Friday, September 30, 2005

"You used to have a lot of old men come down to congregate"

"How's our Bewitched statue doing?" you ask fhb. "It's been a while since you blogged anything about it, Fred."

And that's because Sam seems to be settling in just fine. But controversy still swirls in the town of Salem, this time over park benches. Following replicated from the Salem News Online, as the paper does not archive their articles, and it will soon disappear into cyberspace....

Set a spell, but only a short one, in Lappin Park


By Tom Dalton
Staff writer

SALEM - The city unveiled a "Bewitched" statue in Lappin Park this summer to attract more people to the downtown. Now it wants to install park benches with no backs to make sure they - or, at least, the wrong people - don't stay too long.

At the urging of the Police Department, the city has requested a change in the design for Lappin Park, which called for five standard city benches in the small park at the corner of Washington and Essex streets.

The park has been a center of attention since June, when the cable channel TV Land erected a statue of Elizabeth Montgomery, the late star of "Bewitched," the 1960s TV series about a suburban witch. TV Land also is paying to have the park redone, a landscaping project that includes the benches.

The city still wants benches but without backs and with different seats that will discourage children from skateboarding, youths from hanging out and the homeless from sleeping on them - three problems that have plagued the park for years, officials said.

"We're always getting calls over there because of different problems," Lt. Conrad Prosniewski said. "Our guys can do a lot better things than sitting in the square and having to patrol" the park.

Police were glad to see the sitting wall come down in the old park and don't want to see the problems return with the benches, he said.

"You can put nice benches there," Prosniewski said. "You just don't have to put benches people are going to camp out in 24 hours a day."

Kate Sullivan, chief of staff to Mayor Stanley Usovicz, went before the Salem Redevelopment Authority last week to get approval to change the benches and add more lighting.

Downtown merchants complain about the element drawn to the area, she said, and say visitors are intimidated.

Installing different benches is not the solution to the problem, Sullivan said, but it addresses one of the issues and should help create a better environment.

"If we can encourage positive park use immediately while we're trying to solve the problems of homelessness or jobs for kids, what's wrong with that?" she asked.

Not everyone agrees that backless benches are the answer.

"You used to have a lot of old men come down to congregate," said Matthew Michetti, 37, of Salem, who was sitting on a standard city bench yesterday along Washington Street. "I don't see any problem with them sitting there for a few hours. If they do, they should be able to lean back."

The matter was referred to the SRA's design review board.

American Life in Poetry: Column 027

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

In this lovely poem by Angela Shaw, who lives in Pennsylvania, we hear a voice of wise counsel: Let the young go, let them do as they will, and admire their grace and beauty as they pass from us into the future.

Children in a Field

They don't wade in so much as they are taken.
Deep in the day, in the deep of the field,
every current in the grasses whispers hurry
hurry, every yellow spreads its perfume
like a rumor, impelling them further on.
It is the way of girls. It is the sway
of their dresses in the summer trance--
light, their bare calves already far-gone
in green. What songs will they follow?
Whatever the wood warbles, whatever storm
or harm the border promises, whatever
calm. Let them go. Let them go traceless
through the high grass and into the willow--
blur, traceless across the lean blue glint
of the river, to the long dark bodies
of the conifers, and over the welcoming
threshold of nightfall.

Reprinted from "Poetry," September, 2004, Vol. 184, No. 5, by permission of the author. Poem copyright (c) 2004 by Angela Shaw. 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, September 29, 2005

Bees heat predators to death

I sometimes think I should either find or design a t-shirt that reads,

"Haldane was more right than he could suppose."

J.B.S. Haldane was the British biologist who came up with the famous law, "Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we CAN suppose." and I suspect would have been delighted with this report from Science News.
At least two species of honeybees [in China], the native Apis cerana and the introduced European honeybee, Apis mellifera, engulf a wasp in a living ball of defenders and heat the predator to death. A new study of heat balling has described a margin of safety for the defending bees, says Tan Ken of Yunnan Agricultural University in Kunming, China.

And people say I'm strange



A charming blog posting about about a man and his pet tortoise.

Department of incredibly bad taste

There's a convention for everything, including "horror splatter," a sub-genre never known for good taste. But the promoters of NecroComicon have succeeded in lowering the bar about as far as it can go...

... and you just gotta love the "personal message." (via "news from me")

Monday, September 26, 2005

This Shining Moment in the Now

A friend of mine talks about the constant, niggling little voice that all writers - perhaps everyone - seems to have on "Play" in their heads, commenting and editorializing about everything. It's so busy telling us what has happened or what it expects to happen next that we often miss what's going around us until after the fact.

It's Fall again, almost time for me to oil the chainsaw, start moving the cord of green wood to the plile and intermix them with the more seasoned logs, break up the last of the big pieces from the old tree that fell in the windstorm a year and more back.

