June Ramblin’

Just a reminder that you have only three more full days to enter my giveaway. Rules are on the sidebar, but basically, from now through July 3 at 11:59 EDT, everytime you comment to a post, assuming you haven’t commented already to that specific piece, gives you a chance at some prizes, including a complete DVD box set of The Dick van Dyke Show and a Michael Jackson greatest hits CD.
Speaking of Michael Jackson: in honor of the anniversary of his death this past week, the full-length video of Thriller, performed with Legos.
I KNEW there was a way to post something on Twitter and have it show up on Facebook, but couldn’t suss out the instructions. This really helped me. And, in fact, it was one of my Facebook friends who provided the link.
Author Rebecca Skloot has interesting info about her best-selling book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on her website, including audio, video and an excerpt. Continue reading

X is for Xenophobia

So I was looking up xenophobia in the Wikipedia, which lists this definition:
Xenophobia is the uncontrollable fear of foreigners. It comes from the Greek words ξένος (xenos), meaning “stranger,” “foreigner” and φόβος (phobos), meaning “fear.” Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways involving the relations and perceptions of an ingroup towards an outgroup, including a fear of losing identity, suspicion of its activities, aggression, and desire to eliminate its presence to secure a presumed purity. Xenophobia can also be exhibited in the form of an “uncritical exaltation of another culture” in which a culture is ascribed “an unreal, stereotyped and exotic quality”…

A xenophobic person has to genuinely think or believe at some level that the target is in fact a foreigner. This arguably separates xenophobia from racism and ordinary prejudice in that someone of a different race does not necessarily have to be of a different nationality. In various contexts, the terms “xenophobia” and “racism” seem to be used interchangeably, though they can have wholly different meanings (xenophobia can be based on various aspects, racism being based solely on race ethnicity and ancestry). Xenophobia can also be directed simply to anyone outside of a culture, not necessarily one particular race or people.

Well, OK. I’m not sure if it is xenophobia or racism (or both) which led to offensive characterizations against the Republican candidate for governor in South Carolina. Or the renaming of food so as not to invoke people we don’t like. Or the absurd truthiness of this Comedy Central bit about Obama and his emotions.

At some level, I suppose I had gotten to a point where I had hoped xenophobia and racism was some thing of the past, such as one segment in this TV show from 1964, which like the Daily Show segment, is parody. But I realized I was being silly. Xenphobia has lasted for millennia; why should modernism destroy it? Continue reading

Quizzery Afoot

From Jaquandor:

1. You’re building your dream house. What’s the one thing that this house absolutely, positively MUST HAVE? (other than the obvious basics of course)

A movie screening room, with cushy chairs and a pocorn machine.

2. What is your dream car?

I don’t have a dream car. I’m vaguely interested in getting a Vespa.

3. What is your favorite website that isn’t a blog?

Data.gov – cool stuff there

4. iPhone 4 or Droid, which do you want?

No clue. I’m so NOT covetous of these, though I saw someone’s iPhone (2 or 3) and thought it was nice.

5. When you’re feeling down or lonely or just generally out of sorts, what do you do to cheer yourself up?

Play familiar music as loud as I can stand.

6. Tell me about something or someone that you love that most people seem to hate.

Albany weather. This just wasn’t that bad a winter.

7. What do you want to be when you grow up?

Growing up is overrated. OK, a third-base coach for a major league baseball team.

8. Would you go on a reality show if given the chance?

Depends on the show. Probably not, though, since it seems the idea is to humiliate. My eldest niece and her husband are going to be on Wipe Out sometime this summer, but the very little I’ve seen of the program doesn’t thrill me.

9. Who was your favorite teacher when you were growing up. (Grade school, Middle School, Jr. High or High School only.)

Mr. Peca, 6th grade.

10. You get one pass to do something illegal or immoral. What are you gonna do?

Kidnap someone well-known in the political field and leave him on a desert island, with sufficient provisions to live.

11. What were you doing 10 years ago?

Actually, we had moved into this house in May, so undoubtedly still moving furniture around, and undoubtedly whining about it.

