The final curtain

I was watching Wednesday’s JEOPARDY! on Saturday – no surprise there – and there was a $1600 question about Women of Distinction: “In November 1988 she was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, becoming the first woman to head a modern Islamic nation. ” It was, of course, Benazir Bhutto. On Thursday, she was dead. Yes, I know they tape the game show, but I still found it a bit spooky.

A couple musicians died this month, and I hadn’t noted it yet.

Ike Turner: recorded perhaps the first rock song, Rocket 88. Enhanced his wife’s career and the song Proud Mary. Beat his wife. Great musician, not so great human being.

Oscar Peterson: When I think of my father’s record collection, I usually think of the folkies like Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger and Odetta. But now that I ponder it, there were a few Oscar Peterson albums as well. But I did not really appreciate him until I was considerably older. Wonderfully lyrical pianist. I never knew he was Canadian.

Dan Fogelberg: seems like someone gave me an LP of his once upon a time. Actually bought the greatest hits album for my wife a couple years ago because she had a roommate in college who played Fogelberg incessantly. I could only recognize two of his songs, Another Auld Lang Syne, because it shows up every holiday season, and Longer, which appears on some compilation album. Conversely, my wife can sing along with over half of the tunes. I was on Barnes & Nobles’ online site this week, and along with the big current hits and Christmas music, high on the list was that same greatest hits album I had bought for my wife.

But it’s the fact that he died of prostate cancer – at 56! – which, of course, is what killed my father. I’m thus compelled to ask my male readers of a certain age (certainly by 50, or earlier with a family history) to get checked regularly.

Roger Answers Your Questions, Anthony

But before that, one last question from Scott:

5. (I may have missed this somewhere in your posts) Have you ever considered becoming a minister?

When I was 12, and probably a year or two before and after, I was pretty much convinced of it. I had a “born-again” experience when I was nine, and it seemed like the logical path.

And now to Anthony:

1. What is the one thing that if they didn’t have it in heaven you would seriously think about taking up residence in the other place because you would miss it so much?
Music. You get the sense that they’ll be celestial choirs singing all of the time. If heaven is tuneless, that’d be hell.

2. What is the hardest passage of Scripture for you to accept?
Interestingly, I’ve a great rationalization for any of those loopy Old Testament readings such as Deuteronomy 25 as a message for a different time.
(I can even go a couple hours on Thou Shall Not Kill: what DOES that mean in terms of self-defense, war, capital punishment, war, abortion, stem cell research, et al.?)

What’s harder to deal with, and this ties directly into the conversation about becoming a minister, is perhaps a core tenet of Christianity, at least as understood by many: John 14:6 – Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
At the point I was 15 or 16, I was having a difficult time with the notion that a good Hindu or Buddhist, who had never heard of Jesus Christ, was going to hell – the reason we were supposed to go out and “save those savages”, in Africa and elsewhere. It was at this point I pretty much turned away from the faith of my youth, and it took over a decade before I found my way back, with the ability not to necessarily buy into the doctrinaire positions of fundamentalism. I’ve gotten better with ambiguity. I’ve talked with Christian clergy, and at least a few struggle with the same issues.
I read a biography of Mahatma Gandhi decades ago, and there was a quote in there that has stuck in my mind about why he chose not to be a Christian: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. The materialism of affluent Christian countries appears to contradict the claims of Jesus Christ that says it’s not possible to worship both Mammon and God at the same time.” Don’t think that was the exact quote, but close enough.

3. What do you dislike most about yourself?
My ability to go to a very melancholy place rather easily.

4. What is the most profound spiritual experience you have had?
I was in a play (Our Town), and became good friends with this woman named Rusell. She ended up contracting this rare but almost always fatal disease and was at some hospital in Boston. A bunch of us went to our church chapel in Albany, stood in a circle and prayed for Rusell. At about that time, she was cured and fully recovered; it was, the doctors said, a miracle.
Dorian reimagines Christmas.
New England 16-0. Feh.



Wrestling Boxing Day, I’m coming out of a convenience store. A young woman is coming in, so I hold the door open for her. A young man, coming from a different direction, follows her in, saying “Ummm, sexy THAT!”

This led me to posit several questions:
1) Was he talking to her, or more to the universe at large?
2) Was she offended, delighted or what? (I was waiting for a bus, and I could have gone and asked her, but thought the better of it.)
3) Does that kind of line actually work on some people?

I never had a “line”, as far as I am aware. Sometimes I would do stuff (throw peanuts in someone’s beer, play air guitar), but smooth talking, I didn’t do.