The work shuts down the voice. And occasionally I'll reach that shining moment in the now that Budbill writes so eloquently about
- fhb

This Shining Moment in the Now


When I work outdoors all day, every day, as I do now, in the fall,
getting ready for winter, tearing up the garden, digging potatoes,
gathering the squash, cutting firewood, making kindling, repairing
bridges over the brook, clearing trails in the woods, doing the last of
the fall mowing, pruning apple trees, taking down the screens,
putting up the storm windows, banking the house—all these things,
as preparation for the coming cold...

when I am every day all day all body and no mind, when I am
physically, wholly and completely, in this world with the birds,
the deer, the sky, the wind, the trees...

when day after day I think of nothing but what the next chore is,
when I go from clearing woods roads, to sharpening a chain saw,
to changing the oil in a mower, to stacking wood, when I am
all body and no mind...

when I am only here and now and nowhere else—then, and only
then, do I see the crippling power of mind, the curse of thought,
and I pause and wonder why I so seldom find
this shining moment in the now.

by David Budbill, from While We've Still Got Feet © Copper Canyon Press.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

My secret garden

UPDATE: Photos now courtesy of Jill, she of the toilet-diving camera. Click on any of the photos for a larger version.

The southern branch of my family, who I adopted a few years back, were up in the neighborhood last week, as Jill's husband Mak attended an oral and maxillofacial surgery convention in Boston. I had sent Jill - who previously had never been further North than a quick stop in New York City on her way to Turkey - a "things to do while you're in New England" itinerary. Among other things, it included a drive up the Coast and since she was traveling with a five- and 18-month-year-old focused heavily on kid-friendly stuff, like a visit to the Children's Museum and a Lobster Boat outing in Plymouth. Both big hits I heard in later reports. If I ever meet her in person, I owe Channel 7's Chikage Windler a beer, as I got more than one trip idea from her "Great Escapes" series.


I played hookey from responsibilities on Wednesday with a semi-true story that I was seeing an oral surgeon about my TMJ problem, since I was going to be seeing an oral surgeon, and he did give me a freebie exam later that day in the hotel lobby. I met Jill and the kids in the late morning and we took a walk up Newbury Street to the Public Garden so Jill could window shop, Johnny could feed ducks and squirrels, and Jack could suck on his blankie while surveying the scene from the comfort of his stroller.

More than a few years ago I used to work in Boston as a copywriter and eventually as a creative director in the Liberty Mutual Insurance group's advertising and public relations department. On my first day there my new boss took me on a swan boat ride in the Garden, claiming it was the traditional thing to do, and I'd eventually end up taking many visitors on the same ride. Unfortunately, the boats had closed a week earlier - I suspect because the strong-thighed young pedal-paddlers had all gone back to school, so Jill and clan were out of luck. However, we did get to see Romeo and Juliet, the Garden's infamous gay swan couple, numerous ducks, and of course the "Make Way for Ducklings" sculpture of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings. I was shocked to discover that Jill, nor Johnny or Jack, had read McCloskey's book - which is almost a New England mandatory requirement - but it's a situation that will be remedied by Uncle Fred soon.

We had lunch at the Rattlesnake Bar & Grille on the corner of Arlington and Boylston, as it was one of the few places I had eaten at previously that was still in business. Highlight of the lunch was probably the ride on the ancient 1920's-era elevator to the rooftop, chauffeured by Johnny Mak with finger on the up-'n-down buttons.

On the way back to the hotel, I took the crew to my second-most-favorite library in the world (The New York Public Library being the first). As Peggy says, if you want to find Fred on his first visit to anywhere, look in the main public library and in eclectic bookstores. I have a special fondness for the BPL, though, as quite by accident I discovered its portico garden one day and would spend a lot of quiet, pleasant afternoons there reading as I waited for my van pool to take me home. I was on flex-time - remember flex-time? - at Liberty Mutual, and would arrive so early because of the pool's schedule that I'd have filled my required hours by 3:30 p.m., with two hours free before the van would leave.

The BPL garden is a little jewel of a secret, not well-known even among Boston residents. You won't find any information about it at all on the library's site, and very little information about it on the Web at large. It took me a good half-hour of searching before I found the image I'm using above.

But maybe that's just as well. I only have a few secret places left.

Friday, September 23, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 026

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Descriptive poetry depends for its effects in part upon the vividness of details. Here the Virginia poet, Claudia Emerson, describes the type of old building all of us have seen but may not have stopped to look at carefully. And thoughtfully.

Stable

One rusty horseshoe hangs on a nail
above the door, still losing its luck,
and a work-collar swings, an empty
old noose. The silence waits, wild to be
broken by hoofbeat and heavy
harness slap, will founder but remain;
while, outside, above the stable,
eight, nine, now ten buzzards swing low
in lazy loops, a loose black warp
of patience, bearing the blank sky
like a pall of wind on mourning
wings. But the bones of this place are
long picked clean. Only the hayrake's
ribs still rise from the rampant grasses.

Poem copyright (c) 1997 by Claudia Emerson Andrews, a 2005 Witter Bynner Fellow of the Library of Congress. Reprinted from "Pharoah, Pharoah" (1997) by permission of the author, whose newest book, "Late Wife," will appear this fall; both collections are published by Louisiana State University's Southern Messenger Poets. 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, September 22, 2005

