Author Archives: Daniel Dern

Are Frog And Toad Really Frog And Toad?

I’ve already ranted about the lack of contextual information in newish children’s books that would, I think help make them more understandable… and therefore, in my opinion, a lot more enjoyable and easier to relate to.

Here, an observation on where a book contradicts — gratuitously, in my opinion — the real world, in a way that even a five-year-old might spot and find confusing. Continue reading

I Watched The WATCHMEN (Movie, That Is)

So I saw the Watchmen movie over the weekend (all but five or so minutes of the more violent/yucky parts, that is).

The movie was, in my opinion, “[coital-synonym-gerund-used-as-a-positive-comparative-modifier deleted ] incredible.”  Arguably the best movie version of a comic book that I can think of.  It was as good as I’d hoped for.  It was a good movie, and seemed like it would make sense even to someone who had not read the comics now was a comic book reader. Continue reading

Woo hoo, Those Exciting Digital TV Converter Box Coupons

(Posted here rather than in my blog, since this isn’t quite about technology. I’ll add a cross-post (or whatever the blogspeak term is) for it over there.)

While we have cable TV at our house, going to the 5+ year old non-flat TV upstairs, the dunno-how-old from-the-street junker downstairs still isn’t hooked up. That one is used primarily for watching DVDs and videotapes), episodically (no pun intended) used for watching PBS.

So, several months (and also to be prepared in case of a cable outage), I ordered my Converter Box Coupons (at, to be prepared for the exciting upcoming Farewell To Non-Digital Television Broadcast Signals slated for February 2009.

My coupons arrived in a timely fashion… and semi-promptly got buried in a pile of other papers. (Easy to happen, as anyone who’s seen my home office knows.)

A month and some weeks later, I learned that THESE COUPONS EXPIRE IN 90 DAYS!

Go [expletive deleted] figure.

I found the coupons, but by the time I was able to get to a store that had converter boxes, THEY HAD EXPIRED TWO DAYS AGO.

Continue reading

Farewell, Utah: Folksinger Bruce “U. Utah” Phillips Dead At 73

“Golden Voice Of The Great Southwest” Is Gone To The Coffeehouse In The Sky

by Daniel P. Dern ©2008

If, any of a few times a year during the 70s, 80s or 90s, you were in Harvard Square (in Cambridge, Mass.), and went around the back of the Harvard Coop (pronounced “coop” as in “chicken coop,” although it is short for “Co-operative”) to one end of one-lane alley 47 Palmer Street, where a half-flight of stairs led down to the door of the Passim Coffeeshop, you might have encounted a man who looked like a cross between Kris Kringle and a cowboy, wearing a largish hat, sporting a full curly white beard, making deep-voice duck-quack noises (“a base canard,” he would note) and warning would-be buyers to avoid the upcoming performer. In election years, he might have been stumping for president, as candidate for the “Do-Nothing” party — “If elected, I will do nothing.” Or he might simply have been greeting friends in the line.

That would, of course, have been the late folksinger, songwriter, storyteller, humorist and historian Bruce “U.Utah” Phillips, “the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest, America’s most-feared folksinger,” in town for another of his always entertaining, thought-provoking, educational, historical shows.

U. Utah Phillips (image from <>)
Utah died Friday night, May 23, 2008, of congestive heart failure. He was 73. He had been having health problems for the past several years, which, among other things, forced him to retire from actively touring and performing. According to reports, he passed away peacefully, in his sleep, at his home for the past two decades in Nevada City, California. Continue reading

Some Explaining To Do – What A Book’s About

Over the past several years, between my one morning a week as a volunteer literacy tutor (I work with third graders), my grandparental , and other stuff, I’ve gotten to read (or have read to me) a fair number and range of books for three-to-ten year olds, ranging from way old (classic or just plain old) to fairly recent.

And I’ve come to conclusion that, aside from other issues outside this post’s topic, a lot of them — particularly many of the new ones — haven’t done their job well enough in being accessible to their audience… often, where a sentence or two, even a few words, would have made a big difference. Continue reading

The “Backlog Channel” — How We’ll “Survive” The TV Writer’s Strike

The strike by television and movie writers has reduced the amount of new episodes of many TV shows being shown, like HEROES, ditto many of the late-night shows (although many reality shows have elected to proceed without scripting). And it sounds like the strike, even if resolved today, will delay many new episodes, even new series. (New-to-US episodes of the BBC’s LIFE ON MARS are still showing up, and HBO’s THE WIRE re-starts in early January 2008.)