So, I’d like you to answer question #3 above (and #1 and/or #2, if you have some insight). Additionally, I’d be interested in what kind of lines you’ve tried, and whether any of them actually worked.

I’m interested to know your gender, approximate age, and sexual orientation to see if it differs.
a guy I know and his brothers singing in three-part harmony.



Wrestling Boxing Day, I’m coming out of a convenience store. A young woman is coming in, so I hold the door open for her. A young man, coming from a different direction, follows her in, saying “Ummm, sexy THAT!”

This led me to posit several questions:
1) Was he talking to her, or more to the universe at large?
2) Was she offended, delighted or what? (I was waiting for a bus, and I could have gone and asked her, but thought the better of it.)
3) Does that kind of line actually work on some people?

I never had a “line”, as far as I am aware. Sometimes I would do stuff (throw peanuts in someone’s beer, play air guitar), but smooth talking, I didn’t do.

So, I’d like you to answer question #3 above (and #1 and/or #2, if you have some insight). Additionally, I’d be interested in what kind of lines you’ve tried, and whether any of them actually worked.

I’m interested to know your gender, approximate age, and sexual orientation to see if it differs.
a guy I know and his brothers singing in three-part harmony.


Roger Answers Your Questions, Chris and Scott

Our next contestant is Chris Black from across the pond, as they say.

Hi Roger

Do you have a favourte fictional librarian or library?

What got me thinking was there’s one in a science fiction novel that I read this year (- I’ll tell you about it sometime – ) called Glasshouse by Charles Stross. The book is set several centuries into the future and the hero finds himself working in a simulation of a late 20th century American public library.

First off, I must say that I cringe every time I see It’s a Wonderful Life, and George Bailey discovers that, without him, his would-be wife is reduced to this…librarian!

Yet I enjoy, on a radio program in the United States on National Public Radio, a segment on A Prairie Home Companion called “Ruth Harrison: Reference Librarian” that takes on the stereotype in a fun way. The last segment I heard, just last Saturday, she becomes the Scrooge character in A Christmas carol and at the end becomes wildly spontaneous.

If you are interested in the topic, you might want to check out this piece.
Scott has a number of questions:

1. What do you think the Baseball Hall of Fame should do about the steroid problems?
I think we’ve already gotten an inkling of this last year when Mark McGwire, who was NOT specifically named in the Mitchell report but who was mum before Congress on the topic a couple years back, got less than 25% of the votes. HoF voters are going to determine whether a player would have gotten in without “assistance”. They’re going to decide whether the morals clause applies. As this guy notes, Gaylord Perry got into the HoF by doctoring the ball. My own sense of things is that, assuming the allegations are true – and the Mitchell report was not really designed for that purpose – the heavy users should all get lifetime suspensions. I would make a distinction between someone who tried it once or twice (Andy Pettite, assuming he’s telling the truth) and regular users. However, I would make it possible that they could all get into the Hall – Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, McGwire, Sammy Sosa (who’s been implicated in this by a different source) – when they’re dead. Same with Shoeless Joe Jackson, who played quite well in the Black Sox series, and Pete Rose. They’ll be there in the history of the game, but they will not be able to personally profit from it.

But I’m less worried about the Hall than I am in baseball cleaning up for the future. I agree that there should be an outside lab doing unannounced testing the players, which is what happens in most sports. The players’ union would be foolish to fight this, but I suspect it will.

2. Keying off of Chris’ question, do you have a favorite fictional character (librarian or not)?
Understand that I haven’t been reading it in the last decade or so, though I’ve seen the first two movies, but it’s Spider-Man. Or that duality of Peter Parker and the webslinger. On TV, possibly Pembleton (Andre Braugher) from Homicide: Life on the Streets.

3. What is the hardest part of your job?
Boredom. “Oh, golly, not THAT question again.”

4. Do you think those of us in the US are getting too politically correct by saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” and worrying about the fact that Santa is too fat?
It’s a pluralistic society. “Happy Holidays” doesn’t bother me. I must admit that I was surprised, though, when I wished someone “Mery Christmas” a few years ago, and he said, “I don’t believe in Christmas.” I was in church at the time.
But slim Santa is dumb.

6. What is your favorite non-secular Christmas song? What is your favorite religious Christmas song?
I actually answered this question a couple weeks ago. But I’ll answer it again, and differently.
Secular: What Christmas Means to Me – Stevie Wonder; Christmas Wrapping – the Waitresses; Christmas All Over Again – Petty/Heartbreakers.
Religious: almost anything in a minor key (What Child Is This); anything with counterpoint (the chorus of Joy to the World); Adeste Fideles and Stille Nacht, in Latin and German, respectively.
Now let me me tell you what I hate: bad pronunciations. On Angels We Have Heard on High, it should be “glo ree ah” not the ugly “glor ee ah”. And the little town is “beth leh hem” not “beth LEE hem”; professional singers botch this often.

