Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Big Bubba of Rebellion

I had told myself I wouldn't blog today, having way too much on my plate, and also wanting to get an email off to my buddy, Jill, but I am just so delighted with the Dylan excerpt in the October 4th issue of "Newsweek", plus the reaction to it on that I had to note it.

Dylan's off-hand comment, "Eventually I would even record an entire album based on Chekhov short stories—critics thought it was autobiographical—that was fine." has sparked my favorite line from rmd, as the speculation about which album he's referring to ("Desire", "Planet Waves", "New Morning", "Blood on the Tracks" are all candidates),

"How do we know it's not Chekhov from Star Trek?"

I am so looking forward to Chronicles.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

A transgendered Shana Hiatt renames herself "Bobbi Dylan"

There's an old formula for how to write a best-seller, based on the theory that books on Abraham Lincoln, doctors, and pets all sell well and, therefore, a book titled, "Abe Lincoln's Doctor's Dog" would be a natural winner.

Based on search hits of fhb since I started to seriously maintain it in June, I'd suggest to bloggers that you couldn't go wrong focusing on Shana Hiatt photos, transgendering, and Bob Dylan's forthcoming "Chronicles" as subject matter if you want traffic. Ms. Hiatt, not surprisingly, is well in the lead, but interest in Dylan is growing. For those of you who have arrived here looking for Ms. Hiatt, even in the virtual sense, I've provided the link above.

Jenny Boylan's book, "She's Not There" seems to have engendered (no pun there) the transgender hits, although there was one person specifically looking for transgender photos (no indication of which from to what to).

Donald Hamilton's unreleased "The Dominators" book and the "Eccentric Soul" compilation from Numero Uno also brought a few searchers into fhb, as did my two mentions of photographer Timothy Archibald and his "Sex Machines" project, although at least one of those hits was through a vanity search by Mr. Archibald himself.

Strangest links to date are a tie between someone looking for "animatronic babes", which I'm hoping was someone in search of information about the use of an animatronic pig in the movie "Babe, Pig in the City", but I suspect not, and a search for "levien tilt download", which connected I'm sure what was a very confused searcher to my mention of a new poker series entitled. 'Tilt" co-written by a David Levien.

Google ads subject matter continues to annoy and amuse me, given what mood I'm in at the moment. As I write this, all three Google ads are for lice remedies, generated by two words in a 2,000-word+ posting about Sinead O'Connor. Similarly, and not all that surprisingly, all three ads for two weeks after September 11th and my mention of the anniversary of the Twin Towers destruction were September 11th-related.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Amusée Bouche

10:30 yesterday morning, and we're in the downstairs club bar room of Upstairs on the Square, formerly Upstairs at the Pudding. We're under the love note chandelier, watching the papers flutter, and have been in the room for at least five minutes. But no one has put any food in front of me yet, a notable difference from Saturday night, when we started eating at 8 p.m., and didn't stop until we staggered out the door sometime after midnight.

We like to eat, as do my sister-in-law, Roberta and her husband Ted, but no one would call any of us gourmands. However, on Saturday night we all did a fair imitation of say, Robert Morley, in one of his bulkier roles. Roberta and Ted's long-time friend, Sheila, is the hostess at "Upstairs", and owners Mary-Catherine Deibel and Deborah Hughes put on the full dog for us as soon as we walked in the door. We started with cocktails downstairs, and - evidently since we looked wan from our three-minute walk from the Harvard Square hotel - were provided with a complimentary "amusement for the mouth", this offering being a Leaf Spinach, Broccoli Rabe, Hot Peppers and Whole Milk Ricotta pizza.

Our bouches being properly amused, we made our way up the stairs to the hot pink Soiree room, where we were enthroned at the best table, which included a purple couch. "Upstairs" is in the former "Grendel's" restaurant, a Harvard fixture now departed, although the small "Grendel's Den" is still in the basement. Grendel's, which I used to go to regularly on cold winter days for the lentil soup, looked as if it were housed in a run-down library, with old dark furniture, bookshelves, and smoky fireplaces on either side of the room. "Upstairs", on the other hand, appears to have been decorated by a somewhat mad 80-year-old flea market bargain hunter, and would fit nicely in New Orleans with its pink and gold motif, bizarro chandeliers, and zebra carpets. Exceedingly funky, "Upstairs" housing is a vast improvement over their old location above Harvard's Hasty Pudding Club, in a room so deteriorated that screens were used to shield diners from the moldering walls.

But we haven't eaten and we've been seated for all of three seconds, so another amusée bouche appears to help us struggle through the wait for our appetizers, this time some sort of tuna tartar, I think, compliments we’re told of the chef who is still experimenting with it before its menu launch and would appreciate comments. We do so, although I’m not sure how “ooo” and “aaah” will work on the menu.

We charge into the appetizers. Roberta and I work on a heritage tomato soup while Peg tackles an enormous Buffalo Mozzarella salad. Confronted with a daunting wine list, already logy with food, and not willing to make the effort of matching wines to an eclectic dinner choice that includes tuna (me), duck (Roberta) veal (Ted), and scallops (Peg), I instruct the waiter to find a couple of “nice bottles” of red and white.

