Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

... and a quick run-down of 2007...

~ Best movie - Charlie Wilson's War.

~ Most disappointing movie - I am Legend.

~ Best graphic novel (series) - Fables.

~ Best graphic novel (one-shot) - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier.*

~ Best new game - Bioshock.*

* Thanks, Dan!

~ Best book (fiction) - The Terror, Dan Simmons

~ Best book (nonfiction) - Tie: Chasing the Rising Sun, Ted Anthony and Where Dead Voices Gather, Nick Tosches.

~ Best new podcast - (tie) The 10th Wonder (Heroes) and Down in the Flood (music history)

~ Most missed podcast - PokerDiagram.

~ Best new blog - No winner.

~ Most missed blog - Scott McCloud's The Morning Improv.

~ Best new discovery - Torchwood.

~ Best rediscovery - Dr. Who.

~ Best new techno toy - iPod Touch (Thanks, Peggy!)

~ Best music - Dylan's iPod.

~ Best out-and-abouts in 2007 - Sea Pups, Portland, Maine; Fisher Cats, Manchester, NH; Ultimate Championships, Columbus Ohio; Lopstick Lodge and Cabins, Pittsburg, NH; Bob Dylan, Manchester, NH, October 5, 2007.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Xmas to All and See You in 2008

Winter hiatus time, folks. See you in the New Year. Christmas card via my buddy, Brenda Starr.

Update: A Grinch apparently ate the card, but a Happy Holiday to all nonetheless!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The History of the U.S./Saudi Relationship in 4 Minutes

The opening sequence of The Kingdom. Like any summary, it skips over and conflates numerous facts and events, but still an excellent visual representation of why we're in Iraq... and why we're in trouble.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy (I Think) Birthday, Me

I won't grow up!
I will never grow a day
And if someone tries to make me
I will simply run away.

I won't grow up!
No, I promise that I won't
I will stay a boy forever
Just see if I don't!

I'll never grow up,
Never grow up,
Never grow up
Not me!
No sir!
Not me!

- after I Won't Grow Up, from the musical, Peter Pan

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy (I Think) Birthday, Blogs

Today, December 17th, is generally accepted as the "birth" of the term weblog, and in fact is the 10th anniversary of Robot Wisdom, Jorn Barger's blog, where he first used the term to describe his "logging the Web" as he surfed it.

Barger is a strange, and with his tendency towards anti-Semitic cant a not particularly likable, character making him the perfect Father of the Blogosphere. If you go to Robot Wisdom - a link I'm not providing, as it's masthead flies an example of the aforesaid cant, you'll find it not more than links to other content on the Web, without commentary, which is Barger's ideal of what a blog should be, which is not mine, and probably not yours.

As with about most things in the world, except maybe kittens, I have mixed feelings about blogs. Blogging has sometimes carried me through very rocky periods in my life. But, I also tend toward Leo LaPorte's only semi-tongue-in-cheek observation that most blogs and podcasts, "are a desperate bid for attention," which pretty accurately describes both fhb and Dreamtime.

Of late - and I mean the past few months - I seldom read blogs anymore, usually only going to one when I need a specific piece of information or want an update on that person. I leave the weblog list up mostly as a matter of convenience for that purpose. And certainly I don't blog in fhb as much as I did. Part of that is the semi-regular schedule of Dreamtime. Writing Dreamtime articles pretty well satisfies my writing Jones. As one of the things I get weary of reading is the periodic "I'm gonna stop blogging, goodbye cruel world!" that all bloggers seem to occasionally post, I've resisted writing one, and expect to putter along with fhb for the indeterminate future.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Marilyn and Me

Peggy and I have kind of a three-sided family tree -we have my family; her family; and then a larger group of "family," that includes some intermarriage and blood relationships and some longtime friends who are family too as far as we're concerned. Peggy introduced her friend Bonnie to her husband, Dave, who in turn is the brother of Peg's sister-in-law. Bonnie introduced Peggy to me, and so on.

We have cousins and nieces and nephews and now grand-nieces and nephews who are all part of our extended family, some actual relatives, others not... but we're Uncle Fred and Aunt Peggy to all anyway.

The larger family celebrates group birthdays on a regular basis. The photo at your left was taken during the November birthday bash, and presented to me yesterday at the December party, the group I belong to. Back in November, one of the birthday boys - not me - was celebrating a milestone 60th, and his brothers, sisters, and nieces decided to bring in a Marilyn Monroe like-a-look to sing him "Happy Birthday," which she did in all cute breathlessness. She was a good sport, which I imagine you have to be in that sort of biz; and in the course of her act, posed for the ladies' cameras with various of the men.

Including, as you can see, the guy with the goofy look who could afford to lose some weight.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Heroes and Villains

You'll note a new widget over in the right-hand column, a link supporting the striking Writers Guild of America, the people who script much of the television and film we watch in the U.S.

In essence, the guild is striking against the six media conglomerates who essentially control American media - the usual suspects: GE (who own Universal and NBC); Disney; Time-Warner, Viacom, CBS, and News Corp., which owns Fox.

What the writers want is their fair share of the monies coming from digital distribution of their work: 2.5 cents for each dollar the media conglomerates (who are known under the collective acronym of the AMPTP) make from digital re-use of a TV show or film. Media writers make a lot of their bread from re-use. In their land it's called "residuals." In the print world it's called "royalties." Dependent on who you are and what you write, you get a small to middlin' to large piece of cash up front, and then an income stream from your work that is usually the difference between making a living from your writing or having a not-very-profitable hobby.

It's worth noting at this point that the writers want a piece of the pie. If there's no pie, they don't eat either. The AMPTP claims there is no pie, at least at this point in time.

But, if that's so, why are they fighting against the idea so hard? Why not just give the writers 2.5 percent of zip?

The WGA claims that the members of the AMPTP are lying, since the various organizations are telling their stockholders that they're already making money - big money - from digital downloads, and expect to make pots more. As the WGA FAQ succinctly states, "...lying to shareholders is a federal crime. So we assume they’re lying to us."

As of December 4th, it appeared that there was at least negotiation is progress, but from all reports the issue is far from resolution. If the strike isn't settled by Christmas, you can kiss most of your favorite television series goodbye for most - if not all - of 2008. Most people have no idea how massive a machine television (or film) production companies are. Starting - or restarting - the machine up takes a lot of time, months of time.

So, probably no 24 at all. The last new episode of Heroes was Monday, and all I can do is cross my fingers that I'll see Season 3 before next August. And while I'm on the subject of Heroes, my inner geek wants to know (spoilers coming so don't read if you haven't watched Powerless yet):

  1. As "Adam" quite correctly pointed out, why did the Company keep a potentially world-ending virus on hand rather than simply destroying it (especially since they know they have an invulnerable immortal with lots of time hell-bent on retrieving it)

  2. Maybe they were already thinking about the strike, but couldn't the writers have come up with one line explaining why Peter simply didn't phase through the Vault ("My God, they somehow laid their hands on neutronium!") or teleport in?

  3. We've had sticks and glass shards stuck into the head. Ol' HRG took a bullet in the head and was revived thanks to Clare's blood. Now we're told by Peter's Mom that a bullet in/through the head would stop Adam or Peter? I don't think so. I like the original Highlander Rules - take the head off - better.

  4. Maybe Adam mellowed after 400 years, but one would think he'd have more than a mild "Oh, look who it is" reaction finding his arch-enemy prostrate before him.

  5. Maybe Hiro was having a bad day, but one would think someone with the power to bend Time & Space could come up with a better solution to the problem of an invulnerable immortal than burying him alive. At some point in the future, he's going to be dealing with a crazy invulnerable immortal.

  6. Did anyone else do a mental cheer when Maya was shot, and then went, "Oh, No!" when she was revived? And does Maya have like the world's stupidest superpower or what? Or does now, at least, as her brother's superpower was even stupider.

  7. So okay, Peter, you've never seemed to be the brightest bulb on the planet, powers notwithstanding, but did it ever occur to you to wonder exactly what was going to happen to Caitlin stuck in a future that doesn't exist anymore?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I don't usually write negative reviews of books: Life is too short, and I'd rather write about something I liked.

