Saturday, June 30, 2007

100 Movies, 100 Quotes, 100 Numbers Montage

This is cool. Thanks for Benjie for dropping it my way.

The clip is posted with a key to all the movies here.

First Gift of the Birthday Season

Turning to the personal, I got my first birthday present last night from my beloved mother-in-law. The photo below is not the exact version of the gift, but it has the same message.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Sawhorse, Rest In Peace

I'm posting this because it's a great picture. The girl screaming just off center-frame is classic Beatlemania. This is taken from an article in the New York Times about the demise of the classic police barrier in New York City, and the rise of the "French barrier" (pictured below with some colorful New Yorkers)

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Another New York Post Cover that Warms the Collective Heart

Front Page

Sometimes, you just gotta doff your cap to the evil geniuses at the New York Post. When the Daily News takes the high road, the Post paves the gutter with journalistic gold.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pearl Jam in Copenhagen, June 26, 2007

Tonight in Denmark, Pearl Jam played "Love, Reign O'er Me" for the first time in concert. The Ten Club message board is awash with envy, yet proud that the band unveiled their best set-list on their 13-gig leg in Europe for the Danes. Their last trip to Denmark had a profound effect on the band due to a tragedy in which nine fans died.

Stay tuned for more details about this epic show, during which the following setlist was played:

Preset: Throw Your Arms Around Me

Main Set List: Long Road, Corduroy, Why Go, Do the Evolution, In Hiding, LOVE BOAT CAPTAIN, Love Reign O'er Me, Severed Hand, Light Years, Marker in the Sand, Given to Fly, Breath, I Am Mine, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town, Hard to Imagine, Life Wasted, Porch

1st Encore: No More (Ed Solo), World Wide Suicide, Down, Once, Black, Alive

2nd Encore: *Ed speech about coming back to Denmark,* Betterman, Rockin' in the Free World, Yellow Ledbetter

And here we go:

Thanks to all of you who visited via Heather at I Am Fuel, You Are Friends:

Listen: "Love, Reign O'er Me" (mp3). First Time Performed by Pearl Jam, Copenhagen, June 26, 2007.

And, oh, lookie: Eddie's pre-set, "Throw Your Arms Around Me"!

Friday Five on Tuesday the Twenty-Fifth

I haven't done one of these in a while, and can't wait until Friday. So there.

In case you're just joining us, it's five random tracks off of the BilliPod.

1) "Across the Universe," the great Beatles tune, featuring Billie Joe Armstrong, Bono, Steven Tyler, Brian Wilson, Tim McGraw, Scott Weiland, Alicia Keys, Alison Krauss, Norah Jones, and Stevie Wonder, backed by members of Velvet Revolver. Snagged from the blog Music for Kids Who Can't Read Good.

According to wikipedia, this version is from the 2004 Grammy Awards ceremony in February 2005. The following week, a recording of the performance was released exclusively for purchase through the iTunes Music Store. All proceeds from the sale went to funds for victims of the 26 December 2004 Tsunami. Sales from the benefit release made it the fastest-selling download in iTunes history and allowed the song to peak at #22 on the Billboard singles chart. This version has a lyric change: "Nothing's gonna change my world" was changed to "Something's gonna change my world."

If you missed this the first time around, it's pretty impressive:

"Everytime I Look for You" by blink-182, track 10 off their smash album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.

"Baby, Please Don't Go" by John Lee Hooker, from his album Burning Hell. This old blues standard originally by Big Joe Williams has been covered by a ton of folks. On the BilliPod alone, I have versions by Big Joe, Bob Dylan, The Doors, Lightnin' Hopkins, Aerosmith, MC5, and Them (with Van Morrison).

Here, Listen: "Baby, Please Don't Go" (mp3) by Them, via Live Journal.

"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by The Black Crowes from the I Am Sam soundtrack.

and finally.....

5) "Everybody Getting High" from one of Mick Jagger's solo albums Goddess in the Doorway. I honestly think that this solo effort from Mick is better than most of the Rolling Stones' recent work. (Rebuttal, Melanie?)

Monday, June 25, 2007

"Into the Wild" Trailer

Do note at the end: "original songs by Eddie Vedder".

Written and directed by Sean Penn.


