“Summertime, the TV viewing is awful.
All my favorite shows are repeats or they’re gone.
The stuff they put on now should be declared unlawful.
So, it’s time to go out and play in the back lawn.”

George and Ira must be rolling over in their graves.

I was flicking through the channels the other morning and came across a televised broadcast of a radio interview of a guy talking about a book (talk about mixed media). The theme of the book was that parents of this generation are more likely to keep their kids inside than ever before (and the kids are more acclimated to the indoors, playing with computers, watching TV, and having play dates) than previous generations. A greater fear of strangers on the part of parents feeds into this as well. The question: how is that group of kids going to respond to needs to protect the (outside) environment when they grow up? The answer: I don’t know; as I said, I was just flicking through.

There is actually ONE summer show I should admit that Carol and I started watching a couple weeks ago. It’s called “The Scholar,” on Mondays at 8 p.m. (EDT) on ABC. The premise is that 10 high school seniors, five males and five females, are competing for a full-ride scholarship to the university of his or her choice. Like “The Apprentice”, the groups are divided into two teams who are assigned tasks to do in a limited amount of time. Unlike “The Apprentice”, no one gets “fired” or even “voted off the island.” The three best at the task are given a topic, such as African geography (from last week), and given three or four hours to study before being tested, spelling-bee style. The winner of that round gets a $50,000 scholarship and the right to compete for the full ride.

I suppose we enjoy it because these teens are so positive in wanting to make a difference in the world (being President, curing cancer). Their task last week involved helping a couple Boys/Girls Club-type centers. Among other criteria, they were judged on how much they engaged the kids they were helping in the process.

This week’s show involves putting together a jigsaw map of the U.S. states as the test. Naturally, I’ve only seen the last week’s previews (except for sports and news, my TV watching’s almost always on tape because of the child), but I’d have done really well on that test. I spent hours and hours playing with similar puzzles as a child. I recognized that Alabama and Mississippi were mirror images, from the way they both have too short a panhandle for the size of the state (cf. Florida or Oklahoma.) Vermont and New Hampshire, very different states politically, are also mirror images in jigsaw puzzles. The hardest states to place were Colorado and Wyoming, practically the same size (8th and 9th largest states, respectively) and shape.

I’m suddenly feeling very nostalgic. Guess what a little 15-month old I know will be getting in a couple years?


Probably NOT the new Bobby Zimmerman CD from Starbucks.

Library plates

As a librarian, I’m obliged to pass along the following press release, in case y’all want to run out and get one…

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles announced the availability of the new “Love Your Library” license plate at a press conference today. The plate features a library-related graphic and the tagline “READ LEARN EXPLORE.”

Renato Donato, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the NYS DMV; Carole Huxley, Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Cultural Education; Assemblywoman Sandra Galef; and a representative of Senator Hugh Farley’s office. Assemblywoman Galef and Senator Farley sponsored the law creating the Love Your Library license plate.

The Love Your Library (LYL) license plate is available to anyone who has a passenger or commercial vehicle registered in New York State. The International Symbol of Access is available on both types of plates for those who qualify. When issued in the commercial class, the word COMMERCIAL will appear in the tagline. Proceeds from the plate’s annual fee will help support the NY State Library’s Statewide Summer Reading Program at public libraries across the state.

The NYSL’s Statewide Summer Reading Program keeps students Pre-K through 12 reading when school is not in session. Youngsters choose what they read and learn the joys of reading while building literacy skills.

Each year the NYSL works with public libraries and library systems to develop a theme and encourage youngsters to participate. This year’s program, “Tune In @Your Library,” was coordinated by Crystal Faris, Youth Services Manager, Nassau Library System. More than 1 million youngsters participated in 2004.

The LYL license plate is available from the NYS DMV, their Custom Plates Unit at 518-402-4838, and all Issuing Offices. Individuals may call the Custom Plates number to place an order using MasterCard, Visa, American Express or Discover Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

The order forms can also be accessed on the NYSL’s web site or to order online, go here and click on the ‘Love Your Library’ plate under ‘Recently Released Plates.’

