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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

K is for Keys

I tend to lose my keys. I'm convinced that it is some sort of deep psychological antipathy regarding the need for them. Surely, one would not even need keys if one did not require locks and we would not have locks but for the dishonesty of some. At least I know it's not just me; just last week, someone giving me a ride to work couldn't find HIS keys; they got thrown in his gym bag but, wrapped around some clothes, failed to make any noise.

When I was younger, I used to be impressed with the number of keys on the key chain of certain people, such as my elementary school custodian. Only later did I find out that the keys were not only a physical burden - a bunch of keys gets heavy over time - but an annoyance as well, having to rifle a couple dozen pieces of metal usually of similar shape, size and color to find the correct one.

My curiosity as a child required me to take off the lock from the front door of my house, as I needed to see how the key worked. Unfortunately, I was unable to put the lock together. Well, technically that's not true; I did put it back together, but there were parts left over, and it no longer worked properly. Interestingly, I don't recall getting in trouble for this act. Apparently, my father was more impressed with my curiosity than annoyed the the inconvenience and expense of getting a new lock.

The early automobiles did not even have keys. It wasn't until 1932, I recently discovered, that Henry G. Key invented the first automobile key. Even then, locking the cars was a sporadic exercise at best in many locales.

I grew up in the upstate New York city of Binghamton, near the Pennsylvania border. It rained quite a bit more than the average city in those days, and cars would often leave their lights on. One particularly dreary day walking home from high school in the late 1960s, I recall going into 22 different cars, opening the door without benefit of a key and turning out the lights. Of course cars are now more sophisticated, and the issue of lights staying on is largely moot. But I couldn't open these cars without a key, even if the need were there.

Of course, like so many other words, key takes on different meanings. Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State since shortly after 1800. From state historic website: The word "keystone" comes from architecture and refers to the central, wedge-shaped stone in an arch, which holds all the other stones in place. The application of the term "Keystone State" to Pennsylvania cannot be traced to any single source...At a Jefferson Republican victory rally in October 1802, Pennsylvania was toasted as "the keystone in the federal union," and in the newspaper Aurora the following year the state was referred to as "the keystone in the democratic arch." The modern persistence of this designation is justified in view of the key position of Pennsylvania in the economic, social, and political development of the United States. Note the different meaning of the word key in the previous sentence.

Conversely, the Florida Keys are comprised of an archipelago of about 1700 islands in the southeast United States. I would never want to live there in hurricane season (June through October), because, from what is pictured on television, there appears to be but one egress from the islands.

The singer Alicia Keys took her last name from the keys on a piano, which she learned to play when she was seven.

As is often the case, I'll end this with some music, not Alicia Keys, or "Brand New Key" by Melanie, or that song by Francis Scott Key, or even the blues standard Key to the Highway. Instead, based entirely on a Twitter post from someone who claims he isn't religious but that Stevie Wonder's Have A Talk With God is just about a perfect song. From the 1976 award-winning album Songs in the Key of Life:

Friend Leah, Albany bus activist, writes:
I popped into KeyBank today to take care of some personal finances when the teller I know gave me the 411. Here it is:

Through [Tuesday, 3/31], you can still purchase a 10-trip pass for $9.50 -- they are definitely available at the KeyBank on State Street between Broadway and S. Pearl Street [in Albany].

Starting April 1, KeyBank will have to sell the exact same passes for $13.00!! Buy [today] and save. Pass it on.

Leah's also cited in All Over Albany.


Monday, March 30, 2009

A Senior Moment

This is a meme I saw at Johnny B's.

Fill this out about your SENIOR year of high school!

1. Did you date someone from your school senior year? Yes, but we broke up shortly after; her choice, not mine.

2. Did you marry someone from your high school? No.

3. Did you car pool to school? No, I walked.

4. What kind of car did you drive? Didn't.

5. What kind of car do you have now? We have an Avalon.

6. It's Friday night...where were you (in high school)? At a party - it as more hanging out, i suppose.

7. It is Friday night...where are you(now)? Home, unless we get a babysitter.

8. What kind of job did you have in high school? Page at the Binghamton Public Library

9. What kind of job do you do now? Librarian for the NYS Small Business Development Center

10. Were you a party animal? We had a group who hung out together.

11. Were you considered a flirt? By some

12. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir? Choir

13. Were you a nerd? Possibly

14. Did you get suspended or expelled? No, but I did get reprimanded.

15. Can you sing the fight song? I know the alma mater; did we HAVE a fight song?

16. Who was/were your favorite teacher(s)? There was a young English teacher, but for the life of me, I've forgotten her name.

17. Where did you sit during lunch? Cafeteria

18. What was your school's full name? Binghamton Central HS

19. When did you graduate? 1971

20. What was your school mascot? Bulldog.

21. If you could go back and do it again, would you? Knowing what I know now, my initial reaction was that I would. But upon further reflection, instead of being a "good" kid, I probably WOULD have been suspended. Or expelled.

22. Did you have fun at Prom? It was OK. The them was "All Things Must Pass", based on the George Harrison song. But I remember better going to see Midnight Cowboy afterwards.

23. Do you still talk to your prom date? We're friends, but we've been out of touch. I did go to her wedding a few years back.

24. Who was your best friend? Karen Durkot or Carol Bakic. The reasons I went to my 35th anniversary reunion in 2006.

25. What did you want to be when you grew up? A lawyer.

26. Any regrets? Yes and no. Wish I were braver, but the way it turned out had value.

27. Biggest fashion mistake? I was oblivious to fashion - still am, actually - so if I had any, I didn't know. Now I seriously don't remember.

28. Favorite fashion trend? Ditto. I have no idea. Though I do recall girls wearing culottes. In my sophomore year, they were banned; by senior year, they were standard.

29. Are you going to your next reunion? Perhaps.

30. Who did you have a secret crush on? By senior year, I was happy in my relationship, which would come to a crashing halt four months later.

31. Did you go on spring break? Not that I recall.



Sunday, March 29, 2009

Roger Answers Your Questions, Lynn

I have a strong idea who Lynn is, but I'm not positive.

Why do you believe in god (assuming you do)?

Yes, I do. Part of it is faith. Part of it is the sense of the wonder and beauty of the world - for me, particularly music - that God seems self-evident. And part of is that, in a much more enlightened, scientific world, is the otherwise unexplanable, which I attribute to God.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Yes, probably, maybe, perhaps, but other than being closer to God, not clear what that means. In any case, it is not the focus of my life.

Do you think that non-believers are doomed in the afterlife?

Non-believers of what? Most religions suggest some type of life after this one. I'm a Christian; do I believe that a devout Jew, Hindu, Muslim is going to hell? Well, no, I don't, if there is one, which I'm sure some would consider sacrilege, but there it is. In any case, it's not my call, and again frankly where I'm concentrating.

Jesus said that we don't know know the time the Lord will come again. Some people seem to have taken that as an excuse to sit by the door, waiting for the Resurrection. I happen to believe that kind of thinking is blasphemy. We should be busy feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and otherwise loving one's brothers and sisters, our primary tasks.

And what IS hell? Separation from God. I was watching the soon-to-be-canceled TV series Life on Mars, and a couple cops on a stakeout got into a conversation about life after this one. One cop decided heaven, and I'm paraphrasing here, had to do with having all the pizza and sex one could want. And hell is being on the other side looking at all those people in heaven eating pizza and having sex. Don't know that I'd subscribe exactly to that notion, but the apartness from God would be hell.

What do you think of the theory of evolution in relation to religion?

Ah, the easy question. I find them totally compatible. Some people, and a lot of them are Christians, seem to have confused physical truth and metaphysical truth. The Bible is not a history book; it's allegory and poetry. Is it true? Sure, the same way a good movie or poem or song can true, not factually but at its core.

