Wednesday, January 31, 2007

That Big Announcement Time

Thanks to Dreamtime I've signed a deal and will be writing a weekly music column for "Gather," a social networking site, that's sometimes been described as "the MySpace for the NPR set." You can see the site here...

http://www.gather.com/

... and you can track my writing at Gather here.

The column's name is currently "Under the Radar," although that will be changing to avoid confusion with a music mag of the same name.

Whatever I end up naming the column, it will have the same general theme as
Dreamtime; stuff you wouldn't hear on the radio; trivia, stories about music and musicians. Sometimes the content will be the same thing as I'm posting over at the Dreamtime blog - edited to make sense for non-Theme Time listeners - sometimes it will diverge. I have a couple of things in mind that wouldn't fit in Dreamtime that I've been hankering to write.

Gather has been around for about a year. It's Boston-based, partially funded by NPR, the Hearst Corporation, several others. It don't think it's been as successful as anyone would like.

When I joined last year Gather reminded me of an out-of-control writing workshop, with everyone clamoring for attention for their own writing and no one willing to read anything else. Most people who I sent to Gather found the interface very confusing, too, as I did. I cross-posted a few articles from fhb and Dreamtime at Gather with little reaction over the past year, and eventually decided it was too much of a hassle for the 'lil Gather dollars that the articles earned.

But I think they're making a good move, I'm one of what will eventually be 70-80 "Gather Correspondents," for various groups such as politics; music; writing; movies; cooking; and so on - and whose agenda - outside of writing - will be to put some order and consistency around the chaos.

Gather has changed their user interface too. It now seems to be simpler and easier to find things you're interested in reading. But we'll see how it works out.
The gig doesn't pay much - few freelance writing gigs do - but it does pay real moola now as opposed to their "Gather dollars", and the exposure may be good, especially since I can cross-advertise Dreamtime, fhb, and my Amazon Dreamtime store. And heck, I even get free CDs.

And that's the
Big Announcement. I was touched that several family members and friends contacted me in the hopes that XM, or NPR, or Mr. D., or somebody was tossing bags of gold my way. But Dreamtime is the best sort of writing. No pressure, no censors, no editors. Of course no money and a small audience too. :-) But I still find it fun, and at this point, having fun writing is a very important thing to me. I'm hoping the Gather gig will be fun too, but whatever happens, you'll hear about it. Promise.

We now return you to the regular blog, already in progress.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Time to air out the ol' ape pelt tomorrow



Well, indeed. And why is it important, you ask? Read all about it here. You'll be proud of yourself for helping promote such a worthy cause.

Oh, and for those Constant Readers emailing me about the Big Announcement (and one so curious he even had his wife call), I'm under embargo until February 1st and - since I'm travelling that day - I probably won't make the Big Announcement until the 2nd.

So hang in there.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The State of Online Poker...

... is disquieting, to say the least. "Disheartening" might be a better term.

Last week, after having the screws put to it by the U.S. gummit, NETeller, which was the money transfer service I - along with thousands of others - used to get money in/out of my poker accounts, closed to U.S. citizens. On the heels of the announcement I received an email from UltimateBet, noting several alternatives, one of which actually cut off its service to U.S. citizens a few hours later. PokerStars seems to be trying to keep a low profile. No email, just a notice on their site advising the unavailability of NETteller to U.S. citizens.

There are still alternatives, which I can try when I need to fund one of my two - possibly soon to be three accounts, as I'm thinking of dropping a (very) small bankroll into FullTilt, as many of my imaginary friends are migrating there. But, I'm expecting at some point in the future my bank will be sending me a notice, advising me that they're refusing the transfer, or one or more of the sites I play on will just decide that it's too much hassle to face the possible of their executives if they set foot on U.S. soil and say "sorry, Rico."

Of course, playing online poker isn't illegal. By God, I have two different emails from New Hamster's finest pols telling me that.

Yep.

Of course, it's getting more and more difficult for me to fund my playing, but at least I have the assurance that everything is just jake between me and my government.

I know just how a regular joe must have felt during prohibition, when all he wanted was a beer at day's end, and ended up having to go places he normally wouldn't go, meet people he didn't want to meet, and feel like a criminal in the process. All for a lousy beer.

The Poker Players' Alliance, which personally I feel has been about as useful as tits on a boar to date, sent out an email recently noting,

"...The PPA is not standing idly by. Poker should be exempt under the new law and that exemption is our primary goal. I have spent a good portion of January in Washington, D.C., meeting with lawmakers and others to get support for legislation that would provide a “skill game” exemption for poker. We hope to have a bill introduced very soon and then bring to bear the voice of more than 135,000 members of the PPA to push Congress to do the right thing. This would be a very positive development for the game. For the past year, we have been on the defensive, but now is the time to go on the offensive and get a bill introduced.

This year we will also be taking the issue directly to Members of Congress in their home districts, to truly nationalize the debate. We had a tremendous response from our members about becoming PPA grassroots representatives on the state and regional levels. Soon we will be announcing our positions across the country and engaging U.S. Representatives and Senators where they used to feel safe from facts and spirited debate.

While we are working toward the short-term goal of a poker exemption, the PPA will also be laying the foundation for the eventual U.S. regulation of online poker. This is the only proven public policy for online gaming. Licensing, regulating, and taxing online poker is technically feasible and the sensible and fiscally responsible thing to do. We will be working with others in Washington to move Congress in this direction.

