America redux, and not knowing everything

I shake my head sadly, looking to the ground mournfully, showing pity to these poor deluded fools.

Mr. Frog, in the comments:

Interesting that your daughter goes back to the things that scare her. I do that, too. Have you ever seen Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal? I was so afraid of that movie–despite it being one of my favorites–until literally a few months ago. I should write about that…

No, I haven’t. I’m not sure why, exactly, but when it came out, it just didn’t appeal to me, so I never even wanted to see it. It seemed, from a trailer, maybe, to be too…dark? By now, it had all but left my consciousness. I wouldn’t NOT see it, but it isn’t on the list of films I must watch, though you’ve made it more interesting to me. Wouldn’t watch it with the Daughter, though, until I had seen it first.
And yes, you should write about it.

Another example for me is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. I HAVE written about that: at age 5, it scared me so bad I was basically traumatized. But I became fascinated by stuff like UFOs, which led me to reading books about ACTUAL science. Then when it was re-released when I was 9, I loved it, and now it’s my favorite movie. It makes me cry badly, but in a cathartic way.

Odd thing about that film. Saw E.T. at the time and loved Drew Barrymore screaming, loved the classic Spielberg broken family, anti-authority motifs, even the Reese’s Pieces product placement. I just didn’t like the ending, the bikes in the sky thing, and I haven’t ever seen it since then, so I could not specifically tell you why. I was willing to believe the alien, but not that. It played at the local second-run theater, the Madison, in early April, but I just didn’t have time to see it. And I would rather have seen it like that then on video.

(Sidebar: there was some story on CBS Sunday Morning recently about the decline in the movie box office. Some twenty-something they interviewed was so smug. “I can watch movies at home. I can pause it when ever I want to…” And if you can pause it, for me, it isn’t watching a movie; it’s watching a video – I use the term generically.)

If I can ask a follow-up to Jaquandor’s question about America: do you worry that it’s too late to change course? I don’t want to get too doomsday about it, I’ve just been reading too many things lately that seem to be adding up to a depressing future. Of course, I have mental disorders and that seems to be the way I process things a lot of time (“catastrophizing” is what my therapist calls it).

Is it catastrophizing when the levee has broken? On one very big hand, the news is grim. We live in an oligarchy. It’s not just that economic disparity is unfair; it doesn’t make much economic sense. One hundred people poor/middle-class people will buy 100 gallons of milk, while two rich guys will buy two, or maybe three. The tax structure is totally screwed up. The SCOTUS is corrupt. The environmental stuff is scary.

If I opt to be positive, it’s not a function of being a Pollyanna. I just don’t see the point, for me, to think the worst. I mean, maybe things will suck, but hey, what if they don’t? (Yes, this is the reverse corollary to my pessimism rule that when things are looking TOO good, better check for the rusty lining.)

But what if the 99% get really ticked off enough to dump the oligarchs? One of the narratives about the Occupy movement was that it was a failure; I think not. Polling shows that people at least RECOGNIZE economic inequity is taking place. Younger people appear, in the main, to be less racist, less homophobic. Demographics alone will help get rid of the old guard eventually. Wish I could give you something more bright and shiny, but that’s all I got.

Jacquandor observes:

Hmmm. Greg makes an interesting point that I hadn’t considered: Europe literally had to rebuild itself virtually from scratch twice in thirty years, while it can be said that America is just finishing building itself the first time. So I wonder if the disconnect is between those of us who think it’s time to start rebuilding what isn’t so great now on the one side, and the “Bah, it’s just fine” thought process on the other.

Yes, getting your infrastructure destroyed (see also: Japan) means you have to update it.

Certainly, the United States felt that it was rather impervious to real harm, having not one, but TWO, oceans protecting it from most other countries. There was a great tradition of isolationism in the country for the majority of its history. Although there were always chicken hawks, even to this day, that seem to think that invading – Syria! Ukraine! – is the way to go.

Maybe it’s also geography that changes the calculus. French people pick up stuff from Germany and Spain and Belgium. But the expectation is that anyone coming ALL THE WAY TO AMERICA should become American, even though it takes a few generations for the Irish, then the Italians, et al., to become white, in the eyes of those who were as already in the country.

The answer to the recent Quora question also applies here: Why is the desire to travel internationally so low for Americans? Expense and limited vacation time, for two. Plus the vastness of the US may make folks less inclined. “Why go to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, when I can go to Las Vegas to see a replica for far less?”

Maybe this Quora question too: Why do Americans seem to be shallow and superficial while Europeans seem deep and pensive in general? Assuming the premise to be true, it may have to do with Europe’s longer, and more difficult history.

Tom the Mayor asked:

Have you ever heard Frank Sinatra’s version of “Being Green”?

I OWN Sinatra’s version of the song on some album, probably a compilation. Still prefer the frog’s version.

New York Erratic wants to know:

Can I still ask Roger anything?