Let's take the Creation. Do I think the earth was literally built in six days, as we now understand the concept of "day"? I do not. But that there was an evolution of the world, where humans arrive fairly late in the game is pretty consistent with most science. My Jehovah's Witness buddy said just this week that the notion of earth literally being put together in six days is "silly".

More important is the notion of resting on the Sabbath, which is far more consistently stated in the Bible. In the 10 Commandments. In the story about manna from heaven that was supposed to be collected only six days, with a double portion on that sixth day and none on the seventh. The message of setting aside time for reflection makes sense, even in a secular world, does it not?
Neil Gaiman is not a Scientologist.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

On and On Question

But first, may I express my disdain for this white-collar criminal who stole over $110,000 and got no jail time. Meanwhile, someone who recently stole $600 of returnable bottles and cans got six months in jail. As it turns out, I was unfortunate enough to know Felix; he made my life and the lives of some of my colleagues quite difficult, and there are any number of us who wanted to see him behind bars. Feh.

Did you ever want to get a particular piece of information one time, but because you have to sign up, you end up getting mailing/e-mails, etc. ad naseum? That happens to me a lot at work. I used to get stuff from some pizza manufacturing association. I still receive material from associations dealing with everything from raising alpacas to designing car washes.

I DID sign up for New York's complete state government payroll, which was posted for 2008 recently on, the government transparency website sponsored by the Empire Center for New York State Policy.

But sometimes, I keep getting stuff with no effort on my part. I made reference to an independent film in this blog and now I keep getting their literature. I wrote about the black bicycle champion Major Taylor in this blog, and I keep getting their mailings. It doesn't bother me; I just find it interesting.

AARP sent me information on joining six years ago, and I did, but then failed tpo renew because of their position on some issue or other; they keep trying to get me back, though.

So what vestiges of information that you may have wanted in the past but no longer desire pops up in your mailbox, electronic or snail?
Just yesterday, we received a call from 1-954-636-1087. We didn't answer and the caller ID did not identify the company. I was curious, though, who it might be; I had faxed something to Florida earlier that day, and I did not want to blow off a legit call. I discovered 800 notes, where people can leave messages about unknown calls. For the number in question, there were a number of recent notices. One contributor discovered the number belongs to something called My Major. "I asked what kind of business it was and they said they are a college locator that provides information about people to college advisors so that they can be called back. I told him that I had already graduated and that I didn't want them to call again. He said he was sorry and that I was not in their demographic group, then put my number on a do not call list. I would suggest telling them that you have also graduated (even if you have never gone to college) so that they are not interested in you anymore. I will post again if they call back."
Irving R. Levine died. I wonder how many people reading this blog know who he was; I most certainly did. And Dan Seals, member of a popular singing duo and brother of a member of an even more popular duo, died at 61, which always brings me pause. I picked this obit for the local boy makes good headline.


Friday, March 27, 2009

SOLD OUT Part 2 by John Hebert:

I'd graduated from art school on a Sunday afternoon, then had a few days to goof around, swim, spin my tires and sleep in before Tom Skulan, the guru of FantaCo returned from vacation to (hopefully) officially anoint me the official funnybook arteest of this mysterious project Roger had clued me in on. On that Thursday, I strode into FantaCo to be greeted by Roger and whisked past the rack of comics, fanzines, toys and borderline porn into...THE BACKROOM of the store which was the office and nerve center of the whole operation, not to mention highly top secret and very much off limits to the general populace. It felt cool to be in that elite "club" of people who could pass through that tacky, tacked up curtain behind the shelves and step into the inner workings of a publishing Mecca. This may seem a gushing, drooling bit much but, as so many wanna be comic writers, artists, etc. can attest, when you get to go "behind the curtain" or security door, etc. ala' "The Wizard Of Oz", it's as though you've arrived, made it into the inner circle, etc. I can't even describe the way it felt the first time I was whisked inside the glass security door at Marvel while some hapless and possibly hopeless "shattered dreamers" were left cooling their heels on the couches in the waiting area- it's like an exclusive club and since so many of us were never invited into the exclusive clubs of the world most likely DUE to being into comics and etc., it's nice.

The backroom was kind of dismal and gloomy. Not only was it the office but a storeroom stacked with overstocks of various books, magazines, horror posters and borderline porn and it was definitely un-insulated (more on that later), but in the leftmost corner sat Tom Skulan and his desk from which the empire called FantaCo was run. I'd met Tom several times over the years as a customer but it felt different to be actually "peddling my wares" to him as he had a reputation for being able to draw out the best in his creative people. He stood and offered his hand as Roger re-introduced me to him and gave him an abbreviated version of my life's story, then gestured for me to lay my portfolio out on the desk. I did as directed while proudly repeating the story of my recent completion of art school and coaching by the Zeck-man as Tom flipped through the acetate covered pages, occasionally nodding and mm-hmming approvingly in the quiet but deep Eric Boghosianesque voice that I would come to know well over the next few months (there's a casting suggestion for Mr. S's biopic if ever, right down to the curly black hair). Finally, after what seemed like and eternity of my babbling and Raj and Tom's exchanging of knowing glances not unlike Joe Friday and Bill Gannon, Tom shut the 'port, looked up at me and said, "Okay, here's what we're looking at..." and life was never to be the same again.

The guys broke down the basic plot of what was to become "SOLD OUT", and I loved it from the moment I heard it, even more so than most of the pitches I've gotten over the years from M*rV*l or whomever, this was to be "AN EVENT", and one helluva satirical one at that. The project was to be a 2 issue spoof/indictment/tell all of all that was bad, hypocritical, phony, and just plain screwed up in comics(I figured that would guarantee some 500 or so pages worth of work right off the top) springing from the then overblown independent, black and white(or as we came to say WAAAAYYYY too many times "poorly drawn black and white") comic craze. The book would begin with a 3/4 issue or so retelling of the actual history of the comic book marketplace, mercilessly skewering many a comics personality and practice along the way, then spinning out into what may have come to pass if the black-n-white phenomenon was allowed to continue as it had, eventually pushing the comics market into a world of rampant speculation, greed, corruption and eventually decimation due to a lack of that old adage "Those who do not acknowledge the past are condemned to repeat it."

Before we go any further, let me be the first to say that without reservation, APPROXIMATELY 90% OF WHAT WE EVENTUALLY HAD TO SAY IN THAT LITTLE POORLY DRAWN BLACK AND WHITE COMIC ACTUALLY DID COME TO BE AND WAS EERILY CLOSE TO THE WAY THAT COMICS TOOK A SWAN DIVE IN THE MID-90's, ALTHOUGH WE "PREDICTED IT" IN 1986!!!!!!!!!! You heard it here, folks, go dig up a back issue and give it a read, it's more interesting to read now, some 20 plus years later, but, I digress, we'll come to this later so for now, back to our tale already in progress....

Over the next 45 minutes or so, the 3 or us bounced a lot of ideas off of each other as the project was already obviously writing itself as we went along a la "Casablanca" and the last half of the tale was purposely left to only a brief outline so that we might adapt to the events as they transpired. By the end of our meeting, we'd cited such diverse influences or possible influences as: "Mickey Mouse and The Air Pirates", "Citizen Kane", the graphic novel adaptation of "1941" and The Bible. I was sent off to begin sketches of, of all things, a hamster, a turtle, and a stunned kid in front of an empty comic book rack, and, let me tell you, of all the years I was an illustrator and of all the weird stuff I had to reference and sometimes out and out fake, fudge or swipe to tell a story, there weren't many things tougher to draw than a simple,...... empty,........ comic book rack.....

To be continued in part 3


Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Lydster, Part 60: Lydia is Five

Gordon also asked: "How's the Lydster?"

Well, her birthday is today. I wrote a letter to our Bradley birth instructor this week indicating how important that childhood education was for us. (The birth story, BTW, is here.)

