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Where do all the hippies meet? SOUTH STREET! SOUTH STREET!

Spent the afternoon with my niece Janet visiting the Philadelphia Magic Gardens on South Street in South Philly. Took lots of pictures with my Lensbaby Composer lens (with Sweet 35 optic). Did some thrift store shopping on South Street, then had dinner at the Melrose Diner. Overall great day!

Photos can be seen here.

Magic Gardens in South Philly.
Mosaic artwork by Isaiah Zagar. Photo © Kathy Hand Spear 2012.
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R.I.P. Nora Ephron

Because if I tell the story, I control the version.
Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.
Because if I tell the story, it doesn't hurt as much.
Because if I tell the story, I can get on with it.

Nora Ephron’s character Rachel Samstat in "Heartburn" when asked “Why do you feel you have to turn everything into a story?”
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It's baby deer season!

Mama deer and her 3 babies visit our front door.

Snapped these guys outside our front door yesterday. You can only see two of the babies but she actually has three. One is hidden by the bushes.

iTunes is currently playing: Apron Strings from the album Acoustic by Everything But The Girl.

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I [heart] Apple to death!

You know how sometimes, when you find yourself surrounding by rude obnoxious people gabbing on cell phones, you wish the damn things had never been invented? Well, watch this iPhone commercial and think about it the next time the guy sitting behind you on the train takes out his cell phone and you want to smack him.

Directed by Sam Mendes. "When You're Smiling" sung by Louis Armstrong. Apple, you rock!

iTunes is currently playing: I Love To See You Smile by Randy Newman.

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A Very Merry Crafty Weekend

Niece Janet invited me to the Art Star Craft Bazaar yesterday at Penn's Landing where a fine time was had by all. I splurged on the following purchases:

Pendant made from broken plate, from the Broken Plate Pendant Company.

Juliet Ames (The Broken Plate Pendant Company) makes pendants, earrings, cufflinks, and other cool stuff out of -- you guessed it -- broken plates. Visit her web site or her Etsy shop.

Taxi Photo Earrings from Heidi Roland.

Heidi Roland creates "daring earrings for women who dare" ... dare to wear photos on their ears, I guess. She creates earrings from her own original photos as well as from feathers, shells, metals, and other materials. The earrings show actually contain 4 sections of the same photo. (Sections 1 and 4 are on the back.) You can see more of her pieces at her Etsy shop.

iTunes is currently playing: I Feel Pretty from the album West Side Story- Original Broadway Cast by Carol Lawrence and Marilyn Cooper.

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Bokeh

Playing with a new lens for my Olympus E-520: a Rokinon 85mm 1.4.

Test image from Rokinon 85mm 1.4.

iTunes is currently playing: Someone's In The Background from the album Hearts And Flowers by Joan Armatrading.

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American Life in Poetry #226 (Travel-themed!)

Occasionally I post an issue of Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry column, when its featured poem particularly hits home with me. The following poem reminds me of the afternoon we spent whale watching with a group of folks who cruised Alaska with us on the Diamond Princess last May. We saw so many whales that afternoon! It was one of the highlights of our cruise, and it was wonderful to share the experience with so many others. If you have ever traveled in a group, the poem may touch a chord with you, too.

American Life in Poetry: Column 226

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Elizabeth Bishop, one of our greatest American poets, once wrote a long poem in which the sudden appearance of a moose on a highway creates a community among a group of strangers on a bus. Here Ronald Wallace, a Wisconsin poet, gives us a sighting with similar results.


Sustenance

Australia. Phillip Island. The Tasman Sea.
Dusk. The craggy coastline at low tide in fog.
Two thousand tourists milling in the stands
as one by one, and then in groups, the fairy penguins
mass up on the sand like so much sea wrack and
debris. And then, as on command, the improbable
parade begins: all day they've been out fishing
for their chicks, and now, somehow, they find them
squawking in their burrows in the dunes, one by one,
two by two, such comical solemnity, as wobbling by
they catch our eager eyes until we're squawking, too,
in English, French, and Japanese, Yiddish and Swahili,
like some happy wedding party brought to tears
by whatever in the ceremony repairs the rifts
between us. The rain stops. The fog lifts. Stars.
And we go home, less hungry, satisfied, to friends
and family, regurgitating all we've heard and seen.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "Sustenance" from "For A Limited Time Only," by Ronald Wallace, (c) 2008. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. The poem first appeared in "Poetry Northwest," Vol. 41, no. 4, 2001. Introduction copyright (c)2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

iTunes is currently playing: Universal Traveler from the album Talkie Walkie by Air.

