Thursday, August 25, 2005

Fall break


fhb is taking a much-needed vacay for the next couple of weeks.
Check back after Labor Day!

Good guys and bad guys

We live in a world of fantasy where Disney has won, the fantasy of Disney. It's all fantasy. That's why I think that if a writer has something to say he should say it at all costs. The world is real. - Bob Dylan

I don't usually do politics in fhb, but watching Iraq play out like some waking nightmare of Vietnam is getting me a little crazier each day, sometimes making me wonder whether the world is real, or just a mass fantasy.

Jeff Jacoby has a particularly annoying column in today's Boston Globe where, among other things, he writes...

'When I was in Vietnam," retired Army Colonel Jack Jacobs, a 1969 Medal of Honor recipient who had just returned from a fact-finding trip to the Sunni Triangle, told NBC News in May, ''if you asked anybody what he wanted more than anything else in the world, he'd say: to go home. We asked . . . hundreds of soldiers, low-ranking soldiers, in both Afghanistan and Iraq . . . the same question. And the response, to a man and a woman, was, 'To kill bad guys.' . . .
... which, when I read that last line, gave me a strong need for bull shit protectors for the eyes. I have no knowledge of Col. Jacobs past the bio I linked to, but with all due respect for the Colonel and his obvious past bravery, sir, if he really believes that garbage, it makes me very happy to have missed serving under him.

Anyone who has ever been in the Service knows the "to kill bad guys" rhetoric is complete, stupid, comic book gung-ho nonsense that drill sergeants - at least the smart ones - spend much time kicking out of recruit's heads during basic training and AIT. The primary aim of any soldier in any war, from Normandy to Vietnam to Iraq, all the way back to Caesar's legionnaires in Gaul, is to make it out alive and in one piece while attempting to execute whatever s/he has been ordered to do by people like the good Colonel. Not "kill bad guys." Killing bad guys that might be in your way may be the best way of accomplishing your mission, but is, at best, a sub-routine, not a prime directive. At least for those of us interested in staying alive and with, as the Salinger line goes, all our faculties intact.

Jacoby goes on to note that, "...['Today" show's Matt Lauer] tried valiantly to coax some Vietnam-style disillusionment out of the soldiers he met, but as NBC's transcript makes clear, the troops weren't having any of that..."

I saw that interview too, and Jacoby is essentially right, although don't you wonder how those spit-polished troops, almost all of whom who had something to say seeming to be R.A. officers, got in front of Lauer? One wonders whether a troop out in the field, uncontrolled by Army P.R. would have had the same enthusiasm for the ubiquitous "mission."

But who knows? Maybe they would. Certainly Service morale is higher in an all-volunteer Army than one composed of draftees. Back in my day, 48 percent of the manpower in the Army was either drafted or, as the saying used to be, "draft-motivated," and many of us, were not, ah, particularly happy with that fact. The fastest way to end the Iraq war would be to restart the draft, but if it comes to that, we're all going to be in deep shit.

Jacoby's title for his column, "Iraq is no Vietnam," is right too. At least for right now. But in a comparison to Vietnam, we're still in the early days in Iraq, in maybe around the 1964-65 period, where most Americans still probably couldn't have located Vietnam on a map, and troop morale was still high. There were gung-ho troops in Vietnam too in those days ... but many of them were gone, or dead, or disillusioned by 1968, having discovered that in the minds of the Viet Cong, they were the bad guys.

Iraq is no Vietnam. Not yet. We'll see what it is, and what troop morale is like then, if we're still there in three or four more years. And maybe by then, if I'm wrong and the Colonel is right and "killing bad guys" is really the troop mindset of today's Army, we should start thinking about restarting the draft. Getting a few less-than-gung-ho troops into the mix might not be all that bad an idea.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tested on political speeches, business presentations, sales calls, ad infinitum


Bill Moyer, 73, wears a “B.S. Protector” flap while President Bush addresses the Veterans of Foreign Wars at their 106th convention Monday in Salt Lake City. Moyer served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

Link to story

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 021

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

How many of us, alone at a grave or coming upon the site of some remembered event, find ourselves speaking to a friend or loved one who has died? In this poem by Karin Gottshall the speaker addresses someone's ashes as she casts them from a bridge. I like the way the ashes take on new life as they merge with the wind.


The Ashes

You were carried here by hands
and now the wind has you, gritty
as incense, dark sparkles borne

in the shape of blowing,
this great atmospheric bloom,
spinning under the bridge and expanding—

shape of wind and its pattern
of shattering. Having sloughed off
the urn's temporary shape,

there is another of you now—
tell me which to speak to:
the one you were, or are, the one who waited

in the ashes for this scattering, or the one
now added to the already haunted woods,
the woods that sigh and shift their leaves—

where your mystery billows, then breathes.

Karin Gottshall works at the Middlebury College library in Vermont. This poem first appeared in "Tar River Poetry", Vol. 44, No. 1, Fall, 2004. Reprinted by permission of the author. Poem copyright © 2004 by Karin Gottshall. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Happy Birthday, Jill!

Today is Tuesday, August 23, the 230th day of 2005. There are 130 days left in the year.

Among other notables, today is the birthday of actresses Barbara Eden and Shelly Long, and of poet Edgar Lee Masters, best-remembered today for The Spoon River Anthology.

On this day in 1926, Rudolph Valentino died at age 31 after surgery for a perforated ulcer. The actor's death provoked a hysterical outpouring of grief among women around the country. Tens of thousands of fans swarmed the Campbell Funeral home two days later, and public viewing of the body was cut short to control the mob.

Movie studios shut down on September 7 for Valentino's funeral, the first time studios closed their doors for the death of an actor.


And today is the birthday of my buddy, Jill Saigusa. I "met" Jill a couple of years ago when we were both taking an online writing course. Coincidentally, both of us saw the same advertisement in a now-defunct magazine, and coincidentally, both of us were trying to get back into the writing life after several years of lying fallow. That was about all a just-again-pregnant Texan with a 3-year-old and I seemed to have in common, but we quickly formed a close email friendship, and even eventually got to meet in person. And the friendship remains, not least thanks to our respective spouses allowing it to (Thanks, Peggy! Thanks Mak!).

Jill would probably make a pretty good blogger, but life gets in her way. As well as taking care of Johnny Mak his bro, Jack and their father Mak, and running a household filled with critters, she's also recently secured a freelance writing gig and is churning away articles on everything from the Texas rose industry to a new ultrasound machine at the local hospital at a rapid pace.

She's a good writer, and I figured she was going to need someplace to showcase her growing portfolio, so for her birthday, I secured her her very own domain and hacked - sometimes literally - a site together for her. She also gets me as half-assed Webmaster, at least for a year. After that she's on her own.

So go and visit. Some good stuff is at Jillbo.com, and more will be coming when Jill can get around to sending it and I can get around to posting it.

Yesterday was Jill's son Johnny's first day at kindergarten, and yesterday morning I found an email in my inbox sent at 2 a.m. Texas time from a concerned Jill who was up pawing through his already-packed backpack to see if she had forgotten anything, and worrying about whether he could handle his $1.50 lunch money on his own. So I sent her the sticker below to use in case of emergency:

Monday, August 22, 2005

Listening to the man

One of our faithful correspondents writes,

If you could only have one Dylan compilation, what would it be?

