Tuesday, June 28, 2005

PartyGaming IPO valued at $9.1 billion

Shares in online casino group PartyGaming surged on Monday after it completed the biggest London flotation in five years, taking its market value to about £5 billion ($9.1 billion).
Link to news story

Flesh-eating aliens were chasing me when I caused fatal car crash

Another headline that speaks for itself.

Dylan in exclusive CD deal with Starbucks

"Dylan: Live at the Gaslight 1962," co-released with Sony BMG Custom Marketing Group, will hit Starbucks coffee shops Aug. 30. It features 10 previously unreleased tracks from performances at New York's Gaslight Cafe over four decades ago, including "A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall" and "Don't Think Twice It's Alright."
Link to Reuters news story | Link to NY Times story

Monday, June 27, 2005

Tradeoff: chip count or bladder pain

via Jim McManus' daily report from the WSOP:

The main problem is that only two men's rooms are within walking — or sprinting — distance of the tournament area. When an event attracts over 2,000 male players, the lines during the 15-minute breaks become downright torturous. Many players have had no choice but to miss several hands after a break, a potentially costly tradeoff: chip count or bladder pain. Others have snuck into the adjoining women's rooms, sometimes without incident, other times with.

Wil Wheaton joins "Team PokerStars"

No poker content, then lotsa poker content. Don't ask me why, `cause I dunno.

Wil Wheaton will be playing in the WSOP main event July 6th, courtesy of Team PokerStars. Wil writes a great tourney report, and I'll be looking forward to it.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The 1961 Interstate Wireline Act

Thought it'd be interesting to see the law which may (or may not) make me, and such characters as Iggy and Maudie, and Dr. Pauly, and BadBlood and the whole scurvy poker blogging krewe criminals. Here's 18 USC section 1084 via Cornell University Law School:

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 50 > § 1084 Prev | Next

§ 1084. Transmission of wagering information; penalties
Release date: 2004-08-06

(a) Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.


(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of information for use in news reporting of sporting events or contests, or for the transmission of information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on a sporting event or contest from a State or foreign country where betting on that sporting event or contest is legal into a State or foreign country in which such betting is legal.


(c) Nothing contained in this section shall create immunity from criminal prosecution under any laws of any State.


(d) When any common carrier, subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission, is notified in writing by a Federal, State, or local law enforcement agency, acting within its jurisdiction, that any facility furnished by it is being used or will be used for the purpose of transmitting or receiving gambling information in interstate or foreign commerce in violation of Federal, State or local law, it shall discontinue or refuse, the leasing, furnishing, or maintaining of such facility, after reasonable notice to the subscriber, but no damages, penalty or forfeiture, civil or criminal, shall be found against any common carrier for any act done in compliance with any notice received from a law enforcement agency. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to prejudice the right of any person affected thereby to secure an appropriate determination, as otherwise provided by law, in a Federal court or in a State or local tribunal or agency, that such facility should not be discontinued or removed, or should be restored.


(e) As used in this section, the term “State” means a State of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or a commonwealth, territory or possession of the United States.

Sex, money, technology, and luck

"In many countries, including the United States, the group's activities are considered to be illegal by the relevant authorities," PartyGaming says in its offering document.

"PartyGaming and its directors rely on the apparent unwillingness or inability of regulators generally to bring actions against businesses with no physical presence in the country concerned."
And one more from the Gambling Gray Lady, on the forthcoming PartyGaming (parent of PartyPoker) public offering.

The kid

I'm not sure what it means when the Gray Lady takes up poker reportage in a big way, but outside of the McManus column and WSOP journal, today's issue also has a story on Stu Unger,

Stu, or Stuey the Kid, Ungar was the swashbuckling enfant terrible of poker before it blew up into a mainstream obsession in the 1990's. The diminutive son of a Lower East Side bookmaker, he won his back-to-back World Series of Poker titles by the unheard of age of 27 and went on to win, and lose, $30 million by one estimate before his epic taste for excess left him dead, in a cheap Las Vegas motel on Nov. 22, 1998, at 45.

When you get knocked out of a tournament or lose money in a side game, it's always because of a combination of mistakes and bad luck. The overlap of these two is often called bad timing. - Jim McManus

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Inside America's Other Favorite Pastime

James McManus's first NY Times column is up (registration probably needed).

...Weekly home games also continue to flourish, and this column will cover those, too. I'll report from major tournaments, review instructional primers and try to give a sense of how poker's lore and lingo permeate the action today. Early on I will focus on Texas Hold'em, the game that transformed a back-room activity into a lucrative spectator sport.
MacManus is also doing a daily journal from the WSOP.

Friday, June 24, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 013

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Birthdays, especially those which mark the passage of a decade, are occasions not only for celebration, but for reflection. In "Turning Forty," Ohio poet Kevin Griffith conveys a confusion of sentiments. The speaker feels a sense of peace at forty, but recalls a more powerful, more confident time in his life.


Turning Forty

At times it's like there is a small planet
inside me. And on this planet,
there are many small wars, yet none
big enough to make a real difference.
The major countries--mind and heart--have
called a truce for now. If this planet had a ruler,
no one remembers him well. All
decisions are made by committee.
Yet there are a few pictures of the old dictator--
how youthful he looked on his big horse,
how bright his eyes.
He was ready to conquer the world.


Reprinted from "Cooweescoowee, A Journal of Arts and Letters," by permission of the author, whose most recent book is "Paradise Refunded" (Backwaters Press, 1998). Poem copyright 2004 by Kevin Griffith. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

NY Times to launch Poker column by McManus

via Editor & Publisher:

This Saturday, The New York Times launches a weekly column on poker written by James McManus, the Chicago novelist who wrote a non-fiction book about how he won $250,000 at the 2000 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

The column, simply titled "Poker," will appear weekly in the Saturday Sports section of the Times. The newspaper promises the column will "cover the world of poker including its lore, lingo, home games, games held online, and major tournaments." McManus will write for both aficionados and the newcomers attracted to the game by the many television shows devoted to Texas Hold 'Em.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Outies

A couple of comments from my on-line poker buddies (or my "imaginary friends" as Peggy calls them), reminds me I've been shirking writing about poker since roughly the time of the live WPBT in Vegas.

