Tuesday, July 31, 2007


William Lavorgna, also known as Bill, Blaze, and "Pappy" passed away this morning from a massive coronary which occurred on Saturday. My sister called me last night to tell me he was on life support and they would be turning it off today. His family were acquired relatives, tied to my family by the friendships of the respective two youngest sons as well as Bill's and my father's recovery from first heart attacks back around 1976-1977.

"Uncle Bill" was a famous studio drummer and Liza Minnelli's musical director for many, many years. She's the one who called him Pappy. He was on about a third of the 1965 top 100 hits. I know for certain he played on most of the Lovin' Spoonful hits (from a conversation about Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castile Soap--John Sebastian introduced him to it) and before he worked for Liza, he worked for Judy Garland.

I haven't seen Uncle Bill or Aunt Joan or the boys since I moved from the East Coast, but I'd exchange Christmas cards and, until Bill retired (or, at least, I thought he retired), hoped that I would see him on the Los Angeles leg of a Liza tour. The last time he was scheduled to be out here, she had to cancel because of her throat or her hip, so I hadn't even talked to him in quite a while.

But just a few months ago, I learned that the head of the English Department here and her husband had both been musicians who worked with Uncle Bill when Liza, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis performed together at Lake Tahoe or Las Vegas. I had wanted to get in touch with Uncle Bill to convey greetings, but my last address for them was no longer correct and I hadn't gotten around to asking my mother if she had it. Now I'm kicking myself.

Uncle Bill and Aunt Joan moved to my home town sometime after I went to college. They had a beautiful home on a lot of land a few miles outside of town. My middle brother Tom was best friends with their middle son Blaze and my baby brother Michael John was best friends with their youngest son David. Michael John went to Canada with the Lavorgnas on one vacation, coming back quite the world traveler. My parents knew them because of the boys, but when Uncle Bill had a major heart attack back around 1976, they became extremely good friends which was cemented by my father's first heart attack in August 1977. That's when I remember they became Uncle Bill and Aunt Joan.

When my father passed away of a second heart attack in 1978, it was on the Lavorgna property, the day after Dad and Mom had been to see Uncle Bill perform with Liza Minnelli. Dad was out walking with my brother Tom who was bow hunting. Tom went to retrieve an arrow, and when he got back, Dad was on the ground, smiled at him, and passed away. Ironically, Dad had been hiking with Michael John on the same land at some earlier time and told my mother that he was looking around and thought it would be a fine place to die. I think Uncle Bill would have chosen that way to go over the machine hook-up. I sure would.

Uncle Bill and Aunt Joan sold the farm and moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland for the milder winters after David went off to study music. They moved to Florida after Uncle Bill retired from touring with Liza. I won't be able to go to Florida for the funeral, but my thoughts are with Aunt Joan, Mark, Blaze, David and their families. I'm going to pull out a "Best of the Lovin' Spoonful" to listen to when I get home.

Birthday Cake

Here's a photograph of the uncut birthday cake I wrote about. If you can't read it, it says at the top "Wishing A Magical Birthday To Our Favorite Wizard!" and the bottom adds "(Oh And Harry Potter, Too!)." The cover says "Chris Valada and the Deathly Hallows."

Now that it is forever immortalized, we can probably eat what hasn't gone stale.

Thanks to L.J. for sending the photo along.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Happy Childhood

As in, it is never too late to have a happy childhood.

We celebrated my birthday on July 21 with our big summer bash. Said party never happened last year because of various problems with the house, all of which devolved into: it's a filthy mess and we can't possibly get it cleaned up. This year, despite the construction on the kitchen (yes, it is still in progress), I insisted that we hold the party on my birthday because (a) my birthday was on a Saturday and (b) we were actually in town rather than at Comicon. The last time we had this fortunate congruence was five years ago, when we again held the summer party on my birthday.

I planned on writing this up last week, but I didn't have a picture of my birthday cake. I now have a picture of the remains of my cake, which I hope to swap out when my friend L.J. sends one of the unmolested cake.

As you might note, this reproduces the cover of the seventh Harry Potter book with one important change. My name. My husband, who has flashes of genius in this area, redesigned the cover and drew the type-face, a complex process which I can't possibly recall with justice. Suffice it to say, it was a big hit and we haven't been able to force ourselves to cut into the actual image. I'm glad we've got refrigerators these days.

