April rambling: the triumph of zealots

If every episode is a blowout in which two of three contestants are basically never competitive, does that not grow uninteresting over time?

Women and the Resurrection
Women and the Resurrection cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
Read the redacted Mueller report here OR here.

Yes, Obstruction.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mueller Report and Opioids II.

Deconstructed: A Migrant’s Journey and refugees to America brought in $63 billion more in government revenues than they cost in the last 10 years.

As Mr. Parrot pointed out: “Why on earth didn’t we [the UK] follow the Code of Good Practice on Referendums which the UK signed up to in 2006? This advocates a referendum as a two-part process, starting with an advisory vote and proceeding to a detailed proposal, with a second vote by either parliament or the people. They also advise that a vote below 55% in favour should be ignored.” (Brexit passed with 51.9% of the vote.)

When Did Faith & Science Become Enemies? Lessons from a Christian Physicist with Dr. David Larrabee.

Selling the Soul of Franklin Graham.

How Sovereign Citizens Helped Swindle $1 Billion From the Government They Disavow.

Do not mess with Katie Porter. EVER.

“I’ve lived long enough to see the triumph of zealots and absolutists, to watch money swallow politics, to witness the rise of the corporate state. See the party of working and poor people become a sycophant of crony capitalism.

Watch the union of church and state become fashionable again. Witness the coupling of news and entertainment. See everyday people cast overboard as the pirates and predators of Wall Street seized the ship of state. I didn’t drift; I moved left just by standing still.”

  • Bill Moyers, from an interview at The Progressive in 2014.

Why James Holzhauer Is Bad for JEOPARDY! “If every episode is a blowout in which two of three contestants are basically never competitive, does that not grow uninteresting over time?”

The Tragic Story of Bob Fosse’s Second Wife, Joan McCracken.

The #MeToo Blacklist?

What Will Hollywood Do with Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin?

Ken Levine interview with Al Michaels Part 1 and Part 2.

The Exaltation of Anger.

Why do we laugh?

Sesame Street/HBO: Respect is Coming and Respect World.

I like cursive.

We stan: Merriam-Webster just added 640 new words.

Just blog it and 101 Blogging Statistics for 2019.

Waiting for the doctor.

Neil Gaiman on Jack Kirby.

Are X-Men human… or monsters?

Now I Know: The Surströmming Offensive and Why Do Escalators Have Those Brushes Along the Edge? and The Swimming Pool That Was Literally Blacked Out and The Bug in the Plan.

MUSIC

Wayfaring Stranger – Rhiannon Giddens.

My World is Empty Without You/Maneater – Hall and Oates and The Supremes.

Hail Mary, Gentle Woman – Jamie Biller.

Coverville 1258: Cover Stories for Indigo Girls, Dave Edmunds and Dusty Springfield.

The Grande symphonie funebre et triomphale – Hector Berlioz.

O Mio Babbino Caro Darci (Italian Opera) – Darcy Lynne and Petunia.

Triumphal March from Aida – Verdi.

Greg Burgas: The Unsung – the weirder end of the Phil Collins musical spectrum.

K-Chuck Radio: The many branches of Bruce Channel’s one-hit wonder.

Jupiter from The Planets – Gustav Holst – Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Sh-Boom – Sh-Pony.

Guitarist J. Geils Dead at 71.

Top Ten Most Worthless Records, and I own half of them.

“Here’s the host of JEOPARDY!, Alex Trebek!”

While I’m sure Alex Trebek had agreed to the special venue across the country, I think it took him a while to warm up to the change in his rhythm

Alex Trebek
Alex Trebek, Boston, 1998
Some arithmetic guy, and others, have asked me to write about Alex Trebek, in light of his recent diagnosis of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

I’ve noted in the past that my JEOPARDY! viewing goes back to the 1960s, watching Art Fleming host the weekday show on NBC-TV. When the show returned in 1984, I was fine with the new host, Alex Trebek. I had seen him on a couple games shows, notably High Rollers. Given the fact that I was annoyed by the amount of luck involved in the play, that’s high praise.

When I was on JEOPARDY!, it represented a unique set of circumstances. It was recorded in September 1998 at the Wang Theater in Boston, the first time the regular show took place outside the Los Angeles-area studios. The Massachusetts city was very excited, and expressed in its stories the ‘appropriateness” of the show being recorded there, with all the smart people from Harvard, MIT, et al.

