Wailing's call to address the issue, and it was decided "that a wise, immediate action would be the issuing on Lincoln's birthday of a call for a national conference on the Negro question."

I will recommend to you the timeline of the organization's history. You may also be interested in reading Chairman Julian Bond's 2008 NAACP Convention speech, where among other things, he castigates virtually every US President of the 20th Century, save for LBJ, on the issue of race. I note this only in the context of those who believe that "freedom" was achieved in 1865 or shortly thereafter.

It feels to me, though, that the group is probably more known these days for its Image Awards (airing again tonight on FOX, feting Muhammad Ali) than for its import in the civil rights movement. The current president lays out the goals for the next century.
This is also the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. Has there been anyone in the last 1900 years written about more often?

So, I was interested to note that the Library of Congress will digitally scan "The Heroic Life of Abraham Lincoln: The Great Emancipator" as the 25,000th book in its "Digitizing American Imprints" program, which scans aging 'brittle' books often too fragile to serve to researchers. The program is sponsored by a $2 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Library, which has contracted with the Internet Archive for digitization services, is combining its efforts with other libraries as part of the open content movement. The movement, which includes over 100 libraries, universities and cultural institutions, aims to digitize and make freely available public-domain books in a wide variety of subject areas.

All scanning operations are housed in the Library’s John Adams Building on Capitol Hill. Internet Archive staff work two shifts each day on 10 "Scribe" scanning stations. The operation can digitize up to 1,000 volumes each week. Shortly after scanning is complete, the books are available online at Books can be read online or downloaded for more intensive study. The Library of Congress is actively working with the Internet Archive on the development of a full-featured, open-source page turner. A beta version, called the Flip Book, is currently available on the Internet Archive site.
With Malice Toward None: Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

D is for Dogs

When I was growing up, we were not a dog-owning family; we were cat people, mostly because of space. Dogs need to have more legroom than our tiny yard could afford.

We did have one dog, though, an Alaskan husky called Lucky Stubbs. He was a good dog, but prone to nipping people. It was OK when he nipped me, but when he nipped one of the minister's daughters, that was it. He ended up on a nearby farm.

I like dogs OK, but they don't seem to like me. I used to ride my bicycle down Avon Road in Binghamton, NY. Not a dog in sight. Next thing I knew I was surrounded by barking canines. The only thing to do was to stop and walk. (Avon, BTW, was a dead-end street that ran to the river; there was no alternate route.)

I've had similar experiences around Albany, and once in Jamestown, NY where this Irish setter about the size of a small Shetland pony bounded across a field to harass me. I certainly couldn't outrun him, so I stopped, started walking with my bike until he felt that his turf was safe, then went back to riding. I know some people use various dog repellents, but I am disinclined.

Unfortunately, my daughter seems to be canine wary. Frankly, this surprises me. Her first daycare, which she went to from age 6 months to 16 months, had an obnoxious daschund who barked all of the time, and she seemed unfazed. Yet, for a couple years, any dog nearby sent her into the arms of a parent. During the worst phase of this, I visited a friend in Rhode Island, who was convinced that a weekend with his very nice old dog would cure her of her fears. Instead, she spent the week at home all jumpy and clingy.

When we used to walk around the block, a pair of dachshunds would come and bark at us. Despite being behind a fence, they were a bit much to listen to. (I heard at a party this weekend that, due to the unmelted snow, they can now bark with their heads OVER fence. Great, just great...)

The daughter's fear has morphed into merely not wanting to be in a direct line with a dog. When we get on the bus and she doesn't immediately run to the back of the bus to sit down, I know there must be a guide dog on board. She's OK as long as I am between her and the animal.

And there is ONE dog she actually likes, an old setter down the street named Lucy. So I hold out hope that one day, she'll be OK with the Rovers of the world.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

R is for

Memes are useful when you're running out of time, because life gets in the way or if you suffered from food poisoning a few days back and are still in a low energy mode. Besides, if it's good enough for Evanier it's good enough for me.

The way this works is that each answer you give has to start with the same letter as your first name. You're not allowed to repeat an answer and if you're "tagged" by someone whose name starts with the same first letter, you can't repeat any of their answers, either. Here's what I came up with...