The “nice” sparks Peg to tell Roberta and Ted the infamous story of our first trip to the Black Point Inn, where they’ll be staying this week. Peg and I love to dance, which I don’t do very well, but I’m by God, enthusiastic, and the Black Point at the time had weekly dances in their ballroom. So, after dinner, we went to the dance and, in the course of the evening, found we were thirsty, and decided on cognac. At the Black Point, no filthy lucre ever changes hands. Meals are included, and you settle the bill for extras, such as alcohol, at check-out. So, I went to the bar, asked for cognac, and was offered the dangerous question, “What would you like, sir?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said off-handedly. “Something nice.”

And he gave me two glasses, and I brought them back to Peg, and they were very nice. In fact, so nice, I almost ordered another round, but we got distracted by dancing, and then decided to go to bed.

A few days later, at check-out, I’m going through the bill, and everything seems right, except a bill for $80. And yes, you’re right, it was for two very nice, small glasses of cognac at $40 a pop.

“Very nice” has since become a code phrase in our marriage, usually about my tendency to live a champagne life on a beer budget.

Dinner is almost served, but there is guess what? Another amusée appears first, this time some type of hand-rolled tortellini, which we’re told is “Sheila’s favorite”, and thus must be tried. Of course. It includes braised rabbit, which would please my friend Jill mightily, as she had been inciting me by email to try the “Rabbit Two Ways” main course since I told her we were going.

The rabbit was very good, Jill.

And our main courses were very good. And, the wine, picked by our enthusiastic waiter, a French white and a California Pinot Noir, were very good. And somewhere in there we had another amusée, which all I remember about is that it included a roasted corn salsa, and that was very good, too. Then, for the first time in my life, I ate three desserts, a palate-cleansing amusée, which was a dab of mint pudding, and then the dessert I selected, Coconut Profiteroles with Warm Chocolate Sauce and Caramelized Macadamia Nuts, which I shared with my sister-in-law, and then some after-dinner mints that appeared on our table with our coffee just because they had run out of anything else to feed us I think.

10:30 yesterday morning, we're back to say goodbye to Sheila, who is getting the place prepped for a shower party and the Sunday Brunch crowd. I’m watching the restaurant ticking over on slow revs as the waiters in the downstairs club bar trickle in, as Sheila finds a replacement for the bartender who is MIA, as the shower organizers arrive an hour earlier than anticipated. It’s 10:30 on a slow Sunday morning, and I’m sitting in a restaurant that hasn’t opened, feeling like I belong, having a cup of coffee set in front of me without my asking.

Thinking it’s a pretty good life.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

I am guilty of being real

I think Sinead O'Connor is one of the finest artists I've ever heard - her first performance on "Saturday Night Live" literally stunned me. "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got" is played as regularly in our car and home as any Dylan CD we own. But, O'Connor seems to have a genius for not only becoming a object of derision, but also then taking exactly the wrong action to fan the flames.

In response to two recent newspaper articles, one where she apparently called for a ‘national delousing day’ to rid Ireland's children of head lice, a good idea run under the derisory headline, "Sinead’s latest wacky crusade", O'Connor has taken out a full-page advertisment in the Irish national press to complain that she should not be called crazy.

It's an extraordinary document, and O'Connor's very real pain tears across the page. But she apparently never learned what most people learn as children, that the quickest way to get more teasing is to whine about being teased.

The full text of the 2,000 word statement is below:

I am exercising my right ...which is the same as any other person's, to reply when someone has written about them the type of article which Anna Coogan was made to write about myself and my brother Joseph yesterday in the Evening Herald. On foot of my having set out to do something fun and helpful.

I believe that more so called "celebrities" should stand up for themselves when subjected to this type of dismissive abuse which I have been the butt of in this country for twenty years now, without really ever standing up for myself. In an intelligent manner. To me, this issue is not about me, but about the freedom God gave all of us, in fact the DUTY we have, to be ourselves. And we all have the right to be who we are, without being ridiculed and abused every time we set foot out the door to go to work.

I have been the whipping post of Ireland's media for twenty years. I don’t think there can be any person male or female from this country who has been as consistently lashed as I have been and always am no matter what I set out to do. And what have I done to deserve these lashings? I have not behaved the way a woman is supposed to behave. I have refused before God to take no for an answer whenever it is because I am a woman. And if I complain about being abused by the media ye blame me for it. And say the abuse is my fault. I do not accept that.

If ye all think I am such a crazy person why do ye use me to sell your papers? Why do you bother writing about me at all? It doesn’t make sense.

And because having been raised in the era of Gay Byrne and Marian Finucane, in an Ireland which was allowed to voice its true self before the age of tabloid news. Our hands have always been encouraged in this country, to be raised and what I adore about my country is that very thing, that we voice our selves and we do so because we were given that gift by RTE telifis Eireann, in an era when nobody else would give it. I grew up in that age, where old men fired off letters to newspapers and one would think nothing of finding one's father exercising HIS right to speak. I am proud of being my father’s and my country's daughter.