Something Else

I know a woman who calls me
every week or so when she has something
on her mind and starts by saying,
"I have something to talk about
but let's start by talking about
something else." It helps her get it out.
So I ask her how she is and she says
okay and tells me about some poet
or politician she's met and how
he wasn't at all what she expected
or about the DC weather,
the traffic jams, the dirty Metro.
Sometimes she never gets around to her point
at all, but ends by saying,
"Now I don't want to talk about it
anymore." Last week I had a fever
for four days and the world
took on a kind of flickering darkness—
it seemed so thin, so insubstantial,
not the kind of place a person could live.
This guy who came to the card game
last night, he says he dreams
of a dead friend all the time,
this friend walks out of a black alley,
walks always in a kind of shadow.
I asked him what it's like to be dead,
the guy said, fumbling a face-down card,
and he said it's not a place, heaven,
it\'s a feeling, the feeling of knowing
everything you never knew. Then the friend
told him one of the numbers to play
this week in Megabucks. Sometimes, though,
she does get around to what's on her mind—
a sadness for her little sister, killed
in a wreck, or a fear that we
won\'t see each other again, won't ever
feel whatever that was we felt when we
were making love. I don\'t know if we will.
I don\'t know if she will ever see
her little sister again except in dreams,
which is somewhere, I guess.
The number was eight.

by Christian Barter, from The Singers I Prefer. © CavanKerry Press, Ltd.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Artists erect giant pink bunny on mountain


Headlines that speak for themselves, continued.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Diva, the Supergirl and the Ministry of Truth









"People have a very personal relationship with us.
" - Katie Couric in a New Yorker interview.

Not all people, at least not young Charles Evans, late of New Orleans, LA, and current resident of Dallas, TX.

Charles, as you might know, is the young boy who Campbell Brown, NBC correspondent and nicknamed "Supergirl" in our household for her reporting during Katrina and its aftermath, interviewed at the New Orleans Convention Center. Charles is - is with some people at least - an articulate 9-year-old who put a very personal face on the suffering people were going through. It was obvious during the segment that he and Campbell had taken a genuine liking to each other, too.

In between preparing for the vapid sixth annual "Today Show Throws a Wedding;" a segment where couples get an all-expenses-paid wedding in return for having their private lives outed to the world, some Today Show producer had the stroke of genius that Katie should do a followup interview with Charles. If you follow the Today Show, you know these off-site interviews are always a crap shoot. The technology seems surprisingly failure-prone. Even professional interviewees like politicians often end up staring blankly into the camera, murmuring to the technicians that they can't hear anything. And with people not used to being bathed in white light and being told to look into a camera lens while a disembodied voice asks semi-intelligible questions through an ear bud feed, it can get quite uncomfortable to watch.

As it did with Charles and Katie last week. Charles, obviously up much earlier than he's used to, slumped in his chair, face full of suspicion, answering in monosyllables as Katie with increasing desperation unsuccessfully tried to draw something - anything - out of him.

"Are things better now?" Katie asked. Silence. "Yes?" she prompted. "Yes," Charles agreed, probably trying to figure out what this white lady's voice in his ear wanted.

"How are they better now?" Katie wheedled. Silence. "Charles?" "What she say?" Charles asked, turning to his grandmother for support.

At the non-interview's conclusion serious cracks were starting to appear in La Couric's fa├žade: "Maybe you just don't like me, Charles," she said with a trace of bitterness, immediately following with a "just kidding" disclaimer.

But one wonders whether Katie was in on Weekend Today's decision to send Campbell to Texas and back to Charles ... or what Katie's reaction was if she hadn't been informed. Patently ignoring the Couric interview as if it had been excised from Today Show history in some sort of 1984ish Ministry of Truth move, the introduction to the Brown interview this Sunday used almost the same words that were used for Katie's attempt at an interview... "young man touched the hearts of America... many wondered what has become of him (ignoring Katie Couric, for one thing)... Campbell Brown now..."

...and Campbell Brown did, immediately establishing the same rapport with Charles ("You came all the way here to see me?" he says with friendly wonder), and producing a tearjerker to boot when we discover that Charle's great-aunt has died during the ordeal and he produced an obituary for her on his own. I don't want to sound as if I'm making light of this. It was a powerful, emotional segment, and about everything good you could find in network television news these days.

As opposed to Couric's, which was just about as bad and as embarrassing as anything you would never want to see. One can only imagine what it's like in the halls of 30 Rockefeller Plaza this week. Screaming? Icy silence except for the sound of heads rolling and laughter in the sky as Supergirl flies away?

It was a bad week for Katie's image altogether. While informing the Today Show Wedding lucky couple of the luxury destination that had been selected for their honeymoon, Katie kept dropping her notes onto a wind-swept Maryland beach. She studiously ignored them as they gathered around the bride's feet, as everyone else - including the groom - eyed the pile uneasily and looked as if they were considering the propriety of falling to their knees and gathering them up. But not Katie. Bending over was not an option.

Time for an fhb prediction. I think we'll hear that Katie Couric will be leaving The Today Show before the year is out. She looks gone, you know?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Happy Birthday, Sam!






On September 17, 1964 "Bewitched," starring Elizabeth Montgomery, made its debut on ABC...


... and I would never be the same.

Friday, September 16, 2005

"I don't know why people would want to have lunch with writers. I've eaten with writers. We have appalling table manners, and rarely say anything other than 'Pass the salt' or 'If you're not going to eat that, can I have it?'" - via Neil Gaiman

Porch Swing in September

Ted Kooser is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. His "The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice For Beginning Poets," which I'm in the middle of reading right now, inspired me to start writing poetry again after nearly 40 years. Not good poetry, but poetry nevertheless.

On Kooser's advice, I try to read at least one poem each morning. As he says, it often does color the remainder of your day. Here's one of his from "Flying at Night," which reminded me of last night when I read it this morning, sitting on the porch with Peggy, drinking our evening martinis, smoking my nightly cigar, watching the September days dim more quickly each night.

