Citizen Zhang

Jinshui Zhang, one of my co-workers, became a U.S. citizen last month. He was one of 63 people from 36 countries to become naturalized. He was from the People’s Republic of China.

The event was held in the Federal Building, a former post office right across the street from our office. While I went to the building often in its previous incarnation, I’ve rarely been there recently. One goes through a metal detector not unlike the ones at the airport. The security personnel are not as humorless as the airport workers, and they accepted my work ID, which the airport almost never does.

The ceremony was scheduled for 8:30 a.m., but at that hour, there was a long line of people waiting in line to get their paperwork checked. This process took over a half hour. I was told that they used to have fewer people naturalized at more frequent intervals, but now have more people but less frequently as a result of 9/11/2001 concerns. How this helps security screening, I don’t know.

There was a big sign at the entrance to the building prohibiting cameras, but apparently the ban doesn’t apply to this particular event, so folks were able to run across the street and retrieve their photographic equipment without missing anything.

An officer from Homeland Security was cheerfully goofy in explaining what was going to happen. I got the sense that he had other duties in his job that weren’t nearly so pleasant.

The ceremony itself started at 9:30, with the judge giving his well wishes, etc. He introduced the representatives from the League of Women Voters, who were, by that point, actually out in the hall waiting to give out materials to encourage the new citizens to vote (something native-born citizens could do well to do better at). He also introduced four ladies from the Daughters of the American Revolution (more on them some other time), who gave out flags, pins and other paraphernalia.

A lawyer sang a couple patriotic songs, the latter, God Bless America, with the assembled crowd. He wasn’t bad, for a lawyer.

Then the swearing-in took place. The folks running the show, the judge, the court clerk, and especially the Homeland Security officer, were very effusive in their care of the new Americans.

Everyone in the office knew that Jinshui studied hard to take the written test. I noted to one of my co-workers that I doubted that most native-born Americans could pass it. Try it yourself.

Congratulations, Jinshui!

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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?

Media Overkill (hubris)

Gee, it’s STILL bugging me, this “Runaway Bride” thing.

It’s not that I care why Jennifer what’s-her-name ran away, whether her fiancé still loves her, or whether they’ll marry (but apparently People magazine thinks their readers will, based on last week’s cover story).

I DO care that the media attention has been so wacky, in the Jacko/Scott& Laci tradition. Some of the so-called news networks, including the one apparently named after a canine, were practically convicting the fiancé of murder for his delay in taking a polygraph before she turned up. Jon Stewart skewered them on the Daily Show last week.

(And I DO care that she unfortunately found it necessary to pick a Hispanic man, along with a white woman as her assailant. Reminds me, just a bit, of Susan Smith or Chuck Stuart.
The ease of the accusation – “it was one of THEM” – is a bit frightening.)

(My wife gave me some good advice the other day: if I ever want to go through an airport inconspicuously, I shouldn’t wear an orange towel on my head. I’ll keep that in mind.)

And still on the subject of news: OK, I’ve watched American Idol from time to time. But the reason I watched the “ABC Prime Time exclusive” on former contestant Corey Clark outing Paula Abdul as his lover last Wednesday was to figure out the newsworthy rationale for running the program. After viewing the whole hour, I still don’t know. Clark also appeared on Good Morning America that morning AND the next morning, which I thankfully missed. With Peter Jennings fighting cancer, perhaps the network has taken leave of its journalistic senses. But I did enjoy Kelly Ripa ripping into Clark on her show (with Reege) the next morning.

Oh, and I STILL don’t know why Paris @#$%^&*! Hilton is famous.

I’ve ranted. I feel better now. Thanks.

I’m listening to the newly re-formed (or reformed) Cream. They sound great.

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!”

No, the OTHER one

If you Google Roger Green and Albany, most of the hits will NOT be of me (And I’m all right with that, BTW.) Most of the hits will be for Roger L. Green , NYS Assemblyman from Brooklyn since 1981. He seemed like a decent sort, the little that I knew of him. However, he had to resign his seat on June 1, 2004 for some fiscal irregularities. In the tradition of New York State government, he was nevertheless elected again in November 2004. I think he lost some privileges.

