Saturday, January 14, 2017

Poetry in Motion: Ragtime by Kevin Young

Here's another Poetry in Motion poster from my archives:

Here's one I caught on 2012, most likely on the R train:

The poem is Ragtime by Kevin Young:

Like hot food
I love you

like warm
bread & cold

cuts, butter

or, days later, after

when I want
whatever's left.

Visit the MTA Poetry in Motion page here.

You can actually see the posters in all their glory, like the one above, which first appeared on the subways in 2012.

Bios of the poet and the artist whose work in the subway that serves as the backdrop for the poem above appears on the site here.  You can also click on the Poetry in Motion tag at the bottom of the post to see prior BillyBlog posts about the series.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Poetry in Motion, Untitled by Jeffrey Yang

Here's another Poetry in Motion poster from my archives:

Here's one I caught on 2012, most likely on the R train:

The poem is Untitled by Jeffrey Yang:

west of rest is sleep
east, dream
where waters meet
north, emptiness,
south, wakefulness,
and out, rising up
to the stars, peace

Visit the MTA Poetry in Motion page here.

You can actually see the posters in all their glory, like the one above, which first appeared on the subways in 2012.

Bios of the poet and the artist whose work in the subway that serves as the backdrop for the poem above appears on the site here.  You can also click on the Poetry in Motion tag at the bottom of the post to see prior BillyBlog posts about the series.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Poetry in Motion: Heaven by Patrick Phillips

Many years ago, I used to post subway posters from a series called "Poetry in Motion."

Then the series was discontinued, and BillyBlog became a barely occasional outlet for me.

However, the series was resurrected in the last few years and I have, on occasion, managed to snap a few photos of the posters.

Here's one I caught on December 1, 2015, most likely on the R train:

The poem is "Heaven" by Patrick Phillips:

It will be the past
and we'll live there together.

Not as it was to live
but as it is remembered.

It will be the past.
We'll all go back together.

Everyone we ever loved,
and lost, and must remember.

It will be the past,
And it will last forever.


Visit the MTA Poetry in Motion page here.

You can actually see the posters in all their glory, like the one above, which first appeared on the subways in 2014.

Bios of the poet and the artist whose work in the subway that serves as the backdrop for the poem above appears on the site here.  You can also click on the Poetry in Motion tag at the bottom of the post to see prior BillyBlog posts about the series.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Voter Revolting (An Early Reminiscence)

One of my first jobs out of college was a short-lived gig with an operation called Voter Revolt. This must have been in late 1989 or 1990.

Our target was the ridiculously corrupt auto insurance industry in California. 

It was a grass roots movement of which I would have surely remembered more had I not quit after a week.

A quick web search returns results from Wikipedia which refreshes my memory and gives this anecdote some context:

In 1987, Harvey Rosenfield began to write a ballot box proposal and formed a campaign to sponsor it called Voter Revolt. The proposal turned into insurance reform Proposition 103 and promised voters a minimum 20% rollback in rates for property, auto and other kinds of insurance. It also required insurance companies to follow the state's consumer protection and civil rights laws. Voter Revolt operated on a $2.9 million budget, a fraction of the insurance industry's $63 million lobbying and advertising effort. The insurance industry, fearing they would not be able to defeat Proposition 103, launched three competing initiative measures in an attempt to confuse voters.
To bring attention to his cause, Rosenfield used grassroots publicity stunts like having guards accompany him while he delivered the signatures that put Proposition 103 on the ballot. As well, he attempted to deliver truckloads of cow manure to the headquarters Farmers Insurance of Los Angeles. Rosenfield often referred to insurance companies as "outlaws" during the campaign. These stunts, many 18-hour days, canvassers knocking on 1 million doors, and the high profile endorsement of his mentor, Ralph Nader, helped Voter Revolt pass the initiative in November 1988. The win was seen as a huge blow to the insurance industry. After Proposition 103 passed, Rosenfield told the Wall Street Journal that he gotten inquiries from public interest groups "in at least 30 other states expressing interest in launching Proposition 103-style initiatives."
Since then, Rosenfield, and his colleagues at Consumer Watchdog defended Proposition 103 from insurance industry attacks and ensured the proposition's implementation. In 2008, the Consumer Federation for America estimated that Proposition 103 had saved consumers over $63 billion since 1988.[2][3] That organization updated its estimate in 2013, concluding that Proposition 103 had saved California motorists over $100 billion, an average annual savings of $345 per household, $8,625 per family. Using insurance industry data, CFA found that "between 1989 and 2010, auto insurance premiums actually dropped by 0.3%, while they rose 43.3% nationally during that period. California was the only state in the nation where prices dropped over the 22 year period."
Rosenfield opposed Proposition 17, a $16 million attempt by Mercury Insurance Group to repeal a key provision of Proposition 103 in 2010; it was defeated. The company spent another $17 million on a very similar initiative in 2012; it too was defeated. In 2012, an initiative to control health insurance costs similarly to Prop 103 received over 800,000 signatures and earned a place on the 2014 ballot."
A big part of the fundraising effort was canvassing door to door.