I'll change the rules a bit. If I were stuck on the infamous desert island with nothing but Peg's iPod and one Dylan playlist set on shuffle, here's what it would have...

From "Guitars Kissing and the Contemporary Fix" (Soundcheck version) 2-CD set.

Original Scorpio Bootleg -- Free Trade Hall (Manchester, UK); May 17, 1966

Track List

Disc One (solo)

  1. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues (soundcheck)
  2. She Belongs To Me
  3. Fourth Time Around
  4. Visions Of Johanna
  5. It's All Over Now Baby Blue
  6. Desolation Row
  7. Just Like A Woman
  8. Mr. Tambourine Man

Disc Two (w/ the Hawks)

  1. Tell Me Momma
  2. I Don't Believe You
  3. Baby Let Me Follow You Down
  4. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
  5. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
  6. One Too Many Mornings
  7. Ballad Of A Thin Man
  8. Like A Rolling Stone

Comments:

This is, of course the infamous "Judas" concert that took place at the Manchester (England) Free Trade Hall on May 17, 1966. Many bootlegs of this concert have been misattributed to Royal Albert Hall (May 26-27, 1966), aka "RAH". At one time probably the most essential Dylan bootleg (in my and many other collectors' opinions), it's become an item only for the completist with the release of the official "Live 66" set.

The first boot I ever owned (bought in 1970!) was a vinyl 2-record set called "Zimmerman: Looking Back." The electric set - with the absence of the soundcheck - was this one, misattributed to RAH, and as I later found out, the acoustic set was also misattributed as recorded at the Berkeley Community Theatre. Portions of the acoustic set were actually from the `63 Town Hall concert and the remainder from a Dublin `66 concert, relate the completist Dylan geek.

I picked up my copy of "Guitars" in San Francisco 27 years later. This is the so-called "enhanced" version, with the sound mix reportedly improved over the original "Guitars" release, and the addition of a new track, the "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" soundcheck. As opposed to "Looking Back", the acoustic set is actually from the Manchester concert.

I listened to "Looking Back" so many time over the years that now hearing the acoustic set of either "Guitars" or the official release weirds me out, as I expect "Ramblin' Through the World" to open, and "Visions of Johanna" doesn't sound right without the drop-out I expect at the song's beginning.

Jesus, memories. "Looking Back" is a good title for reminisces. I picked up "Looking Back" in Westwood, CA from a pair of hippie street vendors, a guy and chick who had a little baby sitting on the blanket amidst the various paraphernalia they were selling. There was something wrong with one of the baby's eyes and it was wearing a medical eye-patch. Being the fool that I was, I thought it was all great and free and wonderful. My girlfriend Maggie, who at 16 was decades more mature than me, thought they were sad and frightening. Looking back from age 52, I think she was probably right. At least more right than I was.

It was the second Dylan album I owned, and made me a hard-core Dylan fan. I took it with me in `71 when I went see Maggie at Cornell University where she was attending a summer session. She had asked that I bring it along so one of her friends could hear it, a guy who Maggie confessed had engaged her in a heavy necking session and had gotten her shirt off (what's that, around second base?). As it turned out, I don't think I ever saw him the entire time I was at Cornell, let alone loan him the album. He later wrote Maggie a bizarre letter filled with Dylan quotes.

I sold "Looking Back" in the early `90s when my wife and I bought a CD player and I packed away the turntable. I made more money from that one boot alone than I did from the several hundred other albums I sold at the same time.

Maggie and I were already on the downhill slope when I visited her at Cornell, although our relationship would drag on until the Fall of `72, progressively becoming more and more poisoned. My fault, though looking at it from the 52-year-old's perspective, Maggie was in many ways the stereotypical spoiled Jewish American Princess who wasn't prepared to cope with an increasingly bizarre boyfriend.

Two Maggie stories. When she was around 6 or 7, she was on one those local "Bozo"-like kid's TV show for her birthday, where she was given a ton of toys by all her friends. After the show ended, her mother made Maggie give all the presents back. Turned out Maggie's parents had actually bought all the stuff, and then decided that it was too much for her to keep.

Maggie's parents were Europeans, her mother a Holocaust survivor. Both had heavy accents, and were concerned after she was born that Maggie wouldn't speak English properly. So they hired her a nanny to ensure her English would be accentless. Years later I realized that those two stories Maggie had told me perfectly described our relationship, her relationship with her parents, and even my relationship with her parents.

At the end, I think she was relieved that she was getting away from me. She was moving on with her life. I seemed to be stuck in an inescapable circle. I was an unhappy, scared, frustrated kid with no idea what to do with my life, and could find no adults willing to provide help or advice. Looking back now, I really believe I would have been diagnosed with clinical depression if a professional had examined me. I'm sometimes amazed that I survived those 18 months at all, let alone turned my life around. And, of course, I did it in the most ironic way possible, by going into the Army, kicking and screaming after hiding from the draft for over a year.

***

During the electric set the audience continuously murmurs like an angry sea, the sound roiling over the band's endless tune-ups. The tension is so powerful that you can feel it, even now, 39 years later. A round of rhythmic clapping is answered by Dylan mumbling into the microphone until the crowd quiets and he says, " ... and I just wish you wouldn't' clap so loud."

The music is furious, direct, bitter. It's perfect, like ice.

"Ballad of a Thin Man" ends, greeted with not more than polite applause, as all the songs were. A shout from the crowd. Laughter. Boos. Then a clear voice.

"Judas!"

More laughter. Something is tossed on stage. "Pick up your silver!" a voice calls.

You can hear Robbie Robertson laugh. "Go ahead, pick it up," he says.

Dylan looks out into the sea of faces and plays a chord. "I don't believe you," he answers. And then, more strongly, as the other instruments come in, "You're a liar!"

He turns to the Hawks. "Get fucking loud," he hisses furiously, and "Like a Rolling Stone" explodes.

Everything ends. Everything begins.

***

From "Partners -- Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash"*

*aka "Dylan & Cash Sessions"

Track List

  1. One Too Many Mornings
  2. Mountain Dew
  3. I Still Miss Someone
  4. Careless Love
  5. Matchbox
  6. That's Alright, Mama
  7. Big River
  8. Girl From The North Country
  9. I Walk The Line
  10. You Are My Sunshine
  11. Ring Of Fire
  12. Guess Things Happen That Way
  13. Just A Closer Walk With Thee
  14. Blue Yodel # 4
  15. Blue Yodel # 5
  16. I Threw It All Away Live, The Johnny Cash Show ' 69
  17. Living The Blues Live, The Johnny Cash Show ' 69
  18. Girl From The North Country Johnny Cash Show-duet w/Cash, J. Cash Show ' 69
  19. Nashville Skyline Rag Nashville Skyline quad mix
  20. I Threw It All Away Same as track 19
  21. Peggy Day Same as track 19
  22. Country Pie Same as track 19
  23. Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You Same as track 19

Comments

A mixed bag in more ways than one, and I would probably - unlike almost everything else I've listed - cull out some of the tracks for my Dylan compilation playlist.

This would have probably been better named the Cash & Dylan sessions, as Cash takes the lead in the duets, with Dylan sounding unusually tentative and uncomfortable, especially on songs where he appears to be learning the lyrics on the fly. Listen to Dylan trying to guess the next word in "Just a Closer Walk With Thee", a song that Cash probably first sang some Sunday morning as a child, but that apparently was seldom heard in the Minnesota synagogues. It doesn't help that harmonizing has never been a Dylan strength.

