Monday, October 31, 2005

My November Guest

My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
For they are better for her praise.

"My November Guest" by Robert Frost from Collected Poems, Prose, and Plays.© Library of America.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Living and Dying with Big Slick

Star Trek: The Next Generation
8:00 Ch. 25 FOX

60 min.

Crusher is crippled by Lt. Rico in a freak accident during the crew's weekly poker game.


This Friday's WWdN: Donegal Invitational came that close to being named the Speedy Tomato Memorial Classic after I found myself heads up against Wil Wheaton who had gone all-in pre-flop while in mid position. I had a pair of 5s, nicknamed"presto" in poker parlance, and after everyone else at the table folded, had a decision to make.

From that position I guessed that at the very least Wil had an Ace in his hand, but with only around T1200 in chips after a long. long series of indifferent hands I needed to make a move before the blinds ate up much more. Pre-flop one hand is about as good as another, is Mr. Rico's ignoring the odds philosophy, so after much agony, I called Wil. He had AJ off-suit, and my presto held from flop through river. Both Wil and I thought I had knocked him out, and there was much "gl" and "gg" and "ty's" going on, plus mucho groaning from the railbirds that always flock around Wil's table until someone piped up that he still had around 400 chips.

But I had stripped him fairly thoroughly, and though he played his short stack aggessively, building it back up to around T1400, Donegal finally took out Wil's A 10 with Big Slick (AK) a few hands later and got bragging/naming rights for this Friday's episode.

Winning that hand was pretty much the highlight of my night. I don't think I've ever held as many low pocket pairs - nothing ever higher than a pair of sevens - in one game in my short poker career. But I was able to do zip, nada, nothing with any of them. If I played them aggressively pre-/post-flop I'd always get at least one caller who always had at least pair one card higher and would ride me either to fold or river, no matter how I played the board, and with nothing ever showing to improve my hand. If I limped I'd usually be staring at three overcards at the flop, and heavy betting by every caller.

Midway through the first hour, finally catching a suited Big Slick in hand, I went over the top at a re-raise to my raise, and had an all-in thrown back at me. I called, and My AK were facing a QJ. Flop was K something 9 with another blank at the turn, and I thought my pair would hold. But my luck, she was dreaming about Cuba and the river showed a 10 - giving my opponent a straight and cutting my stack exactly in half. There I stayed until being moved to Wil's table and doubling up on the hand I describe above.

My accumulated 2400T stack dwindled, and down to under T1000 shortly before the end of Hour 2 I either played foolishly or aggressively, going all-in with a suited A3 while in the SB with a couple of limps ahead of me. The limpers I pushed out, but the BB called and flipped my bête noire for the evening, another pocket pair, this time two 10s. They held, and I was gone in 29th place of 115 players, 10 away from any money.

Wil says he may have a t-shirt made up with the slogan, "It's the biggest home game in the world." I'd buy one. Nice people, fun play, and usually a blogger table running if you get knocked out early. Who could ask for more? See you on Friday night, gang.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Haunted Heirlooms

"I don't like having a portal to another realm," the collector said. "It creeps me out."
Link (via The Anomalist)

Secrets of the Haunted Mansion

a major productivity-buster, apropos of Halloween, a site detailing everything you ever wanted to know about my all-time third favorite* Disneyland/World attraction, The Haunted Mansion. via The Disney Blog.

*1) The Mark Twain
2) Pirates of the Caribbean

American Life in Poetry: Column 031


All of us have known tyrants, perhaps at the office, on the playground or, as in this poem, within a family. Here Long Island poet Gloria g. Murray portrays an authoritarian mother and her domain. Perhaps you've felt the tension in a scene like this.

In My Mother's House

every wall
stood at attention
even the air knew
when to hold its breath
the polished floors
looked up
defying heel marks
the plastic slipcovers
crinkled in discomfort

in my mother's house
the window shades
against the glare
of the world
the laughter
crawled like roaches
back into the cracks

even the humans sat--
cardboard cut-outs
around the formica
kitchen table
and with silver knives
sliced and swallowed
their words

Reprinted from "Poet Lore," Vol 99, No. 1/2 by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2005 by Gloria g. Murray, whose latest book of poetry is "Five A.M. Anxiety." 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

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Poker ramblings

Yes, I do still play poker. And here's a posting on various things, with poker being the unifying link. Uber-posts aren't necessarily pure dwarf territory.

Boingboing mentioned an extremely strange role-playing site, Last Call Poker (apparently the correct term is "alternate reality game or ARGs"), about a week back where the central theme is Hold `Em. According to a Boston Globe article, LCP was developed by the same people who did similar things for AI (the movie) and Halo 2, and is apparently a stealth promotion for a Wild West-themed video game.

I've been playing on Last Call intermittently when I feel like poker but don't feel like gambling real money. Although I seem to be a minority opinion, I like the interface - not least because I'm impressed that anyone could build a poker site in Flash - although it is a bit slow. The "alternate reality" part of it I'm not getting, I think as much due to a lack of patience as anything else. So far I've only gotten a few so-called "spooky" emails, that read as if I walked in on the middle of a very complicated story. I wasn't about to give them out my phone number as I have this vision of Peg picking up the line and listening to a sultry voice inviting me to a midnight poker session at our local graveyard.


The Good Doctor recently wrote an essay on poker blogger vernacular that's worth a read. It includes the history of the infamous Hammer, which two cards equal the Hilton Sisters (an unfortunate comparison to Siegfried and Roy that I heard at a live poker table always comes to my mind when they appear in my hand), and which two starting cards are likely to leave you a loser and face down in the muck.


And how is your play, Unca Fred? Well, let's see. On Sunday in the 1st All-Blogger free-roll tournament on PokerStars, I placed in 336th position out of field of 1473, which ain't too shabby but didn't put a Nano in Daddy's pocket either. Pauly, btw, was nice enough to list ricoM's finish in his list of "Notable Eliminations."