I recall the one night I went out with the lead canvasser. It was a chilly southern California evening. It was dark early and the tension was palpable. We were anxious because we were in a community far to the east of Pasadena-Arcadia-Monrovia, I believe it was Glendora. The consensus at the time was that the area tended to be more conservative and the going would be rough. We were soliciting contributions to the campaign.

Knocking on doors and ringing doorbells in an unfamiliar area is stressful enough. But no one likes people disturbing them at home asking for money.  I don't recall either of us succeeding and the guy I was with was a seasoned canvasser. 

Despite the lack of success, I remember him being optimistic. "When you get a contribution, it's a great feeling," I recall him telling me. He added a quip that still brings a smile to my face: "And when you get a big contribution [pause for effect], I call it a doorgasm."

I quit the next day.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

On this Day in My Photo History (January 5)

Isn't technology amazing? I thought it would be cool to go back in my stored photos on Google and see what photos I took on this day in years past. This is what The Cloud offered me:

That's me enjoying a Rare Vos from Brewery Ommegang at Wolf's 1-11 in Albany, New York. I highly recommend  the beer (at the time I rated it 4 stars on Untappd), the brewery is fantastic, and Wolf's 1-11 has a great selection. It's one of my must-to stops when in Albany for business.

The year before, on January 6, 2015 (ok, so I cheated a little), I shot this photo out of my office window at 30 Broad Street:

That's a 17th floor view of the intersection of Broad Street and Exchange Place.

A year earlier, on the evening of January 5, 2014, I took this unflattering selfie:

I don't recall what I thought of the beer from Port City Brewing in Alexandria, Virginia. I would like to think it was better than my expression suggested. This was part of my Chanukah gift from my sister Alicia and brother-in-law Marc, who provided me an assortment of beer from brewers local to their new home in Virginia Beach.

From 2009-2013, January 5 must have been a boring day. The only photos I had were ones I was working on for the Tattooed Poets Project

I did find this gem from January 5, 2008:

That's my kid Shayna playing indoor soccer. That cutie is now almost eighteen, in her senior year of high school.

This is what I had for January 5, 2007:

You may be wondering what I was doing with a photo of a monarch butterfly in New York City in January, but according to The Weather Channel, the following day "The mercury topped out at 72º in Central Park on Jan. 6, tying the city’s all-time January warm-weather record set Jan. 26, 1950."

So that's a walk down memory lane. It's currently 26 degrees in NYC, so that 70-degree weather from 2007 seems kind of nice!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Another Year, Another Beer

BillyBlog is on life support.

You used to be able to google "BillyBlog" and this site would be up in the top five relevant hits. No longer is that the case.

But why should it be otherwise?

I posted five times last year, starting January 1 and ending on January 11.

BillyBlog was pretty much moved to irrelevance in 2007, when I created Tattoosday as a feature, which then evolved into its own entity.

Tattoosday is in its tenth year and recently went on a bit of a hiatus.

A lot has changed in ten years. My blogger editing panel is littered with the corpses of blogs that I have tried to launch as side projects over the years.

I am not resolving to do anything with these vehicles, as resolutions seem to fail me; or I seem to fail the resolutions, year after year. However, I am setting a goal in 2017, and it is an ambitious goal that I already acknowledge, is unlikely to succeed in its entirety.