But on some occasions the work has bothered me so much I feel compelled to mention it. Gonzo, an "oral biography" of Hunter S. Thompson by Jann Wenner and Corey Seymour is one of those books.

Long-time readers of fhb know that I have mixed feelings about HST. I kind of outgrew the whole gonzo thing by the time I reached my 30s. Stories about gobbling vast quantities of drugs, drinking oceans of booze, and terrifying a straight populace tend to lose charm as we get older... or even - dare I say it - grow up. Engaging drunks are still drunks in the cold light of morning, intriguing outlaw druggies are still druggies, and stories about flooding hotel rooms or destroying restaurants aren't very funny to those people who have to clean up the mess. And that's one of the things you learn if you're unfortunate enough to be in the circle of an alcoholic or druggie. Somebody else is always expected to clean up the mess.

Thompson wrote one excellent book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and two pretty-good books, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail `72 and Hell's Angels, and that was about that. By the `80s, his career was pretty much over from a writing perspective, although he'd recycle old stuff, flail together bits and pieces of stuff that didn't quite work, and market every scrap of paper he could find for the next 20-odd years. By that time he was living mostly on the outsize gonzo legend he had created, and, as far as you can tell from Gonzo, was one miserable man who made the lives of family, friends and acquaintances a living hell.

It's one of the strange things about Gonzo, that few of the people interviewed have much good to say about HST, and, even when they do, tend to qualify it... "Hunter could be a sweet man, when he wasn't throwing a temper tantrum or breaking light bulbs over a restaurant table..."

One of the interviewees, Ed Bradley, I think, who had a peculiar fondness for Thompson, although one can't discern why, notes that being someone who liked hanging with HST was somewhat akin to being a cult member. It's an appropriate analogy. From the outside you can't imagine what the attraction could have been, at least not from the stories told in Gonzo.

Those stories just get sadder and sadder as the book heads for the inevitable conclusion. Thompson attempts to cover the Ali/Foreman match in Zaire and finds he's outclassed by a slew of much more heavyweight boxing writers, including Norman Mailer. An unwilling Thompson tries to do the Hemingway thing and cover the fall of Saigon, and facing the real gonzo craziness of Vietnam runs, at first opportunity, to the safety of Manila - spending the rest of his life spouting the lie that Jann Wenner had canceled his life insurance.

Wifes are beaten, children are ignored. Assistants are treated like slaves. Hotel rooms are trashed. Innocent people are subjected to venomous invective only because they had the misfortune to cross Thompson's path. By the end, we have an image of HST on the floor in front of his refrigerator, throwing a temper tantrum like a two-year-old because he's dropped a jar and wants someone to come and pick it up for him.


I wrote back in 2005, "...One of the ironic things about Thompson's early books, better recognized when they were first published, and increasingly lost as the gonzo message was celebrated by later generations, was the thread of despair that ran through them..."

Almost all of Gonzo reflects that despair. Whether one good book was worth it, I can't answer.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Whether this actually is the perfect chocolate chip cookie, I don't know. If I can get Peggy to make up a batch, I'll report.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

God's Little Toy

As William Gibson notes, "God's Little Toy" is what Bill Burroughs called the tape recorder, as he used it to create his "cut-up" compositions. Here's an image variation of the cut-up technique, which I think Burroughs would have loved as much as Gibson and I do. Drop in a word or phrase into the "," click a button, and it pulls related images from the Web into a sometimes beautiful collage. Above, the image I generated from "Poker." Peggy would be amused, but not surprised, that when I tried "Fred Bals," the central image was of Bob Dylan.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Monopoly With Real Money

via The Wall Street Journal

In 1941, the British Secret Service asked the [Monopoly's] British licensee John Waddington Ltd. to add secret extras to some sets, which had become standard elements of the aid packages that the Red Cross delivered to allied prisoners of war. Along with the usual dog, top hat and and thimble, the sets had a metal file, compass, and silk maps of safe houses (silk, because it folds into small spaces and unfolds silently). Even better, real French, German and Italian currency was hidden underneath the game’s fake money. Departing allied soldiers and pilots were told that if they were captured they should look out for the special editions, identified by a red dot in the Free Parking space. Any sets remaining in the U.K. were destroyed after the war. Of the 35,000 prisoners of war who escaped German prison camps by the end of the war, “more than a few of those certainly owe their breakout to the classic board game,” says Mr. McMahon.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What I Want for Xmas, Part the Nth

Unless Santa wants to bring me one of the new iTouchs (iTouches?), then I would be satisfied with this way-cool Steampunk skin for my appropriately ancient (all of a year!) Nano.

Quote of the Day

"If you're driving around with a pig, everyone knows what you're doing."

Possibly not. In this case, we're talking about truffles. Smithsonian magazine interviews primo truffle hunter, Charles Lefevre who owns New World Truffieres, a business that well sell you hazelnut and oak seedlings inoculated with truffle spores. A good climate (which unfortunately is not New Hamster's), patience, luck, and a good pig or hunting dog, and you too can farm a product that can run from $100-1,500 per lb (at least when in the wild).

Monday, November 12, 2007

November 11-12, 2007

"The Sergeant said, "Sir, are you sure
This is the best way back to the base?"
"Sergeant, go on, I've forded this river
About a mile above this place.
It'll be a little soggy, but just keep sloggin'.
We'll soon be on dry ground."
We were waist deep in the Big Muddy,
And the big fool said to push on." - Peter Seeger, Waist Deep in The Big Muddy

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The link to Maudie's poker blog has....

... changed to So, if in some strange twist of fate you still have Maudie's poker blog old link in your blogroll and you haven't heard the word anyplace else by now, go fix it.

Questions still pending, Ms. M. How does one have 1/2 an affair? What happened to the word "Poker" in your logo? Huh, huh?

No Free Lunches in Poker

"TANSTAAFL," Robert Heinlein noted in his best book, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and although bars stopped offering free lunches to patrons decades ago, the truism still holds.

The Globe had an interesting article yesterday on a free-play poker site, the so-called "National League of Poker," (NLOP) based out of Framingham, MA. The business plan of NOLOP is advertising... and lots of it, too. You can't gamble for money on NLOP, instead you accumulate points and you become eligible for cash and prizes. According to the article, NLOP "...guarantees $25,000 will be paid out [each month] in cash and prizes including trips, electronics, sponsor specials, and seats at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Last month the league mailed to more than 3,000 people checks ranging from $5 to $500..." The CEO notes in the article that the site generates over $125,000 in profit each month.

So, I hied my electronic ricoM over to NLOP and was, ah, less than impressed in an admittedly short one-hour session at the tables. Lets see:

  1. The site does not work with Firefox. I use IE only when I have to, mostly because some clients require it, but I went through the NLOP installation process, which required downloading an ActiveX control and updating Flash (even though I actually had the latest version, NLOP required a re-install, claiming my version was outdated).

  2. The interface is klutzy. The game play area is a non-resizable window and does not allow you to ALT-TAB to any other IE window. There are ads flashing continuously at right and bottom in the game play area - both annoying and distracting. The poker interface is bare bones. You can do well-executed Flash poker interfaces. The now-defunct Dead Man's Hand, used to promote a video game and later Deadwood, was an example. The NLOP interface is not an example of a well-executed Flash poker interface.

  3. Play was s l o w, like molasseses. A round could take from 2-3 minutes with player hands being continuously time-outed.

  4. Play was what you would expect from what is essentially a free-roll. Lots of all-ins and suckouts with nothing.
All-in-all if you're used to play-for-money poker sites, you're probably not going to find anything to like about NLOP. If you're a n00B to on-line poker, aren't particularly technically snooty, tolerant of banner ads, and looking for "cash and prizes" you might want to give it a try. On the other hand, most established poker sites already offer free play. Just put in .net rather than .com. You won't get those cash and prizes, but you'll probably have a better user experience and possibly even learn how to play better poker.

A couple of other comments on the Globe article itself. It's news to me that the UIGEA was "created to stop offshore poker sites from capitalizing on foreign market exchanges" as the article states without explanation. Out of the various "official" explanations I've seen, the most repeated is that the UIGEA is/was to prevent money transfers from U.S. poker player's banks to/from offshore accounts.