Finally, we not only rely on your active participation but also on your active support to achieve our goals. Our new site now offers no cost introductory annual memberships. Please help us build our membership to enable us to deliver a full house to Congress and stop further threats to our game. Tell your friends, family, and fellow players to become members of the PPA. We also offer an ability to upgrade your membership from introductory to full membership and beyond. Our new and improved Web site, www.pokerplayersalliance.org, gives you tools and information to help our cause, as well as make it easier for you to donate to the PPA. I hope you will make a contribution at http://www.pokerplayersalliance.org/donatenow.php."
Well, we'll see. I'm not making any more contributions until I see the PPA do something past press releases. As to the "regulation of online poker," I'm still personally convinced that much of this has come about because the traditional bricks-and-mortar U.S. casinos saw billions of dollars flowing right out of their greedy lil hands to Gibraltar and Israel and god-knows-where and started getting their tame Congress-critters on the case. And, once it's impossible for U.S. players to get money in/out of the international betting sites, somehow, miraculously, legislation will be passed that will allow regulated U.S casinos to offer online poker, blackjack, et al. As I tell Peggy, I'm fully expecting not to be able to play online poker by the end of the year, but bet I'll be playing online poker at a Caesars or Harrah's-branded site within the next three years.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hey, Hey, I'm a Monkee



Come watch Dreamtime sing and play. I'm the young generation and I got something to say.

Well, at least 10 minutes worth. Episode 27 of the Dreamtime podcast features Mike "Wool Hat" Nesmith, Liquid Paper, Tiger Beat, Charlie Manson, Jimi Hendrix, and the Mike Nesmith/Bob Dylan non-collaboration, "Rio."

As I mentioned earlier, one of the things I miss from the closed White Man Stew Theme Time Forums was someone posting "Theme Time" artist videos found on YouTube. I've added a new segment to Dreamtime that I plan on offering on an "off-week" (that is, when I don't have the next podcast in the works) basis... always keeping in mind that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds and sometimes I'll be posting a podcast that week, sometimes a YouTube video, maybe sometimes I'll post both, like this week.

The first of the two videos currently on the site feature the female Elvis, Wanda Jackson, ripping through the rockabilly number, "Rock Your Baby" from 1958. The other is one of my favorites, from 1989, with Van Morrison reading the Slim Gaillard passage from "On the Road," as Gaillard himself recreates the scene as described by Kerouac.

Both - and more as I post them - can always be found through the Dreamtime video label...

http://fhb-dreamtime.blogspot.com/search/label/Video

If you come across a Theme Time-related video that you'd like to see up on Dreamtime, feel free to email me.

Friday, January 19, 2007

American Life in Poetry: Column 095

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

Literature, and in this instance, poetry, holds a mirror to life; thus the great themes of life become the great themes of poems. Here the distinguished American poet, John Haines, addresses--and celebrates through the affirmation of poetry--our preoccupation with aging and mortality.


Young Man

I seemed always standing
before a door
to which I had no key,
although I knew it hid behind it
a gift for me.

Until one day I closed
my eyes a moment, stretched
then looked once more.
And not surprised, I did not mind it
when the hinges creaked
and, smiling, Death
held out his hands to me.


Reprinted from "ABZ: A Poetry Magazine," No. 1, 2006, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2006, by John Haines, whose most recent book of poetry is "Of Your Passage, O Summer," Limberlost Press, 2004. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

American Life in Poetry: Column 094

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

While many of the poems we feature in this column are written in open forms, that's not to say I don't respect good writing done in traditional meter and rhyme. But a number of contemporary poets, knowing how a rigid attachment to form can take charge of the writing and drag the poet along behind, will choose, say, the traditional villanelle form, then relax its restraints through the use of broken rhythm and inexact rhymes. I'd guess that if I weren't talking about it, you might not notice, reading this poem by Floyd Skloot, that you were reading a sonnet.


Silent Music

My wife wears headphones as she plays
Chopin etudes in the winter light.
Singing random notes, she sways
in and out of shadow while night
settles. The keys she presses make a soft
clack, the bench creaks when her weight shifts,
golden cotton fabric ripples across
her shoulders, and the sustain pedal clicks.
This is the hidden melody I know
so well, her body finding harmony in
the give and take of motion, her lyric
grace of gesture measured against a slow
fall of darkness. Now stillness descends
to signal the end of her silent music.


Reprinted from "Prairie Schooner," Volume 80, Number 2 (Summer, 2006) by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Copyright (c) 2006 by the University of Nebraska Press. Floyd Skloot's most recent book is "The End of Dreams," 2006, Louisiana State University Press. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Autopsy of 'Big Bopper' to Address Rumors About 1959 Plane Crash


via The Washington Post:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The son of "the Big Bopper" has hired a forensic anthropologist to try to answer questions about how his father died in the 1959 plane crash that also took the lives of famous rock-and-rollers Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.

Jay Richardson, who performs tribute shows as "the Big Bopper Jr.," hopes an examination of his father's remains will settle rumors that a gun was fired aboard the plane, and tell whether the Big Bopper might have survived the crash impact and died trying to go for help.

"I'm not looking for any great bombshell, but then again you never know," Richardson said in a phone interview from his home outside Houston.

