Category Archives: questions


I wrote a little piece about pet peeves a little while ago. But I’m interested in asking you folks if there are things that really bug you, especially if you have not much to do with it. Maybe it’s the political discourse that’s distasteful.

I was at work helping someone with a question, and I rediscovered that there are a couple issues that really have been bugging me, and really are, in the end, none of my business. Though I will make a case for the idea that, at least the former issue is a public health issue and therefore everyone’s concern.

Issue #1 is the huge number of Cesarean section births in the United States. From this document, the CDC notes that the C-section rate went up for the 11th straight year in 2006 up to 31.8%, the highest ever reported in the country. Lowering the rate was a governmental objective for the last quarter century. The mission actually seemed to be working for a while – the rate went from 22.8% in 1989 to 20.7% in 1996, but it’s been going up ever since. The optimal rate is between 5% and 10%. The whys are varied, but it concerns me regardless. And it worries some in the medical community as well.

The other issue involves pregnant women smoking. I know that tobacco is addictive, but when I see it, it makes me crazy anyway. Low birth-weight babies are often the result.

So what issues that really don’t affect you directly nevertheless gets on your nerves?


Feeling Your Age QUESTION

One of the things I hated about some of the music of the 1990s was that it sounded like songs I knew, sort of. This wasn’t just a copyright issue (Hammer, for one, was very good at attribution of the original source). It was that I would be briefly lulled into the familiar, only to be jolted into…something else. P. Diddy’s music did that to me a lot.

(Though the Every Valley from Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration was a GOOD surprise.)

So my family was at the 60th birthday party of the colleague of my wife’s. And this song comes on. I think it’s Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon, a song for which I have deep affection. Turns out to be some popular tune by Kid Rock that I had somehow missed. And, just for the moment, I was feeling my age.

What makes YOU feel like, just maybe, you’re not still a kid?
Blue Is Frustrated from Blue’s Clues. Pray tell, what is Blue frustrated about?


Who’s going to win the big awards? I have no idea, of course, but I’ll hazard some guesses anyway, based on how watching the Oscars for decades has informed my opinions.

Best Supporting Actor:
*Matt Damon-‘Invictus’
Woody Harrelson-‘The Messenger’
Christopher Plummer-‘The Last Station’
Stanley Tucci-‘The Lovely Bones’
Christoph Waltz -‘Inglorious Basterds’
Who will win: Waltz. There’s always someone who the general public has never heard of who wins one of the supporting nods. Don’t think it’ll be Plummer, whose movie got only a so-so 68% positive in Rotten Tomatoes; on the other hand, he’s old (80), and the Academy likes old, plus it’s his first nomination. Could be Tucci, but I think that some of those Academy voters just aren’t going to watch his performance because of the subject matter.
Who I want to win: Tucci, who’s just an actor who shows great range.

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz-‘Nine’
*Vera Farmiga-‘Up in the Air’
Maggie Gyllenhaal-‘Crazy Heart’
*Anna Kendrick-‘Up in the Air’
Who will win: Mo’nique. Academy loves to reward those who play against type. Bonus that she’s a minority, and Cruz got one recently.
Who I want to win: Farmiga, who lives in Ulster County, NY where I lived for a time. So I’m a homer; so what?

Best Animated Feature Film
‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’
*’The Princess and the Frog’
‘The Secret of Kells’
What will win: Up. I mean it was a nominee for Best Picture.
What I want to win: The Princess & the Frog. While I LOVED the wordless beginning of Up more than I could have imagined, I liked the Disney flick more throughout.

Best Original Screenplay
Mark Boal ‘The Hurt Locker’
Quentin Tarantino ‘Inglourious Basterds’
Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman ‘The Messenger’
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen ‘A Serious Man’
*Peter Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy ‘Up’
Who will win: Boal. I’m expecting a Hurt Locker avalanche.
Who I want to win: Boal, though it wouldn’t bother me if the Coens ot Tarantino got it.

Best Adapted Screenplay
*Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell ‘District 9’
*Nick Hornby ‘An Education’
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche ‘In the Loop’
Geoffrey Fletcher ‘Precious’
*Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner ‘Up in the Air’
Who will win: Reitman/Turner. This is Reitman’s consolation prize for losing for Best Picture and Best Director, an Oscar tradition.
Who I want to win: Reitman/Turner.