Porch Swing in September

The porch swing hangs fixed in a morning sun
that bleaches its gray slats, its flowered cushion
whose flowers have faded, like those of summer,
and a small brown spider has hung out her web
on a line between porch post and chain
so that no one may swing without breaking it.
She is saying it's time that the swinging were done with,
time that the creaking and pinging and popping
that sang through the ceiling were past,
time now for the soft vibrations of moths,
the wasp tapping each board for an entrance,
the cool dewdrops to brush from her work
every morning, one world at a time.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 025

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Emily Dickinson said that poems come at the truth at a slant. Here a birdbath and some overturned chairs on a nursing home lawn suggest the frailties of old age. Masterful poems choose the very best words and put them in the very best places, and Michigan poet Rodney Torreson has deftly chosen "ministers" for his first verb, an active verb that suggests the good work of the nursing home's chaplain.


The Bethlehem Nursing Home

A birdbath ministers
to the lawn chairs,
all toppled: a recliner
on its face, metal arms
trying to push it up;
an overturned rocker,
curvature of the spine.
Armchairs on their sides,
webbing unraveled.
One faces the flowers.
A director's chair
folded, as if prepared
to be taken up.

From "A Breathable Light," New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2002, and first published in "Cape Rock". Copyright (c) 2002 by Rodney Torreson; 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.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Katrina Tournaments on PokerStars

I played in the Wil Wheaton-sponsored Katrina Relief poker tournament last night - a $5 buy-in, where 2212 entered. The winner won $22.12, one penny for every entrant. The other $4.99 each from our entry fees was matched 100 percent by PokerStars, working out to a grand total of $22, 075.76 to be donated to the Red Cross.

I finished 336 in the field, a number probably a little better than my actual play reflects. A lot of people apparently signed up as a show of support, with no intention of playing, and for much of the 1st hour I was playing 3-handed No-Limit with two other players. In the second hour my King-high flush was cracked thus...

PokerStars Game #2562888800: Tournament #11976228, Hold'em No Limit - Level VI (100/200) - 2005/09/12 - 22:55:19 (ET)

Table '11976228 225' Seat #9 is the button
Seat 2: ricoM (4260 in chips)
Seat 3: capt_trip37 (1365 in chips)
Seat 4: NHTinPusher (49450 in chips)
Seat 5: JJules (3920 in chips)
Seat 6: udflyers86 (26950 in chips)
Seat 7: sanfran1283 (365 in chips) is sitting out
Seat 8: ashtar (325 in chips) is sitting out
Seat 9: Doak08 (6015 in chips)
ricoM: posts small blind 100
capt_trip37: posts big blind 200
*** HOLE CARDS ***

Dealt to ricoM [Jh Kh]
NHTinPusher said, "i really want that 22 bucks lol"
Doak08 said, "yep"
NHTinPusher: folds
JJules: folds
ricoM said, "can tell"
udflyers86: folds
sanfran1283: folds
ashtar: folds
cocmoney is connected
Doak08: raises 200 to 400
NHTinPusher said, "so rico...you play locally offline?"
ricoM: raises 200 to 600
capt_trip37: folds
Doak08: calls 200

*** FLOP *** [9s 7h 9d]
ricoM: checks
Doak08: checks
*** TURN *** [9s 7h 9d] [3h]
ricoM: checks
ricoM said, "Foxwoods now and again"
Doak08: bets 400
ricoM: calls 400
*** RIVER *** [9s 7h 9d 3h] [4h]
NHTinPusher said, "never the charity tourneys?"
ricoM: bets 2200
Doak08: raises 2200 to 4400
ricoM: calls 1060 and is all-in
Doak08 said, "wow..watch"
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Doak08: shows [9c 9h] (four of a kind, Nines)
ricoM: shows [Jh Kh] (a flush, King high)
Doak08 collected 8720 from pot
ricoM [observer] said, "Up in vnh"
udflyers86 said, "woooooooooow nh"
NHTinPusher said, "wow"
NHTinPusher said, "ouch"
ricoM [observer] said, "gg"

"Wow," and "ouch," pretty well sum it up, although with nuts quad 9s at the flop, Doak08 played me like a fish. At some point I'll realize that the board pairing is a danger signal to play slow. Four of anything is unusual, but there was a potential full house there too, which I ignored, only concerned that he had pulled the Ace flush. But, too many ways to lose in retrospect to be betting 2200 at the River.

I'm always a much better player after losing the hand.

It was a fun night in any case. The table was light on trash talk, and spiced by getting cheered on by one of my imaginary friends, as well as railbirding another. I fizzled out before I could get into the blogger ring game, but maybe another time.

PokerStars is hosting another tournament tomorrow, and I believe there's two more too. Some details here, and if you're a PokerStars player look under the tournament/special tabs to find them.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Why we do what we do

via Noah's Wish;

  • Update: September 10, 2005 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time

Press Release

KATRINA SURVIVOR REUNITED WITH RESCUED CAT IN MISSISSIPPI HOSPITAL ROOM

(SLIDELL, LA) – September 10, 2005 – Volunteers from the animal rescue group Noah’s Wish and Slidell animal control officers reunited a 59-year-old Katrina survivor with his beloved cat “Miss Kitty” in a Mississippi hospital room yesterday.