I could moan about extraordinary bad beats, overwhelming suckouts, a rapidly dwindling stake and the Law of Averages on summer vacay, but I think you get my drift. I've gotten to the point where I congratulate myself inordinately if I place 3rd in a $1 SnG on UltimateBet. And speaking of Summer, I live with two unruly cats who think it their birthright to go for daily Outies and Walkies when the weather turns nice.

While we're not exactly living in the woods, we're close enough that Nature, "red in tooth and claw," makes regular guest appearances. I've been chasing away a large red fox for the past several weeks, who discovered that the area under our bird feeder is an always-open chipmunk buffet. If he keeps returning, I'm planning on warning off the fox with the same method I used to rid ourselves of a fisher a few years back; a method that delicacy requires me to note only that it involves a jug and micturition.

Yesterday afternoon, while reading on the porch, I heard clucking and looked up to find a solo turkey marching up to the wading pool that the cats use as an outdoor water dish. Later this season I expect we'll see flocks of as many of 15 turkeys. As well as deer marching through the backyard which annoys Curly the cat, aka Kittenish, tremendously. There's usually a skunk family in the woodpile during the winter that holds an uneasy truce with me (when I get too close to wherever they're denned I get a whiff). And we're hoping the hawk family will come back later this summer...

We have lots of critters, a few of which would probably attempt to munch on Curl and Bear if given half the chance. So, they go out under supervision, usually mine during the weekdays. I try to hold to a work schedule that sees me done between 3 and 4, and when the laptop closes up, both cats are standing at the door a few seconds later. The second season of Deadwood, the TiVo'd movies, Batman Begins, the 1st and 2nd season of Moonlighting that the cats bought me for Father's Day with their hard-earned cans of food, afternoon Hold `Em tournies or Sit-and-Goes -- all that's going to have to go on hold until the Fall or bad weather. Outies take precedence over all.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Writing advice...

Wannabee writers spend much too much time worrying about things they don't need to be worried about. I don't think I've ever attended a class - either traditional or online - where the conversation eventually hasn't turned to the business aspects of writing rather than the business of writing. People devoting inordinate amounts of time talking about protecting copyright, for instance, when the reality is that they're probably never going to produce anything worth protecting.

I once was annoyed by someone who went on for ages about his wonderful idea for a novel, but, since its plot was dependent on a a pop song, he hadn't started it because he didn't know whether he could get permission to use the song... and, if he did, how much it would cost.

"Why don't you start it, and if you think it's going to turn out well, contact the song's publisher?" I asked.

"But what if they say no, or it costs too much?" he answered. And by then I realized he just wanted to talk about the book, not actually write it.

Neil Gaiman has all sorts of useful stuff on his blog, including responses to questions from wannabees. Someone recently asked about song rights, and Gaiman explained about contacting the publisher and that most excerpts could be had for an average $150 price. But what I liked much better was his anecdote about trying to get permission to quote from "Under the Boardwalk":

On the other hand, the people who control the song "Under The Boardwalk" said this week that seven words would cost $800 and it wasn't negotiable, and I thought for a moment, and changed

"Under the boardwalk..." he sang. "We'll be making love."

to

He sang. In his song he told them all exactly what he planned to do under the boardwalk, and it mostly involved making love.

which I liked better, and didn't cost anything.
That's a real writer's response to the problem.

Bewitched statue watch: news roundup

It's always interesting to see the spin different reports put on the same story. It's like Rashômon in action. Every time I read a news story where I know something about the subject or event it reminds me of how much I should mistrust news reports where I don't know anything about the subject or event.

Here, in no particular order, are headlines and excerpts from various news stories from around the world many of them using the AP story as their base...

Sunday Herald - Glasgow,Scotland,UK - Scene of witch trials ‘shamed’ by TV show statue: ...As the statue attracted around 1500 fans , just 500 yards away, down a leafy side street, another memorial was totally deserted... The sculpture surrounds a grass-covered plot and 20 stone benches set into a wall, one for each of the 20 innocent victims – 13 women and seven men – who were put to death in the hysteria of 1692 .

Feministing blog - "...What better way to honor the women who were tortured and killed during the Salem witch trials?"

From "TheBostonChannel.com" a.k.a Channel 7 news: 'Bewitched' Statue Unveiled In Salem -"... Erin Murphy, the actress who played Tabitha on the show, was on hand for the ceremony."I think it is keeping with the spirit of Salem. I think if people come here to see the statue and then have the ability to visit the other landmarks and learn about the history of Salem, I think everyone will be happy," she said..."


(above story also includes video link)

Boston Globe (Boston's ah, traditional, newspaper. Think NYT): "'Bewitched' statue charms Salem fans"

Boston Herald (Boston's ah, tabloid. Think NY Post): Statue panned every witch way

Column from the Herald (which, when it decides it dislikes something, works itself into a frenzy): "Salem’s ‘Be-kitsched’ with this bronze bomb"

And from "The Salem News" (this link may or may not work): "City bewitched by statue"

Friday, June 17, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 012

I usually don't make comments on the "ALP" columns, as I think the poems speak for themselves. But, "Grandfather" particularly resonated with me, as I'm named after my grandfather, Fred Harper, a doctor (my brother corrects my failing memory that it was our *great*-grandfather who was the doctor) from Waterville, Maine, who died shortly before I was born.

Grandfather

Dead before I came into this world, grandfather,
I carry your name, yet I've never met you.
I hear my name, and know
that somehow they refer to you.
When I scribble those six letters
fast, to sign some document
or print them neatly in a box,
I feel your presence flow with the ink
stain and burn through the paper,
forever imprinted in my mind.
Late summer nights
gathered around the dinner table,
leftovers being cleared away,
faces clouded in cigarette smoke,
I hear voices pass the word
back and forth in reverence.
Somehow I know it's not me
the little one grabbing for attention.
They speak of you, Andrei,
the one I've never met,
whose name I carry.

Reprinted from "Paterson Literary Review" by permission of the author. Andrei Guruianu is a reporter for the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin in Binghamton, N.Y. Poem copyright 2003 by Andrei Guruianu. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A short visit to that abominable city

“I mean, as soon as possible-that is to say, as soon as I can find a cheap, pleasant and healthy residence-to remove into the country and bid farewell forever to this abominable city; for, now that my mother is gone, I have no longer anything to keep me here” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” – Hunter S. Thompson

I doubt if ol’ Nat and HST would have had much to talk about if they had somehow ended up in the same time-frame together; maybe writing styles, as both were reportedly painstaking re-drafters of their own work. And I can’t find any evidence that the Good Doctor ever made it to Salem town. But I suspect he would have shared Hawthorne’s view of the city. Not that Thompson still might not have liked Salem. He always did have a fondness for places where different cultures collided.

