Friday, June 29, 2007

American Life in Poetry: Column 118


Our species has developed monstrous weapons that can kill not only all of us but everything else on the planet, yet when the wind rises we run for cover, as we have done for as long as we've been on this earth. Here's hoping we never have the skill or arrogance to conquer the weather. And weather stories? We tell them in the same way our ancestors related encounters with fearsome dragons. This poem by Minnesota poet Warren Woessner honors the tradition by sharing an experience with a hurricane.


When the wind clipped
the whitecaps, and the flags
came down before they shredded,
we knew it was no nor'easter.
The Blue Nose ferry stayed
on course, west out of Yarmouth,
while 100 miles of fog
on the Bay blew away.

The Captain let us stand
on the starboard bridge
and scan a jagged range.
Shearwaters skimmed the peaks
while storm petrels hunted valleys
that slowly filled with gold.
Alberto blew out in the Atlantic.
We came back to earth
that for days might tip and sway
and cast us back to sea.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 1998 by Warren Woessner, whose book of poetry, "Clear All the Rest of the Way" is forthcoming from The Backwaters Press. Reprinted from "Iris Rising," BkMk Press of UMKC, 1998, with 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, June 21, 2007

Condoms for Cocktails

Just one of those headlines that writes itself...

A Boston city councilor has proposed that the city encourage - and preferably require - bars in Boston to serve all cocktails with plastic covers.

The thinking, to use the term loosely, behind city councilor's Steven Murphy's proposal is "to protect bar patrons from date-rape drugs," according to today's Boston Globe article (note that the Globe site was down as of this article's posting, no doubt brought down by Boston imbibers who wanted to demonstrate their solidarity with Murphy). It would also be a neato-keeno way to prevent spills while maneuvering in crowded bars.

I'm not making this up.

"It's simplistic," Murphy said of the covers which he demonstrated the covers at a city council meeting yesterday. "But it's ingenious in its simplicity."

One out of two ain't bad.

The downside of the cocktail condoms, as noted in the Globe: Uno: It's hard to look sophisticated drinking your martini in the equivalent of a sippy cup. Dos: You're not going to be able to use those little umbrellas in your rum drinks anymore.

Unbelievably - unless, of course, you're familiar with the political mindset - three other city councilors have signed on to the proposal and it has been sent on to the Committee on Public Safety.

On gather: "And today's theme is..."

TV! Specifically kid's shows and some of the more memorable theme music you - and I - were listening to on the tube while we were growing up. In honor of my new music video group - A Series of Tubes - which you're all invited to join, you lovely people you, each of these is linked to a Youtube video for your listening and viewing pleasure.

Let's begin - as always in no particular order - with our countdown of kid's show TV themes...

10. The Adventures of Superman

If you're around my age, there's only one Superman, and his name was George Reeves. And, if you're like me, you probably still get a jolt of recognition when you hear the harp glissando that opened The Adventures of Superman. And has there ever been a more succinct and better narrative summary about both a character and his show... "

"Yes, it's Superman, strange visitor from another
planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities
far beyond those of mortal men.

Superman! Who can change the course of mighty
rivers, bend steel in his bare hands; and who,
disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter
for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a
never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the
American way."

That was back in the days when you could say those final two lines with no sense of irony at all.

Full article is here.

American Life in Poetry: Column 117


The subdivision; it's all around us. Here Nancy Botkin of Indiana presents a telling picture of life in such a neighborhood, the parents downstairs in their stultifying dailiness, the children enjoying their youth under the eaves before the passing years force them to join the adults.


All the roofs sloped at the same angle.
The distance between the houses was the same.
There were so many feet from each front door
to the curb. My father mowed the lawn
straight up and down and then diagonally.
And then he lined up beer bottles on the kitchen table.

We knew them only in summer when the air
passed through the screens. The neighbor girls
talked to us across the great divide: attic window
to attic window. We started with our names.
Our whispers wobbled along a tightrope,
and below was the rest of our lives.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2006 by Nancy Botkin. Reprinted from "Poetry East," Spring, 2006, by permission of the author, whose full-length book of poems, "Parts That Were Once Whole," is available from Mayapple Press, 2007. 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.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hodags Claim Title - the Video

via intrepid reporter, Roberta. Keep your eyes open for #8!:

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Nellie Lutcher: One of the Foundation Stones of Rock

Peggy came across Nellie Lutcher's obituary today, and although she wasn't an artist either of us were familiar with, her story convinced me she'd be someone we'd like. As one critic nicely put it, "she was one of the foundation stones of Rock."

