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Sunday, May 31, 2009

The tongue or the ear?

I was asking someone who reads the Bible voraciously whether Pentecost, from Acts 2 , where suddenly people start hearing the Gospel in their own language, is a miracle of the tongue or a miracle of the ear? He said it was the tongue, though he dismissed notion that people will just start spouting gibberish, as some religious folks portray the event in modern times.

As someone who has - once - been part of a service where people actually seemed to spontaneously start speaking in tongues, I nevertheless believe in the possibility of the miracle of the ear; that is, that people began comprehending as though the words were in their own language. Isn't it true that sometimes, if we really listen, we can understand what would seem to be incomprehensible?

And did not the church, based on its understanding of Genesis 1, long believe that the sun went around the earth? It was heresy to think otherwise. Yet our greater understanding of the universe does not diminish the awesomeness of creation, however it came to be.

I've long believe that AN explanation, not necessarily THE explanation of the feeding of the 4000 or 5000 in the New Testament was based on the notion stone soup. Many people had a little of this, a little of that, but when they shared, it created a magnificent feast. And it was a miracle: the miracle of open hearts.

In the Acts 2 reading for Pentecost, it cites a reading from Joel about the "last days". It's pretty clear that the early Christians such as Paul took the scripture to mean that the Lord was coming back in their lifetimes. Evidently, it didn't. Or maybe the Joel reading was a reference to the Holy Spirit that was promised after the resurrection of Jesus. By that measure, we've been in the "end times" for about 1980 years. If that's true, we'd better hurry up and feed the hungry, etc., because the "end times" might be a little while longer.
YouTube video: Gay scientists have isolated the gene they believe makes people Christian.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

W.W.C.T.G.Y.T.B.N.C.O.S.Y.A.O. Question

I think it was Mark Evanier who came up with the notion of the W.W.C.T.G.Y.T.B.N.C.O.S.Y.A.O. (the World Wide Conspiracy To Get You To Buy New Copies Of Stuff You Already Own). This is why I'm less than excited by the remastered Beatles music coming out 09/09/09.

I haven't done this in a while, but last week, I went to the library, got five CDs and burned them. I'm totally unapologetic about it, too, because every single album I've not only purchased but still own in vinyl. Until I get around to buying one of those turntables that will convert vinyl to digital form - I saw one listed recently for a little over $100 - then I will keep at it.

So what is on my little foray this week?

Boston- Boston. Yes, THAT album with More than A Feeling, et al.
Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young - Deja Vu - with four writers, they worked hard to be equitable, with each getting two songs, Stills/Young getting one, and the other song a cover of Joni Mitchell's Woodstock.
Devo- Q: Are We Not Men? A: We are Devo - features one of my all-time favorite covers, Satisfaction. Incidentally, I have a schlocky instrumental album of Devo songs, done by Devo.
The Guess Who- co-founded by Randy Bachman, who later founded Bachman-Turner Overdrive, it has some decent songs. But the one that most fascinated me when i first bought it was a song I did not know before, Hang On To Your Life, which ends with the stark parts of Psalm 22.
Neil Young - Harvest. I listened to this album a LOT in my college years.

I could only take out five at a time. So what was interesting to me was what I didn't take this time:
Allman Brothers - Brothers and Sisters. I have a colleague who burns so much Allman music for me that I may have ODed on them.
John Lennon - Rock and Roll. I bought this album on December 9, 1980, the day after Lennon died; they were sold out of Double Fantasy by the time I got to the store (Just a song or strawberries) at lunchtime. This is an oddly unsatisfying album, one I didn't listen to much at the time. Mayne I SHOULD revisit for that reason alone.
Pretenders - the first album. It was a double album with out takes and alternate versions; almost certainly for next time.
Van Halen - the ONLY Van Halen I've ever owned, which I probably got for Happy Trails.

Oh, the questions: how do you feel about buying things (DVD, CDs) that you already own (VCR tapes, LPs or cassettes)? Do you avoid them? Pick only the core stuff? Seek out compilations? (Most of my early CDs were greatest hits collections of artists I already owned heavily on vinyl, such as Billy Joel and Elton John.) Do you have a mechanism to convert to newer formats?


Friday, May 29, 2009

Torture and other fun topics

I suppose it oughtn't to be necessary to say, but I'm against torture. Dick Cheney's been rebuked. Not so incidentally, I recognize his right to speak; I was just hoping that he wouldn't exercise it right away. Most Vice-Presidents (Nixon in 1960, Gore in 2000) GO AWAY for a while.

Jaquandor, in touting someone else's disgust with some conservative talk show host's ramblings about waterboarding, was rather eviscerating of (yawn) Hannity who was likewise braying that he'd undergo waterboarding and "he'd do it for the troops", I thought, "OK, you blowhard. But let's do it right. Let's have someone grab you off the street, throw you into a van, blindfold you, and drive you to someplace you have no idea. Then let's have them strip off your clothes, deprive you of food for days, not say a word to you except to tell you to stand up or lie down; let's have them randomly beat you. And then let's have them waterboard you. No cameras to record your bravado. No knowledge that after ten seconds it'll all be over. Let's have them waterboard you, over and over and over again, until you scream for no more. Sounds about right to me.

Meanwhile Greg talks about Charles Krauthammer, moral relativism and torture, which you should just go read.

But there was a concept in Greg's piece that reminded me of a somewhat different situation. In October 1972, I had to go in front of my draft board in Binghamton to maintain my position that I was a conscious objector, which I had declared when I had registered for the draft about a year and a half earlier, and which I had to deal with because my draft number was so low - 2. One of the questions was what I would do if someone attacked my mother. I said I would defend her and protect her. Then, I was asked, would not going to fight a Hitler be a protecting my mother against attack? My response was that it is one think to respond to an immediate threat of an attack against my mother; it was far different to intentionally put myself in a position to to fight and kill people. Perhaps this is moral relativism too, but regardless, I was granted a c.o.; then because the draft law was winding down, I wasn't drafted anyway, even for alternative service.

Here's another blogpost that had an impact on me this week, by Thom Wade: I hate that rape is an acceptable metaphor for minor things. Among the examples, "Stop Raping My Childhood, George Lucas." Thom links to other banal rants as well. It is SO obviously wrongheaded that Thom should not have had to comment.

Finally, a personal, somewhat painful recollection by SamuraiFrog about family and friends and rage and therapy. "Everyone tells you to just get over it and move on, stop living in the past. But living in the past isn't the problem." I related to it more than I can say; OK, more than I am willing to say.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Me as the Dewey Decimal System

pink white tulip

Ever thought of what you would be if you would be if catalogued as a non fiction book? Well here is how to find out. Answer a few questions and voila up it comes, your own Dewey Decimal section in the imaginary library of life. Go here.

Roger Green's Dewey Decimal Section:

303 Social processes

Roger Green = 8575878554 = 857+587+855+4 = 2303

300 Social Sciences

Books on politics, economics, education and the law.

What it says about you:
You are good at understanding people and finding the systems that work for them. You like having established reasoning behind your decisions. You consider it very important for your friends to always have your back.

Find your Dewey Decimal Section at

giant pink hyacinth

Roger Green's Dewey Decimal Section:

990 History of other areas

Roger Green's birthday: 3/7/1953 = 37+1953 = 1990

900 History & Geography

Travel, biographies, ancient history, and histories of continents.

What it says about you:
You're connected to your past and value the things that have happened to you. You've had some conflicted times in your life, but they've brought you to where you are today and you don't ignore it.

Find your Dewey Decimal Section at


Roger Green's Dewey Decimal Section:

037 Encyclopedias in Slavic languages

000 Computer Science, Information & General Works

Encyclopedias, magazines, journals and books with quotations.

What it says about you:
You are very informative and up to date. You're working on living in the here and now, not the past. You go through a lot of changes. When you make a decision you can be very sure of yourself, maybe even stubborn, but your friends appreciate your honesty and resolve.

Find your Dewey Decimal Section at

angelique tulip

Why is it that spammers can't spell? "Madonna is a Moslim now!" was in my gmail spam box yesterday. Conversely, here's an e-mail from our campus e-mail administrator I also got yesterday.