My New York Age is 37, How Can I Change My License to Relfect This?

Melanie sent me to an Age Quiz thingymabob, but it scares me. Instead, I tried this quiz and invite others to try as well:

My New York age is 37

This New York age puts you into a middle category between young and old (but not "middle age" per se). Be proud. You've got a nice balance between going out hard-core and staying in. You care about culture but also like some quiet nights. Keep it up, but think about expanding your horizons in the other directions. Head to Studio B or Anthology Film Archives for the first time, or finally check out the Village Vanguard or Elaine's for a dose of old-school NYC.

Does your age reflect how you're living? Let us know.

What's your New York age? Take the Time Out New York quiz and find out!

Reading Binge: Pacific Rim, Part 3, or After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Before I get to down to business, let me just say that the U.S. publisher has once again won the competition for most boring dustjacket. And the U.S. cover is designed by Chip Kidd, no less, which makes it even more surprising. Better examples follow.

The Pacific Rim Reading Binge Pendulum swings back to Asia, as I just finished the latest novel from the other, more famous Murakami, Haruki. After Dark was a quick read, and it is vintage Murakami.

I have purposely avoided reviews, but I have a google alert set for him, so every day I see a line or two from various outlets, and the reviews, or the promises of reviews seem to be positive.

This novel is also next up in the book club of the Bay Ridge Jewish Center, and Melanie read this ahead of me, her first experience with Murakami. I won't speak entirely for her, but I am pleased to report that she enjoyed the book and has indicated an interest in reading more of his work.

Anyway, After Dark, is a brief snapshot of a stretch of early morning night life in a Japanese city - our central character is a young girl name Mari who, through a series of typical Murakami encounters, crosses paths with a young musician, which propels the narrative forward smoothly along the wheels of night.

There is a plot involving a love hotel, its former female wrestler manager, a Chinese prostitute, and her client.

All very normal, but these events run parallel with the surreal. This is a Murakami novel, after all.

The narrator doubles as a film director, in a sense, painting a scene of a woman sleeping in a room. I'll go out on a limb and state that Murakami has made a woman sleeping alone in a bed more interesting than any writer before him.

Of course, this is an oversimplification. However, Murakami takes this bizarre reality-blurring sleeping/waking woman, and weaves her into the main plot with mastery and intrigue.

Questions are raised and, as dawn approaches, along with the end of the book, the reader realizes that many questions will go unanswered.

The final page comes and there is an aftertaste of frustration, a desire unfulfilled to get more of these characters, this world, this reality. I must say that this is not a new sensation for the avid Haruki Murakami fan, but we are used to it by now. It's like Sandy Koufax retiring at the height of his career. You realize he could have gone on and succeeded more, you wish he had, but then you understand why he stopped, and can't blame him for his choice. You are left with a feeling of lingering admiration.

And this Post-Murakami-Novel syndrome leaves you with pleasing aftereffects - you think about the book, and it continues to haunt you, or at least forces you to take pause and wonder, and marvel, at the significance of the journey you've just taken.

Very few writers accomplish that sensation as well as Haruki Murakami.

I still wonder about my favorite Murakaim novel, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and the constant affirmation I receive from other fans that this too is their favorite novel (see this prior post here for more).

After Dark
is not Murakami's best, but its still pretty damn good. A cool drink on a hot summer evening. Refreshing enough to cleanse the palette. Delicious enough to make you want more.

Some assorted reviews:

Review in the L.A. Times here.

And in the New York Times here.

Sy Brenner Celebrates 85 Years

Over the weekend, Sy Brenner, a WWII vet, former P.O.W., and genuine hero, celebrated his 85th birthday with family and friends in San Diego.

Family members were asked to contribute a memory, a snippet of words, an anecdote for the occasion.

Dear Old Dad (aka The Ancient One, Blessed Be He) was in attendance and recounted the event here. My contribution was not going to be Billyblog'ged, but the Ancient One prompted me in his post, so I shall share. It's a personal, prosey poem, and most likely means most to those who know and love Sy Brenner, as a friend, husband, father, and grandfather (or, in this case, as a zaidi). The poem follows the photo, taken in January 11, 2007, in San Diego, with Sy and Resa, his wife of 58 years (and my bubbi, as well).

