TV Cable a la carte

You probably saw the article earlier this month noting the Federal Communications Commission’s reversal about a la carte cable programming, or in the words of Ray Davies, “Give the people what they want.”

First off, I’m puzzled.

The story is clear that Congressional legislation is likely needed to effect the change, so it wasn’t as though the change came with the report, only the Commission’s position on cable programming. So the play it got confounded me.

Also, I’m suspicious.

I certainly don’t know if it would be cheaper or not to configure individual homes, this one with channels 1-25 and that one with channels 11-35, although it is counterintuitive to think that if they charge $50 for 100 channels, the companies will now start charging $25 for 50 channels. There are some fixed costs, I would imagine.

What I’m suspicious of is promises. The 1996 Telecommunications Act was supposed to create greater competition, and therefore lower prices for cable television. This simply has not happened.

Some analysts suggest that there will be fewer new cable cable stations, because without being bundled, people will be less likely to choose a not yet aired network.
Finally, I’m concerned.

I’m hoping that whatever is ultimately worked out makes some sort of provision for “must-carry” stations. It is local programming, generally news, that distinguishes watching TV in Detroit from Denver or Dallas. The homogenization of TV (and OK, malls and lots of aspects of American life) worries me. Maybe it’s windmill-tilting, but I like being able to turn on a TV in a hotel and actually have some idea where the heck I am, besides seeing the “On the 8s” graphic on The Weather Channel.

Oscar Poll; Dennis Weaver

The Internet Movie Database is taking an unscientific poll, asking for people’s “dark horse” pick for the Oscar:
Jake Gyllenhaal for Best Supporting Actor 1881 (18.0%)
George Clooney for Best Director 1145 (11.0%)
Matt Dillon for Best Supporting Actor 998 (9.6%)
Keira Knightley for Best Actress 858 (8.2%)
Munich for Best Picture 797 (7.6%)
Good Night, and Good Luck for Best Picture 694 (6.6%)
Terrence Howard for Best Actor 631 (6.0%)
Capote for Best Picture 585 (5.6%)
Amy Adams for Best Supporting Actress 572 (5.5%)
David Strathairn for Best Actor 518 (5.0%)
Other 451 (4.3%)
Steven Spielberg for Best Director 422 (4.0%)
William Hurt for Best Supporting Actor 327 (3.1%)
Judi Dench for Best Actress 225 (2.2%)
Charlize Theron for Best Actress 161 (1.5%)
Frances McDormand for Best Supporting Actress 143 (1.4%)
Bennett Miller for Best Director 34 (0.3%)
A total of 10442 votes were collected.
(as of 3 pm today)
I voted for Knightley, even though I never saw the movie Pride and Prejudice, because my wife liked her performance so much.

When my sister Leslie and I were little, we’d limp around the house, saying “Comin’, Mr. Dillon.” Somehow, this was terribly funny when we were 7 or 8. We were watching Dennis Weaver as Chester Goode, the limping deputy to James Arness’ rugged Marshall Matt Dillon, a role he played during the first half of the long run of “Gunsmoke”.

Later, I watched the fish-out-of-water “McCloud”, who was promoted to sheriff. He seemed to always get the bad guy, despite the doubts of New York City’s finest. McCloud was a 60-minute, 90-minute and 2-hour show on NBC in the early 1970s, often in rotation with shows such as “Columbo” and “McMillan and Wife”.

As a fine working actor, he took on many other parts, including on the the Simpsons, but I can’t help but to identify him by these two pivotal roles. He died on Friday, but I only heard today.

Sunday Funnies: The Black Comic Book, Pt. 7

The last piece on The Colored Negro Black Comic Book by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon. Yes, I know it’s Monday, but if Kelly Brown can do Weird Thoughts Monday on Tuesday, and her husband Lefty can do Friday Three Questions on Saturday, who am I to be a purist?

Note: in the comic strip tradition all the words in the strip are in capitals, but for readability, I’ve deigned to write in standard English. Also the words that are in bold in the strip are in red in this text.

“B.S.”, a 4-page reply to “B.C.”

Page 1:
White caveman (sharpening spear): What are you doing?

Page 2, Panel 1:
Black caveman (holding arrow): I am inventing something called the wheel…
Page 2, Panel 2:
Black caveman: What are you doing?

Page 3:

Page 4:
Both cavemen dead, one from spear, one from arrow.
Cave boy: What did they do?
Father: They just invented brotherhood!

