Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bert Lahr Cowardly Lion costume from The Wizard of Oz on eBay

Closed at $700,000 on December 14th to a Johnny Dann :-) Well, maybe not that last. However, Johhny D. was at that auction in 1970 mentioned below.

In the interests of posterity- since I don't know how long it will stay up - here's the listing info:

130. The Original "Cowardly Lion" costume worn by Bert Lahr in The Wizard of Oz. (MGM, 1939) After an absence of nearly 60 years, the "Cowardly Lion" triumphantly returns to center stage! Yes, this is the ACTUAL costume worn by Lahr in the revolutionary 1939 fantasy classic, "The Wizard of Oz". This film was notable not only for its amazing story, which virtually transported the audience from their chairs to the wonderful Land of Oz - but did so by using the most exciting and imaginative sets AND breathtaking costumes that moviegoers had ever seen! The art of filmmaking was forever changed.

The history of the "Cowardly Lion" costume since the completion of filming is interesting, if not miraculous. Presumed lost after the last frame was shot, it was literally discovered at the 11th hour before the 1970 MGM/David Weisz Auction, the most famous and legendary sale in the history of Hollywood memorabilia. The costume had been bagged and tucked away in Mrs. Culvers barn in Culver City, California, and was stumbled upon by some Wiesz staff members whod been looking through the barn for a few last items. The costume had literally been forgotten for the previous 39 years!

Understanding the magnitude of this discovery, Weisz had an addendum to the auction catalog printed that very afternoon, which was passed out to the bidders who turned out on auction day. Thus, there were no advance announcements or publicity for the costume.

A California chiropractor who happened to be at the auction bid on and won this magnificent costume for the bargain price of $2400. Without the cash on hand to pay for it in full, he put down a $1000 cash deposit to hold his purchase, and returned approximately one week later to pay the balance and take possession of his prize. A perfect case of being in the right place at the right time!

Since 1970, the costume has changed hands only once - purchased by the current owner, world-renowned artist Bill Mack, in 1985. However, the costume sat quietly until 1996, when Mack set about having it preserved and displayed in all its original glory. As the costume is constructed of real lion pelts, some minor deterioration had occurred over its 50-year life span. Mack took the costume to a well-known Midwest taxidermist who painstakingly restored the costume, added a lining, and mounted the costume on a flexible steel armature. Mack then skillfully recreated the headpiece with a lifelike sculpture of Lahr in character in all its glory

Thus, the costume has arisen from the clutches of time, so to speak, to re-emerge as a fantastic and gorgeous relic from the past - a touchstone to one of the greatest films in the history of the art.

This beautiful costume is composed of real lion pelts, which have been sewn together to form the complete outfit. The costume is positioned in the memorable "Put em up, put em up" pose from the film, and is mounted on a wood pedestal with a Yellow Brick Road diorama and poppyfield border. Designed to accommodate interchangeable tails, the costume comes with the one supported by wire apparatus. Complete documentation accompanies this piece, including the David Weisz Co./MGM auction catalog and addenda (showing the costume as lot #950A); the original auction tag with cash receipt for the first $1000 payment (made the day of the auction); 1970 bidders paddle; and detailed ledger pages of the items in which the buyer was interested, at the head of which is noted the Cowardly Lions costume.

One of the most coveted pieces of Hollywood history extant, it stands alone as the sole "Wizard of Oz" costume that remains available to collectors in the public domain: the "Tin Man" was largely destroyed (only pieces remain), and the "Scarecrow" is currently housed in the Smithsonian. Considered the "Holy Grail" of all Hollywood memorabilia, this costume is worthy of inclusion in the very finest collections of film artifacts!

Judy Garlands blue and white gingham pinafore, of which at least ten were made for the film, and at least six survive in private hands, sold at auction in England in 2005 for $285,000.00, and another sold at auction in England in 1999 for $324,000.00. $400,000 - $600,000

Saturday, December 30, 2006

1953 and Changes in the Wind

Dreamtime closes out 2006 with a turn around the radio dial and a look back at a year when music was about to change forever... 1953.

American Life in Poetry: Column 092


Home is where the heart. . . Well, surely we all know that old saying. But it's the particulars of a home that make it ours. Here the poet Linda Parsons Marion, who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, celebrates familiarity, in its detail and its richness.

