Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cool Stuff People Send Me: Holding the Sun

Thanks to Jon for sending these my way:

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Getting to Know: BillyBlog

In which BillyBlog asks itself the same questions Teen magazine asked now-pregnant teen idol Jamie Lynn Spears; see original interview here. This is an idea shamelessly ripped off this post from The Best American Poetry Blog.

BillyBlog: You’re in Jr. High, right?
BB: "Well, I'm in my third "active" year in the Blogosphere. Not sure if that translates to Junior High or not. My oldest child is in intermediate school, which others refer to as Jr. High."

What are you most looking forward to?
"A Democrat in the White House. I don't often get political here, but I am worried for the children."

What kind of car do you want?
"I am carless, and proud. Sometimes inconvenienced, but proud. A car would be a luxury for me. I would like a Lamborghini Countach (because it sounds kinda dirty), but I couldn't afford the insurance."

What's your favorite subject?
"Poetry about Umbrella Tattoos."

Do you play any sports?
"I ride a bicycle. No other sports to report."

Are kids in school treating you differently because of Nickelodeon exposure?
"No, they still ignore me because they think I'm an old man. Although my older daughters' friends think I'm slightly more interesting than the "normal" parent because I have a blog."

You have a new puppy named Ali, right? How is she?
"No puppy. No animal. My animals have died. I still have a flash disk with video of my cat Goblin throwing up in his last days on Earth. If I had a dog, I'd name him something literary, like Yossarian."

How old is she now?
"My imaginary dog Yossarian is three years old. And Yossarian is a boy's name. If I had a girl dog I'd name her Muffin Top."

She's a mix, right?
"She would be a mix, a cross between an Akita and a Yorkie. An Akorkie. I just like the image of her parents procreating. It's comical."

What are your feelings about Ali?
"The greatest boxer, ever."

Where did you find her?
"Oh, you mean his daughter? She's co-hosting American Gladiators now, I think. I dunno. I appreciate the opportunity to name-drop all these pop culture references, which will certainly do wonder for my blog traffic."

Do you dress her up?
"Last time I tried, I had to eat all my meals through a straw. For a month."

Do you try to coordinate it with what you're wearing?
"Your line of questioning confuses me. My clothing, however, rarely coordinates. My wife has tried for years, but she has only been mildly successful. I'm a lost cause."

What is your fashion style?
"Scattered casual. Although I have some cool neckties."

Year 'round?
"Generally, although I occasionally will throw in some man-boob cleavage and plumber-butt, just to keep them guessing."

What do you like to do for fun?
"I like to go to poetry readings and sulk. They are inspiring and depressing simultaneously, which leaves me a little disoriented. I think my best poems are better than some of the worst poems read at such events. That makes me sad. Then I am inspired to write more. And then, rinse and repeat."

Was it really scary?
"Poetry readings are never scary. Smelly, sometimes, but rarely scary."

TV anything you watch?
"Pretty much anything that isn't nailed down."

Are you watching Joey?
"I love Blossom reruns!"

So, you have to get TiVo?
"I have a DVR chock full of Daily Shows, South Parks, Miami Inks, and a bunch of kid crap that makes me regret ever teaching my offspring how to search for shows."

Do you have an acting coach working with you?
"No, I fool everyone without professional help."

Is Zoe like you?
"No, I actually graduated high school. Although my college looked a lot like PCA, only more unattractive people."

How are you not alike?
"Her character has, um, well, lady-parts."

Will that change as you get older?
"Lord, I hope not. Those surgeries can be expensive!"

Have you gotten advice from mom or sister about business?
"No, they are wise to let me do my own thing."

Do you have a celebrity crush?
"Julianne Moore makes me giggle like a schoolgirl."

What was your most embarrassing moment:
"I was Bat Boy for the Springfield Caps, a collegiate Summer League team in Central Illinois in the 1970's. I once brought the umpire balls when everyone was ready to pitch. He was crouched down behind the catcher, and I was holding his balls. And the pitcher had to stop to let me give the umpire his balls. Several hundred or maybe even a thousand people were watching me. I turned bright red like the helmet on my head."

So you raised your hand to answer a question and it was wrong?
"Not often, but occasionally. At least I tried."

You probably haven't raised your hand since?
"Only when applying deodorant."

Favorite movie:
"It will always be The Outlaw Josey Wales. I could watch it over and over again and never get sick of it."