All they were saying was, “Give peace a chance.” There were a lot of songs about getting along at the time, notably “Friendship Train” by Gladys Knight and the Pips: “Unrest between races must come to an end.” That song was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, who wrote a number of “message” songs for the Temptations.


“Brother Blackberry”, a 1 page parody of “Brother Juniper”, not in Toonopedia, but in my local newspapers when I was a kid.

Well, if God did make us in His/Her/Their image… There are lots of pictures of black Jesuses in black people’s homes I visited, even to this day.


“Likriss Sikniss”, a 1-page reflection of “Dennis the Menace”

Some things that one wants to avoid have no race.


“Believe It or Watts!”, a 2-page riff on “Ripley’s Believe It or Not”

Page 1:

Page 2 (left side)
Nude man sitting in steamy area:
Narrative: This black man has slept in a hot coal bed for fifteen years!! (Before that, he was an idiot albino from Kalamazoo!)

Page 2 (right side):
Tree carved with word “black”.
Markings found on a white birch in Caucasia, Pa. The tree is owned by Mrs. Fiona Black, whose son carved his name into it.

(In arrow): Look what can be done with Sidney Poitier’s name:
which involved the words Hi, Doris Day (from the D and O in his name), plus Rosh Hashona, apple, Ship, parsley, Altoona, Nipsey, CORE, and NAACP in crossword form

The first page was a pretty OK piece, but the second generated a Huh? from me.

And that’s it, except for these final thoughts:

Thanks to the anonymous correspondent who identified the Little King as the antecedent for “King Coal” a couple weeks ago. It has been rectified in the original posting.

The book publisher, Price/Stern/Sloan, also put out other books at the time, including You Were Born on a Rotten Day, The Power of Positive Pessimism and my favorite, the Wit and Wisdom of Spiro T. Agnew, which was a title page, followed by a bunch of blank pages.

It was great to find something that the comic book fans, which I (marginally) still am, would appreciate.

The Lydster, Part 23: B.L., L.S.

Lydia’s doing OK, getting over an ear infection and a persistent cough, talking more, growing. She walked down the stairs by herself yesterday, not using the railing, but leaning on the wall, for the first time; I didn’t help her at all, but I was two steps below her, you’d better believe. Since her birthday is next month, I thought I’d write about life before Lydia.

Ever since the beginning of this millennium, we’ve been – how do you Americans put it? – “trying”. For whatever reason, it wasn’t happening. So we were “tested”, me first because it’s “easier”. So when it finally happened that Carol was pregnant, we were excited, but also stunned. I had all but given up hope, and I was OK with that. So now, we have to rearrange our focus.

One of the things I thought I would do when Carol was pregnant, then after Lydia was born, was to keep a journal for her to read when she got older. Well, the journal was used before the birth, but not at all after the fact. Indeed, this blog was created, at least in part, so that I could note Lydia’s development at least once a month.

In some ways, the best part of the early part of the pregnancy was that period of about a month between when we found out and when we told our parents. It was our little secret, wonderfully conspiratorial.

Naturally, we needed to go on vacation – who knows when we’ll be able to do THAT again? – and we picked an inn in Poland Springs, ME, (yes, near where they bottle the water), a quirky place that was quite reasonable. If they say dinner is from 5 to 6:30, you’d best be there at that time, for at 7, the room is transformed into the entertainment center. One of the particular rules is that there be no children, so we know we’re not likely to be there again anytime soon.

Carol’s friend Alison started referring to the expected baby as Little Soul, which we adopted. It beat saying “him/her”.
8/7/03 – Ultrasound. LS is 6 mm long
10/15/03- Ultrasound, LS heart beating strongly. we opt against the amniocentesis.
10/17/03- The news goes “wide” about LS.
11/7/03-Lots of people are being very generous to us, giving us clothes, toys, equipment.
11/12/03- Went to a specialist and saw a “Level 2” ultrasound. LS’s body has the right amount of fluid, the brain is the right proportion. weight: 11 ounces. Due date 3/31/04. But LS was positioned so we could not determine the gender, which was OK.