This morning, a colleague showed me an email message she had received extending an invitation to join, or log into, Twitter.

The subject line was "Your friend invited you to twitter." The From: address was "invitations@twitter[dot]com."

The web (html) version of the message used many attractive and professionally looking visual elements to lend authenticity to the invitation.

Finally, the message came with an attachment, a zip file containing an .exe file masquerading as a .pdf file! This file has been confirmed as malicious. Currently, only 20% of anti-virus vendors correctly identify the file as malware.

All unsolicited email messages containing invitations to click on a link or an attachment should be considered suspicious and threatening unless you can independently confirm the identity and authenticity of the message with the sender.

Flowers, and pictures of same, plus the Memorial Day columbine, are from the garden of my friend the Hoffinator, who was feeling under the weather yesterday.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

S is for Swearing

There's a podcast called Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. She recently talked about Swear Words in Text. It's interesting, as usual. One of the things I learned - or relearned, having heard it years ago, but forgotten - is that the use of a string of characters used to represent cursing - e.g. @#$%&! - is called a grawlix.

I've had long-running debates over the use of curse words, sometimes even with myself. On the one hand is the influence of the late comedian George Carlin, who when describing the NSFW seven words you can't say on television. Why word A but not word B? Word C is bad but only in context. "There are 400,000 words in the English language, and there are 7 you can't say on television. What a ratio that is! 399, 7. They must really be baaaad."

On the other side, I've long been convinced that the indiscriminate use of cursing diminishes its efficacy. A couple personal tales:

About 20 years ago, I was tired and hanging out at my then-girlfriend's house when she came back with some mutual friends. One of them told a joke I thought was offensive; it involved a Jamaican and his organ, and I don't mean musical instrument. I didn't say anything initially, but eventually, it bugged me so much that I said something to the teller of the tale. She immediately apologized. But her friend said, dismissively, "Oh, you don't have a sense of humor." To her, I yelled, "F*** you!"

[An alternative definition of grawlix is to "directly replace some letters in the swear word with asterisks. So instead of just typing random symbols, you replace a swear word with something like f***. That method usually leaves enough information so people can work out what the word is meant to be, but the offensive word isn't actually typed." You DO know what I said, don't you?]

I'm telling this two-decades-old story to one of my work colleagues recently. I deliver the punchline and I thought her teeth would fall out. In the nearly two years she's know me, she had never heard me use that word before. Which, I suppose, is the point: overuse of curse words makes them lose their efficacy.

At left: from Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter - Guilty Pleasures - would this be more effective without the grawlix? Some think so, but I do not.

This is not to say that I never swear. Nine years ago this week, I stepped on a nail that went through my sneaker. I am quite certain that a few expletives were uttered.

There was a period in my twenties where I used words that weren't curses in American English, such as bloody and bollocks, but fortunately, that passed.

I guess I DO rail against the "everyone talks that way" mantra that seemed to be popular in some circles as some sort of justification of what seems to me to be lazy speaking and writing. I was reminded in the current Entertainment Weekly magazine that the rapper Eminen literally cursed out Will Smith for NOT using expletives, which I just thought was wrongheaded.

Oh, and there's a five-year-old in my house who I DON'T curse in front of. I've been told, "She'll hear it eventually anyway"; that is both true and irrelevant. I'm the parent; I'm modeling, dammit, er, darn it.

There's a friend of mine, a good church-going fellow, who used to curse when he played racquetball, usually at himself; he called himself a MFCS. I've noticed since he stopped doing that recently, he plays better. Coincidence? Maybe.

Here's a song Daddy Could Swear by Gladys Knight and the Pips Totally safe for work.

I have this friend I've known for about 50 years who uses on particular curse SO effectively, I have to laugh. The word starts with A and has seven letters. Speaking of which, that's the title of this song by Beck. It is the juxtaposition of the musicality of the tune with the word which makes it oddly fascinating. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover this song on the She's the One Soundtrack.

And, as I've noted, sometimes swearing IS appropriate. Go to the Arthur at AmeriNZ blog and click on the NSFW video there about homophobia. Not only might one say the language is justified, again the sweetness of the tune tends to be a fascinating counterpoint to the word.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Lydster, Part 62: Humor

Anyone who's been around a five-year-old - anyone who remembers BEING a five-year-old, knows that humor at that age has...a different level of sophistication than one develops later. Certainly Lydia has some of that. She also, however, does things that generally makes me smile.

Her primary M.O. is to mislead about what she's doing. She can't find clothes to wear, but then voila, she's dressed in her clothes for the day. Or she's too tired to put on her pajamas. Then presto, she's in them.

However, she's also found slightly more sophisticated variation. We were watching "Go, Diego, GO!" (Why me, why?) At the end of each of the animal rescuer's adventure, he and his sister Alicia ask four review questions that are really rather obvious, even if you hadn't watched the show. One example was does a certain dinosaur eat leaves or bologna sandwiches. (Hint: nowhere in the show were sandwiches of any kind.)

In the beginning Lydia would get them right. But now, she's figured out that these questions are so inane that she deliberately gets them wrong, and follows it by "Oh, man!" and the appropriate arm gesture. She has a sly twinkle in her eye that shows that she's pulling my leg, and I find it genuinely funny.

"Oh, man!", BTW, for those of you lucky enough not to have seen it, is the response Diego's cousin's Dora's nemesis Swiper says when she stops Swiper from stealing something. She, her friend Boots and YOU get to say, thrice, "Swiper, no swiping", and the fox, if he's caught, will reply with "Oh, MAN!" Oh, bother.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Don't Keep "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

I remember that during the very early days of the Clinton Administration, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was announced. This allowed gays to serve in the military as long as they hid the fact that they were gay. Immediately, I thought this was one of the most stupid things I had ever heard.

The military wants people, presumably of integrity and character, to defend the country, but they wanted some of these people to essentially lie - TO THEM, no less - about who they are? At least the outright ban on gays in the military was honest; wrongheaded, but honest.

It recently came to me what I think is an apt analogy.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Covering Bobby Z

Musing about the May birthdays of musicians, particularly musicians whose work I own, I noticed that any number of them covered Bob Dylan songs. Not a surprise there; Dylan's put out over 40 albums.

What WAS a little surprising was that I couldn't find the May birthday songs I own on YouTube; I've just started to expect it.

I first looked for the pair of songs from Pete Seeger's We Shall Overcome album, a live 1963 recording. Pete did A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall and Who Killed Davey Moore; nope. Instead, here's Paths of Victory

Then I sought out Poor Immigrant by Judy Collins from my beloved Who Knows Where The Time Goes album; no such luck. Here's Judy singing Like a Rolling Stone

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons perform the amazingly goofy Don't Think Twice, It's All Right, which simply must be heard to be believed. Not there. I foiund, though, the Jersey Boys doing Queen Jane Approximately

I DID discover live versions of a couple songs: Stevie Wonder performing Blowin' the Wind

Not found on the Billy Joel YouTube channel, but otherwise available is his version of To Make You Feel My Love

Finally, some Dylan doing Dylan; I couldn't find Seeger doing Davey Moore, but here's a version by Bob himself.

Happy birthday, Bob.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

LYING Question

I ALMOST started watching this TV show called Lie To Me this season; if I didn't have so much recorded but unwatched, I might have. Since it's been renewed, i still may. The premise is that the "world's leading deception expert who studies facial expressions and involuntary body language to discover not only if someone is lying, but why."

Some people are just lousy liars and even a layperson can tell. But think of the Bernie Madoffs or other seemingly responsible people; they lied through their teeth daily but almost no one caught on until it was too late.

The singular thing I learned from Ronald Reagan was "trust but verify".

I used to be lied to in relationships, which makes finding someone who is pretty much incapable of telling a lie a pretty sweet deal.

So how do you think your lie-detector radar is?
Why people lie — and how to tell if they are
How To Tell if Your Spouse is Lying

Your Slogan Should Be

Roger. Uncommonly Made, Uncommonly Good.