7. If the Patriots go the entire season undefeated, do you think people will complain more about it then about Barry Bonds breaking Aaron’s record?

Well, no. I think the Jets were going to lose that first game of the season. Yeah, there were a couple close games – Philadelphia and Baltimore, I think – that had some questionable referees’ calls. But they are a quality team, as much as I despise them.
BTW, I don’t understand the commentators’ point last weekend that the Giants should rest their best players this weekend now that they’re in the playoffs, rather than trying to stop New England from going 16-0. Bollocks! The psychological lift of NYG knocking off New England would be a tremendous for them going into the second season, especially now that’s going to be nationally simulcast on NBC and CBS.
That said, if the Patriots lose to Jacksonville (the best shot of the streak ending, I think), the Colts or an NFC team in the Super Bowl, then going 17-1 or 18-1 will be just a footnote in an ultimately disappointing season.

BTW, Scott, I saved one of your questions because it ties into some questions from Anthony that I’ll answer NEXT time.


Roger Answers Your Questions, Gordon and Rick

Gordon, whose birthday is the day before mine, albeit a couple several many years later, asks:

1)Who IS your hero?
Actually, it’s anyone who speaks truth to power. But the person who’s moved me the most this year is Bill Moyers on PBS, who used to work in LBJ’s administration. He’s talked about the fallacies of the war in Iraq, taken on Big Media in a BIG way, and speaks about religion and faith and race in a wonderful, open-minded manner. Did you see Keith Olbermann on his show recently? Maybe I’m reading into it, but I think Keith, who I like, BTW, is a bit in awe of Bill, because they are in the same “town crier” business, but Moyers has been doing it a lot longer.

2) In this age of mega media-conglomeration, when the major studios are crying poverty during the Writer’s Strike…what do you suggest we (as citizens) do?
Use less. Interesting sentence, that, because take away the space and it’s useless, which is how I think lots of people are feeling about struggling against the mass everything. And it is a struggle. But to the degree possible, go to the locally-owned movie theater. See the local productions. Watch Moyers. As to the specifics of the writer’s strike, don’t watch the network shows online, don’t buy DVDs (if you really must see the complete Stargate again, rent it.)
Did you see the Story of Stuff? If you do, I think you’ll be less likely to want to buy the crap that we’re being told that we MUST have. It’s all part of the same struggle. On the same news cycle that we read that retailers are hoping for a late pre-Christmas shopping surge, we see that credit card debt is getting higher than ever.
They put out individual seasons of our favorite TV show and we buy that. Then they put out the box set with “extras”, expecting us to buy that too. Don’t. The music industry works the same way; no wonder that many people are “ripping off” the record companies. The system seems to be designed, per planned obsolesce and/or bait and switch, to make you buy the same thing again and again. Don’t let ’em.

Before I get to Gordon’s last question, I want to address this query by George (Rick) Lewis: Why are the daytime talk shows unaffected by the writer’s strike??? Well, I did not know that they weren’t affected. Poking around the Internet, I’ve read that the producers have enough scripts to get through January. And at least during the last strike 20 years ago, scabs non-union “scribes” were hired to pick up the slack. But the particulars of who is or is not covered is not my area of expertise; go ask Mark Evanier.

3) Why do people insist on playing/listening to “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”? That is one of the most annoying songs ever written.

(Plus, traumatic incidents should never be comedy fodder).

Let me take on the parenthetical aside first. Trauma is often comedy fodder. I understand the feeding the Christians to the lions was considered great fun; well, not to the Christians, I suppose.
Seriously, there are people who think that horror movies where the cliched young adults meet their demise is high camp; I tend not to watch them myself, but that’s what I’ve heard.
One traumatic event I thought was TERRIBLY funny was the end of the movie, The Life of Brian – a crucifixion! And the victims are singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”! A song so strong that it made its way into the musical Spamalot. So I think the eye-gouging of the Three Stooges or Wile E. Coyote’s Acme bomb blowing up before he gets the Road Runner (meep meep) definitely have its fans.