I want to post something daily, whether it be here, or on Tattoosday, or on any other of my side projects. Notice, I do not say will, but want.

We shall see if this gives us better results.

Here's to the optimism of a new year!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Poetry in Motion - What Do You Believe a Poem Shd Do?

I have always been a fan of the Poetry in Motion series on the NYC Subway system. I am going back in 2016 and posting some of the posters that have appeared over the last few years.

This is one of the more recent entries, which appeared late in 2015:

The poem is "What Do You Believe a Poem Shd Do? by Ntozake Shange:

quite simply a
poem shd fill you
up with something/
cd make you swoon,
stop in yr tracks,
change yr mind,
or make it up.
a poem shd happen
to you like cold
water or a kiss.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

I Had My Druthers

Someone asked me what my New Years Resolution was yesterday.

"Play less Candy Crush on the subway," I said.

He laughed. He lives in Albany.

I can't make a resolution to lose weight, exercise more, or write more. I just have to do it.

I can resolve not to waste my hours (or as many hours) on those addicting phone apps.

On the subway to work, I did not play games. I composed the beginning of a blog post.

At 12:30, I headed to Penn Station and boarded Amtrak to Albany.

I met up with work friends and we went to a fabulous place called Druthers, where I drank their Oatmeal Stout

and their "Against the Grain Smoked Weizen."

And then I ate this:

That's their "Memphis BBQ Mac N Cheese." It is what it says it is. Pulled pork, barbecue sauce, coleslaw and mac  n cheese. 

I ate half.

The weather is single digits win Albany on day one of my trip.

I went back to the hotel, worked, and posted on Tattoosday (here) for the first time in almost a month.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

New Year's Day, the Brooklyn Way

After sleeping to 11, or so, which is quite unusual for me, I breakfasted on King's Hawaiian french toast, courtesy of my lovely bride.

Around 3:30 we headed into Manhattan to meet some old friends from California, and met them on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge.

We then walked over a very crowded bridge, as the sun set, and stopped for a photo op.

Then we headed to Old Fulton Street, and Juliana's Pizza, one of the best pizza places in the world.

It is in the space of the original Grimaldi's, which closed and then reopened in many incarnations, including right next door to its original location.

When we arrived, the Grimaldi's line was about the same size, but it moved faster. We waited over an hour in the cold, but it was worth it. Their classic Margherita pizza is divine, and their white pizza is pretty amazing, too. We also had their special #4, which consists of tomato, mozzarella, arugula and prosciutto.

I washed it down with an Insulated Dark Lager from Brooklyn Brewery.

When we left, the line for Grimaldi's was gone, but the line for Juliana's was as long as when we arrived.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

An Unusual New Years' Eve

December 31, 2015, found me in Manhattan with my family.

I left work early, headed home and made a pit stop at Red, White & Brew, where I grabbed a Blizzard of Hops Winter IPA, from Tröegs Brewing. (More on that later)

Then the family headed into the city and went to the 7:00 show at Eastville Comedy Club.

Among the comics we saw were Dave Smith and Mark DeMayo.

From there, we wandered to Union Square, considered the line at Max Brenner's and then decided to miss the stroke of midnight and catch a 9:50 showing of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2.

When the movie was over, it was 2016. The subway got us home at about 2 AM on January 1.

Happy New Year to All!

Friday, January 01, 2016


2015 has come and gone and not a peep from me on BillyBlog. All my activity has been over on Tattoosday.

But even over in the land of tattoos, fall posting fell off. Work kept me busy. The work that pays the bills.

But, you know, I'm not particularly happy with the state of affairs in my corner of the bologosphere.

So here it is, January 2016, and I am resolving to write more. BillyBlog will be my platform. My goal is, if I don't post here, I'll be busy over on Tattoosday.

Truth be told, I'm typing this on January 3, but dating it January 1. A neat and not-so-honest trick.

I fear, however, I will be playing catch-up year round.

I fear, however, I will return to old ways.

Who knows? May be I'll surprise myself.

Social Media has taken over many things, and I resolve to do less there and more on these old and crusty electronic pages.