"Gunplay, humor, revenge, Clint Eastwood and a disturbing glimpse of Sondra Locke's breasts."

Film star you look up to/like to have a career like?
"John Cusack. I wish I could be as cool as he was, even when he was playing a dork."

Do you like Hilary's music?
"The God-awful Celine Dion song she had in her campaign ads early in the primary season made me regurgitate every time I heard it."

If you could work with any other actor/actress who?
"Sean Penn. Because then he could introduce me to Eddie Vedder and we could all go hang out at my mom's place in Hawai'i."

Would you think you'd died and gone to heaven if you got a part in an Ashton Kutcher/Lindsay Lohan movie?
"No, although working with Ashton would mean seeing Demi again. I could apologize to her for not initially recognizing her when I was coordinating parking behind the Universal Amphitheater during Comic Relief in 1992."

Something you can't live without:
"My BlackBerry clothes me. In other words, I feel naked without it."

Play video games?
"No, not since college. My children are better off without such distractions in the house."

Who's someone you look up to?
"My wife, Melanie."

"She changes people's lives every day she goes to work. She would dismiss such talk as rubbish and say that the people she works with are changing their own lives, that she is only facilitating their journeys, but she makes a difference. And I love her."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fifty-five Thousand, Five Hundred and Fifty-five

At 12:25 AM (EDT), BillyBlog registered hit #55,555 !

Someone in Lexington, Kentucky googled "Langston Hughes poems about
food" and stumbled onto an April 2007 post featuring Hughes' poem
"Luck," which was on a Baltimore Poetry in Motion poster. It's not a
poem about food, but BillyBlog being "food for the creative
imagination," Google brought the Lexingtonian my way.

Thanks to all of you who have contributed to the five Fives on my counter!

Monday, May 26, 2008


We last went to Camden Yards on August 6, 2006. See my post here. (BillyBlog is a handy resource, too). The score was the same way back then, 6-1, only the numbers were flipped - the Yanks had six and the O's had one.

We are back on the road, heading North. Hope everyone had a happy Memorial Day!

Game Over, Dude

Despite a flutter of offense (the Yanks scored 1 in the top of the 9th), the Orioles prevail 6-1.

Seventh Inning

LaTroy Hawkins comes in for the Yankees in relief and can't do it. Melvin Mora singles with men on and 2 out and knocks in a run. They pull Hawkins and bring in Jose Veras to face Nick Markakis who singles the first pitch into center, giving the O's a 3-0 lead. Then Aubrey Huff hits a 3-run blast to right-center. All of a sudden, it's 6-nothing Baltimore. The inning ends mercifullly after Luke Scott flies out to right.

Bottom of the 6th

And Nick Markakis of the Orioles just launched a 400+ foot home run to dead center. 1-0 Orioles. Aubrey Huff follows with a double. Pitching duel officially over!

Update from Camden Yards

A little excitement in the top of the 3rd. Johnny Damon thrown out at home to end the half-inning after Hideki Matsui got his second hit of the game.

Bottom of the fifth, still no score.

Free Enterprise at Camden Yards

The people I'm sitting next to, Yankee fans from Jersey just informed me that the ticket I bought, legally, was sold to the guy who sold it to me, for $20.

They sold it to him on the street and he turned it over at face value for a nice profit. He actually charged me 2 bucks extra, but I wasn't going to squabble. Especially since Grandpa paid $40 of the cost (and drove us down here). Thanks Barry!

Hot Yards

It's a beautiful sunny day here at Camden Yards. The fam is with Grandpa down in a field box, six rows behind the Yankee dugout. Camden has a "scalp-free zone" where you can buy face value tickets. Grandpa paid 4/5 of my seat, front row of the Club Level, right above (and back) from the rest of the gang.

Granted, I am not as close as the others, but there are pretty sweet seats. Look me up (section 246, row AA. Seat 10.

Good Morning, Baltimore...

We have arrived in Baltimore and are mulling about the lobby of the Marriott near the ballpark. Waiting for our party of fifteen (still waiting for ten more) to have brunch at Cafe Promenade. The place is teeming with Yankee fans.

Since the Yanks are not playing the Tigers, I am officially a Bronx Bomber fan today, in my Reyn Spooner Yankee "aloha" shirt, and a borrowed Yankee cap from my beloved wife, Melanie. Shayna informed me that I was not allowed to wear my Tigers hat, although wearing the
colors of two last-place teams (okay, the Tigers are tied for last and the Yankees are only a half-game from last. If they lose today, they'll take it back) seems ironic.