There was a 30-degree temperature swing in New England between Tuesday and Wednesday, and I drove the 56 miles down to Salem on a cold, drizzly Wednesday morning as the thermometer struggled to get above 50.

The last time I was in the town was a quiet Fall Sunday and Peggy and I virtually had the place to ourselves. I knew I was in for something different this time around when I found Essex Street barricaded off, and ended up circling downtown Salem until finally finding an empty parking space near the Salem visitor center on Washington. The Salem town fathers are generous in offering metered parking for only 25 cents an hour. Unfortunately the meters’ maximum time is an hour, and the Salem cops, recognizing a bonanza in their laps when they see one, were already swooping down on expired meters in a ticketing frenzy. I plugged in my quarter, noted the time, which was about 45 minutes before the ceremony, and walked the three blocks through a bitingly cold wind that felt as if it had come directly off the Atlantic.

Lappin Park is a small wedge of trees with aspirations of being a real park in the center of Salem. There were perhaps 300 people already in the town center, hunkered down against the wind and cold and staring across at the park, which was dominated by a huge TV Land podium and the tarp-shrouded statue. I circled the barricades, passing a group of visiting witches greeting their Salem counterparts, tried to convince a guard that a blog “was just like a newspaper, even better” but was still ejected from the press area when I couldn’t produce credentials; and then stumbled across a group of grumpy old-style Yankee protestors – one complete with bow tie - preparing signs in the lee of a hotel. They eyed me warily as I brought out my camera, and I decided I’d better ask permission. “You’re not with the police?” one asked. “Hey, Charlie,” another said. “We’re going to be in the N.Y. Times!”

With another 20-odd minutes to go, I went to re-feed the meter. The parked cars both ahead and behind the Rodeo were now wearing a thicket of tickets. I waved at the glum cop hiding in the shelter of a doorway as I bounced my meter’s time back up to an hour and then went searching for coffee to ward off the chill. A tactical mistake as it turned out, as the crowd had swelled to what the papers report as between 1500 and 2000 people when I returned to Lappin Park about five minutes before noon.

Salem is an uneasy mix of styles, people, and cultures, and most of them were in evidence at the statue’s unveiling. Some areas of Salem have very pretty, historical buildings, there are ticky-tacky Halloween/horror/witch-related tourist traps too, and much of the city just reflects what it basically is – a New England working-class waterfront town that has seen both better and worse times. A lot of Salem makes its living from the witch connection, but a lot of Salem doesn’t seem too happy about it, either.

I spent much of my childhood growing up in an area that had a love-hate relationship with tourists and the businesses that cater to them, so I know the syndrome. As John D. MacDonald said about Florida tourists, you just kind of wish things could be simplified and they were all required to wear a little box on their backs. Every 10 minutes or so the box would ring and a $10 bill would extrude out. And whichever native was closest would pluck it out.

I started on the outskirts of the crowd next to a group of Salem troubled yutes, all shaved heads and pierced lips, smoking up a storm. The group would have fit right in with the cast of Deadwood, as their conversation mostly consisted of using “Fuck” as noun, adjective, adverb, and verb. They were in a generally jolly mood, even though they didn’t seem to have much of a grasp on what the fuck was going on.

However, the half-dozen or so Yankee protestors were up front and beginning to position their signs to try to block the view of as many people as possible, and the troubled yutes were getting ugly, with more “Fucks” flying blackly at the protesting crew as the cops moved in. I decided to move on, pausing to watch one demonstrator who I had photographed – dressed in tweed jacket and bow tie - pull back against a cop who had him firmly in tow as the crowd cheered. The other demonstrators wisely kept their signs lowered as the ceremony began.

Feelings toward the statue seemed to improve as I moved deeper into the crowd. A group of children waving Tinker Belle-style wands were screaming gamely as a camera boom passed overhead. The witches were doing some sort of chant, and “Bewitched” fans were cheering as they glimpsed the three surviving cast members who had made the scene. Bernard Fox looked like he could still do a credible Dr. Bombay; Erin Murphy has turned from babe into Babe; and Kasey Rogers was there too and received some polite applause, given that Louise Tate 2 would probably not be on even the hardest of hard-core “Bewitched” fan’s “Top 10 Characters” list.

The ceremony started about five minutes late, “Blah, blah,” said someone from TV Land. “Blah, blah, blah,” said the mayor of Salem, thanking everyone in the municipality including the Salem fire department for reasons unknown.

“Blah, blah, blah, blah,” said a new TV Land exec. Or maybe it was the same one. He introduced William Asher, progenitor of all this, and real-life husband to Liz Montgomery too. Asher was wheeled out, and with no disrespect intended, I was hoping that the ceremonies were would be over soon as he did not look all that hearty and, in fact, seemed to fall asleep when the TV Land flack started yammering again.

Perhaps the rain, which now started to come down as a steady drizzle, helped hurry the speechifying up. In any case, the TV Land dude quickly barked out his last homily, waved his arms, a small smoke charge was set off, and the statue unveiled to a mixed reception of cheers and boos.

“That’s not going to last long,” someone beside me muttered, and a woman said to her companion, “It’s kind of ugly, don’t you think?”

Maybe I’ve spent too much time looking at the “Bewitched” logo, but I have to agree. The moon that the statue is flying over more resembles a Yuggoth-like tentacle than a crescent to me, And to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t have said, “Oh yeah, that’s Elizabeth Montgomery/Samantha Stephens,” if I had come across the statue unknowingly. I don’t know. All bronze statues seem to have that element of inhuman weirdness to my eyes. But I think the designers would have been better off with a little less representational and maybe little more fantasy version.

The rain now coming down heavily, I followed the crowd leaving the area back to the Rodeo where there was seven minutes remaining on the meter.

But what the hell. A lot of people didn’t like the Lincoln Memorial when it was unveiled either. It’s part of being a statue, you can’t have everybody like you. And I figure I’ll go back with Peg later this year on another quiet Fall Sunday and see if my perception improves.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bewitched Statue Unveiled - Scenes from Salem


Crowd at Lappin Park about 1/2 hour before the unveiling.