J.P. "Big Bopper" Richardson is buried in Beaumont, Tex. After his remains are studied, they will be reburied and a life-size statue will be put up next to the grave.

Jay Richardson never knew his father, who soared to rock fame with his late-'50s hit "Chantilly Lace." His mother was pregnant with him when his father died.

The music stars were killed on Feb. 3, 1959, when their four-passenger plane crashed after taking off from the Mason City, Iowa, airport -- a tragedy memorialized as "the day the music died" in Don McLean's song "American Pie."

The group had been traveling by bus on their "Winter Dance Party" tour of the Midwest, but Holly chartered the plane because the bus was cold and prone to breaking down.

Following a concert in Clear Lake, Iowa, Waylon Jennings, then a member of Holly's band, gave up his seat on the plane to Richardson, who was feeling ill and seeking a shorter trip to the next stop.

An autopsy was performed on the pilot's body, but not on the others.

Bill Bass, founder of the research facility at the University of Tennessee nicknamed the Body Farm, plans to study the remains in March. Bass is an expert in determining identities and causes of death.

In this case, Bass said, his goal is to "document all the fractures and get an idea of how many broken bones and which ones are critical and give . . . as much information as I can about the crash and how it affected his father."

In its accident report, the Civil Aeronautics Board said pilot error was the cause of the crash. The report didn't mention a gun belonging to Holly that was found by a farmer two months after the crash.

Newspaper accounts of the gun discovery fueled rumors among fans that the pilot was somehow shot, causing the crash. The owner of the flying service added to the conspiracy theory by insisting his pilot was not at fault, saying the pilot must have been "incapacitated."

X-rays of the bones should be able to show whether the Bopper was hit by a bullet, because the lead in the bullet would leave debris.

"I don't expect to find that," Richardson said. "If these rumors persist, I can tell you Dad wasn't [shot]. That's what I hope it comes to."

Another curious finding at the crash was that Richardson's body was discovered nearly 40 feet from the wreckage, while the others were found in or near the plane.

Bass said examining the bones could determine whether Richardson could have moved himself from the wreckage or if he was thrown by the force of the crash.

"I don't know how I would feel to know that my father died some other way than what I believed most of my life," his son said.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dreamtime, Nancy Sinatra, Theme Time Videos and Big Announcement pending.


Did you know that Phil Silvers - Sgt. Bilko - wrote the lyrics to Nancy with the Laughing Face? I didn't until Bob Dylan informed me, and that's one of the reasons I love Theme Time Radio Hour. Read all about it here.

I'm also adding a new segment to Dreamtime that I plan on offering on an "off-week" (that is, when I don't have the next podcast in the works) basis... always keeping in mind that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds and sometimes I'll be posting a podcast that week, sometimes a YouTube video, maybe sometimes I'll post both.

One of the things I miss from the closed White Man Stew Theme Time Forums was someone posting "Theme Time" artist videos found on YouTube. Here's one of my favorites, from 1989 Van Morrison reading the Slim Gaillard passage from "On the Road," as Gaillard himself recreates the scene as described by Kerouac. Dylan read the same passage in the "Moon" episode of Theme Time.

And finally, in the spirit of Big Announcements, I hope to have a Big Announcement made public Real Soon Now. And no, neither Dylan nor XM has offered me a job. It's not that Big.


Tough week...

... and it's only Thursday. On Monday, we got whacked by the ubiquitous ice storm that's been plaguing the U.S. from Texas to up here. Power first shut down around 11:30 a.m. (shortly after I posted Monday's post, in fact), came back on around 1:00, and shut down again at around 1:30.

And stayed off.

And stayed off.

Finally coming back on late Tuesday around 4 p.m. as PSNH crews and crews from as far away as Connecticut worked to get the lights back on. We had a scare Wednesday morning circa 6 a.m. as the power went off again, but it was apparently planned, as it came back on around a half-hour later and (cross fingers, knock wood) so far has stayed on.

So, you go find the flashlights, and finally find one that has charged batteries, and you find the oil lamps, and go get the various ornamental candles given as gifts, and you light the fireplace and hunker down with the cats. And you go out to get a new portable (battery-driven) radio so you have some sounds. And you move the Old School phone from the bedroom downstairs because none of the wireless phones work.

Monday wasn't too bad. The temperature hunkered right around freezing, with the rain coming down and icing everything it touched. We lost a big branch on the old crab apple out front, and the work crews took out a bent birch that was blocking the road.

With the fireplace cranking since 11:30, the living room stayed around the high 60s. Rest of the house dropped down to mid 50s. We went to bed early, cranked up the bedroom fireplace, put on our woollies, and had a relatively easy night of it.

Tuesday was worse as the temperature outside and in plummeted, and we were making plans to take cats and ourselves over to Peggy's brother for the evening when, as I said, the power came back. And now we're back to normalcy, such as it is. According to reports, at the storm's height, over 50,000 NH customers had power out. That quickly dropped to around 30k, and stayed at that level through much of Tuesday. They're now saying "thousands," and report that all customers should have power on by end of day.