The initial fee for a plate with a number assigned by DMV is $43, with a $25 annual renewal fee. The initial fee for a plate personalized with your choice of two to six characters including spaces is $68, with a $50 annual renewal fee. The $25 annual fee will be deposited to the credit of the LYL Fund, which supports the Statewide Summer Reading Program.

For more information on the LYL fund, contact Janet M. Welch, State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries via phone at (518) 474-5930 or e-mail.

For more information on the New York State Library’s Statewide Summer Reading Program, go to the website and point to Statewide Summer Reading.

One of the nation’s leading research libraries, the New York State Library has served New Yorkers, state government and researchers from throughout the United States for more than 180 years. It is the largest state library in the nation and the only state library to qualify for membership in the Association of Research Libraries. The New York State Library is a program of the State Education Department.

The blogger CD exchange-ROG

Several months before I was involved with the bloggers exchange I mentioned a couple days ago, I was participating on a one-on-one exchange with Fred Hembeck, my old compatriot from the FantaCo comic book days. Most of my earlier works were chronologically based, but as Fred was already doing more thematic pieces, I did likewise.

One of the topics I decided on was to get a song for every state in the country. I missed a few states, but I ended up putting together three discs of an “American travelogue.”

Meanwhile, Fred was involved with a bunch of folks, most of them interested in comic books, who did a bloggers’ exchange of mixed CDs, initiated by Chris “Lefty” Brown. As I wasn’t blogging at the time, I couldn’t participate. But now that I am posting fairly regularly, I got to give it a go in the second round with these very diverse folks (May 23).

I decided to use the first of my American Travelogue discs, but I made a few changes.

US: I wanted to start and end with an “American” song. I started with “American Roulette” from Robbie Robertson’s first solo album, which starts off slowly, but really rocks at the end. My old friend Karen has worked for record companies over half her life, and she was trying to promote this album when it came out. She goes to one station trying to explain who Robertson WAS, “You know, The Band? Backing band for Dylan? The Last Waltz?” No hint of recognition from some 23-year old program director who was making decisions about what got played on the air.

NY: “New York, New York” – Ryan Adams was an alt-country darling in 2001. Some critics indicate that he puts out too much mediocre stuff, so his double albums should be single discs. Remind me to look up “alt-country.”

NJ: “Atlantic City” – I wanted to NOT do Springsteen here; I half succeeded. It’s a Bruce song by post-Robertson The Band, a little more up tempo than The Boss’s version, with mandolin.

PA: “Allentown” – I expect to be pilloried by some bloggers for putting the very uncool Billy Joel on the disc, but sonically, it just works for me. I had put Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom,” but it didn’t fit.

MD: “Baltimore” – I’m sure I got Peter Case from Karen. It’s one of those albums that I never remember to play, but the gravelly-voiced singer always satisfies when I do. I considered Vonda Shepherd’s “Maryland” here, but I was in a city groove.

DE: Couldn’t find anything in my collection for the First State. Don’t think “The White Cliffs of Dover” would count.

DC: “The Bourgeois Blues” – Folkways put out an album of covers of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly tunes. This song was written by the latter, and sung by Taj Mahal. Talks about black people not getting a break in our nation’s capital.

VA: Some relative told me that “I Believe” was the “future of popular music.” So, sound unheard, I bought the Blessed Union of Souls album. I wouldn’t say it was “the future of popular music,” but “Sweet Virginia” works in this disc.

NC: “Take the Train to Charlotte” – There are a number of other NC songs, but this one was obvious for me, since my mom, sister Marcia, and niece Alex live there. From the Roots and Blues 109-song, box set, this tune is by Fiddlin’ John Carson, no relation to the late, late-night talk show host (I don’t think so, anyway.) This song is from c. 1930.

SC: “Darlington County” – talk about commercial! From Springsteen’s massive Born in the U.S.A. album. This was the toughest change, because I replaced an obscure John Linnell song “South Carolina”, but again the sound was the determining factor.