And yet there's also much to enjoy here. When they do Dylan songs ("play Bob Dylan music," a voice calls out in my head), you're listening to a different man, using the self-assured "Nashville Skyline" voice. There are a few duets that work. "Ring of Fire" is about as good as that song gets without the mariachi horn backup. The "Blue Yodels" are funny, with Cash exhorting Dylan on (you expect to hear him introduce `Yodeling Bob Dylan', at any point), and Dylan, after giving it his best shot, saying "I'm not going to yodel anymore." And there's the added benefit of Carl Perkins guitar backing on a few tracks.


***

From "Folksinger's Choice"

Cynthia Gooding Radio Show (New York, NY); February(?) 1962

1. Lonesome Whistle Blues
2. Fixin' To Die
3. Smokestack Lightning
4. Hard Travelin'
5. Death Of Emmett Till
6. Standing On the Highway
7.Roll on John
8. Stealin'
9. Long Time Man Feel Bad
10. Baby Please Don't Go
11. Hard Times in New York

The early Bob Dylan always makes me grin, and this one had me feeling like a Cheshire Cat throughout an hour-long drive the first time I heard it. An added bonus is the between songs chatter. Gooding seems enthralled by Dylan, proclaiming "Death of Emmett Till" as one of the greatest contemporary ballads ever written, and enraptured with Dylan's stories of his carnival life, which he apparently took up at the age of six.

If you've every wondered what the young Dylan in New York was like after reading one of the biographies, this is the one for you. Highly recommended. There are unconfirmed reports that some or all of the Gooding interview may finally be officially released as a bonus disc to the forthcoming "Dylan bundle" being offered by Sony Music.

***

From The Rome Interviews 1 & The Rome Interviews 2

Anyone who thinks Dylan is an inarticulate mumbler should listen to this nearly 2-hour long interview conducted by a group of European reporters in July 2001. A thoughtful Dylan on subjects ranging from past to future...

We live in a world of fantasy where Disney has won, the fantasy of Disney. It's all fantasy. That's why I think that if a writer has something to say he should say it at all costs. The world is real.

***

From "Blood on the Tracks: New York Sessions"

    1. Tangled Up In Blue
    2. Simple Twist Of Fate
    3. You're A Big Girl Now
    4. Idiot Wind
    5. You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
    6. Meet Me In The Morning
    7. Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts
    8. If You See Her Say Hello
    9. Shelter From The Storm
    10. Buckets Of Rain

The original as it was meant to be heard. A message from some alternate universe. And one of my all-time favorites. Possibly the last Dylan album where I had an epiphany - without even drugs - while listening to it. "Some are carpenter's wives"?

***

From Peco's [sic] Blues

Tracks:
Mexico City:
Billy
Billy2
Turkey
Tom Turkey
Billy Surrenders
And He's Killed Me Too
Good-bye Holly
Pecos Blues
Pecos Blues
Billy
Burbank:
Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Sweet Amarillo
Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Final Theme
Final Theme
Rock Me Mama
Rock Me Mama2
Billy-7 1
Billy-7 2
Instrumental
instrumental
Final Theme
Final Theme

One of the most underappreciated albums in the Dylan canon is the soundtrack from "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid," almost all-but-forgotten if not for "Knocking on Heaven's Door," which has become something of a war horse to be trotted out in concerts.

These are the outtakes from the two recording sessions that produced the album. As with Partners, I'd probably edit this one down, but there are lots of nice instrumentals that never made it to the finished album, "Call this, ah 'Tom Turkey'," plus an insiders look - or listen - of what goes on during a Dylan recording session.

Amazon getting into the publishing business


Amazon seems to be trying out new lines of business almost as much as Google. Rumors float through the aether that Amazon will soon be offering DVD rentals a la Netflix, and now comes Amazon Shorts, underwear for the literati.

Sorry, couldn't resist. Photo via "Six Inch Heel" which doesn't have anything to do with Amazon Shorts as far as I know. Anyway it says here,

Amazon Shorts are never-before-seen short works from a wide variety of well-known authors, available only on Amazon.com. Try a new genre or a new author--there's something for everyone. Amazon Shorts are:
  • New short-form literature from top authors for only 49 cents
  • Delivered electronically; there are no printed editions
  • Yours forever after purchase; save or print and read at your convenience

John Scalzi has a detailed review of AS on his blog, including the scoop on how authors get paid. Interesting idea. Something to watch to see if it pans out. Submission guidelines are here. Note that Amazon is deliberately setting this up for established authors with a ready audience, not the vanity press folks. Think Neil Gaiman or Stephen King.

The lady vanishes... and is found


I seem to be on a Brit kick today. Over the weekend, I read an overheated article in The Independent on Madeleine Peyroux's reported "disappearance," and of her record company hiring a P.I. (shades of Johnny Dann) to track her down. The BBC News reported today that Peyroux was quickly tracked to New York.

Bill Holland of Universal Classics and Jazz said, "Much to our embarrassment she was with her manager in New York." She doesn't want to see anyone or do any promotion," he told BBC One's Breakfast, adding that he was "fed up" with her behavior.

Mr. Holland can bite me. Do what you need to do, MP.

And the swan on the river went gliding by.

Four songs recorded by Dylan for his performance as a hobo guitarist in the BBC drama The Madhouse on Castle Street in 1963 have been rediscovered, according to this article in The Independent.

Among the songs, according to the article, is a version of "Blowin' in the Wind," months before it appeared on vinyl, and three songs that Dylan never recorded again.

The lyrics to one of those songs, "The Ballad of the Gliding Swan," are thought to have been written by the play's author, Evan Jones, but Dylan made his own additions. The other songs are the traditional "The Cuckoo" and "Hang Me Oh Hang Me."

The BBC and will broadcast the songs next month in a documentary for BBC4, Dylan in the Madhouse, as part of a season of programmes about Dylan. Producers are still trying to find any footage of the broadcast, according to the article.

THE BALLAD OF THE GLIDING SWAN

Tenderly William kissed his wife.

Then he opened her head with a butcher's knife.

And the swan on the river went gliding by.

Lady Margaret's pillow was wet with tears.

Nobody's been on it in twenty years.

And the swan on the river goes gliding by.

The swan on the river goes gliding by.

Little Billy Brown will shake with fright.

He's got a new daddy and mommy every night.

And the swan on the river goes laughing by.

The swan on the river goes laughing by.

"I've got a sad surprise" the doctor said.

"A twenty-pound baby without any head."

The swan on the river went lookin' ...


Not with a whimper, but with a bang


via the BBC

The ashes of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson have been blown into the sky from a cannon in Aspen, Colorado.

Friends and admirers had gathered for the event at the writer's US home, six months after he shot himself there.

His ashes were fired from a 150ft tower topped by a red fist with two thumbs - the symbol of Thompson's free-wheeling, first-person gonzo journalism.

Related stories

Friday, August 19, 2005

Girder

Poem: "Girder" by Nan Cohen, from Rope Bridge. © Cherry Grove Collection.

Girder

The simplest of bridges, a promise
that you will go forward,

that you can come back.
So you cross over.

It says you can come back.
So you go forward.

But even if you come back
then you must go forward.

I am always either going back
or coming forward. There is always

something I have to carry,
something I leave behind.