“Instant Zaidi” for Sy Brenner, on his 85th birthday

Instant Zaidi: just add water
(Or get your dad to marry a zaidi's daughter).

When I met you, you were
Already family.
(I think. It was complicated)
When Donna married Leon,
you were promoted to Zaidi.

I became the first grandchild
at the age of 13.
You missed the cute baby phase,
the terrible twos
and all those other fun cute
adorable years.

I was a step-grandson but you
never treated me like anything
but a "full-blooded" family member.

Your kindness makes me smile.
Your jokes reminded me of
my Florida grandfather.
But I could talk about baseball
with you.
I loved coming to your house,
Hanging out, watching baseball on a big TV,

throwing a soggy tennis ball
with Mickey, listening to your stories.

Time passed, other grandchildren
entered the world. I still felt that bond,
I was the first one to call you Zaidi;
you were the first one to let me.

I never met my namesake,
Instant Zaidi, you were a worthy replacement.

I wasn't a Dodger fan when we met, Instant Zaidi,
I was a Tigers fan.
For a Padres fan, I'm sure that made me
a bit more lovable. (And you still liked
me after the '84 World Series).

As I grew into a full-fledged teenager,
you were still my Zaidi, although
trying to explain to kids in Hawaii
what a bubbi and zaidi were
proved challenging.

Coming to college in Southern California
meant I saw you even more.
So much so that I don't really remember
any Passovers from 1986 to 1997
when I wasn't at a seder with you. Thanksgivings too.

Melanie remembers
her first Thanksgiving
in the Brenner home.
A Thanksgiving food fight.
No, that’s not the right word,
Food skirmish,

Ronnie covering your head
With whipped cream
Then holding Sadie the dog up
So she could lick it off.
We rolled in the aisles.

I always remember laughter
whenever we came to visit.

Ten years ago we headed East,
And I took away
Your first great grandchildren.

To Jolee and Shayna
You have always been Zaidi
(so you were instant Zaidi
the moment they were born).

When last I saw you and Bubbi just back in January,
I was in town for some unpleasant work:
a surprise closing of an office.
But Seth drove down, picked me up
And we drove out to see you,
Popped in and surprised you.

That twinkle in your eyes
When you saw us and smiled,
canceled out the earlier events of the day.

We stayed and chatted for a bit
Before heading back to L.A.
I still can’t get over
How happy you were to see us:
How wonderful I felt
Knowing that the detour to see you
Was well worth the trip.
Your smile and embrace
transporting me North,
and remaining with me
on the flight home to New York.

You started off as an Instant Zaidi,
But you became just Zaidi,
Have epitomized zaidi-ness
for thirty-six years
and now you are Always Zaidi,
will always be Zaidi,
today, tomrrow
and forever.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Reading Binge: Pacific Rim, Part 2, or Flight by Sherman Alexie

I mentioned, in my last book post (here) that I had read 2 tomes in a lickedy-split zoom. The second book was born on the other side of the Pacific, up in Seattle. And it took me less than a day (2 R-ound trips on the subway) to zip through Sherman Alexie's Flight.

So I blurbed the new Alexie book when it first hit stores (and review sections) in late April.

I professed excitement, but I didn't rush out to read it. I like Sherman Alexie and appreciate his short stories (in the New Yorker and Ten Little Indians, among others), his films (Smoke Signals), his poetry, and his novels (Indian Killer, among others). He's a younger, hipper, funnier version of Louise Erdrich. And his occasional homoerotic subject matter predates Brokeback Mountain consciousness.

Anyway, the appearance of Flight at the local library offered me the opportunity to grab the book and, er take flight with it. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

In a nutshell, our main character, in a great opening salvo, introduces himself as "Zits". He is a troubled orphaned Native American teenager in Seattle, with anger and abandonment issues. You can read the opening lines (and chapter) here.

An encounter in a bank heist gone wrong affords Zits' persona to travel in time (seemingly) backwards, Hopping into the bodies of individuals on the periphery of American Indian
historical significance.

He switches sides too, from FBI agent to Sioux at Little Big Horn to cavalry officer on the frontier, to early Native American facing the White Man, and back to modern Seattle.

The brisk narrative flies by as Zits learns and grows through his experience with different perspectives.