According to her Wikipedia entry, Lutcher played with Ma Rainey at age 11 (or maybe 12, there's some question about her birth year, although most sources say 1912) when Rainey's regular pianist fell ill and Rainey was told "there was a little girl who played in church who might be able to act as a stand-in."

Lutcher's career wouldn't take off until the late `40s, when she performed at a March of Dimes talent show in Hollywood High School. Her performance caught the ear of a Capitol Records scout, and she was signed to the label. Her first hit single was Hurry On Down, which went to #2 on the rhythm and blues chart in 1947, followed by He's A Real Gone Guy, which also made #2 on the R&B chart and crossed over to the pop charts where it reached # 15.

In total Lutcher would have eight top 10 R&B records between 19437 and 1950. She also recorded two duets with Nat "King" Cole, Can I Come in For a Second and For You, My Love. But by 1952 Lutcher's career was basically over, as Capitol dropped her from the label, and her subsequent releases with Okeh and Decca came nowhere near her earlier successes. Although the Wikipedia articles notes that Lutcher retained the publishing rights to many of her songs, she apparently still had problems - as many black artists did - being properly compensated for her work, if her 1993 interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune is any indication.

"Like a lot of other people, I was shortchanged regarding my royalties so I really have not had a desire to do any recording," she said in the Times-Picayune article. "For some reason I can't forget what happened."
Yet, Lutcher continued to perform into the 1990s, losing none of her fire. "Her buoyant sense of swing and the joy which she invests [in] everything she sings, should be part of a required observation course for anyone hoping to become a musical performer," one critic said of a 1992 performance.

Here's Nellie Lutcher with "My New Papa's Got To Have Everything," which can be found on her CD Hurry on Down.

American Life in Poetry: Column 116


It's the oldest kind of story: somebody ventures deep into the woods and comes back with a tale. Here Roy Jacobstein returns to America to relate his experience on a safari to the place believed by archaeologists to be the original site of human life. And against this ancient backdrop he closes with a suggestion of the brevity of our lives.

Safari, Rift Valley

Minutes ago those quick cleft hoofs
lifted the dik-dik's speckled frame.
Now the cheetah dips her delicate head
to the still-pulsating guts. Our Rover's
so close we need no zoom to fix the green
shot of her eyes, the matted red mess
of her face. You come here, recall a father
hale in his ordinary life, not his last bed,
not the long tasteless slide of tapioca.
This is the Great Rift, where it all began,
here where the warthogs amd hartebeest
feed in the scrub, giraffes splay to drink,
and our rank diesel exhaust darkens the air
for only a few moments before vanishing.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2006 by Roy Jacobstein, whose most recent book is "A Form of Optimism," University Press of New England, 2006. Reprinted 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.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Goodbye Mr. Wizard

My love of science - and for science fiction - can be traced back to many sources: Boys' Life magazine, where I had my first introduction to giants such as Heinlein and Clarke; comic books of course, especially DC's more science-fictiony titles such as Green Lantern, The Flash; Hawkman; The Atom; Mystery in Space, and Dell/Gold Key's Magus: Robot Fighter and Space Family Robinson.

Disney's Wonderful World Man in Space specials also played a large role, as did Tomorrowland itself when I finally made it to the park... when not aboard the Mark Twain, I would happily have spent my time in that one section.

And then there was Don Herbert - Mr. Wizard - who I, as well as a legion of youngsters, watched religiously during the `50s and `60s. I'm of the original Watch Mr. Wizard generation, Herbert's first series, which started a year before I was born and continued into 1965, when I was 13. And many Saturday mornings of those thirteen years were spent in front of the television set, watching Mr. Wizard's science experiments - usually assisted by a boy who always seemed to be named "Billy," and/or a girl who always seemed to be named "Sally." From Herbert's New York Times obituary:

“What really did it for us was the inclusion of a child,” Mr. Herbert told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2004. “When we started out, it was just me up there alone. That was too much like having a professor give a lecture. We cast a boy and a girl to come in and talk with me about science. That’s when it took off.”

Mr. Herbert once said in an interview how “all the kids were just terrific, but they ideally had to be around 11 or 12. Once they got beyond 13, they became know-it-alls.”
If you're a child of the `80s, you probably remember Herbert's Mr Wizard's World on Nickelodeon, which was an MTV-paced update of the original and had a good seven-year run into 1990. But the original black-and-white series - done live, flubs and experiments gone awry and all- is what I remember, and remember with love and admiration. I asked for my first chemistry set because of Mr. Wizard, and built my first ham radio thanks to him.

He's gone now, but he left hundreds of thousands of loving sons and daughters behind. Including this one.

