Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Bear's Money

by Louis Jenkins from The Winter Road: Prose Poems by Louis Jenkins. © Holy Cow! Press.

The Bear's Money

Every fall before he goes to sleep a bear will put away five or six
hundred dollars. Money he got from garbage cans, mostly. Peo-
ple throw away thousands of dollars every day, and around here
a lot of it goes to bears. But what good is money to a bear? I
mean, how many places are there that a bear can spend it? It's a
good idea to first locate the bear's den, in fall after the leaves are
down. Back on one of the old logging roads you'll find a tall pine
or spruce covered with scratch marks, the bear runes, which
translate to something like "Keep out. That means you!" You can
rest assured that the bear and his money are nearby, in a cave or
in a space dug out under some big tree roots. When you return
in winter, a long hike on snowshoes, the bear will be sound
asleep. ... In a month or two he'll wake, groggy, out of sorts,
ready to bite something, ready to rip something to shreds ... but
by then you'll be long gone, back in town, spending like a
drunken sailor.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Well, this is, ah, "interesting."

Number 666 in Google's ongoing campaign to have you eat, sleep, and ah, defecate Google. Need a web page? Google has it.

Octavia Butler dies at age 58

This is becoming a week of obituaries. Octavia Butler, who used her full name Octavia Estelle Butler at the beginning of her career, died on Saturday, apparently as the result of a fall.

She was a very good science fiction writer, winning the Hugo, the top fan award for her short story, "Speech Sounds," in 1984 and won both the 1985 Hugo and the 1984 Nebula awards for best novelette for the story, "Bloodchild." In 1995 she received a MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the so-called "Genius Award," which she richly deserved.

I didn't know her, although I met her briefly once through Harlan Ellison, who was something of a mentor to her in the early `70s. I think she took some unfair whacks from the association. Harlan tends to polarize people to one side or the other, and there was some snide gossip that Butler had been given some breaks because she was female and black. Butler was the only pro African-American female writer in sf when she began her career. This was at a time where there were few women writers in sf, and even fewer blacks writing science fiction. Even well-meaning critics tended to pigeonhole her as "African-American female writer." But, as time passed, the labels were subsumed by the talent.

There's an obituary here.

Who? That's Right!

In an aside, Mark Evanier mentions the classic Abbott and Costello "Who's on First?" routine, which, as Mark notes was always a little contrived (although I think Mark misses the march a bit on the "dubious premise" of ballplayer names; how about Dizzy, Yogi, and Shoeless Joe just to mention three off the top of my head). In any case, the comedy was more in the delivery than content, as much comedy is. Mark also notes,
The piece actually made more sense when the satire troupe called The Credibility Gap parodied it and had a rock promoter deciding that at his concert, he was going to put The Who on first.
I wondered whether that was the basis for another "Who is the band?" Yes!" version I had heard. A little googling, and I found The Credibility Gap's version here, unfortunately in RealMedia format. If you can listen to it, you'll hear that outside of the obvious similarities (after all, how much can you do with "Who? Yes!"), it's not the basis for the much funnier, much later Woodstock Slappy (aka "Who's On Stage?") version from The Animaniacs.

At one time there was an mp3 of Woodstock Slappy floating around the web, and it's much funnier listened to than read. A little googling on your part, and you can probably find it.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Captain of The Busted Flush Sails Away

via Mark Evanier, I just found out that Darren McGavin passed away yesterday, at age 83.

You probably remember him best as reporter Carl Kolchak of The Night Stalker, two very good made-for-TV movies, and a not-so-good one-season TV series. I still remember laughing out loud at a scene from the second TV movie (incidentally titled, The Night Strangler and written, as the first was, by the great Richard Matheson) where Kolchak, in a crowded elevator, relates killing the vampire of the first movie. "How did you do that?" questions his companion. "I put a stake through his heart," Kolchak answers. They reach the top floor, the doors open, Kolchak and friend leave the elevator and turn... to find the rest of the passengers eying them warily and all staying in the elevator until the doors close again.

If you're a little older, you may also remember McGavin from The Outsider, a pretty good PI series that ran for three seasons in the late `60s. The Outsider was created by Roy Huggins, who also created "Run For Your Life" (which I desperately want to see on DVD) and "The Fugitive" but never really got the attention of either of those two. If you ever see The Outsider running on cable, give it a look.

And if you start approaching my age, you may remember McGavin from the late 50s-early `60s TV series, Riverboat, where he played Captain Grey Holden of the Mississippi riverboat, Enterprise. I've had a lifelong love affair with riverboats, and this series, which I watched religiously at ages 8 and 9, had a lot to do with that.

On a personal note, McGavin will always be Travis McGee - recoverer of conned propery,cynical knight of the rusty armor, bent lance and spavined steed, and skipper of the 52-foot houseboat, The Busted Flush - to me. While he had no physical similarities to MacDonald's "salvage consultant, " McGavin did the narration for the audio versions of 19 of the 21 Travis McGee books... and did one helluva job. I think John D. would have loved his readings, and I'll never pick up one of the books again without hearing McGavin's voice.

A tough weekend. Don Knotts, who did the wonderful The Incredible Mr. Limpet as well as so much more, and Darren McGavin.

And our ship sails on.

Friday, February 24, 2006

American Life in Poetry: Column 048

Synchronicity: Given my posting about Robbie's 21st birthday, this couldn't be a better poem to end the week. - fhb


BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Every parent can tell a score of tales about the difficulties of raising children, and then of the difficulties in letting go of them. Here the Texas poet, Walt McDonald, shares just such a story.

Some Boys are Born to Wander

From Michigan our son writes, How many elk?
How many big horn sheep? It's spring,
and soon they'll be gone above timberline,

climbing to tundra by summer. Some boys
are born to wander, my wife says, but rocky slopes
with spruce and Douglas fir are home.

He tried the navy, the marines, but even the army
wouldn't take him, not with a foot like that.
Maybe it's in the genes. I think of wild-eyed years

till I was twenty, and cringe. I loved motorcycles,
too dumb to say no to our son--too many switchbacks
in mountains, too many icy spots in spring.

Doctors stitched back his scalp, hoisted him in traction
like a twisted frame. I sold the motorbike to a junkyard,
but half his foot was gone. Last month, he cashed

his paycheck at the Harley house, roared off
with nothing but a backpack, waving his headband,
leaning into a downhill curve and gone.