In the end, he emerges transformed by his flight through time. The science fiction aspect is nicely downplayed and there's a thin veneer separating the question as to if the journey was supernatural or imagined internally.

The nice thing is that the question is made irrelevant as we see a change that occurs. It is not the cause but the effect. The journey is important but the final destination is the crux of the narrative.

I completed this on four subway rides. Alexie is a master storyteller and he is at the top of his economic game here. Despite the speed of the story, the reader gets to know the protagonist quickly and his transformation made him, at least to me, a likable presence in the book.

I would definitely recommend this as a powerful, yet quick, journey through the mind of one of America's premier storytellers.

Alexie's website, here, is a great resource, including links to reviews and a blog of his current book tour.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Another milestone for BillyBlog, as we registered our 25,000th hit this morning from a reader in New Zealand. At approximately 2:49 EST, someone in this great big world googled the phrase "christina aguilera instant karma mother free mp3" which eventually drew them to my post here which referenced the Instant Karma Save Darfur project which includes a cover of John Lennon's "Mother" by Christina Aguilera.

And so it goes. Next stop, 30,000!

Thanks again to all of you who helped me get there.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

End of the Week-est Links

A beer after my own heart! Article here.

The 600 Club

So everyone knows about this:

Sammy Sosa hit his 600th career home run last night in Texas. Throw a rock and you'll hit a news article about it.

But there was another 600th milestone the other night that very few (if anyone) noticed.

In Madrid, on June 9, 2007, toward the end of their set, Pearl Jam played the song "Even Flow".

This performance marked the 600th performance of the song. They've since played it three times more. But this is the king of Pearl Jam songs, far ahead of the classic "Alive," which has been played 78 times less.

Both songs premiered live, when the band was still called "Mookie Blaylock" on October 22, 1990 at the Off-Ramp Cafe in Seattle.

Just a little PJ trivia for you. More on "Even Flow" here.

(A little later....of course then they skip playing "Even Flow" at their show in London on 6/18 and tonight's show in Dusseldorf.....ooh! an excuse to show tonight's poster!)

I don't know what's cooler, the performance, how awesome this person's seats were, or what Eddie gives to the fan at the end of "Rats":

Poetry Quote o' the Day

Getting a poet to talk about his or her poem is like trying to get a dog to look into a mirror; no matter how well-groomed the poodle, these creatures prefer the smell of something real to their own scentless reflections.

--Billy Collins, in the introduction to Best American Poetry 2006

I like the quote, but how does that explain this?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Slow Week on the Yam Plantation

This runs a bit more personal. It has been a week in the blogdrums for me, but I am trying to break out of it.

As I write this, Jolee is reading Will and Abe's Guide to the Universe (which I am also reading). She is loving it and, unlike some of Groening's "Life in Hell" comics, this is about his kids, so it is age-appropriate. An excerpt (click to enlarge):

I am proud of the fact that I am introducing her to Groening's comics. I still recall looking forward to the L.A. Reader coming out every week in college so I could see the latest "Life in Hell" strip. That and "The Angriest Dog in the World," the comic by David Lynch.

More of these here.

Anyway, I know you are all still waiting for the review of book #2 in the duo of books I finished last week. Plus I finished another tome. And Melanie snagged me an excellent found item that is so dense with awesome foundness, its taking me a while to scan it for maximum fun.

So hang in there, pod'ners, the next two weeks are chock full of interesting bits, as I slouch toward my forties, and bid my thirties adieu.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Pearl Jam at Wembley, 2007

Father's Day Round-Up

It was a calm, relatively uneventful Father's Day, especially after Friday Night's Excitement.

I had a nice brunch/late lunch with the family, and friends Micah and Tracy, at Moutarde in Park Slope, at the corner of 5th and Carroll. I had a tasty wild mushroom and goat cheese omelette. Yum. Afterwards, we strolled along 7th Avenue for a street fair.

Sadly, late yesterday I learned from my mom that my Aunt Edna Scrafton had passed away in Indiana on Saturday. Although she had been in declining health of late, it still came as a shock, especially in light of the fact that it was 10 years ago yesterday that I learned that my grandfather Al Scrafton ("Pop-Pop") had passed away as well. Edna was Al's sister.

