Category Archives: blogs

Pastors for Peace-Cuba

Three posts-three riffs on blogs:

The Troy Conference of the United Methodist Church listserv received an interesting e-mail this afternoon that reads:

Pastor Steve Clunn (First UMC, Schenectady) reports that a caravan of aid headed for Cuba (via Mexico) in the wake of devastating Hurricane Dennis, has been blocked at the US/Mexico border by US Commerce Department officials.

The caravan is organized by a group called Pastors for Peace, and members of First Church Schenectady participated in packing some of the medical supplies for the shipment. Reports from the caravan are online.

You can also learn more here.

Persons who would like to make their voices heard in support of this grassroots effort, are encouraged to contact their Congressional representatives, as well as the commerce department. (Contact information is provided on the site above)

The following note is from the “blogspot” site:
As of 1:30 pm EDT, The Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba is being held up at the US-Mexico border by US Commerce Department officials. They are threatening to search every vehicle and every item of humanitarian aid. They are telling us that “only licensable goods will be allowed to cross into Mexico.”

Pastors for Peace does not accept or apply for a license to deliver humanitarian aid to Cuba.

There are 130 US citizens traveling with the caravan. They and the humanitarian aid are traveling in eight buses, a box truck and two small cars. It will take days to inspect the 140 tons of aid. We are prepared to do whatever we need to do to deliver our humanitarian aid to Cuba.

"Dorothy", Part 2

Back on June 1, I did this summary column of all the things that I had learned in a month of blogging. The title above comes from “What Have You Learned, Dorothy?” from The Wizard of Oz (1939). That quote did NOT make the AFI’s top 400 quotes, though six Oz quotes did, let alone the Top 100 movie quotes (3 Oz gems.) I’ve liked this quote because of the delivery by Glinda (Billie Burke) of the word LEARNED.

I’ve LEARNED that I have nothing to say about the new War of the Worlds movie opening this week, even though it was partially filmed in Athens, NY, near here, except to say that I LOVE it when a big film hits a small town; it seems to really enhance the collective ego of the place. I especially have nothing to say about Tom and Katie.

I wrote about identity theft on June 10, but the worst was yet to come. The story about the breach in security that put 40 million credit cards at risk comes out. So, what’s the advice we get? “Be vigilant.” Check your statements for unauthorized expenditures, and whatnot.
I’ve LEARNED that I’m feeling TIRED of being “vigilant”. Watching for the next terrorist/shark attack/industrial disease/assault on civil liberties/illegal incursion is exhausting enough. But having to be wary of the faceless interlocking conglomerate that seems to know more about me than I do makes me want to take all of my money and stuff it under my pillow. But if everyone did THAT, I’ve been told, it would wreck this economy.

Speaking of money, I’ve LEARNED that when I need 75 cents for a vending machine, little is more frustrating than having two quarters, two dimes and 13 pennies.

I’ve LEARNED that throwing money at a problem is a lot easier that changing hearts. This is why Bob Geldof’s Live 8 concerts tomorrow is much more remarkable than the Live Aid concerts two decades ago. Sir Bob is trying to make a systemic change in the attitudes and policies of the G8 nations towards the poorer nations, such as those in Africa.

I’ve LEARNED that Heather Mills McCartney (that’s the wife of Sir Paul) visited “Philip” and “addressed his worry and fears, and counseled him about living life as an amputee” on the June 29 episode of the NBC soap Days of Our Lives, and she is expected to appear once more, on the July 4 show. If she hasn’t already, expect her to talk about Adopt a Minefield, a topic close to her heart.

Burning the flag was my Flag Day message. So, of course, the House subsequently passes an amendment that would allow Congress the right to pass a law banning flag-burning. It still has to pass the Senate and then pass muster in 38 states. I’ve LEARNED that some legislation just seems to have a life of its own.

I’ve LEARNED that it is Canada Day and I had to LOOK UP the name of the Prime Minister. It may be conjecture on my part, but I’m guessing that most Canadians can name the U.S. President.