When not reading or doing other non-work stuff, we enjoy watching TV shows (we get our news elsewhere), but we’re prepared — thanks to the pile of videotaped stuff that’s piled up over the past five or ten years, which we have nicknamed “The Backlog Channel.” Continue reading

On The Big Screen: The Golden Compass

I went and saw the film, THE GOLDEN COMPASS, the day after it opened, to make sure I saw it, on an at-least-middlin’ sized screen.

I enjoyed it a lot; I’d happily go see it again (on a larger screen, if possible), and if the eventual DVD has extra material, I’d rent/borrow it for that, although I don’t feel the desire to own and re-re-re-see the movie.

Spoiler alert: for those of you who haven’t read the book (yet), I’ll do the first half of this review without giving anything away, beyond stuff from the first few minutes. I’ll put up a Spoilers Follow flag before any serious plot-killers. Continue reading

Six CDs of Allan Sherman – Happy Holiday To Me :-)

Allan Sherman’s ‘letter from camp’ song “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” is, I suspect, one of the humorous songs that most kids know…but, unlike, say Tom Lehrer (or, I’m guessing, Dr. Demento), most kids and former kids aren’t very familiar with any of Sherman’s other songs, which are mostly humor — often urban and suburban Jewish — using familiar tunes.

He did about ten albums (according to Wikipedia), starting with MY SON THE FOLKSINGER, but until recently, only about ten or twenty songs were easily available, through a “best of” CD (which I own). (There’s actually two different “Best of” CDs, I believe — some different selections, and different performances.)

Allan Sherman also wrote several books — his autobiography epitomizes “funny people are often very unhappy.” And, among other things, according to Wikipedia, he created and was the original producer of the TV game show, “I’ve Got A Secret.”

I bought probably six or seven of his albums (vinyl) as they came out, but don’t still have them all. (I do still have a turntable.) I’ve picked up one or two of the older albums at yard sales, but there’s some I don’t have, and haven’t hunted for online. (A quick eBay check suggests that copies of all his albums can be obtained.)

In 2005, Rhino Records announced the six-disk MY SON THE BOX, with 149 tracks, including 31 unreleased ones — “everything Sherman waxed for Warner Bros., and more. The albums My Son, The Folk Singer; My Son, The Celebrity; My Son, The Nut; Allan In Wonderland; Songs For Swingin’ Livers Only!; My Name Is Allan; Allan Sherman Live!!!; and Togetherness are included in their entirety, along with previously unreleased outtakes, alternate versions, and live performances, as well as “Sue Me” (with Debbie Reynolds) from the Guys And Dolls soundtrack.”

(“Sue me” can be found on the four-CD set, Reprise Musical Repertory Theatre (Finian’s Rainbow, Kiss Me Kate, South Pacific, Guys and Dolls), also starring Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Jo Stafford, the McGuire Sisters, and Sammy Davis Jr., which is interesting enough to warrant borrowing, but not, IMHO, quite good enough to justify purchasing at full price–although the Guys & Dolls, which I’m listening to my library’s copy of right now, is a lot of fun.)

Given that MY SON THE BOX was a limited-edition product — 4,000 copies — I wanted one, and knew I should get it quickly, before they all sold. But the $139 price tag gave me pause.

I periodically checked our library’s online catalog, but no luck. A month or so ago, I had the library search their extended lending network, and while two libraries had it, both declined to let me inter-library-loan it, the bums.

Then I heard a tune on one of our local radio stations that was inarguably Allan Sherman, but one I’d ever heard — even they have a copy of the set.

Earlier this month, however, 1) I got $75 for participating in a focus group by one of Boston’s local non-profit music stations. (“Finally, a focus group where I’m really in the target demographic” is what I said when I saw the other people in the waiting room.) 2) Collectors Choice Music, whose catalog I get and sporadically purchase from, had MY SON THE BOX on sale for $109.95. 3) They were offering free shipping for purchases over $50, made before December 18. 4) Their email included an “additional 15% off” offer.

That brought the purchase price down to $93.46, and I’m investing my focus group fee, bringing the net to $18.46.

I’m expecting it to arrive any day now. Happy holiday to me!

Welcome to Dern Near Everything Else

Welcome to Dern Near Everything Else, my blog for all the stuff that doesn’t belong in my Trying Technology tech-oriented blog, like stuff I’m reading, listening to, watching, or doing, and other trying and non-trying aspects of life. (There will be some inevitable overlap into and from the tech arena, I expect.)

Like my Trying Technology blog, part of the reason for Dern Near Everything Else is to provide a home for stuff I haven’t (yet) gotten assignments to do from other sites/publications, follow-up musings to things I’ve already written, and other what-not. (If you’re an editor, and want to buy something from me, whether from/based on blog entries or something else entirely, or don’t hesitate to contact me, of course!)

And now… on to near everything else (other than trying technology)!

Daniel Dern