Because my birthday coincided with the release of Book Seven, we carried through with the theme and encouraged those who wished to bring the book and read. A number of people did. Others, like my son who finished it at 4 a.m., were driven to complete the read so no one would spoil the ending. Fortunately, those who had finished didn't reveal anything to those who had not. I managed to get the first five chapters in before I started dealing with the party that day (and finished it at 1:55 a.m. on July 23.)

My friend Emily came in full house-elf regalia, dressed in a pillow case. She won a prize. Many people had Potter-related t-shirts. I wore a quiddich jersey and a reproduction of McMonagall's witch's hat, despite the heat (the hat is velvet.)

We had over 70 people show up, making it one of the largest events we've had so far. There were people who had never been before and those who were regulars. It started around 3 and went to about mid-night, which was pretty early but we are getting too old to stay awake later.

Of all of our collections, it is our collection of friends which brings us the greatest happiness. I got thoughtful presents, but presence was most appreciated.

What's My Line for the Last Time This Run

We finished the most recent run of "What's My Line Live on Stage" last night. Len, Michael, and I drove back from San Diego Comicon (about which more in another post) in order to be at the show. As always, it was well worth being there. Fred Willard, seen here standing with J. Keith van Straaten, was the very funny Mystery Guest. No doubt you have seen his Oscar-worthy turn as the commentator in Best in Show or in one of Christopher Guest's other mocumentaries. I do like it when I actually recognize the Mystery Guests without having to ask just who they are.

What's My Line Again?

My dog Muffin made her debut on What's My Line Live on Stage on July 22. The logistics of this were a little challenging, because Len was a panelist that night. That was the reason J. Keith van Straaten and Jim Newman were both desperate to have Muffin be the dog worked on by the dog masseuse who was the "demonstration" guest that evening. She did really well, except for almost dragging the hostess on stage. Len was bowled over--and I didn't get a picture of it. I was too worried about Muff to be paying enough attention.

Muff later upstaged our second Mystery Guest because Len didn't realize my son Michael was back stage to wrangle Muff. So Len thought it would be better to have Muff at his side for the rest of the show. She was quiet, but occassionally would walk around so you could see her from behind the desk while the second Mystery Guest was speaking. The second Mystery Guest? Bruce Jenner, 1976 Olympic (R) champion in the decathalon.

Here's Bruce with the panel and J. Keith on July 22. Len's on the seated row on the right. He broke his glasses just before going on stage. He managed quite well without them. I'd suggest contact lenses, but Len can't deal with the idea of sticking his fingers into his eyes intentionally. I've been wearing them for so long--and wanted them so much--that this was never a problem for me. (I would have a problem if I became an insulin-dependent diabetic who had to give myself shots on a regular basis. Needles. Ugh.)

It would ocassionally happen on the original television show, but this is the first time I've seen our stage version have two Mystery Guests. The surprise first Mystery Guest was Wallace Langham of CSI. Len, who is a huge fan of the show, identified him. Len got to visit the set for the last day of the past season's shooting, but did not meet Wally that day. Wally's invited him back for another visit, which I am certain Len will be happy to do.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Civil Service Sucks

Last Friday I was subject to round two of testing for a title which is the one above which I now occupy in the staff side of the community college universe. Mind you, I have already tested for, passed, and probably now occupy the #1 hiring slot for the title ABOVE the one I'm in the middle of testing for, but one is not allowed to "back-fill." You have to test for every position--except for some people who are allowed to be reclassified. Reclassification may depend on who you are sleeping with, but I don't have tangible evidence of that, only rumor.

So, having taken the written exam for all three, I can say with certainty:

1. The test for Senior Administrative Analyst was the easiest.

2. The multiple choice test for Assistant Administrative Analyst (the job I now have) was the most difficult of the three multiple choice tests.

3. The multiple choice test for Administrative Analyst was so similar to what I remember of the multiple choice test for Administrative Analyst, that I question the value of either exam.

4. The THREE HOUR written examination, which was part two of the Administrative Analyst position, was really about policy determination, which, according to the job descriptions, is really what the Senior Administrative Analyst does. It therefore has no relationship to the job which will be done by the employee (and even less relevance to the position at my college which will be held by someone with the Administrative Analyst title.)

