June Ramblin’

From the Monty Python movie “Life of Brian”, What have the Romans ever done for us?

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, every time 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.

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years.

Here’s a link about the book being discussed on PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly

Nice tribute to 7’7″ Manute Bol, noted as a basketball player, but noteworthy because of his humanitarian causes, who died last week at 47.

I’ve always liked U.S. Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), who died this week at the age of 92. Even as his politics evolved, from his brief flirtation with the KKK to civil rights supporter, from Vietnam hawk to Iraq dove, his love of the U.S. constution remained steadfast. He died at 92 this week, and here is an appreciation.

This may make sense only if you know football; I mean, American football: Unsportsmanlike Conduct Jesus.

A singalong version of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, a song originally from the Monty Python movie “Life of Brian.” That always reminds me of my favorite segment of the film, What have the Romans ever done for us?

Neil Gaiman defends libraries.

visit4info – The Place for TV Adverts and Funny Video Clips from the UK

X is for Xenophobia

How do you feel about your own racism and xenophobia? Are you confident enough to declare “I’m not racist”?

So I was looking up xenophobia in 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 were something of the past, such as one segment in this TV show from 1964, which like the Daily Show segment, is a parody. But I realized I was being silly. Xenophobia has lasted for millennia; why should modernism destroy it?

I’m reminded of the story of the good Samaritan. It’s significant because the injured Jewish traveler, passed by two of his “own people”, was helped by a member of a group poorly regarded, thus radically expanding the geography of “Love thy neighbor.”

At your leisure, check out If Gandhi was Palestinian. I don’t necessarily agree with every word, but the notion of trying to be in another’s shoes is appealing.

How do you feel about your own racism and xenophobia? Are you confident enough, as Greg Burgas is, to declare I’m not racist? Not even a little bit. I reject Avenue Q’s song ‘Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist’ completely.

But you really must read Roger Ebert’s take on the topic especially as it relates to his own personal evolution and development. A brief quote: “How do they get to be that way? I read this observation by Clint Eastwood: ‘The less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice.'”

Interestingly, a couple of the comments to the Ebert piece mention a play and a musical I have seen in the last year. The play is To Kill A Mockingbird, based on the Harper Lee novel, where the slow breakdown in the racist society is embodied by a vigorous defense of the black defendant by Atticus Finch.

The musical is Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, specifically the song You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught. (Sidebar: Mixed-race marriages are on the rise in the United States.)

Ultimately, as Leadbelly (d. 1949) wrote and sang, We’re in the same boat, brother.

The Lord looked down from his holy place
Said the Lord to me, what a sea of space
What a spot to launch the human race
So he built him a boat for a mixed-up crew,
With eyes of Black and Brown and Blue.
So that’s how’s come that you and I
Got just one world and just one sky.

Through storm and grief,
Hit many a rock and many a reef,
What keep them going was a great belief.
That the human race was a special freight
So they had to learn to navigate.
If they didn’t want to be in Jonah’s shoes,
Better be mated on this here cruise.—Why—

We’re in the same boat brother,
We’re in the same boat brother,
And if you shake one end,
You gonna rock the other
It’s the same boat brother

Our last song – for I believe in the power of music – is Everyday People by Sly & the Family Stone, lyrics by Sylvester Stewart, a/k/a, Sly Stone.

There is a blue one who can’t accept the green one
For living with a fat one trying to be a skinny one
And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo-bee
Oh sha sha – we got to live together
I am no better and neither are you
We are the same whatever we do
You love me you hate me you know me and then
You can’t figure out the bag I’m in
I am everyday people, yeah yeah

ABC Wednesday

Quizzery Afoot

I’ve spoken before dozens at various presentations for work. There were 3000 in the audience for JEOPARDY!

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)

Mr. Han, the taciturn maintenance man, teaches Dre kung fu. So why is this movie called the Karate Kid?

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

A happy, ferocious feline

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

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