At the Movies w/ Carol and Roger

I had this old girlfriend to whom I used to say, “She’s tidied up and I can’t FIND anything!” This used to bug her. A LOT. I don’t know if it was because I said it a lot, because I referred to her in the third person, or because she didn’t like Thomas Dolby.

So, I don’t say that to my wife Carol. I may THINK it, but I don’t SPEAK it. In the past month, I realized that I have been missing my baseball glove, my binoculars, and this great pair of sandals that I bought in Barbados in 1999. I knew where all of them WERE, but not their current whereabouts, and I made sure to let her know that. Then, last week, I looked in my armoire, and there were my baseball glove and my binoculars! When Carol wanted to clear out the guest room, she asked me to find another place for them, and I must have forgotten? Oops. (Anyway, they’re BACK in the guest room, where I can find them NEXT time. Don’t tell her.)

Carol and I saw TWO movies in two days this week! Maybe that’s not such an event in YOUR household, and two years ago, it wouldn’t have been such an event in OUR household, but it sure the heck is now. We opted against seeing Fantastic Four since Carol is unfamiliar with the characters; Johnny Storm is the name of the character, not the actor. (But to get links to more FF reviews than you’re ever likely to read, go see “ol’ reliable Fred” – July 13).

Cinderella Man

I took a day off work on Monday after the reunion. Lydia went to daycare. We went to see a matinee of Cinderella Man, the story of boxer James J. Braddock. I think it’s very hard telling a story like this where the outcome is already known, at least by me. When I was a kid, I could name probably every heavyweight champion from John L. Sullivan to Muhammad Ali. Of course, that was in the day when there was but one sanctioning body, not three or four.

If I say that Ron Howard is a competent filmmaker, it sounds like being damned with faint praise, but I don’t mean it to be so. Cinderella Man is more a story about a man who happens to box for a living because we see the man behind the boxer as well. If it is not The Best Boxing Movie Ever Made (that would be Raging Bull), it is a well-made film about a very good man and his family. That it doesn’t descend to a maudlin weepie is undoubtedly a function of the direction, the script, and the acting of Russell Crowe, teamed up with Howard again after the award-winning A Beautiful Mind. Some of the fight scenes were realistically bloody, and Carol (and, OK, I) did turn away for a moment or two. I think the mediocre box office has been a function of 1) the subject matter (which doesn’t grab either a lot of teens or a lot of women, I understand), and 2) the title, which makes sense if you see the movie or are 75, but is confusing otherwise. Too bad.

Mad Hot Ballroom

My wife is a teacher of English as a Second Language. If you’re a teacher, or work with children, or are a parent, or are thinking about becoming a parent, or are a citizen concerned about the welfare of children, you should see Mad Hot Ballroom, as we did Tuesday night, thanks to our marvelous new babysitter. (This means you, Mrs. Lefty.) For about a decade, there has been a 10-week curriculum in ballroom dancing in the schools of New York City. Last year, I saw a segment on CBS Sunday Morning about P.S. 144 in Queens, which participated in (and won) a citywide competition of 5th graders in the tango, foxtrot, merengue, et al.

The movie is based on the same competition a year later, but it focuses on three schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The kids are from a wide range of cultures. I enjoyed listening to some of the preternaturally wise girls, especially Emma, and watching the boys, who find that touching girls isn’t THAT awful. Many of the teachers are men, and it shows how important those male role models are to the boys. It’s a film of hope and inspiration in the midst of poverty.

All in all, a pretty good way to start to celebrate Carol’s birthday week. Today is THE day. BTW, over the past weekend, she went up to the attic and found the sandals (which SHE buried up there, so you know.) And we’re going to celebrate by going to see Arena Football? Really. We got free tickets, and the regular season ends this weekend, and the Albany team isn’t going to get into the playoffs, and I’ve always wanted to go…

Happy birthday, Carol. I love you.

“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.

Wrong change

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 than changing hearts. This is why Bob Geldof’s Live 8 concerts tomorrow are 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.

Beating Fred

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 my 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!

Poor Lynn Moss

When I worked at FantaCo back in the 1980s, I would see Lynn Moss occasionally. She was very patient with this guy she was married to. I really appreciated how she tolerated the comic fandom/geekdom she found herself was surrounded with. Also, her husband can be PRETTY obsessive, and he would (probably) agree with the assessment.

And, since her husband’s website has now become the mecca for all things comic book (and Beatles and “24” and their daughter Julie), it can only be worse now. Of course, in this case, she has only herself to blame, since she is the webmistress of said website. Though she has taught him some stuff, like how to do the daily postings, she’s still there to troubleshoot.