The thing you're not expecting when you lose power is how quiet everything gets. No furnace clicking. No compressors. No electrical hum which is the constant background of these Modern Times. I sat next to the fireplace, reading by kerosene light, and thought about what the noises must have been pre-electricity. Crackle of the fire. Creaking of the bones of the house. Wind rattling a window.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Peter S. Beagle - Giants Still Walk Among Us

Back when I was much younger, and more naive, and wanting more than anything else in the world to be a writer, when I thought about my heroes - writers like MacDonald, Bester, Heinlein, Ellison, Peter Beagle - I figured they all lived comfortably, had tons of dough, and had no problems past figuring out the plot of the next book.

Then I got older. As time passed, I met many of my heroes, and little pieces of the fantasy would chip off. Interviewing Steve King - probably the most successful writer I've met - around the time of the publication of 'Salem's Lot, I said something to the effect that it must be nice to get anything you write published.

"You think that, huh?" King answered and opened a file cabinet's worth of manuscripts. All rejected, most multiple times. In the interests of full disclosure, many of those manuscripts eventually got published under the Bachman pen name. But I bet there's a few still in that cabinet.

I discovered that Bester, Heinlein, and MacDonald all had serious health problems; and found that wasn't all that unusual in the writing community. Maybe it's the sedentary lifestyle. Maybe like Heinlein, Hammett, and several others, they turned to writing to earn a living because of their health problems.

I found out from Harlan Ellison that Fritz Leiber - one of the best fantasy and sf writers of his time - lived in a one-room apartment - and typed most of his stories using a 2x4 plank as his writing desk, and not because he wanted to. Ted Sturgeon - another giant of the sf field - had more personal and financial problems than you could count.

Some of the giants had feet of clay. I was once tongue-lashed for what felt like an eternity by a writer who had the reputation as a super-nice guy, but who felt that I had picked the wrong place - a bookstore - and time - he was book browsing - to ask for an autograph. Another one turned out to be a drunk who liked playing grabass with female fans. One who had a frightening reputation was Harlan, but he turned out to be a sweet guy who even took me into his home and family for awhile.

They were just people. Assholes and sweethearts, sometimes both in the same package. Same problems, same foibles as you and me. Maybe sometimes a bit exaggerated. They were - are - writers after all. A lot of them - like me - aren't good business people, and for all their literary success aren't doing well financially.

Peter S. Beagle is author of such wonderful works as The Last Unicorn, A Fine and Private Place, and the road book, I See By Your Outfit. If you're a Trekkie, you may know Beagle as the scriptwriter of the STNG episode, Sarek. In 1978, Beagle wrote the screenplay for the animated version of The Lord of the Rings. Beagle was paid a "consulting fee" of only $5,000 and offered a lot of promises for future work by the movie's producer.

The movie wasn't very good, as you probably know if you saw it, but that's neither her nor there. The producer of the original ended up collecting over $200 million in licensing fees from the later Peter Jackson Rings trilogy, of which not a penny has Beagle ever seen. There's no legal reason why Beagle should see any of that money... but maybe he still should. Here's some of the background:

Q. Just how badly was Peter shafted on this screenwriting deal anyway? What was the going rate back in 1977?

Peter was paid $5,000 as a consulting fee to make suggestions on how to fix the existing draft by Chris Conkling. Peter's advice: this can't be fixed, it needs to be replaced. Saul Zaentz then talked Peter into doing more work, by making promises that were never kept, and Peter wound up writing eight or nine drafts of a brand new screenplay.

Today's equivalent of that 1977 $5,000 would be about $17,000. Certainly not to be ignored, but still nothing compared to what the WGA currently mandates as a minimum for writing eight or nine drafts of a feature animation script. That number? $246,496!

The 1977 equivalent of today's minimum fee would have been $72,500. So Peter was underpaid by at least $67,500. And it should be noted that this figure represents the WGA minimum, the amount you are supposed to get even if you've never sold anything before. Screenwriters who aren't newbies don't get WGA minimum, they get more — and Peter was already an accomplished screenwriter with several credits when he adapted THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
You can read the full FAQ of the story at the link above, and it includes suggestions for helping Beagle out should you feel so inclined. Me, I'm ordering something from Conlan Press, since Beagle gets more money - more quickly - from that venue.

Friday, January 12, 2007

No Room for Dylan

Title kinda sounds like it'd make a good sit-com, huh?

via the Beeb:

Celebrated Dylan photo recreated

A celebrated photograph of Bob Dylan surrounded by scruffy "waifs" in a Liverpool doorway has been recreated 40 years on.



The original picture was taken by photographer Barry Feinstein while the new image is created by Dylan fan Chris Hockenhull, from Waterloo, Merseyside.

He tracked down eight of the 10 people who appeared in the first image and took them back to the Dock Road area.

But he did not ask Dylan to come back as there was "no room for him".

Mr Hockenhull, 50, who teaches a Bob Dylan course, explained why he had chosen to re-create the scene.

"It was such a clash of 1960s culture. The kids looked like Victorian street urchins and Dylan looked like a man from Mars with his loud shirt and wild hair. That's what fascinated me," he told BBC Inside Out.

"It began when I first saw a Bob Dylan picture without any location credits in the mid-1970s. Something just convinced me it was from Liverpool.

"When Barry Feinstein's book, Early Dylan, came out in early 1999, the picture with the children in the doorway caught my attention.

"I started looking around various sites in Liverpool and finally stumbled across the place where it was taken. I couldn't believe the building still existed.