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges ‘Crazy Heart’
*George Clooney ‘Up in the Air’
*Colin Firth ‘A Single Man’
*Morgan Freeman’Invictus’
*Jeremy Renner ‘The Hurt Locker’
Who will win: Jeff Bridges, who’s been nominated four times without a win, and won the Golden Globe.
Who I want to win: Bridges or Clooney

Best Actress
*Sandra Bullock ‘The Blind Side’
*Helen Mirren ‘The Last Station’
*Carey Mulligan ‘An Education’
Gabourey Sidibe ‘Precious’
* Meryl Streep – Julie & Julia as Julia Child
Who will win: Streep. The pundits are making this a contest between Streep and Bullock. Streep, whose been nominated 16 times, and won twice (but not since 1982!) has been beaten by perceived stronger performances. The competition this year includes two novices (Mulligan, Sidibe), Mirren’s appearance in a so-so film, and a certain backlash against Bullock’s film. If not this year for Meryl, when?
Who I want to win: STREEP

Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow ‘The Hurt Locker’
James Cameron ‘Avatar’
Lee Daniels ‘Precious’
*Jason Reitman ‘Up in the Air’
Quentin Tarantino ‘Inglourious Basterds’
Who will win: Bigelow. I mean, a well-received film, directed by a woman, and not on what’s considered a “women’s film”. Perhaps her biggest booster is one of her competitors, her ex-husband Cameron.
Who I want to win: Bigelow.

Best Picture
*’The Blind Side’
*’District 9′
*’An Education’
‘The Hurt Locker’
‘Inglourious Basterds’
‘A Serious Man’
*’Up in the Air’
What will win: The Hurt Locker. In a five-movie race under the “first-to-the-post” rules, this is Avatar’s, almost for certain. But I keep hearing that while Avatar is a technological achievement, its story’s weak.
What I want to win: Up In The Air, which I think in the future will be seen as emblematic of its time.

So what are your picks, for who WILL win, and who you WANT to win?
Links to your blogpost describing same would be fine.


Movie music QUESTION

It’s no secret that my favorite movie music is from West Side Story. I’m also quite fond of Fiddler on the Roof. But it occurred to me: these are Broadway musicals adapted for the screen. What do I like the best that’s MOVIE music?

Difficult question. But, excluding the Beatles – I’ve recently seen again A Hard Day’s Night and Help! – here are some examples:

This is the famous Germans bomb Pearl Harbor speech by John Belushi from Animal House. But try to listen to it without the dramatic music of Elmer Bernstein, and I think it falls flat. In fact, throughout the film, Bernstein, who’s probably best known for the score for The Magnificent Seven (a/k/a the Marlboro theme), has all sorts of flourishes in this movie, giving the dopiest action a counterpoint.

Quality of Mercy by Michelle Shocked from Dead Man Walking. I THINK this was written for the film (though this performance is not), as opposed to what the compilers of the music of, say, Easy Rider, called “found music”, existing songs put on a soundtrack.

Forrest Gump, BTW, is the worst example of that trend; it’s not that the songs are bad, only that they’re obvious. California Dreamin’ by the Mamas & the Papas, Mrs. Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel, For What It’s worth by Buffalo Springfield, and Get Together by the Youngbloods? I mean, I already own all of those songs; not everyone does, but some Time-Life collection might have been a better venue.

Ridin’ the Rails by k.d. lang and Take 6 from Dick Tracy, a movie I never saw. I’m a sucker for trains, and songs about trains.

The Funeral from Cry Freedom. This is a bit of a cheat. The bulk of the song is the anthem Nkosi Sikeleli Africa (God Bless Africa). But it is the most stirring version I know, taking place after South African activist Stephen Biko’s death. (It starts at 2:25 on the video.)