We're planning her birthday party. This will be her first one that wasn't ice cream and cake with the family. Meanwhile, she's been to LOTS of fancier gigs of her friends. It's not a matter of competition, but on the other hand, this one at least, we thought we'd do something at the local museum.

The invitations have turned out to ber more of a chore than we thought. She wants to invite her old friends from day care, some of whom we have no contact info. Meanwhile, she's decided that she doesn't want to invite a couple of her new friends because they recently took her stuffed animal without permission. Her mother suggested that she just not bring the stuffed animal; I say that she's got to speak up when that happens and complain to them and, if necessary, to her teachers. Someone told me kids don't hold a grudge; I'm not convinced that's true with mine.

I was tentatively pleased about the news on the peanut butter allergy front. It'd be nice if, one day, she had one less allergy, since it's about time for the daily sprays to deal with her pollen allergies.

There's a working dog on our bus every morning. She's gone from making sure that I'm between her and the canine to hurrying past it; this is progress.

There's an open house in Albany for kids entering kindergarten this weekend, with registration starting on Monday. Someone suggested that this will make life easier; I'm not convinced. Since we live in walking distance of her school, I'm still not sure how I get her to school and get to work on time. (And by "on time" I'd settle for within a half hour, as opposed to 2.5 hours.) The buses run infrequently to Corporate (frickin') Woods, and kindergarten starts late - 8:45 a.m. Don't know how other parents who both work outside the home deal with this stuff.

Lydia is either going to take her first train ride or first plane ride this year; I haven't decided.

Any specific questions?


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

J is for Jazz

The problem with jazz is that it means everything from Kenny G to Madeleine Peyroux to New Orleans' Preservation Hall Jazz Band. No definition of the American music seems adequate. One I saw recently described it as "cerebral music with rhythm". This one is about as OK as I can find. Even the word itself, the American Dialect Society's Word of the Twentieth Century, has been hard to nail down.

Jazz is about discovery. This article expresses the wonder of discover that jazz can bring.

Ultimately, though, jazz can't be adequately described. It must be experienced. These are all songs I own.
Tutu (live)- Miles Davis
Tutu was one of the last albums I got as an LP; i.e., on vinyl.

Cassandra Wilson - Harvest Moon
A Neil Young cover.

Benny Goodman & His Orchestra - Sing Sing Sing
As the title suggests, this song DOES have lyrics, but I think it's better as an instrumental.

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - STOMPING AT THE SAVOY
Also recommended: any of the Ella Song Books. Or all of them.

Oh, there's so much, I can't do the topic justice.

Here's a peculiar thing about Jazz that perhaps folks not in the United States or Americans who don't follow basketball might not know. There is a basketball team called the Utah Jazz. Utah is not generally known for jazz, and in disposition seems to be the antithesis of that music. The Jazz was formed in New Orleans in 1974, a most likely place for a team with such a nickname, but the team moved to the Rocky Mountains in 1979. (New Orleans got the Hornets, a team formerly in Charlotte, NC in 2002.)


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Roger Answers Your Questions, Scott and Gordon

Our first contestant is soon-to-be-daddy again Scott from Scooter Chronicles:

1. In a previous post, you predicted the winners of each MLB division. Who do you think wins the league pennants, and who wins the World Series?

Once you get to a short series, there are so many variables so it's hard to say. It wouldn't surprise me if it's a wild card like the Boston Red Sox. And, shades, of 1986, I'm going to pick the Mets to beat them.

By the way, Scott - you NEED this: a free, 586-page PDF of the Emerald Guide to Baseball 2009.

2. What is your take on the AIG bonuses? Where do you think the government needs to take this?

First, those noting that the bonuses were a small percentage of the bailout are correct. Second, the first point is totally irrelevant; AIG is totally tone deaf. I've been REALLY uncomfortable with this "too big to fail" label; gives these companies a feeling of entitlement. Given the fact that the average American didn't even know what AIG WAS a year ago, it's unsurprising. The only time I ever saw them was on advertisements on Sunday morning talk shows. So their audience was never the average American, it was the DC movers and shakers.

At this point, with over a sixth of a TRILLION dollars already in, the government isn't going to say to AIG, "Go ahead, go bankrupt," though those bonuses could have been voided if it had. Some of the bonus monies are going to be given back - or deducted from the next check. But if the government is going to nationalize these companies, and they have all but done so - whatever you want to call it - they damn well better job of setting the rules of engagement for giving away lending OUR money. Politically, if not economically, I think the administration needs to try the "clawback" of AIG bonuses; I know that New York State's Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, has been looking at the contracts as well. Here's an interesting article about other money our government might try to recover.

3. Who is your favorite musician? Could be a member of a band, or a solo artist, or whomever. But specifically, a musician.

This is probably influenced somewhat by my birthday present, the 2004 Crossroads Guitar Festival DVD, but I guess I'll pick Eric Clapton. The stuff on the Yardbirds, Derek and the Dominoes, Blind Faith, his early solo stuff, and especially Cream moved me greatly, and that concert showed that sometimes, he's still got it.

4. What is your favorite season of the year?

Spring, beginning of new life. It gets warmer. Oddly, it's also still in Lent, so I get to sing the more mournful stuff in church.

5. Did you read "Watchmen"? If so, what did you think of it? Have any interest in seeing the movie?

I read Watchmen when it came out, and I liked it a lot at the time. I feel as though I should read it again either before or after I see the movie.

Next up, social network maven Gordon from Blog THIS, Pal!

1. Taking a quick business trip to NY City, I want to visit again...but I also want to do more out-of-the-way, quirky places as well as the usual tourist-y stuff. Any suggestions?

The Queens Public Library. Serving the most diverse county in the country, it has a wide variety of collections.

2. Your preliminary thoughts on these early days of the Obama presidency - is he doing right? Way off course?

I have some reservations, but I'm more pleased than displeased. The stuff on Iraq, stem cell research, Gitmo, and much of the stimulus I'm for, especially the emphasis on GREEN jobs and the part about health care, in part because of this story, something Scott has blogged about recently. I loved his apology over the Daschle nomination.

But I'm still not convinced that we're not going into a quagmire in Afghanistan, as the Soviet Union did, if we're not already, and more troops might not help. Also, there were a LOT of vacancies in the Treasury Department with a lot to do. I know he inherited TARP, but it rather stinks.

The other question I'll hold in abeyance.

Still taking more questions!


Monday, March 23, 2009

The Faith Meme

This quiz was a Facebook thing thing I got from Jaquandor (again!)

1. Who gave you your first Bible?

It was so long ago that I have no idea. Best guess, though, would be my paternal grandmother, who was also my Sunday school teacher. Or perhaps it came from the church itself. No doubt, it was a King James Version. Currently, I own the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, Good News, The Way and Good News. I also have New Testament only: Jerusalem Bible and New International Version, and probably others. Additionally, I have handbooks, a concordance, essays and hymnals - quite a few hymnals, actually.

I also have The Book of Mormon, which I tried to read but found boring, as well as a Treasury of Kahlil Gibran. I've had others, but they've disappeared over the years; I don't recall specifically selling them or giving them away.

2. When and where did you receive your first Communion?

No idea, but it was as a child; I "grew up in the church", as people were wont to say.

3. What was the first prayer you were taught?

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

When I learned this as a young child, it didn't bother me, but by the time I was eight or so, it started to really freak me out, actually.

4. What was the first church you attended?

Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Zion (A.M.E. Zion) on Sherman Avenue (or Street) off Carroll Street in Binghamton, NY. The church moved to the corner of Oak and Lydia Streets when I was about seven, just two short blocks from my home.

5. What was the first Bible passage/story that became meaningful to you?

There were so many Bible stories I was taught. I suppose Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace from the Book of Daniel; it may have been their names.

6. What was the first miracle you experienced?

I suppose it was when I started speaking in tongues. I think I've told that story in this blog somewhere, though for the life of me, I cannot find it presently.