I am a figure in a logic problem,
standing on one shore

with the things I cannot leave,
looking across at what I cannot have.

via "The Writer's Almanac"

Thursday, August 18, 2005

"Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink,"


Ah, yes. Me I was happy with a Moxie, but times are tough. Cover J&J's eyes, Jill.

The Japan Times reports:

Kidsbeer, a nonalcoholic brew aimed at children, is catching on with young drinkers and is posting monthly shipments of 75,000 bottles, according to maker Tomomasu Co.

The beverage, one of whose ingredients is the Latin American plant guarana, sells for around 380 yen per 330-milliliter bottle. The bottles themselves are colored brown to make the drink look even more like its more potent counterpart, the company said.

The drink started out as Guarana, a cola beverage that used to be sold at the Shitamachi-ya restaurant in Fukuoka, run by 39-year-old Yuichi Asaba.

Asaba renamed the sweet carbonated drink Kidsbeer, a move that made it an instant hit.

Always there is a risk, a gamble, hard choices to make.

"Hailstorm, 1965" by Twyla Hansen, from Potato Soup. © The Backwaters Press.



Hailstorm, 1965

Q: What is the largest hailstone in the US?
A: There have been six reports of hailstones eight inches in diameter.

-The Weather Channel

It was the summer I turned sixteen, one brother
was soon to be married and we'd sold the farm.
I remember wanting desperately to be kissed.

Everything wavered on some kind of edge, elm trees
a graceful dome over the dusty streets. Nothing to warn,
only cumulonimbus clouds in the afternoon, intense up—

drafts, sky hazed sulfur-green, hail starting as crystalline
seeds that grew to marble-size, geometrically then,
to the size of softballs, clattering heavy against metal,

wood, glass, against the only small world we knew.
All the west windows in the high school, every roof,
field corn stripped down to stubs, lives shattered

that day by crop failure, gouges, even holes in the ground.
There had never been any guarantee. Always there is
a risk, a gamble, hard choices to make. My oldest brother

and I scooped out stones that ripped through
the ragtop of his '62 Impala. I can't imagine hail the size
of a melon. Somehow that day I sensed that youth

had dissipated, that through the vapor of downed leaves
and broken branches, there would always be another crisis,
and another close call, and yet there was something more out there

circling, the open road where I drove west—my oldest brother dozing
in the passenger's seat, my learners permit in tow—eighty on I-90
toward Missoula, toward the end of what we know now as innocence.

via "The Writer's Almanac"

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cat House


No, not the HBO series, although I watch that, too. Iggy takes a semi-breather from the tables and posts...

For my wife's past birthday, I asked her what she wanted. Not overly romantic, I concede, but with a horse person, you need specifics before buying. Horse thingies are expensive, damnit.

Di was still stinging with the loss of Monty the cat. So she told me her crazy idea - she wanted to build an outdoor area for our other cats, since they were now not allowed to go outside. A crime considering the property we live on.

All she wanted was for me to purchase all of the building material. Which I did.

It's pretty funny - before running this horse farm, my wife was a Purdue grad and industrial engineer at GE. Seems like another lifetime ago, which it actually is.

So I had no doubts that she'd whip up this tribute to Monty in no time. And she did. It measures 16 feet by 16 feet and is 8 feet tall and is attached to the house further to the left - they have a little cat door to come in and out of.
Pet postings, Iggy. Why, the next thing you know you'll be posting poetry.

The blogfather goes on to note that one of their cats, Eddie, has just been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - heart disease, which our frowning cat to the right Curly Lasagna, familiarly known here as "Kittenish" (I know, I know, so itsie-bitsie cutums, ain't it) also suffers from.

The Curl is 13 14 years old, whupped another chipmunk's ass a few days ago, and regularly wrestles down the Bear - who is double his weight - each morning at 4:30 a.m. He was diagnosed with HCM a couple of years ago. We had him on medication for awhile, but Curl is his own cat (actually he was Speedy Tomato's - the cat we lost several years back - cat), and fought being medicated literally tooth-'n-nail. He got to the point where he would hide until Peggy went to work in the morning, knowing that it took two of us to give him his pills. So we talked it over, and decided a happy sick cat was better than an unhappy sick cat; and told his vet we had decided to let Curl live out his life as he will.

About the only way you can tell Kittenish has the bum ticker is that he breathes a little more heavily, he sleeps a little more, and that his jumper sometimes goes on the blink. But as Iggy writes,
HCM may worsen quickly over a period of months; it may progress slowly over several years; its severity may not change for some years and then suddenly worsen -- or it may not. Some cats with HCM may die very suddenly even though they seemed healthy only moments before.
The vet said to enjoy Curl while we still have him. And we do. Every day.

If Di ever wants to go into the cat house construction business, Iggy, I've got a commission for her in New Hampshire. Yesterday afternoon, Kittenish was asleep in his outdoor box, I was reading on the back porch, when Bear, who we keep on a dog harness and staked leash when he's out, suddenly swarmed up the steps and huddled between my legs. I looked up to see a small coyote pup crossing the yard.

I'll be doing my usual peeing around the perimeter for the next few days; which has successfully warned off fishers and foxes. We'll see if I can convince the coyote that his path best leads elsewhere. But in the meantime, I could use an outdoor cat house.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Outlaw poetry

The title is a description, not a directive, although apparently not everyone would agree with me.

Occassionaly fhb gets a flurry of an unusual number of hits, usually meaning that someone has linked to me. That happened again last week, and when I tracked down the origin, I found that one of the writers at "Reason Online" had posted the following short blurb in their "Hit and Run" column.

Where the Censors Are Strong, the Good Looking Women Are Covered Up, and the Above Average Children Kept Away From Poetry

Via Romenesko comes this story about a Kentucky radio station that felt, in this age of an obscenity-obsessed FCC, it had to pull a potentially offensive radio program. The program? Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac. The problem? Well, you can read the offending three poems and see for yourself (or go to the Writers Almanac site and hear Keillor reading them if you poke through the archives). About as anodyne a set of poems as you could dig up without stooping to Kilmer. The station manager was doubtless overreacting—it's hard to imagine even the touchiest listener complaining about this stuff—but is this really what we've come to?

The link in the word "poems" is to my posting of Amber Sumrall's "Reunion," which is in her collection, "Litany of Wings," which you can buy from Amazon if you follow the link. The phrase, "getting high," was apparently the offending part of Sumrall's poem in the eyes (or ears) of the Kentucky station, as was the word "breast," in the other two poems.

I have mixed feelings about posting poetry not in the public domain. I'm a semi-practicing writer myself, and I'm probably more sensitive about copyright/use issues than the average Bear. On the other hand, Keillor and "The Writer's Almanac" are already distributing the works on the internet, albeit with copyright and "permission granted" notices.

It finally comes down to the more widely poetry is distributed and read, the better, in my opinion. Poetry, as the story above demonstrates, is subversive stuff, which I've known since I first read Herrick's ode to free-swinging tits, "Upon Julia's Clothes,"
Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.
Next, when I cast mine eyes, and see
That brave vibration each way free;
O how that glittering taketh me!
"Brave vibration each way free"? God knows where that one might lead in Kentucky. Christ, Field and Donald Justice only wrote the word in their poems, not speculate on how they move.

Anyway, I salve my twinging conscience by carefully noting copyright and, when the opportunity presents, a link to where you can buy the work -- something that neither "The Writers Almanac" nor "American Life in Poetry" does, btw.