But the movie music I have the greatest, perhaps irrational attachment for, is from the film The Night They Raided Minsky’s, which I saw with my friend Carol and her friend Judy when I was 15 in 1968. I had a mad crush, unstated, for Judy. The film was rated M, a precursor for PG. Because I have the soundtrack, I can admit that though I haven’t seen the film in 40 years, I know this song, and others in the movie, by heart:
TAKE TEN TERRIFIC GIRLS (But Only Nine Costumes)
I have a secret recipe
Concocted with much skill
And once you’ve tried my special dish
You’ll never get your fill

Take ten terrific girls
But only nine costumes
And you’re cooking up something grand

Mix in some amber lights
And elegant scenery
Then stir in a fine jazz band

Then add some funny men
And pepper with laughter
It’s tart and tasty I know

Then serve it piping hot
And what have you got?
A burlesque show!
Music: Charles Strouse Lyrics: Lee Adams

What movie music moves YOU?



Are you watching the Olympics? I turned on the TV for the opening ceremonies, only to see how luge competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili of the Republic of Georgia died. In case I missed it, NBC kindly showed it a couple more times.

(Sidebar: before I saw the accident, I was talking on the bus yesterday with some of the regulars. We found it an interesting sociological phenomenon that ABC Wide World of Sports showed Slovian ski jumper Vinko Bogataj as the Agony of Defeat for 20+ years; the guy fortunately only suffered a concussion.)

But I’m not a big Winter Olympics fan. The newish extreme sports (halfpipe, etc.) look interesting, but I have no sense of how they score them. I learned a while ago that hockey is more interesting live than on TV, but if the US is in the match and not being trounced, I’ll probably watch some.

I figured out only yesterday why skiing, as inherently appealing as it should be, bores me silly. It’s one guy going down the hill. Then another guy going down the hill. And another. And another. And it all looks the same unless someone makes a mistake, and falls. Are we supposed to wait for a tumble, and hope it’s of the Vinko Bogataj variety rather than the Nodar Kumaritashvili type?

I realized that skiing is like the Kentucky Derby, except that only one horse and jockey go around the track. Then another. Then another. Substitute your favorite race (auto racing, track and field, swimming). Whereas the luge is so intense, not just fast but claustrophobic, it’s generally more watchable. Are we waiting for the (non-fatal) wipeout there as well?

The only thing I’ll truly see, though, is figure skating. The one thing my ex and my wife have in common is a love for the sport. I’ve been watching since 1992 and even have a basic understanding for the scoring in the men’s and women’s events, less so in the pairs, and hardly at all in ice dancing.


Valentines QUESTION

Valentine’s Day – love it or hate it?

Well, I don’t hate it anymore. But I’m still less than enamored by it than I might be. I still feel more affinity for the heartbreak songs than the “true love” tunes. Even as a kid, I related to songs of love lost.

Later it was the revenge songs such as Del Shannon’s Hats Off To Larry or the Johnny Mercer song I Wanna Be Around.

My favorite Valentine’s day song is titled Valentine’s Day, by Steve earle. Can’t find a version by the singer/songwriter, except on, though there are cover versions on YouTube and such as this one.

I come to you with empty hands
I guess I just forgot again
I only got my love to send
On Valentine’s Day
I ain’t got a card to sign
Roses have been hard to find
I only hope that you’ll be mine
On Valentine’s Day
I know that I swore that I wouldn’t forget
I wrote it all down: I lost it I guess
There’s so much I want to say
But all the words just slip away

The way you love me every day
Is Valentine’s Day

If I could I would deliver to you
Diamonds and gold; it’s the least I can do
So if you’ll take my IOU
I could make it up to you
Until then I hope my heart will do
For Valentine’s Day

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day, and what’s your favorite song for the occasion, if any?


QUESTION: How's Obama Doing?

Since it’s the anniversary of the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama, the obvious question for you folks: how’s he doing? When he gave an interview with Oprah Winfrey in December, he gave himself a B+; he must have been grading on a curve, because I’m thinking more like C+.

The good:
Pretty much his very first act was to sign an order extending the time women who had been systematically discriminated against in pay to seek redress.
He set a tone of more international cooperation rather than “America’s way or the highway.”
He promised to close Gitmo, though I think he could have waited on ANNOUNCING it until he had actually lined up the places the prisoners would be transferred to.
He ended torture. I know that there are those who think banning “enhanced interrogation methods” makes the US less safe; I so totally disagree.
He took responsibility for the failing in his administration, notably Christmas airline near-disaster (cf, his Homeland Security chief’s tone-deaf pronouncement that everything had gone right).
And I shouldn’t understate the impressive nature of his comportment.