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Evian Roller Babies

I feel as if I am always the last person on earth to learn about a cool commercial or video or performer or whatever. Has everyone else known about Evian Babies for a while??



iTunes is currently playing: Have You Seen My Baby from the album Guilty: 30 Years of Randy Newman by Randy Newman.

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American Life in Poetry: Column 220

Another interesting poetry column from Ted Kooser:

American Life in Poetry: Column 220

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

One of the privileges of being U.S. Poet Laureate was to choose two poets each year to receive a $10,000 fellowship, funded by the Witter Bynner Foundation. Joseph Stroud, who lives in California, was one of my choices. This poem is representative of his clear-eyed, imaginative poetry.


Night in Day

The night never wants to end, to give itself over
to light. So it traps itself in things: obsidian, crows.
Even on summer solstice, the day of light's great
triumph, where fields of sunflowers guzzle in the sun--
we break open the watermelon and spit out
black seeds, bits of night glistening on the grass.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c)2009 by Joseph Stroud, and reprinted from his recent book of poems, "Of This World: New and Selected Poems 1966-2006," Copper Canyon Press, 2009, by permission of the author and publisher. Introduction copyright (c)2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

iTunes is currently playing: Black Diamond from the album Winter Solstice On Ice by The Rippingtons Featuring Russ Freeman.

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American Life in Poetry: Column 214

It's been a while since I posted one of former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser's poetry columns, but this one struck a chord with me so I decided to share it.

American Life in Poetry: Column 214

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Sometimes I wonder at my wife's forbearance. She's heard me tell the same stories dozens of times, and she still politely laughs when she should. Here's a poem by Susan Browne, of California, that treats an oft-told story with great tenderness.

On Our Eleventh Anniversary

You're telling that story again about your childhood,
when you were five years old and rode your blue bicycle

from Copenhagen to Espergaerde, and it was night
and snowing by the time you arrived,

and your grandparents were so relieved to see you,
because all day no one knew where you were,

you had vanished. We sit at our patio table under a faded green
umbrella, drinking wine in California's blue autumn,

red stars of roses along the fence, trellising over the roof
of our ramshackle garage. Too soon the wine glasses will be empty,

our stories told, the house covered with pine needles the wind
has shaken from the trees. Other people will live here.

We will vanish like children who traveled far in the dark,
stars of snow in their hair, riding to enchanted Espergaerde.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c)2007 by Susan Browne, whose most recent book of poems is "Buddha's Dogs," Four Way Books, 2004. Poem reprinted from "Mississippi Review" Vol. 35, nos. 1-2, Spring 2007, and reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. Introduction copyright (c)2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006


iTunes is currently playing: The Dreams Of Children from the album The Dreams of Children by Shadowfax.

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Come on, Prez-to-be ...

... talk to Damon Weaver!

Cute video of the day:



iTunes is currently playing: Once In A Lifetime from the album Stop Making Sense: Special New Edition (1984 Film) by Talking Heads.

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"Those were the days, my friend ..."

"We thought they'd never end ..."

Icy roadsign in Gary, Indiana.



iTunes is currently playing: Lonesome For A Place I Know from the album Idlewild by Everything But The Girl.
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R.I.P. Acres of Books in Long Beach, CA

Oh, my, the hours I spent there! Happy trails, Jackie and Phil.

Acres of Books

Resident Cat at Acres of Books

[L.A.Times] After 74 years in business, the independent bookstore giant with an inventory that topped 1 million volumes is closing down to make way for a redevelopment project. The two-story brick building will be transformed into a mix of housing and art galleries as part of the city's plan to connect downtown with its East Village Arts District.

Acres of Books opened on Pacific Street in 1934 and moved into the current building in the 1940s, taking over from a country-western bar and dance hall. Back then, Long Beach Boulevard was a hot spot for the Navy, packed with bars, tattoo parlors and mom-and-pop shops.