7. Where and when were you baptized?

Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church, Binghamton, NY, August 1953, which I know only because I've seen the photo.

Bonus: Is there a story of faith you would like to share that doesn't fit into one of these categories? If so, share it.

I had a "saved" experience when I was nine years old. Oddly, it wasn't at church, but at a Bible study that was maybe a half a block from my church. It almost certainly had to do with a Billy Graham crusade.
Subsequently, I started to go to Friday Night Bible Group, usually with my sister Leslie, for years at the home of Pat and Art Gritman. She was the secretary to Neville Smith, the principal of my elementary/junior high school, Daniel S. Dickinson in Binghamton. She was about 16 years younger than Art; I remember specifically that when she was 48, he was 64.
When I was in high school, I would go to my church in the morning, then walk with my friend Bob Swingle to the Primitive Methodist Church in Johnson City in the evening, not an insubstantial trek on foot. From Bible club and from PM, I could quote chunks of Scripture by heart.
But it was also during high school when doubts about my faith emerged. The notion that, e.g., most people in India, good practicing Hindus, were going to go to hell because they didn't know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and savior became problematic to me, and I drifted away from the church in my twenties, merely dabbling in everything from Baha'ism (the faith of an ex) to Catholicism (often my Christmas and Easter place of choice) to Unitarianism to the Unification Church. It wasn't until the early 1980s when, through music, I found my way back into church, and that was/is a theologically evolving process.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

March Ramblin'

I find myself thinking a lot about Natasha Richardson, which is strange because, unprompted by IMBD, I couldn't tell you one thing I'd seen her in; Nell and the remake of The Parent Trap, as it turns out. Whereas I know about lots of films in which I saw her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, or her husband, Liam Neeson.

Besides the strange way she died, there's that weird argument that always seems to happen when a famous person passes away. In the comments to this nice article in Salon, one person essentially hijacks the issue with "Aren't there more important things in the world to worry about?" Lots of back-and-forth that you can read yourselves. Or not.

My feeling is that if someone is uninterested in a "celebrity death", then he/she oughtn't to pay attention. But it's one thing to say, "I don't care." It's quite another to say, "And you shouldn't either." People should be allowed to grieve even those they've never met, yet because of their artistry or personality or for whatever reason, has moved them in some way. Their loss is real.

And invariably, the death of a celebrity shines a light on the cause of said death, if it's unusual. ("Wear a helmet when skiing!" "No, it's too restricting to see and hear properly.")

I felt the same way when Jennifer Hudson lost three family members to murder. There were those who offered, "People are murdered all the time in Chicago. Why should I care about THIS?" I say: by all means, please don't. But offer not your analysis about "the celebrity culture", as though others might not be moved by the American Idol/Dreamgirls performer's situation. Besides, even in the Windy City, a triple homicide is not an everyday occurrence.
Looks as though I'll still have Dora the Explorer to deal with:
The daughter would normally "age out" of Dora in a year or two. But now that the daughter has dubbed the tween explorer as "beautiful", I guess I'll be stuck with her for a little while longer. Why they just didn't come up with an older cousin so that the original Dora could entertain the younger crowd, I just don't know.
I found this background for a seminar interesting.
In June 2008, the Canadian government introduced Bill C-61, new copyright legislation that closely followed the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The public response to the bill was both immediate and angry - tens of thousands of Canadians wrote to the Minister and their local Members of Parliament, leading to town hall meetings, negative press coverage, and the growing realization that copyright was fast becoming a mainstream political and policy issue.

The "Canadian copy-fight", which includes many new advocacy groups and the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook group that has over 90,000 members, has attracted considerable attention from the mainstream media, with many wondering how copyright had emerged as a contentious policy issue.

So the Canadians are having as much trouble with expanding the copyright law as some Americans did a decade ago, including (need I say) me.
There's an online petition to save Proctor's Theater in Troy, NY from demolition. Apparently, the current plan is to "save the facade" and tack on behind it some ugly badly-built auditorium. The rest of the beautiful building is to end up in the already overloaded landfill in Albany County.

Frankly, I'm not big on online petitions. Frankly, I doubt their efficacy, especially when the signatories include people who are not constituents of the officials taking an action. But the real audience is not so much the folks who run Troy City Hall as it is Governor Paterson. "The city of Troy is applying for a grant from New York State to demolish the theater. The petition to Governor Paterson is asking him to grant money for the renovation of the theater, not its destruction.

"The theater was built in 1914 and remains the last existing grand movie palace in Troy. While the building is in disrepair, it does not need to be torn down. In 1979 Proctor's was placed on National Register of Historic Places - but this distinction may not save it from the wrecking ball."

Anyway, I add my name here because, in some minuscule way, I helped with the renovation of Proctor's in Schenectady in the late 1970s by selling ads and performing in the arcade for an April 1978 fundraiser. It's also the building I worked in for nearly 11 months. Here's a picture of Proctor's Schenectady - Troy's is similar though now in disrepair - but, as the petitioner noted, "with vision and leadership it can look like this again!"

Saturday, March 21, 2009

That Grand Equinox Tradition

Yeah, boys and girls, it's time to ASK ROGER ANYTHING, that time of the year where you, the loyal reader, get to pose whatever questions come into your head, no matter how bizarre. Better still, I HAVE to answer them honestly. Snark is allowed in the response, and it may be the truth, but not the whole truth, but truth nonetheless. Or maybe truthiness; I'm not sure.

I must admit that I love posing questions when other bloggers do this. Jaquandor - he who I hadn't mentioned on this blog since, lessee, yesterday - is in the midst of answering my questions to him here and here and said something extremely nice about me in the former post.

Yet, at some point, I suppose it's kind of peculiar to answer questions when that's what I do all day. Someone asked me - not on the same day - What are the 5 Cs of credit, to which I referred him here, and What is meant by a black kiss. In the context, this latter query was not a reference to this Japanese film or even the Howard Chaykin book, though not having either seen or read these, it's entirely possible that the meaning the requester sought was included within these. The definition he really wanted one can find in the Urban Dictionary.

So please ask away!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Coins of the Realm

The state quarters that the US Mint started putting out in 1999 should have been a natural thing for me to collect. I love the history that is told in the order of the release dates, which weas the order in which the states joined the Union. I KNOW a good chunk of the statehood dates. Once won $1000 because I could put these in chronological order: Oklahoma statehood, California statehood, Nebraska statehood.

Yet, for a full decade, I resisted, and I knew why. It was because I used to collect as a child. I knew just about everything there was to know about 20th century coins, from the years people were represented on them (Lincoln-1909; FDR-1946; JFK-1964, but the latter was quite easy). I knew about the penny being made with steel during World War II because copper was needed elsewhere. I knew about the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco mints; in the day, the latter two were marked as D and S, respectively, but the Philly wasn't marked at all.

Then one day, when I was about 13 or 14, many of my coins disappeared. They were not lost; they were stolen. And I had a pretty good idea who took them, too - the son of friends of my parents from church. But I couldn't prove it, and my parents were afraid of falsely accusing the boy. Still, no one else outside the family could have had access. I had shown this kid, four or five years my junior, my collection of half dollars to keep him busy while our parents chatted.

The theft just sucked the joy out of coin collecting. Forever.

Well, until this year when my colleagues Mary and Alexis decided, just as the 50-state quarters were all released, to start collecting. Their unbridled joy with the process was contagious, and I found myself wrapped up in the process, especially when Alexis ordered online - we couldn't find them in stores anymore - the coin holders. Oh, my! It was the same navy blue cover with lighter blue on the inside that I used to keep my coins as a child, published by a company called Whitman. I didn't remember the brand name, but the look was unmistakable.

First thing I learned in my new hobby: the S coins were only available as proof sets. Second thing was that I had to look carefully to distinguish the P quarters (now marked as such) from the D quarters.