As is usual with popular reporting on on-line poker, the reporter uses extreme examples as "color," one a 23-year-old who reportedly plays 12-hour sessions at a time. Of course, people like me, who play a few hours a week in weekly games, aren't all that interesting.

Monday, November 05, 2007

What does it take to get you up, you damn fool?

As my friend Croz says, any cat owner will find this scenario very familiar. Bear's variation is to go into the bathroom and start knocking anything that is knockable over with his booners. It's pretty bad, but so far no other cat has ever exceeded our late Heidy-Ho, Speedy Tomato, who would drop objects - preferably pointed - into my slippers before getting me up, and then watch with little-disguised amusement as I hopped around the room cursing.

It takes a special personality to live with a cat.

More Separated at Birth

I entertain and amuse Diane, our friend and the lady who has been cutting my hair (as well as Peggy's) for at least a decade and a half, as hard as that is for all of us to believe.

I amuse Diane not least because I'm willing to go along with most anything that occurs to her. She used to get quite creative back in the day with dyes and special cuts, although I finally had to call a temporary hiatus when Diane dyed my hair a particular gaudy orange, and somehow I also ended up with a temporary tattoo of a bleeding heart that said "Mother." That would have been fine, except I forgot that I had a meeting later that afternoon. I brazened it out, although I did get a few strange looks, and at the end of the meeting one of the V.P.s put his arm around me as we walked out and said, "You know, Fred, I like you because you remind me of my son."

Diane had been waiting for me all this Halloween, as I was the only adult whose hair she knew she could spike and dye a fluorescent blue. Earlier she had had a seven-year-old in, who had gotten permission from his Dad for Diane to work her magic to transform him into his favorite character - Sonic the Hedgehog.

So, I spent the rest of Halloween as Sonic's older brother, Fred. The kids who came to the door later loved it, but my favorite moment was stopping by a comic book store earlier in the day, where I'm a regular. The clerk behind the desk, a Goth with black fingernails and multiple piercings, looked up at me and smiled, "Like the new hair."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Odds and Ends

As Jailb- ah, Peggy pointed out last night, I haven't been blogging at fhb as I should, and that's true. So, here's a compendium of stuff I would blog about if I was blogging, as indeed I am right now.

I'm in serious conflict about Twin Peaks, The Definitive Gold Box edition, a 10(!!!) DVD box set that collects just about everything the TP completist would want in one place (except Fire Walk With Me, which like so much else TP-related has some weird rights issues affecting its re-release). On the one hand I have deep fan boy lust for the set, even though I already own Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD.

On the other hand, I already own Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD, and know, just know, that eventually they'll release the Twin Peaks, the Absolute Positive Final Edition We Promise, We're Not Fooling You This Time a year or so down the road with Fire Walk With Me and some other must-have items included. Don't believe me? Yet another - 5-disc positively, absolutely definitive Blade Runner set is being released this December. Downstairs I have a VHS of the original, theatrical U.S.-released Blade Runner and DVDs of the "international" version and the first "director's cut" version. I can now go spend even more on a new director's cut version (Ridley Scott has made something of a cottage industry releasing new director's cuts every few years) and the "work print" version.

If I had Uncle Scrooge's Money Bin, I wouldn't have all these "I Want" problems.

Just to prove to my wife and sister-in-law that I do have interests other than Bob Dylan, the Red Sox swept the World Series the other night.

And let's see, news to take care of on the family front. We went to our niece's Bea's wedding reception over the weekend, which was as much a family reunion as anything else and as complete a gathering as we've had since our other niece's - Christina's - wedding.

Not that I really needed evidence of the fact, but my unofficial son, Robbie, has officially grown up. We were at the bar together and he looked at me and said, "What are you drinking, Fred?" I later ended up doing tequila shots with him and his older sister, Mimi, much to the general horror of his mother and Peggy. Robbie's girlfriend - Molly, who is one hot pistolero - now calls me "Jack," as Mimi has done exclusively for years, for reasons I've now forgotten, except that Mimi didn't think I was a "Fred"-type I think. I also promised Meaghan I'd blog the event with the title I Twirled Mimi, after successfully spinning her in a slow dance without stumbling over my own feet, but I think that was the tequila shot, salt, and lime talking.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Greatest Soul Singer You Never Heard Of

Episode 43 of Dreamtime features Sterling Harrison, a soul singer who never quite made it out of South Central, but whose legacy lives on, thanks to Eddie Gorodetsky, Bob Dylan, and in a small measure, maybe even me. I also found one low-quality video of Harrison performing live at M&M Soul Food which I posted over at Dreamtime's sister site A Series of Tubes. To paraphrase Dylan, who was speaking on another subject, I figure if one person gets curious about Harrison and his music thanks to Dreamtime, I've done my job.

The podcast continues to pick up its Season 2 legs, the blog now getting about 4,000 visitors a month; somewhere between 100-200 a visitors each day. The shows themselves get around 500-600 downloads in the first couple of weeks of their release, and then hit a steady-state of around 50 downloads per month respectively thereafter. As far as I can measure: iTunes is a total black hole as far as measurement is concerned. But if I had to make a guess, I'd say Dreamtime had around 500 regular listeners, and wouldn't be shocked - gratified, but not shocked - if it had around 1,000. Much more than 1,000 and I would be shocked.

One of the things I want/need to do this year is improving - and then freezing, if possible - the podcast recording production values, which frustrate me no end. Every time I think I finally have the recording quality stable, it falls apart again in the next podcast. It shouldn't happen. The equipment and settings are the same. But one show I'll sound okay. The next as if I'm broadcasting from under a rock. I'm never going to have a radio voice, and I'm okay with that. But Jesus, I should be able to get a consistent recording.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Whoo-Hoo - The Summary

Update: A photo of Dylan and the Cowboy Band at concert close in Ypsilanti, MI, a few days ago. Dylan is making the same hand gesture he used in the NH concert, which has been variously interpreted as a thumbs-up gesture (me), an acknowledgment of the crowd's applause, his version of applauding the crowd, or his acknowledgment of a hot session by the band - or all of the above. The Dylan "Eye" logo is displayed as backdrop during the show encores. The Oscar is blocked by a fan's head, but resides on the red case which can be seen at far right. Also note Dylan's keyboard. fhb

I picked Peggy up at 4:30 Friday afternoon, and we headed over to our first early-bird special since we stopped visiting my parents in Florida many moons ago. Peg had booked us at the Piccola Italia Ristorante in downtown Manchester, a couple of blocks walk from the Verizon Wireless Center. We had a waitress used to serving people who were later heading to a concert, and she was quick and efficient without making us feel rushed. If you like up-scale Italian and are in the Manchester area, go check out Piccola Italia. Great food. We were surrounded by graying Dylan fans, so we - or at least me - fit right in. I may have just been having my own flashback, but I swear to God the woman seated at the table next to me, who was at least in her mid-50s, said to her companion, "I'm starting to peak." Maybe it was the martini.

By 6:45 we were in our 3rd-row-from-the-stage seats, with a helluva lot better view than we had when we last saw Mr. D almost six years ago. That had been one very strange concert, a couple of months after the release of "Love and Theft," after 9/11. November 2001, the night before Thanksgiving. I was unemployed, laid off about three weeks earlier, paranoid about my future. Peggy had a family dinner to prepare the next day. We went anyway.

We enjoyed ourselves during that 2001 concert, but we were all the way back by the soundboard, disappointing me because I hadn't known that "G" was an entire section away from the double-letter first row seats. The view had been lousy, not helped by the audience being on its feet for the entire 2-hour show and Himself a tiny unmoving figure on stage the entire night. The music was good, but all-in-all - especially from the perspective of this recent show - it was a subdued performance, ending with Dylan's apparently unhappy arms-by the-side stare at the audience after the encore, frozen, not acknowledging the applause with any look or gesture.