Friday, May 22, 2009

No Forwarding Address

Sometime last year, we started getting mail for a Hrishikesh Samant at our home. We have been at this address for nine years and the people who lived here before were not so named either. I thought it would be an easy matter to Google the name and perhaps trying to contact him. No such luck; there seems to be at least a geology and/or zoology professor in Mumbai, India and a GIS expert in the US. Here's a video of one of them. Or maybe it's all the same guy. But it doesn't explain while mail, including utility bills, cable bills, and items of the sort started arriving at our door in that name.

So I decided that perhaps I should contact the authorities to see if someone was trying to perpetrate some fraud in Mr. Samant's seemingly good name(s). I contacted the postal authorities. They told me to just return to sender. After three or four months, the mailings have seemed to stop.

Now we are getting mail for Gwen Powell. It's all what we would consider junk mail. Moreover, we at least have a theory about how we came to get "Gwen's mail". My wife's given surname, her "maiden name" if you will, is Powell. A C and a G have similar structures; the line of the G plus ar could be construed as a w, I suppose. In cursive, o and e both have loops. I need to contact these vendors to get "Gwen" off their mailing list.
There was a story this week in the local paper about an a 11-year-old boy who pedaled his bicycle into the path of a car and later died. Very sad story made worse by the fact that he waited 25 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Someone on Twitter commented that the fact that the driver of the car wasn't ticketed was tantamount to getting away with "murder", and used that specific word.

Now few people complain more about how irresponsible car drivers are vis a vis bicyclists than I do. I got a broken rib about 50 weeks ago from trying to avoid a car running through a traffic light. But the facts in the case - the boy's bike hit the passenger-side door - suggests that the boy either didn't see the car, had his brakes fail or some other circumstance. In any case, the driver, who will undoubtedly be traumatized for a long time, doesn;'t need apparently unfounded claims of murder bandied about.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why I Blog

Sometimes, when I get the blogging melancholy - you know, nobody comments, et al. - I get some positive feedback. All of these e-mails came between April 17 and 22.

One was a message from a new salon that noted my mention in a blog post.

Another was a message from a former high school history teacher of mine who became a county executive and now heads a statewide nonprofit. I'm not clear which assessment he's referring to, but it's accurate: "Many thanks for your assessment of me as one of your teachers. Being included with Helen Foley is good company, indeed. Glad to see that you haven't lost your interest in world affairs. At what library in Albany do you work, or have I misread the information on your blog?" Helen Foley, BTW, was my public speaking teacher, and, not incidentally Rod Serling's beloved teacher in junior and senior high school.

A third was someone who "met Raoul Vezina in 1983 in a comic store in Albany NY. I have #1-4 signed Smilin Ed comics and a 1983 Fantacon poster signed by Raoul as well. He was a gentle person and very talented. I remember you too. You worked at the comic I correct? My boyfriend at the time...purchased comics at your store. You may remember him. I'm sure you don't remember me. LOL! [He] and I are not together now. I found your e-mail address on the web when I was looking up Raoul Vezina on my computer. I found Raoul's Smilin Ed comics when I was cleaning out a drawer. I'd completely forgotten about them. When I saw them, it brought back so many wonderful memories. I have Raoul's obituary clipping from the Times Union. I don't know why I saved all this stuff, but I did. As I looked at the comics and the clipping, I wondered if anyone would appreciate them after I'm gone. I decided that no one would, except another person who knew Raoul. My daughter will probably will consider it garbage, not aware that Raoul was a special person and a talented artist. So, saying that, I'd like to ask you if you'd like them. I will send them to you at no cost to you, if you'd like. Let me know."
Yes, I do remember her boyfriend, but alas not her, but she was most kind.

Also Raoul-related is the first comment to this post.

Always nice to get the psychic, and occasionally, actual goodies.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

R is for Rome

Don't you just hate it when you can't remember things? There was this TV show I used to watch regularly. I remembered just about everything about it: the producer -David E. Kelley; the cast, the network (CBS), the locale (the fictional town of Rome, Wisconsin), just about everything but its name: Picket Fences.

Before this program, Kelley may have been best known as the creator of a show about a doctor living with his family. Pretty standard fare, except that the doctor is not yet 21 and is conflicted between having fun with his teen peers and learning from his medical peers. This would be Doogie Howser, M.D., an ABC-TV sitcom starring Neil Patrick Harris. Kelley was also the head writer on L.A. Law., taking over from Steven Bochco, and introduced the memorable character of Rosalind Shays, played by Diana Muldaur.

Kelley, though, really got weird with Picket Fences, which dealt with small town life. The main characters were Jimmy Brock, the sheriff and his wife Jill, the town doctor, with their three children. Bizarre crimes and other odd things, including spontaneous human combustion take place in this seemingly idyllic place. Quoting an imdb contributor: "It seems that all the crimes that have occurred in the whole of the United States have at one point or another happened in Rome and they have to deal with it in their own quirky way."

The show is the forerunner of Chicago Hope (1994-2000), Ally McBeal (1997-2002), The Practice (1997-2004), Boston Public (2000-2004), and Boston Legal (2004-2008).

I've noticed that many of the actors either continued working with Kelley and/or on something odd:
Tom Skerritt played sheriff Jimmy Brock. He was on the current show Brothers and Sisters; his character drowned on the first episode yet he still shows up occasionally.
Kathy Baker, played physician Jill Brock. She was the "hook lady" on Boston Public for about a dozen episodes and also appeared on episodes of other Kelley shows.
Holly Marie Combs played their oldest child, Kimberley. She's best known for playing Piper on Charmed.
Lauren Holly played deputy Maxine before turns on Chicago Hope and NCIS.
Ray Walston was the town's judge; he had a long and varied career, but is still best known as My Favorite Martian.
Fyvush Finkle was pain in the side defense attorney Douglas Wambaugh; he later played pain in the side teacher Harvey Lipschultz in Boston Public.

This is also the place I discovered Don Cheadle, who played D.A. John Littleton for a couple seasons before moving on to film fare such as Boogie Nights, Hotel Rwanda, and the Ocean's Eleven franchise.

I have not seen this program since it first aired. Season 1 is available on DVD. I remember the show fondly, but will it still hold up?
And now, for something completely different, discussion of a different Rome:

Here's the text.
Happy birthday to the Okie.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009


This is one of those Facebook thingies that Kelly Brown did.

Let others know a little more about yourself, re-post this as your name followed by "ology" Then tag 20 people of your choice. Once you have been tagged you must do it and then tag the person that tagged you!

Well, I ain't tagging nobody. (That being a double negative, does that mean that EVERYBODY's tagged?)


What is your favorite sit-down restaurant?
Justin's in Albany. I proposed to Carol there, and we go once a year.

What food could you eat for 2 weeks straight and not get sick of it?
Cheerios and Shredded Wheat for breakfast.
Apple and cottage cheese for lunch. Dinner - can't think of anything; well, spinach.

What are your pizza toppings of choice?
Mushrooms and onions

What do you like to put on your toast?
Butter and strawberry jam


How many televisions are in your house?
2, 1 of which will be dysfunctional on June 12.

What color cell phone do you have?

What does the first text message in your inbox say and who sent it?
I have no idea - never use it.

Who was the last person to call you?
My sister Leslie a year ago; I don't give out the number.


Are you right-handed or left-handed?

Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
Four wisdom teeth. My left knee was scoped.

What is the last heavy item you lifted?
When I change the water bottle at work.


If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?
No way

If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
Barack Obama. Let the confusion ensue.

Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000?


How many pairs of flip flops do you own?
Probably none

Last time you had a run-in with the cops?
I work very hard not to have run-ins with cops. Some cops had words for a group of us at an antiwar demonstration in NYC in Feb 2003, but wouldn't call it a run-in.

Last person you talked to in person:
Carol, my wife.

Favorite Month?


Missing someone?
My father


What are you listening to?
Earth, Wind and Fire

ABC World News

Worrying about?
Not getting enough sleep.


Last movie you saw?
Sunshine Cleaning

Do you smile often?
I have no idea. But evidentally I laugh.

Do you always answer your phone?
No. I have call ID and I screen.

It’s four in the morning and you get a text message, who is it?
No one knows to text me.

If you could change your eye color what would it be?
I wouldn't. My wife likes my brown eyes.

What flavor do you add to your drink at Sonic?
Never been to Sonic. What IS Sonic?