Is it irony? Perhaps not. By the way, great article ("Exposed" by Emily Gould) in today's Sunday NY Times about blogging and the separation between the public and the private. I read it on the way down in the car. There's even a bit of tattoo in it.

Live Blogging Memorial Day

We are in Grandpa Barry's rental car, driving south. Destination: Camden Yards. The Yankees are playing the Orioles and Gramps is treating us all to the game.

Yesterday, we all saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Shayna proclaimed it "Awesome". Jolee liked it. She said it was better than the second and third, but tied with the first.

I would give it a thumbs up, although I would rank it third in the series, ahead of the Temple of Doom.

A big thanks to the two ridiculously annoying women sitting next to me in the theater who provided the running commentary for the mentally-challenged.
But that's why we go to the movies now, isn't it?

Signing off for now from the New Jersey turnpike.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Philip Levine Poems, Bryant Park Reading Series

Considering I am still working on a post from last month about a poetry reading at St. Mark's in New York City, I didn't want to wait so long for the poetry reading I attended on Wednesday.

So here's an abridged version, so I can at least share the event, which was very, very good.

The Bryant Park Reading Room has a Summer Reading series. The event was bumped to a nearby classroom a couple blocks away due to rain.

I shot three clips of Philip Levine reading poems. Here they are:

Philip Levine reads "How Much Can it Hurt?" from THEY FEED THEY LION & THE NAMES OF THE LOST, on May 20, 2008, Bryant Park Reading Room Series (relocated to a nearby classroom, due to rain):

Note: He's reading from a copy of the book which he borrowed from me.

Next, Levine reads "Call It Music" from BREATH. There are several minutes of Levine introducing this poem. Just marvelous:

And finally, Levine reading "The Two":

I'll do better justice to this post later, but I am proud (and I don't often brag) of my contribution here. Levine is a major American poet, and I generally don't get such good quality poetry video on my little Kodak Easyshare camera.

I truly hope poetry fans, and Levine aficionados, will appreciate these little gems.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Jolee Shines

Jolee often gets the short end of the stick in the blogging world. At least the BillyBlogging world. I mentioned earlier this week that all her drama videos got stalled in post-production and never made it to the blogosphere. Her sister Shayna often gets mad props for her soccer prowess because, well, it's a little more dramatic. And easier to post then a dozen ensemble chorus pieces.

Still, she made her Mum and me proud last night during the Spring Music & Art Festival for the Academy for the Arts and Humanities at the Christa McAuliffe School (I.S. 187) in Brooklyn. Jolee was part of the 6th Grade Chorus, singing, among other songs, "Seasons of Love" from Rent. The clip is below. There are solos by Jolee and her friend Tai, and , despite a small microphone problem, they both sang beautifully.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Poetry in Motion Double-Shot Bonus! (Gershwin and Kuskin)

Back in February (yes, I know it's May), a woman named Brittany e-mailed me. She had been looking for a Poetry in Motion poster and stumbled across my 2007 National Poetry Month onslaught, during which I posted my vast array of posters for all the world to see (and, hopefully, enjoy). She was looking for this one and another one, by Ira Gershwin, which was comprised of the lyrics to a Nat King Cole song.

I gave her some advice on how to obtain them, and she followed it, and she met with success. I asked her, as a favor, to take a picture of the posters she tracked down, so I could put them up here. One month ago, she sent them to me, and I am just getting around to posting them here. Thanks Brittany!

Double-click on the photots to enlarge.

"Love is Here to Stay" by Ira Gershwin:

It's very clear,
Our love is here to stay;
Not for a year,
But ever and a day.
The radio and the telephone
And the movies that we know
May just be passing fancies-
and in time may go.

But oh, my dear,
Our love is here to stay.
Together we're
Going a long, long way.
In time the Rockies may crumble,
Gibraltar may tumble
(They're only made of clay),
But - our love is here to stay.
And I can't resist this. Don't skip it. Here's a clip of Ella Fitzgerald, with Paul Smith and the Count Basie Orchestra, featuring Roy "Little Jazz" Eldridge, performing the song in 1979:

And even though she had only been asking about the Gershwin and the Merwin, she sent along this one as well, by Karla Kuskin. I wracked my brain, but do not remember it, leading me to believe (perhaps mistakenly, that it ran on the subways prior to 1997, when I moved to New York.