Unfortunately, most of my interaction with Aunt Edna was as a child, and I have no distinct memories of doing anything with her. Yet, until recently, I still received cards from her, and she was kept up to date about our goings-on in Brooklyn.

I do have one memory that is locked away in my BillyBrain, and that is from my cousin Noelle's wedding in the early 1990's. Aunt Edna was there, and we danced together at the reception. She was a wonderful woman, which was easy to ascertain just from her yearly cards and notes, and the brief moments we shared at the wedding. However, ask anyone on the Scrafton side of my family, or anyone who knew Edna, she was a caring, vibrant lady.

Even though she was not a daily fixture in my life, she was part of, and still remains, a panel in the tapestry of my life. I am saddened that I have so few memories of her, yet I am comforted by the fact that she was such a bright shining light for so many members of my family.

We'll miss you, Edna.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

On the Road with Leon

The following is an e-missive I composed in honor of my father's 60th birthday, in 1998. I thought it particularly appropriate to post it here, especially because it recollects the Summer of 1977, 30 years ago this season. I'm sure Dear Old Dad, The Ancient One, Blessed Be He, has this tucked away somewhere, but I thought it might be nice to resurface it for all posterity here on BillyBlog.

"On The Road With Leon"

In the summer of 1977, my father and I participated in an American ritual that I was too young to appreciate at the time, but looking back, cherish as a wonderful set of memories. In late July, Dad packed up the Buick and, with me in tow, headed West. It was a long journey, traversing 14 states and lasting several weeks. And at the end of the road, I emerged with a clearer sense of the American landscape.

My first vivid memory from the trip was our stop in Oklahoma City. I'm pretty sure it was a Saturday night. We caught a triple-A baseball game between the home town and the Denver Bears. As ten years of age, baseball was pretty much all I thought about, spending a lot of the time in the back seat of the car with two sets of baseball cards, two teams playing each other in a cross-country series of "dice baseball," a primitive (by today's standards) game in which two dice determined what happened in the game.

Anyway, all I remember about the game itself was that I didn't catch a foul ball, and Dad ordered an exotic dish called "Nachos," which was something quite new to me. Dad ate all the jalapeno peppers which, we discovered the next day, helped propel us out of Oklahoma and into the Texas panhandle. "Heat Waaaaaaaave!" Dad would bellow and a mini-explosion in the front seat necessitated the rolling down of windows to let in some fresh prairie air which kept me from asphyxiating.

That Sunday morning, we drove through a town called Maclean. I will always remember it because, in the five minutes it took to drive through it, we did not see a single soul. I thought this was amazing. Empty streets, tumbleweeds, an almost black-and-white texture. Years later, when watching the movie THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, I was reminded of that early Sunday morning in and out of Maclean.

I believe it was somewhere in New Mexico that we stopped and watched a Little League baseball game at dusk. The air was crisp and I can still hear the crack of the aluminum bat hitting the baseball. The outcome of the game was unimportant. The feeling was alien, here, watching strange kids with strange names on their uniforms playing a game I loved. Yet the sport served once again as a bonding experience between me and Dad.

Arizona is a desert blur, as was California. I still have the sensation, as we neared Los Angeles, of how striking the freeways were in their scope and size. Quite different from the rural routes surrounding Springfield.

In Los Angeles, we spent time in Beverly Hills with Grandpa Abe and Grandma Martha. We also visited with Sy and Resa Brenner. I remember playing in their yard with their dog, Mickey, and for some reason, an unlit back room with a San Diego Padres cap hanging on the bedpost is burned into my memory. Aunt Bobby visited as well. We walked in Beverly Hills where we stopped at a B. Dalton bookstore and I bought a few Mad Magazine paperbacks. On our stopover in L.A., we visited Venice Beach, where a wave helped blow out one of Bobby's knees. In my innocence, I was
reprimanded by Dad when I asked, perhaps too loudly, "where were all the freaks?" This in response to an earlier comment about "going to Venice and seeing the freak show."

The high point of Venice was seeing a street performer juggling a bowling ball, a rubber chicken, and an M&M candy. All of these early L.A. memories seem to be from this time, although perhaps I am clumping together different events from different trips. I don't think so, though.