GA: “Oh, Atlanta.” Love the chromatic scale ascent on this Alison Krauss tune. Chromatic scale? Play the scale MI up to DO, including the black keys, on a piano, staccato (short notes), then imagine that on guitar leading to Alison’s sweet voice.

FL: “Gator on the Lawn.” At 1:13, the shortest song, also the loudest. It has a really rockabilly feel. From the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ box set.

PR: I DUMPED “America” from West Side Story from this version. I LOVE West Side Story, I ADORE West Side Story, but I didn’t think it worked here.

AL: “Alabamy Home” by the Gotham Stompers, an instrumental from “1930s Jazz- The Small Combos.”

MS: “The Jazz Fiddler” by the Mississippi Sheiks, also from “Roots & Blues”.

LA: “Down at the Twist & Shout” was performed by Mary Chapin Carpenter at a Super Bowl, and I have the live recording, but this is the studio version.

TX: I love Lyle Lovett. I love his backing vocalists, Sweet Pea Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowens. They really help make “That’s Right (You’re Not from Texas)” swing.

US: This CD ends with a Garth Brooks song “American Honky Tonk Bar Association.” It’s a flat out country song for the “hardhat, gunrack, achin’-back, overtaxed, flag-wavin’, fun-lovin’ crowd.” I had, in the previous incarnation, put this song before Lyle.

So, when I see reviews of this album on other blogs and I link to them, you’ll know what the heck they’re talking about. Not so incidentally, look at Lefty’s page for June 28 for what other bloggers said about their own and each others’ discs.

The Undesirable Demographic

I am pretty OK being over 50. Yes, I am. On the other hand, I don’t need constant reminders.

So, the umpteenth mailing from AARP and its various services gets tiresome. However, while many marketers have abandoned me because I’m no longer in the “desirable” 18-49 range (and given the junk snail- and e-mail I get, that’s not all bad), there are some who have figured out that people MY age actually spend money!

So, I am trying to figure out how I feel about a recent e-mail I got.
This is a complimentary issue of Advising Boomer’s e-News. You are not subscribed. To become a FREE subscriber and guarantee your continued delivery, send a blank email to:

I’m always suspicious of sources that that say things like, “The Financial and Lifestyle Resource for Trusted Advisors”. Indeed, anything with the word “lifestyle” sets my teeth on edge.
The sample articles were about
“A Boomer Look at Marriage”: interesting
“Destiny: Americans Save Little For Retirement Health Expenses”: stop depressing me
“Bush To Keep Talking About Social Security”: MEGO

Well, I guess NOT.

Supreme surprise

One of the things that I think is generally a good thing is getting my assumptions challenged now and then. Well, that’s happened to me this past month with regard to the Highest Court of the Land.

Apparently, the term “liberal” and “conservative” are not as meaningful on the Supreme Court as I thought they were, or mean different things than I thought. In the medical marijuana case that I mentioned on June 7Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the opinion, while Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, considered a moderate, penned the dissent, supported by the ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas, part of the conservative wing of the court.

Last week, in the eminent domain case, Justice Stevens, deemed the most liberal on the Court, wrote for the 5-4 majority in favor of the government, while Justice O’Connor again authored the dissenting opinion, saying that the Court abandoned a basic limitation on government power and, in doing so, “washed out any distinction between private and public use of property.” O’Connor said economic development is not a constitutionally permissible reason to take people’s land.

Further, she wrote: “Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.” O’Connor was supported by the conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and again by Rehnquist and Thomas. I can’t remember the last time I agreed with Rehnquist AND Thomas on a non-unanimous decision twice in one month.

The cautious, mixed Ten Commandments ruling this week adhered more to the traditional liberal/conservative split of the Court.

I was disappointed by the marijuana ruling, and generally pleased by the Ten Commandments decision, but I remain deeply troubled by the eminent domain case. It appears that the underlying assumption in the latter case is that government will always work for the benefit of all, rather than just the “connected,” and I’m suspicious enough of government – all government, however well-meaning – that that chance of greed and corruption driving a land grab is very high. I predict that in a couple decades, this ruling will be overturned when some egregious activities are uncovered.

My regrets to the folks of New London, CT, who have vowed to stay in their houses until the bulldozers come.


