Thursday, March 29, 2007

American Life in Poetry: Column 105

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

I've talked often in this column about how poetry can hold a mirror up to life, and I'm especially fond of poems that hold those mirrors up to our most ordinary activities, showing them at their best and brightest. Here Ruth Moose hangs out some laundry and, in an instant, an everyday chore that might have seemed to us to be quite plain is fresh and lovely.


Laundry

All our life
so much laundry;
each day's doing or not
comes clean,
flows off and away
to blend with other sins
of this world. Each day
begins in new skin,
blessed by the elements
charged to take us
out again to do or undo
what's been assigned.
From socks to shirts
the selves we shed
lift off the line
as if they own
a life apart
from the one we offer.
There is joy in clean laundry.
All is forgiven in water, sun
and air. We offer our day's deeds
to the blue-eyed sky, with soap and prayer,
our arms up, then lowered in supplication.


Reprinted from "Making the Bed," Main Street Rag Press, 2004, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 1995 by Ruth Moose, whose latest book of poetry, "The Sleepwalker," Main Street Rag, due out in 2007. 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 104

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

At some time many of us will have to make a last visit to a house where aged parents lived out their days. Here Marge Saiser beautifully compresses one such farewell.


Where They Lived

One last time I unlock
the house where they lived

and fought and tried again:
the air of the place,

carpet with its unchanging green,
chair with its back to me.

On the TV set, the Christmas cactus
has bloomed, has spilled its pink flowers

down its scraggly arms
and died, drying into paper.

At the round oak table,
ghosts lean toward one another,

almost a bow, before rising,
before ambling away.


Reprinted by permission of Marjorie Saiser, whose most recent book of poems is "Lost in Seward County," Backwaters Press, 2001. Copyright (c) 2006 by Marjorie Saiser. 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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Much Hodag Love

Ace Reporter Joyride Jones called in with the news that the Wisconsin Hodags took the UPA Centex 2007 tournament, taking down 23 of the nation's best teams in Ultimate.

Pictured are the Hodag team, proudly displaying the Centex trophy, a gold spray-painted cattle skull.

What it means to be a Hodag (via Hodag Love):

My name Tom Annen, aka Animal. I am a junior at the University of Wisconsin and this is my third of five years that I will be on the team. As of right now, the Hodag team is probably the most important thing in my life. I love the team and if it wasn't for the team I would probably transfer elsewhere because I am not a big fan of the cold weather. Plus I have lived my whole life in Madison and never got a chance to go any where else. Anyways, to play for this team is a privilege. Since I have been on it we have been one of the top five maybe top three best teams in the country every year throughout or at some point and time during the year. I don't believe there are many other teams around the country that can say the same thing. I personally love playing with the team, partying with the team, and in general being around the team. We are a family. Every single one of us is working toward the same goal, to win College Nationals. In order to achieve this goal we all put in 15 plus hours a week doing team workouts, lifting with our buddies, or training on our own. It is a huge commitment, but it has a phenomenal pay-back from being apart of the baby blue.
What it means to be a Hodag Part II (also via Hodag Love):

After long consideration, Animal decides that he needs to figure this game out even if he only buys in with 20 dollars (2 bets). Which, he does and turns into 50 or so. Soon all the hodags are throwing small amounts of cash, at most 50 dollars on the table to see how fast they can loose it buy betting on their favorite number. So as the dice moved around the other side of the table, the hodags learned how to play a little and some won money others lost money. Then the show started off with Scallet rolling the dice for a good 5-10 minutes winning people money but since he was the first to go the hodags must have been a little slow on the bets because there was not too much gain with his rolling. The dice moved through the next 6 hodags pretty quickly causing most everyone to lose a good portion of money. As a note Heijmen was on his last bet 10 or 20 dollars when the dice came into Animal's hands. This is where the loud screams came that attracted the big spenders on the other side to throw benjamins all over the able betting on Animal's rolls. As Animal seemed to continually roll for some 15 minutes hitting every number and the hodags were betting on. Especially the number 8. Every Hodag had 12 bucks on 8 during the whole time there was not a moment where the number was not filled with bets. Animal hit the 8 somewhere around 5 or 6 times before craping out making everyone 15 bucks each time. Even when someone asked for a 4 or a ten to be rolled within a couple rolls it would be rolled giving out even more money. Finally after craping out and the applause from the other side of the table was done we all walked away with 100 dollars chips in hand to go cash in. Who knows how much money Animals made for the other side of the table but for the Hodags who were there it was a good 1000 dollars and a damn good story to tell.