First published in "New Letters," Vol. 69, 2002, and reprinted from "A Thousand Miles of Stars," 2004, by permission of the author and Texas Tech University Press. Copyright (c) 2002 by Walt McDonald. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

'Brokeback Mountain' Shirts Go for $100,000

via AOL Entertainment News:

LOS ANGELES (Feb. 22) - Tom Gregory just spent more than $100,000 on two used cowboy shirts. And he couldn't be happier.

The shirts are the ones worn by the ill-fated lovers, played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, in Oscar front-runner "Brokeback Mountain."

The shirts that represent their relationship. The shirts that, to Gregory, represent the ongoing plight of gays for acceptance in society.

"They really are the ruby slippers of our time," said Gregory, 45.

A longtime gay activist, Gregory plans to keep the shirts "as they were, on the hanger, entwined."

"I would never wear them, put them on, or separate them," he said.

Gregory collects signed celebrity photos from Hollywood's golden age, but this is his first foray into movie props. Focus Features, distributor of "Brokeback Mountain," donated the two shirts, which were sold on the auction Web site ebay.com to benefit Variety - The Children's Charity of Southern California.

Gregory logged his winning bid - $101,100.51 - just 28 seconds before the 10-day auction came to a close on Monday.

"There is no buyer's remorse," he said, characterizing the purchase as "the most fun thing I ever bought."

Performancing for Firefox

Thanks to a tip from a blogging buddy, I've started to use Performancing for Firefox, a nice little plug-in that splits the Firefox window and calls up a blog editor. What that means in English is that say I'm on a page that I want to blog about. In Firefox, that means I open up a separate tab or window, get into Blogger, and then bounce between the two to create my posting. This can get hairy if I'm linking to a lot of different places in the post.

With Perfomancing, I can stay on the page I'm blogging, move to other pages I want to reference, and create my post, all without having to log into the Blogger editor. Perfomancing doesn't always work perfectly with Blogger. I sometimes get failures when I try to post - something to do with Blogger's Atom RSS feed, apparently, formatting can sometimes go haywire, and I wish there was a spell checker. But it works well enough that I've started using Performancing regularly. If you blog and use Firefox, give it a try.


American Life in Poetry: Column 047

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

The poet, novelist and biographer, Robert Morgan, who was raised in North Carolina, has written many intriguing poems that teach his readers about southern folklore. Here's just one example.

Holy Cussing

When the most intense revivals swept
the mountains just a century ago,
participants described the shouts and barks
in unknown tongues, the jerks of those who tried
to climb the walls, the holy dance and laugh.
But strangest are reports of what was called
the holy cuss. Sometimes a man who spoke
in tongues and leapt for joy would break into
an avalanche of cursing that would stun
with brilliance and duration. Those that heard
would say the holy spirit spoke as from
a whirlwind. Words burned on the air like chains
of dynamite. The listeners felt transfigured,
and felt true contact and true presence then,
as if the shock of unfamiliar
and blasphemous profanity broke through
beyond the reach of prayer and song and hallo
to answer heaven's anger with its echo.


Reprinted from Southern Poetry Review, Vol. 43, No. 1, 2004 by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2004, by Robert Morgan, whose most recent book is "The Strange Attractor: New and Selected Poems," Louisiana State University Press, 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. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

Gah!

Here's something that will make your head hurt. A quantum computer solved a problem... without running the problem. Here's an excerpt from the article...
Utilizing two coupled optical interferometers, nested within a third,
Kwiat's team succeeded in counterfactually searching a four-element
database using Grover's quantum search algorithm. "By placing our
photon in a quantum superposition of running and not running the search
algorithm, we obtained information about the answer even when the
photon did not run the search algorithm," said graduate student Onur
Hosten, lead author of the Nature paper. "We also showed theoretically
how to obtain the answer without ever running the algorithm, by using a
'chained Zeno' effect."
Okaaay. via Boingboing

Ice Worms!

via The Anomalist:

They move through seemingly solid ice with ease and are at their liveliest near the freezing point of water. Warm them up slightly and they dissolve into goo.
They're ice worms! Link to a Seattle Times story about these sf thingies. Link to a lengthy Robert Service poem: The Ballad of the Ice-Worm Cocktail. Link to various ice worm pictures.


Ice worms are hereby declared the official invertebrate of fhb.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

In the money


I played in the 15th of Wil Wheaton's Tuesday weekly night tournaments last night, yes I did, and placed 8th in a field of 83 players, garnering $37.35 for my efforts, a little over triple my buy-in.

It was a small, fairly subdued tournament, at least in comparison to other WWdN (Wil Wheaton dot net. Go visit) and WPBT (World Poker Blogger Tour. How come we don't have these anymore?) tournaments I've played in. I didn't see a lot of recognizable names. WWonka, a Worcester, MA boy who would eventually win the tournament, showed up at my table around Hand #6 and we'd play against each other almost throughout the entire night. In fact, many of the top 9 finishers were at my (only three) pre-final tables, including Ganton516 and The SubHuman from NY. One very recognizable blogger name, BadBlood, finished 3rd and his presence at the final table eventually did bring out a few blogger railbirds, including the Good Doctor.

Part of the reason for the general quiet could be that Our Host, Wil Wheaton, was knocked out relatively early, in 68th place, reportedly by RobbieRob, who noted while at my table that he had pulled a river suckout on Star Trek Actor (my words, Wil, not his. Don't blame him). Wil eventually went over to a $20 buy-in tournament and was still in the lead when I was finally knocked out of his namesake tournament around 10:45 ET. I suspect Wil drew most of his fan base with him. Hope he won. He's been on a bad streak, but if good wishes influence cards, that should soon change.

Miz Maudie, the notorious Pokester, finished in 66th place, again, not from lack of good wishes from Rico and several other railbirds. But it was one of those nights for M. and she couldn't get any traction. But it sure was nice to know she was back in the game. Mr. "Give Me a Pigfoot and a bottle of Guinness" is off on the slopes someplace, and didn't play last night.

And Lil Rico? I was pleased with my play last night. Head was good. Felt like I was going to be in the money. Early on I took a few chances that paid off, at least one of which bemused a fellow New Hamster player from Nashua who I took out, a xkm1245. On Hand 19 I had 1670 in chips, xkm1245 in the small blind with 1140. I get an offsuit KQ, and limp in. Two players fold, the rest limp too with $30 calls.