I did take all three hours to finish the test and I probably could have used at least another half an hour to flesh out my analysis of the choices I did not make. I do not recall that the written part of the test for Senior Administrative Analyst was anywhere near as long--I can't even remember what it was--and I think that the oral interview was held on the same day.

My other recent run in with this system was when the position of "Compliance Officer" was announced for one of the other colleges as a provisional appointment. The compliance officer at my college is an attorney. Looking at the description of the work a compliance officer does, I have either had experience or training in every single point, which involves knowing and interpreting the law. However, when it came down to the requirement for the job, I did not have "four years" of very narrowly drawn experience dealing only with EEOC, Title 9, affirmative action, and hiring and firing. Nothing I said or did would change that, so I can't test for the job and I can't interview for the provisional appointment. I think they are afraid I would pass the written exam, which would really show how worthless this system is.

This post has been on hold for almost two weeks, during which other things have gone on and I'll soon write about them. But I did get the news that I will be interviewed tomorrow, the last step to being placed on the hiring list. Interestingly, they required that I bring in a copy of my LAW SCHOOL TRANSCRIPT. My J.D. was not necessary for this job (not listed as a requirement or alternative and I do have both the education and work experience to otherwise qualify) and they did not require it when I tested for the Senior Administrative Analyst position, so I am very much still of the mind that the people in the system don't have a clue about what they are doing.

Of course, it will mean that they have to treat me as having a doctorate, which does mean an adjustment in salary for both my administrative and teaching work. It will buy lunch once a month, after taxes come out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harry Potter and the Internet Pirates

Harry Potter is being pirated. No, really?

Imagine that the papers are questioning whether the photographed pages of the bookare real--don't the writers understand technology? Of course they are the actual pages, you morons. Now stop giving this thing publicity.

When I was fighting the legal battle against on-line piracy, all of the HP volumes to date were up and the new one was on-line within days of publication. Now someone appears to have gotten hold of the Deadly Hallows ahead of time and put it on line.

First of all, someone has too much time on their hands if they can make photographs of each double page spread and upload them. Second, they are taking up an unfair share of bandwidth to do so. Third, what kind of a blockhead wants to spoil everyone's fun before Saturday morning?

The solution for most people is DON'T GIVE EGO-BOO by downloading this crap. Unfortunately, we now have to avoid the news giving away the ending as part of this story.

It will be hard enough for people to avoid hearing what happened when they attend my Harry Potter themed birthday party of Saturday, because my son will have spent the night reading all of book 7. I won't get a chance to start it until he is done, I am sure. I expect that several other people at the party will have finished the book as well, while most will have at least started it. I intend to set a table in the far corner of the yard for those who have finished it and want to discuss it.

I do hope they find and arrest the individual(s) who did this. No doubt, there should be people fired. I spoke to a former student of mine the other night who let me know the books had already been delivered to the store, but no one is supposed to go near the boxes. It's probably a little like knowing where your folks are hiding the Christmas presents. You want to know what you are getting, but it will spoil the surprise of Christmas morning.

I'll be at Borders on Friday night. I'll be the one wearing McGonagall's hat. I'll be wearing blinders and ear-plugs until I can read the book, over which my son has dibs.

What's Wrong with Katie Couric?

Let's start with the name. Katie. There is absolutely no gravitas. Katherine. That would help. Not Katie.

Critics are ragging on Katie Couric's ratings, which are, I guess, the worst for network news. What. A. Surprise. She was never as good as Jane Pauley on the Today Show and I always found her annoying and cloying. So why someone at CBS thought she could possibly walk in the same shoes as Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, or even Dan Rather is totally beyond me. She is a total lightweight.

Every afternoon, as I leave work, I unfortunately manage to catch "A Page from Katie's Notebook." Not by choice, but the all-news CBS-affiliate is the one with traffic reports. We've got the Nazis taking over in Washington and perky little Katie shares her notebook.

I'm sure she's a very nice woman and I do have sympathy for her early widowhood, but a network news anchor she is not. I had a classmate in law school who was in broadcast news before she arrived and went back to it within a few years of graduating near the top of our class. She'd make a fine evening news anchor, but what she wants to do is replace Nina Totenberg covering the Supreme Court.

