Friday, June 30, 2006

Show Biz - Fred's Dreamtime podcast #1


As I've mentioned before, I do a regular twice-a-month business podcast for one of my clients. I've been meaning to try my hand at a regular personal podcast, but spending bread on bandwidth and storage has kept me procrastinating.

Then I came across Solidcasts; and that excuse went out the door.

So, combining my love for Dylan and trivia, here's the first episode of Dreamtime - occasional commentary on Theme Time Radio Hour. Hope you enjoy...

Direct link is here...

and if you want to subscribe...


Podcast feed: Subscribe

Podcast feed: Subscribe

Happy 4th!

The grill is ready, and so are we.

Fred, Peggy, Curly Lasagna, and Shaggy Bear (to your left) wish you a Happy and Safe 4th of July weekend.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Dylan draws about 1.7 million listeners on XM Satellite Radio

via OrbitCast

This is pretty interesting. An article in today's Washington Times highlights the draw to Bob Dylan's show on XM Satellite Radio:

Rock legend Bob Dylan draws about 1.7 million listeners on XM Satellite Radio, making his weekly show one of the most popular that the subscription service offers, said XM President and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Panero.

Washington-based XM has more than 6 million subscribers. Mr. Panero would not tell us which programs draw the biggest audience on a daily basis, but he did say that "The Opie & Anthony Show," along with XM's comedy and news channels, tend to be the most popular.

Now, neither XM or SIRIUS expose the number of listeners for each of their channels. It's unfortunate because us fanboys would love to sit there and pick over any of these numbers - but then again, it's competitive intelligence. As long as no one is talking, why show your hand? (It would also serve as great market research for terrestrial radio.)

But XM has shown us a glimpse, here's the breakdown:

Total number of XM Radio Listeners* - 13.6 million
XM's The '70s - 2.1 million listeners
XM's The '80s - 1.9 million listeners
XM's 20-on-20 - 1.8 million listeners

* Yes, "listeners" are different than "subscribers"

So... after seeing those numbers, knowing that Theme Time Radio Hour is bringing in about 1.7 million XM listeners is pretty damn impressive indeed.

[Washington Times]


Bob Dylan in Baseball Hall of Fame

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Bob Dylan has played at historic Doubleday Field - music, that is. Now, he's back, and for good, just a block down Main Street in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The museum has added the baseball episode from the famed singer-songwriter's weekly music show, "Theme Time Radio Hour," on XM Satellite Radio to its archive, it was announced Wednesday.

The one-hour episode contains Dylan singing an a cappella rendition of "Take Me out to the Ball Game," along with classic baseball-announcing calls, such as Curt Gowdy's description of Ted Williams' home run in his final at-bat with the Boston Red Sox.

It also contains several original baseball compositions, including Buddy Johnson's "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?" and "The Ball Game" by Sister Wynona Carr.

The CD will be added to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library archive, which features more than 10,000 hours of recorded audio and video, and will be available for researchers.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Wheaties Report - the Garthmeister Invitational

ricoM barely burst the bubble last night, finishing 9th in a slim field of 58. My finish paid out $20.30, a little less than doubling my buy-in. But finishing in the money - any money - is always a good thing. 10th spot paid exactly the same as 58th... that is, zip.

Given that we're heading into the WSOP (as well as the 4th WPBT meet-up in Lost Wages), I was thinking about writing a bit about that aspect of tournament play; the need to remember that your primary goal is to finish in the money. And once that's secured, then to start working to finishing as high in the money as you can. Of course, that about summarizes it right there, but I have a little more to say, which I'll try to get back to once chores like vet visits and lawn mowing are out of the way.

Fun night last night. Hung with KentAllard, a nice guy who I've never tabled with before, my fellow New Hamsterite, xkm1245, who I hope did better in his SnG than in the tournament, and that ol' luckbox himself.

Till next week... or until I can get to that tournament post.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"What did I want?"


"I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, 'The games' afoot!' I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and the Lost Dauphin. I wanted Prester John and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon.

I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be -- instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is." -- Glory Road, Robert Heinlein

Incidentally, the 1st Heinlein Prize for Advances in Space Commercialization has been awarded to Dr. Peter H. Diamandis. He'll receive $500,000, a gold Heinlein Medallion, the Lady Vivamus Sword as shown above, and a Laureate’s Diploma.

What happens if a freaking big meteor hits us



In brief, nothing good. From the explanation (slightly edited to fix translation glitches, a few left in like "Star of the Death" :-))

The diameter of the meteorite is slightly larger than the breadth of Honshu Japan. The collision point is located 3,000km south from Japan, in the ocean. The velocity of the meteorite is 70,000km/h, although it appears to approach slowly because of its size.

The Earth's crust to a depth of 10Km is fully peeled away at impact, debris reaching heights exceeding 1000Km, much of it leaving the atmosphere altogether and reaching space. The impact crater's outer edge is 7000Km in height, resembling a mountain range. The crater's diameter is 4000Km, roughly large enough to swallow an area from Guam to the Chinese continent.

The impact shock wave reaches the Japanese Islands, which are crushed (Goodbye Tokyo). But, it was only an introductory chapter of the tragedy that would start in the future... (sic)

The following blast wave, made up of vaporized rock, with temperatures exceeding 4000C, reaches the Himalayas within three hours after impact, melting snow instantaneously. Within 24 hours, the blast wave will reach the Amazon Basin, igniting all it touches. Eventually, a blanket of fire will enshroud the Earth for more than a year, boiling away the world's oceans at the speed of 5cm per minute. The naked sea bed is exposed to the intense heat and melts down like lava. At this point, the earth becomes a star where the living thing cannot live. Thus, the earth turned into the star of the death...