The flop is Jc 7s 6c, really no harm to me with two over-cards, so I wait to see what the table does, and everyone checks.

I pair my King on the turn. It's a diamond, so except for the mini-worry of those two clubs already on the board, I think I probably have the best hand. Betting goes first with xkm1245 who checks, and then its check, check, check, check to me, and I bet the pot, which is $180. xkm1245, who's next in line, now raises an additional $300 to $480. The other four earlier checks all fold, as could be expected, and, after a little thought, I call xkm1245's $300 raise, figuring he's betting the King too, and most likely with a weak kicker. I mean, yes I know it's a check-raise and all that and maybe he had a 6 or 7 and now has two pair with the King on the board, but it just doesn't feel right, y'know? I mean, he's done no betting since throwing in his original $15, and now he's willing to put up $480? It really doesn't smell right. If I had K6/K7 with that board I'd have just called my $180 bet and see what the river brings. I figure he's trying to chase me off.

River is a nothing 2 of spades, which takes out the only thing I was scared of, the club flush draw, but I don't put xkm1245 on a flush draw at this point anyway. He does what I was expecting and goes all-in with his remaining $630. I've got him covered... and this is a tournament. I've learned - often painfully - that you don't finish in the money in tournaments unless you're willing to gamble with some hands. My stack will be pitiful if I lose, but at this stage of the game it's possible I can rebuild it. And all those chips will give me such a nice cushion if I've guessed right.

I call. He's got a K10 offsuit. My Queen kicker beats out his 10. I'm more or less right, and collect $2400 for the hunch. xm1245, who seems like a nice guy, also seems concerned about why I would stay in after his check-raise, and I think my answers - which I'm trying to give while still playing several hands - don't satisfy him very much. Maybe this, if he comes across it, will help. Bottom line is that 1) His check-raise seemed fishy (not in the poker newbie sense but in the smelly sense). If he had gone all-in with a raise at the turn, I think that would have said, "I'm not scared of anything that might show at the river, I have you beat." and I think I would have folded. $480 was either, "I'm trapping you," or "I'm scaring you off," and I decided for the latter. 2) I had enough in my stack to cover his all-in at the river. If it was an elaborate trap, I was willing to pay to see it sprung at that point.

Rest of the night was me folding many, many indifferent hands, pulling down some pots, and trying to avoid all-ins as I edged closer to the money table. I folded JJ at least twice in situations that would have put me all-in. Short-stacked, I gambled a couple of times, and survived. Hand #215 at 11:13 pm, the short stack at the table with $2505 in chips and facing 600/1200 blinds, I go all-in with a pair of 6s against a raise from ringo6624... who has a pair of Kings. To add insult to injury, the flop displays another King as well as two 8s, to give ringo a full house. At the turn I'm drawing dead when another 6 doesn't show, and that's all she wrote.

In unison now, "Mother of Mercy! Is this the end of Rico?" Tune in next Wednesday to find out.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Dylan does Harrison's "Something"

If you don't like Dylan, this isn't going to change your opinion. If you do like Dylan, you'll probably love it as much as I do. Reportedly NYC 2002.

You're a lawer? Nice to meet you. I'm a ritter.

Cory Doctorow's postings over at BoingBoing often get on my nerves, but every now and then he does get off a good one. Here's an hilarious email exchange between Doctorow and someone claiming to be a Canadian "lawer," and sometimes "Queen's council"

Yay! Another Bewitched statue posting!


Partial article via the "Internets? We don't need no stinkin' internets" Salem News

UPDATE: Full article via the Henry Daily Herald from McDonough, GA

Samantha Stephens of ‘Bewitched’ — coming at you

By Alan Burke
The Salem News (Salem, MA)
SALEM, Mass.

When Peter Alachi produced a booklet showcasing the “Bewitched” statue at the corner of Essex and Washington streets, he needed something to make Samantha Stephens magical.

And the answer seemed to jump out at him — 3-D.

“A Pictorial Tale of the ‘Bewitched’ Statue of Salem, Massachusetts” is 44 pages long, with 3-D photos. When it is offered for sale this spring — 5,000 copies are being prepared — a pair of 3-D glasses will be included as part of the $11.95 purchase price.

Alachi, 47, of Salem, is a database administrator for Boston University. This is his first venture into pop culture. He admits that he loves actress Elizabeth Montgomery as witch Samantha.

“Of course I do have a lot of love for her,” he says. “She was the center of the show.”

His devotion to “Bewitched,” which ran originally from 1964 to 1972, goes back to his boyhood in Syria.

“We grew up with these shows,” Alachi said. “‘Bewitched’ was known worldwide. Even in Syria. ... It had wide appeal.”

Alachi includes 3-D photos of other statues — Roger Conant and Nathaniel Hawthorne — along with shots from the “Bewitched” cast’s visit to Salem in 1970. He also covers the controversy surrounding TV Land’s decision to put up the statue last June, over complaints that it trivialized the Witch Trials.

While including several loving images of bronzed Samantha, he notes that she is already showing green spots of age. Some of his 3-D images are more effective than others, but he advises anyone to view them in good light.



Alan Burke writes for The Salem (Mass.) News.



And the book can be (pre?)-ordered here.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Robert Hollis Mayo III Celebrates Year 21 - Part 2

Circa 1985

It starts around 21 years ago, which would make me around 33-34, and Peggy and I are doing the regular Sunday dinner at her parent’s home on Waverly Street, and Peggy’s cousin’s wife, Beth, is bringing her new son, Rob too. Peg’s always had more like a brother and sister than cuz relationship to Bob. They grew up together; Bob was my best man and Beth Peg’s maid-of-honor – in fact they were our entire wedding party in our semi-elopement to the Virgin Islands. So, we’re both close to them, in other words.

We had gone to see Beth and Robbie in the hospital after his birth, and frankly I thought him the usual red-faced, monkey-like new-born. Nothing impressive. I’m happy for Bobby and Beth, of course, but it’s just a new addition to the family, as far as I’m concerned, not being much into babies. But I’m glad they’re coming to dinner.

Anyway, she brings him in, and in the course of the evening, puts him in my arms.