Do you own a digital camera?
I bought one for my wife for Christmas, 2007. It is unused.

Have you ever had a pet fish?
As a child.

Favorite Christmas song?
Coventry Carol

What’s on your wish list for your birthday?
My birthday's 10 months away. Some music, I presume.

Can you do push ups?
Yes, with effort.

Can you do a chin up?
No. I could not when I was a kid, either. Bane of my childhood existence.

Does the future make you more nervous or excited?

Do you have any saved texts?
Don't understand. You mean save a Word document? Books? Well, yes and yes.

Ever been in a car wreck?
Twice. Once went to the hospital for 40 hours.

What is the last song to make you cry?
Crying by Roy Orbison and k.d. lang

Plans tonight?
Same as it ever was

Have you ever felt like you hit rock bottom?
Not really.

Name three things you bought yesterday.
Milk, a muffin, a soda.

Have you ever been given roses?
Once or twice.

Do you have an accent?
People from Binghamton apparently have a Midwest accent. Among other things, they say melk for milk.

Current hate right now?
Intolerance. (OK, that was a silly joke, but it does bug me.)

Met someone who changed your life?
Several, actually.

Name three people who might complete this?
Scott and Gordon, and, er....maybe Jaquandor?

What were you doing 12 AM last night?
A clever (and sadly true) financial twist on West Side Story


Monday, May 18, 2009


Reading Arthur's post about his sister's memory reminds me yet again of an incontrovertible fact: in the main, the sibling is the longest relationship one will have. Longer than parent/child or spouses. Probably longer than most friendships.

Here's a picture of the Green children of 5 Gaines Street, Binghamton, NY, which my sister Marcia came across and sent to me in the last month. I recall that it was taken when I was 10, Leslie was 9 and Marcia was 5. But some notation on the back of the picture suggests that it was shot earlier. Frankly, I can't believe that Marcia could have been 3 when this photo was taken. This was considered the "good" picture, compared the "ugly glasses" photo taken three (or five) years later.

I was talking to Marcia a month or two ago about a trip Lydia and I will be taking to visit her, our mother and Marcia's daughter Alexandria in North Carolina. As I've noted, Lydia is afraid of dogs. In this conversation, my sister notes that they had to put their dog down. Now, previously, I might have offered some sentiment of condolence. But I was so focused on how this would affect my daughter, I felt - this is not admirable, but it is true - a sense of "Well, THAT issue is resolved."

Of course, Marcia calls me on this, but she used this ancient example to make the point. She recalls that when I was about 12, each of us got a kitten. Mine was Tiger, Leslie had Taffy and Marcia had Tony. Somehow, Tiger got out and was run over by a car and killed. I was devastated and even more so because my sisters had taken some glee in this; children can be so cruel.

So in 2009, Marcia says, "Don't you remember how badly you felt when you lost a pet?" and she's correct, of course, but pulling out that 40+-year old example is something a sibling is most likely to have brought up.

I find it interesting that each of us has only one child.

Indeed, because she was the youngest, Marcia tends to remember almost everything. She can start a sentence, "Do remember when..."; many's the time Leslie and I will say no, but the essence of the story and the details are so vivid that we accede to her recollection.

The sisters used to drive each other crazy, with me as the involuntary referee, but they've become closer over dealing with my mom. Whatever that childhood noise once was, we have more important things to do.
Marcia is the best at sending presents and cards for all occasions, something I'm lousy at and Leslie's not much better. That is her arm holding a dress that she ultimately sent to Lydia for her last birthday, which Lydia likes to wear. (Cell phone picture taken by Alexandria.) She's the one who sent the anniversary card to Carol and me.

When she lived in Binghamton, little sister's name was pronounced MAR-sha, but since she moved south, it's become mar-SEE-ah. Anyway, today's Marcia's birthday. Happy birthday, baby sister. Have I sent her a card yet? Er, it'll be in the mail. Soon. I swear.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

May 14, 2009, Times Union Center, Albany, NY

Maybe it was that I was tired from coming back from a conference, then got to see wife and child for only 20 minutes after three days away. Perhaps it was near-vertigo from climbing those Times Union Center steps to the very top row. More likely though, it was the 45-minute wait from the scheduled 7:30 start time to the actual commencement of the performance. But I was not ready to be just swept away by Bruce and the band playing "Badlands" as their first number; it was too obvious to me. Later in the show, maybe, as he did on a Barcelona performance that played on WMHT public television a couple months ago. I later discover that Badlands was the opening song on every performance on this tour so far, save for the first one.

But wait ...that drummer is GREAT! Who the heck IS he? He's a good 30 years younger than Springsteen. With the energy he's playing, will he be burned out by the end of the second song, Radio Nowhere?

And Bruce finally captured me with that third tune, Outlaw Pete, which my friend the Hoffinator said was "ten times, 25 times better" than the studio recording on the current album. From then on, I was with the program; in other words, by "No Surrender" - where did those great backup singers come from? - I had. On "Out in the Street", he faced those of us seated behind him and used his now shared standard bit of letting most of the band have a line. In "Working on a Dream" he preached, they doo wopped. "Johnny 99" was a magnificent rocking reimagining of the song from the stark Nebraska album.

Astonishing guitar work by Nils Lofgrin on "The Ghost of Tom Joad" was captured on a guitar cam. During "Raise Your Hand", it seems that the people on the floor of the TU Center raised their signs, with Bruce musing over which ones to collect; this, I'm told, is a tradition that began during the latter stages of the band's previous tour. "Thunder Road" and "Mony Mony", the latter the Tommy James and the Shondells hit, were the first two requests played.

Some people complain when the artist leaves it to the audience to sing parts of the song. In this case, they were singly loudly already even when the E Streeters were as well; it was certainly true on the solidly performed "Promised Land" and the requested "Backstreets".

"Kingdom of Days" was dedicated to Springsteen's wife, Patty Scialfa, who is recovering from a horse-ring injury. I thought it was uncharacteristically flat; not so much emotionally but pitch-wise. But he ended strong with "The Rising" and that song generally abbreviated B2R.

The encore started with incredible shared vocals on Stephen Foster's "Hard Times", which was preceded by a pitch for the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.

The best drawing from my vantage point that I saw and Bruce picked to sing was "Kitty's Back", a live staple for decades; the jazzy tune featured several tasty solos. It's from The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle album, which I only have on vinyl and need to fix that. I was recently listening to a bootl an unauthorized recording of that tune from c. 1976.

The group looked like they were finishing with American Land, but then launched into the obligatory song from Born in the USA album, "Glory Days", complete with the banter between Bruce and Little Steven reminiscent of the Super Bowl appearance.

Oh, and that drummer? He was 18-year-old Jay Weinberg, son of Max. The elder Weinberg, the usual drummer, is also Conan O'Brien's bandleader and had to be in California while Springsteen was on tour. Bruce said, "This is the first time in 35 years" that someone other than Max sat at the drums. As you can tell from Michael Eck's review in the Times Union, he more than kept the seat warm for dad.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

May Ramblin'

I was listening to one of the few podcasts I follow regularly, Coverville; highly recommended, BTW. Anyway, there is sometimes a segment at the end called Musically Challenged, in which a listener provides a quiz for Coverville host Brian Ibbott, and usually for Brian's wife Tina. Lo and behold, the quiz for episode 574 was provided by Tosy and Cosh. Tosy was the one who turned me onto Coverville.

I had requested of Brian that he play a Pete Seeger cover in honor of Pete's 90th birthday a couple weeks ago. Well, Brian didn't play any Pete covers on May 3, but instead dedicated the whole next show to Seeger. My request for one song became the inspiration for the entire episode. I am pleased.
A (weird) random conversation starter from Jaquandor.
On June 6, 2009, in honor of the quadricentennial of Henry Hudson's trip up the river that now bears his name, a musician will be playing the Mid-Hudson Bridge, the bridge that connects Poughkeepsie and Highland, near my college town of New Paltz. Not just playing ON the bridge, but actually playing the bridge as an instrument.
1981 Video Predicts The Death Of Print Newspapers.
Mr. Frog reviews the warts-and-all complete history of Sesame Street. It includes discussion of this scene which always chokes me up:

How to test your copyright knowledge.
A couple television programs you should watch. They've already aired, but thanks to the Internet, they are easily retrievable.