Sesame Street Funk

Monday, June 26, 2006

Gidget Goes 65

Did you know that "Gidget," published in 1957, outsold Jack Kerouac's "On the Road"? The book would spawn the Sandra Dee movies, as well as the Sally Field television series.

Lots of surfers in my day blamed the Gidget phenom for the unwelcome change of surfing from a niche lifestyle to fullblown public mania.

Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, the original "girl midget," unwitting pawn or evil genius behind surfing's popularity? You decide.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

American Life in Poetry: Column 065

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Visiting a familiar and once dear place after a long absence can knock the words right out of us, and in this poem, Keith Althaus of Massachusetts observes this happening to someone else. I like the way he suggests, at the end, that it may take days before that silence heals over.


Homecoming

We drove through the gates
into a maze of little roads,
with speed bumps now,
that circled a pavilion,
field house, and ran past
the playing fields and wound
their way up to the cluster
of wood and stone buildings
of the school you went to once.
The green was returning to
the trees and lawn, the lake
was still half-lidded with ice
and blind in the middle.
There was nobody around
except a few cars in front
of the administration. It must
have been spring break.
We left without ever getting out
of the car. You were quiet
that night, the next day,
the way after heavy rain
that the earth cannot absorb,
the water lies in pools
in unexpected places for days
until it disappears.


Reprinted from "Ladder of Hours: Poems 1969-2005," Ausable Press, Keene, N.Y., 2005, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2005 by Keith Althaus. 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.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Clown on Compton



Why is Fred posting a Jack-in-the-Box commercial from 1980?

Back in the early `70s, for reasons too complicated to explain here, I spent several months as an unauthorized, undocumented and largely ineffective teacher's assistant in Watts, south Los Angeles, CA at a public school on Compton Avenue. It was a passingly strange time in my life; during the same period I was on the periphery of Melvin Van Peeble's entourage/posse, as Van Peebles finished editing and post-production on Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. You can get a taste for what that was like by viewing Melvin's son, Mario's, biopic, BAADASSSSS!, also known as How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass, which is a pretty good document of the period and what it was like to hang out with Melvin, who was an extremely nice guy. One of those life forks in the road that I've mentioned before happened during that period. I was semi-commissioned ("semi-" meaning I was doing it for free) by Van Peebles to develop a script from one of the ideas he was always spinning off like sparks from a pinwheel, but it never went anywhere.

I suspect that the then 18-year-old Fred may be one of the minor characters portrayed in BAADASSSSS! but who knows? In any case, the history goes a long way to explaining my enduring love for the blaxploitation genre - I'm still prone to sing the theme from Foxy Brown. But that's all part of another story.

Anyway, one of my many memories of Watts is rolling up to a Jack-in-the-Box for lunch. At a Jack-in-the-Box, if you didn't get to visit one prior to the `80s, the drive-through speaker box was inside an oversized bobbing clown's head. In Watts, someone had spray-painted the white clown's face black, which I thought was a pretty good statement for the times. The Watts' clown, as I remember, also had its own unique way of taking your order, "Yo, blood! Wha's happe'ning?"

I used to go just for that.

If you're not from the West Coast, or at least the West, you may not be that familiar with JitBs, they never pushed much past the Mississippi, although I seem to remember there was one lonely outpost in Cambridge, MA for a short time.* JitB seemed to generate a "love it/hate it" response from most people. You either liked the burgers, tacos, et al; or you never ate at JitB if there was any alternative. I liked the burgers, loved the tacos, and was indifferent to the rest of the JitB menu.

Sometime during the `80s a rumor floated around for awhile that JitB burgers were largely composed of kangaroo meat, apparently because the company was reportedly getting its beef from Australia and New Zealand. The same rumor would be applied to McDonalds and Wendy's at different times, too.

In the `80s, in one of those campaigns that seemed created only to generate revenue for the ad agency, someone had the brillant idea of 1) disposing of the clown heads and 2) blowing them up to show JitB's absolute commitment to destroy clown heads, or something. And that's where the commercial came from. As could be expected, once dead the clown was fondly remembered and in 1995, staged a big comeback, although no longer as a speaker box, the company probably having done a cost-estimate proving that vandalized clown heads would force them to start using kiwis in their chicken sandwiches. From the JitB home page,

"In 1995, Foodmaker launched an advertising campaign that featured Jack as the company's fictional founder, CEO and ad pitchman. Longtime customers will remember Jack as a clown who formerly served atop the company's family-friendly drive-thru speaker box. Then in 1980, he was blown up in a television commercial that signaled a shift toward more adult fare. With his oversized, ping-pong ball-shaped head, biting wit and unfailing dedication to offering the finest fast-food experience to his guests, Jack and his commercials were an instant hit. Soon, his likeness appeared on premiums ranging from antenna toppers to Pez dispensers. More than 27 million premiums bearing Jack's likeness have been sold since 1995."
And that's today's story, kidlets.

*UPDATE: Peg advises me that there were indeed Jack-in-the-Boxes throughout New England during the `70s, and that she and her then-boyfriend cruised through one in Framingham, MA regularly, as it was the only fast-food joint open in the wee hours.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dead cards and aggro thoughts

ricoM placed an undistinguished 35th in a field of 65 in last night Wheaties tournament. As has been the norm for my tournament games over the past couple of weeks, I had a frustrating combo of dead cards (in the sense of either unsuited/unconnected low cards or a face card with a lousy kicker. Think unsuited A6, Q3, 2 5, etc.) and/or hands that I couldn't capitalize on for much of the short hour I played. I had a run of Big Slick something like three times in a row, and in none of those hands was I able to make money... either being out-bet or maybe outbluffed at the flop, or, in the last case, having the hand in the Big Blind with everyone folding to me.