And I fall in love.

It’s been a long affair now. There was the baby who would make my heart soar as his face split into a wide grin when he would first spot me. There was the toddler, just barely walking, who would balance forward and lurch ahead as his feet tried to catch up to him. When he started walking better he would take my hand and we would walk up-and-down the street, him babbling nonsense syllables to me and me sagely nodding my head and occasionally remarking, “Now that’s interesting,” when there was a break in the flow.

I could fill a separate blog with stories on ball-playing, outings, school, hockey, football games, trying to teach him how to use a clutch and stick shift, graduations, but there’s way too many stories, 21 years worth of them. Let’s just have the record state that’s it’s been an interesting and fun two decades plus one, and I’m looking forward to the next.

Enter the Hummer with Hammer

Bethie called us last week and asked if we’d come to his 21st. Since, as far as we can remember, we have missed only one in the past 21 years, we said, “Yes,” after clearing it with Peg’s sis, Roberta, who was in town visiting family. Roberta tends to be game for anything, and even though by Saturday she was probably ready for some quiet time, went right along with us.

Peggy and I got to the Mayo’s around five, as requested by Beth, incidentally scaring the bejesus out of her when we showed up on her doorstep in funky old jeans and sweats. You could tell from the look on her face she was wondering a) whether she had forgotten to tell us we were going to a nice restaurant and b) whether she and Bob had anything we could wear. But Peggy reassured her we had brought along presentable outfits and would soon metamorphose into “Classy Peg & Fred.” Which we did, and were enjoying the 1st of ah, several cocktails of the evening, when this honkin’ big Humvee limo begins one of what would be several attempts to navigate the driveway. He tries to back up. No go. He drives away and tries from another angle. Nada. He tries coming in straight, even though that means he’ll have to back down the driveway. Zip.

The chauffer, who’s name is M.C. and who I’ll take to call “Hammer,” for all the predictable reasons, wisely gives up, parks at roadside, and walks up the driveway to get us. As we walk down to the stretch Hummer in the chilly New England evening, I remark, “I hope its hot tub is warmed up.” The thing is big enough to accommodate a tub, as well as several dancing girls, and the cast of Les Miz. But there’s just us, lots of snacks and carry-on booze inside of what could be a mini-Disco.

Fred Challenges the Gates of Hell (and Buys Booze)

We realize we’ve forgotten B&B for after-dinner drinking, quelle dommage, and instruct our driver and new-found friend, M.C. to find a liquor store. He does so in downtown Hopkinton, I hop out and walk into what seems to a Bukowski psychodrama scored by Tom Waits especially designed to freak Fred out. This is a tiny, little room, one cooler on the side, shelves of cheap booze on the other, an old clerk with boozy breath behind the counter and, in front of him a very, very drunk blonde in skin-tight jeans who I’m fairly certain is ah, a “soiled dove.” This, ah, lady, has spread out $125 on the counter and is picking out $5 and $10 scratch tickets. One by one. And scratching them as she purchases them. One by one.

“Let me have one of those,” she instructs the old geezer, who seems totally enthralled by her tawdry charms. “That’s what I won all this money on the last time.”

“Excuse me,” I interrupt. “I’m looking for B&B.” The clerk scowls at me. “Benedictine and Brandy?” I try, with the awful certainty that I’m as likely to find the gold-flake saki that Jill sent for New Year’s as I am to find B&B in this circle of Hell. “It’s a liqueur?”

The clerk blows stale beer breath in my face and waves vaguely at a wall flanked by wine cases. “If we have it, it maybe would be over there” and turns back to the ticket-scratching whore, gazing with desperate longing at her as she scratches at her ticket. And by God, there is exactly one large bottle of dusty B&B there that looks like its been on the shelf since ought-5, and I ain’t talking 2005, neither. I grab it, hustle to the counter, where the clerk and whore are in deep discussion about what ticket she should buy next and, since there’s least a hundred of her stake still on the counter, I politely say, “Excuse me, I have a limo waiting outside (bad mistake, Freddy, I think, as they both now seem to be thinking, “What does this snooty bastard want now?”). Would you mind if I could buy this now?”

“All you had to say was, “Get the fuck out of my way,’” the charming girl replies. The clerk, with a look of sheer hate on his face asks, “So how much is it?” I now am wearing a fixed grin that probably resembles a rictus of horror, and, even though I’m tempted to say, “$9.95,” just to see if he so desperately wants to get back to having the whore to himself that he’ll agree to anything I say, I figure if I can get out of this with honor and limbs intact I’m ahead of the game, so I tell him the right price.

I emerge from The Pit, triumphantly clutching the B&B, and tell M.C., “Take me far away from here, Hammer.”

Hammer takes us to our next stop, Bob’s daughter’s Meaghan’s, house where Mimi and Robbie await. Meaghan has been known in the family since Robbie started talking as “Mimi.” Robbie knows his parents are taking him out to dinner with family, but beyond that he’s clueless. His face widens into that familiar grin as he steps out the door. “You guys are ridiculous,” he says as he crawls into the Hummer, followed by his best bud, Nick, and Mimi. We probably are ridiculous, but he means it in a Good Sense. We barrel off to our last pickup, Robbie’s grandmother, Sadie and Roberta, and then we’re on the road again.

The Amazing Disappearing Mashed Potatoes

Many drinks later and one pee stop for the b’day boy (who, unawares that he was in for a long ride had been knocking down a few beers prior to our arrival), we were in Providence, R.I., and at The Capital Grille. We’re about a half-hour early, so its off to the very crowded bar. Peg has made Robbie his favorite birthday cake, a ridiculous, as Rob would say, chocolate thing, but we’ve left it in the limo, so I call M.C., Peg braves the extreme cold to retrieve it, and we sneak it past Rob and have it delivered to the kitchen for later use.

We’re finally seated at a very nice table and commence eating, which we do for approximately the next three hours. For appetizers, Bob orders two of these great cold shellfish platters, which includes a complete one-pound baby lobster(!!!), Gulf Coast jumbo shrimp and shucked oysters. Little is left intact save shells after we get done.

The Capital Grille is known for its steaks, as you may know, and that’s what we have. The menu is here, if you’re interested. We order about everything on it. We also got a few sides of veggies but, in a grievous error, only order one plate of mashed potatoes which, in an even more grievous error, is delivered to the boys’ side of the table. One scoop each and the plate is empty. I stare in amazement but Roberta, who has two grown boys of her own, simply calls the waiter over and orders more potatoes.