12. By this time next year, I …

will be sending off my passport for renewal, because it expires in July 2011.

13. Do you think the United States will elect a female President in your lifetime? Do you think this would be a good thing?

Probably; depends on who it is.

14. Which fictional, TV show character you would shag anytime?

I guess this has something to do with carpeting. Liz Lemon.

15. What is your greatest pet peeve?

People who think their time is more important han yours and act accordingly.

16. Tell me about your most recent trip of more than 100 miles?

I did; it was our trip at Easter to Charlotte, NC.

17. Which do you use more often, the dictionary or the thesaurus?

The dictionary.

18. Do you have a nickname? What is it?

O, Great Mighty One.

19. What are you dreading at the moment?

My next credit card bill.

20. Do you worry that others will judge you from reading some of your answers?

If I were to worry about that, I just wouldn’t write them at all.

21. In two words, explain what ended your last relationship.

Her depression.

22. What were you doing this morning at 8 am?

Well, yesterday, I was getting ready for church. Today, I’ll be getting ready for work.

23. Do you have any famous relatives?

Of a sort, as I explained: Irwin Corey. And no, Al Green is NOT my cousin, though I made a joke that he was.

24. How many different beverages have you drank today?

Let’s see: water, apple juice, ginger ale.

25. What is something you are excited about?

Finishing this meme.

26. When was the last time you spoke in front of a large group?

Define large. I’ve spoken before dozens at various presentations for work. There were 3000 in the audience for JEOPARDY!, and while I wasn’t addressing them directly, I nfelt their presence.

27. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought?

Holy crap, my face keeps changing with the vitilago and the sun.

28. What were you doing at midnight last night?


29. What’s a word that you say a lot?


30. Who is your worst enemy?

Some days, me.

That’s all!

MOVIE REVIEW: The Karate Kid (2010)

It’s date night. It’s been a while since we had one of those. I let my date pick the movie; I mean, I suppose I could have vetoed it, but I’m generally disinclined.

First, we go to dinner at a local restaurant/bar named Junior’s. The food’s OK, but it’s one of those places with about a half dozen TVs. The truly weird thing is that three of them were on the same ESPN channel, but that the broadcast at the bar was about seven seconds AHEAD of the the sets in the dining area. It was a College World Series game. Batter swings on the bar TV, batter swings on the restaurant TV. Outfielder catches the ball in the bar, outfielder makes the catch in the restaurant. ESPN logo in the bar…well, you get the idea.

So, what will we see? The choices:
Jonah Hex, the adaptation of the DC comic book; she doesn’t know Jonah Hex
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the adaptation of an apparently popular video game that I never heard of, that’s on its last night, before being replaced by the Cruise/Diaz film, Knight and Day
Shrek Forever After, apparently the last in the franchise. We saw the first two; I would have seen this.
The A-Team, the remake of the 1980s TV show that I seldom watched
Toy Story 3 (“in Disney 3D”), the third in that series; we own the first two on video. DEFINITELY would have seen this.
Killers, that Ashton Kutcher dog, which had the honor of being the only item that wasn’t a sequel or remake.
But she picked The Karate Kid , which was fine by me. I figured she was a big fan of the original. But in fact, she hadn’t seen the original with Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita or its two follow-ups, and neither had I.

So, I’m seeing this not in the context of the previous films, but as an entity on its own.

Dre Parker (Jaden Smith from The Pursuit of Happyness) has to leave home in rundown Detroit because his widowed mom Sherry (Taraji P. Henson from Benjamin Button) got a job in Beijing, China. We know Detroit’s run down because we see ALL the boarded-up buildings. They arrive at their dwelling, where at least most of the people speak English, including a cute Chinese girl, Mei Ying (Wen Wen Han) practicing her violin. Unfortunately, this flirtation is not appreciated by the building bully, Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), who enjoys administering a beatdown (or two, or three).

Dre is FINALLY rescued by Mr. Han, the taciturn maintenance man who teaches Dre kung fu, or so Dre can participate in a wushu tournament. (So why is this movie called the Karate Kid? As Sherry says at one point, “Kung fu, karate – what’s the difference?”) Obviously it’s a ploy to extend the brand, and, I’ve read, it’s pretty faithful to the original.