"Card dead" is something you hear a lot at the tables or read in the blogs, but it's sometimes - in my opinion - used too much as an excuse. Most starting hands in Hold 'Em poker are bad hands, it's the nature of the game. So, you need to learn patience, you need to throw away a lot of hands, you need to capitalize on each and every hand when you do get good cards. When the opportunity presents - which is usually much less than you would like - you need to take a stab at stealing blinds and or flops with whatever you hold.

So easy to write about. So hard to do.

Anyway, I was over reading that Wild, Wild Woman's blog, seeing how she had updated it after being the first knocked out last night. Now, going out first is like being badly beaten (in the poker, not the physical, sense, although to us aficionados of the game there's often little difference), and Maudie had the bad luck to have both inflicted upon her last evening. But you're going to get bad beats... and you're occasionally going to be knocked out of a tournament first.

I'm not sure I would have played a pair of 8s that aggressively pre-flop, but I'm not Maudie, I wasn't there, I don't know how much her original raise was for, I don't have the benefit of the table feel from the earlier hands she played out... etc. etc. etc. as the King of Siam would say. Whether right or wrong, you'll see if you read the play-by-play that Maudie had the winning hand right up til The Very End. Famous last words, "I had the winning hand till the very end," right up there with, "but they were soooooted."

I might have played it exactly the same. In fact, knowing me, I probably would have. Wilson's Turbo keeps on sadly informing me that I bet way too many hands way too aggressively, which makes me smile, even when I'm losing. If you knew me - or had watched me play even a year ago - you'd probably smile at that too. I'm one of the most tentative guys you could meet. I tend to hesitate and rethink everything, and hate making any sort of commitment unless I'm certain of the outcome. That trait carried over - as most personality quirks do - to my poker game. It's not a good quirk to have for poker; in long sessions other players start to notice that 1) they can bluff you out by playing the table or 2) when they can't bluff you out, it's because you're holding the nutz and it's time to fold.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that if I were to get any better as a poker player, I was going to have to start rewiring my instincts - counter-programming, if you will, kind of like the therapy you go through to mitigate phobias... and no, I won't tell you how I know about that.

So, I fired up Wilson's, and doggedly, or maybe Bearedly, started to make it instinctual not to limp (except in certain circumstances), not to min. raise (ditto), but to play hard and play aggressively.

The treatment worked a little too well, Doctor. All I wanted was a lil slap-n'tickle with the wifie, not a permanent coat rack.

So, I first had to go back and reteach myself to only get aggresive with premium hands; not every Ace and something that shows up. And I think I've got that down pretty well now. But I still got a problem with "too aggressive." Hand #61 last night is a case in point...

We're at 50/100 Blinds, about 10 mins. before the break. I have 1875 chips, which isn't great but not the time for sirens to be going off either. I get unsuited AJ at UTG+1. Now, here's one of those "open for debate" things right from the git-go. I just call. Maybe I should have raised. Maybe not. A serious raise would have been at least a $300 commitment. Someone re-raising at that means a good pair, Big Slick, or something else I probably don't want to face with my AJ, and I have 5 other players to get through. I don't wanna spend $300 to find out my hand is probably no good. This thinking is almost laughable considering how I'd play the rest of the hand. On the other hand... but there's always another hand in poker.

So, the SB calls and the BB checks. Everyone else is gone. Flop is 6d 3s Ah, giving me high pair and a good kicker of course. I want to capitalize, so I min bet $150. BB goes away, SB calls, which should have been a warning to me. But I figured he's the short stack, he's got an Ace with a lousy kicker, or some small pair that he's hoping to hit trips with. Foolish me.

Turn is 2c, which (I think) unless the guy has gone nutso and has been playing 5 4 shouldn't be a danger to me. But, consider my little bets, he legitimately could have been playing anything without much cost. He could have 5 and 4, or an Ace and deuce, now giving him two pair, or a pair of 2s and now he's tripped. So my next move is pure testosterone-infused drug-addled agggressive for no reason known on God's Green Earth Bull Goose Crazy. Repeat after me, Class. "One does not go all-in with high pair." Why? Because if you're called; you're almost certain dead, as I was.

In my defense, when he checked at the Turn my fevered mind decided with a brain-dead certainty that he was playing the Ace with a bad kicker, and I could either force him out or collect his remaining $880 if he felt optimistic. But I could have done many things: I could have checked after he checked and see what the River brought. I could have bet a few hundred to see how he felt about that. I did none of those things. I went all-in instead.

He called my all-in. He had a pair of 3s, and had hit his set at the flop. I was left with 745 in chips. I'd go out three hands later.

Sid, Wilson's little monotone adviser in the Cowboy Hat would have intoned, "You went all-in with high pair. You should have just bet."

Indeed. In the calm of hindsight it's pretty easy to see that if I wanted to be aggressive, the time was pre-flop, not at the Turn. A heavy raise might have made him rethink the playability of those 3s. If not, that would have given me pause, andthe Ace pair and Jack kicker at the flop maybe not looking as invulnerable as it did. In any case, I could have finished that hand probably bloodied, but with more than 745 chips.

Repeat 100 times: Tight but not too tight. Aggressive but not too aggressive. Or at least, aggressive at the appropriate opportunity. All-in as a scapel, not as a bludgeon.