1. What is your name: Roger
2. A four letter word: Rote
3. A boy's name: Raymond
4. A girl's name: Roberta
5. An occupation: Receptionist
6. A color: Red
7. Something you wear: Raincoat
8. A food: Rutabaga
9. Something found in the bathroom: Rubbing alcohol
10. A place: Racine, WI
11. A reason for being late: Ripped
12. Something you shout: "Raid!"
13. A movie title: Real Life
14. Something you drink: Rum
15. A musical group: Rascals, who used to be Young
16. An animal: Raccoon
17. A street name: Remsen Street (there's one in Brooklyn, but I was thinking of Cohoes and Troy, around Albany)
18. A type of car: Rolls Royce
19. A song title: "Raggmopp" (Mills Brothers, Treniers, Ames Brothers, and Beany and Cecil)
20. A verb: Rinse

I tag anyone named Quentin or Zelda. Question to those outside the U.S. - can you get to the Beany and Cecil video? (You don't have to watch it, just open it).


Monday, February 09, 2009


The 45th anniversary of the Beatles' appearance on Ed Sullivan cannot go unmentioned here. Still working on my comprehensive list of songs, but in the meanwhist, as they in "Life of Brian" (George Harrison was a big Monty Python fan):

On episode #5602 of JEOPARDY!, which aired 6 January 2009, there was a whole category of BEATLES LYRICS
$200: "Sont les mots gui vont tres bien ensemble tres bien ensemble"
$400: "Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door, who is it for?"
$600: "You say yes I say no you say stop and I say go go go"
$800: "Beep beep mm, beep beep, yeh!"
$1000: "I once had a girl, or should I say she once had me"
Answers below.
One of those music memes that was circulating a few years ago:
Artist/Band: The Beatles
Are you male or female: Rocky Raccoon; Mr. Moonlight
Describe yourself: Fixing a Hole; Fool on a Hill
How do some people feel about you: Come Together; Day Tripper
How do you feel about yourself: Long and Winding Road; Getting Better
Describe what you want to be: Something; Bad Boy
Describe how you live: Twist and Shout; Searchin'
Describe how you love: Ain't She Sweet; A Taste of Honey; All My Loving; All You Need Is Love
Share a few words of wisdom: Tomorrow Never Knows; Wait; Get Back
The Beatles (1963-70)

Beatles hit about a street on which people congregate and create plays on words: Punny Lane
Any Time At All "a unique musical blend of The Beatles and Traditional Irish and American Flatpicking tunes"
JEOPARDY responses: "Michelle", "Eleanor Rigby", "Hello Goodbye", "Drive My Car", "Norwegian Wood"; all ultimately answered correctly, though "hello Goodbye" was muffed by two contestants before the third got it right.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Blue Nevus

When I saw my primary care physician back in November, she asked me how long I had had that discoloration on my scalp.
I said, "What are you talking about?"
Indeed, there was something there, though neither my wife or I had noticed it. My doctor wanted me to see a dermatologist. Naturally, that takes awhile.
So it was only 10 days ago when I went to the dermatologist, who said, "Ah, you have a blue nevus."
Now does that not sound like a car or a flower or perhaps something in space?
No, the blue nevus is a variant of a common mole. It is composed of melanocytes, the cells which produce the melanin pigment, which have a spindled to epithelioid appearance. This nevus gets its name from the distinct clinical appearance because of the pigmented cells within the dermis.

So what should I do about it? I noted that my doctor saw it in November but had not seen it in my ptrevious annual visit. Its recent appearance was an issue for my dermatologist; if I had had it for 20 years, he wouldn't have thought much about it. This not being the case, he said he thought we should have it removed.
I said when should we do that?
He said, "Now, if you're up for it."
He numbed the surface with a topical liquid, then gave me a shot (which didn't hurt), then removed the nevus, needeing three stitches to patch me up. It was a bit more bloody gauze than I would have expected from such a little mole.