I feel I have as much right as any person on this earth to express my opinion because I believe that we all can change the world. If ye think I am so ridiculous why do ye give me any attention? And the world is so full of agony at the moment for so many people, and it’s because of hatred. All kinds of hatred. And the media have done more than any religion has ever done, to spread unlovingness in this world but there comes a time when really it has to stop. Because ye are causing an awful lot of real pain to a lot of real people whom you think of as mere pieces of paper. Because ye have not met these people and ever sat with them. Nor walked a mile in their shoes. Yet ye are happy to lash women. When a man can say and do what he pleases and everyone thinks that's great.

I also grew up in an Ireland where people protested openly about whatever they needed to and were given that freedom, which is gone now. Replaced by fear. And no wonder people are afraid. If what ye have done to Sinead O'Connor over the years is anything to go by, they'd have dead good reason to play the game and laugh along and be very afraid indeed.

I am guilty of being real. In an arena which is nothing BUT a lie, never mind full of lies. If any of ye knew where I came from, believe me, ye would weep, if ye knew the half of what created Sinead O'Connor. Contrary to what your article stated, my brother Joseph himself, in Magill magazine some twelve years ago, stated that what was done to us by our mother was to the extent that if you did it to an adult you would be put behind bars. There has never been a dispute between me and my brother over what happened to us.

Only we deal with our experiences differently in ways which are right for us as individuals. I needed to sing it out. I needed permission to be crazy. Why should crazy be a term of abuse? If ye knew even the half, which you will never know, of what we went through in our mother's house in the Ireland of the late sixties and seventies which covered up so much child abuse. And people were made ashamed to speak and afraid of so called madness, or worse, the fear that nasty people would treat you as if you were crazy. A child of violence and abuse is not allowed a voice. I needed to really use singing and songwriting to express my broken spirit having arrived as I did on the music scene at 17 years of age. I talked about what my songs were about. Without discussing the personal experiences of my brothers or sister.

I needed to do that, so that I might recover my soul somehow and I had never found any other way. And yes at the time I talked, child abuse was a hot potato. Before I spoke as an Irish 19 year old, about my experience of horrific and evil terror. People wanted to make me out to be a liar. And they have wrongly repeatedly suggested that I am not speaking the truth. Before God let me swear to you that if I or any of us were to tell you what we went through this country would cry for a month.

To know what I and my brothers and sister survived, makes me proud of us all. And we will never any of us tell ye. For it is only between us four. And let me state that while my hero, my brother Joseph, may have been upset that I spoke, he never said I was not telling truth.

To me, I had to voice my self. And before me, anyone who talked about abuse was blacked out as if there was something to be ashamed of. But I was never ashamed. I didn’t do what was done. Why should I hide it? These things need out and I outed.

Which was unheard of. And since I did the media have been after me and it is them as well as me who have created controversy. I was being me. They made that a controversy, not me. But to bring my brother and I into a piece like yesterday's on foot of me trying to do something fun and good, is just abuse. And I really need to tell you all here, that twenty years of being ridiculed, lashed, called mad, by people who don’t even know me, who don’t even think for a second how that affects my life or the other lives they play games with, has taken a severe toll on my health and has had consequences for my life which have resulted in me really being fair game apparently for really an awful lot of people to really crush and sh*te on. And I know that I am unconventional and have been a little sh*t stirrer.

But for good and loving reasons, and I don’t see that what I have done deserves the type of horrific treatment of me by the media every time I set foot out to do anything. Could it be because I am an unconventional woman. Yes. For ye know if ye wrote about Bono like you do about me he'd kick your asses.

Mind you, I know he, not knowing me, thinks I’m just a crazy bitch too, and I feel so sore when every time I meet Harry Crosbie he tells me something horrible someone in the scene has to say about me. What did I do to deserve such pillioring? Was I not entitled, to grow up in public, and make all my mistakes out of an honest heart.

Not a bad one. And I came from such low self esteem in the first place, but twenty years of ye being so horrible to me has truly truly smashed my spirit and my heart.So I may have brought some of it on myself, but for what reason did I bring it?

Because I was real. In an arena of liars who lie to themselves. And are petrified by their own madnesses and have not the courage to go there in full view of the world as I do. For I don’t believe in shame or fear. That’s why Ye keep hurting me too. To shut me up because I am a good thing. But I will never let bullying and false cruelty make me afraid, after coming from where I came from.

I deserve life. And I have to be honest with ye from the bottom of my heart now. I know that being unusual, I am responsible for this mess too. But Ye are too, and it aint fair to always blame it on me.

Whatever I have done in the past, while I had a chance before god to speak for justice even though I might be mocked, I deserve to be able to sing and work and try to just do some good in this world and I can’t do it because it’s such a national pastime now, box sinead o'Connor. I tell ye no one could live under such pressure. I have never hurt anyone by what I said or did as an artist. Why do ye want to hurt me so much? I tell you from the bottom of my heart, I can’t live with it any more.