We toast Robbie, each other, the state of Rhode Island, the Capital Grille, and anything else that comes to mind. My table place is littered with wine glasses, as I had taken over the wine selection and the waiter feels that each time a new bottle is opened I must taste it and give my approval. I do, though by the fourth bottle he could be serving me canned heat for all my taste buds can tell.

We conquer our steaks, although it’s a close thing, and then the waiter brings in Peg’s cake, and we all get to embarrass Robbie with an off-key “Happy Birthday.”

All About Us

We call in the Hammer, load ourselves in the Hummer, and head North. When Robbie tries to load the CD player with ah, “less-boring” music, that is, less pre-80s, he’s told his 21st birthday celebration is now officially over, he’s on his own, and the rest of the night is All About Us. He cheerfully agrees and we drop him and Nick off at Rob’s house, which he and a group of college buddies are renting from Bob, where another party celebrating Robbie’s birthday is in full swing, even sans Robbie.

In reverse order we drop off Sadie and Roberta. Sadie asks that the Hummer’s impressive sound system be cranked up to full boogie so she can scare her neighbors, and M.C. complies. Roberta later says that Sadie was still bopping around the house long after Roberta had collapsed in bed. We let Mimi off at her house and head back to the Mayo ranch, where Peggy and I are wisely spending the night. By this time we’re in full boogie, with Beth and Peggy belting out “Bad Girls,” and Bob and I doing a knee-dance face-off on the limos floor. It’s probably a sight that would scare animals and small children, this bunch of out-of-control 50-somethings, but what the hell, we’re all family except for M.C. who’s probably seen much worse in his career, and we’re winding up 21 years of raising Robbie.

We roll in a bit after 1 in the morning, send the Hammer and His Hummer off into the night and head inside. Of course we must have a nightcap, and Bob just happens to have some Johnnie Walker Blue handy. So we sip, and Beth puts on some nice jazz, and we do our own version of “Dancing with the Stars,” waltzing around the living room.

We finally call it quits around 2:30. I don’t remember the last time I saw 2:30.

The next morning the Mayos take us for a brisk – brisk in more ways than one, Beth moves at a speed only equaled by one of those eccentric British women who stride the moors with their hounds at top speed, and its subzero outside – walk in the woods with Parker the dog, which gets all of our systems fired up again, we have breakfast, and Peg and I head back home.

And that was February 18-19th, in the Year of Our Lord, 2006, 21 years later.




Robert Hollis Mayo III Celebrates Year 21

Salud!
Salud!

originally uploaded by rico-ga.
More in a bit, but here's a link to the Flickr photostream of the Big Night Out.

Friday, February 17, 2006

One of those "Oh, wow" moments

We received an automatic TiVo software upgrade a day or so back, which has given me renewed hope for TiVo's future. Like most TiVo owners, I agonize over the company's prospects, and what I would do if it ever goes out of the business. It's kind like once being the owner of a Newton or of a Betamax. You know its good, but you don't know whether its going to survive. And yes, yes, I know that most cable companies - including my company sacked by its piratical owners, Adelphia - now offer some sort of TiVo-like DVR package. From all descriptions from family and friends, they, in a word, suck, at least in comparison to TiVo.

Back to the upgrade. As has been reported for awhile, TiVo and Yahoo have worked up an alliance which, among other things, allows TiVo owners to schedule recordings directly from a Yahoo page. That exciting news was greeted by a great yawn of boredom on the Merrimack front, as with my lifestyle it's easier to get up from the computer, walk into the den, and use the TiVo remote. But, I suppose if you're off traveling or something and find a "must-see" show that you want to record on your home TiVo it could be useful. More exciting to me was the mere fact of the Yahoo/TiVo deal, which could TiVo get some much-needed publicity that could translate into more TiVo owners.

And now, with the TiVo upgrade, you can view your Yahoo photos on your TV; find out what traffic is like (not in Merrimack, though. What would they say, "Deer and chipmunk volume unusually heavy this morning"?); and check out a 3-day weather forecast if you're too busy to use the hundreds of other options for checking out the weather. None of these made me jump up and cry, " Why, smack my ass, Sally."

But wait, as they say, there's more, and here is where things start to get interesting. The Tivo upgrade includes (and I should interject, you need to have your TiVo connected to the internet in some fashion) ; some basic little games that can be played through the TiVo remote (somewhat warm on the coolness factor); the capability to find out what movies are showing in your area and buy tickets through Fandango; (cool) access to Live365 Internet radio (very cool) - free if you're willing to put up with the same restrictions as listening through the Web, or you can purchase a subscription... and...and...

Podcasts. You can now listen to any podcast on the web through your TV... This American Life; the official "Lost" podcast; NPR podcasts; news podcasts; music podcasts... any podcast. As you can see from the photo above and to your left, I now have Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio on my TV, as well as TwiT, and a half-dozen other favorites.

Now, your first reaction may be "why is Fred getting so excited about TiVo re-inventing radio?" but I tell you, this is a Good Thing for both TiVo and podcasting and could become a Big Thing for both. Uno: Many people who previously didn't 't listen to podcasts will now. If you already have an iPod, it's probably not going to dramatically change your listening habits. But if you don't and now have this... Dos: TiVo is already beta testing video podcasting. Imagine being able to produce your own TV show and deliver it directly to TiVo subscribers. And tres, you can bet the farm that Google, Microsoft, and the cable industry are watching this with an eagle eye. Expect lots of video and podcasts to be showing up on your TV in the near future.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

More quiz fun

I'm never going to get to work today, and it's all Maudie's fault!

You scored as Pocket Aces. You are Aces, baby. Pocket aces, to be exact. You are confident, value yourself highly, are most comfortable in small groups - large gatherings tending to expose your vulnerability.

Pocket Aces


69%

The Hammer


63%

Pocket Kings


56%

Big Slick


56%

Pocket Queens


50%

What starting Hold 'Em hand are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

The Top Ten SF Films...