I’ve LEARNED that I can scoop even intrepid writers like Fred Hembeck (June 23).

I’ve LEARNED that Lynn Moss, who I had immortalized on this page recently, is amazingly clever. She figured out the hotel problem in the last episode of the Jeopardy! story was Bill Clinton! My, that Julie has bright parents!

I’ve LEARNED how to link to a single entry on my blog, although not everyone else’s.

I’ve LEARNED that at least two of my sister Leslie’s friends are reading this blog.

I’ve LEARNED that my cholesterol is down from 204 last June to 176 this June. I’d like to say it was diet and exercise, so I will: bad diet and lack of exercise. But no pharmaceuticals.

I’ve LEARNED that Lydia is 23 pounds (50th percentile) and 33 inches (70th percentile), as of yesterday.

I’ve LEARNED that I am even more evil than Hemby in getting people to start blogs, like I did to my poor friend Lori, and I will continue to do so. Nothing will stop me. HEH, HEH, HEH!

Blogspot, we have a problem

I was working on my blog at home a few nights ago when I tried to get to my Blogger Dashboard. (That is the place from which one can post documents and change settings on the Blogger.com site.) Somehow, I got to somebody else’s Dashboard! And not only once, but two or three times, to the same Dashboard that was NOT mine! This was upsetting for a couple reasons: I didn’t want to mess up his site, and if I could get to his, theoretically, someone could get to mine.

This particular person had about a dozen different commercial sites. I COULD have written material on the sites, added links, or even deleted all of his work. One of his sites was not yet published, so I did write a note in a post – but did not publish it – letting him know that I inadvertently (and inexplicably) breached his security. He WILL see it next time he goes there. I let him know I was not a hacker; I don’t know HOW to be a hacker. I suggested that he makes sure that he has backed up everything he posts.

And then, I went and did the same.

While I was at it, I made a few other changes. I re-spell-checked everything from May (and also yesterday and today) and found some egregious errors that I have fixed – sorry about that. I decided that I wanted 10 days of posts to be immediately visible, rather than 7. Also, since I had trouble reading my blog at home (though not at work), I put the last 10 days of posts in BOLD and will do likewise for future posts; the retrospective stuff will come eventually.

All of this is being to enhance YOUR reading pleasure and to maintain MY sanity.

"What have you learned, Dorothy?"

This month:

I’ve learned that this blogging thing can be very addicting. I’ve learned when I don’t have Internet access to posting, I get quite verklempt.

I’ve learned that creating an outline of what I want to address on specific dates is a double-edged sword. I can have a piece done two weeks early for one date (but inevitably, I always tweak it one more time), or I can have nothing planned for the next day and hope for divine inspiration. I KNOW (I believe) what I’m going to write about for 7 of the 8 days between June 14 and June 21, and also July 10, August 10, and August 28, but not for June 3.

I’ve learned that I can prepare something for a date, then bump it for something that’s more urgent, or intriguing, or whimsical. (I’ve bumped one completed piece thrice, another twice.)

I’ve learned that a kernel of an idea can lead to a (less than satisfying) one paragraph, or it can surprise me by expanding into directions I didn’t expect. (The May 20 Gilmore Girls was one of the latter – that piece, BTW, bumped a completed piece.)

I’ve learned that I don’t know what it means when one sister writes about my blog, “INTERESTING” in 24-point type.

I’ve learned that my story on Lydia’s name (May 22) was probably the most popular piece of the month. It hit some sort of universal nerve. Lydia, BTW, is all well now (May 7).

I’ve learned that there are actually people who want to read about the JEOPARDY! and FantaCo stories. One must accede to the public in these matters.

I’ve learned that Comic Book Galaxy has a link to my blog.

I’ve learned that when someone tells me that Greenland is part of Europe, I have to check to prove that, in fact, Greenland is part of North America, it is, it is, just as I thought. (Actually, I’ve known for a long time that I have the “need to know” -it’s a librarian disease.)

