R is for Ramblin’ with Roger

Steve Gerber, comic book writer extraordinaire, posted about writing in April 2005, essentially saying, “Writers write.”

Since I just hit my 13th anniversary of writing this here Ramblin’ with Roger blog thing, I’d thought I’d describe why I do it.

I’ve mentioned before that my friend Fred Hembeck had started a blog, that friend Rocco had tipped me off to same, and that I read everything Fred wrote, which meant going back about two years.

And Fred was prolific. He wrote every day, usually pieces a lot longer than I write currently. Then I would comment on his blog, and he would mention me therein. I gave him a couple ideas; for instance, I found a page of record album covers based on other album covers, which still exists.

So I thought, maybe I could do this myself. But what would I write ABOUT? I only had two topics that I KNEW I would have to cover. One was the Daughter, who was a little over a year old. I said to myself when she was born that I would write about her in a baby book that people give to parents of newborns, where you track when the child first crawls and walks and gets the first tooth.

There is incontrovertible evidence that I was TERRIBLE at this exercise. Instead, I would write about her every month, on the 26th. And I have, every month, although it’s often been as much about ME having a daughter after I’m five decades old.

The other topic was my appearances on the game show JEOPARDY. It was taped in September 1998 and was broadcast in November, and I was afraid the details were starting to fade.

I started writing in my Blogger blog on May 2, 2005, and I have written every day, at least once a day. In the early days, it was tough because Blogger didn't let me schedule posts. I remember writing at a library in Lake Placid during a break in a work conference.

I was inspired by what the late Steve Gerber, comic book writer of Howard the Duck, Man-Thing, the Defenders, and other Marvel comics I loved, posted about writing in April 2005, essentially saying, “Writers write.”

Oh, the duck. At FantaCo, I was editing something called X-Men Chronicles. I had extra pages to fill, and so Smilin’ Ed artiste Raoul Vezina and I pieced together a story about the rodent buying a case of a popular comic book. I appeared as a duck because… well, I don’t know.

Around that time, Raoul drew the duck for my friend Lynne. In 2010, when I was getting my own URL, Lynne’s husband Dan, who recognized me from the caricature when he met me on the street back in 1985, scanned the drawing, and I have used it ever since, on the Ramblin’ with Roger blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

For ABC Wednesday

That reminded me of

I worked in that library as a page for seven months in 1969.

Ask a Muslim
I saw on my friend Lynne Jackson’s Facebook page on the Saturday morning of Albany’s annual tradition, the Tulip Festival, that there would be a booth where one could “Ask A Muslim” a question.

When the family finally got there, the family got to meet Nafisa and Fazana (pictured with that hatted Lynne). They were gracious and intelligent and wonderfully open. It was a wonderful idea, though I told them I thought it was quite brave.

Fazana wrote on her Facebook page “I talked to a non-Muslim gentleman who had just finished reading the English translation of the Quran and was pleased to report that nowhere in it did it say that Muslims should kill Christians. Needless to say, I wanted to recruit him to talk to others on behalf of Muslims because we are constantly trying to convince others to believe this fact!”

That reminded me of:

When my sister Leslie and I went to High school in Binghamton, NY, we were asked by the music teacher at suburban Vestal Junior High School, Mr. Fitzroy Stewart, on the one black teacher in the district, to talk with his all-white students about being a black teenager.


A terrestrial friend wrote about teaching:

It was an undergrad… who made the following observation about the linguistic style of the novel Home Boy by Naqvi and its immigrant/migrant characters.

“Why does this character always use such big words? I mean, ‘heterodox pedagogy’? ‘epistemological dead end’? Give me a break. It’s almost like he NEEDS to do that to prove he’s smart to American readers, because he’s an immigrant.”
And I looked at her with these anime-style star-struck eyes.