Click on the photo for a larger version and note the group of Salem witches greeting their New York cousins in the background.





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Group of anti-statue protestors readying their signs.
Note the bow-tied Salem brahmin holding the "Who?" sign (click on picture for a larger version). The protestors and the Salem police apparently had an informal agreement that they would be allowed to demonstrate if they lowered their signs when the ceremony began. This guy refused, even when the crowd behind him complained loudly about their blocked view. He would be arrested and hauled away by one of Salem's finest, heels dug into the sidewalk like a recalcitrant 3-year-old.

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Sam the Statue before and after the unveiling.

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Bloggers for Sam!


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Monday, June 13, 2005

R.I.P. Judson School

Discovering through Google that Judson is no more made it a sad afternoon, as much for another reminder that I'm getting older as anything else. As one alumni noted: "what does it mean when your school closes the year of your 40th reunion?" I'm not a Judson alumni. I boarded at the school from 1967-69 before my family moved completely to California for a few years, and I finished high school at Chadwick. But generally I have fond memories of the place, as much as anyone has fond memories of their freshman and sophomore years at any high school.

Let's see: My roomate, Jamie, and I were strolling past the admin building one afternoon and parted to let a middle-aged (to us, back then. He must have been all of in his mid-30s) long-haired man wearing (please remember the times), a Nehru jacket and love beads pass us.

"Hey," I said after a moment of reflection. "Was that Robert Culp?"

And yes it was. Who turned when he heard me, and smiled and let us catch up with him. He was considering sending his son to Judson and asked us what we thought of the school.

One of my other roommates for a time was Brett Barris, son of George Barris, designer of, among other things, the Munster cars and the original Batmobile. Brett was known as Mouse those days, a nickname he'd probably prefer to forget.

Judson was a semi-dude ranch place, and for the mandatory phys. ed. you could choose horseback riding. I'm Woody Allen-ish about most animals, especially those larger than me, and had no particular love of horsies. However my roomates, and most of my Judson peers, were either from the mid- or Deep West, and it was kinda the thing to do to ride. So, I did for a bit in my freshman year.

That ended the day one of the hands, distracted by something else, pointed me to a horse and told me to saddle up. Unlike the regular mellow nags the cowboys - recognizing my complete lack of horsemanship - usually sent me to this ah, creature, looked big, red, mean, and not particularly happy to see me. But I followed orders, got the stuff on the horse well enough that I felt I had a better of 50 percent chance of making it through the half-hour ride, and mounted up.

Old Big Red stayed quiet enough as we filed out of the corral, crossed the road, and headed into a patch of desert, but quickly realizing that there was no one of concern at his helm, decided to make a dash for freedom as soon as he was able. Unfortunately, I was still on his back when he decided this.

Riding a horse at full gallop is actually more comfortable than riding one trotting. It's a bit like being seated in a fast-moving rocker. After a couple of futile attempts to stop Big Red by pulling at the reins and mumbling, "Whoa!" I gave up, grabbed the pommel with both hands and watched the passing scenery in the hopes that wherever I hit would be soft.

The head hand, however, came charging up - looking exactly like the Marlboro Man to the cigarette caught between his teeth, grabbed the reins and slowed Big Red to a stop. I was surprised to see we were only about a football field away from the rest of the riders.

"Boy," said the cowboy, as he led me back. "What are you doing on this horse?"

"I don't know," I answered quite honestly.

"Well, you shouldn't be," he said. He handed the reins over to another cowboy chaperone, who looked as pained as the head cowboy did, and said, "Take him back to the stables. Slowly."

I changed my phys. ed. class to swimming the next day.

One of the things I loved about Judson was the grapefruit tree growing outside our dorm. I used to pick a grapefruit a morning and have it for breakfast. The first time I ever had sun-brewed ice tea was at Judson, although not at the school itself. There was a hamburger shack in Scottsdale I used to frequent that offered bite-sized - similar to White Castle - burgers for a quarter each. I used to buy 4 and wash them down with the home-made ice tea that was brewing in jugs in the rear. I still have a leather belt that I purchased - and helped make - from a small shop in Scottsdale. And no, it doesn't fit anymore.

Paradise Valley, and Scottsdale itself, were still so rural in the mid-60s that I can remember cowboys riding into the town, and not thinking it an unusual sight. I'd take Peggy to Scottsdale in the late `90s, a disappointing trip for me after 30-odd years. Phoenix reminded me of L.A. and Scottsdale had lost all the charm I remembered. We'd wander up and down a batch of confusing Mockingbird Lanes until finally finding Judson. Like Chadwick, the school that I remembered surrounded by desert was now surrounded by housing. Unlike Chadwick, it was also obvious Judson was on its last legs. It had stopped taking boarding students, and the remaining dorms were decayed, closed buildings.

***

Judson School

In 1928, Judson School opened with seven boys as students. Judson was the state’s oldest independent college preparatory school. Henry Wick, who had been teaching at Judson School since 1938, purchased the school from George Judson in 1945.

In the late 1940’s, Henry Wick began offering classes in English as a Second Language. This brought students from all around the world representing, at times, 30 different countries. Girls were admitted to Judson School for the first time in 1956.

Henry Wick sold the 55-acre Judson School property to Cachet Homes in the fall of 1999. In the summer of 2000, the campus buildings were demolished to make way for a gated community of 34 luxury homes. A small structure has been built on the property as a memorial to 72 years of Judson School history.

Pink Flamingos and Bear catches


Actually a light-up in the dark pink flamingo, which I found on sale on Friday, and which whispered gently in flamingoese, "Take me home, daddy."

After initially eyeing it grimly upon her return from work, Peggy, who has never shared my, ah, desire to have a pink flamingo lawn ornament, has adjusted to it... at least to the point where she took this photo of it last night in all its pink, glowing glory.

It was a hot, humid weekend here in Lake Woebo- New Hamster. Saturday morn I let (or tried to) Peggy sleep in and brought the cats outside early. I just finished making the coffee when I heard Bear at the screen door, and found him with a mouthful of chipmunk. His first. This is an even more impressive feat when you recognize that Bear is constrained by a leash and can't maneuver all that quickly.