I was to come back this past Thursday to remove the stitches and to get the results of the biopsy. I wasn't worried, since these are almost always benign. On the other hand, in the United States, Blue nevi are most frequently noted in Asian populations, where the prevalence is estimated to be 3-5% in adults. They are found in 1-2% of white adults and are rarely found in blacks.

So I'm atypical. "Blue nevi are twice as common in women than in men." Also, "Rare cases of malignant melanoma have been reported arising in association with cellular blue nevi."

I return to the dermatologist as scheduled, got the stitches out and good news about the nevus. The one down side is that it was deep, and it might come back someday, so I may undergo this procedure in the future.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

QUESTIONS about Comfort Food listed the top 25 comfort foods, each linked to an appropriate recipe either traditional or updated.

Here's my take on each:
• Apple Pie - I like; maybe with vanilla ice cream, it's comfort food,
• Baked Beans - not a huge fan. Hated as a kid, will eat now. No.
• Banana Pudding - more likely vanilla pudding with sliced bananas in it
• Beef Stew - maybe
• Brisket Pot Roast - probably
• Chicken & Dumplings -possibly, though haven't had in years
• Chicken Pot Pie - eh, it's OK, but not comfort food.
• Chicken Soup - no. Mushroom soup, yes.
• Chili - I like chili, but never thought of as comfort food.
• Chocolate Chip Cookies - there was this local brand called Freihoffer's which made the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. Either they've changed the formula or my taste buds have changed, but they just don't do it for me anymore.
• Corn on the Cob - like it, not comfort food
• Fried Chicken - comfort food
• Gelatin - I only eat when I'm sick, so comfort food
• Green Bean Casserole - not a big fan
• Hot Dogs - not really. Saturday lunch or the ballpark.
• Ice Cream - sometimes
• Macaroni & Cheese - almost always, especially baked, the way my wife makes it. My daughter won't even touch the stuff with the dayglo cheese powder.
• Mashed Potatoes - can be, depending on the mood
• Meatloaf - mash potatoes with meatloaf - now THAT'S comfort food
• Potato Salad - no. I eat it, but does not meet the level of pleasure necessary.
• Pumpkin Pie - no. I like it fine, but doesn't quite get there
• Shepherd's Pie - I didn't even know what this was until about 15 years ago when, with the help of my girlfriend (now wife), I made it for 40 people I can see how it could be comfort food, but I always associate it with stressing over g=feeding a large number of folks.
• Spaghetti - no, and I do like spaghetti.
• Tomato Soup - not fond of tomato soup. Actively HATED Campbell's tomato soup as a child, haven't tried it since.
• Tuna Casserole - probably.

I suppose it's definitional - it's the stuff I like to eat when I'm sick or melancholy.

1. How would you rate the foods on this list as comfort foods?
2. What else wouuld you consider comfort food. Can't think of anything else except Oreos with milk.


Friday, February 06, 2009

Do You Believe In Thaumaturgy?

My friend, the Hoffinator, wrote: "The headline I read included the phrase, 'the thaumaturgic abilities of professors...' I was curious, so I looked it up. Thaumaturgy is the performance of miracles. See if you can work it into a conversation….."
thaumaturgy [THAW-muh-tuhr-jee]-noun
The performance of miracles or magi.
thaumaturgic [thaw-muh-TUR-jik]–adjective
1. pertaining to a thaumaturge or to thaumaturgy.
2. having the powers of a thaumaturge.
thaumaturge [THAW-muh-turj]–noun
a worker of wonders or miracles; magician.
Also, thaumaturgist.
Interesting word. But it got me thinking that if pop songs replaced the word magic and its variants with thaumaturgy and ITS variants, it would make for some terrible scansion:

Black Thaumaturgic Woman by Santana

Thaumaturgic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf

Do You Believe In Thaumaturgy by the Lovin' Spoonful

My Baby Must Be a Thaumaturge by the Marvelettes -hmm, actually that work, scansion-wise

Emotionally intelligent signage
The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community.
-Ann Strong, Minneapolis Tribune, 1895
DIY Dryer Sheets
Mix one part liquid softener to four parts water and place in an old spray bottle. Spray some on a dedicated washcloth and toss in the dryer along with the clothes. One bottle of liquid fabric softener lasts a very long time.
Here's the website that has a lot of other good tips.
Mark Evanier linked to the opening of a mid-1960s TV show called Branded, starring Chuck Connors ("The Rifleman"). My sisters and I used to play "Branded". We'd sing the theme together and take turns being the commander breaking the "sword" over our knees. (Usually it was a stick, but we also used to rip this piece of thin cardboard that used to be on the hangers when they came back from the dry cleaners.) And yes, I still know the song by heart.
Cool pics of the universe


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Overheard cellphones

All of these events happened in January 2009.