And finally, an: UPDATE: KEILLOR RETURNS TO WUKY:Contrary to the claim in the original news story that reaction had been minimal , the cancellation was reversed after listeners flooded the station's phone lines and e-mail inboxes. "It's been an impressive response," says Godell. (You can read Keillor's comments here.)

Monday, August 15, 2005

The game that wasn't there

As I was sitting in the rain,
I watched a game that wasn't played.
It wasn't played again that day...
So Peg and I went away.


Peggy and I kinda went to the ball game yesterday, although the game we kinda watched - the Red vs. the White Sox - never officially happened.

The game started at 2:05. At 2:11, it was delayed by rain, as well as by an impressive booming lightning display that crackled around the Pru tower. About 45 minutes later the tarp crew cleaned up the field, the Sox pitcher Matt Clement was succumbing to a barrage of hits from those other Sox, and we got about another hours worth of play in before the thunder, lightning and rains came again.

We had seats under the roof - great seats in our old reliable, Section 30, this time in Row 2, in the old scarred, rickety wooden seats right behind the new, comfortable, no-personality rounded for the butt plastic seats - right on the third base line, so we hung around until a little after 5 when an announcement finally flashed on the scoreboard that we were looking at another hour - at least - before play would start again. So we packed ourselves up, and walked to the T stop with many others of teeming Red Sox Nation, and took the Green Line back to Park St. and the Red Line back to the Alewife where the Mini was parked, and went over to Jasper White's corporate take on the New England clam shack, "The Summer Shack," and had the usual great meal at just about the time we would have if the game had been played out.

Both of us fagged out before the 11 o'clock news, so we didn't know until this morning that the game was eventually called a little before 8, just about the time we were leaving the Shack, and, since they only got just a bit over 3 innings in, that means we can use our tickets for a make-up game at some point... once the two Soxes figure out holes in their mutual schedules. The Globe says the likely dates, Labor Day or sometime post-season in October, are both problematic. I'm hoping for October, as if it's Labor Day we'll end up giving away the tickets or selling them on eBay, as we'll be up in Maine then. Of course as Peggy says, "We can get up early and drive down."

My wife is the prototypical Red Sox fan, as is nearly everyone from the great Commonwealth. Although it's little talked about, there's a test they run shortly after birth, and if the Fenway gene isn't there, the poor babies get shipped off to the Bronx or somewhere, and are never talked about again. Peg passed the test, obviously. I'm not sure I would have, as I bounced between the Southwest and the two Coasts during my formative years and if I ever thought about "my" team at all it would probably have been the Yankees. The first baseball game I ever saw was at Yankee Stadium; and probably the only players I would have recognized with any degree of confidence were Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

I've never been all that much of a baseball fan. I can sit in front of the tube for hours when football season hits and once drove for over an hour each way for almost a complete season to sit on freezing stands warmed only by frequent nips from a pocket flask in order to watch a beloved kid play high school football, but I can take or leave the ol' ball game. But Fenway is a kick, a little band box of a ballpark that always looks so surprisingly tiny and green when you emerge out of the tunnel. And on a game day, the experience starts from the moment you get on public transportation, with people dressed in every variation of Red Sox gear imaginable, from babies to grandparents. My favorite t-shirt of this trip, the one that read "A-Rod swallows."

You walk from the T station and listen to the shillers flog and ask for tickets, and the CITGO sign is suddenly there, and the aroma of sausage cooking hits, and the crowds get bigger and the low chants of "Need tickets?" "Have tickets?" get more insistent.

And you have the traditional overpriced food and beer - this time we did Cuban sandwiches at El Tiantes - balancing it as well as you can as you disappear into the darkness of Fenway, wander around until you figure out where you are... and then all of a sudden its there - God's conception of the perfect ball field.

I don't love the game, but I love the people at Fenway, especially the kids. In the next seat I met my new best friend, Joe, five or six if I had to guess, wearing a Sox cap bigger than him, and who was as much in my seat as his own, and who proceeded to shower me in peanut shells as they exploded between his fingers, and ice cream drippings, and the continuous chatter of a happy boy who couldn't think of anything better in life than to be at the baseball game with his Dad.

I'm hoping we'll see Joe again when the makeup game is played. There's nothing like a true Fenway Fan to help you enjoy the game.

Photos courtesy of PWB

Bewitched statue video

Bewitched.net has put up a slew of photos and even a few Quicktime videos of the Bewitched statue dedication earlier this year in Salem. No images of the protestors, though.

Friday, August 12, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 020

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

In this fascinating poem by the California poet, Jane Hirshfield, the speaker discovers that through paying attention to an event she has become part of it, has indeed become inseparable from the event and its implications. This is more than an act of empathy. It speaks, in my reading of it, to the perception of an order into which all creatures and events are fitted, and are essential.


The Woodpecker Keeps Returning

The woodpecker keeps returning
to drill the house wall.
Put a pie plate over one place, he chooses another.

There is nothing good to eat there:
he has found in the house
a resonant billboard to post his intentions,
his voluble strength as provider.

But where is the female he drums for? Where?

I ask this, who am myself the ruined siding,
the handsome red-capped bird, the missing mate.


Poem copyright (c) 2005 by Jane Hirshfield from her forthcoming book "After" (Harper Collins, 2006), and reprinted by 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.

O Beautiful for Spacious Skies


Everyone knows that Francis Scott Key wrote The Star Spangled Banner, but quick, who wrote America the Beautiful?

It's okay. I didn't know either. It was Katherine Lee Bates, born on today's date, August 12th in 1859 in Falmouth, MA, where she is also buried.

Miss Bates, who was lecturing at the summer session at Colorado College, joined an expedition to the summit of Pikes Peak She wrote,

"One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse."


America the Beautiful
first appeared in print in The Congregationalist, a weekly journal, on July 4, 1895. Bates later rewrote some sections, and the new version was published In The Boston Evening Transcripton Nov. 19, 1904. Following the 1904 publication, part of the third stanza was altered again by Bates, the final version of the poem completed in 1913.

In 1926, the National Federation of Music Clubs held a contest to put the poem to music, but none of the entries were deemed suitable. Today, America the Beautiful is almost exclusively sung to Samuel A. Ward's Materna, first published in 1888. The poem and music were first published together in 1910.

Bates retained the copyright on America the Beautiful, protecting it from misprints and deliberate changes. The only payment she ever received forthe poem was a small check from The Congregationalist when America the Beautiful was first published.

Sources: The Katherine Lee Bates "Shrine"; Infoplease

Atkins "least favorite" dead celebrity

Mick Jagger most beloved dead star.

Just kidding. It's actually Lucille Ball. The company that developed the "Q score" that broadcasters and advertisers quietly consult to measure a personality's popularity has done a survey that tests the reputation of performers who have gone on to that big soundstage in the sky.

What the hell. It's Friday. Article

The BEST Kung Fu Movie Ever


Merrimack is not the cultural center of the Universe, nor even of New England, so Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle never made it to the thea-tah here and I had to wait for the DVD release.

If you like chop-sockey movies, and don't take them too seriously, run, do not walk, to your favorite DVD place and get Kung Fu Hustle. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll do a little dance with an axe.

Warriors and gangstas and demons, oh my.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Too much information

The Today Show actually changes its summer focus on burning issues like "Why do men have nipples?" and reports an interesting news story. Of course, the story is impossible to find on their ugly Firefox-busting site, but I found commentary here.