Next week.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

This week's productivity-buster

Arrange the objects. Create a mobile.

Link

64 things you should know about Paul McCartney

via The Detroit News. Here's the first 10...

1. Before they were famous, the Beatles performed "When I'm Sixty-Four" at clubs during crowd fights and power blackouts.

2. In order to satisfy Paul's request to "sound younger -- and be a teenager again," producer George Martin sped up the vocals on "Sixty-Four" when it was recorded.

3. Subject of one of rock's most famous myths: that McCartney died in an auto accident in 1966 and was replaced by look-alike Billy Shears.

4. Credited as Paul Ramon, he played drums and sang harmony on the track "My Dark Hour" from the Steve Miller Band's "Brave New World" album in 1969.

5. Indirectly named the Ramones. Prior to Beatles fame, McCartney used the stage name Paul Ramon -- a rock tidbit that inspired the Ramones to add an "e" and drop the fourth chord.

6. More Ramones -- "Haven't We Met Somewhere Before?" penned by Paul for the film "Heaven Can Wait" but rejected, was used as the opening number of the Ramones' "Rock 'n' Roll High School" -- performed by the Ramones.

7. Was involved in the fastest-released single in history when his July 2, 2005, performance of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" with U2 at Live 8 was issued 45 minutes after the performance took place.

8. Clunker "Ebony and Ivory," sung by Paul and Stevie Wonder, was voted 10th-worst song ever by Blender magazine a couple of years ago. Hey, they can't all be "Eleanor Rigby," OK?

9. Even his old shoes are worth a fortune -- a pair of Paul's used slippers (size 10 1/2) recently grossed more than $3,500 at auction.

10. Reads about himself and gets mad. A half-dozen recent messages from Paul on his Web site (paulmccartney.com) rail against tabloid stories about his breakup with Heather.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Date with Destiny Postponed*

* Destiny claimed she needed to wash hair.

ricoM placed a respectable - respectable in a field of 2,247** - 253rd in the 2nd Annual World BloggerChampionship at PokerStars yesterday. Although I was over 200 seats away from money, paid trips to the WSOP, iPods, even a Wil Wheaton hat, et al; I was as happy with the quality of my play as anything else, as I was able to get my game back to a solid footing after a couple of seriously bad sessions at the tables.

The only name I recognized in the final top 10 was StudioGlyphic, who finished 6th, and did win a $1500 WSOP buy-in. BadBlood was at my first table on my right, but had an early night. He was able to pull off a Hammer bluff to my amusement and the general confusion of the rest of the non-poker-blogging table at one point. There was an extremely annoying railbird who seemed determined to provide a blow-by-blow of his game to another player at our table, finally forcing me to turn off observer chat until I was moved. At various times I was at tables with Columbo, who as he notes, played "damn solid poker" yesterday and was a joy to play against. "I missed one pot for 10% of my stack because I called an all-in from a short stack with KJ and lost to his AQ." That short stack would be me. :-)

My WWdN Can-Aussie buddy louddwnunder was also with me for awhile, as well as various other ah, faces, from the weekly WWdN. At one point someone noted our table even looked like a WWdN, as everyone at it was a poker blogger.

My cards were more dead than lively for most of the near-3 hours I played yesterday, and as Columbo noted I spent a lot of time as the short stack at the table. I'd drop down to around 1200 chips, double-up, and then helplessly watch my chips evaporate again in the blinds. I think the largest chip count I ever put together was slightly over 5k, not that great with a starting stack of 2k.

Any game where I'm being forced all-in a lot usually means rico ain't going be visiting the final table, and my luck, she eventually decided to go wash her hair with Destiny. Again, it was one of those plays that - even losing - I couldn't bitch at myself for screwing up. UTG, I went all-in with my small stack and A6o, forcing everyone at the table to fold until the BB. With over 15k in chips, s/he played the "any two cards" gambit. I was relieved to see a Q6o, even more relieved when the flop hit A 6 something. But turn and river would be Q Q, about as bad a bad beat as you could imagine.

Big sigh. Back to the Wheaties on Tuesday.


**actually probably closer to a field of around 1500-2000. Lot of signups never showed at the tables.

Friday, June 16, 2006

American Life in Poetry: Column 064

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Storytelling binds the past and present together, and is as essential to community life as are food and shelter. Many of our poets are masters at reshaping family stories as poetry. Here Lola Haskins retells a haunting tale, cast in the voice of an elder. Like the best stories, there are no inessential details. Every word counts toward the effect.


Grandmother Speaks of the Old Country

That year there were many deaths in the village.
Germs flew like angels from one house to the next
and every family gave up its own. Mothers
died at their mending. Children fell at school.
Of three hundred twenty, there were eleven left.
Then, quietly, the sun set on a day when no one
died. And the angels whispered among themselves.
And that evening, as he sat on the stone steps,
your grandfather felt a small wind on his neck
when all the trees were still. And he would tell us
always, how he had felt that night, on the skin
of his own neck, the angels, passing.


Reprinted from "Desire Lines: New and Selected Poems," BOA Editions, 2004, by permission of the author and the publisher. Copyright (c) 2004 by Lola Haskins. 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, June 14, 2006

Themes, Dreams & Schemes - Weather

occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour weekly show

“We forget how much Elvis wanted to be Dean.” - Dylan introducing Dean Martin's Dixeland version of "I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine" on episode one of "Theme Time" - Weather.