One is Bill Moyers Journal of April 17. Bill interviews the executive producer of HBO's critically-acclaimed show THE WIRE, David Simon who "talks...about inner-city crime and politics, storytelling and the future of journalism today." I've never seen The Wire, but now I must watch it on DVD. But you don't have to have watched that vaunted program to appreciate his insights.

The other is a two-part 60 Minutes report narrated by Lesley Stahl. In Part 1 she "reports on flaws in eyewitness testimony that are at the heart of the DNA exonerations of falsely convicted people like Ronald Cotton, who has now forgiven his accuser, Jennifer Thompson." In Part 2, she "explores the task of an eyewitness to choose a criminal out of line up through memory. Jennifer Thompson falsely selected Ronald Cotton as her rapist." Thompson and Cotton are now friends, and have co-written a book, Picking Cotton.
Dom Deluise as role model for Mark Evanier, of a sort.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Tin or Aluminum?

Jacquandor did this lovely tribute to his wife on her last birthday. Being an unrepentant thief, I thought I'd steal it for Carol's and my 10th wedding anniversary, which is today. But I won't get to 100 points.

1. The first movie we saw together was Speed, which probably has some metaphysical significance.

2. She was, at our old church, chair of the Membership Committee. Part of that involved being welcoming and that's what she tries to do. I was chair of the Council on Ministries, which included Membership, so we were at a number of meetings together.

3. First time I met her whole family, it was Thanksgiving 1994. It was a foreign concept to me, all four adult children in their late 20s and early 30s, coming home for Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. I haven't been at my parents' home for Thanksgiving since 1971 or for Christmas since 1996, and that was rare.

4. Even more foreign, the Olin Family Reunion every year near Binghamton, NY. Carol's mother had seven siblings, and one of them, Warren, traced the family back over 320 years to an indentured servant named John Olin who jumped the boat, hung out with Indians for a number of years before marrying Susannah Spencer. Carol had over 30 first cousins on the Olin side alone. Meanwhile, the Yates and Walkers on my families' side had sporadic events. And because my parents were both only children, no direct aunts, uncles or first cousins.

5. She grew up in Greenville, NY, not that far from Albany, but she liked the country and thought Albany was too big. She's since altered her position on this.

6. When we went out the first time, then broke up, I was still in her brother Dan's wedding, and she was good with that.

7. Why did we break up? These things are always complicated. But certainly one factor for me was her ability, now thankfully greatly diminished, to, as a lawyer might say, "assume facts not in evidence." Years later, only one example sticks out. We were cooking at my apartment, and she put a hot pan on the counter because she assumed it was heat-resistant; it was not. It melted the paint and left a cooking pot-sized burn mark. I probably did not react well.

8. Even though we weren't dating, I rode a bicycle in the snow to pick up medicine for her. She had that effect on me.

9. I found that I missed her a lot, though I'd see her a lot, including at a weekly year-long intensive United Methodist-driven Bible study called Disciple that took place usually in her home. Read the whole Bible in 34 weeks, including the parts not required for the discussion.

10. There were a couple of failed attempts to get back together, the less said about the better.

11. I'd do lots of things to be around her, including a trip to the Washington County Fair with a Bible buddy, me, her and her (idiot) boyfriend. Not recommended.

12. When I started to woo her again in earnest in August 1998, long after she'd broken up with said boyfriend, she was oblivious to it until October, when we went for a walk at Five Rivers nature preserve and I gave her a big kiss.

13. She helped put together a JEOPARDY! watching party for me in November 1998, but she wasn't there; her job in the insurance industry, which was well-paying but frustrating, had her in Madison, WI.

14. We got engaged at a restaurant on Lark Street in Albany called Justin's in mid-January 1999.

15. We waited to get engaged because her brother Mark was getting married on 1 January 1999. I DJed that reception, BTW.

16. She quit that well-paying but frustrating job in February 1999 so she could see me more often, help plan the wedding and get ready to go to graduate school.

17. We went to Portland, ME in March 1999 as her birthday present to me. We got snowed in and had to stay another day. Awww!

18. I razz her every St. Patrick's Day about the dress incident. The term "toning the bed" has a specific significance to us.

19. She developed a bond with my father, initially, over the fact that they both liked painting trees. His work on arranging the design of our wedding reception, including the flowers, sealed the deal. Since he died a year and a half later, I was always grateful for that.

20. Whereas I developed a bond with my father-in-law over baseball. I'm guessing none of his sons could identify Jim "Mudcat" grant - former Minnesota Twins pitcher. He and I have gone to several minor league baseball games. One, at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown earlier this decade, Carol attended to and conked her head on a beam.

21. Carol and I we danced to At Last by Etta James at our reception. It may be a cliche now - it may have been one then - but it definitely seemed appropriate.

22. The timing of our wedding was driven in part by our trip to Barbados which I won on JEOPARDY! We didn't want to be in the Caribbean when it was too hot and/or during hurricane season, and we wanted to use the trip as a honeymoon.

23. The worst part of our honeymoon - leaving an all-inclusive resort to return to the "real" world.

24. When we got back home, which the first floor of the two-family house she'd bought in 1992, there were so many unopened presents - and nowhere to put them - that it took a week just to try to do the thank yous.

25. In the pre-wedding session, the minister said we ought to get a place that was ours, rather than hers. This became evident in the attempt to get all my stuff in that apartment. Dresser on top of a dresser, the idea of some TV home designer who said when you have limited floor space to "build up, up!" She did try to make the space mine.

26. Before we were engaged, she had booked a trip to Scotland with a college friend in July 1999. We both acted as though we were really cool sophisticates who didn't mind being apart for a week a mere two months after the wedding, but this proved to be untrue on both sides of the Atlantic.

27. Being alone in "her" house, I suddenly heard every creak, every noisy neighbor.

28. We started looking for houses in the fall. There was one house I really loved, and she liked, which once belonged to an acquaintance of mine. Lots of built-in book shelves, etc. Unfortunately - or actually fortunately, in the long run - our inspector found water damage under the stucco which would have cost too much to repair, and the owner wouldn't budge on the price. So we walked away.

29. The house we ultimately moved into we saw early on in the process, indeed, before the stucco house, but it took several months for the price to go down enough for us to make an offer.

30. It is almost undoubtedly true that if it weren't for Carol's fiscal prowess, I would be a homeowner. Whether that's a good thing or not - I had been a renter since I left the family domicile - remains to be seen.

31. Part of what I hate about being the homeowner is fixing things because, frankly, I'm not that good at it. In most areas, she is more handy than I.

32. I have, though, been ceded the areas of computers, which is pretty laughable, since I don't really know what I'm doing there either. But I know just enough - how to burn a PowerPoint presentation onto a CD, how to cancel a print job, and, related, how to reboot the DVR.

33. I'm also mostly in charge of the heavy lifting - the manual lawnmower, the snow shoveling, though she helps when it's severe.

34. A couple weeks after moving into the house in May 2000, I stepped on a nail in the back yard. I hobbled to the front of the house, rather than tracking blood into our new old house, walked in the house, and called, "Carol!" She said. "I'm upstairs!" Undoubtedly, I was too calm sounding. Ultimately, she drove me to the urgent care place.

35. Carol started grad school to become a teacher of English as a Second Language in the fall of 2000; I was living with a coed!

35. I got to read every one of her papers looking for not only typos but consistency of idea; she's said repeatedly since then how much she appreciated that.

36. A few weeks after 11 September 2001, I suggested we get away for the weekend. She said we could get away while staying at home; this is a fiction. When she's home, she'll always find something that needs cleaning or fixing or tending. So we went to a B&B in a place called Cherry Valley, NY on Columbus Day weekend, only about an hour away, but it was wonderful. Things I remember from that weekend: Mark & Leanne's daughter as born and, in the only world news news I actually heard - there were no TVs - the U.S. war in Afghanistan started.

37. She denies this, but we're often late because she'll take on one last thing - doing one last load of laundry, pick up a few things. I'm usually late because i just lose track of time reading.