While I’m sure Trebek had agreed to the special venue across the country, I think it took him a while to warm up to the change in his rhythm. For one thing, he had to talk to the press quite a bit: the Boston Globe – in which my picture appeared!- and the Christian Science Monitor, for two.

Alex Trebek quite often says that the reason he likes doing JEOPARDY! is that he enjoys being around smart people. During a lengthy sitting around period for the contestants, we contestants got to watch, though not hear, him being interviewed. You could see on his face and in his body language when he was asked a question he thought was stupid and/or obvious.

Trebek was also reportedly annoyed by how difficult it was to get into the hotel that he and the contestants stayed in. There was a fundraiser for some Democratic candidates there, and Bill Clinton was among a wealth of politicians, reportedly including Vice-President Al Gore, and US Senator Ted Kennedy.
jeop

Of course, no one got close to that entrance. Earlier that day, there were massive protests and counter-protests regarding special prosecutor Ken Starr’s probes into Clinton’s behavior.

So it’s in that context that I can try to explain what happened on stage while I was getting a picture with Alex Trebek – he did the rabbit-ears thing on me. I knew it at the time because I could see him doing so in a monitor. Why me? Maybe because, at 45, I was the oldest contestant.

Weeks later, though, I got my photo from being on JEOPARDY! and it’s me alone. I will admit that I was quite disappointed at the time, but I’ve mostly let it go. Still, after hearing the frightening diagnosis, I felt melancholy. I wish I had my paired picture with who The New Republic in November 2014 referred to as The Last King of the American Middlebrow.

Watch these JEOPARDY!-related scenes:
Groundhog Day
Golden Girls
White Men Can’t Jump

February rambling: Incompetence Opera

Gun violence dashboard. Every Building on Every Block: NYC property tax photos from the 1930s

red green lightAs the Climate Collapses, We Ask: “How Then Shall We Live?”

Modern Weather Forecasts Are Stunningly Accurate

Greenpeace ships set sail to tell the global story of plastic pollution

Gun violence dashboard

Weekly Sift: A Fishy Emergency Threatens the Republic

Grammar as Resistance

United Methodist Church voted to toughen its teachings against homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and LGBT clergy. It must now decide whether it will stay together

The case for capping all prison sentences at 20 years

Melinda and Bill Gates’s Annual Letter discussing surprises from toilets to sexist data to textbooks

It’s illegal to drive your car covered in snow and ice in New York State

Every Building on Every Block: NYC property tax photos from the 1930s

It’s Impossible to Follow a Conversation on Twitter

This week with John Oliver:Brexit III

New York’s Rejection of Amazon Isn’t Anti-Tech, It’s Pro-People

Deepfake: A Brief History of Unreliable Images

FTC Details Big Jump in Losses, Complaints about Romance Scams

Isaac Newton’s Secret Religious Writings and Apocalyptic Prediction

Ken Levine podcast: TV in the age of Ageism

The original obituary of Frederick Douglass

Meet the Safecracker of Last Resort

What one wants from hotel showers

Europeans Keep Finding Ancient Dodecahedrons in the Dirt

The 25 Most Influential Movie Scenes of the Past 25 Years

Stanley Donen, co-director of ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ dies at 94

Nurses from the Opening Credits of the TV show MASH

The Forgotten Story of the American Troops Who Got Caught Up in the Russian Civil War

For decades, the only thing staving off a worldwide Socialist revolution was a grouchy librarian

Now I Know: When Sears Sold Homes by Mail and Why The $1 Bill Doesn’t Change and When Doing the Math Meant Breaking the Law and How to Recycle Thousands of Tons of Military-Grade Metal

Bella’s journey ends

The canine section: He finished the race, didn’t he? and Good dog

Greg Burgas: More comics lists we can argue about!

Movie trailers for the movies Yesterday (2019), about Beatles music, and Who Is Arthur Chu?,, the sometimes hated JEOPARDY champion

The Most Bizarre Stock Photos I Could Find Brought to Life by Your Captions

MUSIC

The Dunning-Kruger Song, from The Incompetence Opera

Why -Tracy Chapman (Live 1990)

SO CUTE – Aubrey Logan

I Wanna Be a Lifeguard – Scud Lightning

(Gimme Some of That) Ol’ Atonal Music – Merle Hazard

No or No – Twice

The Ball Game – Sister Wynona Carr

Take On Me – Weezer

Coverville 1250: Cover Stories for Robert Palmer and Bobby Brown and 1251: Gerry Goffin Cover Story and 1252: The Chinese Zodiac of Cover Songs

One Hundred Ways – James Ingram

Night and Day – Marc Hunter

Oh, Man – Jain

Orpheus in the Underworld overture – Jacques Offenbach

Theme from The Muppet Show, a cappella rendition – Mr Dooves

You Won’t Bring Me Down – Sina

Private Eyes – Sleeping At Last

Black Velvet Band – Irish Rovers

B.E.R. – The Night Begins To Shine

Chuck Miller: The times that I met Peter Tork

Gallery of the Louvre: gallery of my office

“Whoever you are, you’ve got Charisma!”

gallery of the louvreAt work, I’ve got an office for the first time in 12 years. I’ve been in cubicles, and for more than two years in a part of a storage space; long story.