Founder Bertrand Smith and his son, E.P. Smith, worked more than a year to move into the site, shuttling hundreds of thousands of books in the back of a pickup. Over time, the downtown strip, starting from the shoreline, has given way to an arts renaissance and a 21st century economy of condos and Starbucks shops.

"We knew eventually it would catch up with us," said Jackie Smith, 68. She and her husband, Phil, plan to retire and travel. They've had time to say goodbye to the store, after selling their building to the city for $2.8 million three months ago.

Smith said she and her husband searched for months for a new location but didn't find one that met their needs for a large space on a modest budget. Once they sell their inventory, which in less than two weeks has gone from 700,000 to 500,000, they will join the list of independent L.A. area bookstores that have been ousted by sluggish sales or redevelopment.

"I hate to see it go," said Smith, whose husband inherited the store from his grandfather. "If we would have been able to hold on, we would have probably been here until we turned to dirt. But that's not possible."

iTunes is currently playing: The Book I Read from the [bootleg] album Live at the Sun Palace (Tokyo) by Talking Heads.

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Cool new chess set

Cool new chess set.

Carole King - Tapestry - I Feel the Earth Move ... is currently playing: I Feel The Earth Move from the album Tapestry by Carole King.
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Like Mother, Like Daughter

A friend of mine named Gay Courter is a best-selling author of both fiction and non-fiction. (You can read about her and her books at gaycourter.com.) In addition to her writing career, Gay has spent many years working as a guardian ad litem (child advocate) in the Florida foster care system.

Ten years ago Gay and her husband, Phil, adopted a 12 year old girl who had spent 9 years in the foster care system. During those 9 years, Ashley lived in 14 different foster homes and, sadly, was subjected to physical and emotional abuse by people who were being paid by the state to care for her.

In spite of how she suffered in foster care, Ashley thrived with her new family. She was an honor student and attended college on a full scholarship. During her college years she received many awards and devoted much of her time to being an advocate for kids in foster care. Currently, she travels the country, speaking to groups about her experiences in foster care.

Ashley has written a book called Three Little Words: A Memoir which was published this month by Simon & Schuster and she is currently making the rounds on talk shows. Tomorrow (1/15/08) she will be on Good Morning America and this weekend she will be interviewed by Nancy Grace.

Kudos to Ashley for all that she has accomplished in her short life (especially considering what she was subjected to during her early years). And congrats to Gay and Phil, who saw the potential in Ashley and made her a part of their loving family.

And check this out: Ashley gets top billing over Diane Keaton!

Ashley on TiVo

Carly Simon - Reflections - Carly Simon's Greatest Hits - Haven't Got Time for the Pain ... is currently playing: Haven't Got Time For The Pain from the album The Best of Carly Simon by Carly Simon.
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Happy Obit

Really. I dare you not to smile.

From the L.A.Times (Dec. 21, 2007):

Beverly Allen, dancing in her 80's.

Beverly Allen, a longtime professional dancer who joined the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies late in life and at 87 was the oldest showgirl regularly performing in a chorus, according to the 2005 Guinness World Records, has died. She was 90.

"Beverly Allen was . . . a bright and sparkling gem of a dancer," Riff Markowitz, producer of the Palm Springs Follies, said in a statement Wednesday.

The [Follies] dancers are 55 or older. Allen joined the company at 80 and retired at 87. During that time, "she reigned supremely over nine three-hour performances a week," Markowitz said.

"At 82 she was cartwheeling across the stage and being tossed from the arms of a 60-year-old male dancer to another who was 70," [her daughter Lora] Le Maire recalled of her mother. "I said, 'Mom, are you sure these guys are going to catch you?' She said, 'Sure, honey. They're kids.' "


Bryan Ferry - More Than This - The Best of Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music - Don't Stop the Dance ... is currently playing: Don't Stop The Dance from the album Boys and Girls by Bryan Ferry.
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Wal*Mart sells this adorable mini-digicam …

... for less than $20.00. It is quite popular among toy camera buffs.

VistaQuest VQ1005 Keychain Camera

VistaQuest VQ1005 Keychain Camera

This guy (Camera Hacker) tells you how to take it apart and improve its ability to focus to infinity, which is interesting.