I did finish ahead of many of my imaginary friends, including that sweet lil ol' lady, and the Guinness-swilling, table-chilling, hand-filling, Bushmilling dwarf housewife - who, btw, I have a bone to pick with, as he cavalierly includes someone in their 50s as part of a "busload of senior citizens" in his Ireland travel report. Here's news for you, you young whipper-snapper you, 50s ain't senior. It ain't even seasoned yet.

Where was I? Oh yeah, also notable was who was at my table (and unusual for a PokerStars tourney, I was at the same table for my entire game). I dueled a couple of times with a player on my left going under the handle of "Siren," who had a good-looking avatar, which means nothing, as the person behind the curtain is more likely to be a 400-lb toothless guy from Arkansas playing in his underwear as it is to be a babe. But Siren accumulated an impressive grouping of railbirds cheering her on, some of whom were calling her "Shirley," and it finally occurred to somewhat dense Rico that he was looking at a picture of and sharing a table with a real poker babe Shirley Rosario, aka "The Poker Babes."

Long before I knew there was a blogfather or a Tao, long before I read the perspectives of a tough player from the state where the corn grows as high as a n'elephant's eye, I was reading the Poker Babes site. I drifted away from Poker Babes 'cause Shirley tended to post irregularly, but she's back on my list again. It was nice to be playing with someone whose blog turned me on to poker. As I said at the table, "Thank you, Shirley."

Anyway, the PokerStars tourney was fun, and I hope they do something similar soon. Nice viral marketing, too, btw, to whoever came up with the idea. On the other hand, I thought their ad on BoingBoing (which was still there the last I looked, and I reproduce here for history) was the nadir of low taste. Neither good, PokerStars, nor funny.

Other games: I went into a total funk when I lost my pinkie ring (since recovered. Peggy had accidentally swept it into a drawer and found it again - as she always does - that evening. I knew it was still in the house!), and compensated by playing poker. Mean poker, where I was deliberately hammering at every player in a 45 MTT, not caring whether I survived or not. Not loose, but probably the poker I should play more often, aggressive poker. Big bets when I thought I had the better hand. Good-size bets to make the other players rethink about staying in. And of course I did well, placing 2nd; the best I've ever done in a 45 MTT (I usually stay with two or three tables for MTT SnGs).

As I already know, I need to play more aggressively. That was just a proof point. So far the lesson has stuck, and my game has been better than it has in months. Tomorrow I'm planning on trying my hand at Wil Wheaton's weekly Friday game at PokerStars:

What: WWdN: Up4Poker Invitational
Where: PokerStars.
When: Friday, October 28th. 9:00 PM EST
Password: monkey
Tournament number: 14090593
Buy-in: $10+1

Lotta bloggers there for the first two as well as Wil fans, sez alliterative Mr. Rico, and it should be fun. Glad he moved up the time, as I may make it a semi-regular game.

And the uber-post ends. Not too shabby for a creaky old senior citizen, huh?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Astronomers Discover Extremely Graphic Galaxy

via The Onion (natch)

Protecting the Presidential Seal

"It is inconceivable that anyone would think that, by using the seal, The Onion intends to 'convey... sponsorship or approval' by the president," wrote Rochelle H. Klaskin, the paper's lawyer, who went on to note that a headline in the current issue made the point: "Bush to Appoint Someone to Be in Charge of Country."

Full article (NY Times: registration may be required)

Creating great sensations among public

via The Anomalist:

The 25-centimeter dwarf discovered in Kerman has puzzled archaeologists and attracted smugglers, creating great sensations among public.

Full story

Monday, October 24, 2005

Missing: one gold ring

UPDATE: Ring found yet again. :-) but I'll leave the post for posterity. More tomorrow.

I'm trying to remember when Peggy got me the ring; at least 15 years ago I'd bet, as Robbie was only 5 or so one of the first times I lost it. That was a Patriot's Day, I think. Rob and I were playing catch in Peg's parents back yard, and it flew of my little finger into the mulch under the pines.

Rob sat on the stone steps totally bummed because I was totally bummed, but sparked up when I took him with me to find a metal detector. By the time we got back Peggy had found the ring. After that I left it on the window shelf in her mother's kitchen if we went out to play ball. Both Margaret and Robbie used to check my finger to make sure I had stowed it safely away.

Over the years I lost it several times more, the more notable times involving cats. I picked up our big old semi-Maine Coon, Speedy Tomato, one summer and was bitten by an ugly green bug hidden in his fur. I dropped Speeder like a, ah, hot tomato, and simultaneously flung the ring hallway across our lawn as I shook my hand in pain. Happily, Peg was again on the scene and saw where the ring fell.

Several years later we had adopted a cat abandoned at our vet, originally named Smokey Bacon but quickly renamed by me to Little Girl, who had several health issues due to diabetes, including more than occasionally losing control of her bladder and bowels. I came home from work one evening - this was still in the days where I was still coming home from work, - already in a foul mood, to discover that LG had completely fouled several rooms much more thoroughly. It took me over an hour to clean the house, and sometime the next day discovered that the ring was again missing. For some reason, I convinced myself that I had thrown the ring into a coin hopper on the New Hampshire turnpike, and Peg and I spent an evening fruitlessly cruising the toll booths looking for it.

As a last ditch effort I combed through the trash bag where I had deposited reams of cat diarrhea-soaked paper towels... and found a very shit-encrusted pinkie ring.

So, it's gone again, and this time neither of us have a clue where. I went for my watch this morning and the ring wasn't next to it. Bear would be the primary suspect, as his boondockers have swept the ring off counters in the past, but it's unlikely that he could have reached it this time, at least not without leaving some evidence behind. It's possible that it dropped off my finger sometime during our travels yesterday. We did everything from buying a new kichen table, to shopping at the hardware store, to picking up a hay bale at our local farm stand. My fingers shrink when the weather gets cold. It's possible it might have fallen off at some point. It wouldn't be the first time.