Brave Bals reacted to his prodigal's catch by screaming like a little girl, and woke Peg. Since Bear was doing his damndest to get the chipmunk into the house, I went out the kitchen door, raced through the wet grass in my slippers intent on getting to him from the rear. Peg by that time had forced Bear away from the screen, made it outside, and was shaking the chipmunk loose from his death grip. Finally dropped, the chipmunk shook himself off and raced under the porch, complaining bitterly about cats and the people who love them.

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"I can see nothing but seams..."

Some quotes stick in your mind. I don't know why. I've remembered that line from George Lucas for almost 30 years.

In 1977, when I was still reading Rolling Stone, the magazine interviewed George Lucas, who talked about the nature of Wookies, his desire to take the money and open up a games store, the first movie, and his ideas for "one of the sequels... "

It's about Ben and Luke's father and Vader when they are young Jedi knights. But Vader kills Luke's father, then Ben and Vader have a confrontation, just like they have in Star Wars, and Ben almost kills Vader. As a matter of fact, he falls into a volcanic pit and gets fried and is one destroyed being. That's why he has to wear the suit with a mask, because it's a breathing mask. It's like a walking iron lung. His face is all horrible inside. I was going to shoot a close-up of Vader where you could see the inside of his face, but then we said, no, no, it would destroy the mystique of the whole thing.


The last time I wore a cowboy hat was probably when I was 15 and at Judson School in Arizona (sadly, I just found out Judson closed in 1999 and the property is now yet another unneeded Scottsdale luxury housing development).

Frankly, like most guys who wear glasses, I don't look all that good in a cowboy hat. But if I were in the market for a cowboy hat, I think I'd buy Dylan's "Outlaw Blues" topper. Posted by Hello

Sunday, June 12, 2005

And coming soon, the HST memorial .357 magnum!

Gonzo Imperial Porter will be released in early June in a unique Gonzo illustrated four pack. A limited edition, 750ml bottle will also be available from the brewery's tasting room - the first 100 of these will be signed by Ralph Steadman...

...Like Hunter this beer is deep and complex.
And hopefully not skunky. Who could make this stuff up? via BoingBoing

Roger gets buffed in Salem

A Bewitched statue tie-in...

'I like the fact that Salem is the Witch City," said Gabriel Ciociola, chairman of the neighborhood association's Common Committee. ''I appreciate its duality. It has a kitschy side, and a very serious history. I think Roger will present a nice contrast to Samantha the witch statue."

Link to Boston Globe article

Coming soon - World Series of Poker Robots

Though not yet good enough to beat skilled humans consistently, these programs are seen as a threat by online casinos — all based outside the U.S. and out of the reach of American laws — and the gamblers who spend billions of dollars chasing big pots.

"There are already lots of robots playing online, and that's definitely unethical. They should identify themselves," said Paul Magriel, a veteran professional poker player.

The march of the machines will be celebrated in Las Vegas next month with the world's first money tournament for robots — and the $100,000 prize is drawing a handful of coders out of anonymity.
Link to L.A. Times article

Also an interesting - and I'm not sure true - statement from a PartyPoker rep.
PartyPoker marketing director Vikrant Bhargava said he wasn't pleased to learn that many of the poker bot World Series contestants honed their skills on his site, adding that eventually all such cheats get caught. Other sites don't care whether users are human, he said, because the house takes the same percentage of the pot no matter who's playing. But Bhargava said PartyPoker has 100 employees looking for robots, collusion among players and other scams.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Salem News article on Bewitched statue redux

Reprinted from the June 10th edition of the Salem News

Fans flock from far and wide for statue ceremony

By Ben Casselman
Staff Writer

SALEM - Maybe they won't fly in on broomsticks, but by plane, train, and automobile, fans of "Bewitched" will soon be sweeping into the Witch City.

They're coming for the dedication of the much-debated bronze statue of Samantha Stephens, Elizabeth Montgomery's magical character from the 1960s television comedy. And with fans flying in from Florida, witches driving down from Syracuse, N.Y., actresses jetting in from California and protestors marching over from their Federal Street homes, Wednesday's ceremony could be quite the scene.

"In some ways, I'm almost expecting it to become a 'Bewitched' episode," quipped fan Fred Bals, who will drive down from New Hampshire for the dedication.

The statue, and the controversy surrounding it, has generated national and even international headlines in recent weeks-which in turn could generate quite a crowd Wednesday.

I'm very interested in what the whole hubbub is about," said Lisa Chapman, a practicing witch in Syracuse, N.Y., who is bringing a group of witches to next week's ceremony. "I look forward to seeing exactly what it's like so I can make a fair determination."

Chapman is still undecided about the statue-she's reserving judgment until she sees it-but most Salem-bound travelers are unabashed supporters.

I've been bewitched since birth," said Sean McHugh, who will fly up from Florida for the dedication. "It was my mom's favorite show, and she was actually pregnant with me at the same time as Samantha was pregnant with Tabitha (on the show).

Samantha's influence didn't end in utero. McHugh, 39, said he went into advertising to follow Darrin, Samantha's TV husband, and he and his niece have co-authored a children's book inspired in part by the show.

"She was my dream wife," McHugh said of Samantha. "Fictional character or not, she's had a major impact on my life."

McHugh will be joined in Salem by his 31-year-old niece, Katie Parker, who will fly from Kentucky for the event. The pair booked a room at the Hawthorne Hotel, where Darrin and Samantha stayed when the show came to Salem in 1970.

McHugh and Parker aren't the only ones whose lives have been changed by television's favorite witch. Bals, a writer in New Hampshire, said he, like McHugh, followed Darrin into advertising. Bals has been tracking the ups and downs of the controversy on his Web site.

"The whole thing amused me," he said. "The whole controversy amused me, that people would have such strong feelings about a statue one way or another."

Bals has posted some of the more overheated quotations from the battle on his site, and he even wrote a list of the top 10 reasons he'd rather have a photo of Samantha than one of Nathaniel Hawthorne-a response to mayoral candidate Kim Driscoll's fear that tourists would point their cameras at the statue, not at the city's more historical attractions.

No. 3 on Bals' list: "House of the Seven Gables bombed in syndication."

No 2: "Sam never called Salem 'that abominable city'" (as Hawthorne did).

Not everyone finds the controversy funny. "Bewitched" fan Stephen Howes said he worries that anti-statue demonstrators will cause an "ugly scene" Wednesday. But that won't stop him from making the two-hour drive from Holyoke to be there.