I think it is time for CBS to give Katie a golden parachute and find someone who brings trust and weight to the news. Maybe Morgan Freeman is looking for some steady work.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Identity Theft

I've had a run-in with identity theft. Someone got hold of my checking account information, printed up business checks, wrote one to "cash" for a large amount of money, and it was deposited in an ATM in Hollywood. The bank flagged it because (a) it was out of sequence (the number belonged to the next group of checks I would order and was about 150 checks higher than the number I'm at) and (b) the signature didn't look right. Amazing. Someone or something actually compared signatures.

I've taken care of closing the account and I'll be going off to file a police report. The bank would not give me the name of the account into which the check was deposited. I wonder if I can get a subpoena for that? I wonder if the police will? I'm concerned about what other checks might have been written or if I will find other things have been done in my name. This is going to be incredibly inconvenient until it is all straightened out.

I'm going to assume that whoever got my routing number worked at a place where I paid by check. The other possibilities are just too disturbing to me.

I'm glad the bank caught it and returned my money to me--I would have had checks bouncing all over the place. This is the third time we've had the experience of our banks catching fraud. The first time was when Michael's ATM card was stolen and we didn't know until the bank caught some large purchases all in a short period of time. The second had to do with one of Len's accounts. I've had a much worse time correcting things when the bank has made an error.

I am bummed out by this. There's a definite feeling of being violated, much like when we had a B & E at the house a week before the Northridge earthquake. The earthquake was much easier to deal with.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Just One More Question

The host and producer of What's My Line Live on Stage have been promising that the mystery guest on July 15 would be someone special and they did not disappoint. The mystery guest was Columbo himself, Peter Falk. Comedian Frank DeCaro managed to guess him after asking "were you known on your series for a distinct item of clothing?"

In addition to Peter Falk, the wonderful cartoonist Sergio Aragones was the "perfromer" for the show.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Nine Skillion Channels and Nothing to Watch

Once again, Len's off somewhere and I'm trying to find something to watch on the television. There is absolutely nothing worthwhile on any of the hundreds of channels supposedly available on our cable system. You'd think on a Saturday night there would be something I'd be interested in watching, but no. I've got something called Happy, Texas on, only because I haven't seen it before, but it isn't really that interesting. I don't know how to operate the DVD in this room, so I can't put on anything I'd really rather watch while I'm trying to get the laundry done.

I think there should be an all Lord of the Rings channel so I can watch it while I'm doing housework.

Thanks to Len, I've added a countdown until the day the pretender is out of office. It's on the right side of the page.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Publishing Industry

In what appears to be a concerted effort to have 10 days of Harry Potter news, the substitute on Keith Olbermann's show did a piece last night reporting that kids reading Harry Potter are not making the transition to reading other things. I'm under the impression that the conclusion comes because there hasn't been other huge sales in the book industry.

A. What a shame if kids stop reading because Harry's story is done.

B. What's the source of this information? How much research has really been done?

As it happens, my trainer and I had a conversation about how Harry has encouraged reading while I was doing my lesson on the Arab Prince. It seems that Harry Potter was a godsend in her household because her stepdaughter had no interest in reading until Harry came along. Now she reads everything. This was good news to my trainer because, like me, she considers books to be among her best friends. She was also happy to be assured by me that there will be films Six and Seven. For some reason, the stepdaughter thought Five would be the last film. No, no. The kids are signed for the next two and filming begins quite soon.

So my anecdotal information (and I have heard similar stories from other parents) is 180 degrees off from the news report. I would just like to know their methodology. Maybe book sales haven't increased because books are so expensive and kids are going to the library instead?

Or, horror of horrors (I mean this), they are reading scanned books on-line, along with all of the Harry Potter fan fiction which is out there.

For six years, I was the lawyer for the Science Fiction Writers of America. During that time, I had a relationship with the lawyer from Scholastic, because I would notify him every time I found one of the Potter books uploaded to a share site. I'm not sure they took the problem seriously until Goblet of Fire was released and it was on-line only about two days later.

I'm sorry, but I do believe that there is an effect on sales when the material can be found for free. It may not hurt J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, but there's a lot of what used to be called "mid-list" writers for whom those lack of sales causes real harm. That's not information wanting to be free, that's stealing entertainment.

And it could also be skewing the information on whether or not kids are reading beyond Harry Potter.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Thanks again to Sharon for the passes to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It was just swell. As I figured, since I hadn't read it recently, I had no idea what was missing and I thought the movie worked very well. Michael, the Potter maven in our house, thought as a movie it was fine but as an adaptation it was dreadful. He does get caught up in minutia sometimes, but he made a few points about things which are kind of important in the overall series. I do have one question, which I keep forgetting to ask him to explain but asking it here would require a spoiler warning, so I won't.