I'm holding out hope that it's still somewhere in the house. I'm so borderline OCD that it's hard for me to believe that I could put my watch away and not notice my ring missing, as I almost always take them off together.

I hope. But right now I feel like the kid who lost Hopkin, and have to resist wandering the streets of Merrimack, murmuring, "If I looking for ring..."

It's a signet ring, with an old Mexican gold 50 peso piece in it. Peggy had someone get it for her after I mentioned I had always wanted one. The gold has turned that creamy orange color that old gold takes. If you find it, please send it back to me.

There are a lot of memories locked in that gold.

Friday, October 21, 2005

More on Pandora

I've updated my Pandora posting, and given that I've been suffering from extreme blogorrhea this morning, didn't want my thoughts to get lost in the noise.

So go read about it now, if you already haven't, and I promise to be quiet the rest of the day.

Make it so

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

What can I say? Jean Luc and I have always been like this.

An accomplished diplomat who can virtually do no wrong, you sometimes know it is best to rely on the council of others while holding the reins.

There are some words which I have known since I was a schoolboy. "With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." These words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie -- as a wisdom, and warning. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged.

Jean-Luc is a character in the Star Trek universe. This The Next Generation fan site has an outline of his career.

And what Fantasy/SF character are you?

Man requests longer prison term to honor Larry Bird

Headlines that can't be improved upon: Part the Nth:

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A man got a prison term longer than prosecutors and defense attorneys had agreed to -- all because of Larry Bird.

The lawyers reached a plea agreement Tuesday for a 30-year term for a man accused of shooting with an intent to kill and robbery. But Eric James Torpy wanted his prison term to match Bird's jersey number 33.


99.98% similar to the real item

The photo was screened in nature condition. 99.98% similar to the real item, and you can justice this item factually. please enjoy this item from every aspect and angel, and enjoy its pretty, favor it, love it . ATTENTION: a vrey very splendid item. let's cherish the charming sonny together.

Ah... yes. Although I'm not quite sure what I'd do with it if I won it, this Art Deco Dragon phone currently on eBay inspired a moment of "I want!" lust. But the best part is the description, charmingly written by a non-English seller. (WARNING: The seller also loaded the description with tons of flashing graphics and music. Takes a long time to load, and may break Firefox).

via BoingBoing

You have to move on

via Neil Gaiman:

From UNCUT Magazine, which arrived today, a quote from an article about the recording of Springsteen's BORN TO RUN.

He hurled one tape out of the window. "It was the worst piece of garbage I'd ever heard," he [Springsteen] snarled of even the final version. "We walked out of that studio and I wanted to kill somebody." He tried to force Columbia to scrap it and record the songs live at the Bottom Line club instead. It took [producer and Rolling Stone journalist Jon] Landau to ease him back into reality. "Look, you're not supposed to like it," he said. "You think Chuck Berry sits around listening to Maybellene? And when he does hear it, don't you think that he wishes a few things could be changed? Now come on. It's time to put the record out."

Or as Sondheim said, You have to move on.

Always good to remember when you're making art. You don't have to like it, just be ready to do the next thing.

It Is Not the Fact That I Will Die That I Mind

by Jim Moore from Lightning at Dinner. © Graywolf Press.

It Is Not the Fact That I Will Die That I Mind

but that no one will love as I did
the oak tree out my boyhood window,
the mother who set herself
so stubbornly against life,
the sister with her serious frown
and her wish for someone at her side,
the father with his dreamy gaze
and his left hand idly buried
in the fur of his dog.
And the dog herself,
that mournful look and huge appetite,
her need for absolute stillness
in the presence of a bird.
I know how each of them looks
when asleep. And I know how it feels
to fall asleep among them.
No one knows that but me,
No one knows how to love the way I do.

How To Be a Poet

by Wendell Berry from Given: New Poems. © Shoemaker Hoard, Washington, D.C.

How To Be a Poet
(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill-more of each
that you have-inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your work,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Other Nations

by Kate Barnes from Kneeling Orion. © David R. Godine.

Other Nations

For Maxine Kumin

I used to think women who talked baby talk
to their animals were the rock bottom. Now I'm not
so sure. Now I open my moth
and hear, coming out of it, "Is you
a good, good dog?" – words that are falling
in their light, descending order to two pricked ears,
a hairy face, a glowing eye, an unbroken
concentration on the excellent, bone-shaped dog biscuit
I'm holding up, increasing our pleasure
with some slight, prolonging chitchat.
My neighbor Zoë,
at twelve, cries to her cat, "Oh, dearest, darlingest
Wooshiekins!" as she presses extravagant kisses
on the round head of a pale, torpid marmalade
who doesn't seem to mind (but her silent father
gets up and leaves the room).
"They are other nations,"
my own father wrote, "caught with ourselves
in the net of life and time." Of course, he meant
the wild ones, but our household allies, too,
link us to a greater world. We wish
we could speak their languages; and, meanwhile,
they learn ours.
When the rein snaps
while I'm driving home in the buggy, with Blackberry
trotting hard, grabbing the bit, through the rush
of a blustery March day, I don't start hauling
on the other rein and risk tipping us over
or starting a runaway; I call to him loudly,
"wa-alk…wa-alk…" – and after he does that
he hears me say, "Whoa!" – and he does that.

So how can I ever
praise that huge person enough, those twelve hundred pounds
of best behavior who may just have saved
my life? I get out and tie the ends
of the parted rein as he rolls
his questioning eye, and I pat
his strong, damp neck, repeating, over and over,
without thought, a mantra of gratitude to gods
and animals. "Thank you," I say, "thank you,
thank you, kind fate, thank you, my good, good friend!"