I'm riding the bus when I hear this person behind me, evidently on a cellphone, start a conversation with "Yo, b***"". Now, I'm not one to judge how others treat their friends, but that was, in a public setting, distracting. More disturbing, though, was this person's apparent vendetta against some 3rd party. Apparently, the person on the other line said something conciliatory re: said 3rd party, but my caller said, "When I hate someone, I really HATE 'em!"

Then the 2nd party mentions the 3rd party's mother. 1st party: "Oh, someone should just SHOOT HER!" I discovered that the 1st party, who turned out to be male (but with a higher-pitched voice, which threw me on my identification) was 1) from out of town and 2) going to go to the military recruiting station. I realized that if this person did not notice the building, I wouldn't tell him. Alas, he did find it.

You should understand that, as a librarian and as a Christian, I always try to help someone when I can. I was walking by another person who was standing in the 200 block of Washington Avenue, but told someone on her cellphone (a friend or a cab) that she was on the 200 block of Central Avenue. It was an easy mistake; this particular block is across the street from the FIRST block of Central Avenue. So I interrupted the caller and corrected her; she was very appreciative.

The would-be recruit, though, I would have let ride past his stop until he was miles away. I realized that this person, so filled with hate, and proud of it, I didn't really want in the U.S. military. I was surprised that I could develop such an antipathy for someone whose face I never saw until he deboarded the bus. I wonder how good the psychological testing is for those entering military service?

Oh, and speaking of cellphones: I was crossing the street and this woman, I thought, was calling to me. No, she was on one of those hands-free devices, and when I turned around, she looked at me as though I were crazy. I have long thought that if EVERYONE had one of those instruments, we could all going around talking, with no one would know if we were talking to others or just to ourselves, and no one would know who really WAS crazy.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

C is for Cash

I felt that Johnny Cash was one of those characters that kept drifting in and out of my awareness. As a child, I was vaguely aware of him from his later 1950s like I Walk the Line (#17 pop, #6 country) and the even bigger pop hit Guess Things Happen That way (#11 pop, #8 country). 1963's Ring of Fire was also a crossover hit.

Johnny Cash went through some commercially desolate years due in no small part to his drug use. Then in 1968, now clean, he decided to do a concert in Folsom Prison, California in January, which was released as an album in May of that year. Despite less than enthusiastic support of his record company, Columbia, the album became a big country hit. More surprisingly, it also became a crossover hit, getting up #13 on the pop charts. Jann Wenner, from a relatively new periodical called Rolling Stone, touted the album, which undoubtedly helped fuel its rise. Even more successful was his album At San Quentin, which spawned the #2 pop hit, A Boy Named Sue, penned by Shel Silverstein.

This led to Johnny getting a primetime show on ABC-TV for a couple years, featuring a wide range of artists including Louis Armstrong, Neil Diamond, Arlo Guthrie, Merle Haggard, Joni Mitchell, Odetta, Minnie Pearl, Pete Seeger, and many more.

Of course, even success has its downside. Contrary to the legend about one of his signature songs, Johnny Cash had taken a Gordon Jenkins tune called Crescent City Blues and changed it to Folsom Prison Blues.

He told Sun Records what he'd done, and eventually Jenkins, who said he had no problem with it. The version in 1955 was a relatively minor hit but the 1968 live version on Columbia was massive, and Jenkins (apparently pushed by his publisher) sued Cash and received a settlement. There is an album called Johnny Cash: Roots and Branches; you can hear 30 seconds of Crescent City Blues here; you can also read an analysis of Folsom Prison's most iconic line, "I shot a man in Reno" here. Somehow, this ripoff of an existing song didn't bother me as much as others, especially given the fact that John had 'fessed up.