38. Speaking of laundry, even before the child came, she was doing it several times a week. I was more of a weekend launderer in my single days. she washes at a temperature one notch colder than I would. She also fills the machine less full than I tend to.

39. She thinks I have too many pair of underwear. This comes me usually from doing laundry every three weeks - therefore, 21 pair. I think she has too few.

40. In 2000, Carol's older brother John, my greatest ally in wooing Carol back, starts dating a woman he met online, discovers he has colon cancer, and gets married to Cyndi 31 December. It was supposed to be the day before, but a massive storm that blanketed that part of northern NJ with 26 inches of snow. The actual wedding the attendees were my parents-in-law, Mark & Leanne, Carol & me. (Dan was home with Tracy, who was eight months pregnant with twins). And the reception more so, with Mark & Leanne getting lost and never making it there, so there were two cakes for the happy couple, four attendees and the minister and the organist.

41. Various members of the Powell family, including Carol and me, make regular trips to NJ to see John who seems to be getting better, then not so much. He died 12 February 2002. Carol, who just doesn't generally do that, was compelled to write a poem for the occasion; it's very touching.

42. In her first year in this house, the second of Carol's grad school, the big expenditure was a new kitchen faucet. It would wobble like a car's standard transmission on acid.

43. We used to watch TV together more than we do now: American Idol, My Name Is Earl. Now she watches her shows (figure skating, Dancing with the Stars), I watch mine, Lydia watches hers (though one of us generally watches with her). Carol and I eventually will watch those unwatched eps of Scrubs, the Office and 30 Rock. (That whole bit in The Office where Michael goes off on his own? We haven't seen it yet; don't tell my wife.)

44. Carol's a decent cook but a better baker. I think it's part of that 4-H thing she grew up with. My cooking tends to be limited to a half dozen things.

45. In 2001, we got a new kitchen floor and a new dishwasher. The old dishwasher had damaged the old floor. With the dishwasher, I did something I seldom do: read the manual. I often rearrange the dishes Carol places in the machine. Just last weekend, only 7.5 years after getting the machine, she agreed that I load the dishwasher better than she does, that my way creates far fewer dishes that need to be hand washed.

44. In the summer of 2002, we had a bat in our bedroom - the flying variety, not baseball variety. Being a country girl, she figured to leave it alone and it'd leave us alone. Wrong. Ultimately, we ended up getting rabies shots, which almost derailed her trip to Ukraine.

45. In the fall of 2002, we got a new refrigerator. She likes a full larder; I like to see what's actually IN the refrigerator.

46. She does most of the food shopping. When I go, I usually buy multiples of things on sale. She used to think having four boxes of Cheerios was silly; now, I think she understands the strategy.

47. When we discovered Carol was pregnant in the summer of 2003, we kept it a secret from everyone, not just because we're supposed to, but because we enjoyed having this delicious little secret.

48. We found out about a resort in Poland Spring, ME that only allowed adults, so we went there in August 2003; we didn't know when we'd have a chance again.

49. Carol giving birth to Lydia in March 204 was amazing; she was very strong, probably a function in part of the Kegel exercises that she was doing on the Bradley method.

50. That was why when she had the jaw surgery that went not well last year, I knew it had to hurt tremendously. The most physical pain I'd ever seen her in. Not surprisingly, I HATED it.

51. We both felt out of our element with a constantly crying baby until we slowly started figuring out together.

52. There's a division of labor with the child that's evolved over time: I drop her off at day care, Carol picks her up. I generally dress her (and if necessary , slowly wake her) in the morning, but Carol does her hair, etc. Carol picks her up and makes dinner before I get home. We trade off on medicines and the like. But I read stories and sing songs. These get thrown off when Carol has evening meetings or I have choir.

53. She has become more politically aware. Partly it's that she watches and listens to and reads more news from a variety of sources than she did when I met her.

54. We share a common gross irritation with litter as an act of royally selfish people.

55. The best thing about our recent vacation sans child is that we had a good time alone together while not talking about said child all the time.

56. She loves Norman Rockwell, so when we went to his museum last year, i looked at the graphic novel stuff, and she - OK, we - looked at Rockwell.

57. She likes Lindt's chocolate truffles. She gets them for every major holiday: Mother's Day or our anniversary; her birthday; Christmas.

58. I used to be the guy up half the night, but she has (grumble) converted me to a morning person.

59. (stolen from Jaquandor) Why don't we play mini golf more often? We both love mini golf. The Daughter loves mini golf. What gives?

60. she's one of the only people I know who doesn't think I'm kidding when I say that I'm basically shy.

61. It used to bother me that she didn't read my blogs, not even the one for the newspaper. In fact, for that one, her colleagues would tell her about my recent post. Now occasionally she'll surprise me with "I read that on your blog." I wonder how long it'll be before she discovers THIS post? Shhhh!

Happy anniversary, honey!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Springsteen and Powell

In anticipation of seeing Bruce Springsteen tonight in Albany, I have, of course, been listening to a lot of his music. And I HAVE a lot off his music:
Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. 1973 LP, CD
The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle 1974 LP
Born To Run 1975 LP, CD
Darkness on the Edge of Town 1978 LP, CD
The River 1980 CD
Nebraska 1982 LP, burned CD
Born in the U.S.A. 1984 LP, CD
Live 1975/85 1986 LPs
Tunnel of Love 1987 LP
Human Touch 1992 CD
Lucky Town 1992 CD
Greatest Hits 1995 CD
The Ghost of Tom Joad 1995 CD
The Rising 2002 CD
We Shall Overcome The Seeger Sessions American Land Edition 2006
Live In Dublin 2007 CD
Magic 2007 CD

What occurred to me is that all of the albums that I have in vinyl and compact disc I got from one source, my brother-in-law John, who was a big advocate for my relationship with his sister Carol, even during the time we were apart.

One December, he asked what I wanted for Christmas, and I gave him a list of Springsteen albums I had on vinyl but not on CD, plus The River, which, for some reason, I had never owned. So John, who was by then living in New Jersey, incidentally, gave me ALL of them; I was angling for maybe two or three.

John died of colon cancer on Lincoln's Birthday 2002. It seems somehow appropriate to go see The Boss for the first time on what would have been John Powell's 49th birthday.
Oh, and here are some great Springsteen covers.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Q is for Quarters

It appears that I have become obsessed utterly fascinated with the United States 25-cent piece of late. I wrote here about collecting the 50 state quarters for 1999 to 2008. Now I understood MY coming to the hobby late, but why are three other people in my 17-person office starting to collect only in the last six months? Yet another colleague, who became a U.S. citizen in 2005, wants to create 12 sets.

I discovered that the quarter had had the same design of George Washington on the observe side -that's "heads"- from 1932 to 1998. For most of that time, the reverse side was an American eagle. The only exception was in 1975 and 1976, when the obverse side read 1776-1976, and the reverse was a special US bicentennial design. There was no specific 1975 quarter.

But when the U.S. Mint decided to offer the state coins, George got a makeover. Among other things, he has suddenly gotten more hair. The specialty coins were extended to cover the non-state areas, such as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam in 2009. Starting in 2010, as a result of America's Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008, "the United States Mint will issue coins featuring national parks and other national sites with new quarter-dollars minted and issued...approximately every 10 weeks you will see a new design emblematic of a national site depicted on the reverse of the quarter."

As I noted before, there are coins for common used minted at the mints in Philadelphia and Denver, which distribute coins for the eastern and western halves of the United states, and designated on the coins P and D, respectively. Then there is the San Francisco coins, designated S, which only appear in proof sets, which are not only uncirculated but of higher quality metal.

Here's something I wonder about: how is the release quantities of the 50 state quarters determined? there seems to be no correlation with the part of the country and whether there are more P or D coins. The size of the state represented seems to have no bearing.

I had finished collecting a set of P quarters, and I'm one state away - Missouri - from completing a D set. So I started helping my colleagues finish their collections. I guess the altruism can go so far, though, for I have decided to collect a second D set. Understand that collecting a P set in my part of the country would have been far easier. This is not to say that I won't ask my sister, who lives in San Diego, to slip a roll of quarters or two in her luggage for when we converge on my mother's house next month. A bank roll from California is much more likely to have D coins than from New York State.