What I liked: the performers; the use of China (Forbidden City, Great Wall and other locations as backdrop). What bothered me: too long (2:20) by about 20 minutes. Surely, we could have gotten the lesson about hanging up your clothes (an homage, I understand, to the original’s “Wax on, wax off”) sooner. One less beatdown of Dre would have been nice too. And it’s a sports movie, so, even if I didn’t see the 1984 film, the ending is not a shock.

Still, it had enough heart to recommend this film, produced by Jaden’s parents, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Rotten Tomatoes score of 69% (as of this writing)
Roger Ebert’s positive review

A bit off the point, but Jaquandor links to a Ralph Macchio makeover (NSFW).

The Lydster, Part 75: Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

Ah, found pictures! Last summer, I took Lydia to some jazz music festival at the Hudson River Riverfront in Albany. Don’t much remember the music – I liked it, she, not so much – because the daughter was getting antsy. So we wandered through the vendor area and got something to eat.

Then we came across a booth for face painting. And it cost only one dollar. These pictures don’t do the artistry justice.

We walked throughout the area, and people, unbidden kept asking, “Where did you get that done?” Quite unintentionally, we became great ambassadors for the booth.

Afterwards, we took the bus home, and she was definitely the A-topic on the vehicle.

It was too bad when she had to take off the makeup before bed.

So I want to thank the talented woman who brought a lot of happiness Lydia’s way for the day.

The William Blake poem, Tyger Tyger Burning Bright

Roger Answers your Questions, Tom and Scott

I’m happy to get a question from Tom the Mayor, an old colleague of mine, a picture of whom I came across just last weekend.

What, if any, was your favorite comic strip or comic book when you were young? Mine was Dennis The Menace. It was the first comicbook I ever read.

By the time I was 10, I was reading both newspapers in Binghamton, NY, the Sun-Bulletin and the Evening (and Sunday) Press. I read all of them, except Prince Valiant. I had a particular affection for Peanuts and B.C. and The Wizard of Id. The latter two were by Johnny Hart, who was from the area (Endicott, specifically) and was involved in the community. I even had an Id book, “The peasants are revolting!” I also had a peculiar affection for Gil Thorp, this exceedingly earnest sport-related serial strip.

As for comic books, I read them. Early on, it was Archie, Baby Huey, Richie Rich, but all disposable to my mind. Later, mostly DC (Legion of Superheroes, Justice League of America, Superman) but I soon outgrew them, too. Superman being subjected, not just to green kryptonite, but to red, gold, aquamarine…it just got silly.

That’s why, when I went to college, and found this guy who would become my good friend, and he was reading comics, I thought it was weird, and that he was weird. (He WAS weird, actually; he used to hang off the edge of his desk like Snoopy hung off his doghouse roof.) But he was reading Marvels. So I re-entered reading comics very late, and I didn’t read DCs again (except for Green Lantern/Green Arrow and a couple of non-superhero books) until I worked at FantaCo.

Scott of the Scooter Chronicles, now gainfully employed, I’m happy to note, asks:

1. Do you have any interest in the World Cup?

It’s peculiar that I actually do, because I have no recollection of caring 4 or 8 or 12 years ago. I think it’s that the coverage, everything from ESPN to notifications from the New York Times to Twitter makes it feel as though it’s been covered better. BTW, Tegan tells an interesting story, only tangentally related.

2. Who do you think will win the AL and NL Pennant this year?

If the Yankees stay healthy, they can. Otherwise, it’ll be Texas or maybe Tampa; just not feeling it from the Central Division.

I’d like the Mets to win, but Philly or San Diego seem more likely. Again, not believing in the Central.

3. Who wins the World Series?

The American League team, probably.

4. Is there a novel that you have always meant to read, or feel you should read, but haven’t yet?

Lots and lots. About 2/3s of Billy Shakes, e.g. Then again, I’m more of a non-fiction guy, comic books notwithstanding, so it’s more ought to than want to. I miss my reading group at my old church which forced me to read outside of my comfort zone.