In relatively short order I was able to complete my P set, since the Philly mint distributed its quarters to the banks east of the Mississippi. The D quarters were a bit trickier. Even after my sister, who lives in San Diego, mailed me 19 D quarters as a birthday present, I'm still missing 7 D quarters: PA, MO, AR, TX, WI, WA and HI.

I also have not yet seen any 2009 quarters of either variety; the DC coin is already out, with the Puerto Rico coin due out later this month. I will continue to empty my pockets seeking these elusive coins.

Oh, California statehood took place in 1850, the year after the Gold Rush. I can still recall this map in fifth or sixth grade. States were green and the territories brown; there was a big brown gap north and west of Texas, but California was an oasis of green.
Nebraska statehood. I knew it was after the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854; didn't specifically remember that it was 1867. Why I remember the Kansas-Nebraska Act, I just don't know.
Oklahoma was the easiest. From the Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein musical, I knew it was in 20th century. But it had to be before New Mexico and Arizona in 1912, the latter which I remember because of Barry Goldwater running for President in 1964 and the questions about whether he was a natural-born citizen. Oklahoma statehood turned out to be 1907.

BTW, Jaquandor has started reviewing the coin designs here and here.
Top 5 Worst Coin Investments

How Much Is My Penny Worth?


Thursday, March 19, 2009

SOLD OUT Part 1 by John Hebert

This is the recollection of John Hebert, FantaCo customer, who became John Hebert, FantaCo artist. It's read about yourself with details that you've long forgotten.

Let's see, where to begin, well, how about at THE BEGINNING!?! I'd been trying to break into comics for quite awhile, even managing to get to the point where I was being coached in art from the legendary Mike Zeck- he of Punisher, Captain America and Secret Wars fame due to his growing up in Florida with my life drawing teacher which brings us to the gist of this. I was just about to graduate from The Junior College of Albany with my Associates in Graphic Design, but had no idea where to go from there with no "bites" in big time comics, I, like so many others just graduated or about to graduate feared the onset of the phrase "Would you like fries with that?" but the fickle finger of fate was, as so often in my life, about to beckon out of nowhere.

It was a hot Friday afternoon in May of 1986, and I was on my way to JCA for graduation practice and, for once, I was running EARLY. With time to kill, I decided to slip into FantaCo - the legendary Albany, NY comic shop (and sometimes publishing house) which had been supplying me with my weekly dose of mind-decay for several years and pick up that weeks new comics (that way, I'd have something to read while the windbags were prattling on at grad practice). Anyway, I popped in, grabbed my books and waited patiently in line at the counter whilst one Roger Green rang up customers ahead of me. When it was my turn at the register and the customary greetings had been exchanged, Roger spake the words that legends would be formed from (at least in my mind at the time).

"Hi Raj," I smiled, "How's it goin'?"

"Say, John, are you still drawing?" Roger asked, casually looking up over his glasses while bagging the latest Jerry Ordway opus.

"Yep, sure am, in fact I'm just about to graduate from art school on Sunday, why do you ask?"

Well, we're about to start publishing again.", he said, continuing to bag my books, "... and we might just be in search of an artist."

Oh, man, this couldn't have come at a better time! I immediately went into a long babbling, run-on sentence detailing how I'd been taken under the wing of Mike Zeck, how I was really getting good and how I'd be delighted to grab my ever-present portfolio from the car. I tossed cash on the counter, grabbed my bag o' funnybooks and darted for the door without waiting for my change and ignoring Roger's statements that it could wait. I got out to the steaming sidewalk of Central Ave. and was halfway to the car when it hit me-

"The Car!?!?!" Dammit, for once in my life, I wasn't driving MY car, but that of my grandmother while my beloved, trusty Camaro (which I've owned TWENTY FIVE YEARS as of the day after this writing) sat, with my portfolio nestled in its undersized, yet cushy back seat, in my garage in Wynantskill. Why did I for once, heed my mother's request to give my grandmother's Chevette a "good run and a gas up"?!? I stalked back into the store, hastily explaining my tale of woe to Roger who told me that it would be just fine for me to return on Monday, but I was having NONE of it. Criminals may be a cowardly and superstitious lot, but wanna-be comic arteests are a driven and obsessive lot. I promised I'd be back "in a few" with my portfolio and dashed out the door.

It usually takes around 25 minutes to a half hour to make it from FantaCo's then-location to Stately Hebert Manor in scenic North Greenbush, but that day despite the valiant little Chevy's seemingly anemic 4 cylinder motor, I made it in just over 15 minutes (POSSIBLY bending a speed limit or 3), ran into the house, grabbed my keys, jumped into "Trigger The Wonder Camaro", cranked it over("Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed...") and jetted back to Albany in even less time (POSSIBLY fracturing even more speed limits but I fail to recall). Squealing my tires,I slid into a parking spot right in front of FantaCo, vaulting from the driver's seat, grabbing my battered portfolio and charging into the store, loudly proclaiming that I had returned as Roger stood behind the counter, holding up one index finger for me to wait as 3 oily haired people who looked as though they'd spent way too much time in the basement of some science building stared on blankly.

It seemed to take forever as Roger rang up his customers, at least long enough for me to memorize all of the cast list on the "Dawn Of The Dead" poster on the west wall and the eclectic contents of the display counter while a green latex Yoda mask stared benignly from within.

Finally, Roger beckoned me over to the counter and I threw the 'port up on the scratched glass top and he began to flip through it, closely studying the fruits of my labors, leaving me to fidget and hum. Roger mmm'ed and aaahhh'ed over the Batman and Squadron Supreme pages as I chewed the inside of my cheek raw. By the time he looked up, smiling, I had become sure that one of the tiny glass coffins with "Genuine Transylvanian Dracula Grave Soil" had moved on its own within the case and that the aforementioned Yoda mask had winked at me.

Roger told me that FantaCo was, indeed about to begin publishing some comics once more after a self-imposed hiatus and that an illustrator was needed. He told me that he liked what he was seeing and that as far as he was concerned, I was "it" but that I'd have to wait to talk to Tom (Skulan) the following week as he was on vacation. Great, the carrot was dangled and I had all weekend to sweat it out, but Roger again told me that there shouldn't be a problem as my work had progressed significantly since he'd last seen it and that I was indeed "getting good". I thanked him, vowed to return on Monday and fled to grad practice on cloud nine. Within an hour, I'd told everybody and anybody at grad practice that it looked as though I'd snared my first comic project to the point where I'd been shushed back to the stone age by the rehearsal Nazis, but I didn't care. "It" was happening, and I could tell be the amount of well-wishers,sycophants and out and out suck-ups who were surrounding me, seething with envy and trying to "hitch their wagon to me"- even those who never had anything to do with comics were asking me to get them work. It felt good - too good. After practice FINALLY ended, I popped the T-tops off of the Camaro and drove rather quickly to my then-girlfriend's house to share the big news as I couldn't get a hold of her since I'd spoken to Roger and there were no car phones at that point outside of Banacek reruns. I walked into her house to find her sitting on the front stairs and when she asked what was new I said "Oh, nothing much, I just got hired to do my FIRST COMIC BOOK!!!!" Her eyes lit up, she dove off the stairs into my arms and proclaimed; "Now, we can get MARRIED!!!!"

I was in real trouble but hadn't figured it out yet.

To be continued............