"The kids lived around there in the 1960s, in what could be termed now as real squalor. The Swinging Sixties hadn't hit that part of Liverpool."

He said the houses were demolished about two years after the photograph was taken and the children were dispersed around the city. He added: "Very few of the children had any recollection of the event in 1966. They were oblivious to the fact that the picture had gone all around the world and been used on CD covers and in magazines.

The former children were tracked down using the electoral roll, through visits to the pubs where they drank and by placing adverts in local newspapers.

The resulting shot was taken in November 2006, but without the legendary Dylan.

One of the women in the photograph, Bernadette Gill, 47, now a doctor's receptionist from Knotty Ash in Liverpool, said of the original image: "We really did have a lovely childhood but it looks as though we haven't changed our clothes for years, let alone months.

"We used to go and play in the warehouse as soon as we were let out, that's the only place we had to play.

"I don't remember a thing about the original photograph. Only a couple of us do. I don't remember being given money, I probably went straight to the sweet shop and spent it.

"It's lovely to look at it, and realise what you've been part of. I wasn't a Bob Dylan fan. I still can't say I like all his music. I like some of it though."

Mr Feinstein, Dylan's sole photographer during his 1966 and 1974 world tours, remembered of the youngsters: "They were all like waifs. They weren't your Beverley Hills kids."
The search for the children in the photograph and their reunion will be featured on Inside Out on Friday on BBC One at 1930 GMT. Digital viewers can watch the documentary on channel 101 or 948.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Name Game



Where else but in the Dreamtime podcast could you get Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon, R. Crumb, ZZ Top, Louis Bellson, the Ramones, Snoop Dog, Wendy Carlos, and Allan Sherman - all in 10 minutes?

Plus, a special guest appearance by Jack Klugman!

I Am in Serious Technolust

That's the iPhone to your left, and Mr. Jobs knows how to press my buttons (no pun intended).

Not available until June, pricey (the 8GB model will be $499) and one should never buy a product until a couple of revs have shaken the most egregious bugs out...

... but I still want one.

Now.

Badly.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Education of a Poker Player

My brother, Lee, sent this book as a birthday present, having found a 4th edition of the original printing in a used book store in Camden, Maine, and thinking I'd be amused by it, even if, as my non-poker-playing brother said, "the tactics are probably out of date."

Interestingly, while some of the games aren't played often anymore (Variations of Five- and Seven-Card Draw, such as Five-Card Draw, with Deuces Wild and the Joker, and Spit in the Ocean), the card strategy that Yardley outlines applies just as well to Texas Hold `Em today as it did for those card games when the book was first published in 1957. That strategy can pretty much be summed in these observations:

1. Many players play too many hands.

2. Most players who play too many hands are also
optimists.

3. Most players only have one game.
The first observation is self-evident to anyone who plays poker regularly. You realize after a time - if you're improving your game, at least - that you're now throwing away many hands - Aces with bad kickers whether soooooooooooted or not, small pairs when there is a raise and callers (or even not) ahead of you - that you used to play whether it made sense to play them or not. You realize you've stopped calling as much, and most of betting is either fold, raise, or re-raise.

I'm raising hell at the $5, $10, and $20 SnGs on UltimateBet of late by applying both observations. At such small buy-ins, the usual players on the table are newbies or don't-care-bies. They're there for the action - such as it is - or they're learning the game, or they may even dimly realize that their style of play confines them to the smaller beer tables because they're regularly and expensively trounced at higher buy-ins. In any case, with any given table of 10 at $5-$20 buy-ins, you can safely assume that anywhere from 3 to 5 players are going to be betting cards that their Mamma would be unhappy to see them play. And once in, most of those will keep betting in the hope of pulling out from their nose-dive before crashing.

The game usually goes so that by the 15-30 limits at least two people are gone, having gone all-in, sometimes with decent cards, oft-times with nothing but a wish and a prayer. And there's one to two players with oversized stacks, having done the same and won, sometimes with the best starting cards, sometimes through some unbelievable suck-out.

My modus operandi in the games is usually to lay low at the beginning and only bet when I can get in cheaply. I won't play past the Flop unless I think I've got the hand locked. Even then, I'll fold against all-ins that I can't cover and if there's some sort of draw on the board that I couldn't beat.

Even with all the limits I put on myself, I tend to win the hands that I play. And I tend to win more chips than I really should have, because of Observation #2 above.

The aggressive players cull themselves and we get down to 4-5 players and near the Bubble. If I've won - or maintained - enough to still have a viable stack and the limits are still relatively low (which happens more often than not thanks, as I said, to the aggressive action), I usually have a very good chance to make it into the money thanks to Observation #3.

Few people I've seen in those lower buy-ins can change gears. Even the ones that can tend to fall back into their normal betting pattern over time... because it is their normal betting pattern. So, aggressive players still tend to be aggressive, even when it's in their best interests not to be. People who have tried to run bluffs will try to bluff again, even after being caught out at them. People who like to bet draws won't fold them. Tight players stay tight, even when their stacks are being flensed to the bone by the Blinds.

I'm not very good at changing gears myself - especially as it concerns that last sentence above - unless I stay focused and think about what I'm doing. Lately, I've been able to do that. So, I tend to bet more hands in this latter part of the game, especially against the smaller stacks, play the aggressive players more aggressively, call the bluffers.