Next, I remember Las Vegas, much different now than it was in 1977. Circus Circus Hotel and Casino was there though, and I remember enjoying the arcade and watching trapeze artists swinging above our heads. One of the last things we did in Las Vegas was one of those father-son life lessons. Dad informed me he had $10 to spend and he was going to play ten silver dollars on a slot machine. This excited me. $10 was a lot of money. I was advised I had to stand behind a velvet rope since I was a minor. After six silver dollars, Dad had won a couple dollars back. The seventh one was lucky. He hit a hundred dollar jackpot. We're rich! I thought. Dad played the last three of his original ten bucks and cashed in. "See Billy," he said, "I cashed out when I was ahead. THAT'S the way to do it. Remember this." Well, I remember it, but that still hasn't stopped me from contributing more than my fair share to the good people
of Las Vegas. I like to think, however, that this early lesson has subconsciously guided me out of casinos before I gave anyone more than I had.

In Utah, Dad asked me if I wanted to stop playing dice baseball a moment to check out the magnificent canyons we were passing through. I looked up between dice rolls and acknowledged the sprawling vistas. The dice resumed and I let Dad know, "Okay Dad, let me know if there's any more scenery."

In Wyoming, I saw Old Faithful, but no bears. We were in Yellowstone Park and I wanted to see bears. I remember thinking I saw a bear's head and shouting "DAD! A bear!" The poor guy almost drove off of the winding road. That was the day I learned that it is not good to yell in cars. Especially if the word "bear" is involved. I remember we wound up behind a car with Oregon plates, driving extremely sloooooow through the park, and I looked out through the back window and counted at least eighteen cars behind us. I'm still wary of cars with Oregon plates.

We blinked and were in and out of Idaho.

In Montana, I didn't notice the big sky as much as the bullet holes in all the road signs. You didn't see too many bullet-riddled anything in Hawaii. We arrived in Billings, where we watched a rookie league ball game with the home team Billings Mustangs. Dad was heavily involved in a collegiate summer league in Springfield, serving as President one year of the Springfield Caps. The previous year, one of the players named Bob Morrison had been drafted by the Cincinatti Reds and was in Billings playing for their farm team. That was what drew us into Montana. THAT
night was when I retrieved a foul ball, definietely a high point of the trip.

Next thing we knew we were in South Dakota. Mount Rushmore was impressive, but I remember Spearfish more, because it was there, in a motel room, that we heard that Elvis Presley had died. That would have made it August 16 . Whenever the anniversary of his death is announced, I think of Spearfish, South Dakota.

From there we drove down to Iowa. At one point we were driving along the Iowa-Nebraska border and a piece of South Dakota was visible too. I was simultaneously looking at land in three separate states. I thought that was pretty cool. We stopped in Council Bluffs, Iowa to visit Coach Matthews, who had been at the helm of the Springfield Caps the year before.

From there we rolled back across the Mississippi and headed the final stretch of road back to Springfield. I do remember passing through Detroit, Illinois, with a population of less than a hundred. It was a long journey that had to come to an end, and so it did, but only after we had seen more of our country in a couple of weeks than most people see in a lifetime.

Together we shared a common experience that no one could take away or duplicate. As time passes, and memories fade, the uniqueness of an experience crystallizes. America is a constantly-changing canvas. If I were to follow the same route in the same car at the same time of year, I could only imitate a transcendent memory. As we rolled back across the Mississippi into the corn and soy bean fields of central Illinois, Dad and I left behind us a painting of the Western United States that fuels
my imagination even today. It was a gift from the Road, shared by Father and Son, priceless and permanent, forever engraved into my heart and soul.

Happy 60th Birthday Dad!
And Happy Father's Day too!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Pre-Father's Day Festivities



Friday Night was Family Pot Luck Shabbat at the Bay Ridge Jewish Center.

First there are services, then blessings, then pot luck dinner. After dinner, the kids run around and play, and then we usually go around the attendees and express what the best and worst of the week was for each of us.

We never got to the last part.

Melanie and I were sitting, finishing our meals. Shayna was in the lobby area in front of the ballroom where we were all eating, and Jolee was playing with some other kids nearby.