"I've always been a real fan of Elizabeth Montgomery," Howes said. "She was just so attractive and beautiful and very strong."

Beautiful, sure. But worth round-trip airfare and two days vacation?

"I had a hard time getting off work, " McHugh said. "My boss thought I was, of course, crazy."

Friday, June 10, 2005

Bewitched statue gives Blogger 15 minutes of fame

Would you believe 15 seconds?

"In some ways, I'm almost expecting it to become a 'Bewitched' episode," quipped fan Fred Bals, who will drive down from New Hampshire for the dedication.
On Wednesday, I was interviewed by Ben Casselman, a reporter for the Salem News, who first broke the Bewitched statue story, and found my blog when he was researching a followup.

Casselman, a pleasant guy, seemed as amused by the attention the statue had received as I was. "I knew we had made the big time when NPR picked it up," he told me.

Link to the full Salem News story. Casselman also has an interview with one of the Tabithas.

UPDATE: The Salem News apparently doesn't archive their stories, and the links are dead. Here's Casselman's original story which, publicity hound that I am, I happily preserved. Unhappily, the Tabitha interview mentioned above has disappeared into the aether.

This link will take you to most of my previous Bewitched statue postings. Here's my top 10 reasons of "Why Sam instead of Nat" (Hawthorne) that Casselman mentions. And, here's what started it all.

Statue dedication info from the Salem News...

JOIN THE CROWD

Whether you're a "Bewitched" fan looking to join in the festivities, a bemused outsider hoping to watch, or a Salem resident looking to escape the whole thing, here's everything you need to know about Wednesday's ceremony.

When: Wednesday, June 15, at noon
Where: Lappin Park, at the corner of Washington and Essex streets in downtown Salem Speakers: Mayor Stanley Usovicz and TV Land President Larry Jones
Who else will be there: "Bewitched" actors Erin Murphy (Tabitha), Bernard Fox (Dr. Bombay) and Kasey Rogers (Louise Tate), and "Bewitched" director William Asher

I'll be the guy carrying the "Bloggers for Samantha!" sign. Stop by and say hello.

American Life in Poetry: Column 011

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Here David Wagoner, a distinguished poet living in Washington state, vividly describes a peacock courtship, and though it's a poem about birds, haven't you seen the males of other species, including ours, look every bit as puffed up, and observed the females' hilarious indifference?


Peacock Display

He approaches her, trailing his whole fortune,
Perfectly cocksure, and suddenly spreads
The huge fan of his tail for her amazement.

Each turquoise and purple, black-horned, walleyed quill
Comes quivering forward, an amphitheatric shell
For his most fortunate audience: her alone.

He plumes himself. He shakes his brassily gold
Wings and rump in a dance, lifting his claws
Stiff-legged under the great bulge of his breast.

And she strolls calmly away, pecking and pausing,
Not watching him, astonished to discover
All these seeds spread just for her in the dirt.


Reprinted from "Best of Prairie Schooner: Fiction and Poetry," University of Nebraska Press, 2001, by permission of the author, whose most recent book is Good Morning and Good Night, University of Illinois Press, 2005. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

"Calling Dr. Bombay, calling Dr. Bombay!

Emergency! Come right away!"

Actor Bernard Fox who played the doctor on ''Bewitched," will be among the three surviving cast members of the classic TV sitcom visiting Salem Wednesday for the unveiling of a 9-foot-tall bronze statue of Samantha Stephens, the twitchy-nosed witch portrayed by actess Elizabeth Montgomery, who died in 1995.

Erin Murphy, one of the twins who played baby witch Tabitha, will be on hand, along with Kasey Rogers, who played Louise Tate, wife of ad executive Larry Tate. The hit '60s and '70s sitcom shot several episodes in Salem in 1970. The statue will stand in Lappin Park in downtown Salem.

Culled from the "Celebrity News" section of the Boston Globe with various edits: They had Sam's chant for Dr. Bombay wrong. And he was not a witch doctor, but a doctor of witches. Big difference.

A little bird from Salem told me yesterday that the dedication time has been changed from 9 a.m. to noon, apparently to forestall a witchy influx. More tomorrow.

The Pod - Perfect for the Mini


I sometimes threaten Peggy with a future of our RV'ing across country, towing a trailer and flying a martini flag at our nightly trailer park site that reads,

"The Balls: Come in and have a snort"

Now I've found the perfect trailer, and I won't even have to give up the Mini. The Pod Caravan, "...so small that classics like the Mini and Morris 1000 can tow it, and yet inside is a double bed, as well as cooking and washing facilities, seating and storage." Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Bewitched Statue Watch - 7 Days and counting.

Samantha Stephens Statue Dedication 6:30 a.m.

The Salem Witches presents...
Samantha Stephens Statue Dedication

When: Jun. 15th. 2005
Where: Salem, Massachusetts
Location: Lappin Park at 230 Washington Street in Salem across from the Army Barracks and Rockafella's restaurant.
Time: 6:30am

The Salem Witches' honor their nose-twitching friend on TV! Event Details: The City of Salem welcomes Witches from across the globe for a dedication of the bronze statue of Samantha Stephens in the "Witch City" of Salem, Massachusetts! We want the world to know that the positive image of a Witch (albeit fictional) that Samantha casts is a welcome contrast to the negative (and also fictional) image of the Witch that the trials branded us with here in 1692!

Participants in a Salem Witches' welcome of the statue should be there NO later than 6:30am to ensure our proper spot right up in front! If we get enough real confirmations, we will provide coffee from Dunkin' Donuts!

We want it to be known that Witches love our TV soul sister Samantha! So, the look is witchy black, taller boots, pointy hats (or top hat in my case) , flowing capes, and magical finery. We want to show the world that Witches are alive and well in Salem, Massachusetts and around the world!

Directions: 230 Washington Street is across from The Army Barracks and Rockafella's Restaurant, in the heart of historic downtown Salem.
Link to Salem Calendar of Events

TiVo Tricks

If you own a TiVo digital video recorder, you know that this magic appliance can change the way you watch TV. But, with a little work from you, your TiVo is capable of much more. With several innocent gimmicks, you can make using TiVo even slicker.
The "tips and tricks" range from the fairly useless, like how to get TiVo to display the current time on your TV screen, to the useful 30-second skip "Select, Play, Select, 3, 0, Select" sequence.

via "news from me"

Go, go, go, said the bird:



human kind
Cannot bear very much reality. - T.S. Eliot
Four Quartets 1: Burnt Norton

***

A companion piece to yesterday's "White Ho" below, I guess, on the nature of irony.