I beg ye please. Could I just be redeemed? Whatever I have done or not done, I am a good and loving women who did what she did out of passionate love for God, and for truth at any cost. Please, I just want to be a little old lady now, and not be all controversial and not be bashed and called crazy and laughed at when I open my mouth to sing or speak. Why are the media so cruel to people? Don’t ye see we are not bits of paper/ My heart is not a bit of paper.

And I beg ye, I can’t live with the pain of being this nation’s whipping post any longer. Untie me please an wash me down I ask ye. An let me just get up off the floor and try to sing some good into this world and I'll be happy never to open my mouth to speak again if ye will only call a ceasefire on Sinead because she getting old and weak an she just can’t take it.

None of ye actually take the time to get to know who I really am. An ye think nothing of being so cruel. And if I say anything I am blamed and told I bring it on myself? How? By being real? Because I wasn’t in it for the money.

Please. Can we bury the frigging history of Sinead O’Connor and not have all this same abusive cruelty barfed out every time I try to live.

I have three children to mind. I am a full time mother. Not what ye imagine I am. I have not had some "frenetic" life. Yeah, I been crazy with pain, as ye would be too if ye had come from where I truly came from. And if ye were on the receiving end of what I have been given by ye since I was nineteen years of age. And if ye knew ye would be proud of me, that I didn’t shut up. Please folks, can we come to some arrangement here because it ain’t that ye can’t see I am a good thing too. Why ye want to hurt me so much? I have not complained from my heart before. And there doesn’t seem to be a press complaints commission here. But since it’s become a national pastime treating Sinead O’Connor like a crazy bitch, if there was one, they probably would not give a damn.

Please, I just want to sing religious stuff from now on, I am thirty eight. I want to head into middle age with some peace in my soul, surely ye can say she deserves peace at least. I never set out to do any harm as an artist. And I don’t believe I have done any harm, or anything to deserve such abuse and ridicule and disrespect as I get. My kids need me to be happy and strong. Not afraid to live.

I’ll be honest here from the bottom of my heart, if ye want me to be someone who can be of use to this world, can’t ye give me support? After years of mocking me?I beg ye. Let me leave Sinead O’Connor behind and step out to do my singing without having to battle walls of prejudice and pain. I will behave. Can ye?

We are all entitled to redemption.

I believe I am a person with a very large and passionate heart who can do a lot of loving good for this country which I passionately adore. If I am loved and given space to grow and not have my spirit smashed in the ways me and ye have smashed it. I really love life and my kids and God and my singing. But I tell ye I cant cope as a vulnerable woman in this world, when I am still being bashed around as a national pastime everytime I try to do anything even good.

I need support. A lot of gentle loving support. And forgiveness. I grew up in public. Please let me live. And instead of spreading hatred in this desperately spiritually lost world, can ye not try to give a bit of love so someone might not have to feel that they are so awful they don’t even deserve to exist. That’s the real Sinead.

Being real. In the words of Eliza Doolittle, with whom I identify hugely, "I'm a good girl I am". Please stop hurting me and help me to be even better instead.

I realise I risk ye all taking the piss again. But I'm into being real. And not letting that kind of thing make me afraid to be who I am.

I am sorry for any hurt I have ever done anyone in this worldby anything I ever did or said or didn’t do or say. Please let me have a second chance at just singing and bringing some love into people's lives with singing, instead of bringing pain into my own. I ask you this before God and in God's name.

Please stop hurting me and maybe I could start being more bloody useful. Ye know if I were really as crazy as ye make out I am I would deserve compassion, not bashing.

Sinead O'Connor

Friday, September 24, 2004

Attention shoppers!

Only if you're circa my age and into weirdness will you appreciate this - a downloadable/playable collection of in-store music from the S.S. Kresge Store circa 1964 (via, where else, boingboing)

Four things you didn't know about Gillian Welch

  1. She collects handmade shoeshine kits.
  2. In high school, Welch made the all-state team for the mile and was invited to run in the national trials.
  3. She was accepted to Princeton, but went to U.C. Santa Cruz instead.
  4. She played in a Goth band called, "Penny Dreadful."
All this and much more in Alec Wilkinson's profile of Welch and her partner, David Rawlings currently online in "The New Yorker" web site, and in the September 20th print edition. (thanks, Jill!)

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Yesterday's Tomorrow

Unlike, say, "Raiders of the Lost Ark", which was in many ways a modern updating of the adventure serials, "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" seems to be from an alternate world where it's always 1938. It's one of those geek movies, ultimately. If you like the basic idea of "Sky Captain" - which can pretty much be boiled down to, "Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear" - you'll find things to like in the movie, even though you'll probably come away from it unsatisfied.

It's a pity that the plot - or the acting - doesn't live up to the potential of the movie's stunning look. When I wasn't admiring the backdrops or acknowledging yet another reference ("Sky Captain" is so `30-`40s reference-saturated that at times you feel like saying, "Enough already! I get it."), I was spending my time wondering what would have happened if someone like Dave Stevens ("The Rocketeer") or Frank Miller ("The Dark Knight Returns"), or the Fleishers (Superman cartoons) had gotten their hands on filmmaker's Kerry Conran's technology. You feel like telling him, "Great look, kid, but you don't know how to tell a story. Give it to someone who does."