American Life in Poetry: Column 030


Naomi Shihab Nye lives in San Antonio, Texas. Here she perfectly captures a moment in childhood that nearly all of us may remember: being too small for the games the big kids were playing, and fastening tightly upon some little thing of our own.

Boy and Egg

Every few minutes, he wants
to march the trail of flattened rye grass
back to the house of muttering
hens. He too could make
a bed in hay. Yesterday the egg so fresh
it felt hot in his hand and he pressed it
to his ear while the other children
laughed and ran with a ball, leaving him,
so little yet, too forgetful in games,
ready to cry if the ball brushed him,
riveted to the secret of birds
caught up inside his fist,
not ready to give it over
to the refrigerator
or the rest of the day.

Reprinted from "Fuel," published by BOA Editions by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 1998 by Naomi Shihab Nye, whose most recent book is "A Maze Me" Harper Collins/Greenwillow, 2004. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Welcome to American Life in Poetry. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Pandora: I have seen the future...

...and it sounds pretty damn good. It's name is Pandora.

A digressive prelude: About a half-decade ago, I attended a Macromedia users' conference where there was a panel with the stock "Future of the Web" theme. Outside of Jerry Yang from Yahoo, I don't remember who any of the panelists were, but I do remember their confusion when an audience member asked what they personally used the Web for right then and now. A couple of them giggled nervously as another mumbled, "who let him in here?" and one panelist finally opinioned that she used the Web a lot to locate new restaurants as she traveled. The rest were silent.

That was then, and by now most of us have found our own uses for the Web. For example, I seldom use the phone book anymore (I Google instead) usually get driving directions from a Web site or at last resort, MapQuest, and at least 75 percent of my personal and gift shopping is done over the Web. That's just the basics. Some of my weirder uses of the Web include using Google as an on-line dictionary and spell-checker, since I'm always connected.

And then there's music. When I first started to work at home, I had the stereo on most of the time. But our stereo is in the living room, and I'm a couple of rooms away, usually working at our kitchen table. Commercial radio in New Hampshire sucks, as it does most everywhere, especially if your music tastes are a bit off the scale, so the stereo was usually playing something from our CD collection, which quickly got old for me. When Adelphia began offering Music Choice, the television became my music source during most of the work day, as the set is in the den right next to the kitchen. But the Music Choice playlists quickly get repetitive if you listen to them day after day for six or seven hours a day.

So, I moved to Web radio, the NPR stations and some jazz stations - notably "The Spirit of KJAZ" out of San Francisco, a continuous jazz radio stream that I found through iTunes. And that was pretty good, but I've found something better.

I first read about Pandora on Wil Wheaton's site (actually his site in exile, as WWdN has been down for several weeks). Wil enthused enough about Pandora that I went to check it out, and stayed to try out their 10 hour free trial. Pandora is a self-described "music discovery service designed to help you find and enjoy music that you'll love." In non-marketing-speak, what you do is give Pandora artists and music you like and it creates a personalized radio station that plays similar music. It's powered by something called the Music Genome Project, and it works. In fact, it's almost scary how well it works.

For example, during the test drive, I plugged in one of my current fave raves, Madeleine Peyroux, who sometimes sounds like Billie Holiday reborn, and outside of the expected Peyroux and Holiday songs, Pandora quickly started pulling music from Nancy Wilson, Jane Monheit, Blossom Dearie, Susan Tedeschi, and a cast of seemingly thousands, many already my favorites, and quite a few which I had never heard before.

Want a taste? Try my Madeleine Peyroux station here. Or my Thelonius Monk station. Or my Gillian Welch station. Any of those links
will bring you to a a free no-questions-asked trial where you can listen to my station, and/or create your own.

After the 10-hour free trial, you can subscribe to Pandora for 12 months of unlimited use for $36 or 3 months of unlimited use for $12. I just signed up for the 3-month subscription, but suspect I'll be moving off to a full year at the end of the quarter.

Is Pandora perfect? Not to everyone. I've seen various comments around the blogosphere that Yahoo Radio and other similar concepts works better for some people, especially if their tastes tend towards indie, obscure bands. A few have complained about the stream cutting out. I've only had that happen once in a week's worse of listening, but it's apparently a problem for some.

Even with a claimed 300,000+ songs in their library, Pandora has some holes. No Latin or Classical (both reportedly in the works). Occasionally an artist or song you'd expect to find isn't there. I was disappointed that Pandora has apparently never heard of Richard and Mimi Fariña.

The interface could use some enhancements. Being able to connect to Amazon or iTunes to purchase an album or music you just heard is way cool, but it'd be nice if there was some way to save playlists (which currently disappear into the aether between listening sessions), so you could go back and find something you liked at a later time. And Pandora doesn't make it completely clear that once you've bought a subscription, you can add additional artists and songs to any "station" you created, greatly expanding the music you'll hear. For example, my Madeleine Peyroux station includes Norah Jones, Nancy Wilson, and Katie Melua. That feature is disabled in the trial version, and until I realized that I was going to be able to add additional artists, I was dithering about subscribing.

I'm fairly
blasé about neat, new technology at this point in my career. It's been a long time since something really knocked my socks off. Pandora did, and I think there's a good chance it will do the same for you.

UPDATE: Just when you think Pandora can't get much better. I sent off an email to their request line last night asking that they include Dick and Mini
Fariña in the Music Genome project. In the in-box this morning was a message from Tim Westergen, founder of Pandora(!!!), who wrote,

"Many thanks for the suggestion, Fred. I took a quick look at their website. Have they both passed away? It seems they have quite a legacy. So much music to discover..."
If Pandora is trying to completely charm me, they're succeeding.

Disney Halloween ideas

This Mickey-themed pumpkin made me LOL.