Don - "Mr. Wizard" Herbert - 1917-2007

Say Goodbye to the Wheaties. Say Hello to the Monkey

It's the MonkeyTourney, courtesy of ISS Spock, who I found out has an unpronounceable first name spelled "Mike." Same time (8:30 ET) Same Place (PokerStars, Tourney, Private tabs) and same password (monkey).

Same people (we hope). Last night was a somewhat disappointing turnout of only 19, which I guess goes to show the drawing power of Wil Wheaton, even when he was playing in his name tournament only intermittently. But we hope things improve. If you have a PokerStars account, and either have or haven't played in the Wheaties before come on by. Good people, good poker, usually a good time, win or lose.

Me, the PokerStars curse continues for me. I placed a lousy 12 in a field of 19; really poor for me in what was essentially a two-table MTT. Absolutely card dead and bad luck when I did have the cards. My all-in with an Ace flush ran into a Kings full of 5s full house, reducing me to 300 chips. I played short stack for awhile, finally doubling up with a suckout Trips that was pure luck; and eventually went down with another all-in and a pair of 10s. Unfortunately the big blind had a pair of Kings, naturally called, and when a King hit the River, that was all she wrote. I went out right before the first break, having survived for all of an hour. In contrast, I've been burning up the tables at UltimateBet, and wish there was a simple way - like there used to be - to get money between the two sites.

The only one who fared worse was Spock himself, who was the first player out in his own first tournament.

In any case, I know you guys are out there: Iggy, Maudie, dsheep, denial, xkm, WWonka, BrainMc, all others! Come in out of the cold and come back to the tournament, that loves ya, huh?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

American Life in Poetry: Column 115


Each of the senses has a way of evoking time and place. In this bittersweet poem by Jeffrey Harrison of Massachusetts, birdsong offers reassurance as the speaker copes with loss.


Walking past the open window, she is surprised
by the song of the white-throated sparrow
and stops to listen. She has been thinking of
the dead ones she loves--her father who lived
over a century, and her oldest son, suddenly gone
at forty-seven--and she can't help thinking
she has called them back, that they are calling her
in the voices of these birds passing through Ohio
on their spring migration. . . because, after years
of summers in upstate New York, the white-throat
has become something like the family bird.
Her father used to stop whatever he was doing
and point out its clear, whistling song. She hears it
again: "Poor Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody."
She tries not to think, "Poor Andy," but she
has already thought it, and now she is weeping.
But then she hears another, so clear, it's as if
the bird were in the room with her, or in her head,
telling her that everything will be all right.
She cannot see them from her second-story window--
they are hidden in the new leaves of the old maple,
or behind the white blossoms of the dogwood--
but she stands and listens, knowing they will stay
for only a few days before moving on.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2006 by Jeffrey Harrison. Reprinted from "Incomplete Knowledge", Four Way Books, 2006, with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. 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.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

All Good Things

Wil Wheaton resisted the obvious title, but I can't.

Tonight marks the end of the "official" WWdN aka "The Wheaties" on PokerStars; a victim of PokerStars cutbacks and Wil's obvious waning interest in poker over the past several months. No criticism intended. People's interests change: if you're a regular reader of Wil's blog you'll find he has a steadily evolving - or revolving - group of interests, and he tends to focus on whatever he's being most successful at at the moment, be it acting, writing, voice-over work, gaming, poker, or whatever. I'm sure it didn't help that - as he mentions - he's also the victim of constant railbird harassment from the moment he signs on to PokerStars.

In any case, I hope the Wheaties in some form continues, maybe picked up by someone else, as ISS Spock did a couple of weeks back - or some other regular will set something up. The Wheaties turned into my home game for over 18 months. As opposed to the other blogger games, it had convenient time for us on the East Coast - at least those of us who like to get to bed before midnight on the weekday.

I'll have to check my records, but offhandedly, I believe I placed third four times in the Wheaties, one second (a memorable game against TroubleCat), and one first place. Altogether, I believe I was in the money 7 or 8 times. I may even be ahead in overall, but I'll miss the fun more than the money.

All things change. But as you get older, few things seem to change for the better.

Good run, Wil, and thanks for lending your name and presence to the game.

"This is the sort of thing that could only happen in Tulsa"

via Telstar Logistics

Buried beneath the dirt of the Tulsa County Courthouse lawn, about 100 feet north of the intersection of Sixth Street and Denver Avenue, a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere Sport Coupe has been hidden underground for half a century. Swaddled in rust-resistant preservatives and gently placed inside a giant concrete sarcophagus, the tailfinned Plymouth was interred on June 15, 1957 as the centerpiece of a time capsule created for the 21st century citizens of Tulsa 2007.

The car is scheduled to be disinterred on June 15th, although there is a speculation that it may have long ago moldered to rust.