A concerned soldier stationed in Iraq demonstrated for the camera how easy it was to get detailed imagery [with Google Earth] of static military bases. With mouse in hand showing how an enemy could, with little effort, determine distances, latitude and longitude, where certain types of weaponry and military vehicles were located.
This is just a few days after Australia's nuclear power chief complained to Google about the detailed images of a nuclear reactor near Sydney that could be accessed by Google Earth.

In both instances, a Google spokeswoman said the same information is readily available to anyone.

Interestingly, Google already censors images of the White House and nearby buildings. I suspect there will be much more censoring in the near future, given the reports that Al Qaeda is turning more and more to the Web to recruit and to plan operations.

Be a character...

... in, in no particular order, a work by Stephen King, or Michael Chabon, or Lemony Snicket, or Karen Joy Fowler, or John Grisham, or Neil Gaiman, or Amy Tan, or a host of others.

100 percent of the proceeeds go to The First Amendment Project, a "a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of information, expression, and petition."

My two choices if I were to bid...

Stephen King

What he's offering:

"One (and only one) character name in a novel called CELL, which is now in work and which will appear in either 2006 or 2007. Buyer should be aware that CELL is a violent piece of work, which comes complete with zombies set in motion by bad cell phone signals that destroy the human brain. Like cheap whiskey, it's very nasty and extremely satisfying. Character can be male or female, but a buyer who wants to die must in this case be female. In any case, I'll require physical description of auction winner, including any nickname (can be made up, I don't give a rip)."

When you can bid:
September 8-18


Or my first choice, a Lemony Snicket book

Lemony Snicket

What he's offering:

"An utterance by Sunny Baudelaire in Book the Thirteenth. Pronunciation and/or spelling may be slightly 'mutilated.' An example of this is in The Grim Grotto when Sunny utters 'Bushcheney.' Target publication date is Fall 2006."
When you can bid:
September 8-18


It would be worth some serious change for me to read Sunny uttering, "Balls!"

A piece of useless trivia that I trot out for your edification is that the sf author, Larry Niven's (whose early work I like but who I'm not too fond of otherwise due to a traumatic encounter when I was much younger but no less sensitive) name was used in a Harlan Ellison (a much nicer guy in person than Niven, says the grudge-holding and very digressive Fred) short story after Niven, a sf fan rather than author at the time, won an auction with being a character in an Ellison story as the winning prize. So, you should bid high, bid often as they say, and who knows what you might become one day, kid.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Bear blogs


It's hot. I'm sleepy. Later, okay?

Kittenish blogs too


I'd rather be having an Outie

Why I'm no fan of Google, part the Nth

Great technology. Bad corporate `tude...

via The New York Times and probably requires some sort of sign-up:

CNETNews.com, a technology news Web site, said last week that Google had told it that the company would not answer any questions from CNET's reporters until July 2006. The move came after CNET published an article last month that discussed how the Google search engine can uncover personal information and that raised questions about what information Google collects about its users.
Want to make an enemy of Google? Figure out a way of peeking under their ever-so-opaque kimono and I'll guarantee you they'll freak.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Ibrahim Ferrer Dies


Ibrahim Ferrer of the Buena Vista Social Club died Saturday in Havana, Cuba, from emphysema. The Afro-Cuban vocalist was seventy-eight years old.

Rolling Stone obituary

A Banner Ad that speaks (and links) for itself

Satchmo in Queens

My buddy Jill noted in a comment back on Thursday that it was Louis Armstrong's birthday; he would have been 104 this year. Coincidentally, I was reading the latest New Yorker this weekend, and the "About Town" column's subject was about Armstrong's home in the borough of Queens, New York, which was officially opened to visitors in 2003.

According to Satchmo.net, the Louis Armstrong House at 34-36 107th in Corona is New York's "newest museum." The site erroneously claims Louis and Lucille Armstrong lived in it for five decades. For Louis it was actually around 30 years. Lucille bought the house in 1943, and he died there in 1971. She remained living in the house until her death in 1983, still a little short of five decades.

From all reports, it was clearly Lucille's house. The tour includes such sights as a turquoise kitchen from the 1960s, original oil paintings by Tony Bennett, LeRoy Neiman, and Calvin Bailey, a spectacular bathroom with gold fixtures and mirror-covered walls, and Louis' den, where he wrote letters to his fans and visited with friends and neighbors.

In some rooms, a hidden audio system plays excerpts from Louis' home-recorded tapes - visitors hear Armstrong telling jokes and band stories, Louis and Lucille eating dinner, and Louis playing with General, the family Boston Terrier.

Both The New Yorker and a Web review note the museum has a gift shop not only carrying all the turista items you'd expect, but also packets of Armstrong's favorite laxative, Swiss Kriss.

"I take my Swiss Kriss, man, they keep you rollin'. Old Methuselah, he'd have been here with us if he had known about them." -- Louis Armstrong in The Louis Armstrong Story by Max Jones & John Chilton.

Sources: Satchmo.net; Offbeat Travel; All About Jazz; Liberty Hall; The New Yorker

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Poker Gods Must be Crazy, Strange Moves, Royal Flushes, Power Outages


A rant over at Felicia's blog, which I'm not bothering to point to as it's a "for members only" place and you either read it or you don't reminded me I haven't done much poker posting lately. As you can probably tell, I find most poker blogging boring; it's like listening to someone tell you about a dream they had the night before... interesting to the teller, usually (much) less interesting to the listener. But one poker blogger I follow regularly likes replaying a hand and asking for advice in comments. I like the stories and I'm amused that the opinions are usually split all across the board, ranging from raising, folding, calling, breaking down in tears, and pulling a gun and taking the pot.

While recounting one hand, Maudie notes that after she had won a pot her opponent said in chat , "strange move." He might have been talking about himself, as a review of his and Maudie's bets from pre-flop to river would indicate that both of them thought Maudie had the better hand from the git-go, but he apparently was talking about Maudie's play, which as she said, "perplexed me." As it should, as his play, at least from the perspective of someone wanting to win the pot - or even thinking he already had the pot won - didn't make sense. To me and to Maudie of course, but I'm sure from the player's perspective his play made perfect sense. If you play online poker - and probably live games, but I don't play live games very much - you run into this sort of irrationality all the time; people who have convinced themselves that they hold the winning hand even when all evidence points to the contrary. There are bluffs and semi-bluffs run all through the game of course, but in my experience, most people bet the hands they're holding most of the time. Poker, to misquote someone, is a game of making decisions with incomplete information. Part of that information, especially in on-line poker where physical tells are irrelevant, is your opponent's betting.

The heart-breaker, of course, is that irrationality also wins out a lot. I was in an online tourney at PokerStars yesterday - more on that in a bit - and watched a mad bomber take pot after unchallenged pot with all-in calls from every position until someone finally called him holding AA. The mad bomber held an offsuit 8 7...and of course pulled a straight; crippling the guy with the big pair. That's, as the saying none of us wants to hear goes, poker. The Mad Bomber finally met justice, getting wiped out in a few more hands, but not before causing extensive damage, taking out some better players who had, pre-flop at least, better hands.

Me, I usually pull a Phil Ivey when this happens, falling into virtual sleep and not betting with anything until the Mad Bomber self-destructs, or he or I get moved, or something. I don't like having blinds stolen, but I have this thing about not going all-in pre-flop, except in certain, varying circumstances. A pair of Aces is still just a pair, and can evaporate like dew in the sun after the flop.