I'm not the first to notice that "Sky Captain" draws heavily from the two Fleischer Superman cartoons, "The Mechanical Monsters" and "The Bulleteers." The robot invasion of an art deco New York has moments where there are almost screen-by-screen duplications of both cartoons, even down to the use of the same camera angle as a barricaded police force unleashes a tommy-gun barrage against the robots.

While Conran's plot sometimes seems solely written to sneak in yet another reference (including, in no particular order, "Metropolis", "King Kong", "Wizard of Oz", "Buck Rogers", "Lost Horizon", the aforementioned Superman cartoons, and certainly dozens of others that I missed), the acting is what really hurts the movie. Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law seem to have been shown a couple of classic, "feisty woman bickers with heroic male constantly, but they really love each other" movies from the Tracy-Hepburn era, but it didn't take for either of them.

In fact, Jude Law's Sky Captain/Joe seems to have a bigger thing for his brainy sidekick, Dex, who he's constantly calling a "good boy", than he does for Paltrow. As opposed to any sort of chemistry, the dislike between Law and Paltrow is almost palpable at times. And if I were Dex, I'd avoid any invitations from Law to check out his, ah, cockpit.

If you know what I mean.

She has no feelings, no mercy. But she's awfully cute

Too much work, and not enough time, and the blog suffers. Found on Tuesday (via, of course, BoingBoing), a My Little Pony/Borg mod.

Monday, September 20, 2004

If you like hot air balloons, you'll love Shelly's photos from the the 2004 Forest Park Balloon Race at The Tinfoil Project. I usually visit Tinfoil and Shelly's essay site, Burningbird, every day at lunchtime.

Via boingboing

With three things that came by way of boingboing I want to link to, I figure it's easier just to create one post and acknowledge the "via" that way.

First: A complete Calvin & Hobbes slipcase edition will be released in 2005 for a reported $150. Time to start saving my pennies now. I miss them, Bill Watterson. I'm not saying you didn't do the right thing, but I still miss them.

Next: The site is so obnoxious in both design and `tude ("You may link to this page with this whimisical banner button." You may bite me, buddy.) that I almost didn't bother to link to it, but on the other hand, if you visited Disneyland during the `60s, you'll probably love the content as much as I did. The "Fortune Red" page brought back a lot of memories.

And, by the way, matey, real pirates don't need right clicks.

Finally: T -8 days and counting.

I'm test-driving Amazon's new search engine,, replacing - at least for the moment - Google as my default home page. I noticed trying a vanity search for "Fred Bals" over the weekend that A9 gave fresher results than Google, but the Google database has now been updated and they seem in synch.

I like the A9 "bookmarks" feature a lot. Haven't really explored the other features enough to form an opinion yet. Fwiw, for Amazon users:

"[User name], since you’ve been using recently, virtually everything at is automatically an additional p/2% (1.57%) off for you. Collecting this discount is zero effort on your part. It will be applied automatically at checkout (it will happen whether you use the shopping cart or our 1-Click Shopping®). You don’t need to do anything to get this discount except keep using as your regular search engine.

We don’t advertise this additional discount that we give in exchange for using, so if you want your friends to know about it, please tell them. It is probably the only way they’ll find out. All they have to do is use as their regular search engine. They should make sure they are signed in to (it should be recognizing them by name) so that we can be certain they get credit for their visit."

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Peg & Fred - York Harbor, Maine August 2004 Posted by Hello

It's so unusual for both of us to like a photo of us together, I thought I'd better post this for posterity. Taken at a friend's wedding about a month ago.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Working for the Mouse

Like a lot of adults, I think, I have mixed feelings about Disney. There are things I love about the company, there are other things about Disney that make me wince. While I was a fan of Michael Eisner at one time, I'm glad he's finally - albeit slowly - going, as he seems to have lost touch with the sense of wonder that is the underlying foundation for Disney's success. "What would Walt do?" is not a rhetorical question. For all the founder's reported faults, Walt Disney understood wonder and magic. Eisner seemed to also understand and believe in a sense of wonder at one time. Now he only seems to understand business and the bottom line... and hasn't done a particularly good job with either in recent years.

Note to CEO's at large. Do not make off-handed promises in your annual report and then not follow up. Several years ago, Eisner commented on the general appearance of the Disney stores; his one remark on the store's carpeting echoed something I thought each time I walked into one. The carpet material wore down quickly and apparently doesn't clean easily, their grayish appearance gives the stores a dingy, unkempt feeling.

"Hah," I thought, reading Eisner's letter to shareholders where he said, almost as an aside, that the carpeting was a problem and would be replaced in every Disney store. "He gets it, too."

There are three Disney stores within driving distance of Merrimack. To date, not one of them has had their carpets replaced. I lose a little more respect for Eisner each time I see one of those carpets.

I've often thought that I was glad I never had the opportunity to work at Disneyland, when I was a teenager and living in California, as my experience has been that the quickest way for me to lose respect for a company I admire is to go to work for it. That's not true for everyone, of course. My friend Chuq worked for Disney and continues to work for Apple and has good things to say about both companies. Maybe my expectations are so high - or unrealistic - that I set myself up for disappointment. "I want to believe," as Mulder's poster declared, the cry of a cynic who is really a disappointed optimist.