... that never existed. Or so this guy says. Actually, most of David Wong's list has movies that were made... poorly. And as usual with lists, there are some on his that I disagree with. Was Alien 3 bad? Most definitely. Did it "kill the franchise" as Wong claims? He seems to have forgotten 1997's "Alien: Resurrection" which, while not up to the second - and best - movie of the franchise, wasn't bad at all.

So, a counter list. In the order thought of...

10: WATCHMEN - In-and-out of turnaround so much that they've mounted revolving doors on Paramount's sound stages. During its long, pre-production history casting rumors have included Robin Williams as Rorschach and Sigourney Weaver as Silk Spectre (at this point in time, it would have to be Silk Spectre I). Terry Gilliam once considered directing WATCHMEN, but eventually concluded it was unfilmable, although he later said it might make a good 12-episode miniseries. I own three different versions of the script, and even I've attempted to script it.

9. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - I liked Starship Troopers, in fact I'm probably one of the few who liked Starship Troopers II, and I'm a fan of the Roughnecks CGI series, too, which is much closer in spirit to Heinlein's book than the proto-fascist film, which RAH probably would have hated passionately. Given Hollywood's success with Phillip K. Dick adaptations, it's surprising that so few other movies have been adapted from Heinlein's books, except for the inferior "The Puppet Masters." I think Stranger in a Strange Land (which, Mick Jagger was supposedly going to star in lo, many years ago) is a little too long-in-the-tooth (like Jagger himself) to be a viable movie, but I sure would like to see what I think is the best of Heinlein's books, TMiaHM, on the screen. Ja! Da!

8. Neuromancer - The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

"It's not like I'm using," Case heard someone say, as he shouldered his way through the crowd around the door of the Chat. "It's like my body's developed this massive drug deficiency." It was a Sprawl voice and a Sprawl joke. The Chatsubo was a bar for professional expatriates; you could drink there for a week and never hear two words in Japanese.


Does that read like a script, or what? But, by God, don't let Gibson write it.

7. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - I can hear the story pitch now, "Yeah, get this! Batman's old, really old. Think Sean Connery, but even older. He comes out of retirement, and starts breaking criminal's arms and legs. The Joker comes out of retirement, kills David Letterman and the whole studio audience, and Batman breaks his neck! Oh, and Robin's an 11-year-old girl, did I mention that? So, the government freaks out and they get Superman, and he and Batman have a big fight! And this doesn't even include the mutants, the other big fight at the amusement park, and nuclear winter!!!" Man, the studio execs would piss their pants. And we'll never see it. DC/Warner will never let it happen.

6. Snow Crash - Yep, I agree with Wong on this one. Stephenson seemingly could never decide whether he wanted to write this book straight or not (I mean, a main character named Hiro Protagonist? C'mon Neal), and it's be super-hard to adapt, but...

5. Miracleman - Probably the least likely to ever be produced, given its tortured ownership issues. But, you know Matrix: Revolutions and the big battle between Neo and Smith? Now think - if you've read the comic - of the fight between Johnny Bates and Miracleman. Think of 90 minutes of that. OMG! Nuff said.

4. Red Thunder - Possibly the most likely to be produced, as Varley is reportedly working on a screenplay based on this very good, Heinleinesque/John D. MacDonald-like book about a group of misfits who decide to go to Mars. On the other hand, Varley wrote the execrable (sorry, John) screenplay Millennium, based on his wonderful short story, "Air Raid." so he may not be ah, the right choice to script this. And, btw, it'd be nice to see "Air Raid" done right, too.

3. The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything - All right, I'm cheating. It was made as a TV movie. But not a good TV movie. Clockstoppers got closer, but this is the story of what it would mean if Time waits for one man. And while we're on the subject of John D., are we ever going to see a decent Travis McGee movie? Ever? Please?

2. A Song of Ice and Fire - Yes, yes, I'm cheating again, Martin's yet uncompleted series is fantasy, not sf. So sue me. Wolfs, dragons, incest, epic battles, foul murder, feasts, bards, fools, storms, tourneys, the living dead, who can ask for more? I want to see this on screen, or preferably as a gigantic, multi-episode mini-series. Actually I want Martin to finish the damn thing sometime in my lifetime, and then see it on-screen. One is as likely, as the other, I fear. And, I have to say it, what is about sf authors that their web sites suck so badly? Is it to show they're too busy writing?

1. Black Hole - Any time I have the opportunity to flog Charles Burns' wonderful graphic novel, I'm a happy camper. Neil Gaiman reports that he's pitching a (I think yet unwritten) adaptation to Paramount. The mind boggles. And, Neil, while you're at it, could we get American Gods, too?

Thanks to my bro, Lee, for the productivity-busting link.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Actually, I think I'm more of a "Matrix" type

Another skiffy quiz, via my pal, the Pokester.

You scored as FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files). You are part of a super secret section of the FBI. You also have the very cool status of a "Special Agent". You believe in many conspiracies and know the government is covering up way too much. Now if only you could the Cigarette Smoking Man to stop providing you with the second-hand smoke.

Moya (Farscape)


88%

FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


88%

Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


81%

Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


81%

Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


81%

Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


81%

Serenity (Firefly)


75%

Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


69%

Enterprise D (Star Trek)


69%

SG-1 (Stargate)


69%

Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


63%

Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


31%

Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com

Sunday, February 12, 2006

"Love and Theft" antecedents

What do Billie Holiday, Eddy Duchin & Lew Sherwood, Son House, and "Johnnie & Jack" (not Jill's kids) all have in common?

If you're a Dylan fan, or just like his "Love and Theft" album, you'll find this collection of five mp3s fascinating, all clear sources of "Tweedledee & Tweedledum," "Floater," "Sugar Baby, "Bye and Bye," and "Lonesome Day Blues."

Theft? Not hardly, as the Duke would say. Folk has always had a history of appropriation from earlier music. Does anyone complain that "Girl from the North Country," uses the same music as "Scarborough Faire"? Yeah, well they probably do, but they're idiots.

Love? Yes. Most definitely, love.

American Life in Poetry: Column 046

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

We constantly compare one thing with another, or attempt to, saying, "Well, you know, love is
like...it's like...well, YOU know what it's like." Here Bob King, who lives in Colorado, takes an original approach and compares love to the formation of rocks.

Geology

I know the origin of rocks, settling
out of water, hatching crystals
from fire, put under pressure
in various designs I gathered
pretty, picnic after picnic.