12/3/03- Putting together a CD for LS (finished 12/23). LS is “making it difficult for her mother to sleep, which is making it hard for ME to sleep.”
12/29/03- Gave Carol CD for LS’s 0th Christmas. “It is my desire that you develop an eclectic taste in music (not necessarily mine, though some overlap would be nice.)”
1/2/04- “Lots of people ask, Do we want a boy or a girl and what type of person (shy, showy, etc.) we want. Don’t care. You’ll probably be smart (it’s in the genes), but I hope you’ll really appreciate music. Doesn’t have to be the music I like, but I’m thinking you’ll come around eventually.”

I was reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears to Lydia yesterday. It was a version that our babysitter Anne gave to her. It’s illustrated by Gill Guile (love that name) and published by Brimax of Newcastle, England, copyright 1995.
I thought I knew the story until I got to the last page, which reads:
“Now the three bears always make sure that the cottage door is locked when they go for a walk in the forest. They do not want anyone else eating their porridge, breaking their chairs or sleeping in their beds.”
I missed that part in the version I grew up with.

Don Knotts, R.I.P.

Someone asked about black and white vs. color movies recently, and one could make a case for each. But Don Knotts, who died yesterday, was the perfect character inside that TV set in the mostly black and white film Pleasantville.
Of course, he’s best known as Barney Fife on Andy Griffith Show, a five-time Emmy winner. The show suffered greatly after his departure. I watched religiously for the well-meaning, but inept deputy to mangle something that Sheriff Taylor would put aright. But Barney always had a good heart, right under the pocket where he usually kept that one bullet for his gun.

I even watched an episode of Matlock, just to see Andy and Don back at work.
He almost was enough to make me watch Three’s Company, but not quite.
Johnny B. notes the death of “Kolchak: the Night Stalker” star Darren McGavin.

John R. Cash

I appreciated Johnny Cash well enough when I was growing up. I watched his 1969-1971 TV show, mostly because he had great guests such as Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young. I enjoyed his music on the radio, but didn’t buy any of his albums until Class of ’55, his 1986 collaboration with Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Carl Perkins.

Then, someone gave me that first American Recording, produced by Rick Rubin, that came out in 1994. And I was hooked. I figured the second disc, with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as his backup band, would be a big hit in 1996. It was well-received, but only got to #170 on the charts. By the time I bought the third album in 2000, which features Nick Cave’s “The Mercy Seat”, I had started picking up some of Johnny’s earlier work as well, Folsom Prison and San Quentin.

I was slackjawed when I saw the “Hurt” video from the fourth album, and cried when I saw it again after Johnny died in 2003.

Subsequently, I picked up the American Recordings box set. Fans of Johnny might want to pick up his daughter Rosanne’s new album, “Black Cadillac”. The video that comes with the disc, and which can also be found on her website really enhances the listening experience.

In my office, we refer to the man as “John R.”, because the title of this piece is the name in which the songs he wrote were copyrighted.

Never did see the movie “Walk the Line”, and I REALLY wanted to, but it’s available Tuesday on DVD.

Rock meme:
Artist/Band: Johnny Cash (b. 2/26/1932, d. 9/12/2003)
Are you male or female: Boy Named Sue; Man in Black
Describe yourself: I Walk the Line
How do some people feel about you: Come In Stranger
How do you feel about yourself: I Won’t Back Down
Describe what you want to be: Everybody Loves a Nut
Describe how you live: Against the Wind
Describe how you love: I Love You Because
Share a few words of wisdom: One Place at a Time
Today, some time after 5 pm EST, there will be 6.5 billion people on this planet, according to the Census population clock.

George Harrison

Today would have been George Harrison’s 63rd birthday. Or maybe tomorrow; even George was confused about it. For years he thought he was born early on the 25th, but in his forties came to believe he was born late on the 24th.

Regardless, I’ve been listening to a lot of Harrison music, including an album friend Fred put together of George’s songs with the Beatles. See if you can identify them. They are in chronological order, and I’m thinking the running times might help. (To reveal the answers, just block over the white space.)

Notes: These are the songs written and sung by George that appeared on the Beatles CDs. So no “Cry for a Shadow”, the early Harrison/Lennon instrumental. No Carl Perkins covers, such as “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby” or Lennon/McCartney songs, such as “I’m Happy Just To Dance with You”.
The list does include the songs on the Anthology albums, at the point they would have appeared on a Beatles album, had they been releaseded at the time. It contains only one version of the song; thus, no Anthology “Taxman”, only Revolver “Taxman”.. It includes songs from Anthology 3 that George ultimately performed on his solo albums.