Johnny Cash, Live at San Quentin - Folsom Prison Blues

John continued with an up-and-down profile. He'd show up in supergroups such as the Highwaymen (Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson) in 1985 or the Class of '55 (Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison) in 1986; I have the latter on something called vinyl, BTW. But it wasn't until a friend of mine sent me American Recording, the 1994 first album he performed produced by rock/hip hop producer Rick Rubin. The sparse sound was a revelation and I rediscovered Johnny Cash in that series of American albums: Unchained, Solitary Man, and The Man Comes Around, plus the posthumous A Hundred Highways and a boxed set. The defining song in his later years, of course was the Nine Inch Nails song Hurt.

Justin Timberlake, who beat out Johnny for a video award, said publicly that John should have one for Hurt and later conceived the posthumous video for God's Gonna Cut You Down.

Johnny Cash died September 12, 2003, just months after his beloved wife, June Carter Cash passed away.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Day The Music Died

I feel as though I "knew" Buddy Holly. I've owned and listened to his songs by him and the Crickets

and also through the cover versions by the Beatles (Words of Love), Linda Ronstadt and lots of others. Little wonder that Paul McCartney snatched up the rights to Buddy's songs. I also saw the The Buddy Holly Story with Gary Busey in the lead.

I felt as though I was familiar with Richie Valens,


between the Los Lobos cover of La Bamba and the movie La Bamba with Lou Diamond Phillips.

I have little feel, though, for The Big Bopper. I know that his son had him exhumed under some bizarre paranoid theory that the Big Bopper survived the plane crash but was shot and killed going for help. But other than the one slightly randy hit Chantilly Lace, he's a mystery.

Of course today mars the 50th anniversary of the deaths of these three musicians in an Iowa plane crash. I was alive but too young to remember the event first hand.

At the end of my 35-year high school reunion, someone had everyone stand around to sing. I had no idea what it'd be. Turned out to be American Pie, which I thought was kind of weird, in as much as it came out after we all graduated. Some people knew some parts, misremembered others. Here are the lyrics, along with one interpretation of same, not all of which I ascribe to. And here's Don McLean singing it. I saw him in the late 1970s - I'm thinking in Dutchess County, NY, around Poughkeepsie - and of course he HAD to perform it. I wonder if he ever tires of it?


Monday, February 02, 2009

Only in America

I've been pondering all the analysis about the significance of the Obama Presidency. Some say it's the downpayment of the Dream, while others suggest it's the fulfillment of the Dream. I tend toward the former category. I worry that "ah, we have a black President - all of our racial issues are solved!" Also, I would hate for Obama 44 to be the fulfillment if it turns out that he - using a word my wife hates - SUCKED as President. I mean, he's done well out of the gate, but it's not even two weeks out of 208. Also, racial disparities still exist, the Colin Powells and Barack Obamas notwithstanding.

All of this reminded me of a treacly song called Only in America by Jay and the Americans. It was a seemingly innocuous love song by Leiber/Stoller/Weill/Mann.

Only in America
Can a guy from anywhere
Go to sleep a pauper and wake up a millionaire
Only in America
Land of opportunity, yeah
Would a classy girl like you fall for a poor boy like me

Only in America
Can a kid who's washin' cars
Take a giant step and reach right up and touch the stars

Only in America
Could a dream like this come true
Could a guy like me start with nothing and end up with you

But it was the second couplet that caused a bit of controversy:
Only in America
Can a kid without a cent
Get a break and maybe grow up to be President

As done by the Americans, this was fine. But this song was originally written with the black vocal group, the Drifters, in mind. I've read that either Atlantic Records wouldn't release it because it would be too controversial, or the group wouldn't because the lyrics had been watered down.

Regardless, maybe the kid without a cent CAN "get a break and maybe grow up to be President".


WayneJohn's post about time reminded me of another song, also somewhat appropriate in this context:
The Chambers Brothers - Time Has Come Today