Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Funny Shit My Aunt Sends Me: Ordered a few; easier than tray tables....


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Poetry in Motion: Scaffolding by Seamus Heaney

In BillyBlog's early days, I featured a lot of the old Poetry in Motion posters from public transportation. Over the last few years, I had taken photos, but never gotten around to posting them. 2017 has been a time of playing catch up. 

Here's one I spotted on March 5, 2014:



Scaffolding     Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013

Masons, when they start upon  a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won't slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job's done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seems to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

~ ~ ~

Visit the MTA Poetry in Motion page here.

Bios of the poet and the artist whose work in the subway that serves as the backdrop for the poem above, which was one of four released in 2014, 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.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Poetry in Motion: Voyager by Mary Ruefle

According to my records, a took this photo four years ago today, on January 25, 2013, so it only makes sense to finally post it on the anniversary right?




The poem is "Voyager" by Mary Ruefle:

Voyager

I have become an orchid
washed in on the salt white beach.
Memory,
what can I make of it now
that might please you ---
this life, already wasted
and still strewn with
miracles?

~~~

Visit the MTA Poetry in Motion page here.



Bios of the poet and the artist whose work in the subway that serves as the backdrop for the poem above, which was one of four released in 2013, 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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Books on the Edge of My Attention Span

What the hell does that mean? 

www.examiner.com.au  Picture: Phillip Biggs

Living in New York City means having limited space for books, so I generally use the vast resources of the New York Public Library.

Of course, that’s like a chocoholic getting the keys to Willy Wonka’s factory, so I end up with many more books on hand than I’ll actually read.

People talk about the books they read all the time. I’m going to talk about the books I wanted to read, but didn’t. More often than not, they go back to the library unmolested by my eyes.

But first, a digression – I used to pooh-pooh electronic reading devices. Then I got a Galaxy Tab and discovered NYPL applications that enabled me to read books that were less accessible (read: volumes with immense waiting lists, or obscure enough not to warrant actual copies in house).

I came to Game of Thrones on HBO rather late, midway through season five, and I had never read the books. The wait for a volume through the library is interminable, but I discovered electronic versions available. So, I became one of those people I disdained – subway riders reading on tablets rather than carrying the actual volumes with them.

That said, I am nearing the end of the third volume, A Storm of Swords.



I have the fourth volume, A Feast for Crows, downloaded and waiting for me, although I may take a break once I finish Swords.


Also on my device are Three Poems by Josh Ashbery




 and Zeitoun by Dave Eggers.




In addition, two volumes I have borrowed hard copies of, as well, just to “have available” should the mood have struck me.

Now, on to what I have on hand from the library…

The Book of the Dead by Orikuchi Shinobu (Jeffrey Angles, tran.).




I actually started this the other day, and am on the fence as to whether I will continue. The premise is fascinating as we the tale opens up on the perspective of a ghost gaining consciousness in a crypt in eighth century Japan.

Then, there's The 60s: The Story of a Decade by contributors to The New Yorker,



Letters to Vera by Vladimir Nabokov (also on my tablet),



Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers,




The Best American Poetry 2016 (I own a copy, signed by a bunch of contributors, so this is my “reading” copy),




Falling Ill: Last Poems by C.K. Williams,



and lastly, the whimsical Literary Starbucks : fresh-brewed, half-caf, no-whip bookish humor  byJill Poskanzer, Wilson Josephson, and Nora Katz ; illustrated by Harry Bliss.



I’m actually halfway through this funny and thoughtful book about famous authors (alive and dead) going to Starbucks. It’s based on a tumblr and is clever enough to keep me remotely interested.

Clearly I can't read all of these, but I thought I'd share what I wanted to read if I had one of those spells Hermione used in the Harry Potter seriesto turn back time. 
 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Marching in Manhattan

Yesterday I participated in the Women's March in New York City.

It was amazing.

Conservative estimates put the crowd at 400,000 people. Organizers say it was closer to 600,000. Regardless, it felt like a million. It probably wasn't, but when you're packed in the streets with several hundred thousand people, you feel like the number of fellow citizens around you is immense.

I marched to support the women in my life, and countless friends and family members who feel threatened by the turn that the government is taking. The language of oppression and disenfranchisement, the threat to equality that is espoused by "leaders" who want to make the country great again when their definition of "great" and my definition of "great" are split by vast chasm of meaning.

When you're walking in the canyons of Manhattan and surrounded by fellow marchers, and you hear a distant roar, and can feel it approaching, rolling up to you in a wave of sound, you know that your one voice, when combined with others, can create an incredible noise.

I have posted several photos below that I took. I wish I had had more battery so I could take dozens more.













Saturday, January 21, 2017

Poetry in Motion: Here by Gary Snyder

I've recently posted some older Poetry in Motion posters from my archives, but there are new ones floating about, as well.

Here's one currently underground, this one spotted on the R train:




The poem is Here by Gary Snyder:

In the dark
(The new moon long set)

A soft grumble in the breeze
Is the sound of a jet so high
It's already long gone by

Some planet
Rising from the east        shines
Through the trees

It's been years since I thought,

Why are we here?
~

Visit the MTA Poetry in Motion page here.

Bios of the poet and the artist whose work in the subway that serves as the backdrop for the poem above, which was one of three released in 2016, 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 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
sammiches

or, days later, after
Thanksgiving

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 72ยบ 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!