I've yet to see a Puerto Rico quarter of any variety,, and it should have been out in March. Still, I'll collect those nation parks quarters as they come out starting next year, rather than having to rummage through the change jar in my house.
Gary U.S. Bonds: Quarter To Three (1961)


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

BRUCE, T-minus 2

A couple months, I was talking to one of my colleagues about the fact that I would be seeing Bruce Springsteen in May. He, who has seen Bruce a double digit number of times but cannot on this tour, sent me three discs of Springsteen bootl unauthorized recordings. Two discs were from 1979.

It was the third disc, though, was the most intriguing. I put it into my iTunes and lo, iTunes recognized it. It turned out to be the second disc of something called You Can Trust Your Car to the Man Who Wears the Star, a 1975 performance that fits chronologically between Springsteen's second and third albums.

If one Googles the title and Springsteen, one gets over 11,000 hits, so it is not an obscure recording, but rather a legendary one. And now, only 34 years after that recording, I'm going to see Springsteen live myself.

But what's with the album title? I'm old enough to recognize the original reference - think fossil fuel - but WHY use it? Anyone know?


Monday, May 11, 2009

Tell me one interesting or weird fact about yourself, for each letter in your given name

Lorna in Wonderland, who came by my blog a few weeks ago, did this, so what the heck.

R...I had long thought that ROGER was just a random name that worked in my father's ROG (Roger Owen Green) motif. However, when my sisters were recently sorting out some papers at my mother's house, there were references in my late father's handwriting to a Roger that clearly predated me. He's unknown to my mother. Could he have been a childhood friend, an army buddy? Inquiring minds are frustrated that the trail is so cold.

O...I've watched at least some portion of the OSCARS very year as long as I can remember. Increasingly, it's not to find out who won - I generally don't even watch them in real time anymore, but what they say, how they say it, and how they look. In the early days of my current job, we used to try to tune the radio to the CBS television affiliate at 8:37 Eastern time one winter morning to catch the Oscar nominations; this was before one could just wait for it to show up on the Internet.

G...I've had GLASSES as long as I can remember. One time in junior high, I had to give some report using the outline written on the blackboard in the back of the room. The problem was I couldn't READ the blackboard in the back because I had broken, or possibly lost, my glasses. So I used binoculars. Everyone laughed, but I didn't know what else to do.

E...In almost every unfamiliar building I enter, I look early for the EXIT sign, in case of an emergency. I think that is why I volunteer to be the fire marshal for my office, even though I'll be the last one to the exit.

R...The only reason I ever wanted to be Roman Catholic is that they had ROSARY beads, and they seemed cool. At a church study last Advent, I actually made some quasi-rosary beads, and the device I used to remind me of a pair of Bible verses I remember from my childhood,
Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is
against such there is no law.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

My mom is a good woman. She's not particularly flashy; whereas my father would dominate a room, my mom would work quietly in the background. If they were casting The Hare and the Tortoise, my father would be the Hare, running off in all directions , not necessarily along the designated path. My mother would plug along unobtrusively. And you know how that story turned out.

At my father's funeral, my sister sang "Wind Beneath My Wings" to my mother on behalf of my father. No, my father never sang that, probably seldom said it. (And yes, it's a treacly song, but one gets a pass when dealing with grief.)

There were lots of adults in my mother's early life, including at least one uncle, one aunt, and a very domineering maternal grandmother. Then she married this multitalented singer-painter-bunch of other hyphenates. Perhaps this explains that at some level, she's still finding herself.

I haven't seen my mom in over a year, though we talk on the phone regularly, but I'll see her next month, ironically around Father's Day.

Happy Mother's day, Mom.

Carol's a good mom. Lydia and I almost certainly wouldn't get out the door in time every weekday to catch the bus if not for her. While I dress the child, Carol does her hair and makes sure I have the right accouterments, whether it be blankets for nap time or her swimsuit. At night, she picks her up from daycare, makes us dinner, makes sure she has clean clothes. I usually give the medicines and get her into the pajamas, but Carol makes sure Lydia's teeth are brushed and flossed before I read stories and sing songs. And on Thursday nights, when I have church choir rehearsal, Carol does all of the tasks above.

It's not just the functions, though. Lydia feels safe and secure with her mommy, and that makes me very happy.

I'm sure Lydia has made something for her award-winning mom so she can wish her a Happy Mother's Day as well.
Best wishes to Gordon's mom re: her liver transplant. And to Gordon as well.
Jaquandor's loving tribute to his late mother-in-law.


Saturday, May 09, 2009

Is affluenza over QUESTIONS

The one thing I eworry about in terms of thee "economic recovery" is that I hope the assummptions are not that people are going to spend like they did a year or two ago. It's been oft cited that consumer spending makes up 65% to 70% of the American economy. But with people paying off credit card debt and, of all things, saving money, it does not appear to be much room for spending, certainly not the spending we saw not so long ago. Add to this environmental concerns about overpackaging, and unreliable items, many from China, and we may see a new generation not unlike the Depression generation.

Last month, Pew Research did a survey of what items Americans considered luxuries as opposed to necessities. This article shows that there are a large number of items more Americans believe they can do without from clothes driers to dishwashers and from microwaves to home air conditioners

Certainly I could do without all of those things as well as a cell phone; don't even have a flat screen TV or an iPod. I might get a flat-screen TV someday, but the 1987 19" set has to die first. Some people say, "You don't know what it's like" to have stereo, high def TV and this is true, but since I don't have it, I don't miss it.

But my slowdown in acquiring is fueled less by the economy and more by limitations of both space and an ability to use "stuff". If I have 1600 CDs, and I listen to them five hours a day, it might take over half a year just to hear them each disc once.

1. What items on the Pew list could you live without?
2. Are you buying more or less than three years ago? If less, is it because of economics, being satiated, some other reasons, or some combination?


Friday, May 08, 2009

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Britten and Brülightly

Three or four weeks ago, I received a package in the mail at work, opened it, thought it looked nice and put it on the shelf. This week, weeding my e-mails, I came across a missive from a woman named Ashley, dated March 17, asking me if I would like to receive a review copy of Britten and Brülightly, "Hannah Berry’s gorgeously drawn and strikingly original debut graphic novel murder mystery."

So, I thought I had better actually READ the thing. Yes, it LOOKED nice; I could tell that at first glance. But I've always been one of those people where the greater issue is the story. Serviceable art can support a great story, but the best art can't save a lousy tale, IMO.

Now I've promised -again - that I'd write a review. But what if it's just not very good?

Fortunately, it's very good.

I enjoyed this from the very first sentence: "As it did every morning, with spiteful inevitability, the sun rose." It conveys a noir mood, but it is punctuated with a certain whimsy, as provided by the interplay between "researcher" Fernández Britten and his unlikely partner, Stewart Brülightly, as they attempt to figure out whether a women's dead fiancé committed suicide, as the police concluded, or was murdered, as she maintains.

English author Berry has blended characterization and story together in a seemingly effortless way. Upon further inspection, the art does not merely accompany the story, it really enhances it.

There are points where the narration explains the story, lest you miss it in the drawing; ultimately, this turns out to be a good thing. The one criticism I've seen is that the cursive narration can be difficult to read; I did not find this to be so.

The book retails for $20, but of course, one can find it for less on Amazon. Go see some sample pages.
Beaucoup Kevin's very positive review.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

SOLD OUT Part 6 by John Hebert (the conclusion)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

'Twas the day before Hallowe'en '86, and I'd finally finished what was to be my first comic book art assignment and was on the way to deliver the pages to the printer. The girlfriend and I were in my trusty Camaro, speeding along the NY State Thruway toward the printer in Gloversville with the bundle o' funnybook art nestled in the back seat whilst bad 80's tunes (then again, was there any other kind of 80's tune?) blared from the in-dash Delco. It was pretty darned cold that afternoon, but I kept the heater off to keep me uncomfortable and maintain what little edge I had left as the last thing I needed was to fall asleep at the wheel - I'd been up so long that I was ready to drop and I still had miles to go before sleep.