But another guy has set up a web site where he shows us how he rigged this camera to take a series of timed photos and then sent his cat, Mr. Lee, out into the world with the rigged camera attached to his collar. When the cat returned home, the owner had a series of images showing him where his cat had been hanging out (and with whom), something the guy had always wondered about.

Here is a picture of the now world-famous Mr. Lee wearing his Cat Cam:

The world-famouse Mr. Lee and his Cat Cam

Mr. Lee's owner also sells these modified cameras, in case you want to know where your pet goes when you let him outside. (Of course we all know that pets should not be allowed to roam outside, but many people do anyway.)

And if you go here, you can view a photo gallery of cats, dogs, and robots wearing the Cat Cam. (No, you will not find any of my cats in the gallery. My cats are not allowed to roam outside.)

Another example of why I LOVE THE INTERNET!!!


Pat Metheny Group - Offramp - Are You Going With Me?
... is currently playing: Are You Going With Me? from the album Offramp by Pat Metheny Group.
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American Life in Poetry: Column 138

I haven't posted an ALP selection in a while. I hope you like this one. Enjoy.

American Life in Poetry: Column 138

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

You've surely heard it said that the old ought to move over to make room for the young. But in the best of all possible worlds, people who love their work should be able to do it as long as they wish. Those forced to retire, well, they're a sorry lot. Here the Chicago poet, Deborah Cummins, shows a man trying to adjust to life after work.

At a Certain Age

He sits beside his wife who takes the wheel.
Clutching coupons, he wanders the aisles
of Stop & Save. There's no place he must be,
no clock to punch. Sure,
there are bass in the lake, a balsa model
in the garage, the par-three back nine.
But it's not the same.
Time the enemy then, the enemy now.

As he points the remote at the screen
or pauses at the window, staring
into the neighbor's fence but not really seeing it,
he listens to his wife in the kitchen, more amazed
than ever--how women seem to know
what to do. How, with their cycles and timers,
their rolling boils and three-minute eggs,
they wait for something to start. Or stop.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by Deborah Cummins, and reprinted by permission of the author. Deborah Cummins' most recent book of poetry is "Counting the Waves," WordTech Communications, 2007. Introduction copyright (c) 2007 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.


Billie Holiday - 16 Classic Performances
... is currently playing: Time On My Hands from the album Billie Holiday: Portrait.
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“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

My copy arrived from Amazon via UPS at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday, the 21st. I finished it shortly before 1:00 a.m. on Sunday, the 22nd.

Wow. If you liked the first six books, you will LOVE #7. It was everything I had hoped for and then some. And it will make an amazing movie. I can hardly wait.

I'm sorry I didn't have time to re-read all six books before "Deathly Hallows" came out. I plan to re-read all seven one of these days. Maybe before I go see movie #7.

iTunes is currently playing: Seven Years from the album Tigerlily by Natalie Merchant.
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This made me laugh.

Text of rejection slip from editor A.J. Fifield to writer Gertrude Stein:

"I am only one, only one, only. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain ... I cannot read your MS three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly."

From Authors Guild Bulletin - Spring 2007.

iTunes is currently playing: Speak Like A Child from the album The Singular Adventures Of The Style Council by The Style Council.
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This quote makes me think of Sarah.

"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of Library."

- Jorge Luis Borges

iTunes is currently playing: The Book I Read from the [bootleg] album Live at the Sun Palace (Tokyo) by Talking Heads.
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American Life in Poetry: Column 120

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

The loss of youth and innocence is one of the great themes of literature. Here the California poet Kim Noriega looks deeply into a photograph from forty years ago.


Heaven, 1963

It's my favorite photo--
captioned, "Daddy and His Sweetheart."
It's in black and white,
it's before Pabst Blue Ribbon,
before his tongue became a knife
that made my mother bleed,
and before he blackened my eye
the time he thought I meant to end my life.

He's standing in our yard on Porter Road
beneath the old chestnut tree.
He's wearing sunglasses,
a light cotton shirt,
and a dreamy expression.

