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