Actually it's the first time it had occurred to me, Bob. But as usual with Dylanesque statements, it makes more sense the more you think about it. In "Elvis & Dino" an updated version of an article Chris Spedding wrote for Musician magazine, he notes...
... one of the few accredited quotes from the one person most sources agree can legitimately lay claim to having "discovered" Elvis, the office manager of Sam Phillips' Sun Records studio in Memphis, Marion Keisker, who tells of a not entirely successful first audition Presley had with Phillips. According to Marion, Sam asked Elvis to run through some of his repertoire, which seemed to lean so heavily on Dean Martin stuff, she thought Elvis had decided "...if he was going to sound like anybody, it was going to be Dean Martin."
Spedding goes on to note Elvis' "cover" of Martin's "I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine," although more accurately both Presley and Martin were covering Patti Page's 1950 Top 10 hit.

"I Don't Care..." was written by Mack David (Tin Pan Alley tunesmith and brother of Hal David) originally for the Disney version of Cinderella, believe it or not. The song was dropped from the movie without ever being recorded, as far as I can tell, which seems to have been a smart decision. The mind boggles at Cinderella and Prince Charming singing...

I don't care if the sun don't shine,
I'll get my lovin' in the evening time.
When I'm with my baby.
It's no fun with the sun around,
but I get going when the sun goes down,
and I meet my baby.


A little more on Modern Times

...to be released Aug. 29, features 10 original songs recorded by the singer-songwriter and his touring band.

Song titles include “Thunder on the Mountain,” “Spirit on the Water,” “Workingman’s Blues” and “When the Deal Goes Down.” Dylan plays keyboard, guitar and harmonica on the album, and sings the vocals.

In a statement Monday, Columbia Records Chairman Steve Barnett characterized “Modern Times” as the third in a trilogy that includes 1997’s “Time Out of Mind” and 2001’s “Love and Theft.”

...A number of hand-picked journalists were given a playback of the album in New York City last week but were required to sign legal undertakings not to talk about what they heard. One record company source described the album as similar in style to 2001's 'Love & Theft'. Another source claimed the dozen songs include "at least three masterpieces".

6/12/06, 10:39 am EST

Bob Dylan’s “Modern Times” Coming This August

We just got a sneak preview of his upcoming album, Modern Times, due out on August 29th. Times, which Dylan produced himself, mixes elements of 2001’s Love and Theft -– blues variations (think “Cry A While”) and whimsical ballads (think “Floater”) -– with the darker, swampier vibe of the Daniel Lanois-produced classics Time Out of Mind and Oh Mercy. Only Dylan’s current touring band plays on the new one: ringing in our ears was the bone-chilling vamp “Ain’t Talkin’”, which may be Dylan’s most powerful album-closing epic ever. Other song titles include “Thunder on the Mountain,” “Spirit on the Water,” “Workingman’s Blues,” “When the Deal Goes Down” and “Neddy Moore.” Before the release of Modern Times, Dylan will be doing another summer tour of minor league ballparks.



Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A quick Wheaties report and Bounties Galore

ricoM was knocked out in 18th position in a Hammer-like field of 72 tonight, ultimately getting his pair of 10s busted by Big Slick. While clearing the decks for the night, I found this in my email bin...

Just a few days remain until the world's bloggers will compete in the biggest blogger freeroll on the planet. PokerStars' World Blogger Championship of Online Poker (WBCOOP) is this Sunday at 4:00pm ET. The stakes are high. The online scribes will be competing for more than $37,000 worth of prizes, including a seat in the 2006 World Series of Poker main event.

To make the event even more interesting, PokerStars has just placed bounties on the heads of five well-known bloggers and personalities.

ADB DaVoice-(aka Rick Charles) Known in the poker world as The Voice of Poker, Charles is a longtime radio man with a passion for poker. Charles was one of the original PokerStars players. He also hosted PokerStars Radio during the 2005 World Championship of Online Poker.

Bounty: Entry into PokerStars $370 buy-in 150 WSOP Seat Guaranteed event on July 16.

FellKnight-RGP regular and king of the Rampage betting system, the Canadian military man is about to take the plunge into pro poker play.

Bounty: Entry into PokerStars $370 buy-in 150 WSOP Seat Guaranteed event on July 16.

Guinness-(aka The BlogFather), the man who inspired just about every existing poker blog on the Internet. Reclusive and secretive, most people aren't sure if he is a sober housewife, a little person from the Midwest, or a fulltime professional poker player.

Bounty: Entry into PokerStars $370 buy-in 150 WSOP Seat Guaranteed event on July 16.

Up4Poker-(aka The LuckBox) Known widely for his ability to suck out on the best hand. He recently declared, "Just make sure you get in behind, because if I have outs, you're going down. I'm The Luckbox. And don't you forget it!"

Bounty: Entry into PokerStars $370 buy-in 150 WSOP Seat Guaranteed event on July 16.

WilWheaton-Member of Team PokerStars and host of the weekly PokerStars WWdN Invitational series. Wheaton is a lifelong actor, writer, and poker player. Look for him online at PokerStars and in Las Vegas during the 2006 World Series of Poker.

Bounty: PokerStars hat (your choice), shirt (your choice), and fleece.

A hat, Wil? A hat? It looks like it will be any interesting Daddy's Day.

Bear says, "Oh, the em-bear-sment"

Apparently as wussie as my Bear, this bear has been treed by Jack, a 15-pound orange-and-white cat, living in West Milford, N.J. When the bear climbed down, the cat chased it up another nearby tree. Neighbor Suzanne Giovanetti thought Jack was simply looking up at the bear, but soon realized the much larger animal was afraid of the hissing cat. The cat's owners called it away and the bear ran off.