The Question

People always say to me
"What do you think you'd like to be
When you grow up?"
And I say, "Why,
I think I'd like to be the sky
Or be a plane or train or mouse
Or maybe a haunted house
Or something furry, rough and wild...
Or maybe I will stay a child."

Karla Kuskin (b. 1932)

According to the MTA website, "The Question" is taken from Kuskin's book Dog & Dragons, Trees & Dreams, although it originally appeared in 1958's In the Middle of the Trees.

Thanks again to Brittany for sending these my way!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Walrus Was...

Any excuse to post a cool walrus photo. This accompanies a great story by Natalie Angier in the New York Times here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

This Says It All: Tiger Woes

On Sunday, the Detroit Tigers were shut out for the seventh time in only 44 games, losing 4-0 to Randy Johnson and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Detroit was only shut out just three times all last year.

Three shutouts in a 162-game season is approximately 1.9 %.

Seven out of forty-four is 15.9 %.

If the Tigers continue to throw up goose eggs, they will be shut out 25 times this season. The good news is that falls short of the American League record of 30 games by the 1906 Washington Senators, and the 33-game Major League record by the 1908 St. Louis Cardinals.

So there is hope. Barely

Monday, May 19, 2008

What’s Up with BillyBlog?

Hello, readers. Those of you who have been visitors here since the blog’s inception in September 2005 may have noticed that I occasionally will have posting droughts that leave fans o’ BillyBlog thirsting for more.

Usually you’ll see one of these self-reflective posts pop up during these dry spells, pondering the life of the blog, ruminating about its future, or whatever.

The National Poetry Month 31 Favorite Poems project sapped me mentally. Not that it was difficult, the poems were written, and I just had to rank them and post them. It was the feeling of obligation to the blog itself that took its toll. It became a chore. And I even resented it a little.

Perhaps what we’re seeing is the nature of the dual blogging mentality. BillyBlog used to be a year-round blog. But the beast that is Tattoosday, born in the heat of last summer, is rising again after a quiet winter. And even regular visitors over there will note, I’m not posting every day there either, despite the fact that tattoos smother the sidewalks of New York City like cherry blossom petals in a koi pond.

That’s why Umbrellacide has been a fun and easy diversion. Easy-peasy. Take a picture of an inanimate object, upload the photo, say where I saw it, title it cleverly, and schedule it.

And so here we are, thinking out loud. On April 26, I went to a poetry reading. There is a recap in the works, but it’s taken a while. I have read several books that I want to discuss. John McCain had a slice of pizza at OUR pizza shop, on the same block on which we live, my brother Seth came to visit and we went to a Tigers-Yankees game (if only the Tigers could play the Yankees all year long. It seems to be the only team Detroit can beat this year), Shayna’s been playing baseball, Jolee’s a blogging machine and an “A” student and I still have a dozen video clips I want to post and share from her drama club performance in February. The extra day that month didn’t help.

And here I am rambling about nothing and everything simultaneously. My sister Alicia just finished her master’s program and they had a big party for her out in California. I am sad because I missed it. Everyone understands why it wasn’t feasible to cross the country for the event, but it still makes me sad. The consolation prize is that she’s moving next month to Delaware to start a new job. Hooray! Congrats Alicia!

I’ll end positively with that note. No I won’t.

Do not give up on BillyBlog, folks. Try this exercise. Google “average life of a blog”. Use the quotation marks. Note the variance in average blog life spans. The range is 3 months to 3 years.

As Kurt Vonnegut would often say, “so it goes”.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

News from the Ranch: Golden, 1998?-May 8, 2008

Sad news from my Mom this weekend.
One of the most vocal ranch animals has gone to roost in the Big Barnyard in the Sky. Diane reports:

When Vet Lisa Wood came to Pihanakalani for the annual farm call on Thursday, May 8, she discovered Golden had a broken leg! I had been hand feeding him for the past three months, thinking he might improve from what looked like a bad sprain. We buried him behind the tack room, with a little rooster memorial. He was our best rooster ever, always came running when his name was called, and we miss him!

As a way of tribute, I offer up this home video from Pihanakalani, which co-stars Golden, the Loud, Proud, Rooster, along with some of his other ranch cohorts:

Seen in the Street: The Oblivious Pedestrian

This was going to go up over at Umbrellacide, but technically, if the umbrella is still in use, it hasn't yet gone over to the other side. This one's still on life support.