Many differences six years later in 2007, not least that Dylan had two opening acts before his set. Amos Lee opened promptly at 7:00 with a half-hour solid folk-blues set that could have been improved by bringing down the thumping bass a bit for his mostly gray-beard audience. Three rows from the stage and directly under the overhead speakers, we levitated from our seats each time Lee's drummer hit the bass pedal. Fortunately, both Costello and Dylan's people had a less bass-emphatic sound mix, or we'd probably still be going "What?" several days later. At closing Lee thanked the sparse early audience for coming to see him, and turned the stage over to Elvis Costello.

"Oh, I'm in fine voice tonight," Costello laughed midway through his set, and it was a good prediction for things to come. Armed with solo guitar, Elvis marched through a 45-minute set of standards from his playbook, opening with a powerful "Radio, Radio," blasting through "Watching the Detectives," crooning a mournful "Alison," and leading the now much larger and appreciative crowd through a "do-do-doo-doop" call-and-response during a Van Morrison cover medley.

And then it was the Cowboy Band's turn. The Verizon's lights were dimmed, leaving only a small flood on stage lighting Dylan's "Things Have Changed" Oscar. The recording announced the presence of the man who had forced folk into an unnatural relationship with rock. And Dylan and Company launched into a pretty "Cat's In the Well."

Staging for a Bob Dylan concert: Song finishes, lights go down; Dylan walks over to a playbook next to his Oscar, studies it; lights come back up; band launches into next number. Repeat 16 times.

After "Cat's" came the only stumble of the evening, a raspy-voiced "Lay, Lady, Lay" that was so difficult to listen to that I was frightened about what the rest of the night might be like. Dylan seemed to be struggling after the first verse of the song, seemingly realizing that it had gotten out of his control. He tried different phrasing, different timing. Nothing worked, and the song sounded as if an embarrassingly old man was pleading with a 15-year-old hooker for a free piece of action. Dylan looked as relieved as I felt when it finally finished. "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" and "Positively 4th Street" followed. Both on-target, nothing like the horror-show of "Lay, Lady, Lay" but not all that energetic either.

But something happened mid-way through the fifth song, "The Levee's Gonna Break," and the night just went golden from that point on. I'm still not sure what went on. Dylan had switched to keyboards by this point and he began exchanging sly grins with Donnie Herron, on pedal steel behind him. You could almost see the band's energy rising as Dylan began to attack - there's no other way to describe it -the keyboard for that one and for each song that followed, charging into it, shaking his hips like Jerry Lee, raising his legs. I kept expecting him to break free from the keyboard and start dancing around the stage at some point during the evening. The complaints of hard-core fans notwithstanding, it seemed from our vantage point that Dylan was much more comfortable the moment he put down the guitar and took his center-stage keyboard position. And the man is not going through the motions. He was hammering those keys, with the diamond-encrusted ring on his wedding finger flashing in the stage lights as he waved his hand above the keyboard.

Great versions of "Spirit On the Water," Honest With Me," and a beautiful rendition of "Beyond the Horizon," followed in close succession. And then an extremely spooky version of "High Water." That, and an equally powerful "Nettie Moore" following a blistering "Highway 61," had me thinking that I really want to hear a commercial live Dylan album that includes songs from "Modern Times." You have to hear how radically these songs have evolved from the studio versions to understand what Dylan means when he says that to really hear the music he has in his head you have to go see him live.

"Summer Days" was next on the slate, and then came the old warhorse, "Like a Rolling Stone."

I have mixed feelings about hearing Dylan doing this - my favorite song of his - these days. While I like, appreciate, his having it still in his portfolio some 40-odd years after his writing it, I can't hear it live without thinking of the blistering, acid-thrown-in-your-face performances of the `60s. I always see ghosts on stage, battering their way through the music, in defiance of everything, the audience, the day, the world, young, old, while I watch the contemporary Dylan weave around among those shadows, performing his slower, near-waltz-like modern version. But having said that, this was one of the best contemporary live LARS I've ever seen him perform, fast tight, grooving. Dylan was grinning like a Cheshire Cat throughout the song, leaning into the How does it feel? chorus like he was cresting a wave.

"Thunder on the Mountain" began the encore, and a surprising and very pretty "Blowin' in the Wind" ended it. Lights down for the final time, and Dylan and Band walked to the front of the stage, where a visibly happy Dylan gave thumbs-up to both the audience and band members as the floods turned on.

Sixty-six years old, the man looked as if he could be in no other place or time than where he was right at that moment.

After the show, not feeling that I had contributed enough to keeping the economy healthy, we stopped at the Dylan bling table where I bought the world's most expensive - but cool- t-shirt. I also bought the concert poster for that night, which is pretty much what you see above, except with the venue and dates changed, of course.

It wasn't till the next day that we noticed that the poster listed Dylan as playing in "Manchester, MA." A collector's item.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Jesse and Janna

The internet, as I've said before, is not only stranger than you imagine, but stranger than you can imagine. The L.A. Weekly has a long article by Josh Olson on an internet romance gone bad, which is well worth the time to read to its conclusion.

If you've spent any time on these here series of tubes, you'll probably find the story itself is fairly stock. I suspected who "Jesse" would turn out to be by page 2, and you probably will too. But Olson's writing is excellent - although weirdly imitative of Harlan Ellison's style in his non-fiction heyday - and Ellison himself plays a major role in the cast of characters.

And because the internet is the internet, there's more of course. You should read the article first to get the full impact, and then you can go watch - I kid you not - the YouTube video of Janna's eviction, and then you can go read "Audrey's" current blog. This is not the "I saw a cloud. It looked like a giraffe. Jesse would have liked it" blog that Olson refers to in his article, but a post-Janna blog that links to various pieces and snippets of other older blogs - both by "Audrey" and "Janna" and "Jesse" among a ghost cast of thousands, which will probably confuse the hell out of most readers as it did me.

My first reaction to all this was that it was some elaborate Ellison & Friends LonelyGirl15 statement on the sad state of the internet, of which Harlan is no fan. I mean, why is the writer of the screenplay of A History of Violence producing an article that reads so much like an Ellison pastiche that it could be called Valerie, A True Memoir - Part 2? Do all of "Audrey's" friends have such a lousy relationship with her that they have to haul in a writer who she barely knows - albeit admires - for an intervention? I mean, hell, I was a great admirer of the late John D. MacDonald, but I'd be a little weirded out if he called me on the phone, told me I needed to go to his house right now, and then have him tell me that I was being misused in a personal relationship.

But it's probably real - although sad for all involved. And whatever their motivations, "Audrey" and friends getting heavily into revenge on Janna with the public video and blog just make the story sadder.

I originally found the story on BoingBoing where, I'm happy to say, the insufferable Cory Doctorow also recently got his comeuppance from Ursula K. LeGuin. I'm not a particular fan of LeGuin from a personal standpoint - she's as prickly and intractable in person as Joanna Russ - but it was nice to see her turn her not minor energies on Doctorow, who had posted a one-paragraph story of hers from another source complete on BoingBoing, and had even removed the original copyright notice.

Doctorow's "apology" is full of self-justification and rationalizations including my favorite: " would one quote a double-dactyl or a haiku [then]?" And the answer is, you can't Cory, unless you're given permission. It was nice to see him taken down a peg or two.

Zero Traction

I placed 315th out of a field of 1300 in yesterday's PokerStars Blogger tournament, whose little flashing ad graced the upper right column for the past week or so. Unfortunately 315th and 2 1/2 hours of play equaled 1299 position and 2 1/2 minutes of play - at least from a monetary standpoint. That is, nada. I played as well with as bad a run of cards as I ever have in a 2 1/2 hour period. Small pairs that didn't improve at the flop and had to be folded against any significant raise. Middlin' pairs that would be cracked by larger pairs. Aces with bad kickers. Mostly unplayable hands.

We started with $10,000 in chips, and I think the best shape my stack was in during those 2 1/2 hours was around $12k. Ironically, I was seated next to Troublecat at my first table, who may or may not have recognized me as a one-time opponent and backer. In any case, he successfully played the bloggers' signature hand against me - THE HAMMAH - to his great delight and generally unacknowledged by the rest of the table.

Troublecat and Maudie would place a little behind me in the 300s too. One of the people from my initial table would place in the top 10, earning him a digital camera. A few of the names in the top 80 or so -winning prizes ranging from iPods to duffle bags - were familiar from the Wheaties, but except for the Cat I played with none of them at my two tables.