Home Fire

Whether on the boulevard or gravel backroad,
I do not easily raise my hand to those who toss
up theirs in anonymous hello, merely to say
"I'm passing this way." Once out of shyness, now
reluctance to tip my hand, I admire the shrubbery
instead. I've learned where the lines are drawn
and keep the privet well trimmed. I left one house
with toys on the floor for another with quiet rugs
and a bed where the moon comes in. I've thrown
myself at men in black turtlenecks only to find
that home is best after all. Home where I sit
in the glider, knowing it needs oil, like my own
rusty joints. Where I coax blackberry to dogwood
and winter to harvest, where my table is clothed
in light. Home where I walk out on the thin page
of night, without waving or giving myself away,
and return with my words burning like fire in the grate.

Reprinted from "Home Fires: Poems," Sow's Ear Press, 1997, by permission of the author. Copyright © 1997 by Linda Parsons. 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

American Life in Poetry: Column 091


How many of us, when passing through some small town, have felt that it seemed familiar though we've never been there before. And of course it seems familiar because much of the course of life is pretty much the same wherever we go, right down to the up-and-down fortunes of the football team and the unanswered love letters. Here's a poem by Mark Vinz.

Driving Through

This could be the town you're from,
marked only by what it's near.
The gas station man speaks of weather
and the high school football team
just as you knew he would--
kind to strangers, happy to live here.

Tell yourself it doesn't matter now,
you're only driving through.
Past the sagging, empty porches
locked up tight to travelers' stares,
toward the great dark of the fields,
your headlights startle a flock of
old love letters--still undelivered,
enroute for years.

Reprinted from "Red River Blues," published by College of the Mainland, Texas City, TX, 1977, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 1977 by Mark Vinz, whose most recent book is "Long Distance," Midwestern Writers Publishing House, 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

Saturday, December 23, 2006

An addendum

to my "pretty good of" list for 2006. The trouble with blogging is that it's hard to surprise relatives with any news. But now that they're safely in the air on their way here. Here's one more "pretty good of"

Electronic toys: 300-hr TiVo® Series3™ HD Digital Media Recorder. Bought with poker winnings. I'm proud to say. :-)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays!

and see you in 2007.

Fred, Peggy, Bear, and Curl!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


via BuddyTV:

The not-so-unexpected cancellation of LOST's would be stop-gap, Day Break, left what few fans the show had in the middle of an enigma. Just what forces were behind Detective Hopper's stuck-in-time dilemma? Originally hailed as a short-term mystery with a conclusive resolution, will Day Break fans ever know the fate of their time-bound hero?

The good news for the small number of watchers is that ABC will continue the series to its conclusion online. Since Day Break was bought and paid for, and wrapped production earlier this month, ABC will use the series to bolster its selection of online programming.

Currently, the plan is to release new episodes to the web on their usual day and time, Wednesday's at 9:00pm EST. Once editing is complete, however, the entire series may be made available on ITunes, which would allow really dedicated fans to wrap the series up even quicker.
But I don't want Day Break on the Web or iTunes. I want it on my TV, damnit!

Well, everything eventually comes out on DVD, as Mark Evanier says, and given the fact it's a closed-end series, the chances are probably pretty good it will. But what a wicked pissah, huh?

Monday, December 18, 2006

All we have left is the cape.

via email from my buddy, Jill...

[Jack (Jill's 3-year-old) just said he had to go to the bathroom] Well, I untied his trusty Superman costume (the one he has worn since Halloween) and he ran down the hall. I went looking for him, thinking he had gone down to the bathroom near the playroom. Then I hear, "Well, I washed it." I went to my bathroom, where I found naked Jack, a blowout diaper on the floor, and

"Where did you wash it, Jack?"
He smiles, points to the toilet, and says, "Right there."
"Did you FLUSH it?"
He smiles, points again, and says, "Right there.:"
Sigh. We may never know.There's no sign of a stopped up water on the floor, no problems when I test flush it now. But I have looked the house over and no Superman. I honestly think I might cry. :-)
All we have left is the cape.

You say it's your birthday?

Well, it's my birthday, too, yeah!