Although, one might wonder, at what point did this woman realize, her umbrella was only half-functional, and discard it in the nearest receptacle.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Cleaning Out My Inbox: May Edition

Well, after a month of poetry posts, I am looking at a handful of interesting things, languishing away in my inbox, collecting cyberdust. Let's take a look, shall we?

Last Wednesday, due to an unfortunate series of events, my childcare options fell through, and I had to miss an amazing concert by Crowded House. My dear friend Janet was offering me a ticket, and I couldn't make it. Needless to say, Janet was understandably miffed, and she sent me this link, which shows what I missed, the P.S. 22 Chorus performing with the band at the Fillmore NY, Irving Plaza. Point taken. Still Sorry, Janet.

Cristina, an old friend from Los Angeles sends me sad news here.
Crown City Brewery is going out of business at the end of the month. Sure, it's been ten years, probably, since I ate there (the commute from Brooklyn is killer), but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the place where I drank numerous rare and hard-to-find beers (Tusker! Watney's Cream Stout!) and ate countless awesome Smoked Chicken Lahvosh pizzas. Such news makes me sad.

Ben sent me a link to a site that has this picture in the Erotica section. To figure out why...

click here. Hint: Nice Teats!

Since we're talking about farm animals, my Aunt Lee sent me this YouTube video of the 2006 WEG Freestyle Dressage Competition:

Moving on, but staying in the animal kingdom, my mother-in-law sent this evidence of ursine defecation:

Probably best to end on that. Heh.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Yin and Yang of Spinoff Blogs

Well, despite the fact that Tattoosday suffers on rainy days, it's sister blog, Umbrellacide, flourishes. And vice versa. It rained all day today.

Go see some of the carnage from Manhattan and Brooklyn here. Enough posts to last a few days.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

"Train of Thought" - E.B. White

"There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter - the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in search of something . . . Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion."

E. B. White (1899-1985) Here is New York

Monday, May 05, 2008

Introducing Umbrellacide, Another Spin-Off

Remember the month of March, when I had that cockamamie idea to take pictures of discarded umbrellas after rain storms and post them here on BillyBlog?

"Silly blogger," I could hear people saying, "that's an idea that wears thin very quickly".

True that, even for the guy drawing stares from normally jaded New Yorkers. "Why the hell (or other four-letter word) is that guy taking a picture of that broken umbrella?"

But, like a splinter stuck under a toenail, I couldn't shake it. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.



Now it's its own stand-alone blog. No poetry, book reviews, kooky photographs or gratuitous soccer-dad posts. Just umbrellas. Maybe a clever title here and there. But mainly umbrellas. Usually broken. Never to be opened again. This is their final resting place (figuratively).

Tell your friends. Link it to your sites. Send me your own umbrella corpse pictures.

Thank you for your time.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

False Alarm: Not Poetry. Thought.

Well, it was not a new Poetry in Motion poster after all. It's a new series called "Train of Thought". I had seen the Barnes & Noble logo from afar and assumed it was a poem. Rather than the PSA, this one is co-sponsored by Columbia University.

Here's the content:

"The book of nature is written in the language of mathematics. Its symbols are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures, without which it is impossible to understand a single word; without which there is only a vain wandering through a black labyrinth."

Galileo (1564-1642), The Assayer

Here's the news behind the story (from the Associated Press):

Apr 30, 4:40 PM EDT

MTA begins 'Train of Thought' series in NYC system

NEW YORK (AP) -- Riding New York City's subways and buses is getting thought-provoking.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced Wednesday that it will begin a new series called "Train of Thought" - posters with quotations from some of the world's great thinkers.

The excerpts will be selected by Columbia University's Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and will cover history, philosophy, literature and science.

The first selections will be from "Charlotte's Web" author E.B. White on the special character of New Yorkers and Galileo on the centrality of mathematics to science.

Two new quotations will be selected every three months.

The MTA already features "Poetry in Motion," a series of short poetry extracts.

The agency said it sees the series as a way to entice riders "to explore the author or subject further."

Friday, May 02, 2008

Thursday, May 01, 2008

NEW! Poetry in Motion poster spotted on the N Train

I saw it just as it was time to switch to the R. Stay tuned for further information.

I spotted it from a distance and couldn't get close enough to see what poem it was.

It did look like it had a different layout from previous posters. Ironic that, when I was bemoaning the absence of the posters during National Poetry Month, that I should spot a new one the day after NPM ended.

No Thanks, I'm Not Hungry