Our Kittenish once faced down a deer, who seem confounded that this small cat was determinedly refusing to let him go any further. After huffing and pawing the ground several times, the deer turned into the woods, defeated, glancing curiously once back at Curly, I think to make sure he wasn't following him.

Full story and a couple more pictures here. Thanks, Peggy!

A few from Iggy and Poker Backlash thoughts

After a semi-drought, Iggy's back with the sort of uberpost he's known and loved for. He starts with a meandering riff on tournament poker where he seems to claim both that he'll never play and/or exclusively play tournaments in the future... apparently dependent on whether he stops being a degenerate poker player and goes back to ah, legitimate work, which he also again seems to be threatening to do soon, too.

In any case in lieu of another blogger tournament, Iggy is offering "the Golden Hammer Award" to the winner of this year's tournament in Vegas. No word as to whether he'll take off the original "Hammering Out Solutions" faceplate first...

Is it just me, or is everyone starting to pick up on the poker phenom backlash? The most recent episode of Card Club has Sean and Stacks (mostly Sean) going on at length that if you think everything is on the up-and-up in professional poker you're a babe in the woods.

It took me a while to learn that most of the poker you see on television has more to do with clever editing than clever play. "Up-and-up" is a loaded term, of course. Are the hands you see on TV "real"? Only real in the sense that the hand shown may be one anomalous hand selected for drama out of the hundreds discarded on the editing floor. And Sean goes to great pains to disclaim that he thinks the fix is in anywhere. But, on the other hand, he does cite the fact that many pros have bought "pieces" of other pros and that things can get a little muddied when you have people at the final table and at least one person can make more money by losing rather than winning because of his investments in the other players.

Sean makes the interesting point that coverage of professional poker from media such as Poker Player Newspaper or Poker Magazine is similar to early 20th century newspaper baseball coverage pre-White Sox scandal, where it was in the reporter's best interests to promote the sport, even knowing that there were lots of nasty things going on behind the scenes.

Is poker heading for its own Black Sox scandal? Iggy links to an overwrought NY Times Magazine article about a college student reduced to bank robbery because of online poker. On the one hand, I got the distinct impression that if it hadn't been poker, the 19-year-old would have found something else to get hung up on... in my day it would have been drug dealing, which offered the prospect of fast, easy money with similar thrills and chills to boot. On the other hand, I recently was talking to another 19-year-old, a family member, who was excitedly telling me about a dorm mate who had over $60k in his Stars account and spent an average 10 hours a day playing online. Suddenly, I found myself in the position of someone trying to secretively stub out a joint while lecturing the younger generation on the dangers of pot. "It's not, uh, bad, per se, but you don't want to let it get out-of-control, y'know?" Fred says, shifting from foot-to-foot.

If that "save the children" article and the recent legislative moves in Washington and elsewhere are any indicators, I think the days of online gambling are probably numbered, at least as it's set up now. We're probably moving towards a Prohibition-like era next, where it will become increasingly difficult to sign up and/or cash out, and those of us playing online poker will be less forthcoming about it. It's already that way a bit. As the article alludes, more and more credit card companies refuse online casino transactions. The first time I ever tried to deposit money into UltimateBet, which I think was back in 2004, I not only got a big red "Refused" on my computer screen, I was actually called - and then lectured to - by my credit card company. Of course I found a way around it, as everyone does, but not without feeling like I should be looking over my shoulder for the Man to appear.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A lurid tale of sex kittens gone wild


I'm a fan of pulp novel covers, as well as many of the pulps themselves, everything from busting-the-ghetto works from John D. MacDonald and Donald Hamilton, to the Doc Savage series of paperbacks.

Slate is having a weeklong celebration of pulp fiction, and kicked off their series by commissioning a group of artists to redo the look of classic novels as pulps.

Modern Times

reportedly the title of Dylan's new album, to be released August 29th, according to a usually reliable source.

And a little more, this taken from Dylan's liner notes to "World Gone Wrong"

BLOOD IN MY EYES is one of two songs done by the Mississippi Sheiks, a little known de facto group whom in their former glory must've been something to behold. rebellion against routine seems to be their strong theme. all their songs are raw to the bone & are faultlessly made for these modern times (the New Dark Ages) nothing effete about the Mississippi Sheiks.
Hmmm. "The New Dark Ages"?

Friday, June 09, 2006

All it takes is one hit...

from The Haunted Tank Issue #112 June-July 1965. The golden age of comic books was... twelve - Spider Robinson

American Life in Poetry: Column 063

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Remember those Degas paintings of the ballet dancers? Here is a similar figure study, in muted color, but in this instance made of words, not pigment. As this poem by David Tucker closes, I can feel myself holding my breath as if to help the dancer hold her position.

The Dancer

Class is over, the teacher
and the pianist gone,
but one dancer
in a pale blue
leotard stays
to practice alone without music,
turning grand jetes
through the haze of late afternoon.
Her eyes are focused
on the balancing point
no one else sees
as she spins in this quiet
made of mirrors and light--
a blue rose on a nail--
then stops and lifts
her arms in an oval pause
and leans out
a little more, a little more,
there, in slow motion
upon the air.

Reprinted from the 2005 Bakeless Prize winner "Late for Work", by David Tucker, Houghton Mifflin, 2006, by permission of the author. "The Dancer" first appeared in "Visions International", No. 65, 2001. Copyright (c) 2001 by David Tucker. 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, June 08, 2006

Themes, Dreams & Schemes - Jail


occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour weekly show

In this week's episode - Jail - Dylan, while riffing on famous last meals, mentions that Victor Feguer's meal consisted of a single olive.

