Thursday, April 26, 2007

American Life in Poetry: Column 109


One big test of the endurance of any relationship is taking on a joint improvement project. Here Sue Ellen Thompson offers an account of one such trial by fire.


My parents argued over wallpaper. Would stripes
make the room look larger? He
would measure, cut, and paste; she'd swipe
the flaws out with her brush. Once it was properly

hung, doubt would set in. Would the floral
have been a better choice? Then it would grow
until she was certain: it had to go. Divorce
terrified me as a child. I didn't know

what led to it, but I had my suspicions.
The stripes came down. Up went
the flowers. Eventually it became my definition
of marriage: bad choices, arguments

whose victors time refused to tell,
but everything done together and done well.

Reprinted by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2006 by Sue Ellen Thompson, from her book, "The Golden Hour," published by Autumn House 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

Lawmakers Starting To Question Online Gambling Laws

via Techdirt:

Is the tide turning in the war over online gambling?

A few recent developments suggest that efforts at stamping out the activity (which was always an impossible goal) may be losing steam. Last year, the state of Washington passed a rather draconian bill that made it a felony to gamble online; in fact, the it even went after people who merely discussed online gambling on their websites. It looks like lawmakers realized that they went overboard, and have now reversed that law, essentially making it legal again to gamble online for recreational purposes. That, in itself, doesn't make it much easier for people to gamble however, since there's still the federal law which has made getting money into an online casino a real pain.

The good news there is that a bill has been introduced in congress to repeal the ban. According to the bill's sponsor, Representative Barney Frank, there's significant support for the new law, though it obviously has a difficult road ahead, since it will need approval from the Senate (where rules make it very easy to stall legislation) and a signature from the President. Still, it's very rare for the government to repeal bad laws, so just the fact that movement is happening in this direction is a good sign.

Monday, April 23, 2007

And for an additional 5 quid, you can get a flogging, too!

via BoingBoing

A new theme park inspired by the work of Charles Dickens aims to transform a 70,000-square-foot warehouse near London into a teeming -- and family-friendly -- corner of Victorian England...

... The indoor attraction includes a central square of cobbled streets and crooked buildings, where staff dressed as pickpockets and wenches will mingle with the crowds. Visitors who pay the $25 admission charge -- $15 for children -- will have the chance to see the Ghost of Christmas Past in Ebeneezer Scrooge's haunted house, be hectored by a schoolmaster at Dotheboys Hall -- the dismal school from "Nicholas Nickleby" -- and peer into the fetid cells of Newgate Prison.

Tourists can also have a meal in the cafeteria, which has resisted the temptation to offer "Please, sir can I have some more?" 2-for-1 specials. The little ones can play in Fagin's Den, an area for preschoolers named after the gangmaster of the band of thieves in "Oliver Twist."


Thursday, April 19, 2007

American Life in Poetry: Column 107


Houdini never gets far from the news. There's always a movie coming out, or a book, and every other magician has to face comparison to the legendary master. Here the California poet, Kay Ryan, encapsulates the man and says something wise about celebrity.


Each escape
involved some art,
some hokum, and
at least a brief
exchange between
the man and metal
during which the
chains were not
so much broken
as he and they
blended. At the
end of each such
mix he had to
extract himself. It
was the hardest
part to get right
routinely: breaking
back into the
same Houdini.

Poem copyright (c) 2004 by Kay Ryan, whose most recent book of poetry is "The Niagara River" Grove Press, 2005. Reprinted from "Poetry," November, 2004, with permission of the author. 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

We Would Like to Make a Contact

I have a special guilty pleasure weakness for The Carpenters in general, and this cover of Klaatu's Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft in particular.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I want one of these *so* badly

Peggy I need a

Vampire Killing Kit

The accoutrements for the destruction of the Vampire

This box contains the items considered necessary for the protection of persons who travel into certain little known countries in Easter Europe where the populace are plagued with a peculiar manifestation of evil, known as Vampires... Professor Ernst Blomberg respectfully requests that the purchaser of this kit carefully studies his book. Should evil manifestations become apparent, he is then equiped to deal with them efficiently... Professor Blomberg wishes to announce his grateful thanks to that well known gunmaker of Liege, Nicholas Plombeur, whose help in compiling of the special items, the silver bullets,etc., has been most efficient. The items enclosed are as follows...

1. An efficient pistol with its usual accoutrements
2. A quantity of bullets of the finest silver
3. Powdered flowers of garlic (one phial)
4. Flour of Brimstone (one phial)
5. Wooden stake (Oak)
6. Ivory crucifix
7. Holy Water (one phial)
8. Professer Blomberg's New Serum

via Wired, Boingboing and a host of others

Are mobile phones causing "colony collapse"?

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been much in the news lately. CCD occurs when a beehive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving behind only queens, eggs and a few immature workers.

Nobody knows where the vanished bees go, but they're apparently either deliberately or accidentally dying far from their homes. Even more scary, the parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies will refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.

Why? No one knows, but a new theory has it that CCD may be connected to cell phone use, kind of a variation on Steve King's recent book. From The Independent story:

"...a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a 'hint' to a possible cause.