There are probably many more things more frustrating than playing well with no cards and no luck, but it's No Fun for over two hours, let me tell ya. By Hour Two, with a stack ranging from $2k to $6k, I was pleading to the poker gods to give me a hand that I could use to double up or at least go out with dignity, as it was highly unlikely I was ever going to catch up with the leaders, who had stacks in the six figures by that point. Down to around $2k and in danger of being blinded out in two rounds, I doubled up with AK, and then doubled my stack again to around $8k when I pulled a flush out at the River.

But the trouble with needing to go all-in repeatedly to stay alive is that sooner or later your luck will fail. And you only need to lose once when you're the smallest stack at the table. An extremely tight player on my left, who only involved himself in hands that he was likely to win, had his pair of Aces cracked by an improbable straight. The next hand put me in the dealer's slot and with a pair of Kings. I went all-in, hoping to double yet again, and then only needing to do so twice more to have in a slight chance to survive to the final table. But, that same player called and flipped over the same hand he had before, Aces, which cracked my Kings, and that was that.

I'm afraid "that was that" may be the epitaph for the Tuesday evening Monkey - successor to the Wheaties - too, unless we start building a more sizable field. I offered to take over the administration from an overburdened and in-a-funk ISS Spock only to discover that Stars, in its wisdom, refused to let the Frequent Player Point-shy ricoM do so. Even though I've been contributing to PokerStars coffers for 2+ years, I haven't apparently contributed enough, and they were unmoved by my email asking for a waiver on the FPP requirement.

I see that Spock is taking one last shot for this Tuesday so, if my thousands, hundreds, tens, or ones of readers are so inclined, you're invited for what may be the last Monkey this Tuesday, the 16th, at 8:30 sharp ET. Password is "monkey." It'd be nice to see the old gang there one more time - I miss the Atlanta platers, xkm, Iggy, and Maudie - if for nothing else than to give this long-running tournament a proper send-off.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Name is Blonde

Apropos of nothing except it made me laugh when I saw it. This is the cover from a non-commercial (aka bootleg) Dylan compilation. Art by the fabulous stewART, who again proves my theory that Mr. D. is like a magnifying glass - sparking creativity among nearly everyone his music touches.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dylan Yom Kippur sitting - "I have a lot of kids. Just go ahead."


Bob Dylan on Yom Kippur/Shabbat 5768 (Sep. 22 2007) in Atlanta, GA -

He had a show that night at an arena just outside of town and ours was the Chabad shul most convenient to his hotel.

He had the 5th Aliyah (he had asked for one) and left after Yizkor.

His Rabbi in California called my Rabbi the day before to make arrangements and was very specific. He said, and I quote verbatim what I was told by one who was present during the call, that “he hates people” and wanted to be left utterly alone. He didn't want anyone coming up to him and saying anything... not "Welcome," not "Shabbat Shalom," nothing. Not even the Rabbi was to come up and say hello. He wanted 3 reserved seats out of the way in the back for himself, his road manager and personal manager (though some say one was a bodyguard).

But he asked for the Aliyah nonetheless and wore a large black knit ski/pimp hat instead of a kippah. There was no way the cat didn't stand out in the crowd. When he had his Aliyah you could hear a pin drop, but he muttered so softly that only the guys on the bima could hear him.

Some details that only a Jewish Dylan fan would appreciate:
• He was seated in the midst of Israelis, none of whom had a clue who he was.
• Dylan’s Hebrew name as he gave it on the bima is Zushia ben Avraham, not Shabtai Zisel. Why the difference, I don’t know... either the latter has been wrong all these years or he changed it, but what he said was absolutely clear to everyone who heard him.
• When a Mi Sheberach was made after his Aliyah, he gave the names of four kids. The Gabai asked, “Any other children?” He said, “I have a lot of kids, just go ahead.”
• His Aliyah pledge was for “Tzedakah,” meaning amount to be determined. The Rabbi is still wondering if it was all worth it or not.
I told my Rabbi, “If he ever comes on a different Shabbat or Yom Tov and you invite him for a meal without inviting me as well, you and I are through.” He laughed and said, “I’m told he only comes to shul on Yom Kippur, so don’t hold your breath.”

Sunday, September 23, 2007

And there's a new Dreamtime

Episode 41 - And the Angels Sing, on four forgotten singers of rockabilly, R&B, and blue-eyed soul.

If you have any information on Fay Simmons at all, please write to Dreamtime!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Winning the Monkey

I do indeed still play online poker, and play it regularly, if confined to two sites - UltimateBet and PokerStars. While I still have an account at FullTilt, it has only pennies in it, and it's likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. My UB account has been relatively healthy since the beginning of the year, as is now my PokerStars bankroll, thanks to my win last night in the MonkeyTourney.

The MT is the successor to the Wheaties, Wil Wheaton's tournament that he ended this year when he and PokerStars decided to part ways. Without Wil's name recognition, the MT pulls in a much smaller field - anywhere to the high teens -17 players last night - to the mid 30s. In some ways I miss the Wheaties, in other ways I don't. Wil's aforementioned name recognition tended to pull in both garrulous fanboys as well as obnoxious trolls. I regularly switched off chat every time I ended up at a table with Wil because of the incessant chatter noise level. I can't imagine what it must be to be the focus of that constant attention, and it was a wonder that Wil played as well as he usually did, as well as maintaining a good humor throughout.

In any case, the MT has been around for a little over three months now; and out of the 14 weeks its been running, I've probably played in 9 or 10 of the games without seeing any money. Or rather seeing the money flow out of my account rather than in. But, over the last several games I've been edging closer, first regularly making it to the final table, then last bubbling in 4th place.

One of the largest holes in my game - a hole I've yet to fix, let alone fix consistently - is that my play tends to leave me with a short stack at the final table. My conservative style regularly gets me to the final table, yes, but it's not unusual for the other players to have two to five times the stack I have, giving me problems from the git-go. There's a body of opinion that you need to play tournaments super-aggressive early in order to build a winning chip stack, and a lot of players from the old Wheaties and now the new Monkey seem to subscribe to that theory. So you tend to see a lot of crash-`n-burns in the game and, conversely, when the bet works for the player, enormous stacks.

Happily, the poker gods were smiling on me last night, apparently deciding that they had done enough torture over the past few months. A few bad hands with a short stake and high blinds can make your stay at the final table a short one. But, I had a run of good cards that just kept improving at the flop and forced myself from dead last to chip leader within 20 minutes. From there, I'd drop down - but never significantly down - and then move back up. 'Til there were just the two of us. A new player to me and the MT - RINationals - put up a tough fight. Tough enough, that, tiring, I began to bet with anything. Not even really following the cards, and only folding if I had nothing and RINationals raised.

I figured it was a sign when the Hammer appeared, so when he raised that time around, I went all-in and he called. Probably amused at my hubris, the poker gods smiled and a deuce appeared at the River, pairing my 2 and giving me just enough of a hand to win the game.

The Monkey is at 8:30 p.m. ET Tuesdays at PokerStars. If you miss the Wheaties, or just want a good regular game, come on by.

Monday, September 17, 2007


I say again, Woo-Hoo!

Dylan Speaks (or Cards) Again

This seems to work best when viewed as a solo posting. If you want to see and it's stuck, try clicking on the title above.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

BBC Radio 2 is to broadcast a "virtual" live Bob Dylan concert Oct 6th


Bob Dylan
Dylan: the Radio 2 show will feature 11 rare live recordings spanning 1962 to 2001
BBC Radio 2 is to broadcast a "virtual" live Bob Dylan concert featuring rare performances spanning 39 years, including four recordings never heard before outside of the arena in which they were played.

The Dream Dylan Concert will include 11 rare live recordings stretching from 1962 to 2001, including Maggie's Farm from 1965, Like A Rolling Stone from 1974, To Make You Feel My Love in 1985, and the Oscar-winning Things Have Changed from 2000.

Radio 2's virtual Dylan concert will also feature a song from one of his 12 nights in San Francisco in November 1980, which saw him reunite with guitarist Mike Bloomfield, with whom he collaborated in 1965.