And it seems to work more often than not. Will it always work? Variance catches you out. You get a lousy run of cards, the Blinds eat you up, you have to start gambling. Or, you get crippled or knocked out altogether because of some buffoon's bonehead play. It is gambling, after all.

"Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't," as Old Lodge Skins once said.

The author of "The Education of a Poker Player," Herbert O. Yardley, who died a year after the book's publication, began his career as a code clerk with the U.S. State Department. During World War I, Yardley served in the cryptologic section of Military Intelligence with the American Expeditionary Forces. After the war, Yardley lead the first peacetime cryptanalytic organization in the United States, MI-8.

Funded by the Army and the State Department, MI-8 was disguised as a New York City company that made commercial codes for businesses. Their actual mission was to break the diplomatic codes of different nations, an endeavor in which the were fairly successful, especially as it came to the Japanese pre-WWII.

In 1929, the State Department closed down MI-8, according to legend with Secretary of State Henry Stimson famous disclaimer: “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.”

Unemployed, and accustomed to the finer things in life, as you can tell from "TEoaPP", Yardley wrote "The American Black Chamber," which revealed the work of MI-8. The book became an international best seller. Although the Army tried, the espionage laws at the time contained a loophole that prevented the government from prosecuting Yardley. Yardley continued to act as a cryptanalytic consultant for several other countries, but never worked for the U.S. again.

More about Yardley - where I found the above information - can be found at the NSA site.

American Life in Poetry: Column 093

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

Newborns begin life as natural poets, loving the sound of their own gurgles and coos. And, with the encouragement of parents and teachers, children can continue to write and enjoy poetry into their high school years and beyond. A group of elementary students in Detroit, Michigan, wrote poetry on the subject of what seashells might say if they could speak to us. I was especially charmed by Tatiana Ziglar's short poem, which alludes to the way in which poets learn to be attentive to the world. The inhabitants of the Poetry Palace pay attention, and by that earn the stories they receive.


Common Janthina

My shell said she likes the king and queen
of the Poetry Palace because they listen to her.
She tells them all the secrets of the ocean.

Reprinted by permission from "Shimmering Stars," Vol. IV, Spring, 2006, published by the InsideOut Literary Arts Project. Copyright (c) 2006 by the InsideOut Literary Arts Project. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Music industry softens on podcasts

via ars technica:

Sony BMG has decided to dip its toes into the world of podcasted music with its recent agreement with marketing agency Rock River Communications (warning: annoying Flash site) Inc., making it the first (and only, for the time being) major music label in the US to license music for podcasting.

While you may not have heard of Rock River Communications, you will most likely recognize what they do. The agency creates promotional mix CDs for companies like Volkswagen, The Gap, Verizon, Chrysler, and more to hand out at retail stores and dealerships. Rock River, in an attempt to move past CD-only distribution, is now creating promotional podcasts for Chrysler and Ford Motors.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Ford and Chrysler are both paying Sony BMG a flat fee to license music for podcast distribution for one year, no matter how many copies are downloaded. On the customer's side, the podcast will be free and can be kept forever. Rock River says that they are in talks to license music from more music labels in the future for podcasting.

It's no secret that the music industry has always been very much against any form of digital distribution that is not DRMed. Unprotected files of songs or podcasts with songs in them could be chopped out of the podcast and widely distributed via those nasty P2P networks, with no royalties paid back to the labels as they usually are in radio. The Internet, after all, is often viewed by the music industry as the Wild West in that regard.

However, labels are beginning to slowly test the waters with unprotected files—in Weird Al's case, offering MP3s for free via his web site helped propel him into the Billboard Top 10 for the first time in his career. Sony BMG's actions seem to indicate that the company is willing to do some cautious risk-taking in hopes that the podcasts will spur customer interest in buying more music, and other labels are sure to keep an eye on Sony's success.
I recently contacted Sony BMG to see if Dreamtime could podcast Dylan's Christmas/New Year's Theme Time Special, as the XM press release had mentioned that the episode was also being made available for "non-commercial" radio broadcast. I couldn't think of anything much more non-commercial than Dreamtime, so even though I guessed the answer would be "No!" I zipped off an email to the Sony BMG rep. And received a response, - in the negative as I had anticpated - but both polite and prompt and noting that podcasting raised too many legal issues that Sony BMG wasn't prepared to address at the moment. I replied with a "if things change in the future, please think of Dreamtime," and again received a speedy "will do" response.

But, the above article is a hopeful sign that someone at Sony BMG is at least exploring the idea of podcasting music, and maybe next year the answer will be "Yes!" I was also amused that the Theme Time Xmas show had Our Host reading another pseudo-email where the supposed writer mentioned in an aside that she was copying the Theme Time shows to CD and sending them to a friend in Finland or someplace where the broadcast wasn't available. It's easy of course to fall into the trap where every Dylanesque comment (or in this case, non-comment) is interpreted like a sheep's entrails. But I think one could safely assume that in this case Dylan and/or XM is acknowledging the reality that Theme Time lives on long after being broadcast.