5. What was the craziest question you have been asked from one of these sessions?

Well, it probably came from you, Scott. Seriously, I keep hoping for a truly weird one that I can sidestep, but no, you folks are too nice. Maybe I should try it on my newspaper blog site. Some of those people in the general public are CRAZY.

6. What is your opinion on how BP and the government are handing the oil spill in the Gulf?

For one thing, I don’t understand how it became called an oil SPILL. When you drop a glass of water, the water spills – downward. Oops. This is more like a geyser. Yes, the oil geyser, that’s what I think I’ll call it.

As for the Obama Administration response, it tends to show how much in bed the government has been with the industries they are supposed to be regulating, hardly unique with these particular officials. We, or those of us who were actually paying attention, have known this all along. And, to be fair, so have those folks who believe there has been too much regulation; they just liked the results more. That’s how you get your Joe Bartons apologizing to “poor BP”.

But clearly, the ultimate fault was shoddy corner-cutting by BP. The judge who stopped the Obama administration’s six-month lockdown on new deep-sea drilling said that the federal government is acting as though this could happen again; that’s PRECISELY what worries me.

Yes, the governmental response to oil geyser has, until recently, been slow. They believed BP’s lies and seemingly had no way to verify the information independently. I’m not remembering; did the federal government give BP permission to use the dispersant? Because I’m convinced that has created a whole new problem below the surface, which may ultimately be most toxic for sea life.

Apropos of oil, why have we not heard very much about the oil disater in Nigeria going on right now?

7. Is there a piece of art (painting, sculpture, etc.) that you really admire?

I saw, I believe in Albany, but it could have been NYC or Boston, a version of Rodin’s The Thinker, which was one of the most sensual things I had ever experienced in my life. Two-dimensional photos do not do it justice, and I’m not convinced that even these three-dimensional online tours can capture it. Gotta see it in person, if possible.

If The Wife and I have Our Piece of Art, like couples have Our Song, it would be The Kiss by Klimt; it’s even on a coffee mug of ours.

30-Day Challenge -Day 8: Picture of My Room

Interestingly, the meme doesn’t specify what “my room” is. One can assume it’s the bedroom, of course, but I choose not to, mostly because I’ve never taken a picture of it, to my recollection. and there’s a reason for that; I’m not all that fond of it.

When we first moved into the house in 2000, we really had a choice of two bedrooms. One had whitish wallpaper with red strips on the top half of much of the room, and a nice wood finish on the bottom half, plus around the windows and the storage areas. It was/is a bright room.

The other had this cobalt blue wallpaper, with this representational pattern of tulips, about a fingernail tall, in silver. The wood room had a ceiling fan and sufficient light from the light fixture, while the cobalt room had neither. It was a dark room.

So guess which one became the bedroom? I suspect it was because the cobalt room is in the back of the house, and the wood room, which is the guest room, is in front.

Let me describe the cobalt room. One enters on the south wall, at the southeast corner. On that wall is one of only three electrical plugs, unlike the sufficient number in Woody. Then there’s the armoire, purchased to put all my clothes after The Daughter was born and we removed the walk-in closet from what is now her room. Of course, it’s much smaller, and I never understood why the dresser had to go as well, since keeping my underwear, socks, socks and t-shirts in those slots gave me no options about what t-shirt I might like to wear; it was last in, first out, pretty much. In the southwest corner is a standing lamp.

On the western wall are three bay windows – I like bay windows – with Carol’s dresser in front. On the northern wall is the radiator that essentially serves as Carol’s nightstand, then the headboard to the bed that goes into the room, of course, then, in the northeast corner, my nightstand, with a desk lamp.

Finally, on the eastern wall is MY dresser, which I got about two years ago after I muttered regularly about the inadequacy of the armoire, and a door to Carol’s non-too-large closet.