The bad:
Yes, he was dealt a touch economic hand. But he always seems to side with the big bankers on deregulation when he should have been putting the screws to them. The dissatisfaction from people on the left and the right on this one topic may be the failed legacy of this Presidency.
The Afghanistan war; I’m willing to be proven wrong on this.

The ugly:
Health care. I support the ideas that Obama put forth in the campaign. And I agreed with the notion that hit had to be done early. Yet, apparently afraid of Clinton Health Care Disaster, Part 2, he instead left it to Congress to flounder around the topic, undercutting what I believed was the most important idea – single payer – making the bill weaker and mushier. And now, with the US Senate race in Massachusetts, Teddy Kennedy’s seat, the health care guru’s seat, falling to an obstructionist Republican, health care seems to be dead for the foreseeable future. It was bungled – badly. I’m talking Jay Leno at 10 p.m. badly.
Race. The one “teachable moment” became a “beer summit,” a bit of a joke.

Now to be fair, there was a lot of poisonous lies (born in Kenya, a Muslim, a socialist/fascist/communist) that too many people were eager to believe. That doesn’t help governing, though there was a point when I thought that since so many people were accusing him of being a socialist, he ought to act more like one, rather than the centralist he tends to be.

I’m sure there are other issues I’m forgetting. What say you re: BHO?


The Party Mummy Meme

Sunday Stealing, again:

1. Name someone with the same birthday as you.

Jenna Fischer, Pam on The Office. (Could have picked Willard Scott from the Today Show, which would have been more birthday appropriate.)

2. Where was your first kiss?

Under some mistletoe at someone’s house. A girl named Mary. Maybe it was Mary’s house, I’m not sure. I was 13.

3. Have you ever hit someone of the opposite sex? If yes, why?

No. Do you know what song I really hate that I just played this week? I know it’ll sound PC, but it’s The Crystals’ He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss), written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. It’s on a Phil Spector collection; his birthday is next week.

4. Have you ever sung in front of a large number of people? When?

My father, sister and I sang in front of some drunk VFW guys when I was 17.
Slightly off topic, there was a Red Cross training event at Manlius, NY. I played a blues comb. Got a standing O.

5. What’s the first thing you notice about your preferred sex?

Ratio of bust, waist, hips.

6. What really turns you off?

Generally, people who talk too much without saying anything.

7. What is your biggest mistake?


8. Have you ever hurt yourself on purpose?

Well, if you count drinking too much in college, then yes.

9. Say something totally random about yourself.

I fell asleep watching Citizen Kane on VHS.

10. Has anyone ever said you looked like a celebrity?

Yes, but I’m at a loss remembering who.

11. Do you still watch kiddie movies or TV shows?

I have a daughter who’s under six. I have seen, just this WEEK The Wonder Pets, The Backyardigans and The Fresh Beat Band.

12. Are you comfortable with your height?

Heck, yeah.

13. What is the most romantic thing someone of the preferred sex has done for you?

I’m not going to tell you.

14. When do you know it’s love?

I don’t think you do except through trial and error.

15. What’s something that really annoys you?

I’m walking across the street with the light. Some driver will turn right on red, forcing me to wait in the intersection.
Art Clokey died this week at the age of 88. He created Gumby and Pokey. I actually HAD a Gumby toy, dammit. Really.

But the thing I remember more from Art Clokey is this really odd limited animation thing called Davey and Goliath, about a boy and his dog, put out by the Lutheran Church. There came a point where I found the moralistic tales too simplistic, but even in my cynical late teens, I would keep watching it. here’s but one example from YouTube; there are plenty more, including a commercial…for Mountain Dew?


2009: A Blog Review

Gordon reminded me of this New Year’s tradition: “…go through the blog, randomly select one entry per month, and post it. It’s a great way to review the year…”

I used the Random Integer Generator and a formula too convoluted to explain here.