John's bio - written by John: John Hebert has been many things...or he's been CALLED many things. He was a semi successful comic book artist drawing such title as X-Men Adventures, Punisher, Nomad and Deathlok for Marvel as well as Jonny Quest, Wild Wild West and Mars Attacks for various other publishers. After leaving comics, he went on to become a firefighter, EMT, and fingerprint examiner which he remains to this day as a supervisor at the NY State Division Of Criminal Justice Services, helping to keep our streets safe-by keeping himself off of them as much as possible. Born in the far away land known as Wynantskill, NY, he now makes his home in Albany where he dabbles in politics, tending his car collection and pushing the envelope in pretty much whatever he does. The self proclaimed "Hunter S. Thompson of comic book art" has recently begun a return to comics after a lengthy exile, excitedly taking on some Captain Action assignments for Moonstone Publishing as well as a super top secret project involving a character with a red cape and a name that begins with "S" and ends with "N". He can be reached at

This series will be continued approximately once a week.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I is for Indian

As every American fifth-grader knew when I was growing up, the aboriginal people of the Americas were called Indians because the Europeans who headed west to get east thought that they had reached Asia, probably the East Indies (Indonesia, et al), but it is THIS place that's involved in the current discussion:

There developed real confusion when saying Indian whether one meant someone from the Asian subcontinent or from the Americas.

Subsequently, there was a movement by some Americans to use the term Native American instead of American Indian as more "sensitive" to the first Americans. Yet there were and are many entities that still use the term Indian, from the American Indian Movement to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, part of the US Department of the Interior to the new Museum of the American Indian, pictured above, which incidentally is staging an exhibition of Native American comic art.

So what do the people involved feel? Seems from this article that there is really no consensus:

A 1995 Census Bureau Survey of preferences for racial and ethnic terminology (there is no more recent survey) indicated that 49% of Native people preferred being called American Indian, 37% preferred Native American, 3.6% preferred "some other term," and 5% had no preference. As The American Heritage Guide to English Usage points out, "the issue has never been particularly divisive between Indians and non-Indians.

In the end, the term you choose to use (as an Indian or non-Indian) is your own personal choice...The recommended method is to refer to a person by their tribe, if that information is known...[W]henever possible an Indian would prefer to be called a Cherokee or a Lakota or whichever tribe they belong to.

The 2010 Census is coming up and the Bureau will be using "American Indian or Alaska Native" as the designation for native peoples, just as it did in 2000. At least one of the reasons may lie in this true story I heard from someone who works at the Bureau. Census forms are tested periodically. In some neighborhoods with large immigrant populations, Census was finding an anomaly; a large number of people were checked as Native American, often inconsistently within a family structure. It soon became evident that the new arrivals were checking their country of origin for themselves, but their children who were born here they designated as Native American. The children WERE native to America.

Still, I am still quite uncomfortable referring to the Major League Baseball team in Cleveland or the National Football League team in suburban Washington, DC by their respective nicknames. It just feels wrong to me. At least the NFL team doesn't have that dopey grinning logo, Chief Wahoo, which reminds me very much of the caricatures of black people in old minstrel shows.

For those of you not into sports or from the United States, the topic of sports nicknames "honoring" Indians at the high school, college or professional level has been an ongoing debate, as you can see, for instance, in this article.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Corn beef

Roger O'Green here. It's not just because my last name is Green, and my middle initial is O, that I've always related to St. Patrick's Day. It's the Irish potato famine story of the 1840s that brought so many Irish to the United States which has always resonated with me. Indeed, it was a black man and and Irishwoman whose marriage in the 1870s formed the foundation of one of my favorite books, The Sweeter the Juice.

More to the point, there is a daguerreotype of a woman, some ancestor of my maternal grandmother, who we believe to be Irish, still in my mother's possession. So when I'm doing the wearin' of the green, I come by it (faintly) naturally.

I was walking past a bar/restaurant in Albany yesterday and there was a handwritten sign describing a "corn beef and cabbage" dinner. Oh, where is that guy Jeff Deck when I really need him? He would have corrected the sign to "corned beef".

Here's my favorite corned beef story, which happened ten years ago this week, but which I wrote about a mere three years ago.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Roger needs

Google your name and the word "needs" in quotes ("Roger needs") and see what you get. List the first 7 entries. In my case, several were the same and one I kinda edited to make it a sentence. But the point is the fun, right?

Roger needs a new JBoat.
Roger needs Rafa.
Roger needs help!!! some would agree with that.
Roger needs a coach.
Roger needs to be with a family who has a large yard.
Roger Needs Facebook.
Roger needs to finally realize, although he knows how to get a woman's attention, he needs lessons from his own nephew.

Lots of references to Roger Rabbit, someone called Roger Needs, the movie Roger Dodger, and especially Roger Federer.
What Kind of Information Technology User are You?
I'm a Connector
The Connectors' collection of information technology is used for a mix of one-to-one and one-to-many communication. They very much like how ICTs keep them in touch with family and friends and they like how ICTs let them work in community groups to which they belong. They are participants in cyberspace - many blog or have their own web pages - but not at the rate of Omnivores. They are not as sure-footed in their dealings with ICTs as Omnivores. Connectors suspect their gadgets could do more for them, and some need help in getting new technology to function properly.
[The last part is DEFINITELY true.]


Sunday, March 15, 2009


Almost every year, I go out and buy something for me for my birthday. Usually it's been music, or occasionally a book. But I've been going to my old buddy Steve Bissette's webpage, and he's been selling some artwork. The above piece was in my price range, spoke to me visually and had a caption that made me laugh. It's been a long time since I actually purchased artwork, probably 25 years ago or more.

Steve, along with writer Alan Moore and inker John Totleben, created a tremendous run of the comic Swamp Thing in the mid-1980s. I got to know Steve a little when he'd truck over from Vermont to work on various FantaCo horror-related publications. As I've mentioned before, we reconnected in part recently both through his compiling the history of FantaCo publications and our collective efforts - mostly successful - trying to get the writer of the FantaCo Wikipedia post to fix up some egregious errors.

I then went back to the site to buy the 16-page promotional "Sweeney Todd Penny Dreadful" by Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli, edited by Steve, as well as The Comics Journal #185 (March 1996) with a full-color dinosaur-collage Tyrant cover by Steve plus a 50-page interview with Mr. Bissette. Yes, I've read the W-H-O-L-E thing.

In each package, he threw in something else. In the first, it was a couple Mars Attacks! mini-comics. As a FantaCo employee, I took MA! writer Mario Bruni to Madison, WI in 1988 to the gathering put on by Capital City Distribution, a then formidable comic book distributor, now defunct, to market the product. I must have had the issues at one point, but certainly lost track of them over time. Somehow, Steve, sensitive Piscean fellow that he is, sussed out that I likely didn't have copies for myself.

Suddenly on a Bissette kick, I went here and ordered SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING BOOK ONE HARDCOVER w/exclusive signed P2P bookplate, collecting SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #20-27. I LOVED those stories, but I must say the bookplate by Steve makes it almost worth the price of admission all by itself.

Anyway, I thought Steve's natal day was today. Alas, the Intersnet deceived me, as it was yesterday. Regardless, thanks, my friend, for everything, and a (belated) HAPPY BIRTHDAY to YOU!


Saturday, March 14, 2009

SPORTS questions

OK, I've gotten myself in another one of those March Madness men's basketball pools, with, as usual, little idea what I'm doing. I know the seedings not until tomorrow and the first games not until midweek (and the play-in game doesn't count), but any teams you think are peaking at the right time, I'd consider your advice.

Meanwhile it's spring training in baseball so it's time to make my predictions for the division winners:
AL EAST: The NY Yankees. More than ever, they're trying to buy a pennant. but they have. Haven't they?
AL CENTRAL: The Minnesota Twins. Not only is it my father-in-law's favorite team, they started looking like a team last year.
AL WEST: The Los Angeles Angels. Smart money picks the Texas Rangers. And it may be right.
NL EAST: The New York Mets: with a new stopper, they can't collapse three years in a row. Can they?
NL CENTRAL: the St. Louis Cardinals. I want to pick the Cubbies, but they broke my heart last year, the centennial of their last World Series victory. of course, THIS will be the year they win it.
NL WEST: Colorado Rockies. Because an overpaid Manny won't help the Dodgers nearly so much.