1. Don’t Bother Me 2:31
2. You Know What To Do 2:00
3. I Need You 2:33
4. You Like Too Much 2:40
5. Think For Yourself 2:20
6. If I Needed Someone 2:25
7. Taxman 2:41
8. Love You To 3:00
9. I Want to Tell You 2:31
10. Within You Without You 5:07
11. Blue Jay Way 3:58
12. The Inner Light 2:38
13. While My Guitar Gently Weeps 4:47
14. Piggies 2:06
15. Long, Long, Long 3:06
16. Savoy Truffle 2:56
17. Not Guilty 3:24
18. Only A Northern Song 3:26
19. It’s All Too Much 6:27
20. Old Brown Shoe 3:20
21. Something 3:05
22. Here Comes the Sun 3:07
23. For You Blue 2:34
24. I Me Mine 2:27
25. All Things Must Pass 3:06
David Bromberg was in town recently. (Unfortunately, I didn’t see him.) A review alluded to him writing a song with George. I assume the writer was referring to The Holdup, which I have on vinyl from over 30 years ago. The line about taxes sounded very Harrison, but it seemed incongruous for the peaceful guy to come up with “I’ll put a bullet right through your best liver.” I found clips of the song all over the Internet, the same 29-second snippet, which leaves off one of my favorite lines in all of pop music: “Wealth is disease, and I am the cure.”
Rock Meme:
Artist/Band: George Harrison (b. 2/24/1943, d. 11/29/2001)
Are you male or female: Far East Man
Describe yourself: Under the Mersey Wall
How do some people feel about you: Mystical One
How do you feel about yourself: Run of the Mill
Describe what you want to be: Breath Away from Heaven
Describe how you live: Living in the Material World
Describe how you love: Love Comes to Everyone
Share a few words of wisdom: All Things Must Pass; Answer’s at the End

(No) Opinion

Sometimes, I just don’t care. That is, I really don’t have an opinion. One example is when my wife wants to know if we should paint the walls eggshell white or ecru. Don’t care. Really. I cede my opinion, and I won’t complain later. I promise.

Because I’m a blogger, people sometime say to me, “You ought to write about X.” Usually, except on those occasions four times a year (your chance is coming next month) when I allow readers of this blog to boss me around, I usually decline. Sometimes, it’s because the topic doesn’t interest me.

More likely, though, I DO care about the topic. (I’m very opinionated.) I just don’t have very much to say, or much to add to the existing discussion.

For instance:

How do I feel about the controversial Tom Toles cartoon? The Washington Post was right to publish it.

What do I think of the publication of the Danish cartoon depicting Islam in a bad light? They had the right to publish, although from what I’ve read and seen, the Danish papers were rather paternalistic in telling the 2% of the population Danish Muslims, “This is the way we do things here.” I thought some of the other papers publishing was unnecessarily incendiary.

What do I think of the violence from that? I’m against it. (Duh.)

What do I think of Google defying a Dept. of Justice subpoena? I’m in favor, and shame on Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft.

What do I think of Google censoring its search services in China? I find it troubling.

Are you worried about mad cow or anthrax? Not especially.

How about the avian flu? I feel as though I should be worried about it, but I know our government will protect us.

And that’s it. Nothing pithy. No attempts (however poor) to be funny or clever, or except in the last example, snarky. Snarky – a word I never used before 2005.

Conversely, I am interested in all sorts of things, such as:

Wolfgang’s Vault: Bill Graham and his concert promotion company produced more than 35,000 concerts all over the world. His first venue, the legendary Fillmore Auditorium, was home to many of rock’s greatest performers – Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Prince – and the list goes on and on.

“Graham taped thousands of live performances and stored the tapes in the basement of the BGP headquarters.

“These tapes and the concerts they captured lay dormant until the Bill Graham archive was acquired by Wolfgang’s Vault (Bill Graham’s given first name was Wolfgang) in 2003.”
Opinion: access to this music is very exciting. There’s also a bunch of stuff for sale – Graham was a pack rat – such as vintage posters, t-shirts and tickets. is low-resolution source of re-edited movie trailers and other video items. From a wire story: “Brokeback Team America” – This clip marries the audio from Brokeback Mountain trailer to scenes from Matt Parker and Trey Stone’s puppets-only flick.” Other titles listed: Sleepless in Seattle (stalker movie), Shining (“Jerry Maguire-ish candygram), Brokeback to the Future (Marty and Doc Brown’s tale re-edited). I found a performance of Let It Be from the movie of the same name. 6700 uploaded videos.
Opinion: Could be lots of people’s favorite waste of time, such as Mike.