I tried to call her husband a couple of weeks ago when his webserver was (as it turned out) temporarily down, but he was out taking Julie horseback riding. So Lynn and I got to talk for the first time in at least 17 years, I believe. It was great. We talked about humor (something for a future blog, I think), FantaCo, blogging (she had read my then most recent post), and her technologically impaired spouse.


I’ve subsequently discovered that Lynn and I have a mutual acquaintance who was living on State Street in Albany at the same time Lynn and her hubby were first visiting FantaCo, a mere two blocks away, but never ran into each other. This is a fact that I gleaned because she saw mention of an old high school chum of hers in one of my blog posts, which pleased me greatly.

So happy 26th anniversary, Lynn Moss and Fred Hembeck. Maybe Carol, Lydia, and I will actually SEE youse guys and Julie one of these days. If you haven’t already, read the LOVELY story about the photographer at their wedding here, and see some of those pictures here (June 23).

TW3 Contest Winner

TW3 refers to That Was The Week That Was, a show I watched back in 1964-65, which (don’t hold me to this, as it was 40 years ago) was an antecedent of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart blended with the political satire of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, mixed with the old Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

And the winner of yesterday’s contest is (oh, no, not him again!): Fred “Too Much Useless Information in His Brain” Hembeck!

Note to MR: you were the first to guess, but you got the first word incorrect.

The Lydster (Part 14): “24”

Before she was born, I decided that I was going to keep a journal of my thoughts about Lydia as she was about to enter my life. And before she was born, I did write to her a number of times. But since then, nothing. I got caught up in the busy-ness of life with her. This electronic outlet has allowed me to write about her in a way I was somehow unable to put down before.

I don’t want to write primarily about how well she’s walking or how she says “Uh, oh” when she drops something, though both are quite endearing. I want to talk about how she’s affected me (besides sleep deprivation).


So, naturally, I need to talk about the television series “24”. The two-hour season finale was Monday night; I didn’t see it. I watched the first season intently, and thought the first 13 episodes made up a fine story arc, though the remaining 11 episodes stretched credibility (amnesia, the Perils of Kim Bauer). Still, I was willing to try it a second season, and I watched, though not as regularly. Super Jack Bauer, suffering intense torture did all THAT?

Carol and I discovered she was pregnant in July 2003. When the third season of “24” came around, I just didn’t feel like subjecting myself, and by extension, our unborn child, to such violent vibes. I didn’t see the fourth season, and won’t watch the fifth one when it starts up again in January.

It changed my movie viewing habits, too. Mystic River is a movie that, three years ago, would have gone to see in a heartbeat, but now: a film about an abused child who becomes the accused in the murder of his childhood friend’s teenaged daughter? No, thanks. A few months after Lydia was born, my in-laws in Oneonta watched Lydia while we went to the movies. There were only two choices at that particular theater: Man on Fire with Denzel Washington trying to save Dakota Fanning from being abducted (and FAILING), or Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls. Lindsay won.

(Incidentally, no spoiler alert needed: the information I cited came from the trailers of those films.)


My family was visiting shortly after Lydia was born. They were watching CSI; I was reading the paper. But I couldn’t help but to note that the plot was something like this: a couple kills their own kid because they were afraid the kid would get some debilitating disease or die from a pesticide, or some such, which the kid (as it turns out) was NOT subject to. Oh, YUCK!

I need uplifting or funny or fun or silly. That’s where I am right now. So it will be a LONG while before I see Frank Miller’s Sin City movie, no matter how stylized the violence is.

Getting back to “24”, I found it humorous that not one, but two people I know, who are connoisseurs of the program, Mark McGuire of the (Albany) Times Union -who I bug occasionally, and Fred G. Hembeck (April 8-12, et al.) -who I bug more than occasionally, managed to tape or TiVo “24” this season, then fell weeks behind, only to catch up in marathon sessions. What’s THAT all about? BTW, it was Fred who put my feelings about the show best in his May 24 column: “I mean, I know it’s just a TV show and all, but the always mounting body count can be disturbing at times, especially considering the number of completely innocent people who are so casually slaughtered along the way, y’know?” Yeah, I DO know.

So, happy 14 months, Lydia. I’ve learned a lot about myself through you.


The JEOPARDY! Ultimate Tournament is over. And the winner is..I DON”T KNOW. I’m still a week behind, so PLEASE don’t tell me, don’t ask. I know Jerome is one finalist (and Ken Jennings, of course, is another,) but I haven’t seen the last pair of semi-final games, nor the three-day final. My wife knows the results, so talk with HER about it.

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