But if I had gone to work for the Big Mouse, I would have campaigned to work on the "Mark Twain." Amanda LeRoy wanted to be a Jungle Cruise skipper, but ended up as a Haunted Mansion attendant, a job she hated... for a little while.

It's a nice story, and gives me hope that Disney will survive the Eisner years and rebuild back into the company I want to think it is. Disney's done it before. There was a long drought in the Magic Kingdom before "The Little Mermaid." It can happen again.

I want to believe.

(link via boingboing)

Sean Penn to Narrate the Audiobook of Bob Dylan's Chronicles: Volume One

Sean Penn will read the audiobook version of Bob Dylan's CHRONICLES: Volume One (6 hours on 4 cassettes and 5 CDs)... Commenting on the forthcoming audiobook, Chris Lynch, Executive Vice President and Publisher of Simon & Schuster Audio said, "When we were thinking of actors to read the Bob Dylan audiobook, the first name on our list was Sean Penn. We knew he would be perfect for the material, and we are absolutely thrilled that an actor of his caliber will be reading CHRONICLES."

I wish Dylan was reading it himself. THAT I would buy. And yes, he could do it. If you've heard the so-called "Rome Interviews", you've heard a clear, coherent speaking voice, not the indistinct mumble that he's sometimes fallen into when singing.

Every blog needs a subject. Iggy has poker. Scott has comics. Shelly has photography, technology, cats, et al; I have Dylan and "Chronicles." Be the first on your block to read more about "Chronicles"! Get your all-Dylan news here!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Well, I'm cheating. Too busy with too many things at work, plus I need to go to a memorial service in an hour. So here's today's post, where I've added haloscan commenting and trackback, and got an automatic post for my troubles, which I've edited so I feel like I've done something.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Quote for the decade

Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Burningbird looking for donations

Although the situation doesn't appear as desperate now as when Shelly posted the message, funds at Burningbird are running tight, and Shelly would welcome donations through PayPal.

I was full of bright little ideas - such as Shelly selling photos online through Bitpass - that I was going to pass on in comments. But she's a bright woman, and she's probably thought of that idea, and more.

Having been through the freelance blues, and expecting to again at some point, I can sympathize. And I'm lucky enough to have a supportive - and employed, and with health benefits - spouse during the hard times. Yet, if you look at Shelly's site, and the talent demonstrated there, you have to believe that she'll be okay.

How many web wonks who are also good writers and expert photographers can there be?

What do I hear for this animatronic Elvira corpse thrusting photo?

The horror! Spooky World, a New England Fall fixture for (of course) 13 years has closed its doors. No more "Let's all go to Spooky World" jingle which I used to sing repeatedly and drive Peg to distraction each October. No more Elvira. No more Texas Chainsaw Massacre hayrides. No more guest star Linda Blair.

If you hurry, you can go to the auction at Foxboro today and bid on such items as the Wax Museum including figures, "Christopher Lee, Aleister Crowlet, Fatty Arbuckle, Harry Houdini, Bugsey Segal, Bela Lugosi, Rev. Jim Jones, Albert Decker, Black Dahlia Victim, Sirhan Sirhan, Richard Ramerez, Hillside Strangler, Charles Manson and various size lots of lights and sounds..."

Monday, September 13, 2004

Buy the ticket, take the ride

"Eventually the water was up perhaps 6 inches on the lobby floor so we just played barefooted and used heavier card protectors than normal. Mine was a bottle of Balashi beer."

Indeed. Iggy continues his travel report from Aruba with neither hurricanes nor creative bathing suits able to swerve his focus on the poker tables.

Remembering 9/11

Although we hadn't planned to, Peg and I observed the third anniversary of 9/11 by watching the CBS DVD "What We Saw : The Events of September 11, 2001, in Words, Pictures, and Video" a 2-hour compilation that includes news reports as the event unfolded, as well as retrospective 60 Minute stories on the impact on the victim's families.

Watching the DVD made me sad and angry all over again. On September 11th, 2001 I slept in late, something I seldom do, and drove to our local bagel shop for coffee and breakfast. I was returning home and turned on the radio seconds after the second jet was flown into the WTC. The rest of the day I spent in front of the television, occasionally calling Peggy.

"We are living in a science fiction world," Dylan said in an interview a few months before September 11th.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Dylan's Chronicles may be excerpted in "The New Yorker"

... the "Chronicles" watch continues. The New York Post reported in its August 26th edition,

"Rolling Stone is not running a piece of Chronicles, Vol. 1, to be published Oct. 12 by Simon & Schuster. Instead, it will likely appear in The New Yorker.

Why Rolling Stone is out of the picture is unclear, but one source said it is less a question of money than of cachet.

'What writer doesn't want to be in The New Yorker?' this source said."