Shayna came in crying holding her head. This is not new for us. She's a tomboy and rough-houses with the best of them. I went to the kitchen to get some ice. When I came back into the ballroom, Melanie was holding Shayna's head. Her bright yellow shirt was now multi-colored, it was now bright yellow and red. Between the point when I went into the kitchen and came back, the blood had decided to flow. And flow it did.

Fortunately, in attendance last evening was the co-president of our congregation, Dr. Joel Sokol, an established Bay Ridge dentist who is a true mensch, in every sense of the word. He checked Shayna out as we dabbed at and wiped away the alarming amount of blood, icing her head as we sat her on the half-freezer in the kitchen. He examined Shayna and determined that she did not have any apparent head trauma of a serious nature (i.e. concussion, etc.). He suggested bringing her back to his office nearby and taking a closer look. He'd have better light to examine her under.

So off to Dr. Joel's office we went and after much swabbing and rinsing, he isolated the laceration, a nifty inch-and-a-half gash in my youngest spawn's scalp. At which point, Dr. Joel recommended two courses of action: the emergency room or, if we wanted, he'd sew her up then and there. Just be glad I shrank this image a bit:

We opted for Dr. Joel.

Sure, he's a dentist, but he's a mighty fine one.

He was great, distracting Shayna with leg-lifting games while he gave her scalp novocaine injections around the wound. After some time to let the scalp numb, he clipped some hair around the cut and applied antisceptic. Then I became more involved.

Here was my daughter, lying in a dentist's chair, and I was using the "sucky-thing" (duh, suction) to help drain the wound. The sucky thing worked and I really got a close-up view of not only the length of the boo-boo, but the depth too. Wow. The suction tugged at small loose bits of skin and hair. I was amazingly stable considering the gaping chasm I was facing. This was my daughter's head, this hole did not belong there. I was astonished and shocked. I cringed anticipating that I might see skull (I didn't, thank heavens), but I stood by patiently with the sucky-thing as Dr. Joel sewed the first stitch of fine nylon that matched Shayna's hair.

The problem with that first stitch was that it matched Shayna's hair a little too well. Dr. Joel switched to silk. The dark threads were easier to see and work with. Dr. Joel started sewing. He handed me tiny scissors to cut the threads after they were done. I never cut an umbilical cord, but I helped trim stitches. If you count the first nylon stitch as well, Shayna needed seven stitches in all to close the wound neatly.

It was an amazing start to a father's day weekend. We were home, we guessed, at about the time when we would have finished filling out the forms at the E.R., had we chosen that less palatable route.

Shayna met her pediatrician today to follow-up and make sure all was well. The doc was impressed with Dr. Joel's stitching and commented that he most likely had done a better job than whatever E.R. doc had done as well.

We are very fortunate that this was not as bad as it could have been, and that Dr. Joel was there to save the day!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Links

Check these out:

An interesting look into the final days of Tony Blair as Prime Minister, through the eyes of novelist Martin Amis.

These guys had way too much time on their hands.

This century-old ad for Theodore Dresier's Sister Carrie ran in the Paper Cuts Blog (my new favorite to check in on).

As I did here, I'm playing a little "What if...." game with this ad.

Charles Agvent has a signed copy (1 of 1500) published by the Limited Editions Club in 1939 for only $330.

Serendipidty Books
has a first printing of the second edition advertised above for only $875.

But the true prize would be a "true" first, of which there were reportedly fewer than 600 copies published, in 1900. Heritage Book Shop in L.A. has a copy for a cool $5000.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cool Site

This seems apropos as the fortieth anniversary of my birth is rapidly approaching.

This site here lets you easily figure out what song was at the top of the Billboard Charts the week you were born.

I had to try, no? And like, everyone who checks has to report back here in the comments section, so we can all have a groovy time.

So what was numero uno in the first week of July in the Summer of Love?

Listen: "Windy" (mp3) by The Association.

For those who know my spawn, the number 1 pop song the week Shayna was born was:

"Angel of Mine" by Monica. Awwww. Isn't that fitting to hear, right before Father's Day?

And Jolee? Would her #1 be appropriate as well? You decide:

Yes, it's "Macarena" by Los Del Rio.

The Mystery That is "Yellow Ledbetter"

This was dropped to me by Micah, as he knows what a tremendous Pearl Jam fan I am:

For those who don't know, "Yellow Ledbetter" is a Pearl Jam concert staple (236 performances, and counting) and it is intentionally ambiguous. There are no "official" published lyrics, by design. The words change whenever it is played live, and until it was released on Pearl Jam's Lost Dogs, a compilation of rarities and B-sides, it was unavailable except as an early B-side.

Reading Binge: Pacific Rim, Part 1, or Piercing by Ryu Murakami

So, before we begin, let me ask, which country published the book with the more disturbing cover?

The U.S.:

or the U.K.?

The U.K. cover is actually more true to the book, but enough about that....

There's an incredible feeling of accomplishment in finishing a book. I'm sure that this is a universal sentiment.

I mentioned in my post about the Mailer book that I had not completed anything recently. I finished that one last Tuesday. I just amazed myself by blowing through not one, but two more novels (albeit short ones) in four days.

The first one, for this post, is Piercing by Ryu Murakami, a Japanese writer unrelated to the more famous Haruki Murakami. Haruki is tops on my list of favorite writers. Ryu, not so much. Nonetheless, I still thought highly enough of him to pick up this latest novel without any planning or forethought.

I often will grab books at the library, keep them to read, and return them unmolested by my fickle, discriminating eyes. Sometimes I will even support the library by paying fines on books I ended up not reading. Such is the way of the BillyBrain.

And so it might have gone with Piercing, but I was fresh off the Mailer, basking in a post-biblio-coital aura, and I devoured it in one, two, two-and- a-half days. It was short (192 pages), disturbing, and absolutely riveting.

My history with the lesser of the Murakamis is interesting. I remember reading the unsettling debut novel Almost Transparent Blue, which won Japan's prestigous Akutagawa Prize in 1976. I can even place when I read the bulk of it: in New Orleans in June 2004. I was at a convention and read most of the novel while riding the stationary bicycle in the Hilton's gym. Shortly thereafter I read In the Miso Soup, which was also very good. But shortly thereafter I embarked on his sophomore effort, 1980's Coin Locker Babies. Somewhere in the middle I stopped reading it. I can't pinpoint why.

Let me lay it out on the line, Ryu (or Haruki too, for that matter) Murakami is not for everyone. He is less of a literary media darling than Haruki, as his books are more of the psychothriller genre. I'm generally not a big fan of psychothrillers, but Ryu is a cut above those with whom I am familiar.

His protagonists are damaged goods. They bear the psychological scars and baggage of being raised in late-20th century Japan. They come from broken homes and have impressive résumés of abuse and anger management issues.

These are bloody, disturbing books.

Like his previous works, Piercing delves into the world of illicit sexual lifestyles, and not necessarily in a titillating fashion. There is no sexual intercourse between the covers of Piercing, but human sexuality, and the unsettling variations on sex are core elements to the narrative.

Ultimately, this book is about violence. How sexual violence begets more violence. How abuse in childhood manifests itself in the lives of adults who bear the scars of that abuse.

The lives of the two main characters, Kawashima Masayuki, an ad-man in a seemingly vanilla marriage, and a young female S&M sex worker named Sanada Chiaki, intersect along the narrative arc.

The book opens with the Masayuki hovering over his new baby's crib, with his wife sleeping nearby. He is holding an ice pick and fighting his demons.

He concocts a plan to exorcise these demons, which brings Sanada Chiaki into his life.

We are not just told what is happening. We see inside the minds of these two disturbed products of a seemingly normal society.

Knowing what I have just related may be seriously off-putting to most. I did say that Piercing is not for everyone. From the get-go, however, as I swallowed the tension of the potential harm to the baby in the opening pages, I was drawn in and riveted.

I was disturbed by this narrative, but in a much different way than Mailer's manifestation of the young Adolf Hitler. Yet, I shook off the chill that the final scene of Piercing had sent down my spine, and I took a breath. I realized that Murakami had transported me to a dark, dark place. But now I was blinking in the sunlight, thankful for those things in life we may take for granted. This amazing writer's words tingled in my extremities, drawing me into a dark landscape, pinning me into a harrowing tale that pierced my imagination with tiny burning needles.

Some links:

A review in the Guardian here.

A review in the L.A. Times here. (Registration required)