Slidell resident Bill Harris was trapped in his home by rising floodwaters for three days. Harris stood on a chair in 5 feet of water with his beloved cat in one arm and a two-way radio in the other. For three days, Harris desperately called for help on the radio. When rescuers finally arrived, a distraught Harris, who suffers from chronic kidney failure and needed to be taken immediately to a hospital, was forced to leave the cat behind. An MSNBC crew covering the Katrina disaster learned of Harris’ ordeal and went to the animal rescue group Noah’s Wish for help. Noah’s Wish is working with Slidell Animal Control to rescue pets in the aftermath of Katrina. After several days of searching, a cat wearing a black collar and matching the description Harris gave was humanely trapped eight days after her owner had been evacuated.

Slidell animal control officer Horace Troullier and Donna Wackerbauer, a Noah's Wish volunteer from Canada drove over 70 miles from Slidell to Hattiesburg, Mississippi where Harris was admitted to Forest General Hospital on Monday. “I was holding Miss Kitty in my arms when I walked into Mr. Harris’ hospital room,” said Wackerbauer. “When she saw her owner, Miss Kitty jumped out of my arms, onto her owner and burrowed her head into him. It was like she was saying, “Yeah! I got my daddy back!’”

During the three-day ordeal, Harris said that Miss Kitty meowed to keep him awake as he began to drift in and out of consciousness.

“It was the most exciting rescue I have ever been a part of,” said Troullier “This is what it’s all about.” A 15-year veteran of Slidell Animal Control, Troullier’s house was completely flooded and he does not have insurance. The animal control officer has been working around the clock for two weeks straight.

Joe Bruncszk, a video producer from Washington DC, videotaped the reunion. Bruncszk traveled to Slidell mobile veterinary clinic that is working with Slidell Animal Control and Noah’s Wish. The videotape may be viewed at www.msnbc.com.

Harris was able to spend time with Miss Kitty before Troullier and Wackerbauer returned the cat to the Noah's Wish animal rescue center in Slidell, where she will be cared for until he is released from the hospital and able to relocate. According to the hospital, Harris is suffering from internal bleeding of the kidneys and stomach and will require surgery in the next few days.

Young in New Orleans

At the risk of sending my buddy, Jill, on another rant. :-)

by Charles Bukowski. Reprinted from The Last night on Earth Poems

Young in New Orleans

starving there, sitting around the bars,
and at night walking the streets for
hours,
the moonlight always seemed fake
to me, maybe it was,
and in the French Quarter I watched
the horses and buggies going by,
everybody sitting high in the open
carriages, the black driver, and in
back the man and the woman,
usually young and always white.
and I was always white.
and hardly charmed by the
world.
New Orleans was a place to
hide.
I could piss away my life,
unmolested.
except for the rats.
the rats in my dark small room
very much resented sharing it
with me.
they were large and fearless
and stared at me with eyes
that spoke
an unblinking
death.

women were beyond me.
they saw something
depraved.
there was one waitress
a little older than
I, she rather smiled,
lingered when she
brought my
coffee.

that was plenty for
me, that was
enough.

there was something about
that city, though
it didn't let me feel guilty
that I had no feeling for the
things so many others
needed.
it let me alone.

sitting up in my bed
the llights out,
hearing the outside
sounds,
lifting my cheap
bottle of wine,
letting the warmth of
the grape
enter
me
as I heard the rats
moving about the
room,
I preferred them
to
humans.


being lost,
being crazy maybe
is not so bad
if you can be
that way
undisturbed.

New Orleans gave me
that.
nobody ever called
my name.

no telephone,
no car,
no job,
no
anything.

me and the
rats
and my youth,
one time,
that time
I knew
even through the
nothingness,
it was a
celebration
of something not to
do
but only
know.

Nova Scotia


“So, why Nova Scotia?”
the question asked
by everyone we knew.

At the Seal Island Light Museum
the young guide, hair colored taffy and amber,
led us up three flights of replica building
to the original lantern,
telling us its story in a soft burr.

Both of us smiled when she said “aboot.

Peggy asked if anyone stays on the island
now, with its light gone.
“Only a few sheep,” she answered. “I worry that no one shears them.”
“The firemen do every Winter,” a voice floated up the stairs.

“Well, there you are.” She smiled, thinking.

“Did you know
they found a sheep
on one of the islands
that
hadn’t been
sheared in years?

“The wool weighed over 70 pounds!
Just imagine.
70 pounds!
How happy it must have been
with that weight gone.”


More on the Seal Island Light Museum. And a few more of Peggy's photos.

Way cool stuff. Awful site.


A rant: Electric Tiki has my vote as possibly one of the worst eCommerce Web sites I've ever visited. Let us ignore the misspellings, even of the company name itself. But...

The home page is composed of images of the various products for sale, but does clicking on any image actually take you to the associated product? It does not. Clicking on anything takes you to a simply awful frameset. Can you find the products from this simply awful frameset? You can not. If you click on "Buy Stuff," you'll find a less-than-encouraging, albeit honest, word informing you that you're going to need lotsa patience to actually get anything you want.

But we're dealing with fan-boys (and perhaps the occasional [very]-odd fan-girl), here, so let's assume most of us keep on going into the order page, where many of the items are sold out; and some which supposedly are available have no product links; and a few, whether available or not, do. And if you click on those links, you'll finally see absolutely gorgeous miniature statues, such as this one of Underdog, which I have strong fanboy lust for (no "Sex Machine"-related jokes, please).

