These messages

I was going to tell you about the presentation I’m doing today. Our organization is changing from using Standard Industrial Classification codes to North American Industrial Classification System. All businesses are given a classification, which helps in data gathering, and NAICS (rhymes with “snakes”) is the most current one. This stuff is actually rather interesting to me. But that’s just me. Others may compare it with watching glaciers melt. So instead I’ll tell you about TV commercials.

I’ve been watching Sex and the City reruns, usually on tape. I don’t have HBO, so, as NBC used to suggest, “They’re new to me.” During every brace of episodes runs this commercial:

VOICEOVER OF COSMO KRAMER, WITH THE WORDS ON THE SCREEN: Who’s gonna turn down a Junior Mint. It’s chocolate. It’s peppermint. It’s delicious!
JERRY SEINFELD (on screen): That’s true.
KRAMER (on screen): It’s VERY refreshing!

I’ve seen this commercial a few dozen times. It never fails to crack me up, as though it were the first time.
What’s WRONG with me?

I never was a big Seinfeld fan. Oh, I liked the early episodes when it really was about nothing. “The Parking Lot” episode comes to mind. But when George worked for the Yankees, or Elaine stressed over her job- not about nothing. But the ad gets to me.

There is a commercial for a nasal spray called Nasonex. If you’ve not seen it, go here. The male bee weirds me out! It’s the eyes. The irony is that the ad is “designed and directed” by Neal Adams, one of the most respected comic book artists, one best known for X-Men and Batman, but who I probably first saw (and liked) on the Avengers (the comic book, not the TV show with Emma Peel). The bee is voiced by Antonio Bandares, who I liked in Shrek 2.

So there it is: crazy about Kramer, crazed by a cartoon bee.

However, the Nasonex commercial isn’t nearly as scary as a Burger King commercial. Someone raises the shade in the house in the morning and there is a person in that eerie Burger King plastic mask. Arrrgh!

Even worse, though is the ad for some Dodge SUV. A woman, with a girl in the back seat, stops and talks to a guy who reminds me of Clint Eastwood in his spaghetti western days on the side of the road. “Out of gas?”, she asks. The motorcycle gets loaded into the back. All the while, the music and the camera work are suggesting that this woman is CRAZY for letting this dusty stranger in her vehicle, with her daughter in the back. Then, “Daddy just HAD to get a motorcycle.” OK – he’s not a potential murder, he’s a relative. But it’s manipulative and creepy, and I don’t think it engenders the sense of security that the purchaser of such a vehicle would want.

There’s a Coke commercial featuring lots of roller skating or blading. “It’s a Coke thing.” It must be a generational thing, because every time I hear it, it reminds me of the theme to the Academy-award winning movie “Midnight Cowboy”, a depressing flick I’ve managed to see four times in the theater within 18 months of its release. So instead of “Sparkle”, I think of Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) pounding on a vehicle and yelling, “I’m WALKING here!” But what I often tell my wife when she’s perplexed by an ad, I need to tell myself: “I’m not the target demographic.”

And speaking of commercials, Mason Adams died late last month. He had a most distinctive voice for radio and television for decades. I was a big Lou Grant fan, so I remember him as Lou’s boss Charlie Hume. But he’ll probably be best remembered for saying, “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.” As Vietnam-era DJ Adrian Cronauer, who talks about him on this NPR audio clip might have put it, “To sell the Smucker’s catchphrase, Mason Adams had to be good.”

Winter Games 2022

I’m in Lake Placid, NY right now, the site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. Even if you were BORN in 1980, you may know at least one thing about that latter Olympics, the Miracle on Ice, called by Al Michaels on ABC, when the US hockey team beat the Soviet Union, in spite of the Soviet’s seemingly superior talent. Obviously, it had Cold War implications as well.

You would have thought the US had won the gold medal with that game, but that came a couple days later against…

It’s a lovely little town, with really fine food. It is really in the middle of nowhere. That is a desirable trait for a lot of things. It’s easy to get caught up in too much busy-ness. There’s a wonderful walk around Mirror Lake that I take every morning. (Carol and I were here a couple years ago.)

When I was last up here, there was considerable speculation around here about applying for ANOTHER Winter Olympics. Don’t think it’ll happen because it’s really is IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, and, far more importantly than in 1980, the Olympic games need enough hotels and venues, something that would be difficult to build and then sustain in this little town. Indeed, on this trip, there’s a lot less talk about it, at least with the people I’ve met, so perhaps they’ve drawn the same conclusion.

The upstate New York kid in me thinks it would be great to have a trifecta of Olympics in this beautiful spot. The boring, grown-up me thinks it’s nuts.

…oh, yeah, Finland..SCORE, 4-2.

And I’m here for the conference of the NYS Small Business Development Center. The SBDC has about two dozen centers across the state offering business advisement at no charge. We get together once a year for educational enhancement, and for the opportunity to actually put faces to people who may have been acquainted only by phone or e-mail. The centers are assisted by the administrative office, within which resides the Research Network, the library of which I am (by a few months) the longest tenured person in the group. There are other SBDCs around the country offering similar services, though not all of them have a librarian, let alone four.

There’s no such thing as an average question. We might be asked about alpacas or home-based jewelry retail or the record industry. We’re asked to find demographics or industry trends or state regulations.

Time for that walk.

Community

I live in the Pine Hills section of Albany, NY. But I’m also part of a work community, the librarian community, and now, a bloggers’ community, among many others. One I’ve valued a great deal is the church community.