Lots of great ideas here for Halloween including the Hatbox and Hitchhiking ghosts from the Haunted Mansion. via The Disney Blog.

In the no-spine zone

via Think Progress, and verbatim from the post, because I can't improve on it... A screen shot from O’Reilly’s appearance on the Today Show this morning. This image has not been altered.

It’s not clear whether the caption is an error or a sudden decision by NBC to raise their standards of accuracy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"Naturally it will be without sex. Everyone will be happy about it, but I'm not telling you any more."

via Ananova bwo news from me:

David Copperfield to 'magic' girl pregnant

David Copperfield says he plans to impregnate a girl on stage - without even touching her.

Speaking to German magazine Galore, the illusionist rejected the theory that there were only seven different kinds of magic tricks.

He said: "Bull s**t! There is a great deal of new territory to conquer. In my next show I'm going to make a girl pregnant on stage."

He added: "Naturally it will be without sex. Everyone will be happy about it, but I'm not telling you any more."

The magician is currently on tour in Germany with his show, An Intimate Evening of Grand Illusion.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

"Parent Trap" remix

The latest meme traveling through the blogosphere is movie trailer remixing, where clips from the original are used to promote an alt-Universe version of the movie.

Not quite as good or as funny as The Shining recut trailer, via Neil Gaiman, here is a new trailer for the original Parent Trap, starring Hayley Mills, turning it into a "awakening of the love that cannot be named" flick. Because of the Flash interface, you'll need to go here, then click on "Paul Lacalandra", then on "Ordinary Girls.").

Sunday, October 16, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 029


Many of you have seen flocks of birds or schools of minnows acting as if they were guided by a common intelligence, turning together, stopping together. Here is a poem by Debra Nystrom that beautifully describes a flight of swallows returning to their nests, acting as if they were of one mind. Notice how she extends the description to comment on the way human behavior differs from that of the birds.

Cliff Swallows
--Missouri Breaks

Is it some turn of wind
that funnels them all down at once, or
is it their own voices netting
to bring them in--the roll and churr
of hundreds searing through river light
and cliff dust, each to its precise
mud nest on the face--
none of our own isolate
groping, wishing need could be sent
so unerringly to solace. But
this silk-skein flashing is like heaven
brought down: not to meet ground
or water--to enter
the riven earth and disappear.

Reprinted from "Torn Sky," Sarabande Books, 2004, by permission of the poet. Copyright (c) 2004 by Debra Nystrom, an Associate Professor of English at the University of Virginia. 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

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Sign Up Now! Bonus Code: Jesus

via Kerusso (Innovation that inspires), "Faith chips."

"...The authentic look and feel of the chips will make it likely that people will hang onto them and ponder the meaning of the messages!"

Although it'd be hard to top, "Jesus Went All-In for You," one could have a lot of fun inventing new slogans for the chips, "There are no bad beats in Heaven," for example, or "Jesus was the original Hammer."

Doc Ock

This guy is seriously into Halloween. Here's his detailed report on how to create a Doctor Octopus (one of Spider-Man's archenemies, for the uninformed) costume, complete with vanquished Spidey.

At left: "My heart almost stopped when I found a silky red material with a black web pattern. It was perfect!"

NH as opposed to NO

Cribbed from Mark Evanier's blog:

From Jay Leno's monologue tonight...

As you know, there is terrible flooding in New Hampshire and it's been declared a disaster area.

To give you an idea how white New Hampshire is...FEMA got there in a minute and a half.

Weddings and funerals

We waked Charlie on Tuesday and the funeral service was held yesterday on a rainy, gray day. His girls spoke about him, his life, and their hopes for the future and near broke everyone's hearts.

In the past three weeks I've probably seen 99 percent of my family between a wedding and this funeral. At the wedding I danced with Lindsey - Charlie's baby granddaughter - in my arms as his daughter Christina watched and laughed. Yesterday, I looked on as Charlie's coffin was loaded into the hearse and driven away into the gray and the rain. We walked back into the crowded anteroom of the church, drank coffee, and visited with people we seldom see together anymore except at weddings and funerals. And later we went to Bob and Beth's house, talked the old family stories, and I looked at the generation behind us, Mimi; Rob; Riley; Colin; Ashley, Katherine and Kimberly, Christina, all the ones not there and those still to come. A long line of family stretching back into the past and into the future, and this day played out over and over again.

I should come up with something more profound, I guess, but Frost said it for me long ago,

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned in life: It goes on." -Robert Frost

And our ship sails on.

Monday, October 10, 2005


It was one of those decisions
that had to be made
in a moment. A Puerto Rican girl
walked across the street
in front of my car.

Fifteen or so and well
on her way to beauty, her face
was fired gold in the night.
She was headed uptown
where the streets are scarred
and sad, and I remember
how dangerous it is
for a girl to be beautiful
in some neighborhoods.

I wanted to get out
of the car and run to her
rescue, a Galahad
breaking with middle age
and tired legs and heart.

Before I could do anything, though,
the light changed
and the cars around me roared
their engines and moved out
groping for something
they believed would change things.
Like everyone else,
she would have to save herself.

by Louis McKee from River Architecture: Poems from Here and There. ® Cynic Press.

via the Petrol Crime Bureau

... a beautiful b&w award-winning music video (third from the left, here. QT required) by Reuben Sutherland. CGI cars from the PCB glide through the air, pirouette around lamp posts, and pursue a gas-guzzling SUV complete with American flag rear window decal. Music is from New Zealand's Phoenix Foundation.

via Drawn

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Charlie Mayo 1951 - 2005

"You know Sven? The man that takes care of the gym?" he asked. He waited till he got a nod from Nicholson. "Well, if Sven dreamed tonight that his dog died, he'd have a very, very bad night's sleep, because he's very fond of that dog. But when he woke up in the morning, everything would be all right. He'd know it was only a dream." - J.D. Salinger, "Teddy"

Charlie passed away at 3:30 this afternoon. His brother Bob said his last words were to his aunt Margaret, Peggy's mother, who passed away a few years ago, "I love you, Aunt Margaret." It gives hope that when it's time they'll be somebody who you loved who took the step before you already there to help you not stumble.