Until Timothy McVeigh's execution in 2001, Feguer was the last federal inmate executed in the U.S., on March 30, 1963, for killing a doctor with a gunshot to his head.

Feguer asked for the olive, with the pit still in it, as his last meal, reportedly telling prison authorities that he hoped an olive tree would sprout from his grave as a sign of peace. The pit was placed in the pocket of the second of two new suits - provided by the government for a cost of $67.00 - that Feguer was buried in. Feguer was hanged in the other suit.

No olive tree grows at Feguer's unmarked grave, in a corner of a cemetery at Fort Madison, Iowa.

Sources: Wikipedia; The Smoking Gun; ABOLISH archives

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Unseated at the Tourney


Just to show the level of degeneracy I've fallen into, after going to bed shortly before midnight last night my fevered subconcious conflated several things on my mind of late and I dreamed I found myself back in my teens, preparing to stage a play a la High School Musical with several people I've never actually met. An exact quote from the dream,

Fred: "Maudie, go find Iggy. If we're going to do Little Theatre, we might as well have a dwarf as our stage manager."
Please blame the above on my Id. I had nothing to do with it.

ricoM placed 5th in a field of 69 in the WWdN Katitude Invitational last night, earning $55.20 for his efforts. I was crippled - and all but taken out - by Our Host Himself when I misplayed a hand against him. Level XI 600/1200 blinds. I'm in the small blind with 13666 in chips. Wil, with 14621. Wil with everyone folding to him raises 2800. I'm the only caller, with Qs Kd.

Flop is 8c Jh Td, giving me a straight draw as well as two overcards. Wil bets another $3500, and I call. And here is where I go wrong. Turn is a nothing 2c, and Wil checks. I should have bet, and bet hard, as Wil is all but waving his arms in the air and shouting, "Bet!" at me.

Now, the point is - for my non-playing readership - that there is over $16k in the pot at this point, and both Wil and I both have only around $6k left of our stakes, virtually ensuring at this level that the one who loses this pot is the one who is going out next. If it's a trap, it shouldn't really matter to me, because I can't afford to lose. And if it's not a trap, and I bet heavy enough to convince Wil I've got him beat... then maybe he'll fold. Or maybe not, but I'll never know, because ricoM, Him Scared, as Jim McManus would say, and I forget the lessons of my new poker coach, the Mazid of Mezeritch.
  1. To be willing to risk one's life even for a little thing
  2. Not to attach too much value to things even though one has risked one's life for them
and refuse to take my fate in my own hands, and I check behind Wil. Flop is an equally nothing 6h, and Wil again checks. Maybe I should have bet at this point, but I've convinced myself I've lost the hand for myself, as indeed I have. I check, we flip. Out of the Ace or 8 I was expecting, Wil has the Ace, and high card takes it. CJ noted, "first bet wins the pot," and he's right.

I last two more hands, and with sooooted 7 A, call all-in against the then chip leader,
Mungo36. He pairs his Kings, and that was all for me this week. Wil would eventually take 3rd, Mungo36 2nd, and kaellinn18 1st.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

6/6/06


Quite appropriately, today is Bear's - champion name Shaggy Bear, Bub-bub-bubareno of Pawstuckaway Bals - 5th birthday.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Head will need to ship overnight in a temperature controlled package

Nope, not Ted Williams. A life-sized wax figure of Walt Disney currently on eBay.

In da Futur, we all spel gud

As anyone who has had the misfortune to hear me knows, I can go on a virtual rant on rails about the misuse of words, especially words like "compliment" vs. "complement" and "sight" vs. "site," both sets of which you can find wrongly used in periodicals and on the Web on any given day. There seems to be an epidemic of typos of late. This from NASA's image of the day...

"Saturn's largest moon, Titan, peaks out from under the planet's rings of ice."
and this from a Forbes story on the Disney tween hit, High School Musical...
"Even beyond its core young audience, Disney has managed to strike a cord with this uplifting, aspirational movie, which features a high school basketball star who also wants to perform in the school's musical production."
Excuse me, I have to go, my chord is peeking.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bingo

PokerStars Tournament #25843622, No Limit Hold'em
Buy-In: $4.00/$0.40
180 players
Total Prize Pool: $720.00
Tournament started - 2006/06/03 - 14:17:31 (ET) Finished 18:18:01

Dear ricoM,

You finished the tournament in 1st place.
A $216.00 award has been credited to your Real Money account.

376 hands played and saw flop:
- 40 times out of 92 while in small blind (43%)
- 27 times out of 92 while in big blind (29%)
- 20 times out of 192 in other positions (10%)
- a total of 87 times out of 376 (23%)

Pots won at showdown - 21 out of 28 (75%)
Pots won without showdown - 79

Friday, June 02, 2006

High Water II: George Bush Don't Like Black People

It's raining again, and Peggy just called to see if we had water in the basement. We don't... yet, and after the Week of Hell we lived through in May, we're both praying that there's no return engagement coming.

Our water problems were bad, but not anywhere near as bad as we've experienced before. The first time the basement filled with water, we were still newbie homeowners, and still learning the quirks of the house. One important quirk: sump pumps need to be on their own circuit. Otherwise circuits overload and trip. Pumps stop. Water flows. That time we lost a lot of books, including some irreplaceable collector items. The basement flooded again in March 2001 while I was in Germany. I woke in the middle of the night convinced something was wrong at home, and called Peggy, who was ankle-deep in basement water at the time. We had learned the "don't store irreplaceable stuff" lesson by that time, store everything else in waterproof plastic containers as opposed to cardboard, and our biggest hassle was drying out the basement carpeting, which took three industrial-grade fans and four days of warm weather.