Bloomfield had to be persuaded to take part, and was so sceptical that Dylan actually wanted him to play that he went to the concert wearing his slippers.

However, he was called up on stage to play on Like A Rolling Stone and Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar, which will be included in the Radio 2 broadcast.

Three months later Bloomfield took a drug overdose and was found dead in his car, aged 37.

Radio 2 is the UK home of Dylan's US radio show, Theme Time Radio Hour, which airs in the US on a subscription station, XM Satellite Radio. It is also broadcast in the UK on Radio 2's digital sister station, 6Music.

The Dream Dylan Concert will air on Radio 2 on October 6th at 8pm.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Some useless Dreamtime stats

But what the heck, I'm a geek, and geeks like stats. Here's the top 10 Dreamtime podcasts over the past 14 months...

  1. Episode 14 - Working for the Yankee dollar (1279 downloads) - released 9/19/06
  2. Episode 5 - Two voices from Chronicles (1263 downloads) - released 7/25/06
  3. Episode 7 - The donkey that wouldn't die (1132 downloads) - released 8/4/06
  4. Episode 12 - Love, Theft, and Emails (1122 downloads) - released 9/7/06
  5. Episode 16 – "Gene Vincent said, 'Bubba, let's go on tour'" (1100 downloads) - released 10/6/06
  6. Episode 22- All Along the Watchtower (1047 downloads) - released 11/27/06
  7. Episode 1 - Elvis & Dino (1033 downloads) - released 6/30/06
  8. Episode 13 - Stay away from planes and automobiles (1025 downloads) - released 9/14/06
  9. Episode 21 - Def Poets' Society (1015 downloads) - released 11/16/06
  10. Episode 17 - October in the Railroad Earth (996 downloads) -released 10/12/06
The first time a 2007 episode appears on the full list of 40 podcasts is in slot 13 - Episode 30, A Good Walk Spoiled, which aired on 2/19/07 and has had 889 downloads to date.

Probably not much you can read into the numbers without getting into speculation. I'm not surprised about Working for the Yankee Dollar, which from emails and blog posts appears to be the most popular Dreamtime I've created to date. The Tommy Facenda story in spot #5 might be a surprise, but there's an active rockabilly community on the Web that regularly points to that story. Love, Theft and Emails gets a lot of traffic from people searching for the roots of "Love and Theft" the album. Possibly the only false positive is #10, whose title is taken from one of the subject's - Jack Kerouac - poems, but shares part of its name with a popular Americana band. But who knows? Put the phrase into Google, and Dreamtime is #1 on its hit parade. So maybe I do get a lot of people looking for the poem.

I won't talk about "least popular," as they're all my favorites.

Other thoughts: When I started out, over 75 percent of my monthly traffic was coming from 2 or 3 sites that had linked to Dreamtime. Sometime towards the end of `06 that started shifting, and now about 60 percent of my monthly traffic is from Google/Yahoo/MSN searches. Bad news connected to that is that I don't retain many reader/listeners who come in through search. About 80 percent of my traffic is first-time visitors.

I'm currently getting around 2,000 visitors to Dreamtime a month, a minuscule figure by Web standards, and less than half what I was getting at my height of popularity - right around this time last year - when Theme Time was airing new shows weekly. I expect the numbers to get back to around the 5,000 visitors figure in a few months or so after TTRH Season 2 starts up next week, since Dreamtime rides on the shoulders of that giant.

It pays to advertise, of course. A graph of visitor traffic shows a dramatic spike every time I make an announcement of a new episode on Dylan-related sites. But the nice thing about the Web and podcasts is the ever-green factor. Even the oldest Dreamtimes still get regular downloads, as you can see from #7 above, a show that sounds like it was recorded in a barrel, too.

I wish I could get a better breakdown of who is listening and how they're listening. I've had around 40,000 visitors to the site since I started measurements in late July 2006, and about 31,000 "downloads" in toto of the 40 podcasts to date. But "downloads" as all good lil podcasters know can mean just about anything. My stats also indicate that I have around 5,000 podcast "subscribers," (I wish) but that figure is highly suspect too, and I think based on more than a little Kentucky windage, given the numbers above. In any case, it's pretty obvious that my listening audience is a much smaller percentage of my readership, and my podcast subscribers probably number in the 100s, rather than thousands. But who knows? I knew when I started this I wasn't going to get rich from it - or even make more than ceegar and poker money - but making bread was never the point.

Having fun and writing well was the point... and those two goals are accomplished.

Monday, September 10, 2007

And over at Dreamtime

This is a real ghost story, but like all real ghost stories, you don't get to see the ghost.

Episode 40 - A Ghost in Blackface

And, in case you missed it,

Episode 39 - The Lost Theme Time iPod

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

In the Great North Woods For a Spell - Part 1

We did a couple of things differently this year. First, we went back to the same place a year later. While we have a handful of spots - almost all in Maine - that we return to regularly, I can't remember our ever vacationing at the same place two years in a row.

Second, we stayed at the same place for the entire trip; very unusual for the Bals, who tend to flit around like birds on their vacays.

But this was a "destination vacation," as Peggy put it. And it was.

We were so enthralled by the Great North Woods last year, and so disappointed that we had only stayed a handful of days that one - or maybe both of us - floated the idea of returning to Lopstick Cabins this time around for a full week. Unlike last year though, where reservations were easy, almost all of Lopstick's 35 cabins/camps had already been booked for the Labor Day weekend as early as June. But Peg was finally able to secure us a so-called "cabin," called Kiley that to me sounded as if was going to be a bit funky and run down, given that we were paying less for something larger than the cabin we had last year. But it was a choice of Kiley or nothing, so we crossed our fingers and did the 4-hour drive up to Pittsburg.

If you clicked on the link, you'll see that I had nothing to worry about. For reasons that still mystify me, the very economical Kiley cabin was more like a spacious camp, extremely private, and with a spectacular view of First Lake. Apparently, the camp's lack of fireplace and/or jacuzzi, both of which amenities came with the unnamed "Cabin 6" that we had stayed in the year before, lowered the price.

It would have been nice to have a fireplace, but we didn't really miss it.

Ahoy! Ahoy!

"Do you want to do something different and take a boat out on the lake tomorrow?" I asked Peggy innocently. And just as innocently, she answered, "Yes."

Now, I probably haven't been in - let alone touched - an outboard motor boat for some 40-years, but at one time in my blooming youth I spent most summers in and renting such boats on Sebago and Long Lake in Maine.

Indeed, most days my commute was taking a 12-footer powered by a lil' 25-hp from one end of Sebago to the other, through the Songo Locks ("But there's just one," Peg said in confusion when I finally took her to the Locks) into Brandy Pond and then under the drawbridge to Long Lake and the seaplane base and marina my father co-owned. Because we rented to turistas whose first exposure to boating was oft times when I walked them through the intricacies of a 10-hp Evinrude, I also spent an inordinate amount of time on the water finding and/or rescuing either them or our boat from whatever trouble they had managed to get themselves into. This could include replacing broken shear pins, towing abandoned boats back from wherever they had been beached, collecting day trippers who had gone too far, too long and weren't going to make it back before dark without help, and so on.

So, while many things outdoorsy can throw me into a full, nervous Woody Allen-like tizzy, I'm fairly comfortable on the lake, having dealt with much a lake can toss at you while at a tender age. Which would come in handy.

Peggy and I struck out about 11 a.m. on a warm cloudy morning after one of the lodge hands had walked me through running the little 8-hp motor. Not much had changed in the engineering over 40 years, so we puttered off without trouble. While First Connecticut is the 8th largest lake in New Hampshire, at 2800 acres it's about a tenth of the size of Sebago, so I figured I could easily motor us around the perimeter in a couple of hours. We were at the northern end when it started to sprinkle and the sky blackened.

"Not too bad," I thought, but decided to push back across the lake to the more civilized side, as we had nothing on our side except trees and rocks, and I didn't want to try to beach and hole up there if needed. If it had been five minutes later, I would have taken my chances beaching wherever we could, as the storm just blasted onto the lake, with the wind picking up, lightening bolts crackling around us , rain cascading down and the waves starting to white cap. With us now in the middle of the lake.