Mayo family pictured includes: Charlie at center, with wife Ellen. From left cousins Peggy, Fred, daughter Christina holding granddaughter Lindsey, son-in-law Scott, great-nephew Colin, brother Bob, niece Meaghan, daughter Katherine holding granddaughter Jordan, sister-in-law Beth, great-niece Riley, daughter Kim, nephew Rob, mother Sadie.

I need to get Ellen's family names, and will update the photo listing. God bless you, Charlie, and keep you safe.

Friday, October 07, 2005


Give up the world; give up self; finally, give up God.
Find god in rhododendrons and rocks,
passers-by, your cat.
Pare your beliefs, your absolutes.
Make it simple; make it clean.
No carry-on luggage allowed.
Examine all you have
with a loving and critical eye, then
throw away some more.
Repeat. Repeat.
Keep this and only this:
what your heart beats loudly for
what feels heavy and full in your gut.
There will only be one or two
things you will keep,
and they will fit lightly
in your pocket.

by Sheri Hostetler, from the anthology A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry


Today, October 7th 1955 at the Six Gallery in San Francisco, Allen Ginsberg read his poem "Howl" for the first time. Jack Kerouac sat on the edge of the stage, cheering Ginsberg on as if he were at a jazz performance. When Ginsberg was done, the audience exploded in applause.

The following is from the Wikipedia entry on "Howl," concerning the 1957 obscenity trial...

Howl contains many references to illicit drugs and sexual practices, both heterosexual and homosexual. On the basis of one line in particular

who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy

officials seized 520 copies of the poem on March 25, 1957.

A subsequent obscenity trial was brought against Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who ran City Lights Bookstore, the poem's publisher. Nine literary experts testified on the poem's behalf. Supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Ferlinghetti won the case when Judge Clayton Horn decided that the poem was of 'redeeming social importance'. The case was widely publicised (articles appeared in both 'Time' and 'Life' magazines) ensuring the wide readership of Howl, which remains one of the most popular poems by an American author.



For Carl Solomon


I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-
ery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and
saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tene-
ment roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes
hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy
among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy &
publishing obscene odes on the windows of the
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burn-
ing their money in wastebaskets and listening
to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through
Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in
Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their
torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, al-
cohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind; streets of shuddering cloud and
lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of
Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the mo-
tionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery
dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops,
storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon
blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree
vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brook-
lyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless
ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine
until the noise of wheels and children brought
them down shuddering mouth-wracked and
battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance
in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's
floated out and sat through the stale beer after
noon in desolate Fugazzi's, listening to the crack
of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to
pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brook-
lyn Bridge,
lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping
down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills
off Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts
and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks
and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days
and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the
Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a
trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic
City Hall,
suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grind-
ings and migraines of China under junk-with-
drawal in Newark's bleak furnished room,
who wandered around and around at midnight in the
railroad yard wondering where to go, and went,
leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing
through snow toward lonesome farms in grand-
father night,
who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telep-
athy and bop kabbalah because the cosmos in-
stinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,
who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking vis-
ionary indian angels who were visionary indian
who thought they were only mad when Baltimore
gleamed in supernatural ecstasy,
who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Okla-
homa on the impulse of winter midnight street
light smalltown rain,
who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston
seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the
brilliant Spaniard to converse about America
and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship
to Africa,
who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving
behind nothing but the shadow of dungarees
and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in fire
place Chicago,
who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the
F.B.I. in beards and shorts with big pacifist
eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incom-
prehensible leaflets,
who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting
the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism,
who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union
Square weeping and undressing while the sirens
of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed
down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also
who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked
and trembling before the machinery of other
who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight
in policecars for committing no crime but their
own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,
who howled on their knees in the subway and were
dragged off the roof waving genitals and manu-
who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly
motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim,
the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rose
gardens and the grass of public parks and
cemeteries scattering their semen freely to
whomever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up
with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath
when the blond & naked angel came to pierce
them with a sword,
who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate
the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar
the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb
and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but
sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden
threads of the craftsman's loom,
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of
beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a can-
dle and fell off the bed, and continued along
the floor and down the hall and ended fainting
on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and
come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,
who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling
in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning
but prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sun
rise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked
in the lake,
who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad
stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these
poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver-joy
to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls
in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses'
rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with
gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely pet-
ticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station
solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,
who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in
dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and
picked themselves up out of basements hung
over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third
Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemploy-
ment offices,
who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on
the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the
East River to open to a room full of steamheat
and opium,
who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment
cliff-banks of the Hudson under the wartime
blue floodlight of the moon & their heads shall
be crowned with laurel in oblivion,
who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested
the crab at the muddy bottom of the rivers of
who wept at the romance of the streets with their
pushcarts full of onions and bad music,
who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the
bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in
their lofts,
who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned
with flame under the tubercular sky surrounded
by orange crates of theology,
who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty
incantations which in the yellow morning were
stanzas of gibberish,
who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht
& tortillas dreaming of the pure vegetable
who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for
an egg,
who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot
for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks
fell on their heads every day for the next decade,
who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccess-
fully, gave up and were forced to open antique
stores where they thought they were growing
old and cried,
who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits
on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse
& the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments
of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the
fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinis-
ter intelligent editors, or were run down by the
drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,
who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually hap-
pened and walked away unknown and forgotten
into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alley
ways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,
who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of
the subway window, jumped in the filthy Pas-
saic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the street,
danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed
phonograph records of nostalgic European
1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and
threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans
in their ears and the blast of colossal steam
who barreled down the highways of the past journeying
to each other's hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude
watch or Birmingham jazz incarnation,
who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out
if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had
a vision to find out Eternity,
who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who
came back to Denver & waited in vain, who
watched over Denver & brooded & loned in
Denver and finally went away to find out the
Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,
who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying
for each other's salvation and light and breasts,
until the soul illuminated its hair for a second,
who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for
impossible criminals with golden heads and the
charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet
blues to Alcatraz,
who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky
Mount to tender Buddha or Tangiers to boys
or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or
Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the
daisychain or grave,
who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hyp
notism & were left with their insanity & their
hands & a hung jury,
who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism
and subsequently presented themselves on the
granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads
and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding in-
stantaneous lobotomy,
and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin
Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psycho-
therapy occupational therapy pingpong &
who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic
pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,
returning years later truly bald except for a wig of
blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible mad
man doom of the wards of the madtowns of the
Pilgrim State's Rockland's and Greystone's foetid
halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rock-
ing and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench
dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a night-
mare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the
with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book
flung out of the tenement window, and the last
door closed at 4. A.M. and the last telephone
slammed at the wall in reply and the last fur-
nished room emptied down to the last piece of
mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted
on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that
imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of
ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and
now you're really in the total animal soup of
and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed
with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use
of the ellipse the catalog the meter & the vibrat-
ing plane,
who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space
through images juxtaposed, and trapped the
archangel of the soul between 2 visual images
and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun
and dash of consciousness together jumping
with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna
to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human
prose and stand before you speechless and intel-
ligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet con-
fessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm
of thought in his naked and endless head,
the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown,
yet putting down here what might be left to say
in time come after death,
and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in
the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the
suffering of America's naked mind for love into
an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone
cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio
with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered
out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand


What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open
their skulls and ate up their brains and imagi-
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unob
tainable dollars! Children screaming under the
stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men
weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the
loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy
judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the
crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of
sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment!
Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stun-
ned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose
blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers
are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a canni-
bal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows!
Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long
streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose fac-
tories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose
smokestacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch
whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch
whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch
whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen!
Moloch whose name is the Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream
Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in
Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom
I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch
who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy!
Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch!
Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs!
skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic
industries! spectral nations! invincible mad
houses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pave-
ments, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to
Heaven which exists and is everywhere about
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies!
gone down the American river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole
boatload of sensitive bullshit!
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions!
gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! De-
spairs! Ten years' animal screams and suicides!
Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on
the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the
wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell!
They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving!
carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the


Carl Solomon! I'm with you in Rockland
where you're madder than I am
I'm with you in Rockland
where you must feel very strange
I'm with you in Rockland
where you imitate the shade of my mother
I'm with you in Rockland
where you've murdered your twelve secretaries
I'm with you in Rockland
where you laugh at this invisible humor
I'm with you in Rockland
where we are great writers on the same dreadful
I'm with you in Rockland
where your condition has become serious and
is reported on the radio
I'm with you in Rockland
where the faculties of the skull no longer admit
the worms of the senses
I'm with you in Rockland
where you drink the tea of the breasts of the
spinsters of Utica
I'm with you in Rockland
where you pun on the bodies of your nurses the
harpies of the Bronx
I'm with you in Rockland
where you scream in a straightjacket that you're
losing the game of the actual pingpong of the
I'm with you in Rockland
where you bang on the catatonic piano the soul
is innocent and immortal it should never die
ungodly in an armed madhouse
I'm with you in Rockland
where fifty more shocks will never return your
soul to its body again from its pilgrimage to a
cross in the void
I'm with you in Rockland
where you accuse your doctors of insanity and
plot the Hebrew socialist revolution against the
fascist national Golgotha
I'm with you in Rockland
where you will split the heavens of Long Island
and resurrect your living human Jesus from the
superhuman tomb
I'm with you in Rockland
where there are twenty-five-thousand mad com-
rades all together singing the final stanzas of the Internationale
I'm with you in Rockland
where we hug and kiss the United States under
our bedsheets the United States that coughs all
night and won't let us sleep
I'm with you in Rockland
where we wake up electrified out of the coma
by our own souls' airplanes roaring over the
roof they've come to drop angelic bombs the
hospital illuminates itself imaginary walls col-
lapse O skinny legions run outside O starry
spangled shock of mercy the eternal war is
here O victory forget your underwear we're
I'm with you in Rockland
in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-
journey on the highway across America in tears
to the door of my cottage in the Western night

Your moment of lobster zen

Johnny and Jack in Plymouth, MA. September `05

American Life in Poetry: Column 028


Although this poem by North Carolina native Ron Rash may seem to be just about trout fishing, it is the first of several poems Rash has written about his cousin who died years ago. Indirectly, the poet gives us clues about this loss. By the end, we see that in passing from life to death, the fish's colors dull; so, too, may fade the memories of a cherished life long lost.

Speckled Trout

Water-flesh gleamed like mica:
orange fins, red flankspots, a char
shy as ginseng, found only
in spring-flow gaps, the thin clear
of faraway creeks no map
could name. My cousin showed me
those hidden places. I loved
how we found them, the way we
followed no trail, just stream-sound
tangled in rhododendron,
to where slow water opened
a hole to slip a line in
and lift as from a well bright
shadows of another world,
held in my hand, their color
already starting to fade.

First published in "Weber Studies," 1996, and reprinted from "Raising the Dead," Iris Press, 2002, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 1996 by Ron Rash, a writer and professor of Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University, whose newest novel is "Saints at the River," Picador Press, 2005. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Clan and kin

"I don't know why -- it's just that -- I don't know -- they're not kin."