Some notable facts. Matt Scallet walked away from the table with 250 dollars, marsh walked away with 350 dollars making back the 200 dollars he lost the night before, heijmen turning his 10 dollars left into 100 plus dollars.
Congrats Matt and Hodags! (good deal at the craps table in Vegas too)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Gather: Study War No More Countdown

This week's gather column, and one I'm proud of...

10. Last Train to Clarksville - The Monkees (1966)

Last Train to Clarksville's narrator is insistent with the repeated line, "... and I don't know if I'm ever coming home" because he was shipping out to Vietnam. According to the co-writer of the 1966 hit, Bobby Hart, "We couldn't be too direct with The Monkees. We couldn't really make a protest song out of it - we kind of snuck it in." Watch/listen on YouTube.

9. Fortunate Son - Creedence Clearwater Revival (1970)

In a Rolling Stone interview, John Fogerty noted, "Julie Nixon was hanging around with David Eisenhower, and you just had the feeling that none of these people were going to be involved with the war. In 1969, the majority of the country thought morale was great among the troops, and like eighty percent of them were in favor of the war. But to some of us who were watching closely, we just knew we were headed for trouble." Watch/listen on Google Video.
Here's the link to the full "countdown" list.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year - 2006

The six titles on the shortlist are:

  1. How Green Were the Nazis?, edited by Franz-Josef Bruggemeier, Mark Cioc and Thomas Zeller (Ohio University Press)

  2. D. Di Mascio’s Delicious Ice Cream: D. Di Mascio of Coventry: An Ice Cream Company of Repute, with an Interesting and Varied Fleet of Ice Cream Vans by Roger De Boer, Harvey Francis Pitcher, and Alan Wilkinson (Past Masters)

  3. The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification by Julian Montague (Harry N Abrams)

  4. Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan, by Robert Chenciner by Gabib Ismailov, Magomedkhan Magomedkhanov and Alex Binnie (Bennett & Bloom)

  5. Proceedings of the Eighteenth International Seaweed Symposium, edited by Robert J Anderson, Juliet A Brodie, Edvar Onsoyen and Alan T Critchley (Kluwer)

  6. Better Never To Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence by David Benatar (Clarendon Press)
An online poll to find the winner is now open at www.thebookseller.com. The winner will be announced on April 13, 2007. Three other rentries were ruled out because they were published before 2006:
  • The Essential Underwater Guide to North Wales Vol 1
  • Let’s Discover F Words
  • Celebrating Boxes

Last year's winner was People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It by Gary Leon Hill (Red Wheel).

via theBookseller.com

American Life in Poetry: Column 103

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

One of the ways a poet makes art from his or her experience is through the use of unique, specific and particular detail. This poem by Rick Snyder thrives on such details. It's not just baseball caps, it's Tasmanian Devil caps; it's not just music on the intercom, it's James Taylor. And Snyder's poem also caught my interest with the humor of its flat, sardonic tone.


How Are You Doing?

As much as you deserve it,
I wouldn't wish this
Sunday night on you--
not the Osco at closing,
not its two tired women
and shaky security guard,
not its bin of flip-flops
and Tasmanian Devil
baseball caps,
not its freshly mopped floors
and fluorescent lights,
not its endless James Taylor
song on the intercom,
and not its last pint of
chocolate mint ice cream,
which I carried
down Milwaukee Ave.
past a man in an unbuttoned
baseball shirt, who stepped
out of a shadow to whisper,
How are you doing?


Reprinted from "Barrow Street," Winter, 2005, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2005 by Rick Snyder. 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 102

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

Those of us who have hunted morel mushrooms in the early spring have hunted indeed! The morel is among nature's most elusive species. Here Jane Whitledge of Minnesota captures the morel's mysterious ways.


Morel Mushrooms

Softly they come
thumbing up from
firm ground

protruding unharmed.
Easily crumbled
and yet

how they shouldered
the leaf and mold
aside, rising

unperturbed,
breathing obscurely,
still as stone.

By the slumping log,
by the dappled aspen,
they grow alone.

A dumb eloquence
seems their trade.
Like hooded monks

in a sacred wood
they say:
Tomorrow we are gone.