Michael didn't think that Imelda Staunton looked toad-like enough to be Dolores Umbridge. I thought she was absolutely the scariest villianess since Cruella de Ville (or maybe the character Glen Close played in Fatal Attraction.) Imelda Staunton played Hugh Laurie's post-partum, depressed, and grieving wife in Peter's Friends, which I cannot believe was released almost 15 years ago.

All in all, a fine night at the movies. My McGonagall hat was a hit (although hard to handle when I had to take it off for the film--I didn't want to break the feathers) and many people wanted the Hogwarts denim jacket I bought at the Warner Store in Times Square in 2001.

The screening was sponsored by a couple of radio stations, so there was a round of contests and give aways. Michael got a t-shirt by pointing out that they gave credit for a wrong answer about something in book six, and then managed to catch a second shirt. One's a tank-top, which I think he should wear to my birthday party. It will be just the thing poolside.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Thanks to a generous co-worker, my son and I are off to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix tonight at 7:30 in Westwood. It's been a while since that book was released and I'm not sure how well I remember it, which probably means I'll enjoy the film more.

Michael called to say he's situated under the marquis and he's found a plug for his computer. He's way at the front of the line, so we should get good seats (first come, first served according to the tickets.) I'll have to collect his computer and his phone and put mine in the car as well, since they won't let electronic devices in the theatre. All that worry about piracy is well founded, but who really wants to watch a movie which has been recorded on mpeg? Why would anyone want to see a special effects film that small?

It's nice to know that we are only a few days behind the head of DC Comics catching the flick in London.

I'm wearing my Gryffindor shirt, my Hogwarts jacket, and my Minerva McMonagall witch's hat. You won't be able to miss seeing me.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Sunday Night Follies

It was another rollicking night at What's My Line Live on Stage at the Acme Theatre last night. In the first photograph you can see Host J. Keith van Straaten with Mystery Guest Budd Friedman, founder of The Improv, standing behind panelists Natasha Leggero, Graham Elwood, Kitty Felde, and J. P. Manoux. The fact that three of the panelist do stand-up (all except the lovely Kitty Felde, known for her radio work) contributed to them actually guessing the Mystery Guest on pretty short order.

The "Mr. X" guest turned out to be a huge hit with the audience and with the panel: major league baseball's "Sweet Lou" Johnson. Everyone wanted to be photographed with him, so he's in the second photograph with my husband Len Wein. Lou spoke of playing with the Kansas City Monarchs before making it to the big leagues and promoted the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, which Len had visited on one of his recent appearances at a convention in that part of the country. Lou now works for the Los Angeles Dodgers organization (he played for them in the 1960s) and his line of work for the show was "Teaches Baseball."

I have clearly developed a soft spot for the animal guests on the show. The Weimeraner is a stunt dog named Chalcy, trained by Kyra Sundance. Her trick was "reading" the numbers on cloth blocks. I'm pretty sure I know how she did her trick, but that's o.k. She was very entertaining, and extremely photogenic (just check out any book by William Wegman who has made a great career out of photographing these extremely expressive dogs.) After the show, Chalcy waved good-bye to the camera for my benefit.

What's My Line has extended its run until the end of the month. Rumor has it that there will be a particularly cool Mystery Guest on July 15 and Len will be on the panel again on July 22. We'll be in San Diego for Comicon and will probably not be there for the show on July 29, so I'm hoping it extends through August. I'd hate to miss the last show.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Sounds in Silence

Today did not work out the way I planned.

I was late getting to the barn, so I thought I'd missed my opportunity to ride. However, the appointment I was supposed to have got pushed to later in the afternoon and I was required to stick around for several hours which were going to be devoted to hunting for a stacking washer and dryer. Maybe tomorrow.

I let Ace out to romp with his friend Otero while I cleaned stalls. Then I sat under the tree for a while to cool off and watched the boys. The barn is in a residential area, set back from the main street by several hundred feet and two houses. It's relatively peaceful, except for an annoying pit-bull who lives in a neighboring house and has perfect timing as far as coming out and barking when I'm on Ace's back. As I sat in the quiet, I could hear the sound of the horse's teeth as they snipped off little bits of plants trying to grow along the fence-line. It was not a sound I had ever noticed before. Then I heard the sound of a bagpipe being played somewhere in the neighborhood. While never loud, I could hear it better in some parts of the yard other than where I was sitting.