You Too Can Ride the Vomit Comet

Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G) is "offering commercial, Weightless Flights aboard a specially modified Boeing 727-200 aircraft. ZERO-G is the only company approved by the FAA to conduct Weightless Flights for the public... The ZERO-G Experience, which includes training led by a professional astronaut, a flight of 20 parabolas, complimentary merchandise, awards, a post-event party, photos, and a DVD of the flight, is offered at a price of $2,950 per seat."

I wonder if the "complimentary merchandise" includes barf bags. There's something a little strange about offering a tourism experience that, from all reports, most astronauts considered an ordeal. (via boingboing)

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Just a few links and pithy comments...

... today, gang, though I may reformat and post my unpublished spam article later.

"I have a veritable plethora of things to write about but there is an agitated line of angry South Americans lining up behind me, waiting to use this terminal. For the record, the women here are beautiful and the bathing suits are, um, shall we say - creative."

Link and pithy comment #1 -- Iggy at the Guinness and Poker site posts a short commentary on his ongoing Aruba poker trip in the face of Hurricane Ivan (and if I hear one more referral to "Ivan the Terrible", Constant Reader will fwow up). It's politically incorrect, reminiscent of Hunter Thompson, and as funny as hell.

5,000 points, as Drew Carey would say, to Iggy for using the word "plethora" in his post, too.

Link and pithy comment #2 -- I'm not sure how Shelly Powers feels about my being a fan of hers, or what she makes of fhb at times, but here I am, warts and all. A nice post, Mixed up World with some (as usual) beautiful photography from Shelly. Lonely old (rich) guys of the world! You're not going to see offers like this every day.

Link and pithy comment #3 -- I received an email from Timothy Archibald, complimenting me on my comments on his site, "The Sex Machines" wherein he noted that he's looking for a publisher, and that one prospect -- with apparently the emotional depth of an avocado -- had wanted the material to be "harder, more erotic."

I wrote back noting, "Every time I hear a story such as yours about your non-publisher (make it "harder"), I think of the line from the movie 'Amadeus', 'Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that's all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.'"

While the subject matter might not be for everyone, Archibald's "project", as he calls it, is thought-provoking, different, and, as I said in my review, strangely touching -- like a shoebox hidden in a closet full of photographs taken by parents in the `60s: "Here's our dog, Muffo. Here's Dad's new Chevy. Here's our sex machine."

It's astounding that he hasn't found a publisher for it, or, that the only prospect he apparently has found to date seems to think it's only appropriate for the hard-core pornography market. Actually, I should know by now, it's not astounding at all.

Lonely old (rich) guys of the world with a taste for the bizarre, as the line from Zappa's "Mud Shark" has it! You're not going to see a prospect like this every day. Become an entrepreneur and publisher.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Genesis fall down and go boom

PASADENA, Calif. (Reuters) - A space capsule returning solar particles to Earth crashed in the Utah desert on Wednesday after its parachute failed to open but scientists hoped the star dust inside might have been saved.

A silver, disc-shaped capsule containing the star dust collected in a $264 three-year mission was jettisoned as planned by the Genesis spacecraft.

A much beleaguered NASA noted it had misplaced a decimal point and only budgeted $264 to the mission. "Someone should have picked that up after three years," a NASA official admitted.

No, not really. :-) Reuters later corrected the figure to $264-million.

Should I rip this?

A moral flowchart for the ought years. (via BoingBoing)

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

She's Right Here

I finished Jenny Boylan's book, "She's Not There" over the weekend. While I'm not as enthusiastic about it as I was when I started, it's still an interesting read, and recommended.

Rather than the postscript Boylan's buddy, Richard Russo (yep, the RR) closes the book with, I would have preferred something from his (her? ah, the semantics of transgender) long-suffering wife, "Grace", whose story Boylan -- perhaps from necessity -- short changes and whose feelings are reduced to a series of venting monologues by book's end. Boylan hints, in a section written after he's had the ah, "surgery", that he suspects he'll eventually explore sex with a man, which must give Grace some pause. In fact, I suspected that Boylan was going to end up in bed with Russo (or conversely, midway through Russo's postscript, that he was going to end up in bed with Grace), but reality is seldom as tidy as fiction, and, if either has happened, the parties remain mute, at least in this book.

Thinking of the collateral damage that Grace suffered from Boylan's decision, I was reminded of my Globe article on my seven months of unemployment, which left Peg's misery in the background. As I suspect Boylan did, I made that decision deliberately. It was my story, to put it bluntly, not Peg's, although her story deserved to be told, too. But that's what happens when you're married to someone who writes, and you don't. It's easy to be in the spotlight... when you own it.

Boylan's Web page, if you're interested, is here.

Personalized Photostamps is offering an interesting (albeit pricey) new product, personalized PhotoStamps. Upload a digital photo and create your very own legitimate U.S. postage stamp.

Twenty .37 PhotoStamps are $16.99 versus $7.40 for those boring old stamps with pictures of dead people.

(via, sohelpmeGod, yesterday's "Regis and Kelly Show")


The September 13th issue of Newsweek claims that TiVo and Netflix are close to a deal. "Subscribers who belong to both services will be able to download their Netflix DVDs over the Internet directly into the TiVo boxes in their homes, instead of receiving them in the mail." according to the article.