If you’ve been casually “taught” the meaning of a vocabulary word from a Dr. Seuss book by someone you can’t possibly get mad at because you know how well-meaning they are, you too might find yourself in need of pursuing some heterodox pedagogy of the epistemological dead-end of big fat multi-syllabic words.

That reminded me of:

Living in Charlotte, NC, in the flea market, for only 4 months back in 1977, I became acutely aware of using multi-syllabic, but very common words, such as “acutely”. It seemed to them that I was putting on airs, but it was just the way I always spoke!


Arthur wrote about following a guy following a woman he felt was a bit creepy. I’d admitted to having done so a few times myself, usually in the evening.

That reminded me of:

Participating in the recent CROP walk against hunger on May 1. I hadn’t actually signed up but The Wife and the Daughter, and her Young Friend – daughter of a friend of ours, and a Classmate of The Daughter’s all had registered. I was on my bike, trying to keep up with the girls. Over time though, The Daughter and the Young Friend got separated from The Classmate. I’d slow down when I could see both sets, but speed up when I could not see the pair.

Some guy on the route asked me if I were with the walkers, and I explained the situation. He was checking ME out, directly. And that was OK by me.

Binghamton (NY) Public Library

One of the local Binghamton media outlets received a tour of Binghamton’s Carnegie library, built in 1904, but abandoned for a decade and a half. The local community college has plans to turn it into “a culinary and events planning center.”

That reminded me of:

I worked in that library as a page for seven months in 1969, retrieving old magazines from the closed stacks, reshelving books, and assisting people with the microfilm machines. Becccye Fawcett was perhaps the first black librarian in the city, and we attended the same church, Trinity AME Zion at Oak and Lydia Streets.

Yassin Aref: a matter of (in)justice

The evidence shows that as early as December 2002, the FBI thought Yassin Aref was really an Al Queda agent named Mohammed Yasin, using a pseudonym. The real Yassin, who was missing two finger, was killed in Gaza in 2010.

picture from the projectsalam.org webpage

It was local front-page news, of course, back in 2006: two Muslims convicted of material support for TERRORISM, in Albany, New York! But even a casual reading of the news reports running up to the conviction of Yassin Aref, an Albany iman, and Mohammed Hossain, a pizzeria owner, didn’t add up. The clips of them with the FBI “informant” did NOT indicate the hate-filled speech I was told to expect.

Read about Yassin Aref’s arrest, conviction, and incarceration in this 2011 article for New York magazine. It discusses the government’s “controversial policy of preemptive prosecution—taking down those thought to possibly become terrorists in the future.”

Now Aref’s lawyers will file papers this month (July 2013) asking that the conviction be overturned or for a new trial, in something called a 2255 motion.

From the press release from Project Salam: “Aref discovered significant new evidence about his case as a result of an FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request he made in 2011.” The prosecution had it, the trial judge and appeals judge saw it, but the defense team did not. Incidentally, the defense tried and failed, to get this information earlier.

“The evidence shows that as early as December 2002, the FBI thought Aref was really an Al Queda agent named Mohammed Yasin,” using a pseudonym. The real Yassin, who was missing two-finger, was killed in Gaza in 2010. Aref writes, “I am still alive and have all my fingers so I cannot be Mohammed Yassin.”

The FOIA documents were heavily redacted, but it’s reasonable to believe that the trial judge was given classified information that misidentified Aref as Al Queda member Yasin.

So my friend Lynne Jackson is on a walk from Albany to Binghamton, a distance of 133 miles (214 km), to bring attention to this case, as she brings petitions to Judge Thomas McAvoy, as I noted here; I attended the kickoff event on July 12. She can still get more names on the online petition until July 23. If, after reading the materials, you are so moved, please sign it.

Ultimately, though, the case is about more than Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain, who likely just got caught up in the FBI’s zeal. It’s about: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” In other words, it’s about the 6th Amendment to the Constitution. The withholding of these documents that hold secret, and evidently false, information, is unconstitutional. THAT is the crime here.


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