*The only thing on the wall in the latter location was a picture of John Lennon c 1972 which my friend Rocco of FantaCo gave me decades ago.

My wife and my daughter decided to rectify that situation. Most of the items were in the attic, not getting the love they needed.

*The largest item is a print my wife had of Gallery of the Louvre, 1831-33 by Samuel Finley Breese Morse. Yeah, the guy who invented the telegraph was also an artist.

It appeals to me, a picture of pictures in a picture. But I also appreciate that one can be an artist and an inventor too.

*My friend, the late Raoul Vezina, did a pencil drawing of me as the duck and had it framed. The large word balloon reads “SURPRISE, ROGER!” The thought balloon was of me thinking, “Is it time for Agronsky and Company already?” That referred to a news talk show I watched regularly.

The duck is reading a New York Times Magazine, which featured the actual content of the issue dated Sunday, March 7, 1982, SELF-SEARCHING IN ISRAEL by Michael Elkins. I think Raoul gave it to me the next day. The picture reminds me of Raoul, of course, who died in November 1983, but also FantaCo, and my birthday.

*A little picture of a pear in the foreground. The caption: “‘Whoever you are, you’ve got Charisma!’ exclaimed Red Ball.” My wife tells me it’s suggestive. Whatever.

In a WTEN (Channel 10, Albany) interview of me before I appeared on JEOPARDY! in 1998, I noted that passing the test doesn’t necessarily mean I’d be on the show. The interviewer said what makes the difference between appearing and not. I said, cheekily, “I don’t know, charisma?” And for about five years after that, one of my work colleagues noted that I had CHARISMA.

*There’s a tiny photo of the top of Binghamton (NY) City Hall, which my friend, and ex-girlfriend, gave me. My hometown.

*The last piece is abstract so difficult to describe. I expect from the color scheme it was from Central America. We got it as a wedding present, I believe.

JEOPARDY! +20 yrs (7,305 days; 1043.57 wks)

I’m buds with Amy Roeder, one of my competitors, on Facebook.

It was 20 years ago today that I was in a room at my then-church watching myself on JEOPARDY! I was VERY uncomfortable with this – I would have as soon watched it alone at home – but others had talked me into this gathering.

I need not go through the blow-by-blow experience about being on the show. I wrote about it extensively when I started this blog in 2005, a serial with cliffhangers at the end of each installment, which you can read HERE. The pieces are below the links. They’re also on this site for those dates, Saturdays starting on May 28.

In fact, as I’ve noted, it was being on JEOPARDY! that convinced me that I had enough stuff to write about, at least for a little while. Since I needn’t recap this period, I thought I’d mentioned how the show has changed.

For one thing, the show does an online audition, whereas I did mine in person. The value of the board doubled three years after my appearance. They now give cash prizes to the runners-up.

The most significant change was that, starting in September 2003, a contestant who won five consecutive days could keep playing instead of retiring undefeated and showing up in the Tournament of Champions. For all sorts of reasons, I’ve always opposed the change. And for this season, there’s their FIRST-EVER TEAM TOURNAMENT! I’m not excited.

I still watch the show every day. Well, that’s not technically true. I record it every day and watch at my leisure. So I hate it when JEOPARDY! becomes newsworthy, such as a Sudden Death Tiebreaker! first in regular play.

Or when someone’s noted as an eight-time winner in a news story when I’ve only watched his fourth episode. I now knew he would win those next four games. (That happened last year with bartender Austin Rogers.) It seems that recent champions are more quirky, in the main.

I’m buds with Amy Roeder, one of my competitors, on Facebook.

Winning one game on JEOPARDY! is better than not winning at all, or not getting on at all. No, I can’t go back. But I still have the VCR tape transferred to a DVD. Oh, 12 surprising things you didn’t know about ‘Jeopardy!’ all but one of which I was aware of.