There's an on-going debate as to whether this poster, photographed on the MARC commuter train (between Baltimore and DC), is legit or a piece of ironic guerilla art... which itself says something about the times we live in.

I had been betting on guerilla art, but after further research and discovering the British "Secure Beneath the Watchful Eyes" campaign, which looks like it came directly from the "V for Vendetta" alt universe, I'm not so sure anymore...

... which itself says something about the times we live in.

Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

And now back to Gangsta Bri










Photoshopped or typo?


From Fishbowl DC via The Huffington Post

Posted by Hello

The World's Largest Collection of Spider-Man Memorabilia...

is on the block at eBay.

An independent toy dealer priced just a few of the items included in this auction. Here are some examples:

* Page of original art from one of the 1960s comic books - $ 8,000.00 to $10,000.00
* Spider-Man cufflinks given out to Marvel executives as gifts in the late 70s- $ 200.00
* Spider-Man train set - $ 500.00
* Leopoldo Popy (the Japanese Spider-Man robot) small one-the big one -$ 800.00
* Original appearance costume from the 1970s - $ 2,000.00
* Set of plates from the defunct Marvel Mania - $ 600.00
* Waiters uniform - $ 200.00
* Bowen statue and matching set bust - bust only for the first 8 examples - $ 3,000.00
* 2 Ups – (Spider-Man Toy Prototypes) – Unknown collector value – almost never available

The collection is extremely varied. From rare comics, many posters, art, to a piñata, a bicycle, giant art ad sheets from the sides of a public bus, anything Spider-Man will be here. Before inquiring about specific items, please be sure to check the master list of items and photos.
And over here is the self-proclaimed World's Largest Spider-Man collection on-line.

via news from me

Bewitched fans everywhere you go.

From Neil Gaiman, who is looking for this...

My daughter Maddy's become a huge fan of early Bewitched (because the TIVO decided that it ought to record the black and white first season for us, and she got hooked) and I got her the new Bewitched black-and-white-and-grey maquette (see it here) as a surprise present for being a straight-A student and an utter pleasure to have around. Alas, when it arrived today one hand was broken off (and three fingers had been broken off the broken hand, which weren't even in the packing), and when we called to find out about getting it replaced, we were told that they couldn't replace it as it had been a very limited run and they were now sold out.

So if there are any shops or entities out there with an unbroken black and white Samantha Stephens maquette for sale, can you let me know through the FAQ line? You'll make a small girl extremely happy (actually, she's pretty happy anyway, as it's the arm you can't really see. But still).

Monday, June 06, 2005

More on the WPBT Live

...the turn-out for the event was tremendous, from Canada to Texas, from LA to New York the poker bloggers came. After Bill Rini captured the most coveted honor in all of pokerdom and the blogosphere the party sauntered down to the La Salsa where our most esteemed dignitary, Al Can't Hang had arranged a reception for the scribes...
Link to full article

I'm still trying to find a report on how the three (or was it four?) bloggers did in Event #2 of the WSOP. Strangely, can't find a mention anywhere, so far, although I suspect the majority of bloggers are still nursing hangovers.

Penn Jillette names daughter, "Moxie Crimefighter"

Another headline that speaks for itself.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

2005 WSOP Event #2

A group of influential poker bloggers was seen on the tournament floor watching one of their own, Otis of Up for Poker, compete in the tournament. Dr. Pauly of Tao of Poker and his younger brother, Derek, made the trip from New York, Maudie from Poker Perspective came from Oklahoma and other bloggers from around the country have gathered here in Las Vegas. Their presence is three fold; the annual Poker Blogger Convention, a Blogger tournament on Saturday at the Aladdin Hotel's poker room scheduled for 10:00 am and, of course, the World Series of Poker. These people are real poker bloggers that have been writing their thoughts about the sport even before it was the fashionable thing to do, way back when only a few knew what a blogger was. This group even puts hyperlinks into their offerings, how's that for authenticity?
via Las Vegas and Poker Blog

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Bewitched BoingBoinged

I suppose I should be proud of myself that I got the jump on one of my favorite sources, for a change.

BoingBoing, being BoingBoing, tried to put a Wiccan spin on the statue controversy, but as a reader pointed out:

I live in Salem, and I am not Wiccan... but this isn't really a Wiccan issue, it is a community one. There are residents in Salem (Wiccan and not) who are on both sides of this fence. Basically the mayor took the money and said "hey great idea" without asking anyone else, some people are pissed, some are excited, just as it would be with any town and any statue. They have already started construction for the nine foot statue on the site at Washington and Essex streets where they will place the statue sometime this month...
Link to Salem Message Board

Friday, June 03, 2005

I showed Cinderella my big sword.

Disney's Virtual Magic Kingdom, a web-based online multiuser environment currently running in Beta, is taking a lot of grief from the blogging community... justified or nor, I dunno, as I've no interest in downloading and installing the software, and the avatars look creepy anyway.

Tony Walsh at Clickable Culture notes,

"Because the Disney experience is supposed to be kid friendly, interpersonal communication is limited to a pre-approved vocabulary, so words such as "rebellion," "love," "obey," and "usurp" are just not allowed. In the interest of making the Virtual Magic Kingdom a more believable place, I've compiled a list of handy phrases that get past the sanitization filter..."

Some of my favorites from Tony's list include:

Hats are not allowed.
I hate everyone.
I showed Cinderella my big sword.
Grab my long staff and pull.
Lean over and I'll hit your bottom.
Hug my magic lantern and you'll win a prize!
It's only fun and games when someone loses an eye.
I will curse you all, I promise.
Everything around here smells bad.
My foot got stuck between boats on this ride, and was badly hurt.
Bring out your dead.

Cube of creation

Scientists have recreated a vast segment of the universe inside a computer and written a brief history of time, black holes and galaxy formation.