Surprising word, I think to myself, never used it before. Not of kin -- sounds like hillbilly talk -- not of a kind -- same root -- kindness, too -- they can't have real kindness toward him, they're not his kin. That's exactly the feeling.

Old word, so ancient it's almost drowned out. What a change through the centuries. Now anybody can be "kind." And everybody's supposed to be. Except that long ago it was something you were born into and couldn't help. Now it's just a faked-up attitude half the time, like teachers the first day of class. But what do they really know about kindness who are not kin? -
Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorycle Maintenance.


Peg's cousin Charlie (seated in the center) was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. For his birthday last month he asked for his family to get together, and we did at an outdoor party at Charlie and Ellen's home. It was a good turn-out, with a heavy concentration of Mayos, as there should be.

There are four generations in this photo, from Sadie at the far right, seated on her grandson, Robbie's knee, to Jordan at right center, Sadie's great-grandaughter being held by one of Charlie and Ellen's daughters, Katherine.

I was thinking after we received a copy of the photo from Ellen that large family group portraits are something that isn't done very much anymore, and more's the pity that it isn't.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Dylan 101

My friend Maudie once asked what Dylan compilation I'd recommend, which, as could be anticipated, sent me off on a digressive rant about the Royal Albert Hall concert. I later calmed down enough to give - and send - Maudie some essential Dylan recommendations.

Chris Nashawaty and Chris Willman in Entertainment Weekly wrote up a comprehensive guide to Dylan, recommendations for those new to Dylan as well as for the Compleat Fan, much better than mine. The article is replicated here. You'll need to scroll down from the McCartney article to find it.

I don't agree with their tossing "Masked and Anonymous" in the "For Absolutely No One" category. I think "M&A" is a funny, thoughtful take on America and what it's evolving into, even if it may only be tolerable to the total Dylan fanatic. But debate is what these sort of lists are for, of course.

A new addition to the house of El

Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage is a new father.

His wife, Alice Kim Cage, gave birth Monday to a boy, Kal-el Coppola Cage, in New York City, said Cage's Los Angeles-based publicist, Annett Wolf. No other details were available.

Get out your witch hats

via the Salem News Online (link will probably only work for a day or so from today's date):

No day will be more family-friendly than Thursday, when children from across Salem and beyond march in the opening night procession. The star of the parade will be Grand Marshal Erin Murphy, who played the young witch Tabitha on the 1960s sit-com "Bewitched." Murphy first visited Salem last spring for the dedication of the "Bewitched" statue in Lappin Park.

"We figured it would tie in right with the new 'Bewitched' statue," Rochna said. "It's something new, something unique."

When: 6 p.m.

Where: The parade route winds from Shetland Park, down Derby Street, up Washington Street, and around the corner onto Essex Street, ending at Salem Common.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Penile extenders and scrapbooking

fhb is beginning to pick up comment spam, whether as a sign of its growing popularity or of desperation on the part of the spammers, I don't know. The spam is obviously automated, as it's targeting key words in posts. Ironically, most of the hits have been directed to an unpublished article I wrote over a year ago on the origins of spam, which at last count had seven instances of comment spam, all now deleted. The latest one offered the reader information on penile extenders.

A piece of spam was also dropped over the weekend on a poker post where, as an aside, I had mentioned scrapbooking. The comment, assuring me that fhb was in its top three list of "must-read" blogs, also directed the reader to a "How to make big money from scrapbooking" site. It's gone now, too.

So far it's more of an annoyance than a problem. If needed, I can turn on "word verification," a feature recently added to Blogger, where commenters must read and replicate some random group of letters before their comments will be posted. That's a PIA, of course, and I won't do it unless I start spending an inordinate amount of time deleting comment spam. It'll be interesting to see how many instances this post picks up between the title and key words.

While we're on the subject of comments, Tracy Mark Lee, owner and operator of Electric Tiki Design dropped by over the weekend to respond to my rant about his Web site. He left a good-natured comment, which I appreciate (not least since he didn't take me to task for calling him "Terry" later in my post), given that I was probably more harsh than I needed to be. It's a good thing to be reminded at times that you're not operating in a vacuum when blogging; that you're writing about real people with feelings of their own. In any case, Electric Tiki is more than worth a look if you're interested in beautiful TV/comic-related statues. I mean, God, look at this.

It's still a terrible site to navigate through, though, and I wish Tracy would get someone to fix it. His work deserves a better venue in cyberspace.

SpaceShipOne headed for Smithsonian

This Wednesday, October 5, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum brings SpaceShipOne to its permanent residence at the"Milestones of Flight" gallery.

SSOne will reside next to my other favorite air/space craft there, the Spirit of St. Louis and the Bell X-1.

via BoingBoing

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Super bargain

I'm hitting the old-fart age where everything seems over-priced, wincing at our grocery bills (I work at home, so I do our weekly "big" shop, as well as picking up dinner fixings every day), staring increduously at a $7.99 paperback ("I used to buy these for 60 cents," I think). We won't even talk about gasoline.

So it's nice to come across a bargain every now and then. Taking a page from Marvel's "Essential" series, DC is releasing a "Showcase" line of black-and-white reprints of their classic titles. First out the gate is "Superman: Volume 1," only $9.99 for 560 pages including some of the best Superman stories from the late `50s to early `60s.

"Best," should probably be qualified relative to whether you originally read these sometimes goofy comics in the late `50s and early `60s as I did. As with science fiction, the golden age of comic books is... 12, as the critic David Hartwell once wrote. But if you were a Superman fan then and now, you'll love this collection.

The volume includes
the first appearances of Supergirl, Brainiac, the Fortess of Solitude and some genuinely weird stories such as the marriage of Clark Kent and Lois on a desert isle (later annulled), and Superman as Alfred E. Neuman.

Who could ask for more?