I really like the sound of bagpipes. I rather wish it had been louder or closer.

Despite the heat, I put in an effort to ride and work on my position and his walk. Of course, the pit came tearing over to his fence and barked madly. Ace tried to take off, but I shut him down and then put him to work. He wasn't thrilled about the spray-down I gave him afterwards, but he put up with it and I soaked myself as well.

Eventually, Patricia from River Bottom Belles Equine Therapy arrived with her magic lights. I have no idea how or why this works--I think of it as "California woo-woo" medicine, but Ace gets really relaxed while wearing the hood and wraps as Patricia goes over him with additional sensors. He didn't even mind the flies. His eyes get really heavy and his lower lip hangs loose--unfortunately permitting the flies to crawl in, but he didn't care. He was incredibly well behaved and I even let him ground-tie for a bit. I expect there will be a difference in his handling tomorrow. There was the last time I had this done.

Tomorrow I will try to get to the barn by 7:30.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Elements of Stupidity

As if all things in the universe sometimes are in sync, my good friend Melinda Snodgrass sent this out. It helps explain some elements contributing to the Bush Administration Criminals. I don't know who sent it to her, and I don't know who wrote it originally, so if I am violating anyone's copyright (and there are enough words for it to be protected,) I'll pull it down:

> >
> > A major research institution (probably funded by
a government subsidy)
> > has just announced the discovery of the densest
element yet known to
> > science. The new element has been named "
Bushcronium". Bushcronium
> > has one neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75
deputy neutrons, and 224
> > assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an
> > atomic mass of 311.
> >
> > These particles are held together by dark forces
called morons, which
> > are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like
particles called
> > peons. The symbol for Bushcronium is "W".
Bushcronium' s mass actually
> > increases over time, as morons randomly interact
with various elements
> > in the atmosphere and become assistant deputy
neutrons in a
> > Bushcronium molecule, forming isodopes.
> >
> > This characteristic of moron-promotion leads
some scientists to
> > believe that Bushcronium is formed whenever
morons reach a certain
> > quantity in concentration. This hypothetical
quantity is referred to
> > as "Critical Morass".
> >
> > When catalyzed with money, Bushcronium activates
Foxnewsium, an
> > element that radiates orders of magnitude more
energy, albeit as
> > incoherent noise, since it has 1/2 as many peons
but twice as many
> > morons.
> >
> > Correction: Actually...W is already taken for
Tungsten...so... I would
> > suggest the symbol be "Du" for "Dubya"
> >
> > The "nucular" reaction alluded to below where Du
combines with
> > Foxnewsium (Fx) when bombarded by a moron beam
yields: Du + m (morons)
> > + Fx = DumFx which is sometimes phonetically
pronounced to describe
> > the nature of the isodope produced.
> >

What the Hell Took So Long

Count me among those people who look at the press and say "where the hell have you been for the past seven years." It's taken that long for institutions I used to respect to pay serious attention to what's going on in the Pretender's Administration. I guess the money was elsewhere and now they aren't worried about losing advertisers.

For five glorious years, I was a freelancer shooting for The Washington Post. I was spending 90% of my time earning about 10% of my income but I was shooting for the The Washington Post. The great Katherine Graham was in charge. The lady who stared down the Nixon White House. The lady who got an honorary doctorate from Columbia the day I got my M.A. from there. One of my heroes. Someone I even met a time or two over the course of the five years.

Where was The Washington Post for the past seven years? Was Bob Woodward too close to the administration to do a careful study about the Pretender and the Penguin? Was there no hungry cub reporter chomping at the bit to take on the story? Were there no reporters who had worked in the White House during the previous Bush administration who were willing to expose the Shrub's behavior during those years? Even a friend of mine, who was a photographer in the WH pool back then, described the Pretender in ways that raised the hair on the back of my neck. I've met people who went to college or grad school with him who made it a point to say they did not vote for him.

Dan Rather loses his job over something that exposes the Pretender for what he is and the charade goes on. Ohio is promised by the head of the company providing voting machines and, amazingly, John Kerry concedes. What the hell happened to the press?