Meanwhile, I'm more convinced that anyone who was using steroids before 2004, when the MLB ban went into effect, I don't care. Well, I sorta care, but not enough to think they shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. Of course, I'm on record thinking that Shoeless Joe Jackson should be in the Hall of Fame. So should Pete Rose - as soon as he dies.

Prediction: Tiger Woods will win one, and only one, Grand Slam tournament in 2009.

What's boring about the NBA is that only three or five teams have even a reasonable shot at the title; last year's finalists, the Celtics and the Lakers; and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Maybe the Orlando Magic. MAYBE the San Antonio Spurs.

What sayest thou?


Friday, March 13, 2009


I've been thinking about the notion of friends a lot recently.

There are people who I've been friends with for over 50 years, longer than some of you have been alive. I've known them since kindergarten. But what happens when one of them has...changed dramatically? Are you still friends, just because he attended your ninth birthday party? Especially if you haven't been in touch much in for the better part of 30 of those years.

I have a friend, whose birthday was last month, turning 56 (thus just a bit older than I). We've been friends with since the first day of college, September 12, 1971 (but who's counting?) But the vast majority of people from college I have no real interest in seeing; it's not antipathy, more meh.

I've been in Albany 30 years and I've made some good friends. On the other hand, there are people one sees at church and work that I can say that I hardly know at all, though I see them often.

Fred Hembeck is an example of a good friend who I lost touch with but got back in contact with via the Internet. (When IS that show in April, Fred?) He has written a moving piece about the loss of his good friend Charlie; I didn't know Charlie, but the tale has such universality that I think you ought to read it here (March 9, 2009).

I've discovered that one can develop a friendship through regular participation in something. For a time it was hearts. For some time, it's been racquetball.

Somehow, I've managed to develop friendships with a couple of my exes.

Then there are those people you haven't even met, but through their blogs and other communications, you get to know rather well. Greg Burgas, an interesting fellow out of Arizona via Oregon and Pennsylvania, was musing on that aspect too - and mentioned me specifically as a friend. And I feel similarly inclined. I know about his wife, his daughters, the accident one of them had, where he's lived, how he missed a friend's wedding, his taste in music. I feel an obligation - well, maybe too strong a word - but a desire to please him if it's reasonable. Recently he said he wished I wrote more on race, and directly as a result of that, I wrote this post.

Thee was this bilious audio of Richard Nixon talking about All in the Family and homosexuality that I found on Evanier's page that I knew three people might appreciate; two of them I have never met. So this line of "friend" gets murky.

Here's something that makes it murkier: Facebook. Just in the past week, I have suddenly discovered that I'm now "friends" with a whole new batch of people. Some of them I'm thinking: weren't we friends before? Interestingly, I noticed that one of them, who I've known for years, wrote "in a relationship - it's complicated"; I queried about this but received a cryptic "noyb" reply.

Back in 1974, I saw Billy Joel in New Paltz. The opening act was a guy named Buzzy Linhart, who was primarily a songwriter. He told us ad nauseum all the people he had written songs for, including this one by Bette Midler:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I'm Adopting Victor Garber

I was visiting SamuraiFrog's site and he noted that someone named Slpotchy has designated a day to adopt an actor. I would recommend you pick a character actor, as they are the unsung heroes of the entertainment world.

By adopting Character Actor X you are not expected to be an exhaustive resource on X, nor are you expected to have seen all movies in which X acted. No, none of that crap.

I would only ask that you promote the actor from time to time, and occasionally keep tabs on their progress (assuming he or she isn't dead). If you want to do it up nice, make a l'il space on your blog where you can have a picture of them.

As I recently noted, I saw a fine production of Godspell at my church this past Sunday. I watched it with my wife and daughter. Unsurprisingly, my wife asked if I had had a recording of Godspell. I do, but my vinyl (unlike my CDs) is in such disarray that FINDING the recording of the Off-Off-Broadway production would take some time.

So I went online and, avoiding the dreaded Buying Something I Already Own In A Different Format, purchased the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack instead, since I did see the 1973 film.

The key casting change was the replacement of Stephen Nathan, who played Christ onstage, with Victor Garber, a talented young singer/actor who would go on to a distinguished stage career that would include two Stephen Sondheim musicals, Sweeney Todd and Assassins. Garber was a stronger singer than Nathan, and that improved things noticeably.

Though he's not singing a solo here, I thought you'd enjoy seeing a video of the young Canadian Victor Garber in his very first motion picture, according to IMDB, where he plays the Lord. Where does one go after THAT?

Well, I've seen him in the movies Sleepless in Seattle, The First Wives' Club, Titanic, Legally Blonde and, most recently, playing Mayor George Moscone in Milk. On TV, I've watched him in Cinderella (King Maximillian), Annie (Daddy Warbucks), Life with Judy Garland (Sid Luft), the Music Man (the Mayor), plus a guest on a variety of shows (I'll Fly Away, Law & Order, Frasier). And, of course, his role in Alias, which I saw only for a couple seasons. I read that he's going to play Sinestro in a Green Lantern movie, and given my attraction to all things green, I may just see that.

I've always liked those song-and-dance men who can do the dramatic as well, such as the late Jerry Orbach from Law & Order.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Claim

Victor Garber - more tomorrowROG

H is for Heart

I was musing - as I wont to do - about the different definitions of the word heart.

There's the muscle that beats every second or so, which helps circulate the blood, the one that's subject to attack.

Then there's the romantic notion of love as represented by a symbol. Related, there's the center of one's feelings and emotion, such as a heartwarming tale. One fears that heart breaking.

There's the middle, the core: the heart of the city, the heart of the matter, the heartland. Above is Into the Heart of the Crab Nebula. Here's a blogpost meditation called Heart of the Matter.

There's courage and resolve, to hearten. Sometimes they give the Purple Heart to stouthearted people like that.

Many heart words are combinations of these and other meanings. Heartthrob, for instance is the literal pulsing of the muscle, or an infatuation.

Here's one of my favorite heart songs, from Damn Yankees.

A whole bunch of idioms which you could learn by heart.

As I think back on the hearts games I played this weekend - really - perhaps it's time for the obvious conclusion, the Wilson sisters:


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Top 25 Most Influential Albums meme

From Johnny B, whose intro I'm also purloining:
The title is self-evident, and I'm taking it to mean 25 albums that were most influential in shaping my music-listening tastes for all time. This is, as many have noted, VERY DIFFICULT- mostly because I'm trying to list albums that were truly influential, rather than just being a favorite.