Maybe it will be a BillyBlog renaissance.

Maybe these are the death throes, the final thrashing of words before I, ultimately, fall silent.

We shall see. We shall see.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Life Support

Here it is, September 1, and I am pondering sad old BillyBlog, tossed to the side after Tattoosday took over my life.

September always makes me nostalgic, because that is when I started BillyBlog. It is also when I spun Tattoosday off into its own beast.

Sometimes, in cyberspace, no one can hear you scream.

When I started BillyBlog, I didn't know if it was going to go anywhere, and it did. It hasn't received the moderate success of Tattoosday (and by moderate, I mean people know what it is, and identify it as something that exists). Perhaps, this September stirring will reinvigorate me. More likely, not.

We shall see. We shall see.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bookpeeping - 2013 Edition

Kids, a long time ago, it seemed that everyone was reading books on the subway. Now it'a all Candy Crush and tablets.

Yesterday I tried to do a little bookpeeping. That is, I tried to spy on what those rare book readers were perusing.

I had a bit of success as I traveled from Lower Manhattan to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

On the Z train (yes, there is a Z train):

The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams:

Then, after transferring at Canal, on the platform waiting for the N train, a gentleman was reading The One and the Many: Collaborative Art in a Global Context by Grant Kester:

On the N train, I spotted The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer:

When I transferred at 59th Street for the R in Brooklyn, I saw a woman reading The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant:

And then, on the R train, on the home stretch, I saw a woman reading How Does it Feel to be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America by Moustafa Bayoumi

I hope you've enjoyed this latest incarnation of biliophilic voyeurism that I call Bookpeeping!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How Long Do Blogs Live?

How long do blogs live?

Well, the most successful ones outgrow the name “blog” – they become websites. The Huffington Post started as a blog, for example, but it sure seems like a full-blown media outlet now.

And then there are all those short-lived one- or two-post specials. Someone said, “Let me blog!” and they started and then abruptly never posted again.

I've always heard that three years is the average lifespan of the blog. Balancing the HuffPos and the singular blips in the blogosphere, that seems about right. Heck, I have at least four blogs (yes, I lost track), including a project dedicated to discarded weather-worn umbrellas (Umbrellacide) and a brief celebration of the lives of recently-deceased poets (We Lost a Poet).

My original success as a blogger came with the autobiographical BillyBlog, which I associate with Hurricane Katrina, having started around the same time and, it is still lingering on life support, chalking up one or two posts a year. [I wrote this in a word document, and felt it most appropriate to post here, where it all started.]

BillyBlog gave birth to Tattoosday, an idea that outgrew its initial weekly inkiling, and became my most successful blog. It’s even part of my Facebook identity.

But something happened to Tattoosday, back in August 2012. I stopped posting whereas previously I posted daily and felt like an abject failure if I failed to do so.

I lost my job around the same time, and you would have thought that would have spurred a flurry of activity, but it didn't.

It looked like Tattoosday had a second wind in early 2013, but again, the summer seemed to kill it.
Ask my family – I wouldn't go anywhere without my notebook and Tattoosday fliers promoting the site. I ran out of fliers and haven’t reprinted. I only occasionally have my book with me and, despite still conducting the occasional interview, I still have material from five months ago, in June, that remains unpublished. 

How’s this for perspective: at its peak, I posted daily, seven times a week. In contrast, since I started my new job in September after a year out of work, I have posted just seven times. And I can’t tell you exactly why.

September marked our sixth anniversary.

I have spent more time wondering why I’m not writing Tattoosday than I have spent time writing Tattoosday.
My words fail me.

It is not that I am less interested in tattoos – I still jump at the chance to talk to people about them. I am guessing it is more just that, as I grow older, and have shifted focus onto a new job, I am focused on other things, things so mundane it is not even worth mentioning in a blog post.

So, I do not know what will happen with Tattoosday. I would like to think that I will keep posting, that I just need that spark to reignite the blogger fire within me. Right now, there are a few embers, smoldering. I have no idea what will happen – if the Tattoosday fire will blaze again, or if it will go out, quietly, with a thin white wisp of smoke, vanishing into the blogosphere.