So, how am I doing? The usual. I go on winning streaks where I think I'm the Balls (as opposed to the Bals), and then go on longer losing streaks when whatever Poker Muse who is in charge of me apparently feels the need to get creative in her torture. Some of it is bad beats. More of it is bad play. Consistent inconsistency pretty much indicates that I'm not as good a poker player as I would like to be... or even think I am.

When this happens, I moan to Peggy, I quit for awhile and do other things, I try to think about what I'm doing more when I'm playing and plug the many leaks I have - or think I have, as a poker player on a losing streak can find an uncountable number of things wrong with his play when he goes into Red Army self-criticism mode.

In other words, I do about everything all of us do when we're losing at the tables. Eventually I start winning again, and all is well till I start losing again.

Yesterday I thought I had broken the losing streak in a small buy-in/rebuy tourney at PokerStars. My modus operandi with these is not to rebuy, except possibly with an add-on at the end of the first hour when re-buying stops. I thought my luck was running true to form, as I had lost more than half my 1500T starting stack within the first half-hour, and things were looking grim. Then the variation changed as quickly as a mountain wind, and I doubled and then redoubled in two hands with a nuts flush and then a full house. Both of those instances were examples of people either not following - or not caring - about my betting; the flush being a perfect example, as I had called a low raise with A3 of diamonds in my hand and two on the board, and immediately went all in when the third diamond hit the turn. My opponent had two pair and didn't wait a moment to call me. Because I was short stacked and he thought I was bluffing? That he was okay with dropping half his stack cause he knew he could rebuy? Who knows? Made sense to him, and it was okay by me.

I hung around, and was doing okay, and then came this hand. I'm under my usual alias of ricoM...

Table '10685994 55' Seat #9 is the button

Seat 1: babytea (3760 in chips)
Seat 2: GOTTASET (6523 in chips)
Seat 3: gregisme56 (4490 in chips)
Seat 4: ricoM (6025 in chips)
Seat 5: Seabring (5965 in chips)
Seat 6: fredrik7311 (3080 in chips)
Seat 7: Accmatrix (3250 in chips)
Seat 8: spaceglider (6765 in chips)
Seat 9: gbirman (4345 in chips)
babytea: posts small blind 75
GOTTASET: posts big blind 150

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to ricoM [As Js]
gregisme56: folds
ricoM: calls 150
Seabring: folds
fredrik7311: folds
Accmatrix: folds
spaceglider: folds
gbirman: calls 150
babytea: calls 75
GOTTASET: checks

*** FLOP *** [Qs Jc 6s]
babytea: checks
GOTTASET: checks
ricoM: bets 400
gbirman: raises 400 to 800
babytea: calls 800
GOTTASET: folds
ricoM: calls 400

*** TURN *** [Qs Jc 6s] [Ts]
babytea: checks
ricoM: bets 5075 and is all-in
gbirman: calls 3395 and is all-in
babytea: calls 2810 and is all-in

*** RIVER *** [Qs Jc 6s Ts] [Ks]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
ricoM: shows [As Js] (a Royal Flush)
gbirman: shows [Ah Qh] (a straight, Ten to Ace)
ricoM collected 1170 from side pot
babytea: shows [3s 7s] (a flush, King high)
ricoM collected 11430 from main pot

... as you can see - or even if you can't - I again had the nuts flush at the turn, and not only drew all-in an over-optimistic gbirman, who only had a pair at the turn, and pulled an inconsequential straight at the river, but also babytea, whose King high flush had also already lost at the turn, but had insult added to injury when I pulled the rarest of rare hands, the Royal Flush. Both of them went bye-bye, although rebuys were still available.

Flushed, ahem, with success, I'd battle through the tournament for another 3 1/2 hours, in the middle of the pack with around 50 players left from a starting 400, still playing well and beginning to believe I had a shot at the final table...

When the power went out in Merrimack.

American Life in Poetry: Column 019

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

At the beginning of the famous novel, "Remembrance of Things Past," the mere taste of a biscuit started Marcel Proust on a seven-volume remembrance. Here a bulldozer turns up an old doorknob, and look what happens in Shirley Buettner's imagination.

Discovered

While clearing the west
quarter for more cropland,
the Cat quarried
a porcelain doorknob

oystered in earth,
grained and crazed
like an historic egg,
with a screwless stem of

rusted and pitted iron.
I turn its cold white roundness
with my palm and
open the oak door

fitted with oval glass,
fretted with wood ivy,
and call my frontier neighbor.
Her voice comes distant but

clear, scolding children
in overalls
and highbutton shoes.
A bucket of fresh eggs and

a clutch of rhubarb rest
on her daisied oil-cloth.
She knew I would knock someday,
wanting in.

From "Walking Out the Dark" (Juniper Press, 1984). Copyright (c) 1984 by Shirley Buettner and reprinted by 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.

40 whacks

On today's date, August 4, 1892, at about 11 in the morning, Bridget Sullivan, the hired girl in the household of Dr. Andrew J. Borden, of Fall River, Massachusetts heard Lizzie Borden, Andrew's daughter, cry out, "Come down quick! Father's dead! Somebody's come in and killed him!"

In fact, both the doctor and his wife had been murdered. Borden's body was on a sofa, his feet still resting on the floor. His face had been cut by eleven blows. One eye had been cut in half and was protruding from his face, his nose had been severed. It appeared that he had been attacked from above and behind him as he slept.

Mrs. Borden was lying on the floor of the guestroom. She had been struck more than a dozen times, from the back. The autopsy later revealed that there had been nineteen blows. Her head had been crushed by the same hatchet or axe that had presumably killed Mr. Borden, with one misdirected blow striking the back of her scalp, almost at the neck.

A few days later, Lizzie was discovered burning a dress in the kitchen stove. She said it was stained with paint. Lizzie was charged with the murders, and her trial lasted two weeks. At one point during the trial, the skulls of the victims, hidden under tissue paper at the prosecution desk, were uncovered. Lizzie fainted dead away, possibly a turning point in her trial, as she was said to have won much sympathy from the all-male jury.

In a little over an hour of deliberations, the jury returned with its verdict. Lizzie was found not guilty on all charges.

Five weeks after the trial, Lizzie and her sister Emma purchased and moved into a thirteen-room, gray stone Victorian house a in a fashionable residential area of Fall River. Lizzie named the house "Maplecroft," and had the name carved into the top stone step leading up to the front door. Lizzie also began to refer to herself as "Lizbeth." In 1904, Emma moved out of Maplecroft, apparently offended by Lizzie's relationship with a young actress she had become infatuated with.

Lizzie died on June 1, 1927, at age 67, from complications following gall bladder surgery. Her sister Emma died nine days later from a fall down the back stairs of her home. The two sisters were buried together in the family plot. One-seventh of Lizzie's considerable estate was left to the Animal Rescue League of Fall River.

The Borden murders - and an ever-growing variety of theories as to whether Lizzie actually committed them - is still a favorite of amateur detectives and crime aficionados around the world. The Borden home where the murders took place is now a Bed and Breakfast.

The infamous rhyme...

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
And when she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

....was originally sung to the tune of Ta-Rah-Rah-Boom-de-yay. It can still occasionally be heard chanted at playgrounds in New England, usually at Halloween.