Dr George Carlo, who headed a massive study by the US government and mobile phone industry of hazards from mobiles in the Nineties, said: 'I am convinced the possibility is real.'"

Another theory has it that GM (genetically modified) plants may be the culprit.

Albert Einstein once said, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

We may be running out of time.


I've been shamefully neglecting fhb, I know, and I'm afraid it's going to continue for the next couple of months, at least until I finish my contractual obligation with gather in June. Between Dreamtime (new episode below, plug plug), gather, and the things I do to actually pay the bills, I finally hit a wall where there just wasn't any more Fred to go around.

But I'm caught up, at least for the moment, so here's an interesting thing I came across in today's Globe: BiblioExpeditions, a bookstore/literary tour equivalent of those buses that take you down to Foxwoods for a day of gambling.

Ride our luxury motorcoach on weekend adventures to fabulous independent bookstores and literary landmarks in New York City, Boston, Western Massachusetts, Central Connecticut and Southern Vermont.
I like the idea, and I wouldn't mind going on the June 2nd tour a, "a one-day literary adventure in Greenwich Village, featuring Strand Bookstore (80 years old this year!), McNally-Robinson Bookstore, Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, St. Mark's Bookshop, Housingworks Used Book Cafe, Bluestockings, and a dozen other fabulous bookstores. We'll be departing Amherst, Massachusetts at 7am, and returning at 11pm." At a sale price of $69 (regular price $99), it sounds like a bargain.

Dreamtime Episode 33 - Oh Baby, Me Gotta Go

How does Dreamtime fit in over 50 different versions of "Louie Louie" in a 14-minute show? Listen and find out. Starring Bob Dylan, Julie London, and even Your Host singing the religious version of "Louie Louie" - an experience not to be missed. I succeeded in making Peggy laugh out loud when she heard it.

Episode 33 - Oh Baby, Me Gotta Go

Thursday, April 12, 2007

American Life in Poetry: Column 107


Naomi Shihab Nye is one of my favorite poets. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, and travels widely, an ambassador for poetry. Here she captures a lovely moment from her childhood.

Supple Cord

My brother, in his small white bed,
held one end.
I tugged the other
to signal I was still awake.
We could have spoken,
could have sung
to one another,
we were in the same room
for five years,
but the soft cord
with its little frayed ends
connected us
in the dark,
gave comfort
even if we had been bickering
all day.
When he fell asleep first
and his end of the cord
dropped to the floor,
I missed him terribly,
though I could hear his even breath
and we had such long and separate lives

Reprinted from "A MAZE ME," Greenwillow, 2005, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) Naomi Shihab Nye, whose most recent book of poetry is "You and Yours," BOA Editions, Ltd., 2005. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Greatest Comic Collection Ever

clipped from
In 1977, a 21 year old comic book dealer in Colorado named Chuck Rozanski got a phone call from a realtor who wanted to dispose of a "large" number of comic books in the basement of a house that was about to be sold. The owners of the house were eager to get rid of them, and Rozanski purchased the "greatest comic collection ever found" , consisting of over 18,000 mint condition Golden Age comic books collected by artist Edgar Church, for a bargain price (rumored to be as low as $1,800). Recently, just one comic book from the collection sold for $273,125. Rozanski used the proceeds to build Mile High Comics, now the largest comic book retailer in the industry.
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Thursday, April 05, 2007

American Life in Poetry: Column 106


By describing the relocation of the moles which ravaged her yard, Washington poet Judith Kitchen presents an experience that resonates beyond the simple details, and suggests that children can learn important lessons through observation of the natural world.

Catching the Moles

First we tamp down the ridges
that criss-cross the yard

then wait for the ground
to move again.

I hold the shoe box,
you, the trowel.

When I give you the signal
you dig in behind

and flip forward.
Out he pops into daylight,

blind velvet.

We nudge him into the box,
carry him down the hill.

Four times we've done it.
The children worry.

Have we let them all go
at the very same spot?

Will they find each other?
We can't be sure ourselves,

only just beginning to learn
the fragile rules of uprooting.

Poem copyright (c) 1986 by Judith Kitchen, whose most recent book is the novel, "The House on Eccles Road," Graywolf Press, 2004. Reprinted from "Perennials," Anhinga Press, 1986, with permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Kaiser is No Longer in the Building

A three-foot-long python on the loose in Google's NY offices.
clipped from

"We are pleased to report that Kaiser was located in the office," company spokeswoman Ellen West said in a statement, according to Reuters. "Kaiser was taken home by his owner and is no longer in the building."

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Monday, April 02, 2007

More Things I Didn't Need to Know

I'm experimenting with a new tool, Clipmarks (link below). This from BoingBoing
clipped from

Pencils made from cremated humans

Artist Nadine Jarvis can fabricate pencils from carbon left over by incinerating human remains -- it's part of a larger "research project into post mortem." She notes that "240 pencils can be made from an average body of ash - a lifetime supply of pencils for those left behind."
(via Cribcandy)
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