As to the Elmo and Patsy song itself, I’ll admit that I actually purchased the single. (For you youngsters, a single, for about a half century starting in the 1950s, was a seven-inch piece of musical vinyl with a large hole in the middle, to be played at 45 revolutions per minute on something called a “record player”.) And I liked it because it was, to my mind, a lovely little deconstruction of all the cloying sentimentality of the season. I never thought it would turn out to be a perennial favorite, and I don’t listen to it much any more, mostly because I’ve become bored with it. (And the remake that you hear on the radio is not, to my mind, as good as the less-polished version that I purchased.) In any event, Gordon, it may please you to know that others share your sentiment.
Confidential to GP: I’m not sure that I’ve had a breakup as devastating as yours with Liar Ex (who told many lies). But the cumulative effect on me of “love gone bad” (title of a Chris Clark song, not bad grammar) has had its impact. Were you ever dumped by an e-mail so circuitous that it took you three reads to get the message? I have. I’m just sayin’. But if I went through the litany, we’d both be way too depressed.


The Lydster, Part 45: All in Good Time

I was watching “Grey’s Anatomy” a couple months ago (yeah, OK, whatever). Dr. Bailey, who is the only reasonably sane character on the show, was being berated on her cell phone by her husband for missing their less-than-one-year-old son’s first Halloween. Then she, talking to intern George, bewailed missing it too, even though she was helping with a surgery to make some cute kid’s life better.

Oh, please.

This year was Lydia’s first Halloween that we went out and celebrated. And her mother took her to a limited number of houses. I mean, how much candy does she really need? (Answer: quite a bit, actually, after eliminating the candies that might have peanuts.)

Likewise, we haven’t had a Christmas tree until this year. This is Lydia’s fourth Christmas. The first year, we were too tired and disorganized. The second year, we were afraid she’d accidentally pull it down on herself unless we had a moat around it. The third year, we weren’t home long enough, as we were at the grandparents’ house; they had a tree. This year, however, we went up to the attic, found the tree stand, negotiated which Christmas bulbs made it on the tree (Carol and I each have our own sets), figured out the lights (we were on the same page on that one), and decided that it would be important to help Lydia, and us, to have some Christmas traditions of our own.

So, I don’t think we’ve psychologically damaged Lydia by having foregone the rituals until now. Or if we have, she can send us the shrink’s bill.

More details anon.

Happy 3 3/4, Lydia.

My Favorite Christmas: 1969 or 1970

I’m old enough so that having a color television was once available only to those people of means. Next door to my grandmother, the folks, in 1961 or 1962, bought this huge color TV. This was back in the day when a TV was furniture. Since my sister Leslie was friends with one of the daughters, Christine, occasionally I got to see shows on the set. In those days, most, if not all shows on NBC were “brought to you in living color”. Even then, Bonanza, in particular, looked really weird.

But the shows on ABC and CBS were in black and white until approximately 1966. I remember ABC especially made a big deal of the transition: “Next, F Troop. In COLOR.” “Bewitched. In COLOR.” Well, not for us.

So, whatever Christmas it was, when the presents were fairly scarce under the tree, we were nevertheless all excited when we got a color television. I watched TV a lot, even of shows I had seen before that fall. I’m not sure that certain shows were improved by color. At some point, I saw reruns of the third (color) season of The Fugitive, and it wasn’t as good as the other two. And Griffith wasn’t improved, but then that could have been the loss of Don Knotts.

On the other hand, I got to watch The Wizard of Oz for the first time the way it was designed. It was WONDERFUL. I had never gotten the “horse of a different color” joke until that year. In retrospect, it was like being in that Tobey Maguire/Reese Witherspoon/Joan Allen/Don Knotts movie Pleasantville. Ironically, seeing things in color gave me a greater appreciation of black and white films that came later on such as Schindler’s list and Manhattan.


'Tis the Season to ASK ROGER ANYTHING

This is the part of the program where I stand on stage like Carol Burnett before the show and you pose irreverent, irrelevant, irrational and/or irritating questions, and I HAVE TO ANSWER. Not only that, I promise it’ll be the truth; it may not be the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but as Jimmy Carter once said to the American public, “I’ll never lie to you.”

You could ask if I think the National Football League is somehow fixing the games – there have been some controversial calls – so that the New England Patriots will be 15-0 going into their final game against the Giants which can only be seen on the network that the league owns, and which is not available from many cable companies, such as Time Warner.

You could ask me what my absolute favorite play of the season in the NFL was. Note, however, that I haven’t seen a whole game all season, and that I’ve likely seen the most football waiting for 60 Minutes to come on.

You could ask me what the Baseball Hall of Fame ought to do about the players in the Steroid era.

You could ask me who my hero is.

You could ask me why this sentence on the FCC website for December 18 makes me gag: “FCC Adopts Rules To Promote Diversification Of Broadcast Ownership.”

Well, you get the idea.
ADD is right.