I love word play.

I was inclined to follow Mark Evanier’s thinking on Dubai, but I was mystified. Why is THIS where W threatens his VERY FIRST veto EVER, when the war in Iraq and at least the trial balloons re: our policy towards Palestine under Hamas are more likely to inflame Arab sentiment?
Then I saw this: White House Has Ties to Dubai Firm Taking Over Ports. Then all was made clear.

In the Olympics, I’m glad that Belbin and Agosto won the silver in ice dancing, as I thought they might a couple months ago and I know that schaudenfraude has taken over when I say I’m really glad Bode Miller is 0 for 4 in his medal search.

But my favorite part of the Olympics are the commercials. I haven’t seen the one for “The Office”, but my wife liked it. I saw a piece for “Scrubs”, where J.D. is getting bad marks from the judge from Janitoria. My favorite, though, has Campbell Brown doing a mock promo: “This is Olympic Ice on NBC.” When told it was really the USA Network, she storms off the set and says, “I don’t DO cable.” Guess you had to be there. As E. B. White said, “Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.”

Old Black Joe

When I went to school, I was the only black kid in my class for 6.5 of the first 7 years. My neighborhood was primary Slavic- Russian, Czech, Polish, Ukrainian. I had halupki long before I ever had grits or collards.

At school, we had music class every day with Mrs. Joseph, starting in 4th grade. We used what I knew then was an ancient music book. The songs included A Capital Ship, La Paloma, Rule Britannia, and Columbia, The Gem of the Ocean. I did not know we sang so many seaworthy tunes.

There was also Hail Columbia, Kookaburra, Goober Peas, and The Yellow Rose of Texas, among others.

Then there was Shortnin’ Bread. I HATED Shortnin’ Bread, not so much for what it was, as much as the need for certain people in the class – not my friends, but some others- to sing it TO me, leaning in my direction. (I could be paranoid, but not for the five years we sang this song.) But I sucked it up, and got through it.

One day, when I was in 5th grade, Mrs. Joseph announced that we could sing anything we wanted. One kid asked for an unfamiliar page. I turned to it, and, of course, it was that Stephen Foster classic, Old Black Joe. I had no idea the piece was in the book! What would Mrs. Joseph do? What would I do? Quickly I decided that if we sang the song, I would walk out of the room. (To where, I had no idea.)
Mrs. Joseph gets to the page, and she says, “Hmm, let’s sing something else.” Walkout averted.

But in retrospect, I wish there had been a conversation about WHY we weren’t singing it. And I wish I could find a copy of that book; I really liked most of the songs.


Here’s something I’ve never admitted to: I have a Seinfeldian interest in breakfast cereals.

I’m pretty sure it started by reading the sides of the packages when I was a kid.
Riboflavin, I discovered, was Vitamin B-2! Niacin, Vitamin B-3!

So, I was quite excited to find out that Sunday was the 100th anniversary of breakfast cereal. On February 19, 1906, William Keith Kellogg incorporated the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company. He and his older brother, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, while working at a Battle Creek sanitarium, accidentally invented the process for making cereal flakes. W.K.’s company, of course, became Kellogg’s.

Personally, I like to mix my non-presweeted cereals. They must differ by grain and by shape. Cereal generally comes in
and is shaped like a
square (or rectangle)

So, among popular cereals:
Cb- Kix
Cf- corn flakes
Cs- Corn Chex
Oo- Cheerios
Rp- Rice Krispies
Rs- Rice Chex
Wf- Wheaties, raisin bran
Ws- shredded wheat, Wheat Chex

So, if I start with a Ws, say Spoon-Sized Shredded Wheat, I can add an Rp, an Oo, and/or a Cf, e.g., but not a Wf (because it’d be two wheat cereals) or Rs, because it
would be two squares.

I don’t mix pre-sweetened cereals, as I recall Rory and her friends did on Gilmore Girls. Some of the sweetened cereals of my youth have changed their names. Sugar Smacks are Honey Smacks. Sugar Pops are now Corn Pops.

Happy anniversary to the breakfast cereal. It is another reflection of the effectiveness, of the power of advertising, especially in the television era – “K-E-double L-O-double Good, Kellogg’s best to you.”