Interesting, Electric Tiki also produced the Bewitched Samantha Stephens Black & White Edition Maquette, of which there are supposedly a few left, but I wouldn't count on it.

And yep, I understand that Tracy Lee, owner of Electric Tiki Design, probably thinks of himself as an artiste, and not as a businessperson, - "I don't send order confirmations" - and obviously not as a Web site designer, but still, one can go to GoDaddy and build a site within minutes; or one, if one has zero confidence in his/her abilities to do so, one could go to any community college, or high school, or grammar school even, and find a kid who could whip you up a site overnight...

... or one could even hire me on a barter deal. For one Underdog and one Samantha, Terry Tracy, I'll do the job.

End of rant.

via news from me

Sometime the collective wisdom works

I think I remember reading this example Google Bomb back in January, but had forgotten it until a friend pointed it out. Enter "failure" or "miserable failure" into Google and try the "I'm feeling lucky" button.

Thanks, Patti!

poetry readings

by Charles Bukowski, from Bone Palace Ballet © Black Sparrow Press. (buy now)

poetry readings

poetry readings have to be some of the saddest
damned things ever,
the gathering of the clansmen and clanladies,
week after week, month after month, year
after year,
getting old together,
reading on to tiny gatherings,
still hoping their genius will be
discovered,
making tapes together, discs together,
sweating for applause
they read basically to and for
each other,
they can't find a New York publisher
or one
within miles,
but they read on and on
in the poetry holes of America,
never daunted,
never considering the possibility that
their talent might be
thin, almost invisible,
they read on and on
before their mothers, their sisters, their husbands,
their wives, their friends, the other poets
and the handful of idiots who have wandered
in
from nowhere.
I am ashamed for them,
I am ashamed that they have to bolster each other,
I am ashamed for their lisping egos,
their lack of guts.
if these are our creators,
please, please give me something else:
a drunken plumber at a bowling alley,
a prelim boy in a four rounder,
a jock guiding his horse through along the
rail,
a bartender on last call,
a waitress pouring me a coffee,
a drunk sleeping in a deserted doorway,
a dog munching a dry bone,
an elephant's fart in a circus tent,
a 6 p.m. freeway crush,
the mailman telling a dirty joke
anything
anything
but
these.

via "The Writer's Almanac"

Friday, September 09, 2005

Sex Machines blog and book

About a year ago, I blogged about The Sex Machines – Photographs and Interviews from the New Mechanical Sexual Revolution” by photographer Timothy Archibald, a web site of photographs I found both fascinating and somehow weirdly touching...

a dildo mounted on what appears to be a converted weed whacker, posed in a driveway near a lawn mower… a couple comfortably entwined on the couch, settling in to an evening watching television, with a sex machine called “The Joyrider” in the foreground. Pets wandering into the shot of a sex machine as if the picture were being taken of the family car."
Tim and I exchanged emails after my review, and he mentioned at one point that he was looking for a print publisher. A year later, I'm happy to say that the book is due out in mid October. Tim also notes, "We are currently preparing for the exhibition 'Sex Machines: Photographs and Interviews; which will open at The Museum of Sex in New York City on November 10th."

Tim has put up The Sex Machine Diaries blog here, where you can see some of his photos and read excerpts from the book (as well as pre-order it from Amazon). Not work-place-safe at all of course, but well worth looking at in privacy.
And then these machines, I’m not into them. I like the real thing: squeezing, hugging, cuddling, just holding each other. It was hard enough for me to get comfortable selling someone a dildo, but after a while it’s just like everything else. - Kristy Van Thiel of Spindoll Manufacturing and Sales

One down. One to go.

Never underestimate the power of fhb. An hour and 1/2 after posting the Time story below...

FEMA's Brown Removed From Hurricane Katrina Recovery (Update1)

Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Michael Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was removed from on-scene oversight of the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort after lawmakers criticized his performance and qualifications.

Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, named Thad Allen, Coast Guard chief of staff, to replace Brown in overseeing the recovery from the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. Allen was named Brown's deputy four days ago. Brown, 50, will return to Washington, Chertoff said.

``I have directed Mike Brown to return to administering FEMA nationally,'' Chertoff said at a press conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. ``Mike Brown has done everything he possibly could to coordinate'' the federal response to the hurricane, he said.

ABC News reported that Brown is also expected to leave FEMA soon, citing people it didn't identify.

Meet the head of FEMA

via Time Online:

Before joining FEMA, [ Michael Brown's] only previous stint in emergency management, according to his bio posted on FEMA's website, was "serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." The White House press release from 2001 stated that Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 "overseeing the emergency services division." In fact, according to Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for the city of Edmond, Brown was an "assistant to the city manager" from 1977 to 1980, not a manager himself, and had no authority over other employees. "The assistant is more like an intern," she told TIME. "Department heads did not report to him." Brown did do a good job at his humble position, however, according to his boss. "Yes. Mike Brown worked for me. He was my administrative assistant. He was a student at Central State University," recalls former city manager Bill Dashner. "Mike used to handle a lot of details. Every now and again I'd ask him to write me a speech. He was very loyal. He was always on time. He always had on a suit and a starched white shirt."