Reprinted from "Wilderness Magazine," Spring, 1993, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 1993 by Jane Whitledge. 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, March 15, 2007

You go, Barney

via gambling 911 (and various other media outlets):

The office of US Congressman Barney Frank, who is chairman of the House Financial Services committee, has confirmed that he is currently working on legislation to repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

The news item appeared this afternoon [March 14- fhb] on the Financial Times website and has been confirmed to eGaming Review by Frank’s press department. The details of how any repeal would take action have not been worked out and no timeframe was given.

Frank is quoted as describing last autumn’s Act as one of the “stupidest laws” ever passed and adds: “I am working on legislation to cut back on this internet gambling thing… I think it’s preposterous”.

While rumors of Barney Frank’s support for a repeal of the Act had been circulating around the egaming industry in the past few weeks, Frank himself had not confirmed or commented on them. Shares in PartyGaming, 888 and Sportingbet were all up this afternoon.

The FT says the mid-term Democratic victory in the US Congress brought some hope to the online gaming sector and John Conyers, chairman of the House judiciary committee, is also considered sympathetic to the industry.

But while Frank and Conyers are “powerful potential allies, it is far from clear that the lawmakers would have enough support to pass any meaningful legislation” because it is not clear “whether the votes would be there for a regulatory bill”.

The FT adds that the US treasury is currently drafting the rules to implement the Act but that the deadline for presenting them has been missed and is now expected in April or May.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Frank Zappa Meets Robin the Boy Wonder

Rechanneling Their Passion

Nice article on the rise of satellite radio deejays who play "anything they want," via The Washington Post:

There's no high-tech studio here, no sound baffling or soundboard -- just a few electronic components and a wind-socked microphone to capture [Mojo] Nixon's patter and periodic "yee-haws!" between songs.

He doesn't play concerts, not even locally; he doesn't record and he doesn't write songs any longer. "I could have turned Mojo Nixon into a cottage industry catering to 5,000 or 10,000 fans," he says. "But that doesn't sound very Mojo. I could exercise, lose weight, do all of that and continue touring, but who wants to do that? So I thought I'd get a job in radio or something."

He's not alone. Nixon is one of an ever-expanding roster of major and minor performers who are working as full- or part-time hosts of programs broadcast over the digitized airwaves of New York's Sirius and Washington's XM Radio. The advent of convenient, efficient technology and an open-arms attitude by the satellite networks have made for a new type of deejay. As much as their names are a draw, so is their deep knowledge of the formats they play.

Musician jocks for Sirius include B-52s singer Fred Schneider, New York Dolls frontman David Johansen, Ramones drummer Marky Ramone, glam rocker Joan Jett, country fiddler Charlie Daniels and area folk heroes the Kennedys, among others.

XM has icons including Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Graham Nash, pioneering producer and performer Quincy Jones, rappers Snoop Dogg and Chamillionaire, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis -- and more to come, says Lee Abrams, chief creative officer of XM.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I Have Seen the Future and It's Name Is "Little Miss Sunshine"


but this isn't about that funny, quirky movie that Peggy and I watched last night. It's about how we watched it. Four days ago, TiVo sent me an email letting me know that their partnership with Amazon was out of beta, and I could now start ordering movies through Amazon for either rental or purchase. They even threw in a $15 gift certificate as bait... not that it was needed.

So, I did the sign-up, hooking my TiVo account into my Amazon account, bopped over to Amazon's weirdly named "Unbox" section, found "Little Miss Sunshine," and voilĂ , over in the right hand corner of the movie description page was an option to download to our TiVo for $3.99. One click brought a summary message that the download would start within 15 minutes, and 5 minutes later the little blue light on the TiVo glowed on.

Convenience? No muss, no fuss. No trip to Blockbuster. No waiting for a Netflix DVD in the mail. No hassle of returning the DVD.

Picture quality? TiVo says, "Unbox videos watched on a TiVo are of better quality than videos recorded at the Best Quality setting on a TiVo Series2™ DVR." Based on what we saw, I'd agree with that.

Download time? TiVo says an average hour download for the average movie on a broadband-connected recorder. Our TiVo is connected through a 801.G wireless adapter to an older 801.b router, and it took close to two hours for "Little Miss Sunshine"(1.9 GB) to download.

Is it perfect? Nope. Peggy pointed out that it's definitely not video-on-demand and doesn't promote spontaneity, which is how we tend to watch movies. For newer movies, there's a complicated "blackout" formula, which can even affect movies you buy (rather than rent) through Unbox. From the TiVo FAQ:

"Due to restrictions from the video rights holders, most newly released movies will occasionally become temporarily unavailable for re-download from Your Media Library—even after they’ve already been purchased.