I just read that the USA Network was born 25 years ago as basic cable’s first general entertainment channel. It is celebrating its first year as part of the NBC Universal Television Studio (NUTS), which also includes Bravo and Telemundo. I tell you this merely so I could use the above title. This is just one more way I am trying to lose my serious, stuffy image.

Mixed CD-Greg Burgas

For some obscure reason, I was singing “Istanbul (not Constantinople)” in the locker room of the Albany Y a few weeks ago. I noted to one of my compatriots, Phil, that the original came out in 1953, the year I was born, but I didn’t know who performed it. (It turned out to be the Four Lads. It entered the charts on 10/17 and went to #10.) Please know that I don’t USUALLY go around singing “Istanbul”.

I’m involved in this CD exchange among two dozen bloggers, organized by Chris “Lefty” Brown (May 23). The first disc to arrive was on that same day from a guy named Greg Burgas, and what’s on it? “Istanbul”! It’s the They Might Be Giants version (which I own), but still pretty spooky.

It’s a pretty eclectic mix from Delenda Est Carthago, the name of his blog. Some of it I liked a lot. The title cut is a relatively obscure Diana Ross and the Supremes hit, “Forever Came Today,” a fine song (though how that defines the theme of the disc, I’m not quite sure yet.) Only two songs I didn’t care for, and I attribute that to a generational thing. (A Fred Hembeck lets me know that I’m the second oldest one in the exchange; he has 5 weeks on me.) One was Ugly in the Morning, an apt description of the Faith No More song, and the other some Jane’s Addiction song that would have driven me to drugs if I didn’t have willpower.

On the other hand, a lot of stuff worked. Alison Krauss’ Down to the River to Pray (the second O Brother cut on the disc) oddly segues nicely with the guitar noodling in the beginning of a song by the hard rockin’ Cinderella! Who knew? There are other links like that throughout.

But for me, THE find was: “Somewhere between a 1930s Cuban dance orchestra, a classical chamber music ensemble, a Brasilian marching street band and Japanese film noir is the 12-piece Pink Martini. Tasty. I want MORE.

(Oh, and I just figured out WHY Greg was first – his wife just had a baby. Congrats, Greg, but did you think having a baby might interfere with blogging and making mixed CDs? Can’t understand THAT.)

OK so I wrote that, but now I have two dozen MORE CDs I should address. Four I haven’t heard, and – fortunately – a few I haven’t received yet. Don’t know that I’ll be as verbose in the future. BTW, I expect that, eventually, the song lists of all of these bloggers will show up on Lefty’s page. If Chris’ list shows up on the page, I’ll link to that. MY list will show up on THIS page, also eventually.

The Lydster -Part 15: Adventurers in Babysitting

I was reminding someone that I was going to be out of work for a day earlier this month in order to watch Lydia. Someone said, “Oh, you’re going to babysit Lydia.” Hmm. Can you babysit your own child? I’ve heard this before, and something about it has never resonated correctly with me, but maybe I’m being overly sensitive.

So, I go to several dictionaries to look up babysitting/babysitter:

  • to take care of someone’s baby or child while that person is out, usually by going to their home
  • a person engaged to care for one or more children in the temporary absence of parents or guardians
  • a person who cares for or watches over someone or something that needs attention or guidance

    OK, so there’s some wiggle room in the third definition.

    Then I asked Carol: “Has ANYONE EVER said to you, “Oh, you need to babysit Lydia [because she’s sick, etc.]? And the answer, as I suspected, was “No.” SHE watches, SHE tends to, SHE cares for. And I babysit? Nah, *I* watch, *I* tend to, *I* care for.

    I really believe the linguistic distinction matters. When she’s ready to be in a relationship and have children THOUSANDS of years now, I want her to have a partner who is a caregiver, not a babysitter.

    Of course, it was difficult to give Lydia care when she went three or four days this month when she ONLY wanted Mommy, ironically around Father’s Day, but that too has passed.

    What hasn’t passed is her utter rejection of her high chair in the past 72 hours in favor of a “grown-up” chair that she can pull herself onto. She is now at the table (in the booster seat), just like everyone else.