Primary sources: Wikipedia; Court TV Crime Library

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Always a chance

I'm not usually a fan of narrative poetry, although there are exceptions.
And here's another one...

Reunion

In your old pickup we drive the length of the island looking for
blackberries and trails that lead to the lighthouse, tell stories
about our six cats, the ones we divided when I left. I took your
favorites, the ones that were mine before we met. Your fifth
marriage is faltering. I am falling in love for the third time
since
we separated. All you want to do is fish in your father's
rowboat,
build a small cabin on five acres of land. Beyond right now,
I don't know what I want. Somewhere on Orcas another
woman
dreams of you, waits for you to enter her life.

We smoke from your well-seasoned pipe, nervous as new
lovers. Those last months I refused to get high with you; we
always fought afterward. I remember why I loved you and why,
after ten years, I left. The reasons blend together, rise with the
smoke and dissipate. You ask me to tell you why, once again.
Each time the story is different, a work in progress. Days pass
in one afternoon. Is there still a chance, you ask.

We smile at one another, our defenses down. No one knows
us better. At the trailhead you pick purple flowers, hand
them to me, suddenly shy. I trip over exposed roots as we walk,
instinctively take your outstretched hand then let it go. In the
lagoon a pair of herons dance for one another, lowering their
long necks in courtship. Hidden behind boulders, we watch in
silence until the birds lift and disappear beyond the lighthouse.
There is always a chance, I say.

by Amber Coverdale Sumrall, from Litany of Wings. © Many Names Press.

via The Writer's Almanac

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Dead Man's Hand

On today's date, the 2nd of August, 1876, Wild Bill Hickok was playing cards in Deadwood, in what is now South Dakota, and then was simply known as the Dakotas, when Jack McCall shot him in the back of the head, killing him instantly.

McCall said he believed that Hickok had killed his brother in Kansas. Although McCall was a bad-natured drunk who didn't need much of an excuse to pull his gun, this may have even been correct, as his brother Lew had supposedly died in Abilene in a gunfight with a "lawman." In 1871 Hickok had been employed as a marshal in Abilene. He was paid $150 a month plus a percentage of the fines he collected plus a bounty of 50 cents for every unlicensed dog he shot. While Hickok had spent most of his employment playing poker, he had shot and killed at least two men during his time in Abilene. Other stories have it that McCall had lost $110 to Hickok the night before.

Wild Bill held a pair of black eights and a pair of black Aces when he died which became known both among poker players and popularly as a "dead man's hand."

James Butler Hickok was buried in the Mt. Moriah Cemetery outside Deadwood. Calamity Jane insisted that a proper grave be built in honor of the man she loved, and an enclosure 10'x10' was built around his burial plot. On top of that little encircling stone wall was placed a 3' fence which had fancy cast iron filigree on top, and a small American flag was stuck into the ground in front of the tombstone in honor of his service in the War.

In 1900, Calamity Jane was photographed next to the now neglected burial site. She posed with a flower in her hand, and she said that when she died she wanted to be buried next to the man she loved.

Three years later, she was.

In 2001, the older section of the cemetery was restored and many of the graves now have new homes, including those of Hickok and Calamity Jane. But the two still repose side by side on the hill.

Sources: The Outlaws; Sturgis Rally Lore

Stealth, FUCK YEAH!

Margie, the usual with this. Break up into separate memos and send to the right people. Use the same opening for everyone.

FROM: SONY PICTURE DEVELOPMENT

Gentlemen, what the fuck? What happened to all the fucking recommendations I MADE about Stealth!!! Goddamit, if you had listened to me we’d have a blockbuster instead of this dog.

1) Ass. I told you to write into Jessica Biel’s contract a minimum of 150 ass shots. I watched that fucking movie three times in a row and I only counted 138 ass shots out of the 138 times she’s on-screen. The cameraman is good, I like it that no matter what’s she’s doing, he gets her ass in the shot somehow. But we need to get even more ass. When she says, “So what are the flight plans?” I want her leaning over and the camera tight on her ass. When she’s eating, she should drop the fucking napkin so we can get a shot of her ass. If she’s fixing her plane, she should wiggle into it, so only her ass is showing. Ass! See attached picture if you’ve forgotten what an ass looks like. What the fuck do you think she’s in the picture for?

2) Theme song. What is the matter with you people? You can’t understand a word anyone is singing in the whole fucking movie, except when the black kid does “Family Affair” before he starts that rapping crap. I told you to look at Team America: World Police (and I still want a cost comparison of the money we would have saved if we had used puppets, too). Those boys are geniuses. Why didn’t we have a theme song like…

Stealth, FUCK YEAH!
Coming again, to save the mother fucking day yeah,
Stealth, FUCK YEAH!
Freedom is the only way yeah,
Terrorist your game is through cause now you have to answer to,
Stealth, FUCK YEAH!
We should have kids all over America singing, “Stealth, FUCK YEAH!”

3) Recut. Edit. Reshoot. We may still be able to save this bomb. Pull it and then do the following for a re-release. First, toss everything when the kids are talking, whether it’s on the boat or on the beach. Use ass shots instead (see #1).

I don’t care if the black kid did win an Oscar, run him into a mountain sooner. That should make the girl sad, and she’ll need to shtup the white kid (and show her ass) to be happy again. And I like it when she falls out of the plane, but her pants should blow off or catch on fire or something.

And we need more explosions. Lots more explosions. Have the boat blow up. If they’re in a building, it should blow up. If they’re in a restaurant, blow it up. Even better have terrorists show up and start shooting, and then blow it up. Everything should be blown up by the end of the movie… except the girl and white kid. They should kiss. She should show her ass.

4) Finally, what's with all the lawsuits? We got clowns from Kubrick’s estate saying we ripped off 2001 because of some fucking red camera eye? Hey, that was four years ago, isn’t there a statue of limits or something covering that? And now we got an old TV show saying we ripped off their idea, too? Give me a fucking break.

I say we do what we should have done in the first place and drop the whole robot plane thing – I always thought it sounded a little faygeleh anyway – and just have the kids ride around in their planes and blow things up. When they’re on the ground terrorists should try to blow them up. Every now and then someone gets killed, and the kids get sad and then they should shtup and show ass and then go blow up the terrorists. How many times do I have to say this? We should have a movie half as good as Team America: World Police if we’re going to get fucking sued for ripping people off.

Gentlemen, I’m giving you a month to fix this piece of shit. One month. By September, I expect to be walking down the street and hearing kids sing, “Stealth, FUCK YEAH!” or asses are going to be kicked.

MS/mb/Dictated but not read

Monday, August 01, 2005

Art


The illustrations of Belgian artist, C├ęcile Eyen are just about as pretty as pretty can be, and could well drive me to purchase a copy of Reviens, Papa loup! from Amazon, France. Eyen also has a blog - written in French, but don't let that stop you, lots of wonderful illustrations there, too.

I wish I could see what Ms. Eyen would do with a photo of Bear.

via Drawn

And more art


Have an aspiring animator in the family, or just know someone who loves Disney art? Send them over to "Magical Ears" where they can find, trace, and copy model sheets from a variety of classic (and not-so-classic) Disney movies and TV shows.

Magical Ears is well worth a browse, with much more than model sheets on the site. I found a "Lady & the Tramp" desktop wallpaper that is now gracing our downstairs computer screen.