He's twenty-seven.
I'm two.
My hair, still baby curls,
is being tossed by a gentle breeze.
I'm fast asleep in his arms.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. From "Blue Arc West: An Anthology of California Poets" (Huntington Beach, CA, Tebot Bach, 2006), 117. Copyright (c) 2006 by Kim Noriega. Reprinted with permission of the author and Tebot Bach. Introduction copyright (c) 2006 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

iTunes is currently playing: Picture This from the album Picture This by Jim Brickman.
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For those of you who did not heed my warning …

... here is Jennifer Holiday singing "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" from the pre-Oscar festivities on E!







iTunes is currently playing: Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight from the album Best Live by James Taylor.

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Set your TiVo!

Jennifer Holliday, who played Effie in the original Broadway production of "Dreamgirls," will perform the show's big number, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," during E! Entertainment Television's "Countdown to the Red Carpet: The 2007 Academy Awards," airing from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 25.







iTunes is currently playing: Can't Let Go from the album Heart Still Beating by Roxy Music.
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American Life in Poetry: Column 088

American Life in Poetry: Column 088

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

This wistful poem shows how the familiar and the odd, the real and imaginary, exist side by side. A Midwestern father transforms himself from a staid businessman into a rock-n-roll star, reclaiming a piece of his imaginary youth. In the end, it shows how fragile moments might be recovered to offer a glimpse into our inner lives.

My Father Holds the Door for Yoko Ono

In New York City for a conference
on weed control, leaving the hotel
in a cluster of horticulturalists,
he alone stops, midwestern, crewcut,
narrow blue tie, cufflinks, wingtips,
holds the door for the Asian woman
in a miniskirt and thigh high
white leather boots. She nods
slightly, a sad and beautiful gesture.
Neither smile, as if performing
a timeless ritual, as if anticipating
the loss of a son or a lover.

Years later, Christmas, inexplicably
he dons my mother's auburn wig,
my brother's wire-rimmed glasses,
and strikes a pose clowning
with my second hand acoustic guitar.
He is transformed, a working class hero
and a door whispers shut,
like cherry blossoms falling.


Reprinted from "Folio," Winter, 2004, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2004 by Christopher Chambers, who teaches creative writing at Loyola University New Orleans. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

iTunes is currently playing: Superstars from the album The Grand Illusion by Styx.

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American Life in Poetry: Column 087

American Life in Poetry: Column 087

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

The first poem we ran in this column was by David Allan Evans of South Dakota, about a couple washing windows together. You can find that poem and all the others on our website, www.americanlifeinpoetry.org. Here Tania Rochelle of Georgia presents us with another couple, this time raking leaves. I especially like the image of the pair "bent like parentheses/ around their brittle little lawn."


Raking

Anna Bell and Lane, eighty,
make small leaf piles in the heat,
each pile a great joint effort,
like fifty years of marriage,
sharing chores a rusty dance.
In my own yard, the stacks
are big as children, who scatter them,
dodge and limbo the poke
of my rake. We're lucky,
young and straight-boned.
And I feel sorry for the couple,
bent like parentheses
around their brittle little lawn.
I like feeling sorry for them,
the tenderness of it, but only
for a moment: John glides in
like a paper airplane, takes
the children for the weekend,
and I remember,
they're the lucky ones--
shriveled Anna Bell, loving
her crooked Lane.


Reprinted from "Karaoke Funeral," Snake Nation Press, 2003, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2003 by Tania Rochelle. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
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American Life in Poetry: Column 086

American Life in Poetry: Column 086

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Linda Pastan, who lives in Maryland, is a master of the kind of water-clear writing that enables us to see into the depths. This is a poem about migrating birds, but also about how it feels to witness the passing of another year.

The Birds

are heading south, pulled
by a compass in the genes.
They are not fooled
by this odd November summer,
though we stand in our doorways
wearing cotton dresses.
We are watching them

as they swoop and gather--
the shadow of wings
falls over the heart.
When they rustle among
the empty branches, the trees
must think their lost leaves
have come back.

The birds are heading south,
instinct is the oldest story.
They fly over their doubles,
the mute weathervanes,
teaching all of us
with their tailfeathers
the true north.

Reprinted from "The Imperfect Paradise," by Linda Pastan. Copyright (c) 1988 by Linda Pastan. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Ms. Pastan's most recent book is "Queen of a Rainy Country," W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2006. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
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American Life in Poetry: Column 085

American Life in Poetry: Column 085

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

The Illinois poet, Lisel Mueller, is one of our country's finest writers, and the following lines, with their grace and humility, are representative of her poems of quiet celebration.