January – One review in particular irritated me: “The exceptional The Times of Harvey Milk won the Oscar for Best Documentary 24 years ago…. Yet, all this time later… Hollywood wants us to applaud its courage for finally–finally–telling this story?”

February – Ultimately, though it was a story of heroism, changing from a state of inertia to a state of action.

March – The 2010 Census is coming up and the Bureau will be using “American Indian or Alaska Native” as the designation for native peoples, just as it did in 2000.

April Both parts are recyclable, with a 1 or 2 in a triangle.

May – The makers of the indie hit Little Miss Sunshine also made this movie, right down to casting Alan Arkin as the grandfather; it’s a different role, but not so dissimilar that one couldn’t find it a variation on the theme.

June – It is true that one-third of all Americans now own an HDTV, putting market penetration at an all-time high.

July – I need to explain that Aunt Charlotte was one of my closest relatives, not biologically but in terms of the effect she had on my life.

August – When Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks spoke the truth about George W. Bush in March 2003, just before the US invasion of Iraq, and took a lot of heat, immediately, I ran out to the local Rite Aid and bought the Dixie Chicks’ then-current album.

September – Stories on both 60 Minutes (along with Barack Obama and Teddy Kennedy, FCOL,) and CBS Sunday Morning showed that the institution was finally getting its due, even if it was to sound its death knell.

October – Going back to the earliest days of rock and roll, there have been spoken lyrics within the context of a song.

November – But it wasn’t just the Muppets that appealed to me.

December – From my favorite Petty album, Full Moon Fever.

Interesting that 3 of 12 are movie reviews, as though I saw all that many movies. 2 of 12 (1 in 6) are of the ABC variety, which makes sense, since 1 in 7 of my posts are of that variety. Movies, music and television dominate – sounds right, though I watch less and less TV, and the music I listen to isn’t always the newest.
Then, looking back, I noticed that I DID make resolutions last year. How did I do?
* to play more backgammon. That I did, playing an average of once every three weeks or so, perhaps an average of four games a session. Mich more satisfying than online.
* to play more cards, specifically hearts. Nope, 1 time.
* to see more movies. I haven’t tallied the movies that I saw; whatever I might have gained count-wise earlier in the year totally fell apart by mid-year.
* to play more racquetball. About the same, maybe slightly less.
* come spring, I need to BUY a bike to replace the one that was stolen. Done.
* read more books. Not done; more partials.
* listen to more music at home. Marginal improvement.

Good reason NOT to make any for 2010.

LOST Question

This has nothing to do with the ABC-TV show of the same name.

The scripture in the lectionary was that reading in Luke where Jesus is 12 and he gets lost. OK, he doesn’t think he’s lost. Mary and Joseph think he’s visiting other relatives, and travel a day before realizing he’s not with the other travelers. Frantic, they return to Jerusalem and look all over for three days before finally finding him in the temple. Jesus says, “Yeesh, mom and dad, you should have KNOWN where I’d be.” I always thought he was a little impudent. On the other hand, if they were in fact visited by angels before Jesus was born, maybe he had a point.

So my questions:

1. Have you ever been lost as a child?

I was at Ross Park Zoo in Binghamton, NY when I was four or five, maybe six. There were these huge culverts though the park and I wanted to know where they went. I got to the end, or at least as far as I wanted to go, and I came back. *I* didn’t think I was lost; I knew exactly how to get back. But my parents thought I was lost. I vaguely recall their combination of relief and anger.

2. Have you ever lost a child?

Well, no, but I have thought from time to time that I had. Lydia has this annoying habit of hiding, and she’s pretty good at it, too. So there have been a few times I Thought she was MIA, but fortunately, she was not.
And speaking of lost, we lost Chas. Balun, horror film expert, a funny, irreverent, and generally nice bear of a man, to cancer at the age of 61. I started dealing with Chas. in my FantaCo days in the early 1980s when Tom Skulan came across one of his publications and we started it sell it. Later we were putting out the magazine he edited, Deep Red, and eventually we published books he authored, such as Horror Holocaust (1986) and The Gore Score (1987). My dealing with him as the person in charge of the mail order, I’d talk to him about the prosaic issue of how the items were selling. We always seemed to find some amicable banter, primarily about music.

Steve Bissette wrote a nice piece about Chas.