I’ve learned that the new Stevie Wonder CD (May 13 entry) is apparently delayed until this month, but that my wife will get it for me for our anniversary when it comes out.

(And speaking of my wife’s and my anniversary, I wrote in my May 15 entry about the NC pastor who had forced out the Kerry-supporting parishioners. Well, the pastor in my parallel story is still there, and I’ve learned that he is expected to be there for another three years.
The Pastor Parish Relations Committee chair in that story received a rude awakening. When she retired from her career job, she served as secretary of the church. She was astonished to find that the pastor, who she considered a friend, would treat her as badly as he had done with previous secretaries. I learned that she moved to Florida.
And the Hispanic pastor who had been booted out was embraced by the Troy Conference of the United Methodist Church, and is most definitely in a better place.)

I’ve learned that it’s interesting to me to keep up with Methodist stuff. It’s like being an expatriate in the United States who becomes a citizen, but still keeps up with the goings-on in the old country.

I’ve learned that when I listen to some mixed Hembeck mixed tape, there’s invariably a song with which I’m not that familiar, but that seems to be appropriate for my state of mind.

The more we learn, the less we believe to be true.
The more we prove, the more remains to be proved.
We’ve gotta be strong men and follow a path again.

We’ve got to have faith in something bigger,
Faith in something bigger,
Faith in something big inside ourself, inside ourself.

I own The Who’s Odds and Sods on vinyl, but I’ve learned that I can hear an old song for the first time. I’ve learned that I can ignore bad grammar in pop songs…sometimes.

I’ve learned that the hardest part of these pieces is the ending.

The writing process

I went to see the author Joseph E. Persico last Saturday afternoon at the Albany Public Library. It seems reasonable that I would have mentioned the event on this blog BEFOREHAND, given the fact that the Friends of the Albany Public Library was co-sponsoring the event, and that I’m on the Friends BOARD. My only excuse is that I was out of town for several days and lost track until the night before the event.

In any case, Persico has been writing for over a quarter century. His current book is Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918, World War I and Its Violent Climax. He stated that more people died on that last half day of the Great War, for no particular strategic purpose, than died on D-Day (June 6, 1944) in World War II.

Persico talked about the process of researching and writing his books, which I found instructive in writing this blog.

While working on My Enemy, My Brother: Men and Days of Gettysburg (1996), he sought to pin down who fired the first shot in this pivotal Civil War battle. He believed he’d finally found the answer. He brought this to a gentleman at the Gettysburg Memorial who had provided invaluable assistance. The gentleman replied, “That’s one version.”
I’m going to try to get it right, but some of it is all but irretrievable, even my own history, where memory blurs and fails. I’ll try to do my best to get it right, especially re: JEOPARDY! and FantaCo, but I cannot swear it’ll be definitive.

Persico interviewed Charles Collingsworth, one of “Murrow’s Boys” for Edward R. Murrow: An American Original (1988). At one point Collingsworth asked him to shut off the tape recorder, which Persico did. Collingsworth then told of Murrow’s affair with Winston Churchill’s daughter-in-law, Pamela Churchill (later Pamela Harriman), which almost wrecked Murrow’s marriage. Persico decided that Collingsworth wanted him to have the story, but didn’t want people to know that the information came from the now late newsman. Persico used the information in the book.
I want to put in as much as comfortably possible. Some might be embarrassing, (even to me.)

As a speechwriter for the former New York State Governor and US Vice-President, Persico had unusual access to Nelson Rockefeller. The author was waiting for Rocky to finish a lengthy meeting with black housing leaders. Finally, the exhausted official collapsed into a chair, looking haggard, and exclaimed, “Amos ‘n’ Andy got it right.” (For those of you too young to understand the reference, Amos ‘n’ Andy was a controversial radio and television program in the 1940s and 1950s.) Persico wrote this comment down at the time. He put it in the first draft of his book The Imperial Rockefeller: A Biography of Nelson A. Rockefeller, then took it out, then put it back in, ultimately leaving it out. He decided that the then-governor lashed out in frustration that was out of character, and would provide a distorted view of the man.
Re: the blog, I may decide not to tell (for now) some stories.