In November

Outside the house the wind is howling
and the trees are creaking horribly.
This is an old story
with its old beginning,
as I lay me down to sleep.
But when I wake up, sunlight
has taken over the room.
You have already made the coffee
and the radio brings us music
from a confident age. In the paper
bad news is set in distant places.
Whatever was bound to happen
in my story did not happen.
But I know there are rules that cannot be broken.
Perhaps a name was changed.
A small mistake. Perhaps
a woman I do not know
is facing the day with the heavy heart
that, by all rights, should have been mine.


Reprinted from "Alive Together: New and Selected Poems," Louisiana State University Press, 1996, by permission of the author. Poem copyright (c) 1996 by Lisel Mueller. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

iTunes is currently playing: Brand New Day from the album Brand New Day by Sting.

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Poetry for All

Ted Kooser was U.S. Poet Laureate from 2004 through 2006. During his tenure, he started a weekly poetry column called "American Life in Poetry". Current and past columns can be read online here. You can also sign up to receive each column via email.

The point of the column is to promote poetry. To this end, Mr. Kooser selects poems that are particularly accessible. He wants everyone to read and enjoy the weekly columns, not just people with advanced English degrees.

When one of his selected poems appears in my inbox, I stop whatever I am doing and give it my full attention. I am never disappointed.

I wrote to the folks at ALP to ask permission to include the column in my blog and my request was granted. I hope you all enjoy the poems as much as I do.

iTunes is currently playing: One Of The Things I Do So Well from the album Life Is Good by Livingston Taylor.

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American Life in Poetry: Column 084

American Life in Poetry: Column 084

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Many of this column's readers have watched an amaryllis emerge from its hard bulb to flower. To me they seem unworldly, perhaps a little dangerous, like a wild bird you don't want to get too close to. Here Connie Wanek of Duluth, Minnesota, takes a close and playful look at an amaryllis that looks right back at her.


Amaryllis

A flower needs to be this size
to conceal the winter window,
and this color, the red
of a Fiat with the top down,
to impress us, dull as we've grown.

Months ago the gigantic onion of a bulb
half above the soil
stuck out its green tongue
and slowly, day by day,
the flower itself entered our world,

closed, like hands that captured a moth,
then open, as eyes open,
and the amaryllis, seeing us,
was somehow undiscouraged.
It stands before us now

as we eat our soup;
you pour a little of your drinking water
into its saucer, and a few crumbs
of fragrant earth fall
onto the tabletop.


Reprinted from "Bonfire," New Rivers Press, 1997, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 1997 by Connie Wanek. Her most recent book is "Hartley Field," from Holy Cow! Press, 2002. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

******************************

American Life in Poetry provides newspapers and online publications with a free weekly column featuring contemporary American poems. The sole mission of this project is to promote poetry: American Life in Poetry seeks to create a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. There are no costs for reprinting the columns; we do require that you register your publication here and that the text of the column be reproduced without alteration.

iTunes is currently playing: Hearts And Flowers from the album Hearts And Flowers by Joan Armatrading.

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um, that’s what “fiction” is, folks

From the N.Y. Daily News:

Christians who mostly turned the other cheek as "The Da Vinci Code" climbed the best-seller list are launching a counteroffensive now that Dan Brown's novel is set to hit the big screen.

As the movie's May 19 opening draws nearer, Roman Catholic and other Christian leaders are unveiling new Web sites, taking out full-page ads to "debunk" the work's claims and speaking out in the media and from the pulpit.

The archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, denounced the book's controversial premise that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children, calling it "the stuff of imagination."

iTunes is currently playing: The Book I Read from the album Live at the Sun Palace (Tokyo) by Talking Heads.

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DROOL!!!

Kiefer Sutherland Signs on for THREE MORE SEASONS of '24'.

How do they cover all those tattoos? And why does Kiefer have Our Lady of Guadalupe tattooed on his arm?



iTunes is currently playing: Hero's Dream from the album Picture This by Jim Brickman.
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Elton John and I agree …

... that this year's Oscar show was the worst ever ... totally BORING!!!!!!!!! And apparently we are not alone.