And I know about love, a little,
igneous lust, the slow affections
of the sedimentary, the pressure
on earth out of sight to rise up
into material, something solid
you can hold, a whole mountain,
for example, or a loose collection
of pebbles you forgot you were keeping.


Reprinted from the Marlboro Review, Issue 16, 2005, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2005 by Robert King, whose prose book, "Stepping Twice Into the River: Following Dakota Waters," appeared in 2005 from The University Press of Colorado. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Lil Rico Plays in Star Trek Actor's Tournament - Living & Dying with Big Slick 2

I played in Wil Wheaton's weekly Friday (which is held on Tuesday's, don't ask) semi-invitational PokerStars tournament last night. I played last week too, an unmemorable game where I finished in the mid-60s in a pack of around 120 players... no cards, no action when I had cards, and a steady shrinkage of chips until I was finally forced out. Not even worth writing about.

Last night was a bit better, although I still finished far out of the money. As I noted before, lately the cards have been coming for me early. Eight hands into last night's game I found a pair of Queens in my hand, one heart, one spade, and re-raised a $40 raise by another $40. Three callers. The flop was all under-card hearts, a scary thing, and I figured the pot was mine to win or lose at that point, so I threw another $200 at it to see what's what. All folds till the original raiser bumps it by $400, and now I'm in a raise or fold situation. With my Queens and a flush draw I figure what the heck and raise another $400. The other player goes all-in, and now I figure I've been beaten at the flop, but I still have a weird feeling he's running a bluff or semi-bluff and go all-in too. Pot committed.

I find I was wrong about his flush. He's holding Big Slick with King of clubs and the Ace of hearts, for a nuts flush draw. The turn is a Queen - not a heart obviously as I'm holding it, and the river pairs the boad with a 9 - not a heart, but it wouldn't have mattered, since I'm holding a full house now, and doubled up to $2760.

***

UPDATE: I've been thinking about this hand a lot over the past several days. Did I play too loose? Yeah, probably. He called a raise and my re-raise pre-flop without hestitation. He raised me at the flop with a flush on the board, indicating at the minimum that he had a high card flush draw, which, in fact, he did.

I had a pair of Queens, facing a possible flush at the flop. If he had an Ace or King in his hand (which he did) and paired at turn or river, he could beat me. If one of those was a heart (as it was), and another heart showed at turn or river, he could - probably - beat me.

This is all pre- and post-flop thinking, of course. To me, it shows a couple of things. First, how decisions are formed by the cards in your hand, to belabor the obvious. If I had a black Queen rather the Queen of hearts and the flush draw I would have folded at his post-flop raise, figuring I was soundly beat.

Second thing is how your opponent bets. I suspect the player was trying to draw me in at post-flop and the strategy backfired. With that board, draw or not, he had many more outs than me. Any Ace. Any King. Any heart. He had just smooth-called a raise and my re-raise pre-flop, indicating a good drawing hand to me... I figured a couple of face cards. As I said, his raise at the flop put me in a raise or fold situation. If he had gone all-in immediately, I think I would have backed off. But again, I thought he was betting a drawing hand aggressively, which indeed, he was.

Possibly when I re-raised he felt that too much of his money was now in at this point to get away and had to hope for the nuts flush draw or an Ace to hit the board. But, if he was trying to force me out rather than suck me in, his betting was wrong... at least to me at the time. With the all-in I figured he had laid a trap for me and I was going to see a high-card flush. But by then it didn't matter. I had too much in the pot.

Right or wrong? Who knows? This time the magic worked. In the intro of the Lord Admiral Card Club podcast my hero, Edward G. in a role other than Rico, notes, "making the wrong move at the right time." And that's part of poker, too.

***

That was hand #8. To show you how much poker is a waiting game, the next time I'm in any sort of mix-it-up situation is 28 hands later. In the interim I've mostly folded, or taken small pots when I had position. Hand #36 I have almost exactly the same amount as with hand eight, $2745. I'm in mid-position, and find a pair of 10s. One limper calls $30, someone raises to $120, I call and the limper folds. Good flop for me, another 10 shows up, and with little to fear, I re-raise the bet of $245 by going all-in, and collect $805 for my trouble. The same thing happens a few hands later when my pocket 3s turn into a set at the flop, and I collect $450.

Somewhere around hand #60, I notice that a "Columbo777" has joined the table, and on a hunch I ask if he's *the* Columbo who does the minute mysteries on the Card Club podcast. He says he is, and the avatar's right, so I take him on his word and do a little fan boy gushing, cause he's the favorite part of my favorite poker podcast. While checking him out, btw, I find out that the nice guys at Card Club have linked back to my iPod posting. UPDATE: I found out yesterday that they've even mentioned it on episode #61 of their podcast... although they mispronounce my name (hint: it does not rhyme with "balls").

Maudie shows up as a railbird on Hand #71, right before the close of Hour #1, to cheer me on and note I'm currently in 7th place with $4050 in chips. But I'm at my peak here. I get moved around a lot in Hour #2. I keep getting forced out of pots with problematic hands against big raises. My stack shrinks. I fight back, hanging around $3k of chips, but keep on going downhill.

Hand #143 - $200/400 blinds and a $25 ante. About 8 minutes before the close of Hour #2. I have a tiny $1602 in chips, and get a pair of 7s. One limper. I go all-in, causing the blinds to fold. The limper only has $625 left and calls. It's Big Slick again, and again my pair turns into a set when a 7 comes on the flop. I get new life with $2875 in chips.

But the very next hand I meet my nemesis, a player named "dsheep." I find a pair of 6s and raised the minimum $400. dsheep only has $615 left and goes all-in. I call, figuring it's me against Big Slick again. But dsheep has a pair of 7s, the cards I just won with, and now dsheep does, doubling up. I'm back down to $1987 in chips.

The next hand, I get Big Slick, go all-in, and get no callers. $2762 in chips.

Hand #150 - In retrospect, looking back at the hand history, I think I got too nervous and too aggressive at this point, both ingredients for disaster. I had $2062 in chips, which while not a helluva lot, would still let me ride out a bit. I was on the button in this hand, so I had some time to wait for a better hand. But who knows? Hindsight. In any case, with all folds to me, I raise $400 more at the blinds with A 2 suited. dsheep in the little blind goes all-in, and would have taken me with him. Again, I think I made a mistake here. I should have called him with my remaining $1200 in chips, as now I'm going to end up in an all-in situation soon anyway.