The Penguin shoots a friend in the face--that's gross negligence at best, folks--and the poor man apologizes for putting the Penguin and his family through so much trouble. No arrest for battery, no law suit for pain and suffering. Are you kidding me?

I checked out Keith Olbermann's website yesterday and saw a number of pot shots, but, for the most part, great praise for the commentaries he's been doing. For almost a year now, I've been hoping for some great enlightenment, along the lines of what happened when Edward R. Murrow took on Senator McCarthy. Things may be changing, but I don't think they are moving quickly enough. I want to see coverage of Olbermann's commentaries on news media with greater distribution than just MSNBC. I have no idea how many hits Olbermann's website gets, but I've been talking to people of like mind who don't even know about his news coverage.

Scooter Libby pays off his fine with no problem. I used to be married to a high-level civil servant and there's no way that kind of money would ever have been sitting in our bank account. Even political appointees aren't paid that much and the really good rich ones don't take a salary at all (well, they were $1 a year men in the FDR administration and even the Governator doesn't take a salary.) Nice going, Scooter. And now, it's not even likely he's going to have probation. Oh, no probation if there's no jail time? They didn't know that? I saw "Body Heat" where the villainess sets up a legal trap feigning ignorance and innocence which gets her exactly what she wants in the end. This smells of those good old boys sitting around watching "Body Heat" and saying "oh, we can do that and then good ole Scooter will pay the fine from the money everybody's given him and he'll get off for doing what we asked him to do. Then we can say that Bill Clinton did the same thing and, if we repeat the lie often enough, our people will believe it."

The big lies. How the Nazis took over (and never forget the ties the Pretender's family had with them!) How the Pretender and the Penguin stay in power. Nancy Pelosi, it's time to put impeachment back on the table. Democrats who want contributions from me better start acting like Democrats.

Me, if I prayed, it would be for a blood clot lodged in the Penguin's head when he goes in for surgery. I'd ask for a heart attack, but we know he doesn't actually have one.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

July 4th Traditions

When I was a kid, I remember that the Fourth of July usually involved a gathering of the clan. My parents both came from large families, so there were many cousins on both sides and there would be lots of people for a summer cook-out. Somewhere along the line, "speedies" became the choice of food for the bbq, rather than hot dogs and hamburgers. An Italian version of shish-kabob or souvlaki, the marinated lamb, pork, or beef was skewered and grilled and served on crusty rolls. Fantastic.

We live thousands of miles from any blood relatives, so my son has not had the experience of a clan gathering in more than 15 years. Although he's got a dozen first cousins on my side of the family, he rarely gets to see them more than one at a time. Out here in California, we choose our own families and make different traditions.

The biggest tradition I've got now, thanks to the wonders of laser disks and DVDs, is to watch 1776 every Fourth of July. (I've read elsewhere that I am not alone in this tradition.) It is, without doubt, my favorite musical. It is the first musical I ever saw on Broadway, from nose-bleed cheap seats in the highest balcony thanks to a Hofstra University field trip my first year at college. I saw the film the night it opened to the public at Radio City Music Hall during the Christmas season in 1972. I have seen countless mountings of the show because if it is playing anywhere within a 100 miles of where I am, I'm willing to make the trip. Fortunately, it is also one of Len's favorites (Sondhead that he otherwise is), so he's with me on this.

It pleases me no end to know that Richard Nixon was threatened by one of the songs. He managed to get it excised from the film after its opening (cowardice on the part of the producer, as far as I'm concerned), but the song is back with all of its relevance in the DVD release. Sung by John Dickenson, it extols the "virtues" of moving always to the right, and, of course, makes the audience see how well that works out for the rich, but not the middle or poorer classes or, frankly, society as a whole.

The entire play is an indictment of the current administration. I have long referred to the pretender in the White House as "George the Third," so I find this film as relevant today as in 1972. And because most of the dialog is taken directly from letters and records of the 18th Century it seems to me that it should be a wake-up call to America. After all, those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it (e.g., the Nixon and Bush administrations.) Maybe some guerrilla theatre troupe will start performing the play outside the White House or wherever the criminals of the current administration are holding up these days, to remind them that our founders believed that it is right and just to rid ourselves of tyrants. Meanwhile, Keith Olbermann continues to point out the failures of the rule of law in this administration. His July 3 commentary, found here, is nothing short of brilliant, but Bush and Cheney will never resign. I expect we will be stuck with them until January 20, 2008 and hopefully not beyond.