During this "Pay-TV Blackout Window" certain programs will be temporarily unavailable from the Unbox catalog and Your Media Library. This happens during the program’s run on a pay-cable channel.

The video will be automatically replaced and made available to you through Your Media Library once the "Pay-TV Blackout Window" has ended."
The whole rental thing is a little more confusing than it needs to be, and isn't clarified through the various TiVo/Amazon FAQs. I think that you have a 30-day window to watch a downloaded video (UPDATE: The 30-day limit is correct), but couldn't tell from our download of LMS, since the notification also seemed to be tied somehow into the Blackout Window.

I also think that once a movie is started, it has to be finished within a 24-hour period, but I could be wrong about that one. It seems like a stupid requirement if it is a requirement. (UPDATE: Unfortunately the idiotic, "movie must be finished within 24-hours after starting" requirement is correct. "Why?" is another matter.)

In theory, I like the idea of having all of our purchased movies available on Amazon, in our ongoing battle to lessen the "too much shit" clutter around the house. In practice, we're going to need downloads - especially when most movies go into hi-def - a helluva lot faster than 1-2 hours per movie. If we're in the mood for Casablanca, we're going to want it then and there.

But, it's a great first step towards the El Dorado of that old Qwest "Motel" commercial, where the person renting the room is advised "every movie ever made in every language, anytime, day or night" is available.



Saturday, March 10, 2007

Get a Uclue


While Constant Readers know that I was no fan of the now defunct Google Answers (contract researchers - of which I was one for a time - would attempt to answer customer questions for payment), I was a fan of many of the researchers. In fact, I was a fan of nearly everything at GA except the brain-damaged administration of the site... but no need to get into that rant again.

Now, many of the GA researchers are back at a new site called uclue.com, an attempt to do GA right. With the absence of the contradictory combination of Google interference and benign neglect, I suspect that uclue may have a shot. The early signs look good. For example, GA refused to allow researchers to provide answers in other than English (I suspect because the overseers only had one language), even though a high percentage of GA customers were from other than English-speaking countries. uclue can field questions in three languages, English, German and Spanish, and may add more down the road.

At last count, 29 of the former GARs have signed up as researchers on uclue, including many of the most well-known in the GA community, such as pinkfreud. In theory, I'd be eligible to join up as a researcher, too, but have no plans to at this point, with way too many other paying gigs on my plate. But best of luck to all my old colleagues!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

He's actually in a giant energy pod. No wait, that was Jean Grey


".. comics, like soap operas, never have third acts. There are no conclusions, just the illusion of conclusion."

Adam Rogers on why the death of Captain America don't mean a thing, except to True Believers.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

... and I would like to meet more bank tellers

Police have have created a MySpace account for a serial bank robber.

Do You Know Me??? already has over 1,000 MySpace friends.

"We can go back to the moon someday." - Love and emails

via the AP:

NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak's bizarre 900-mile road trip to confront a romantic rival may have been sparked when she uncovered steamy e-mails sent to her boyfriend by the other woman, documents released Monday showed.

Nowak had collected more than a dozen e-mails sent to her one-time boyfriend, space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein, including one he received during his shuttle mission, according to the documents, released late Monday by the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office.

"First urge will be to rip your clothes off," Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman wrote to Oefelein while he was aboard shuttle Discovery in December. "But honestly, love, I want you to totally and thoroughly enjoy your hero's homecoming."

You can read (Acrobat Reader required) the love letters here, but I warn you, they're the typical embarrassing letters you wouldn't want anyone else to read, and probably don't want to read yourself unless you're in the relationship. The letters are both touching - in a weird sort of way - and bizarre. Yahoo non sequiter ads at the bottom - TV dinner still cooling? - the steamy, flirtatious lines you'd expect - great big giant hug with my legs around you - and then a line like "We can go back to the moon someday."

In the end, they're people too.

The end of internet radio?

File this one under "golden eggs: goose killing of"

Maybe. I hope not, but it may be the end to some of my online music fave raves, including Pandora and Yahoo Live 365 (which I'm listening to now through our TiVo), and possibly even (gasp!) no more Theme Time Radio Hour available through the internet.

I've contemplated starting a Live 365 station, even as bad a deejay as I am, but this would put the spike in that, too.