BLUE - Miles Davis. First jazz album I could recognize without looking, led me to investigate others.
BEST OF JOAN BAEZ- Joan Baez. Oddly-named album that came out in 1959(!), with her performing several folk songs that became staples of the Green Family Singers, notably "So Soon In the Morning".
WEST SIDE STORY Original Soundtrack. It was the Quintet version of Tonight ("The Jets are gonna have their way tonight") that I discovered you can have more than one melody going on at once. The rest of the album's great, too.
LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL - Pete Seeger. A live album from June of 1963 that also influenced the repertoire of my father and the Green Family Singers.
BEATLES VI - My first Beatles album that we used to lipsynch to. Not my favorite, but the one that launched my Beatles obsession in earnest.
PARSLEY, SAGE, ROSEMARY AND THYME - Simon & Garfunkel. The first S&G album in the house, it was purchased, not by me or my sister, but by my father, in large measure for 7 O'Clock News/Silent Night. It launched my near complete Paul Simon collection, which led me to Dylan.
SUPREMES SING HOLLAND-DOZIER-HOLLAND - Motown albums in the day were disappointing. It had the hits, sure, but much of the rest of the albums tended to be weak. Not this one, which features Remove This Doubt later covered by Elvis Costello. More importantly, it highlighted the composers in a way that forced me to look at liner notes more carefully.
AFTERMATH - IMHO, the first decent Rolling Stones ALBUM; many more would follow. It also has the first pop song I owned of greater than 10 minutes, Goin' Home; didn't know you could DO that.
DISRAELI GEARS - Cream. A friend of mine chastised my 7th grade history teacher for referring to the group as The Cream, rather than Cream. Anyway, this was something unlike anything I'd heard before.
THE BAND - The Band. This is the second album with the brown cover. Roots music that was new and yet familiar.
BLUE - Joni Mitchell. An appreciation for the female singer-songwriter generally, and this one in particular.
TEMPTATIONS GREATEST HITS, VOLUME 2 - This was an album of my sister's that was half the David Ruffin-led group, and half the Norman Whitfield-produced group featuring Dennis Edwards. It showed a real evolution of the group and of Motown generally.
LED ZEPPELIN - I remember clearly the day in June 1969 I heard the first LZ album at Harry Shuman's house. It was an OMG sensation.
VOLUNTEERS- Jefferson Airplane. Very much an album suited to my budding activism.
WHAT'S GOIN' ON- Marvin Gaye. Social consciousness in Motown music.
SURF'S UP - Beach Boys. While I owned Pet Sounds, I didn't embrace the rest of the band's oeuvre until this one, which launched an investigation both forward and back.
TALKING BOOK - Stevie Wonder. Though his later 1970s work was even better, this was the first album of his that I owned where he wrote, played, produced almost everything. (The Music of My Mind album did that also, but I bought it later.)
THAT'S A-PLENTY - Pointer Sisters. Eclectic. 1930s jazz, country, funk. I like me some eclectic music, which is why I enjoy Elvis Costello's SPIKE so much.
LONDON CALLING - the Clash. While there were songs that moved me before this in the punk movement, no album was as significant.
DISCIPLINE - King Crimson. There's a whole body of Robert Fripp's work (the Roches, Daryl Hall) that I really enjoy, but this was the first in this time frame.
REMAIN IN LIGHT - Talking Heads. That whole fusion of what made them work for me coalesced here. The fact that I saw them live around this period (1983 or '84) did not hurt.
REM- Murmur. This somehow got me to listen not only to them but also U2, who I have somehow linked in my mind.
ATLANTIC RHYTHM & BLUES - This is seven 2-LP sets covering 1947-1974 that got me in touch with lots of music of the past. And while this wasn't a box set per se - it is now, with 8 CDs - it did motivate me to buy other historic boxes such as Chess, plus ones covering my growing up period, such as Phil Spector, Motown and Buddah.
NEVERMIND - Nirvana. I really didn't know I was supposed to take this seriously. "A mosquito, my libido"? But I liked it and somehow ended up getting a bunch of Pearl Jam as well.
AMERICAN RECORDING - Johnny Cash. The first record on his new label in 1994 not only gave me a new appreciation of John R. but of the artists he covered.

Note that there are plenty of artists I like, such as the Mamas and the Papas, Elton John, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen who don't make the list just because, in my mind, didn't meet the criteria.


Monday, March 09, 2009

A few days in the life

Apparently, there are actually blogs that do nothing but note all the things that happen in people's lives. I've been resistant to that, but I'm inclined to note the last few days in some detail. I suppose I could have made these many Twitter posts - and be mocked - but frankly have been too busy.

After racquetball, go to the dentist. He'd put a crown in last fall, but he was dissatisfied with the spacing between my teeth, where food would get caught, so he's doing a redo gratis. It may be free, but it's not free of discomfort. Also takes longer than planned and I miss my bus - another one doesn't come for 2.5 hours, but my colleague picks me up.
End of the day, wife drops off daughter at my work to take home, so wife can go to meetings, one work-related, the other at church. Unfortunately, she can't find the first meeting and the second one is canceled.

Father-Child Pancake Breakfast at daughter's daycare. That was nice, but I had to break up a couple boys who were literally about to come to blows over toy dinosaurs. A friend of mine that I've only known since 1958, whose birthday is today, BTW, suggested over four years ago that it's probably a good thing I had a daughter rather than a son. I didn't understand at the time, but I think I do now.

FINALLY take items to the post office. This was something I was going to do on December 20, along with finishing the Christmas letter; the wife had edited what I had wrote. But I NEEDED just that one day, and when I ended up taking care of my sick child instead - and into the evening, because the wife had a meeting - not only did the window of opportunity go away, but so did a whole bunch of my holiday mojo. I was actually quite melancholy over it for weeks. I never did complete the letter - that weekend was impossibly full, and the presents, bought weeks before, never got sent. So, on this day, packages to my mother and sisters, plus some other items to Eddie, Tom the Mayor, Scott and a woman in Canada finally went out the door. (I STILL haven't sent to Lefty Brown's friend Anthony, because I don't have his address.)

Take bus downtown. At my stop, Washington and Lark, is a fire truck, with an EMT truck pulling up. There's a guy they need to defibrillate sitting outside the kiosk; it's cold - could they not have done this in a vehicle? While this was going on, an ambulance and another fire truck stop a block away at Dove and Washington. What's going on there?

My bus shows up, but not a half block on my journey, a car pulls out of its parking space and hits the bus I'm on. No one was hurt; in fact, I barely noticed. But the bus driver had to wait for the police and the CDTA supervisor. Fortunately,the bus company sent another vehicle less than 25 minutes later to finish the trek.

That evening, a first rehearsal with our new church choir director, Janet Davis, followed by a gathering at the home of the interim director, Chris, who lives in this quite historic house (once the home of the Albany Conservatory, and before that, a Presbyterian manse).


I heard that on the news that Albany High School will be delayed two hours because of the presence of Fred Phelps, who I mentioned here. This is actually something I've known for over a week ago but was told not to report, lest Freddy and the schemers be tipped off. So after I dropped off Lydia, I did what I suggested others not do - go to the high school. Across the street from the school there were the Westboro people well outnumbered by he counterdemonstrators. Most of the good guys were well behaved and spoke on their megaphones about Christian love.

Then people went in two different directions. Some, including me, went downtown to SUNY Central to rally where Phelps said he'd be on his website; evidently, he finally figured out that this WASN'T the campus and didn't show. Still about 150 people (way more than the 50 the Times Union reported) made some noise and got lots of support from the passersby.

Meanwhile, the others went uptown at the not optimal (read: busily dangerous) Fuller Road and Washington Avenue, where the Phelps people ended up. That also went well, according to reports. Incidentally, there was ALSO a fairly large rally Thursday night in front of City Hall, where the mayor - who's running for ere-election this year, unsurprisingly - showed up.

[We interrupt this blog to note End the Lies, a a new website showing some of the worst perpetrators of lies about GLBT people. Now back to the narrative.]

I had received a $50 gift certificate from the Downtown Business Improvement District in a drawing I barely remember entering for a place called Salon 109 at 109 State Street in Albany, so I opted to get a massage there. It was...WONDERFUL. Later, had lunch with my wife - this almost never happens - as we partook of an especially very good buffet of Indian food.

SATURDAY, MARCH 7 (yes, it was my birthday)

Very busy time in my house, with one person, John, fixing our oven that's been out six days and our hall lights that had been out for over six months, someone else, Bonnie, cleaning the house, and lengthy conversations with both of my sisters and aforementioned old friend - HB, Sara Lee).

Played backgammon for an hour with the Hoffinator and a couple games of hearts with her and friend Orchid; I shot on the last hand to win the second game. Game playing - just what I wanted as a present. The Obama speeches book, the racquetball equipment and the Clapton 2004 DVD were just bonuses.


Church youth did Godspell Jr. It was excellent; surprisingly moving.
The weather is warming and I took Lydia to the playground for the first time this year. The ground is muddy, but the wood chip base around the slides is absorbent and not too bad.

That's enough.