Totally apart from July 4th traditions, the last time I was in Philadelphia, for the World Science Fiction Convention in 2001, Len and I, along with Melinda Snodgrass and her husband Carl, stood on the stairway inside Independence Hall singing songs from this musical. Melinda was trained as a singer. For the rest of us, it's just a good thing only the docents were subjected to the performance. But it's an inspiring libretto, and what better place is there to indulge?

During the time I lived in Northern Virginia, we tried to watch the Bicentennial fireworks from the Pentagon. Unfortunately, a large part of the show was "ground works" which couldn't be seen from across the Potomac because of the trees. That was a real bust, IMHO. I did once photograph the DC fireworks from the steps of the U.S. Capitol, and that was one fantastic evening. The last summer I was there, the law firm for whom I was working had a party on the roof of their building on Pennsylvania Avenue, and that was also a really nice location for the show. In the Northern Virginia city where lived, the town fireworks took place almost across the street, so we could sit out on the steps to watch. I like the view, but not the noise or crowds, so that was quite a good solution.

When I first spent time in L.A., there was a large fireworks display at Pierce College which we could watch from our house or the rail road tracks nearby. That ended a number of years ago, so we don't tend to have parties at our place on the Fourth. Lately, we've gone to a friend's in Studio City for a bar-be-q and then we walk to Ventura Boulevard to watch the fireworks from the Radford Studios, about a mile away. The only thing missing is music, and we've done dreadful renditions of John Philip Souza and Beethoven's 9th to supply the missing ingredient. Next year, we've decided, we'll bring a boom box with appropriate CDs.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Bonus Celebrity Guests

Sunday night's edition of What's My Line Live on Stage had a couple of unmasked celebrities as guests in addition to the appearance of Oscar nominee Robert Forster as Mystery Guest. The panelists this week were Teresa Ganzel, Jeopardy champ Bob Harris, Suzy Nakamura, and my darling husband, Len Wein, shown in the first photograph with host J. Keith van Straaten and Mr. Forster.

The other guests were Mallory Hood, aka Mallory Lewis, daughter of Shari Lewis; Dorian Harewood, not there as an actor, but there as a Blackjack expert; and a nice young woman named Rachael Newman, who washes birds which have been in oil-spills. They are all shown in the second photograph, along with Lamb Chop, Mr. Forster, J. Keith, and a duck.

After stumping the panel, Mallory performed with Lamb Chop, the puppet made famous by her mother. My childhood memories do not include Lamb Chop being a political commentator, but I understand Mallory does adult shows and children's shows with her now. We got a sample of the adult show. The third photograph is of Mallory and Lamb Chop singing a duet of "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better," from, I think, Annie Get Your Gun. Isn't Mallory wearing a great dress and a fabulous pair of red shoes?

Much to our delight, Bob Harris joined us for the after-show gathering and it was like meeting a life-long friend.

I've been a Jeopardy addict since the show began in the 1960s and watching it is a religious ritual in our house. I tried out for the show around 1972, when it was still in New York, and I tried out again about 10 years ago. Last year, I passed the first on-line screening they did and went in for the live retest. I missed out on an opportunity to actually be on the show because, when they called, a friend of mine was working on effects for Spider-Man, a Sony production, and Sony owns the company that produces Jeopardy. Sniff. Len's too much of a coward to actually try out. He's convinced the board will be things like "Left Handed Nuns' Shoe Sizes" and "The History of Lint" if he actually makes it to the show. We're both really good in the living room, but I've got to say that getting the timing on the signaling device is really tough.

I doubt we have missed a single episode of Jeopardy in the entire time we've been married. When we were dating, while I was in law school in Cleveland, I relayed an entire episode by telephone to Len, who was sitting at LAX waiting to go to London. I think he was paying for the call, but I don't remember for sure.

In any case, Bob Harris is definitely a kindred spirit and we look forward to including him in our circle of friends. We certainly enjoyed his appearances on Jeopardy and he has done commentaries on KNX, the radio station we usually listen to in the car. He's also been a writer on CSI and he's written a number of books. You can check out his website here.

It will be back to the show again on Sunday. For more information check out the website here.