We alternated between exhausted whimsy and dead silence as we drove on, the whole project had been electrifying yet draining and once we'd completed what we assumed to be the final stretch, we were eager for a return to normalcy, never guessing that all things normal were no longer an option in the life I'd chosen. We hopped off of the Thruway and hit the county roads, passing fields, barns, silos, livestock and some beautiful old farmhouses, the kind of which I had always held a grudging yen for, then, suddenly, it came to me - the entire area looked like the farm town in that awful "Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch" where they manufactured the possessed fright masks. Now maybe it was just a combination of exhaustion, the season and the late night cable reruns that had kept me company at my drawing board talking, but the fact that the town not only looked so similar and was virtually deserted gave me a major case of the creeps (much like many of the editors I would later work with!)

We plodded on, finally pulling up to the printing company - a very basic, nondescript brick and block building that also functioned as a newspaper office - the freelance printing had been a secondary income, utilizing and minimizing the down times between editions, but turning a nice and not-so-little profit for the company as I was later told. We were welcomed by the manager/editor/traffic manager who whisked us inside and gave us the tour of the place, as I'd earlier inferred, it WAS very basic, yet it was also quite impressive in the volume and quality of work produced there. Skulan really had found a true diamond in the rough for his printing needs. We laid out the pages on a composing table and went over everything, stressing certain things we needed and doing a couple of last, last minute corrections that even Tom and Raj hadn't caught and took in the almost erotic experience of viewing my...very...first...printed...COVER WORK. Since we'd missed the initial, scheduled print run, the company had run all of the covers to avoid idle presses and a few of them were sitting around on desks, in boxes and trashcans. To this day, I regret that I didn't grab some of the "rough cuts" that were gracing the previously mentioned wastepaper baskets as even flawed, those covers would have looked so cool pinned up all over the walls in my studio and rooms, but, c'est la vie. I wanted to eat and answer the more and more desperate call of Morpheus which I was finding more and more difficult to ignore.

We thanked the manager and left, stopping at a Burger King and filling up on cholesterol for the long drive home. As we ate, I stared across the road at what must have been the world's smallest Pontiac dealership - basically the size of a gas station, with only 4 or 5 new cars splayed about their meager lot. I respected the quaint, bygone era nature of the area, but decided then and there that "Mayberry" probably wasn't for me and that when the time came, I'd probably be NYC bound. The girlfriend and I talked about it as we jumped into the Camaro and headed back east, alternating between moments of giddiness at the prospects of being a real, honest-to-goodness working commercial artist, possibly living in the city, and then shifting back to melancholy at the less positive prospects it conjured.

The relationship had been increasingly more strained since I'd taken on the project, especially in the last couple of weeks when we'd bearded the dreaded deadline doom and now, for the first time, as I drove on I really began to wonder where we were going and if it might end up being "me" rather than "we". She had another year of school left to complete, we'd all heard the stories and seen the effects of separation on relationships. I know what I was running over and over during those awkward silent moments on the interstate that day, and I think she must've been thinking about the same thing- either that or she was just visualizing a cow and pig wearing ballroom attire and dancing to "Turkey in The Straw", it was so hard to read her.

We made it back to Albany, I said my goodbyes as I dropped her at her house, promising to call later on after some much needed shuteye and headed back toward Stately Hebert Manor with the window open and the stereo cranked to keep me awake and prevent me from thinking too much(it almost made me agree with a couple of Reagan's policies...for a minute) as dusk began to settle. 10 minutes after swinging into my driveway, I had the blinds drawn and was profoundly out cold, having left a wakeup call for 1988 and grinning at the possibilities my future might hold as I dropped off.

Then my Mom came home. I'd only been asleep for around a half hour when she knocked on my door and reminded me nicely, yet curtly, that I'd promised to pick up a pumpkin for the front porch. Damn! I'd been so wrapped up in "The Project" that I'd let the usual, banal everyday stuff like a simple pumpkin get away from me. "Okay", I muttered, let's go get one and dragged myself to my feet. Of course, by the time I'd gotten up, gotten dressed, slogged out to the car and made it to the "pumpkin store", they were: a. closing up and b. sold out(ironic) of the damned gourds anyway. I promised to pick one up at a farm store the next morning, then carve it and have the blasted thing lit just in time for the little vandals to wreck and headed for home and my bed once more.

I'd just dosed off when, off in a hazy distance, the phone rang and a unicorn delivered it to my door, announcing that it was Tom from Fantaco. He was very excited and explained that in the "lag time" we'd created by being late with the pages, the printing company had run every other assignment they'd had on "tap" just as they'd done the covers and now, with nothing else scheduled, they were actually going to print the entire run of "SOLD OUT!" #1 overnight, having it ready the very next morning. The girlfriend and I could drive back out to Gloversville the next morning, pick up a few cases of comics, drive back to Albany, and have them available for the inevitable influx of Friday afternoon customers. Wow! That'd be great...if I wasn't A. exhausted, B. pissed off at the world, and C. numb from the shoulders up. Somehow, though, I heard my self agreeing to do it, hanging up, then calling she-who-was not-to-be--ignored and telling her of the great adventure we had in store for us the next morning ( AFTER getting a pumpkin of course!), then I hung up and headed for my bed. Of course, I was now so overtired and yet wired that I couldn't sleep, so I stayed up and cleaned and organized my studio, finally sacking out at around midnight. I'd been up for something like 36 hours at this point and I had another long drive ahead of me.

At around 1 p.m. on Friday, October 31st, 1986, the girlfriend, several cases of my first published work, and a pumpkin, pulled up in front of FantaCo in that very same dark green Chevette that had been a part of the beginning of all of this fiendish plot, somehow coming full circle. We trotted into the store, announced our presence and the FantaCo crew surrounded us, cracking the cases open, diving into the books with joy, satisfaction and relief, just as I when I'd picked them up at the printing plant some 90 minutes before and when I'd stolen more than a few looks at them while driving back and steering with my knees. It had been a job well done, they all agreed and now, it was time to let the general public get a crack at the comics. We opened up a case which Tom personally placed on the floor in front of the main display racks which he always did with whatever was the "hot" book of the week like Miller's "Dark Knight" or one of the never ending array of X-Men titles and the customers descended on them, picking the proverbial bones clean to a politely positive collective response and more than a few requests for signed copies. I'd done good. I was happy.

Roger wanted to take some photos of the auspicious occasion. We agreed, but first decided to slip into our Halloween costumes that we'd secreted away under the cases of comics...and the pumpkin in the car. A few minutes later, there we were, in full "Rowdy Roddy Piper" and "Cyndi Lauper" attire, leaning up against the logo'd front window of FantaCo, capering for Roger's camera and...loving it, even when some Tony Danza-esque lobotomy scar wandered up and asked where we were wrestling that night. I told him it was a costume, he started naming venues, again, almost demanding where I'd be in the ring that night. I politely asked him what day it was. He said "Friday". I asked the date. He said "October something". I said "It's HALLOWEEN!!!" He seemed to finally get it, then told me he hoped I'd win my match and wandered off as did we a few minutes later. Fortunately, I had the legs for the kilt.

That night, after all of the relatives and friends had gone over the comic with fine tooth combs (as had we, like, a thousand times), and the evening meal was done and the stream of annoying trick-or-treaters had died down, the hastily carved pumpkin burned on, casting its eerie, yet inviting light across my front lawn, she-who-must-remain-nameless and I lay on my bed, watching "Transylvania 6-5000" on cable, grinning a thousand, satisfied grins. I had never been able to visualize what my first publishing experience might be like although I'd waited, hoped and dreamed on it for so long, and now it had happened, and it was exhausting, exasperating, trying, stressful, draining, straining and countless other "ings", but, as I dozed off my thoughts trailed off to that quote in "Where The Buffalo Roam" where Bill Murray summed up not only Hunter Thompson's life, but my own now as well, when he uttered the immortal last line "It Never got Weird Enough For Me". I couldn't agree more, even now, on the other, back side of that long lost, sometimes lamented, sometimes not so much, career, but it was ONE HELL OF A RIDE!

John Hebert

Thanks, John. John is living happily ever after with his bride, who is NOT she-who-shall-not-be-named and working on the comic book Captain Action. There was a second issue, the conclusion of Sold Out, but that tale will be told another time.