I'm not such a virgin that I don't realize the whole licensing/permissions scenario takes on a whole new intricacy moving from broadcast to podcast, but I bet it can be worked out if enough leverage is applied. Brian Ibbott over at Coverville pays licensing fees to ASCAP and BMI (although if you read the full, exhaustive thread you'll see differing opinions as to whether even this fully covers the licensing issue). For Dreamtime, what I try is keep my use of music to fair use commentary/criticism excerpts, or talk over the music, or clip it, or something. Anyone in desperate enough straits to be chopping music out of Dreamtime, let me know, and I'll be happy to consider gifting you the 99 cents to get the music legally.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Top 10 Lamest Superheroes of All Time


The title kind of says it all. I can't argue with the choices (well, maybe with #3 The Legion of Superpets, a personal favorite). I'll have to give some thought on the Top Ten Lamest Supervillans, although I can tell you instantly who would be #1:

#1 - Ten-Eyed Man: Philip Reardon served as a veteran in the U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam until he was honorably discharged after a grenade fragment hit him between the eyes. He returned to civilian life as a warehouse guard and was knocked out by thieves who plant a bomb to blow up the warehouse. When Batman arrived at the scene, Reardon recovered and his vision was blurred, mistaking Batman as one of the thieves and battled him. When he recognized Batman, the warehouse exploded and Reardon's retinas were burned, which impacted his war injury and blinded him permanently in both eyes.

A brilliant doctor named Dr. Engstrom reconnected his optic nerves to his fingertips, enabling him to see through them [the term brilliant in this case seems a bit dubious - fhb] He blames Batman for what happened and takes his revenge on him under the identity of the Ten-Eyed Man, and because of his indisputedly unique abilities was employed by persons unknown as the only villain worthy to attack Man-Bat.

He fought Batman on two occasions and came up short both times, and could only be kept in a jail cell by keeping his hands locked in a special box that kept him blind all day and night, because with his eyes on his fingers, "escape would be child's play for him," although precisely how this would be the case was not elaborated upon.

Info from Wikipedia Bracketed comments my own.

Maudie at PokerWorks

A new/old addition to the blogroll at your right, my buddy Maudie now has a column over at PokerWorks, joining Iggy as well as a few other bloggers whose names will be familar to those who follow the poker blogging community. Congrats, Maudie!

Good news is we should get more Maudie on a more regular basis. Bad news is that PW, in my experience so far with it at least, ain't the most Firefox-friendly site I've ever visited, possibly because of all the spinnin'/scrollin' ads, possibly because FF chokes on some of the CSS. But it seems to come with the turf. The look-and-feel surrounding Wil Wheaton's column over at CardSquad is just as bad from my perspective.

Linda Geenan, who seems to be the senior editor/main blogger of PW, has come up with the good idea of aggregating some of the best blogging commentary in one place. It should work, and should give some good writers both added recognition, and maybe even a couple of bucks.

Electric Kool-Aid alone won't bring back Kesey's bus

via The Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

By JEFF BARNARD

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Dreams of getting author Ken Kesey's original psychedelic bus, Furthur, back on the road again have hit a pothole.

The Kesey family is looking for a new sponsor to finance restoration work and a television documentary after breaking things off with Hollywood restaurant owner David Houston, who had hoped to raise $100,000 to restore the bus made famous in Tom Wolfe's 1968 book "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" as a rolling LSD trip.

Stephanie Kesey, who is married to the late author's son Zane and is overseeing the project, said the bus has been cleaned up a bit, and singer Willie Nelson has offered to put in a biodiesel engine, but they don't want to do any major work until they have a restoration expert and a documentary deal lined up.

Nelson's publicist did not immediately return phone calls for comment.

"I want to make sure we do this right and get involved with the right people," Stephanie Kesey said. "This involves the memory of my father-in-law and I take that very seriously. We just want to work with people with the same ideas about the bus as we do. We want to be sure it's on display for the most people possible.

"We are not looking to commercialize this, and a lot of people are," she added. "A lot of people have their own agenda of what they want to do with the bus. We have to make sure we both have the same vision for the bus, and are not out to make money or make commercials.

"We want to make sure it stays pure."

Houston owns The Beanery, an old roadhouse in Hollywood, Calif. He did not want to discuss details of the breakup.

"I thought everything was in sync," he said. "We wanted to restore the bus and tell the story. I think some other things were going on, I guess.

"They are just going with somebody else at this point. It's unfortunate, because we were really excited about it."

This is the vehicle of which Kesey was famously quoted as saying, "You're either on the bus or you're off the bus," which became a way of saying someone was part of the psychedelic explorations of the 1960s or not.

Fresh from the stunning success of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Ken Kesey bought the 1939 International school bus in 1964 from a San Francisco Bay Area family that had fitted it as a motor home.

With a jug of LSD-laced juice in the fridge, Kesey pals known as The Merry Pranksters inside, and Neal Cassady, the driver in Jack Kerouac's "On the Road," at the wheel, the bus crossed the country from California to New York.

More than 15 years ago, Kesey put the bus into retirement in a swampy patch of woods on his farm in Pleasant Hill, and bought a newer one, which in typical Prankster style he tried to pass off as the original.

After being approached by Houston with the restoration plan, Zane Kesey and some of the Pranksters towed it out of the swamp last year.

"This is an icon of America," said Ken Babbs, a writer, Prankster and close friend of Ken Kesey. "It would be nice to see it back out on the road again to bring the reality of the '60s into the 21st century."

Satellite radio is growing faster than any consumer product except for the iPod

via the NY Times

Last year’s debut of Howard Stern’s radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio put the technology on the map, raising the public’s awareness of satellite radio and helping to boost significantly subscriber totals for Sirius and its larger rival, XM Satellite Radio.