I dunno. I fold. dsheep says, "sorry rico - had a whopper." And maybe he did. But it doesn't matter much. Two hands down the line with a suited A 8, I try limping and dsheep goes all-in yet again. This time I don't hesitate, hoping that he thinks he can bluff me off... but he's not bluffing at all with AA.

And that's all she wrote. And me too. Iggy, who has been on a posting roll of late and who I railbirded for awhile, finished in 12th. dsheep finally went down in 10th. SirWFWALGman took 1st. And yes, I had fun.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tick Twister

via Cool Tools, this will be on our Amazon purchase list come spring.

We live close, ah, in the woods + furry cats + I walk them daily in good weather = Ticks in cats and occasionally in Fred. Last year one was embedded so deeply in my forearm that I had to take a trip down to the local emergency room to get it dug out. $4 seems a lot cheaper.

In the "I Want This" category - Freakin' powerful, honkin' dangerous magnets

Excerpted from the catalog description...

"Our larger magnets can easily bruise fingers and even break finger bones as they attempt to connect together. Always wear protective eyewear or safety goggles when handling the magnets. Keep magnets away from any magnetic based storage devices such as desktop or laptop computers, hard drives, floppy disks, cassette tapes, VHS tapes, or credit cards. A distance of at least 12" should be kept between magnets and these items at all times. Keep them away from computer monitors, VCR'S and TV's, non-electronic wrist watches etc. If you or someone in your household has a PACEMAKER or another electronic surgical implant, don't even think of ordering these items...

Beware - you must think ahead when moving these magnets.

If carrying one into another room, carefully plan the route you will be taking. Computers & monitors will be affected in an entire room. Loose metallic objects and other magnets may become airborne and fly considerable distances - and at great speed - to attach themselves to this magnet. If you get caught in between the two, you can get injured.

Two of these magnets close together can create an almost unbelievable magnetic field that can be very dangerous. Of all the unique items we offer for sale, we consider these items the most dangerous of all.

Our normal packing & shipping personnel refuse to package these magnets - our engineers have to do it. This is no joke and we cannot stress it strongly enough - that you must be extremely careful - and know what you're doing with these magnets.

Take Note: Two Super magnets can very easily get out of control and break fingers and even your arm if opposing poles fly at each other. If working with multiple Supermagnets, always handle one magnet at a time, secure it, then proceed to the next magnet.

To purchase any Supermagnet, we must have a signed disclaimer on file with you. This can either be faxed, sent via snail mail, or scanned in an email - but we must be able to print out a hardcopy of your hand signed disclaimer. Because of the potential liability, please understand that we cannot ship these items until we have your signed disclaimer on file with us."

Dylan at work on new album


via The Poughkeepsie Journal:

Music icon Bob Dylan spent four days at the Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie last week, privately rehearsing and writing music for an album he is set to record this week in Manhattan.

Bardavon Executive Director Chris Silva said Dylan and his band played on the stage Tuesday through Friday. Dylan worked without a break for 4-5 hours each day.

"I think that's a big deal for the area," said Wasyl Bozydaj, owner of Black Creek Guitars in New Paltz.

Silva said Dylan was enthusiastic about returning for a concert. The ex-Woodstock resident played twice in Dutchess County in 2004.

Dylan and five musicians played new music last week.

"It was experimental, all kinds of different licks," said Silva, who watched the sessions. "They would get into one thing and they would go over it and over it, then they would change gears."

Dylan and the band members didn't ask for anything beyond technical support and some take-out menus. But Silva decided to put out the fruits, vegetables and yogurt Dylan usually requires backstage when he performs.

Silva has been trying for 12 years to get him to play at the Bardavon. But more than setting the stage for a concert, last week's sessions could intertwine the Bardavon with Dylan's legacy.

"For him to be in our space, creating work that then will be recorded ... whenever I play that CD, which will be out in the next few months, I'll know some aspect of that was created in the Bardavon," Silva said.

Friday, February 03, 2006

From the people who brought you...

I was going to blog this myself, but heck, one video per week is enough, and my friend the Pokester is in a funk, so go over to her place, scroll down, watch the video, get a giggle, and give her some love.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Gaiman pitching "Black Hole" film adaptation

Exciting news, Neil Gaiman is pitching an adaptation of Charles Burns' "Black Hole" (if you haven't read "Black Hole" hie yourself off to Amazon or other bookseller of choice right now and buy it) to various studios.

Way too early to know - even guess - whether this will ever make reality, but, on the other hand, Gaiman has two movies in production (Stardust and Beowulf), and MirrorMask, even in limited release, reportedly did well. I would guess Gaiman something of a hot property in ol' Tinseltown at the moment, so here's hoping.

American Life in Poetry: Column 045

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Poets are experts at holding mirrors to the world. Here Anne Caston, from Alaska, shows us a commonplace scene. Haven't we all been in this restaurant for the Sunday buffet? Caston overlays the picture with language that, too, is ordinary, even sloganistic, and overworn. But by zooming in on the joint of meat and the belly-up fishes floating in butter, she compels us to look more deeply into what is before us, and a room that at first seemed humdrum becomes rich with inference.


Sunday Brunch at the Old Country Buffet

Madison, Wisconsin, 1996

Here is a genial congregation,
well fed and rosy with health and appetite,
robust children in tow. They have come
and all the generations of them, to be fed,
their old ones too who are eligible now
for a small discount, having lived to a ripe age.
Over the heaped and steaming plates, one by one,
heads bow, eyes close; the blessings are said.

Here there is good will; here peace
on earth, among the leafy greens, among the fruits
of the gardens of America's heartland. Here is abundance,
here is the promised
land of milk and honey, out of which
a flank of the fatted calf, thick still
on its socket and bone, rises like a benediction
over the loaves of bread and the little fishes, belly-up in butter.


Reprinted from "Flying Out with the Wounded," New York University Press, 1997. Copyright (c) 1997 by Anne Caston. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

Spelling with Flickr

One of those useless, but cool, things that you find on the web. Type in whatever you want, and Spell with Flickr grabs pictures representing each letter. The handy-dandy little form even supplies you with the HTML so you can display it wherever you want - as you can see from my new banner above.