Yes. Yes, you can. And you may.

Here’s one that’s somewhat important: you’re very smart. How do you cope when people treat you like an idiot and/or get an attitude when you don’t know literally everything?

We’ll assume, for the purpose of this question, that I AM very smart. Yet I don’t know that people always knew that. Here’s a bit I’m sure I mentioned before but bears repeating in this context: Before I was on JEOPARDY!, I was at a party and I was noting how alpacas are better-tempered than llamas, something I had researched as a librarian. My factual statement was dismissed as “male answer syndrome,” which frankly irritated me. I DID know that fact!

Then, in 1998, I appear on a game show. I win ONCE. Suddenly, people believe I’m smarter than I actually am. Here’s the thing; I prefer it to being perceived as less smart. Oh, there are people, mostly techies, who are astonished by what I DON’T know, but I decide they’re being schmucks.

Every once in a while, I’ll get this from people online, but most of them really ARE schmucks. I’ve been very open about my deficiencies. When they THINK you know everything, – which is impossible – it is THEY who appear unreasonable when confronted by my, or anyone’s, limitations.

I mean, what don’t I know? There are three categories: stuff I wish I knew but am resigned not to know (technology, languages); stuff I don’t care to know (Which Kardashian is married to whom, et al.); and stuff that I need to know for a particular purpose. That third group is what I try to utilize all day long. Stuff that people interested or trained in a particular field have learned. If I get a question about the physical nature of the earth, I’m contacting YOU, because you know way more than I do. What I know as a librarian is where I can find the information (usually), not know it off the top of my head, though there are obviously a few things I’ve picked up over the years.

I don’t know much about cars. Can’t make coffee, but then don’t DRINK coffee. I am extraordinarily bad at collating; it’s not that I think it’s beneath me, or something, it’s that I don’t do it well. But for most topics, I can hold my own as well as any layperson.

Part of the answer is that I spent enough time proving that I AM smart not to give it short shrift. That perception that perhaps I was not might have been because I worked at a comic book store, or because I eschewed wearing suits and ties, or some other reason. Having fooled people into believing I’m smart, I’m not all that willing to give it up.

Here’s the difference between you and me, NYE. You’re a lot younger than I. So the real answer is I really don’t give a damn about their attitude anymore. As suggested, if they think I should know EVERYTHING, and a bit of that DOES come with the J! territory – and they’re nasty about it, which HAS happened – then I shake my head sadly, looking to the ground mournfully, showing pity to these poor deluded fools. (You may recognize this as the Mr. T philosophy, rendered more politely.)

Dinosaurs, candy, kissing, travel

It was this red shoestring licorice we bought about two blocks from the school

T-Rex-The-SliderGot a bunch of questions, great questions. Gracias. I’ve been thinking about them, some of them A LOT, but some are going to require longer answers than others, and I’ll have more time in the next week or two (I hope).

In the meanwhilst, here’s a few from New York Erratic:

Were you ever into fossils or dinosaurs? What is your favorite dinosaur?

Not in any kind of systematic way. I mean they were collectively cool, but I didn’t study them very thoroughly. I got frustrated that several of the ones I knew as a child have totally different names, and theories as to their origins are different. Some are now birds that were thought to have been reptiles, etc. Rather like the planets of our solar system, where I once knew how many moons each planet had, but no longer. I’ll pick T-Rex; always liked Bang A Gong [LISTEN].

Have you ever had your IQ tested? When? What was your IQ?

Yeah, at least a couple of times, but they never told us. Once in fifth or sixth grade, some of my classmates discovered our scores but no names were attached. Someone was in the 140s, and we all figured it was friend Carol (not my wife Carol). There were three or four in the 130s, which we surmised were friends Karen, Bill, and me. But we really had no idea.

Did you ice skate as a kid?

I don’t believe so. I have no recollection of it. And not as an adult except once, and it involved wooing Carol (my now-wife).

How do you memorize skits for plays? (This one is fairly urgent… 😛 )

Repetition, optimally with another person, or persons, reading the other parts. But I HATE doing long speeches, soliloquies because I have a hard time memorizing them. Unless they’re poetic, and I can make a song out of them.
SamuraiFrog wants to know:

At what age did you feel like you became an adult?

62. (Not entirely false.)

I suppose it was when I bought a house, and I was 47. Not sure I like this growing-up stuff.
Jaquandor, who is in the midst of answering MY questions to him, wants to know:

You’re given enough money for a road trip someplace in the US…not enough to fly anywhere in the world, but enough that you can pay for gas, food, and lodging someplace in this country. Where do you go?

I’d do a bunch of baseball parks by train. But if we’re talking a single location, I’ll pick Juneau, Alaska, because it’s the farthest state capital one can get to by land. If I’m limited to the continental US, then Seattle, WA, or Portland, OR, because I’ve never been to either of them, and they are in states as far from me as possible.