Brown's lack of experience in emergency management isn't the only apparent bit of padding on his resume, which raises questions about how rigorously the White House vetted him before putting him in charge of FEMA. Under the "honors and awards" section of his profile at FindLaw.com — which is information on the legal website provided by lawyers or their offices—he lists "Outstanding Political Science Professor, Central State University". However, Brown "wasn't a professor here, he was only a student here," says Charles Johnson, News Bureau Director in the University Relations office at the University of Central Oklahoma (formerly named Central State University). "He may have been an adjunct instructor," says Johnson, but that title is very different from that of "professor." Carl Reherman, a former political science professor at the University through the '70s and '80s, says that Brown "was not on the faculty." As for the honor of "Outstanding Political Science Professor," Johnson says, "I spoke with the department chair yesterday and he's not aware of it." Johnson could not confirm that Brown made the Dean's list or was an "Outstanding Political Science Senior," as is stated on his online profile.

Under the heading of "Professional Associations and Memberships" on FindLaw, Brown states that from 1983 to the present he has been director of the Oklahoma Christian Home, a nursing home in Edmond. But an administrator with the Home told TIME that Brown is "not a person that anyone here is familiar with." She says there was a board of directors until a couple of years ago, but she couldn't find anyone who recalled him being on it. According to FEMA's Andrews, Brown said "he's never claimed to be the director of the home. He was on the board of directors, or governors of the nursing home." However, a veteran employee at the center since 1981 says Brown "was never director here, was never on the board of directors, was never executive director. He was never here in any capacity. I never heard his name mentioned here."

The FindLaw profile for Brown was amended on Thursday to remove a reference to his tenure at the International Arabian Horse Association, which has become a contested point.

American Life in Poetry: Column 024

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

In this poem by New York poet Martin Walls, a common insect is described and made vivid for us through a number of fresh and engaging comparisons. Thus an ordinary insect becomes something remarkable and memorable.


Cicadas at the End of Summer

Whine as though a pine tree is bowing a broken violin,
As though a bandsaw cleaves a thousand thin sheets of
titanium;
They chime like freight wheels on a Norfolk Southern
slowing into town.

But all you ever see is the silence.
Husks, glued to the underside of maple leaves.
With their nineteen fifties Bakelite lines they'd do
just as well hanging from the ceiling of a space
museum--

What cicadas leave behind is a kind of crystallized memory;
The stubborn detail of, the shape around a life turned

The color of forgotten things: a cold broth of tea & milk
in the bottom of a mug.
Or skin on an old tin of varnish you have to lift with
lineman's pliers.
A fly paper that hung thirty years in Bird Cooper's pantry
in Brighton.

Reprinted from "Small Human Detail in Care of National Trust," New Issues Press, Western Michigan University, 2000, by permission of the author. Poem copyright (c) by Martin Walls, a 2005 Wytter Bynner Fellow of the Library of Congress. His latest collection "Commonwealth" is available from March Street Press. 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, September 08, 2005

"Are you getting a lot of that Mr. Vice President?"

One can only hope. A link to the video in QT and Windows Media formats.

The return of the game that wasn't there

...although this time it was Peggy and Fred who weren't there. Our rained out game was eventually played on Labor Day, and started just about the time we were leaving the Maine Turnpike to meander down Route 1.

Knowing we couldn't go, we passed up the opportunity to make a gazillion bucks on eBay and gave the tix to Peg's friend, co-worker, and even-more-rabid Sox fan, Jessika. And so fhb gets its first guest blogger, and I pass the microphone to Jess...

Andrew and I arrived at Fenway Park just before 11 to find the grounds crew preparing for the game. It was a beautiful day and we were filled with excitement, anxiously awaiting the start of our first game this year. At 12:05 Curt threw the first pitch and with no rain in sight we knew were finally on our way. Shortly there after, we were joined by Joe (now a brunette ?) and his Dad. He was just as cute as expected and warmed right up to us. By the 3rd inning, I was pitching him peanut shells to hit with his bottle of water. The game flew right by until the bottom of the 9th when the Sox began to rally, but it was over before we knew it and we were headed for the alley. With plenty of time to spare, we headed for the souvenir shop to purchase our first Sox game jerseys. As we headed out of the shop we saw a crowd over by D gate so we headed down to find the players leaving the park with their families. It was amazing to see the array of vehicles, from a stock red and white mini cooper (Nixon) to a brand new black Bentley (Renteria). All in all, even with the loss, it was a Wonderful day at Fenway Park! A little word of advice from Andrew: Do Not visit the souvenir shop after a few beers, you’ll end up leaving with only two shirts and $300 in the hole! ?

Thanks again for the tickets, we had a great time!!!

Photos courtesy of Jessika Copeland.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Mississippi Goddamn

via BoingBoing. Two photos taken on August 30th, 2005

Things fall apart, the center cannot hold

#1 in what I expect to be a series: "Frustrated: Fire crews to hand out fliers for FEMA"

I will note that if you read the full article - as you should - you'll see that the firefighters' superiors were told, FEMA claims, that their personnel were going to be used for community relations. But as one person noted, is that an appropriate use of resources?

Red tape. Red tape. "...a coordinating officer for FEMA, said sending out firefighters on community relations makes sense. They already have had background checks and meet the qualifications to be sworn as a federal employee...."

What has happened down here is the winds have changed

Lousiana 1927 by Randy Newman

American Life in Poetry: Column 023

One from my neck of the woods - fhb

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

In this fine poem about camping by Washington poet E. G. Burrows, vivid memories of the speaker's father, set down one after another, move gracefully toward speculation about how experiences cling to us despite any efforts to put them aside. And then, quite suddenly, the father is gone, forever. But life goes on, the coffee is hot, and the bird that opens the poem is still there at its close, singing for life.