In that same book he had to deal with how Rocky died. He was with a 22-year old assistant that Persico knew. Not to mention it would have made it “look like the book was authorized by the Rockefeller Foundation.” He told the tale succinctly, never mentioning the woman’s name (nor did he mention Megan Marshack by name in his talk.)
One can get to the truth sometimes without being TOO explicit.

Persico co-authored Colin Powell’s autobiography, My American Journey. He believes his most important jobs were to keep in what was interesting to a broad audience, and to delete what was not. In Powell’s case, the general wanted to put in a couple sentences about his two tours of Vietnam. Persico found this not practical, given its import in American life. Conversely, Powell was a policy wonk, very proud of a report he had made. Persico argued that the audience would not be as interested in this story as he was, and the story was excised.
I’ll try not to use too much insider language.

Anyways, I enjoyed the talk, though I was troubled briefly that he thought I was there ONLY because I was on the Friends board. I do wish that more folks were present. It WAS a lovely Saturday afternoon outside, though, and that is tough competition in a spring that has been unseasonably cool and wet.

Gerber, baby

Steve Gerber, writer of fine comic books such as Man-Thing and Howard the Duck (but don’t blame the movie on him!), wrote in his inaugural blog on April 4, 2005:

“I make my living as a writer. There is only one characteristic that distinguishes writers from non-writers: writers write. (That’s why there’s no such thing as an “aspiring writer.” A writer can aspire to sell or publish, but only non-writers aspire to write.) Anyway, writing for a living requires writing every day. Writing every day requires discipline. Discipline requires enforcement.
“I’ve lost the habit of writing every day. I need discipline. I need enforcement. You’re looking at it.
“I intend to post something on this blog every day. If I fail to do so, that failure will be very public, and I’ll be embarrassed by it. I don’t enjoy being embarrassed. So maybe, just maybe, making this obligation will help transform me into a habitual writer again.”

But I’m not so disciplined.

Besides, Thursdays are LONG day during the church year:
Get up and keep Lydia company (read: distracted) until Carol showers and dresses
Get dressed and go play racquetball
Go to work
Go to Bible study
Go home and take out the garbage

It’s pretty much a 16 hour slog. But when choir’s off for the summer, I’m eager to get back into it.

Like I’ll do with this blog…tomorrow.

Add Some Music to Your Day

One of the (faux) reasons I started a blog was because there were folks in the blogiverse that were doing a CD exchange. The list below, which represent an album I gave out at my 50th birthday a couple years ago, wouldn’t have made the cut as it was then constituted, had I been participating in the exchange, for reasons explained below. Still it is, as I wrote at the time, “a list of songs that, for a variety of reasons, resonate to a particular time, place and/or emotion over the years.” So, I might well have offered it in a modified form. I had included liner notes; these are not them, except for the stuff in quotes.

Sorry (I Ran All the Way Home) – the Impalas: one of my father’s 45s. But I would have dumped it in favor of the much more obscure “45 Men in a Telephone Booth” by the Top Hatters in a heartbeat. I had ordered a Cadence Records compilation specifically for this purpose in January, but it did not show up until April, well after my birthday.

Roger Ramjet- TV cartoon theme: pretty obvious. Don’t know if it would still be included, if only because its abrasive quality doesn’t help establish a mood.

Quintet: “My mother took us to West Side Story, the first “grown up” movie I remember seeing. I didn’t know one could have several simultaneous melodies at the same time.”

Drive My Car – Fab Four: Lots of people have a certain antipathy for this first song on the British Rubber Soul album. I don’t know if it’s because it’s NOT “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, the first song on the American version of the record, or because it has a weird chord progression. I like it BECAUSE of its complicated chord changes. Sting butchered this song on a bootleg someone gave me.