As I said, this time wasn't as bad as the first two. We were pretty well prepared. We moved furniture and boxes away from the areas prone to seepage and, except for one pump failure at 6 am in the morning, our biggest problem was staying ahead of the seepage; which we did fairly successfully although it took both of us working shifts to accomplish. I'd wet-vac every half-hour or so (every 15 minutes at the beginning). Peg would fix dinner for me when she got home at 6. I'd eat and go to bed for 4-5 hours of sleep. She'd wake me around midnight and I'd take over the basement. We did that for a week. We ended up with about a quarter of the rug soaked, and dried it out without needed industrial-strength fans.

But Merrimack got whacked pretty hard. We live on the north side of town. The bridge to Merrimack proper washed out two weeks ago this Sunday, and is still closed, under repair. Several people living near Horseshoe Pond, about 2 miles south of us, had houses that were severely flooded, possibly to the point where they're uninhabitable. So, it could have been much worse.

It could have been New Orleans.

Coincidentally, I was reading Douglas Brinkley's The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a book which, if I had several million dollars, I would a buy a copy for each registered voter in the United States in the certainty that George Bush would be impeached if even a small number of that group read it. The book does an excellent recounting of the events, often in the survivors' or reporters' own words, but it's Brinkley's examination of the political failures both before and after Katrina that makes "The Great Deluge" worth reading. Certainly there's enough blame to be shared at every level of government, - the sections on Ray Nagin, just re-elected as Mayor - will make your hair curl - but it's also obvious that Bush - or his Administration, since the President seemed to make every effort to remain disengaged from Katrina's aftermath until forced to - quite deliberately decided to minimize support to Louisiana and its Democratic governor, Katherine Blanco, who was unprepared and overwhelmed by Katrina.

And, of course, the people, the poor, the African-American, the elderly, none particularly a Republican demographic target, were the ones who suffered.

Year Two

Right around the beginning of June 2004, I started fhb, evolving it out of a blog I intermittently wrote from late 2001 through 2002 named cellar door that I kept on one of the various incarnations of my web site.

I had reserved the "fredbals.blogspot.com" account on blogger in 2002, as you can see from the archives to your right, but never did anything with it until I decided it was time to start blogging again, and that the cellar door version had been way too much hassle to administrate, given that I was writing/formatting it by hand in Dreamweaver. The only other thing notable about cellar door during its short life was that it generated a "cease-and-desist" email from a semi-famous blogger claiming copyright infringement because I had modeled its look-and-feel on her blog.

I had been doing other various writing things during 2002-3, but by 2004 my work life had steadied enough that I was ready to start blogging again; mostly as an on-line journal, but also as a way for me to keep my interest in writing alive in the face of well-paying - but essentially mind-numbing - paying work. And here we are. This is fhb's 845th post.

American Life in Poetry: Column 062

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE 2004-2006

Gardeners who've fought Creeping Charlie and other unwanted plants may sympathize with James McKean from Iowa as he takes on Bindweed, a cousin to the two varieties of morning glory that appear in the poem. It's an endless struggle, and in the end, of course, the bindweed wins.


Bindweed

There is little I can do
besides stoop to pluck them
one by one from the ground,
their roots all weak links,
this hoard of Lazaruses popping up
at night, not the Heavenly Blue
so like silk handkerchiefs,
nor the Giant White so timid
in the face of the moon,
but poor relations who visit
then stay. They sleep in my garden.
Each morning I evict them.
Each night more arrive, their leaves
small, green shrouds,
reminding me the mother root
waits deep underground
and I dig but will never find her
and her children will inherit
all that I've cleared
when she holds me tighter
and tighter in her arms.


Reprinted from "Headlong," University of Utah Press, 1987, by permission of the author, and first published in "Poetry Northwest," Vol. 23, No. 3, 1982. Copyright (c) 1982 by James McKean, whose most recent book is "Home Stand," a memoir published in 2005 by Michigan State University Press. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ultimate Open Final Report – Florida vs. Wisconsin


Beginning last Friday, fhb sports reporter Roberta kept up a running report on the Ultimate College Championships that Matt's team, the Hodags, were playing in. The Hodags would easily make it through the first seeding (notable quote, "If we win today, we can sleep till fucking noon tomorrow," said an anonymous player), and were still in the Zone on Saturday.

That win set the stage for a confrontation against the Florida team on Sunday for the title. As noted by Joe Taris at the UPA site,

"Never before in the College Championships have two such dominant teams faced off for the title, with Florida and Wisconsin coming in with a combined record of 96 wins and 3 losses (2 of which were due to playing each other)."
Although the game was tied several times, Florida would ultimately - no pun intended - go on to win, 15-12. It would have been nice to hear that they had taken it all, but still a wild, great season for our Hodags.

from Rabbi Dov Baer, the Mazid of Mezeritch*

In the service of God, one can learn three things from a child and seven things from a thief.

From a child you can learn:

  1. Always to be happy
  2. Never to sit idle
  3. To cry for everything one wants ...
From a thief you should learn:
  1. To work at night
  2. If one cannot gain what one wants in one night to try again the next night
  3. To love one's co-workers just as thieves love each other
  4. To be willing to risk one's life even for a little thing
  5. Not to attach too much value to things even though one has risked one's life for them -- just as a thief will resell a stolen article for a fraction of its real value
  6. To withstand all kinds of beatings and tortures but to remain what you are
  7. To believe that your work is worthwhile and not be willing to change it.
*From "The Wisdom of the Jewish Mystics," quoted in "Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews"