Friday, September 30, 2005

October, New York, the Yankees and Mötley Crüe

Get used to hearing this today on the radio, TV, whatever...

Summer has come and passed
The innocent can never last
Wake me up when September ends
from our friends at Green Day.
There is a chill in New York City this morning, Autumn is upon us and I am battling the end of Summer by wearing a Cooke Street Aloha shirt for Aloha Friday here in the city. The weekend is upon us and I am actually a bit, well, exhausted thinking about it. Aside from Hebrew School for the girls, there is big happenings in Bay Ridge. The annual Ragamuffin Parade, which features kids in costumes, pre-Halloween, marching down 3rd Avenue, always a family affair, and then on Sunday, the 3rd Avenue Street Fair, the official end of Summer in our neighborhood. The 5th Avenue Street Fair launches Summer in June. Plus, Shayna has two birthday parties to attend, in addition to our regular weekend chores.
Of course what New York is really abuzz about is the baseball season. Three games left in the season and the Yankees have a one-game lead over Boston, with Cleveland still in the Wild Card hunt. And, the Yanks last 3 games are in Boston. What drama! Conceivably, if the Yankees lose more than one game, and Cleveland wins three, the Yankees could go from the driver's seat to the trunk. October is always exciting in this city, at least when the Bronx Bombers are winning. Alas, my Tigers are 25 games out of first place in their division, but still much-improved over last year, frightening as that sounds.
On other fronts, still reading through T.C. Boyle's Inner Circle, expect a report next week, along with Book #18 on my Top 20. However, let me throw a tawdry recommendation out there. Inspired by hearing this morning Motley Crue's recent Hurricane Katrina Relief performance of "Home Sweet Home" accompanied by Linkin Park's Chester Bennington, I'd like to recommend the Crue's biography from several years back, The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band.
It is by far one of the most depraved looks at a band that was influential in my early transformation from a pimply immature adolescent to a pimply immature adolescent that believed in a genre of music. I thought of myself as a metalhead in those days, but really I was nowhere near such a classification. I just liked the music. The Crue's debut album Too Fast for Love was one of three albums that I bought as a youth that formed the basis of my conversion to Metalhood. Just for the record, the other two were Judas Priest's Screaming for Vengeance and The Scorpions Blackout.
Anyway, The Dirt is your typical rock biography, but juicy juicy juicy with the rock star details. Pick it up at the library, buy it in paperback, it would make even Danielle Steele blush.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hasidic Reggae Star

His name is Matisyahu. He achieved some notoriety earlier this year and, as you're sitting there, scratching your heads, dig this:

He's great. Just read a bit from the website eMusic:

In Brooklyn, Hasidic Jews and Rastafarians share a taste for certain things: hats, unusual hairstyles, the Old Testament. You might add to that list Matisyahu, a 27-year-old reggae singer/rapper rooted in New York City's Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community. The guy is an oddity, to be sure. A formerly dreadlocked Phish fanatic named Matthew Miller, Matisyahu found his calling after a random meeting with a rabbi in Washington Square Park which would be merely a curious story if his music weren't so powerful. Matisyahu has a commanding voice that slides gracefully between Bob Marley-style declamatory singing, the singing/rhyming style of dancehall acts like Sizzla and old-school Brooklyn street raps, spiced with bursts of rabbinical incantations, scatting and beatboxing. The delivery feels authentic and original (if sometimes a bit vague), with lyrics that generally praise God, riff on spiritual seeking and chant down Babylon. What's even more remarkable, in an era when reggae is largely about electronic dancehall burps and pro-forma covers of "Get Up, Stand Up," Matisyahu's band makes shape-shifting, reverb-rich music, colored with melodica, trumpet and bursts of guitar noodling that point to the singer's jazzy, jam-band roots without getting too abstract. It's melting-pot music in the best sense. - Will Hermes, eMusic

The man has talent, and his debut album Shake off the Dust...Arise was followed by a superb concert album, Live at Stubbs. If you're looking for something unusual to listen to, say shalom to Matisyahu. He's a lock for the 2005 Grammy for Best Jewish Reggae Album. You can get information on him here.

On a separate note, when the spirit moves me, I like to share my musical commuting experience. This morning I took the local R train all the way in (at 5:30 AM the express is scarcer). Much to my surprise, with one or two exceptions, the iPod Shuffle gave me a very blues/hardcore/punk/grunge-themed commute:

"Head On" by the Jesus and Mary Chain

"San Francisco" by Scott McKenzie

"London's Burning" by Silverchair - (A phenomenal cover of the song by The Clash)

"Hand in My Pocket" by JD Fortune (former contestant, now lead singer of INXS, covering Alanis Morrisette)

"Dark Was theNight, Cold Was the Ground" by Blind Willie Johnson (from Scorcese's Blues Documentary)

"Waiting" by Green Day (from Warning)

"Death Bell Blues" by R.L. Burnside (great Bluesman who passed recently in Memphis)

"Return of the Rat" by Nirvana

"Family Snapshot" by Peter Gabriel

"Faster than the Speed of Light" by Raven (1980's British Heavy Metal band that was Metallica's unrecognized step-cousin)

"I Hear You Knockin' " by Smiley Lewis (Scorcese's Blues again)

"Why" by Annie Lennox (from Saturday Night Live's great performances album, volume 1)

"Accidents Will Happen" by Elvis Costello & the Attractions

"Until the Next Time" by Peter Case (subject for a future blog, no doubt)

"Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" covered by Limp Bizkit

"P5hing Me A*wy" by Linkin Park, Live in Texas (phenomenal CD)

"Even in His Youth (Demo)" from Nirvana's With the Lights Out Box

"What's That Noise?" by S.O.D. (Stormtroopers of Death)

"Stealing People's Mail" by The Dead Kennedys

"Strangest Tribe" by Pearl Jam from Lost Dogs, their rarities album

Speaking of PJ, my dream of winning the lottery and taking Melanie to the Stones tonight in Pittsburgh, with Pearl Jam opening, did not come true. Oh well.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Technical Difficulties

Many readers have claimed to have had problems with BillyBlog "locking" and only showing a partial post. If you see this, try the "refresh" key. That does the trick for me.

Top 20 Books, #19

Behold: say what you will about Rob Reiner and Cary Elwes, even if you didn't like the movie, or even if you did, William Goldman's book is priceless and wonderful and warrants spot #19 on my list of top 20 favorite books. I am not saying best, I am saying favorite.

I discovered another list, the Brothers Judd Top 100 of the Twentieth Century, with a whole list of other lists. The Brothers Judd ranks this on their list as #91.

Everything that you can say positive about the film, that it is funny, romantic, exciting, is magnified in the book. I especially love the layering of the novel. We are introduced to modern characters, one of which reads from the book, The Princess Bride. The book becomes a character and the wall between the story and the people in both levels of story blends into one fantastic voyage.

If you haven't read this, do so now. It's a quick read and well worth the time spent journeying with Wesley and Inigo Montoya, in the pursuit of true love.

As you wish.

Monday, September 26, 2005

How's That Again? Department

Look closely. Something's wrong with this picture.

Catching Up

I finished DeLillo's Cosmopolis last Friday. Not his best, but still pretty good. I would definitely recommend it as a good "New York Novel," as it takes place entirely along a crosstown journey in one day. Extremely dark. Spent the good part of Friday at a deposition in the Bronx, more waiting than deposing. Case involves a worker's comp claim and I am a witness. Nonetheless, the extensive waiting allowed me to finish the DeLillo and get through several back issues of The New Yorker. Am on to the next book, T.C. Boyle's The Inner Circle, which is a fictional account of one of Dr. Kinsey's inner circle during his research on human sexuality in the 1940's. The book was published last year prior to the release of Kinsey, the Liam Neeson film, which I am still hoping to see.

In my quest for a balanced reading attack, I am also embarked on Picture Bride, the first book of poetry by Cathy Song, a Hawai'i-born poet. Ms. Song was also named a prestigious "Yale Younger Poet" in the early 1980's. I had the honor, pleasure and privilege of attending a poetry workshop with her at a writer's conference last month in Hawai'i. The poem below is a product of one exercise, in which participants free-associated, tossing out a word apiece while Ms. Song wrote them down on a flip chart. After several passes, the chart was filled and we had a wide range of words to choose from to use in, or as a basis for, a short poem.


Fear walks in wet socks over razor rocks.
The dragon smiles, a mystical look, imagining
me in an Ironstone pot, rooster stew,
cabbage bubbling around me, the heat
washing over in waves, the smells
of all my life's meals wafting by,
sauerkraut, lumpia, latkes,
my grandmother waking me from a nightmare.

©William Dickenson Cohen, August 2005

Sunday, September 25, 2005

On Silliman's Blogroll

A quick Sunday post, I am proud to announce that I have been added to Ron Silliman's blogroll. Silliman's blog is an inspiration for me. Silliman is an established poet whose blog discusses poetics and other cultural topics. His blog hosts a list of blogs from other poets worldwide, and it's nice to see my name in the company of other, more established writers. Thanks Ron! If the link doesn't work, you can access Ron's blog at

Saturday, September 24, 2005

New Yorker Festival Book Signing

This weekend is The New Yorker Festival . Normally, I like to attend an event or two, but the tickets have become so pricey and hard to get, it is easier to go to the free events, like the book signings, which are held at Barnes & Noble, Union Square, which acts as the Festival Headquarters.

I visited today, opting for three authors: T. Coraghessan Boyle, Mark Strand, and Michael Chabon. T.C.B. has two new mcollections of short stories out. He is one of my favorite authors and he is one of the best practitioners of the short story writing today. Among living writers, I think Lorrie Moore may be the only other name I can come up with who crafts short stories better than "Tom". Wait, throw Alice Munro in there as well.

Anyway, I stood in line and Tom stood, as his style, while signing. He is a bit eccentric, in that he likes to stand in front of the signing table and look at or down at people while talking with them. Since he is taller, it's usually looking down. Anyway, he signed multiple items for me, the new books, a copy of his novel Drop City, a paperback copy of an earlier novel, Budding Prospects, and then I asked him to sign a story of his in an anthology called Getting it On; A Condom Reader. The problem is that Tom does not like to sign uncorrected proofs, on principle, and this copy was a proof. I said, "I know you won't sign proofs, but this is one that's an anthology and I'd love it if you'd inscribe your page to me." He looked at the cover for a second and handed it back to me, saying, "I'm not going to sign this one." I wasn't quite sure if it was because it was a proof, or because of the book itself. But I didn't mind. I asked him if I could take a picture with him, and a B&N employee obliged us by taking the shot. It is the photo accompanying this posting.

The next signing was at 1:00 PM and it was 11:30, so I ran uptown a bit to my office and dropped all the T.C. Boyle books to lighten the load. Next came Mark Strand, and it was a beautiful day, so I walked back to 17th Street for the next event, as opposed to taking the train.

When I arrived back at B&N, there was a huge line. Lucky for me, the line was for Ian McEwan, whose novel Saturday has grabbed rave reviews, and whose star has risen significantly since I first saw him in NYC seven years ago at another, smaller B&N. The line for Mark Strand, who has a new anthology out (100 Great Poems of the Twentieth Century), consisted of three people. I made 4, and shortly thereafter, a guy named Tony made 5. Strand was my big attraction, as a collector of poetry, and I came loaded with stuff for him to sign. And a mixed bag it was indeed. I had him sign the new anthology, a copy of his book Chicken, Shadow, Moon & More, Rembrandt Takes a Walk (a children's book he co-wrote with the New York painter Red Grooms), the anthology he co-edited with Charles Simic (Another Republic), his contribution pages in America's Favorite Poems (ed. Robert Pinsky), The Best American Poetry 1994, Preferences (ed. Richard Howard), an old 92nd Street Y anthology, and a Paris Review in which he was interviewed on "The Art of Poetry." Also, I had him sign the dustjacket he illustrated for Charles Wright's Appalachia. When I approached Strand with the stack of books, he seemed tickled by the teetering pile and remarked "It looks like you have my whole life story there."

The guy behind me, named Tony, was chatty, as we waited before Strand showed up. We talked poetry and collecting. He told me how, just last year, in an undisclosed bookstore he picked up four different first editions by the poet Elizabeth Bishop. Each one was marked "1st edition, signed, $8." Nice haul, stupid bookstore. The cheapest signed Bishop anywhere on the web begins at $450.00.

Afterwards, I struck up a conversation with a couple from Princeton who owns a bookbinding business. Not only do they bind books, especially Princeton theses, but they are avid collectors (two rooms worth!). We chatted about numerous things, including the Princeton Creative Writing Faculty. Many of whom they see in town. "We just ran into Paul Muldoon at the local deli the other day. He's so down to earth!"

They joined me in line to see Michael Chabon, whose The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, is phenomenal and another of my Top 20 books. Chabon signed only three things for me, his latest The Final Solution: A Story Of Detection, a paperback uncorrected proof of his young adult book Summerland, and his contribution in Nothing But You : Love Stories From The New Yorker. The line for Chabon was long, but nothing compared to this year's media circus for Stephen King. Papparazzi, rabid horror-genre fans, general mayhem. B&N only gave out 150 wristbands for 150 people to get items signed. One guy, according to a B&N employee, arrived at 4:00 PM on Friday to get in line.

All in all, a successful day of meeting the authors and having books signed. No sign of Doppelgänger, but I did see people with more books than me, so I'm not the craziest collector out there.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Top 20 Books, #20

I will be spending some time over the next couple of months counting down my top 20 books of all time. I was just going to list them, but thought this would be more fun.
Here's numero 20, which actually garnered a recent mention in BillyBlog.

First of all, the cover is amazingly frightening, especially since this book came out pre-9/11.

Secondly, I can understand if, at 832 pages, people aren't going to want to read this. However, if you do ANYTHING with this book, you must read the prologue, which has been universally praised as an opening tour de force of little equal. So good is the prologue, which describes the final game in the Giants-Dodgers series in 1951 and Bobby Thompson's "shot heard 'round the world," that it was re-published as Pafko at the Wall: A Novella.

The ball that Bobby Thompson hits is painstakingly tailed by DeLillo into the modern age, as we are treated to a host of characters that are all intertwined by the fabric of 1990s American culture.

One can read fuller editorial reviews of Underworld at

Have a great weekend!

Photo of the Week - September 22, 2005

Here's a new feature on Billyblog: the photo of the week. This week's photo is a close-up of a New York City subway map at the 23rd Street station in Manhattan. A fellow straphanger has doctored the map to include an additional stop on the E & F lines in Queens.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

New Rock Star

The must-watch show in my home this Summer was Rockstar:INXS. I know reality TV gets a bad rap, but the producer of Survivor, Mark Burnett, knows how to create and produce riveting television. Throw rock 'n' roll in the mix and we were transfixed. Call it a thinking person's American Idol, only everyone was talented and the songs were all good.

Last night INXS selected their new lead singer, with the rock star name of J.D. Fortune. J.D. was the most controversial figure on the show; he had the arrogance of, well, a lead singer in a famous rock band, but he could back that arrogance up with vocals that sounded like INXS. Marty Casey, the Chicago-born runner-up, was a nicer guy, and a more progressive rock vocalist, but perhaps the more modern sound that he espoused was his undoing. Not that this will hurt Marty, who was a favorite in our house. Ultimately, I think his star will rise, either as a solo act, or with his old band, the Lovehammers.

J.D. ultimately stepped up and produced, what I think, a better original song, a dark lyrical journey called "Pretty Vegas," which was punctuated by a portion sung through a bullhorn. Marty's original song, "Trees," which was clearly a fan favorite, will more than likely attract more airtime. However, I was much less impressed by J.D.'s lyrics. Compare the chorus from "Pretty Vegas":

It ain't pretty
After the show
It ain't pretty when the pretty leaves you
With no place to go

versus "Trees":

It'll be you and me
Up in the trees
And the forest will give us the answer
It'll be you and I
Up in the sky
It's a combination for disaster

Anyway, that's that and INXS is whole again. Melanie had the opportunity to see them at least once in the '80s and I had the pleasure of seeing them rehearse their "new" song "Suicide Blonde" while working on the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards. I was a production assistant for MTV at the time and, as part of the crew, had free reign of the Universal Amphitheatre in the week before the show. We often sat in the seats and watched the performers run through their songs. At one point, I was tasked with giving something to an assistant director, and had the thrill of standing next to Michael Hutchence on stage as he was talking to the A.D. One of the most disturbing parts of the INXS show was the overavoidance of talking about Hutchence.

Regardless, the show was, in my opinion, a smashing success and a pleasure to watch.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I had my pal Jill pick a number between 1 and 3, each representing a book stacked on my desk. The winner: Don Delillo's Cosmopolis. I understand this is not his best, but it is a thin tome and, despite a failed attempt to get through chapter 1 a couple years back, I'm giving it another shot.

So, it is the age-old dilemma: why read a lesser work by an author when there are other, more heralded works in his or her body of work? With Delillo, I have read Underworld, White Noise, and Mao II, all of which are phenomenal. Underworld, in fact, is #20 on my list of all-time favorite books. Yes, I have such a list, I make no apologies for my dorkishness. But why this one instead of Libra, End Zone, or The Body Artist?

Perhaps the setting. Mostly in a limo going crosstown from the East to the West side of Manhattan. I made it through chapter 1 yesterday. I'll keep you all posted.

In another note, I completed a poem yesterday called "Filling Cavities," at the dentist's office while Jolee was in getting a couple of fillings. Once I've toyed with it a bit, I'll put it up here for your perusal.

Monday, September 19, 2005

New York Times Funny Pages

The esteemed New York Times Magazine has a new feature called "The Funny Pages." I mention it because it is worth checking out.

You may have to register first with the Times to access this page, but it is free. What's so good about? It comes in three small sections, each representing three genres: "the graphic novel, genre fiction and the humorous first-person essay." Of these three, the fiction prompted me to bring up the pages in this forum.

The serialized genre fiction is by Elmore Leonard, best known for Get Shorty. Installment one, appearing yesterday, and a manageable quick read, deals with a German prisoner of war in a POW camp in the United States during WWII. Whereas many of us are familiar with "Hogan's Heroes," little has been written about enemy prisoners held in the United States. Guantanamo Bay it's not.

If you get a chance, it's a quick read each week, and should last you through December 18.

Saturday, September 17, 2005



Manhattan is a gargantuan expanse
but there he is, at every reading I attend:
wooden eyes, baseball cap, dirty coat,
pushing past me-
trailing the scent of unwashed man.

©William Dickenson Cohen, August 2005

Friday, September 16, 2005

Best American Poetry Reading

Last night I attended a reading at The New School for The Best American Poetry 2005. Every year they have one of these and every year, I try to attend. Those who don't know me well should know that I am an avid fan and collector of poetry, with an emphasis on anthologies. The BAP series, as I affectionately call it, is the cornerstone of my collection, and I possess all 19 volumes, back to the inaugural 1988 edition. All in hardcover, all signed by multiple poets.

It is a passion and an obsession. So when Melanie had the great opportunity to see Alanis Morrisette and the Rolling Stones last night at Giants Stadium, I was not so jealous, knowing I would be in an air-conditioned auditorium listening to poetry.

Normally after such events I send out to a select few individuals a recap of the event and a summary of my signing exploits. I figured I'd try it here in an abridged version.

BAP '05 has a high concentration of New Yorkers, so the following people were listed as reading on the program: Paul Muldoon, Shanna Compton, Elaine Equi, Edward Field, Leonard Gontarek, George Green, Marilyn Hacker, Matthea Harvey, Stacey Harwood, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Vicki Hudspith, Sarah Manguso, D. Nurkse, James Richardson, Jerome Sala, Jason Schneiderman, Susan Wheeler, Matthew Yeager, David Lehman, Mary Karr, John Ashbery and Christine Scanlan. Twenty-two in all. Enough for any autograph-hungry anthology-collector to drool over.

Just prior to the event I watched enviously as the contributors milled about passing their copies around like high school students, getting signatures from one another. I was dismayed by the absence of John Ashbery from the crowd. He is usually seated right up front and is always amenable to signing books after the event.

Paul Muldoon as guest editor and David Lehman as series editor sat on the stage. Lehman introduced Muldoon who made some general remarks and then emceed throughout, introducing each of the poets using the blurbs from the contributor's notes. Lehman read an A.R. Ammons poem first, then Ashbery came out on stage from the side where there is a green room. He looked healthy and read his poem and a new, unpublished piece called "A Worthy Country." Notable image: "The crescent moon hung in the sky like a parrot on its perch." When finished, he exited the stage the same way he came. That was all I saw of John Ashbery that night, although I later overheard David Lehman telling someone that he had heard John was seen walking alone by himself to Lulu's, which was where everyone met after the event.

The reading proceeded with each contributor being introduced, coming up on stage, reading their poem from the book and then returning to the audience. They went in alphabetical order. After Vicki Hudspith, Muldoon read a David Justice poem published posthumously. He then announced that Mary Karr had missed her flight and proceeded with the remaining eight readers.

I was going to list all the titles of the poems but i do not have the time. By the way, the cover of the redesigned book is done by Alex Katz.

I will again spare the play-by-play for the signing part of the night, but will summarize:

Doppelganger was there. For those of you who do not know of or about Doppelganger, he will be discussed in a future post. I obtained 16 signatures of the 20 possible (I exclude Ashbery and Karr). In the hubbub, I was not able to get to Marilyn Hacker, Shanna Compton, George Green or Christine Scanlon. In additional BAP volumes, I obtained 7 additional signatures from Equi, Harvey, Lehman, Manguso, Nurske and Wheeler. Also, Lehman inscribed for me a copy of Evening Sun, as well as proofs of the same and BAP 96. Equi and Sala (husband and wife) signed their pages in issue 1 of New American Writing, and were pleased to see a copy of it. Muldoon signed his hefty book of Poems for me. Field signed his contribution in my Exquisite Corpse anthology, Preferences, and a translation of an Inuit poem he did on a Poetry in Motion postcard.

All in all, 32 autographs from 16 poets. A wonderful night of reading and signatures to boot. Not to focus too much on the signings, but a word more on the readings. Muldoon has always struck me a serious yet funny poet. His work that I'm familiar with is laced with humor. His demeanor at readings (this is the fourth or fifth time I have heard him) is always bright and humorous. That said, a significant portion of the poems I heard were in that vein. They were edgy, unusual and not overwhelmingly "academic". I prefer that same sort of demeanor in my own poetry as well. 'Twas a wonderful time indeed.

Added 12:31 PM EST:

For a different perspective of the reading, from one of the poets, check out

Thursday, September 15, 2005

One Week Old

Despite the report that I've been a member of Blogspot since July 2004, I have only now achieved the overcoming of the first day curse. Billyblog has been up and running for a week now. Disclaimer: I do not claim to be the inventor of the term "Billyblog." Case in point:

I discovered this last night while googling billyblog. So be it, hopefully the other billyblog won't declare war on me. I strongly believe that the web is big enough for two billyblogs. At least the other billyblog's politics seem to be on the same side of the building as mine. Perhaps my billyblog would become oxyblog or something else if my counterpart in blog-city was dedicated to hatred, infringement of freedom, and/or NAMBLA literature.

To clarify the comment I made yesterday about the iPod. I don't have the white earphones (making me less of a target for podthievery on the subways), but I do take pride in the fact that I have a huge amount of tracks (7051) and they are so diverse. See, just dragging it out like this shows how I can be quite a bit of a dork and insufferable about it. Anyway, to further seal the deal, this is the playlist of what my iPod selected for me on shuffle on the way to work this morning:

"Scentless Apprentice" by a band called Flipper from an album called "Smells Like Bleach: A Punk Tribute to Nirvana."

"5 Minutes Alone" by Pantera

"Breaking the Girl" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

"Cakewalk into Town" by Taj Mahal

"Instinct Blues" by The White Stripes

"I Fought the Law," Green Day's version

"Yellow Ledbetter" by Pearl Jam, live in Holland, October 14, 2000

"Baba O'Riley" covered by Jordis Unga on the TV show "Rockstar: INXS."

"Till the Morning Comes" by Neil Young

"Deer Dance" by System of a Down

"Headspace" by Velvet Revolver

"Crazy Train (live)" by Tenacious D (Jack Black's band)

"Don't Break Me Down" by the Donnas

"Rapid City, South Dakota" by Kinky Friedman

"Nobody's in Love This Year" by Warren Zevon

"The Two of Us" by the Beatles

Don't worry, I won't be doing this every day.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bukowski, Still Kicking

As many of you who know me know, I have an iPod and, although I'm not one of those people that has all the colored accessories, and the white headphones, etc., I do talk about it to close friends and family about it more than I should. Anyway, this little device is my companion in the morning on the way to work which often influences my early morning thoughts.

Case in point: yesterday morning, iPod shuffle selected a Warren Zevon tune for me as I walked into the office. Today, on the way to work, I heard two separate tracks of Charles Bukowski reading his poetry.

It is amazing to me (in addition to the wonderfulness of his work), that Bukowski continues to enjoy success as a poet, even eleven years after his death. His books still sell. His signed items on eBay fetch hundreds of dollars. And sure, you can say that about a lot of dead writers, but Bukowski continues to publish new poems. Huh?

The guy wrote so much and sent so many pieces out to literary magazines, that his "new" poems continue to appear in literary magazines. And, for the second time in the run of The Best American Poetry series, a Bukowski poem has been anthologized in the 2005 volume. This is also on my mind as I am attending a reading for the series tomorrow night at The New School, and am fairly certain Bukowski will not be there. Anyway, kudos to Guest Editor Paul Muldoon for selecting a Bukowski poem. I was going to leave you today with the second poem I heard this morning, which happens to be one of my favorites, but alas, I couldn't easily copy it online. So here is another, a consolation of sorts, another favorite of mine:

The Genius Of The Crowd

there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day

and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

those who preach god, need god
those who preach peace do not have peace
those who preach peace do not have love

beware the preachers
beware the knowers
beware those who are always reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
beware those quick to praise
for they need praise in return
beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
seeks average

but there is genius in their hatred
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
to kill anybody
not wanting solitude
not understanding solitude
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their own
not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect

like a shining diamond
like a knife
like a mountain
like a tiger
like hemlock

their finest art

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Zevon, Two Years Gone

Hard to believe Warren Zevon passed away 2 years ago last Tuesday in 2003. When listening to his music, I am still moved by the dark complexity of his lyrics and riveting sound of his voice. It is unfortunate that he is best known for "Werewolves of London," when he wrote so many other great songs. I have been a fan of his since the 1970's when I bought the 45 of Werewolves, which featured the B-side "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner." "Roland" is my sentimental favorite of a long list of great songs. I bought the single as an 11-year old in 1978 and pretty much thought that Zevon's lyrical cursing, referring to "that son-of-a-bitch Van Owen," was pretty scandalous.

Zevon was always topical, as in this excerpt from 1980's title cut "The Envoy:"

Nuclear arms in the Middle East
Israel is attacking the Iraqis
The Syrians are mad at the Lebanese
And Baghdad do whatever she please
Looks like another threat to world peace
For the envoy
Send the envoy . . .
Send for me

I recommend any Zevon, but there are 2 discs that are great intros to the arc of his career. The 2-disc collections of "Genius" and "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" are both nice greatest hits packages. Of course, they pre-date Zevon's coda "The Wind," a haunting farewell from one of my favorite singer-songwriters.

Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath

Keep me in your heart for awhile

If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less

Keep me in your heart for awhile

Monday, September 12, 2005

Sunday Cycling

Hi all, a bit tired here. Rode in the NYC Century Bike Tour yesterday. Had hoped at the beginning of the Summer that I could pull off the 100 mile route, but "settled" for the 55-er instead. It was a gorgeous day in the city, quite like the September 11 from four years before. Several riders had pictures pinned to their jerseys. Airplanes flew in the cloudless sky. Beautiful, haunting, amazing. When people wonder why I live in this city, I offer many replies. One I have yet to invoke is the feeling of wonder and awe at riding on Manhattan city streets on a Sunday mornings, when the cars are merely nuisances (rather than dangers).