Take Me For A Little While- Vanilla Fudge: “Carrying groceries for Mom. One afternoon, I was home listening to the album. Mom came home. I retrieved groceries, and found the stereo off. The crescendo made her think the record player was broken.”

Worried Man/Ain’t Gonna Be Treated This Way: Carol & I went to see Woody Guthrie’s American Song at Capital Rep, when this brace of songs came up. Both of them were in my father’s repertoire when he sang around Binghamton when I was growing up. This was a year or two after my father died, and I just lost it.
But as for the compilation, if I were doing it now: the song is TOO LONG, and has TOO MUCH TALK. Every other song I’d lived with for a number of years. This was too much an emotional choice of the moment.

Spider-Man cartoon TV theme: my favorite comic book character.

Feel Flows -Beach Boys: freshman year in college. Probably influenced by its inclusion in the movie Almost Famous

Gone Away – Roberta Flack: “When romance went sour, I developed a quartet of songs to play: Sweet Bitter Love (QoS), this, My First Night Alone Without You (Jane Olivor), and Stay with Me (Lorraine Ellison). Sometimes added Remove This Doubt (Supremes).” QoS means Queen of Soul.

Fantasy – Earth, Wind, and Fire: Schenectady Arts Council, 1978. “The choreographer needed a partner to help teach the elementary kids some dances, and I got sucker.., volunteered to do that.”

Naïve Melody – Talking Heads: “The ’83 show was one of the best concerts I ever saw. This song is about rediscovery on the way to Cooperstown.”

23rd Psalm -Bobby McFerrin: My then choir director Eric Strand “transcribed this song, and choir members Bob, Tim & I sang at church. Eric gave me the high part, which I did almost entirely in falsetto. Someone came up to a church member, expressing concern that a ‘gay guy’ was singing in church.”

Harvest Moon -Neil Young: “About lost love. Also, about the only Neil song my ex-office mate [the Hoffinator] could stand”.

Lullabye-Billy Joel: “The melancholy of the song (and the back story) parallels my melancholy about the state of my old hometown” [Binghamton].

Church-Lyle Lovett: “When four of us [librarians] were in tight office quarters, with very distinct likes (and especially dislikes), Lyle passed muster with all of us. Closing act of a great Newport Folk Festival at SPAC.”

JEOPARDY! – “an NBC daytime game that I used to watch with my Aunt Deana. “

Now That I Found You – Alison Krauss: “One of my wife’s two favorite artists; oddly, both of them have last names beginning with KRA. We saw AK at the Palace [Theater in Albany] in 2002.”

At Last-Etta James: “One of five great songs on the Rain Man soundtrack. Oh yeah, Carol & I danced to it at our wedding.”

So, I would have changed the first song, dumped the second and fifth cuts, but keep the rest pretty much as is. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, especially the Free Flow to Church run.

See what you missed out on, bloggers?

Fan Mail

I got an e-mail from one of my oldest friends who wrote:
“I don’t understand blogs. Are they to be viewed as online diaries?
”I can’t imagine anyone giving a s*** or taking the time to read about anything I had to say.
”I find it all hubristic.”

To which I wrote:
“You may be right.”

Actually, writing this blog has been very helpful to me already. It’s allowed me focus better. Since I’m tired a lot, the blog has become, dare I say it, my daily meditation.

Oh, no! I had the ghost of 1970s Bill Cosby lurking in my head. “Be careful or you might learn something” he used to say on Fat Albert. I don’t want to be that parental about it, but I am trying to provide a site where if you’re not absolutely riveted by Lydia stories (but you WOULD be if you knew her- she’s also VERY charming), you can click on a hyperlink and find out a little about Mother’s Day, e.g.

Tomorrow: Hubris! Or as Jack Nicholson once said in a movie, “You want the hubris? You can’t handle the hubris!”