Given the fact that I’ve been in Albany since 1979, it is curious that we’ve never met. I did meet one of his assistants once at a summer party; I accidentally hit her in the face with a volleyball.

Also, I receive phone calls for him. Often, I’ve been the only Roger Green in the Albany phone book. The one call that has always stuck in my mind was an answering machine message from WCBS (radio or TV, I forget) in New York City, asking me to call back to comment on the death of Yusef Hawkins. I’d been at work all day , so at that moment, I had no idea who Yusef Hawkins was. The next day, I did.

Anyway, I’m THIS Roger Green. Yeah, I appeared on JEOPARDY! once or twice back in 1998, something I mention now only because an unnamed blogger mentioned it in his May 6 column . And he’s put this blog in list of links. Of course, I bribed him heavily…

Speaking of JEOPARDY!, I’ve decided that I will be sharing about my experience on this blog. I had written it in my mind – several times- for years, and I need some mind decluttering. But how to approach it? I didn’t want to write that much about that one topic, all the time, all at once. I’m not that disciplined, and I’d bore myself, and probably you.

Then it came to me: the Saturday serial matinee! In days even before mine, there would be movies shown in parts over several weeks. Each section ends with a cliffhanger.

So, that’s what I’m going to do: each Saturday starting May 21, I’m going to write a piece of the story. Can’t promise you a cliffhanger every time, but I’ll give it a shot.

Sweet, Sweet Baby

My daughter is very beautiful. I will show you sometime, when I figure out the photo aspect of this blog.

(PLEASE don’t tell me it’s “easy.” I’m a Luddite at heart- nothing mechanical or technological is “easy” for me.)

Anyway, this is not idle parental boasting. The trip to Washington Park just yesterday or a visit to the shopping center seem to confirm this. A woman I know once said that Lydia is the most beautiful baby she’s ever seen— including her own baby! This was, of course, in direct violation of the Law That One’s Own Baby Is ALWAYS the Most Beautiful, passed sometime during the The Peloponnesian Wars.

Of course, I want the best for my daughter, but I also want her be viewed by her intellect (she’s also very smart) and, as someone once said, “The content of her character.”

We’ve all read how tall, attractive people seem to be treated better, get better jobs, more pay, etc. In that vein (or “vain”, if you prefer), I give you a scary little something forwarded to me recently:
“Are ugly children less loved?
“Do parents take care of their cute children better than ugly ones? Most parents would deny it, but Canadian researchers have found that physical attractiveness makes a big difference in how children are treated, according to a newspaper report.

And on that happy note, Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. (And thanks to sister Marcia and niece Alex for taking care of her down in Charlotte, NC.) Also, happy Mother’s Day to Mom Powell, and all the mothers I know. Lydia, who doesn’t have her own blog yet, wants to wish her mommy and grandmas the same.

Out the In Door

Last week, my daughter Lydia had gastroenteritis. I didn’t know what gastroenteritis was, but apparently it’s been “going around.” I DID know that seeing my 13-month old daughter throw up 11 times in about 10 hours (followed the next day by similar exports from the other end of the digestive tract) was one of the more painful things Carol and I have gone through.

We took her to the doctors twice and the ER once. The best thing about going to the ER was that the pediatric resident said that Carol and I were doing a good job with her, that we were right on top of things regarding her symptoms. This was especially gratifying, because as first time parents, we feel that we’re making it up as we go along.

She’s better now, climbing on EVERYTHING, verbalizing, taking steps. It was the lack of those activities, which made us continue to be concerned, even after the other manifestations were finished. Now we’re back to, “No, Lydia, that plant is not for eating.”

As they say on baby.com, “Having a baby changes everything.” Oops, Johnson & Johnson TRADEMARKED that? Hasn’t every adult who has kids said to people who are expecting kids, “Having a baby changes everything” for the last few millennia?

“Having a baby changes everything.” TM, (Johnson & Johnson).
“And blah, blah, blah” © Paul Simon