Here are a few suggestions for next year:

1) Get Steve Martin or Billy Crystal to do the show. (DO NOT TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER or your show will suck.)

2) Nominate FIVE songs, not three.

3) Make a rule forbidding rap music from being nominated.

4) Don't put together montage after montage of film clips to break up the monotony of the show. (HINT: If the show is not monotonous, it won't NEED to be broken up.)

5) Don't keep telling us how great movies look ON THE BIG SCREEN in a pathetic attempt to increase theatre attendance. (HINT: If you stop making crappy movies, you won't have to do things to increase attendance.)

6) Make sure that at least ONE celebrity wears a dress that will have people talking the next day. (Think Bjork and her swan dress or Nicholson's ex-girlfriend in her tutu.)

iTunes is currently playing: I Love L.A. from the album Trouble in Paradise by Randy Newman.

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Why our daughters want to dress like tramps

This is Terry Hatcher ("Desperate Housewives") at the recent (televised) Grammy Awards wearing a transparent dress with nothing but boy-cut briefs underneath.

Don't they sell slips anymore?



iTunes is currently playing: Looking For Love On Broadway from the album JT by James Taylor.
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If you think your mother is a pain in the ass …

... listen to the sample cuts on "Amy's Answering Machine" Volume 1 & 2 (available individually or as a 2CD set) by Amy Borkowsky. When you stop laughing, you'll probably decide that your mom isn't so bad after all.

Amy's Answering Machine



iTunes is currently playing: Mother Stands For Comfort from the album Hounds Of Love by Kate Bush.
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Book Report: The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman

Do you think life sucks? Do you look around, take note of the pain that bombards us relentlessly as we move through life, and wonder why we don't all just blow our brains out and get it over with? If so, DO NOT read Alice Hoffman's "The Ice Queen". I cannot remember when I've read a drearier book. Not that the story and characters won't hold your interest. They will. But if you are prone to depression, you will pay the price for reading this book.

You have been warned.

iTunes is currently playing: Tears All Over Town from the album Idlewild by Everything But The Girl.

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No wonder he chose to write fiction

The current (March/April 2005) issue of Poets and Writers magazine includes an article about a young fiction writer from Thailand named Rattawut Lapcharoensap. The article says of Lapcharoensap, who recently published a collection of short stories called Sightseeing:

When he lived in Chicago, his parents frequently took in political dissidents and foreign refugees. One day, an old, scraggly man, a diswasher at a local restaurant, showed up and took over the family's couch. Lapcharoensap asked his mother who the man was and what kind of work he did. "He's a poet," his mother replied.


iTunes is currently playing: The Book I Read from the album Live at the Sun Palace (Tokyo) by Talking Heads.

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Cool Earrings

I really like the software (WordPress) that I am using for this web site. In my quest for "plug-ins" (WordPress enhancements) that I can use to make the site even spiffier, I stumbled upon the web site of ScriptyGoddess, a young lady named Jennifer who is a php/WordPress script writer extraordinaire.

In addition to her programming prowess, she is also an artist. She has an online business called Above The Fold that sells beautiful handmade origami earrings, among other things. I ordered the butterfly earrings shown below, but she also makes lovely crane earrings. Click here to visit her store.

Visit AboveTheFold.org for lovely handmade origami earrings.
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If you’re thinking of buying the new George Carlin book …

... you might want to reconsider.



George Carlin ended his relationship with the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with a devastating diss the other night. The caustic comic finished his four-year run with a dark set that included riffs on suicides and beheadings, and made it clear that he couldn't wait to get out of "this [bleeping] hotel" and Sin City.



The Las Vegas Review-Journal's Norm Clarke reports that Carlin told the crowd of 700 that he was looking forward to going back east "where the real people are." He added, "People who go to Las Vegas, you've got to question their [bleeping] intellect . . . Traveling hundreds and thousands of miles to essentially give your money to a large corporation is kind of [bleeping] moronic. That's what I'm always getting here is these kind of [bleeping] people with very limited intellects." When a woman yelled something that sounded like "stop degrading us," Carlin fired back, "Thank you very much, whatever that was. I hope it was positive; if not, well, [bleep] me," using slang for oral sex.