Goodbye, Blockbuster. Hello, future.

Look and feel

I'm experimenting with moving fhb to a new format, which is, actually, an old format from the first time I tried a Weblog back in 2002. It's not perfect by any means (for example, the font on older posts is now too small, as you can see below), but it's mine.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

fhb will be on hiatus until September 7th, as Peg and I go do some gaming at Foxwoods, lucky Peg at the slots, less lucky Fred at the Texas Hold `Em tables.

After living in a construction site for the past month as we get the bathrooms renovated, and with both of our nerves on edge from work, Peg and Fred have decided they need a mini-vacation.

About 15 years ago, Peg and Fred were laid off from their jobs almost simultaneously, the bank that held their savings went under, and they found when they tried to re-finance their townhouse that the collapse of the New England real estate market had left them with negative equity in their home after six years of ownership.

Their reaction: Let's go to Las Vegas!

After I wait for the usual look of horror when I recount that story, I note that while all literally true, I had received a great severance package (remember those days?), had a job waiting for me that would start a week later, that our savings were insured, and while we were unable to re-finance, we could still pay our mortgage, even at a 12 percent interest rate, which was a lot better than a lot of people were doing during that period. And we had already paid for the Vegas trip. We had a great time, and Peg would get a new job after taking the summer off.

See you later next week.

I think it was Truman Capote who once said that the Great American Novel had already been written, and its title was "Huckleberry Finn."

I found the quote I'm now using as my tag-line in "
She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders", by Jennifer Finney Boylan. Although I'm only 46 pages into it, I already highly recommend the book, which I picked up after hearing an interview with Boylan on NPR (after the "Washington Post Book World", probably my best single source for book recommendations). Boylan, co-chairperson of the English Department at Colby College in Waterville, Maine (one of the prettiest campuses on the face of the Earth, btw), is a transgender, who used to be "James Finney" Boylan.

Apart from the fact that it's a fascinating story, that it's also set in Maine -- not, except possibly on a college campus, a welcoming environment for alternative lifestyles -- sold me on picking up the book. And I'm glad I did. The opening episode of Boylan driving two girls from Freedom, Maine around Augusta in an aimless search for a pit bull evokes rural Maine as well as anything written by my friend and classmate, Carolyn Chute.

"I drove down Middle Street and hoped, in a way, that I wouldn't be able to find the trailer. It was already clear that a pit bull was the very last thing these girls needed in their lives, that it was the only thing I could think of that might make their lives worse than they were already."

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

More Retro Squirrel from Shelly at BurningBird.

Chuq posts an interesting thread on being fired for blogging. Friendster, the social networking site, canned an employee apparently for simply commenting on engineering releases she was working on. Nothing particularly negative.

I had first written, "this is getting to be a problem", but, to tell you the truth, I don't know how I feel about it. Read
this thread about another blog-related firing and you'll probably react the same way I did, "Do I really want to be working with that person?"

After writing for close to 50 years now, one of the things I believe strongly is that you can't write well without "writing truly", as Hemingway said. "Writing truly" isn't necessarily writing the truth -- in fact, it often has little do with "truth" when truth means "exact reportage." Writing truly is more what's writing in your heart, even when you know you could be jeopardizing relationships with family, friends, and co-workers by writing it.

I agonized over posting the "
Prancing in the Rain" segment because family, as well as Peg's friends, occasionally read fhb, and I didn't want to embarrass Peg, even though I let her see it in draft stage and got her okay before I released it. Peg's been with me long enough that she knows that everything is grist for the mill. It's one of the many downsides of being married to a writer. Eventually I posted the segment, because I liked it... and it was true.

Similarly, I dithered about releasing yesterday's "
Machine Sex" post... this time more because I know people I work with read fhb, and it's the sort of thing that I know from experience can come back to haunt you when you least expect it.

But it turned out it was more important for me to post than to discard the article, because I loved the site, I loved the article and photographs, and I wanted to comment on it. And living the free-lance life I do now, it's important for me to be my own person, not some company's or manager's image of what "Fred the employee" should be.

Is there a difference between commenting on your work, as Joyce Park did, and penning angry rants about co-workers or managers as Norah Burch, the ex-Harvard employee, posted on her blog? Obviously. But should you be prepared to live with the consequences of what you write and think about that before publishing? Yes, and maybe that's an important lesson for any writer to learn. It's unfair what Friendster management did to Joyce -- at least from the publicly available information. But when you write anything for public view -- and a blog is more a public billboard than a private diary -- than you have to recognize that almost certainly, eventually, you'll offend or annoy somebody, especially if that someone thinks money is involved, as Friendster obviously did.

Writing is tough. Words are dangerous. It's something to keep in mind the next time you post to your blog.

And, no, I still haven't gotten to the "Suicide Girls" post. :-) Maybe tomorrow.

James Doohan Gets His Star

A nice series of photos on (via boing boing) of James Doohan receiving his "Hollywood Walk of Fame" star with (among others) the original Star Trek cast members George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols (looking, as someone in another blog noted, remarkably like an older Storm of the X-Men), and Majel Barrett Roddenberry.