Prof Frenk said: "We programmed the biggest computer in Europe with these ingredients and the laws of physics and we just let it compute a universe. We let it churn away - in fact we shut down all science in Germany, we excluded all German science for a month while this very large machine ground away - and at the end we got this beautiful universe, which for all intents and purposes looks like the real thing.
Link. Link to the Virgo Consortium

Girls don't go to Motoramas dressed in a pair of pink pajamas


Back when I worked in corporate communications, I once gravely insulted a group of video producers by referring to their work as an "industrial," a term I found had fallen out of favor. "Business video" seemed to be much preferred.

Here's a truly bizarre industrial film from the `50s, "Design for Dreaming," which has elements of a Doris Day movie, a Bollywood epic, and a Disney ride all rolled into one.

They don't make them like this anymore, although I would love to pitch a client with the idea, just to see their reaction.

Posted by Hello

Make your selection. No nickel required.

Old meets new at Turtle's 78 RPM Jukebox.

"Porn Princess" taking Party Poker Public

In 1998 a California porn princess commissioned a 25-year-old Indian computer wiz to write a piece of software. Trained as a lawyer, Ruth Parasol had made a small fortune in online pornography after starting, according to legend, with a couple of sex phone lines given to her by her father as an unorthodox teenage birthday present.
Link to full article

Thursday, June 02, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 010

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

The poet and novelist Marge Piercy has a gift for writing about nature. In this poem, springtime has a nearly overwhelming and contagious energy, capturing the action-filled drama of spring.

More Than Enough

The first lily of June opens its red mouth.
All over the sand road where we walk
multiflora rose climbs trees cascading
white or pink blossoms, simple, intense
the scene drifting like colored mist.

The arrowhead is spreading its creamy
clumps of flower and the blackberries
are blooming in the thickets. Season of
joy for the bee. The green will never
again be so green, so purely and lushly

new, grass lifting its wheaty seedheads
into the wind. Rich fresh wine
of June, we stagger into you smeared
with pollen, overcome as the turtle
laying her eggs in roadside sand.


Marge Piercy's latest book of poetry is "Colors Passing Through Us" (Knopf, 2003); her new novel "Sex Wars" (Morrow/Harper Collins) will be out in December. Poem copyright 2003 by Marge Piercy and reprinted from The Paterson Literary Review with permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Deep Throat blog

In what can be seen as a sign of the times, The Washingon Post - whose motto today could be "All Throat, All the Time," has launched a yes, "Deep Throat blog."

Song of the Business Writer

Here I Sit and Write,

Pointless Drabble, I Create,

But It Pays My Bills
.

Some Maximizers have learned to channel their creative frustration into art.

Rated Rookie, an independent magazine, published "Haiku Hell," a lament by someone using the pen name "Abby Reynolds" who claimed to be a Maximizer.

Google is one of the world's great companies, she wrote; she loves the pay, the free Odwalla bars and Snapple and the lava lamp on her desk. But she didn't expect to make it through 11 rounds of interviews only to spend most of her time staring at spreadsheets.

"With the character limits and strict editorial guidelines, I find myself swimming in a sea of 'Buy Now!,' 'Learn More' and 'Get Info Here,' " she wrote. "Creative it is not."
Link to the article on Google "Maximizers,' part of Google's in-house advertising agency.

via John Battelle's Searchblog

Where is Dr. Gonzo when you need him?

If anything could have made Hunter Thompson have second thoughts about committing suicide, it would probably have been not wanting to miss out on yesterday's revelation about Deep Throat.

Since the Post confirmed the story, characters from the `70s - including Chuck Colson and Patrick Buchanan - have been boiling out into the media like cottonmouths maddened from one too many Mississippi floods.

Buchanan was all but frothing at the mouth on the Today Show this morning, claiming that the F.B.I. had a file on everyone (which was probably too close to the truth in the early `70s) and would the liberals had liked it if Hoover had released what he had on Kennedy, huh, huh? When he wasn't spewing invective at Mark Felt, Buchanan launched the unlikely insult that Woodward and Bernstein were nothing more than transcriptionists.

As one would expect, "The Huffington Post" has its own spin on things, including a pretty good article by Nora Ephron ("Bewitched" connection there), once married to Carl Bernstein, that she had figured out it was Felt long ago, and you shoulda too. Paul Krassner, who I would put money on in a death match against Pat Buchanan, does the time warp and comes up with a twisty conspiracy theory that tries to tie together Watergate, the murder of Ruben Salazar, and the Pentagon Papers into one neat package.

Who needs Tells?

One of my favorite "gambling" books is Thomas Bass', "The Eudaemonic Pie," the true, if hard to believe, story of a group of California hackers who built a shoe-based computer/communications system for predicting where the spinning ball on a roulette wheel would end up. And it worked.

If not quite as good, another fun read in the same vein is Ben Mezrich's "Bringing Down the House" about a team of card-counting M.I.T. students who reputedly took the Vegas casinos for millions until shut down.

Now, researchers from Stanford University and Cornell University have put together a camera system that can read a playing card facing away from the camera by analyzing the way projected patterns of light bounce off the card.

via BoingBoing

Smoookkkinnnng....

Put down that keyboard already. I gave up cigarettes four years ago, and I'm not advocating smoking. I do smoke the occasional ceegar, yes, but privately, among friends, and I ain't advocating that either. But this exchange from an English literary festival between a snappish commentator and an audience member made me LOL...



Female audience member Excuse me. I'm not usually awkward at all but I'm sitting here and we're asked not to smoke. And I don't like being in a room where smoking is going on.

CH (smoking heavily): Well you don't have to stay darling, do you? I'm working here and I'm your guest, OK? And this is what I'm like; nobody has to like it.

IK Would you just stub that one out?

CH No. I cleared it with the festival a long time ago. They let me do it.

FAM We should all be allowed to smoke then.

CH Fair enough. I wouldn't object. It might get pretty nasty though. I have a privileged position here, I'm not just one of the audience, so it would be horrible if everyone was like me. This is my last of five gigs, I've worked very hard for the festival. I'm going from here to Heathrow airport. If anyone doesn't like it they can kiss my ass.

IK Would anyone like to take up that challenge?

(Laughter. Woman walks out)


via Neil Gaiman

Bewitched statue watch - Week 4

Point: "Why not ask Hustler magazine to sponsor a statue of Hester Prynne which could celebrate the joys of adultery?" wrote one resident who objected to the Samantha statue.

Counter-point: "A bunch of people were complaining, but I'm like, 'It's a statue, it's cute, get over it,' " Kalgren said.
Link to full article