Carol and I got married in the largest Methodist church in Albany on May 15, 1999. Little did we know that we would be leaving that community less than two years later.

I’ll try not to get too arcane here. In January 2000, the Pastor Parish Relations Committee suspended the choir, the fact that the PPRC had no authority to do that in Methodist polity notwithstanding. At about the same time, the pastor of Spanish-speaking part of the congregation was squeezed out.

For the next couple weeks, Carol and I attended worship in the cold, inaccessible basement of the other Methodist church where the Spanish-speakers found themselves. (By “cold”, I mean that my feet got numb, even with my boots on. By “inaccessible”, I mean that I helped carry a man downstairs in his wheelchair.)

There was a meeting of the PPRC chair and the choir in March. The choir members had hoped that this would have been an opportunity to clarify the issues, and to create an atmosphere of reconciliation. Instead, it was, unfortunately, a lecture by the PPRC chair, with no real chance to respond to the mostly baseless accusations. There was a suggestion that the choir could come back if the members signed a loyalty oath to the pastor. A loyalty oath! After the meeting, the chair seemed pleased with the outcome; I told her it was b*******.

Even before this meeting, I had started singing in the choir of the church around the corner. But, ultimately, Carol & I left our old church, not just because of these events, but because the governance of church had been changed so that there was little redress. (The opposition to this change in governance, labeled as obstructionist, was the primary “crime” of many in the choir.)

We still have friends at our old church where I was member for a decade and a half, where Carol was member for nearly a decade, where we met, where we wed, but we changed our membership three years ago.

The story about the folks getting kicked out of their church for their voting patterns resonated with me, and even more if you see it on
video. (You may need to download software.)
They were forced out and we left voluntarily, but the sense of sadness, loss, abandonment, and perhaps a touch of anger still lingers. In any case, we feel grateful that we have found another community in which we can participate in the church around the corner.

Not a very romantic piece for our 6th anniversary, is it? Still, I believe the experience strengthened my bond with Carol. And with Lydia, we have a (small) community of our own.

Happy anniversary, Carol. I love you.

The culprit

Rocco Nigro, it’s YOUR fault.

Rocco was this obnoxious kid that used to come into FantaCo, the (now deceased) Albany comic book store and haggle over the prices of the back issue comics when I started working there in 1980. Eventually, though, I grew to like him, as did the others, and he started working there, staffing the front of the store occasionally, but also mostly doing mail order. Rocco, incidentally, probably knows more about the Beatles than anyone I know who was born after the group first appeared on Ed Sullivan.

When Mitch was fired in 1983 (for reasons now lost on me), Rocco was outraged, and he quit. But when I was buried in mail order sometime in 1987, Rocco came in with me one Sunday afternoon, and we all but obliterated the backlog. He did that out of loyalty to me, in spite of his (then) continued enmity towards the store owner. I always appreciated that.

I worked with him again occasionally at Mitch’s Midnight Comics in 1991 and 1992. I visited him in HIS store, Crypt O’ Comics, in the mid-1990s. I’d see him occasionally in a couple book stores he worked at.

But it had been well over a year since I had last seen him when I went into The Book House an independent book store in Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany in October 2004 looking for my friend Norman, who wasn’t there. Rocco, however, was. We talked at length about many things, but most intriguing was his high praise of this website by one Fred Hembeck, an artist who had done work published by FantaCo with whom I had lost touch at least a decade earlier. I checked out Fred’s site, liked it, got intrigued by this blogiverse, and the rest is electronic history, and, as I said, Rocco’s fault. You can find out more about Rocco here (May 14) or here (May 14) and, as I understand it, here (May 14).

Happy birthday, Rocco. BTW, you’re turning 41, in case you’ve forgotten.

Not so little Stevie

Before I got a CD burner a year or so ago, I used to make mixed cassette tapes from my albums and CDs. I made one of Stevie Wonder songs that did not appear on a Stevie album for my friend Donna George (who unfortunately died of cancer a couple years ago.) Think I’ll make a mixed Stevie CD soon. After all, he is 55 today. “Gee, 55, gee, double nickel,” as the bingo caller in Charlotte, NC used to say when I lived down there in 1977.

Stevie’s new album, A Time to Love, which has been on my Amazon wish list for over a year, was finally released on May 3. Since his 1995 album Conversation Peace, he’s put out a 2-CD live set, a 2-CD greatest hits, a 4-CD box set, a couple songs on the Bamboozled soundtrack, and a single-CD greatest hits. He also produced a tribute album to himself called Conception. So this is his first CD filled with new material in a decade.

According to Yahoo, Stevie “also appears on” 463 albums, as producer, or performer on vocals, keyboard or harmonica. He worked with Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, Jermaine Jackson, Whitney Houston, and many others. He also appears on the Rent cast album. Some of the selections I’ll put together will be from a series of tribute and/or benefit albums, such as Tribute to Curtis Mayfield, Inner City Blues (Marvin Gaye), Gershwin’s World, Nobody’s Child (Romanian Relief), and America: A Tribute to Heroes, which shows his sense of musical history as well as his heart.

*****
Speaking of heart, my brother-in-law John Powell would have been 45 tomorrow. He died three years ago of colon cancer. He was one of the greatest boosters of my relationship with Carol with our various ups and downs before we got married. I’m only sorry he never got to meet his niece Lydia.