Tom the Mayor, my FantaCo colleague, asked:

What was the first comic you remember reading? And the first book?

The first comic I have no idea. It may have been Archie, or Richie Rich, or some other Harvey Comic. The first superhero comic was almost certainly DC, Legion, or maybe Justice League.

I had these Golden Books, but I don’t quite remember them individually. I also had the Golden Book Encyclopedias, and those I remember reading voraciously.

What was the first movie your parents took you to?

Not sure. Can’t remember seeing any movies with my father except for the drive-in. Maybe it was the 1960’s version of State Fair; or did I go without my mother? 101 Dalmatians? Early on, it was West Side Story.

What was your favorite candy as a kid?

It was this red shoestring licorice we bought about two blocks from the school, right across the street from friend Bill’s house.

Do you Kiss your wife and daughter in public? Did your parents kiss you in public?

Yes, and The Daughter still lets me! Not that I can recall, and I don’t know if they kissed my sisters either.
You can still Ask Roger Anything.

August Rambling II: Smart is sexy and stupid is not

A reference to my piece about David Cassidy made it into the print version of the paper because “it was a good post, and filled with what we like: short, timely and to the point :)”

The New York Times’ prophetic 1983 warning about the NSA, which naturally leads to Glenn Greenwald killed the internet.

My Feelings About the Harriet Tubman Sex Tape in 10 GIFs.

Invisible Disabilities Day is October 24. I have this friend with rather a constant neck pain, but she doesn’t LOOK sick, and therefore feels diminished by those who actually don’t believe her. Conversely, The Complexities of Giving: People with Disabilities as Help Objects.

Photos of the worldly goods of inmates at the Willard Asylum. I backed the Kickstarter for this and wrote about it a couple years ago.

“Each week, TIME Magazine designs covers for four markets: the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific.” Often, America’s cover is quite, well – different. I had noticed this before. I don’t know that it’s “stunning,” but it IS telling.

The Peanuts gang meets The Smiths, in which This Charming Charlie masterfully blends Charles Schulz’s comics with lyrics by The Smiths.

Mark Evanier’s Tales of My Father, featuring Tony Orlando. Also, Tales of My Cat.

A friend’s letter from his brother. (Can one read this sans Facebook?)

Yes, smart is sexy and stupidity is not.

Eddie, the Renaissance Geek is cancer-free!

So I have survived my first grown-up move. Moving as an adult, it turns out, is radically different from moving as a student.

John Scalzi: To The Dudebro Who Thinks He’s Insulting Me by Calling Me a Feminist.

Air New Zealand celebrates marriage equality.

Lake Edge United Church of Christ in Madison, WI: “Worship at the Edge” PRIDE Sunday.

My old buddy Matt Haller has a new blog and writes about lies my shampoo bottle tells me about dating.

Arthur challenges his own snap assumptions.

SamuraiFrog writes about the list of best movies that EW had on the list in 1999, but which had fallen off the list by 2013 and also other great films. Re: a comment he made: that will require a blog post from me. He’s been musing on the early Marvel comics, which have all been interesting, and I was glad to play a small part in his understanding of Thor.

21 Jokes Only History Nerds Will Understand​.

German, not Swiss, Orson Welles.

Marian McPartland, ‘Piano Jazz’ Host, Has Died. I loved how she way she not only performed but, probably, more importantly, INFORMED about music.

The late Elmore Leonard’ TEN RULES FOR WRITING. His New York Times obit.

David Janower has passed away. He was the choral director of the fine Albany Pro Musica, and I knew and liked him personally, so I am sad. He had surgery a few months back and suffered a stroke from which he never really recovered.

A worthy neologism found by Dustbury.

The God of SNL will see you now.

Dolly Parton’s original recording of “Jolene” slowed down by 25% is surprisingly awesome.

Paul McCartney “In Spite Of All The Danger” & “20 Flight Rock” (Live), the former a cover of first Beatles record. Also, the Beatles’ final photo session, August 22, 1969.

Chuck Miller has posted every day for four years, over 2,000 blog posts on the Times Union site.

Dueling banjos: Steve Martin, Kermit the Frog. Sesame Street does Old Spice parody with Grover.

No ukuleles were harmed in the making of this video.

What did I write about in my Times Union blog this month? That annoying JEOPARDY! Kids Week story and Should ‘citizen initiative and referendum’ come to New York? and The prescient David Cassidy song. Cassidy got arrested locally for felony DWI, and a reference to my piece made it into the print version of the paper because “it was a good post, and filled with what we like: short, timely and to the point :),” FWIW.

If you are an NYS homeowner, read Tax Department Launches Statewide STAR Registration. The Data Detective blog has some other interesting stuff – if I do say so myself – such as On being ‘right’ in science.

Jaquandor answers my questions about the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team and unfriending.

Spontaneous​s goat manure fire.

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