Not the first time I've been caught in a bad storm on a lake, and this was one of the worse. The rule is you definitely don't want to be the tallest thing on a flat surface in a metal boat. You get off the water as quickly as you can, and you find what shelter you can. Thinking of Sebago and summer camps, I told the brave Peggy we were heading to the closest cabin's beach. Occupied or not, I figured we could camp on their porch until the storm passed. But a Good Samaritan spotted us running in, waved us to his landing, a few hundred yards further down, and offered us - to continue the Dylanesque theme - shelter from the storm inside his camp, which we gladly took.

Of course, all I had done was beach the boat, and I had forgotten to lift the engine. The wind was blowing so fiercely that it was obvious that unsecured the boat would be sailing off to parts unknown, probably ruining the prop in the process. So even though our Good Samaritan told me he'd fire up his boat and help me recover ours later, I decided I couldn't get much wetter, and went back out and lashed our little boat to his dock.

About 1/2-hour later, the storm had passed, and the very wet Peggy and Fred thanked our Good Samaritans, took our very soggy selves back to the boat, and puttered off yet again.

About 5 minutes out, the motor died.

After running through a check list of "what could be wrong," it finally occurred to me that the smell of gasoline might not be a flooded engine and indeed, I had succeeded in somehow kicking the gas line loose while getting in a more comfortable position.

So much for the Mighty Sailor. Chastened, I rehooked the line, the engine - now with fuel - sputtered to life, and back we went to Lopstick to get dry clothes. We'd bop out one more time onto the lake later that afternoon, but with still-threatening skies, never fully completed our planned circuit.

But someday we will. And that ends Day One. Still to come - Peggy and Fred find the proverbial Twenty Miles of Bad Road.

Our Trip (as interpreted by Bob Dylan)

A trip summary by cue card a la Don't Look Back.

via Dylan

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

We're So Officially On Summer Hiatus

To your left: Bear laughs at stupid human interaction with computers and mind-melds directly with the laptop.

Even though we have a bit to go before we go, I'm putting fhb officially on hiatus for the next few weeks, hoping that the "official" moniker will prompt me to start posting again when we get back from vacay. In the interim, until I do, you can currently find more regular postings at a Series of Tubes and fairly regular postings at Dreamtime.

See you - as the song goes - in September.

Is It F***ked? Flow Chart

It's interesting how memes get started, and tend to lose their provenance over the years. Here's something I saw over at Boingboing that made me lol. Surprisingly I've never seen it before since, as someone noted in a comment, it was all the rage with the techie cube crowd for several years.

The source is apparently from a 1999 book - Antarctica, by Kim Stanley Robinson. The blogger created his version sometime in 2001 after seeing yet another version on a dorm whiteboard.

Friday, August 17, 2007

More on the New Dylan Music Video

as mentioned in our earlier post. We now know...

  1. It's a music video for Mick Ronson's remix version of Most Likely You'll Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine).
  2. It was shot at Brooklyn's Art and Historical Center.
  3. The Brooklyn segment was filmed sans Ronson, who will be added later.
  4. Wyclef Jean makes a cameo appearance, and Amy Winehouse's backing band - The Dap Kings - are also featured.
  5. And they definitely did get "people who embody the style of the 1960s, 70s or 80s (i.e. hippies, disco dancers, punks)" plus Dylan like-a-looks.
I don't think much of the Ronson remix, compared to, say, the wonderful Italian rap remix of Like a Rolling Stone performed by Articolo 31, but from the stills it looks like the video could be kind of cool.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Seeking Bob Dylan Fans for new music video

via craigslist:

We are seeking 2 types of talent for this video…

- Men and women in their 20s-40s who are fans of Bob Dylan. Prefer people who embody the style of the 1960s, 70s or 80s (i.e. hippies, disco dancers, punks), but we are open to anyone who is a fan of Dylan and wants to be in his music video.

- Bob Dylan look-a-likes at any stage of his life between 5’7” – 5’9” in height. If you feel like you have his look, style or would fit into these decades because of the clothes you have tucked away or a groovy car, we want to hear from you.

If you are available for the shoot on Tuesday, August 14, please email a photo and contact information to Please mention any vintage items (clothes, props, or cars) you might have that would be useful for this video.

"I'm Not There" soundtrack listing

via The Playlist blog. The soundtrack will reportedly be released on October 30th. "I'm Not There" the movie is slated for a November 21st release

All Along The Watchtower --Eddie Vedder & The Million Dollar Bashers
As I Went Out One Morning--Mira Billotte
Ballad Of A Thin Man--Stephen Malkmus & The Million Dollar Bashers
Billy--Los Lobos
Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window--The Hold Steady
Can't Leave Her Behind--Stephen Malkmus & Lee Ranaldo
Cold Irons Bound--Tom Verlaine & The Million Dollar Bashers
Dark Eyes--Iron & Wine & Calexico
Fourth Time Around--Yo La Tengo
Goin' To Acapulco--Jim James & Calexico
Highway 61 Revisited--Karen O & The Million Dollar Bashers
I Wanna Be Your Lover--Yo La Tengo
I'm Not There--Bob Dylan
I'm Not There--Sonic Youth
Just Like A Woman--Charlotte Gainsbourg & Calexico
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues--Ramblin' Jack Elliot
Knockin' On Heaven's Door--Antony & The Johnsons
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll--Mason Jennings
Maggie's Farm--Stephen Malkmus & The Million Dollar Bashers
Mama You've Been On My Mind--Jack Johnson
The Man In The Long Black Coat--Mark Lanegan
Moonshiner--Bob Forrest
One More Cup Of Coffee--Roger McGuinn & Calexico
Pressing On--John Doe
Ring Them Bells--Sufjan Stevens
SeƱor (Tales Of Yankee Power)--Willie Nelson & Calexico
Simple Twist Of Fate--Jeff Tweedy
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With Memphis Blues Again--Cat Power
The Times They Are A Changin'--Mason Jennings
Tombstone Blues--Richie Havens
When The Ship Comes In--Marcus Carl Franklin
Wicked Messenger--The Black Keys
You Ain't Goin 'Nowhere--Glen Hansard & Markta Irglov

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Technical difficulties

We're having a couple of... never mind.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

New at Dreamtime

According to the story in Chronicles, Gorgeous George told Bob Dylan, "You're making it come alive." Here's a brief biography of the man who during his heyday was one of the most famous entertainers in the world. Running time: 10 minutes

Episode 38 - A Wink or a Nod From Some Unexpected Place

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Summer Reading Recommendations

"I had a great run, no question. Woodstock. The 'Alice's Restaurant' movie. 'City of New Orleans.' I recommend it to anyone who's 18. But as a life? No thanks." - Arlo Guthrie

From Today's Globe : a very funny interview with Arlo Guthrie.

"...if you wave your arms around hard enough, sometimes you can fly."

The best science fiction novel I've read (so far) this Summer: The Accidental Time Machine, by Joe Haldeman.

The best non-fiction book I've read (so far) this Summer: Ted Anthony's Chasing the Rising Sun, Anthony's journey into the heart of The House of the Rising Sun, as well as into the heart of America itself.

If you haven't heard the Dreamtime podcast on the song, btw, why haven't you?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Hell Joe, for $100 more I could buy in at the WSOP

...maybe if it includes a lap dance at Cheetahs...


You are invited to join Joe Hachem, the 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion, at 'A Weekend with Joe Hachem' - a poker player's dream weekend of private lessons, tournament and high end hospitality.

The weekend takes place on December 7 - 9, 2007 and is geared towards providing poker players with intimate, one-on-one poker training as well as an exclusive Las Vegas experience. The weekend is limited to only 18 players, ensuring a highly personalized experience.

"I'm very excited to offer poker players an immersive weekend of poker where I can give individual attention to each player's game" said Hachem, "The fact that the weekend is limited to 18 players will guarantee that I can work with each and every player and improve their game dramatically".
Attendees arriving in Las Vegas will be greeted at the airport by a limousine and will be driven to Caesars Palace, their home for the weekend. After a cocktail reception, they will board an SUV limousine for a VIP poker-style night on the town, complete with a private dinner and exclusive table service at one of the city's top nightclubs.