On another note, I mentioned this to Melanie, but cycling jerseys are a bike-rider's unique signature. Or sometimes, a team bond. The attached photos are the three coolest jerseys I saw yesterday:

Saturday, September 10, 2005

You've Got to be Kidding, Department

This was in today's New York Times selection of grocery coupons. Is it me, or, gee, is this a bad idea?

The Goat and New Orleans

Ok, so the blog seems to be a hit, based on some feedback I have received from some folks. Readers are always welcome to post comments too. I've added a little thingamajig to the blog that tracks visits to the site and e-mails me the following day with the totals. There were 8 hits yesterday, although it is not sophisticated enough to tell me if was just me checking out the site to see if anyone left comments.

One reader e-mailed me and said "What's with the goat?" I guess I should explain that the photo in my profile was taken by Jolee on our recent vacation in Hawai'i at the Ferreira family ranch, Pihanakalani. The goat, who is a fine goat by goat standards, goes by the name "Re-Pete." He was one of a pair of twin goats the Ferreiras had, the first, Re-Pete's brother, was named Pete. I'll wait for the chuckling to subside.

It is Saturday morning and we are all mulling about, packing up a few boxes of clothing for a friend of our pal Rebecca Kendig, who works with Rebecca as a social worker in New Orleans. Rebecca is fine and got out of the Big Easy before Katrina hit, but had a harrowing journey, from weathering the storm out at a friend's in Mississippi, then weaving her way to the airport in Atlanta, and making it back to her folks' in Southern California. From all available signs, good news on Rebecca's house, which appears to have not been flooded. Of course, all of our thoughts and prayers go out to the good people of New Orleans. Both Melanie and I had the pleasure of visiting the city, on separate occasions, in 2003 and 2004. I spent most of my time at the Convention Center for a conference, so it was particularly unsettling to see the thousands stranded there in conditions quite different from what I had experienced at the annual Society for Human Resource Management convention.

I hate long blog entries, so I will cut this off now, but end on this note. Here comes my avoidance of the political. Last week at a televised fund-raiser, rap star Kanye West declared "George Bush doesn't care about black people," a sweeping generalization that I do not think is entirely true. But in last night's multi-network telethon Chris Rock hit the nail on the head: "George Bush hates midgets." Thus confirming why Billy Barty was overlooked for any cabinet positions in 2000, which ended, as we all know, with the diminutive actor dying in December 2000 from heart failure.

Have a good weekend.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Fear not, I haven't gone postmodern on y'all, but I'm mixing it up here. A complimentary issue of BookForum magazine (Summer 2005) arrived in yesterday's mail and there is a large article on Thomas Pynchon and Gravity's Rainbow written by Gerald Howard (a Bay Ridge native, no less) and accompanied by "appreciations" by 20+ other writers, including Don Delillo, Tom Robbins, Jeffrey Eugenides, and many more. I am proud to admit that I actually read this amazing book in the early 90's, with the aid of a companion text to help me understand what the hell was going on.

It is by far the most difficult text I have ever read and the several months that I took reading it while working at Bank of America were completely gratifying. Anyway, this was on my mind this morning as I read Howard's article, which I have almost finished. Next will be the appreciative paragraphs from all the other writers. One thing that resounded was the statement that the opening line of the novel is the most memorable since Melville's "Call me Ishmael...".

GR opens with the line "A screaming comes across the sky" which alludes to the V-2 rocket launched by the Germans in WWII. These haunting six words echo over 30 years after they first appeared in print in 1973. Think: the video of the firemen working in lower Manhattan as they hear the roar of United Flight 11 as it accelerates and smashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. A screaming came across the sky. I knew, from Sixth Avenue, as I watched the plane I had seen just moments before detonate on the horizon, that the world would never be the same.
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Thursday, September 08, 2005

First day of school

Launching this blog with Jolee and Shayna on their first day of fourth and first grades, respectively. This is my third or fourth attempt to stick with this, so we'll see what happens. Comments are welcome, as are suggestions. Bill
Jolee and Shayna on their first day of school today. Posted by Picasa