But things are looking better, literally. Almost a year ago, a ceiling fan was purchased, and it finally got put up a few months ago. But it didn’t have any light bulbs, and a stop at the Home depot proved fruitless. Then a couple of weeks ago, we went back to the HD, and utilizing THREE aides, finally found the right bulbs for the fan. What a difference! I can actually read in that room, whereas I never did anything in that room other than the usual. And the lights make a nifty pattern on the ceiling when the fan is operating, which, this week, is often.
MY room is probably the office, which, in the process of being cleaned, is messier than it started. So this is a picture of the living room:

Oh, the one good thing about our bedroom: limited number of stuffed animals.

Brian Wilson Raps!

Back on the January 28, 2010 episode of JEOPARDY!, there was a whole category devoted to THE SONGS OF BRIAN WILSON:
$200: One of Wilson’s Beach Boys classics asks this girl to “help, help me” to get another girl “out of my heart”
$400: “I’m picking up” these, “she’s giving me excitations”
$600: Title that precedes “If we were older, then we wouldn’t have to wait so long”
$800: Wilson wrote, “I have watched you on the shore, standing by the ocean’s roar, do you love me, do you” this lass
$1000: “There’s a world where I can go and tell my secrets to”, it’s here

Answers below.

I’ve been playing my Beach Boys and Brian Wilson albums for the past couple weeks in anticipation of Brian’s 68th birthday, which was this past Sunday. I get to Sweet Insanity, a 1991 album that Brian’s record label, Sire, rejected as uncommercial. Friend of mine provide me with an “unauthorized copy.” I dunno; I like quite a few of the songs, several of which show up on later albums.

Then there’s Smart Girls, a rap song that features bits from Beach Boys songs. Musically, it’s strange and goofy but not awful – at first; but eventually the snippets override the beats and it becomes a real mess. The lyrics indicate that he was once a sexist pig seeking out, and singing about none-too-smart females, but now he values intelligence in women; seems overwrought.

Here’s a clip, and if that doesn’t work, try this one.

Interestingly, the 1970 album that came to known as Sunflower, the first Beach Boys album on the Reprise label after the group left Capitol, was also initially rejected by the new company, with some of the purged pieces showing up on later collections, but others never showing up on any compilation.
When Brian was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors a few years back, there was a group named Libera who performed in his honor – here’s the YouTube of Love and Mercy (from Brian’s 1988 solo album).
Answers to the JEOPARDY! queries: Continue reading

W is for Weird

I need to tell you about Mike the Headless Chicken. Then I’ll tell you something REALLY weird.

On September 10, 1945, there was a farmer in Fruita, Colorado named Lloyd Olsen who experienced something unusual. Being a farmer, unsurprisingly, from time to time, Lloyd would lop off the head of a chicken, or in this case, a rooster. While the cliche about running around like a chicken with his head cut off is true, this particular poultry was still strutting his stuff the next day. So Lloyd decided to feed the bird, using an eyedropper full of ground-up grain and water, with “little bits of gravel down his throat to help the gizzard grind up the food.”

Mike could hang on high perches without falling, gurgle in a faux crowing style, even attempt to preen his non-existent head.

Sideshow promoter Hope Wade convinced Lloyd to put Miracle Mike on tour, and for a time, he made $4500 per month, from 25-cent viewings, good money even in these days. Mike even made it into LIFE magazine, a hugely popular US periodical in the day.
Continue reading

A Solstice Tradition Continues: Ask Roger ANYTHING!

It is once again time for the operator of this blog to hand over the keys, so to speak, when you ask him anything you want. And he HAS to answer. Now he may answer with obfuscation, but he cannot outright lie.

Here are some examples:
What is my favorite song performed by one artist, made more popular by a subsequent artist, but the version I prefer is by the former? (Got that?)

The answer: I Heard It Through the Grapevine, a big, #2 hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips, only to be trumped by Marvin Gaye’s much slower, much more successful, take. In part, I felt badly for the Pips when they would go on the road and people would ask them, “Why are you doing that Marvin Gaye song?”, which had to be irritating to GK&P, enough so that they left Motown at their first opportunity. Moreover, the resurection of Gaye’s version during the Big Chill movie’s popularity made it become actually irritating to me for a time. Continue reading