“Left unchanged, it’s over for us and every other internet radio service, period. Makes it un-viable,” Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren wrote in an email. “We’re staying online because we’re hopeful that sanity will eventually win out. This is a ludicrous ruling.”

Till recently, the royalty rate was about 7/100th of a penny per performance, allowing many small webcasters to thrive and build sizeable audiences. At 14-15 songs per hour, it worked out to about penny an hour – one of the main reasons why Yahoo could offer music-streaming services at affordable prices.

However, now the equation has changed – the royalty rates will increase every year through 2010 when it is going to cost about $0.0019 per performance. While not much when taken as a single performance, the amount does add up if you are a company that streams millions of performances per day. (The details of the new arrangement are very well explained on this website.)

Link

1984 all over again

via the Huff-Po. I suspect this won't be up for long, so watch while you can. According to Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, the video was made by a Barack Obama supporter and not a member of his campaign. And no, this isn't an fhb endorsement of Obama vs. Clinton. I'm just amused - and intrigued - by how much technology coming into play in this campaign, or pre-campaign, or whatever the hell it is...

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Feces Spewing Obscenity 1 Edwards 0

via Wired via the John Edwards' blog.

From the original posting:

John Edwards Second Life HQ vandalized.

"Shortly before midnight (CST) on Monday, February 26, a group of republican Second Life users, some sporting "Bush '08" tags, vandalized the John Edwards Second Life HQ. They plastered the area with Marxist/Lenninist posters and slogans, a feces spewing obsenity[sic], and a photoshopped picture of John in blackface, all the while harrassing visitors with right-wing nonsense and obsenity [sic]-laden abuse of Democrats in general and John in particular. I witnessed this event, taking names and photos, including the owners of the pictures. I also kept and saved a copy of the chat log. I have filed an abuse report with Linden Labs, and am awaiting their investigation."

If you scroll through the the comments from the Edwards' blog posting, you'll find that some bored Second Life pranksters - I'd guess more spiritually akin to anarchists than Republicans - are claiming responsibility. Expect to see stuff like this throughout the campaign, as generally clueless political media and PR-types try to leverage technology they don't understand. Note to Edwards' peeps: Next time read the docs on preventing vandalism, as the rep. from Linden Labs also points out in the comments. It's the only way to stay ahead of those feces-spouting obscenities.

American Life in Poetry: Column 101

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

Those big cherry flavored wax lips that my friends and I used to buy when I was a boy, well, how could I resist this poem by Cynthia Rylant of Oregon?


Wax Lips

Todd's Hardware was dust and a monkey--
a real one, on the second floor--
and Mrs. Todd there behind the glass cases.
We stepped over buckets of nails and lawnmowers
to get to the candy counter in the back,
and pointed at the red wax lips,
and Mary Janes,
and straws full of purple sugar.
Said goodbye to Mrs. Todd, she white-faced and silent,
and walked the streets of Beaver,
our teeth sunk hard in the wax,
and big red lips worth kissing.


"Wax Lips" by Cynthia Rylant from WAITING TO WALTZ. Copyright (c) 2001 by Cynthia Rylant. Reprinted with permission of the author, whose most recent book of poetry is "Ludie's Life," Harcourt, 2006. 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.

American Life in Poetry: Column 100

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

Here the Maine poet, Wesley McNair, offers us a vivid description of a man who has lived beyond himself. I'd guess you won't easily forget this sad old man in his apron with his tray of cheese.


The One I Think of Now

At the end of my stepfather's life
when his anger was gone,
and the saplings of his failed
nursery had grown into trees,
my newly feminist mother had him
in the kitchen to pay for all
those years he only did the carving.
"You know where that is,"
she would say as he looked
for a knife to cut the cheese
and a tray to serve it with,
his apron wide as a dress
above his workboots, confused
as a girl. He is the one I think of now,
lifting the tray for my family,
the guests, until at last he comes
to me. And I, no less confused,
look down from his hurt eyes as if
there were nothing between us
except an arrangement of cheese,
and not this bafflement, these
almost tender hands that once
swung hammers and drove machines
and insisted that I learn to be a man.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2002 by Wesley McNair, whose most recent book is "The Ghosts of You and Me," David R. Godine, 2006. Reprinted from "Fire: Poems," published by David R. Godine, 2002, by permission of the author. Introduction copyright (c) 2006 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Just Because I Can: Part 2

... in an ongoing effort to convince Maudie I need a vacay (congrats on the Mookie win, btw!)