Today, thanks in part to the outsize radio personality, the Stern Effect has increased Sirius’s base to about six million subscribers, up 80 percent from one year ago. XM has increased its numbers by more than 30 percent, ending 2006 with 7.7 to 7.9 million customers.

“There is a tendency to view satellite radio as if the glass is half empty, and that it is a failure or disappointment,” said Craig Moffett, senior cable analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein.

“In fact, nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “Satellite radio is growing faster than any consumer product except for the iPod.”

But Sirius and XM shares have taken a battering on Wall Street, with prices for both off about 50 percent from their year-ago levels. On Friday, Sirius closed at $3.54, while XM ended the year at $14.45.

And now, the industry may be getting ready to try an even more dramatic third act — a possible attempt to merge the two services.

The benefits of a merger have been promoted by the chief executive of Sirius, Mel Karmazin, for a number of months, and Sirius officials continue to say that a merger would be a good thing. XM has not commented on the possibility, and neither company has said whether they have actually discussed the issue.

“When you have two companies in the same industry, we have a similar cost structure. Clearly, a merger makes sense from an investor’s point of view to reduce costs, and to have a better return,” said David Frear, the chief financial officer for Sirius.

Both companies have continued to lose hundreds of millions of dollars because of marketing and other subscriber acquisition expenses. During the year, XM sharply lowered its expectations for 2006 subscriber levels, from January’s predicted end-of-year total of 9 million to a maximum of 7.9 million. (Sirius reduced its subscription projection by about 100,000.)

Nate Davis, XM’s president, said his company believed that the slower-than-expected growth rate was of its own making and not a result of any market indifference. “We did not stimulate the market with new products,” he said.

XM’s most talked-about receivers, the Pioneer Inno and Samsung Helix, were first announced one year ago. Several new receiver models will be introduced later in 2007. In addition, production of some receivers was temporarily halted to stop a condition that was allowing satellite signals to be picked up by neighboring vehicles.

The hiccups typical of fledgling industries appear to be over. Both companies have their programming lineups largely in place and a wide range of receivers available in retail stores.

In addition to Howard Stern, Sirius features personalities like Deepak Chopra, Judith Regan, Richard Simmons and Martha Stewart. Sports programming includes N.B.A., N.F.L., and N.H.L. games; Nascar programming begins this year.

XM has shows with hosts including Bob Dylan, Ellen Degeneres, “Good Morning America” personalities, and Oprah Winfrey. XM broadcasts every Major League Baseball game as well as P.G.A. golf.

Yet the vast majority of programming remains duplicative. Each company offers a wide variety of rock, pop, folk, and other musical genres, as well as the same news channels, which include the BBC, CNN, Fox, and MSNBC. Sirius and XM each claim that their music channels are more compelling than the competition’s, but most casual listeners would be hard-pressed to tell the difference.

“The services mirror each other tremendously,” said Richard Doherty, an analyst with the Envisioneering Group, a research firm. “More people know that one service has Howard Stern than know which one has him.”

Except for a relatively small handful of viewers looking for particular programs, consumers searching for a satellite service in a retail store often make their decision not on the merits of one over the other, but which one is more convenient to buy.

“For the subscriber, it all comes down to which one of the two is closer to the cash register. Customers cannot tell the difference between the two services,” Mr. Moffett said.

Customer choice will play an even smaller role in the coming years as both companies come to rely more on selling satellite radio as a factory-installed option on new cars, and less on receivers sold at retail stores.

Both companies have exclusive agreements with the automobile companies. Customers typically get free service for a number of months, and then must pay $12.95 a month to continue listening.

XM has exclusive arrangements with General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Porsche. Sirius has similar alliances with BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Kia and VW-Audi.

Today, about 63 percent of XM’s subscribers are buyers of new cars, and Sirius’s new subscribers are derived equally from new car and after-market sales. As more cars are equipped with satellite radios, the new car market could grow to as high as 70 percent of sales in the next few years, Mr. Moffett said.

“We see greater and greater demand in the car market,” said Mr. Davis of XM. “And we think the used car market will be an opportunity to sell to new subscribers.” Used car subscribers incur no additional hardware costs if the receiver is already in place.

And if the companies were to merge and effectively double their subscriber base, the new company could reduce programming costs through increased negotiating clout, removal of duplicative channels and elimination of redundant employees.

Whether Sirius and XM attempt to merge, a number of variables that will determine the size of the industry’s success remain unknown.

They include the number of new cars that will be equipped with satellite radio receivers; the percentage of new car owners who will subscribe after the free trial period ends; and whether purchasers of used cars equipped with satellite radio will be more or less likely to subscribe than new car owners.

The business may also be vulnerable to subscription overload, Mr. Doherty said, if consumers find that monthly recurring expenses from cellphone bills, cable TV, and other services are too high.

Yet even if that is true, there is little doubt that the concept of satellite radio is no longer alien to consumers. According to Sirius, 83 percent of consumers aged 18 to 55 are now aware of the technology.

Mr. Frear became personally cognizant of that when he tried to rent a car with a Sirius radio recently but found they were all taken.

“Every year, satellite radio just sinks deeper and deeper into the public consciousness,” he said.