Over the course of the following two days, Joe will lead the group in seminars designed specifically to improve their game, both from a strategic and tactical standpoint. Seminar topics range from the technical aspects of pots odds and implied odds to the more strategic lessons including bluffing, reading opponents, tournament strategy, cash game strategy and online poker concepts. In addition to the seminars, the attendees will divide into two groups, and will participate in live workshops work with Joe at the poker tables. It is here that Joe can assess each player's game, identify individual weaknesses and help correct them. The third day will culminate in a private, 18 person poker tournament where the attendees can put their newfound skills to the test.

"If you're a serious poker player looking to improve your game, I invite you to join us for 'A Weekend with Joe Hachem', said Joe, "Not only will you leave a better player, but you will have a great time and live the life of a high stakes poker player".

'A Weekend with Joe Hachem' is limited to only 18 participants and costs $9,900 per player. For more information or to reserve your spot, call 702-327-3889, visit or email

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tom Snyder, Harlan Ellison - The Tomorrow Show

"Why don't you put in some Mayans?"

This collects a ton of my favorites in one clip. The great Tom Snyder, who passed away on Sunday, and the great Harlan Ellison on Snyder's The Tomorrow Show. Apparently first broadcast on February 4th, 1976, this is a Star Trek-themed show including James Doohan, DeForest Kelley, and Walter Koenig, although Harlan dominates this segment.

I liked Snyder's one-on-one interviews on The Tomorrow Show, which aired during a period of my life where I tended to go to bed late and rise even later, but I loved the round-tables even more. Having a intelligent, articulate group of people do nothing except talk in a round table format was already a quirky concept for television in the `70s, even during the graveyard shift. You can't imagine anyone buying the idea today... and the poorer we are for it. If you're not familiar with Snyder past Dan
Aykroyd 's spot-on imitation, take 9 minutes out of your day and watch this clip.

I always thought Snyder and The Tomorrow Show format would have been a natural for podcasting, especially now with video podcasting so easy to create and distribute. Unfortunately, leukemia curtailed his public career two years ago, or we might have seen yet another version of The Tomorrow Show.

You're missed, Tom.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Maria Muldaur - Naughty, Bawdy, and Blue

Using lawyerly-like phrases like persona non grata and non compos mentis, my brother-in-law, Ted, asked for a reprint of my now-collector's item interview of Maria Muldaur, which I conducted earlier this year and had originally published on the site that shall not be named, as I'm not giving them free publicity.


Maria Muldaur is in a RV on her way to her next gig somewhere in Iowa when her cell phone rings.

"So, where's the show?" I ask.

"Clear Lake," she answers, which gives me pause. I've never been to Clear Lake Iowa, but the name brings a flood of memories from books and movies anyway. A skinny young man in horn-rimmed glasses, an improbable rock star, blasting out a Bo Diddley beat; teenage girls in pleated skirts doing coordinated dance moves, a heavy-set guy thumping a tambourine, dancing onto the stage, surprisingly light on his feet; now a grinning Chicano kid coming out and adding his guitar to the mix. And the orchestra keeps the beat going, the horns lifting Not Fade Away higher and higher as the group laughs, unplug their guitars, and wave goodbye to the audience as they walk off-stage one-by-one.

"Thank y'all! See you next year," the last one, the tall, skinny guy, calls back to the crowd... and they're gone.

Clear Lake is one of those iconic rock places, like Max Yasgur's farm - or maybe the Altamont Speedway. It was the last stand of the Winter Dance Party of 19 and 59.

"Whoa," I say, back in the future but totally thrown out of interview gear. "Buddy Holly territory."

"Yeah," Maria answers. "We're even playing the same place, the Surf Ballroom. But at least we're not flying out."

"Stick to the RV," I say with feeling, and we move on to more pleasant subjects. I've called Maria to talk about her new CD, Naughty, Bawdy, and Blue, out in stores next Tuesday, May 15th, and the third of her classic blues albums.

"The first one I did was Richland Woman Blues in 2001," Maria says. "And then the follow-up to that was 2005's Sweet Lovin' Ol' Soul. Those two were both tributes to the early blues pioneers who so deeply inspired me at the start of my career. NB&B is the natural conclusion, paying tribute to the classic blues queens - the women who sang what I think of as 'classic' blues as opposed to 'country' blues or 'rural' blues."

The blues queens Maria salutes on Naughty, Bawdy, and Blue include Bessie Smith (“Empty Bed Blues,” “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”), Victoria Spivey (“TB Blues,” “One Hour Mama”), Alberta Hunter (“Early Every Morn”), Ma Rainey (“Yonder Come The Blues”) and Mamie Smith (“Down Home Blues”). And on the Sippie Wallace classic, “Up the Country Blues,” Muldaur does a dynamite duet with another powerhouse blues queen of more recent vintage - Bonnie Raitt.

"One of those singers I knew personally was Sippie Wallace, who wrote many great blues songs," Maria recalls. "If you're a Bonnie Raitt fan you probably already know of Sippie, because Bonnie spent a few years with her and does some of her songs like I'm A Mighty Tight Woman and Woman Be Wise, Don't Advertise Your Man. I had the pleasure of recording and performing with Sippie when the Kweskin Jug Band backed her on her so-called "comeback" album in 1967, Mighty Tight Woman.

"You also knew Victoria Spivey back in the Greenwich Village days," I say.

"She was the first artist I knew of savvy enough to have her own record label," Maria laughs. "She was in New York when I was growing up, and had this record label, and she took me under her wing and mentored me. She actually suggested to the first group I played in - The Even Dozen Jug Band - that they needed to have me in the band, too.

"She was going to sign them to her label but she said, 'You know, you boys sound good, but y'all need some sex appeal. Why don't you get that little gal I seen playing the fiddle over there by Gerde's Folk City.'

"So, they came to me and told me they were going to make a record for Victoria's label, and she told us we need some sex appeal, and she said we should ask you, so would you please join our band?

"Needless to say, this was long before the days of women's lib, so I didn't take personal affront at the idea of being asked to join a band merely for my looks as opposed to my talent. And it sounded like fun, so I did it, and then Victoria took me under her wing from there and started turning me on to the kind of blues she thought I'd sound good singing. So, it was important for me to include several of Victoria's songs on this tribute album."

"One of the things I really like about Naughty, Bawdy, and Blue is how alive the music feels," I say. "Not just the way you do it, but the words and the feeling behind them. You get this feeling of sexy, lusty women living the life."

I can almost feel Maria's smile beaming all the way from Iowa to New Hampshire.

"That's it! The music still resonates with people, and it's still relevant today. As I said before, at one time this was pop music played on the radio. But just because you can't find it on the airwaves now -"

"Except Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour," I interrupt.

Maria laughs. "Yeah, I guess. But even though you can't usually hear it on the radio now doesn't mean the blues isn't very alive and well. And these women were great role models. They were very independent. They liberated themselves way before the time of women's lib. They came from very challenging social and financial environments, and had to break racial barriers and sexual barriers. And, you know, they did it with no big fanfare, or 'rah-rah' cheering squad cheering them on. They just lived life as they pleased and sang about and they sang about sex with great humor and grace, and lustiness. They were just so soulful, and fun, you know?"

"It sounds like perfect Maria Muldaur material to me," I say, and it does. If you like the old-time blues, and spirit, and punch, and funk, and joy in your music you'll love Naughty, Bawdy, and Blue.

If you're in the Hibbing, Minnesota area, Maria Muldaur will be performing at Dylan Days on May 26th, where I bet you'll catch a great live performance from her 2006 Dylan cover album, Heart of Mine. Closer to New England, Maria will also be at the Regattabar Jazz Bar in Cambridge next Thursday, May 17th on the first leg of the Naughty, Bawdy, and Blue tour. Naughty, Bawdy, and Blue, the CD will be in stores May 15th.


Fred researches, writes, and produces The Dreamtime blog and podcast, occasional commentary on the artists played on Dylan's XM Radio show, Theme Time Radio Hour. For more on Maria, check out the Dreamtime blog and Episode 20 - Heart of Mine.