Friday, December 15, 2006

2006 Roundup

I don't really believe in "best of," maybe more like "pretty good of" lists. Here's stuff I read/heard/saw/did/liked during 2006... and maybe you will too.

Book (Fiction): Pound for Pound - F.X. O'Toole.

I was a little leery of this novel, since it was edited from O'Toole's incomplete manuscript. And indeed, it's an uneven book, with characters disappearing and sketchy scenes begging to be fully fleshed out (and instead, told after the fact). But even so, it's a worthy successor to Rope Burns/Million Dollar Baby, and a fitting capstone to Jerry Boyd's much-too-short writing career. If you like boxing, boxing books, or the movie Million Dollar Baby, go find this book, which, like Rope Burns before the movie, already seems to have disappeared without garnering much fanfare.

Book (Nonfiction): The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast - Douglas Brinkley.

A lot of books came out in 2006 about Katrina. This is one of the best, in my opinion, with a clear time line of the storm and its aftermath,and the stories of both the heroes and villains... of which President Bush and his incompetent team of political appointees are the major ones.

Book (Graphic Novel) : Lost Girls - Alan Moore, Melinda Gebbie.

A beautifully-package three-volume set. Certainly won't be to everyone's taste - and very probably will deeply offend some. Alice of Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy of Wizard of Oz, and Wendy of Peter Pan reimagined by one of comicdom's master storytellers as Victorian erotica. Amazon, btw, has this for 40 percent of its list of $75, and I would assume you can pick it up elsewhere for the same, or even less. Worth the full price, it's a bargain at $47.25.

Book (Graphic Novel): The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation - Sid Jacobson, Ernie Colon

The most accessible version of the 9/11 report available. I was able to get through the original 800-page report, but it was tough slogging at points. This version is painstakingly faithful to to the original, does not over dramatize the events, and provides a valuable visual time line on when things happened. Highly recommended.

Radio: Theme Time Radio Hour (with your host, Bob Dylan). Available through XM Radio, AOL Radio, and various other venues.

I'm writing an article with the working title of, How Bob Dylan Helped Me Fall in Love with Radio (Again) and... he did. One hour of dreams, themes, and schemes, a playlist that encompasses everything from I Heard the Voice of the Pork Chop to Jailbait (Peggy's favorite TTRH song to date), plus commentary and def poetry readings from Mr. D.

Radio the way it was, or maybe the way it should have been.

Online Poker site: PokerStars

I throw this one in only because of the "Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act," which, in fact may or not have an impact on playing online poker. Two members of Congress, in response to my mail, stated flatly that the UIGEA did not make the playing of online poker illegal. Of course, both of them conveniently overlooked the fact that the bill will - or may - make money transfers in/out of poker sites near-impossible, but who knows? We'll have to wait and see what happens.

In any case, while some poker sites - PartyPoker the most notorious - decided to cut off their relations with U.S. players and run for the hills, PokerStars (and some others) stepped up to the plate and said, "we're here to stay and the status is quo." So far, that's been so.

I've been with PokerStars almost since I started playing online lo' two years ago now. It's a good site, good graphics, minimum connection problems, relatively good and polite players (given that I play at the very low money levels).

If you were looking for a site to try online poker and asked me, my first recommendation would be Stars.

Podcast (non-commercial): Coverville

It's been kind of a bad year for the podcasts I like to listen to, "Card Club" closed its doors, unfortunately ending with a very poor final show. Columbo migrated his "One Minute Mysteries" over to another poker podcast which I find unlistenable on the whole. PokerDiagram is still around, but has gotten very erratic both with releases and sound quality. "This Week in Tech" seems to be suffering from burnout, with wildly inconsistent shows week-to-week. I still like "Five Hundy by Midnight," but there's only so much Vegas news you can take unless you're planning a trip to Vegas.

One of the few podcasts that I was listening to regularly last year that I'm still listening to regularly this year is Coverville. As the name says, host Brian Ibbott plays cover versions of popular songs, sometimes a hodge-podge, sometimes with a theme based around a particular artist. Or even album. One of my favorite Covervilles was a track-by-track cover of Dark Side of the Moon.

I've bought several pieces of music from iTunes after hearing them first on Coverville, and in fact played an artist's music on Dreamtime after hearing him on Coverville. Higher praise I can't think of giving to a DJ and his show.

If you still don't get podcasting, see if Coverville doesn't change your mind.

Podcasts (Commercial): This American Life and Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me

Well, "commercial" in the sense that they started life as NPR shows. NPR gets podcasts, happily. I used to listen to "This American Life" back in the days that Peggy and I were commuting to her parents every other weekend, and would try to catch WWDTM while I was out running my chores on Saturday. Now, I listen to them when I want. And that's what podcasting is all about folks.

I assume you know of both shows already. If not, WWDTM is a "weekly news quiz" show and one of the most consistently funny shows you'll hear. TAL is basically just like Car Talk. Except just one guy hosting. And no cars. No, I'm kidding. You can learn more about it here.

If the Car Talk boys and Prairie Home Companion weren't such greedy bustards, my NPR => podcast life would be complete.

Online news - PopURLs

I'm not doing a blog category as I'm suffering from blog-reading burnout. I still visit a few regularly, but with nothing near the consistency of even a few months ago. Partially that's because some blogs have changed - Scott McCloud is on a year-long family trip cum book tour, for example, and Mark Evanier has gotten more into posting YouTube videos than commentary - and in some cases I think I've just overdosed on the blogger's personality.

One agggregator site I like a lot and still tread every day is PopUrls - links, as they say to "the latest web buzz." One major plus of PopUrls is it spares me of even accidentally reading anything posted by Cory Doctorow - who is one of the few writers I've ever run across who can set my teeth on edge with almost every word he writes - while still having access to BoingBoing news.

CD - Modern Times

Kind of a mulligan, I know, but I don't buy all that much music. If you're not a fan of Dylan's, this probably isn't going to make you one. I wasn't even sure how much I liked it after a few listens. But, just like with 'Love and Theft,' I'll find myself humming something, and then realize it's Nettie Moore or Spirit on the Water.

Music that sticks.

CD - Modern Times Live - The Roots and Wounded Flowers

This is something you'll either know how to find without me telling you more... or you won't. A fan dream 3-CD compilation of music that can be traced as sources of Modern Times, interspersed with cuts from Dylan's latest U.S. tour. Johnny B. Goode; Roll and Tumble Blues Hambone; Beyond The Blue Horizon; Hellhound On My Trail; and Highway Of Regret are just some of the cuts.

The sort of labor of love that seldom makes it to commercial release.

Road Trip - Lopstick Lodge and Cabins, Pittsburg, New Hampshire.

If you've ever felt the need to go to the Great North Woods for a spell, you couldn't do better for accommodations than Lopstick. Their cabins have a nice blend of the modern and the rustic and the area's scenery is beautiful. Lots to do if you're into hiking, kayaking and the ilk. Nothing to do if you're into just rusticating.

I'd bring an SUV rather than a Mini the next time I went, though.

TV series - Day Break

Largely ignored by the media after it's premiere in November, I was leery about this show both because of its premise - which is essentially that of Groundhog Day done as a murder mystery - and a trashing review in The Boston Globe. But I like episodic TV thanks to TiVo, and decided to get a season pass to give it a try.

And boy, am I glad I did. I'm hooked. I like Heroes, but I like Day Break better. I like it almost as much as 24, which is #1 on Fred's TV hit parade.

Time travel/time loop shows have to follow their own internal logic religiously, or the viewer's suspension of belief quickly breaks down. It's one of the reasons why Back to the Future and Groundhog Day and various Star Trek: TNG work as well as they do. Day Break follows its rules, and while doing so tells an addicting story. Good acting, good writing, tight plotting.

Now, at this point I should tell you to go and see it. But if you haven't you're probably going to be totally Lost (pun intended) at this point in the series. But I'm going to be disingenuous and tell you to watch it anyway, because ABC has announced it's being pulled from its time slot after December 27th, with no word about where the hell it's going, and by god, if they leave me hanging with five episodes to go, there is going to be such plotzing in the Halls of Merrimack like you've never seen. And by God, it'd better come out on DVD then and quickly!

pant. pant. Okay, end of list. Hope I gave you one or two pointers to things you haven't tried and might like. See You Real Soon.

American Life in Poetry: Column 090


Anyone can write a poem that nobody can understand, but poetry is a means of communication, and this column specializes in poems that communicate. What comes more naturally to us than to instruct someone in how to do something? Here the Minnesota poet and essayist Bill Holm, who is of Icelandic parentage, shows us how to make something delicious to eat.

Bread Soup: An Old Icelandic Recipe

Start with the square heavy loaf
steamed a whole day in a hot spring
until the coarse rye, sugar, yeast
grow dense as a black hole of bread.
Let it age and dry a little,
then soak the old loaf for a day
in warm water flavored
with raisins and lemon slices.
Boil it until it is thick as molasses.
Pour it in a flat white bowl.
Ladle a good dollop of whipped cream
to melt in its brown belly.
This soup is alive as any animal,
and the yeast and cream and rye
will sing inside you after eating
for a long time.

Reprinted from "Playing the Black Piano," Milkweed Editions, 2004, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2004 by Bill Holm. 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, December 14, 2006

Tats, Toos, and Double Dichos

My never-met buddy, Maudie, finally did the virtual stripdown and went skinnydipping in the pool, and got that tattoo she's been threatening us with for lo these many weeks. "Character is destiny" is the loose translation of the konji, says Ms. M.

I might slightly disagree, as the phrase reminds me of one of Hemingway's "double dichos," a saying that makes a statement forward or backward. From my view, destiny is character. We become who we are through the path we walk.

It's a good essay. I wish Maudie would write more, which is about the best compliment I know to give a writer.

If you go to the posting and follow the link, you'll also get a brief commentary cum criticism of the recent Winter poker blogger get-together via Michael Craig, which I'm sure is going to provoke some reaction and probably some invective in our small corner of the blogosphere.

Given that I've never been to one of the poker blogger meetups, Craig's posting pretty much reflects my opinion of them just from reading the trip reports. I probably wouldn't go solely for one - although it'd be nice and fun to finally meet Iggy and Maudie and TroubleCat and a couple of other people in person if I happened to be in Vegas, or if the community decided to do an East Coast meet at Foxwoods. But, I'm not much of a people person - few writers are, bar talk bores me, my days of marathon drinking are some 20-odd years in the past and I'm just as happy about that, thank you very much, and stories of people passing out in restrooms or flicking cigarettes into pools at places where they're guests makes me feel more sad or annoyed than amused. You'll have to forgive my cynicism, but I've had too many drunks in my life to find drunks very funny.

I'm sure it's one of those "you had to be there," things, but you take a random sampling of trip reports from of the meetups, they all seem to be of the, "I went to Vegas, got drunk, spent too much, didn't sleep, caught a massive cold, and was ready to go home by Sunday. Oh, and it's all about the people!" variety. Some people's thing, I guess. Not mine.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fishhooks beat Presto

Between a bad run over the past several weeks - which was the usual combination of bad cards and bad play - and a bad cold, I had decided to lay off the WWdN for awhile. But cold finally reduced to cough and feeling like I could actually make it past 8:30 for the first time in about 10 days, I decided mid-day yesterday to fire up ol' Wilson's and see how my game was.

I have Wilson's Turbo Tournament set up to mimic a WWdN, although I wish I could program some of the avatars to bet the Hammer, and I've found that if I'm playing well in the computer game - even if I finish out of the money - I'll usually play well in that night's WWdN - even if I finish out of the money. If get bored or frustrated playing the computer, well, that usually means an early night in the WWdN for Mr. Rico.

Taking a couple week layoff from the tables seemed to have resparked my mojo, so still feeling pretty good at 8:30, I joined a field of 38. About 3 hours later, the ever-tough Budohorseman finally closed the door on me, and I finished in second yet again - I think now for the fourth time - pocketing $90-odd bucks to boot. It'd be nice to be a Bride more than once, but being a four-time Bridesmaid ain't bad, especially when you're being paid.

Ol' PokerStars seems to be constipated right now, and doesn't want to share the tourney stats, but it was the usual combination of pretty-good cards and, if I dare say, some pretty good play, that got me into the money. As you can see from the pic to your left, I also put the whack on the Luckbox when he played his pocket 5s, nicknamed "Presto" for somewhat arcane reasons, against my fish hooks, aka pair of Jacks. CJ finished in 8th, and ricoM got name bragging rights for next week's tournament for taking him out. Unfortunately, next Tuesday is also a client's annual holiday party, so ironically I probably won't be playing. In any case, I still have Wil to gun for, given that he stops blowing off his own tournament.

It was a New Hamster night. Budohorseman was born in Manchester. I live right down the road, and xkm who lives right down the road from me, was there sweating for me. The usual suspects were there, and it was the usual fun, enjoyable night.

More poker talk after the New Year.

What happens after death?

Wavy Gravy once asked a Zen Roshi, "What happens after death?"

The Roshi replied, "I don't know."

Wavy protested, "But you're a Zen Master!"

"Yes," the Roshi admitted, "but I'm not a dead Zen Master."

via Robert Anton Wilson

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dreamtime is back....

with a cool closing theme, although we still need to get announcer Jailbait Jones in again to do our closing credits. Jailbait, email Dreamtime with your schedule, please!

Writer, musicologist, Mix Master, cartoon character, game inventor, radio producer, Eddie G. seems to have re-invented himself as many times as Bob Dylan.

Where he'll appear next, no one knows, but whatever he does next, you can bet it will be interesting. Episode 23 of Dreamtime takes a deeper look at the man behind Theme Time's curtains.

Monday, December 11, 2006

And there were camels, too

Back when I was just a sprout, my parents would take me each year sometime around my birthday - which falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas - to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes in their Christmas show.

I don't remember the first time I went, probably in the mid'50s. I do remember the last time, which would have been sometime during November-December of 19 and 62. The movie playing at Radio City was That Touch of Mink, starring Cary Grant as a long-in-the-tooth playboy and Doris Day as the world's oldest virgin.

Back in those days, the Christmas show was only around 20-30 minutes long, and was sandwiched in between movie showings. The Rockettes came out, did the March of the Wooden Soldiers, which they've been doing since 1933, do a Christmas number which would culminate with Santa's sleigh zipping onstage, and then finish with The Living Nativity, the other big show-stopper that Radio City Music Hall has also been doing over the holidays since the `30s.

Saying that I enjoyed the Christmas Show is the wrong word, somehow. It's like saying you enjoy Christmas, y'know? It's kind of silly to think otherwise. It was expected; it was a big part of my life during the Winter season, one of those roadmarks you have in your life as a kid. Me, it was Thanksgiving, the Rockettes, my birthday, and then Christmas. I liked the show, and would have been dumbfounded if I had gone to Radio City and it wasn't there. And I got a big kick out of the live animals in The Living Nativity, especially the camel. The camel usually came on last, and I waited impatiently until he appeared, and then was content. Baby Jesus in his creche, camel chewing his cud. Show over for another year. All's right in the world.

Being the storyteller I am, I've told the story to Peggy more than once, who, never having the opportunity to go to Radio City would usually eye me skeptically when I got to the camel. "A live camel, onstage?" she'd question. "It's the Nativity!" I'd counter. "They also had sheep, and a donkey, and I don't know what-all! It was cool!"

But I could tell she didn't believe me.

In 1979, long after I had stopped going, Radio City redid the show, and it became a full 90-minute spectacular, sans movie. And last year the Christmas Spectacular hit the road and one of their destinations was Boston. We didn't go last year, instead my cool birthday present was catching Bill Cosby at Foxwoods, but this year around October, Peggy looked at me and said, "Howza 'bout we go see the Rockettes for your birthday?"

I was up for that.

So, this Saturday we hopped in the Mini around 3:00 and zipped into Boston for the 5:00 show. We got into the Wang - which isn't the Wang anymore but I've given up tracking all the corporate renaming - around 4:30, and started down the aisle looking for our seats, which Peg thought were around four rows back from the stage. And an usher glanced at them, gave us the once over, and said, "oh, you're in the pit."

And indeed we were. We kept on going down to where the orchestra pit would be if they had been using an orchestra. But they weren't and the had installed four rows of temporary seating. "Cool," I thought to myself. "We're going to be very close."

In fact, we couldn't have been any closer to the stage without being on the stage. For arcane theatre reasons, orchestra seats are numbered backwards from the stage. Thus, row 4 turned out in reality to be row 1. And we had the two aisle seats in row 1 in the sold-out Rockette's Christmas Show.

The show started with near-military precision at 5:00, had a 15-minute break after 45 minutes of dance and song, and then had another 50-odd minute segment. It was ah... it was...

It was indescribable, is what it was.

Now, I gotta tell you. The show is so full of kitsch and schmaltz that I'm hesitant to recommend it. And, it is like a frozen slice of time from the 1960s, unrepentantly WASP white-bread Christian Christmas, complete with Santa and Baby Jesus. It's full-bore "Merry Christmas," not "Happy Holidays," and if you celebrate an alternative to the Christan Christmas, you're probably going to be unhappy with the show, if not downright offended. No, I don't particularly want those days completely back, either. But, if you kinda miss when one could put on a Christmas pageant without going to court, and you're a fan of kitsch and schmaltz, or maybe, even better, have kids who haven't world-wearied out on you yet and you want to give them a memory, then you should go.

What you get is the hardest-working Santa in show biz, who sings and dances in some nicely staged numbers, mostly I think to give the Rockettes time to switch costumes between acts, in a somewhat Irish brogue (Santa is Irish? Who knew?). And you get a group of singer/dancers backing Santa, all who look like they've come straight out of The Jackie Gleason or Red Skelton shows and who make with the crowd scenes in the Boston and New York acts. And you get a very funny Dancing Teddy Bear act that seems to be a deliberate good-natured parody of the show's main competition, Boston's traditional The Nutcracker holiday show.

And you've got the Rockettes, who do synchronized stepping and stomping - and kicking - like you've never seen unless you've seen them. They do dances as rag dolls, as snow queens, as Santas, and, of course, as Wooden Soldiers.

And at the end, with political correctedness totally on the run, you've got The Living Nativity, as striking as I remember it when I was kid.

And, yes, there were camels, too. All's right in the world.

Friday, December 08, 2006

American Life in Poetry: Column 089


Loss can defeat us or serve as the impetus for positive change. Here, Sue Ellen Thompson of Connecticut shows us how to mourn inevitable changes, tuck the memories away, then go on to see the possibility of a new and promising chapter in one's life.

No Children, No Pets

I bring the cat's body home from the vet's
in a running-shoe box held shut
with elastic bands. Then I clean
the corners where she has eaten and
slept, scrubbing the hard bits of food
from the baseboard, dumping the litter
and blasting the pan with a hose. The plastic
dishes I hide in the basement, the pee-
soaked towel I put in the trash. I put
the catnip mouse in the box and I put
the box away, too, in a deep
dirt drawer in the earth.

When the death-energy leaves me,
I go to the room where my daughter slept
in nursery school, grammar school, high school,
I lie on her milky bedspread and think
of the day I left her at college, how nothing
could keep me from gouging the melted candle-wax
out from between her floorboards,
or taking a razor blade to the decal
that said to the firemen, "Break
this window first." I close my eyes now
and enter a place that's clearly
expecting me, swaddled in loss
and then losing that, too, as I move
from room to bone-white room
in the house of the rest of my life.

Reprinted from "Nimrod International Journal: The Healing Arts," Vol. 49, No. 2, Spring-Summer, 2006, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2006 by Sue Ellen Thompson, whose latest book is "The Golden Hour," Autumn House Press, 2006. 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

Nike McFly

Apropos of nothing, except the power of these here internets. Apparently because an earlier post used the title, "Back to the Future," I received an email from an "AC" noting...

Hi Fred,

A sneaker campaign was started almost a year ago to get sneaker giant Nike to make the futuristic sneakers worn by Marty McFly in the second episode of Back to the Future. The campaign is going strong. So far, there are over 25,000 signatures from sneaker fans.

You can check out the sneaker campaign here

And here's the accompanying video...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Back to the Future

When I was 12, I was absolutely convinced I'd be walking on the Moon and Mars by now. Not hoping, not wishing. Convinced.

Heinlein, Walt Disney. Boys' Life. Even the Saturday Event Post, for crissakes, all took it as a given that we were going into space... and would stay out there once we got there. It wasn't just 12-year-olds, either, Scientists like Freeman Dyson were confident that they'd be taking a grand tour of the solar system in an atomic spaceship by 1970. If you haven't read Project Orion, btw, and like either science or science, find the book.

Sometime during the intervening 42 years, we lost our way to the future. Without the impetus of those crazy Reds painting a hammer and sickle on the moonscape and maybe lobbing nukes down on us, we left some dusty tracks, flags, and a few tons of equipment and junk on the Moon after a few trips.

And flew away.

And, as much as I like the shuttle from a pure balls-out piece of cool machinery, it doesn't really do much from a perspective of getting us to other planets or even into space permanently. Do we have a permanent space station? No, unless you're super-loose with how you describe "permanent" or even "space station," for that matter. Can we get to the Moon or Mars any easier than we could 37-odd years ago? No.

NASA says we're going back. And I say it's about time 'cause this aging 12-year-old ain't get any younger.

The estimated time frame for NASA's lunar plans are:

2009 -- a first test of one of the lunar spaceships.

2014 -- the first manned test flight of the Orion exploration vehicle but no moon landing.

2020 -- the first flight of the four-astronaut crew to the moon.

2024 - Permanent base.

I'll be 72 in 2024. 72 is young. Hell, Manuel Garcia O'Kelly Davis was over 100 when he decided to go look at the Asteroid Belt. I can make it.

Ja! Da! It's time to take back the future.

Fire, Walk with Me... at last

via The Boston Globe:

David Lynch was his charming, inscrutable self at the Brattle Theatre Sunday. In town for a screening of his new movie, "Inland Empire," the director took a few questions, but answered obliquely. Asked, for example, about the bunnies in his new film, the "Blue Velvet" director said, " They're not bunnies, they're rabbits." Lynch did manage to make a little news, announcing that the second season of his long-ago TV series "Twin Peaks" is coming out on DVD next spring. At that, the crowd erupted in applause.
The box set of the first season of "Twin Peaks" is sitting in my DVD cabinet, waiting...

Before there was a Heroes (which, I have to admit, I wished I liked more even though I watch each episode religiously every week), before there was a 24 (and boy ain't I going to be happy that we have the TiVo when January rolls around), before there was a Veronica Mars, before there was a Medium (which doesn't get the press of the others, and yes, I know, isn't really episodic, but still is one helluva show), there was "Twin Peaks." Sometimes self-indulgent, sometimes infuriating, there are still episodes I remember scene-by-scene to this day. The whole thing flew apart after the resolution of "Who Killed Laura Palmer?" but for awhile, "Twin Peaks" gave a hint of how good television could be. And I'm not sure any of the shows I cited above would have come to be without it coming first.

Lynch's new movie, Inland Empire, sounds suitably weird, and means I may have to take a trip to MA to catch, as I doubt that many of the New Hamster venues I haunt are going to be hosting a 3-hour movie shot in video that features "giant talking rabbits — which seem to be living in Ralph Kramden’s apartment."

Friday, December 01, 2006

American Life in Poetry: Column 088


This wistful poem shows how the familiar and the odd, the real and imaginary, exist side by side. A Midwestern father transforms himself from a staid businessman into a rock-n-roll star, reclaiming a piece of his imaginary youth. In the end, it shows how fragile moments might be recovered to offer a glimpse into our inner lives.

My Father Holds the Door for Yoko Ono

In New York City for a conference
on weed control, leaving the hotel
in a cluster of horticulturalists,
he alone stops, midwestern, crewcut,
narrow blue tie, cufflinks, wingtips,
holds the door for the Asian woman
in a miniskirt and thigh high
white leather boots. She nods
slightly, a sad and beautiful gesture.
Neither smile, as if performing
a timeless ritual, as if anticipating
the loss of a son or a lover.

Years later, Christmas, inexplicably
he dons my mother's auburn wig,
my brother's wire-rimmed glasses,
and strikes a pose clowning
with my second hand acoustic guitar.
He is transformed, a working class hero
and a door whispers shut,
like cherry blossoms falling.

Reprinted from "Folio," Winter, 2004, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2004 by Christopher Chambers, who teaches creative writing at Loyola University New Orleans. 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