    And that’s what I learned about myself from my daughter THIS month. Happy year and a quarter, Lydia.

  • JEOPARDY Part 5

    Continued from Saturday, June 18.

    Why are there over a half dozen Boston media trucks parked in front of the Boston Park Plaza Hotel? It can’t be for JEOPARDY!

    Being an information specialist, I figure I’d better find out, and who better to consult than the doorman?

    So, I asked him. He gave me that look that said, “You dummy!”, but he answered, “The President’s coming!” I was going to ask him the president of what, but then I got it. THE President is coming here? But why?

    As it turned out, President Clinton, Vice-President Gore, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and other dignitaries were going to be at the hotel for a fancy (read: high-priced) fund-raising dinner. The President was in Cincinnati earlier in the day, but was flying in for this evening.

    You need to remember the time frame: this was the Monicagate era. Eventually, I could look down from my upper story room (12th floor?) and see many hundred protesters. It seemed that they were split about 50/50. Half were upset with President Clinton because of his behavior and the effect it had on the country. But the other half was outraged by Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor, for putting all of the lurid details about Bill and Monica on the Internet. “Pornographer” was often used in the anti-Starr signage. (My view at the time was “a pox on both houses.”)

    Judy, Max and I went to see an OMNIMAX showing of a movie about Mount Everest, which was most exciting. (Max going to the OMNIMAX – how cool is THAT for a teenager?, I thought). Then we went out to dinner. When we got back, 4 of the 5 building entrances were inaccessible for security reasons. (I heard later in an interview that Alex Trebek also had difficulty getting back in, but I did not see him.)
    There was a large canopy that stretched to the middle of the street. One could not see anyone coming in or out of the event. Cars would drive under the canopy, then out. When we walked back from dinner, we noted that the glass was tinted as well (and bullet-proof, too, I gather.) We also saw security on adjoining rooftops.

    We went into the hotel through the only means of access and went up to my room. Judy’s car was in the lot, and she was unlikely to be able to get out very easily. Also, the event downstairs was apparently running late, so we watched the last episode of the Larry Sanders Show on HBO. Judy and Max left around 11:30, when the roads were finally clear, and they stayed at a nearby hotel. I went to bed but slept fitfully.

    The next morning, I went down to get my complementary breakfast, but I really couldn’t eat. In fact, I was feeling a little queasy. We were to meet in the hotel lobby with our change of clothes at 11:30 a.m. We rode in a couple vans for the two or three block trip to the Wang Center.

    We went into a room and met Susanne Thurber, talent coordinator, who gave us tips on playing the game. Among other things, she noted that the place was much larger (seating capacity 3200) than the small theater where the show is filmed (250). She noted that a good game involves clearing the board, so we should go right to the next clue as soon as possible, always indicating the category and the amount. We should be upbeat. (She told us a lot of other good stuff which I’ve since forgotten.)

    Boston was really psyched to have JEOPARDY! in town. The show had traveled before, to Stockholm, Washington, DC and Berkeley, but this was a first for this town. I understand that it was chosen because of the extremely high viewership per capita. The Globe, the Herald, and even the Christian Science Monitor were there, interviewing Susanne, Alex Trebek, head writer Gary Johnson, and others.

    This is how the Boston Herald’s Marisa Guthrie described the set (9/19/98): “The Wang stage was littered with Boston props, from a bigger-than-life sculpture of Paul Revere astride his trusty mare to a scaled-down replica of the Old North Church with the top of the steeple cut off. (It won’t show up on camera anyway.)” There was a preponderance of red brick everywhere, from the game board to the players’ lecterns.

    In fact, if you go here, and click on “Boston photo album”, you’ll see the set, including a picture of (ahem) me. If you’re in the “Contestants” field, you will also see (er) me. (The interview section is no longer functional; whatever profundities that I said are now lost to the ages.)

    I’m wandering around on stage, when suddenly, I had the sense that I was being followed. Some guy I don’t know says, “Glad to see you, Roger. Good luck!”

    Continued on Saturday, July 2.