Strangely, though, Carlin isn't ready to leave town yet: He's jumping to the Stardust in February after a falling out with the MGM Grand.



iTunes is currently playing: Mean Old Man from the album October Road by James Taylor.

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Rating Books and Music

Typepad gives me the option of assigning ratings of 1 to 5 stars to books and music that I write about. I don't bother. If I like a book or album enough to recommend it, I consider it a 4 or 5. Otherwise, why would I waste my time and yours. Life is too damn short to listen to mediocre music or read so-so prose (or eat overcooked burgers, but I'll save that discussion for another day).

iTunes is currently playing: Wonderful! Wonderful! from the album 16 Most Requested Songs by Johnny Mathis.
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Who says English degrees are useless?

Yesterday I read about this cool website called "Opening Hooks: A Collection of Literary Beginnings". As of this moment it lists over 700 opening sentences/paragraphs from books. (Most, but not all, are fiction.) You can rate them and add openings of your own. Instead of working on Spearit Software business, I spent hours perusing this web site. I love dynamite opening passages and I was in pig heaven.

The most interesting thing about this experience, however, was that I came across a book written by someone I know that I didn't know had written a book. I had heard of the book ("The Contortionist's Handbook") but had no idea who wrote it. Turns out the author is Craig Clevenger, a guy I went to school with at Cal State Long Beach. I don't know if he would remember me (I never expect anyone to remember me and am always surprised when someone does) but I remember him. I didn't know him very well, but he was a good writer and a nice guy and I am really happy for him.

(His book, by the way, has a great opening sentence: “I can count my overdoses on one hand.") You can read a tantalizing excerpt from the book here.

iTunes is currently playing: I Can Do That from the album A Chorus Line by Wayne Cilento. ("I got to class and had it made and so I stayed the rest of my life ... ")
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Billie Holiday Fans: Deal of the Century!

This ten CD boxed set "Billie Holiday: Portrait" (German Import) includes 170 or so recordings from the 30s and 40s plus a 40 page bio booklet for the amazing price of $26.69 plus $2.49 media rate shipping. I ordered my set from HTF Imports through Amazon Marketplace and it arrived nine days later.

Portrait

What a voice. Highly recommended!

iTunes is currently playing: Solitude from the CD set Billie Holiday: Portrait .
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My Aiptek 4100M Digital Video Camcorder

My last post includes a picture of my new digital video camcamcorder, posed next to my iPod so you can see how tiny it is. Here is another shot of the 4100 in action.

Aiptek 4100M Digital Camcorder

You can get it for under $100 at Sam's Club. Very small, very light, can also be used as a still digital camera, a web cam, and a voice recorder. The videos are not professional quality, but they are not bad at all.

Don't have money for an expensive digital camcorder? Or do you have one that you don't carry around because it is too heavy/bulky or you are afraid you will lose/break it? Want to give your kid a real video camera that is priced like a toy? Check out the Aiptek 4100M. I love mine!!
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The “carry everywhere” camcorder

It's about 2/3 the size of my iPod (and 1/3 the price). For details, see my next post.

iPod and Aiptek 4100M

(Yes, I admit it. I am a major gadget freak!)
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Tom Hanks in “The Terminal”

Hanks is great fun as a man "without a country" stuck in a NYC airport. His three airport employee sidekicks are good, too. (The character played by Catherine Zeta Jones is majorly annoying!) It's pretty amazing that they built that entire airport on a soundstage in lovely (HA!) Palmdale. I'd probably rate it 2.5 or 2.75 out of 4, mostly because it was a bit too long. This will be a good rental in a few months.

iTunes is currently playing: All Around the World from the album Affection by Lisa Stansfield.
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Cool Photos @ Swedish (?) Blog

I stumbled upon this cool blogger site today: Snap Happy. Most of the text is in Swedish (I think) but (interestingly) its single photo album (called "Snap Happy Impressions") is annotated in English. Go figure. Anyway, the single photo album on the site has some great shots. Enjoy!

iTunes is currently playing: I Drove All Night from the album The Essential Cyndi Lauper by Cyndi Lauper.
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Target the Wonder Cat (x9!)

This picture of Target, my half-bengal, being held by his daddy was taken with a Pop 9 camera. The Pop 9 (a cool camera with nine lenses) is available through the Lomographic Society International at www.lomography.com.

image.jpg
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