Camping Out

I watched the nesting redstart
when we camped by Lake Winnepesaukee.
The tent pegs pulled out in soft soil.
Rain made pawprints on the canvas.

So much clings to the shoes,
the old shoes must be discarded,
but we're fools to think that does it:
burning the scraps.

I listened for the rain at Mt. Monadnock,
for the barred owl on a tent peak
among scrub pines in Michigan.
I can hear my father stir

and the cot creak. The flap opens.
He goes out and never returns
though the coffee steams on the grill
and the redstart sings in the alders.

Reprinted from "Passager," 2001, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2001 by E. G. Burrows, whose most recent book is "Sailing As Before", Devil's Millhopper Press, 2001. 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.

American Life in Poetry: Column 022

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

In this short poem by Vermont writer Jean L. Connor, an older speaker challenges the perception that people her age have lost their vitality and purpose. Connor compares the life of such a person to an egret fishing. Though the bird stands completely still, it has learned how to live in the world, how to sustain itself, and is capable of quick action when the moment is right.


Of Some Renown

For some time now, I have
lived anonymously. No one
appears to think it odd.
They think the old are,
well, what they seem. Yet
see that great egret

at the marsh's edge, solitary,
still? Mere pretense
that stillness. His silence is
a lie. In his own pond he is
of some renown, a stalker,
a catcher of fish. Watch him.

Reprinted from "Passager," 2001 by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2001 by Jean L. Connor whose first book of poetry, "A Cartography of Peace," is published by Passager Books, Baltimore. 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.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The return of fhb and Noah's Wish


Peggy and I are back from a great trip up to Nova Scotia... albeit a somewhat surreal voyage at times watching the news reports from New Orleans and the Gulf in the evening after a day cruising the beautiful N.S. coast.

I'll probably have more to say about that later as I catch up on blogging, and I'm sure my friends and the blogs I regularly read have already put out many calls for contributions for disaster relief. The Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity are two Peg and I will be contributing to, but I also want to mention a relief effort that won't get as much attention, due to the larger, human disaster.

At some point, and in some now-forgotten paper, I read an editorial by Roy Blount, Jr. where he wondered aloud about whether the good times will ever roll again in New Orleans, and this paragraph caught my eye...

"I keep wondering about the mules - the mules that pull tourists in carriages clip-clop over the French Quarter cobblestones and contribute the smell of fresh manure to the grand aromarama of olive salad, hot pastry, Tabasco, whiskey and fish - are the mules somewhere safe?"
... Peg and were transported by an ancient mule named "Shine" on our trip to New Orleans nearly 20 years ago, certainly long gone to a mule heaven by now where the carriages are weightless, and there's a hand with carrot or sugar cube at every corner, but I worry about the mules of today.

And I worry about the many pets there must be throughout the area, abandoned, lost, separated from the people who love and are loved by them. Katie Couric noted in her live report from New Orleans this morning - almost as an aside - that many of the remaining survivors who are refusing to leave are doing so because they won't leave their pets behind.

That would be me, and no, I don't want to argue about priorities or the value of human vs. animal life. Everyone has their own priorities, people should do what they think is right for themselves, but I know what my priorities are.

Many animals are on their own after most disasters, even in the U.S., which, as we've all discovered, itself can be as humbled by the forces of Nature as easily as any other country. "Noah's Wish" rescues and shelters animals in disasters throughout the United States and Canada. The link above is to their home page, and they also have a page set up here reporting exclusively on post-Katrina rescue efforts. Expect a slow load for either page, I suspect their servers are badly overloaded. They currently have a team of 75 volunteers on site in Slidell, LA, and their update yesterday noted they have rescued or captured over 259 400 animals, and are currently sheltering over 250.

If you're thinking of contributing to Katrina disaster relief, please think about diverting some money to Noah's Wish. As with almost all the disaster relief efforts, what they need most right now is money. You can make a contribution through PayPal from the link above. You can send a check to:

Noah's Wish

P.O. Box 997

Placerville, CA 95667

... and there are various other suggestions about how you can help here and here.


Thanks. Oh, and about the mules. That's something that an ex-Google researcher can't let lie. Not all are safe, but there is some good news.
"...After seeing the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina, Dicky Reece of Gallatin knew he had to call his friends at Mid-City Carriages in New Orleans and offer his help.

He spent Friday preparing to rescue 25 mules that had escaped to Houston before New Orleans was completely shut down...."
Link

... and the horses mentioned in the article above are also safe.
Nineteen of the evacuees are horse and mule survivors from Mid-City Carriage's herd that were extracted yesterday (Sept. 4) from New Orleans by the company's owner, drivers, and grooms, said French this evening (Sept. 5). He said one man identified only as Lucian, braved the storm and stayed for nearly a week without food or water at the stables, refusing to leave the animals in his care. They all lived through the water rising and barn flooding.

Lucian told French the story of how one of the mules at one point "decided that she was tired of being there and took off and drug him six blocks through water that was at times over his head, and he felt like he was skiing behind the mule. I imagine it was absolutely terrifying for the guy. He's sort of a slender young fellow, how he made it that long without anything to eat, I don't know."